Air Force's X-37B Returns to Earth after Record-Breaking Orbit

May 22 2017

After an unprecedented 718 days in orbit, the U.S. Air Force’s robotic X-37B space plane has returned to Earth.

The robotic vehicle, which resembles NASA’s famous space shuttle, is 29 feet long with a wingspan of 15 feet. The plane was made with composite structures instead of aluminum. The X-37B’s payload bay (the area in which the cargo is packed) measures 7 feet long by 4 feet wide.

Two different X-37B vehicles have flown a total of four missions, which are known as OTV-1 (short for Orbital Test Vehicle), OTV-2, OTV-3 and OTV-4 (the latest mission). All four flights have reached space with the help of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket, which is made of carbon fiber composites.

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