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Space The Military Science

X-37B Found By Amateur Sky Watchers 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the eye-in-the-sky dept.
otter42 writes "It seems that X-37B couldn't stay hidden forever. Launched a few weeks ago, The Flying Twinkie disappeared shortly after separation. Now it has been found in an orbit that takes it as far north as 40 degrees latitude. No additional information has been found about the spacecraft's capabilities or purpose, except for a US Air Force statement that the satellite has no space-weapons purpose. The X-37B is intended to fly for 9 months at a time, opening the door to possible space longevity experiments in addition to its spying tasks."
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X-37B Found By Amateur Sky Watchers

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 23, 2010 @09:11AM (#32313548)
    It might not have space weapons, but it's cloaking device sure failed.
    • Re:Space weapons.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 23, 2010 @11:53AM (#32314550)

      want to see it?
      go to www.heavens-above.com
      for times/magnitude/etc.

      • > “If a bunch of amateurs can find it,” Mr. Weedon said, “so can our adversaries.”

        True for some of our adversaries, but not all. Ten or fifteen years ago there was a big hubbub in DC when a web site or two went up to track our spy satellite launches. Pre-internet, it was generally just a few big governments who had the resources to track them. But with the amateur community helping, suddenly anyone with a web browser could get some idea of when satellite coverage would be avai

    • Since we're talking about a flying twinkie here, isn't is more of an wrapping device?
    • at least china hasn't shot it down yet

  • Oh really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ringmaster1982 (1817772) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @09:18AM (#32313584)
    "in addition to its spying tasks." What tasks are these? Please elaborate, for the sake of accuracy of course.
    • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @09:27AM (#32313630)

      Rendezvous with alien spaceships of course.

    • by MRe_nl (306212)

      "The craft is the manifestation of the Air Force's long-held, on-and-off again dream to operate its own space plane."

  • "Satellite"? (Score:1, Informative)

    Does this spacecraft [wikipedia.org] look like a satellite to you?

    • by maxume (22995)

      Not when it is sitting on the ground.

      Being in orbit changes things.

    • by Annorax (242484)

      Looks more like a mini space shuttle to me.

      Maybe it collects defunct satellites and brings them back for repair..

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Maybe it collects defunct satellites and brings them back for repair..

        Actually, it has a a robotic arm, so the X37B can be used to repair and refuel satellites in orbit. I'm not sure I believe the USAF when it says it has absolutely no space weapons purpose, however.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      It has doors that can open, thus it can deploy a unique set of payloads on every flight.
      From expensive sensors to really really secret sensors as needed per mission.
      The sat killer units will wait until the US faces a real war.
    • Re:"Satellite"? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fizzup (788545) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @11:06AM (#32314228)

      Satellite. I do not think that word means [wikipedia.org] what you think it means.

      Does this [wikipedia.org] look like a satellite to you? Does this [wikipedia.org]? What would have to change about the X-37B to make you think it's a satellite, anyway? Put it in orbit? Well, you can check that off your list, because it's already there.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Vellmont (569020)


        Does this look like a satellite to you? Does this?

        Yes, and yes.


        What would have to change about the X-37B to make you think it's a satellite, anyway?

        Maybe take the wings off, and make it non-reusable? Would you consider the space shuttle a "satellite" in any conventional sense of the word? I realize that a satellite is anything that orbits the earth, but you're missing the point here. The GP is implying that this is something MORE than a satellite.

        • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

          Would you consider the space shuttle a "satellite" in any conventional sense of the word?

          Yes, of course I would. Why on earth (or in low earth orbit for that matter) wouldn't you?

          • by Vellmont (569020)


            Yes, of course I would. Why on earth (or in low earth orbit for that matter) wouldn't you?

            Because I realize words aren't just things we all look up in the dictionary and that's the "right answer". Words are defined by usage, and dictionaries are always incomplete. If you asked the vast majority of people whether the space shuttle is a satellite or not, they'd say "No! It's a space ship". That's why I don't think it's at best confusing to use the word "satellite" for the space shuttle, or for this thing.

            • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

              If you ask the vast majority of people to give a general idea of how orbit works, they wouldn't even be able to do that.

