SpaceX launches Air Force's super-secret mini-shuttle

SpaceX launches Air Force's super-secret mini-shuttle

SpaceX launches Air Force's super-secret mini-shuttle

SpaceX successfully launched a secret US Air Force space plane on Thursday ahead of the arrival in Florida of Hurricane Irma.

A top-secret military vehicle is set to launch from the Space Coast Thursday morning.

This is just the second time SpaceX has launched a national security payload and the first time launching the Boeing-built X-37B.

Hurricane Irma may be closing in on Florida by the hour, but that didn't stop the US Air Force and SpaceX from sending a mysterious shuttle into space on Thursday afternoon. It is boosted into orbit by a rocket and lands like an aircraft on a conventional runway.

SpaceX will carry a US Air Force drone for the first time.

SpaceX has been on a roll lately with its Falcon 9 launches.

By noon, the Air Force had declared the launch a success.

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Both spacecraft have spent a combined 2,085 days in space.

The US military claims the unmanned X-37B is furthering "operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies", which could involve recovery of satellites or debris for fix or scrap on Earth.

The X-37B is an "experimental platform" according to the US Air Force. The X-37B is going to a higher inclination orbit than usual but the X-37B's main mission is classified and is being fiercely guarded. Though officials remain confident that it won't pose any threat to the mission.

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The Air Force has not disclosed many details about the space craft other than to say it's designed for "low Earth orbit altitudes where it can perform long duration space technology experimentation and testing". Resembling a small space shuttle, it will conduct orbital experiments.

The payload's mission is classified, but it's a robotic space plan that looks like a mini space shuttle.

The exact objective of the X-37B was never revealed and the secrecy surrounding the project has led to speculation that the solar-powered X-37B can be used as a spy satellite or to deliver weapons from space. She suggested that price was a factor in the Air Force's decision to go with Falcon 9.

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