SpaceX delays Falcon Heavy launch of military spaceplane after 'ground side issue'

When it launches, this will be the first time the record-breaking military spaceplane flies with SpaceX. A new launch date has not been announced.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – After technical and weather delays, SpaceX plans to regroup before setting a new launch date for the X-37B spaceplane from Florida for the U.S. military, carrying some classified experimental missions to orbit.

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket was supposed to launch the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle this week from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station but was delayed several times, at first because of weather and then due to a ground issue. SpaceX was planning to try again on Wednesday night but announced they would take more time before attempting the launch again. 

"SpaceX is currently standing down from a Falcon Heavy launch of USSF-52 to orbit to perform additional system checkouts," the company said. "The payload remains healthy while teams work toward the next best launch opportunity. We’re also keeping an eye on the weather and will announce a new launch date once confirmed with the Range."

The launch was initially planned for last Thursday and then on Sunday due to launch delays and pad availability, according to the U.S. Space Force. Weather delayed the launch from Sunday to Monday. SpaceX said a "ground side issue" caused the delay on Monday night, but the company did not specify the issue. 

When it launches, this will be the first time the Boeing-built spaceplane flies with SpaceX.


The spaceplane is an orbital test platform for different test and experimentation missions, some of which are classified. Since its first launch in 2010, X-37B has spent 3,774 days in space through six missions. This seventh mission, known as OTV-7 and designated USSF-52, will fly unclassified and classified experiments.

A NASA experiment called Seeds-2 will expose plant seeds to radiation during a long-duration spaceflight. A previous version of the experiment flew on X-37B's last mission for more than 900 days. 

This will mark the fifth SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch in 2023.

When the launch does happen, people in Florida will know. The Falcon Heavy is the world's second most powerful operational rocket after NASA's Artemis Moon rocket, the Space Launch System. 


The Falcon Heavy produces over 5 million pounds of thrust with three Falcon boosters and 27 Merlin engines. The two side boosters return to land at Cape Canaveral and create sonic booms that reverberate beyond Florida's Space Coast. This will be the fifth launch and landing for the Falcon Heavy side boosters, according to SpaceX.

It is confidential when the spaceplane returns to Earth.

X-37B has set new records for time in orbit with each flight. Its last mission ended in November 2022 after more than 900 days in orbit on a mission for the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force.