The Atlas V rocket had on its top an experimental unmanned robotic space plane, which was launched into space as a part of the nine month classified Air Force Mission. The robot plane has dimensions of 29 feet length and 15 feet wingspan.
The Atlas V, which is 19 story high was blasted off Cape Canaveral in Florida along with the space plane named X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle. The robotic plane’s functions are not well known yet, but it could extract power from solar energy utilizing unfolding panels and also remain in the orbit for 270 days. The Air Force had launched an X-37B last year into space, which had orbited successfully for 224 days before landing at the Vandenberg Air Force Base, which lies to the northwest of Santa Barbara.
Atlas V uses a Russian engine RD-180, which burns liquid oxygen and kerosene to power its first stage. Its upper stage is powered by the American built RL10 engine. The Atlas V has so far successfully made 13 flights. The classified mission’s aim being unknown, speculates that this mission could either be a top-secret spy plane or an exploring mission to the KOI326.01, the Earth sized planet, or even a mission to the newly discovered lunar space cave are being made.
Source: National Reconnaissance Office