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SpaceX launches Air Force X-37B space plane

SpaceX Falcon 9 launch
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, sending the Air Force’s X-37B space plane into space. (SpaceX via YouTube)

SpaceX launched the Air Force’s X-37B robotic space plane on its latest months-long, classified mission today – marking another first for the company, with an oncoming hurricane adding to the pressure.

Evacuations in advance of Hurricane Irma’s Florida landfall have already begun, but SpaceX managed to get its Falcon 9 rocket launched, and its first-stage booster landed, at the end of a smooth countdown.

“Everything proceeded nominally,” SpaceX launch commentator Michael Hammersley said. “Weather was looking potentially a bit tricky with those clouds, but ended up being a ‘go.’”

The Falcon 9 rose from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 10 a.m. ET (7 a.m. PT), sending the X-37B spaceward for the fifth mission of the test program. The four earlier launches were executed using United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket.

In a tweet, Gen. Jay Raymond, who heads the Air Force Space Command, said the launch was a success.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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