Looks like the space shuttle program is not really dead! A miniature robotic space shuttle completed a 224 day top secret military mission and landed in total darkness in California last Friday. The successful landing was revealed by Air force officials. The shuttle being called The Orbital Test Vehicle or X-37B, touched down at 1:16 a.m. PST at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The shuttle landing was autonomous and made it the first US Spaceship to land itself on a runway.
In contrast Russia had accomplished a similar feat in 1988. This robotic shuttle project was started by Nasa and was adopted by the military to test top secret next generation technologies. The military is thinking of using a mini shuttle to test equipment in space such as sensors and other devices with an intention of incorporating them into satellities.
While the X-37B was in orbit, news agencies were prevented from reporting on it though it was tracked by amateur satellite watchers over its nine-month mission. The X-37B measures just 29 feet, 3 inches in length and has a 15-foot (4.5-metres) wing span, compared to the 122-foot (37-metres) orbiters with wing spans of 78 feet.
The Air Force is already planning to fly a second X-37B vehicle this spring. Speculation is that the Airforce eventually would test weapons in space to assess the impact of such weapons beyond earth.