SpaceX launches Air Force X-37B from Kennedy Space Center
- Author: Jon Douglas Sep 08, 2017,
Sep 08, 2017, 0:31
"The fifth OTV mission continues to advance the X-37B's performance and flexibility as a space technology demonstrator and host platform for experimental payloads", the Air Force said in a release last week.
Though we don't know much about the X-37B's mission specifics, we do know a little bit about where it's going in orbit thanks to SpaceX. Its fate aboard the Falcon 9 second stage will likely remain unknown until amateur observers begin to catalog and track the vehicle as it orbits the Earth.
Both spacecraft have spent a combined 2,085 days in space. The X-37B is going to a higher inclination orbit than usual but the X-37B's main mission is classified and is being fiercely guarded.
That launch followed back-to-back wins of the first two Global Positioning System 3 launch contracts the Air Force put out for bid. On all four previous flights, the X-37Bs rode atop United Launch Alliance Atlas V launchers.
The X-37B is the first uncrewed space plane for the USA, and is designed for reusability at a reasonable cost.
You can watch a livestream of the launch and landing attempt below. The X-37B is the Air Forces' unmanned and reusable space plane.
But this week's rocket launch is not what an ordinary SpaceX launch looks like. An SES official said the launch date will depend on Hurricane Irma's impact on the Space Coast, and engineers are taking precautions to safely store the satellite during the storm.
SpaceX plans to reuse one of those recovered rockets for a commercial satellite launch no sooner than October.