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Boeing Suggests Possible Manned Version of the X-37B Space Plane

Unknown Lamer posted about 3 years ago | from the zoom-out-enhance-scale-up dept.

NASA 87

garymortimer writes with an article in sUAS News. From the article: "A Boeing chief has suggested that the company's mysterious unmanned space-plane, called X-37B, developed for the US Air Force, could be scaled up and modified to carry astronauts. The company's X-37B project chief Art Grantz revealed that at least two more versions of the 9-meter long space-plane are under investigation – one of which involves adding a crew to a much-enlarged version of the space drone, New Scientist reported. If built, the new version would give the US back its ability to shuttle people to the International Space Station."

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Nice one (1, Offtopic)

Dunbal (464142) | about 3 years ago | (#37682340)

Promise a manned vehicle to access a space station that is to be de-orbited in 2016-2020. So considering it's almost 2012, you now have 4 years to finish this project. Yeah right. Oh wait I see the game now. The project will be finished 6 months before the ISS is de-orbited, and so there will be calls for a new space station to give this next generation "shuttle" a reason for existing. This is better than the job creation lawyers engage in!

Re:Nice one (2)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 3 years ago | (#37682378)

There is no plans to de orbit the ISS yet there is an agreement to keep using it until 2020 but that can be extended.

Re:Nice one (1)

peragrin (659227) | about 3 years ago | (#37683326)

However if the Russians don't get soyuz working again soon the ISS will be abandoned 6 weeks from now.

Re:Nice one (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37682402)

Considering how much of the cost of the ISS comes from putting the pieces in orbit to begin with, you can be pretty sure that they won't be de-orbiting it until they have to.

Re:Nice one (1)

AlienIntelligence (1184493) | about 3 years ago | (#37690716)

Considering how much of the cost of the ISS comes from putting the pieces in orbit to begin with, you can be pretty sure that they won't be de-orbiting it until they have to.

Or 2020, whichever comes first...

http://www.dailytech.com/International+Space+Station+to+Deorbit+After+2020/article22277.htm [dailytech.com]

-AI

Re:Nice one (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37682430)

We shouldn't buy hotdog buns. There are 12 in a package but only 10 hotdogs per package.

Re:Nice one (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | about 3 years ago | (#37683500)

Weird I get my hotdogs and buns both 8 to a package. So maybe you're doing something wrong?

Re:Nice one (1)

arthurpaliden (939626) | about 3 years ago | (#37686608)

I have a package here that has 12 hotdogs in it. Must be a Canadian thing.

Re:Nice one (1)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | about 3 years ago | (#37682642)

Because MIR came down in 1999 like the original plan......... oh wait

Re:Nice one (1)

lennier1 (264730) | about 3 years ago | (#37683004)

They're Russians. If it hadn't been for us whining westerners the Russians would still be getting their money's worth out of the Mir station, simply patching it up as they go.

Re:Nice one (3, Funny)

paiute (550198) | about 3 years ago | (#37683464)

They're Russians. If it hadn't been for us whining westerners the Russians would still be getting their money's worth out of the Mir station, simply patching it up as they go.

No - because they had to go and use 10 cent pencils instead of 10 grand space pens the electronics were all filled up with graphite dust and sparking up fires every hour or so. Kind of like when the Jupiter 2 would plunge through an asteroid field. Sooner or later you run out of CO2 in the extinguishers.

Re:Nice one (2)

Martin Blank (154261) | about 3 years ago | (#37683626)

NASA bought the pens for under $3 each starting in 1968. The Russians were using exactly the same ink pens in orbit a year later at the same price.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fact-or-fiction-nasa-spen [scientificamerican.com]

Re:Nice one (1)

paiute (550198) | about 3 years ago | (#37719108)

Whooshski!

Re:Nice one (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 3 years ago | (#37683948)

No need for co2. Put on suit, open door.

Re:Nice one (1)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#37682740)

so there will be calls for a new space station to give this next generation "shuttle" a reason for existing.

Funny you should mention the OPSEK... built partially out of parts of the ISS. What happens if the russian repo man tries to remove "their" parts of the ISS to install them on the OPSEK and "we" aren't ready to deorbit the ISS? This will be interesting...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OPSEK [wikipedia.org]

Re:Nice one (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37683210)

From the link:

According to the Russian manned spaceflight contractor RKK Energia, the new station must be able to perform the following tasks:[3]

        Large spacecraft assembly
        Flight tests and launches
        Creating, servicing and completing inter-orbital tugs
        Providing medical and biological conditions required for the rehabilitation of inter-planetary expedition crews after their return to Earth orbit.

Interesting indeed.

And they plan to launch it with which... (0)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 3 years ago | (#37682408)

And they plan to launch it with which man-rated rocket?

