US military launches top secret mini shuttle

 US military launches top secret mini shuttle

The US military has launched a rocket containing a small space shuttle from Cape Canaveral in Florida as part of an ongoing top secret test programme.

The US military has launched a rocket containing a small space shuttle from Cape Canaveral in Florida as part of an ongoing top secret test programme.

 
The X-37B experimental robotic space plane, otherwise known as the Orbital Test Vehicle, launched atop an unmanned Atlas 5 rocket at 1:03pm Eastern Time on Tuesday, the third flight of the spacecraft in the classified mission.
 
The first flight occurred in 2010, when the shuttle orbited Earth for 224 days. The second flight, using another similar ship, resulted in a 469-day stint in space, but the military refused to state how long it expects the third flight will last—or what it will be doing up there.
 
9a4c595dd1206a22230f6a7067000402 US military launches top secret mini shuttle
 
“The focus of the program remains on testing vehicle capabilities and proving the utility and cost-effectiveness of a reusable spacecraft,” Tracy Bunko, a spokesperson for the US Air Force, told Reuters. Not much to go on then.
 
The solar-powered shuttles, built by commercial aeroplane giant Boeing, may land at NASA's base in Florida, now that the space agency has no shuttles of its own to use the infrastructure there. This is expected to save the mission a considerable amount of money.
 
On the surface of it the X-37B might simply be an extension of the US space programme, though cuts in funding would contradict that idea, as would the question of why the military is involved. What is clear is that lips are sealed about what exactly these spacecraft are designed for.
 
 US military launches top secret mini shuttle
 
Source: Reuters
Images Credit: Reuters/Scott Audette