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MinM Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-17-12 12:34 PM
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X37B returns after 15 month Secret Space Mission
 
Run time: 01:18
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BunIgmSrQA
 
Posted on YouTube: June 16, 2012
By YouTube Member: spaceflightnow
Views on YouTube: 22679
 
Posted on DU: June 17, 2012
By DU Member: MinM
Views on DU: 778
 
LOS ANGELES (AP) An unmanned Air Force space plane steered itself to a landing early Saturday at a California military base, capping a 15-month clandestine mission.

The spacecraft, which was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in March 2011, conducted in-orbit experiments during the mission, officials said. It was the second such autonomous landing at the Vandenberg Air Force Base, 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles. In 2010, an identical unmanned spacecraft returned to Earth after seven months and 91 million miles in orbit.



The latest homecoming was set in motion when the stubby-winged robotic X-37B fired its engine to slip out of orbit, then pierced through the atmosphere and glided down the runway like an airplane.

With the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet, the X-37B OTV program brings a singular capability to space technology development, said Lt. Col. Tom McIntyre, the X-37Bs program manager. The return capability allows the Air Force to test new technologies without the same risk commitment faced by other programs. Were proud of the entire teams successful efforts to bring this mission to an outstanding conclusion.

With the second X-37B on the ground, the Air Force planned to launch the first one again in the fall. An exact date has not been set.

The twin X-37B vehicles are part of a military program testing robotically controlled reusable spacecraft technologies. Though the Air Force has emphasized the goal is to test the space plane itself, theres a classified payload on board a detail that has led to much speculation about the missions ultimate purpose.

Some amateur trackers think the craft carried an experimental spy satellite sensor judging by its low orbit and inclination, suggesting reconnaissance or intelligence gathering rather than communications.

Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, who runs Jonathans Space Report, which tracks the worlds space launches and satellites, said its possible it was testing some form of new imaging.

The latest X-37B was boosted into orbit atop an Atlas 5 rocket. It was designed to stay aloft for nine months, but the Air Force wanted to test its endurance. After determining the space plane was performing well, the military decided in December to extend the mission.

Little has been said publicly about the second X-37B flight and operations. At a budget hearing before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee in March, William Shelton, head of the Air Force Space Command, made a passing mention.

That the second X-37B has stayed longer in space than the first shows the flexibility of this unique system, he told lawmakers.

http://www.space.com/11031-secret-x37b-space-plane-laun...
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Divine Discontent Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-17-12 02:11 PM
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1. fascinating for sure... highly cost, I'm certain!



Get it here now, or one of a million other designs! http://www.cafepress.com/barackobama12

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dtexdem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-19-12 03:08 PM
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2. OK! What planet are we attacking with that X-37B drone?
;-)
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