SpaceX deploys covert US military satellite as Hurricane Irma closes in (VIDEO)
Falcon 9 and OTV-5 are vertical on Pad 39A Weather is 50% favorable for today’s ~5 launch window which opens at 9:50 a.m. EDT, 13:50 UTC. pic.twitter.com/wc9XyWVZ0E— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 7, 2017
Hurricane Irma is not due to make landfall in Florida until the weekend, but adverse weather conditions surrounding the storm system left mission control with just a 50/50 chance of success. Irma was roughly 900 miles from Kennedy Space Center prior to launch.
It was the company’s second time launching a payload of such significance to US national security interests but the first time launching the X-37B vehicle since winning the $96.5 million US Air Force contract in March, beating previous holder the United Launch Alliance (ULA).
ULA CEO Tory Bruno disputes that ULA was even afforded the opportunity to participate in the bidding process, however.
No. We were not given the opportunity to bid. https://t.co/2envWyGnXe— Tory Bruno (@torybruno) June 9, 2017
At 10am Florida time, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off, launching the mysterious X-37B spaceplane into orbit.
Stage one of the Falcon 9 rocket landed successfully just eight minutes after launch, touching down at SpaceX's landing port located off the Florida coast, but the live feed cut out after lift-off due to the classified nature of the X-37B 'spaceplane.'
It was the Falcon 9’s 16th successful launch and re-entry and the seventh time the reusable rocket achieved a landing on solid ground, as opposed to the company’s floating landing platforms.
This marks the X-37B's fifth journey into orbit and this time the craft will be carrying several small satellites in addition to testing out experimental technologies, including the Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader, a new vibrating heat pipe, reports The Verge.
On its last mission the ‘spaceplane’ stayed in orbit for almost two years, but it’s unknown how long the current mission is expected to last.