The vehicle that was used as an atmospheric drop test glider had no propulsion system. Instead of an operational vehicle's payload bay doors it had an enclosed and reinforced upper fuselage structure to allow it to be mated with a mothership. In September 2004, it was reported that for its initial atmospheric drop tests the X-37 would be launched from the Scaled Composites White Knight, a high-altitude research aircraft.
On June 21, 2005, the X-37 completed a captive-carry flight underneath the White Knight from Mojave Spaceport, Mojave, California. Through the second half of 2005, the X-37 underwent structural upgrades including reinforcement of the nose wheel supports. Further captive-carry flight tests and the first drop test were expected mid-February 2006. The X-37's public debut was scheduled for its first free flight on March 10, 2006, but was canceled due to an Arctic storm. The next attempt at flight on March 15, 2006, was canceled due to high winds.
On March 24, 2006, the X-37 flew, but a data link failure prevented the free flight and the vehicle returned to the ground still docked with its White Knight carrier. On April 7, 2006, the X-37 made its first free glide flight. During landing, the vehicle overran the runway and it sustained minor damage.
Following an extended down time while the vehicle was repaired, the program moved from Mojave to Air Force Plant 42 (KPMD) in Palmdale, California for the remainder of the flight test program. White Knight continued to be based at Mojave, but would ferry over to Plant 42 when flights were scheduled. Five additional flights were performed, two of which resulted in the vehicle being dropped and making a successful landing. These free flights occurred on August 18, 2006, and September 26, 2006.
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