X-37B reusable unmanned orbital test vehicle returns to orbit

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., 13 Dec. 2012. An unmanned U.S. Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) has returned to orbit, a success for the reusable unmanned orbital vehicle.

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An Atlas V rocket launched OTV-1, the first of two vehicles in the program, into a low Earth orbit at 1:03 p.m. Eastern time from Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 41. The test vehicle is launched by a rocket and lands as a spaceplane.

The X-37B, which combines aircraft and spacecraft design in an unmanned test platform, is testing reusable vehicle technologies dealing with space experimentation, risk reduction and concept-of-operations development.

OTV-1 was first launched in April 2010 and returned to Earth that December.

A second vehicle, OTV-2, completed a 469-day mission in space before landing autonomously on an airstrip at Vandenberg Air Force base in June, 2012.

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