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X-37B Unmanned Spacecraft Concludes Record-Setting

A third mission of the Boeing-built X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle was completed on Oct. 17, 2014, when it landed and was recovered at Vandenberg Air Force Base following a successful 674-day space mission. The first OTV mission began April 22, 2010, and concluded on Dec. 3, 2010, after 224 days in orbit. The second OTV mission began March 5, 2011, and concluded on June 16, 2012, after 468 days on orbit. A number of innovations were tested for the first time in space aboard the X-37B. While the experimental space plane uses a similar lifting body design as the Space Shuttle, the X-37B was built using composites that are lighter than traditional aluminum. It also uses a new generation of high-temperature wing leading-edge tiles made of toughened uni-piece fibrous refractory oxidation-resistant ceramic also called (TUFROC), as compared to the Shuttle, which uses more traditional carbon carbon. The X-37B uses silica tiles that are toughened with uni-piece fibrous insulation and are much more durable than the first-generation shuttle tiles. It is also the first space vehicle to use advanced conformal reusable insulation blankets. The on-board avionics were designed to automate all de-orbit and landing functions – and the space plane has no hydraulics. The flight controls and brakes move electromechanically.

Source: Boeing

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