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The Air Force's Top-Secret Mystery Space Plane

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  • Center Left
    Denton, TX
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    The X-37B is an unmanned space plane that the Air Force has had in orbit for the last 22 months. It's about to land on Tuesday, and has a lot of people wondering just what in the world its being used for, as the Air Force is being most vague on the details.

    And since they aren't saying exactly what the use and purpose for this mystery space plane is, of course the internet and news sites are piling up dozens of conspiracy theory-like ideas of what they are up to with the X-37B. The rumor mill goes anywhere from reconnaissance missions (spying), to future military deployment (dropping troops from crazy high altitude), to it being used as a potential space bomber, maybe anti-satellite weapon?? Seems most speculate it has something to do with war.

    Although, the Air Force has come out to say this much:

    "[The X-37B] is designed to demonstrate reusable spacecraft technologies for America's future in space and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth."


    "Technologies being tested in the program include advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, avionics, high temperature structures and seals, conformal reusable insulation, lightweight electromechanical flight systems, and autonomous orbital flight, re-entry and landing."

    Any thoughts on what they are up to with this mystery space plane? The duration of the orbit alone (22 months) makes me think that there might be much more interesting motives involved, beyond just war. Possibly something to do with future mining of the moon and/or asteroids, maybe even nearby planets? Who knows. What's your guess?

    This video came out a bit ago on the launch.
  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Portland, OR
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    This is a topic that really interests me. I think it all boils down to one simple fact: the Air Force has a much larger budget than NASA does these days. More money equals more toys. It didn't always used to be this way, but it is now. Hopefully they will use it for a good purpose, like traveling further than we ever have in space, but I won't hold my breath. The Air Force is a wing of our military, so it wouldn't be that much of a surprise if it winds up being used as a weapon of war. By weapon of war I don't necessarily mean that I think it will be used to launch missiles. We already have plenty of weapons that can do that.

    I just read this really interesting piece about the decades long struggle between NASA and the Air Force/military in general. It really dives into the differences between the two and the missions each of them have. It's a bit long, but I would definitely recommend it for anyone who's interested in learning more about this issue.

    Invitation to Struggle: The History of Civilian-Military Relations in Space
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    We as tax payers are the pawn; if this adds to "this keeps America safe" then it is total BS. We've got already enough weapons to destroy half of the civil world; so why do we want more and more. If this was a civil project to repair satelites or make our communication for civil purposes better, sure then I have no objections. As soon as the "word" "secret" is used I'm suspicious about its purpose as well its expenses.
  • Center Left
    Central, FL
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    Interesting story. However it's too little real information to make any opinions yet. We'll all have to keep watching and decide when more information is available. I hope science and research are part of the final chapters more so than the military.
  • Democrat
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    Another example of commercial and military enterprise cooperating in technological a break-through fostering future spin-offs for all of humanity. It is probably a military operation in this plan, but there is also enormous planning for commercial ideas growing into our market. It is not difficult to imagine the spin-offs in commercial products onto our market place. New metals, plastics, weather-immune clothing, medical, and of course for you war wondering people, Weapons. OMG! did I say something bad?

    I have seen numerous works going on advertising new engine designs to transport vehicles in space. Some new designs identify possibilities in speed of light travel. Obtaining travel to other planets and into the universe is exciting. I'm sure more is to follow in the next twenty years. Star Trek, anyone?