A space plane with a secret mission in orbit landed safely on Friday at Vandenberg Air Force Base, according to a news release sent by the base.
The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is an unmanned plane that looks like a small version of the space shuttle. It is capable of travel into space, returning to land on a runway like any other winged aircraft.
Friday’s landing completes a nearly 2-year mission (674 days) which ended at 9:25 a.m. When it launched on December 11, 2012, the Air Force said the mission would last about nine months. Defense watchers speculated the extended length of the mission might be due to secret tasks including spying or weapons testing.
The Air Force has two X-37B space planes. Friday’s landing completes the second space mission for that aircraft. The other plane has completed one space mission, and is scheduled to launch again next year.
“The 30th Space Wing and our mission partners, Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, Boeing, and our base support contractors, have put countless hours of hard work into preparing for this landing and today we were able to see the culmination of that dedication,” said Col Keith Balts, commander of the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg.
“I’m extremely proud of our team for coming together to execute this third safe and successful landing. Everyone from our on console space operators to our airfield managers and civil engineers take pride in this unique mission and exemplify excellence during its execution,” Balts said.Slideshow: Space Plane Lands at Vandenberg AFB