The U.S. Space Force’s Boeing-built X-37B space plane today completed yet another record-setting mission, landing like an airplane at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida 908 days after it was launched.
This was the sixth mission in the hush-hush X-37B test program, and the first to fly with a ring-shaped service module on its tail.
The service module, which was jettisoned before the reusable plane’s descent, accommodated an extra set of experimental payloads for NASA and the U.S. military. It’s built to be safely disposed of in the coming weeks. Hours after the landing at 5:22 a.m. ET (2:22 a.m. PT), the Space Force declared the mission to be a success.
“The deliberate manner in which we conduct on-orbit operations — to include the service module disposal — speaks to the United States’ commitment to safe and responsible space practices, particularly as the issue of growing orbital debris threatens to impact global space operations,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said in a news release.
Past X-37B missions, dating back to 2010, were conducted under the auspices of the Air Force, and the space plane’s fuselage still bears “USAF” markings.—AP