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Space Force Set to Launch X-37B Test Vehicle Aboard SpaceX Falcon Heavy

By Calvin Biesecker | December 1, 2023

      A Boeing X-37B re-entry spacecraft. Photo: Boeing

      U.S. Space Systems Command on Nov. 30 said it is targeting December 10 for the launch of an X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle, marking the seventh mission for the Boeing-built unmanned spacecraft that will reenter Earth’s atmosphere and land as a space plane.

      The upcoming U.S. Space Force (USSF)-52 mission is being conducted as part of the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program, which also includes launches provided by the United Launch Alliance.

      USSF-52 is the fifth NSSL mission this year for Space Systems Command’s Assured Access to Space Directorate. The Falcon Heavy rocket was selected in June 2018 for the upcoming launch.

      In June 2018, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket was selected to launch USSF-52, becoming the first Falcon Heavy on contract for a NSSL mission. The side boosters that will be used on the flight were used in four previous launches that occurred in November 2022, and January, July, and October 2023.

      The time and launch window for USSF-52 will be announced later. The flight will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla.