Author Topic: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit  (Read 1340 times)

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SPQR

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Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« on: December 07, 2013, 05:34:54 AM »
The U.S. Air Force's mysterious X-37B space plane is nearing a major milestone — one year of travel in Earth orbit, performing duties in support of long-term space objectives.

The unmanned X-37B spacecraft — flying a mission known as Orbital Test Vehicle 3 (OTV-3) — launched into space atop an Atlas 5 rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Dec. 11, 2012. What payloads the space plane is toting and the overall mission goals on its confidential cruise are classified.

But it is known that the OTV-3 mission signals a milestone for the X-37B program. [See photos from Air Force's 3rd mystery flight of the X-37B space plane]

This same vehicle was flown on the X-37B program's inaugural flight back in 2010. That OTV-1 mission lasted nearly 225 days in orbit, gliding back to Earth on autopilot over the Pacific Ocean and touching down at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

An OTV-2 mission, which used a different X-37B space plane, was lofted in 2011. That vehicle flew for 469 days, more than doubling its sister ship’s space stay, concluding its mission by also making a Vandenberg landing.

Altitude changes

A global network of skywatchers has been keeping an eye on the robotic space plane's movements during its three flights to date. Some veteran observers, like skywatcher Kevin Fetter of Brockville, Ontario in Canada, have even captured video of the X-37B space plane in the night sky.

"All three OTV missions maneuvered to change altitude at least once between launch and landing. Between maneuvers, they made frequent small thruster firings to counteract the effects of atmospheric drag, to maintain a nearly constant altitude," said Ted Molczan of Toronto, a leader in the worldwide community of satellite trackers.

Taking a look at the military space plane's past flights and the present-day mission, Molczan told SPACE.com that OTV-1 occupied a half-dozen different orbital altitudes during its 225-day mission. OTV-2

occupied two different orbital altitudes during its days aloft, accomplished by a series of small thruster firings over a seven-week period.

"OTV-3, as of day 343 in flight, has occupied two different orbital altitudes, accomplished using standard Hohmann transfer maneuvers about 11 weeks after launch," Molczan said in a Nov. 22 email.

Lifting-body design

The two known X-37B space planes have been built for the Air Force by Boeing Government Space Systems, with flights conducted under the auspices of the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office.

The 11,000-pound X-37B is one-fourth the size of an orbiter in the now-retired NASA space shuttle fleet but relies upon the same type of lifting-body design.

The vehicle is 29 feet long and nearly 15 feet wide and has a payload bay that measures 7 feet long and 4 feet wide. Traveling in low-Earth orbit, the space plane operates from 110 miles to 500 miles in altitude.

Next-generation technology

According to a Boeing fact sheet, each space plane is built with lightweight composite structures, rather than traditional aluminum. A new generation of high-temperature leading-edge tiles for the wings is utilized, distinct from the space shuttle’s carbon leading-edge segments.

The X-37B is outfitted with toughened uni-piece fibrous insulation impregnated silica tiles, which are significantly more durable than the first-generation tiles used by the space shuttle. Advanced conformal reusable insulation blankets are used for the first time on the X-37B.

The Boeing fact sheet also points out that avionics on an X-37B are designed to automate all de-orbit and landing functions. Additionally, there are no hydraulics onboard the winged vehicle; flight controls and brakes use electromechanical actuation.

Air Force mission control

 
Mission control for OTV flights are handled by the 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. This unit is billed as the Air Force Space Command’s premier organization for space-based demonstrations, pathfinders and experiment testing, gathering information on objects high above Earth and carrying out other intelligence-gathering duties.

While details are scant about the X-37B program, a little light on the project may be shed during the National Space Club'’s 57th Annual Robert H. Goddard Memorial Dinner, to be held next March in Washington, D.C.

Slated to receive the General Bernard Schriever Award at the event is Major Joshua Chumley, USAF, Commander, Operating Location Alpha, 3d Space Experimentation Squadron, U.S. Air Force Space Command.

Chumley is on tap to pick up the prestigious award "for leading a selectively manned team responsible for operation of the United States’ first unmanned, autonomous, reusable space plane — the Orbital Test Vehicle, or X-37B," according to a National Space Club press release.

Landing location?

 Although there’s no official word how long the OTV-3 mission will go, there has been some talk that this craft may not land at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The Air Force has been evaluating auto-piloting the vehicle down at the space shuttle landing strip at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, next door to its Cape Canaveral departure site.

Making use of former space shuttle infrastructure is viewed as a possible cost-cutting measure for the program, officials have said.

http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/12/06/mysterious-x-37b-space-plane-one-year-in-orbit/?intcmp=trending
« Last Edit: December 07, 2013, 05:43:13 AM by SPQR »

SPQR

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2013, 05:38:55 AM »
Quote
Landing location?

 Although there’s no official word how long the OTV-3 mission will go, there has been some talk that this craft may not land at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The Air Force has been evaluating auto-piloting the vehicle down at the space shuttle landing strip at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, next door to its Cape Canaveral departure site.
Making use of former space shuttle infrastructure is viewed as a possible cost-cutting measure for the program, officials have said.


Three landing sites. Vandenberg AFB,Edwards AFB and Cape Kennedy. Vandenberg AFB does have a landing runway that it built for the plane.

http://www.vandenberg.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123304066

« Last Edit: December 07, 2013, 05:39:12 AM by SPQR »

Offline flowers

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2013, 03:37:46 PM »
I have been following this story. I am glad you posted. What do you think it has been doing for a year?


Offline xfreeper

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2013, 04:37:54 PM »
I have been following this story. I am glad you posted. What do you think it has been doing for a year?

waiting for someone to figure out how to get it down in one piece

Offline flowers

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2013, 04:45:10 PM »
waiting for someone to figure out how to get it down in one piece
:silly:


Offline Chieftain

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2013, 04:56:03 PM »
I have been following this story. I am glad you posted. What do you think it has been doing for a year?

