THE SPACE SCRAPBOOK: AIR FORCE’S X-37B SLATED TO TEST ION ...
Yesterday, you'll recall, I blogged about that strange announcement that they had successfully tested the feasibility of internet connections on the Moon, and I speculated that this announcement may have either been a portent of a near future development, or possibly, a drawing back of the veil to suggest that some permanent human presence on the Moon had already been established. My "logic" there - if such it was - was rather simple: if there is to be a permanent human presence on the Moon, then staying "connected" to the rest of humanity on Earth might not just be a military, financial, and scientific necessity, but also a crucial psychological one. One hundred years ago, one's "community" was largely determined by the physical space one could easily access, and hence was limited, for most people and for the most part, to one's locality. Now, however, the internet has transformed culture, allowing people to connect with each other all over the globe, in "virtual" communities of shared interests, ideas, and so on. This might be extremely crucial to the psychological and sociological well-being of human colonies on our celestial neighbors.
In that blog, however, I also entertained the High Octane Speculation that the inernet feasibility announcement may not have been the announcement of a future development, but the drawing back of the veil on a current reality. Would a permanent human base on the Moon be possible? Most certainly, but with difficulty with current chemical rockets, but add off-the-books types of exotic and/or secret technologies, and the game changes immensely, as do the contexts for "High Octane Speculation". Consider only this technology, which has been around since the 1960s, and used successfully on satellites:
The subtlte here is highly suggestive: a Darth Vader-Style Engine for "secret reasons, like turning in secret directions." Now note these important paragraphs:
"In a press release, the Air Force Research Lab described the purpose of the upcoming test:
"'The experiment will include collection of telemetry from the Hall thruster operating in the space environment as well as measurement of the thrust imparted on the vehicle. The resulting data will be used to validate and improve Hall thruster and environmental modeling capabilities, which enhance the ability to extrapolate ground test results to actual on-orbit performance. The on-orbit test plans are being developed by AFRL and administered by RCO.'
"Putting an engine like this on a secret space plane means that the Air Force, which includes space in their mandate, will learn how to maneuver unmanned vehicles efficiently outside the Earth’s atmosphere. That’s essential for any future space fighters that may come to be, but I wouldn’t count on the Air Force developing actual TIE fighters just yet."
Now what's really intriguing here are the following constellations of technologies (1) a robotic space plane, like the shuttle, which can be launched and re-landed on the Earth and (2) its testing of a ion propulsion engine for maneuvering in the vacuum environment of deep space... or, alternatively, a vacuum environment like the surface of the Moon...
In other words, might we be looking at an Earth-Selene shuttle system, staring us in the face? Perhaps, but a lot of that case would depend on how much noble gases could be carried aboard a craft for thrusting and maneuvering for a lunar round trip. But nonetheless, the general possibility is implied, and in this case, both technologies - the shuttle-space plane idea, and the ion thruster - are demonstrated and proven technologies. What intrigues is therefore there combination in a platform that would seem, at least at this simple level of analysis, almost taylor made for an Earth-Moon transport system. One can envision upscale manned versions, or, like the X37B, a kind of robotic resupply system. It should be noted that tests of thrust and maneuvering in deep space on board the X37B would be equally beneficial for thrusting an manaeuvering during a Moon landing, where the XB37's wings would be useless.
And bear in mind, this is a known and proven technology. We have not even talked about T.T. Brown's gravitors, John Searl, microwave solenoid effects, or weird end-of-life statements by Ben Rich, former head of the Lockheed Skunk Works.
So the question again arises, this time in a different context: are we being shown portents of future developments? or is the veil being drawn back, just a crack, to reveal current actualities?
The bottom line here is, in the light of these two questions, this is another development to watch.
See you on the flip side...
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