It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s A Mystery Toy!


Air Force’s Mystery X-37B Space Plane Fuels Speculation

The U.S. Air Force is on the verge of showcasing a new and long-sought after spaceflight capacity with its X-37B space plane, but it will do so on a space mission that’s cloaked in secrecy.

What the X-37B mission truly portends is in the eye of the beholder, from a game-changing tool to hone military hardware to a provocative harbinger of things-to-come in terms of space warfare.

Now ready for an Atlas boost into Earth orbit from Florida on April 20, the reusable robotic X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) is a small space shuttle-like craft. The craft will wing its way into Earth orbit, remain aloft for an unspecified time, then high-tail its way back down to terra-firma – auto-piloting down to a landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, or at neighboring Edwards Air Force Base as back-up [more photos of the X-37B space plane].

The X37-B craft was built by Boeing’s Phantom Works with the mission run under the wing of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. The reusable and diminutive OTV space plane is the first vehicle since the space shuttle orbiter able to return experiments to Earth for further inspection and analysis.

Its stats are modest: The vehicle tips the scales at 11,000 pounds (4,989 kg) and is just over 29 feet (8.8 meters) in length and stands slightly more than 9 1/2 feet (2.9 meters) in height. It sports a wingspan of a little over 14 feet (4.2 meters).

The designed maximum on-orbit duration for the X-37B is 270 days, said Angie Blair, an Air Force spokeswoman for the project, but that flight time will be driven more by success in achieving demonstration objectives.

“The X-37B is a risk reduction vehicle for space experimentation and to explore concepts of operation for a long duration, reusable space vehicle. The first flight will focus on vehicle checkout and test of subsystems such as thermal management, power control and distribution, and attitude control,” Blair said.

See also:
Space shuttle sequel slated for liftoff
Air Force to launch robotic winged space plane
Air Force prepping robot spacecraft for launch
U.S. Air Force X-37B Reusable Spacecraft to Launch Into Orbit Later This Month
Mystery Space Plane’s Mystery Mission Approaches
Air Force Space Plane to Launch After Long, Twisted Past
Air Force to Launch Robotic Space Shuttle, No One’s Really Sure Why
Boeing X-37
Boeing Phantom Works
Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office

Hmmm, I wonder what they’re up to with this? It’s too small to be of much practical use.

/hopefully we’ll find out before Obama cancels the program

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3 Responses

  1. […] } While everyone was busy watching the classified launch of the X-37B in Florida, the Air Force was up to even more classified hijinxs in […]

  2. […] See also: Secret Space Plane Finally Lands; Twin Preps for Launch A successful mission, but Air Force won’t say more Air Force’s Secret Space Plane Lands In California X-37B, which officially was not on a secret unmanned mission, returns from secret, unmanned mission Secret X-37B Mini Space Shuttle Lands US military spacecraft back on ground after 7 months Unmanned X-37B spacecraft lands at VAFB Unmanned X-37B Spacecraft Returns to Earth X 37b Mini Space Shuttle Lands Safely It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s A Mystery Toy! […]

  3. […] Roars Toward Space Atlas 5 rocket rumbles into sunny sky X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Boeing X-37 It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s A Mystery Toy! The Mystery Toy Comes Home To […]

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