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Why the US Air Force Is Teaming Up With SpaceX

Image: SpaceX via Flickr
Image: SpaceX via Flickr

Over the last several months, SpaceX has been seriously diversifying its clientele: in May, it flew a spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). On Tuesday, the U.S. Air Force announced that in August, it’ll be launching a reusable X-37B mini-space shuttle on board a Falcon 9 rocket. While some of the details are still shrouded in mystery (because the military), the Air Force said it will use the launch to test some electronics and oscillating heat pipes aboard the spacecraft. Fun times!

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“The ability to launch the Orbital Test Vehicle on multiple platforms will ensure a robust launch capability for our experiment designers,” Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, said in a statement. “We are excited about this new partnership on creating flexible and responsive launch options and are confident in SpaceX’s ability to provide safe and assured access to space for the X-37B program.”

Image: U.S. Air Force
Image: U.S. Air Force
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The X-37B is a nugget of a spacecraft, weighing only about 11,000 pounds—for context, NASA’s Space Shuttle weighed 165,000 pounds empty. On the craft’s last four missions, the X-37B has been carried into Low Earth Orbit on United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rockets, so this is quite the departure for the little guy.

Although SpaceX won contracts for two security missions with the Air Force back in 2015, this X-37B launch hadn’t been announced until now.

Here’s to tiny spaceplanes zoomin’ around.

[Spaceflight Now]

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Space Writer, Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

This is great news. SpaceX has been trying harder and harder to make ULA look like a giant turd. With the ability and now contract to put the Boeing made Space Plane into orbit, its another giant FU to Boeing and Lockheed. ULA has been bleeding the government for years its about time to add some competition to the process. It is also good because with the pending retirement of the Atlas and Delta (yes several years) it is important to have another launch vehicle incase the Vulcan is a giant flaming turd, especially with the problems Blue Origin is having with its engines. Of all the space billionaires Musk seems to be the only one on the ball.