Military Review

Strange little shuttle: why does the Pentagon launch the X-37B again

60

The threat from space



May 16, the American Atlas V booster rocket (the one that uses the Russian “engine of discord” RD-180 in the first stage) will launch an experimental spacecraft from the launch site at Cape Canaveral X-37B. This will be the sixth launch of the spaceship and one of the most important in its short-lived stories. “There will be more experiments on board than during previous X-37B flights,” US Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said earlier in a video conference hosted by the Space Foundation.

The fact is that within the framework of the new mission, the device will be launched for the first time with a service module, without which the X-37B cannot be considered “full-fledged”. In general, the X-37B can be called without exaggeration the most mysterious spacecraft of our day, generating almost conspiracy theories. Recall that a few years ago, with the filing of the current head of Roskosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, the X-37B became a potential "weapons mass destruction.

“We will accordingly avoid any public statements, but we are well aware that this can happen, and it is likely that weapons of mass destruction, if, God forbid, it will be placed in space, can be planned from above.”

- said then the head of the space department of the Russian Federation.

Partly the Americans themselves are to blame for the formation of such an image: they have long concealed the purpose of the X-37B and now probably also do not tell the whole truth.

What is generally known about this orbital plane? Previously, the apparatus was not (at least formally) part of any major military projects. Back in the late 90s, Boeing and NASA began work on it. Then financial problems made themselves felt, and the project was transferred to the defense research agency DARPA. The X-37A, which was built as part of the updated program, has never flown into space, and in 2006 the US Air Force announced that they would now conduct the project: from now on it received the name X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle. The official goal of the program is the development of reusable technologies.

Attempt number six


Regardless of the tasks set, the X-37B has every reason to be proud. A small nine-meter device has already made five successful starts and successful returns: it was launched four times using Atlas V, one using Falcon-9. As part of the fourth launch, he set a valid record for himself, having stayed in orbit for 718 days. As part of the first mission, the spacecraft stayed in orbit "only" 224 days.

As you can clearly see, we are talking about really long missions, during which you can catch a lot. What will the X-37B do now?

I must say, the US authorities described the goals and objectives of the mission, not forgetting to mention the great role of the experiments.

“Each launch represents a significant milestone and a step forward in terms of how we rapidly create, test and deploy space systems,”

- said the commander of the US Space Forces, Air Force General John Raymond.

It is reported that as part of the new mission, NASA will study the effect of radiation and other phenomena on samples of seeds and plants that can be eaten. The Pentagon also said that the orbital plane will deliver into space a small satellite FalconSat-8, which was developed by the US Air Force Academy. It is assumed that he will allow for five experiments. In fact, this is an educational platform.


Of much greater interest is another experiment that will be conducted in the interests of the US Navy Research Laboratory. It is about converting solar energy into radio frequency microwave energy, followed by studying the possibility of its transmission to Earth. According to experts, this area promises great opportunities in the future, including in the military sphere. As noted by The Drive in X-37B Space Plane's Microwave Power Beam Experiment Is A Way Bigger Deal Than It Seems, such technologies can provide an almost “unlimited” lifespan for unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites.

It is noted that back in 2019, specialists of the Research Laboratory fleet conducted a ground-based experiment, during which energy was successfully transferred with a capacity of two kilowatts to a distance of 300 meters. And during the tests conducted in May 2019, the infrared laser successfully transmitted 400 watts of power to a distance of 325 meters. The very first phase of the project was completed several years ago: then the energy was transmitted via cable to the submarine.

According to Dr. Paul Jaffe, an engineer at the US Navy Research Laboratory, the technology will open up completely new frontiers in terms of the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. “If you have an electric drone that can fly for more than an hour, you're fine,” Jaffe says.

“If we had a way to make drones fly endlessly, this would have far-reaching consequences. Thanks to powerful radiation, we have a way to accomplish this. ”


The Drive recalls that back in 2016, the U.S. Navy received a patent for a system invented by Jaffe. However, it would not be entirely true to call him a pioneer. The U.S. Air Force began testing lasers as an energy source for small light aircraft back in the 1980s. Then the military managed to create a small cone-shaped apparatus, driven only by laser beams. However, improved technology can be used, including for fairly large aircraft. It remains to add that according to a press release from the Navy.mil website (the official site of the US Navy), it was also approved for use by the Marine Corps, the Ground Forces and the US Air Force.

