SpaceX to launch a secret spy craft mission for the US Military

by Dominic Parks September 8, 2017, 0:42
SpaceX to launch a secret spy craft mission for the US Military

Burning a super-chilled mixture of kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants, the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 launcher ignited nine Merlin 1D engines and climbed away from launch pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) Thursday.

This marks the first time that SpaceX was granted the opportunity to use its Falcon 9 to launch the X-37B, and it shows that the has confidence in the rocket's reliability rating. What makes it more interesting is that the rocket is scheduled to take off despite forecasts of the Hurricane Irma.

As The Verge notes, Hurricane Irma will be about 900 miles from Kennedy Space Center at the time of launch, so while it's very unlikely that the storm will directly impact the launch, it could cause unfavorable weather conditions and possibly, a delay.

Officials at neighboring Patrick Air Force Base said Tuesday that the 45th Space Wing had begun their hurricane preparations sooner than usual so that they could still support today's launch attempt. The plane is carrying "experimental payloads", according to the Air Force.

As has become customary, SpaceX landed its leftover booster back at Cape Canaveral for eventual reuse.

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About 2.5 minutes into the flight, the Falcon 9's two stages separated. For comparison, the space shuttles were 122 feet (37 m) long, with 78-foot (24 m) wingspans.

What happened to the X37-B after the Falcon 9 rocket pushed the classified payload beyond Earth's atmosphere is a little less certain.

A resuable shuttle, Thursday's launch is its fifth mission since its maiden flight in April 2010.

X-37B, an approximately 5,000 kg reusable spaceplane, could remain in orbit for as long as two years, and possibly even longer. The four X-37B missions to date flew in orbits tilted between 38 and 43.5 degrees to the equator, but the next one will reach higher latitudes on each lap around Earth.

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

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