Mar 31, 2014
US Air Force'sX-37B Space Plane Shatters Orbital Endurance Record
The X-37B space plane currently in orbit in flying the Orbital Test Vehicle 3 (OTV-3) mission, the third long-duration flight of the unmanned Air Force spaceflight program. The miniature space shuttle launched on Dec. 11, 2012 and is surpassed the record for longest X-37B spaceflight on Wednesday (March 26).
The OTV-3 mission in orbit today now uses the first of the Air Force's two X-37B space plane vehicles. The same spacecraft was used to fly the first-ever X-37B mission (the 225-day OTV-1 flight in 2010), while a second vehicle flew the longer OTV-2 mission a year later.
The U.S. military's X-37B space planes launch into orbit atop an unmanned Atlas 5 rocket from a pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. During launch, the space planes are encapsulated inside a protective shroud.
At the end of their respective flights, both the OTV-1 and OTV-2 craft missions flew themselves back to Earth on autopilot, each time touching down on a tarmac at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base.