A secretive Space Force ship landed at Cape Canaveral over the weekend — creating a series of sonic booms and flashes that left some locals fearing everything from a meteor strike to UFO.
The 30-foot-long, robotic, X-37B military ship — which has gained fame both for its secret missions as well as its ability to stay in orbit for so long — ended its most recent trip at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday, according to Space Force and USA Today.
As the spacecraft headed east across Florida around 5 a.m. before landing, dozens of sonic booms were reported.
Some Central Florida residents said they felt their homes shake — and a few locals suggested the possibility of a meteor or UFO.
“Holy Crap! … Was driving south almost to the Cape early this morning, when I saw idk what streaked overhead. Meteor? UFO? Everyone on the road hit their brakes,” a Twitter user wrote. “Figured twitter would know, lol, but I didn’t think it was going to be X-37.”
Another user wrote, “No, there was no UFO!
“In case you heard that very LOUD sonic boom this morning in Central Florida (like I did), it may have been this…” he said, posting an article speculating the booms came from X-37B.
The booms could be heard from Titusville to Kissimmee, according to Fox 29.
The unmanned little spacecraft, which looks like a mini-shuttle, spent a record-breaking 908 days in orbit, or 118 days more than its previous record, USA Today said.
The reusable Boeing vehicle, now done with its sixth mission, has traveled 1.3 billion miles over the course of 3,774 days in space. It has been whizzing around Earth on various trips since 2010.
While X-37B’s primary missions are mainly secretive, it does perform secondary tasks that are publicized, the outlet said.
Several NASA experiments were completed during the record-breaking mission, the military Space Force said in a statement.
This trip was the first to include a service module, or “a ring attached to the rear of the vehicle expanding the number of experiments that can be hosed during a mission.”
One of the experiments, in collaboration with the Naval Research Laboratory’s Photovoltaic Radiofrequency Antenna Module, “successfully harnessed solar rays outside of Earth’s atmosphere and aimed to transmit power to the ground in the form of radio frequency microwave energy,” according to the statement.
Another experiment conducted by NASA investigated the effect of long-duration space exposure on seeds to help with space-crop production on future missions.
“The X-37B continues to push the boundaries of experimentation, enabled by an elite government and industry team behind the scenes,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Fritschen, the program director for the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office, in a statement.
“The ability to conduct on-orbit experiments and bring them home safely for in-depth analysis on the ground has proven valuable for the Department of the Air Force and scientific community. The addition of the service module on OTV-6 allowed us to host more experiments than ever before.”