Space interceptor?


However, the experiment of the Navy Research Laboratory does not give the full picture of the purpose of the spacecraft. Experts previously noted that putting into orbit of cargo using the X-37B is economically disadvantageous - there are much simpler and more reliable methods for conducting experiments in orbit.

Therefore, as we have already noted above, there are alternative versions about the appointment of the Boeing brainchild. Back in 2016, the Space.com portal interviewed American experts on this subject, and many of them agreed that the spacecraft is a prototype of an interceptor that can destroy artificial satellites. Well, the immediate goal of the launches is supposedly to demonstrate that such a method is more economically feasible than using interceptor missiles.

By the way, in the past, the Dutch amateur astronomer Ralph Vandenberg photographed a spacecraft during one of his missions.

“I hunted for OTV-5 for months and visually discovered it in May. When I tried to observe it again in mid-June, at a certain time it did not appear in the predicted orbit. It turned out that he maneuvered into another orbit, "

- noted the specialist on his Twitter.

Strange little shuttle: why does the Pentagon launch the X-37B again

Unfortunately, neither the picture taken then, nor the announcement of new experiments give us an answer about the purpose of the X-37B. Perhaps new data will appear after the return of the device to Earth.
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  1. Mavrikiy
    Mavrikiy 14 May 2020 05: 33 New
    -12
    Space interceptor?
    Perhaps a space thief of satellites. The hunt for technology. repeat On the other hand, what flies can fall and you can help him with this. repeat
    1. Ilya-spb
      Ilya-spb 14 May 2020 06: 25 New
      +1
      1) satellite inspection;

      2) launching satellites into orbit;

      3) space bomber -? Maybe this figovina and nuclear weapons to carry?

      What is created for filth - in this I am 100% sure.

      PS And also ... there is a version that this small shuttle personally irradiates Ukraine with Y-rays and torsion fields))))
      1. Cyril G ...
        Cyril G ... 21 July 2020 13: 04 New
        0
        Quote: Ilya-spb
        PS And also ... there is a version that this small shuttle personally irradiates Ukraine with Y-rays and torsion fields))))

        This is the most correct version !!!
    2. Bar1
      Bar1 14 May 2020 10: 11 New
      0
      why is it being asked to please our direct enemies and the golden calf, on which the west prays to supply these with our best products? The delivery of rd180 to amers is not just stupidity, but cooperation with the enemy, which is harmful to Russia.
      1. Blackmokona
        Blackmokona 14 May 2020 10: 32 New
        +5
        This device was also successfully launched into space on the Falcon-9, with American Marilyn engines. Therefore, the ban on the RD-180 will only save one hundred and a few million dollars to the Pentagon and cause the grinding of teeth between Boeing and Lockheed
        1. Bar1
          Bar1 14 May 2020 10: 41 New
          -4
          Now when the golden calf will devour the west itself, this will be our most correct position.
          1. Blackmokona
            Blackmokona 14 May 2020 10: 47 New
            +5
            Well, our workers producing RD-180 will lose their jobs to save the Pentagon’s budget. Is this a typical correct position?
            1. Bar1
              Bar1 14 May 2020 11: 15 New
              +3
              Quote: BlackMokona
              Well, our workers producing RD-180 will lose their jobs to save the Pentagon’s budget. Is this a typical correct position?

              caring for our workers is the responsibility of our government, not of the American capitalists, and if this government does not care about our industry, then such a government must be driven.
              1. Plate
                Plate 15 May 2020 08: 40 New
                +1
                So, according to this logic, more than half of the world's governments must be driven. Maybe even almost everything.
            2. Nike
              Nike 15 May 2020 08: 05 New
              -1
              According to your reasoning, it is FAVORABLE to do for amers "Borei", how much dough will roll at once.
        2. shahor
          shahor 14 May 2020 14: 27 New
          +5
          Quote: BlackMokona
          and cause Boeing’s gnashing of teeth with Lockheed