Re:And they plan to launch it with which... (1)

idontgno (624372) | about 3 years ago | (#37682494)

This one [wikipedia.org] . Assuming the gov goes through with funding the human-rating process and any engineering changes needed. I guess some seed money has already gone to ULA to kickstart the process.

SpaceX diversion (5, Insightful)

mbkennel (97636) | about 3 years ago | (#37682536)

The whole point of this ploy is to distract from the much more efficient and low cost SpaceX system.

The primary competency of the United Launch Alliance group is managing government procurement, secrecy regulations, and Congressional politics.

The primary competency of SpaceX is cost-efficient rocket engineering.

Re:SpaceX diversion (2)

doug (926) | about 3 years ago | (#37683132)

Don't care. This won't stop SpaceX. And who knows, maybe it will turn out to be a viable launch system. I don't care much about who is behind these systems, as long as we get something that enables manned space flight. And I would prefer competition to a single source.

Re:SpaceX diversion (2)

khallow (566160) | about 3 years ago | (#37683262)

I agree with doug [slashdot.org] . Either it's a distraction and will go down in flames, or a real competitor. The former can be ignored and the latter helps keep SpaceX straight.

Re:SpaceX diversion (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37686626)

SpaceX doesn't make reusable craft, they make rockets. Yeah, they're working on one but it hasn't been proven yet. They got a mocked up Dragon to fly but they didn't test it with humans yet and they're two years off from trying.

Whereas, Virgin Galactic is funding Burt Rutan and does. However, they have been having trouble replicating their earlier successes. And, in fact, one of the customers who ponied up money to Virgin for a space flight asked for a refund because they've failed to deliver on their promised deadlines.

Yea, Boeing is a huge lumbering beast that wastes your money, but they always deliver successes on a deadline. And, you can be guaranteed of quality engineering that you can bet your life on.

Just saying.

Re:And they plan to launch it with which... (1)

idontgno (624372) | about 3 years ago | (#37682562)

And a few moments of Google-fu yields this article [universetoday.com] about man-rating the proposed LV for the X-37C platform.

Re:And they plan to launch it with which... (-1)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 3 years ago | (#37683662)

I have a bigger question....who cares? Have anybody seen the latest tests between the F15,F16,F18,F22,F35, and the Russian MiG29, MiG31, and the Su series? Hint: We just got our asses kicked pal! Our planes are too damned expensive (so we can field less of them, like Germany in the 40s) need too much maintenance to keep them flying (Germany again) only unlike Germany who had superior planes ours aren't even worth a shit! I love this quote about the money pit known as the F35: "Compared to the Russian Su series it isn't even a contest. it can't outrun, can't outgun, can't out maneuver the Su in a fight. in every single test the F35 came out short.".

And now the Russians are selling these bad boys to anybody with cash, and honestly? they are damned cheap. I believe it is less than 50 million fly away for the MiG and less than 40 million for the latest Su. So we WILL be facing these planes in the future, the middle east is gonna be overflowing with them. No matter how skilled our pilots are they simply can't win if their plane is underpowered, underperforming, and there isn't enough of them to go around.

We really need to quit worrying about space and fix our POS aircraft fleet ASAP. Here we are building new aircraft carriers when the only planes we have to put on them are 1970s era aircraft that will frankly be blown out of the sky if they go against anything newer. It reminds me of Japan in WWII, where they cranked out aircraft carriers only to put Kate and Zero aircraft on them that had already been so badly stomped by the Wildcat and Dauntless the planes went down so fast it became turkey shoots.

Lets face it folks, if we go up against anything more modern than goat herders hiding in caves we are getting the shit kicked out of us. We need to streamline the process, toss out the old crap, and start over. Given our limited resources man rating another rocket and worrying about "Meatbags in spaaaace!" ATM is simply foolhardy. Worry about covering your ass before you deal with the vanity projects, and that is all space is right now like it or not, its a vanity project.

Re:And they plan to launch it with which... (0)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about 3 years ago | (#37683732)

I have a bigger question....who cares? Have anybody seen the latest tests between the F15,F16,F18,F22,F35, and the Russian MiG29, MiG31, and the Su series? Hint: We just got our asses kicked pal!

A link to these tests and the results would be nice.

Re:And they plan to launch it with which... (1)

Reapman (740286) | about 3 years ago | (#37684210)

Soooo I thought what you said was interesting, and I took a look around. The MiG31 is a 1975 design. The 29 was first flown in 1977. The Su series is, near as I can tell, designs based on the Sukhoi Company a major arms (warplane) builder. So saying the "SU series" is kinda dumb, since that includes designs from the 30s.....

Since you didn't bother to qualify any of your statements with anything, short of you providing proof, I'm going to have to label you troll. Nice try tho.

Re:And they plan to launch it with which... (-1, Offtopic)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 3 years ago | (#37686978)

Never hear of this thing called Google? Excuse the fuck me if I don't have time to show you how to work it. If you can't understand how though what you want is "Red Flag Russian VS F35" and you'll find it. It was done by the AU and UK who are looking into whether to continue support of the F35, and it ain't pretty.

