A US military space plane blasted off on another secret mission that had been anticipated for years

The US military has launched its secret space plane on another mission, which is expected to last at least two years

The US military's X-37B space plane blasted off Thursday on another secret mission that is expected to last at least two years.

As with previous missions, the mini space shuttle-like reusable aircraft carried out classified experiments. No one was on board.

This marked the seventh flight of the X-37B, which has logged more than 10 years in orbit since its debut in 2010.

The last flight, even longer, lasted 2 1/2 years before ending up on the runway at Kennedy a year ago.

Space Force officials would not say how long the orbiting test vehicle would remain aloft or what it was other than a NASA experiment to measure the effects of radiation on objects.

Developed by Boeing, the X-37B resembles NASA's retired space shuttles. But they are only a quarter of the length of 29 feet (9 meters). Astronauts are not needed; The X-37B has an autonomous landing system.

They take off vertically like rockets but land horizontally like airplanes, and are designed to orbit at altitudes between 150 miles and 500 miles (240 kilometers and 800 kilometers). Kennedy has two X-37Bs in a former shuttle hangar.

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The Associated Press receives support from the Health and Science Department of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Science and Education Media Group. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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