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X-37B/OTV spacecraft   (Source: USAF)
U.S. Air Force says that the vehicle will be used purely for scientific research, other nations aren't so sure

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).

In 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 by.

Despite 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).

According 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 11,000 pounds.

Although 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 landing."

Considering 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.

"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, 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."

However, 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," Payton noted.

The 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.



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By Cypherdude1 on 4/8/2010 1:09:21 AM , Rating: 2
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).
It's really sad and pathetic that the once mighty USA no longer has a space vehicle. The once rich and powerful USA can't even afford to keep a newly designed space shuttle operating. There was actually a redesigned space shuttle on the books but we had to kill it because we're BROKE. The USA is so POOR now, in debt, trade deficits, etc..., we must must now rely on Russia and Europe to bum rides to the International Space Station. Sad, very sad indeed.




By Rob94hawk on 4/8/2010 3:29:37 AM , Rating: 5
Our government is so incompetent that the USA will be the second coming of Rome. This is what happens when big government overspends.


By ajfink on 4/8/2010 4:19:09 AM , Rating: 5
The US might fade relative to rising nations, but I don't see it being raided and sacked by successive hordes of foreign invaders from the north.

Let's be serious, the Canadians just don't have it in them.


RE: The USA is Broke and Can't Afford a Space Program
By twjr on 4/8/2010 5:10:53 AM , Rating: 5
Ah but what about the Mexicans?


By Mr Perfect on 4/8/2010 1:29:07 PM , Rating: 5
No, they're smarter then that. They'll be running the country by then.


By GoodRevrnd on 4/8/2010 3:15:18 PM , Rating: 1
¡Reconquista!


By Sazabi19 on 4/8/2010 4:09:54 PM , Rating: 5
They are already invading, haven't you noticed yet?


RE: The USA is Broke and Can't Afford a Space Program
By TSS on 4/8/2010 8:45:43 AM , Rating: 1
But the Chinese will when they come get the x amount of trillions you owe them but cannot pay back.

Not saying any side will be victorious but that'll be one heck of a fight.


By MrBlastman on 4/8/2010 11:08:27 AM , Rating: 2
We're armed to the teeth here. No country could hope to invade us and expect to be victorious.


By MrBlastman on 4/8/2010 1:54:02 PM , Rating: 2
The only way to conquer a nation is through ground occupation. That is what I refer to. There is no way China could hope to occupy us on the ground. Our citizens are too armed for it.


By geddarkstorm on 4/8/2010 2:08:45 PM , Rating: 2
But only millions in their military, trying to take on tens of millions of us on our home turf. And, don't forget they have to cross our lovely moat, the Pacific Ocean. We'd give them a gorilla warfare that'd make Vietnam look like a 12 year old sleep over party.


By lightfoot on 4/8/2010 2:21:32 PM , Rating: 3
My zombie plan could definitely be adapted for Chinese, and honestly who doesn't have a zombie plan?


By eddieroolz on 4/8/2010 5:48:07 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
We'd give them a gorilla warfare


What, beat your chest with both fists and run headfirst into the fight? :D


By Adonlude on 4/8/2010 2:17:59 PM , Rating: 2
Invade the US? You guys are silly. Our own military could easily wipe out an invading force. Even if they couldn't our citizens have so many guns it's not even funny. Those of us that don't have guns would be armed by the ones that do. I have 7 myself and I cant shoot them all at once!


By lightfoot on 4/8/2010 2:48:47 PM , Rating: 3
Quality control is a major issue with Chinese manufactured goods. Although a Chinese made AK-47 would probably still work it has nothing to do with their manufacturing prowess, only the exceptionally fault tolerant design of the AK-47.

American productivity is so much higher than that of the Chinese that we still easily out produce them.

But you're right - China has the potential to become a great rival. They just still have a long way to go to reach that potential.


By eddieroolz on 4/8/2010 5:59:33 PM , Rating: 3
Chinese standard issue is now an indigenously-designed assault rifle called QBZ-95. Bullpup (much like the FAMAS) and quite sophisticated, featuring many modern assault rifle features present in the M4. It was good enough to be a standard issue.

Don't underestimate Chinese manufacturing prowness. As much as I hate everything they stand for, they can easily retool their Foxconn factories to produce the Shenyang J-10, QBZ-95 and Type 99 tank in massive numbers.


By RubberJohnny on 4/9/2010 1:28:40 AM , Rating: 2
I for one will never underestimate the Chinese and their ability to manufacture bulk amounts of prowness.

Sorry Eddie, you had a go at old mate above for misspelling guerrilla so i couldn't resist :)


By MrBlastman on 4/8/2010 3:43:01 PM , Rating: 3
I have 42-round magazines for my Steyr AUG. I can reload them as often as I need. If they keep coming, I'll keep feeding it ammo. :)

That is the beautiful thing about America. We can legally own all sorts of goodies that we can use to defend ourselves.


By MrBlastman on 4/9/2010 9:44:57 AM , Rating: 2
Juvenile? There is nothing juvenile about cherishing your freedom and wanting to make sure you hang on to it. If you have a government that threatens to take it away... you get rid of the threat. Our armed society keeps our leaders in check and they know it.

