Florida, Apr 23(ANI): The United States Air Force's secretive X-37B robotic space plane took off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Thursday for a mystery mission that is expected to take months testing new spacecraft technologies.
The X-37 is an unpiloted demonstration spaceplane built by Boeing Phantom Works that is intended to test future launch technologies while in orbit and during atmospheric re-entry.
The spacecraft will be placed into low Earth orbit for testing, following which it will be de-orbited for landing.
The landing is to occur on a runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California with Edwards Air Force Base as the alternate site.
The duration of the mission has not been announced, although an Air Force spokesperson has said the vehicle has a requirement to be on-orbit for up to 270 days.
"This is a new way for the Air Force to conduct on-orbit experiments," Space.com quoted Gary Payton, U.S. Air Force Deputy Under Secretary for Space Programs, as saying.
"In all honesty, we don't know when it's coming back for sure. It depends on the progress that we make with the on-orbit demonstrations," he added.
The Air Force has not revealed what the spaceship's specific payload is, stating that it will "demonstrate various experiments and allow satellite sensors, subsystems, components, and associated technology to be transported into space and back."
The mission is being carried out under the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office with participation by NASA. (ANI)