For two years, an unnamed, secret spacecraft belonging to the United States Air Force hovered around Earth, performing things largely unknown to all but a handful of members of the military. Its return to this planet culminated in a spectacular boom right before its landing at Kennedy Space Center in central Florida early Sunday — one of the few things the branch would admit to (first reported in the Orlando Sentinel) regarding the advanced vessel.
They also confirmed its futuristic, binary-like name — the X-37B — and its size. It’s 29-feet long and roughly 11,000 pounds.
Florida residents reported the boom all the way to Tampa and Fort Myers.
This from The Hill:
Many experts believe the craft, launched in 2015 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, carried intelligence-gathering equipment, the newspaper reported.
“[It] is an experimental test program to demonstrate technologies for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the U.S. Air Force,” the military said in a news release.
“Didn’t sound from where I live [like] a sonic boom,” said Cherie Doughan, who heard the sonic boom near Cape Haze in southwest Florida. “Sort of unnerving with things the way they are world wide.”
A few more reactions, via the Sentinel:
“Shook our house in Davenport and drove the dog into a brief frenzy,” Patrick Reikofski posted on his Twitter account.
Jeff Savage tweeted, “Just heard a loud sonic boom here near Disney World. What was that??!!”
The USAF has already announced its plan to launch another of the same model aircraft later this year.
The model that just returned to the Sunshine State was originally launched on May 20, 2015, by a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.