Launch date set for "secret" X-37B spaceplane mission
The US Space Force has announced the launch date of its not-so-secret top secret spaceplane. The X-37B Mission 7 will lift off from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida on December 7 atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time.
In the annals of top secret things that everybody knows about, the X-37B is right up there with the RAF Fylingdales radar station in North Yorkshire, which no one was supposed to know about during the Cold War even though you could see it from the road sitting there on the moors plain as day.
The X-37B has a similar reputation. It's officially highly classified, but it's also so well known that the Space Force has put out a press release about its upcoming launch, known as Mission 7 or OTV-7, and revealed some of its cargo.
The new mission with an undisclosed duration will go into Earth orbit carrying out experiments that the Space Force says will deal with future space domain awareness technologies and the long-term effects of space radiation. This includes a NASA experiment called Seeds-2, which will expose plant seeds to hard radiation for a prolonged period of time.
Mission 7 will also build on the success of Mission 6, which introduced a service module to expand mission capabilities and allowed for larger experimental payloads.
"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 Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Fritschen, the X-37B Program Director.