20120617

Mini space shuttle ends its top secret mission

1999 artist's rendering of the X-37 spacecraft (via Wikipedia)
After 486 days, 13 hours and 2 minutes in space, Pentagon's unmanned pocket-sized spaceplane (seriously, it's just one-quarter the size of NASA's space shuttle) X-37B landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base yesterday at 1248 GMT. That's longer than any one individual space shuttle mission, the longest of which was Discovery, with 365 days in space. During its 15-month long mission, X-37B circled the Earth something like 7,000 times. It launched on March 5, 2011, and though it's supposed to be a top-secret, it was apparently covered live on Spaceflight Now. There were some wild speculation about it's purpose, like spying on China's space station and weaponization of space and whatnot, but I think we're safe for now. It has landed, so it poses no threat at this moment, right? However, it makes me wonder how many secret missions are there, and how many awesome things are being kept in secret somewhere while I sit in front of my computer with nothing to do. Give us some fun, Pentagon. Panem et circenses, panem et circenses!

Anyway, here's a video of the landing:


(A lot) more info:

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