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Classified X-37B Space Plane Breaks Space Longevity Record 123

Posted by timothy
from the staying-power dept.
itwbennett (1594911) writes "A little-known U.S. space plane quietly broke its own space endurance record this week as its current unmanned mission surpassed 469 days in space. What it was doing up there for so long is a secret closely held by the Air Force, but Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and an authority on satellites and launches, thinks it's serving a similar role as the space shuttle by carrying a science or intelligence payload. 'I believe it's testing some kind of experimental sensor for the National Reconnaissance Office; for example, a hyperspectral imager, or some new kind of signals intelligence package,' said McDowell. 'The sensor was more successful than expected, so the payload customer asked the X-37 folks to keep the spacecraft in orbit longer.'"
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Classified X-37B Space Plane Breaks Space Longevity Record

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  • a Malaysian airliner perhaps

    • by NVW55V (994264)

      Maybe. Probably not.

      "The space agency solicited proposals in 1998 for projects that would push the boundaries of space development and exploration, and later awarded Boeing a $137 million contract for the X-37"

      That's a bargain. Most commercial passenger jets cost more than that.

      • Re:Looking for (Score:5, Informative)

        by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquiet@CURIEh ... minus physicist> on Saturday March 29, 2014 @10:50AM (#46609563) Journal

        ...awarded Boeing a $137 million contract for the X-37... That's a bargain. Most commercial passenger jets cost more than that.

        Ah, the hopeless naivete of someone unfamiliar with government contracting for military and aerospace programs.

        The first four years of the program actually cost $192 million [wikipedia.org], though to be fair Boeing "contributed" a nominal $67 million of that, presumably with the expectation of future contracts if the program continued. (Not if it was successful, necessarily, just as long as it continued. And the $67 million probably included significant in-kind contributions of labour and materials, where Boeing would 'bill' itself market rates for parts and labour, rather than their actual internal cost.)

        In 2002, Boeing picked up a subsequent $301 million government contract; their investment paid off quite handsomely. In 2004, the X-37 became a classified DARPA project, so we don't really know how much more it cost over the last decade, but I would be shocked if the total program cost didn't run into ten figures. The first X-37 mission didn't occur until 2010.

        So no--not a 'bargain'. Two modest-sized, unmanned, robotic space vehicles (space drones) at a quarter billion each, plus whatever secret development costs accrued between 2004 and 2010. It's a neat technical achievement, and putting drones in space is certainly less costly than putting warm bodies up there, but don't delude yourself by thinking that it's cheap.

  • Wait a moment (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rossdee (243626) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:15AM (#46608529)

    Space longevity record"

    Theres been (unmanned) stuff up in space for longer than a few years before, what record?

    How about those Voyagers now in (or not) interstellar space? Their missions have beem over 30 years and still going

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Its all about being able to land again in the future and then take off for another mission.
      • by jrumney (197329)
        If the drone breaks up on re-entry, does the record still stand? Shouldn't they be waiting until it returns to Earth before announcing a new record?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Space longevity record"

      Theres been (unmanned) stuff up in space for longer than a few years before, what record?

      The record for reusable/recoverable space vehicles.

    • by michelcolman (1208008) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @08:19AM (#46608995)

      The summary just says it broke its own space endurance record.

      But it gets better: tomorrow, it's going to break its own space endurance record again!

    • Space longevity record"

      Theres been (unmanned) stuff up in space for longer than a few years before, what record?

      How about those Voyagers now in (or not) interstellar space? Their missions have beem over 30 years and still going

      I believe they mean a record for a reusable, recoverable vehicle.

    • by Hadlock (143607)

      I'd like to see Voyager handle reentry through Earth's thick atmosphere and land gracefully on a runway. THAT would be a sight to see. Voyager 2 technically survived going through the rings of Saturn, but even that managed to take out several instruments (even though, to save someone's career that's not the official reason why they mysteriously failed immediately after)

  • by lawnboy5-O (772026) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:20AM (#46608537)
    Negotiating First Contact?
    • Or Alienating First Contact.

      Heard from the bridge of the emissary ship:

      They're not ready ambassador. This sentient race's exploration of their own universe is limited to remote activity and they've no settlement on even their own primary satellite.

