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X-37B space plane flight set for Thursday

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., April 20 (UPI) -- Successful flight tests for the Orbital Test Vehicle will usher in a new era of unmanned U.S. space flight, U.S. Air Force officials said in Florida.

The Air Force plans to test flight the next generation of unmanned space programs with the Thursday launch of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle.

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The OTV launch from Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida will allow the Air Force to conduct experiments and test satellite sensors and associated technology, Defense News reports.

David Hamilton, director of the Air Force rapid capabilities office, said the OTV program was a bellwether achievement for Air Force operations in space.

"OTV has the potential to revolutionize how the Air Force operates in space by making space operations more aircraft like," he said.

The space vehicle has the ability to stay in flight for 270 consecutive days. The Air Force says the vehicle can return to Earth automatically, descending and landing like an airplane.

The flight for the unmanned X-37B space plane was scheduled for Wednesday but was delayed one day to clear the way for the return of the space shuttle Discovery from its 15-trip to the International Space Station.

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