SpaceX Just Launched a Mysterious Space Plane Right Before a Monster Hurricane


SpaceX is well-known for taking risks but launching a classified United States military satellite into orbit with a 50 percent chance of success and a category five hurricane bearing down on the launch pad is a whole new frontier. On Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, the rocket will take off during the window from 9:50 am to 2:55 pm.

Following the launch, SpaceX landed the rocket's first stage at a nearby on-shore landing zone, marking the 16th time Elon Musk's pioneering space company has recovered one of its rockets.

The X-37B, also called the Orbital Test Vehicle, weighs about 11,000 pounds (5 metric tons) and has typically orbited Earth at altitudes between 200 and 250 miles (320 to 400 kilometers).

The U.S. Air Force's X-37B space plane fleet has begun its fifth secret flight with the launch of the OTV-5 mission on September 7, 2017.

It launched from launch pad 39A, which NASA had once used for Apollo moon missions and many Space Shuttle missions.

Some 29 feet long (nine meters) and 15 feet (4.5 meters) wide, it resembles the space shuttle, the last of which flew in July 2011.

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This will be the fifth flight of the X-37B, but the details of the mission are unclear. It stayed in orbit for almost two years on its last trip to space before it landed at Kennedy Space Centre in May. DARPA transferred it to the Air Force in 2006. This marks the space plane's fifth mission, according to SpaceX. 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.

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

The SES 11/EchoStar 105 spacecraft has been delivered to Cape Canaveral from its Airbus Defense and Space factory in Toulouse, France.

Hurricane Irma is not due to make landfall in Florida until the weekend, but adverse weather conditions surrounding the storm system left mission control with just a 50/50 chance of success.

Today's launch is going to be the last for a while from the Kennedy Space Center.