The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle sits on the runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Dec. 3, 2010, during post-landing operations. Personnel in self-contained atmospheric protective ensemble suits are conducting initial checks on the vehicle and ensuring the area is safe. The X-37B launched April 22 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., allowing teams to conduct on-orbit experiments for more than 220 days during this first mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michael Stonecypher)
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) -- The U.S. Air Force's first unmanned re-entry spacecraft landed here Dec. 3 at 1:16 a.m.
The X-37B, named Orbital Test Vehicle 1, which launched April 22 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., conducted on-orbit experiments for more than 220 days during its maiden voyage. It fired its orbital maneuver engine in low-earth orbit to perform an autonomous reentry before landing.
The X-37B is the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft. Managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the X-37B program performs risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies.
"Today's landing culminates a successful mission based on close teamwork between the 30th Space Wing, Boeing and the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office," said Lt. Col. Troy Giese, the X-37B program manager from the AFRCO. "We are very pleased that the program completed all the on-orbit objectives for the first mission."
OTV-1's de-orbit and landing mark the transition from the on-orbit demonstration phase to a refurbishment phase for the program.
An Air Force launch team is preparing to launch the next X-37B, OTV-2, in Spring 2011 aboard an Atlas V booster.
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