An experimental robotic space plane was launched into orbit atop an Atlas V rocket Tuesday for a classified Air Force mission that could last more than nine months.
The 19-story Atlas V and the space plane, dubbed the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, blasted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida just after 1 p.m. Eastern time.
The unmanned X-37B, which resembles a miniature space shuttle, is 29 feet long with a wingspan of 15 feet. The spacecraft draws solar power for energy using unfolding panels.
While the Air Force has said the space plane is designed to stay in orbit for 270 days, it hasn't said much about the overall mission. It has said only that the vehicle provides a way to test new technologies in outer space.