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Photos: X-37B Space Plane - The Orbital Test Vehicle

Up Close and Personal

USAF/Vandenberg Air Force Base

A crew of vehicle handlers clad in suits to protect against hazardous materials (like any remaining rocket fuel) approach the X-37B robot space plane after its successful Dec. 3 landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

X-37B in Profile

USAF/Vandenberg Air Force Base

An Air Force photographer snapped this profile view of the X-37B shortly after its landing on Dec. 3, 2010, which marked the end of the secret vehicle's maiden space mission.

Home Again

USAF/Vandenberg Air Force Base

Despite its robotic nature, the X-37B space plane received a warm welcome from Air Force crews at Vandenberg. Here, the vehicle appears to be undergoing safing procedures after landing on Dec. 3 at 1:16 a.m. PST (0916 GMT). Significant weathering, or discoloration, can be seen on the spacecraft's upper thermal blanket insulation.

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 planned April 2010 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.