And frankly I don't give a flying crap when their was built, all that means is we have been sucking hind tit for a hell of a lot longer. It was pointed out the latest Su fighter (I believe Su35, not sure of the Su numbering system) is less than 10 years old and has a flyaway of less than 40 million and stomps the living shit out of anything we have.

And I looove how you have the shriveled tiny balls to call someone troll without actually providing proof a single thing they said was wrong. And how about the most important point that space is NOTHING but a vanity project and has been since it was USSR VS USA? Manned space flight into LEO is nothing but a giant fucking money sink, and with THREE wars we simply don't have the money to waste, kay?

I just love how this place has become nothing but a space and FOSSie circlejerk while ignoring there is a good portion of the planet that would like it very much if we were wiped off the face of it. hell no wonder the numbers of this place is tanking and Taco left, the level of suck is getting unreal.

Re:And they plan to launch it with which... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37687048)

"Never hear of this thing called Google? "
Yeah, maybe if you read my post where I said I looked around, you could put two and two together to figure out what that meant. Apparently not.

"If you can't understand how though what you want is "Red Flag Russian VS F35""
Oh cool, I'll check that out. Of course if that was what you were talking about maybe, juuuuuuuust maybe, you should have mentioned that point somewhere? You were going on about 30 year old fighter designs and how much better they are. Here's a seemingly good article comparing a F-16 and MiG-29. http://www.aviation.ru/MiG/Fulcrum_Falcon.html From reading this it seems like the 2 are pretty evenly matched, not blown out of the sky like you make it to be. And of course, the F16 is a dated design, so I imagine stealth would be beneficial boost vs it.

By the way - typing your search term in I get this as the first result. Maybe you should check Google first? http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/the-dewline/2009/01/us-analyst-f-35-beats-russias.html - it does look like the F-35 has some concerns to address tho - maybe you could have written that instead of hurling this:

"And I looove how you have the shriveled tiny balls to call someone troll without actually providing proof a single thing they said was wrong. And how about the most important point that space is NOTHING but a vanity project and has been since it was USSR VS USA? Manned space flight into LEO is nothing but a giant fucking money sink, and with THREE wars we simply don't have the money to waste, kay?"
Actually I did provide proof, guessing you didn't read what I sent tho. We don't have the money to waste? who said I'm American? Of course if I'm so wrong, why don't you provide more "proof" then what you can manage to write - seriously, prove me wrong.

You provided opinion. It was asked you back that up. It was not provided, and you resorted to insults. So other then continuing to prove my previous points, anything else you wish to add? If not I'm done feeding ya, best let you get some sleep beneath the bridge.

Re:And they plan to launch it with which... (1)

jwilso91 (1920940) | about 3 years ago | (#37689444)

There is a lot more to combat capability than is reported on "fly-offs", and dogfighting (which is the capability demonstrated in the videos you mention - the ones I saw, anyway) is not the preferred combat regime for any fighter pilot. I greatly prefer sticking a missile up his tailpipe from the longest range possible before he knows I'm even there. For instance, of around 40 confirmed kills by U.S. aircraft in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, 29 were with the obsolete Sparrow radar-guided missile, whose minimum range is about a mile. (And some of these were MiG-29s, shot down by F-15s of even older vintage.)

The pilot is what makes an airplane a weapons system. If for some reason (money being the usual - a typical mid-career USAF combat pilot has already cost his taxpayers several million dollars in training) you don't provide your pilots with sufficent and ongoing training and flight hours, he's simply operating a target. This has been borne out in every conflict since air war began - since you mentioned it, Germany in 1944-1945 is an excellent example - flying sometimes technically more advanced airframes, they lost big time. Fuel shortage and previous casualties combined to force them to field many pilots who were woefully undertrained. And while in the modern era third-world air forces have often been willing to procure modern weapons systems, historically they have been savaged by countries with better-trained men.

I would not put too much credence in the sales literature of any aircraft manufacturer. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Argentina... all bought fighter aircraft off the marketing "glossies". The remains of their pretty airplanes dot various landscapes and sea floors.

Re:And they plan to launch it with which... (1)

phik (2368654) | about 3 years ago | (#37691948)

Never hear of this thing called Google? Excuse the fuck me if I don't have time to show you how to work it. If you can't understand how though what you want is "Red Flag Russian VS F35" and you'll find it. It was done by the AU and UK who are looking into whether to continue support of the F35, and it ain't pretty.

And frankly I don't give a flying crap when their was built, all that means is we have been sucking hind tit for a hell of a lot longer. It was pointed out the latest Su fighter (I believe Su35, not sure of the Su numbering system) is less than 10 years old and has a flyaway of less than 40 million and stomps the living shit out of anything we have.

