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Iran Press TV

Top-secret US military plane returns to Earth after two years

Iran Press TV

Sat Oct 18, 2014 1:55PM GMT

A top-secret unmanned US space plane has landed at an Air Force base in Southern California after a two-year classified mission circling the Earth.

The aircraft, known as the Orbital Test Vehicle or X-37B, spent 674 days in orbit around the planet and landed Friday morning at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

It is not known what the aircraft, resembling a mini space shuttle, was doing during its top-secret flight. In announcing its return, the US Air Force said the X-37B had been conducting "on-orbit experiments."

Experts have put forward several theories regarding the clandestine mission; among them is the suggestion that it is designed to spy on China's new space laboratory.

The X-37B program, which began in 1999, has conducted three classified missions.

The first flight was launched in April 2010 and lasted eight months. The second plane took off in March 2011 and returned to the Earth 15 months later.

The Air Force's Rapid Capabilities Office, which currently runs the mysterious program, has reportedly planned a fourth mission in 2015.

NASA and several other federal agencies have resided over the program since 1999.

Europe will test its own unmanned space plane technology in the foreseeable future.


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