U.S. Air Force’s top-secret X-37B spacecraft lands after nearly two years in orbit

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The Air Force’s top-secret space plane landed in California on Friday morning after nearly two years orbiting Earth on a classified mission. The robotic spacecraft’s purpose remains a mystery, though surveillance is a likely candidate.

The Boeing X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle ‒ an unpiloted aircraft that looks like a miniature space shuttle ‒ made its third landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California after spending more than 670 days in low-Earth orbit.

“I’m extremely proud of our team for coming together to execute this third safe and successful landing,” Col. Keith Balts, commander of the 30th Space Wing that is headquartered at Vandenberg, said in a statement. “Everyone from our on-console space operators to our airfield managers and civil engineers take pride in this unique mission and exemplify excellence during its execution.”

The spacecraft was launched on December 11, 2012 by an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral…

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