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X-37B Secret Space Plane To Land Soon

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the not-secret-enough dept.

Space 252

Phoghat writes "The highly classified X-37B Space Plane is scheduled to land soon. It was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on April 22 atop an Atlas 5 rocket, and the Air Force is still being very secretive on all aspects of the flight. We do know that it's set to touch down at Vandenberg Air Force Base's 15,000-foot runway, originally built for the Space Shuttle program. In many ways, the craft resembles a Shuttle with stubby wings, landing gear and a powerful engine that allows the craft to alter its orbit (much to the dismay of many observers on the ground). Its success has apparently given new life to its predecessor, the X-34, which had been mothballed."

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Black and White (0)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 4 years ago | (#34360260)

I wonder if there is some subtle psychological reasoning behind painting the NASA X-34 white and the military X-37B a shining Darth Vader helmet black....

Offensive (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34360320)

From the article:

"This plane is so easy to fly that your grandmother could land it."

As a 49 yo grandmother, feminist and C programmer of 20 years, I find that offensive. They wouldn't have said "grandfather" instead of grandmother.

Re:Offensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34360490)

which part of you got offended the most? The 49 yo, the grandmother, the feminist or the c programmer?
I'm thinkin 20 years of programming is going to make anyone a bit touchy.

Re:Offensive (2, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | about 4 years ago | (#34360662)

which part of you got offended the most? The 49 yo, the grandmother, the feminist or the c programmer? I'm thinkin 20 years of programming is going to make anyone a bit touchy.

I would suspect it's the "49 years old" ... no woman likes to admit they're about to hit the big 5-0, and many of us stay 39 years old well into our 50s just like most guys suddenly have a second childhood, complete with sports car and 20-something girlfriend, around that age. Neither sex is immune to denial :-)

It can't be the 20 years of c programming, because I'm in the same situation - you generally don't stay a coder that long unless you enjoy it.

And it certainly shouldn't be feminists, because feminists nowadays recognize that we don't all have to be pant-suit-wearing, bra-burning, man-hating asexual clones.

And it can't be the "grandmother" thing ... unless you're granny and you re afraid that your relatives want to stick granny into one of these and fire you into orbit for 9 months without life support. We all probably have one relative who, in our darker moments, we like to imagine might "benefit" from such treatment, but we don't REALLY wish that on anyone.

No, I'd guess it's the age thing.

-- Barbie

Re:Offensive (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34360742)

Tom:

Tell your woman to get her own damned Slashdot account.

That is all.

Re:Offensive (1, Informative)

tomhudson (43916) | about 4 years ago | (#34361322)

Tom:

Tell your woman to get her own damned Slashdot account.

That is all.

Please read my slashdot profile [slashdot.org] .

Or you could read this article from linuxinsider [linuxinsider.com] :

On the other hand: "The holiday season is coming, so I suspect I'll be giving a couple of blu-ray players as presents," offered Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by "Tom" on the site.

That is all;--p

-- Barbie

Re:Offensive (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34360562)

Oh wow, you programmed C for 20 years? incredible.... oh wait, guess what, any kid can program in C, it's taught at high schools, that's no accomplishment. When you get a Nobel prize for an incredible Scientific discovery (which is what Men have been doing, we've created all Science and Technology you see around you, you ungrateful cunt) then you can run your mouth about equality and what is and is not offensive, until then, STFU.

Re:Offensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34360636)

Of course they wouldn't, grandfathers are men so it's obvious THEY could fly it.

Re:Offensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34360704)

Strange, yesterday you were a "radar antenna designer of 20 years". Maybe instead of "grandmother" or "grandfather", we should just say "cut-n-paste troll".

Re:Offensive (1)

arth1 (260657) | about 4 years ago | (#34360784)

"This plane is so easy to fly that your grandmother could land it."

As a 49 yo grandmother, feminist and C programmer of 20 years, I find that offensive. They wouldn't have said "grandfather" instead of grandmother.

Of course not. The chance of having a grandmother that can't fly is far higher than of having a living grandfather that can't fly.
This is for two reasons: Fewer female pilots, and women living longer than men.

The way to fix this is to obtain a pilot's license and fight for increasing the lifespan of men. Then you can feel offended.

Re:Offensive (1)

guyminuslife (1349809) | about 4 years ago | (#34360914)

Well, could your grandmother land it?

Re:Offensive (1)

peragrin (659227) | about 4 years ago | (#34361038)

Yes she could.

Seeing as thee super secret plane carries no human passengers. pretty much any grandmother could push the button that is labeled, return home.

It is even red.

Re:Black and White (1)

onionman (975962) | about 4 years ago | (#34360322)

I wonder if there is some subtle psychological reasoning behind painting the NASA X-34 white and the military X-37B a shining Darth Vader helmet black....

At first I thought, "oh, to make it harder to see with a telescope," but then I RTFA and noticed that amateur astronomers have been tracking the thing in orbit, so I guess the paint job is just to make it look cool. Really, though, if I were in charge of a super secret space plane, I'd want it to look cool, too.