      Want to check back in 80 quargs?

  • by GuitarNeophyte (636993) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:20AM (#46608539) Homepage Journal

    Have you noticed that not too many years ago, Americans would hear about some neat new technical military thing and think, "Wow, I'm glad that's on OUR side!" And now, they just expect it to be used for domestic purposes.

    • As usual, the hoboroadie is way ahead of the curve.
      I figured out my government was being run by criminal fucks in 1978. The evidence has been piling up in massive toxic heaps ever since.

    • by BlueStrat (756137) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @05:39AM (#46608759)

      Have you noticed that not too many years ago, Americans would hear about some neat new technical military thing and think, "Wow, I'm glad that's on OUR side!" And now, they just expect it to be used for domestic purposes.

      And yet, many of these same people will attack you and call you all sorts of names if you dare suggest reducing the Federal government's size, power, & scope. They just seem incapable of connecting the growth of government size, power, and scope to the government abuses of their civil rights that they're becoming increasingly aware of.

      The cognitive dissonance is astounding.

      All governments get their power from the citizens. The more power the government has, the less power and protections from government abuse the individual citizen will have. All governments get their wealth from their citizens. The more wealth the government has/spends, the less wealth citizens will have or be able to borrow for homes, businesses, schooling, raising kids, giving to charities, etc.

      Strat

      • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @09:56AM (#46609295)

        That's a very simplistic view. And obviously flawed. It neglects to consider that the government gives as well as takes.

        It gives freedoms: Without those government-run police departments, what is there to stop someone stabbing me in the back and robbing me, or breaking into my home, or just murdering me over a petty dispute or because I offended them?

        It gives wealth: Reliably maintained roads, free or subsidised schooling and healthcare, welfare. True, it has to take the wealth first, but when done properly that means taking a fraction of the wealth from those who can spare it and giving to those who need it more.

        There are certainly examples of governments acting oppressively, and many of governments acting incompetantly or being over-influenced by special interests. But that doesn't automatically mean all government is bad. It's a matter of finding the right balance and setting up the right limits.

        • by BlueStrat (756137)

          It neglects to consider that the government gives as well as takes.

          Pull that bus over right now.

          Government gives *nothing*.

          All government is, is force. It has no wealth of it's own. Anything it "gives" in entitlements/benefits/bread & circuses/etc comes from taking wealth, under threat of lethal force and imprisonment, from those who worked to produce it and transfer it to someone else or to some other group.

          TANSTAAFL

          There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

          Even more so with layer upon layer of government red-tape, incompetence, ideological social-engineering foolishne

          • The government gives, but not in the way you think.

            The government provides the entire framework for an orderly society, without which we would not have roads, air travel, financial intercourse, or a level of personal, financial, and societal stability and safety every single person in a first world country takes for granted every day.

            That's not to say that the don't screw some things up, or misplace priorities, or have management issues - but without government there would be anarchy.

            • Its important to point out that anarchy is not inherently bad. It is actually a utopian ideal, 'human nature' is what fucks it up.
              • by rthille (8526)

                Anarchy is something you could use to describe what happens on the floor of a rainforest, or between the bacteria in your gut. I'd rather not live in a society like that. It's not just human nature, it's evolved nature due to limited resources and game theory.

        • by khallow (566160)

          That's a very simplistic view. And obviously flawed. It neglects to consider that the government gives as well as takes.

          I was arguing with someone over a similar issue when I decided to just look at US federal level government spending - including off budget things like Social Security. For about half the life of the US (140 years from 1790 through to 1930), the federal government was able to provide all these things for about 2-3% of estimated GDP with the exceptions of three major wars that happened over that period.

          Now that is a bit over 20% of GDP. We're just speaking of the federal level, state and local governments

          • by rthille (8526)

            Interesting. You included Social Security in the expenses, and divide the time range up in 'before SS' and 'after SS'

            Also, look at health and life expectancy before 1930. Now realize that huge amounts of the federal budget is SS & Medical (Medicare & Medicaid). If we didn't care about the indigent old, or the fact that national health insurance is more efficient (see what we spend on medical vs other advanced countries and the outcomes), and we didn't feel the need to be the world's police and pa

            • by khallow (566160)

              You included Social Security in the expenses, and divide the time range up in 'before SS' and 'after SS'

              The first thing is because Social Security is part of the expenses. Due to the games played and depending on whether it's running a surplus or deficit that year, money from Social Security is dumped into or taken out of the general fund.