More appropriately though, our armed society keeps the criminals in check. It has been proven that areas that have gun restrictions or tough gun control have higher rates of crime and higher rates of innocent people being taken advantage of by criminals. I want my neighbor to be armed to the teeth.

Oh, and guns aren't toys, they are instruments. They are fun to play with, yes, but there is anything but "toy" associated with them.

It sounds to me that you are living in the socialized world. I don't blame your view, really, as they have already taken all of your liberties away. The best you can hope for now is an occasional handout from your government.


By JediJeb on 4/9/2010 10:00:56 AM , Rating: 2
I agree and a prime example was back when Florida enacted its concealed carry laws. Within a few weeks of them being enacted the incidents of rape and assault on women fell over 50% because would be attackers no longer knew if their target would be able to shoot them or not.

For those saying the average citizen doesn't need a gun, and should just let the police protect them, I have a question. I live 10 miles from town, if someone breaks into my house, should I have the right to defend myself with as much force as I see fit, or should I calmly ask the attacker to please stand very still and wait until the police arrive 15-20 minutes after I call them? Maybe in Europe criminals are polite enough to wait for the police to arrive but I am not willing to take the chance on that myself.


By Felofasofa on 4/9/2010 9:12:33 PM , Rating: 3
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. Guns don't give you genuine courage, character, or what we Kiwis call "Mana" (integrity). NZ and UK police don't carry guns and are leaders in policing. As usual America's gone for quantity over quality, ie giving thousands of hicks guns and calling them police. Along with all the guns private citizens carry the allusion to Rome is apt. America's this weird military state, that's notably in decline. You don't trust your leadership, or don't fund it properly (California, where they can't raise taxes) and thus continue to get poor leadership. Like I said, your fundamentals are skew if.


By mindless1 on 4/11/2010 5:31:43 PM , Rating: 2
The only reason you can defend your property is you don't expect invaders to have guns, which was the subtopic if we had a military conflict!

Pay attention! Fools by the thousands die, people with plenty of courage and character can't stand up to showers of bullets.

A gun is a tool, one you leave safety stored away until the day it is needed (like any other tool). That some misuse these tools is not a reason to sterotype millions of people you _do_not_know_.

I am quite against use of a gun in any situation that is not life threatenig, but when push comes to shove if someone invades my space with intent to do lethal harm and is bearing a deadly weapon, there is no logical move except to defend with equal or greater force.


By Felofasofa on 4/12/2010 3:37:54 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
and is bearing a deadly weapon, there is no logical move except to defend with equal or greater force.
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:
gun is a tool, one you leave safety stored away
Safely stored away? - are you kidding? Bad guys get guns all to easy in the US. American guns flooding Mexico and causing mayhem. Kids take guns to school and shoot their classmates in the US and Finland - another gun nut state. That fact that it's written into your freakin constitution invites the stereo type. I don't care that I've never been there, the rest of the world solidly perceives at least half or more of Americans as absolute hicks.


By mindless1 on 4/13/2010 4:46:01 PM , Rating: 2
I think you might have meant there would be a lot less death, because certainly there are areas of the world where fewer people have guns but violence is so commonplace you cannot safely walk down the street unless you look poor/broke/nothing to gain by assaulting you.

I'm not kidding at all, a gun can be responsibly owned and you seem unaware that this is what the vast majority of US citizens owning guns do. You may not realize how many own guns because they don't get them out and play with them like children for fun.

You write about very few isolated incidents when you write bad guys get them and kids take them to school. Do you claim bad guys would quit harming others if they had no guns? On the contrary the bad guy feels much safer in a gun free society because he is barely at risk against anyone who seems less able to use physical defense, which is most people since the average so called bad-guy is a young male.

The rest of the world has great envy of the US and will make any excuse possible to feel better about themselves. The average person you would like to think of as a "hick" in the US, is far more sophisticated than those living in the more remote regions of other countries such as Russia, China, African. If you only meant to compare against Western Europe it's a totally different scenario as there aren't as many long distance remote regions... but go ahead and claim there aren't "bad-guys" in Europe, that they can't get guns, or that without guns they decide to stop being bad guys.

Go ahead and tell us that, you seem to know very little about the world, or what it means to be responsible with any tool including a gun.


By Felofasofa on 4/14/2010 5:03:35 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The rest of the world has great envy of the US and will make any excuse possible to feel better about themselves.
I live in Australia, believe me we don't envy the US one little bit. In fact most of us consider our lifestyle down here amongst the best in the world. Anyway, my main point is, that gun culture whether in the US, or anywhere else is absolutely empty, and does nothing to elevate your society one little bit. The excuse that we need our weapons for self defence because our society is riddled with violence fails to deal with the underlying causes of the violence, and is merely management of the problem. Fix your society, then you won't need guns. We manage to live without guns down here, why can't you?


By Seemonkeyscanfly on 4/14/2010 9:32:36 AM , Rating: 2
"We manage to live without guns down here, why can't you?"

Well that's good for you... The right to own a gun in the USA is often confused. Yes, it is for individual protection in case of break in or personal attack. However the main reason is so the citizen can stand up together and take out the government at any given time. It's the Citizens way of keeping the government in check, so not to become to powerful. Currently our government is forgetting this reason (last several years not just new administration), and there maybe a rude awakening in the near future if they do not get back in place and remember they are our servants and not citizen are servants to the government.


