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Unmanned Military Orbiter Causes Sonic Boom In Florida

First Posted: May 08, 2017 05:40 AM EDT
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An unmanned aircraft that has been orbiting Earth since May 2015 landed in Florida, causing a sonic boom that rattled much of the area. Multiple media outlets announced that the incident could be heard as far away as Tampa and Fort Myers.

Phys.org reported that the X-37B shuttle landed at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on Sunday. After 718 days in orbit, the shuttle landed for the first time in the Sunshine State. Previous missions landed the shuttle at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The sonic boom was heard by residents throughout Central Florida. Those from Brevard County may even have heard the boom before the spacecraft landed at the landing facility. Today, however, officials noted that several technologies are still being tested in the program, emphasizing the objectives of the X-37B.

According to them, the primary objective of the spacecraft is twofold. It should be reusable for the future of the U.S. space and operating experiments. These experiments should have the ability to be returned to and examined here on Earth.

In a WTSP report, Air Force officials said that the spacecraft is the first to be able to return experiments to Earth since NASA's Shuttle Orbiter. What is particularly impressive about the X-37B is that it can stay in space longer due to its orbit time that lasts 270 days or more.

Officials also noted that the X-37B spacecraft is "an experimental test program" that is designed to demonstrate technologies for a reliable and reusable space test platform for the Air Force. At this point, a fifth X-37B mission is set to launch from Cape Canaveral this year.

The Guardian said that the orbiters also perform risk reduction experimentation and other operational concepts set to develop reusable space vehicle technologies. There had been no release of specifics, however, as the program, along with its costs, is considered by the government to be classified.

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