What Could X-37B Do?

What Could X-37B Do?

The wonderfully sort-of-secret X-37B is back on terra firma after a long stay in space. Very little information beyond its appearance, dimensions and the fact that the Air Force is deploying it is known about the vehicle, which looks a lot like a mini space shuttle. The vehicle can stay in orbit for at least nine months.

As someone who spent five years at Space News — much of that time covering intelligence issues — I’m going to engage in some informed speculation.

It could take advanced sensors into space for testing and, probably, allow sensors to operate from the X-35B as a large, stable platform with an independent power source. That power source (folding solar panels) might free sensors from carrying batteries, which would make them much smaller and lighter and perhaps extend their operational life.


One set of sensors the nation desperately needs would be related to space situational awareness — small telescopes, infrared and other sensors. The X-37B might be ideally suited to this sort of mission.

The dimensions would appear to allow the vehicle enough cargo space to loft small satellites into orbit. The Air Force has been striving to come up with ways to deploy small satellites into orbit rapidly. Putting an X-37B into space with one or more satellites would let the military effectively preposition a bird for use in a crisis. The concept of operations developed by the Pentagon for Operationally Responsive Space focused on rapid deployment of smaller satellites, as well as the ability to change how a satellite already in orbit might be used. But the focus of ORS is on adapting software and manipulating data to achieve those results, not on heading into space to physically fiddle around with an orbiting satellite. The X-37B might be used to manipulate a satellite, though such operations are quite challenging and would only be done in extremis.

The X-37B can apparently be maneuvered while in space so low earth orbit deployment of small satellites over a theater might be possible, meeting another of the criteria of the ORS CONOPS. Combatant commanders have pressed hard to get the ability to deploy communications and electro-optical satellites over a theater with relatively short notice. With space assets, that probably doesn’t mean much less than three months. If my surmises are correct then putting an X-37B up at the first indicators of a crisis could give the US a flexibility it does not currently possess.

On the issue of whether the X-37B could deploy space weapons or be used to interfere with enemy satellites, I think it’s really moot. We already possess the ability to shoot down satellites, as we proved with our own destruction of US 193. And we possess the ability to dazzle enemy satellites, as the Chinese did to us several years ago. And, if you talk with space experts, they say that in event of war we would be much more likely to attack ground stations to cripple satellites. If you destroy or use cyber assets to cripple a ground station the satellite is just a big chunk of metal zooming around the earth.

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In a blogosphere full of wild guesses this assessment stands out clearly for its good judgment and informed factual basis. Outstanding.____Of course, it helps that it tends to agree with my own views, especially in the concern I’ve expressed about the DoD’s need to install better situational awareness sensors on its spacecraft so as to detect hostiles, such as the Chinese top-secret minisat rendezvous vehicle now undergoing orbital testing without any official notice from Beijing. ____The X-37B would have been a perfect platform for testing such sensors, perhaps including runs against small chaser vehicles deployed from and then retrieved inside the payload bay.____

Jim,

Coming from you this is high praise! Thanks. Funny how the best ideas sound like those we happen to have, isn’t it! Cheers, Colin

The spacecraft spends half of each orbit in darkness, so it still needs batteries.

How would it deploy satellites “over a theater”? Just drop them and hope that they stay in one spot?

And how can it do anything “rapidly” when it requires the launch of an Atlas V?

Dwayne hits the nail on the head. The hole idea that manoeuvring in Low Earth Orbit somehow allows for target coverage that conventional Low Earth Orbit cannot provide, is nonsensical. Likewise, the X-37B still needs a conventional launch platform, as Dwayne rightly notes.
The only benefit I see for an X-37B type spacecraft is that it can orbit, test under true space conditions and then bring back experimental equipment before it is truely employed on a conventional satellite. Anything else is simply not in order.

whole, not hole.…(2nd sentence)

“The only benefit I see for an X-37B type spacecraft is that it can orbit, test under true space conditions and then bring back experimental equipment before it is truly employed on a conventional satellite.”

And all for the cost of a very expensive Atlas V (base cost $120 million+, without amenities–for this payload it’s probably a few tens of millions more).