By Felofasofa on 4/15/2010 9:09:26 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
However the main reason is so the citizen can stand up together and take out the government at any given time.
Funny we use elections to do that, and last time I checked you guys do to. Citzens overthrowing the Govt? do you really see that happening in the US?


By Seemonkeyscanfly on 4/15/2010 10:07:03 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, Nothing funny about a government that does not listen to it's people. When you have underhanded originations out there that effect the outcome of an election. Example: Acorn Registering 105% of the population of Indianapolis and no heavy investigation and voter fraud charges brought up against someone or some group... You bet it will happen in the US. Again our forefather where much smarter then people understand. They realized that one day the government would or could become to power and not listen to the people. If you read your history about gun rights you will see our forefathers not only thought it was your right to overthrow a "bad" government but your duty to overthrow it.

Elections will only work and last as long as everyone has a equal and fair vote. Once the people feel this is lost then "gun play" will follow.


By JediJeb on 4/18/2010 1:21:27 PM , Rating: 2
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.


But then those who are strong physically would always rule over those who are weak physically. And only a weak person would think twice before starting trouble, a strong brute would not even pause is so inclined.


By 91TTZ on 4/13/2010 3:45:22 PM , Rating: 2
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.


Ok, great. But even if you are built like a rugby player, how manly is your wife or daughter? If they're about to get assaulted by an intruder, I doubt they care about being viewed as a spineless shmuck with a leveler. Sure, they don't have the physical ability to defend themselves against the intruder. Does that mean that they shouldn't be able to defend themselves?

It's not about "proving your manhood", it's about self defense.


By Iketh on 4/13/2010 7:48:32 PM , Rating: 2
Guns diffuse it much faster after you use it... not understanding your reasoning at all


By SoCalBoomer on 4/9/2010 2:47:00 PM , Rating: 2
a little old (2007) article but makes a very good point:
http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=552...

summary,
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.


Let's see the crime rates where you're from. . .

Hmmm - European crime rates are going UP while US crime rates are going down. . .

http://www.tinyvital.com/blog/2003/7/26/american-v...
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1541699/Bri...
http://environment.uwe.ac.uk/commsafe/eusor3.asp


By Mojo the Monkey on 4/9/2010 1:58:31 PM , Rating: 1
Yes, but clearly you didnt read the article:

ION CANNON READY.


By geddarkstorm on 4/8/2010 2:06:31 PM , Rating: 2
Not to mention all the wonderful terrain on our side. The Rocky Mountains, the Cascades? Talk about a military nightmare.


By Leper Messiah on 4/8/2010 4:20:43 PM , Rating: 3
You can't invade a country with airplanes. The chinese blue water navy is pathetic, they would never get across the pacific.


By 91TTZ on 4/13/2010 3:39:43 PM , Rating: 2
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.


This is incorrect. The USAF is the largest airforce in the world. China has the 3rd largest. The USAF would quite easily overwhelm the Chinese airforce not only with number, but also with aircraft capability.


By driver01z on 4/9/2010 11:22:25 AM , Rating: 2
But what if EVERY country invades us? Or rather than invade; what if the UN decides that we owe too much and other UN countries agree that we should pay, or pay some sort of UN "tax"...
I dunno what the possibilities are but if several countries united against us for any particular reason - could be disastrous.


By steven975 on 4/8/2010 11:13:49 AM , Rating: 2
but we can pay it back by inflating our currency. Remember, the debt is on nominal dollars.

Of course, that would just destroy the US economy, too. They'll just keep rolling the debt over. Of course, I think the lines at the treasury are getting smaller and smaller by the day.


By steven975 on 4/8/2010 11:17:25 AM , Rating: 2
Also, I think China is more than happy to have our debt. It gives them leverage to do what they want...such as take back Taiwan.

Holding debt is how the US dealt the last blow that sunk the British empire.


By Icon0clast on 4/8/2010 3:54:05 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It gives them leverage to do what they want...such as take back Taiwan.


The international community wont even let them take over a small island much less the entire United States.


By eddieroolz on 4/8/2010 6:06:34 PM , Rating: 2
Sadly, the international community tends to be bullied by Communist China.

1970's - Taiwan loses official recognition and UN seat to Communist China. Only 20-odd nations recognize Taiwan at the moment.

1990's - China repeatedly protests and attempts to block US arms sales to Taiwan, shooting missiles into the Taiwanese strait. What would be classified as "interference" elsewhere in the world is largely ignored by the international community.

Since 1970's - Even the IOC refuses to recognize Taiwan thanks to Chinese threats, a blatant violation of sportsmanship. They have to compete as "Chinese Taipei" and aren't allowed to use their own flag or their anthem.

Various organizations such as the EU, UN, WHO, WTO and so on have been threatened by China if they dare say anything about Taiwan.

I have reasons to believe that the international community won't even take action against China if they invade across the strait. They're too busy sucking up to China.


By pixelslave on 4/8/2010 12:14:53 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
But the Chinese will when they come get the x amount of trillions you owe them but cannot pay back.


