Feeds

Russia has 'secret space warplane' to match US X-37B

Cold War 'Hurricane' shuttle-interceptor reborn?

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Russia has claimed that it too is working on an unmanned pocket spaceplane similar to the US military's mysterious X-37B roboshuttle, dubbed a "secret space warplane" by the Iranian government.

The X-37B at Vandenberg AFB following maiden flight. Credit: USAF

What has the robot spaceplane collected up there?

Flightglobal reports that Oleg Ostapenko, a senior official of the Russian Space Forces, commented with respect to the X-37B's recent maiden flight that "something has been done [by us] along these lines".

The X-37B is a small, winged, heat-shielded spaceplane which is launched into orbit inside a fairing atop a conventional rocket stack – rather than making use of its own engines and strap-on boosters like the Space Shuttle.

Once in space, the X-37B exhibits another important difference from the Shuttle: it deploys a solar array, allowing it to stay in orbit for long periods. The Shuttle's electrical systems were powered by fuel cells, meaning that it was unsuited for long stays in space (unless perhaps docked to the International Space Station).

The first and so far only flight of the X-37B lasted 224 days, with the little spaceplane coming in to land autonomously on a runway at California's Vandenberg military space base last December.

The US Air Force, owner of the X-37B, suggests publicly that the little spaceplane is intended mainly to allow quicker deployment and testing of new technologies in space. Supposing you had come up with a new sensor, for instance: normally it would have to be made as reliable and likely to work as humanly possible, then built into a satellite of its own with solar panels, protection, power systems, communications and all the rest. Only once this had been launched would you have any idea if the new kit even worked. If it didn't, you'd just have to write off the cost of the satellite. Either way, the process would have taken a long time.

With the X-37B you could build a reasonably good effort at the sensor, plug it into the spaceplane and launch it very quickly. If it didn't work you could bring the X-37B down straight away, and possibly fix the duff payload and send it up again fast. If it wasn't fixable, you'd at least have saved large sums on a satellite and on removing all possible risks from the trial package. And no matter what, you'd have got your new technology into space a lot more quickly than you would using normal technology.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
HUGE SHARK as big as a WWII SUBMARINE died out, allowing whales to exist
Who'd win a fight: Megalodon or a German battleship?
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
OK Google, do I have CANCER?
Company talks up pill that would spot developing tumors
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
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.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.