Feeds

Secret X-37B space plane lost by sat-spotters for 2 weeks

Roboshuttle relocated - for now

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

The United States' X-37B robot mini-shuttle spaceplane, which was launched into orbit on a classified mission in April, has changed its orbit. However the "secret space warplane" - as the X-37B has been dubbed by the Iranian government - has now been re-acquired by alert amateur skywatchers.

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

Security by obscurity.

The new orbit of the X-37B (also referred to as OTV-1) is around 30km higher than before, and remains tilted approximately 40 degrees up from the Equator. Amateur watchers lost the little spaceplane between 29 July and 14-18 August, then spotted it again on 19 August and refined their information on the new orbit over subsequent days.

According to veteran sky-watcher Ted Molczan, who has located and tracked many secret spacecraft:

This small change of orbit may have been a test of OTV-1's manoeuvring system, or a requirement of whatever payload may be aboard, or both. The new orbit appears to very nearly repeat every 6 days, instead of the 4 days of the previous orbit.

Satellite spotters have long played a game of cat and mouse with operators of secret spy satellites, picking the spacecraft up using home telescopes as they pass overhead and sharing information so as to work out orbital details and predict future passes.

The X-37B is a particularly interesting target for the skywatchers as its true purpose is unknown. The little unmanned spaceplane, whose payload bay has around the same carrying capacity as a large bed or a small pickup-truck, is launched inside a fairing atop a normal rocket stack.

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.