FLYING Magazine

The U.S. Space Force is set to soon launch the X-37B orbital test vehicle on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on a mission to experiment with future space domain awareness technologies.

Launch of the seventh mission of the Boeing-built reusable X-37B spaceplane, which has been designated USSF-52, will be December 7 from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, the service said.

READ MORE: SpaceX Launches Falcon Heavy for First Time in Three Years

The mission will mark the first X-37B launch on a Falcon Heavy rocket and encompass a range of testing objectives, including operating the reusable spaceplane in new orbital regimes and investigating radiation effects on materials provided by NASA.

Among the materials that will be on board USSF-52 will be plant seeds for a NASA experiment on the effects of harsh radiation during a long spaceflight, USSF said.

“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. 

READ MORE: Boeing-Built X-37B Space Plane Sets Record After 908 Days in Orbit

Late last year, the X-37B set an endurance record of 908 days in orbit while on its sixth mission, racking up a total of 3,774 days in space. The X-37B program is a partnership between USSF and the U.S Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. 

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