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X-37B Space Plane Marks One Year In Space

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the retrofitted-with-lasers dept.

NASA 75

S810 writes with an excerpt from an article on the X-37B in at Discovery News: "The military won't say what it has been doing with its experimental miniature space shuttle, but the pilotless spaceship, known as the X-37B, has been in orbit for a year now. The 29-foot robotic spacecraft, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle, or OTV, was launched on March 5, 2011, on a follow-up flight to extend capabilities demonstrated by a sister ship during a 244-day debut mission in 2010. 'We are very pleased with the results of ongoing X-37B experiments,' Tom McIntyre, with the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office..."

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75 comments

It's harmless. Watch TV. (4, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39267357)

You guys are paranoid. Without a tracking mirror they could never even aim a laser from space, much less use it to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists and start World War III.

Hey, did you guys hear that a new season of "The Real Housewives of Miami" started last week? We should all watch it and talk about that. How about that Adriana, huh?

Re:It's harmless. Watch TV. (-1, Troll)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#39267379)

Trolls. I hear they mostly post at night. Mostly.

Re:It's harmless. Watch TV. (3, Funny)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 2 years ago | (#39268067)

You should know, he's from the US Department of Defense, Social Disinformation Division. It's how the government misdirects you from important things like the fact that they have an on demand weapons deployment system still in orbit. An ICBM that they can launch any time, and drop anywhere within 90 minutes, with no possibility of traditional launch detection.

    They start planting little seeds of doubt here and there, so you'll begin to accept the fact that everything our government does is perfectly harmless ... and ... hey, check out Adriana [google.com] . What channel was that? Do I have time to run to McDonalds to get a extramegasupersize BigMac meal with a double side of carcinogens? Oh, I don't subscribe to that channel? Sign me up! Extra FCC fees? No problem.. I need my Adriana..

    Wait.. what? ... oh shit, they're in my mind ... Vote Republican ... Happily pay the tax man ... Live the American dream of taxation with no representation.

Re:It's harmless. Watch TV. (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39268101)

"and drop anywhere within 90 minutes"

oh, thats much better then the 27 minute from launch to arrival from the midwest. Less for some Nuclear capable Sub weapons.

Re:It's harmless. Watch TV. (4, Interesting)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 2 years ago | (#39268569)

    Well, if it has the same speed of a shuttle, a full orbit is 90 minutes.

    27 minutes from launch to impact depends on being able to detect the launch. With no launch detection, because it's just dropped, means they have to hope to pick up a 2m x 1m deorbiting.

    Look for "hypervelocity rod bundles", and "Project Thor". This appears to be the initial implementation of that project.

    Officially, we've agreed to not weaponize space. I'd be willing to be they'd say "It's not space, it's a high altitude aircraft."

Re:It's harmless. Watch TV. (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39268751)

If launch detection n is a concern, we have better stealth capabilities. We have a plan that can deploy bombs at supersonic speeds, and stealth. Not that it matter. What happen after it detonates? every country will know, and there would be serious issues.
so, again, putting weapons in space is stupid. You can't maintain it, you don't have complete control over it, and if it deorbits you have a political and military nightmare.
Plus it's not large enough to hit all the enemies launch capabilities. SO they will still retaliate.

A don't even pretend to lecture me on Project Thor. which, by the way, would be 6.1 meters long, not 2 meters.
And a 2 meters, even if it was lead, would be about 225Kg worth of energy. And you would only have a few of them. Awfully expensive.

Re:It's harmless. Watch TV. (3, Insightful)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 2 years ago | (#39269567)

    Simple answer for your complex question. "X-37C or X-37D".

    It wouldn't necessarily *have* to be a kinetic weapon, that was just an example. How about a titanium cased nuclear warhead? What about, the contents of a XM1028 would make a pretty nasty impression on a populated area. Titanium rain, falling at Mach 10 doesn't sound like somewhere I'd want to be standing.

    Not all strategic strikes are made to level an entire country. Sometimes you just need to put a meteorite through the bedroom of a world leader.

    Snipers can be captured, and interrogated. A piece of rebar in the destroyed floor of a room is just another piece of rebar.

    Remember, humans are really great at one thing, finding new ways to kill each other. I have no reason to believe the agency who owns the biggest weapon in the world would be doing something secretively for a humanitarian mission. That kind of conflicts with their job description.

Re:It's harmless. Watch TV. (1)

cavreader (1903280) | more than 2 years ago | (#39270841)

A kinetic weapon would be the best option because it would eliminate any radiation hazards after a nuclear strike. It would also be cheaper.

Re:It's harmless. Watch TV. (3, Insightful)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 2 years ago | (#39271777)

A piece of rebar in the destroyed floor of a room is just another piece of rebar.

I'm sure a piece of metal dropped from orbit would have some identifying characteristics due to the forces that would act upon it during transit and impact.

Re:It's harmless. Watch TV. (0)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 2 years ago | (#39271969)

    The question would be, would anyone look for that? Consider the crime scene. El Presidente's bedroom. Witnesses heard a loud explosion. There may or may not have been witnesses who saw a light moments before impact.

    Inspection of the room would show damage from an explosion. I haven't worked with objects smacking into each other at mach 10, so I don't know what kind of heat energy would be released. It's likely some would. At very least, the rod would likely be hot, and potentially catch objects around it on fire.

    If the rod were stuffed with thermite, that could help with the effect. There would be a crater, that would be consistent with an explosion. They wouldn't even need a detonator, if they built it right. The heat from entering the atmosphere could likely ignite it. Alternatively, a glass vile on top with separate parts of ... well, I won't make this any more of a cookbook than necessary ... would shatter on impact, and in a short while start combustion. All you'd have is some molten metal by the time crime scene investigators got to it.

    What's easier to believe? That someone got a bomb into the building, that someone shot a rocket at the building, or that self destructing rods was launched from orbit to destroy the building?

    And I still wonder why the DoD hasn't hired me. :)

Re:It's harmless. Watch TV. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39334439)

You're too fond of vile glassware.
Oh, and you talk too much.

Re:It's harmless. Watch TV. (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 2 years ago | (#39346171)

    Nah, it's not the talking. I talk more shit than facts. Those attempting to filter the difference will find a wealth of useless trivia and a lot of entertainment, or end up with a massive headache. .. and vile glassware is no where near as much fun as dry ice bullets. :)

Re:It's harmless. Watch TV. (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39273701)

It seems unlikely they would be stupid enough to put weapons up there. China and Russia would not be happy, and China has already demonstrated the ability to shoot down satellites at will. It would break several treaties and start a new cold war.

More likely it is a complex spying system that for some reason needs to return to earth when it is done. Either that or a system designed to intercept satellites in-orbit.

Re:It's harmless. Watch TV. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39275527)

a system designed to intercept satellites in-orbit

You've seen too much James Bond. Me too.

Re:It's harmless. Watch TV. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39273867)

I have no reason to believe the agency who owns the biggest weapon in the world...

You mean Russia [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:It's harmless. Watch TV. (4, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39268891)

27 minutes from launch to impact depends on being able to detect the launch.

Actually it turns out that it takes an ICBM 27 minutes from launch to impact regardless of whether anyone detects the launch! Amazing, I know.

This appears to be the initial implementation of that project.

Uh, no it doesn't. This would be a terrible way to get large masses into orbit.

If you're going to be paranoid -- an endeavor I fully support -- then at least do it right. You should be looking at any of the many shuttle and other heavy-lift rocket launches carrying spy satellites from the last 40 years, any of which could have been carrying a payload of tungsten rods.

Re:It's harmless. Watch TV. (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 2 years ago | (#39269295)

    For arguments sake, you have an early warning of 27 minutes from launch to impact, if you detected the launch.

    If you didn't, but you spotted it at the apogee, then you have roughly half the time.

    And if you didn't detect the launch nor approach, your early warning time could be damned close to 0.

    As the package isn't all that big, it may register as a flash on someone's radar.

    Early warning is all about getting the target out of the way of the weapon, and returning the favor. During the Cold War, we had mutually assured destruction. If someone launches at us, we launch at them. We are also getting our "important" people out of the target zone. How politicians make the list of "important" people is still beyond me.

    And I will agree, there's likely questionable things on quite a few objects we've put into orbit over the years on "top secret" flights. Spy gear has generally been more useful than weapons we may never use. Now, having the DoD with their own private shuttles becomes a bigger concern.

    If the US DoD were to stage troops and/or weapons at any countries border, that would be indicative of a plan for near future action. Having a fighter jet fly over is a hostile act. So the only difference between the X-37B fly over, and F-15 fly over during the Cold War was, you know what the F-15 is capable of.

    If we're lucky, it will be a DoD sponsored replacement for the shuttle, to efficiently move crew to and from the ISS. That's one of the suggested purposes for the X-37C. Who knows if that will happen though.
   

Re:It's harmless. Watch TV. (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275263)

The 27 minutes was in comparison to the 90 minutes of the X37B to orbit the earth you were saying was an advantage.

As far as detection -- the X37B's orbit is already known to amateur stargazers. If hostilities were possible, then you can be assured it would be tracked continuously for any sign of it releasing ordinance -- assuming it isn't already, which I'm not inclined to do.

For difficulty of detection and rapid-strike capability, nuclear submarines have been filling that role far more effectively than anything in orbit could for decades. Nuclear submarines provide a nearly unassailable second-strike capability, ensuring that we still have MAD.

Nearly everything one would want to nuke isn't prone to moving, anyway. The importance of speed isn't to make sure the target is still there but to prevent second-strike capability... which as I already said can't be done if the enemy has submarines. Yes politicians who voted themselves "important" can move but no politician or political leader warrants having a nuke (or equivalent kinetic device) lobbed at them. Especially because unless this is truly a surprise attack completely out of the blue, you should assume they have already been moved to a secure location.

Basically there's no basis for your paranoia focusing on the X37. Anything you fear it might be used for could already be done more effectively by other means.

Re:It's harmless. Watch TV. (3, Insightful)

hlavac (914630) | more than 2 years ago | (#39273067)

"Just drop"? One does not simply drop things from orbit... they keep orbiting. You need a big delta V, which means turning on engines, which means detected... probably harder to drop stuff from orbit than just lob it from surface!

Re:It's harmless. Watch TV. (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275165)

I wonder if it would be possible to mechanically eject your payload in the right direction, pushing your spaceplane into a higher orbit, and your payload into a lower orbit that will eventually decay....

Probably difficult to generate enough force to make that happen, or to accurately predict where it'd come down.

That was like Real Genius, without the funny (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39267419)

Try to bring the funny next time.

Re:That was like Real Genius, without the funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39271597)

Try to bring your mother next time.

I look forward to reding the details (4, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39267455)

on wkileaks~

Re:I look forward to reding the details (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39268121)

Not saying this is what they're doing, but if I were a space-faring country I'd launch junk into space all the time and not release any details just to freak everybody out. That way I could pretend to be the most technologically advanced even though the jerks holding the purse strings keep tightening them.

Re:I look forward to reding the details (1)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 2 years ago | (#39268683)

You're confusing NASA with DoD. This is a DoD project as of 2004, so there are no tightening of the purse strings at all.

Re:I look forward to reding the details (2)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 2 years ago | (#39269819)

It's been notorious in the aerospace industry for decades that the best way to get classified information is to read Aviation Week and Space Technology.

Questions (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39267573)

* Any speculation on the amount of payload it can take up? Could people go up?
* Any speculation on the cost of the plane itself?
* The cost of a launch?
* Is it reusable?

In short, would it be a replacement, if only partially, for the Space Shuttle?

Re:Questions (5, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 2 years ago | (#39267915)

1. No idea, payload bay is 2.1 × 1.2 m and its launch weight is 5000 kg
2. Hundreds of millions to billions - "Details on the funding level remain within the Air Force's classified budget request"
3. Launch vehicle is an Atlas V (~$13,000 per kg to LEO - $65 million per launch)
4. Yes, supposedly, OTV-1 came back, has not launched again yet, OTV-2 is still up there

http://www.space.com/8239-details-secretive-37b-space-plane-revealed.html [space.com]

Re:Questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39268033)

Thanks. I am original coward.

Re:Questions (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#39268065)

... payload bay is 2.1 x 1.2 m ...

So a modern satellite reconnaissance camera/sensor package is about 2x1m?

Re:Questions (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 2 years ago | (#39268209)

Yep, that or the hardware to leech off Russia, French, Israeli and Chinese recce satellites is 2 x 1m now.

Re:Questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39269013)

Do your homework. What sort of aperture can you get with that payload? That will tell you if it's a camera, radar or something else.

Re:Questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39271617)

Do your homework. What sort of aperture can you get with that payload? That will tell you if it's a camera, radar or something else.

Since the device probably pivots to point the tail end outside, I'd say something approaching 0.8 m.

Re:Questions (1)

cavreader (1903280) | more than 2 years ago | (#39269427)

It is re-usable and they are working on a manned version. A lot of the tech involved in it's creation was gathered from the original shuttle program. That program went on for over 20 years so it provides a great deal of information for building future vehicles. One interesting mission for this type of craft would be attacking another countries satellites. They don't even need missiles they can just alter it's orbit. The really funny thing is how everyone has been moaning about the US giving up on their space programs.

Re:Questions (1)

wooferhound (546132) | more than 2 years ago | (#39271637)

It's not capable of Manned Spaceflight
Think of it as the UAV of Spacecraft . . .

Re:Questions (1)

cavreader (1903280) | more than 2 years ago | (#39274611)

Didn't say it was manned. I said they were working on a scaled up manned version. Working out the kinks out on the unmanned version before creating a manned version makes a lot of sense.

Control Codes (2)

ISoldat53 (977164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39267623)

Maybe they forgot the control code to bring it down.

Re:Control Codes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39268095)

The Chinese broke into the USAF just like NASA previously and stole the computer codes and changed the access code, so it is stuck there. :)

No Secret (2, Funny)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 2 years ago | (#39267635)

It is just a target drone for HHARP weapons system in Alaska.

