The X-37B spacecraft of the US military has launched on a second covert mission that should run for at least a few years.
The X-37B spacecraft of the United States military has launched on a second covert mission that should run for at least a few years.
After more than two weeks of delays due to technical difficulties, the spacecraft launched at night on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The reusable aircraft, which resembles a miniature space shuttle, will be carrying top-secret research, just like earlier trips. The mission will not be manned.
Under the National Security Space Launch program, the U.S. Space Force is carrying out a classified mission to test new orbital regimes and space domain awareness technology.
Importance of the launch of X-37B
Notably, this launch signaled the X-37B’s first voyage aboard the more potent Falcon Heavy rocket, raising the possibility of orbital travels beyond its typical low-Earth orbit. The spacecraft is intended to deliver a variety of payloads and technology experiments over extended orbital orbits. It is also well-known for its capacity to finish a mission and then autonomously land on a runway much like an airplane.
Although the exact length of the X-37B’s current mission is unknown, it is anticipated to continue in the same manner as previous flights, potentially lasting until June 2026 or later. The previous mission broke the program record by lasting more than two years.
These missions highlight the strategic significance of space in the fields of scientific research and national defense, and they mark major advancements in reusable space technologies.
The launch of X-37B and China’s Shenlong
Closely timed to the X-37B’s launch was the third mission of China’s Shenlong spacecraft since 2020. Another covert project, Shenlong, is said to be restricted to low-Earth orbit delivery. These missions’ simultaneous scheduling has been interpreted as a reflection of the developing space competition between China and the United States, with both countries demonstrating a strong interest in one another’s spaceplane technologies.