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SpaceX launches X-37B ahead of Hurricane Irma
08 September 2017, 12:40 | Antonio Miles
Hurricane Irma heading towards the Caribbean as of Tuesday
Today, sometime between right now and about 3pm ET, the company will send a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a US Air Force X-37B space plane from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, just days before Hurricane Irma is expected to strike Florida. Thankfully, Hurricane Irma is still a ways off the Florida coast, and isn't expected to impact the event. The launch is being held at NASA'sKennedy Space Center in Florida, which makes accounting for weather particularly tricky at the moment.
The X-37B mission is the second national security launch for SpaceX since the Air Force certified the Falcon 9 in 2015 to compete for Defense Department business.
SpaceX has been on a roll lately with its Falcon 9launches.
This mission marks the 16th successful landing of Falcon 9 post-launch and seventh successful landing on solid ground.
The X-37B, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), is one of two known craft of its type in the US Air Force's fleet and part of a classified program whose details are shrouded in secrecy.
X-37B, an approximately 5,000 kg reusable spaceplane, could remain in orbit for as long as two years, and possibly even longer. By comparison, Nasa's retired space shuttles were 122ft long with a 78ft wingspan. The first one launched in 2010.
"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 press release. A third competition, for the mid-2018 launch of the multi-spacecraft Space Test Program-3 mission, went to United Launch Alliance in June.
The rest of the flight plan remains secret, along with the mission's planned duration.
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