The Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle successfully landed back at the runway at Kennedy Space Center early this morning at 3:51am ET. The spaceplane stayed in orbit around the Earth for 780 days, breaking its own record of time spent in space. The total number of days the vehicle has spent in space is now 2,865 days - it was designed for 270 days in orbit.
The X-37B was launched on board a Falcon 9 rocket by SpaceX on September 7th, 2017, starting its 5th mission of long duration experiments in orbit. This program performs experiments for scientists and engineers that need to be recovered safely after being in a long duration space environment. It also helps the studies and developments of reusable space vehicle technologies to help improve their capabilities. After coming back to KSC from a record breaking mission, General David L. Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force stated, “The sky is no longer the limit for the Air Force and, if Congress approves, the U.S Space Force”.
The Air Force will now begin preparing the X-37B vehicle for its 6th mission, launching from Cape Canaveral in 2020.
X-37B OTV Photo courtesy of Jeremy Webster // Air Force
Falcon 9 OTV-5 launch Photo courtesy of Timothy Kirchner // Air Force