SpaceX Falcon Heavy to Launch US Military Spaceplane

SpaceX Falcon Heavy will launch the US military’s secretive X-37B robot spaceplane from Florida. This is the first time the spacecraft has launched on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, capable of lifting it to altitudes it has never been able to reach before.

Falcon Heavy is scheduled to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. It has a 10-minute overnight launch window starting at 8:14 p.m. EST, weather permitting. This will be the second attempt to launch the secretive X-37B robot spaceplane by SpaceX. The rocket was scheduled to launch late Sunday but the launch was canceled due to weather conditions.

The Defense Department has revealed some details of the mission conducted by the US Air Force and Space Force as part of the National Security Space Launch program. The X-37B was created by Boeing. It is about the size of a small bus and resembles a miniature spaceship. The X-37B is designed to deploy a variety of payloads and conduct technology experiments on long-duration orbital flights.

A robot spaceplane has already completed six missions since 2010. The first five were carried into orbit by Atlas V rockets from United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The sixth, launched in May 2020, was conducted by the SpaceX Falcon 9. Now, the SpaceX Falcon Heavy offers unique capabilities for the seventh mission.

With each subsequent flight, the X-37B has spent more and more time in space. Its last mission lasted more than two years, and the spaceplane returned in November 2022. In the past, it has always flown in low Earth orbit at an altitude below 1,200 miles. However, aboard the more powerful Falcon Heavy rocket, the X-37B will be lifted much higher. It is possible that it will reach geostationary orbit, at an altitude of more than 22,000 miles. However, the Pentagon has not disclosed details of how high it will be placed. It also remains unknown how long the mission will last.

In a press statement last month, the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office said the latest mission would involve tests of “new orbital regimes, experimenting with future space domain awareness technologies.” In addition, other tests were carried out.

The X-37B flight will be the ninth launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket and the third time it will be used by the U.S. government to carry a national security payload into orbit, according to Reuters.

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