X-37B Coming Home

The Air Force announced Tuesday that preparations are underway for the return to Earth of the X-37B orbital test vehicle within the next week. While the exact landing date and time will depend on technical and weather considerations, the reusable, autonomous, experimental spaceplane is expected to touch down at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., between Friday, Dec. 3, and Monday, Dec. 6, said service officials. This will be the X-37B’s first landing. The Air Force and its industry partners launched this X-37B, designated OTV-1, into space on its inaugural mission in April from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. The focus of the mission has been to assess the vehicle’s on-orbit performance and then gauge the turnaround time needed after it lands to get it ready for its next space trip. Earlier this year, Vandy’s 30th Space Wing refurbished a runway at the base to prepare for the X-37B. (Vandenberg release) (See also A Second X-37B)