Air Force's X-37B Space Plane Launching on Secret Mission Friday
by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 02 March 2011 Time: 07:08 PM ET
|Despite its robotic nature, the X-37B space plane received a warm welcome from Air Force crews at Vandenberg. Here, the vehicle appears to be undergoing safing procedures after landing on Dec. 3 at 1:16 a.m. PST (0916 GMT). Significant weathering, or discoloration, can be seen on the spacecraft's upper thermal blanket insulation.|
CREDIT: USAF/Vandenberg Air Force Base
The U.S. Air Force's secretive X-37B space plane is poised to launch on its second mission Friday (March 4), though what exactly it will be doing once it leaves the ground remains a mystery.
The robotic X-37B mini-shuttle is slated to lift off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Friday atop an Atlas 5 rocket, weather permitting. Its launch window opens at 3:39 p.m. EST (2039 GMT), according to the launch provider United Launch Alliance, which is overseeing the flight.