SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launches mysterious X-37B space plane for US Space Force after delays

The U.S. military’s X-37B space plane has embarked on its latest clandestine mission at last.

The robotic X-37B lifted off atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida Thursday night (Dec. 28) at 8:07 p.m. EST (0107 GMT on Dec. 29) after weeks of delays. SpaceX first two attempts to launch the secretive X-37-B military space plane earlier this month were delayed by bad weather and a ground equipment issue.

Thursday’s launch marked the seventh liftoff for the X-37B to date but its first ride on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, the second-most powerful rocket currently in operation (after NASA’s Space Launch System). It was SpaceX’s 95th launch of 2023, with the next launch just hours away when Falcon 9 rocket will launch 23 Starlink satellites from the nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 11:01 p.m. EST (0401 GMT).

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launches the X-37B space plane on the USSF-52 mission for the U.S. Space Force on Dec. 28, 2023 from Pad 39A of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX shut down its livestream of the Falcon Heavy launch before the X-37B space plan was deployed in its final orbit at the request of the U.S. Space Force.