The U.S. Air Force’s mysterious “space plane” landed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida early Sunday after a two-year top secret mission in space. The Air Force confirmed with the Orlando Sentinel that its X-37B spacecraft finally made its way back to Earth after spending 718 days in orbit.
It was the first time the spacecraft landed in Florida, and residents weren’t too thrilled with its grand entrance. Hundreds from across the state flocked to social media and called local authorities to complain about a strange noise disturbance.
Shook our house in Davenport and drove the dog into a brief frenzy.— Patrick Reikofski 🇺🇸 (@seepat) May 7, 2017
Just heard a loud sonic boom here near Disney World. What was that??!!— Jeff Savage (@itsjeffsavage) May 7, 2017
Uhhhh does someone want to explain to me why I just heard one sonic boom out of NOWHERE?!?! 😳 #SpaceCoast— JM Fambrough (@JMFambrough) May 7, 2017
No need to fear. That sonic boom-like sound right over your heard was coming from the top-secret 11,000-pound Orbital Test Vehicle that just rocketed down to Earth from space. While most people were probably concerned for their own safety, the Air Force let the world know its mini spacecraft made it back OK.
The Air Force even posted a video of the dramatic landing, which should give you a pretty good idea of how loud this thing really is:
The unmanned plane is the fourth edition of the X-37, first introduced in 1999 and launched in 2010. The newest edition of the Boeing-built models launched in 2015 out of Cape Canaveral attached to an Atlas 5 rocket. The tiny machine is about a fourth the size of NASA’s space shuttle orbiter, and its cargo bay is only large enough to fit a standard refrigerator.
We still aren’t sure what the X-37B was doing so long in space, but the Air Force claims it “performs risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies.”
“This mission once again set an on-orbit endurance record and marks the vehicle’s first landing in the state of Florida,” said Lt. Col. Ron Fehlen, X-37B program manager. “We are incredibly pleased with the performance of the space vehicle and are excited about the data gathered to support the scientific and space communities. We are extremely proud of the dedication and hard work by the entire team.”
Another mission is scheduled to launch out of Cape Canaveral later this year.
H/T Daily Mail