The secret American space plane will be launched this night

The US military and SpaceX will launch an unmanned X-37B space plane into space tonight. As always, its mission will be secret. This time, the Falcon Heavy rocket is used to put it into orbit, which can be very high.

The Falcon Heavy rocket is preparing for launch. Source: SpaceX

Delayed launch of the X-37B is postponed

On the night of December 11–12, the US military and SpaceX plan to launch the unmanned X-37B space plane into space. If everything goes according to plan, the launch will take place at 3:14 a.m. UTC time from launch pad 39A in Florida.

Actually, the launch was already supposed to take place on December 10, but it was postponed for a day due to bad weather. The meteorologists’ forecast for this night gives a 70 percent chance that conditions will be favorable.

The X-37B space plane is an extremely important project of the US military, and it is not the first time it has flown into space. However, its start should be unique. Instead of the Atlas V and Falcon 9 carriers, the superheavy Falcon Heavy will be used, which has large side boosters and can put very heavy loads into orbit.

What is the purpose of the mission?

This launch will be the seventh for the X-37B in the last 20 years. As in previous missions, during the current one, called OTV-7, some experiments will be conducted, the purpose of which remains secret. The US military made do with only general phrases about “testing new orbital regimes”.

The exact purpose of only one experiment is known, the head of which is NASA. It is called Seeds-2 and its main purpose is to determine the effect of radiation and long-term space flight on the viability of plant seeds. Similar experiments have recently begun on the Chinese space station.

The duration of the OTV-7 mission has also not been disclosed. But it is possible that it may last for several months or even years. At least until now, each subsequent flight of the X-37B into space has been longer than the previous one. For example, the previous one, the sixth, lasted 908 days. 

Considering all this, the choice of a carrier by the American military seems interesting. Its high power may mean that the space plane can be put into a higher orbit than it has flown so far, and this is in good agreement with the published statements.

However, there is another possibility. There is a cargo bay on board the X-37B. If there is something very heavy in it, then a super-powerful carrier can be needed to simply ensure the launch of the spacecraft into space. It is also impossible to exclude the possibility that the matter lies in the future orbit of the space plane and its mass.

According to

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