Tuesday, 24 October, 2017

SpaceX scheduled to launch X-37B mini-shuttle from Cape Canaveral

SpaceX preparing for launch of mini spy space shuttle for US Air Force despite Hurricane Irma warning Watch today's SpaceX rocket launch live
Garry Little | 08 September, 2017, 00:41

The launch vehicle used was SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, which took off from the company's LC-39A launch facility at Kennedy Space Center on Thursday morning at 10 AM ET (7 AM PT).

There were concerns SpaceX, owned by Elon Musk, would be forced to postpone the launch as Hurricane Irma threatens to batter Florida.

This was the first X-37B be launched on board a Falcon 9 and following stage separation, the rocket's first stage successfully landed at SpaceX's Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, the company said.

ULA CEO Tory Bruno disputes that ULA was even afforded the opportunity to participate in the bidding process, however. The last SpaceX mission was in May when it launched X-37B, which is an Orbital Test Vehicle, with 20 percent less size of the retired reusable Space Shuttle.

The Falcon 9 lifted off cleanly at 1000 local time (1300 GMT), and the first stage separated a couple of minutes later.

The Air Force is mostly not clear about the intentions for the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle - details on the 29-foot drone and its mission are scant and vague.

"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.

SpaceX intends to inspect, refurbish and reuse the first stage on a future launch. Just don't expect them to reveal anything juicy about the X-37B, because that's a secret. This mission is expected to carry some experimental payloads and deliver small satellites, along with testing electronics and heat pipe technologies over long-duration spaceflight. The previous missions relied on United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rockets. Though officials remain confident that it won't pose any threat to the mission.

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. This marks the space plane's fifth mission, according to SpaceX. She suggested that price was a factor in the Air Force's decision to go with Falcon 9.

The last mission lasted nearly two years and ended with a May touchdown at the runway formerly used by Nasa's space shuttles.

A commercial South Korean television broadcast satellite named Koreasat 5A is third in line on SpaceX's launch manifest, with liftoff from Florida scheduled for mid-October.

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