Sonic boom rattled Central Florida

- A top-secret military spacecraft is back on Earth, and it arrived in style, letting most of Central Florida know it was back in town.

Friends Christy Chesnut and Katie Dagenais heard it more than 40 miles away.

“I heard a huge bang,” Chesnut said. “I thought my son, who's 13, had fallen out of his bed and hit the floor.”

“The whole house shook,” Dagenais said. “The dog started barking and we just wondered what is this?”

This turned out to be the X-37B, an Air Force spacecraft that gave off a thunderous sonic boom when it landed at Cape Canaveral early this morning.

Dale Ketcham is Space Florida’s chief of strategic alliances.

He heard the boom while out walking his dog.

He says the unmanned military jet had just finished a classified 718-day mission in orbit.

“We're not really too sure what it does, we're not supposed to,” Ketcham said, “but we're really sure it makes the Chinese, Russians and North Koreans nervous.”

The military says the jet was carrying out several experiments in orbit, like the effects of space on different materials.

They also revealed that the jet tested a new kind of thruster.

Ketcham says the spaceplane's success could mean booming business for the space coast.

“The Cape Canaveral Spaceport is the busiest, most successful spaceports in the world," he said. "It's one of the reasons Space Florida took over the shuttle landing facility because we're best equipped to grow that marketplace."

Good news for the local economy and for Dagenais, whose kids can watch the rockets launch from their backyard.

“It's funny, they don't think too hard about it when we say there's going to be a rocket launch," she said. "We'll sometimes have to encourage them to get up and come watch it, but once they're watching it they're really excited about it."

The cost of the X-37B program is classified.

Another launch is planned for later this year.

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