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« on: August 23, 2010, 12:43:41 pm »

X37b

The Weaponization of Space: US to Launch Secret 'Space Warplane'


Global Research, April 20, 2010
Press TV - 2010-04-19





The United States Air Force has announced that it will launch a secret space plane that has sparked speculation about the militarization of space. 

The Pentagon has set April 21 as the date for the launch of the robotic space plane known as the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), which is a reusable unmanned plane capable of long outer space missions at low orbits. 

Since the nature of the project is shrouded in mystery, defense analysts allege that the US military is building the first generation of US 'space Predator drones' that will build up the United States' space armada, the Christian Science Monitor wrote in a recent article. 

Military experts argue that the US Department of Defense would not have saved NASA's costly X-37B project, which had been scrapped, if it did not have a military application. 

They say the US wants to maintain a leading role in space via the development of the new 'space weapon' at a time when other countries like China are expanding their space programs. 

However, US military officials maintain that the X-37B will only be used for transporting payloads and facilitating space experiments. 

The OTV is capable of supporting a range of tests, the Air Force spokesperson for the project said earlier at the 26th National Space Symposium. 

"The first mission will emphasize proving technologies necessary for long duration reusable space vehicles with autonomous reentry and landing capabilities," Angie Blair added. 

She went on to say that the "specific details of the OTV capabilities, limitations and vulnerabilities" remain classified. 

The X-37B can stay at an orbit between 200 and 800 kilometers for around 270 days before landing automatically at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, reports say. 

The location of the mission control center for the Boeing-made space vehicle is also a classified secret, but Blair says that Air Force Space Command's 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron (AFSPC) will run the operation. 

Military space specialist Professor Roger Handberg, who is the chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, told Space.com that the X-37B project may signify continued U.S. Air Force interest in a rapid response vehicle along the lines of the long-proposed space maneuver vehicle. 

He added that the project could be viewed "as the logical extension of the push into unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) where vehicles used for observation have moved into weapon carriers and various other missions, many classified." 

"From the perspective of international observers, especially in space-aspiring states such as China, the X-37B program just reinforces their view that the U.S. is pushing to gain first mover advantage in rapid response, including possible weaponization of space using this vehicle or a derivative," Handberg noted. 

Political analysts say that the X-37B project could be interpreted as a violation of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 if the space plane is used for military purposes. 

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967, officially known as the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, states that the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind; states shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or station them in outer space in any other manner; the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes; astronauts shall be regarded as the envoys of mankind; states shall be liable for damage caused by their space objects; and states shall avoid harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies. 

Article IX of the Outer Space Treaty states: "A State Party to the Treaty which has reason to believe that an activity or experiment planned by another State Party in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, would cause potentially harmful interference with activities in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, may request consultation concerning the activity or experiment." 

In addition, a proposal has been put forward for a Space Preservation Treaty that would ban all space weapons, but no country has signed the treaty so far.

...

http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/04/22/air-forces-x-b-space-plane-takes-mystery-mission/?test=faces


ARTICLECOMMENTS (20)Updated April 22, 2010
Air Force's X-37B Space Plane Takes Off For Mystery Mission
By Tariq Malik  - Space.com

The United States Air Force's novel robotic X-37B space plane is tucked inside the bulbous nose cone of an unmanned rocket that blasted off Thursday from Florida on a mission shrouded in secrecy. 

    
NASA

April 22, 2010: U.S. Air Force's novel robotic X-37B space plane launches atop an Atlas 5 rocket from a seaside pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The United States Air Force's secretive X-37B robotic space plane blasted off from Florida late Thursday on a mystery mission shrouded in secrecy for the U.S. military.

The unmanned military Orbital Test Vehicle 1 (OTV-1) also known as the X-37B lifted off at 7:52 p.m. EDT (2352 GMT) atop an Atlas 5 rocket on a mission that is expected to take months testing new spacecraft technologies.

The X-37B is a reusable robotic space plane built by Boeing Phantom Works. Its mission is being carried out under the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office with participation by NASA.

