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Photos: Secretive X-37B Space Plane's 3rd Mission for the US Air Force

OTV-3 Landing Success for X-37B

Boeing

An X-37B space plane touches down at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Oct. 17, 2014 to end a 22-month secret mission for the U.S. military. It marked the third X-37B space plane flight since 2010. Read the Full Story.

X-37B Launches on Third Mission #2

Pat Corkery/United Launch Alliance

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket blasts off from Space Launch Complex-41 with the U.S. Air Force's third Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-3). The OTV, also known as the X-37B, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on Dec. 11, 2012.

X-37B Launches on Third Mission

United Launch Alliance

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket blasts off from Space Launch Complex-41 with the U.S. Air Force's third Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-3). The OTV, also known as the X-37B, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on Dec. 11, 2012.

Rocket Nose Cone Covers X-37B Robot Space Plane

USAF

The U.S. Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is shown inside its payload fairing during encapsulation at the Astrotech facility in Titusville, Fla., ahead of a April 2010 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.The same spacecraft flew again on the OTV-3 mission, which launched in Dec. 2012.

X-37B: Let's Work

NASA/MSFC

This NASA Marshall Space Flight Center image shows on-orbit functions for the reusable X-37B space plane, now under the wing of the U.S. Air Force.

X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Diagram

Graphic by Karl Tate

This diagram of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle shows how it will work.

X-37B Space Plane Launches on Atlas 5

ULA

An Atlas 5 rocket blasts off on Dec. 11, 2012, beginning the Air Force's third X-37B classified space plane mission.

Air Force's X-37B Space Plane: An Orbital Spy

USAF

A belly view of the U.S. Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 1 as it sits inside its payload fairing during encapsulation at the Astrotech facility in Titusville, Fla., before its first launch in April 2010. The same spacecraft flew again on the OTV-3 mission, which launched in Dec. 2012.

X-37B Rolled Out for Third Mission

Pat Corkery/United Launch Alliance

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V is rolled to the pad at Space Launch Complex-41 in preparation for launch of the Air Force's third Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-3) mission. The OTV, also known as the X-37B, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on Dec. 11, 2012.

In orbit

USAF

The X-37B (shown here in an illustration) is an unpiloted military space plane. Launched from Florida, the vehicle will make an auto-touchdown.

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Space.com Staff

Space.com is the premier source of space exploration, innovation and astronomy news, chronicling (and celebrating) humanity's ongoing expansion across the final frontier. Originally founded in 1999, Space.com is, and always has been, the passion of writers and editors who are space fans and also trained journalists. Our current news team consists of Editor-in-Chief Tariq Malik; Editor Hanneke Weitering, Senior Space Writer Mike Wall; Senior Writer Meghan Bartels; Senior Writer Chelsea Gohd, Senior Writer Tereza Pultarova and Staff Writer Alexander Cox, focusing on e-commerce. Senior Producer Steve Spaleta oversees our space videos, with Diana Whitcroft as our Social Media Editor.