SpaceX have deployed the United States Air Force (USAF) X-37B spaceplane into orbit following a successful launch of their latest Falcon 9 rocket. The autonomous X-37B will orbit the earth for an unspecified number of days and then glide back to Earth landing at the Kennedy Space Center. The exact mission objectives of the USAF spaceplane are not known.
Today’s launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 carrying the X-37B, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle, marked the company’s 41st launch of their flagship rocket. With the previous launch occurring just 14 days ago, the company is quickly becoming one of the most reliable orbital transport providers in the world.
Due to the classified nature of the Falcon 9’s cargo, SpaceX did not show its deployment on its live broadcast of the launch. However, the company later confirmed that the rocket’s payload had been successfully deployed.
The exact mission objectives of the X-37B are largely classified with officials only revealing that it is used to perform tests that cannot be replicated on Earth. In a recent post by Popular Mechanics, the X-378’s objectives were posited as being used to “test new military space satellite technologies including ion thrusters and optical and radar-based sensors designed to spy on objects on the ground or other satellites.” Although it may very well be testing the USAF’s latest spy technology, it is unlikely to be doing any spying of its own given that it is highly visible with even commercial-grade equipment.
With the successful launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 complete, the Kennedy Space Center will begin preparations for Hurricane Irma. With projections showing that the powerful Category 5 hurricane is likely to pass through Space Coast, officials on the ground are securing any and all launch assets that may be affected by the strong winds.
Image Source: 45th Space Wing
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