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

X-37B Rolled Out for Third Mission, Payload Closeup

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.

X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV)

NASA/Boeing

An artist's illustration of the unmanned X-37B space plane during re-entry.

x-37b-space-plane-landing-photos-7-101203-02.jpg

SAF/Vandenberg Air Force Base

The U.S. Air Force's secretive X-37B robot space plane landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Dec. 3, 2010 to end a successful — but mysterious — seven month mission that was shrouded in secrecy. Recovery crews were quick on scene to meet the space drone. This first X-37B was used on the third OTV mission, which launhced on dcec. 11, 2013.

X-37B Mated to Atlas V Launch Vehicle

United Launch Alliance

The U.S. Air Force's third Orbital Test Vehicle or OTV-3 mission, encapsulated inside its 5-meter diameter payload fairing, is mated to a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle. The OTV, also known as the X-37B, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on Dec. 11, 2012.

X-37B Rolled Out for Third Mission, Low Angle

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.

X-37B Payload Fairing Before Mating to Atlas V Launch Vehicle

United Launch Alliance

The U.S. Air Force's third Orbital Test Vehicle or OTV-3 mission, encapsulated inside its 5-meter diameter payload fairing, is mated to a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle. The OTV, also known as the X-37B, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on Dec. 11, 2012.

X-37B Prepared for Third Mission

United Launch Alliance

The U.S. Air Force's third Orbital Test Vehicle or OTV-3 mission, encapsulated inside its 5-meter diameter payload fairing, is mated to a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle. The OTV, also known as the X-37B, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on Dec. 11, 2012.

On the Runway

USAF

The X-37B space plane prototype is seen on a runway during flight tests in this undated photo released by the U.S. Air Force.

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