Dec 8, 2010

Science Scene - Space Plane, Who Knew?

All good top secret robotic space plane test missions must come to an end, and so it goes for the Air Force's X-37B, otherwise known as the Orbital Test Vehicle 1 (OTV-1). After seven months of thrilling amateur satellite watchers with its shifting orbital flight patterns and making China nervous, the X-37B is back on the ground.

The X-37B, an unmanned robotic space plane that has been in orbit since April 22, is described by the military as a means to test new materials and sensors in space and otherwise conduct longer unmanned missions in orbital space (the plane is designed to spend up to nine months in orbit). Like the Space Shuttles, the X-37B is reusable, landing on a terrestrial runway automatically at the end of its missions.

Unlike the shuttles, the mysterious Air Force project is not designed to carry human crews. At 29 feet 3 inches, it's not very big (and kind of hard to spot in orbit) but boasts a payload bay that can ferry experiments (or anything else) into space cheaply and quickly.

Have to say this was a pretty well kept secret, I did not know anything about it.  Some secrets are safe from Wikileaks :o)


  1. Okay. But what about the giant triangle 'ufo' people are seeing? Is this related?

  2. Logical fallacy: just because YOU hadn't heard about it is not evidence it was a well kept secret. There are many things in this universe that are common knowledge to many, yet are also never known by many others. Even in today's world, with our expanding global culture and instantaneous world-wide communication, we only ever get to see but a tiny fraction of our world. The X-37B was, in fact, a rather poorly kept secret. Even I, with no interest in the area at all, had heard of it.


  3. All in all, it is pretty neat. Think about all the purposes this kind of technology can have on the world beyond simple air/space travel. A robot plane cabable of remaining in flight that long has to be a wonder of engineering and the research would yield benefits beyond unmanned flight.

  4. Bottomline: it's a cool ass plane. :-)


Tell Me What You Think, Don't Make me go Rogue on you :o)