Mon, Mar 01, 2010
Prototype Unmanned Vehicle Arrives At Cape Canaveral
The USAF X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle arrived in Florida this
week to begin processing in anticipation of an April 19 launch
aboard an Atlas V rocket. The robotic spacecraft is a
continuation of the X-37 program originally designed by NASA to
test next-generation spaceflight technologies and transferred to
DARPA in 2004.
Built by Boeing's Phantom Works division, the reusable X-37B is
designed to test airframe, propulsions, and operational
technologies. The robotic vehicle will conduct orbital and reentry
operations and experiments at speeds around Mach 25.
ANN previously reported that an earlier vehicle, the X-37A,
conducted drop tests from Scaled Composites' WhiteKnight carrier
aircraft in 2006. The vehicle was damaged during landing on
one of those tests.
The 29 ft long, 15 ft wide X-37B is scheduled to land at at
Vandenberg AFB in CA with Edwards AFB acting as the backup landing
site. No information has been given by the Air Force as to
the payload, mission, or duration for this flight.
"The X-37B has the requirement to be on-orbit up to 270 days,"
an Air Force spokesperson told SpaceFlightNow.com. "Actual length
for the first mission will depend on the meeting the mission
objectives, which consists of checkout and performance
characteristics of the spacecraft systems."
Speculation as to the military applications of the X-37 program
increased when it was discovered that a USAF fact sheet noted that
the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) is now listed as a
project partner. Theories range from fast-response
communications and imaging to an orbital weapons platform.
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