SpaceX, the Elon Musk-led company is to launch a high-profile space plane, marking a key milestone
The mission reflects the trust that the military has in SpaceX, as it is going to deliver its most valuable payload, according to a NASA official.
“The Department of Defense is getting more comfortable launching things into space on the Falcon . They are willing to put something like the X-37, a crown jewel, on one of those. If you lost one of these, you’ve lost half the fleet,” said Ray Lugo
After a successful test fire last week, SpaceX tweeted that they have a launch scheduled at Cape Canaveral this Thursday. However, they did not announce any specific hour.
The plane, which was built by Boeing, is a 29-foot long, 9-foot, 6-inch tall vehicle that is similar to a smaller version of a NASA space shuttle that has been retired. It will first be mounted into the nose of a SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rockets, and then sent into orbit.
Recently, the end of a 718-day mission was marked by the landing at Kennedy Space Center of X-37B.
However, the Air Force is not sharing any sort of details regarding the vehicle’s activity in space. As expected, theories have appeared that range from attacks on enemy country’s satellites to scientific research that the military is not willing to share. No one can say for sure if either one is true.
“As much as the Air Force brags about the program, there is still a lot we don’t know about it,” said Brian Weeden, director of program planning for Secure World Foundation
Other theories also include the deployment of small military satellites, repair of malfunctioning ones or taking them out of orbit.
“While it does have some capability for orbital inspection, repair, and retrieval, it is unlikely to perform these functions given its limited payload bay and altitude range,” the Secure World Foundation report states
On the other hand, Lugo mentioned that the X-37B, which is also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle, can serve as a laboratory for different experiments. The program includes two identical crafts, and each of them has flown two missions.