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Thread: The Mystery Ship X-37B ~ wtf is up with that?

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    Persona Oblongata OrionzRevenge's Avatar
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    Question The Mystery Ship X-37B ~ wtf is up with that?

    DARPA, NASA, and the Air Force built a little midget robotic space shuttle called the x-37B and today it landed at Edwards Air Force Base after spending the past 22 months in orbit.

    The official explanation for the mission is:

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/13/us/air...html?hpt=hp_t2
    The X-37B "is designed to demonstrate reusable spacecraft technologies for America's future in space and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth," an Air Force statement said.


    "Technologies being tested in the program include advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, avionics, high temperature structures and seals, conformal reusable insulation, lightweight electromechanical flight systems, and autonomous orbital flight, re-entry and landing."
    But 22 months in orbit is a hell of a lot of proof of concept.
    Moreover, there can only be one reason to build a space plane, robotic or otherwise, and that is to bring something of value back home.

    Q: What is in the Cargo Bay?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_X-37
    Spoiler: .







    Speculations abound about its purpose with many, including a fixated Chinese news media, thinking it is carrying some sort of weapon system.

    Others, including 45% of the responders to a poll at Space.com, thinking that this spacecraft is doing high-tech spy-craft. However, IMO the orbit didn't seem to suggest wanting to eavesdrop very effectively.

    http://www.spaceflight101.com/x-37b-...n-updates.html

    Shortly after its launch, the spacecraft was spotted by amateur satellite trackers in an orbit of 345 by 363 Kilometers at an inclination of 43.5 degrees.

    Once the spacecraft had been spotted, satellite trackers around the globe kept tabs on the vehicle, following its orbital maneuvers to keep track of the X-37B since its orbit is not officially released. Unlike the OTV-1 mission that featured numerous orbital maneuvers, OTV-3 has not shown significant activity in terms of maneuvers. The vehicle maintained its orbit throughout the mission with occasional engine burns and was last tracked in an orbit of 382 by 406 Kilometers.
    Being in an orbit more than twice as high as needs be and, in the era of Putin, never doing fly-overs of Russia seems to cast doubt on the idea of eyes in the sky.

    Could it be retrieving some object that is/was in orbit about the Earth?

    As noted, OTV-1 conducted a bunch of orbit changes during its 220 days in space but this 22 month adventure was pure vanilla.

    At first I was wondering if it had something to do with the collision of a US commercial telecommunications satellite with a broken-down Soviet Spy satellite back in 2009.

    But interest in a 286 PC / Windows 3 era Russian rust bucket seems doubtful and these satellites collided over the arctic. Trying to catch a piece flying past in a nearly 90 degree orbit from a 43.5 degree orbit would really sting your mitt.
    Spoiler: .




    Impact point



    Debris field T+ 50 minutes.


    Is it possible that something from this wreckage was the mission?

    Could the cargo bay hold a small dull black stealth-clad rogue that can be slung towards some space treasure and it then uses a very limited supply of thrusters to alter course for a rendezvous taking months to mature?

    The reason this idea is intriguing to me is based upon another DARPA initiative seems just as plausible as 22 months of proof of concept:

    http://www.space.com/13339-darpa-spa...atellites.html

    DARPA Wants to Recycle Space Junk Into New Satellites

    The United States Department of Defense is looking for ways to repurpose space junk thousands of miles above Earth back into valuable satellite parts, or even completely new spacecraft.

    The military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has started a program called Phoenix, which seeks to recycle still-functioning pieces of defunct satellites and incorporate them into new space systems on the cheap.

    The Phoenix program aims to use a robot mechanic-like vehicle to snag still-working antennas from the many retired and dead satellites in geosynchronous orbit — about 22,000 miles (35,406 kilometers) above Earth — and attach them to smaller "satlets," or nanosatellites, launched from Earth.