Key objectives of the space plane's first flight include demonstration and validation of guidance, navigation and control systems including a "do-it-itself" autonomous re-entry and landing at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base with neighboring Edwards Air Force Base as a backup.

The X-37B is the first vehicle since NASA's space shuttles with the ability to return experiments to Earth for further inspection and analysis, Air Force officials said. [X-37B spacecraft photos.]



The U.S. Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is shown inside its payload fairing during encapsulation at the Astrotech facility in Titusville, Fla., ahead of a planned April 2010 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
 
The U.S. Air Force is on the verge of launching the new robotic X-37B space plane -- on a space mission that's still cloaked in secrecy.

"This is a new way for the Air Force to conduct on-orbit experiments," explained Gary Payton, Air Force deputy under secretary for space programs, during a Tuesday press teleconference.

The designed maximum on-orbit duration for the X-37B is 270 days, Payton said. "In all honesty, we don't know when it's coming back for sure. It depends on the progress that we make with the on-orbit demonstrations," he added.

Thursday's launch capped a long road to orbit for the X-37B spacecraft. NASA initially began the project in 1999 and later transferred it to the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) in 2004 due to a lack of funding. The Air Force stepped in 2006 to take over the project.

Tight-lipped affair

Circling the Earth, the X-37B space plane has a full agenda of shaking out new technologies, including advanced guidance, navigation and control. Once the vehicle's payload bay doors open to space, power is provided by a deployable array of gallium arsenide solar cells coupled with lithium-ion batteries.

But after that action item is checked off, what else the X-37B will do becomes a tight-lipped affair.

"Actual on-orbit activities we do classify...for the experimental payloads that are on-orbit with the X-37," Payton said. There's enough payload room, he added as example, to house a couple of small satellites in the range of a few hundred kilograms each.

Given the X-37B's secretive duties, some analysts contend that the mission is provocative, perhaps fanning the flames for war in space.

"Truthfully, I don't know how this could be called 'weaponization' of space," Payton said. "Fundamentally, it's an updated version of the space shuttle kind of activities in space," he added, a new vehicle that could potentially help the Air Force do its space missions better.

Perhaps a key show and tell feature of the X-37B is its self-guided entry and landing in California. In the event the vehicle strays off course as it swoops down over the Pacific Ocean, the space plane is outfitted with a destruct mechanism.

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 1 was built by Boeing in Seal Beach, Calif. It is about 29 feet (9 meters) long and has a wingspan of just over 14 feet (4 meters) across. It stands just over 9 1/2 feet (3 meters) tall and weighs nearly 11,000 pounds (about 5,000 kg).

This SPACE.com X-37B graphic illustrates some details of the space plane and its relative size.

The Air Force has already ordered a second X-37B, presumably the Orbital Test Vehicle 2, which is slated to launch in 2011. But that mission, and any new flights of this first vehicle, hinge on the performance during orbital and landing maneuvers, Air Force officials have said.

Tale of the V-tail

The X-37B carries two short vertical stabilizers in the back rather than one vertical as seen on the shuttle orbiter.

There were several reasons for the V-tail 'ruddervators'...a high-tech wordsmithing of rudder and elevator, explained Angie Blair, an Air Force spokeswoman for the project. For one, the short V-tails provide better packaging within the 5 meter in diameter Atlas 5 fairing than a single, taller vertical stabilizer, she said.

Secondly, the more forward wing location of the X-37B enables the V-tails to be very effective in the high angle of attack, hypersonic portion of the entry trajectory. That reduces the amount of reaction control system propellant needed for trim and control of the craft, Blair said.

As the craft draws a bead on its landing locale, a speed brake will be employed.

"A split ruddervators/speed brake like the space shuttle is not feasible in a small vehicle like the OTV," Blair noted. Aerodynamic testing and other studies, she said, led to the vehicle's upper center line speed brake and V-tail ruddervators as the best performing system solutions for the X-37B.

Readiness for re-flight

En route to the runway, new thermal protection systems will be evaluated. So too will be avionics, high temperature structures and seals, conformal reusable insulation, as well as lightweight electromechanical flight systems.

