Secretive X-37B Space Plane Launches on New Mystery Mission
By Mike Wall | Space.com
After being delayed a day by bad weather, the U.S. Air Force’s second X-37B robotic space plane blasted off from Florida this afternoon (March 5) on a mystery mission shrouded in secrecy.
The Air Force’s second X-37B space plane soars toward space atop an Atlas 5 rocket after launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on March 5, 2011.
CREDIT: United Launch Alliance
The unmanned X-37B mini-shuttle — known as Orbital Test Vehicle 2 (OTV-2) — took to the skies from Cape Canaveral at 5:46 p.m. EST (2246 GMT) today, tucked away in the nose cone atop a huge Atlas 5 rocket.
"Liftoff of the Atlas 5 rocket and the second experimental X-37B, America’s miniature military space shuttle," the Air Force Space Command wrote in a Twitter post as the Atlas 5 streaked into the Florida skies.
The space plane was originally scheduled to launch yesterday, but cloudy, windy conditions scrubbed two attempts. And a technical glitch caused the X-37B to miss a launch window earlier this afternoon; a faulty valve had to be replaced in a last-minute repair.
The X-37B’s mission is classified, but Air Force officials have said the vehicle will be used to test out new spacecraft technologies. Shortly after launch, the mission went into a scheduled media blackout, with no futher public updates.
Today’s launch marks the start of the X-37B program’s second space mission. The Air Force’s other X-37B plane, known as OTV-1, returned to Earth in December 2010 after a similarly mysterious seven-month maiden mission.
The X-37B spacecraft looks a bit like NASA’s space shuttles, only much smaller. The vehicle is about 29 feet long by 15 feet wide (8.8 by 4.5 meters), with a payload bay about the size of a pickup truck bed. By comparison, two entire X-37Bs could fit inside the payload bay of a space shuttle.
The space plane, built by Boeing for the U.S. military, can fly long, extended missions because of its solar array power system, which allows it to stay in orbit for up to nine months, Air Force officials have said.
What exactly the vehicle does while circling the Earth for so long is a mystery, since the craft’s payloads and missions are classified. Partly as a result of the secrecy, some concern has been raised — particularly by Russia and China — that the X-37B is a space weapon of some sort.
But the Air Force has repeatedly denied that charge, claiming that the X-37B’s chief task is testing out new hardware for future satellites — instruments like sensors and guidance, control and navigation systems. And that’s likely to be the case, experts say.
"It gives the Air Force the ability to test-fly some of this hardware," said Brian Weeden, a former Air Force orbital analyst who works as a technical adviser for the nonprofit Secure World Foundation.
Weeden suspects the X-37B is testing gear for the National Reconnaissance Office, the intelligence agency that builds and operates the U.S.’s spy satellites. That would explain all the secrecy, he said.
CREDIT: Karl Tate, SPACE.com
Second mission for the X-37B
The Air Force’s other X-37B, known as OTV-1, launched last April and returned in December after spending 224 days in space. While its mission was also classified, technology-testing was OTV-1’s primary job, too, Air Force officials have said.
And things presumably went well, experts say, or the Air Force wouldn’t be launching the craft’s twin a few short months later.
While the X-37B is likely trying out new hardware, the vehicle itself is experimental — hence the "X" designation — so these flights should also help the Air Force assess the space plane as well as its payload.
"Part of its mission is to test out reusable technologies and to see how quickly they can turn around these vehicles and launch them again," Weeden said.
Boeing’s Space and Intelligence Systems division builds the X-37B for the Air Force. Originally, NASA used the space plane as an experimental test bed until funding for the project ran out in 2004.
The vehicle then passed to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and was ultimately turned over to the Air Force in 2006.
Article from: space.com
China’s Secret Satellite Rendezvous ‘Suggestive of a Military Program’
Germany and US developing secret satellite
Australia and US sign secret satellite spy deal (Video)
Big Ears: ’Largest’ secret spy hub uncovered in Israel
The TR-3B secret Aurora Triangle UFO (Video)
NASA sells shuttle PCs without wiping secret data
Secretive X-37B Robot Space Plane Returns to Earth on Autopilot - What was the Mission?
What Kind Of Top-Secret Assassination Tech Does $58 Billion Buy?
Russian Scholar Warns Of ’Secret’ U.S. Climate Change Weapon
Latest News from our Front Page
Increased tax subsidies for politically correct media
On Dec 9 last year I translated a random snapshot of the biggest newspaper in Sweden. The headlines alone spoke for themselves. It was, simply put, an orgy of political correctness, obvious attempts at emotional manipulation and general national self-loathing. In other words, a typical Swedish newspaper on any given day.
As more and more readers are waking up to the ...
When obeying the law and supporting yourself is racist
There is a huge scandal in the municipality of Ă„lmhult in Sweden. It has been revealed that there is a letter that may have been sent from the municipality offices to newly arrived immigrants informing them that the law applies to them and that theyâ€™re expected to eventually go off the dole and start pulling their own weight in society.
New political weapon: Threat to unleash immigrant invasion
Youtube description: Threatening to bombard a country with illegal immigrants has become quite the bargaining chip in political quarrels, as Polly Boiko explains.
Editors Note: Notice how the argument is twisted around at the end of the report. The word "Bogeyman" is used. This is a common allusion to a mythical creature. What is mythical about replacement immigration into Europe? ...
Facebook completes first drone flight above UK, Mark Zuckerberg confirms
Solar powered drones which provide internet access to rural and remote areas have been trialled in UK for first time by Facebook.
They â€śhave a wingspan greater than a Boeing 737 but will weigh less than a carâ€ť, according to the social network's chief Mark Zuckerberg.
The drones, developed by Somerset-based company Ascenta which Facebook bought last March, will beam down laser-guided ...
300 Young English Girls (and a few Boys) Groomed and Assaulted by Oxfordshire "Gangs," Report Finds
Editor's note: This story is a few days old now but the echoes of Rotherham just keeps coming. A few weeks ago there was Halifax, now Britain proudly can add Oxfordshire to their line up of diversity success stories.
Below is the story from the telegraph:
Serious case review finds failings by police and social services as it identifies hundreds of victims
|More News » |