Top-secret military spaceplanes certainly know how to make an entrance.
The U.S. military’s X-37B, an uncrewed spacecraft that looks like a miniature version of the retired space shuttles, returned to Earth over the weekend after spending nearly two years in low-Earth orbit.
It sent shockwaves rippling through the air as it entered the atmosphere over Florida, producing a sonic boom loud enough to jolt people awake across the state. The Air Force, which operates the X-37B, tweeted about its return minutes later, and soon posted a flurry of images and videos of the spaceplane online.
“Our team has been preparing for this event for several years, and I am extremely proud to see our hard work and dedication culminate in today’s safe and successful landing of the X-37B,” said Brigadier General Wayne Monteith, the commander of the Air Force’s Space Wing.
The news that the military had a space shuttle quietly orbiting Earth for more than 700 days came as a surprise to some. Why didn’t we know about this thing, the reaction seemed to go.