A United States Military Plane Takes Off Into Space

A US military space plane took off into orbit on Sunday loaded with scientific experiments. This is the sixth flight of an X-37B, a remote-controlled, unmanned solar aircraft.

Authorities did not report how long the ship will remain in orbit or the purpose of the mission. But Jim Chilton, a vice president at Boeing, the maker of the X-37Bs, said each mission has been getting longer.

The previous mission lasted a record two years, and last year the plane returned to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.


The winged spacecraft resembles old NASA shuttles, but much smaller at just 9 meters (29 feet) long. The recently launched has an additional compartment for experiments, including several for NASA and the Naval Research Laboratory, that is, it is the X-37B that has carried the most scientific load.

The Air Force has two of these reusable space planes. Its base of operations is a former shuttle hangar at the Kennedy Space Center, also in Florida.

Since the first flight in 2010, the secret space planes had recorded a combined orbit of 2,865 days as of Sunday, meaning “just under eight years in orbit,” Chilton said.

The United Launch Alliance company provided the Atlas V rocket and dedicated the launch on Sunday to healthcare workers and others working on the front line of the pandemic.

On Tuesday from Cape Canaveral, the company SpaceX will try to launch another batch of its Starlink satellites for global internet service. It will be the last SpaceX flight before its first astronaut launch, scheduled for May 27 from the Kennedy Center.