Saturday, March 05, 2011

Second Air Force X-37B launched

USAF news release:
"In the latest step to improve space capability and further develop an affordable, reusable space vehicle, Air Force technicians launched the second X-37B here March 5, officials said. The Orbital Test Vehicle-2 launch comes on the heels of the successful flight of OTV-1, which made an autonomous landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Dec. 3 after 224 days in space. According to officials, post-flight analysis of OTV-1 revealed OTV-2 needed no significant changes, but detailed assessments of the first mission are ongoing. "Launch is a very demanding business and having what appears to be a successful launch is always welcome news," said Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space Programs Richard McKinney, adding he is pleased with the vehicle's initial status reports. "It is important to remember that this is an experimental vehicle; that this is just the second launch; and that we have just started what is a very systematic checkout of the system." Mr. McKinney explained the second X-37B flight will help Air Force scientists better evaluate and understand the vehicle's performance characteristics and expand upon the tests from OTV-1."

COMMENT: The Air Force, of course, is not saying exactly what experiments the OTV-2 is carrying. However, the mini-space shuttle has a lot of potential uses, civil, scientific, or military. I'm curious to see how fast they can turn around these vehicles and relaunch one that's just flown.


omegaman66 said...
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omegaman66 said...

Why do spaceships have to be rocket launched. Why not plane like space ships that take off and land like a plane?

I am going to assume the answer is that it is possible but that for getting many tons of weight that high the rocket is cheaper more effiecent fuel wise?

Straight up to me seems to be the hardest way to get high... I mean to get up... I mean... you know get into orbit.

Matt Bille said...

Omega, good question. THere have been attempts to solve this, like the X-30 National Aerospace Plane program, but so far no one has developed engines that can handle the weight of a more robust airframe and full fuel load and accelerate from a runway all the way to orbit. Conventional rockets would burn all their fuel early in the trip, while more efficient types of engine have so far proven very hard and costly to build. I think it WILL be solved some day!