SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— The U.S. military can’t wait to get its hands on an unmanned space plane that’s due to land at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California near Santa Maria.

The X-37B, which looks like a mini-space shuttle, lifted off from Cape Canaveral back in December of 2012 and is due to land Tuesday.

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Mike Hoffman, managing editor at said the craft is about a fifth of the size of a “typical NASA-size shuttle”.

“It has spent about 671 days in space. The Air Force hasn’t really talked much about the mission, leading to a lot of questions.”

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From a monetary perspective, Hoffman said it’s important how the craft lands. A runway would be cheaper, because it could be re-fit and sent back into space on an Atlas V rocket.

This is the third mission for this space plane. Its previous two missions landed in 2012. “This is something that’s been known about. The big question is what is it doing in space?”

The theories on the plane’s mission range from outrageous like whether or not it could be firing missiles to more experimental things.

“There are a lot of secret programs out there right now that the military does find a way to keep quiet,” Hoffman said. “It’s in lower Earth’s orbit so it’s hard to monitor from a satellite perspective and that’s what the Air Force is taking advantage of right now.”

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NASA has recently transitioned from a government agency to one that is overseen by the government, but operated by private contractors.