nsucurrent.com February 20, 2018

Watch SpaceX launch a secret military space plane to orbit

08 September 2017, 12:39 | Shelley Chandler

SpaceX preparing for launch of mini spy space shuttle for US Air Force despite Hurricane Irma warning

SpaceX has successfully launched the Air Force's super-secret space shuttle a technology tester capable of spending years in orbit. The unmanned Falcon rocket blasted off from Florida's Kennedy Space Center

The goal was to get the launch up before the arrival of Hurricane Irma, and they succeeded.

The X-37 has hitched previous rides to space on a United Launch Alliance rocket.

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.

ULA CEO Tory Bruno disputes that ULA was even afforded the opportunity to participate in the bidding process, however.

SpaceX has been on a roll lately with its Falcon 9 launches.

The first stage's center engine fired once more as the booster made its final descent, and the Falcon 9 extended four landing legs for touchdown at Landing Zone 1, a flat concrete target on the Atlantic coastline around 9 miles (15 kilometers) south of launch pad 39A.

It's the fifth flight for one of these crewless minishuttles known as the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle and marks the first time Elon Musk's aerospace firm has provided liftoff for the experimental craft

It is the fifth flight for one of these crewless mini-shuttles, known as the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle. Its last mission lasted 718 days, or nearly two years.

While the specifics of the X-37B's mission aren't available to the public, it will be "conducting experiments" post-launch. By comparison, Nasa's retired space shuttles were 122ft long with a 78ft wingspan.

SpaceX launches have become something of a routine over the past year or so, but if you think there's nothing interesting about yet another launch being carried out by Elon Musk's stellar startup, you're dead wrong. Though officials remain confident that it won't pose any threat to the mission.

Like the space shuttle, the X-37B launches vertically and comes to back to Earth horizontally, in a runway landing.

Boeing (ba) built the spacecraft, which was based on NASA's designs of an earlier vehicle, according to the space agency.

The Air Force has not disclosed many details about the space craft other than to say it's designed for "low Earth orbit altitudes where it can perform long duration space technology experimentation and testing". She suggested that price was a factor in the Air Force's decision to go with Falcon 9.

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