Space

US Space Force Launches Plane Into Orbit On Secret Mission

The plane was taken into orbit on the Atlas V rocket which was launched in Florida.

The US Space Force has successfully launched a space plane into orbit for a secret mission.

It is the unmanned X-37B aircraft's sixth mission in space and it was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Sunday - a day later than expected due to bad weather. 

It is the first time the plane, which has been developed by Boeing, has been sent into space as part of the US Space Force. 

While the mission is classified, it is known it will carry out some experiments including testing power-beaming technology and analysing the effects of space radiation on crop seeds.

It will also deploy a satellite into orbit. 

The aircraft, also known as an Orbital Test Vehicle, was launched on board the Atlas V rocket.

The plane resembles a miniature space shuttle and previous missions have lasted nearly two years.

But US Secretary of the Air Force, Barbara Barrett, said this mission will be able to carry out "more experiments than any prior missions".

The US Space Force unveiled its new flag on Saturday (Picture: PA).

Jim Chilton, senior vice president of the Space and Launch division of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, said: "X-37B is a really interesting machine.

"It's a reusable spacecraft, it is autonomous, it flies without crew, it can be rapidly reconfigured to coast a wide variety of experiments and it can take off from standard launch pads in standard rockets, under fairings, and it can land autonomously through public airspace.

“So there's a lot of innovation in this machine."

The Space Force was formally established in December 2019, the country's first new military service in more than 70 years.

It launched its first mission in March - a national security satellite which also took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida.