The U.S. Air Force launched its second prototype unmanned space mini-shuttle under a classified X-37B program, the Los Angeles Times said Sunday.
The experimental vehicle, known as the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 2 (OTV-2), lifted off aboard an Atlas V carrier rocket at 5:46 p.m. EST (22:46 GMT) on Saturday from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
The robotic OTV, which resembles a miniature space shuttle, is about 29 feet long with a wingspan of about 15 feet. The spacecraft draws solar power for energy using unfolding panels.
The first X-37B prototype completed its first mission in December last year, landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, in California, after 220 days in space.
The X-37B project has been in development for about a decade, involving the Air Force, NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Both prototypes have been built by the California branch of Boeing's Phantom Works in Huntington Beach.
According to Air Force officials, the unmanned mini-shuttle could be used for a variety of missions including reconnaissance, in-space service and repair of satellites, deploying and retrieving spacecraft, and testing new technologies.
WASHINGTON, March 6 (RIA Novosti)