Feeds

US X-37B robot minishuttle: 'Secret space warplane'?

No, but it could do some naughty orbital stuff

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Air Force 'Mission 3B' back on the cards?

The "some missions" referred to by the Columbia report were probably the so-called 3A and 3B flight plans (described here) which called for single-polar-orbit hops from Vandenberg, either deploying or recovering a spy satellite without any pass over the USSR by the shuttle. Later, even more difficult missions were specified by the Air Force, in which the shuttle would both deploy and then recover a spy satellite during a single mission.

The X-37B unmanned spaceplane being prepared for launch. Credit: USAF

A certain Shuttle-y look about the wings.

The military spy-sat requirements have been blamed by many space enthusiasts for crippling the shuttle's design. It's argued that without its large, heavy, heatshielded wings - necessary for the cross-range re-entry requirement, rather than for actually landing as such - it might have been a much more efficient machine for putting stuff into space.

In the event, by the time the Shuttle began to fly its performance was seen as deficient for polar-orbit spysat missions lifting increasingly hefty "KeyHole" payloads. High-angle launches forfeit the valuable speed boost gained by eastward takeoffs close to the Equator, as from Canaveral, and require more grunt from the launcher. Plans were developed in the 1980s for lightened solid boosters, and even extra strap-on liquid rockets, to be used on missions out of the multibillion-dollar shuttle base at Vandenberg's Space Launch Complex Six.

Then came the Challenger disaster of 1986, which imposed years more delay and still more expense. By the time the shuttle had weathered that storm, the military had mostly turned its back on the troubled spaceplane. No shuttles ever flew from Vandenberg on polar missions, and the ambitious military plans to recover and re-use colossally expensive spy sats - perhaps modifying and upgrading them, or repairing them after faults, as one might a normal aeroplane - came to nothing.

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.