SpaceX to launch spaceplane today before Irma arrives

SpaceX to launch spaceplane today before Irma arrives

SpaceX to launch spaceplane today before Irma arrives

Safety and mission success were critical in the design of the Falcon 9 rocket. About 10 minutes later, the first stage of the rocket came in for a picture-perfect landing back on a pad at the Cape.

Four stabilizing grid fins also helped maneuver the 14-story booster as it encountered thicker air falling through the stratosphere.

Up next on SpaceX's docket is the third launch of Iridium's NEXT series of polar orbit satellites, now aiming for a launch from the Vandenberg Air Force Base at 6:06 a.m. PST, October 4. This particular vehicle has spent at least 2,000 days in orbit. What exactly the unmanned ship, referred to as the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, has been tasked to accomplish is unclear.

The X-37B program, run by the U.S. Air Force's Rapid Capabilities Office, began as a NASA project in 1999 but was later transferred to the Pentagon.

Due to the secret nature of the Air Force program, SpaceX wasn't able to show the space plane actually getting into orbit, and we don't know much about what the X-37B is going to do up there. Though officials remain confident that it won't pose any threat to the mission.

Several firsts are planned for the OTV-5 mission.

The U.S. Air Force said in a statement that the fifth mission "continues to advance the X-37B's performance and flexibility as a space technology demonstrator and host platform for experimental payloads".

The Air Force hasn't yet disclosed when the X-37B will come back to Earth. And a heat sink like that could be useful on a high-end spy satellite. She suggested that price was a factor in the Air Force's decision to go with Falcon 9.

The X-37B in its SpaceX fairing. A deployable solar panel generates electricity for the mini-shuttle, and it does not rely on hydraulics for its aerosurfaces, unlike NASA's space shuttles, which were limited to missions lasting several weeks. X-37B's fourth mission set an endurance record, racking up 718 days in orbit before landing in early May at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. It's also the first time the company is launching the Boeing-built X-37B.

Here is a listing of the X-37B's flight history compiled by Spaceflight Now's Justin Ray. DARPA transferred it to the Air Force in 2006. The private commercial carrier started doing military contract work in 2016, when it won its first contract to carry a Global Positioning System satellite for the Air Force. That launch, which will employ ULA's most-powerful variant of its Atlas 5 rocket, would have required SpaceX to have used its Falcon Heavy, which is still months from its debut.

You can watch a livestream of the launch and landing attempt below.

The SES 11/EchoStar 105 spacecraft has been delivered to Cape Canaveral from its Airbus Defense and Space factory in Toulouse, France.

According to the forecast by the Patrick #Air Force Base, Irma is expected to reach the area about 900 miles near the launch site during the scheduled take-off.

But this week's rocket launch is not what an ordinary SpaceX launch looks like.

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