The Air Force's secretive military space plane lands in Florida after a record-long orbital flight

Military Tech

VIDEO: The Air Force's secretive X-37B space plane prepares for alunch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon's secretive X-37B spaceplane landed in Florida on Sunday after a record-long orbital flight lasting more than two years, the U.S. Air Force said, capping the latest test mission for an array of military technologies.


The unpiloted X-37B, built by Boeing, touched down on an air strip at NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 3:51 a.m. ET after spending 780 days orbiting Earth as the Air Force's fifth flight mission under the Orbital Test Vehicle program, the Air Force said.

The Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Mission 5 successfully landed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility Oct. 27, 2019 (U.S. Air Force/Jeremy

The spaceplane, roughly the size of a small bus and sharing many design features with NASA's Space Shuttle, was sent into orbit in 2017 atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, embarking on a mission managed by the Washington-based Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office to conduct various classified technology experiments in a long-duration space environment.

"The X-37B continues to demonstrate the importance of a reusable spaceplane," Barbara Barrett, the newly appointed Air Force secretary, said in a statement. "Each successive mission advances our nation's space capabilities."

The previous X-37B mission lasted 718 days and landed in 2017. Sunday morning's landing tallies 2,865 total days for the program overall, the Air Force said.

The Pentagon, increasingly reliant on space technologies, recently created the U.S. Space Command and is asking Congress to approve funding for a proposed Space Force, which would serve as a new branch of the military.

"The sky is no longer the limit for the Air Force and, if Congress approves, the U.S. Space Force," General David L. Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, said.

It didn't take long for a central theme to emerge at the funeral of U.S. Marine Pfc. Joseph Livermore, an event attended by hundreds of area residents Friday at Union Cemetery in Bakersfield.

It's a theme that stems from a widespread local belief that the men and women who have served in the nation's armed forces are held in particularly high esteem here in the southern valley.

"In Bakersfield and Kern County, we celebrate our veterans like no place else on Earth," Bakersfield Chief of Police Lyle Martin told the gathering of mourners.

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An Air Force Special Tactics combat controller that "delivered thousands of pounds of munition" during a close-range 2007 firefight in Afghanistan was awarded the Silver Star on Friday.

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ROCKFORD — Delta Force sniper Sgt. First Class James P. McMahon's face was so badly battered and cut, "he looked like he was wearing a fright mask" as he stood atop a downed Black Hawk helicopter and pulled free the body of a fellow soldier from the wreckage.

That's the first description of McMahon in the book by journalist Mark Bowden called "Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War." It is a detailed account of the horrific Battle of the Black Sea fought in the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993. It claimed the lives of 18 elite American soldiers.

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The July arrests of 16 Camp Pendleton Marines in front of their 800-person battalion was unlawful and a violation of their rights, a Marine Corps judge ruled Friday.

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Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher will retire as a chief petty officer now that President Donald Trump has restored his rank.

"Before the prosecution of Special Warfare Operator First Class Edward Gallagher, he had been selected for promotion to Senior Chief, awarded a Bronze Star with a "V" for valor, and assigned to an important position in the Navy as an instructor," a White House statement said.

"Though ultimately acquitted on all of the most serious charges, he was stripped of these honors as he awaited his trial and its outcome. Given his service to our Nation, a promotion back to the rank and pay grade of Chief Petty Officer is justified."

The announcement that Gallagher is once again an E-7 effectively nullifies the Navy's entire effort to prosecute Gallagher for allegedly committing war crimes. It is also the culmination of Trump's support for the SEAL throughout the legal process.

On July 2, military jurors found Gallagher not guilty of premeditated murder and attempted murder for allegedly stabbing a wounded ISIS fighter to death and opening fire at an old man and a young girl on separate occasions during his 2017 deployment to Iraq.

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