Before we reopened Eden Park Bed and Breakfast ,the wife and I lived the the USA for 6 years. We saw a lot of things and the influence of the military is everywhere; so I find the X-37B very cool.
The X-37B unmanned space plane will be undergoing its third launch, set upon a top secret mission by the Air Force. The spacecraft has a payload capacity about the size of a small truck bed, the contents of which are unknown.
X-37B will be hitching a ride aboard United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket at 1:03 p.m. on Tuesday. Although the launch window is open until just after 6:00 p.m., there is just a 30 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for liftoff.
The mini-space shuttle is about a quarter of the size of the retired NASA orbiters and is both a reusable and a robotic vehicle.
The vehicle has no crew cabin, no support life systems, and is solar-powered, designed to remain up in orbit for 270 days. Although its max life is supposed to be 270 days, the second X-37B mission flew for 469 days.
X-37B is also famous for being able to launch, orbit the Earth and re-enter our planet’s atmosphere, all autonomously.
Many theorists have opinions on what the super secret spacecraft is tasked with doing. Some believe that the X-37B harbors the capability of striking anywhere in the world in less than an hour.
Some believe that the vehicle is meant to keep an eye on China and Russia, particularly China’s new space endeavors. Amateur astronomers keeping an eye on X-37B’s orbital patterns say that the spacecraft is following closely on China’s Tiangong 1 orbit.
Others simply believe that X-37B is just a platform to allow the Air Force to perform experiments in space, or that it is a test bed for advanced sensors or secret missions.
Whatever it does this is one seriously cool piece of hardware produced by the US of A.
If anyone thought that the USA was taking a back seat in space with the retirement of the shuttle fleet……..Think again ! The new piece of Tech is the X-37B and it has just returned to earth after spending 15 months on a clandestine mission in space.
The secretive unmanned US space shuttle landed at a California military base early Saturday.
It was the second such autonomous landing at the Vandenberg air force base, 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles. In 2010, an identical unmanned spacecraft returned to Earth after seven months and 91m miles in orbit.
The latest homecoming was set in motion when the stubby-winged robotic X-37B fired its engine to slip out of orbit, then pierced through the atmosphere and glided down the runway like an airplane.
The twin X-37B vehicles are part of a military program testing robotically controlled reusable spacecraft technologies. Though the air force has emphasized the goal is to test the space plane itself, there’s a classified payload on board – a detail that has led to much speculation about the mission’s ultimate purpose.
Some amateur trackers think the craft carried an experimental spy satellite sensor judging by its low orbit and inclination, suggesting reconnaissance or intelligence gathering rather than communications. The latest X-37B was boosted into orbit atop an Atlas 5 rocket. It was designed to stay aloft for nine months, but the air force wanted to test its endurance. After determining the space plane was performing well, the military decided in December to extend the mission.
Little has been said publicly about the second X-37B flight and operations. At a budget hearing before the Senate armed services subcommittee in March, William Shelton, head of the air force space command, made a passing mention. That the second X-37B has stayed longer in space than the first shows “the flexibility of this unique system”, he told lawmakers.
The arc of the X-37 program spans back to 1999 and has changed hands several times.
Originally a NASA project, the space agency in 2004 transferred it to the Pentagon’s research and development arm, Darpa, and then to the secretive air force rapid capabilities office.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into development, but the current total spent remains a secret. Built by Boeing’s Phantom Works, the 11,000-pound space plane stands 9 1/2 feet tall and is just over 29 feet long, with a wingspan of less than 15 feet. It possesses two angled tail fins rather than a single vertical stabilizer. Once in orbit, it has solar panels that unfurl to charge batteries for electrical power. Controlled by a pilot back on earth with a joy stick this “drone” will allow the USA to control anything in space . It is possible that it could even capture other satellites! Very COOL …