SECRET USAF ROBOT SPACE PLANE ENDS MISSIONJuly 4, 2012
Some months ago I blogged about the US Air Force's X-37-B robot space shuttle. By the time this blog actually appears, it seems that the secret robot-shuttle will have completely an incredible 453 days in orbit, according to Wired, and according to the same article, it is scheduled to begin another such mission in October:
Now there are lots of speculations on what this craft is really for, and the article summarizes some of them:
"We still don’t know what the 29-foot-long X-37B has been doing up there. In the wake of the first X-37B mission, and with its pickup-bed-sized payload bay, analysts theorized it could be a commando transport, a bomber or an orbital spy. It could launch, repair or reposition U.S. satellites in low orbit. It could carry sensors. It could even sneak up and disable or steal enemy satellites.
"It could also just be a way to test technology in space, and do so cheaply, as the Air Force maintains. Though, a reusable — albeit unmanned — spacecraft shaped like an airplane can also be more expensive to launch and more difficult to maneuver than disposable spacecraft. The ambiguity surrounding the X-37B even sparked a minor space race last year as Russia and Chinathreatened to build similar vehicles."
Another excellent summary of possibilities is here:
What is interesting in the second article is the comment that the plane could function as a kind of scaled up, space-capable drone, given its long staying power in space, no mean feat in itself, as the author of the second article states. And of course, one article notes that amateur trackers who have watched the X-37B have noted unusual paths over North Korea, Afghanistan, and China, suggesting a possible espionage role(see U.S. Space Plane to Return from Secret Mission).
Then, finally, there's this curious picture of the X-37-B on the ground, with two people in biologiocal containment suits in front of the craft, suggesting still other, possibly darker, purposes:
Now all this places the wider theme of a "secret space" program into a rather interesting light, and indeed, Gary McKinnon's hacking case that is still going on in the USA and UK, into a very interesting light. What intrigues me here is the possibility that this craft represents, and the possibility - nay, I would venture to say, the probability - that we know about this craft at all because the US AIr Force wants us - and other nations - to know about it. And the thought induced inevitably is, what aren't they showing us....?
See you on the flip side.