Re:No Secret (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39268023)

is that real, or a fabricated boogieman?

No target yet (3, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#39267697)

Perhaps whatever it is designed to target doesn't need to be targeted just yet.

"In your face from outer space" - motto of the USAF Space Warfare Center

Is it just me? (4, Funny)

s.petry (762400) | more than 2 years ago | (#39267769)

I keep reading "Orbital Test Vehicle" as Orbital Testicle

Yes, just you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39267945)

Is it just me? I keep reading "Orbital Test Vehicle" as Orbital Testicle

Yes, just you. What do you think Freud would say?

Re:Yes, just you (1)

s.petry (762400) | more than 2 years ago | (#39268049)

Been a while since psych, but Hmm... "The space program is a phallic symbol"? or maybe I'm worried about my testicular

Re:Yes, just you (2)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 2 years ago | (#39268197)

    I really hope Freud would say nothing. He's been dead for 72 years. I'm fairly sure that's beyond the period for him to be a viable zombie. Well, that and the fact that he was cremated. I would think being a pile of ash would make it hard for even a zombie to say "bbrrraaiiinnnsss....."

Re:Yes, just you (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39268495)

I thought Freud would come back from the dead saying "mmmmmmmooooooooottttttttthhhhhhheeeeeeerrrrrrsssss......" :)

Re:Is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39268271)

if it's in orbit, that means it hasn't dropped yet, right?

Re:Is it just me? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39272185)

Now you're just talking bollocks.

Pilotless? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39267821)

Isn't 'unmanned' the usual way to describe a vehicle with no one on..... oh wait.

"Pilotless." I get it.

Long time to be in orbit.

Re:Pilotless? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39268045)

"Extraordinary" wouldn't you say?

It's a secret plot by NASA (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 2 years ago | (#39267955)

The secret military mission is really a cover for further NASA cutbacks. It's just cheaper to keep it up there all the time than it is to bring it down.

Re:It's a secret plot by NASA (1)

cavreader (1903280) | more than 2 years ago | (#39269469)

The surest way to get funding is working on projects that might have military uses.

Re:It's a secret plot by NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39270791)

The surest way to get funding is working on projects that might have military uses.

Like, you know, rockets? The space program, both Soviet and American, was created to research and show off military tech. If you can send a satellite up and bring it down you could just as well change the payload to a nuke and bring it down on the enemy mostly anywhere on Earth (i.e. you have an ICBM, although ICBMs do not detach the payload on orbit and so on).

Obvious (3, Funny)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 2 years ago | (#39268001)

Free parking. Little risk of theft. Makes people wonder what you're up to. Winner all around.

Re:Obvious (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 2 years ago | (#39268461)

    Ya, I guess it is safer in orbit than say in Modesto, CA (2010 highest per capita vehicle theft rate). Now I want to go steal it, just to ruin that stat. How bad would it skew the numbers, with a population of 0 and 1 theft.

Re:Obvious (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39268957)

Funny, those are the exact some advantages the guy at the Ferrari dealership pointed out when it turned out the only car in my price range was one already in space. He forgot to mention how awesome it is to own a car in space! I'm so smart.

Favorable Beach Wedding Gowns (-1, Offtopic)

huiseome123 (2589889) | more than 2 years ago | (#39269915)

Favorable Beach Wedding Gowns

Due to the popularity of destination weddings, the number of choices for your beach wedding gowns [vastwholesale.com] have grown tremendously. You can choose from very casual to as formal as you like. And there even some advantages to a dress for your beach wedding.

Beach wedding gowns that are best suited to the bride and the location need careful thought. Things need to be taken into considerations such as the humidity of the weather. Select a natural fabric such as silk which can breathe and is more comfortable. When selecting the veil to match the dress, choose a design and weight of tulle which is light and removable.

There are other things that need consideration as well other than the bridal wedding gown such as the shoes. When selecting shoes for the bride and the wedding party, they should not be too high. The humid weather can cause puffiness and swelling around the ankles. Look at delicate wedges or sandals which have wider heels.

If there is a distance your guest need to walk, having a second pair of walking shoes in a pretty bag is useful as many outdoor pavements can be in poor condition. Providing fans for the guests or recommend that they bring one if theyre to be exposed to sun or heat for any period of time is also advisable.

There is more of an option of apparel for the groom and groomsmen when selecting for a tropical wedding. Semi-formal lightweight suits with cotton shirts and stylish ties are adequate. The option should reflect the brides wedding gown and tone of the service and reception.

It's never coming back down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39279981)

Your experimental space plane is not like a woman. If it's been away for a year, face it -- it's never coming back!

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