The first stage's center engine fired once more as the booster made its final descent, and the Falcon 9 extended four landing legs for touchdown at Landing Zone 1, a flat concrete target on the Atlantic coastline around 9 miles (15 kilometers) south of launch pad 39A.
It is the fifth flight for one of these crewless mini-shuttles, known as the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle. Its last mission lasted 718 days, or nearly two years.
While the specifics of the X-37B's mission aren't available to the public, it will be "conducting experiments" post-launch. By comparison, Nasa's retired space shuttles were 122ft long with a 78ft wingspan.
SpaceX launches have become something of a routine over the past year or so, but if you think there's nothing interesting about yet anotherlaunch being carried out by Elon Musk's stellar startup, you're dead wrong. Though officials remain confident that it won't pose any threat to the mission.
Like the space shuttle, the X-37B launches vertically and comes to back to Earth horizontally, in a runway landing.
Boeing (ba) built the spacecraft, which was based on NASA's designs of an earlier vehicle, according to the space agency.
The Air Force has not disclosed many details about the space craft other than to say it's designed for "low Earth orbit altitudes where it can perform long duration space technology experimentation and testing". She suggested that price was a factor in the Air Force's decision to go with Falcon 9.
Jamie Foxx, Katie Holmes Finally Take Relationship Public
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Canadian economy beats expectations with 4.5% GDP growth in Q2
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