Air Force launches unmanned space shuttle

April 23, 2010 at 10:02 AM
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PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., April 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force launched an unmanned mini-space shuttle with an undisclosed payload, officials at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida announced.

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, launched Thursday, is expected to provide a space test platform to conduct experiments and allow satellite systems and technologies to be shipped to and from space, Air Force officials said in a release.

The X-37B program supports the Defense Department's technology risk-reduction efforts for new satellite systems, military officials said. It will provide an "on-orbit laboratory" to test new technology and satellite components before they are committed to satellite programs already in operation.

"If these technologies on the vehicle prove to be as good as we estimate, it will make our access to space more responsive, perhaps cheaper, and push us in the vector toward being able to react to warfighter needs more quickly," said Gary Payton, Air Force deputy undersecretary for space programs.

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