X-37B, the top-secret unmanned space plane of the U.S. Air Force is set to return to the Earth after spending close to two years in orbit. The Air Force said in a statement that the X-37B will land at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Air Force didn’t reveal the exact time of landing. But it has notified aviators and mariners that airspace around Vandenberg Air Force Base would be closed between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time on Tuesday.
NASA, Boeing And the Air Force cooperating on X-37B project
Col. Keith Baits said Team Vandenberg was fully prepared to implement safe landing operations for the space plane, which is also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle. The X-37B was launched from Cape Canaveral on December 11, 2012. At the time of launch, the Air Force said that the mission would last only nine months. But it’s returning after being in orbit on a secret mission for 672 days.
The X-37B carries a number of cameras, radars and other sensors that can be found in regular spy satellites. It has specialized sensors that can be reconfigured for each mission as needed. The space plane has been subject to widespread speculation ever since the Air Force launched its very first million in April 2010. Boeing and NASA are also involved in the project.
What’s the objective of X-37B?
It’s the third time for this unique mission. The previous mission lasted 469 days, and the X-37B returned to Vandenberg on June 11, 2012. During the launch of the current mission, the Air Force said that it won’t be the last. They expect to conduct multiple missions to satisfy the test program objectives. Rumor has it that the X-37B is supposed to strike the enemies as an orbital bomber or snatch foreign satellites.
However, the Air Force is unlikely to disclose much about the mission. It probably holds some sort of military significance, which justifies withholding specifics about the project’s objectives. According to CNN, technologies being tested in the X-37B project include thermal protection systems, navigation and control, advanced guidance, autonomous orbit flight, and lightweight electromechanical flight systems.