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SpaceX set for Falcon Heavy USSF-52 mission to launch X-37B military space plane
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SpaceX set for Falcon Heavy USSF-52 mission to launch X-37B military space plane
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Dec 28, 2023

Today, SpaceX is scheduled to launch the USSF-52 mission using the Falcon Heavy rocket, with liftoff planned for 8:07 p.m. ET from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. This mission is a collaborative effort between Space Systems Command (SSC) and SpaceX, aimed at advancing the U.S. Space Force's capabilities in space.

The mission has faced delays leading up to today's scheduled launch, reflecting the complex nature of space missions. However, SpaceX remains ready, with a backup launch window at 8:06 p.m. ET on December 29, if necessary.

This launch is notable as it marks the fifth flight for the Falcon Heavy's current set of side boosters. These boosters have been part of successful missions, including USSF-44, USSF-67, Hughes JUPTER 3, and NASA's Psyche mission. Following their separation from the main rocket, these side boosters are planned to land at SpaceX's Landing Zones 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

The USSF-52 mission involves deploying the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle on its seventh mission. This program is key for the U.S. Space Force, demonstrating the potential of a reusable, unmanned space test platform. Brig. Gen. Kristin Panzenhagen, Program Executive Officer for Assured Access to Space and Commander of Space Launch Delta 45, has confirmed the team's readiness for this National Security Space launch. This mission represents the third instance of Falcon Heavy being used for a national security payload, underscoring the rocket's importance for enhanced launch capabilities and secure access to space.

The ongoing partnership between SSC and SpaceX has been marked by a series of successful launches in 2023. The NSSL Falcon Heavy launched the USSF-67 mission earlier this year, followed by a Falcon 9 rocket deploying a GPS satellite into orbit from the Eastern Range. These launches have demonstrated the team's ability to respond swiftly and efficiently to critical space missions.

The collaboration is crucial for the U.S. Space Force, which faces a demanding launch schedule that includes the deployment of various satellite constellations. This partnership plays a significant role in maintaining a robust U.S. presence in space.

SSC, with its substantial $15 billion budget for space acquisition from the Department of Defense, is instrumental in securing resilient space capabilities and advanced technologies for the U.S. Space Force. Working with joint forces, industry partners, government agencies, academic institutions, and allies, SSC is a key driver of innovation in space-based security and exploration.

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