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After a Year In Orbit, US Air Force's X37-B Will Conclude Its Secret Mission 243

Posted by timothy
from the and-boy-is-it-tired dept.
SomePgmr writes "The U.S Air Force's highly secret unmanned space plane will land in June — ending a year-long mission in orbit. The experimental Boeing X37-B has been circling Earth at 17,000 miles per hour and was due to land in California in December. It is now expected to land in mid to late June. And still, no one knows what the space drone has been doing up there all this time."
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After a Year In Orbit, US Air Force's X37-B Will Conclude Its Secret Mission

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @10:36AM (#40219253)

    From the Article......

    "At launch, the space plane was accompanied by staff in biohazard suits, leading to speculation that there were radioactive components on board. "

    Why cant journalists that actually have an education in science cover science subjects?

    Really? a BIOHAZARD suit for RADIOACTIVE protection?

  • Biohazard suits.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Knightman (142928) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @10:38AM (#40219279)

    Funny comment in the article: "At launch, the space plane was accompanied by staff in biohazard suits, leading to speculation that there were radioactive components on board."

    I'd wear protective suits if it is fueled with hypergolic propellant since it's extremely toxic, so the comment about radioactive components is just bs IMHO.

  • Re:Fast (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pezpunk (205653) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @10:56AM (#40219507) Homepage

    nah, the geiger counter is no indication of radioactive material / nukes on board. You see, it turns out, most of the visible objects in outer space are actually humongous balls of radiation-emiting nuclear plasma. spacecraft are routinely dusted by bits of nuclear material. it's also possible (at least theoretically) for atoms bombarded by radiation to transmute into radioactive isotopes themselves. it's probably a good idea to wear a hazmat suit when approaching any spacecraft recently returned from long periods away from atmoshperic shielding.

  • Re:Secret? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pezpunk (205653) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @11:04AM (#40219615) Homepage

    it's in the DoD's best interest for people to believe they are in posession of secret and unimaginable technological wonders. I think it's highly dubious (and optimistic, in my experience in this industry) to subscribe to the (conveniently non-falsifiable) notion that the U.S. military keeps all their most impressive toys 100% hidden from view. in fact, i suspect the opposite is closer to the truth.

  • by edremy (36408) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @11:19AM (#40219845) Journal

    Nukes in space has been possible for 50 years. We don't do it because there are treaties against it, treaties that have remarkably been followed by all involved. It's not a a boat that anyone involved really wants to start rocking.

    It's not so much that there has been any great restraint on the part of the nuclear armed space powers as that there is no point to having them in orbit. ICBMs get anywhere in the world in 30 minutes, SLBMs are even quicker since they are closer. Silos are very well hardened and subs are hard to find- orbiting satellites have limited maneuverability, so you always know where the warhead is. A good chunk of the time orbital dynamics is going to say you're out of position to even hit your desired target. Plus, stuff in space can't be maintained easily and warheads need occasional maintenance to do things like replace the tritium boosters and check the electronics.

    It's basically just not necessary

  • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @02:04PM (#40222345)

    I think they're aiming to replace spy satellites with these drones and this was a test to see if a drone can stay up in space for a long duration and still arrive back on ground intact for repairs or to upgrade its system.

    That's exactly what I think. Whatever is onboard the ship is almost irrelevant at this point, the cargo is a red herring (and it can change). The impressive capability of the ship, the "new thing" that it brings to the table, is that it is essentially a multi-purpose satellite that can return to earth and be launched again. Like you said, returning to earth would allow people to refuel, repair, offload whatever it collected in space, or upgrade it. If you have a refuelable satellite then you can afford to be less frugal with the maneuvering thrusters, meaning you can avoid anti-satellite weapons more effectively and move to different orbits. The one vehicle can support many missions, it could go up with optical equipment and do some surveillance, land again and get a new electronics package for a different mission, land again and get a weapons package. This is probably why the NRO just gave NASA two spy satellites. They don't need single-purpose satellites any more when they have one that they can land and upgrade.

  • by shoehornjob (1632387) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @02:33PM (#40222743)
    Military intelligence: two words that can not make sense. Dave Mustaine

No amount of careful planning will ever replace dumb luck.

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