Air Force's mysterious space plane lands, wakes up Florida

The U.S. Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission 4 (OTV-4) is seen after landing at the Shuttle Landing Facility of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 7, 2017.

When the small craft's wheels touched down on the Shuttle Landing Facility runway just before 8 a.m., it marked the first time that a spacecraft landed at Kennedy Space Center since the last flight of space shuttle Atlantis almost six years ago. It finally landed at the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility, for the first time, causing a sonic boom that was felt in the entire Central Florida area, even in Tampa and Fort Myers.

The X-37B, which looks like a small plane, made history by landing for the first time in Florida instead of California.

The orbiters "perform risk reduction, experimentation and concept-of-operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies", the Air Force has said without providing details.

Launch from Cape Canaveral of a fifth mission, OTV-5, is planned later this year.

Developed by Boeing, the X-37B has a launch weight of 11,000 pounds (4,990 kilograms) and is 29 feet, 3 inches (8.9 meters) long with a wingspan of 14 feet, 11 inches (4.5 meters).

"Today marks an incredibly exciting day for the 45th Space Wing as we continue to break barriers", Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, commander of the Air Force's 45th Space Wing.

The X-37B launches vertically and comes back to Earth horizontally for a runway landing, as the space shuttle did.

In 2006, the Air Force was charged with the program and finally in 2010 the initial orbital test of the program took off.

Video posted by the Air Force from a runway camera showed the winged craft whiz overhead, touch down on wheels on the runway's north end and race down the three-mile, concrete strip before rolling to a stop in daylight. Therefore, it was 675 days in the space.

The just-ended mission, known as Orbital Test Vehicle mission 4 (OTV-4), was launched in May 2015 and conducted secret experiments for a total of 718 days while in orbit, Xinhua news agency reported. It was the fourth and lengthiest mission so far for the secretive program, managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.

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