The U.S. Space Force’s secretive X-37B space plane is set to embark on its seventh mission on December 7th, this time aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. This will be a historic launch, as it will be the first time the X-37B has been launched on a Falcon Heavy, departing from its previous launches on ULA Atlas V rockets and a Falcon 9 rocket.
According to the Space Force, this mission aims to expand our knowledge of the space environment and experiment with space domain awareness technologies. The X-37B will also carry a NASA experiment called Seeds-2, which will test the effects of space-based radiation on plant seeds. This research could provide valuable insights for future long-duration space exploration missions.
The X-37B, a reusable robotic spaceplane, has been shrouded in secrecy since its first mission in 2010. Little is known about its capabilities and operations, but it has been utilized as a test bed for experimental payloads in previous missions. The last flight of the X-37B lasted a record-breaking 908 days in orbit before landing at the Kennedy Space Center in November 2022.
Adding to the intrigue surrounding the X-37B, the Space Force recently unveiled its first official painting, featuring a space plane resembling the X-37B, engaging an adversary satellite. However, the Space Force clarified that the painting is purely fictional and based on historical concepts and imagination.
The upcoming launch of the X-37B on a Falcon Heavy rocket emphasizes the growing partnership between the U.S. Space Force and private aerospace companies like SpaceX. This collaboration reflects the changing landscape of space exploration, with the commercial sector playing an increasingly significant role.
As the X-37B prepares to embark on its seventh mission, scientists and space enthusiasts eagerly await the knowledge and discoveries it will bring back from its time in orbit. With each mission, the X-37B continues to push the boundaries of space research and contribute to our understanding of the universe.