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US Air Force X-37B spacecraft lands after a record 780-day mysterious mission

The unmanned aerial vehicle X-37B of the United States Air Force landed on Earth Sunday (October 27th) after a record 780 days in orbit, triggering the fifth ultra-long mission for the mini-salvos of the military.

The X-37B Orbital Test Machine 5 ended with a smooth, self-propelled push at the NASA Space Center landing facility at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 3:51 a.m. EDT (0751 GMT), Air Staff the forces said. The mission originally launched the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on September 7, 2017.

With its successful landing, OTV-5 broke the previous 718-day X-37B mission record set by OTV-4 in May 2017. OTV-5 is the second X-37B mission to land at NASA's space facility (OTV-4 was the first), with previous missions landing at the Wadenberg Air Force Base in California.

Related: The X-37B Spacecraft: 6 Surprising Facts

"The safe return of this spacecraft after breaking its own endurance record is the result of an innovative partnership and industry, "said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. "The sky is no longer the restriction on the Air Force and, if Congress approves, the US Space Force."

The United States Air Force has at least two reusable X-37B spacecraft, both of which have flown multiple flights, solar-powered spacecraft are built by Boeing and have a miniature payload compartment experiments or smaller satellites. They were originally designed to spend up to 240 days in orbit.

"The X-37B continues to demonstrate the importance of a reusable spacecraft," BBC Secretary Barbara Barrett said in the same statement. "Each consecutive mission enhances our country's space capabilities."

X-37B on Air Force Orbital Test Mission 5 successfully landed at NASA Kennedy Space Center on October 27, 2019

(Credit: U.S. Air Force)

Air Force Authorities stated correct character of X-37B missions are classified, although they are missed Do hints about the types of experiments OTV-5 performed in orbit. One payload was the Air Force Research Laboratory, designed with the thermal sprayer in place, an experiment designed to "test experimental electronics and oscillating technologies for long-term space ducts," according to a statement from the BBC.

The OTV-5 also took off into orbit with a greater inclination than previous X-37B flights, suggesting that there are new experiments or technological tests. In a statement today, Air Force officials confirmed that the OTV-5 was conducting numerous experiments and launching smaller satellites into orbit.

"With the successful landing today, the X-37B has completed its longest flight to date and successfully fulfilled all mission objectives," said Randy Walden, director of the Air Force's Rapid Capabilities Office, in a statement. "This mission is hosted by the Air Force Research Laboratory experiments, among other things, as well as providing small satellites. "

Connected: Mysterious X-37B spacecraft Explained: The new Boeing video

The X-37B spacecraft was originally developed by NASA in 1999 to serve as a technological test bed for future spacecraft and looks a lot like a miniature version of a space shuttle.In 2004, the Defense Advanced Agency for Defense Studies (DARPA) took over the project, eventually becoming several years later a vehicle of the Rapid Capability Office

X-37B cars are 29 feet long a (8.8 meters), 9.5 feet (2.9 m) high and have a wingspan of just under 15 feet (4.6 m). Their payloads are about the size of a pickup bed, with a length of about 7 ft and 4 ft (2.1 by 1.2 m) wide

Related: US Air Force's secret X-37B space shuttle (Infographics) [19659021] Poll: What a mysterious space shuttle does US Air Force X-37B in orbit?

The first X-37B mission, the OTV-1, launched in April 2010 and spent 224 days in orbit. The OTV-2 launched in March 2011, marking the first flight of a second X-37B, and remained in orbit for 468 days.

The OTV-3 marked the first X-37B light signal (using the OTV-1 vehicle) and launched in December 2012 on a 674-day flight. The OTV-4 mission launched in May 2015 (the second flight of the OTV-2 vehicle) and spent 718 days in space. OTV's first four missions launched on Atlas V rockets, with the OTV-5 marking the first use of the SpaceX Falcon 9 fleet.

"This spacecraft is a key component of the space community. This milestone demonstrates our commitment to conducting experiments for the Future Space Exploration of America, "said X-37B Program Manager Lt. Col. Jonathan Keane in a statement from the Air Force." Congratulations to the X-37B Team for a job well done. "

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik Follow us @Spacedotcom and Facebook .

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