Monday, March 15, 2010

USAF X-37B: a spaceplace for tomorrow?

Immediately following the Challenger disaster of 1986, the United States Department of Defense embarked on a strategy to implement an independent space policy. The centerpiece of that policy seems to be an unpiloted spaceplane, the X-37B.

This fully classified project has been in the works for more than a decade. Space.com has reported it is expected to be launched inside an Atlas rocket sometime next month.
Much like the highly successful the U.S. UAV drone fleet, the reuseable X-37B spaceplane is completely automated. Built by Boeing Phantom Works, it was designed to land like the shuttle, reach speeds of mach 25 and is slated to demonstrate new heat shield technologies.

Not much more than that is known about the spacecraft at this point. Once it lifts off, is tested and put to use, perhaps then we will have more information. Or, since it is owned by the USAF, we might not.

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