is in a bit of bind right now. The space shuttle program is quickly
winding down, and there are just three more missions left before
the program is officially shutdown. As a result, the U.S. will have
to rely on Russia and European nations to ferry astronauts and
supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).
another blow to space enthusiasts, President Obama has killed
off any hopes of the U.S. returning to the moon by 2020 with the
cancellation of the Orion program. While some may question the need
for the U.S. to go back to a place that we first sent men to over 40
years ago, many see this as another area where the the U.S. is
"easing off the throttle" to allow other nations to pass on
these lows in America's space program, the U.S Air Force (USAF) is
giving space enthusiasts a bit more hope thanks to its X-37B
reusable spacecraft. The "X" prefix should alert you to
the fact that this is the latest
in a long line of U.S. research aircraft that started way back in
1947 with the X-1 which broke the sound barrier in level flight
(piloted by the great Chuck Yeager).
to NASA, the X-37B has a wingspan of just under 15 feet, a total
length of 29.5 feet, and is 9.5 feet tall. The vehicle weighs over
the program is now being headed by the USAF instead of NASA, the
folks at NASA are still keeping a close eye on the performance of the
X-37B prototype. “NASA has a long history of involvement with the
X-37 program. We continue to monitor and share information on
technology developments," said Gary Wentz of the NASA Marshall
Space Flight Center. "We are looking forward to a successful
first flight and to receiving data from some advanced technologies of
interest to us, such as thermal protection systems, guidance,
navigation and control, and materials for autonomous re-entry and
that the X-37B project is being headed up by the USAF, it's not too
surprising that other nations are worried about the intentions of a
craft that could technically be able to drop weapons from orbit.
problem with it [X37-B] is whether you see it as a weapons platform,"
explained Theresa Hitchens, the Director of the United Nations
Institute for Disarmament Research, to Space.com.
"It then becomes, if I am not mistaken, a Global Strike
platform. There are a lot of reasons to be concerned about Global
Strike as a concept."
the USAF says that there should be no reason to worry -- it is not
looking to weaponize the platform or at least it is not publicly
making those intentions known. USAF Space Programs Undersecretary
Gary Payton sees
the X-37B as simply a scientific platform. “What it offers that
we have seldom had is the ability to bring back payloads and
experiments to examine how well the experiments performed on-orbit,"
X-37B is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on April 19
aboard an Atlas V rocket. Although the USAF has not indicated how
long the initial mission will last, the X-37B can stay in orbit for
up to 270 days before reentering the Earth's atmosphere to land on a
runway just like the outgoing space shuttle.
quote: NASA is in a bit of bind right now. The space shuttle program is quickly winding down, and there are just three more missions left before the program is officially shutdown. As a result, the U.S. will have to rely on Russia and European nations to ferry astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).
quote: We'd give them a gorilla warfare
quote: and is bearing a deadly weapon, there is no logical move except to defend with equal or greater force.
quote: gun is a tool, one you leave safety stored away
quote: The rest of the world has great envy of the US and will make any excuse possible to feel better about themselves.
quote: However the main reason is so the citizen can stand up together and take out the government at any given time.
quote: There would be a lot less violence if everyone was less armed. People would think twice about starting trouble if they just had their fists.
quote: I live 45 mins from any Police and don't own a gun. If any intruder comes in, it's unlikely he'll be armed, as here in Aussie guns aren't pervasive, he'll have to face me man to man, and all I can say is God help him. I can defend my property and I don't need a gun. Guns ratchet up tension, they don't diffuse it. In America, guns are a substitute for back-bone, giving weak spineless schmucks a leveller.
quote: Prior to enactment of the law (which requires that every household own a gun and be trained in its use), Kennesaw (just outside of Atlanta GA) had a population of just 5,242 but a crime rate significantly higher (4,332 per 100,000) than the national average (3,899 per 100,000). The latest statistics available – for the year 2005 – show the rate at 2,027 per 100,000. Meanwhile, the population has skyrocketed to 28,189.
quote: Compared to China, we have nothing. Less than nothing. A F-22 can carry 8 missiles. The Chinese have a 9th, and even 50th, for every A-A plane we have. If they invaded, we would lose and lose fast.
quote: It gives them leverage to do what they want...such as take back Taiwan.
quote: But the Chinese will when they come get the x amount of trillions you owe them but cannot pay back.
quote: How dare the U.S. Air Force design a platform that can deliver conventional weapons accurately to a target!
quote: NASA managers had known that contractor Morton Thiokol's design of the SRBs contained a potentially catastrophic flaw in the O-rings since 1977, but they failed to address it properly. They also disregarded warnings from engineers about the dangers of launching posed by the low temperatures of that morning and had failed to adequately report these technical concerns to their superiors. The Rogers Commission offered NASA nine recommendations that were to be implemented before shuttle flights resumed.
quote: Thiokol engineers argued that if the O-rings were colder than 53 °F (12 °C), they did not have enough data to determine whether the joint would seal properly. This was an important consideration, since the SRB O-rings had been designated as a "Criticality 1" component—meaning that there was no backup if both the primary and secondary O-rings failed, and their failure would destroy the Orbiter and its crew.
quote: During the late 1950s, Captain Joseph Kittinger of the United States was assigned to the Aerospace Medical Research Laboratories at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. For Project Excelsior (meaning "ever upward", a name given to the project by Colonel John Stapp), as part of research into high altitude bailout, he made a series of three parachute jumps wearing a pressurized suit, from a helium balloon with an open gondola. The first, from 76,400 feet (23,290 m) in November, 1959 was a near tragedy when an equipment malfunction caused him to lose consciousness, but the automatic parachute saved him (he went into a flat spin at a rotational velocity of 120 rpm; the g-force at his extremities was calculated to be over 22 times that of gravity, setting another record). Three weeks later he jumped again from 74,700 feet (22,770 m). For that return jump Kittinger was awarded the Leo Stevens parachute medal. On August 16, 1960 he made the final jump from the Excelsior III at 102,800 feet (31,330 m). Towing a small drogue chute for stabilization, he fell for 4 minutes and 36 seconds reaching a maximum speed of 614 mph (988 km/h)  before opening his parachute at 14,000 feet (4,270 m). Pressurization for his right glove malfunctioned during the ascent, and his right hand swelled to twice its normal size. He set records for highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump, longest drogue-fall (4 min), and fastest speed by a human through the atmosphere.
quote: What would it take to make a manned version of this? Also could this be modified to be used as the crew capsule for a Lunar mission? If it has a cargo bay like the shuttles could you pack the LEM inside for a lunar mission?
quote: As for weaponization goes, it would be rather hard to sneak one of these into orbit, so even if it happened, everyone would know it was up there. And we already know that China could shoot it down if they wanted to.
quote: The problem with it [X37-B] is whether you see it as a weapons platform," explained Theresa Hitchens, the Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research