Well, it's official, the Air Force's second X-37B mystery space plane took to the heavens yesterday afternoon to do who-knows what for the next few months.
The second Boeing-built X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle lifted off aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 5:46 p.m., yesterday, according to a Boeing announcement.
Still, there are no details as to what type of tests the experimental spacecraft will be doing while on low Earth orbit. Here's a nice vague statement about the Boeing statement:
"Today, we took another important step with the successful launch of the second OTV, enabling the [Air Force's Rapid Capabilities Office] to further experiment with the vehicle and its ability to operate in low-Earth orbit," Cooning continued. "Close teamwork between the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the United Launch Alliance Atlas team, and the 45th Space Wing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station made this launch a success."
However, there is one little hint at what the air service is doping with the craft. The announcement goes on to say that the two X-37Bs are being used to develop concepts of operations, or CONOPS, for this type of reusable space planes. This says that the Air Force might be trying, or simulating, just about every type of mission it can think the little robo-shuttles could be used for and developing blueprints for how to execute those missions in the future. What are those missions? Well, until the Air Force lets us know, we can only speculate.