US Air Force Boeing X-37 Spaceplane Mission
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
The U.S. Air Force’s unmanned X-37B spaceplane just landed today (Oct. 27) after a record 780-days in orbit, making the fifth top secret mission for the military’s mini-shuttle. The Orbital Test Vehicle 5 (OTV-5) mission officially ended with a perfect autonomous touchdown at the Shuttle Landing Facility of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida at 3:51 a.m. EDT (0751 GMT). Read more for a video and additional information.

The U.S. Air Force currently has a fleet of at least two reusable X-37B spacecraft, with both having flown multiple flights. These solar-powered spaceplanes were built by Boeing and come equipped with a miniature payload bay to host experiments or smaller satellites. What’s most surprising is that they were originally designed to spend only 240 days in orbit, but they have far surpassed that goal.

The safe return of this spacecraft, after breaking its own endurance record, is the result of the innovative partnership between Government and Industry. The sky is no longer the limit for the Air Force and, if Congress approves, the U.S. Space Force,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.