Air Force Spacecraft Ends 15-Month Secret Mission
X37-B space plane lands itself at military base
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Jun 18, 2012 1:38 AM CDT
This April 2010 photo released by the US Air Force shows the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle in the encapsulation cell at the Astrotech facility in Titusville, Fla.    (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force)

(Newser) – An American spacecraft landed itself at a military base in California on the weekend, ending a 15-month mission—but don't expect to hear much about what the unmanned plane was doing up there. The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is an Air Force plane and while the military says the mission's main aim was to test the robotically controlled reusable spacecraft technology involved, there was a classified payload on board and there has been much speculation about the mission's purpose, the AP reports. An identical spacecraft completed a 7-month mission in 2010.

Officials say the X-37B, which was launched from Cape Canaveral atop an Atlas V rocket last March, conducted in-orbit experiments during the mission. "With the retirement of the space shuttle fleet, the X-37B OTV program brings a singular capability to space technology development," the X-37B's program manager says. "The return capability allows the Air Force to test new technologies without the same risk commitment faced by other programs." The X-37B's sister spacecraft is expected to head into orbit for a new mission this fall.

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Jun 22, 2012 12:32 PM CDT
So, wait, we discontinued the scientific and morally sound section of American space exploration, but the top-secret and possibly illegal- not to mention utterly opaque- section of space travel is actually ramping up. Oh yeah, that makes sense. Really makes me proud of my country.
Jun 18, 2012 10:37 AM CDT
Psssst. Not a secret! More wasted money, more wasted tax-payers money, Now our Great Grandchildren have another debt to add on. Where is the Fucking transparency of our government spending ???????????
Jun 18, 2012 10:20 AM CDT
Ain't it great that the Air Force can conduct ultra-expensive secret missions and not tell the citizens that pay for it? WTF? Is this thing and what was it doing? Why do we need it? How much is it costing Americans? This is outrageous.