CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - A prototype miniature space shuttle blasted off aboard an unmanned Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Saturday for a demonstration run that could last as long as nine months.
The experimental vehicle, known as the Orbital Test Vehicle, or OTV, lifted off at 5:46 p.m. EST (2246 GMT). It is the second ship to be put in space under the US military's X-37B program.
The vehicles are smaller versions of NASA's space shuttle orbiters -- 29 feet (8.8 metres) long, 14 feet (4.3 metres) across. The one-third scale spaceships are solar powered, unlike the space shuttles, and are not designed to carry people.