SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket set to launch secretive X-37B space plane on Dec. 10: Times Of Nation
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket is poised to launch the X-37B space plane for the U.S. Space Force on Sunday evening (Dec. 10), and you can likely watch the action live.
Liftoff is scheduled to occur from Launch Complex-39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, during a 10-minute window that opens at 8:14 p.m. EST (0114 GMT Dec. 11). If, as expected, SpaceX webcasts the liftoff, you can watch it live here at Space.com.
It will be the seventh launch to date for the reusable X-37B but its first-ever ride on a Falcon Heavy, which could have consequences for its coming orbital mission.
Five of the six X-37B launches have employed United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets, with one other using a SpaceX Falcon 9. Falcon Heavy, which utilizes three Falcon 9 boosters as its first stage, outclasses both of those other rockets when it comes to getting mass to orbit. According to a recent Space Force release, some of the objectives of the coming X-37B mission, known as OTV-7 (“Orbital Test Vehicle-7”), include “operating in new orbital regimes,” which, given the launch vehicle, may indicate a higher orbit than usual, farther from Earth.
Related: US Space Force postpones launch of secretive X-37B space plane to Dec. 10
The upgrade in launch vehicle may also have to do with mass. The X-37B features a cargo bay to house equipment and experiments, and it could be carrying a secondary mission payload that requires Falcon Heavy’s added lift capability.
The uncertainty here is not surprising; most details of X-37B missions are classified. However, USSF-52 does carry at lease one unclassified experiment: NASA’s “Seeds-2” project, which will test the effects of radiation and long-duration spaceflight on plant seeds.
Each successive X-37B mission has been longer than its predecessors, with its most recent orbital jaunt lasting 908 days. That mission, called OTV-6, landed in November 2022.
When Falcon Heavy launches on Sunday, it will be the rocket’s ninth mission to date. It will also be the fifth flight for the side boosters supporting this particular mission; the duo most recently launched NASA’s Psyche probe, in October of this year.
(News Source :Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Times Of Nation staff and is published from a www.space.com feed.)
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