SpaceX delays mystery X-37B space plane for US military

(CNN) — SpaceX delayed the launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket until at least Tuesday night, suspending the latest mission of a mysterious space plane that remains one of the U.S. military’s most intriguing projects.

The secretive X-37B robotic spacecraft is scheduled to lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida this Monday at 8:14 p.m. Miami time aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. However, the company announced late Monday that the launch had been delayed “due to a ground issue,” indicating a problem with the rocket’s launch pad or fuel systems, according to a SpaceX social media post.

The company said it is working to launch in the next launch window, which is this Tuesday at 8:14 p.m. Miami time.

The reusable space plane, which resembles a small NASA space shuttle with blacked-out windows, is ready to launch its seventh test mission.

Dec. 3, 2010, an X-37B orbital test vehicle sits on the runway during post-landing operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lombok, California. Air Force

Many of the X-37B’s mysterious missions are classified, but the US Space Force has provided few details about the missions of the unmanned mission.

What does the X-37B do?

Spaceflight makes it possible for the United States to conduct experiments to better understand how to improve current and future space operations and push the boundaries of what is possible, Gen. B. According to a statement by Chance Saltzman, chief of space operations. US Space Force

Research on board will include a NASA experiment aimed at finding ways to sustain astronauts on future deep space missions. Called SEEDS-2, it will “expose plant seeds to the harsh radiation environment of long-duration spaceflight” and build on previous research conducted on the X-37B missions.

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The experiments “include operating a reusable space plane in new orbital regimes, testing future space field awareness technologies, and investigating radiation effects on NASA-delivered objects.” According to the US Space Force.

Orbital regimes are regions of space where different celestial bodies have the greatest gravitational influence. If the Earth’s gravity dominates, for example, it is called a “geocentric regime”. Our entire solar system is part of a “solar regime” where the sun is the largest source of gravity, the release explains.Space energy“From the US Space Force.

By “new orbital regimes,” the military means Earth and the Moon.

A powerful journey

The launch was the first time a spaceflight had flown aboard the SpaceX Falcon Heavy, which was briefly an operational rocket. Most powerful in the world After its debut in 2018.

The rocket looks like three Falcon 9 rockets, with two boosters on each side providing extra thrust and power.

Earlier, the X-37B was launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 vehicle and Atlas V rocket developed by the Lockheed Martin-Boeing joint venture United Launch Alliance.

Falcon Heavy produces more thrust than both rockets.

Innovations in space technology

It is not known how long the spacecraft will spend orbiting Earth during this period, although historically each X-37B flight has lasted longer than the last.

The autonomous X-37B will complete its final trip to orbit in November 2022, after the spacecraft spent nearly 909 days in space. During that sixth mission, as CNN previously reported, the space shuttle carried experimental technology designed by the U.S. Navy to convert solar energy. Send it back to EarthAccording to the military.

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In August 2020, the X-37B won the prestigious trophy Robert J. Collier, which will surpass the Hubble Space Telescope and honor the space achievements. (The James Webb Space Telescope won the award most recently.)

“Sophisticated and unmanned, a statement at the time.

The X-37B has spent more than 3,700 days on uncommissioned missions in space.

Eden Hayes

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