SpaceX scheduled to launch X-37B mini-shuttle from Cape Canaveral

SpaceX launches Air Force's super-secret minishuttle

SpaceX launches Air Force's super-secret minishuttle

Despite the devastating weather forecast to hit Florida's coast in the coming days, SpaceX successfully took the mysterious X-37B spaceplane into orbit on the back of a Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday.

While we don't know how long the X-37 will stay in orbit, launching on a SpaceX rocket means the mission will eventually pass a spaceflight milestone: It'll be the first time almost every part of a rocket that left Earth will land itself. Cape Canaveral had already begun buckling down operations ahead of the possibility of Irma on Tuesday, entering what it calls Hurricane Condition (HURCON) 5 status.

This Air Force mission is the fifth Boeing X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle launch.

About 2.5 minutes into the flight, the Falcon 9's two stages separated. The four or more weeks between launches at LC-39A will hopefully provide SpaceX enough time to deal with whatever complications Hurricane Irma brings, and will also provide plenty of breathing room for the team of engineers working to reactivate launch pad LC-40.

At the end of each X-37B mission, the winged craft glides down from space to a horizontal runway landing.

The Air Force is mostly not clear about the intentions for the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle - details on the 29-foot drone and its mission are scant and vague.

THAAD launchers set for deployment amid protests
Washington rejects the proposal; Putin insisted it "offers a genuine way to defuse the tensions and a step-by-step settlement". The North says it detonated a hydrogen bomb in its sixth nuclear test on Sunday.

Previously, Lockheed Martin's Atlas rockets brought the Boeing vehicle into space. For comparison, the space shuttles were 122 feet (37 m) long, with 78-foot (24 m) wingspans. The X-37B is going to a higher inclination orbit than usual but the X-37B's main mission is classified and is being fiercely guarded.

SpaceX launches have become something of a routine over the past year or so, but if you think there's nothing interesting about yet another launch being carried out by Elon Musk's stellar startup, you're dead wrong.

The unmanned Falcon rocket blasted off from Florida's Kennedy Space Centre as schools and businesses boarded up for Hurricane Irma.

Another Falcon 9 rocket is due for launch October 4 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with the third batch of 10 next-generation voice and data relay satellites for Iridium.

As usual, SpaceX aims to land its leftover booster back at Cape Canaveral for eventual reuse.

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