Rare Image of the Mysterious X-37B

Discussion in 'Science, Tech, & Space Exploration' started by nivek, Jul 8, 2019.

  1. nivek

    nivek As Above So Below

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    Skywatcher Captures Rare Image of Mysterious X-37B Military Space Plane

    2019_07_08_18.14.40-1-1-1.jpg

    Skywatcher and satellite tracker Ralf Vandebergh of the Netherlands recently caught a rare glimpse of the U.S. Air Force's secretive X-37B space plane.

    Vandebergh said he'd been hunting for the robotic spacecraft for months and finally managed to track it down in May. But it took a bit longer to get photos of the vehicle.

    "When I tried to observe it again [in] mid-June, it didn't meet the predicted time and path," Vandebergh explained. "It turned out to have maneuvered to another orbit. Thanks to the amateur satellite observers' network, it was rapidly found in orbit again, and I was able to take some images on June 30 and July 2."

    The X-37B's recent passes were almost overhead, Vandebergh added.


    Beyond expectations

    The X-37B, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), looks like a miniature version of NASA's retired space shuttle.

    "It is really a small object, even at only 300 kilometers [186 miles] altitude, so don't expect the detail level of ground-based images of the real space shuttle," Vandebergh said.

    Taking this into consideration, the newly captured imagery far exceeded Vandebergh's expectations.

    "We can recognize a bit of the nose, payload bay and tail of this mini-shuttle, with even a sign of some smaller detail," he said.

    Vandebergh captured the photos using a 10-inch F/4,8 aperture Newtonian telescope with an Astrolumina ALccd 5L-11 mono CMOS camera. Tracking was fully manual through a 6×30 finderscope, he said.

    Classified duties

    The X-37B has winged past 666 days of flight on this latest mission, which is called OTV-5 because it's the fifth flight for the program.

    OTV-5 began on Sept. 7, 2017, with a launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster from NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

    X-37B missions are carried out under the auspices of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, and mission control for OTV flights is handled by the 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. This squadron oversees operations of the X-37B and is tagged as the Air Force Space Command's premier organization for space-based demonstrations, pathfinders and experiment testing, gathering information on objects high above Earth and carrying out other intelligence-gathering duties.

    And that may be a signal as to what the robotic craft is doing — both looking down at Earth and upward.

    Flight-duration record

    Each X-37B mission has set a new flight-duration record for the program:

    Most X-37B payloads are classified, and the Air Force releases few details about the spacecraft's orbit and activities. The only OTV-5 payload that Air Force officials have revealed is the Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader, or ASETS-II.

    Developed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), this cargo is testing experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipes for long-duration stints in the space environment.

    According to AFRL, the payload's three primary science objectives are to measure initial on-orbit thermal performance, to measure long duration thermal performance, and to assess any lifetime degradation.

    Tarmac touchdown

    Exactly when OTV-5 will end is unknown.

    The last X-37B mission touched down at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility — a first for the program. All prior missions had ended with a tarmac touchdown at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

    Several website postings say that the sixth mission, OTV-6, is planned for this year on a United Launch Alliance Atlas-5(501) rocket. Launch would be from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex-41.

    Reusable vehicles

    The classified X-37B program "fleet" consists of two known reusable vehicles, both of which were built by Boeing.

    The X-37B vehicles were built at several Boeing locations in Southern California, including Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and El Segundo. The program transitioned to the U.S. Air Force in 2004 after earlier funded research efforts by Boeing, NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

    The military space plane is 29 feet (8.8 meters) long and 9.6 feet (2.9 m) tall, with a wingspan of nearly 15 feet (4.6 m).

    The X-37B's payload bay, which measures 7 feet (2.1 m) by 4 feet (1.2 m), can be outfitted with a robotic arm. The spacecraft has a launch weight of 11,000 lbs. (4,990 kilograms) and is powered on orbit by gallium-arsenide solar cells with lithium-ion batteries.

    Prior to OTV-5's launch, Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, said there were many firsts on this mission, making it a milestone for the program. "It is our goal to continue advancing the X-37B OTV so it can more fully support the growing space community," he said at the time.

    The Air Force also noted that OTV-5 was launched into, and will be landed from, a higher-inclination orbit than prior missions to further expand the X-37B's orbital envelope.

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  2. Toroid

    Toroid Founding Member

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    US Air Force's X-37B Space Plane Lands After Record 780-Day Mystery Mission | Space
     
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  3. nivek

    nivek As Above So Below

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  4. Toroid

    Toroid Founding Member

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    They'll have to roll-out some kind of craft(s). This thing would be considered a joke compared to what the SSP are alleged to have in operation.
     
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  5. August

    August Metanoia

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    Is this a foil to keep everyone's else's gazes averted to what is really going on up there ?
     
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  6. Toroid

    Toroid Founding Member

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    It's a step in the right direction.
     
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  7. pigfarmer

    pigfarmer tall, thin, irritable

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    I seriously doubt we ceded access to low Earth orbit for national defense. It does beg the question what something like that might be doing up there for such long periods of time. Remotely controlling advanced reconnaissance devices perhaps?
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2019
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  8. nivek

    nivek As Above So Below

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    Perhaps remotely controlling advanced UAPs?...(tictacs?)

    ...
     
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  9. pigfarmer

    pigfarmer tall, thin, irritable

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    Yes.

