SpaceX has rescheduled the launch date for the United States military’s X-37B robot space plane to December 28. Originally planned for a late Sunday launch, the mission was postponed due to adverse weather conditions at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
This marks the seventh mission for the unmanned X-37B, now set to launch atop a Falcon Heavy, a configuration capable of reaching higher orbits.
The X-37B, roughly the size of a small bus and resembling a miniature space shuttle, has successfully completed six previous missions since 2010, with its last flight spanning well over two years. The upcoming mission will involve tests of new orbital regimes and experiments with future space domain awareness technologies, according to a statement from the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.
Apart from national security payloads, the X-37B is carrying a NASA experiment to study the effects of long-term radiation exposure on plant seeds in space. While the military has not disclosed the exact duration of the mission, historical trends suggest it may remain in orbit until June 2026 or later.
General B Chance Saltzman, Chief of Space Operations, hinted in 2020 that the X-37B might be approaching its final mission, emphasizing the exploration of new capabilities. This flight marks the third occasion the space plane has been utilized by the US government to transport a national security payload into orbit.