When you factor in the cost of the X-37B, this turns into a very expensive (probably $500 million plus), short-duration, small payload mission. That is why it makes no sense. Is there something they are doing that we don’t know about that is worth hundreds of millions of dollars? And if so, why not simply put it in orbit and operate it for several years instead of only a few months.

The way to figure out what is going on with classified satellites is to look for patterns. If they launch a second one, it is possible that the people who go into their backyards and track these things might notice that it is doing something similar to the first one and might be able to figure out the mission. But right now, it simply looks confusing. It’s a lot of money for an R&D flight. Then again, maybe it rendezvoused with a UFO and brought back their (very short) ambassador.

You couldn’t be more wrong. First of all, satellites are predictable…all our enemies know when they are over head and plan accordingly. The X-37 is not predictable..it’s orbit can be changed on a moments notice and it can be overhead with whatever sensors it has without anyone having time to respond.

2ndly, and this is related to the first one, in a conventional conflict where our enemies have ASAT capabilities, satellites are big vulnerable targets. If $500 million dollar satellite gets destroyed, there probably isn’t another one on the launch pad ready to go…it could take years to replace the capability lost. The X-37B removes that risk and provides a gap-filler capability. If we lost a satellite, the X-37 could potentially be fitted with whatever critical sensor package went missing, sent up, and provide the coverage that was lost. Ideally we’d have a small fleet of these that could provide overlapping coverage if necessary.

That is just one use, of course this would be great for testing sensors before putting them on an expensive satellite and then finding out it’s worthless.

The potential uses for this thing go on and on, and the strategic advantage it gives us over any adversaries that are developing ways to disrupt/destroy our spy-sat constellations are huge.

The one thing you are right about is launching them though, but that is something that our space agencies are working vigorously to fix.

“The X-37 is not predictable..it’s orbit can be changed on a moments notice and it can be overhead with whatever sensors it has without anyone having time to respond.”

Why do you need a spaceplane to do this? Why not just equip a satellite with more fuel and do the same thing?

“The X-37B removes that risk and provides a gap-filler capability.”

Why not just build a replacement satellite? Why do you need the wings and the return capability if all you want is a gap-filler?

“the X-37 could potentially be fitted with whatever critical sensor package went missing”

No, the payload bay is smaller than the payloads on typical satellites.

Why carry wings and a body, and why operate in orbit for so short a time, if you don’t have to?

I think that the comments posted here are not correct or practical for Air Force use of the X-37.

It makes little sense for the Air Force to keep spending $155 Million on each Atlas V 501 rocket to launch X-37’s to deploy satellites, but it makes a lot of sense for the X-37 to grow in size so it can become a reusable 2-stage or single-stage replacement of the Atlas V, as the AFRL FAST program and the Air Force have said they will do (using reusable X-37 technology) by 2025. The Air Force already has published plans for a 300-ton 2-stage reusable booster that looks like 2 X-37’s connected together.

The next evolutionary step for X-37 is for it to grow in size and propellant load so the Air Force can remove the expendable second stage and the expendable first stage of the expendable rocket that X-37 was launched upon. This will dramatically lower the cost and dramatically increase the operational flexibility (i.e. cheap flight rate) of Air Force space operations and it will create a new “Military Space Plane”.

My guess is , that is tec.dem for some sort of a global strike platform.The Airforce has stated in the past that they want a platform that can strike anywhere in the world in less than two hours. Could they launch some kind of space JDAM out of one of these?

Of course Obama had nothing to do with this.

It’s a great tool for defense, survellance, offensive, space passenger,flight, cargo and space exploration.

As Dwaybe notes in his reply too, there is no difference between a regular satellite and the X-37-B when it comes to orbit changes. Reconnaissance satellites like the KH-12 Keyholes and the Lacrosse SAR’s make orbital manoeuvres several times a year. As I wrote above: the benefits subscribed to the ‘manoeuvrability’ of the X37-B in the press, are grossly over-rated and really don’t give the X37-B that much of an edge over conventional satelites.

