Top-secret robotic space plane achieves orbit

An experimental robotic space plane was launched into space today atop the Atlas V rocket as part of a classified Air Force mission that could last up to nine months.

The unmanned robot plane is around 29 feet long with a wingspan of 15 feet.

The 19-story Atlas V, along with the space plane called the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (where’s the creativity in that name!), blasted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida around 5:46 p.m. Eastern.

Although we’re not exactly sure what the robotic space plane will be doing in space, it’s completely unmanned and somewhat self-sustaining.

For example, it’s designed to pull power from solar energy using unfolding panels and stay in orbit around 270 days.

The Air Force did say that one of the ways it will test new technologies in space is using the Boeing Co. made X-37B.

It previously launched an X-37B last year which orbited for 224 days before successfully landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Santa Barbara.

Could this classified mission be a mission to explore the recent discovered lunar space cave? Or perhaps the Earth sized planet KOI 326.01? Or is it a top-secret spy plane? Maybe we’ll find out one day!

(Via LA Times