The X-37B Is Alive

Posted: March 7, 2011 in Songs of Space and Nuclear War
Tags: , , ,

Well, we think it’s alive anyway.  I mean, it launched.

So what’s it doing?  Enough professional speculation is bound to guess the mission, but until confirmed or denied, it’s just that: speculation.

This bit from Ria Novosti is interesting:

According to Air Force officials, the unmanned mini-shuttle could be used for a variety of missions including reconnaissance, in-space service and repair of satellites, deploying and retrieving spacecraft, and testing new technologies.

The phrase “could be used” provides a lot of latitude.  However:

Space reconnaissance (that is, reconnaissance from space) is already pretty well understood.

Space servicing and repair and deploying and retrieving  spacecraft (it’s green, what’s not to love?!) involve proximity ops which tend to make arms controllers, Russia, and China freak out, unless it’s done by the Swedes.

“New technologies” are things that are made on earth and have to work in space.

I’m still not sure how the X-37B’s payloads (little) and mission profile (mysterious and weird) squares with the administration’s promise of increased partnership and transparency per the National Space Policy, nor with the SecDef’s/DNI’s promise of the same as rolled out in the new National Security Space Strategy.

Then there’s also the cost issue.  Since it takes an Atlas V to launch an X-37B, which then does something else with its pickup sized payload bay, there are cheaper conventional ways of fulfilling the X-37B function.

That means it’s doing something quite unconventional.

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