SpaceX Launches Air Force's Secret Space Plane2017-09-07 16:49 by Daniela
Tags: SpaceX, X37-B
SpaceX successfully launched the Air Force's secretive X37-B "space plane" from Kennedy Space Center in Florida Thursday morning, just a few days before Hurricane Irma is expected to shut down the Cape Canaveral spaceport. The Boeing-built X-37B spaceplane arrived in orbit shortly after liftoff to complete SpaceX's 13th mission of the year.
It's not clear yet what the plane is going to do in the space. The mission is slated to last 270 days, but the Air Force warned in a statement that "the actual duration depends on test objectives, on-orbit vehicle performance and conditions at the landing facility."
The X-37B looks tiny, standing not much taller than a person. It launches vertically on a rocket but lands on a runway much like an airplane. Its wingspan measures less than 15 feet, and it weighs in at just 11,000 pounds. But over the course of six flights, it has proved to be a rugged little robotic spacecraft, spending a total of nearly six years, probing the hard environment of the high frontier.
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