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Secret US Mini-Space Shuttle Returns to Earth

© AP Photo / U.S. Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. - Sputnik International

"The X37B OTV-4 has returned from orbit and has landed safely at the Kennedy Space Center. The X-37 spent over 700 days in space,” the Air Force reported.

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​The Pentagon has been tight-lipped about the purpose of launching the X-37B OTV-4, saying only that it planned to use the mini-space shuttle as an experimental platform for an ion engine and as a tool for to studying the changing properties of materials in space.

Experts believe that the X-37B, launched like a satellite atop Atlas 5 rockets and then landing like an airplane, could also serve as a prototype of a space interceptor or a spy plane.

The OTV-4 is already the fourth orbital laboratory built as part of the X-34 program.

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