          This will cause a rattle of teeth from a Russian engine manufacturer, for which the export income of RD-180 is more than half of the annual profit.
          1. forpost
            forpost 16 July 2020 19: 45 New
            0
            then you have to offer Indians and Chinese
        3. Wildgoose
          Wildgoose 15 July 2020 20: 21 New
          +1
          It will save, if it flies without engines at all, and so they will have to buy an engine from their manufacturers more expensive.
          1. Blackmokona
            Blackmokona 15 July 2020 21: 44 New
            0
            Falcon 9 flies on Marilyn engines created by SpaceX
            And Falcon-9 is much cheaper than Atlas-5 with RD-180 and carries Falcon-9 more cargo
      2. Borisych1973
        Borisych1973 15 May 2020 22: 09 New
        0
        Think you can not do without Russian engines? Will the US space program stop? They will manage, just spend a little more money. But without the sale of engines, the United States will be left without orders and, possibly, one of the few Russian manufacturers of high-tech (albeit far from new) equipment will go bankrupt. So it’s not stupidity and not cooperation with the enemy, but simply a vital necessity.
    3. To be or not to be
      To be or not to be 14 May 2020 11: 11 New
      -6
      That thief is unambiguous ..
      “The Americans got this product, indirectly thanks to, if I may say so, the programs that were developed in the USSR and in Russia, these are the Spiral and Max projects, which in 2005 disappeared from the Molniya NPO enterprise as a result of the dubious bankruptcy procedures. The obtained documentation allowed the Americans to catch up very quickly within five years. They launched a prototype, which is similar to our unmanned orbital plane, abbreviated as BOR, which worked out various space programs not only for the Spiral and Max projects, but also for the Buran project, "Zvezda's interlocutor said.
      https://tvzvezda.ru/news/vstrane_i_mire/content/201912101715-b4KY6.html
      https://vpk.name/news/75435_h-37_poshel_po_spirali.html
      1. Blackmokona
        Blackmokona 14 May 2020 15: 08 New
        0
        A lot of you messed up.
        Bohr and Spiral go to another device. Well, the United States has taken up such devices much earlier, before the collapse of the USSR
        1. To be or not to be
          To be or not to be 14 May 2020 16: 47 New
          -2
          wink And you write on the TV star and VPK. wink
        2. forpost
          forpost 16 July 2020 19: 49 New
          0
          Did they fly?
      2. opus
        opus 14 May 2020 21: 26 New
        +1
        Quote: To be or not to be
        They launched a prototype that looks like our unmanned orbital aircraft, abbreviated as BOR,


        "Spiral" -
        105.11 subsonic airplane analogous to an orbital airplane
        1. To be or not to be
          To be or not to be 14 May 2020 22: 23 New
          +1
          BOR -5

          From July 6, 1984 to June 22, 1988, five launches of the BOR-5 series devices (No. 501-505) were carried out.
          1. opus
            opus 14 May 2020 22: 43 New
            +2
            Quote: To be or not to be
            BOR -5

            and?

            Cosmos-1445 "(BOR-4 No. 403) is lifted onto the deck of the search and rescue ship" Yamal "on March 16, 1983. Photos taken from the side of the Australian reconnaissance aircraft R-3C Orion


            On July 6, 1984, the launch of the BOR-5 flying laboratory (No. 501) began full-scale tests of geometrically similar Burana models made on a scale of 1: 8.
            BOR-5 launched toh missile K65M-RB5 from Kapustin Yar, but flew along a suborbital trajectory in the direction of the Sary-Shagan training ground. A missile with an apparatus weighing from 1414 to 1513 kg reached a maximum height of 120 to 210 km, after which separation occurred, and BOR-5 continued to move at a speed of about 5 km / s. In the atmosphere, from an altitude of about 50 km, the flight took place with a programmed change in the angle of heel and attack along the calculated trajectory of the Buran. The range was about 2000 km. At an altitude of 7-8 km, the BOR-5 braked in a steep spiral, released a parachute at an altitude of 3 km, after which the aircraft landed at a vertical speed of 7-8 m / s.