What makes you think that by invading a country who owes you a large amount of money will pay your debt back? If we can't pay back, we can't. It's the Chinese who should be worry, because if they push us too far, we just turn back and say, "Yes, we are broke. Screw you!"

Just look around, poor folks who owe a bank a little bit of money get no help from anyone. But if you are a multi-national mega corp that owes a bank billions, the bank doesn't want you to go down.


By darkpuppet on 4/8/2010 9:00:32 AM , Rating: 2
Canadians wouldn't invade.

After being unable to find a decent beer in all of washington back in 1812 or so, they decided it was better to just let the US keep it -- apologizing later for burning it down in frustration.


By masamasa on 4/8/2010 5:01:33 PM , Rating: 1
Are you kidding me?

We'll be arriving shortly to pillage your vast supply of....well...umm....what is it again that you have that's worth the taking?

Oh right...more fast food joints, beer at the corner store, and weapons. Loads and loads of weapons.

As for the debt...you can hang onto that! =P


By Sahrin on 4/8/2010 10:27:46 AM , Rating: 2
It's worth noting that we pay Russia *significantly* less per man to fly to the ISS on Soyuz than it does on the Space Shuttle.

Flying to ISS on the shuttle is like taking a solo road trip cross country in a 60-seat greyhound bus.


By JediJeb on 4/8/2010 1:12:05 PM , Rating: 3
But in the 60 passenger bus you can pack a lot of luggage with you like we are doing now to stock up on supplies at the ISS. A few people sure Soyuz is better, tons of cargo, Shuttle is better.


By Jeffk464 on 4/8/2010 2:15:14 PM , Rating: 1
I believe the soyuz has a better safety record.


By delphinus100 on 4/9/2010 1:32:28 PM , Rating: 2
Depends on how you count. More people are involved per Shuttle flight, but both systems have had two fatal accidents:

Soyuz-1

Soyuz-11

Challenger

Columbia


By Sahrin on 4/8/2010 2:19:16 PM , Rating: 2
What if you are only trying to 'bum a ride' to the ISS (ie, exchange crew). That's what the OP was talking about. Reading comprehension is sure going out of style fast.


By Jeffk464 on 4/8/2010 2:39:02 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, it makes sense to bum rides on the soyuz. It costs a little prestige as a nation, but so what. It also buys us time to figure out what the goal of our space program should be. Na, I find it a bit of a bummer that the orion program was canceled, but it never had the funding anyways. I say put the money and engineers into building up the US's nuclear power grid. Our number one goal as a nation should be to lesson our dependence on foreign oil, that is a true national security problem.


By Arc177 on 4/8/2010 1:45:11 PM , Rating: 2
Your comparison is completely moronic. The Shuttle is a completely different kind of vehicle. The Soyuz is essentially crew transport only ie a taxi cab. The shuttle is more like a tonka truck with a crane.
Please think more before you post.


By Arc177 on 4/8/2010 5:46:13 PM , Rating: 2
I am not sure who "you people" are.
My statement was in response to the ridiculously bad analogy used by Sahrin. As to the merits of the Shuttle program and capabilities of moving people into LEO there are always different ways to do things and some are better than others.
Unfortunately for you I was not talking about any of those.
I am not interested in debating the merits of ISS with you.
Take off your disneyland blinders and live in the real world.


By Sahrin on 4/8/2010 2:18:17 PM , Rating: 2
Your comparison is completely moronic. The Shuttle is a completely different kind of vehicle. The Soyuz is essentially crew transport only ie a taxi cab. The shuttle is more like a tonka truck with a crane.
Please think more before you post.


This was my point. Thanks for repeating it. It's costs a lot less to send a cosmonaut to space than it does an astronaut. Why? Because the SS is a "space transportation system" and Soyuz is a "people transportation system."

The OP said we are 'bumming rides' on Soyuz. Well, no, we are saving tons of money by not 'bumming rides' on the most expensive possible method to orbit.

Hence, it's worth noting that it's far cheaper for NASA to 'bum rides' at $20-50 Mln a pop than it is to fire up a $1B space shuttle launch.

Please think more before *you* post.


By geddarkstorm on 4/8/2010 2:46:56 PM , Rating: 2
Take a look at this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Space_Shuttle_vs...

The Shuttle is called a "shuttle" for a reason. Soyuz doesn't even come close; nor can it carry as many people.


By Arc177 on 4/8/2010 5:54:29 PM , Rating: 1
If your point was to make a terribly invalid comparison between two vehicles that serve two entirely different sets of requirements then you would have succeeded, however that is quite illogical and wrong.
I apologize for failing to understand your ignorant point of view.
You too apparently live in disneyland.
Sure there are better ways to do things and I am all for that, but buying seats on the Soyuz as a sole source solution is catastrophically stupid.
And Shuttle launches do not cost $1B.
You are wrong on almost all points.


By Sahrin on 4/8/2010 8:14:55 PM , Rating: 2
Your reading comprehension and fact-checking leave a lot to be desired. From Wikipedia (via US Budget and NASA - not just BS):

"Per-launch costs can be measured by dividing the total cost over the life of the program (including buildings, facilities, training, salaries, etc) by the number of launches. With 115 missions (as of 6 August 2006), and a total cost of $150 billion ($145 billion as of early 2005 + $5 billion for 2005,[19] this gives approximately $1.3 billion per launch."

