SpaceX Will Launch Secret Space Plane for U.S. Air Force This Summer

The clandestine mission is a major test for a private space company trying to win over the military.

June 12, 2017 12:54 pm
Here's What We Learned About the Secret Mission SpaceX Is Launching Thursday
SpaceX launched a spy satellite for the NRO in 2017. (SpaceX)

SpaceX has been enlisted by Uncle Sam.

After launching a spy satellite in May, the private space company is teaming up with the Pentagon to launch its secret space plane in August. The X-37B launch is SpaceX’s biggest test with the military yet.

The X-37B, an unmanned U.S. Air Force spacecraft, is a highly touted project that remains mostly shrouded in confidentiality. The plane routinely flies missions that are longer than a year. It’s most recent flight, 700 days long, was completed in May. The August launch will be its fifth.

The U.S. military is eager to find an inexpensive launch provider, given that an already voracious appetite for space exploration will only grow as more satellites are needed. The Pentagon wants to maintain a strong presence in low-Earth orbit to be ready for future conflicts.

The Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission 4 landed at NASA ‘s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility May 7, 2017. (U.S. Air Force)
Secretary of the Air Force Publi

Bloomberg reports that SpaceX earned the contract by undercutting the competition, United Launch Alliance by nearly 40 million dollars. ULA, which wasn’t even given a chance to bid, has conducted over 100 launches with the government before.

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