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Military shuttle takes off on secret mission

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- The military's small, top-secret version of the space shuttle rocketed into orbit Tuesday for a repeat mystery mission, two years after making the first flight of its kind.

The Air Force launched the unmanned craft hidden atop an Atlas V rocket. As if on cue, clouds swallowed up the rocket as it disappeared out over the ocean. The military isn't saying much if anything about OTV-3 (Orbital Test Vehicle, flight No. 3.) Seventeen minutes into the flight a news blackout followed. At 29 feet long, the craft is a quarter the size of NASA's old space shuttles.

One scientific observer speculates it is carrying sensors for spying and likely is serving as a testbed for future satellites. -- AP

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