Re:Black and White (2, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#34360358)

I wonder if there is some subtle psychological reasoning behind painting the NASA X-34 white and the military X-37B a shining Darth Vader helmet black....

At first I thought, "oh, to make it harder to see with a telescope," but then I RTFA and noticed that amateur astronomers have been tracking the thing in orbit, so I guess the paint job is just to make it look cool. Really, though, if I were in charge of a super secret space plane, I'd want it to look cool, too.

Black surfaces radiate more heat than other surfaces [answers.com] so it is better for a heat shield to be black.

Re:Black and White (2, Informative)

pe1rxq (141710) | about 4 years ago | (#34360418)

Try reading before posting next time....

From your answer:

Emmisivity, or the ability of a black body to radiate or re-radiate in some cases, is highly dependent on many variables. Try re-asking the question.

Re:Black and White (0, Troll)

Atraxen (790188) | about 4 years ago | (#34360566)

Not only would I insist that this is an incorrect statement, that isn't what your link says at all.

Black items will ABSORB more light. When light (i.e. the energy contained in a photon) is absorbed by a molecule, there are a certain number of likely fates for this energy. Remember, 'what goes up, must come down' - an excited molecule will relax through one of these processes:
  - fluorescence or phosphorescence - the light comes out a different (and lower energy) color (these differ by how long they take to occur).
  - photochemistry - they react with something or break apart while excited. Bonds are made or broken.
  - vibrational energy (i.e. HEAT) is given to surrounding molecules.

The third (heat) is by far the most likely outcome, and occurs alongside the other two EVERY TIME! In other words, because it is black it ends up with MORE heat energy. It is not radiating more heat because it's black; it is getting more heat because it's black, which as a result means more heat is given off.

AND - a black satellite will overheat much faster,which goes directly against your logic.

There are a number of different tile types that are black: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_thermal_protection_system [wikipedia.org] gives a nice rundown.

The only way that black would help dissipate heat is that when heated up, the blackbody photons they give off would yield a minor loss of heat energy (multiple small vibrational packets of energy put together to make a light photon, if you will...)

Re:Black and White (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34360630)

Black items may absorb more light, but they also can radiate heat more effectively. It's not mutually exclusive.

Re:Black and White (4, Informative)

arth1 (260657) | about 4 years ago | (#34360864)

Black items will ABSORB more light. When light (i.e. the energy contained in a photon) is absorbed by a molecule, there are a certain number of likely fates for this energy. Remember, 'what goes up, must come down'

Yes, remember that. Black items will absorb more light, and also radiate exactly that much more heat.
The perfect absorber is also the perfect transmitter. Anything else would be a violation of the first law of thermodynamics, and we can't go around breaking them laws, now can we?

Re:Black and White (3, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#34361042)

Yes, remember that. Black items will absorb more light, and also radiate exactly that much more heat.

Yeah but for a heat shield some heat comes from conduction and that is the same regardless of the albedo of the surface.

Re:Black and White (3, Funny)

sentientbeing (688713) | about 4 years ago | (#34361096)

Not in this house, Lisa

Physics fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34360978)

Yeah, I thought the GP was being facetious, but now he's got an INFORMATIVE mod?!

Black radiates more heat because it absorbs more light -- which causes more heat to be generated -- not because black "radiates heat better".

To put it another way... lets say 3 light particles hit a surface.
In the case of a white surface 2 of them are reflected and 1 is absorbed.
In the case of a black surface 1 particle is reflected and 2 are absorbed.

Any of the "absorbed" particles are converted to heat, so if you measured the heat output of a black surface, it would be higher because more of the light energy it receives is absorbed and converted to heat instead of reflected.
(above numbers used for simplicity, not based on actual absorption rate of white/black surfaces)

Just wear a dark shirt on a sunny day, you'll feel the effect in action.

The real super secret space plane ... (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 4 years ago | (#34360838)

Was painted in a Cloak of Invisibility color from Sherwin-Williams, which is why nobody saw it. Just ask for it at your local Home Depot; they'll have it (the paint, not the plane).

Probably.

Re:Black and White (2, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 4 years ago | (#34360396)

Sorry but what do you mean black? Only the bottom looks black to me. It looks like almost the same colors as the shuttle. A lot of the colors are for thermal management and some because that is the color of the material. Almost none of it is "paint" except for some of the id stuff.
paint doesn't tend to do well at those temps.

Re:Black and White (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34360468)

Why don't you pull your head out of your ass? Is there some reason that you seem to walk around with a permanent fucking erection for yourself? Is your shit that fucking radioactive hot? Is your wife a fucking super model or something? Jesus. It's people like you that make me think that there is a purpose for torture, because I'd like to see you naked and blindfolded with a fucking battery charger clipped to your cock, in a dark room shackled to the fucking floor.

