SpaceX has pulled off some exhilarating launches and landings in the past, but today’s mission ranks among its most suspenseful. Today, sometime between right now and about 3pm ET, the company will send a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a US Air Force X-37B space plane from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, just days before Hurricane Irma is expected to strike Florida.
There’s not a whole lot to say about the X-37B, since it involves a highly classified mission. The space plane most recently returned to Earth back in May, after a two-year sojourn in orbit, where it was presumably doing something. After today’s launch, it’s expected to return to Earth in September 2019. Hopefully, it’s done some things before then. This marks the space plane’s fifth mission, according to SpaceX.
As The Verge notes, Hurricane Irma will be about 900 miles from Kennedy Space Center at the time of launch, so while it’s very unlikely that the storm will directly impact the launch, it could cause unfavorable weather conditions and possibly, a delay. A backup launch window is available tomorrow. So far, the storm has left utter devastation in the Caribbean, destroying about 90 percent of Barbuda alone. It’s expected to hit Florida this weekend.
You can watch the whole shebang live below, starting at 9:50am EDT (6:50am PDT):
Update 10:08am: SpaceX successfully landed its Falcon 9 rocket back at landing zone one at Kennedy Space Center. Everything seems to have gone swimmingly!