              Opinions of the general uninformed public does not override well defined technical definitions [wikipedia.org] (satellite = object in orbit) in technical discussions (slashdot).

              Besides, this thing, unlike the space shuttle, stays in orbits for very long periods of time, is unmanned, and apparently regularly goes in orbits generally not used for manned space flight. Saying that it is "not a satellite" sim

              • by Vellmont (569020)


                Opinions of the general uninformed public does not override well defined technical definitions (satellite = object in orbit) in technical discussions (slashdot).

                This is a technical discussion? I thought it was a discussion forum.

                • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

                  *looks up at the top of the webpage and notes the "News for nerds" logo.*

                  Yes, on slashdot we generally engage in technical discussion. Sufficiently technical anyways that redefining "satellite" to exclude things with wings just because we feel like it is very silly. If you can't handle this, then you should go back to digg.

                  • by tsalaroth (798327)

                    *looks up at the top of the webpage and notes the "News for nerds" logo.*

                    Yes, on slashdot we generally engage in technical discussion. Sufficiently technical anyways that redefining "satellite" to exclude things with wings just because we feel like it is very silly. If you can't handle this, then you should go back to digg.

                    Hmm...

                    *looks at Sir_Lewk's user number*

                    *looks at Vellmont's user number*

                    Yep.

            • > Words are defined by usage

              An excellent reason to discourage misuse.

              > If you asked the vast majority of people whether the space shuttle is a
              > satellite or not, they'd say "No! It's a space ship".

              Which, while it is in orbit, is a type of satellite.

    • by slick7 (1703596)

      Does this spacecraft look like a satellite to you?

      Yeah, one that can return with all kinds of goodies.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by aix tom (902140)

      Satellite:
      1) man-made equipment that orbits around the earth or the moon
      2) any celestial body orbiting around a planet or star

      Why, yes, it does, once it is on orbit.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        I had someone from the Beeb prepping an interview on the Japanese solar sail probe last week who kept calling it a "space shuttle"., apparently under the impression that that was a general term for anything that went into space. Sigh. I propose the following correct astronomical and astronautical senses of 'satellite':

        1) Any object in closed orbit around another object of larger mass (the most general sense, considered a loose usage: "the Earth is a satellite of the Sun" is rare, although "The Ikaros pr

  • by VorlonFog (948943) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @09:47AM (#32313752) Homepage Journal

    When it won't carry people, and has no more the cargo capacity of a pickup truck?

    • by zach_the_lizard (1317619) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @10:41AM (#32314080)
      Have you seen pickup trucks nowadays? Some of those things look quite capable of hauling space telescopes around.
      • by Black Parrot (19622) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @11:00AM (#32314194)

        Have you seen pickup trucks nowadays? Some of those things look quite capable of hauling space telescopes around.

        Also known as "Penis Compensation Vehicles".

        • by ari_j (90255) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @12:29PM (#32314828)
          Or, you know, a practical vehicle for moving cargo or tools from place to place and/or getting through adverse conditions including snow and undeveloped terrain. Granted, many people go too far and get a 1-ton truck with dual rear wheels and a heavy-duty diesel engine and matching transmission and then never one pull a trailer or haul a load, but they are the minority of pickup owners. Most people with that mindset just end up with a Hummer H1 or Corvette.
          • Agreed for the most part, but the number of people I know who drive their Dodge Ram to work everyday would seem to suggest that the majority do no in fact use them to their full capabilities. There's no way that even half of the trucks being driven around Houston are used as trucks.

            • > There's no way that even half of the trucks being driven around Houston are
              > used as trucks.

              There are a lot of trucks in the world that are not being driven around Houston.

            • I drive my Ram to work every day.
              I also drive it to the feed store, the dump, my family's house to move shit, etc.

              And while it may be asshattish I charge people who ask me to help them move. Specifically:
              I fill the tank and when we are done moving I fill it again. They get the bill for the second fill.

          • Or, you know, a practical vehicle for moving cargo or tools from place to place and/or getting through adverse conditions including snow and undeveloped terrain. Granted, many people go too far and get a 1-ton truck with dual rear wheels and a heavy-duty diesel engine and matching transmission and then never one pull a trailer or haul a load, but they are the minority of pickup owners. Most people with that mindset just end up with a Hummer H1 or Corvette.