And I looove how you have the shriveled tiny balls to call someone troll without actually providing proof a single thing they said was wrong. And how about the most important point that space is NOTHING but a vanity project and has been since it was USSR VS USA? Manned space flight into LEO is nothing but a giant fucking money sink, and with THREE wars we simply don't have the money to waste, kay?

I just love how this place has become nothing but a space and FOSSie circlejerk while ignoring there is a good portion of the planet that would like it very much if we were wiped off the face of it. hell no wonder the numbers of this place is tanking and Taco left, the level of suck is getting unreal.

They said the EXACT same thing in Korea... MiG15s and 17s were faster, better climb rate blah blah blah... yet the F-86 won 10-1! We DOMINATED in every way in supposedly inferior craft. If there is on thing the US still gets right, it's projection of air power.

Re:And they plan to launch it with which... (0)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 3 years ago | (#37695056)

There is ONE problem with your comparison...in Korea we had pilots straight off the Hornet and Yorktown, or right off of flying protection for the bombers against the BF109 against raw recruits. You look at the stats from MiG alley, where the Soviets put THEIR combat vets? you'll find the numbers are a hell of a lot closer.

The problem is that isn't the case anymore, our pilots have been dropping bombs from 35,000 feet onto goat herders. Meanwhile the Russians still make some bad ass pilots and with a pretty damned huge superiority in the quality of the fighter the less trained fighter is still gonna be deadly and our guys simply haven't been doing any air to air.

Finally you are missing the fatal difference between Korea and now and that is our planes are too expensive so THEY will have 50 or 60 Su or MiG to our 1 really expensive F35 turkey or aging rustbucket. We really have put all our eggs in one basket here, and if those results are accurate and the F35 is a shitpile we have nothing in the works to replace it so like the Brits with their latest fighter (which also turned out to be a turkey) we're just fucked.

If we really are gonna stick with what we've got we need to kill the F35, let the marines have Longbow Apache gunships instead of trying to keep the Harrier, and crank the living fuck out of the F teen series so that we can win by numerical superiority. Because as it is now we can't win on speed, firepower, maneuverability OR even on numerical superiority. We basically better stick to goat herders in caves friend, or we may get hurt.

Re:And they plan to launch it with which... (1)

Chibi Merrow (226057) | about 3 years ago | (#37716096)

Speaking as someone in the aviation industry...

You're wrong. Not 100%. You're correct that the F-35 is not the future air superiority solution (NOT that it was ever intended to be, that's the F-22). You're wrong that pushing out more older, cheaper aircraft is the solution.

We don't have to worry about our F-35s being outnumbered 50-to-1 by MiGs.

The MiGs have to worry about being outnumbered 100-to-1 by cheap throwaway drones armed with missiles.

That's the future of air combat. Of all combat, really, at this rate. Why lose millions of dollars of investment on pilot training by getting them killed when you can have people play video games safely thousands of miles away from the explosions.

Re:And they plan to launch it with which... (0)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 3 years ago | (#37720200)

Oh I agree 100% that drones should be the ultimate goal, but we don't seem to be headed that way. we really don't have any drones, either those being shown or those being shown as being in the pipe, that could really go head to head with even an F15 much less one of the new Su series or MiGs. It really doesn't help to have 1000 drones if what it ends up is another turkey shoot.

The problem IMHO again is the goat herder issue. The drones are being designed to fly over goat herders for hours on end and drones simply aren't really being built for power and speed and combat effectiveness. We have let the MIC become this bloated pile of shit that is more concerned with filling their pockets and maximizing profits than with making sure we can rule the skies.

If it were me I'd kill the new Ford AC if it can't get done in a year, kill any new carriers, and start designing a drone carrier of the future. Also kill the F35 (any way you look at it like the F22 it is simply too expensive for too little performance) and be spending that money instead not only on the most cutting edge air superiority drones we can come up with but also work our asses off on ground to air missile defense to make sure if our enemies DO end up with much better fighters they simply won't be able to capitalize by using them to rule the skies.

But I just don't see any of this coming about, because both the USAF wants to continue like it is 1975 and because the MIC makes out hand over fist by stretching these projects out to infinity and cranking up the cost overruns. It is inefficient, wasteful, and in the end business as usual simply isn't gonna work with the battlefield of tomorrow. Again our current situation reminds me of the Axis at the start of WWII. they had gotten complacent fighting technologically inferior enemies or enemies with simply not enough resources to fight back (like the Japs in China, or the Germans with Poland and France) and all it is gonna take is a lean and mean enemy that doesn't play the game as we think it ought to be played to hand us a good old fashioned ass whooping.

Again look att WWII, specifically the start. The Wildcat couldn't turn like the Zero, and it sure as hell couldn't beat it on speed, yet we dominated them almost from the start, why? Because you had American manufacturers coming from the automobile industry building "flying trucks" that were reliable as hell and took insane amounts of punishment, and you had pilots like O' Hare and Flatley taking their own time and initiative to come up with air to air tactics that maximized our strengths and minimized the aircraft's weaknesses. We just don't think "outside the box" anymore, and ultimately i think that is gonna hurt us down the line.

