SpaceX launches Air Force's super-secret minishuttle This undated photo provided by the U.S. Air Force shows an X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. An unmanned Falcon rocket that carried one of these experimental planes blasted off Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, from Florida's Kennedy Space Center. (U.S. Air Force via AP/SpaceX via AP)
SpaceX launches Air Force's super-secret minishuttle
Lexile

SpaceX launched the Air Force's super-secret space shuttle last Thursday. It contained a technology tester capable of spending years in orbit.

The unmanned Falcon rocket blasted off from Florida's Kennedy Space Center. At the same time, schools and businesses boarded up for Hurricane Irma.

It's the fifth flight for one of these crewless minishuttles. It is known as the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle.

The two Air Force space planes have already logged a combined 5 1/2 years in orbit. But officials won't say what the spacecraft are doing up there. The last mission lasted almost two years. It ended with a May touchdown at the runway formerly used by NASA's space shuttles. The first one launched in 2010.

As has become customary, SpaceX landed its leftover booster back at Cape Canaveral. This was for eventual reuse.

This was the first time SpaceX has provided a lift for the experimental minishuttle. The previous missions relied on United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rockets. Air Force officials said they want to use a variety of rockets for the X-37B program, to launch quickly if needed

The Boeing-built minishuttle is 29 feet long, with a 14-foot wingspan. By comparison, NASA's retired space shuttles were 122 feet long. They had a 78-foot wingspan.

SpaceX stopped providing details about the X-37B's climb to orbit, a few minutes after liftoff. This was at the Air Force's request. The booster's return to SpaceX's landing zone at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, however, was broadcast live.

"The Falcon has safely landed," a SpaceX launch controller announced. Cheers erupted at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

It was SpaceX's 16th successful return of a first-stage booster. Booster rockets are normally discarded at sea.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
If it’s super-secret, why do we know about it?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (11)
  • Parkera-eic
    9/15/2017 - 10:32 a.m.

    i think is really cool that they can launch and land this one

  • Willr-dav1
    9/18/2017 - 08:53 a.m.

    In the passage "SpaceX Launches Air Force's super secret minishuttle" it says that it s a super secret. So if it is super secret why do we know about it. Since people know about the launches and they wont tell us the reason for the launch people begin to speculate and come up with there own reasons. So I think if they tell us its their they should tell us why or just keep it a secret for real.

  • Nicholasv-dav
    9/18/2017 - 08:56 a.m.

    The article Space X launches Air Force super-secret mini shuttle, talks about a shuttle, smaller than the average shuttle used by NASA. The mini-shuttle is part of a top secret project called x-37B. The mini-shuttle was known to have landed safely when the launch controller stated ¨ The Falcon has safely landed.¨ This project was top- secret NASA would not say what the mini-shuttle´s objective was.

  • Charlesk-dav
    9/18/2017 - 01:51 p.m.

    Its cool to know that the U.S. military and Space-X are working together if they continue to work together, things could become vary intersting

  • ellyb-orv
    9/26/2017 - 11:56 a.m.

    I think its cool that they built this. I wonder why they don't space out the launchings a little more. why is it super secret?

  • aiyanaa-orv
    9/26/2017 - 11:59 a.m.

    I think its cool for them to have built something that could go into space. I wonder why the people don't want to go into space themselves.

  • Rileyc-eic
    9/28/2017 - 09:44 a.m.

    I wish that they would tell us what SpaceX is doing out in space. I also think that this is a really cool idea.

  • Kassidys-eic
    9/28/2017 - 09:47 a.m.

    It's cool to learn about Space-X and how it is capable of years in orbit.

  • Mitchils-eic
    9/28/2017 - 09:49 a.m.

    that's a long time to be in space

  • Brysonh-eic
    9/28/2017 - 10:32 a.m.

    It seems so small in my brain but I bet it is bigger, way bigger. Why do they still have it a secret, though.

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