Outstanding surveillance platform.  It's been up for a year but we don't know what kind of orbital maneuvers they have been developing with it.  I suspect it is nimble enough to be overhead any trouble spot on the planet within a couple of orbits, and we don't know the apogee or perigee change capabilities it has.  I'm pretty sure the only reason they would need to de-orbit would be to replenish consumables.

I can think of a whole bunch of interesting things to do with a vehicle like this one in orbit for a year. 


SPQR

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2013, 05:51:08 PM »
Outstanding surveillance platform.  It's been up for a year but we don't know what kind of orbital maneuvers they have been developing with it.  I suspect it is nimble enough to be overhead any trouble spot on the planet within a couple of orbits, and we don't know the apogee or perigee change capabilities it has.  I'm pretty sure the only reason they would need to de-orbit would be to replenish consumables.

I can think of a whole bunch of interesting things to do with a vehicle like this one in orbit for a year.

 :beer:

In 2011, Boeing announced plans for a scaled-up variant of the X-37B, referring to the spacecraft as the X-37C. The X-37C is between 165% and 180% larger than the X-37B, allowing it to transport up to six astronauts inside a pressurized compartment housed in the cargo bay. Its proposed launch vehicle is the Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle
« Last Edit: December 07, 2013, 06:00:03 PM by SPQR »

SPQR

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2013, 05:52:31 PM »
waiting for someone to figure out how to get it down in one piece

They have successfully landed the X-37 on several occasions. A second X-37 was launched in March 2011, with the mission designation USA-226; it returned to Earth on 16 June 2012. A third X-37 mission, USA-240, launched successfully in December 2012 The landing spot is at Vandenberg AFB where several years ago they built a runway for the X-37
« Last Edit: December 07, 2013, 06:07:02 PM by SPQR »

SPQR

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2013, 05:59:30 PM »
Three landing sites. Vandenberg AFB,Edwards AFB and Cape Kennedy. Vandenberg AFB does have a landing runway that it built for the plane.

http://www.vandenberg.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123304066


Edwards AFB is used as an alternate site

Offline Chieftain

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2013, 06:43:21 PM »
:beer:

In 2011, Boeing announced plans for a scaled-up variant of the X-37B, referring to the spacecraft as the X-37C. The X-37C is between 165% and 180% larger than the X-37B, allowing it to transport up to six astronauts inside a pressurized compartment housed in the cargo bay. Its proposed launch vehicle is the Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle

That's exactly the kind of capabilities we need to be developing too...


SPQR

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2013, 08:26:24 PM »
That's exactly the kind of capabilities we need to be developing too...

This technology came from the Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar in the 1960s  but the program was cancelled by the USAF.The development of Dyna Soar can be traced back to Eugen Sänger's Silbervogel, a German bomber project of World War II.[
« Last Edit: December 07, 2013, 08:30:06 PM by SPQR »

Offline xfreeper

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #11 on: December 07, 2013, 09:18:31 PM »
They have successfully landed the X-37 on several occasions. A second X-37 was launched in March 2011, with the mission designation USA-226; it returned to Earth on 16 June 2012. A third X-37 mission, USA-240, launched successfully in December 2012 The landing spot is at Vandenberg AFB where several years ago they built a runway for the X-37

Yes, it's this one that is stranded

SPQR

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2013, 09:45:36 PM »
Yes, it's this one that is stranded

Where is the article does it say its stranded? I want you to point it out in the article.It just says where they are planning to land the plane.
« Last Edit: December 07, 2013, 09:53:02 PM by SPQR »

SPQR

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #13 on: December 07, 2013, 09:47:04 PM »
Where is the article does it say its stranded?I want you to point it out in the article.It just says where they are planning to land the plane.



Quote
Although there’s no official word how long the OTV-3 mission will go, there has been some talk that this craft may not land at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The Air Force has been evaluating auto-piloting the vehicle down at the space shuttle landing strip at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, next door to its Cape Canaveral departure site.

Making use of former space shuttle infrastructure is viewed as a possible cost-cutting measure for the program, officials have said.
« Last Edit: December 07, 2013, 09:53:17 PM by SPQR »

Offline xfreeper

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #14 on: December 07, 2013, 10:39:01 PM »
Where is the article does it say its stranded? I want you to point it out in the article.It just says where they are planning to land the plane.

I'd show you but then I would have to kill you

SPQR

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #15 on: December 07, 2013, 10:42:20 PM »
I'd show you but then I would have to kill you

Because it does not exist

Offline xfreeper

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #16 on: December 08, 2013, 07:22:15 AM »
yes, that is safer

SPQR

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #17 on: December 08, 2013, 06:36:21 PM »
yes, that is safer

You still did not answer

Offline xfreeper

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #18 on: December 08, 2013, 07:14:25 PM »
what was the question again?

SPQR

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #19 on: December 09, 2013, 10:11:41 PM »
« Last Edit: December 09, 2013, 10:12:01 PM by SPQR »

Offline xfreeper

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #20 on: December 10, 2013, 12:19:29 PM »
humorless

Online Oceander

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #21 on: December 10, 2013, 08:01:27 PM »
Calm down folks; there aren't any trolls on this thread.

SPQR

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #22 on: December 10, 2013, 09:35:25 PM »
Calm down folks; there aren't any trolls on this thread.

OK.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2013, 09:36:04 PM by SPQR »

Online Oceander

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Offline xfreeper

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Re: Air Force's mysterious space plane nears 1 year In orbit
« Reply #24 on: December 10, 2013, 11:13:59 PM »
 8888forgot


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