US military spacecraft back on ground after 7 months

December 3, 2010

An unmanned US Air Force spacecraft with a vaguely defined military mission landed early Friday in California after a seven-month mission, officials said.

The X-37B, the US Air Force's first unmanned re-entry , landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base at 1:16 am local time (0932 GMT), according to an Air Force statement.

The orbital spacecraft "conducted on-orbit experiments for more than 220 days during its maiden voyage," the statement said.

"It fired its orbital maneuver engine in low-earth orbit to perform an autonomous reentry before landing."

"Today's landing culminates a successful mission based on close teamwork between the 30th Space Wing, Boeing and the Rapid Capabilities Office," said Lieutenant Colonel Troy Giese, the X-37B program manager.

"We are very pleased that the program completed all the on-orbit objectives for the first mission."

The robotic space plane, lifted off from Cape Canaveral atop an Atlas V rocket in April.

Resembling a miniature , the plane is 8.9 meters (29 feet) long and has a wing-span of 4.5 meters.

The reusable has been years in the making and the military has offered only vague explanations as to its purpose or role in the American military's arsenal.

Officials have said the vehicle is designed to "provide an 'on-orbit laboratory' test environment to prove new technology and components."

Pentagon officials have sidestepped questions about specific military missions for the spacecraft, as well as the precise budget for its development -- estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars.

Industry analysts have speculated the Pentagon must have military capabilities in mind for the unmanned spacecraft or else would not have invested so much time and money in the effort.

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12 comments

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Oliver_k_Manuel
1.7 / 5 (3) Dec 03, 2010
wot is all the red stuff in the pic? shouldn't this thing be scorched and blackened
CarolinaScotsman
4.8 / 5 (5) Dec 03, 2010
wot is all the red stuff in the pic? shouldn't this thing be scorched and blackened

This is probably a public release photo from well before the launch. Post launch photos are probably restricted. I'm surprised the USAF released this much information.
Modernmystic
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 03, 2010
Think predator drone for space...

My two cents.
Birger
4.5 / 5 (2) Dec 03, 2010
Maybe they want to re-use the very expensive reconnaisance satellites?
Jettison the solar panels and the parabolic antennae, and the rest can return to Earth inside a chassis similar to the X-37.
jalmy
2.3 / 5 (6) Dec 03, 2010
Probably involves UFOs.
Ratfish
4.7 / 5 (3) Dec 03, 2010
I would wager that this will be used to destroy/jam/interfere with satellites launched by what we deem to be rogue states so that we may continue to monopolize space.
apex01
5 / 5 (2) Dec 03, 2010
I would wager that this will be used to destroy/jam/interfere with satellites launched by what we deem to be rogue states so that we may continue to monopolize space.


Just like China?
stealthc
2 / 5 (5) Dec 03, 2010
thank god they still require a bloody rocket to get this into space. I think that keeps the evil military industrial complex at bay from having an easily mass deployable unit for enforcing a global police state. Drones from space that can headshot you with a vulcan cannon using your iphone's radio signal and gps to target. Just think for now there are limits as to the numbers of these that can be deployed, in the future, not so much.

If there are any discoveries to be made in space, I would think they should be made by civilians and not the military. They have no business in that domain as far as I'm concerned.
illuminated1
not rated yet Dec 03, 2010
Reminds me of Gary Mckinnon who is a brit arrested for hacking the pentagon, he discovered a u.s. space command.
No big mystery here.
Lots more pics of this space-bird.
http://www.google...;bih=627
yyz
5 / 5 (3) Dec 03, 2010
Here's some pics of the X-37 post-landing, courtesy of the 30th Space Wing: http://www.univer...o-earth/

A short (infrared) video of the vehicle rolling to a stop on the runway: http://www.univer...e-lands/
logicali
not rated yet Dec 04, 2010
"Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office"

Odds-on, that's a test bed for Rumsfeld's space bomber. Hit anywhere on the planet and return to base inside an hour. No need to negotiate fly-over rights to other countries airspace.
Bitflux
not rated yet Dec 04, 2010
I wonder if the next tyranny on earth will be global and will have the name: USA.

When does this "protector of the world" have enough firepower at its hands?

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