An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt: "The United States Air Force's novel robotic X-37B space plane is tucked inside the bulbous nose cone of an unmanned rocket that blasted off Thursday from Florida on a mission shrouded in secrecy. ... The unmanned military Orbital Test Vehicle 1 (OTV-1) — also known as the X-37B — lifted off at 7:52 pm EDT atop an Atlas 5 rocket on a mission that is expected to take months testing new spacecraft technologies. ... Key objectives of the space plane's first flight include demonstration and validation of guidance, navigation, and control systems – including a 'do-it-itself' autonomous re-entry and landing at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base with neighboring Edwards Air Force Base as a backup."
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