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NASA Space The Military Science Technology

X-37B Secret Space Plane's Second Launch Today 59

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the secret-space-weapons-from-space dept.
garymortimer writes "The X-37B will launch soon for a second 240 day flight and the cat and mouse game of following it will begin. Amateur astronomers have been able to find the orbit changing high flying UAV on at least two occasions after it altered height. For the first X-37B OTV mission, Air Force officials focused on testing and evaluating the performance capabilities of the vehicle. This second mission will build upon the OTV-1 on-orbit demonstration, validate and replicate initial testing and fine tune the technical parameters of the vehicle tests."
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X-37B Secret Space Plane's Second Launch Today

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  • The fact that this craft has cross-range capability might mean they're doing something that a disposable rocket launch couldn't achieve. Maybe launching a few smaller sats, then retrieving them?
    • Some of its tasks include refueling and fixing solar panels on satellites.

      Satellites aren't consumer tech, they're expensive so you don'y just replace them with new ones when they gone done broken.

      I would love to hear some big beard talk about satellite engineering challenges...

      • Some of its tasks include refueling and fixing solar panels on satellites.

        And how do you know this? I imagine that it is capable of doing that, with the right payload, but from what I understand, its mission(s) are classified.

        I doubt its simply up there to repair satellites...seems like an awful waste of a capable craft.

        • its mission(s) are classified.

          Wikipedia. Didn't examine the source but I imagine this is what they had to say to sell the thing to the beancounters.

        • So many crackpot dictators, so few megawatt lasers.

          • by Seggybop (835060)
            oh man.
            if they used this thing to take a potshot at Kadafi, I can't really express how ridiculously awesome it'd be.

            if nothing else, I'd finially feel like this is really the far-flung futuristic year of AD 2011.
        • It would be trivially simple to deduce this as one of its functions - we know pretty much where every single man made object is down to about the size of a hammer, there are numerous free or paid applications floating around the net that will tell you where all of this stuff is right now, also where it is predicted to be at time X.

          The X-37B wont get close to anything in orbit without someone figuring it out in short order - and if it does, the most logical explanation will be servicing or retrieval.

          Common s

          • Well, it makes perfect, perfect sense to use this platform as the unpredictable spy satellite that you can aggressively reposition on a whim, can't easily predict its passing, and don't have to worry about depleting the fuel of - and that means you can fly it in LEO and get a closer look at things.
          • " we know pretty much where every single man made object is down to about the size of a hammer"

            That's awesome. I lost mine so perhaps I could ask them about it?

    • Re:Purpose... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by FleaPlus (6935) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @12:34AM (#35386968) Journal

      > The fact that this craft has cross-range capability might mean they're doing something that a disposable rocket launch couldn't achieve. Maybe launching a few smaller sats, then retrieving them?

      With conventional launches, one major downside is that their orbits are very predictable. Basically anybody can track their trajectory as they're being launched, and once they're in an orbit only slow/minor orbital changes can be made. Since any rival country knows when spy satellites are overhead, they can just time maneuvers/operations to when they know they won't be watched.

      One hypothesized major benefit of using a winged payload vehicle is that it opens up the possibility of dipping into the atmosphere and performing a hypersonic orbital plane change maneuver. This could potentially enable a spaceplane to essentially disappear and make its ground observations completely unpredictable.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        These days they just blind them with lasers when they don't want to be watched. Actually they probably do it habitually just to prevent anyone knowing when they really don't want to be watched.

        • by PPH (736903)
          You have to know where the satellite is in order to point a laser at it.
      • by Artifakt (700173)

        The Mach 25 Orbitally Based Dip-bomber lives again!

  • Maybe, maybe not. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Friday's launch has been scrubbed. Will try again on Saturday, March 5, 2011.
    See http://www.spaceflightnow.com/atlas/av026/status.html.

  • not open or public; kept private or not revealed;

    if ($_event == 'public') $_event != 'secret';

  • X-37B Secret Space Plane's

    I guess there is a new definition of "secret" [google.com] that I'm not aware of.

