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US secret satellite ready to return to earth

The secret space craft of the US Air Force is all set to return to earth anytime between this Friday and Monday. Air Force refused to give more details but it is expected that the satellite was scheduled to test several advanced systems.

The unmanned space craft of the U.S. Air force has completed its classified mission and will be returning to earth after a stay of more than seven months in Earth's orbit, the Air Force officials told in a brief statement released on 30th November.

Landing will be at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California and is expected to take place any time between Friday and Monday, depending on the weather and other technical considerations.

Spacecraft is an Air Force Project
The space plane called X-37B was launched on April, 22. Since then it has been orbiting the earth executing its secret mission.

3rd Space Experimentation Squadron of the Air Force Space Command is operating the flight.

The X-37B has been built by Boeing’s advanced lab, Phantom Works and is reusable. No details regarding the cost of the space plane has been divulged.

Landing will be at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California and is expected to take place any time between Friday and Monday, depending on the weather and other technical considerations.

The space craft was initially designed for NASA but the project was shut down in 2004 for lack of funds and it was shifted to Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency and finally it came to Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office in Washington, in 2006.

The X-37B looks like a miniature space shuttle. It is 29 feet long and has a wing span of 15 feet, roughly one fifth of a space shuttle

Advance Systems Onboard
Unlike the space shuttles of NASA which can stay in space only for nearly two weeks, the X-37B can stay for up to nine months. This capacity to stay for long periods comes from the fact that instead of fuel cells used by space shuttles, the X-37 B uses solar power to produce electricity in space.

The space craft is said to have tested advance guidance and navigation system, avionics, high temperature seals and structures and thermal protection system. Military hopes that the test would be useful for a responsive and agile fighter plane.

The landing will be the first in the history U.S. space programme to try fully independent re-entry and runway landing from earth’s orbit.

The Soviet Union’s Buran space shuttle programme did so in a single test flight in 1988.

The space craft will guide itself to the touchdown at Vandenberg Base aided by the data supplied by its GPS precision landing system and will line up with the runway.

There is a destruction mechanism on board which will be activated in case the craft strays out of its course.

After landing, the vehicle will go through check to assess the damage it has suffered during its 32 weeks journey in earth’s orbit. After that, engineers will prepare it for another flight.

Right now, another X-37B is being made by the Phantom Works of Boeing for a launch sometime next year.