Re:And they plan to launch it with which... (1)

Chibi Merrow (226057) | about 3 years ago | (#37732470)

Oh I agree 100% that drones should be the ultimate goal, but we don't seem to be headed that way. we really don't have any drones, either those being shown or those being shown as being in the pipe, that could really go head to head with even an F15 much less one of the new Su series or MiGs. It really doesn't help to have 1000 drones if what it ends up is another turkey shoot.

You're really thinking about this wrong. A drone doesn't have to go head-to-head with an F15. It just doesn't. It also doesn't matter if it's a turkey shoot when the turkeys outnumber you 50-to-1 and have FREAKING MISSILES.

If it were me I'd kill the new Ford AC if it can't get done in a year, kill any new carriers, and start designing a drone carrier of the future.

We don't need a drone carrier. Deploy them via ICBM or something and treat them as disposable resources. Yes, I'm serious.

Also kill the F35 (any way you look it it like the F22 it is simply too expensive for too little performance) and be spending that money instead not only on the most cutting edge air superiority drones we can come up with but also work our asses off on ground to air missile defense to make sure if our enemies DO end up with much better fighters they simply won't be able to capitalize by using them to rule the skies.

The F-35 is not an air superiority fighter. Get that out of your head. Air defense is a secondary mission for it, just like the Falcon and Hornet.

Why have fixed SAM emplacements when you can have mobile missiles on UASes?

Again look att WWII, specifically the start. The Wildcat couldn't turn like the Zero, and it sure as hell couldn't beat it on speed, yet we dominated them almost from the start, why? Because you had American manufacturers coming from the automobile industry building "flying trucks" that were reliable as hell and took insane amounts of punishment, and you had pilots like O' Hare and Flatley taking their own time and initiative to come up with air to air tactics that maximized our strengths and minimized the aircraft's weaknesses. We just don't think "outside the box" anymore, and ultimately i think that is gonna hurt us down the line.

You criticize the existing military for not "thinking outside the box" and yet you're the one guilty of wanting to prepare to fight the last war, here. Flying trucks are not a viable design. They made sense when engagements were point blank range dogfights with .50-caliber machine guns, but now we fight with missiles. You can't build an aircraft to survive that.

Re:And they plan to launch it with which... (3, Insightful)

maroberts (15852) | about 3 years ago | (#37682526)

The X-37B is 9 meters long and fits in/on a normal rocket. I'm sure SpaceX, Boeing or ArianeSpace can lift 5 metric tonnes into space on their rockets, to name just a few. Even if a human capable X-37 is larger and doubles in weight, there's no shortage of rockets capable of punting it up there.

It would be a few years in the future in any event and some or all of the above will be regarded as 'safe' for astronauts by then.

Re:And they plan to launch it with which... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37683798)

That's fine. A human-rated rocket has to be developed regardless of the approach. This is more about whether it's better to use a cone-shaped capsule with ocean splashdown and recovery (Orion), or a winged ship made for landing on an airstrip like the shuttle and X-37B.

Obligatory (1)

bigredradio (631970) | about 3 years ago | (#37682418)

All you'd need is a targeting system with a big rotating mirror, and you'd have everything you need to vaporize a human target from space.

Re:Obligatory (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37682622)

Or make popcorn.

The first??? (1)

mrquagmire (2326560) | about 3 years ago | (#37682422)

Would this the first manned unmanned space plane?? Exciting times!

Where have I seen this before? (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | about 3 years ago | (#37682442)

And it's wings will have an 'X' formation, with laser beams that shoot out of the tips. Now, we just need to come up with a name for this thing.

Re:Where have I seen this before? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37682480)

what you are referring to sounds alot like the x wing fighter in star war

Re:Where have I seen this before? (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 3 years ago | (#37682514)

We should call it...the plus-wing fighter!

Re:Where have I seen this before? (1)

bigredradio (631970) | about 3 years ago | (#37682660)

I know, call it the Dual-Transposed V-shaped Synergistic Winged Vehicle. (DTVSWV for short)

Re:Where have I seen this before? (2)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 3 years ago | (#37683338)

The Zoomy Zappy Space Flyer!

Hurrah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37682466)

No more teachers in space. Back to soldiers in space! It's the only way to fly!

Let's try actually staying in space this time. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37682470)

All of the time and energy and money spent on this spacecraft and the space station needs to be leveraged to keep man in space to stay. Instead of discarding current platforms before there are viable replacements, lets try to actually use what we have while we have it, instead of throwing it away so we can "afford" a better one.

Re:Let's try actually staying in space this time. (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#37682832)

Instead of discarding current platforms before there are viable replacements, lets try to actually use what we have while we have it, instead of throwing it away so we can "afford" a better one.

