Feeds

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

Roboshuttle relocated - for now

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.