SpaceX beats hurricane with smooth launch of military's X-37B spaceplane

Sep 08, 2017, 00:43
SpaceX beats hurricane with smooth launch of military's X-37B spaceplane

SpaceX is launching a Falcon 9 rocket for the us military today, starting around 9:50 a.m. EDT.

The launch has received unexpected traction both because of the secretive mission and because of the timing of the launch despite Hurricane Irma warning. Thursday's launch will be the 13th Falcon 9 liftoff this year, after being banned from launches late last year due to an explosion in their Cape Canaveral launch pad.

An unmanned Falcon rocket took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County, Florida, on Thursday afternoon to bring the X-37B shuttle into orbit.

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This is the first time SpaceX has provided a lift for the experimental mini-shuttle.

This mission marks the 16th successful landing of Falcon 9 post-launch and seventh successful landing on solid ground. The X-37B's four previous missions began with it being thrust into orbit atop an Atlas V booster.

The space plane will also operate in a higher-inclination orbit on the OTV-5 mission than it has during any other mission, Air Force officials said.

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While the specifics of the X-37B's mission aren't available to the public, it will be "conducting experiments" post-launch.

Built by Boeing's Phantom Works division and managed by the Air Force's Rapid Capabilities Office, each spaceship has a wingspan of almost 15 feet (4.5 meters) and a length of more than 29 feet (8.9 meters). This makes it the only launch provider to accomplish this besides the United Launch Alliance, and should help ensure SpaceX gets more business from U.S, defense contracts in future. "This mission carries small satellite ride shares and will demonstrate greater opportunities for rapid space access and on-orbit testing of emerging space technologies".

We do know that the experimental program is created to help work out the kinks in reusable spacecraft, and there are two X-37B vehicles, built by Boeing.

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It launched from launch pad 39A, which NASA had once used for Apollo moon missions and many Space Shuttle missions. She suggested that price was a factor in the Air Force's decision to go with Falcon 9.