Twins! Air Force Launching Second X-37B Space Plane

The Air Force just revealed that it’s hoping to launch the second X-37B mystery space planes into orbit tomorrow or Saturday depending on the weather. While there’s been a ton of speculation about the little mystery robo-shuttle, the Air Force won’t say what it’s for other than testing, testing and more testing. Ok, is it me or does that sentence just sound weird?

From an Air Force statement announcing the second craft:

For the first X-37B OTV mission, Air Force officials focused on testing and evaluating the performance capabilities of the vehicle. This second mission will build upon the OTV-1 on-orbit demonstration, validate and replicate initial testing and fine tune the technical parameters of the vehicle tests.

So yeah, we definitely know what it’s up to. Right.

  • Uncle Bill

    What we do know is that it is easy to launch, has long endurance, stealthiness and an ability to maneuver that is an order of magnitude greater than anything before. And a fat payload bay.

    • Snake_Plissken

      The fat payload bay, easy launch capability and supposed quick turnaround time reminds me of a mini version of Thunderbird 2 with its modular slot-in cargo pods.

  • roland

    Does it have an ion drive powered engine like that of the startrek or the NASA test flight currently used or in test?……

  • Nadnerbus

    It’s probably going out to replace the satellites put in orbit by the CIA to control our brain waves. Those things have to be getting old now. I barely see the crazy homeless people wearing tinfoil anymore.

  • Xerox

    Well, I personally would’ve rather seen this be handled by NASA; not because they’re more competent or better funded (because we all know that they’re not), but because they’re not part of the military.

    China’s space program is technically under no longer under the PLA and is so far mostly science-based (as well as nationalism-based) program. I hate to see both China and the US suddenly divert a lot of their efforts to secret launches of mysterious space craft by the their respective military’s.

    • Belesari

      If you accually believe that i find it sad.

      There is nothing not controled by the communist party in china. Saying that they are no longer under the PLA is silly they are both controlled by the same people.

      This is the DoD’s solution to ASAT weapons.

      This isnt to explore a new shuttle design. This is a weapons system ment to supply intelligence to warfighters.

    • John Deere

      What is this, I don’t even…

      This entire space shuttle project was designed with military applications in mind. NASA and the military are intricately bound together. Always have been.

      • Jeremiah Woods

        And a;ways will be!

    • richardb

      I guess you would categorize China’s ASAT demonstration 3 years ago as a science experiment? Perhaps Chinese scientists wished to observe the effect of a sudden growth of 10’s of thousands of additional pieces of space debris in low earth orbit?
      I hope views like yours aren’t common in official DC. But I have doubts.

  • STemplar

    It can stay in orbit 9 months and is very maneuverable with a payload bay. What’s it for? Probably a lot of stuff, pretty much anything you would want to do in low orbit. The initial flights are probably to test the first payloads they have come up with to see how they work. Chief amongst the missions is probably leading into a conflict to have the ability replace satellite capabilities quickly if we lose some. If you know you are about to go into a conflict, launch a half dozen and keep them on station to form a quick reaction redundant replacement capability.

  • Jeff m

    This is a weapon carrier pure and simple. Perhaps it carries a new type of nuclear weapon that directs a focused beam of fission energy via multiple semi-critical events. You don’t have to have nuclear weapons in space all the time but they should be ready at all times. That’s what this does.

  • Guest

    More war junk we don’t need and that’s wrecking the country.

  • Emm

    they are probably telling the truth…making something take off, orbit, change orbit and land ON A RUNWAY ALMOST ANYWHERE, Without melting! is not easy, and NASA who started this program over a decade ago could not afford to continue its probably a few years after first flight that it becomes operationally useful. ALSO any satellite it will service will have to be designed from start, to accept servicing (like the Hubble was for example).

  • Belesari

    No its not there isnt enough room for the equipment nessesary to keep a man alive.

    But your point is valid in one way. With all our problems with hacks this could be a way to get very sensitive info fast. Plus these can change their orbit so you never truely know if your being watched.

  • Stratege

    So what is purpose of this thing? Would it have any strike capabilities in future?

  • Ben

    There is only one practical reason to use a space plane instead of some other sort of vehicle.

    Fragile payload retrieval is the name of the game here.

    Desert landings are tough on the payloads of capsule vehicles, while water landings require expensive retrieval fleets. Now that NASA has finally developed a cheap, tough, multiple use, ablative tile heat shield (instead of the fragile puffed glass on the space shuttle), a space plane is significantly more cost effective.
    (the primary reason that the space shuttle was a financial disaster was the excessive fragility of the thermal soak tiles, which required replacement after every flight, instead of lasting the lifetime of the orbiter.)