SpaceX has pulled off some exhilarating launches and landings in the past, but today’s mission ranked among its most suspenseful. Today, the company launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a US Air Force X-37B space plane from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, just days before Hurricane Irma is expected to strike Florida.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about the X-37B, since it involves a highly classified mission. The space plane most recently returned to Earth back in May, after a two-year sojourn in orbit, where it was presumably doing something. After today’s launch, it’s expected to return to Earth in September 2019. Hopefully, it’s done some things before then. This marks the space plane’s fifth mission, according to SpaceX.
As The Verge notes, Hurricane Irma was about 1450km from Kennedy Space Center at the time of launch, so while it was very unlikely that the storm would directly impact the launch, it could have caused unfavourable weather conditions, and possibly a delay. A backup launch window was available tomorrow, but fortunately it wasn’t needed. So far, the storm has left utter devastation in the Caribbean, destroying about 90 per cent of Barbuda alone. It’s expected to hit Florida this weekend.
You can watch a recording of the whole shebang below, which started at 11:50PM AEST last night (6:50AM PDT):
SpaceX successfully landed its Falcon 9 rocket back at landing zone one at Kennedy Space Center. Everything seems to have gone swimmingly!