Also: the X37-B is just as vulnerable to ASAT attempts as a regular satellite. The thing is hardly stealthy, being easily visible by the naked eye. In addition, much of the development time (and costs) of a satellite are in development and building of the sensor package. The satellite bus itself is just a vehicle, either custom made to suit the sensor package (which will mean the sensor package will not easily fit in an X-37B), or a generic ‘bus’ (in which case it suits as well as the X-37B does).

By the way: I am one of those amateur satellite trackers Dwayne talks about (I didn’t track the X-37B so far though, for the simple reason that its 40 degree inclined orbit doesn’t bring it within reach of my 50 N latitude).

I think many people misunderstand the X-37B concept. I have seen many X-planes at the Air Force Museum. They are generally weird looking and impractical for any “real world” operational mission. To argue the X-37 is not a good B-37 or A-37 misses the point that this space X-plane is for technology demonstration. In the next 20 years we may very well see a reusable 2-stage or Single-Stage orbiter that traces its techno roots to the X-37B.

“Why do you need a spaceplane to do this? Why not just equip a satellite with more fuel and do the same thing?”

When a satellite runs out of fuel, it is esentially dead. With the X-37B, you can maneuver several times a day, then when the fuel is nearly exhausted you can return the expensive $500 million satellite to Earth for refueling, refurbishment, and reuse.

The X-37 seems like a more pure technology test bed to me, but I’m sure the Air Force is considering evolving it into a platform that could, say, drop a tungsten or uranium rod with a guidance package..

The X-37 is simply a reusable spy satellite which can be launched on short notice for developing situations, with the ability to customize its payload/sensor load-out as needed.

Whats revolutionary is its flexibility vs. existing hard space intel assets such as the aforementioned KH-12 spacecraft.

What I wonder is if it can also be used to refuel our satellites and examine hostile satellites. If it has the ability to refuel satellites and still conduct other missions the overall flexibility of our satellite fleet would be greatly increased.

Once again–there is nothing rapid or flexible about a spacecraft that requires an Atlas V rocket, which is neither rapid nor flexible.

X-37B barely makes sense as an experimental vehicle (and there the biggest puzzler is why are they spending so much money on it?). As an operational vehicle it doesn’t make sense at all.

To the poster “Dwayne Day”

You wrote: “Then again, maybe it rendezvoused with a UFO and brought back their (very short) ambassador.”

It’s not that “very short” cutie with trumpet snout I’m worried about – it’s rather the germs inside it, or even some unnoticed, 2 meters tall, pregnant Predator in invisibility cloak brought down by our astronauts!

That’s why we magnificent earthlings should simply consider ALL other Space-travelling civilizations as genetically inferior to us, ban them to some unreachable ghetto galaxy and consider their planets as “our strategic interests”. Just send in the Marines, some Blackwater contractors or Sigourney Weaver – then we can have Peace, Freedom and Prosperity forever.

That is, of course: If the greens don’t ally themselves first to the invincible Talibans…

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Wouldn’t it be uncomparably more practical and CHEAPER to build ALL satellites (Space probes, spacecraft and Space stations, too) in a MODULAR way, with (at least) all fuel carried in external, detachable, disposable cisterns? This way, the Atlas V (or Ariane V… or both…) launch rockets’ only payloads could be primitive, STANDARDIZED , mass-produced, cheap, new, full fuel tanks that rendezvoused with the dry-running satellites or other objects in Space. You could even pre-position several of these fuel tanks (a “strategic fuel reserve”) for MANY decades in Space, just in case you lose your Space-launching facilities in a war!
Which part of the duo carried out the final approaching and docking maneuvre is a totally irrelevant detail: The flown-in fuel enables both a (maneuvrable) container and/or a satellite to dock AND to let the satellite resume its normal flight path again, after grabbing the fresh fuel drum.

(Continued)

Part 2 / 2

Same goes for constant upgrades of each satellite’s engine, nuclear battery, optics, photographic film rolls, radio, etc. : No need to build a whole (“sophisticated”, “flexible”, “military”, “super-secret”, bla bla) expensive Space Shuttle around each CHEAP spare part – just the BARE LAUNCHER , maybe also

1) a P.A.V.E.-like guidance kit around the fuel drum / spare part

and / or

2) a robotic arm on each satellite for switching its parts!