            Quote: To be or not to be
            From July 6, 1984 to June 22, 1988

            and?
            February 18 1977 years its first experimental "flight" was made by the shuttle "Enterprise"
            the first "normal" flight took place on April 12 1981 years (shuttle Columbia)
            1. Falcon5555
              Falcon5555 18 May 2020 00: 45 New
              0
              Do you have such a rarity - "avanproekt", with the signature of Lozinsky, or from the Internet a photo was taken, or in some library?
              Lozinsky put his Spiral on "bast shoes" in vain. The ugly does not fly.
              In the picture number. Article 3 shows the thickness of the "bricks" of thermal protection (at the open hatches). The Shuttle had about the same. Interestingly, what thickness of thermal protection did Spiral and Buran have? By the way, what is there in this "preliminary project" about this?
            2. forpost
              forpost 16 July 2020 19: 53 New
              0
              and?
              The first BOR-2 launch into space took place on December 6, 1969
    4. Civil
      Civil 14 May 2020 11: 56 New
      0
      He spies, a cheap robot.
    5. Alexander Sosnitsky
      Alexander Sosnitsky 14 May 2020 23: 27 New
      -1
      It is an ideal carrier of viruses sprayed by invisible descent capsules over cities as an irresistible weapon right now.
      1. My doctor
        My doctor 15 May 2020 20: 58 New
        +1
        Quote: Alexander Sosnitsky
        It is an ideal carrier of viruses sprayed by invisible descent capsules over cities as an irresistible weapon right now.

        Do you make a foil hat yourself or buy it?
        1. Alexander Sosnitsky
          Alexander Sosnitsky 15 May 2020 21: 35 New
          0
          Who do you work for? Or are there not enough brains?
  2. Same lech
    Same lech 14 May 2020 05: 34 New
    0
    Fortune-telling on coffee grounds ... maybe our foreign intelligence will dispel the fog of uncertainty in the purpose of this machine. what
    1. Tugarin
      Tugarin 14 May 2020 07: 06 New
      -1
      maybe our foreign intelligence will dispel the fog of uncertainty in the purpose of this unit

      Here is the subject for bargaining on START-3: "Destroy the apparatus, stop the entire program - then we will talk!"
      1. Same lech
        Same lech 14 May 2020 07: 08 New
        +1
        "Destroy the device, stop the entire program - we'll talk later!"

        Yeah, then the Americans will have to reveal all the ins and outs about the X-37B ... they won’t go for it ... the ego of a cowboy bandit will not allow it.
      2. Force
        Force 14 May 2020 08: 37 New
        +2
        What the US may demand the closure of Poseidon and Petrel programs
  3. Avior
    Avior 14 May 2020 05: 56 New
    +2
    . an experiment that will be conducted in the interests of the US Navy Research Laboratory. It is about converting solar energy into radio frequency microwave energy, followed by studying the possibility of its transmission to Earth.

    But, it seems, this is the very technology that was described several years ago when they wrote about ROFAR
  4. Vladimir_2U
    Vladimir_2U 14 May 2020 06: 50 New
    +3
    The very first phase of the project was completed several years ago: then the energy was transmitted via cable to the submarine.
    This is a breakthrough! The cable was probably wireless. laughing
  5. U-58
    U-58 14 May 2020 07: 34 New
    +8
    Despite the openness of American programs, everything is under a veil of secrecy.
    I don’t think that the corresponding services on this airplane absolutely know anything.
    But the fact that the Americans have created a solid apparatus of a wide range of applications is clear to everyone.
    And what will we answer?
    For what purpose did the Kalashnikov concern buy NPO Molniya? What are they doing there now and are they doing anything other than the sale?
    Also a kind of mystery ..
    1. sergo1914
      sergo1914 14 May 2020 08: 57 New
      0
      Quote: U-58
      For what purpose did the Kalashnikov concern buy NPO Molniya? What are they doing there now and are they doing anything other than the sale?
      Also a kind of mystery ..


