SpaceX Is Launching a Secret Military Plane to Orbit on Its Falcon Heavy Rocket Tonight: Watch Live CEO Elon Musk's SpaceX is attempting double launches tonight in Florida, sending up rockets just a few hours apart.
SpaceX is launching its Falcon Heavy rocket Thursday night, sending the mysterious, uncrewed military spacecraft, the X-37B space plane, to orbit.
The USSF-52 mission is scheduled to lift off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 8:07 p.m. and will stream live on SpaceX's website.
The spacecraft is launching on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time.
Although it's "top secret," a press release says there is a wide range of testing and experimentation objectives, including "operating the reusable spaceplane in new orbital regimes, experimenting with future space domain awareness technologies, and investigating the radiation effects on materials provided by NASA."
The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle sits on the runway during post-landing operations Dec. 3, 2010, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. U.S. Air Force photo/Michael Stonecypher (Photo by DoD/Corbis via Getty Images)
The experiments are "groundbreaking," per Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman.
"The X37B continues to equip the United States with the knowledge to enhance current and future space operations," Saltzman said in the release. "X-37B Mission 7 demonstrates the USSF's commitment to innovation and defining the art-of-the-possible in the space domain."
There is a backup launch opportunity at 8:06 p.m. on Friday if needed.
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A NASA experiment onboard will also expose plant seeds to "the harsh radiation environment of a long-duration spaceflight," the statement reads.
"We are excited to expand the envelope of the reusable X-37B's capabilities, using the flight-proven service module and Falcon Heavy rocket to fly multiple cutting-edge experiments for the Department of the Air Force and its partners," said Lt. Col. Joseph Fritschen, the X-37B Program Director, in the release.
Two SpaceX rocket launches in one day
Just a few hours after the Falcon Heavy launch, SpaceX will attempt to launch its Falcon 9 rocket at 11:01 p.m. at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
The rocket is carrying 23 Starlink satellites into orbit. There are backup windows, if needed, throughout Friday early morning and evening.