Falcon Heavy Carries Top Secret Spaceplane To Space

December 29, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

The launch I've been waiting months for, which has been delayed multiple times, finally went up last night, December 28 2023, from Kennedy Space Center launch complex 39-A right on time at 8:07pm. This launch of the USSF-52 mission was actually the seventh mission of the Space Force’s X-37B spaceplane that rode into orbit on the Falcon Heavy and will spend its time in low earth orbit, with an unknown return date. With each successive mission, it has spent longer and longer in orbit, its last flight lasted 908 days!

While many of its missions are top-secret, we are able to know one of the tasks for this flight; to study the impacts of radiation on various plant seeds during long-duration spaceflight. I'm pretty sure there will be other spy stuff in the mix as well, which they are calling “experimenting with future space domain awareness technologies”. Nonetheless, when it does return, you can bet it will be in the dark of night with little notice, not allowing us to build the anticipation that its eventual launch had.

This night, the clouds were not in my favor, but it still led to some beautiful final images. One of the engine burn as it revealed itself from between the clouds composited with the moon, and the other from a test shot over the lake as I was preparing for the eventual launch, which is when I realized how the wide angle would not work and made sure to have my long lens ready. Not every rocket shot has to be an arc after all, right? I hope you enjoy them!

Click the images to open larger versions in the gallery, where you can see more rocket photos!
 

Falcon Heavy and the MoonFalcon Heavy and the MoonThe launch I've been waiting months for, which has been delayed multiple times, finally went up last night, December 28 2023, from Kennedy Space Center launch complex 39-A right on time at 8:07pm. This launch of the USSF-52 mission was actually the seventh mission of the Space Force’s X-37B spaceplane that rode into orbit on the Falcon Heavy and will spend its time in low earth orbit, with an unknown return date. With each successive mission, it has spent longer and longer in orbit, its last flight lasted 908 days!
While many of its missions are top-secret, we are able to know one of the tasks for this flight; to study the impacts of radiation on various plant seeds during long-duration spaceflight. I'm pretty sure there will be other spy stuff in the mix as well, which they are calling “experimenting with future space domain awareness technologies”. Nonetheless, when it does return, you can bet it will be in the dark of night with little notice, not allowing us to build the anticipation that its eventual launch had.
This night, the clouds were not in my favor, but it still led to some beautiful final images. One of the engine burn as it revealed itself from between the clouds, composited with the moon.

No Rocket Streak TonightNo Rocket Streak Tonight  


 


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