X-37B Comes Home

OTV-2, the Air Force’s second unmanned X-37B reusable spaceplane, successfully returned to Earth on June 16 after 469 days in orbit. The orbital test vehicle landed at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., at 5:48 a.m. West Coast time, said Vandenberg officials in a release. The Air Force has not disclosed the exact nature of the experimental spaceplane’s activities during the mission, saying only the vehicle performed risk-reduction tasks, experimentation, and helped to develop concepts of operation for reusable space vehicle technologies. “The X-37B’s advanced thermal protection and solar power systems, and environmental modeling and range safety technologies are just some of the technologies being tested,” said Lt. Col. Tom McIntyre, X-37B program manager. “Each mission helps us continue to advance the state-of-the-art in these areas.” (Includes Washington, D.C., report by TSgt. Julie Weckerlein)