Posted by John McHaleVANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., 3 Dec. 2010. Boeing [NYSE: BA] announced the de-orbit and landing of their unmanned spacecraft -- the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), also known as the X-37B -- for the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO). The X-37B was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on April 22.The X-37B is the first U.S. unmanned vehicle to return from space and land on its own. Previously, the space shuttle was the only space vehicle capable of returning to Earth. The success of this inaugural mission demonstrates that unmanned space vehicles can be sent into orbit and safely recovered, Boeing officials say.The X-37B program is demonstrating a reliable, reusable unmanned space test platform for the Air Force. Its objectives include space experimentation, risk reduction, and concept-of-operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies that could become key enablers for future space missions."We congratulate the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base on the success of this mission," says Paul Rusnock, Boeing vice president of Experimental Systems and program director for the X-37B. "This marks a new era in space exploration, and we look forward to the launch of the second vehicle in 2011. By combining the best of aircraft and spacecraft into an affordable, responsive unmanned vehicle, Boeing has delivered an unprecedented capability to the RCO."Boeing program management, engineering, manufacturing, test and mission support functions for the OTV program are conducted at Boeing sites in Huntington Beach, Seal Beach, and El Segundo, Calif.Boeing's commitment to this space-based unmanned vehicle spans a decade and includes support to the Air Force Research Lab's X-40 program, NASA's X-37 program, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's X-37 Approach & Landing Test Vehicle (ALTV) program.