X-37B/OTV Unmanned Spacecraft

The X-37B/OTV (Orbital Test Vehicle) is an unmanned military spacecraft scheduled for launch on April 19th. The OTV program is managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.

(Reusable X-37 space plane in orbit)

The X-37B's mission is to "demonstrate a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the United States Air Force," the military fact sheet says. "Objectives of the OTV program include space experimentation, risk reduction and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies."

At the end of its mission, the X-37B will fire its engine and drop from orbit, autonomously navigating through a fiery re-entry on the way to its 15,000-foot-long primary runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Edwards Air Force Base is the backup landing site.

Fully-automated flight and landing have long been a part of science fiction. The automated shuttle shown above is fully capable of automated landings on other ships.

(Star Trek crew enroute to Enterprise on fully automated shuttle)

From Space.com.

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