SpaceX launches US military space drone for research mission

Steph Deschamps / December 20, 2023

  

 

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket lifted off on Thursday evening to carry the US military X-37B space drone on a research mission, announced the US company founded by Elon Musk.
 
After weeks of delays, the rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 8.07pm. The lift-off was broadcast live on the SpaceX website. No information was available on the destination of the space drone, an unmanned shuttle, for its seventh mission.
  
The Pentagon has released little information about the space drone and its new mission, originally scheduled to start on December 7. SpaceX simply cites the Pentagon's code name for the mission - USSF-52 - in its launch announcement.
  
The Pentagon had previously announced that the seventh X-37B mission would feature "multiple cutting-edge experiments". "These tests include operating the reusable spaceplane on new orbital regimes, experimenting with future space domain awareness technologies, and studying the effects of radiation on Nasa-supplied materials," according to a statement issued last month by the U.S. Department of the Air Force's Rapid Capabilities Office.
The press release stated that this was the first time the X-37B had been launched by a Falcon Heavy rocket, one of the most powerful in operation, capable of carrying loads of up to 26,700 kg deep into space.
 
Shrouded in the utmost secrecy, the X-37B made its maiden flight in 2010 and spent a total of more than ten years in space during its first six missions, according to its manufacturer, US aircraft manufacturer Boeing, at the end of its sixth mission in November 2022.

 

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