Space Plane: Mysterious US military aircraft launches

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Sunday

The Space Force will launch a robotic X-37B space plane on a new secret mission for the U.S. military on Saturday and the new liftoff time is scheduled at 7.43 pm (IST) (1413 GMT) after bad weather prevented a launch try earlier in the day.

America's most experienced space launch provider United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched the X-37B orbital test vehicle for the U.S. Space Force at 9:14 am EDT this morning from LC-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The Air Force said this mission will carry more experiments than any of the previous X-37B fights.

The U.S. Space Force has launched the next X-37B unmanned spacecraft into orbit for a classified mission.

The most recent mission ended in October 2019, after 780 days in orbit, bringing the aircraft's time in space to more than seven years. The weather is a key concern, with Air Force officials forecasting just a 40 per cent chance of good conditions for launch. Managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the X-37B program performs risk reduction, experimentation, and operations development concept for reusable space vehicle technologies.

The X-37B programme started in 1999.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Sunday
Watch live as ULA launches a U.S. military spaceplane for its first Space Force mission

In a statement Sunday, the ULA said that an Atlas V 501 configuration rocket launched the USSF-7 mission with a mysterious spacecraft for the US Space Force.

"The secret deployment of multiple small satellites raises additional questions about the mission of the X-37B", stated the annual Global Counterspace Capabilities report released by the Secure World Foundation in March.

Sunday's launch was dedicated to health care workers and others on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

United Launch Alliance, which provided the Atlas V rocket, declared success 1 1/2 hours after liftoff.

"The rocket was originally scheduled to blast off from Space Launch Complex 41 at 8:24 a.m., but a launch weather officer said the odds of the launch happening had decreased to 20 percent because of rain in the area". Numerous flight controllers wore masks and were spread out. Sign up to receive the week's news in space.

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