Re:Black and White (4, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | about 4 years ago | (#34360690)

Why don't you pull your head out of your ass? Is there some reason that you seem to walk around with a permanent fucking erection for yourself? Is your shit that fucking radioactive hot? Is your wife a fucking super model or something? Jesus. It's people like you that make me think that there is a purpose for torture, because I'd like to see you naked and blindfolded with a fucking battery charger clipped to your cock, in a dark room shackled to the fucking floor.

Wow. Just ... wow.

Hey everybody - Dick Cheney posts on slashdot!

Re:Black and White (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 4 years ago | (#34361080)

Actually my bet is that even Cheney has a better sense of proportion then this poster.

Re:Black and White (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 4 years ago | (#34360998)

funny but if you feel that I am incorrect why not post that I am wrong?
If I am correct what is your problem? Wow the fact that you care so much is actually kind of sad.

Yawn (3, Insightful)

Aerorae (1941752) | about 4 years ago | (#34360282)

Highly classified spaceship carrying highly classified cargo returns to earth semi-unclassifiedly. Slow news day on /.

Re:Yawn (2, Insightful)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about 4 years ago | (#34360878)

You missed the bit where they said:

"highly classified...scheduled to land soon...very secretive on all aspects of the flight...set to touch down at Vandenberg ...powerful engine that allows the craft to alter its orbit (much to the dismay of many observers on the ground)."

See what they did there? Oh man, this place is better than The Onion sometimes. And yes, an engine capable of orbital changes is easily capable of landing in northern Scotland instead of Vandenberg.

Re:Yawn (1)

Sanat (702) | about 4 years ago | (#34361298)

I was stationed at Vandenberg years ago and really enjoyed all of the secret things that landed and took off from there. What was really interesting was a secret launch say at 2:00 AM and in driving to the launch site there would be a few hundred cars parked around the area. Some secrets were difficult to keep when the husband or wife had to be on site or near the site then everyone knew something was up and the word spread.

part of my job was to optically align missiles for flight and to program in their targets, launch codes and operating system.

I really enjoyed that duty.

Another launch? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#34360286)

Another launch of the craft may take place as early as this March.

That orbiter? Or another orbiter of the same type?

Re:Another launch? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34360660)

The one currently in space is OTV-1 (Orbital Test Vehicle #1), the next launch will be of its sister, OTV-2.

Launched April 22? (3, Interesting)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 4 years ago | (#34360314)

You mean it's been in the air for seven months?

Re:Launched April 22? (1)

onionman (975962) | about 4 years ago | (#34360356)

You mean it's been in the air for seven months?

Yep. I think that's part of what makes it so freakin' cool.

Re:Launched April 22? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34360382)

No it's been in space.

Re:Launched April 22? (1)

arth1 (260657) | about 4 years ago | (#34360880)

Low earth orbit is still part of the atmosphere, and not space.

Re:Launched April 22? (5, Interesting)

Aqualung812 (959532) | about 4 years ago | (#34360384)

You mean it's been in the air for seven months?

Yup, that's the cool part of it. Imagine the possibilities for an orbiter that is fully automated, can change orbit, and return to Earth & be refueled. Put a nice camera on that & you have a spy sat that can't be tracked easily. You might even be able to put a weapon on that since it can be reloaded.

Re:Launched April 22? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#34360434)

You mean it's been in the air for seven months?

Yup, that's the cool part of it. Imagine the possibilities for an orbiter that is fully automated, can change orbit, and return to Earth & be refueled. Put a nice camera on that & you have a spy sat that can't be tracked easily. You might even be able to put a weapon on that since it can be reloaded.

I suspect it would still be cheaper to design the satellites for a shorter life span and keep launching them into different orbits.

Re:Launched April 22? (3, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | about 4 years ago | (#34360520)

I suspect it would still be cheaper to design the satellites for a shorter life span and keep launching them into different orbits.

The cost of launching a satellite is in the tens of millions of dollars range.

Satellites are made to have longer and longer lifespans as technology evolves, because the higher cost of a more sophisticated satellite is easily compensated by needing less of those costly launch missions.

Maneuverability in a hostile environment (3, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | about 4 years ago | (#34360620)

I suspect it would still be cheaper to design the satellites for a shorter life span and keep launching them into different orbits.

Consider the advantage of maneuverability in a hostile (as in being shot at) environment, or in a situation where the geographical points of interest keep changing, or changing the time required to orbit so that someone on the ground can not predict an overflight very easily. The X-37 may carry more fuel, or have engines offering greater delta-v, than a satellite.

Re:Maneuverability in a hostile environment (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#34360800)

I suspect it would still be cheaper to design the satellites for a shorter life span and keep launching them into different orbits.

Consider the advantage of maneuverability in a hostile (as in being shot at) environment, or in a situation where the geographical points of interest keep changing, or changing the time required to orbit so that someone on the ground can not predict an overflight very easily. The X-37 may carry more fuel, or have engines offering greater delta-v, than a satellite.

Maybe but this is the failed argument which killed the space shuttle at birth. It was cheaper to use disposable vehicles. Maybe thats changing now that launchers are getting cheaper, but I don't think USAF launch costs are going down yet.