So I was actually *low-balling* the figure to orbit.

What I guess really surprises me, is that you are reading *waaaay* too much into my comment than is actually there. It's not a critique of the space shuttle or a commentary on how wonderful it is that we use Soyuz to get into space. It's a simple statement of fact - per man, it is FAR cheaper to use Soyuz than it is to launch a shuttle. This is a fact. Everything else is you are taking out your personal demons on my comment.

If you look at my other posts, you will see that perhaps you and I don't differ on the points you think we do.

The point we do differ on, though, is on how we speak to each other. You'll notice, I've done so with respect, while you've strung together as many meaningless ad homs as you could cram together in one fragment.

At this point, I presented the factually basis for my remark, and you've already demonstrated that you'd rather rant loudly than actually discuss something - so I must say Good Day to you.


By delphinus100 on 4/9/2010 1:30:12 PM , Rating: 2
'Tractor Trailer' is the real analogy. The Space Shuttle is meant to carry big stuff as well as people, up and down.


Outraged!
By lightfoot on 4/8/2010 1:12:06 AM , Rating: 3
The only "Global Strike platform" that should be allowed are ICBM's! How dare the U.S. Air Force design a platform that can deliver conventional weapons accurately to a target!

It's a good thing that this is for research purposes only. Personally, I will be most interested in the results of the following experiments:
The effect of RDX on Iranian Uranium Enrichment.
The effects of Bright lights in the sky on UFO conspiracy theorists.
The effect of sub-orbital kinetic energy penetrators on Osama Bin Laden's left ventricle.
The viability of the "freak meteor strike" excuse in global media to cover up assassinations.




RE: Outraged!
By Amiga500 on 4/8/2010 3:40:52 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
How dare the U.S. Air Force design a platform that can deliver conventional weapons accurately to a target!


I think the problem may be more the global arms race it starts.

Given the relative economies of the USA and China right now, is that really something the USA wants to start?

Perhaps it is the USA's very own Dreadnought. The English Royal Navy thought it was great... until they realised it effectively wiped out their previously large numbers advantage through obsolescence.


RE: Outraged!
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 4/8/2010 9:55:58 AM , Rating: 2
If we built and designed everything inside the USA, then yes... there would be lots of new jobs and cash flowing. The problem is we send the work overseas to like China... Thus be a dumb*ss move... but then look who's in charge (not just the President but all congress).


RE: Outraged!
By MrBlastman on 4/8/2010 11:12:10 AM , Rating: 2
November is coming around soon... There are a lot of Americans that are pretty ticked off about Washington right now. Unfortunately, we don't have many better choices on the other side as well. What a mess we've let ourselves fall into.


RE: Outraged!
By Amiga500 on 4/8/2010 11:40:36 AM , Rating: 2
Well, to be honest, I think alot of the general public need to look at themselves as well.

People are all too happy to pay for the cheap Chinese product, and the same people are all too quick to moan about jobs leaving their country. They never bother to think about any potential correlation between the two.

Too much greed and not enough responsibility... by nearly everyone (I'm sure there are exceptions of course).


RE: Outraged!
By steven975 on 4/8/2010 12:00:25 PM , Rating: 2
There's another side to that too. By buying foreign goods at a lower price, individuals increase their overall wealth.

Individually, it is good, but the consequences are collective.


RE: Outraged!
By JediJeb on 4/8/2010 1:16:12 PM , Rating: 2
Individuals temporarily increase their wealth, because the inflation that will follow the loss of jobs here will just eat away at what they gained.


RE: Outraged!
By Jeffk464 on 4/8/2010 2:17:58 PM , Rating: 2
well said.


RE: Outraged!
By lightfoot on 4/8/2010 2:40:15 PM , Rating: 2
Not always temporarily.

The Walton family has made themselves fantastically wealthy by increasing the number of products made in China while simultanously running a "Made in America" advertising campaign.

Does anyone remember the "Made in America" ads run by WalMart in the 80's. What a joke.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/18967012


RE: Outraged!
By JediJeb on 4/8/2010 5:06:02 PM , Rating: 2
Back then you could at least find a few things at Walmart that were American Made, how it is very rare indeed. I also don't think that Sam Walton was so guilty of offshoring everything, but now his kids, wow they don't care for anything but the money.


RE: Outraged!
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 4/8/2010 2:32:40 PM , Rating: 2
When they have to buy the cheap goods 4 or 5 times verse the 1 times for the slightly higher cost item they are actually not increasing their wealth. They are losing wealth big time, and even worse they do not see or understand how they are losing wealth.
Add to that what the other poster said, lose wealth in long run, because job loss and such...
I do believe in international trade... but there must be a balance in trade and fair trade (equal tax placed on product sold in the others country). We need to rebuild a bit here in the USA, so look for the label, "Made in the USA", and watch out for the "Made in America" - that does not mean made in the USA.


RE: Outraged!
By lightfoot on 4/8/2010 2:17:50 PM , Rating: 2
Actually the real problem with weapons like this is the fact that they look and act very similarly to ICBMs. Many nations in the world (the United States included) might not wait for it to reach its target to determine that it is conventional and not nuclear before launching a full nuclear counter attack.

