Sunday, March 06, 2011

Military Tight-Lipped About Mystery Ship

An unmanned U.S. military spaceship that looks like a small shuttle lifted off Saturday on a secretive shakedown cruise -- one that could include the deployment and retrieval of a clandestine payload.

The Air Force's second X-37B spacecraft blasted off at 5:46 p.m. atop a powerful Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, sending a loud rumble across the Space Coast.

Air Force officials said the 196-foot United Launch Alliance rocket performed normally during the early stages of flight. But then, as expected, a news blackout was imposed.

Richard McKinney, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space Programs, was a bit cagey in a post-launch statement.

"Launch is a very demanding business, and having what appears to be a successful launch is always good news," he said.

McKinney said he was pleased with initial status reports but he also downplayed expectations.

Click HERE to see the full story.

ABOUT THE IMAGE: Click to enlarge the FLORIDA TODAY image of an Atlas V rocket launching the second U.S. Air Force X-37B spaceship from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The photograph was captured by award-winning Florida Today photographer Craig Bailey at the Launch Complex 39 Press Site at Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY.

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