Re:Launched April 22? (2, Interesting)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 4 years ago | (#34360612)

The payload capacity is too small to use for detailed ground observations. We can already scramble a drone in a short time frame if we have actionable intelligence that needs a quick look before a satellite flies over. It is most likely intended to be used for inspection of satellites (think Transformers 2 :)), refueling them, performing simple repairs, and experimenting with spaced based operations.

"Can't easily be tracked" ??Re:Launched April 22? (1)

Dr La (1342733) | about 4 years ago | (#34360684)

What do you mean by "can't easily be tracked"? In fact the X-37B is an easy object to track: it is quite bright, attaining easy naked eye brightness.

Re:Launched April 22? (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | about 4 years ago | (#34360688)

Think about other country's satellites you could steal, gut, and "borrow" they're technology. Anybody can put weapons or cameras in space. But to go up and remotely get something and bring it home? AWESOME.

Re:Launched April 22? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34360724)

You might even be able to put a weapon on that since it can be reloaded.

everyone in the UN already agreed to not weaponize space. america would have hell to pay to the rest of the world if they ever found out.

Re:Launched April 22? (2, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | about 4 years ago | (#34360912)

everyone in the UN already agreed to not weaponize space. america would have hell to pay to the rest of the world if they ever found out.

I'm sure the American government would be just _SO_ scared that the UN might get a bit upset with them.

Re:Launched April 22? (1)

sznupi (719324) | about 4 years ago | (#34360956)

It should be, other launch capable (them at the least) nations being upset about weaponizing of space is a hint how, at some point, somebody might get fed up enough to trigger Kessler syndrome, it would be fairly easy. Orbit is a great place for asymmetric warfare.

Re:Launched April 22? (2, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 4 years ago | (#34361026)

You mean it's been in the air for seven months?

Yup, that's the cool part of it.

Nope, it hasn't been in the air for seven months - it's been in orbit for seven months. Which isn't particularly noteworthy as far as orbital lifetimes goes.
 

Imagine the possibilities for an orbiter that is fully automated, can change orbit, and return to Earth & be refueled. Put a nice camera on that & you have a spy sat that can't be tracked easily.

We've had spy satellites with that capability for over thirty years - and much better ones than this spaceplane can ever be, since they have payloads considerably larger. (Think orders of magnitude.)

Re:Launched April 22? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#34360394)

In orbit. It got dizzy and needs a break.

Re:Launched April 22? (3, Informative)

wgibson (1345509) | about 4 years ago | (#34360438)

Yes, this mission was launched seven months ago, and is not even going on the limit of its capability..

"The X-37B has the requirement to be on-orbit up to 270 days,"

http://spaceflightnow.com/atlas/av012/100225x37arrival/ [spaceflightnow.com] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USA-212 [wikipedia.org]

Re:Launched April 22? (1)

Dausha (546002) | about 4 years ago | (#34360542)

It's been in Space for seven months? It is a space ship, after all. A future flight will be one of the last of America's deep space probes. I've heard the pilot is William Rodgers; but I don't remember his call sign.

Re:Launched April 22? (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | about 4 years ago | (#34360682)

The things you can do when you don't need to support a human passenger are pretty awesome. You could leave it up there forever and change orbits as long as onboard fuel allows. I believe this is proof-of-concept of on-orbit first strike capability. You can be anywhere in the world pretty damn quick when your craft in orbit clips along at tens of thousands of miles per hour.

Re:Launched April 22? (1)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | about 4 years ago | (#34361184)

It has been in orbit for seven months. Technically there is still a bit of air up at 400 km, but not much.

Taxpayers get shit on.. End black budgets (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34360352)

Yes I notice the first few comments are retarded jokes. How about a serious reality check instead?

These warmongering black budget toys that the common taxpayer funds and has no say-so in need to be completely eradicated from the face of the Earth. There's a secrative corporate cabal operating within the government that is abobe the federal government and the united states congress and president, that answers to absolutely no one and uses your tax dollars to fund whatever they wish; mostly warmongering toys that perpetuate our neverending wars. Yes, you pay for all of this without ever having the privlidge to know what they are doing with your money nor do you have any say so in how the money is spent. This is all done under the farce of of "national security". Fuck the military industrial complex and these corporate cabals. It's time for the American people to wake up and stop being pussified by the CIA propaganda that is terrorism. If you would like to know who the real "terrorists" are, please kindly watch the 2 minute video below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XpXpl8uzFk&feature=player_embedded [youtube.com]

Yes, the United States of America are the terrorists, lead by secret societies that go back far before babylon.

flamebait? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34360424)

this seems like the most educated comment i've ever read on slashdot. i wonder which government agent modded this down?

Re:flamebait? (4, Funny)

Haeleth (414428) | about 4 years ago | (#34360924)

i wonder which government agent modded this down?

That's the scary thing. It could have been literally anyone! The conspiracy runs so deep that there barely are any ordinary Americans left. We are all government agents now.

You are one of the tiny handful who are not yet part of the conspiracy. There can't be more than a few hundred of you left, and we are brainwashing you at a rate of about three a month. I wonder if you will manage to uncover the true secret of our ancient mysteries before we discover your identity?

