SpaceX launches super-secret spaceplane as Hurricane Irma nears Florida

Hurricane Irma is not due to make landfall in Florida until the weekend, but adverse weather conditions surrounding the storm system left mission control with just a 50/50 chance of success. The mysterious space plane called X-37B will be launched in orbit from NASA's Kennedy Space Centre. Today, SpaceX successfully launched one of its most important (and classified) payloads to date: the U.S. Air Force's Boeing X-37B spy plane.

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

The September 7 launch was SpaceX's first run at sending the X-37B to Earth's perimeter.

SpaceX plans to reuse one of those recovered rockets for a commercial satellite launch no sooner than October.

Spain seeks to strike down independence bill
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The first stage's center engine fired once more as the booster made its final descent, and the Falcon 9 extended four landing legs for touchdown at Landing Zone 1, a flat concrete target on the Atlantic coastline around 9 miles (15 kilometers) south of launch pad 39A.

The US military claims the unmanned X-37B is furthering "operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies", which could involve recovery of satellites or debris for fix or scrap on Earth.

The Air Force announced before the launch that the fifth X-37B flight, known as OTV-5, would go into a higher-inclination orbit than earlier X-37B flights. "The primary objectives of the X-37B are twofold: reusable spacecraft technologies for America's future in space and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth". In May, SpaceX launched a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, NROL-76.

Publicly, the Air Force says the X37-B is a testing platform for advanced technologies for spaceflight, but few details have ever been provided. The previous missions relied on United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rockets. This marks the space plane's fifth mission, according to SpaceX. Boeing houses and prepares the X-37B spaceplanes for launch inside former space shuttle hangars near the space center's huge Vehicle Assembly Building. "It is our goal to continue advancing the X-37B OTV so it can more fully support the growing space community".


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