Maintainers work on an Air Force X-37B spaceplane after its landing at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., Oct. 17, 2014. Boeing photo
An Air Force X-37B orbital test vehicle returned to Earth after a 674-day classified mission in space. The reusable, unmanned spaceplane touched down at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., on Oct. 17,
announced the Air Force. The mission, dubbed OTV-3, was the third and longest space trip to date for the two-vehicle, Boeing-built X-37B fleet. OTV-3 began on Dec. 11, 2012, with the vehicle's
launch into orbit from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. Air Force officials were tight-lipped about the X-37's activities on orbit—as they have been about the previous two X-37 missions—other than to say the vehicle served as a test platform to validate new space technology and concepts of operation. More X-37 flights are to come. Air Force Spokesman Capt. Chris Hoyler told Air Force Magazine on Monday that the next X-37 mission would take place in 2015 from Cape Canaveral. He provided no additional details "on the current or future operating status of the OTVs" due to the classified nature of the spaceplanes' activities. Earlier this month, NASA
announced that the Air Force would begin using bays at the nearby Kennedy Space Center that formerly supported space shuttles for processing X-37 vehicles for launch from Cape Canaveral. (See also Boeing
Daily Report: The day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
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