CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida — A U.S. Air Force’s secret X-37B space plane landed at the former space shuttle runway at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:51 a.m. EDT on Sunday, October 27, 2019.
For the first time, the X-37B was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A on September 7, 2017.
All prior launches of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) were aboard United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket.
This fifth mission (OTV-5) of the X-37B broke the record for the most time the space plane has spent in space at 780 days.
The previous X-37B record of 718 days in space was set by the fourth mission (OTV-4).
The X-37B was originally designed for orbital missions lasting only 270 days.
“The safe return of this spacecraft, after breaking its own endurance record, is the result of the innovative partnership between Government and Industry,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “The sky is no longer the limit for the Air Force and, if Congress approves, the U.S. Space Force.”
As of today, the total number of days spent on-orbit for the entire test vehicle program is 2,865 days.
In 2014, Boeing began consolidation of its X-37B operations at Kennedy Space Center by converting the former space shuttle facility, OPF-1, to a facility that would enable the U.S. Air Force to land, recover, refurbish, and re-launch the reusable unmanned space plane.
Prior to consolidation, the 29-foot-long X-37B had launched from both Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida – but the space plane only landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base.