Falcon 9 Launches U.S. Air Force X-37B

The X-37B spacecraft after landing on May 7, 2017. (Credit: USAF)

A Falcon 9 launched the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B space plane this morning from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was the fifth launch of an X-37 vehicle and the first one by SpaceX’s booster. The first stage of the Falcon 9 successfully touched down on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It was the 16th recovery of a first stage.

  • therealdmt

    i was wondering when all the clapping would stop on landing. Maybe it was because this was a classified (I believe) Air Force mission, but that seemed kinda sudden.

    Regardless of the reason, it sure seemed like SpaceX launches (and landngs!) have unofficially become routine. Pretty amazing. Still great to watch, too — I love the re-entry to touchdown videos

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    X-37 and the Falcon program are well matched. They’re both doing much of what was promised 40 years ago by the STS. Both systems are shining examples of what’s going right in the American space sector, and that the shuttle era kinda didn’t end, in fact its promise is just being realized.

  • Larry J

    SpaceX has gotten to the point where recovering the first stage is routine, both on land and at sea. It’s an amazing engineering achievement and it thrills me to watch it every time. I doubt the probability of success for any given landing attempt is over 90%. There are still things that can go wrong, such as the one from Vandenberg a couple years ago where one of the landing gear legs failed to lock which caused the rocket to topple over and explode. That problem hasn’t recurred and when Block 5 starts flying soon with its new landing gear design, it’ll be even less likely to happen but there is always room for something to go wrong.

  • windbourne

    Actually, all of the successful landing attempts has been on mild seas. A number of their failures were early on, but last winter during rough seas. As such, I will be curious to see how they do during the 2-3 meter waves that they said they wanted.

  • windbourne

    Sadly, they do not launch again until early October. But, it appears that SX has F9 licked for most things, just stage 2 recovery remains an issue. Hopefully, they set that aside and remain focused on production and other development.

    So on to FH/dragon V2.

    But, SX, in fact space, needs to get sat cost lower, as well as expand beyond simple sat launching. The reason is economics. SX and BO and others require large number of launches to keep costs down. There are not enough sat launches to keep SX/BO busy esp when there are so many gov subsidized and forced LV out there.
    Private space really needs to push CONgress/NASA on next step and getting multiple vetted private space stations, as well as getting robotics to the moon, NOW.

  • Jeff2Space

    Good thing they don’t launch again until October. Will need to assess and fix any damage caused by hurricane Irma.

  • Lee

    The 25 June Vandenberg landing was in probably the sportiest seas to date, with the barge clearly pitching and rolling quite a bit. It looked to be close to, if not a bit over the 2-3 meter sea state.

  • ThomasLMatula

    What is amazing is that SpaceX appears to have only gotten the contract to launch it in June, only 90 days ago. Could the great ULA have done it as fast?

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-space-spacex/spacex-wins-launch-of-u-s-air-force-x-37b-space-plane-idUSKBN18X2SV

  • publiusr

    More Dyna-Soar, but…

  • Steve Ksiazek

    I’m sure the contract was awarded earlier. It just wasn’t announced.

  • windbourne

    from what I see in the video (and it is hard to tell), that is not the roughest that we have seen.
    But, the video has little of the landing, so….

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    AFAIK SpaceX is still working on fairing recovery and want to lick that before S2.
    Cheers

  • Hug Doug

    None of the landing failures were due to rough seas. The most recent two were GTO returns where both ran out of fuel moments before landing, the SES-9 landing attempt even put a hole in the deck of OCISLY.

    The landing failure before that, Jason-3, was a locking latch failure on one of the legs.

    The first two landing failures were mechanical in nature, the first running out of hydraulic fluid in the grid fins and the second had a stuck throttle valve.