KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. - SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket will deliver the Department of Defense’s record-breaking spaceplane to orbit in December.
According to a U.S. Space Force news release, the mission will mark the first time the Boeing X-37B spaceplane hitches a ride to orbit with SpaceX.
"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," X-37B Program Director Lt. Col. Joseph Fritschen said in a statement.
The spaceplane is an orbital test platform for different test and experimentation missions, some of which are classified. This seventh mission, known as OTV-7, will fly unclassified and classified experiments.
A NASA experiment called Seeds-2 will expose plant seeds to radiation during long-duration spaceflight. A previous version of the experiment flew on X-37B's last mission for more than 900 days.
X-37B has set new records for time in orbit with each flight.
According to the spaceplane manufacturer Boeing, X-37B spent 908 days in orbit during its last mission, setting a new endurance record. Prior to 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 spaceplane lands on the former space shuttle runway at Kennedy Space Center – now called the Launch and Landing Facility.
Information regarding when the spaceplane will land is kept confidential and, last year, the only sign of the landing to residents along the Space Coast was the sound of sonic booms when X-37B landed.