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Alabama-made rocket helps U.S. Air Force complete two year secret mission

DECATUR, Ala. — This weekend, the U.S. Air Force’s experimental X-37B Space plane landed safely in Cape Canaveral, Fla. after completing a two year long classified mission. Although the plane itself was manufactured by Boeing, it was launched from an Atlas V rocket constructed by the United Launch Alliance of Decatur, Ala.

X-37Bs are approximately one-fourth the size of a traditional NASA space shuttle, and the plane’s 700 day mission is the fourth-longest to date managed by the secretive Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. The USAF said that the plane conducted several unspecified experiments throughout its time in orbit.

According to a report from Reuters, the orbiters “perform risk reduction, experimentation and concept-of-operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies.”

ULA’s Alabama assembly facility is the sole production site for Atlas V and Delta IV rockets, which launch payloads for NASA and other government agencies. Versions of the Atlas V can stand 205 feet tall, rising to almost 19 stories. The 1.6 million-square-foot Decatur factory employs around 1,000 people.

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(h/t Reuters)

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