The scary and powerful Hurricane Irma is menacing towards Florida and has prompted mandatory Evacuations. Labelled as Category 5 storm, Hurricane Irma has become a cause of worry for one of the most successful entrepreneurs on Earth — Elon Musk. According to the latest updates, Musk was planning for the launch of a secretive mission but now he will have to delay the launch as the storm is directly heading towards the launch station.
Private space agency SpaceX is gearing up for the launch of US Air Force’s secret spy plane X- 37B into the orbit. It is to be noticed that SpaceX’s bitter rival the United Launch Alliance used to launch for the US Department of Defence and it is the first time that Elon Musk’s space agency managed to convince the officials for the secretive mission. Boeing has made two of these unmanned spacecraft. One of them successfully returned to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) after 718 days of continuous flight. And the latest space shuttle X-37B in which Falcon 9 rocket is used is set to be launched on Thursday.
Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, has said that this mission possesses many firsts and the upcoming launch will be a milestone for the program. Their goal is to continue advancing the X-37B [orbital test vehicle] so that it could completely support the growing space community.
This is the fifth mission for the X-37B. As the dangerous category five Hurricane Irma is approaching Florida, it is going to affect the US coast and the rockets launch pad. Although Irma is scheduled to arrive next week, the thick clouds in the atmosphere might affect the X-37 if launched. So, SpaceX and the Department of Defence is on dilemma about whether to launch the secret space shuttle or not. Everything depends upon the storm’s progress. But as of now, the situation seems to be not in favour of SpaceX.
It’s a disappointment for SpaceX as not only has it stolen one of the ULA’s prime plums, but the Falcon 9 was also going to be used to launch the X-37B towards a higher inclination orbit than was obtained in the past when it was lifted through a smaller Atlas V rocket.
If the Irma does touch Florida, SpaceX and NASA could face huge problems on their hands. Cape Canaveral is constructed on a big sandbar, and the tidal surges and high winds generated by the super storm might damage the facility.
See Also: SpaceX gets beaten by the United Launch Alliance to win the launch of Air Force
Recently, United Launch Alliance, a joint association of Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp, beat SpaceX in the competition for a satellite launch of Air Force for the first time, stated by both the launch companies.
The contact includes the launch services for numerous satellites that aboard Atlas 5 rocket in this June. The value of the contract is around $191 million reported by Airforce.
The award has gained the status of being the first of its kind right after the certification of Falcon 9 rockets by SpaceX for flights has been materialized by the Air Force opening the launch contracts bidding in 2015. It is not to be forgotten that SpaceX happens to be the rival of United Launch Alliance. ULA sat out the first solicitation of the Air Force, however, it lost the second. ULA had a monopoly on the launch business of the military previously.
Boeing’s Phantom Works division has developed the X-37B as a part of NASA project back in 1999. It was later transferred to the U.S. Department of Defense five years later in 2004. The spacecraft lifted up for the fist time on April 22, 2010, from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-40) atop an Atlas V in the 501 configuration (a five-meter fairing, zero solid rocket motors and a single engine Centaur upper stage). It landed 224 days later on Dec. 3, 2010, at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
X-37B was reused for the first time on Dec 11, 2012, during the OTV mission. FinallyOTV-4 was launched on Ma5 20, 2015. cumulatively, the spacecraft has spent 2,085 days in the orbit during four missions.