X-37 and orbital combat


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Looks like the space marines are about to become a reality :):

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By Gordon Lubold, Staff writer / April 20, 2010

Clear, sunny skies are forecast for Cape Canaveral Wednesday, perfect weather for the launch of a new unmanned spacecraft and the dawn of an era. Just don’t expect the Air Force to tell you what that new era is.

For the first time, the service will launch the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, a brand new, unmanned spacecraft to demonstrate the military’s ability to fly into space, circle the globe for months on end, and return intact, only to fly again.

But whether the X-37 space plane is merely showing off nearly two decades of research and development or is actually a precursor to militarizing the final frontier, is far from clear since the vehicle’s payload is classified. An Air Force official won’t even say when it will return to California or where it will land. But it can “loiter” over the globe for more than nine months.

“In all honesty, we don’t know when it’s coming back,” said Gary Payton, deputy undersecretary for the Air Force’s space programs, in a conference call with reporters Tuesday.
'Weaponization' of space?

Arms control advocates say it is pretty clearly the beginning of a “weaponization of space” – precursor to a precision global strike capability that would allow the US to hover for months at a time over anywhere it chose with little anyone could do about it.

“The idea of being able to launch an unmanned research platform that can stay up there for months on end provides you with all kinds of capability, both military and civilian,” says Chris Hellman, a policy analyst with the National Priorities Project, a budget watchdog in Northampton, Mass.

He believes the fact that it is an Air Force initiative may say something about what it will ultimately used to do. And that may not sit well with others. “I can see where the prospect of having half a dozen of these things with unknown payloads circling overhead could be very troubling to people,” Mr. Hellman says.

What the Air Force will say is that the X-37 will demonstrate “various experiments” and allow “satellite sensors, subsystems, components, and associated technology” to be transported into space and back. Officials say the vehicle could change the way the service operates by making space operations more “aircraft like” with a vehicle like the X-37 able to take off and later land and then fly again.

When it returns, scientists will determine how many of its components survived the flight and how long it will take to get the craft back into the air. The shorter the turnaround time, the better, since that would mean fewer X-37s would have to be built, regardless of its ultimate mission.

If it takes a long time to get the bird back in the air, “it will make this vehicle less attractive to us in the future,” Mr. Payton said.
Many unknowns, including ultimate mission

Still, there are many unknowns. And analysts who typically know about such things are left to shrug.

“There does not seem to be a publicly acknowledged capability that this thing will lead to,” says John Pike, director of globalsecurity.org, a national security research organization in Alexandria, Va. “If taken at face value, it seems to be simply to satisfy the idle curiosity of the scientific community.”

Mr. Pike believes one of the inherent values of the X-37 could be as a maneuverable satellite which could be used to look over China's shoulder one day, yet evade any attempts to shoot it down.

On the other hand, says Pike, it could amount to nothing more than “recreational engineering,” borrowing a term from the magazine Scientific American. “What’s a few hundred million dollars between friends?”

Whatever it is or represents, the Air Force likes it. Air Force officials say they are already building another X-37 spacecraft that it hopes to fly by 2011.
Keep in mind that this is a project under the supervision of the United States Airforce, not NASA. The articles seems to indicate that it is nothing more than a glorified surveillance satellite. The question is whether the Airforce is satisfied with the X-37's current role or will it expand its capabilities (like orbital sabotage perhaps :D)?


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This is the first baby step in weaponisation of space. You can bet your house other powers are not going to be sitting idle watching USAF do this and not developing a response...


Tyrant King
This is not the First step, the first was the Chinese and American Satellite shoot downs.

In terms of Use this is a poor option for surveillance or attack; as it still relies on a Atlas V rocket that means weeks of prep work for a launch. so unless we want too wait weeks before action those are out of the picture It's just not feasible in those roles at best it is just a demonstrator a proof of concept vehicle that could lend data too both Nasa and the Air force for a new launch vehicle and for the record both the American And Russian Space shuttle Programs did ( in the case of the American) and were intended for the launch of Spy satellites.


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Congrates to the United States Airforce on a successful launch:

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United Launch Alliance confirmed that the X-37 Orbital Test Vehicle was successfully launched at 4:52 p.m. Pacific time Thursday.

But many online viewers encountered a live webcast that was slow to upload during the launch. ULA spokesman Michael Rein said this might have had to do with the increased interest in the mission, which is “a lot more than the norm.”

Viewers did not get to see the X-37 separate from the Atlas V rocket. At the request of the U.S. Air Force, streaming video cut out 17 minutes after the rocket took off.

-- W.J. Hennigan


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CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - A miniature robotic space shuttle wrapped up a 224-day classified military mission and made an unannounced landing in darkness on a California runway on Friday, Air Force officials said.

The Orbital Test Vehicle, or X-37B, touched down at 1:16 a.m. PST at Vandenberg Air Force Base, becoming the first U.S. spaceship to land itself on a runaway.

The former Soviet Union's Buran space shuttle accomplished a similar feat in 1988.

"We are very pleased that the program completed all the on-orbit objectives for the first mission," program manager Lt. Col. Troy Giese said in a statement.

The project, which was started by NASA in the late 1990s and later adopted by the military, is intended to test technologies for a next-generational space shuttle.

Rather than carry people, however, the military is looking at the spaceplane as a way to test new equipment, sensors and material in space, with the intention of incorporating successful technologies into satellites and other operational systems.

Another key point of the project is to see if the costs and turnaround time between flights can be reduced from months to days.

The Air Force imposed a news blackout on the X-37B's activities while in orbit, though it was tracked by amateur satellite-watchers throughout its nine-month mission.

The X-37B looks like a space shuttle orbiter, but is smaller, with a similar shape and payload bay for cargo and experiments. But it measures 29 feet, 3 inches in length and has a 15-foot (4.5-metres) wing span, compared to the 122-foot (37-metres) orbiters with wing spans of 78 feet.

Unlike NASA's space shuttles which can stay in orbit about two weeks, X-37B is designed to spend as long as nine months in space, then land itself on a runway.

The Air Force plans to fly its second X-37B vehicle this spring. The spaceplanes were built by Boeing's advanced research lab, Phantom Works.

bd popeye

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Here's some pics..

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This image provided by Vandenberg Air Force Base shows the
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unmanned spaceplane shortly after landing Friday Dec. 3, 2010 at Vandenberg Air Force Base,
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. The X-37B slipped out of orbit and landed after a successful maiden flight that lasted more than seven months, the Air Force said.

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Technicians conduct post-landing operations on the
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Orbital Test Vehicle at Vandenberg Air Force Base,
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in this U.S. Air Force handout photo dated December 3, 2010. The first unmanned re-entry spacecraft, which spent 220 days during its first mission, landed at the base early Friday morning.

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The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle sits on the runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Dec. 3, 2010, during post-landing operations. Personnel in self-contained atmospheric protective ensemble suits are conducting initial checks on the vehicle and ensuring the area is safe. The X-37B launched April 22 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., allowing teams to conduct on-orbit experiments for more than 220 days during this first mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michael Stonecypher)