Keep everything ( = the entire Space inventory) SIMPLE , SELF-OPERATING and STANDARDIZED = CHEAP : It will allow you to launch MORE of everything – and especially to OPERATE IT LONGER !

My commentary’s battle cry: “Less D.A.R.P.A. & more I.S.O. for N.A.SA. !”

Looking at the Dynasoar, what such a vehicle can do that sets it apart from a satellite: It is able to change its inclination with a lot less fuel by dipping deep enough into the atmosphere for aerodynamic maneuvers and then fire the rocket engine to climb out again. Is that worth hundreds of millions? Maybe. When taking into account that legacy LEO and legacy GEO are getting increasingly poisonous, maybe it’s worth it. The missions of such a vehicle (or a constellation of such vehicles) are pretty clear — ISR (e.g. for Global Rapid Strike), direct attack (preferably against orbital targets), RD&T. But there is a reason there is a “X” in this vehicle’s designation. Chances are, a larger version will follow the X-37 proves its worth. Atop a Shuttle booster, or a Ares for example, or out the back of a C-5.

Recon satellites have a relatively limited amount of propellant to reposition themselves and they cannot do it all willynilly lest they run out. We are talking about $500 million dollar satellites that once they go up into space, there is no coming back and there usually isn’t a spare sitting around in some warehouse ready to go up in case something goes wrong.

But ignoring all of that, the X-37 is essentially a re-usable mini-satellite. If you can’t see the benefits in that, you are blind. Obviously in order for it to be cost effective we need a cheap, RLV which could still be a decade or more away, but that’s not the fault of the X-37.

As I pointed out (and you ignore), KH-12’s and Lacrosses *do* frequently manoeuvre (they have to, otherwise their orbital constellations would not be maintained). They do so several times a year, typically. Manoeuverability is *not*, I repeat *not* what gives the X-37B an edge over reconnaissance satellites, even though that is what is focussed on in many comments. And nothwithstanding their frequent manoevring, KH-12’s and Lacrosses have long operational timespans. Lacrosse 2 is 20 years old and still going strong, for example. And not for lack of manoeuvering.

“Why do you need a spaceplane to do this? Why not just equip a satellite with more fuel and do the same thing?”

Equip it with more fuel? You think they don’t already put the maximum amount of fuel on that they can given the size limitations on the satellite itself? Maybe you forget that the satellite has to have certain size/weight restrictions in order to fit in and be able to be launched into outer space on one of our launching platforms. And even if they doubled the amount of fuel, what does that change? That doesn’t make it reusable..once it runs out, it’s basically a dead bird.

“Why not just build a replacement satellite? Why do you need the wings and the return capability if all you want is a gap-filler?”

Do you know which satellite is going to die next? Is it going to be a radar satellite? Comm sat? Relay sat? EO sat? Should we have billions of dollars of satellites sitting in storage just in case one of those goes out and we need to replace it right away? yeah, right. It’s much easier, and cheaper, and simpler, to have a replacement sensor payload (assuming it fits in the X-37) than a replacement satellite. The satellite buses are not cheap, and while the sensor payloads might cost a lot to develop in R&D, I’m pretty sure that their procurement costs are MUCH less than an entire satellite bus.

“Why carry wings and a body, and why operate in orbit for so short a time, if you don’t have to?”

This is such a silly question. It’s like asking “Why have something that can potentially be rapidly relaunched, is flexible, reusable, reduces the risk of satellite failures, and can fill critical gaps on a moments notice when necessary when you can have a satellite which is incapable of doing any of those things?” FLEXIBILITY. RISK REDUCTION. COST REDUCTION. PAYLOAD TEST/DEMONSTRATION. That

That’s not the fault of the X-37B, and industry is working to fix that problem.

Just to be accurate, the X-37B was designed to be launched on the Delta IV family of launch vehicles, and the Atlas was used in a shroud covered configuration due to (supposed) possible aerodynamic issues.

While you’re correct that the large launch vehicles needed limit flexibility, its still quite a bit less difficult to launch then the standard hard reconnaissance satellites now in use (NSA) some of which weigh up to 20 tons (KH-11/KH-12/KH-13/MISTY/KENNAN/USA-144, etc).

