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Unmanned space plane in orbit on classified mission

Date

WJ Hennigan

Spaceplane ... the X-37B back in 2010.

Spaceplane ... the X-37B back in 2010.

AN experimental robotic space plane has been launched into orbit from an Atlas V rocket for a classified US Air Force mission that could last more than nine months. The 58-metre-high Atlas V and the space plane, dubbed the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, a little after 1pm eastern time Tuesday (about 5am Wednesday Sydney time). The unmanned X-37B, which resembles a miniature space shuttle, captures solar power using fold-out wing panels. While the Air Force has said the space plane is designed to stay in orbit for 270 days, it has not said much about the overall mission, only that the vehicle provides a way to test new technologies in outer space.

This is the third X-37B flight into orbit. The first was launched in 2010 and landed after 224 days. The second spent 469 days in space.

Los Angeles Times

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