Even after touching down, the X-37B is to yield insight into fast turnaround, operations and maintenance. The craft does carry some vehicle health monitoring subsystems to speed its readiness for re-flight, Payton told SPACE.com.

"If these technologies on the vehicle prove to be as good as we currently estimate, it will make our access to space more responsive, perhaps cheaper, and push us in the vector of being able to react to warfighter needs more quickly," Payton concluded.
 
...

 

Will new space warplane lead to militarization of space?

http://www.greenchange.org/article.php?id=5763
...
"Space has been militarized since before NASA was even created," said Joan Johnson-Freese, a space policy analyst at the Naval War College in Newport, RI. Yet she sees weaponization as a different issue from militarization because "so much space technology is dual use" in terms of having both civilian and military purposes, as well as offensive or defensive use.

The U.S. military could even be using the cloak of mystery to deliberately bamboozle and confuse rival militaries, according to John Pike, a military and security analyst who runs GlobalSecurity.org. He suggested that the X-37B and HTV-2 projects could represent the tip of a space weapons program hidden within the Pentagon's secret "black budget," or they might be nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

"The whole issue is further complicated because beyond technologies like lasers, Rods from God, explosives, etc.... virtually any object traveling in space can be a weapon if it can be maneuvered to run into another object," Johnson-Freese told SPACE.com.

Of course, the U.S. military could theoretically make good use of either the X-47B or HTV-2. An operational space plane could launch quickly as a replacement for recon satellites disabled in the opening salvoes of a conflict, and could "play hide and seek" to avoid being shot down easily. Similarly, a hypersonic aircraft or weapon might allow the U.S. to eliminate threats early on without warning.

The double-edged nature of space technologies has also complicated international efforts to ban entire classes of technologies which might serve as space weapons. Instead, there has been interest in "more modest proposals that focus on behavior, rather than what you are allowed to build or test," said Karl Mueller, a political scientist at the RAND Corporation.

http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/space-war-weapons-heats-up-100505.html
...
In U.S. military tracking parlance, when the space plane reached orbit it became identified as Catalog Number 36514, 2010-015A, OTV-1 (USA 212). [Video: X-37B space plane spotted.]

A second X-37B is now being fabricated for a test mission scheduled for 2011.

X-37B is being operated under the direction of Air Force Space Command's 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron, a space control unit located at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado.

If the incoming space plane strays off its auto-pilot trajectory over the Pacific Ocean, the craft is outfitted with a destruct mechanism.

http://ww.space.com/news/secret-x-37-b-space-plane-spotted-by-amateur-astronomers-100522.html
...
Others have pictured it too. The sightings show that the spaceplane only flies as far north as 40 degrees latitude. And now that the cat is out of the bag, you can get predictions for viewing X-37B yourself at Heavens Above.

http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/Cool-Astronomy/2010/0526/Amateur-astronomers-track-the-US-Air-Force-s-top-secret-X-37B-space-plane
...
But I have concluded that it is based on a few people making a lot of money and gaining power. It is about ego. It is not about our essence and who we really are on this planet and loving each other and being at peace and cooperating. It isn't about using technology to solve problems and heal people in the planet. It isn't about that. It is about a few people who really are playing an old, dangerous, costly game for their own pocketbooks and power struggle. That is all it is.

I believe that this entire space-based weapons game is initiated right here in the United States of America. What I hope is that with this information that is being disclosed, the new administration will to do what is right. That is to transform the war game into a space game so that we use the technologies that are available not just as spin-offs of war technology, but as direct technological applications to build a cooperative space system that will benefit the entire world and that will allow us to communicate with the extraterrestrial cultures that are obviously out there.

Who would benefit from these space-based weapons? They are the people who work in that arena, people in the military, in industries, in universities and labs, in the intelligence community. This is not just in the United States but it is worldwide. This is a worldwide cooperative system. Wars are cooperative. Just as peace will be when it breaks out. But right now there are a lot of people benefiting.

http://www.rense.com/general50/ec.htm
...
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