The highly kept secret space plane of the U.S. Air Force, the X-37B, will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere in few hours after a mysterious mission in space orbit for two years. It will touch down at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Time.
The Federal Aviation Administration has closed airspace around the Southern California base during the time of landing of the space plane X-37B. “Team Vandenberg stands ready to implement safe landing operations for the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, the third time for this unique mission,” Col. Keith Baits, commander of the 30th Space Wing, said in a statement.
The X-37B is a miniature of a space shuttle that lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on December 11, 2012 on a mission for 9 months but it was extended to more than 22 months. 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,” said an Air Force statement.
The space mission inlcuded testing 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 above all the main mysterious goal was not known to anybody. Speculations of its main mission being testing of a secret space weapon or spying activities were going rampant among the space enthusiasts.
The X-37B’s last mission lasted 469 days until it landed at Vandenberg on June 11, 2012. Both missions operated by orbiters and this might be its last mission, said the US Air Force. However, officials anticipate multiple missions will be required to satisfy the test program objectives, said the statement hinting at many more similar stealth missions by the mini spacecraft.
Another explanation from the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office is that it is a test platform for reusable spacecraft technologies in low Earth orbit.
The X-37B spacecraft is 29 feet, 3 inches long and 9 feet, 6 inches high with a wingspan of 14 feet and 11 inches and weighs about 5.5 tons. It was lifted off into space by United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket. The space plane will be retired after this mission to NASA hangars.
Here are some speculations at a glance:
Posted by Tanay T., the remark says: “This, of course, is not confirmed by the government of the United States, but there is certainly information out there about the use of the X-37B in anti-satellite mode that can knockout objects under the influence of Earths gravity field.”
He further adds that “this is one of the only new usages of satellites that I know off; it can be used to disable opposing countries satellites during a unexpected war, and without them most governments would be unable to launch ICBMs or ABMs, to communicate with troops in other continents or get up to date metrics on enemy troop strengths in areas where the said hostile country cannot physically reach.”
Another comment by Mac R. says, such missions are “Helpful for detecting enemies before they reach your vicinity.”
Gabe O says “Utilizing Double-Wavelength Exposers from LEO Satellites to find Mineral Deposites” is another use of the secret mission. He writes: At some point in the future -if they haven’t already- contractors should discuss investing in satellites that would utilize double-wavelength spectroscopy in order to find important mineral deposites. To my understanding we only use infrared radiation to take note of SURFACE deposits.
Perhaps at some point in the future we could utilize duel-wavelengths (emitted by one or a multitude of satellites) in order to see Through large compositions of matter on the ground. Over an elongated period of time satellites would be able to factor out wavelengths emitted over a general area and -due to subtle variations in composition- “see” what lies beneath those composites.
Giving information not only about minerals on the surface, but on those lying beneath them (is the key).