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Space NASA Science

Air Force Spaceplane Readying For Launch 94

FleaPlus writes "The US Air Force is currently preparing for the launch of the secretive X-37B OTV-1 (Orbital Test Vehicle 1) spaceplane, which was transferred from NASA to DARPA back in 2004 when NASA opted to focus its budget on lunar exploration. The reusable unmanned spaceplane is set to launch in April on top of a commercial Atlas V rocket, orbit for up to 270 days while testing a number of new technologies, reenter the atmosphere, then land on auto-pilot in California."
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Air Force Spaceplane Readying For Launch

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  • by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @10:29AM (#31471994)
    How secretive can it be if the launch is posted on /.?
  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @10:37AM (#31472038)
    You can strive hard to be secretive and still fail at being actually secret.
  • by cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @10:42AM (#31472050)
    The photo caption in the article itself says: "The X-37B/OTV spacecraft undergoes final testing at Boeing. Credit: Air Force"

    So no this project is not secret. It is an USAF project being handled by DARPA, but it is not secret.

  • 270 days (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 14, 2010 @10:46AM (#31472072)

    Hmmm, an autonomous space vehicle capable of remaining in orbit for 270 days and then re-entering the atmosphere and performing a precision landing anywhere on the globe. I wonder what they're going to put in that 7 foot by 4 foot cargo hold?

  • Re:Cool! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @10:53AM (#31472100) Homepage Journal

    Yes, but closer to what? The existence of this project seems to demonstrate that a lot of people didn't learn anything from the Space Shuttle. Wings on a space cargo mover add a lot of unnecessary weight that people should have concluded is more detrimental than useful. The space industry has ways to launch objects without big, heavy wings and even without a crew. The ability to use the large cargo bay to return large objects to the ground isn't that important, I can only find one example of it happening, the LDEF.

  • Re:270 days (Score:3, Insightful)

    by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @11:02AM (#31472158)

    "I wonder what they're going to put in that 7 foot by 4 foot cargo hold?"

    Others will wonder too, which is obviously the point.

  • by danwesnor ( 896499 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @11:11AM (#31472206)
    Let me rephrase his question - How secretive can it be if the Air Force is issuing press releases? Another rephrasing would be - Why is the OP pretending he' loosed some super secret spy stuff when all he's really done is summarized a press release?
  • by BigFootApe ( 264256 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @11:47AM (#31472394)

    Everyone knows that the US has orbital photo recon. We don't have a 100% clear picture of what the capabilities are.

    The fact that it's an X craft tells us this orbital space plane is a test vehicle. But a test vehicle for what? What are the ultimate objectives of the program? How does it tie in with Prompt Global Strike?

  • Re:Cool! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheKidWho ( 705796 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @01:18PM (#31473020)

    And I don't know who pulled the escape velocity numbers out of their ass but you don't "need" to be going whatever ridiculous speed they said. You "need" to be going any positive number. Like if you're going 1 MPH upward, you'll eventually be a hundred miles away from Earth.

    Spoken like a true idiot. Of course you can do it at 1MPH, however you still need to maintain a force to counteract gravity. At 1MPH, you will be spending a literal shit ton of fuel just to maintain that 1MPH speed, spend more fuel, go faster, win.

    Also, you do need a certain velocity to escape Earth's gravity, if you managed to somehow get into Low Earth Orbit at 1MPH you would simply fall like a stone back into the Earth. If you achieve escape velocity however, you can maintain an orbit around the planet.

    Something tells me you're not an aerospace engineer.

  • Re:Cool! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Sunday March 14, 2010 @01:20PM (#31473036) Homepage Journal

    The existence of this project seems to demonstrate that a lot of people didn't learn anything from the Space Shuttle.

    The problem with the Shuttle was not that it had wings. The problem with the Shuttle was that it was designed (and redesigned, and redesigned ...) to be all things to all people. I guarantee you, if the Saturn V had been built the way the Shuttle was, it would have cost ten times as nuch and been lucky to get a tenth of the way to the Moon.

    The lesson to be learned from the Shuttle is not "don't build spaceplanes," but rather "don't try to build one single vehicle for every mission that NASA, the Air Force, commercial operators, and my cousin's dog might possibly want to perform in space."

  • Re:Cool! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CompMD ( 522020 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @11:12AM (#31482258)

    "I'm sure a shuttle-class runway is accessible every 1200 miles or so, at least with a lot of imagination and creative hot-dog piloting."

    The only places in the US where the shuttle can be reasonably safely landed with sufficient support infrastructure are the Cape, Edwards AFB, and KSLN (Salina, Kansas Municipal Airport). Not kidding. KSLN is still used for Air Force activity. Its scary enough flying a little Piper there in the pattern with C-17s, knowing its possible the freaking space shuttle could be entering for long final is too much. :)

    Also, there's no such thing as hot-dog piloting a glider with the aerodynamics of the shuttle. Its not called a "flying brick" for nothing...

    "Amusingly, you're missing that the only possible use for wings on a re-entry vehicle is military..."

    No, a perfectly legitimate non-military reason for wings is so you can choose your landing site. The Russians basically aim the Soyuz at Asia and cross their fingers. Our capsules had huge landing zones and tons of people were devoted to patrolling the ocean to spot and recover the crew and craft.

    "you can simply pick a bizarre orbit to avoid them, with a bizarre reentry requiring some gliding around."

    I do not think you appreciate the difficulty of orbital dynamics. You also can't just have a "bizarre reentry" because there are problems with energy dissipation and drag. There is a very well defined process for deorbiting the shuttle, and it does not leave much room for error.

You will never amount to much. -- Munich Schoolmaster, to Albert Einstein, age 10