The Orbital Test Vehicle 2
A U.S. Air Force operated top secret spy plane has returned to Earth after spending a highly impressive 469 days in orbit according to mission commanders.
It successfully landed early Saturday at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, fueling speculation that the mission, which remains classified, represents that latest step forward for the U.S. in a growing battle for space supremacy. The top secret spy plane is called the X-37B or the Orbital Test Vehicle 2 or OTV-2, and it was launched in March 2011 atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Objectives of the Mission Unclear
It’s still unclear what types of operations were conducted by the spy plane, but speculations have arisen that it was used to conduct operations regarding matters of U.S. national intelligence.
“The primary objectives of the X-37B are twofold: reusable spacecraft technologies for America’s future in space and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth,” said Air Force officials.
“One of the goals of this mission was to see how much farther we could push the on-orbit duration,” Lt. Col. Tom McIntyre, the X-37B program manager, said in a statement.