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

SpaceX preparing for launch of mini spy space shuttle for US Air Force despite Hurricane Irma warning

The goal was to get the launch up before the arrival of Hurricane Irma, and they succeeded. Last time the X-37B flew, it stayed in orbit for 718 days before landing at Kennedy Space Center in May.

The private company has successfully sent up one of its Falcon 9 rockets, carrying a highly classified US Air Force X-37B space plane on its fifth mission.

ULA CEO Tory Bruno disputes that ULA was even afforded the opportunity to participate in the bidding process, however.

This is just the second time SpaceX has launched a national security payload and the first time launching the Boeing-built X-37B.

It was the Falcon 9's 16th successful launch and re-entry and the seventh time the reusable rocket achieved a landing on solid ground, as opposed to the company's floating landing platforms.

The Air Force said in a release that this is the fifth test of its ship, and it will carry some satellites and test "emerging space technologies" while in orbit. The company has also signed two separate deals - valued at a combined total of $183.7 million - over the past two years to launch Global Positioning System satellites into orbit for the Air Force. By comparison, Nasa's retired space shuttles were 122ft long with a 78ft wingspan.

It launched from launch pad 39A, which NASA had once used for Apollo moon missions and many Space Shuttle missions.

The X-37B will glide back to Earth for a runway landing to conclude its mission, likely targeting a homecoming at the Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center, where the OTV-4 mission ended. The previous missions relied on United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rockets.

Together, the two X-37Bs have completed four space missions, each of which has set a new duration standard for the program.

The X-37B is the first uncrewed space plane for the US, and is designed for reusability at a reasonable cost.

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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