X

Air Force's Secret Robot Space Plane Blasts Off

For an unknown mission
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2012 5:09 PM CST

(Newser) – Who says America doesn't have a space program anymore? Sure the shuttle's gone, but the military is keeping the dream alive—and classified. The Air Force today launched its top-secret unmanned space shuttle alternative into orbit on a mysterious mission, the AP reports. The vessel, dubbed the X-37B, took off from Cape Canaveral on the back of an Atlas V rocket, and quickly disappeared into the clouds. It's the second flight for this particular spaceship; in its inaugural 2010 mission, it circled the earth for seven months.

story continues below

A second X-37B spent more than a year in orbit. What the drones are doing up there is the secret part; the public commentary on today's launch cut off 17 minutes into the flight, and a news blackout followed. One scientific observer speculates that the X-37B likely does "all the sorts of things that spy satellites generally do." What makes today's flight noteworthy in his mind is that it's the first time a ship other than the shuttle has managed to make a second trip into space. "That is pretty cool," he says, "reusing your spacecraft after a runway landing." (Read more Air Force stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
X