    • Re:Secret? (Score:5, Informative)

      by FleaPlus (6935) on Friday March 04, 2011 @09:14PM (#35386278) Journal

      > I guess there is a new definition of "secret" that I'm not aware of.

      Geeze, we get these comments from people attempting to be clever every single time there's a X-37 article. It's secret in the sense that nobody without security clearance has any idea of what its full mission is, what orbital shifts it's going to be making, or what's inside of its payload bay. If you want to be super strict about it then there's no such thing as a secret satellite launch, since any major country can tell when you're launching something into orbit.

      • Re:Secret? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) on Friday March 04, 2011 @09:30PM (#35386346)

        By what you describe the X-37 is not a "secret space plane", however its mission is. What I remember as being called a secret Air Force plane was was much different in years past. Usually virtually no one knew they even existed until a decade or two after they had been developed. the U2 or the SR-71 are what I think of past "secret " planes. There were the spy satellite programs, but the fact that they launched them under a different guise did not make the satellite, rocket, or the launch itself a secret. It was the true nature of the mission that was a secret. I suppose that the standards of reporting have declined over the years, and sensational headlines are what sell now. Plus trying to hide such programs entirely is damn near impossible, or would cost more to hide than the entire program itself.

        • Who really knows what's going on? I think it's safe to assume that there is "state of the art" technology that is not commonly known to exist.

          For example, suppose one of those government secret labs figured out the secrets of gravity decades ago. Would the powers-that-be let the public know that the most-sacred "Law of Gravity" has an off-switch?

          Plus trying to hide such programs entirely is damn near impossible, or would cost more to hide than the entire program itself.

          Little secrets are difficult to hide. Big, impossible secrets? Those would be much easier to keep under wraps, because it's easy to laugh advocates of "the impossi

          • by schnell (163007) <meNO@SPAMschnell.net> on Saturday March 05, 2011 @12:33AM (#35386954) Homepage

            Someone suggested that the HAARP array (or something like it) was used to reach out and "crush" the Russian's test rocket in mid flight. Status-quo defenders will snicker and laugh at such a proposition

            Yes. Yes I will snicker and laugh. It's either because a.) I am a brainwashed or naive tool of a massive government conspiracy which thinks that its best use of time is to rebut posters on Slashdot; or b.) I'm just someone who knows enough about basic RF physics to conclude that the conspiracy theories about HAARP [skeptoid.com] are all total crap [internetpirate.com].

            It is left to the reader and their judicious use of Occam's Razor [wikipedia.org] to determine which of the above is more likely.

            P.S. Private message me for the location of the freezer where we keep the remains of the Cigarette Smoking Man for experiments with the Black Oil!

          • by khallow (566160)

            The Norwegian Spiral is suggestive of secret technology.

            It's suggestive of a rocket engine failure or near failure. All the rocket has to do is start tumbling (or have the control system rotate the rocket slowly) at high altitude and you see the effect.

        • Re:Secret? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by AK Marc (707885) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @01:05AM (#35387072)

          By what you describe the X-37 is not a "secret space plane"

          Yes, it is. Just like the stealth planes which were photographed before they were officially recognized. Just because we know it exists doesn't mean it isn't secret. It's classified secret by the government, and we don't know it's capabilities, current missions, future missions, or any of that. That counts for "secret."

        • Usually virtually no one knew they even existed until a decade or two after they had been developed. the U2 or the SR-71 are what I think of past "secret " planes.

          Which is exceptionally amusing - because neither plane you think as being secret were kept hidden much beyond five years after they were developed. The SR-71 was in fact announced by the President on national TV before it even flew for the first time.

          What you're thinking of as a 'secret' airplane is in fact the A-12, for which the SR-71

          • What you're thinking of as a 'secret' airplane is in fact the A-12, for which the SR-71 was a successful cover, so sucessful that even though everyone else has known about it for decades, you remain in the dark.

            Yeah, I'm quite aware of the A-12, YF-12A and several others in that line, though they are most commonly all referred to at SR's. The A-12 were more of a prototype/test bed. The real secret was the YF-12A variant that was armed with GAR-9/AIM-47a missiles. Get your shit right if you're going to try to tell me about reality.