Re:Taxpayers get shit on.. End black budgets (2, Informative)

MrQuacker (1938262) | about 4 years ago | (#34360444)

True or false, your argument would be more moving if it wasn't full of conspiracy theory buzzwords.

Personally, I blame the Vampirates.

Re:Taxpayers get shit on.. End black budgets (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34360802)

Personally, I blame the Vampirates.

the Lycinjas could kick a the Vampirates' asses any day.

Re:Taxpayers get shit on.. End black budgets (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34360948)

Ha, everyone knows it was the Girl Scouts of America working for the Illuminati! The Vampirates are just a cover story!

Thank God (5, Funny)

cbraescu1 (180267) | about 4 years ago | (#34360448)

Thank God you didn't forget to post the above message as an "Anonymous Coward"!

I shiver to think what your punishment would be from the "secrative" cabal that goes back far before Babylon.

Re:Taxpayers get shit on.. End black budgets (1)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | about 4 years ago | (#34361174)

> Yes, the United States of America are the terrorists, lead by secret societies that go back far before babylon.

Cool! How do I join one of these secret societies?

Bizarre they shelved them in the first place (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34360392)

The space planes always seemed a better solution than the shuttles. I wonder how much the new commercial airplane launched systems have to do with them pulling the space planes out of mothballs?

Re:Bizarre they shelved them in the first place (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34360518)

A solution to WHAT? Manned space is a stunt. It solves no pressing issues and all it is is a thrill ride for rich adrenaline junkies. It's also so far away from a "spaceship" it's like calling a hang-glider a passenger jet. We have no commercial spacecraft. We have sub-orbital tin cans that go up and come down again. There never will be commercial space ships. Get over it.

Re:Bizarre they shelved them in the first place (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 4 years ago | (#34360628)

There never will be commercial space ships. Get over it.

As trolls go, I'm afraid I can only give you 2/10 for that one.

Re:Bizarre they shelved them in the first place (1)

tomhudson (43916) | about 4 years ago | (#34360728)

Space planes were looking good back in the early 1960s. The early designs, such as Dyna-Soar (Dynamic Soaring) weren't practical back then because of materials. We could easily do them today, instead of wasting money on the Aries.

Not needing to lug your oxidant along on the first stage is a HUGE win. The same $ would give you a 5x to 10x greater LTO capacity. At that cost, it's not a stunt - it's a true space tug, unlike the shuttle.

Re:Bizarre they shelved them in the first place (1)

sznupi (719324) | about 4 years ago | (#34360788)

Not needing to lug your oxidant along on the first stage is a HUGE win. The same $ would give you a 5x to 10x greater LTO capacity.

Ignoring the small detail that, when the actual technical case studies (or even basically aborted, later, efforts) take a closer look, the gains turn out to be negligible at best to "dumb rocket" using comparably advanced tech.

Re:Bizarre they shelved them in the first place (1)

tomhudson (43916) | about 4 years ago | (#34361346)

That was because they hadn't solved the problem of cooling the leading edges of the lifting surfaces - now solved.

We don't need to pipe liquid hydrogen through the wing to cool it, so there goes all the dead weight of the plumbing associated with it, and the associated losses of carrying enough extra H2 that won't be used for thrust for cooling on re-entry.

It makes a big difference. The space shuttle wouldn't have been possible either without it.

-- Barbie

Re:Bizarre they shelved them in the first place (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | about 4 years ago | (#34361104)

It turns out the fuel itself is only a small fraction of the total cost of a rocket launch. Turning to a more complex air breathing launch mechanism raises the overall cost, rather than lowering it, because of the technical difficulty involved.

Re:Bizarre they shelved them in the first place (2, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 4 years ago | (#34360596)

These space planes were developed largely in response to fears that the NASA space shuttle program would be cancelled as a result of the Challenger incident in 1986. Further problems with Columbia forced the Air Force to pick up the pace and sealed the fate of the remaining space shuttle program.

I, for one, have childlike faith... (1, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 years ago | (#34360474)

That somebody will explain how our superiority in the highly competitive black-ops space-plane carrying mystery cargo arena will eventually be converted into a solution for the fact that we can't seem to fight a ground war against a 14th century tribal rabble armed with 1950's eastern bloc shit without getting our stuff blown up all the time...

Re:I, for one, have childlike faith... (4, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#34360512)

That somebody will explain how our superiority in the highly competitive black-ops space-plane carrying mystery cargo arena will eventually be converted into a solution for the fact that we can't seem to fight a ground war against a 14th century tribal rabble armed with 1950's eastern bloc shit without getting our stuff blown up all the time...

You might find this surprising, but most military powers find it difficult to fight wars without getting their stuff blown up all the time. I think it has something to do with the presence of a "foe".

Re:I, for one, have childlike faith... (2, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | about 4 years ago | (#34360810)

It has a lot to do with the rule of thumb of needing 4x the "boots on the ground" for an external force to win.

