Photo Gallery: X-37B lands at historic Shuttle Landing Facility
Heralding its arrival to Florida residents early Sunday morning with a sonic boom, the U.S. Air Force’s secretive X-37B landed at Kennedy Space Center’s historic Shuttle Landing Facility. Touchdown took place at about 7:47 a.m. EDT (11:47 GMT) May 7, 2017.
This was the first landing of a returning spacecraft on the runway since the Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down on July 21, 2011, concluding the Space Shuttle Program.
For this mission, Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) 4, the X-37B spent a record-breaking 718 days in orbit. The Air Force has a fleet of two of these Boeing-built spacecraft. This was the second flight for this particular vehicle, which was the second one built, and the fourth overall for the program (the first flight, OTV-1, took place in 2010).
Both vehicles weigh around 11,000 pounds (4,990 kilograms) and are about 29 feet (8.8 meters) long with a wingspan of about 15 feet (4.5 meters).
This flight launched on May 20, 2015, atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 501 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. The vehicle’s first mission flew for 468 days starting on March 5, 2011.
While the exact nature of the program is classified, it is managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. The X-37B program has a purpose of developing reusable spacecraft technologies while experimenting in risk reduction and concept of operations studies.
The following photos were captured by the U.S. Air Force.