Hurricane Irma may be closing in on Florida by the hour, but that didn’t stop the US Air Force and SpaceX from sending a mysterious shuttle into space on Thursday afternoon.
An unmanned Falcon rocket took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County, Florida, on Thursday afternoon to bring the X-37B shuttle into orbit. US officials have never publicly specified what business the X-37B is engaged in while it’s circling the Earth but it has been logging missions since 2010.
The September 7 launch was SpaceX’s first run at sending the X-37B to Earth’s perimeter.
Previously, Lockheed Martin’s Atlas rockets brought the Boeing vehicle into space.
The USAF operates just two of the “orbital test vehicles,” OTV-1 and OTV-2. The two manless vehicles have spent a combined 5.5 years orbiting in space.
“Boeing’s commitment to space-based unmanned vehicle technology spans a decade and includes support to the Air Force Research Lab’s X-40 program, NASA’s X-37 program, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s X-37 Approach, Landing and Test Vehicle program,” a 2012 Boeing announcement reads.
SpaceX showed the first few minutes of the secretive space shuttle’s liftoff before cutting the feed in accordance with USAF requests.