SpaceX assessing new launch date for Falcon Heavy rocket carrying Pentagon's X-37B space plane

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SpaceX has once again delayed the launch of a Falcon Heavy rocket that was slated for liftoff on Tuesday evening from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

Earlier Tuesday, SpaceX said it would attempt another launch of the USSF-52 mission, which includes the launch of the Pentagon's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, on Wednesday but now that has been postponed.

"We are standing down from tomorrow’s Falcon Heavy launch of USSF-52 to perform additional system checkouts," the space company said. "The payload remains healthy while teams work toward the next best launch opportunity. We’re also keeping an eye on the weather and will announce a new launch date once confirmed with the Range."

This will be the first time a Boeing-built space plane flies with SpaceX. 

The space plane is an orbital test platform for different test and experimentation missions, some of which are classified.


The X-37B orbital test vehicle on KSCs Launch and Landing Facility after concluding its sixth successful mission. (Image: Staff Sgt. Adam Shanks/U.S. Space Force)(FOX Weather)

The launch was initially planned for last Thursday but then moved to Sunday due to pad availability and weather delays according to the U.S. Space Force.  Thunderstorms were forecast across Florida on Sunday evening, which would have left SpaceX dodging clouds and showers during the launch window. 

This will be the fifth launch and landing of these Falcon Heavy side boosters, which previously supported USSF-44, USSF-67, Hughes JUPTER 3, and NASA’s Psyche mission, officials said. Following booster separation, Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters will land on SpaceX’s Landing Zones 1 and 2 (LZ-1 and LZ-2) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. 

When the launch does happen, people in Florida will know. The Falcon Heavy is the world's second most powerful operational rocket after NASA's Artemis Moon rocket, the Space Launch System.

The Falcon Heavy produces over 5 million pounds of thrust with three Falcon boosters and 27 Merlin engines. The two side boosters return to land at Cape Canaveral and create sonic booms that reverberate beyond Florida's Space Coast. 

Record-breaking spaceflight

X-37B has set new records for time in orbit with each flight. 

According to Boeing, X-37B spent 908 days in orbit during its last mission, setting a new endurance record. Before the most recent mission, the space plane was in orbit for 780 days before returning to Earth in October 2019.

X-37B's last mission ended in November 2022 after more than 900 days in orbit on a mission for the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force. The space plane lands on the former space shuttle runway at Kennedy Space Center – now called the Launch and Landing Facility.  It is confidential when the space plane returns to Earth

SpaceX delays launch of Starlink mission

SpaceX has delayed its Falcon 9 launch of Starlink due to unfavorable recovery weather conditions in the Atlantic. 

"SpaceX teams will continue to monitor weather and a new launch opportunity will be shared once confirmed on the Range," SpaceX said on X on Wednesday. 

This will be the third flight for the first stage booster supporting this mission, which previously launched the Crew-7 and CRS-29 missions. Following stage separation, the first stage will land on the A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

FOX Weather contributed to this report.