X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle lands at Vandenberg AFB

The U.S. Air Force’s first unmanned re-entry spacecraft landed here Dec. 3 at 1:16 a.m. The X-37B, named Orbital Test Vehicle 1, which launched April 22 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., conducted on-orbit experiments for more than 220 days during its maiden voyage. It fired its orbital maneuver engine in low-earth orbit to perform an autonomous reentry before landing.

The X-37B is the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft. Managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the X-37B program performs risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies.

“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.”

OTV-1’s de-orbit and landing mark the transition from the on-orbit demonstration phase to a refurbishment phase for the program.

An Air Force launch team is preparing to launch the next X-37B, OTV-2, in Spring 2011 aboard an Atlas V booster.

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  • Very cool.. a nice replacement for the shuttle but will it be a bit too late? There are plenty of private companies that may have already accomplished what the air force will take years to catch up on.

    • defenceaviation

      Right. Everyone is feeling the heat of shuttle retirement. Even in public opinion everyone feels they need to find a shuttle replacement.

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