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NASA Space The Military Science Technology

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

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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  • by seifried ( 12921 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @10:27PM (#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.
  • Re:Secret? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by The Grim Reefer2 ( 1195989 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @10:30PM (#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.

  • by schnell ( 163007 ) <me AT schnell DOT net> on Saturday March 05, 2011 @01:33AM (#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 [] are all total crap [].

    It is left to the reader and their judicious use of Occam's Razor [] 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!

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

    by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @01:34AM (#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.

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