Air Force launches hush-hush mini-shuttle to space

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015
In this photo released by United Launch Alliance, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is rolled out, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
United Launch Alliance via AP

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL -- A mysterious space plane is on its way to orbit.

The Air Force launched its unmanned mini-shuttle from Cape Canaveral, Florida, late Wednesday morning. An Atlas V (five) rocket carried it up.

This is the fourth flight for the military research program, which is shrouded in secrecy. The last X-37B mission lasted close to 675 days and ended with a California touchdown. The Air Force won't say how long this particular mission will last or where it will end.

The X-37B looks like a miniature version of a NASA space shuttle. Like the old shuttle, the X-37B launches vertically and lands horizontally, is reusable, and has lots of room for experiments. But no one flies on them; they are operated robotically.