Gallery: X-37B Space Plane Returns to Earth

by Nancy Atkinson on December 3, 2010

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The X-37B after landing. Credit: 30th Space Wing (Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

The secret military space plane has returned home, and while the mission was classified, the Air Force and Boeing have supplied pictures of the craft after landing. With this mission appearing to be a success, the Air Force is preparing to launch the next X-37B, OTV-2, in Spring 2011 aboard an Atlas V booster.

See more images below.

X-37B is shown here after landing at 1:16 a.m. Pacific time today, concluding its more than 220-day experimental test mission. Credit: Boeing

The X-37B after landing. Credit: 30th Space Wing (Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

X-37B on the runway at Vandenburg Air Force Base. Credit: Boeing.

X-37B after landing. Credit: 30th Wing, Vandenberg Air Force Base.

X-37B is shown here after landing at 1:16 a.m. Pacific time today, concluding its more than 220-day experimental test mission. Credit: Boeing

X-37B Landing by 30th Space Wing (Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.)

Here’s a video which includes the landing (which we showed on our previous article) plus post landing activities.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Aqua December 3, 2010 at 1:43 PM

Zingy that! Cudo’s to the photographer!

Aqua December 3, 2010 at 1:45 PM

Interesting how at first the ground crew were in bio suits.. then later naught. Hydrazine is a nasty actor?

softeky December 3, 2010 at 1:54 PM

Thank you for these pictures. It was *really* a treat to finally see the new Flintstonian landing gear in action. Check the first picture in the series. The new landing gear (a major reason for the test flight) can clearly be seen just in front of, and just behind, the original (“revolutionary” in its own right) nose wheel.

The new gear (each element being about a foot long) which “kicks-in” on touchdown, is modeled on a well known biological mechanism, requiring just “a good massage” after landing for a fast turnaround.

Praise was given to the automated Problem Elucidation Reporting And Maintenance system (PERAM). One maintenance operative (who wishes to remain anonymous) said that as a parent, he’s quite familiar with the diagnostic lockout system. “If the ship’s not fully ready to go, it just puts its foot down and will not budge”.

Emilio December 3, 2010 at 3:07 PM

Ya good looking vehicle. I was surprise that it landed at Vandenberg. There is lot more space out at Mohave. I suppose it is better to let it disintegrate over Pacific than over California if some thing went wrong. Seven month mission is a long mission thought.

ND December 4, 2010 at 7:34 PM

You know, it looks like it could hold a person in there. It would be an inefficient and expensive escape capsule though. Unless you need to bring someone in fast to the hospital from the ISS to a runway near a major city. Solution in search of a problem :)

tripleclean December 4, 2010 at 9:10 PM

What are we using it for? I thought this project was dead years ago and as soon as the the shuttle program was finished this machine shows up again.

tripleclean December 6, 2010 at 7:58 AM

What I have thought about is this, the USAF wants to be our space service branch and they have their capablitlities @ Vandenberg. This was a complete prototype so they just took it out of the warehouse and flew it. There is nothing much secret about the X-37 as there isn’t much secret about a Joint Star…the real secret is how you use it and what you get from it and what you plan to do with that. I swear everyone that was in the Air Force flew an F-16(at least claims) and I hope that in the near future they claim to have time on a space plane…..It’s all just so cool!

Kawarthajon December 6, 2010 at 6:49 AM

Am I the only one struck by the fact that this is supposed to be a “secret” space craft? Why do they call it “secret” when we have pictures of it, we know the take off and landing dates, and they even release videos of the thing? Are they trying to showcase their technology for some reason (i.e. send a message to other countries) or are they just idiotic government bureaucrats who don’t know what “secret” means?

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