Top secret minishuttle takes off

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, an unmanned small reusable space shuttle, blasted off aboard an Atlas V rocket on Thursday. The device was originally designed by NASA to be one of its fleet of new vehicles, but eventually got handed over to the Pentagon when funds for continuing the civilian use of the project were withdrawn. The Air Force Space Command (which tweets here) and United Launch Alliance broadcast a webcast of the launch, cutting it off when the secret part of the mission began. The device is expected to be remotely piloted down to a Californian runway at an unspecified point in the future. Pictures and videos of the launch are here.

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