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Space United States Science

X-37B Secret Space Plane To Land Soon 252

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-secret-enough dept.
Phoghat writes "The highly classified X-37B Space Plane is scheduled to land soon. It was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on April 22 atop an Atlas 5 rocket, and the Air Force is still being very secretive on all aspects of the flight. We do know that it's set to touch down at Vandenberg Air Force Base's 15,000-foot runway, originally built for the Space Shuttle program. In many ways, the craft resembles a Shuttle with stubby wings, landing gear and a powerful engine that allows the craft to alter its orbit (much to the dismay of many observers on the ground). Its success has apparently given new life to its predecessor, the X-34, which had been mothballed."
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X-37B Secret Space Plane To Land Soon

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  • Yawn (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Aerorae (1941752) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @04:57PM (#34360282)
    Highly classified spaceship carrying highly classified cargo returns to earth semi-unclassifiedly. Slow news day on /.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You missed the bit where they said:

      "highly classified...scheduled to land soon...very secretive on all aspects of the flight...set to touch down at Vandenberg ...powerful engine that allows the craft to alter its orbit (much to the dismay of many observers on the ground)."

      See what they did there? Oh man, this place is better than The Onion sometimes. And yes, an engine capable of orbital changes is easily capable of landing in northern Scotland instead of Vandenberg.
      • by Sanat (702)

        I was stationed at Vandenberg years ago and really enjoyed all of the secret things that landed and took off from there. What was really interesting was a secret launch say at 2:00 AM and in driving to the launch site there would be a few hundred cars parked around the area. Some secrets were difficult to keep when the husband or wife had to be on site or near the site then everyone knew something was up and the word spread.

        part of my job was to optically align missiles for flight and to program in their ta

    • by Kagura (843695)

      Highly classified spaceship carrying highly classified cargo returns to earth semi-unclassifiedly.

      I believe that, besides covert installation of satellites, this will be used as an observation platform more mobile than hydrazine-limited satellites. Imagine if you could dip down to 50km, take pictures, and boost back up way more often than any satellite could possible do, because you don't have to conserve all propellent for a five-year-lifespan. You can also replace the optics on a much more regular basis than a satellite could.

      Some nations might have developed cool things like ballistic trajectory h

  • Another launch of the craft may take place as early as this March.

    That orbiter? Or another orbiter of the same type?

  • Launched April 22? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @05:02PM (#34360314)

    You mean it's been in the air for seven months?

    • by onionman (975962)

      You mean it's been in the air for seven months?

      Yep. I think that's part of what makes it so freakin' cool.

    • by Aqualung812 (959532) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @05:10PM (#34360384)

      You mean it's been in the air for seven months?

      Yup, that's the cool part of it. Imagine the possibilities for an orbiter that is fully automated, can change orbit, and return to Earth & be refueled. Put a nice camera on that & you have a spy sat that can't be tracked easily. You might even be able to put a weapon on that since it can be reloaded.

      • You mean it's been in the air for seven months?

        Yup, that's the cool part of it. Imagine the possibilities for an orbiter that is fully automated, can change orbit, and return to Earth & be refueled. Put a nice camera on that & you have a spy sat that can't be tracked easily. You might even be able to put a weapon on that since it can be reloaded.

        I suspect it would still be cheaper to design the satellites for a shorter life span and keep launching them into different orbits.

        • by mangu (126918) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @05:29PM (#34360520)

          I suspect it would still be cheaper to design the satellites for a shorter life span and keep launching them into different orbits.

          The cost of launching a satellite is in the tens of millions of dollars range.

          Satellites are made to have longer and longer lifespans as technology evolves, because the higher cost of a more sophisticated satellite is easily compensated by needing less of those costly launch missions.

        • by perpenso (1613749) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @05:45PM (#34360620)

          I suspect it would still be cheaper to design the satellites for a shorter life span and keep launching them into different orbits.

          Consider the advantage of maneuverability in a hostile (as in being shot at) environment, or in a situation where the geographical points of interest keep changing, or changing the time required to orbit so that someone on the ground can not predict an overflight very easily. The X-37 may carry more fuel, or have engines offering greater delta-v, than a satellite.

          • I suspect it would still be cheaper to design the satellites for a shorter life span and keep launching them into different orbits.

            Consider the advantage of maneuverability in a hostile (as in being shot at) environment, or in a situation where the geographical points of interest keep changing, or changing the time required to orbit so that someone on the ground can not predict an overflight very easily. The X-37 may carry more fuel, or have engines offering greater delta-v, than a satellite.

            Maybe but this is the failed argument which killed the space shuttle at birth. It was cheaper to use disposable vehicles. Maybe thats changing now that launchers are getting cheaper, but I don't think USAF launch costs are going down yet.

            • by perpenso (1613749)

              I suspect it would still be cheaper to design the satellites for a shorter life span and keep launching them into different orbits.

              Consider the advantage of maneuverability in a hostile (as in being shot at) environment, or in a situation where the geographical points of interest keep changing, or changing the time required to orbit so that someone on the ground can not predict an overflight very easily. The X-37 may carry more fuel, or have engines offering greater delta-v, than a satellite.

              Maybe but this is the failed argument which killed the space shuttle at birth. It was cheaper to use disposable vehicles. Maybe thats changing now that launchers are getting cheaper, but I don't think USAF launch costs are going down yet.

