More About the OTV:

The Air Force has provided more details about the Orbital Test Vehicle program it announced Nov. 17—for starters it is dubbed X-37B and is about a fourth the size of the space shuttle. The service plans to use this unmanned reusable space vehicle as a test platform for satellites and technologies that need to be tested in space. It will launch into orbit via an Atlas V booster, then test its payload, and, once tests are done and it receives a “de-orbit” command, it will return to Earth on its own, landing at either Edwards or Vandenberg Air Force Bases in California. “The OTV gets itself ready for re-entry, descends through the atmosphere, lines up on the runway, puts down its landing gear” all by itself, says Lt. Col. Kevin Walker, Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office program manager. Walker adds that the first couple of flights—the first in 2008—will simply show that it performs as advertised, then USAF will entrust it with payloads.