The highly secret U.S. Air Force unmanned space aircraft made a historic return to Earth. Unknown is the mission the vehicle has flown and this remains today in-secret. The vehicle is known as Oribtal Test Vehicle 1 (OTV) and made its historic landing after a long 7 months of space exploration, at 1:15 a.m. (ET) December 3rd 2010.
“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.”
The Air Force has stated that the program has been in flight for further space exploration developments of reusable space vehicle technologies and risk reduction in the sense the vehicle isn’t manned. In the 220 days it has spent in the Earth’s orbit the unmanned vehicle such components as the vehicles orbital maneuvers engine in lower orbit have performed autonomous re-entry before landing, which the Air Force has stated in a press release.
The vehicles size is 9 feet 6 inches and the vehicles wingspan is 14 feet 11 inches. The next launch of the X-37B has concluded to be in Spring 2011. The vehicles velocity range at re-entry is MACH 25.