It took off from Cape Canaveral, aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy launcher, the US Army’s secret X-37B space plane. The Pentagon has revealed few details about the mission conducted by the US Space Force (USSF) under the program National Security Space Launch (NSSL).
The unmanned robotic vehicle, built by Boeing, is the size of a small bus and resembles an SPeace Shuttle in miniature. It is designed to carry different types of cargo and conduct technological experiments over a period of time that can last years.
This is the seventh flight since its debut in 2010, the first operated by SpaceX. The last mission lasted two and a half years.
So far the space plane, also called Orbital Test Vehicle, has always flown in low orbit, at altitudes below 2000 kilometres. The Falcon Heavy could take the X-37B much higher, potentially to geosynchronous orbit, about 35,000 kilometers above Earth.
At the end of its mission, the vehicle will re-enter the atmosphere, landing on a runway just like a plane.