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Dec 11, 2012 No Comments ›› Infidel

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP/Florida Today) – A top-secret mini-space shuttle has blasted off from Cape Canaveral.

The Air Force launched the unmanned spacecraft Tuesday aboard an Atlas V rocket. Cloud coverage in the area threatened to scrub the launch all day, but the weather cleared just enough for an on-time liftoff at 1:03 p.m. at Launch Complex 41.

The Atlas rocket and its Centaur upper stage performed flawlessly through the first 17 minutes and 34 seconds. The mission then switched into a classified mode, and an information blackout followed.

That’s Standard Operating Procedure for classified military missions launched from Cape Canaveral.

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 and likely is serving as a testbed.