Do the math, and you know that the only countries with enough people to actually be able to raise up a large enough army to win a ground war in Afghanistan (pop. 30 million) or Iraq (pop. 31 million) are China or India, and that neither has anywhere near enough trained soldiers to even think about it.

Even Russia, #1 with 21 million troops, couldn't do it.

Today, it's limited to "Go in, do the job (and make sure you have a clear-cut definition of "the job"), declare victory, and get the heck out." Trying to hold on or succumb to mission creep just gets you stuck in a never-ending morass. Same as Afghanistan was to the Russians, Viet Nam to the US, etc.

Re:I, for one, have childlike faith... (3, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 4 years ago | (#34360872)

Ummmm. no. We could win a war against Afghanistan without putting one person on the group. We could bomb a country like that until not a structure stayed standing and the few who lived would be reduced to living in caves and living off of grass.

We somehow today equate winning a war with winning over the people and making them love us.

Re:I, for one, have childlike faith... (3, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | about 4 years ago | (#34360900)

We could win a war against Afghanistan without putting one person on the group. We could bomb a country like that until not a structure stayed standing and the few who lived would be reduced to living in caves and living off of grass

And they would still be trying to kill you whenever they could.

We somehow today equate winning a war with winning over the people and making them love us.

I thought you invaded Afghanistan to capture bin Laden, and bring democracy and human rights to the people there? Or is this one of those 'we had to kill the people in order to save them' things?

Re:I, for one, have childlike faith... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34361152)

And if you tried that then the other major world powers (Russia, China etc) would put you down like the mad dogs you'd have become. It's one thing to invade a smaller, shitty country, quite another to start mass exterminating its populace. You'd be a radioactive hole in the ground 15 minutes after you started to try.

Re:I, for one, have childlike faith... (5, Insightful)

guyminuslife (1349809) | about 4 years ago | (#34360942)

We somehow today equate winning a war with winning over the people and making them love us.

Well, isn't that the point? I mean, why are we in Afghanistan? Because many of the people there hated us and blew up some buildings. So we decided to kill a bunch of the people who hate us and leave only the people who love us, and make them love us more because we've invaded their country.

(I have to admit, it does sound pretty stupid when you put it like that.)

Re:I, for one, have childlike faith... (2, Informative)

ekwhite (847167) | about 4 years ago | (#34361076)

Except the people who blew up the buildings were mostly Saudis. None of them were Afghanis. The Taliban provided shelter to Osama Bin Laden, who was a member of one of the most powerful Saudi families. We supposedly went in to get Bin Laden - who is still supposedly on the loose, despite being on dialysis. Most likely, he died of kidney failure long ago. So why are we still there?

Re:I, for one, have childlike faith... (1)

vadim_t (324782) | about 4 years ago | (#34361292)

That might be because it is stupid. Yet that's what the official justification for the wars amounts to, pretty much.

Unfortunately people weren't thinking enough of that back when all this crap was getting started.

Re:I, for one, have childlike faith... (1)

jjohnson (62583) | about 4 years ago | (#34361052)

If your definition of "winning" is "the other guy is dead", then yes, bombing them back to the Stone Age would work.

However, leaving aside the moral dimension, that's rarely a useful outcome. Bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age wouldn't serve as a deterrent to other nations like Saudi Arabia that actually provided the 9/11 terrorists, so you'd have to kill them too (if you need an example of this, notice how many bloodbaths the Soviet Union perpetrated, such as Hungary or Czechoslovakia, and how they had little effect on later uprisings in Poland and Romania). After you've killed everyone, what then?

The whole point of going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq was to replace their governments with friendly ones. Whether or not that's a militarily achievable outcome (I highly doubt that it is), that was the point, so winning means 1) leaving someone behind with a reasonable facsimile of a civil society and 2) that civil society being generally well-disposed to us. Otherwise, it's a waste of blood and treasure.

Re:I, for one, have childlike faith... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34361288)

"It has a lot to do with the rule of thumb of needing 4x the "boots on the ground" for an external force to win. "

From where does this mystical rule of thumb arise? Relative lack of numbers didn't seem to prevent the Germans in World War II across most of Europe, or the British in the Falklands, or the Israeli's 7 day war against it's neighbours from steam rolling the opposing force.

If you needed 4x the numbers of the population, then basically no invasion force would have succeded ever. Clearly this rule of thumb of yours is completely and utterly wrong.

The problem in Afghanistan (and previously Iraq) is that America is too pro-freedom to brutally oppress the people like the Germans did, and too clumsy to gain the support of the people through good will and competence. You need to do one or the other, and if America is remain a symbol of liberty it must be the latter that they become good at. The issue right now is that they're dilly-dallying around doing neither which means there is no resolution.

Re:I, for one, have childlike faith... (1)

novalis112 (1216168) | about 4 years ago | (#34360990)

That somebody will explain how our superiority in the highly competitive black-ops space-plane carrying mystery cargo arena will eventually be converted into a solution for the fact that we can't seem to fight a ground war against a 14th century tribal rabble armed with 1950's eastern bloc shit without getting our stuff blown up all the time...

