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, 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 and 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 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 warranted.

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

SpaceX stopped providing details about the X-37B's climb to orbit, a few minutes after liftoff 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 which are normally discarded at sea.

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If it’s super-secret, why do we know about it?
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COMMENTS (4)
  • holdenj-orv
    9/14/2017 - 11:56 a.m.

    Weird. Yesterday, i watched that 4- or 6-part South Park thing with the Danish trying to remove Computer Trolls and that had SpaceX in it

  • Sethm-dav1
    9/18/2017 - 08:56 a.m.

    the article's name was SpaceX launches Air Force's super-secret minishuttle my opinion is that I agree that they should use recyclable busters. First they don't have to spend more money buying all the parts for it. They don't have to waste the materials that are limited. they also are not polluting the ocean with all the waste from the rocket.Even though i think that it is not a waste of materials they are testing it so many times they are using a lot of fuel.

  • brycew-orv
    9/27/2017 - 11:56 a.m.

    We know about because it is a test rocket ship. It is also the 16th annual for that rocket ship. It might be built differently.

  • jordanw-orv
    9/28/2017 - 01:33 p.m.

    their isn't a lot here but I think its pretty cool to have a unmanned spacecraft in space and also what was the point of this mission? I also think they could've been helping hurricane victims instead of worrying about a spacecraft.

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