It is odd however that this reasoning is never used as an excuse for not allowing large bombs, artillery shells and cruise missiles which also can be nuclear armed.


RE: Outraged!
By delphinus100 on 4/9/2010 1:45:47 PM , Rating: 2
Indeed, Ballistic missile systems based on Earth (land or sea) are simply better for long-range nuclear strike. Orbital nukes, quite apart from violating the Outer Space Treaty, would require a large number of platforms in many different orbits, to keep all likely targets in quick-reaction range of all of them. And those platforms will have locations and orbital parameters knowable to any nation with a halfway decent radar capability. (Even now, sometimes the bad guys[tm] restrain their activities when they know US recon satellites are above their horizon)

ICBMs bombers and cruise missiles, however, may come at you at any time, from many possible directions, with little advance warning, and sea-based missiles can launch from virtually unknown locations...

I suspect that, in addition to the experimental engineering purpose of the craft itself, X-37 will also carry assorted recoverable 'spooky/black' experimental sensors and communications that might be put into operation elsewhere, but it has limited value as a weapon system just because it's a 'spaceplane.'


Manned version maybe?
By JediJeb on 4/8/2010 1:31:39 PM , Rating: 2
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?

With a lot less work I think this could be the replacement for the shuttle instead of the Constellation Program. Maybe even double duty as shuttle replacement and lunar mission vehicle.

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.




RE: Manned version maybe?
By geddarkstorm on 4/8/2010 2:01:23 PM , Rating: 2
That China one is a good point, heh!

And some very interesting ideas. We'd still need a rocket (probably multistage) to push this thing out of orbit and towards the moon; but its concept has a ton of potential. Could also upscale it, if its testing proves it works.

Hopefully people in NASA are giving it as much thought as you are.


RE: Manned version maybe?
By Jeffk464 on 4/8/2010 2:24:03 PM , Rating: 2
I think I read somewhere that the original concept was to be potentially manned. I think the main difference is the added testing and design to make a system supposedly safe for manned flight, you know like the space shuttle. :) But in all seriousness I thought nasa's recent conclusion was that a capsule floated down on parachutes was a lighter, safer, more practical design. And can somebody explain to me why a capsule is not re-usable


RE: Manned version maybe?
By geddarkstorm on 4/8/2010 2:42:22 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, really?

How many missions has the space shuttles flown? How many capsule missions did we fly? Out of 130 space shuttle missions, we only lost ONE to design issues, Colombia (even that was more of a freak accident than anything). Challenger was a failure of people issue, ignoring safety and engineering warnings just to try to stick to schedule for PR, launching way below the minimal safe temperature to do so.

Now, what about Russia's safety record? I think you should start looking up numbers before you knock the space shuttle... You don't quite know what you are talking about.

And have you seen what happens to a capsule after reentry? Really? There's one in the Boeing national flight and space museum in Washington State, which I've personally seen. There's no way in heck you could ever reuse a capsule, it's a total wreck.


RE: Manned version maybe?
By Jeffk464 on 4/8/2010 2:54:42 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not talking about russias safety record as a whole they lost a ton of people in one bad ground accident. I'm talking about the soyuz and supposedly it has a Soyuz has a safety record of 98%. I have also heard that liquid rockets are safer then solid boosters, not sure there is anyway around that one. The advantage of solid is cost and power to weight, not safety. Seems to me you want a good solid booster system to get cargo into space and a safe smaller system to get astronauts into space.


RE: Manned version maybe?
By geddarkstorm on 4/8/2010 3:02:13 PM , Rating: 2
The shuttle also works out to a 98.5% safety record ;).

But yeah, I'd take liquid fuel over the solid any day if I could. And tech has advanced far beyond the shuttles. It's definitely time for an update.

Your idea is wise, and what Constellation was going for, though it could possibly raise overall program costs as now you have two vehicles to manage. Of course, if we could get an SSTO space plane going, we could conceivably combine the two concepts safely, for a much cheaper program.


RE: Manned version maybe?
By HotFoot on 4/8/2010 3:31:15 PM , Rating: 2
Challenger was a design fault in the solid boosters, where the longitudinal flexing that takes place when the shuttle's rockets are fired up pre-launch caused a seal to fail. The entire joint was redesigned afterwards to prevent the issue from happening again.

Human error - of course. There was concern this could happen. But it's no less a design fault than the potential of liquid tank insulation breaking off and damaging heat shielding. Both were very painful lessons to learn, and both are rather unique problems to the space shuttle launch configuration.


RE: Manned version maybe?
By geddarkstorm on 4/8/2010 3:36:57 PM , Rating: 2
It boils down to:
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.


The O-ring shrunk due to the cold temperatures. A known design flaw that is easily dealt with by not launching at cold temperatures. The shuttle launched at -1C, while:
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.


It was pure human silliness.


RE: Manned version maybe?
By geddarkstorm on 4/8/2010 3:40:48 PM , Rating: 2
Also for the fuel tank insulation and Columbia.. It struck a very specific spot on the shuttle. A lot of unlikely factors came together to cause the freak accident. None the less, it was the design that allowed the possibility for that to happen in the first place, true. And a design that eliminates that risk is of course superior in that way. Rockets are dangerous things, and accidents /will/ happen. Out of 130 missions, not that bad a record for the shuttle.