My gut feeling is that the X-37B mission was less about the launch vehicle, and more about the secret cargo. Some of the speculated possibilities range from the fairly plausible testing new photographic systems, to other more wild theories like using the X-37B as a mother ship for a new class of stealth micro-sats designed to intercept and inspect/disable other space vehicles. Also new novel space propulsion system testing might be part of the mission (ion thrusters, or more radical concepts like EMdrive).

Only time will tell, since the USAF is not talking!

What it does is “use the already-built hardware so we don’t have to pretend that the whole program was a waste of time and money”.

“It’s much easier, and cheaper, and simpler, to have a replacement sensor payload (assuming it fits in the X-37) than a replacement satellite.”

Actually, no it isn’t. The payload is the *most* expensive part of a space vehicle (if you’re talking development and fabrication costs, that is; if you’re talking launch costs, then the most expensive part is the fuel.) The bus is a distant second.

To use analogy, saying that space missions would be cheaper if flown on X-37 is like saying that diamond rings would be cheaper if we re-used the boxes they came in.

Why would you want to manoeuvre several times a day? That really serves no purpose at all.

Guys,IIRC based on the delta-V available to the orbital maneuvering engines, I’ll tell you what the X-37 could do: The X-37 could change its orbital ground track by up to 12,000 miles in 90 minutes. That means, getting a pass over any single point on earth in 90 minutes or less if need be. It is quite possibly the most rapid *Suprise* reconnaissance platform ever created. It is not limited to the predictable orbital pathing that any of the big spy-sats use. It already demonstrated its maneuvering potential by evading amatuer sat trackers what, three times?

The big sats are eternally conservative, a big investment that can’t come home after using up their maneuvering fuel. The X-37 however can. It can fly willynilly everywhere and then bring it’s up to date sensor package safely home.

All this ASAT, Fractional Orbital Bombardment and 1960s paranoia vintage Satellite Theifery speculation is silly.

The fact that all orbit variants the X-37B has taken so far result in 4–6 day repeated ground-tracks, fits optical reconnaissance, as pointed out by Ted Molczan. Repeated ground-tracks facilitates easy comprataive image analysis.

With a posted orbital delta V of 3-4km/s — Able to change its ground path by 12,000 miles in 90 minutes — giving a payload bay mounted sensor payload a look at any point on the earth within that time frame, unannounced, while not following the predictable orbital pathing of conventional spy satellites. Stays on orbit for 270 days, before being relieved by a new vehicle.

Makes incredible sense to me.

The payload cost is irrelevant because its the same whether it goes up on a satellite or the X-37. The difference being, of course, is that if you send up a payload on the X-37 and the mission requirement changes 6 months or a year later, you don’t need to procure an entirely new satellite which can take years. You call the X-37 back home, load the new payload, and hopefully one day when we have the RLV capability, send it right back up again. Swapping out payloads on a reusable platform will be cheaper in the long run versus buying a new satellite every time you have a new requirement. I can’t believe this is even being debated…people are essentially arguing that there is no benefit over a reusable platform vs a fixed, one time use platform. That is madness. Obviously there is still a place for fixed satellites due to their size/payload capacity, but the flexibility given to our intelligence apparatus by having a few vehicles like the X-37B is undeniable.

Thank you! I wonder when the last time trackers lost sight of one of our recon sats for weeks at a time? My guess is never.

Day is very pro-establishment and doesn’t like new things. I’m not surprised by his comments here as well as those here: http://​www​.thespacereview​.com/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​/​1​5​3​4/1

The whole point of the X-37B is flexibility and rapid turnaround. While that craft alone isn’t enough to complete the system, it’s a start.

Dwayne, disappointed with the latest successful trials of VASIMIR?

The one advantage of a spaceplane over a conventional satellite is that its heatshield and wings give it the potential to do a major plane change by reacting against the atmosphere (i.e. skipping/partial re-entry).

I see no evidence that such a capability was tested on this flight, but it’s obvious that the potential is there.

“if you send up a payload on the X-37 and the mission requirement changes 6 months or a year later, you don’t need to procure an entirely new satellite which can take years.”

