Published: Fri, September 08, 2017
Global Media | By Garry Long

SpaceX to launch a secret spy craft mission for the US Military

SpaceX to launch a secret spy craft mission for the US Military

Elon Musk's rocket company Space X is set to launch its Falcon 9 rocket amidst the looming threat of a hurricane in Florida. The hurricane itself is not expected to make landfall on Florida until this weekend, but conditions at the Cape are expected to worsen throughout the day and be even worse during tomorrow's launch window, so SpaceX's best chance to get the X-37B to space before the storm is this morning.

Live images broadcast by the California aerospace company showed a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the unmanned X-37B drone lifting off at 10:00 am (1400 GMT) from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. As mentioned, this will be the fifth flight of the Air Force's X-37B program.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson disclosed during an early June congressional hearing that SpaceX, not ULA, would be launching X-37B this time around. Last time the X-37B flew, it stayed in orbit for 718 days before landing at Kennedy Space Center in May. The new heat pipe technology is lighter and less expensive than components used on most satellites to keep internal avionics temperatures within safe margins. By comparison, Nasa's retired space shuttles were 122ft long with a 78ft wingspan.

Here is a listing of the X-37B's flight history compiled by Spaceflight Now's Justin Ray. Even though KSC officials confirmed that some of SpaceX's facilities - particularly the integration facility that holds Falcon Heavy cores - were created to cope with winds as high as 150 mph, Irma has consistently generated winds of 180+ mph over the last 48 hours. DARPA transferred it to the Air Force in 2006. Its fate aboard the Falcon 9 second stage will likely remain unknown until amateur observers begin to catalog and track the vehicle as it orbits the Earth. The private commercial carrier started doing military contract work in 2016, when it won its first contract to carry a Global Positioning System satellite for the Air Force.

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Another Falcon 9 rocket is due for launch October 4 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with the third batch of 10 next-generation voice and data relay satellites for Iridium.

The launch has received unexpected traction both because of the secretive mission and because of the timing of the launch despite Hurricane Irma warning.

As usual, SpaceX aims to land its leftover booster back at Cape Canaveral for eventual reuse.

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