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The US Air Force’s X37-B space plane is back home after its fourth mission

The US Air Force’s secret robotic space plane is back on Earth after its longest mission yet. The X37-B embarked on its fourth trip to space in 2015 and landed earlier this morning at Orlando’s Kennedy Space Center.

The landing marks the completion of the spacecraft’s fourth mission, OTV-4. This was the first time the spacecraft landed in Florida — it touched down at Vandenberg Air Force Base after each of its previous three missions — and woke up residents with a sonic boom this morning, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The US Air Force confirmed that the spacecraft touched down with a tweet.

First launched on May 20th, 2015, the spacecraft spent 719 days in space, breaking the record set by the last mission, OTV-3, which was in space for 675 days. While the X37-B typically carries a secretive payload, the Air Force was a bit more forthcoming this time, saying that it would carry out tests of a new thruster system designed for use onboard the military’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites, 10 CubeSats for the Planetary Society, as well as “dozens of material samples,” for NASA, to test how well they’ll fare in space.


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