Spaceplane Race: Space Force Launches Secretive X-37B Aboard Spacex’s Falcon Heavy Rocket – Mission Occurs as China’s ‘Divine Dragon’ Is Also Orbiting Earth

Space, the final frontier, is the new battleground.

The U.S. Space Force, under the National Security Space Launch program, has launched the secretive X-37B robot Spaceplane for its new undisclosed mission.

The shuttle was blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, for its seventh mission. For the first time, it was launched by a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, capable of delivering the craft to a higher orbit than it has ever gone before.

The launch came two weeks after China’s Shenlong, or “Divine Dragon” robot shuttle was launched on its third mission to orbit since 2020.

Reuters reported:

“The [Space Force] Boeing-built vehicle, roughly the size of a small bus and resembling a miniature space shuttle, is built to deploy various payloads and conduct technology experiments on years-long orbital flights. At the end of its mission, the craft descends back through the atmosphere to land on a runway much like an airplane.”

US and China in a new Space race.

The X-37B, also called the Orbital Test Vehicle, has flown six previous missions since 2010.

After being carried to orbit by Atlas V rockets and a Falcon 9 SpaceX booster, now for the first time, it was launched aboard the more powerful Falcon Heavy rocket.

The Falcon Heavy can carry payloads much farther into space, possibly into geosynchronous orbit, more than 22,000 miles above the Earth, whereas so far, the X-37B was confined to flights in low-Earth orbit, at altitudes below 1,200 miles.

“The Pentagon has not said how high the spaceplane will fly this time out. But in a statement last month, the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office said the mission, designated by the Space Force as USSF-52, would involve tests of ‘new orbital regimes, experimenting with future space domain awareness technologies’.

Such comments have led industry analysts and amateur space trackers to speculate that the X-37B may be bound for a highly elliptical orbit around Earth or even a path that could swing it out to the vicinity of the moon, a region of space in which the Pentagon has taken an increasing interest.

‘Maybe this thing’s going go out toward the moon and drop off a payload’, said Bob Hall, director of space traffic monitoring firm COMSPOC, who analyzes the trajectories of orbital objects. The closer the spacecraft flies to the moon, the more difficult it could be to safely return to Earth.”

X-37B Spaceplane.

China’s Shenlong was launched on Dec. 14, and believed to be presently limited to a low-Earth orbit.

“Still, Space Force General B. Chance Saltzman told reporters at an industry conference earlier this month he expected China to launch Shenlong around the same time as the X-37B flight in what he suggested was a competitive move.

‘These are two of the most watched objects on orbit while they’re on orbit. It’s probably no coincidence that they’re trying to match us in timing and sequence of this’, Saltzman said, according to remarks published in the journal Air & Space Forces Magazine.”

The X-37B secretive mission is expected to last a couple of years, as the Spaceplane has spent more than 10 years in orbit since its debut in 2010.

Associated Press reported:

“Space Force officials would not say how long this orbital test vehicle would remain aloft or what’s on board other than a NASA experiment to gauge the effects of radiation on materials.

Built by Boeing, the X-37B resembles NASA’s retired space shuttles. But they’re just one-fourth the size at 29 feet (9 meters) long. No astronauts are needed; the X-37B has an autonomous landing system.

They take off vertically like rockets but land horizontally like planes, and are designed to orbit between 150 miles and 500 miles (240 kilometers and 800 kilometers) high. There are two X-37Bs based in a former shuttle hangar at Kennedy.”

Read more:

Highly Maneuverable Chinese Spaceplane Touches Down After 276 Days in Orbit – Craft Docked Several Times With Another Object – May Be Used as Weapon to Target US Satellites



The post Spaceplane Race: Space Force Launches Secretive X-37B Aboard Spacex’s Falcon Heavy Rocket – Mission Occurs as China’s ‘Divine Dragon’ Is Also Orbiting Earth appeared first on The Gateway Pundit.

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