The record-breaking journey of U.S. Air Force’s robotic X-37B space plane finally ended. The unmanned plane had blasted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida in May 2015. On last Sunday, it finished the secret mission which lasted for about two years.
The Air Force officials said that the unmanned plane X-37B which looked like a miniature space shuttle landed on the runway at 7:47 AM EDT. Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co. had jointly developed this space plane.
This is one of the two Air Force fleets which piloted the unmanned experiment being in orbit above 700 days. It was the lengthiest mission among all secretive programs run by the Air Force.
While briefing this project, the Air Force officials said that the mission was for risk reduction, research, and development of reusable space vehicle technologies. However, the officials have not disclosed any details in regard to this. They have also classified the cost of the mission.
The Secure World Foundation said that the aim of this secret mission was to test and evaluate the intelligence-related hardware. This is a non-profit organization which regulates the peaceful exploration of the space.
This 9-meter long plane has a wingspan of 4 meters. It was about one-quarter in size of the NASA’s space shuttle which is now retired. The alias name of X-37B is Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV).
If we look at the history of these secret space missions, the first flight was sent in April 2010. This plane came back after eight months of the long journey. The second mission blasted in March 2011 which lasted for 15 months. The third mission took flight in December 2012, which came back after 22 months. All these three landings had been held at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. However, this recent fourth landing took place on Florida Airbase.
As per the report, the Air Force wants to launch its 5th mission later this year. It will launch this mission from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It is located just south of the Kennedy Space Centre.
The Military normally denies revealing any facts of these missions. However, during the launch of the 4th mission, they showcased some experiments that were undertaken on-board. As per the officials, the payload includes an experimental propulsion system which is known as a Hall thruster. It was developed by the Air Force. Besides this, it carried 100 Polymers and composite materials in order to test how they can withstand against the harsh space atmosphere.