The mysterious unmanned mini-space shuttle on a classified mission has finally returned to earth.
It landed early Saturday morning at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California after weather conditions kept pushing back landing attempts the last few days.
The Air Force’s X-37B, is an unmanned reusable spacecraft built by Boeing that has spent more than a year on a classified mission in space.
Measuring 29 feet in length and having a 15-foot wingspan, the unmanned reusable X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle looks like a miniature version of NASA’s now retired space shuttles.
The spacecraft landed at Vandenberg at 5:48am PDT after having spent 469 days in orbit.
The craft went into orbit on March 5, 2011, but as was the case during its first launch in 2010, very little has been known about its mission or what payloads it might be carrying because its missions are classified.
That has led to speculation that the spacecraft is involved in intelligence gathering operations or the testing of new technologies.
In keeping with the scarce mission details for the X-37B, all the Air Force would say in a statement Saturday wais that the spacecrafthad “conducted on-orbit experiments” during its mission.
Lt. Col. Tom McIntyre, the X-37B program manager said, “With the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet, the X-37B OTV program brings a singular capability to space technology development.” He added, “The return capability allows the Air Force to test new technologies without the same risk commitment faced by other programs. We’re proud of the entire team’s successful efforts to bring this mission to an outstanding conclusion.”
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