      Space reusable machine gun. Only shhh ... it's a secret. Do not tell anyone.
  6. veritas
    veritas 14 May 2020 08: 56 New
    +5
    I remember Buran. Now, probably, the technologies of its construction have been lost.
    1. U-58
      U-58 14 May 2020 09: 06 New
      +7
      You have correctly identified the problem.
      Technology is lost.
      No, all documentation, including technological documentation, has been saved.
      But .. equipment cooperation and, most importantly, personnel.
      That is, even if there are (we will fantasize) sufficient funds and the issuance of a manufacturing task, everything will have to be started anew. Recruit and train workers and engineers, fill up cones, flog a massive marriage, conduct additional tests.
      The Americans are great in this regard. Technology is supported.
      That is, at least 5-7 years ahead of us.
      1. Narak-zempo
        Narak-zempo 15 May 2020 08: 53 New
        0
        Shots, they, you know, are asked to eat.
        And if you do not feed and do not give work on the profile, then with them various bad things begin to happen. Well, there they get drunk, go into commerce, or even leave for the most likely opponent to work for a dollar handout. Yes, and, in the end, elementary grow old and die.
        That's when they create a cadre who will feed on the holy spirit and self-reproduce without cost, and are always ready to give birth to something "that has no analogues" at the first call - then we will live.
  7. Ros 56
    Ros 56 14 May 2020 09: 05 New
    -11
    And what is its resistance against the S-500 no one knows?
    1. U-58
      U-58 14 May 2020 09: 23 New
      11
      Durability is with him, like with any device.
      The question is what are the capabilities of the S-500.
      1. Ros 56
        Ros 56 14 May 2020 09: 25 New
        -11
        So we'll see, hu from hu. bully
  8. Peter Tverdokhlebov
    Peter Tverdokhlebov 14 May 2020 09: 47 New
    0
    Hypothetical situation:
    a three-stage thermonuclear charge with a power of ~ 3 Mt is installed on the device, this device flies over the territory of Russia at an altitude of ~ 300 km and undermines the charge, which forms a powerful electromagnetic pulse that affects the operation of communication equipment and SPRN what will be the next actions of duty shifts on the TsKP RVSN and TsBU ?
    1. Blackmokona
      Blackmokona 14 May 2020 10: 34 New
      0
      The launch of nuclear missiles in the scenario of a retaliatory nuclear strike
    2. U-58
      U-58 14 May 2020 10: 48 New
      0
      For the entire territory of 3 Mt will not be enough ....
      What is a "three-stage charge"?
      Or did you mean the degree of protection? :-))))
      1. Peter Tverdokhlebov
        Peter Tverdokhlebov 14 May 2020 12: 50 New
        0
        The three-stage thermonuclear charge works according to the fission-fusion-fission scheme.
        3 Mt is a very powerful charge in terms of undermining in space to create a powerful electromagnetic pulse!
        For example, in the 60s, nuclear tests were conducted in space in the USSR (operation K): when a 300 kt charge was blown up at an altitude of 290 km, an electromagnetic pulse operated in a radius of 1900 km!
        In the United States in those same years, not far from the Hawaiian Islands, a thermonuclear charge of ~ 1,5 Mt was blown up; its electromagnetic pulse operated in a radius of ~ 3000 km!
    3. Bersaglieri
      Bersaglieri 14 May 2020 12: 32 New
      -1
      It is easier and more flattering to make a takra with a disposable device :) Yes, m 3Mt for a "shock device" will not be enough :)
  9. KVU-NSVD
    KVU-NSVD 14 May 2020 10: 56 New
    +4
    In my opinion it is multifunctional platform and in this capacity it is now being worked out for various uses - a fighter-inspector of satellites, a reconnaissance aircraft, an orbital gliding unit with a nuclear charge, and now there is an orbital "charge" for atmospheric and ground vehicles. I don’t think there are specific plans for use now - this is a kind of reserve for the future, and it’s not for nothing that DARPA is engaged in it.
    1. agond
      agond 14 May 2020 12: 17 New
      0
      Probably time to stop selling the RD-180
      1. KVU-NSVD
        KVU-NSVD 14 May 2020 12: 50 New
        +1
        Quote: agond
        Probably time to stop selling the RD-180

        Well, stop it. What `s next ? They themselves will soon abandon them. And this apparatus will be launched by masked Falcons.
    2. Peter Tverdokhlebov
      Peter Tverdokhlebov 14 May 2020 13: 05 New
      +1
      nuclear charge orbital block