Again: THE PAYLOAD is what takes years to do, and costs the most. A simple common bus design like Agena or FREGAT could do everything that X-37 did except re-enter.

“Swapping out payloads on a reusable platform will be cheaper in the long run versus buying a new satellite every time you have a new requirement.”

No it won’t. This is like saying that you should wash out your empty beer cans and save them for later reuse.

Made the brakes for the X-37 at Aircraft Braking Systems, Akron, Ohio back in ’02! Mikie Coleman lead on project.…..

It is a multi satellite service unit. If you have 10, Sat’s costing billions to build and place in space. Then the cost of one launch to even service 3–5 sat’s make this a cost effective unit. If you have a mission critical sat that is going to run out of fuel or needs repair this can be put up and salvage the loss much quicker than building, launching, and become operational. It is DOD’s version of AAA would make the most sense.

We do. It’s called recycling. Something not possible with a satellite in same way that a beer can is. How ever the cost analogy is very applicable. Why do you think recycling shops pay around 60 cents for a pound of aluminum cans instead of just mining new metal.

I think one thing you failed to mention is that if it can do this to our satellites, it can do it to another countries satellites as well. Imagine taking a piece off of a defunct Russian or Chinese spy sat for study.

…no, “recycling” involves melting the cans down and producing new aluminum ingots. It doesn’t involve actually re-using the can as-is, which is what these “X-37 could be a reusable vehicle” advocates are suggesting.

That’s a real good way to start a nuclear war.

Withe the current Democrat controlled Congress and Whitehouse the only way to continue moving the military development foreward is to put everyone in the Union. The Goverement is ignoring the military comples because it offends the draft dodging hippies of the 60’s & 70’s. Our Congress is controled by a group with
less military experience than the Boy Scouts. Military members have a strong desire to protect and defend
this nation and have made a comittment to do so regardless of the cost. Unfortunatley our politicians can only think of how bad we treat Criminal, enemie combatants and how much it cost to defend our nation form enemies. Until we change Washington and put more Ex-military members into political offices we will
contiue to be disrespected and degraded by the political climate

A bigger question is—Now that it is more public, how long will it take to get the Socialists/Liberals to cancel the progrm? Especially the current Administration? Sounds as if all of this Tech goes against “their” plans for an inferior USA.…Better yet, how long will it take before the Russians and Chinese get ALL the facts and figures of this item??? I’m sure someone in our State Department will oblige, as Madeleine Albright did during her tenure, as Secretary, along with her Commy Buddy Clinton, when she gave the Chinese rocket launch Tech, to bring them up to where they now are in the space races

There are a few technical details that are wrong in some of the author’s speculation. You can’t put satellites over a theater of operations in low earth orbit. They won’t stay there. They will be over the theater of operations for only a few minutes during each orbit around the earth. The only way to keep them “over” a theater is to place them in geostationary orbit at an altitude of 22,300 miles, which the X-37B cannot do. A long-endurance unmanned remote piloted vehicle orbiting at high altitude above the theater would be a faster and more practical method of putting sensors and communications over the theater of operations for use by battlespace commanders.

How about a distributed, mobile, decentralized communications/sensor network that can be landed, refuelled, updated, maneuvered away from hazards etc. The number one 3C vulnerability is our immobile space based communications and information satellites.

Nancy Pelosi would love this thing. First you build it and delploy it then you try to figure out what the heck it is.

PERFECT beautiful target for land based high energy directed weapons, like the Chinese ultrajoule railguns being developed thanks to the technology tranfers sold to them by european and us companies allegedy to build the Shangai electromagnetic maglev train AND something else.

Last I noticed, the world’s biggest military budget, under President Bush, was expanded by a factor of TWO!. This country now spends on its military roughly what the rest of the world combined spends. Meanwhile, our educational infrastructure has fallen from 1st place to 24th, and the decline worsens, as virtually every state finds itself with huge deficits to correct. Your vision of our future is one where our children grow up virtually illiterate and join the military — their only source of employment.

In fact, judging by your command of the English language, you have first-hand knowledge of our educational collapse.

