Just How Many X-37Bs Are There?

So Air Force Space Command boss Gen. William Shelton gave us a tiny bit more insight into the service’s super secret space spycraft, the X-37B, when he said that it’s doing its super secret — and year-long — mission excellently and that there’s no need for a bigger version of it or to increase the size of the X-37B fleet.

What was really interesting about his comments, was the fact that he wouldn’t say just how big the fleet is. Keep in mind that the service has said that it’s got two of the mini-shuttles for a while now, but Shelton’s response to a question about the size of the fleet raised more questions than it answered.

“There’s no plan, certainly that we can afford, to increase the fleet size,” said Shelton during a breakfast with reporters in Washington this morning. When a reporter followed up to his statement by asking if the fleet size was just two vehicles, Shelton replied by saying, “let me check on whether or not I can talk about that.”

Weird, considering that the service has been very public about the fact that it has two of the space planes. His response seems to open the door to the possibility that there are more than just two X-37Bs.

Other than that, all Shelton would say about the robo-shuttle program is that “it is doing very well on-orbit and we don’t have an exact reentry date for it, it’s had a successful mission and we are very happy with the performance.”

He was discussing the record breaking flight of the second X-37B, dubbed Orbital Test Vehicle-2, that has been aloft for more than a year now. As for what it’s been doing for that year, we can only guess.

Update: We just heard from the Air Force, they maintain that there are only two X-37Bs and the next flight of OTV-1 is scheduled for the fall of 2012.

 

  • Chris

    There is a lot more up there than we know about down here ;)

    • justsaying

      And you’re okay with this?

    • Nick T.

      Tinkering with Chinese satellites perhaps?

    • TLAM Strike

      Sorry but “There ain’t no stealth in space”. http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/spacewardetect.p

      I observed the 1st X-37B in orbit with a cheap pair of binoculars. Hiding any spacecraft of useful size is imposable. The power systems expel waste heat, maneuvering thrusters produce heat and visible exhaust, the craft’s hull, solar panels and heat radiators reflect sunlight. Not to mention that the launch shows up on half the radar screens in the world.

      You are not sneaking something up there bigger than a soft ball.

  • Oli

    It most likely has new tech that it’s testing. One of those tech is its electric propulsion, Energy extraction and management system is another example. The plane might have new improved solar panels. Plane would be there until it gives or they are satisfied with the parameters they set.

  • Sgt. Buffy

    “third X-37B space plane mission is being readied” Along with the first mission. The second plane is to launch sometime next may… Space.com, if you’re interested, and CBS.com
    So possibly as many as 3, with the 3rd currently being built. Space-trackers track even the most high-profile targets, amateur trackers and professional alike, so it’s improbable that they have multiple planes up there. You can keep a technology secret, but something like a space-launch is hard to hide. The same trackers say that the trajectory is similar to those of imaging satellites, that it might be gathering imagery intel. Sounds on target to me, maybe this is what China is testing Space-space weaponry, to take out this kind of thing.

  • J-rock

    Area 51 is not dead!

  • Lance

    Maybe the X-37 is doing so well that’s why they cancelled the Global Hawk and let this and the U-2 do the spy flying? Who knows?

  • Sgt_Buffy

    p.s. I got a profile. woot-woot.

  • Prodozul

    I heard they were making an x-37c that would be a scaled up version able to accomodate 6 astronauts and be launched from an atlas V

  • PolicyWonk

    Maybe there enough room in the cargo bay to give Newt a lift :-D

  • Ke Ke

    It is spying on the Chinese new space lab… well, at least the first module anyway.

    Oops… Was that a Chinese space lab?

  • tiger

    “So what IS the X-37 doing?”
    Looking for Dr. Evil in the Bob’s Big Boy…..

    • Lance

      “So whats it doing”

      Looking to spy on China and tick them off that there radar can see it but its too far up to intercept.

  • jamesb

    Thanks Sgt….
    The space trackers have a book about them I believe…

    3, eh?

  • cattlegrd

    it’s all AI at this point friends, notice the trolls in suits?

  • Rudy

    There are six in the fleet. Classified info. It’s too early yet to determine if the XB37B’s will make shuttle flights. A later model is planned to accomodate these missions.

    • dark side

      Where do you know they have six in a fleet?

  • Rick

    Maybe it’s really Obama’s idea for a solar aircraft. Isn’t that really why he shut down the shuttle?

  • Jerry

    If only we could talk the big BHO to take a test flight, with say the target the SUN, just dreaming, but at 60 plus years on this old planet, I think I have earned the right.