RE: Manned version maybe?
By HotFoot on 4/8/2010 3:49:51 PM , Rating: 2
I don't disagree with you about the degree of risk. I think we've gotten to be incredibly risk-adverse. Perhaps we should ask the astronauts themselves what they would think is reasonable, as it's their lives on the line. My guess is they don't get into the field for a guaranteed safe career.

Regarding the O-ring thing, I don't think that it was a known design fault excuses the design. I've studied the original joint and the replacement joint. Unfortunately sometimes things have to be learned the hard way, but it still gets chalked up on the safety record. If we were talking trips to the grocery store, 98.5% safety record would be terrible. But this is friggin' space travel!


RE: Manned version maybe?
By JediJeb on 4/8/2010 5:41:06 PM , Rating: 2
The capsule itself would probably not be spaceworthy after the first mission, but if they could make a modular system where the outer shell was disposable yet very easy to move all of the internals to another unit for reuse that would help with the cost I believe. Or design a larger/stronger outer shell that would be reusable.

Of course if something like the X35 can carry a larger de-orbit rocket it would make the wear and tear on the heat shielding lower. The shuttle was designed to lower velocity just to the point of de-orbiting then letting the air friction do most of the breaking. If you could pull a couple g's for a longer time and drop more speed before the final fall from orbit, then you would have less heating from the air friction to deal with. The biggest problem with de-orbiting has always been logistics, how do you carry enough fuel to de-orbit and slow the decent.

I remember the early test where someone actually did a freefall from near orbit by jumping out of a balloon and then landing with a parachute.
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) [1] 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.[2] He set records for highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump, longest drogue-fall (4 min), and fastest speed by a human through the atmosphere[3].


Someone is now trying to attempt a jump from 120,000 feet.

The trade off is the logistics of a de-orbit engine versus heat shield/aerobraking. If you could carry enough fuel, then it would simple be a normal flight back to the ground not needing much of a heat shield.

In the late 50's to early 60's the X-15 actually flew into space and returned to be reused, you would think that 50 years later we should be able to do it again. Granted it wasn't at orbital speeds, but that just requires more power. I hope these are things someone is working on somewhere we don't even know about :). I think though the Holy Grail of spaceflight will be when Power Braking will be the better choice over Aerobraking, that should be a big step forward in safety for space travel.


RE: Manned version maybe?
By delphinus100 on 4/9/2010 1:55:48 PM , Rating: 2
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?


You really need to look at the scale of the X-37 again...

http://luckybogey.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/h_x3...

http://varifrank.com/images/scaled-x37-050526-18-8...

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1c... (artist's impression of X-37 in a Shuttle payload bay)

This is NOT a people carrier, it's a re-usable orbital technology testbed. It has a payload bay, in which you might put one, maybe two guys, in a coffin-like position (not good, when it stands vertically atop its launcher). It's not a re-supply vehicle with any docking ability. And it still requires an expendable launcher to get it up there.

And being basically a re-entry glider like a Shuttle orbiter, it would be utterly as useless on the Moon, as a Lunar Module would be for trying to return from LEO...

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.


But that, however, is more or less correct.


Satellite Maintenance?
By NaughtyGeek on 4/8/2010 11:30:02 AM , Rating: 2
Is it just me or is there not a huge national security implication with the loss of the shuttle program? Last I knew the military had several communications and spy satellites up there. Are we supposed to pay the Russians to maintain those assets for us? Sure, the X-37B has the potential to be a global launch platform but I believe that is a secondary priority if a priority at all.




RE: Satellite Maintenance?
By DougF on 4/8/2010 11:50:48 AM , Rating: 2
The DoD and NSA in the 90's moved away from using the STS to launch/service satellites as the program was a) too expensive; and b) subject to long delays/reprioritizations of vehicles for other missions. With the exception of the Hubble, I don't recall servicing any satellites in the past decade.
Now, this program may be able to launch/recover smaller satellites for servicing/reuse/repair, assuming the launch vehicle can be available on a cost-effective/on-demand basis. It might be a retro version of the old spy satellites that parachuted film canisters, only the whole thing comes back. Or, it could be a way to orbit "Rods from God" weapons covertly. We'll have to see.


RE: Satellite Maintenance?
By geddarkstorm on 4/8/2010 1:12:22 PM , Rating: 2
The X-37B Advanced Technology Demonstrator is an X class vehicle. What that means is that it's a conceptual prototype putting to test technologies for use in future vessels; which could be replacements of the shuttle, easily. The X-37B itself is unlikely to go into production for some use, though it isn't impossible. This thing is a space plane, basically, and it's a beaut. I'm so glad this program is finally going forward, since the Venture Star was terminated (mostly).

If they can validate its technologies, use, and longevity, we could see a whole new era of "space plane" and "single stage to orbit" reusable craft popping up. Much better than something like constellation. Heck, trickle it down to the commercial sphere and now you can take a trip to Europe from the US in something like an hour.


RE: Satellite Maintenance?
By Jeffk464 on 4/8/2010 2:26:40 PM , Rating: 2
Its not single stage, it sits on top of a very conventional tried a true atlas 5 rocket.


