SpaceX launches super-secret spaceplane as Hurricane Irma nears Florida

SpaceX, the Elon Musk owned Rocket Company, is all set to fire off its 13th Falcon 9 of the year from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday and, unlike other missions, this time the mission of X-37B mini-shuttle to carry the spy shuttle for the United States military has been kept a well-sealed secret. Irma was roughly 900 miles from Kennedy Space Center prior to launch. The launch will be SpaceX's second national security payload, following a spy satellite launch for the NRO in May, and the first time launching the Air Force's autonomous mini-space shuttle.

This marks the first time that SpaceX was granted the opportunity to use its Falcon 9 to launch the X-37B, and it shows that the has confidence in the rocket's reliability rating.

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SpaceX is known for mastering the landing and reuse of first stage Falcon 9 rockets.

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.

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This is the fifth flight for the X-37B. We also don't know how long the X-37B will stay in orbit, although its last mission was almost two years in length (270 days to be exact). U.S. officials have never publicly specified what business the X-37B is engaged in while it's circling the Earth but it has been logging missions since 2010. Touchdown was near flawless, with the rocket landing directly on the launch pad's SpaceX logo. The last mission, which ended in May, spent a record-breaking 718 days in space. The Air Force usually says it's running experiments to test new satellite technology.

Like the space shuttle, the X-37B launches vertically and comes to back to Earth horizontally, in a runway landing.

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By noon, the Air Force had declared the launch a success. The X-37B, built by Boeing, is an uncrewed vehicle, but resembles the Space Shuttle on a smaller scale. Just don't expect them to reveal anything juicy about the X-37B, because that's a secret.


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