Boeing has announced the successful de-orbit and landing of the second X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) for the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.
The vehicle, built by Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems, just completed a 469-day mission. Designed to launch like a satellite and land like an airplane, the OTV-2 holds the record for the longest mission of a reusable space vehicle.
Last June, a X-37B OTV had landed at Vandenberg after a 15-month mission, which is the subject of this CNN video.
Just what OTV-2 was doing up there for so long remains a mystery. Details of the vehicle’s mission are classified, as are its payloads. The secrecy has spurred speculation — notably from China — that the X-37B may be a space weapon of some sort, but Air Force officials have long insisted that the spacecraft is simply testing out technologies for future satellites.
Another X-37B space plane is scheduled to blast off again next month, Air Force officials say. The mission will test the robotic spacecraft’s reusability and NASA is currently considering moving many of the X-37B’s operations to Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, formerly used for the space shuttle project.