Boeing’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on October 17, completing its third and longest test mission since 2010. The unmanned spaceplane under development by the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office orbited for 674 days following its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard an Atlas V launch vehicle last December.
Boeing said the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is the first payload customer for its Phantom Eye high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system. On June 5, the Department of Defense (DOD) agency announced a $6.8 million contract modification with Boeing to incorporate an unspecified payload aboard future test flights of the aircraft.
The second Boeing X-37B OTV (orbital test vehicle) touched down at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., on June 16 after a 469-day mission (USA-226). OTV-2 had launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on board an Atlas V launch vehicle on March 5, 2011. The first X-37B mission (USA-212) with OTV-1 was launched on April 22, 2010 and landed on December 3. Thus, the X-37B has now successfully accomplished two automatic recoveries of a vehicle from space.
The U.S. Air Force/Boeing X-37B spacecraft returned to earth by landing at Vandenberg AFB in California on December 3. Aside from some damage from space debris and a blown tire on rollout, the 244-day flight was a success, said officials.