            Except in Southern California. And according to another poster, Houston.

            I especially like the ones that raised the body way up, but still have the suspension / drive train at the original height.

            • That is particularly funny.
              Then you see them go "off roading" and smack their transmission pan into something and their truck actually bleeds.

              You can tell the really dumb ones because they try to drive out.

              • by ari_j (90255)
                I agree (with essentially all of the people who've responded to me). I also get a hell of a kick out of people with uselessly-modified pickups.
          • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)
            Judging from the trucks around Central PA, those big ones are used almost exclusively for penis compensation. The actual work trucks are old F-150s or Chevy S-10's.

            You can always tell, because they all have a cartoon of that Calvin kid peeing on either a Ford or Chevy logo in the rear window, and often a plastic scrotum hanging from the trailer hitch.

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      putting people in space add huge unnecessary expense to a job that can be done by machine.

      • by slick7 (1703596)
        Humans think (not very well), but they think. Machines only act on a specific set of commands. Reprogramming a machine takes longer than a human can change his/her mind, based on the situation in real time.
        • by rubycodez (864176)

          remote control is also possible. The jobs the air force have in mind don't require such ability, and the savings of not having resource-wasteful human beings is enormous.

        • by osu-neko (2604)

          Humans think (not very well), but they think.

          Largely true...

          Machines only act on a specific set of commands.

          Depending on what you mean, this is either flat-out false, or true, but equally true of humans (who, like the machines in question, have pre-coded instructions, and any decision-making that occurs beyond that is occurring in accord with those instructions -- they think because they're programmed to).

          Reprogramming a machine takes longer than a human can change his/her mind, based on the situation in real time.

          As a generalization, this is also just plain false. It can be true of particular machines, but it's certainly not always the case.

          • by slick7 (1703596)
            Unless you have an infinitely modifiable heuristic matrix algorithm, I'll put my money on the human.
            Machines are digital with analog components, humans are analog with digital components.
    • by bcmm (768152) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @02:36PM (#32315806)
      No passengers. Less space than a pickup. Lame.
    • Wait - who is calling this a shuttle replacement?

      I mean - someone who just wanted the shuttle for sending little military spy satellites up can do so with the X37 - so it replaces that one function of the Shuttle.

      Other than that, I haven't seen anybody claim hat this is a replacement for the Shuttle.

    • down here 'bouts in the redneck south, MY pickup hauls a big, mean, yougly dawg that'll eat yer dumb ass in a heartbeat, and tho i have no 'weapons' on board, the shutgun unner th seat will also tear ya a new one! now, whats the xb-thingie REALLY got? thanks fer lis'nin' seekertom
  • many aerospace experts questioned whether the mission benefits of the X-37B outweighed its costs and argued that expendable rockets could achieve similar results.

    The secretive flight, civilian specialists said in recent weeks, probably centers at least partly on testing powerful sensors for a new generation of spy satellites.

    So they're saying the benefits of the mission, which "probably centers at least partly on testing" sensors , aren't worth the cost. They don't have a clue what the mission is or it's b

    • I believe that unless the sensor is changed by the sensing, the observer changed by the observation that most sensors would be cheaper to put up on single use rockets. The sensor could also be the only working prototype and or made of unobtanium.

      But since this is a technology demonstrator for a lot of next gen vehicle technologies those arguments are bunk.

      The airframe and everything on it is a test bed, not only will the flight data be important but the returned airframe with its not shuttle based heat shie

  • by Devar (312672) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @11:06PM (#32319488) Homepage Journal

    The Prompt Global Strike, a prototype that can hit any target around the world in less than an hour, was also launched the same day.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article7106714.ece [timesonline.co.uk]

    Have they found that yet?

  • Golden Hard Vacuum Resistant Sponge Cake with Creamy Filling

  • No additional information has been found about the spacecraft's capabilities or purpose, except for a US Air Force statement that the satellite has no space-weapons purpose.

    ...and meet the Vulcans.

    Of course, if the public knew, they'd find out about Cheyenne Mountain too. ;-)

  • They are breeding satellites to save on launch costs. Just raise the new satellite babies in orbit. Only the female sats need to stay aloft for 9 months though....

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