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US launches mystery spacecraft X-37B

Last Updated: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 12:32

Cape Canaveral: A top-secret mini-space shuttle has blasted off from Cape Canaveral in the US.

The Air Force launched the unmanned spacecraft today aboard an Atlas V rocket.

It`s the second flight for this original X-37B spaceplane. It circled the planet for seven months in 2010. A second X-37B spacecraft spent more than a year in orbit.

These mystery machines are about one-quarter the size of NASA`s old space shuttles, and they can land automatically on a runway.

The military isn`t saying much, if anything, about this new secret mission. But one scientific observer, Harvard University`s Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, speculates the spaceplane is carrying sensors designed for spying.

The two previous secret flights were in orbits roughly 200 miles (321 kilometres) high.


First Published: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 12:32

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