The Straits Times
Published on Dec 12, 2012

US sends futuristic X-37B plane back into space


WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States on Tuesday launched for the third time its futuristic X-37B spacecraft, a small and pilotless plane that experts believe could open a new realm of espionage.

The 8.9m long vehicle blasted off aboard an Atlas V rocket at 1.03pm (2.03pm Singapore time) from Cape Canaveral in Florida on a mission about which the US Air Force has offered minimal details.

The United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, streamed live footage on its website of the blastoff. It said the mission would support "space experimentation." The US military has described the X-37B programme as a way to demonstrate "technologies for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform" following the retirement of Nasa's shuttle Orbiter programme.

The secretive nature of the equipment on the X-37B has led to speculation in the media over the missions' aims, with some experts believing that the US Air Force is looking at new way of spying.