Perhaps if people who complain about our educationa system would bother to check their facts and quite complaining they mignt notce that our education system had become a political tool of the Democrats. They have degraded our educaiton with thier policies by not allowing teacher to give honest grades to students. They are so afraid of “Hurting someones feelings” or makeing Little Willie feel bad that they have forgot you
to to school to LEARN. If you do not know the subject and are to busy smoking dope or otherwised engaging in other activities then you deserve to fail and be held back till you learn the subject matter. Our Education system may not be the best but Liberals and their Political Corectness had destroyed our standing in the world. Those who graduate from High School have to take prep classes for the most part to even try to qualify for College. Our universities and colleges have become hotbeds of liberalism and corrupt political educators. They have tenure and spew garbage as though it were knowledge. They corrupt the view of the world and distort facts and truths.

Whatever it is, it looks cool, and I’m sure Nasa knows what this thing can do. Just don’t point it at anything you do not want to shoot.

The X-Plane program, for decades, has been a research platform, looking at problems and possibilities to do with aviation and space exploration. Being research vehicles, there is no guarantee whatsoever that the final, finished products will look anything like the vehicles of the X-Plane program.

for instance, one X-Plane was built to look into VTOL. From that we got the Harrier and the Joint Strike Fighter. none of the three resemble each other.

there’s been mention above of several of the possibilities making it useful in later versions, and they seem reasonable. but there exist other possibilities.

one, which i don’t see listed, is a possible rescue vehicle for astronauts trapped in orbit without a way home (think the old movie ‘Marooned’).

another, although perhaps fuel intensive, would be the ability to gather the larger pieces of space debris left in orbit from previous flights.

yet another could be the ‘hijacking’ or theft of satellites belonging to other nations, if those satellites are perceived as having purposes inimical to the interests of the US. its ability to return to the Earth would make this a desirable goal, if it was decided that such a choice was needed.

sometimes, satellites (as was the case with the Hubble telescope) went into wrong orbits. the X37B could grab those satellites and move them into proper orbits. this would be useful if such a problem happened with US surveillance satellites.

its design speaks flexibility and reusability, possibly over a short time of refitting and refueling. emergency supplies or personnel could also be lifted into orbit on short notice.

it could even be a research vehicle to look into possibilities for the next generation of space shuttle…

at this point, it’s still a research vehicle…so anything goes. anything positive (or negative) could come out of it.

lol people its just a data collecter, giver and reciever, just not a satellite it has more very very fibirous networks to function, the shelte is there for its sustained life.…. cant go into too much details.

The X-37 is a cover. It was launched by a 501 version Atlas CentaurV. That version is designed for launching satellites into geosynchronus transfer orbit, not low earth orbit. The 502 version (two engines for the Centaur stage) can lift 22,700 pounds into LEO. The X-37 weighs 11,000 pounds. Why use a launch vehicle with twice the lifting capacity and why use a GTO vehicle, unless there is some other payload aboard?

A Harvard astronomer was quoted in the NY Times that he observed the upper stage in orbit around the sun. It is likely that the upper stage continued into GTO with a second payload. Slick move!

There has been concern, recently, of other nations launching weaponized satellites to the vicinity of our geosynchronus satellites. It is far easier to find and observe them silhouetted against a bright earth — that is from a slightly higher altitude. My guess is the extra mass lofted was for inspection and/or delousing.

Could the craft be used to drop a non nuclear deep ground penetrator munition with enough kinetic energy to penetrate the Iran weapons sites?

I know this is an old post, but I found this site looking for confirmation of a hypothosis of mine. I just recently heard about the x-37b, and noticed a week or two after i read about its most recent mission, multiple satelites of ours that where having trouble, magically started working again :)

it has a pay load that can shoot down any thing in space the missle does not have to be very big . in space it has nothing to slow it down . also it can mine orbits. drop small looking satellites. also move to intercept signals or jam them. china will have one in 5 years. my best guess is small chemical laser that way you dont make a mess of all the orbits and just blind them. don’t forget those gps satellites have different frequencies that we can change any time we want. man has made a mess of this planet and now space. I hope we know what we are doing. god bless to all

It is George Bushes Fault. Quit changing THE SUBJECT.

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