Space Force dedicates mission launch to pandemic workers and victims

US Space Force           X-37B Launch

Riding atop an Atlas V rocket, the craft left from Space Launch Complex 41 at 9:14 a.m., following a one-day delay due to bad weather.

United Launch Alliance, which provided the Atlas V rocket, said it followed health advice for the launch with flight controllers wearing masks and spread out.

The X-37B is the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft. In addition, the mission will test reusable space vehicle technologies.

The U.S. Space Force launched a secret mission space plane into the stars Sunday morning, dedicating the flight to front-line workers and victims during the coronavirus pandemic. There has not been much information provided by the United States government or by the authorities in the past.

"This X-37B mission will host more experiments than any prior missions", said Barrett, who also heads the recently created US Space Force.

Raymond called the module "a trailer ... behind the truck that provides added capacity for experiments", but didn't want to elaborate on the size of the module or how the X-37 was modified to incorporate that upgrade.

The weather is a key concern, with Air Force officials forecasting just a 40 per cent chance of good conditions for launch.

The plane will include a sample plate to determine the impact of radiation and other space effects on various materials, as well as an experiment from NASA that will assess the effects of space on seeds used to grow food, the ULA said.

"Congratulations on the 6th mission of the X-37B reusable spacecraft", Defense Secretary Mark Esper tweeted immediately after the launch. Japan and China also aim to pursue the capability.

"Which means our adversaries don't know - and that happens on the far side of the Earth from our adversaries - where it's going to come up next".

Saturday's launch was the second-ever by the U.S. Space Force and the 80th under the National Security Space Launch effort.

The previous mission lasted a record two years, with a touchdown shrouded in darkness at NASA's Kennedy Space Center last year.

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