            • Yeah, I'm quite aware of the A-12, YF-12A and several others in that line, though they are most commonly all referred to at SR's.

              Um, no they aren't most commonly referred to as SR's. Well, not by anyone knowledgeable anyhow.

              The A-12 were more of a prototype/test bed.

              ROTFLMAO. The A-12 was a CIA photo reconnaissance aircraft. You can call it what you want, but it's just more backpedaling on your part to avoid dealing the with the fact that you're not only wrong, but clueless as well.

              The re

      • But what about any major dude?

      • And yet every launch is announced publicly months in advance and up close photos of it are published at every launch and landing. This is in stark contrast to Area 51 type secret projects where even the base's existence had been officially denied.
        It's a different kind of "secret" project where for some reason the defense establishment is going out of its way to publicize the project's existence while keeping its intent secret.

        There could be various reasons. Perhaps the publicity is designed to thwart a canc

        • There could be various reasons. Perhaps the publicity is designed to thwart a cancellation of the project by congress. I assume secret programs are easier to axe as there are no adverse public relations repercussions.

          I was thinking it would be the other way around, 80% of congress wouldn't even know what they were voting for or against, so there is no way to bad-mouth the project. When everything is classified then you just vote for a strong defense, or against the industrial-military establishment.

        • by PPH (736903)

          Perhaps the publicity is a method of measuring one of the program's goals. To see if the the orbiter can tracked by dedicated people and nations who know everything about launch time, launch location and initial orbit but know nothing of the flight plan.

          Assuming those who track the orbiter successfully will announce their capabilities. Its an interesting idea and I'm sure that various intelligence agencies are watching the watchers. And its a more complex problem than watching national adversaries to determine their capabilities.

          In fact, the Air Force might be watching the amateur spotters as closely as those of foreign powers. Amateurs have several advantages that governments, like North Korea for example, don't. A global network of observers that can ma

  • by turkeydance (1266624) on Friday March 04, 2011 @09:07PM (#35386240)
    maybe an open secret...like your Dad's porn folders. if it was a real secret...it would be like your Mom's.
    • Yeww, neekid videos of your mom having kinky sex with 2 dwarves and an amputee, think of the children!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Should have read:

    X-37B Secret Space Plane's Second Launch Wasn't Today

    Good Lord this is bad - incorrect ex post facto stories. I can't wait for the dupes.

  • by seifried (12921) on Friday March 04, 2011 @09:27PM (#35386336) Homepage
    Robots. And this just seems to seal the deal. It can go up for 8 months. Doing that with humans is an absolute pain (carrying enough food alone is a non-trivial task). I personally think we should look at a combination moon shot style effort and moratorium on "manned" space flight for say 20 years, at the end of which we plan to have a functioning moon base (because there is water on the moon, gravity to keep people semi healthy, and you can just live underground and avoid most of the radiation/etc.) that will support X (an arbitrary number) of humans indefinitely (which means we need algae farms and whatnot). I'd rather see a short term reduction of people in space for long term gain than this piddly "space exploration with humans" program we currently have as a species.
    • I prefer the term "Artificial Person" myself
    • moratorium on "manned" space flight for say 20 years, at the end of which we plan to have a functioning moon base

      Right. A functioning moon base, inhabited by autonomous robots for two decades.

      Whatcouldpossiblygowrong?

    • I like the big picture. And with GenIV reactors that breed up nuclear waste as fuel, it wouldn't take too big a payload to fuel up the place and have multiple reactors to keep the station fully powered. On a moonbase a blackout means death.
  • You can run, but you can't <hide> [slashdot.org]. A few of those scopes around the world and we can watch the watchers pretty effectively.

  • Technically it is only a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) for that last fifteen minutes or so. Before that time it is just a regular satellite with a fancy heat shield instead of a plain one.
  • But I wan't my Aurora! [wikipedia.org]
  • Realtime tracking of most googled targets...

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