Air Force robot space plane returns
December 3rd, 2010
05:02 PM ET

Air Force robot space plane returns

The U.S. Air Force's first unmanned space plane returned to Earth Friday, but its mission remains shrouded in secrecy.

The X-37B, known as Orbital Test Vehicle 1, landed at 1:15 a.m. at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base after spending more than seven months in space on its maiden voyage.

"Today's landing culminates a successful mission based on close teamwork between the 30th Space Wing, Boeing and the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office," said Lt. Col. Troy Giese, the X-37B program manager from the AFRCO. "We are very pleased that the program completed all the on-orbit objectives for the first mission."

During its 220 days in orbit, the unmanned space plane conducted "on-orbit experiments" and "fired its orbital maneuver engine in low-earth orbit to perform an autonomous re-entry before landing," the Air Force said in a press release.

Otherwise, the exact nature of X-37B's mission is unclear because it remains classified.

Some analysts have speculated that the spacecraft is an unmanned orbital spy platform and not a weapon, according to

The program's test objectives include risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies, according to the Air Force.

We also know a bit about its features from the Air Force: The unmanned spacecraft is designed for vertical launch to low Earth orbit altitudes where it can perform long-term testing and experimentation. Upon command from the ground, the OTV autonomously re-enters the atmosphere, descends and lands horizontally on a runway. Its height is 9 feet 6 inches and its wingspan is 14 feet 11 inches.

The Air Force is preparing to launch the next X-37B in spring 2011.

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Filed under: Space
soundoff (285 Responses)
  1. James william chastain are the peace makers . yourfreedomis on twitter. seize power take control ...diamond stone live ...on blog talk radio

    December 4, 2010 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
  2. James william chastain

    This is warrior ! some one is adding those question marks in my text in text numbers 114 and 115 i dont use them. someone is trying to control what im saying in what i mean . be watchful ....

    December 4, 2010 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  3. James william chastain

    Excuse me! 115 and 116 i mean ! atleast youve all been alerted about the question marks in my sentences........................yourfreedomis on twitter

    December 4, 2010 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  4. James william chastain

    Yourfreedomis on twitter diamond stone live on blog talk radio

    December 4, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  5. Ronnie Raygun

    Everything from coal mines to Martina Navratilova should be unmanned. Well, she should at least shave. (her mustache)

    December 4, 2010 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  6. James william chastain

    How about those rams know any jokes

    December 4, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. Ronnie Raygun

    You could even get one of those transtesticles to fly it if you still needed it to be unmanned.

    December 4, 2010 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  8. Great God PanDemic

    The Discovery had a baby, the little guy hasn't even opened his eyes yet and he's already orbiting, aww. Who's our big brave reusable space vehicle, you are, yes you are! I think NASA launched a bone into orbit to encourage the little fella. That's the reason for the delays of Discovery's launch, it's been suffering from postpartum depression.

    December 4, 2010 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  9. travis fisher of irvine california

    First of all we all know it is to be launched again in 2011 just before the eros meteror is going to impact with earth like deep impact they are planning a way to calm us down when they break the news they can feed us the we have a chance lie while the rich move into their bunkers. michael jackson anna nichole smith gilbert areanas tiger woods they all faked death or got in trouble on purpose to sneak away for a bit to select their underground home for the next 50 years

    December 4, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  10. Julius

    this vehicle clearly has positioning/retrieval ability, however small the payload,could carry advanced imaging equipment .. just needs to be positioned, could be used to test new stealth technology,radar jamming,ect..
    great PR tool in any event.."the bigger stick usually prevails"
    Anne..kinetic energy device prototype also possible

    December 4, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  11. diamond stone

    Heres a message for comment numbers 11 and 123 read bible mark 9-42 god is no joke . how tuff are you . dont dis the homeless signed warrior warriors motorcycle club .......

    December 4, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  12. diamond stone

    Duh........@.........duh. over and out

    December 4, 2010 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  13. diamond stone

    Warrior says seize power take control hey im talking to my warriors get online start fixing this country start networking the warriors are looking new members warriors 1335 warriors 21 type in to google dont make mistake we are not the iron horse warriors .

    December 4, 2010 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  14. Caryll

    If anyone has read Stephen Hawking, I think you may understand why space exploration is becoming a military endeavor. Not that I agree with big military budgeting AT ALL, because this isn't where all that money is going. But Stephen has a point, when it comes to looking at the human race's history, whenever there's been a new meeting of cultures (where there wasn't enough similarity to make them seem "familiar", they would be considered "alien" in this thought experiment), there's been war, with the more technologically advanced culture wiping out the lesser. Right now we would be the lesser if we met another space faring species, and as much as we may want to talk diplomacy in that moment, it wouldn't be up to us. (I'm not saying that I completely agree with his assessment, or that taking this stance wouldn't turn it into a self fulfilling prophecy, but it's worth taking into consideration).

    December 4, 2010 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  15. diamond stone

    Warrior says he himself is an alien aliens are very high tech seize power take control fix the the earth blessed are the peace makers warrior wants to come ovt and playay .

    December 4, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
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