Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Secret Military Mini-Shuttle Headed For West Coast Landing

A U.S. military mini-shuttle is scheduled to land this weekend in California, marking the end of a seven-month shakedown cruise that began with launch last April from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The unmanned Air Force X-37B is destined to land at Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California, the military's primary West Coast space launch site, as early as Friday.

The 30th Space Wing issued this two-paragraph statement:

"Preparations for the first landing of the X-37B are underway at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Space professionals from the 30th Space Wing will monitor the de-orbit and landing of the Air Force's first X-37B, called the Orbital Test Vehicle 1 (OTV-1). While the exact landing date and time will depend on technical and weather considerations, it is expected to occur between Friday, Dec. 3, and Monday, Dec. 6, 2010."

Launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, the X-37B will make an atmospheric reentry and landing on autopilot.

Without an astronaut pilot at the controls, it will make a supersonic dive back through the atmosphere, flying over the Pacific Ocean before landing at Vandenberg.

The X-37 is equipped with a flight termination system that would enable safety officers to deliberately destroy the craft if it flies off course. But officials don't expect it will be required as the spaceship approaches the nation’s most populated state.

The prime objective of the X-37’s first flight was to demonstrate orbital operations: swinging its payload bay doors open, deploying its solar-power mast, testing maneuvering and control systems and then reentering the atmosphere and landing.

Another critical objective comes when the spaceship arrives at Vandenberg. Officials want to see how much work is required to ready the spacecraft for another flight.

NASA shuttle orbiters take three or four months to turn around, and the shuttle fleet costs $200 million a month to operate. The Air Force aims for much faster turn-around times – days rather than months -- and significantly lower costs.

The Air Force and its prime contractor – Boeing’s secretive Phantom Works – are building two X-37 spacecraft. The cost and certain information about the program are classified.

Check out a fact sheet on the vehicle HERE


flafn said...

On a side note. For some really interesting and way cool exhibits to look at, I/ITSEC (Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference) is happening at the Orlando Convention Center ending tomorrow. You can see the leading edge of some of both industry and government simulators. These range from flight to weapons and combat convoy simulators. Some of these simulators are so true to life, you would think your actually there. Check it out

Anonymous said...

and some ignorant people think that we are taking a back seat to china

Anonymous said...

How could we not be taking a back seat when we have no more Manned capability after 60 years ,no heavy lift manned craft certified now .We have given up the high ground under the Obama narcissist . amino shuttle is just old recycled tech ,Russia did that 20 years ago and then scrapped it .

Anonymous said...

We don't need "manned" space craft. Unmanned military payloads and defensive systems is all we need to concentrate on.

Anonymous said...

We need a fully reusable launch system if we are ever to reduce launch costs to a practical level. The X-37 is a technology development vehicle for such a system, not an operational design. It will help us produce a new generation of shuttles that will be safe and practical.

It was a serious mistake for George Bush to cancel the Space Shuttle, even aside from the massive layoffs it will cause. Unfortunately so much of the Shuttle supply network was dismantled that it was impossible for Obama to keep it operational. Fortunately Obama was able to reverse the Bush decision to cancel Station as well, or we would have nowhere to go.

Constellation is a step backward to Apollo technology. Apollo was canceled (by Nixon) because unfortunately it was unaffordable and produced nothing useful. Unfortunately, so is Constellation.

Anonymous said...

You cannot go to the Moon or Mars with a Shuttle ,We need to establish a Moon base before the ChiComs do and get water and valuable minerals first .Obama has lied to us about the Space Center and its focus on bogus Global Warming and Global Muslim outreach and has gleefully torpedoed the Space manned program in his efforts to ruin the USA .Capsules will work fine, the Russians and Chinese are doing quite well with them since Bill Clinton and Loral helped them to understand the technology that was top secret before .The shuttle was a low orbit truck that was useful but extremely dangerous and 30 years behind the times even with the upgrades .Constellation and Ares will be part of Obamas awful ,beating Jimmy Carter, legacy of four years of how we lost the Space high ground .

Anonymous said...

The Shuttle is safe. If it were not we would have to cancel the next launch. Throwing it away was a decision made by George W. Bush five years ago, and he is to blame for the job losses.

With the Bush Tax Cuts, we cannot pay for flights to the moon, or anywhere else beyond low earth orbit. If your taxes are massively cut, then there will be cuts in programs paid for with taxes, like NASA.

Anonymous said...

Will there be televised coverage of the landing? or is that part of the top-secret nature of this flight?

Anonymous said...

Landing successful... 1:15 am local time... talk about a black mission!!!

Rick Steele
Sarasota, Florida