    Can't remember if it was Project Beta or X-Descending but there was talk of long underground tunnels being reused as part of a high energy laser project. And there's Leik Myrabo who may have taken a few tips from Ray Stanford and went on to patent the concept behind laser propulsion for small craft, and then sort of faded away. And right off the TTSA page:

    We are currently working with lead engineers from major Department of Defense and aerospace companies with the capability to pursue an advanced engineering approach to fundamental aerospace topics like Beamed-Energy Propulsion Launch Systems (“BELS”), Space-Time Metrics Engineering (“STME”), and warp-drive metrics.

    My, my, isn't that interesting? Commercial space access these days means rockets. Odd that they should mention it so apparently the concept appears workable, and one they've given quite a bit of thought to. No idea if any of that is really connected, but UFOlogy is all about making connections where they probably don't exist so what the hell, one more won't hurt.

    Imagine if a part of that program was what Bennewitz unfortunately saw and reported. Looked mighty odd to him. Also imagine what form it might take after a couple of decades of investment. Maybe it was a concept that had to wait until some other advancement made it possible. Computing power, portability, materials science, AI, the X-37Bs maybe? It might make for some unrecognizable platform with amazing flight characteristics, more likely for used reconnaissance than directly as a weapon. The description of a 'fleet' in the Nimitz encounter, very slow moving until they need to react, sounded like a sensor net that just sits and collects data. When threatened it responds and then goes back to what it's doing. Oh, and maybe able to respond so quickly it renders conventional weapons useless.

    You read about early Cold War reconnaissance in extreme conditions and it's a lot of grueling work done secretly with little or no recognition at great risk. Many lost their lives doing things nobody will ever hear of. We take for granted how useful satellite imagery is but it isn't perfect. A system where you could park an unmanned sensor net at your convenience and have it go unnoticed and unharmed even if challenged that can probably collect much more than visual imagery would be something defense planners would cream their shorts over. If I can think of it is it such a stretch to suggest that those with the power to actually do something about it might have too?
     
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  10. pigfarmer

    pigfarmer tall, thin, irritable

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    At 0407 rereading this - no idea what the hell those x-37Bs actually do. But generally speaking if we see a piece of 'secret' hardware it's well established nearing retirement and whatever is going to replace it is already in the pipeline somewhere.

    Just trying to suggest an alternative based on some of the stuff we've read. Not talking about whales.
     
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  11. Justice Fodor

    Justice Fodor "Nobody wants justice." -- Alan Dershowitz

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    While your reference to Ray Stanford is beside your main point, and qualified ("may have taken"), I will add this: In my opinion, the evidence is weak that Leik Myrabo learned anything from Ray Stanford that led to anything of significance in Myrabo's later research. The claim to such a link was set forth at length by Christian P. Lambright in his 2011 book X Descending -- but the link is based, for the most part, on Stanford's undocumented and uncorroborated claims. As I have argued at length in my series of "Ray Stanford Close-Up" posts (nine so far) on AlienExpanse, Ray Stanford has often demonstrated great subjectivity, great lack of candor, and a strong inclination towards grandiosity -- therefore, Stanford-based UFO claims that cannot be documented by other means cannot be taken very seriously.

    Stanford claimed to have an image, from a little Super8 movie frame taken in 1985, that shows a craft projecting some sort of an energy beam "tower" in front of it. The original film has never been made available for independent forensic examination -- indeed, the image itself apparently has never been published -- no, not even in Lambright's book, the reader must rely on pictures "drawn from memory" by Lambright (it is not clear whether he drew them while viewing a projection of the original image, or the "computer-enhanced" versions that he said Stanford had created). Stanford claimed that Myrabo visited his house, apparently in 1988, and viewed the image(s). Years later, Myrabo wrote papers in which he described possible use of laser-induced "air spike" to ease passage of a disc-shaped craft through atmosphere. The Stanford-Lambright claim was that the Stanford image led to Myrabo's subsequent research. (See the attached images.)

    However, if one reads Chapter 10 of the book, it is pretty clear that Lambright pretty much unsuccessful in getting Myrabo to confirm this version of events. "In his first reply he [Myrabo] implied that his memory was not very clear about the images and that, in fact, he had seen them only briefly..." Lambright attributes to Myrabo, in a subsequent phone conversation, the vague statement, "But the 'on-edge discs using beams of energy ahead of them to affect the airflow' does seem to ring a bell, so to speak."

    The book also details Lambright's efforts to persuade Myrabo to help Stanford present Stanford's images and interpretation in a "credible scientific forum," efforts which were ultimately unsuccessful.

    So, perhaps Myrabo did pick up a tip from Stanford and developed it -- but, as I said, the evidence seems weak.

    I have written in more detail about this matter here:

    Ray Stanford and His Ever-Receding Claims of World-Shaking UFO Evidences
     

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    Last edited: Oct 30, 2019
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  12. pigfarmer

    pigfarmer tall, thin, irritable

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    Thanks - but I regret mentioning Ray Stanford. Come to think of it that is true in general.

    There was a '70s era program that had a set of white paper deliverables on all sorts of esoteric topics that sounded very much like the original mandate for TTSA. Can't remember it's name right now. Beamed energy propulsion was part of both of those and is part of TTSA's current mission statement. It may have also been part of the Bennewitz story. This is a topic that has remained nearby very quietly for some time but seems to pop up like a bad penny.

    Probably nothing to do with the X-37B but that vehicle it does serve to demonstrate that we have capabilities and secrets. Some that probably look mighty odd.
     
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  13. pigfarmer

    pigfarmer tall, thin, irritable

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    Jeez. I keep doing that. Meant AATIP.
     

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