RE: Satellite Maintenance?
By geddarkstorm on 4/8/2010 2:35:12 PM , Rating: 2
I never say it was. Venture Star was, on the other hand. Again, SSTO is one of the potential strong points of a "space plane" design, and part of why they are so interesting.


RE: Satellite Maintenance?
By Jeffk464 on 4/8/2010 2:45:03 PM , Rating: 2
Ya, venture star seemed like a great concept. I was really upset when they canceled that program. I think I heard that they didn't think it was possible to build it. But what a concept, liquid fuel, lighter engine, lifting body, single stage, and could simply be refueled and sent back up. Truly a dream craft for spaceflight. oh well.


RE: Satellite Maintenance?
By geddarkstorm on 4/8/2010 2:51:09 PM , Rating: 2
Indeed... it is too bad. But! There is still hope. It is being worked on by Lockheed Martin, or so they say. I guess we'll see, but I'd love if they can work it out. Its aerospike engines are intriguing, but I think that's where most of the problems have been.


RE: Satellite Maintenance?
By Jeffk464 on 4/8/2010 2:31:06 PM , Rating: 2
"Is it just me or is there not a huge national security implication with the loss of the shuttle program? Last I knew the military had several communications and spy satellites up there. Are we supposed to pay the Russians to maintain those assets for us? Sure, the X-37B has the potential to be a global launch platform but I believe that is a secondary priority if a priority at all."

I think it cheaper to suffer the premature loss of a few satellites then it is to maintain something like a shuttle program.


Something to think about...
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 4/8/2010 9:59:02 AM , Rating: 2
"According 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 11,000 pounds."

So it sounds like it's the size of a full sized RV but with wings. I would be great for a camping trip.




RE: Something to think about...
By rtrski on 4/8/2010 10:23:23 AM , Rating: 4
Stripes 2: The Orbital Suburban Assault Vehicle


RE: Something to think about...
By HotFoot on 4/8/2010 10:23:37 AM , Rating: 2
If anyone needs me, I'll be in space.


RE: Something to think about...
By n0ebert on 4/8/2010 11:41:48 AM , Rating: 2
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_4MUf6T4VzPw/SnQ9Ji5Br3I/...

Am I the only one that thought of this when you said that?


By Seemonkeyscanfly on 4/8/2010 12:07:05 PM , Rating: 2
Actually that popped into my head as I was typing the first post. :)


RE: Something to think about...
By JediJeb on 4/8/2010 1:17:29 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly what I was thinking of!

Just need Barf along for the ride.


By gralex on 4/8/2010 9:15:23 AM , Rating: 2
The economic and social benefits of such an endeavor are downright unforeseeable. Our brief 100+ year history of modern science and technology has shown us that each small step, truly is a giant leap for mankind. To dismiss such a complex undertaking as plain "no good value for money", is to overestimate one's ability to see into the future.

A fifty year anniversary moonwalk should have been committed to, years ago. Otherwise we just bought a puppy, loved it for a few years and then chained it in our back yard. Most people seem to forget that the Founding Fathers were far more scientifically and philosophically inclined.




By gralex on 4/8/2010 9:24:49 AM , Rating: 2
I'm a bit off-topic here, i know... But all I got from this article was:

"...cancellation of the Orion program."

"The space shuttle program is quickly winding down, and there are just three more missions left before the program is officially shutdown."


By delphinus100 on 4/9/2010 2:02:02 PM , Rating: 2
More correctly, the Constellation program has been canceled. This should not (and many people do, even here) be taken to mean that no US human Lunar exploration by other means will occur, and it's possible that the Orion capsule will continue on, in a LEO-only form, flown on launchers other than Ares-1.


By gralex on 4/10/2010 8:33:22 AM , Rating: 2
Thanks for that. I totally need to read up on these...


I wonder...
By KIAman on 4/8/2010 2:15:40 PM , Rating: 1
Why didn't they use the more aerodynamic form that nature has already designed for us, the male genetilia?




RE: I wonder...
By delphinus100 on 4/10/2010 12:28:42 AM , Rating: 2
I've never seen flying male genitalia. Is this a low-observability 'stealth' project of some sort? Would you, um, see it coming...?


By shin0bi272 on 4/8/2010 2:12:05 PM , Rating: 2
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


If the UN wants everyone to disarm (something which obama seems to be out in front of already), exactly how do they plan on implementing all of their BS resolutions then? If no one can have weapons what are we going to use to defend ourselves HARSH LANGUAGE? Yeah that'll stop the terrorists.

Hell the USA is the primary fighting force and the primary payer to fund UN operations and they are concerned that the US military might make a weapon that can fly into space? How hypocritical can you be? The UN needs to be disband.




Can You Say
By VultureTX on 4/8/2010 4:08:27 PM , Rating: 2
based on its small size it's a Orbital Launched Cruise Missile.
that has a hang time of 9 months.




It looks like
By General Disturbance on 4/12/2010 4:36:09 PM , Rating: 2
a "shem".




By gotincon on 4/8/2010 8:52:54 PM , Rating: 1
If you've ever met Chuck for more than 5 minutes, you would know he's an egotistic prick who hardly embodies the American spirit and likely embellished his stories about breaking the sound barrier. Great --- only if you haven’t met him.




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