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NASA Space The Military United States

X-37B To Fly Again 48

schwit1 writes The May 6 Atlas 5 launch will carry one of the Air Force's two X-37B mini-shuttles on a new mission in space. "The Air Force won't yet confirm which of the Boeing-built spaceplanes will be making the voyage. The first craft returned in October from a 675-day mission in space following a 224 day trek in 2010. OTV No. 2 spent 469 days in space in 2011-2012 on its only mission so far. "The program selects the Orbital Test Vehicle for each activity based upon the experiment objectives," said Capt. Chris Hoyler, an Air Force spokesperson. "Each OTV mission builds upon previous on-orbit demonstrations and expands the test envelope of the vehicle. The test mission furthers the development of the concept of operations for reusable space vehicles." There are indications that the Air Force wants to attempt landing the shuttle at Kennedy this time.
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X-37B To Fly Again

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  • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2015 @09:49AM (#49378713) Journal

    Earth orbit: the not so final frontier
    These are the classified voyages of the X-37B
    Its two-year mission: to proxy for penis size, to consume massive wealth, and create bold new deficits, to quietly go where many have gone before.

    • These are the classified voyages of the X-37B

      Amusing that the classified DoD payloads are launched with an RD-180 engine.

    • I'd much rather have the X37-B than the F-35. It's cheaper, and accomplishes a lot more (even without knowing whatever secret squirrel missions it's actually doing) as flying boondoggles/massive gifts to defense contractors go.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 31, 2015 @09:58AM (#49378755)

    Sorry, this is way over blown as a mystery. The Air Force obviously is using this craft as a more flexible spying device. Whereas satellites generally have a pre defined orbit. I imagine the X37B can change orbit on cue and monitor hot spots around the world. I doubt highly it has any more abilities then that. Given the issues with gathering intelligence on the ground in some areas like Iran. Its no surprise that the military is looking for ways to gain access to Countries who may be more difficult to infiltrate on the ground. The X37B is a obvious choice given that it can sustain itself for a long time in space. Plus it can return to Earth to be upgraded and refreshed. Truly a spy craft that is very efficient.

    • This clunky spacebot has no style. Everybody knows that the ultimate vehicle for reentry and soft landing is shaped exactly like a 1959 Corvette.
    • by rossdee ( 243626 )

      They probably have a more modern sensor package than the spy satellites that have been up there for a few years.

    • I'm sure it's doing more than that. It has a payload bay like the space shuttle. Certainly it is doing spying, but it's very likely that it is actively testing new technology that has to make up for the loss of capability that the Space Shuttle provided. More than likely it launches micro satellites, then locates and tracks them, and finally recaptures them. It could also be launching a larger payload of some kind, then manipulating the payload with a robotic arm, etc.

      • by matfud ( 464184 )

        It was originally designed to be launched from within the space shuttles payload bay. Optical spy sats were at an optical limit a long time ago. You can't make a bigger mirror that works and can be launched. You can use Interferometry to get a better image with a wide dispersal of elements but at optical wavelengths that is very difficult and if you want to do it you do not need a reusable craft. It can maneuver but then most satellites used for earth gazing can as well (and they do not have to have the e

    • Whereas satellites generally have a pre defined orbit.

      Um.... the X-37B is a satellite.

      I imagine the X37B can change orbit on cue and monitor hot spots around the world.

      Too lazy to go look up the exact numbers, but conventional recce birds have been doing that on a regular basis since the 1970's.

  • I hope the guy who made the picture isn't in charge. I accidentally clicked on the article. That image nearly sent me in a coma.

    • by 605dave ( 722736 )

      Agreed. Government agencies have no taste in design. The Snowden leaks proved that no one with that bad of taste in Power Points should have that kind of power.

      But you have to like the red, white, and blue exhaust trail. Very patriotic.

  • Hm, only 675 days? Crichton wasn't supposed to find his way back to earth for real until the 4th season (unless you count when he accidentally showed up before he left).


  • with a targeting system and and you can vaporize a small target from space: The Crossbow project.
  • by Toad-san ( 64810 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2015 @01:34PM (#49379877)

    Just think of it. For ANYTHING to work flawlessly (I guess: it returned, didn't it?) for 675 days. Let me repeat that: Six Hundred And Seventy Five Days! Hell, my damned TV won't run that long without a reboot! Amazing, absolutely amazing. []

    Heh, I don't know why, but the nose wheel chocks just look so "normal" you know? Like it was a C-152 or something.

    Love that little bird: no drama, no fuss, no schoolteachers in space suits. Just a little spaceship that you load up on top of a Centaur, blast it into orbit, and then check on it every year or so while it does whatever it does.

    And then land, check the tire pressure, clean the windows .. no wait, it doesn't HAVE any windows! Top off the coolant .. and do it again!

    • I doubt it worked flawlessly, but certainly to get back to Earth in a servicable state has to be a major part of its success criteria. It is an amazing machine, just sad that we can't get a 'Popular Mechanics' cutaway to drool over.

      The days of human pilots are certainly numbered.

No extensible language will be universal. -- T. Cheatham