Sonic boom tears Florida apart as Space Force X-37B plane returns

Sonic boom tears Florida apart as Space Force X-37B plane returns

It was a little past 5 a.m. when her house woke to a rumble. His hens screamed. His cats have scattered. His dogs hid under the covers. And Nancy Planeta sat up in bed, wondering: What was that sound?

Florida residents woke up early Saturday morning to the sound of the X-37B returning to Earth after a record 908 days in orbit.

Reports of a sonic boom were widespread from Titusville to Tampa when the US Space Force autonomous vehicle landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County at 5:22 a.m.

Planeta, who is 52 and lives in northern Pasco County, scoured Facebook and local news sites for answers in a morning haze. Garbage collection? Gunshots ? Exercises at MacDill? Her father worked with the Air Force, she said, so once she recovered from the initial shock, she quickly recognized the boom as sonic. His animals took longer to gather.

“They are used to calm country life,” she said on Sunday morning.

In a statement, Boeing, which built the X-37B, said the craft has now traveled more than 1.3 billion miles, spending 3,774 days in space while conducting experiments for the government and its partners.

One experiment, in partnership with the US Naval Research Laboratory, involved converting solar energy into microwave energy. Another aimed to test the durability of certain materials exposed to space conditions to ultimately improve the accuracy of space environment models.

“This mission highlights Space Force’s focus on collaborative space exploration and expanding low-cost access to space for our partners, in and out. of the Department of the Air Force,” said Chance Saltzman, U.S. Space Force general and chief of space operations. A declaration.

The X-37B was developed by NASA as a test bed for future spacecraft. Today it is jointly operated by the Space Force and the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. The US Space Force is believed to have two X-37B vehicles, which measure 29 feet from nose to tail, falling somewhere between a pickup truck and a school bus in length.

The X-37B was launched into orbit from Space Force Station Cape Canaveral on May 17, 2020, when Donald Trump was president – about two months after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Its sixth mission lasted four months longer than any previous X-37B flight.

“This return further underscores the capabilities of Space Florida’s launch and landing facility that are ideal for Department of Defense and commercial missions,” said Frank DiBello, president and CEO of Space Florida, the state aerospace financing and development authority, in a statement. .

In Bithlo, located in Orange County about 30 miles west of Kennedy Space Center, Carlos and Johana Alfonso captured the boom on their doorbell camera.

“The walls shook, the glass shook, the whole house shook,” said Johana, 55.

They ventured outside after being jolted awake and said a strange sulfur-smelling mist hung in the air.

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On the Gulf Coast, Peter Anderson also awoke to the eerie sound rumbling in the still dark sky.

“Was I imagining it?” the 37-year-old Sarasota resident remembers thinking.

Unable to get back to sleep, he said he took out his phone, opened Twitter and scrolled through online discussions about the X-37B. He loosely follows space developments, so he had heard of the plane, but had no idea that its nearly 30-month orbit was coming to an end.

“It would be nice if we were made aware of these things,” he said.

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