              I don't see how your argument applies here. I don't recall the shuttle being billed as a reconnaissance vehicle. It may have been billed as an alternative method to deliver a recon satellite to orbit but that is not really relevant. I'm referring to the satellite being able to maneuver once it reaches orbit. How it got to that orbit, rocket or shuttle is irrelevant. What is relevant here is the maneuvering capability of a satellite in orbit versus the X-37 in orbit. The X-37 is not delivering a satellite,

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by wiredlogic (135348)

        The payload capacity is too small to use for detailed ground observations. We can already scramble a drone in a short time frame if we have actionable intelligence that needs a quick look before a satellite flies over. It is most likely intended to be used for inspection of satellites (think Transformers 2 :)), refueling them, performing simple repairs, and experimenting with spaced based operations.

        • by Kagura (843695)

          The payload capacity is too small to use for detailed ground observations. We can already scramble a drone in a short time frame if we have actionable intelligence that needs a quick look before a satellite flies over. It is most likely intended to be used for inspection of satellites (think Transformers 2 :)), refueling them, performing simple repairs, and experimenting with spaced based operations.

          Planes, etc. are sometimes not fast enough. Remember the day Clinton was supposed to have his impeachment trial, but it was delayed? That was when they missed Bin Laden because it took over and hour for cruise missiles to reach the target locations from the launching naval vessels.

      • Think about other country's satellites you could steal, gut, and "borrow" they're technology. Anybody can put weapons or cameras in space. But to go up and remotely get something and bring it home? AWESOME.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by DerekLyons (302214)

        You mean it's been in the air for seven months?

        Yup, that's the cool part of it.

        Nope, it hasn't been in the air for seven months - it's been in orbit for seven months. Which isn't particularly noteworthy as far as orbital lifetimes goes.

        Imagine the possibilities for an orbiter that is fully automated, can change orbit, and return to Earth & be refueled. Put a nice camera on that & you have a spy sat that can't be tracked easily.

        We've had spy satellites with that capability for over thirty ye

      • I think the benefit of this is that you can test new high tech space payloads (Cameras, SIGINT ,etc)
        without having to commit them to expensive launch vehicles sort of a Satellite rapid prototyping and test capability - pretty genius idea !

    • In orbit. It got dizzy and needs a break.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by wgibson (1345509)
      Yes, this mission was launched seven months ago, and is not even going on the limit of its capability..

      "The X-37B has the requirement to be on-orbit up to 270 days,"

      http://spaceflightnow.com/atlas/av012/100225x37arrival/ [spaceflightnow.com] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USA-212 [wikipedia.org]

    • by Dausha (546002)

      It's been in Space for seven months? It is a space ship, after all. A future flight will be one of the last of America's deep space probes. I've heard the pilot is William Rodgers; but I don't remember his call sign.

    • The things you can do when you don't need to support a human passenger are pretty awesome. You could leave it up there forever and change orbits as long as onboard fuel allows. I believe this is proof-of-concept of on-orbit first strike capability. You can be anywhere in the world pretty damn quick when your craft in orbit clips along at tens of thousands of miles per hour.

    • by mrsquid0 (1335303)

      It has been in orbit for seven months. Technically there is still a bit of air up at 400 km, but not much.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 27, 2010 @05:08PM (#34360352)

    Yes I notice the first few comments are retarded jokes. How about a serious reality check instead?

    These warmongering black budget toys that the common taxpayer funds and has no say-so in need to be completely eradicated from the face of the Earth. There's a secrative corporate cabal operating within the government that is abobe the federal government and the united states congress and president, that answers to absolutely no one and uses your tax dollars to fund whatever they wish; mostly warmongering toys that perpetuate our neverending wars. Yes, you pay for all of this without ever having the privlidge to know what they are doing with your money nor do you have any say so in how the money is spent. This is all done under the farce of of "national security". Fuck the military industrial complex and these corporate cabals. It's time for the American people to wake up and stop being pussified by the CIA propaganda that is terrorism. If you would like to know who the real "terrorists" are, please kindly watch the 2 minute video below:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XpXpl8uzFk&feature=player_embedded [youtube.com]

    Yes, the United States of America are the terrorists, lead by secret societies that go back far before babylon.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by MrQuacker (1938262)
      True or false, your argument would be more moving if it wasn't full of conspiracy theory buzzwords.

      Personally, I blame the Vampirates.

    • Thank God (Score:5, Funny)

      by cbraescu1 (180267) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @05:19PM (#34360448) Homepage

      Thank God you didn't forget to post the above message as an "Anonymous Coward"!

      I shiver to think what your punishment would be from the "secrative" cabal that goes back far before Babylon.

    • by mrsquid0 (1335303)

      > Yes, the United States of America are the terrorists, lead by secret societies that go back far before babylon.

      Cool! How do I join one of these secret societies?

  • by voss (52565) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @05:51PM (#34360674)

    The X-37 proved they could have a shuttle successor without the cost, politics and without Orrin hatch telling them what they had to buy.

  • I wonder what magnitudes it's visible at.
    Last week I saw a light traversing the sky at ISS speeds, at -1 or -2 magnitude, except it was on a NE to SW vector... and I've only observed the ISS pass over on a west to east path.

    I wonder if that was it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gavineadie (118780)

      It's about +3.5 average (2.2 - 4.5) magnitude. It's orbital inclination is 40 degrees making it visible in the twilight sky when conditions are right anywhere between about 45N and 45S latitudes. It's orbital altitude is getting lower and it is maneuvering, both of which make predictions of where to look less precise, but http://www.heavens-above.com has predictions. It travels west to east.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @09:51PM (#34361932) Homepage Journal

    So the broke-ass, deficit-obsessed USA cannot afford to keep the Space Shuttle or any other NASA launch programme in operation for science, but no problem funding an even better shuttle for the CIA/NSA. Because those spooks are doing such a great job protecting us from the Qaeda and copycats, protecting our allies from N Korean bombing, protecting the world from Iranian nuke programmes...

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