The Air Force's X-37B--its secret robotic space plane that's been orbiting the Earth on a mission shrouded in mystery for more than a year--landed safely in the wee hours Saturday morning at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Orbital Test Vehicle 2 (OTV-2) is the second X-37B test vehicle to successfully complete an orbital mission and autonomously return to Earth, following sister spacecraft OTV-1's 225-day mission in 2010.
That original mission lasted 224 days, a figure that at the time was mind-blowing for a top secret robotic spaceplane. It led to wide speculation about what the X-37B's are really capable of--the Air Force maintains that it is simply learning how to quickly recover and launch robotic spaceplanes, nothing more--as well as what their pickup-truck-sized cargo bays might be holding (the Air Force is silent on the latter point).
Regardless, OTV-2 just blew OTV-1 and even its own design parameters clean out of the water. The most recent OTV mission lasted for 469 days on orbit, more than twice the length of OTV-1's inaugural mission and surpassing its own 270-day mission profile by 199 days. So the 29-foot mini-shuttles are showing some serious promise, we're just not sure what for.
If anything, this most recent mission is proof that the Air Force is getting somewhere with its stated goal for the orbiters. With OTV-2 on the ground, OTV-1 is already being prepped for another mission slated to launch later this year. The Air Force likely won't be any more forthcoming about the payload or objectives of that mission either, but rumor has it that Boeing Phantom Works--maker of the X-37B--is exploring the possibility of building a larger version tentatively titled the X-37C that would be nearly twice as large and could carry up to six astronauts.
. . . and the tit-for-tat between the US and China continues.
This X-37B is great and I really am looking forward to the X-37C coming down the pike, hurray!
See life in all its beautiful colors, and
from different perspectives too!
@menoc...get real, china's space program would have to advance light years from where they are now to even be mentioned in the same breath with NASA, Rusaia, and the euro space program, negative cheers
and so, space became the new war zone of nations........
"You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes." -Morpheus
It's been known for years, PopSci even had an article on it years ago, that the US military has been wanting an orbital vehicle allowing them to deploy troops to anywhere on the world within minutes; instead of the hours to days it takes currently. Something like this could be prepped at all times, and then launched from a plane into orbit and land anywhere with an airport, or large enough stretch of land to act as a runway, to deploy troops or supplies. Methinks this is just a test bed for something like that.
Fellas, fellas!! this isnt HALO, there isnt an ODST segment of the military. I dont say that the X-37C will be a hit the beaches vehicle, and @Yaden, that would work but think of the cost to keep those planes in the air, and the teams prepped, and the ships ready to fly.
I say more on ICBM countermeasure platform and/or strategic high altitude bomber is a better use for the system. Think of it, skydiving Rangers in pressure suits or some kind of human-friendly artillery shell, with the high possibility of killing on impact or else a pressure leak that sprays the team's guts and brains all over the battlefield? No.
I say that if it can hold six cosmonauts, an EMP cannon or else a naval laser cannon wont be a problem, heck even just advanced communications. It swings into position faster, it's capable of exo-planetary flight, and so can have a wider AO.
We dont need a spy plane, but possibly a fighter/bomber/recon vehicle that has the ability to hit both air and space might just be what it's purpose is for.
The X-37C can carry several astronauts. It cannot attack a country and over through it.
Now we have nuclear submarines that carry US Navy Seals that can kick a lot of ass, but the purpose and design of the X-37C is to ferry astronauts, not an ass kicking vessel ok... lol.
Re: Dec 3, 2010 recovery photo. What kind of protective suits are those: BioHaz, Chemical, other?
Seeing as how the suits are pressurized and carry their own air supply, I would assume hazmat chemicals, probably used to fuel a chemical laser, as well as power advanced optics for global survey. The orbital path this thing was taking is right alongside of all those other spy sats, so this thing is probably surveying with the ability to zap objects from outer space.
As for the cargo space, I'm sure there are plenty of military hardware sats up there that need to be safely recovered. Seems to me like this vehicle would be the perfect vessel to recover dysfunctional sats carrying dangerous payloads. IMHO.
This is NOT for people. It has the capacity of a truck bed. That is like 2 or 3 people with gear MAX. That's awful expensive to send a couple guys somewhere fast. Who are they sending? Chuck Norris?
Mars, baby, they're sending em to Mars. Military advisors at first, you know the drill. Mainline troops to follow. Institute free elections ASAP, that's job one. Get that minerals concession and those 100 year leases signed by a Martian one way or another, that's job two. Setting a known work climate where anyone that talks union gets kneecapped, thus controlling the worker base, that's number three.
Maybe they have a ground penetrating radar and some new environmental distortion based stealth.
Maybe they are mounting defense countermeasures on some of our military satellites.
Whatever they are doing, it seems to be going well.
Or they could be deploying a Rods of God into orbit, you know, something REALLY big
Now that's protection. I wonder if Russia was able to follow it or if this thing was just quietly snapping Google images all around the globe with a wide assortment of video imaging soft/hard-ware.