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The X-37 is operated by the United States Air Force for orbital spaceflight missions intended to demonstrate reusable space technologies. A second X-37 was launched on mission USA-226 in March 2011 and returned in June 2012.It is a 120%-scaled derivative of the earlier Boeing X-40. The third mission was USA-240, which launched in December 2012 and landed in October 2014.To return to Kennedy Space Center, the X-37 is placed into a payload canister and loaded into a Boeing C-17 cargo plane.Once at Kennedy, the X-37 is unloaded and towed to the OPF, where it is prepared for its next flight, similar to the Space Shuttle.At the time of its maiden launch, the X-37 (far right) was the smallest and lightest orbital spaceplane yet flown.Both the North American X-15 and Space Ship One were suborbital.
Boeing was the prime contractor for the OTV program.
Five additional flights were performed, On 17 November 2006, the U. Air Force announced that it would develop its own variant from NASA's X-37A.
The Air Force version was designated the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV).
Through the second half of 2005, the X-37A underwent structural upgrades, including the reinforcement of its nose wheel supports.
Further captive-carry flight tests and the first drop test were initially expected to occur in mid-February 2006.
Most of the activities of the X-37B project are secret. In October 2014, The Guardian reported the claims of security experts that the X-37B was being used "to test reconnaissance and spy sensors, particularly how they hold up against radiation and other hazards of orbit".