USAFs X-37B Returns Autonomously To Earth Video
The USAF's classified space craft returns safely to earth…
The U.S. Air Force’s X-37B, developed by Boeing, has successfully completed its first mission after returning to Earth from a 220 day journey in space.
After more than 7 months in orbit, the USAFs X-37B experimental space plane finally returned to Earth at the Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, early in the morning of December 3rd.
USAF Boeing X-37B Space Plane
The X-37B is Boeing’s solution to an Air Force request – made in the 1990’s – for a reusable space vehicle that could reach the Earth’s orbit with the help of a space shuttle or booster rocket. The program was handed over to the Department of Defense in 2004, at which point it became classified.
After years of being kept under wraps, we still don’t know the main applications of the space craft. However a press release from the Air Force did say this:
“[It’s] a flexible space test platform to conduct various experiments and allow satellite sensors, subsystems, components and associated technology to be efficiently transported to and from the space environment. This service directly supports the Defense Department’s technology risk-reduction efforts for new satellite systems. By providing an ‘on-orbit laboratory’ test environment, it will prove new technology and components before those technologies are committed to operational satellite programs.” [Wired]
The X-37B was launched from an Alas V rocket on April, 22nd. The video clip below shows the X-37B landing safely 220 days later at the Vandenberg AFB. Because the landing took place during the early hours of the morning the video was filmed in FLIR thermal vision.
Now the X-37B has landed safely, tests will be conducted to figure out if the craft is truly reusable. It will then be prepared for another flight, hopefully in 2011. When that happens, perhaps we’ll be graced with a few more specifics.