You might find this surprising, but most military powers find it difficult to fight wars without getting their stuff blown up all the time. I think it has something to do with the presence of a "foe".

Tell that to the Conquistadors.

Re:I, for one, have childlike faith... (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#34361234)

You might find this surprising, but most military powers find it difficult to fight wars without getting their stuff blown up all the time. I think it has something to do with the presence of a "foe".

Tell that to the Conquistadors.

Look at that. One counterexample in the past five hundred years and yet my statement still remains true!

Re:I, for one, have childlike faith... (2, Interesting)

novalis112 (1216168) | about 4 years ago | (#34361284)

Tibet vs. China. India vs. The United Kingdom. Kuwait vs. Iraq (1990). Iraq vs. The United States of America (1990).

In fact...

A new University of Georgia study has found that despite overwhelming military superiority, the world's most powerful nations failed to achieve their objectives in 39 percent of their military operations since World War II.

39% hardly equates to *most*.

Re:I, for one, have childlike faith... (2, Insightful)

AJWM (19027) | about 4 years ago | (#34360672)

we can't seem to fight a ground war against a 14th century tribal rabble armed with 1950's eastern bloc shit without getting our stuff blown up all the time...

Because for some reason we insist on not using 14th century tactics, which would be roughly "kill them all, God will know his own" (actually, 13th century). If we didn't care about non-combatant casualties it'd be over in a week.

Re:I, for one, have childlike faith... (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 4 years ago | (#34360852)

I logged in to post almost the same thing. If we were not a liberal democracy but had the same military firepower, we could wipe out Iraq and Afghanistan and not devote 1% of our firepower. Not that I want to see that.

Re:I, for one, have childlike faith... (1)

sznupi (719324) | about 4 years ago | (#34360996)

Google for Iraq ammunition shortages (and no, nukes are not viable / would hit hard your "allies", remember? Soviets didn't use them)

Re:I, for one, have childlike faith... (3, Insightful)

jjohnson (62583) | about 4 years ago | (#34361006)

Explain the Soviet Union's sojourn in the deserts of Afghanistan, then. They didn't seem to have a problem with civilian casualties.

The answer to the grandparent is that military force can't create a particular civil society. It can sure as fuck destroy a particular civil society, but getting the populace to actually vote the way you want them to isn't easily done by bayonet, unless the bayonet is right there, pointing at them.

Re:I, for one, have childlike faith... (1)

ilo.v (1445373) | about 4 years ago | (#34361212)

we can't seem to fight a ground war against a 14th century tribal rabble armed with 1950's eastern bloc shit without getting our stuff blown up all the time...

The problem is, we want to fight the war without blowing THEIR stuff up. Obviously we could "glass" the place. The Mongol's conquered that place (and just about every other place) easily. Their approach: "kiss our toes or we will kill every single person in your entire tribe." The longstanding way to conquer Afghanistan is to just drive through. If someone shoots at you from the hills, drive to the nearest village and shoot everyone there, then burn the crops and kill/steal all the livestock. As a matter of fact, you don't really need to shoot the people. Taking away their food clothing and shelter works well enough. The "warriors" in those hills will starve to death, and the "warriors" in the next set of hills will decide not to shoot. They are utterly incapable of defending their farms/villages in a stand up fight. What we are trying to do is track down gang members without blowing up the civilian population's stuff. We have to do it because any central government we set up will be too corrupt to do it themselves. If we pull out, the punks will go back to setting up schools to teach brainwashed American kids how to build car bombs to explode in Times Square or Portland tree lighting ceremonies.

Can anyone tell me? (1)

ksandom (718283) | about 4 years ago | (#34360594)

I was looking at the photos and was thinking about the wing size. "That's because they fly very fast because they re-enter the asmosphere really fast." But then I thought "why do they need to re-enter that fast? Surely they could use the atmosphere to slow themselves down, and enter at a much slower, cooler and more relaxed pace." Then I thought "well maybe the gravity has a fair amount of time to act on the craft before the atmosphere really begins, therefore giving plenty of opportunity for speed, well before a viable way to slow down"

Am I right? Does someone have a better explaination?

Re:Can anyone tell me? (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 4 years ago | (#34360654)

They should come down from one of the slow orbits?

If you are an adult you are beyond help.

If not pay attention to your science teachers.

We can't help you here.

Re:Can anyone tell me? (4, Informative)

Teun (17872) | about 4 years ago | (#34360824)

Space (vacuum) + earth's gravity cause a free-fall.

The direction of that fall is mainly controlled by the forward motion of the craft and the centrifugal effect by that speed allows it to stay in orbit above the atmosphere.
So once you start breaking this forward speed, usually by firing rockets, the gravity starts to win from the centrifugal force and the craft starts to come down.
When you brake carefully the craft will slowly enter the atmosphere and now be slowed down when encountering the high altitude atmosphere, the problem is the speed at that time is still extremely high causing a lot of friction heat.
Would you brake hard with the rockets the craft would fall out of orbit much quicker and enter the denser parts of our atmosphere much sooner causing extreme friction braking and heat, basically the craft would burn up like a meteorite.

