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US 'Space Warplane' Spying On Chinese Spacelab 158

PolygamousRanchKid sends this excerpt from El Reg: "The U.S. Air Force's second mysterious mini-space shuttle, the X-37B, could be spying on China's space laboratory and the first piece of its space station, Tiangong-1. Amateur space trackers told the British Interplanetary Society publication Spaceflight that the black-funded spaceplane seemed to be orbiting the Earth in tandem with Tiangong-1, or the Heavenly Palace, leading the magazine to speculate that its unknown mission is to spy on [the lab]. ... The lab is unmanned for the moment, so all there'd be to study is the technology of the craft and what experiments it's doing. Still, the U.S. is hugely suspicious of China's space endeavors, so it's more than possible that they'd want to get a look at Tiangong-1 just in case it's doing anything unexpected." Update: 01/06 21:50 GMT by S : Further calculations have shown that this is not the case after all.
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US 'Space Warplane' Spying On Chinese Spacelab

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  • Re:Ho-hum... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:14PM (#38610478) Homepage Journal

    The more impressive trick is that it's way, way past it's total mission time, and was scheduled to come down around thanksgiving. It's now almost 2 months past it's original planned mission. And yeah, it did change it's orbit, back in May or so. Pretty much everyone wants to know what's going on in North Korea and Iran, and apparently you can photograph both from the orbit that Tiandong is in.
    More info [] skip down to the operational history part.

  • by Evil.Bonsai ( 1205202 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:14PM (#38610480)

    I just checked heavens-above and they don't really seem to be all that close. Orbits are SIMILAR but not all that close.

  • by TwineLogic ( 1679802 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:14PM (#38610482)
    No. The altitude is one variable. Another is orbital plane, or angle. Some satellites move directly above the equator. Most orbital craft do not, and track a sinusoidal ground path which crosses the equator.

    The altitude of these craft is related to the energy they expend getting to orbit. In that sense, the altitudes are correlated by the rocket type.

    The orbital plane has to do with the launch location and time, as well as maneuvers made to change the plane.
  • Re:Space Warplane? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:25PM (#38610634)
    It is in the eyes of the Iranian media. Wait, the summary didn't mention that that was were that term was taken from? Huh, funny. Almost like the summary is trying to be sensationalist or something. It also didn't mention the X-37B was in that exact orbit before the Chinese launched their laboratory? And that they are not in "tandem", they only get close every 170 orbits? Yeah, the X-37B is definitely still there to spy on the Chinese. Only possible explanation.
  • by Cragen ( 697038 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:49PM (#38610872)
    In the article, for pete's sake, the "expert to be quoted today", "Brian Weedon, a technical adviser to the Secure World Foundation and former orbital analyst with the USAF, " , actually IN THE FSCKING ARTICLE says, ""The X-37B is in a much lower inclination which means it can only see a very narrow band of latitudes, and the only thing that's of real interest in that band is the Middle East and Afghanistan.

    "Is it spying on Tiangong-1? I really don't think so. [Emphasis mine.] I think the fact that their orbits intersect every now and again - that's just a co-incidence. If the US really wanted to observe Tiangong, it has enough assets to do that without using X-37B," he added. "

    Jeez, would it hurt the submitter too much to actually read to the END OF THE FREAKING ARTICLE? Headline-hunting much?

  • by jpapon ( 1877296 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:15PM (#38611208) Journal

    Conquer (militarily, culturally, monetarily), is more in line with the predominant cultural beliefs than police.

    Umm, isn't that exactly what the USA has done since WW2? The cultural and economic conquest of the world by the US is pretty obvious. Militarily is only slightly less obvious when one observes the plethora of American military bases around the world and the 11? floating armadas which are incredibly powerful mobile military bases.

    Besides, if you can police something, doesn't that sort of imply that you've already conquered it?

  • Re:Space Warplane? (Score:3, Informative)

    by x6060 ( 672364 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:23PM (#38611322)
    Well our technology already in space tends to be older because what the rest of the world is doing now we did 40 years ago.

If you want to put yourself on the map, publish your own map.