A spacecraft you can't afford to fly is useless. You might as well tow it straight to the museum.

According to an article I read yesterday, this may be more to do with attempting to find a justification for keeping the X-37 program going when no-one seems to know what it's meant to be for. Certainly using it to go to ISS doesn't seem to make sense when you can just fly a SpaceX Dragon there instead and the X-37 suffers from many of the same safety problems as the shuttle; it still has wings that have a marked tendency to fall off in an emergency, and it still needs a precision runway landing if you don't want to die at the end of the flight.

Re:Let's try actually staying in space this time. (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 3 years ago | (#37683368)

when no-one seems to know what it's meant to be for

Well, no one that doesn't need to know. ;-) From what I've gleaned, I suspect there is a deliverable here to someone.

Re:Let's try actually staying in space this time. (1)

peragrin (659227) | about 3 years ago | (#37683394)

The wings weren't a problem for the shuttle. Take a look at all the carbon scoring on the body to realize they only replaced sections that they had to.

No the two main problems with the shuttle was the main engines had to be pulled rebuilt and tested after every flight. The second was the location of the main fuel tank.

The X37B has none of those problems. it sits atop of the main fuel tank, and only has maneuvering thrusters, no main engines that need to be repaired.

Re:Let's try actually staying in space this time. (1, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#37683480)

The wings weren't a problem for the shuttle.

Both shuttle losses were fundamentally caused by the wings falling off. A capsule could have handled the g-forces imposed on Columbia or Challenger without breaking up, whereas a relatlvely small force was enough to break the wings off of the fuselage (not to mention separate the crew compartment from the payload bay), at which point the crew were doomed. A significant portion of the shuttle ascent trajectory design was based around making sure the wings didn't fall off even in nominal flight.

The X37B has none of those problems. it sits atop of the main fuel tank, and only has maneuvering thrusters, no main engines that need to be repaired.

And the wings will probably still fall off if it separates under a high dynamic pressure due to an abort or a booster malfunction, and if that happens the crew will still die unless they have ejection seats. I've never seen a non-insane launch escape system proposed for a winged booster other than ejection seats.

Re:Let's try actually staying in space this time. (2)

khallow (566160) | about 3 years ago | (#37687312)

Both shuttle losses were fundamentally caused by the wings falling off.

Funny thing to say given that neither failed for that reason. The first failed because there was burn through on a solid rocket motor. The second failed because of ice or foam strikes on the leading edge of a wing with no effort made to ascertain whether damage to the wing had occurred. Sure a wing fell off in the second case (but not in the first case!), but it's not the cause of failure.

Re:Let's try actually staying in space this time. (1)

rmstar (114746) | about 3 years ago | (#37683546)

No the two main problems with the shuttle was the main engines had to be pulled rebuilt and tested after every flight.

Well, if I have my rocketry basics right, that's almost inevitable. Getting a reasonable amount of thrust from a rocket engine invariably means subjecting it to strong thermal and mechanical stresses. There aren't currently any materials that can take that much abuse without wearing out fast.

The wings and the fuse and all the rest were indeed a problem with the shuttle, because they amounted to dead weight and reduced the lifting capacity by quite a bit. i think from 75 tons to something like 25.

Re:Let's try actually staying in space this time. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37684002)

The wings and the fuse and all the rest were indeed a problem with the shuttle, because they amounted to dead weight and reduced the lifting capacity by quite a bit.

Wrong the body of the shuttle generates lift so it needs less fuel to reach orbit. After the shuttle launches it performs a roll maneuver. More of the engine power is used to achieve orbital velocity and not elevation. The body of the craft creates lift. This increases the amount of mass that the shuttle can send into orbit.
http://stason.org/TULARC/science-engineering/space/53-Why-does-the-shuttle-roll-just-after-liftoff.html

Second on reentry, the wings produce a hole in plasma that can be used to communicate with satellites.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communications_blackout

The wings were a problem. (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 3 years ago | (#37683638)

The wings, as designed, were a poor choice.

The shuttle was designed to land at the Van, which is further north then Florida. In order to reach that far north they had to go with a delta wing. This meant that the wings were heaver, the flight path was steeper, and the reentry was faster.

And the shuttle never took off / landed there anyways. Sigh.

Out from behind the curtains? (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 3 years ago | (#37682532)

How likely is it that the Air Force already has this developed and is just bringing this out of the closet?

Re:Out from behind the curtains? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#37682810)

How likely is it that the Air Force already has this developed and is just bringing this out of the closet?

Define 'develop'. If you mean "here's the spacecraft, can we launch it" - not very likely.

If you mean "have some people play around with the blueprints and put some acceleration couches in it and type up a bunch of documentation" then, well, you have TFA. What the Air Force would really need is a justification for astronauts. Other than launching a few big Keyhole satellites and some Star Wars type laser tests, there isn't much for a pure AIr Force astronaut to do.

