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U.S. Space Force Partners With Elon Musk To Launch Mysterious X-37B Space Plane

  • The X-37B Mission 7, named USSF-52, will be launched by SpaceX's Falcon Heavy from Kennedy Space Center, marking the first time this rocket is used for the mission.
  • The X-37B, operated by the US Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and the Space Force, has completed six secretive missions in low-Earth orbit, with its last mission lasting over 900 days.
  • The mission objectives for the X-37B include conducting various tests in new orbital regimes and investigating the effects of radiation on materials, utilizing the reusable spaceplane's advanced capabilities.
Space

The US Space Force's Boeing X-37B unmanned, reusable space plane will be launched via a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, for the first time in early December, the US military wrote in a press release. 

"The X-37B Mission 7 will launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time, designated USSF-52, with a wide range of test and experimentation objectives," Space Force said.

The mysterious spaceplane is built by Boeing and operated by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and the Space Force. Its last mission ended one year ago after spending 2.5 years in space.

Space Force said the Falcon Heavy rocket will launch the X-37B into space on a mission called "USSF-52" on Dec. 7 and perform "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." 

"We are excited to expand the envelope of the reusable X-37 B's capabilities, using the flight-proven service module and Falcon Heavy rocket to fly multiple cutting-edge experiments for the Department of the Air Force and its partners," said Lt. Col. Joseph Fritschen, the X-37B Program Director. 

The X-37B is similar to the retired space shuttle, although the space plane is a fraction of the size, coming in at 29 feet in length and 9.5 feet high, with a wingspan of 15 feet. 

Here's a list of the prior X-37 B's top-secret missions in low-Earth obit:

There are rumors the X-37B might be a testbed for space weapons or could be used to capture adversary satellites... 

News of the X-37B launch via SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket further shows Elon Musk is becoming the 'uncancellable' billionaire as the West increasingly relies on his rocket technology.  

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