Automating Spacecraft - the X37
The X-37 autonomous space vehicle has seen various permutations of design over the past decade. The vehicle finally flew in a drop test to prove both airworthiness and the autonomous landing capability. Tests were successful up to and including the actual landing although errant behavior on the runway caused the vehicle to continue rolling past the runway. Technologies tested on the X-37 are supposed to break ground for both an emergency escape vehicle for the International Space Station (ISS) and over time develop into a smaller, cheaper shuttle. Of interest, rather than the traditional B-52 for drop testing, the X-37 uses the White Knight from Scaled Composites, the company made famous for achieving commercial spaceflight via SpaceShipOne in 2004.