So the trick is to brake in a sensible way and have a craft that can withstand the inevitable friction heat long enough to slow down and enter navigable levels of the atmosphere where the wings can take over.

Re:Can anyone tell me? (3, Informative)

Anaerin (905998) | about 4 years ago | (#34361050)

I was looking at the photos and was thinking about the wing size. "That's because they fly very fast because they re-enter the asmosphere really fast." But then I thought "why do they need to re-enter that fast? Surely they could use the atmosphere to slow themselves down, and enter at a much slower, cooler and more relaxed pace." Then I thought "well maybe the gravity has a fair amount of time to act on the craft before the atmosphere really begins, therefore giving plenty of opportunity for speed, well before a viable way to slow down"

Am I right? Does someone have a better explaination?

Here's a link with the basics: Nasa's Landing 101 [nasa.gov]

When the shuttle de-orbits, it fires it's engines in the opposite direction to it's orbit's travel to slow it's forward velocity, which is several magnitudes faster than ground speed (17239.2MPH for the ISS). At this point, the shuttle's inertia stops counteracting the pull of gravity, and the shuttle starts "Falling", like swinging a bucket full of water around on a string, then slowing down the rotation.

Given that there is no atmosphere at this height, the shuttle can accelerate (at 9.81m/s^2) to speeds well in excess of "terminal velocity" as there is no drag to slow it. It typically hits the atmosphere (80 miles up) after 30 minutes of freefall, travelling at speeds of at least twice the speed of sound.

The orbiter then uses it's aerodynamic profile to control its descent, making a series of sharply banking turns to brake it's speed as it descends through the atmosphere, the friction of the air moving against the underside of the orbiter heating the heatproof ceramic tiles up to white hot.

So, here's the answer to you question is "Because gravity has been pulling them down for half an hour before they even hit the atmosphere". In theory, they could use retro thrusters to brake their descent before they hit the atmosphere (Like the Apollo missions did with their lunar landers), but as that would take immense amounts of fuel (close to that required for blast-off) it would make the orbiter's payload capacity virtually nil. Therefore it is easier for them to take the descent into the atmosphere with the best high-speed aerodynamics they can, using the friction of wind resistance to slough off the excess speed, trading it for heat that can be dealt with as they aerodynamically slow their descent and approach the ground at a safe speed.

No "dismay of ground observers" (1)

Dr La (1342733) | about 4 years ago | (#34360670)

The idea that the manoeuvring of the X-37B is somehow to the "dismay of ground observers" has popped up more often in the press recently.This is however some weird statement that is not founded on anything substantial. A lot of satellites, including classified satellites (e.g. the KH-12 Keyholes and the Lacrosse SAR satellites) frequently manoeuvre as well. The X-37B is not much different in that aspect. And for amateur satellite trackers, part of the fun of observing exactly is detecting such manoeuvres, and re-establishing the orbits. So no, not "to the dismay of ground observers": on the contrary!

One of the commenters below also claims that the X-37B:

you have a spy sat that can't be tracked easily

In truth, the X-37B is easy to track, as it is quite bright (naked eye object!).

What does the military see in the X-34 (5, Interesting)

voss (52565) | about 4 years ago | (#34360674)

The X-37 proved they could have a shuttle successor without the cost, politics and without Orrin hatch telling them what they had to buy.

Re:What does the military see in the X-34 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34360732)

It's a new idea of a global rapid response ( or sth like this ) - the idea is to drop a 16Ton weight ( actually a small stone would do ) on the tents of the bad guys somewhere in the desert without the need of tracking them with drones (which require servicing and airspace over enemy terrain.

It's not much of a threat to big countries, but would somewhat infringe on the supposed consensus of not using space for war....

Re:What does the military see in the X-34 (1)

robot256 (1635039) | about 4 years ago | (#34361178)

It's not a new idea [wikimedia.org] , but not one that's been put into practice yet as far as I know.

Visibility? (1)

Cruciform (42896) | about 4 years ago | (#34360844)

I wonder what magnitudes it's visible at.
Last week I saw a light traversing the sky at ISS speeds, at -1 or -2 magnitude, except it was on a NE to SW vector... and I've only observed the ISS pass over on a west to east path.

I wonder if that was it.

"Powerful Engine" (1)

Brucelet (1857158) | about 4 years ago | (#34361122)

Is it known that the x-37 has been changing its orbit by firing an engine? Back in the x-20 program there were thoughts about changing orbits by dipping slightly into the atmosphere and using wings, and I've always assumed that's what this new plane has been doing. If done right, you can change orbit with much less energy cost, as you only need to fire engines to lower the orbit initially and to circularize it afterward.

Why pretend you don't know what it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34361342)

The X-37B is a weapons platform. It is designed to be able to drop bombs anywhere on the planet on an hours notice. Why everyone who writes about it is content to call it "mysterious" is beyond me.

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