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December 11, 2012

Boeing’s reusable, unmanned X-37B orbital test vehicle begins second flight

Boeing successfully returned an unmanned U.S. Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle to orbit Dec. 11. Building upon its inaugural mission from April to December 2010, this second flight will demonstrate that the vehicle is capable of multiple missions and can provide affordable access to space. A second vehicle, OTV-2, broke records in June 2012 when it completed a 469-day mission.

Affordable, responsive vehicle delivers unprecedented capability to US Air Force

Boeing successfully returned an unmanned U.S. Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle to orbit Dec. 11, continuing to demonstrate how the system provides responsive, reusable access to space.

An Atlas V rocket launched OTV-1, the first of two vehicles in the program, into a low Earth orbit at 1:03 p.m., EST, from Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 41.

The X-37B, which combines the best of aircraft and spacecraft design in an unmanned test platform, is testing reusable vehicle technologies dealing with space experimentation, risk reduction and concept-of-operations development.

“The second mission for OTV-1 demonstrates the vehicle is capable of multiple missions and affordable access to space,” said Paul Rusnock, vice president of Boeing Government Space Systems.

OTV-1 was first launched in April 2010 and returned to Earth that December. It is the United States’ first unmanned vehicle to return from space and land on its own. The space shuttle had been the only space vehicle capable of landing on a runway.

A second vehicle, OTV-2, set a record for a reusable space vehicle in June of this year when it completed a 469-day mission. Previously, Space Shuttle Discovery held that record with an accumulated total of 365 days in orbit.

Boeing’s commitment to space-based unmanned vehicle technology spans a decade and includes support to the Air Force Research Lab’s X-40 program, NASA’s X-37 program, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s X-37 Approach, Landing and Test Vehicle program.




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