Unmanned robotic space plane today, X-Wing tomorrow?

The Air Force has successfully deployed the mysterious, robotic X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, which, in appearance, is pretty much the cocktail wiener to the space shuttle's all-beef frank. Not much is known about what the unmanned spacecraft is supposed to be doing, exactly, though its mission began on the back of an Atlas 5 rocket and will end, if all goes well, when the robotic craft glides onto a runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Los Angeles.

The OTV, built by Boeing's Phantom Works, is capable of staying in orbit a total of 270 days and can deploy solar powers for when it's running low on juice. It launched just like a satellite would, attached to the nose of said Atlas 5 rocket.

Other than that, details are scarce. The prevailing theory is that it's some kind of future weapons platform and/or combat spaceship. Such a thought is further cemented by the words of Colonel Andre Lovett, vice commander of the Air Force's 45th Space Wing, who offered the following in a statement after the launch: "This launch helps ensure that our warfighters will be provided the capabilities they need in the future." Vague.

Still, I know what you're thinking: we have space wings? We totally do, and the've been around since the '80s.

Via PhysOrg