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: NASA asteroid defense program falls short: audit

5 /5 (7 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Air Force to launch robotic winged space plane

Apr 03, 2010

(AP) -- After a decade of development, the Air Force this month plans to launch a robotic spacecraft resembling a small space shuttle to conduct technology tests in orbit and then glide home to a California runway.

Sophisticated weather satellite rockets into orbit

Jun 28, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The latest Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, GOES-O, soared into space today after a successful launch from Space Launch Complex 37 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station ...

Boeing Delta IV Heavy Launch Successful

Dec 22, 2004

The Boeing Delta IV Heavy made its first flight today achieving the major test objectives despite placing its demonstration satellite in a lower than expected orbit. The Delta IV Heavy lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air For ...

Air Force rocket to launch NASA satellite

Dec 06, 2006

NASA says its GeneSat-1 spacecraft will be carrying bacteria inside a miniature laboratory when it's launched into orbit Monday by a U.S. Air Force rocket.

NOAA-N prime satellite arrives at Vandenberg for launch

Nov 04, 2008

The latest polar-orbiting operational environmental weather satellite developed by NASA for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, called NOAA-N Prime, arrived Tuesday by C-5A military ...

Recommended for you

Image: Crescent Mimas

2 hours ago

A thin sliver of Mimas is illuminated, the long shadows showing off its many craters, indicators of the moon's violent history.

India's spacecraft 'on target' to reach Mars

Sep 15, 2014

An Indian spacecraft is on course to reach Mars, an official said Monday, following a 666-million-kilometre voyage that could see New Delhi's low-cost space programme win Asia's race to the Red Planet.

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

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