SpaceX postpones planned launch of US military’s secretive X-37B spaceplane

SpaceX postpones planned launch of US military’s secretive X-37B spaceplane
SpaceX postpones planned launch of US military’s secretive X-37B spaceplane

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - SpaceX’s Starship rocket launches from Starbase during its second test flight in Boca Chica, Texas, on November 18, 2023. — AFP pic

CAPE CANAVERAL, Dec 12 — A planned launch last night of the US military’s secretive X-37B robot spaceplane on its seventh mission to orbit, and its first flight atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, was postponed for at least 24 hours, SpaceX said.

The flight was called off for the night about 25 minutes before the start of a targeted launch window set to open at 8.14pm EST (0114 GMT/9am Malaysian time) as the rocket stood poised for liftoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

In a message posted on the social media platform X, Elon Musk’s California-based rocket venture said the countdown was halted “due to a ground side issue,” adding that the “vehicle and payload remain healthy.” SpaceX did not elaborate.

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The company did not immediately say when it would try again. The mission’s next launch opportunity is tonight, SpaceX said.

The original plan to send the spacecraft to orbit late on Sunday was scrubbed due to poor weather conditions at the Cape.

The delays came on what was to have been the seventh mission flown by the X-37B, and its first launch atop a Falcon Heavy, composed of three reusable rocket cores strapped together and capable of lofting the vehicle far higher in orbit than ever before.

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Roughly the size of a small bus and resembling a miniature space shuttle craft, the X-37B is built to deploy various payloads and conduct technology experiments in long-duration orbital flights.

The X-37B has flown six previous missions since 2010, its last flight lasting well over two years before the vehicle’s return landing in November 2022.

The US Defence Department discloses few details about its operation, which is carried out as part of the military’s National Security Space Launch programme. — Reuters

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