Orbital Vehicle Lands at Vandenberg

The X-37B, USAF’s first unmanned re-entry space vehicle, returned to Earth Friday. It landed at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., in the early morning hours after conducting experiments on orbit for more than 220 days. The Orbital Test Vehicle One (OTV-1) fired its orbital maneuver engine in low earth orbit to perform an autonomous re-entry before landing, said Vandenberg officials in a release. The X-37B is the Air Force’s newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft. On its maiden voyage, the X-37 was tasked to perform risk reduction, experimentation, and concept development for reusable space vehicle technology. The landing caps a successful mission for the spacecraft, as the program completed all its on-orbit objectives for its initial flight, said Lt. Col. Troy Giese, X-37B program manager for the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. USAF plans to launch the next unmanned space vehicle, OTV-2, next spring aboard an Atlas V booster. (See also Boeing release and Associated Press report)