The United States Space Force launched the super-secret X-37B plane into space on Sunday morning on its sixth mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. 

After Saturday’s launch was scrubbed, due to high winds from a tropical depression moving through the south, the spacecraft, attached to an Atlas 5 rocket, blasted off from its launch pad just before 9:15 a.m.

The X-37B is an unmanned, reusable spacecraft that takes off vertically and lands horizontally on a runway. It is manufactured by Boeing and, although much smaller, resembles the now-decommissioned Space Shuttle vehicles.

The spacecraft measures 29 feet long and has a wingspan of 15 feet. It weighs 11,000 pounds and uses solar panels for power in orbit. The X-37B first flew in 2010 and safely returned after an eight-month mission. Its most recent mission was concluded in October of 2019 after it completed 780 days in orbit. The X-37B program started back in 1999.

The Air Force/Space Force currently has two X-37B vehicles. It has been tight-lipped as to what its capabilities are and what its space missions, other than the conduction of scientific experiments, will be.

About two weeks ago, when the launch was announced during a webcast hosted by the Space Foundation, Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said the following:

“The Air Force’s Rapid Capability Office has combined forces with the Air Force Reserve Research Lab and now the U.S. Space Force to execute a mission that maximizes the X-37B’s unique capabilities. This important mission will host more experiments than any prior X-37B flight, including two NASA experiments. One is a sample plate evaluating the reaction of select significant materials to the conditions in space. The second studies the effect of ambient space radiation on seeds. A third experiment, designed by the Naval Research Laboratory, transforms solar power into radio-frequency microwave energy, then studies transmitting that energy to earth.”

Chief of Space Operations, Gen. John Raymond, spoke to several members of the media prior to the launch, praising the knowledge acquired from X-37B.