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SpaceX Falcon Heavy launches secretive US military drone on mysterious mission

SpaceX Falcon Heavy launches secretive US military drone on mysterious mission

SpaceX Falcon Heavy launches secretive US military drone on mysterious mission

SpaceX Falcon Heavy launches secretive US military drone on mysterious mission – NASA

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  • SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launched the X-37B drone.
  • The unmanned spacecraft is on its eighth mission.
  • The Pentagon only provided the mission code name, USSF-52.
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On Thursday night, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launched itself back into space to deliver the US military’s covert X-37B drone to a research mission.

Following several weeks of postponement, the rocket finally lifted off at 8:07 p.m. Eastern Time (0107 GMT Friday) on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch was broadcast live on SpaceX’s website.

On its eighth journey, the unmanned and self-governing spacecraft is not sure exactly where it is going.

The launch was originally slated for December 7, but the Pentagon has not provided much information about the space drone or its mission. In its statement, SpaceX only mentioned the mission code name, USSF-52, issued by the Pentagon.

“Falcon Heavy launched the USSF-52 mission to orbit from Launch Complex 39A,” stated SpaceX.

The Pentagon has previously stated that “multiple cutting-edge experiments” will be part of the X-37B’s seventh mission.

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“These tests include operating the reusable spaceplane in new orbital regimes, experimenting with future space domain awareness technologies, and investigating the radiation effects on materials provided by NASA,” the US Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office said in a statement last month.

It further stated that this is the first time the X-37B is taking off on a Falcon Heavy, one of the strongest rockets currently in use and able to send payloads as heavy as 26,700 kg (58,900 pounds) into deep space.

The US space drone X-37B, about the size of a small bus, resembles a scaled-down replica of the manned space shuttles that were retired in 2011. The X-37B has tested the effects of radiation on seeds and other materials for NASA on earlier flights.

The Falcon Heavy launch occurs two weeks after Shenlong, China’s stealth robotic spacecraft, was launched into orbit for a “period of time,” according to state news agency Xinhua.

“During this period, reusable technology verification and space science experiments will be carried out as planned to provide technical support for the peaceful use of space,” Xinhua said following the launch on December 14.

Developed for the Air Force by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle has been in use since 2010.

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It is powered by solar panels and is thirty feet (nine meters) in length with a fifteen foot wingspan.

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