Your United States AIr Force finished off a successful test flight of the very secretive and robotic x-37B space plane on Saturday. The ship is 9 feet tall and just under 30 feet long and looks like a mini space shuttle only with stubby wings and no windshield. It was also designed to orbit Earth for as many as none months, but this time (the 2nd such test flight) the mission latest 15 months as the Air Force was interested in testing the ship’s endurance.
15 months the X-37B has been in a low orbit over the planet, and what exactly its been doing up there is the mystery. The Air Force reports that this is all about testing reusable spacecraft technologies and being able to try out things in space without the inherent dangers of manned space flight. But this ship was carrying a cargo load, and no one other than those in the Air Force know what it was or what it was doing. This has lead to claims of military purposes, or some sort of super spy satellite that is capable of extreme image capturing from space.
The Air Force has two of these ships, the second is the one that landed most recently and the other will return to space for a yet to be announced Fall date.
The x-37B is lauched into space via a Atlas rocket, then is released into orbit. Once there and finished it fires an engine to exit its orbit, through the Earth’s atmosphere and glides safely back to the surface. Below is a video of the ship’s landing and another that animates and explains the design in more detail.