SpaceX readies rocket to launch secret space mission

SpaceX preparing for launch of mini spy space shuttle for US Air Force despite Hurricane Irma warning

SpaceX preparing for launch of mini spy space shuttle for US Air Force despite Hurricane Irma warning

SpaceX has launched a top-secret shuttle from the Kennedy space centre in Florida, pre-empting the onset of category five Hurricane Irma.

It will now need to be moved from its base as Hurricane Irma approaches Florida in time for Saturday morning.

The X37-b sits in a payload fairing atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in preparation for launch.

OTV-5 is the first X-37B mission to use a SpaceX rocket.

The first stage's center engine fired once more as the booster made its final descent, and the Falcon 9 extended four landing legs for touchdown at Landing Zone 1, a flat concrete target on the Atlantic coastline around 9 miles (15 kilometers) south of launch pad 39A.

The flight is the fifth time one of the Air Force's two X-37B spaceplanes, each about one-quarter the length of one of NASA's retired space shuttle orbiters, has rocketed into space.

Venus Williams defies odds, enters 2017 US Open semifinals
But I did get to hang out with my family and see my little cousin's soccer games and go to weddings and baby showers and stuff. And the American field has mutual respect for the "grandam" women's tennis: "Venus is just our leader", Sloane said.

The space planes aren't very large, clocking in at 29 feet long and 9 feet 6 inches high, but they are able to stay in orbit for months or even years. Given the secrecy surrounding the X-37B, the webcast cut away from the second stage deployment, allowing the space plane to discretely decouple and head off on its mission. For comparison, the space shuttles were 122 feet (37 m) long, with 78-foot (24 m) wingspans.

SpaceX has pulled off some exhilarating launches and landings in the past, but today's mission ranks among its most suspenseful. 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.

Previously, Lockheed Martin's Atlas rockets brought the Boeing vehicle into space.

The X-37B is the first uncrewed space plane for the US, and is designed for reusability at a reasonable cost.

The Air Force said the craft "performs risk reduction, experimentation and concept-of-operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies". The X-37B, built by Boeing, is an uncrewed vehicle, but resembles the Space Shuttle on a smaller scale.

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