Updated December 29th, 2023 at 13:51 IST
US military's X-37B embarks on secretive mission aboard SpaceX rocket
The X-37B's liftoff emerged a fortnight subsequent to China's deployment of its robot spaceplane, christened Shenlong or "Divine Dragon".
In a clandestine manoeuvre, the US military's enigmatic X-37B robot spaceplane initiated its seventh expedition, propelled by a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, inaugurating a distinctive chapter in its covert journey. According to a report from The Guardian, this marks its first launch propelled by a Falcon Heavy, capable of escorting the spacecraft to unprecedented altitudes.
Reprising its customary mode, the unmanned spaceplane, resembling a diminutive space shuttle, embarked on a classified mission laden with undisclosed experiments. The absence of human occupants remains a hallmark of the X-37B's clandestine endeavours.
Here is what you need to know
Despite encountering technical setbacks, the Falcon Heavy, an amalgamation of three interlinked rocket cores, soared from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, commencing its flight after a delay of over two weeks attributed to multiple countdown interruptions, prompted by inclement weather and technical impediments.
Launch comes on the heels of China's deployment of its robot spaceplane
Coincidentally, the X-37B's liftoff emerged a fortnight subsequent to China's deployment of its robot spaceplane, christened Shenlong or "Divine Dragon," embarking on its third orbital mission since 2020. This juxtaposition accentuates the burgeoning competition between the United States and China within the domain of space exploration.
Objectives of the mission remain a secret
Operated under the aegis of the US Space Force within the military's national security space launch program, the X-37B mission remains cloaked in secrecy, divulging scant specifics about its objectives.
The previous venture, its lengthiest to date spanning two and a half years, culminated with a runway landing at Kennedy nearly a year ago. The specifics regarding the height of the current mission remain undisclosed. However, the air force rapid capabilities office hinted at evaluations encompassing "new orbital regimes" and pioneering space surveillance technologies during Mission No. 7.
As the X-37B embarks on another covert sojourn veiled in ambiguity, its ascent aboard the Falcon Heavy underscores the US military's persistent forays into uncharted orbital territories, shrouded in secrecy and wrapped in a cloak of technological innovation.
Published December 29th, 2023 at 13:51 IST