Why Florida felt a sonic boom today

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CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – The OTV-4, a reusable X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, left Cape Canaveral on May 20, 2015.  It returned Sunday, shortly after 8 a.m., according to the United States Air Force.

After completing its fourth classified mission, the unmanned military space plane concluded a nearly two-year mission in orbit when it landed safely at at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the X-37B program has been called “the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft.” The U.S. Air Force announced the landing in a tweet.

The X-37B, originally launched from a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, landed with a sonic boom that was heard throughout Central Florida when the space plane landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility.

There are two primary objectives of the space program, according to Air Force officials.  “Reusable spacecraft technologies for America’s future in space, and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth,” officials said.

According to officials, for the first time since NASA’s Shuttle Orbiter, they have a vehicle capable of returning experiments to Earth to be analyzed and inspected with the X-37B. Its also capable of being space for longer periods, with an on-orbit time of at least 270 days.

Two mini-shuttles have already completed two missions each since 2010. Those missions also launched from the Cape. Three X-37B landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

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