X-37B robotic space plane aims for Thursday launch

Apr 21, 2010

(AP) -- The military is poised to launch an unmanned winged spacecraft resembling a miniature space shuttle Thursday and it probably won't be a one-time shot.

Gary Payton, deputy under secretary for space programs, said Tuesday the Air Force has contracted for a second space plane depending on the success of the prototype's maiden flight.

"Currently, we're looking at a 2011 launch for that second tail number. That assumes everything goes properly as predicted on this first flight," Payton told reporters.

After a decade of development, the X-37B Orbital is slated to launch from Florida and spend up to nine months in orbit. It will re-enter Earth on autopilot and land like an airplane at the Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

The spacecraft will conduct classified experiments while in orbit. Payton said the Air Force's main interest is to test the craft's automated flight control system and learn about the cost of turning it around for launch again.

Built by Boeing's Phantom Works division, the X-37 program was originally headed by . It was later turned over to the Pentagon's research and development arm and then to a secretive Air Force unit.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the project, but the current total has not been released.

"After a tumultuous history of sponsorship, it's great to see the X37 finally get to the and get into space," Payton said.

Explore further: Mercury MESSENGER nears epic mission end

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User comments : 7

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StarDust21
not rated yet Apr 21, 2010
I wonder what are the real purposes of this thing
MarkyMark
1 / 5 (1) Apr 22, 2010
Orbital death bombers perhaps or fighters to police illegal alien traffic ;)
probes
1 / 5 (2) Apr 22, 2010
The X-37B could be fitted with a 100KW VASIMR engine. This would enable travel to a near-earth asteroid, or even the moons of Mars.
otto1923
5 / 5 (1) Apr 22, 2010
I wonder what are the real purposes of this thing
Freedom
Chef
4 / 5 (1) Apr 22, 2010
It could be used as a re-useable satellite. They could park this over a hot-zone for nine months with a payload of cameras, data relay, or even weapons. It could constantly be upgraded every time it returns.
RobertKLR
not rated yet Apr 22, 2010
I bet there is a manned version, or at least a payload module for 2 or 3 people. It's bigger than the Russian Soyuz. By the way, why does the Hyundai ad sit on top of the shuttle picture when you click on enlarge? You can only see half of the spacecraft. Rude advertising doesn't sell anything.
NotAsleep
not rated yet Apr 30, 2010
If you're still reading this thread, here's a bit more info:

http://www.milita...rce-a.nl

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