              As to the second observation, Social Security was implemented by President Franklin Roosevelt who also was the first president to really cut loose with federal level spending in peace time.

              Also, look at health and life expectancy before 1930. Now realize that huge amounts of the federal budget is SS & Medical (Medicare & Medicaid). If we didn't care about the indigent old, or the fact that national health insurance is more efficient (see what we spend on medical vs other advanced countries and the outcomes), and we didn't feel the need to be the world's police and paid down our debt, we could probably get back to ~4-5%...

              Even if we did "care about the indigent old", the opinion "that national health ins

        • It gives freedoms: Without those government-run police departments, what is there to stop someone stabbing me in the back and robbing me, or breaking into my home, or just murdering me over a petty dispute or because I offended them?

          Most police departments aren't run by the federal government. And the one that is (the FBI)........do you really trust it?

          • Difference of scale, not of nature. Still government.

            • Yes, but it's an important difference. At least, your arguments will get a lot more interesting when you realize that many people want to shrink government at a federal level, but are ok with local government. The person you replied to was clearly talking about reducing the federal government, so it's not really relevant to bring up police departments (and most of the other things you mentioned can be done at a state/local level as well).
      • Reducing the governments "size" isn't the issue. Most of the money collected is used for real things and goes into the pockets of real people -- like retiring or sick folks. Do we have to point out that we've got roads and electronics now and that "infrastructure" is more involved than clearing a path for a horse to poop on?

        We need transparent government and no secret is a good secret. If something cannot be explained to the public -- it should not be done. We need real representation and election reform.

        Th

        • People would take you more seriously if you didn't get your market analysis from Carl Marx.

          Left to themselves, markets do not end in monopolies. Only Marx makes this preposterous, a-historical claim. It's one of his greatest failed predictions.

          • by dryeo (100693)

            We have the example of America to show what happens when markets are left to themselves. The successful do whatever it takes to make a monopoly or oligarchy including taking over the government.
            America has the government it has due to market forces.

            • Surely you can point to one or more of these common monopolies?

              • by dryeo (100693)

                Sure, I need to buy gas today. 6 brands that are priced identically and seem to perform exactly the same. When the price changes, it changes for all at almost the same time. When Russia does something, the price of the gas in the service station tanks changes price everywhere by the same amount. .

                • Oligopoly of state owned oil companies is not an indictment of free markets, a monopoly or on point. World wide the vast majority of oil is pumped by state owned oil companies: Try again. Your side 'owns' those local drilling monopolies.

                  You'd think, if Marx hadn't been talking/thinking with his ass, they would be everywhere.

                  • by dryeo (100693)

                    The State owned oil company got sold to private interests years ago. The companies selling gasoline are mostly international, mostly American though I guess Shell is still Dutch and the gasoline comes from Washington State or Texas.

                    • You need to check your facts.

                    • by dryeo (100693)

                      Which facts? The fact that the gas I buy mostly comes from the privately owned Cherry Point refinery? The fact that Petro-Can is a private company? Or the fact that many oil companies such as Exon and Chevron (Standard oil) are American?

      • by Sentrion (964745) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @10:15AM (#46609381)

        The problem is that the powers that be know how to milk the cow from both ends. If you reduce the power of government then they just exercise more power and control via global corporatocracies. While on paper existing as separate organizations, what we have today in the US and many other parts of the world is a government-industrial oligarchy, with executives exerting influence on political leaders in ways that the average citizen cannot endeavor or even understand. Our anti-trust laws discourage companies from secretly colluding on price, but all the major competitors in any industry tend to be members of the same industry trade organizations that represent their interests to our legislators and to the general public with PR campaigns, which can be overt or subliminal. Even across non-competing entities, the boards of directors of public companies are occupied by CEOs of other Fortune 500 companies. When you look at who the bureaucrats are at our nation's most powerful offices, you often see a revolving door from industry to political office and back to industry again. The regulators have a vested interest in looking out for the top players in the industries they are supposed to regulate, as they will earn for themselves top executive roles as long as they don't ruffle any feathers during their political tenure. Our system of government is growing more toward feudalism or the guilds of Florence, where wealth and power is not obtained from individual effort (ie meritocracy) but through cronyism or gaming our legal/political system.