Pure AirForce? Just add hard-points :) (1)

CCTalbert (819490) | about 3 years ago | (#37683072)

Ok, maybe they have to be internal bays, but surely there's a way we can mount guns/etc. on it!

THEN it's pure AirForce! :)

Re:Pure AirForce? Just add hard-points :) (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 3 years ago | (#37683230)

Yes, they could mount weapons in the internal bays, the question is what kind of weapons, I doubt conventional.

One of the big benefits of this platform is that they can launch the twinkie, have the twinkie let loose a short term satellite, and then recover the satellite to bring back home. Excellent for short term surveillance that cannot be predicted.

Re:Out from behind the curtains? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 3 years ago | (#37682828)

What's the military use case for a manned orbiter? Not trying to be snarky, I just really can't think of one.

Re:Out from behind the curtains? (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 3 years ago | (#37682976)

Physical access to satellites.

Re:Out from behind the curtains? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#37683000)

Physical access to satellites.

Physical access to satellites in low orbit which don't have any kind of defence system and can't be moved out of the way when the other guy sees you heading toward them.

A couple of claymores on the outside of the satellite would probably be enough to kill any approaching astronaut and do enough damage that the spacecraft could no longer re-enter.

Re:Out from behind the curtains? (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 3 years ago | (#37683180)

A couple of claymores on the outside of the satellite would probably be enough

I rather doubt claymores are being attached to satellites. Now it is possible they have added some electronics to detect tampering, but even that is doubtful.

Re:Out from behind the curtains? (2)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#37683292)

I rather doubt claymores are being attached to satellites.

They will be if the USAF is sending astronauts up to grab them. Almaz had a 23mm cannon and I believe the USSR at least looked at arming their spy satellites when the USAF was talking about using the shuttle to capture them.

Re:Out from behind the curtains? (1)

Forbman (794277) | about 3 years ago | (#37684198)

And what would the claymore do to the satellite it's mounted on when it is set off? Hmm...

Re:Out from behind the curtains? (1)

robot256 (1635039) | about 3 years ago | (#37686574)

Mount one on both sides to balance the impulse!

Re:Out from behind the curtains? (1)

tsotha (720379) | about 3 years ago | (#37683284)

Physical access to satellites in low orbit which don't have any kind of defence system and can't be moved out of the way when the other guy sees you heading toward them.

Physical access to our satellites is a capability we don't have now that would be very nice to have, especially for the pricier models. Tampering with other peoples' satellites isn't a very useful mission - it's an act of war and something you wouldn't be able to hide very easily.

Re:Out from behind the curtains? (2)

luckymutt (996573) | about 3 years ago | (#37683680)

Tampering with other peoples' satellites isn't a very useful mission - it's an act of war and something you wouldn't be able to hide very easily.

And so it would be a nice capability during a war that's already underway.

Re:Out from behind the curtains? (1)

lifejunkie (785838) | about 3 years ago | (#37685564)

You could always attach explosives for later use. Perhaps undetected.

Re:Out from behind the curtains? (1)

eriqk (1902450) | about 3 years ago | (#37704982)

A couple of claymores on the outside of the satellite would probably be enough to kill any approaching astronaut and do enough damage that the spacecraft could no longer re-enter.

Really. [wikipedia.org]

Shinier toy to play with than other mil branches (1)

Leuf (918654) | about 3 years ago | (#37684408)

You didn't really think they needed a reason, did you?

Re:Out from behind the curtains? (2)

k6mfw (1182893) | about 3 years ago | (#37683184)

>How likely is it that the Air Force already has this developed and is just bringing this out of the closet?

It is a common plot beginning with the 1969 movie "Marooned" and on through the Bruce Willis movie where him and his guys saved earth from a renegade asteroid. Both (and other movies) used same plot where NASA is in a pickle but the moment was saved because the USAF had a secret spaceship.

In some ways this is not new, Air Force been working on manned space planes before most of you /. were born. i.e. X-20 Dyna-Soar, and excellent book with lotsa technical stuff (and reprints of advertisements by Boeing, Grumman, etc) is "Dyna-Soar: Hypersonic Strategic Weapons System" by Robert Godwin. It even comes with a DVD with various footage including public affairs of a general introducing the X20 astronauts and describing how the program will give USAF capabilities in space. http://www.amazon.com/Dyna-Soar-Hypersonic-Strategic-Weapons-System/dp/1896522955/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318364033&sr=8-1 [amazon.com]

X-20 was cancelled in 1963, I wonder if the big barrier was reusable TPS? TPS of the Shuttle was a considerable success (other materials would have been heavy reducing payload capacity), see "Orbiter Structure + Thermal Protection System" by Tom Moser http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2jN_26m8LM [youtube.com]

if (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37682572)

If it can drop bigger bombs and kill more people, you will get funding.