    "If this program is successful, space debris becomes space resource," DARPA director Regina Dugan said in a statement.
    Has the DoD ever been this preoccupied with saving a few taxpayer dollars?

    When you whip out your Occam's Razor to cut through the James Bond mystique and sensation, a more...back down to Earth explanation might be long-term Microgravity research.

    The kind of research that would interests DARPA but also unfortunately those nasty Russians et al floating over your shoulder aboard the ISS.

    Microbiology Research perhaps???

    http://www.biodesign.asu.edu/news/fu...om-spaceflight

    Among the more remarkable findings of this research are that pathogens globally alter their gene expression and disease-related properties during spaceflight culture in ways that cannot be observed during traditional experimental approaches, where the force of gravity can mask key responses.

    One of the key factors influencing gene expression and physiological alterations to pathogenic cells in microgravity—both prokaryotic and eukaryotic—is a property known as fluid-shear. This refers to the level of abrasion caused by extracellular fluids flowing over cell surfaces.

    Under microgravity conditions, fluid-shear is reduced, triggering changes in gene expression and associated phenotypic alterations. Such changes may in fact mimic conditions microbes encounter on earth, for example, regions in the human body where fluid-shear is similarly reduced, including in the gastrointestinal, urogenital and respiratory tracts.

    Previously, the Nickerson team reported the landmark finding that spaceflight increased the virulence of Salmonella typhimurium, which was independently validated on two separate Shuttle missions. Their follow-up studies with NASA collaborators showed altered disease-related responses for Pseudomonas aeruginosa and a methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strain when exposed to either spaceflight or spaceflight-analogue conditions produced on earth.
    So what do you think landed out at Edwards Today?
    Creativity is the residue of time wasted. ~ Albert Einstein

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    Vacantly Occupied rincon's Avatar
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    Ebola.

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    Senior Member Limes's Avatar
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    I wonder if I got a picture of it. When I was in Hawaii in July I got a picture of a low orbit vehicle thinking it was the ISS, but it wasn't. It left a trail on my picture like a 'shooting star'. I guess there's a whole bunch of satellites it could have been, but it's nice to think it may have been visible.

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    a cantori Perdix's Avatar
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    I saw this ship in person at the Broadmoor during a space/weapons exhibition in 2012. I remember the exhibitor stating that it could either be used as an autonomous weapons delivery system, or a platform for research. Unofficially it can also be used as a platform for taking incredibly high resolution images, high enough to clearly see the country of origin of a postage stamp.

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    Persona Oblongata OrionzRevenge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Limey View Post
    I wonder if I got a picture of it. When I was in Hawaii in July I got a picture of a low orbit vehicle thinking it was the ISS, but it wasn't. It left a trail on my picture like a 'shooting star'. I guess there's a whole bunch of satellites it could have been, but it's nice to think it may have been visible.
    This awesome eclipse of Rigel (Bright blue-white 'knee' of Orion) ought to give you some idea of the brightness to expect.




    ISS should rival Venus in magnitude.
    Creativity is the residue of time wasted. ~ Albert Einstein

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    Persona Oblongata OrionzRevenge's Avatar
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    Seen a suggestion elsewhere that the 22 months could have been spent growing high value ceramics in µ Gravity.

    So there may have been a really expensive Crystal Garden under the hatch.

    EDIT

    More input from elsewhere. Ironically from the same guy with the interesting insider insights about Ebola in our Hospitals:

    Back when I interned with NASA's microgravity department, NASA was desperate for any non-ISS microgravity platforms (because the ISS is too damn expensive). We had towers, boreholes, and planes (C-9) designed to free-fall during flying just for this purpose.


    (That was at the bottom of my building)

    A cheap unmanned plane that allowed long-term microgravity experiments would be a boon to the US space agency, with applications across disciplines (including military). Seems like a no-brainer, tbh.
    Last edited by OrionzRevenge; 10-14-2014 at 07:26 AM.
    Creativity is the residue of time wasted. ~ Albert Einstein

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