        For the global corporatocracy to succeed they do not need totalitarian authority, just a "controlling interest", a skill they mastered in the manner of which they control and profit the most from publicly listed companies while owning less than 50% of outstanding shares. In fact, by promoting the appearance of freedom and "unfettered" competition they exercise more control than an authoritarian regime, since totalitarianism comes with very high operating costs.

        Totalitarian regimes often face a united opposition. The cooperation of Western democracies with the Soviet Union against the Fascists of Europe is one example. The cooperation of Communists and Nationalists against French colonial rule in Indochina is another. After victory the alliance typically splinters, and the previously united parties usually return to their natural opposition to each other. Global corporatocracy makes use of totalitarianism where it exists, such as in Fascist China (along the trade coast, not to be confused with the communist agricultural peasant interior of China), but thrives where it can exert influence over seemingly oppositional political movements, such as with the Republican and Democrat parties of the United States. The majority of corporations that contribute to political campaigns tend to donate almost equally to candidates from both parties.

        For the most part there is no conspiracy. It is the natural product of the consolidation of mature industries where there is little or no government action to prevent companies from growing "too big to fail." Those who are successful at climbing the corporate ladder eventually discover how the game works, which is a system of reciprocity - quid pro quo, and spin doctoring.

        I consider corporatocracy to be a significant threat to democracy and freedom for individuals, especially harmful to those who have humble ambitions such as to raise a family, enjoy their privacy, reap the fruit of their own labor, and live healthy. What is needed is a balanced approach to limiting the power of "Big Government" while also limiting the power of global conglomerates. But if I had to live in a nation with a "Big Government" I would prefer a benevolent, people-friendly society like what is found in Scandinavia, not an equal-opportunity plantation where I might have a shot at retirement so long as I never get sick or if I'm promoted high enough up the scrotumpole to afford my in-network deductible.

      • by rasmusbr (2186518)

        The government is such a wonderful thing to have for owners of large businesses that if it didn't exist they would invent it almost instantly and impose it on everyone else.

        Citizens struggling to get rid of the government are about as likely to succeed as people with shovels trying to reshape the Earth into a cube.

      • by cthulhu11 (842924)
        And as usual nothing said about what should be cut, just the usual mindless libertarian bandwagon.
    • Have you noticed that not too many years ago, Americans would hear about some neat new technical military thing and think, "Wow, I'm glad that's on OUR side!" And now, they just expect it to be used for domestic purposes.

      I know. This thing is awesome. Just think about the advances we're going to see in vacuum cleaner and dishwasher tech from this project.

    • I'm sure someone might also notice that a lot of dart boards have pictures of a billionaire or banker on them, rather than Saddam Hussein or Bin Laden.

      We've grown up a bit and the same old tricks won't work again.

  • Kicking ass!!!

    Srsly I love these space drones. Should have had them 20 years ago.

    That is all.

  • OR...... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 29, 2014 @05:28AM (#46608747)

    ...it's failed and they can't get it down.....

  • Unmanned satellites have certainly worked for much longer than this. And the voyager probes have been going since 1977!
  • lie to the taxpayers... fitting the general theme of government today.
    Where can I find a really good paying job that as an employee I control the companies bank, as I please?
    Military industrial complex addiction wims???

  • by l0n3s0m3phr34k (2613107) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @10:03AM (#46609329)
    Take a look at this [suasnews.com], and it's back from 2011. Boeing is calling a 6 person X-37C, yet I believe that the Air Force probably already has a flight-capable (and probably tested) one or two man "modual" that can put in the experiment bay. After watching Astrospies on PBS, someday we will probably find a couple of space suits stuffed in a dark closet somewhere in 30 years, with an X-37 mission flag, Air Force officers involved in "training"...there's no way the AF will give up US-based manned space travel, even if just for intelligence and access to the ISS.
  • It's parking right next to com sats (It loves those Middle-Eastern ones.) and listens in on leaking RF.

    Gallium nitride is a beautiful thing! =)

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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