Mini-robotic space shuttle landing.
Details of a classified military mission have been made public after a miniature robotic space shuttle landed on a California runway.
The Orbital Test Vehicle, or X-37B, touched down early on Friday morning at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
It becomes the first American spaceship to land itself but not the first in the world. The former Soviet Union's Buran space shuttle accomplished a similar feat in 1988.
The X-37B has been on a nine-month mission and is intended to test technologies for a next-generational space shuttle.
Rather than carry people, the military is looking at the spaceplane as a way to test new equipment, sensors and material in space.
The intention then is to incorporate new methods into satellites and other systems.
Another key point of the project is to see if the costs and turnaround time between flights can be reduced from months to days.
Unlike NASA's space shuttles which can stay in orbit about two weeks, X37-B is designed to spend as long as nine months in space.
The Air Force imposed a news blackout on the X-37B's activities while in orbit, though it was tracked by amateur satellite-watchers throughout its mission.
The project was started in the late 1990s by NASA. A second flight is planned for the spring.
Independent Television News Limited 2010. All rights reserved.
Independent Television News Limited 2009. All rights reserved.
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|Publication:||Independent Television News Limited (ITN)|
|Date:||Dec 4, 2010|
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