      What will be the accuracy of hitting the target?
      1. KVU-NSVD
        KVU-NSVD 14 May 2020 13: 19 New
        0
        It all depends on the guidance and flooding methods at the final site. Now he is likely to find his airfield in the radio command mode. To learn to do this by coordinates or a picture, I think it will not be difficult.
  10. Bersaglieri
    Bersaglieri 14 May 2020 12: 31 New
    0
    In the USSR, at one time, there was a BOR program. The X-37 is essentially the same thing, only at a modern technical level.
    1. opus
      opus 14 May 2020 21: 23 New
      +2
      Quote: Bersaglieri
      In the USSR, at one time, there was a BOR program.

      and in the USA there were programs
      North American X-15 and Aerospaceplane (1961) and X-20 Dyna Soar (The first flight was scheduled for January 1, 1966)


      essentially the same Cosmos-1374 (Bor-4) was launched on June 3, 1982
  11. iouris
    iouris 14 May 2020 16: 36 New
    -1
    This is a Soviet project, it seems, "Spiral" or (MiG-1xx) Lozino-Lozinsky, the missing documentation of which was recently reported with reference to the Chinese or Vietnamese.
    1. opus
      opus 14 May 2020 21: 33 New
      +1
      Quote: iouris
      This is a Soviet project, it seems, "Spiral" or (MiG-1xx) Lozino-Lozinsky, whose documentation was lost

      belay
      "Spiral"
      In the course of the program, subprojects of the MiG-105.11 analogue aircraft, BOR-1 analogue suborbital vehicles (Unmanned Orbital Rocket Launcher), BOR-2, BOR-3 and EPOS analogue spacecraft were created for the development of the creation of an orbital aircraft and demonstration of its feasibility. (Experimental manned orbital aircraft) BOR-4 and BOR-5 [
      All devices were made on a 1: 3 scale due to the limited energy capabilities of the 8K63B carrier rocket - a modified R-12 BRDS. Starts were carried out from the Kapustin Yar training ground
      BOR-1 - 15.07.1969/XNUMX/XNUMX, a prototype of a PCB material, burned out during ballistic descent;
      BOR-2 - 06.12.1969/XNUMX/XNUMX, control system failure, ballistic descent, burned out;
      BOR-2 - 31.07.1970/XNUMX/XNUMX, a successful flight;
      BOR-2 - 22.04.1971/XNUMX/XNUMX, burnout thermal protection, the parachute did not come out, crashed;
      BOR-2 - 08.02.1972/XNUMX/XNUMX, successful flight, the device is stored in the LII;
      BOR-3 - 24.05.1973, destruction at an altitude of 5 km, crashed;
      BOR-3 - 11.07.1974/XNUMX/XNUMX, parachute damage, crashed.

      Shuttle Program Development Evolution

      30th of October 1968 two NASA headquarters (Manned Spacecraft Center - MSC - in Houston and the Marshall Space Center - MSFC - in Huntsville) turned to US space firms to explore the possibility of creating a reusable space system.
  12. eklmn
    eklmn 14 May 2020 23: 34 New
    -1
    For the curious - what technologies are tested on the X-37V (Google translations):
    “Technologies tested in the program include advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, avionics, high-temperature structures and seals, conformal reusable insulation, light electromechanical flight systems, modern propulsion systems, modern materials and autonomous orbital flight, return and landing “Air Force representatives wrote on bulletin X-37B.”
  13. Nike
    Nike 15 May 2020 08: 10 New
    0
    Quote: BlackMokona
    Well, our workers producing RD-180 will lose their jobs to save the Pentagon’s budget. Is this a typical correct position?

    So then, according to your reasoning, it is profitable for the West to make "SSBNs of the Borey type. How many workers will be employed, how many bobbles will be obtained from the Pentagon!"
  14. Igor K
    Igor K 22 June 2020 08: 45 New
    0
    Knock down to hell.
  15. Fast_mutant
    Fast_mutant 18 July 2020 15: 09 New
    0
    Quote: Narak-zempo
    for a dollar handout

    Are you ready to work for free? And this is not a handout, but a normal payment for the knowledge and skills of the employee. Give him a decent ruble "handout" and he won't go anywhere! ))))