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.
EADS Astrium (Stand H23) is displaying a model of its proposed Space Plane, which would require seven years of development between actual program launch and first commercial flight.
“The launch of a new era in space travel” is the bold claim of EADS Astrium for its Spaceplane, a model of which stands at the company’s booth (C220). Unlike space tourism proposals that involve a space element taken aloft beneath a ‘mother’ aircraft, the Astrium Spaceplane would operate from any airport or airfield that grants permission.
In the race for space tourism dollars, Oklahoma-based Rocketplane is vying for a head start by refurbishing hardy Learjet 25 airframes as the platforms for suborbital reusable launch vehicles capable of carrying up to four people to altitudes of 330,000 feet.