It is possible to man-rate a new vehicle (1)

nothousebroken (2481470) | about 3 years ago | (#37682804)

"Boeing knows its stuff on crew rating - its spaceflight pedigree stretches back to the Apollo moonshot capsules." Do they? All the folks that worked on Apollo and the Shuttle are probably long gone. Nobody in the U.S. has designed a new man-rated space vehicle in 30 years. Does anybody even know what it takes to man-rate a vehicle these days. Back in the day there was a can-do attitude about space travel and a willingness to accept certain risks. I'm not sure that's true anymore. I'm not trying to be flip, and I do not mean this as a knock on Boeing. I'm just concerned. It's one thing to talk and to create budgets based on the perceived rules and requirements. But I wonder if anybody is going to be able to complete the process and get the required signatures in this political climate. I know SpaceX is on the path, but they're a long way from completion. I suppose SpaceX has a political advantage here. If things go bad, congress and NASA don't have to take the blame. They can point fingers at SpaceX and claim they were misled.

Re:It is possible to man-rate a new vehicle (0)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#37682866)

I know SpaceX is on the path, but they're a long way from completion.

Is the shuttle man-rated? Because I don't see why SpaceX would have a hard time making the Dragon/Falcon 9 kill the crew less than one time in sixty.

Re:It is possible to man-rate a new vehicle (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37683100)

Is the shuttle man-rated?

Not by the standards given to SpaceX. It doesn't have an excape system.

Not the same as the shuttle. (2)

WindBourne (631190) | about 3 years ago | (#37682884)

Basically, it is a can that is carried in the 'cargo bay'. With the shuttle, you had two different areas. This is actually a better design from a functional POV. One craft that can carry different types of cargo.

Good (1)

jfengel (409917) | about 3 years ago | (#37683182)

One of the problems with the Shuttle was that it was conceived of as a "truck", with drivers shuttling cargo. The problem is that you really don't need drivers for cargo; astronauts really ARE just spam-in-a-can, as far as the carrier is concerned.

Trying to carry both humans AND cargo made the design harder (and heavier) than it needed to be. A ship that carries one or the other makes both safer. This works very well for the Russians, who can just park whatever they want on top of a disposable rocket.

Re:Good (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | about 3 years ago | (#37683390)

EXACTLY. This is why Falcon/Falcon Heavy/Dragon is an amazing efficient model. Fully reusable, and can be for cargo or humans, you just swap the top out with the rest down being the same (for the most part) lifter.

Re:Good (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 3 years ago | (#37686622)

This works very well for the Russians, who can just park whatever they want on top of a disposable rocket.

Not necessarily. [pbs.org]

I tend to agree, though. Part of the issue with the Shuttle was that NASA was doing an accounting trick. The idea was that lots of companies want to put up satellites, so NASA would take them up for cheap and drop them off while we're up there. Since the Shuttle is going up anyway, if they can charge some money to defer the cost, that makes manned spaceflight cheaper.

SUSTAIN and commercial? (1)

J05H (5625) | about 3 years ago | (#37683386)

This could become the SUSTAIN platform the USMC has asked for. Spacedrop a squad of Marines anywhere in the world within 40 minutes. The main question though is whether the crewed X37 will include commercial access or is this military only?

Re:SUSTAIN and commercial? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#37683542)

This could become the SUSTAIN platform the USMC has asked for. Spacedrop a squad of Marines anywhere in the world within 40 minutes. The main question though is whether the crewed X37 will include commercial access or is this military only?

Sure. As long as your missions are limited to places with a 12000 foot runway that happens to be located right next to whatever the squad of Marines was supposed to invade / explode / save.

Re:SUSTAIN and commercial? (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 3 years ago | (#37685704)

I love living in the future.

In Soviet Russia (1)

Roachie (2180772) | about 3 years ago | (#37683442)

Space plane go... never come back!

Re:In Soviet Russia (1)

Seggybop (835060) | about 3 years ago | (#37684410)

russia was actually first to successfully develop, launch, and recover an unmanned spaceplane 20 years ago.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buran_(spacecraft) [wikipedia.org]

Is this real or just a FUD announcement? (1)

ShadoCat (667030) | about 3 years ago | (#37683788)

This seems like a good carrot to dangle to keep NASA from giving missions to smaller companies like SpaceX.

In Capitalist USA - Soviet Russia launches you! (2)

fantomas (94850) | about 3 years ago | (#37684806)

Would be good to have the USA back in the list of countries capable of launching its own astronauts for sure, the more countries the merrier. Also would be great to see some of the private concerns in the USA successfully launching man-capable spacecraft.

Why scale it up? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37686430)

Why not just build more of them. If all you want to do is get people into space, you only need pilot plus one. Smaller rockets are easier, though more wasteful. However, a fleet is far more inspiring and will have far greater economies of scale than a handfull of expensive shuttles.

Aim for a launch schedule of one per month. Get to it!

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