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back to article Robot mini space shuttle is go for April, says US air force

Long-delayed plans by the US to deploy a small robot space shuttle appear now to be approaching fruition, according to reports. The US Air Force has now stated that the X-37 unmanned spaceplane will be launched into orbit on April 19. The X-40 unpowered test model, used to gather data for the design of the X-37. Credit: NASA …

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Black Helicopters

Am I the only one....

... to notice the piccy shows a X40-A, not the X37??

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Am I the only one....

Yes Ian, you are.

Well done :-)

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Nope

X37 = X40+Power Functions Motor set 8293.

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And for those looking at the picture

And wondering why it says X-40 on the side, try a mouse over (or source code read):

title="The X-40 unpowered test model, used to gather data for the design of the X-37. Credit: NASA"

Anyway - quite a useful little device, although it's a small payload it's bound to be cheaper to launch a dozen of these rather than a shuttle, and less likely that a stray cloud will stop the launch either of course.

Staying up for 270 days seems rather a long time to me - though I guess a payload of spyware kit would be a useful substitute to a satelite or AWACs plane.

hmm

ttfn

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Grenade

270 days...

Maybe that's the maximum duration for keeping Space Marines in cryo-suspension...

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Paris Hilton

At the roundabout, take the third exit....

Hope it's got something better than the average satnav to fly itself home.

And that NASA don't give it the co-ordinates of California in Scotland.

Paris, natch, cos she must know all about geographical confusion.

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Cargo bay is believed to be a large-coffin sized 7' by 4'

Am I the only one old and sad enough to be thinking 'The Green Hills of Earth'?

RAH would have been proud!

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Boffin

"The Green Hills of Earth"...?

Are you sure that you're not thinking of The Long Watch"?

(Another Old Geek)

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Alien

Shurely

Plan 9 from outer space?

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Perfect...

...for carrying a dormant UniSol. Jean-Claude Van Dam in space! It's a sequel waiting to happen I tells ya.

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Megaphone

reaching for Harlan's lawyers

Watch it, mate. Didn't Harlan Ellison copyright all Universal Soldier references?

Siddown, Harlan.

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FAIL

7' x 4'?

So they were looking at using it as a lifeboat for a station with 6 people onboard, when it only has space for 2 people in its payload bay, and that's assuming they're rather comfortable around each other?

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Def
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Joke

Re: 7' x 4'

Last time I checked, an area 7' by 4' doesn't leave much headroom. Or indeed any at all.

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7' X 4'

Oh, I don't know. I think I could cram myself and five other people into that amount of space if I knew that the space station I was residing on was about to come apart. Heck, if the other five were young ladies, I might even enjoy the experience! That could probably be marketed as an "E ticket" ride. ;-)

Dave

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Grenade

another reference

used in such a fashion, the designation for the first unit would be 007*,

*Roger Moore need not apply.

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Alien

Am *I* the only one...

...to think of Quake style marine drop pods?!

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Quake?

Are you sure you mean Quake and not Doom 4?

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Quake or Doom?

Are you sure you mean a video game, and not the dead tree version of Starship Troopers?

Then again I always thought the powered battle suits would be a little bigger than 7 x 4 feet.

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Terminator

@Yannick

Quake II of course. Had a fantasic 3d engine with solid explosions (no overlays) and was a railgun frag fest online back in the late-90s...

Would have loved to see the super-nailgun from Q1 in all the other versions though! Mind you, the grapple-gun from QII was ace for sniping from ceilings.

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Rapid response.

From the late 1950s to 2010 that's 50+ years to get a missile launched hypersonic glider into orbit (Although with a mission duration of 270 days that a bit longer than the X20 Dynasoar was hoping for).

It has some interesting possible uses but they really need more than 1 flight vehicle (historically X programmes have had 3. I gathering data, 1 being modified with the results from the last test flights and 1backup/spare parts/revert to previous working configuration)

Its real benefit may be to get people thinking about the benefits of designing to a known payload bay layout and the advantages of having their satellite core hardware in a vehicle which can be recovered for further study.

Note that while refurbishing and refitting this thing *should* be fairly cheap (by USAF standards. Using the standard storeable propellants will jack up the price quite a bit given their safety precautions) the problem is the *huge* 2 stage expendable rocket it sits on.

Finding ways to eliminate *that* (and get them funded) would be a real achievement.

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Happy

That is feet and not inches?

One is reminded of the rather small Stonehenge that featured in the Spinal Tap stageshow.

Hmm that makes it about the size of a small double bed.

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Orbital bombardment system...

How many iron bars can you pack in it?

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Boffin

@sandman

"How many iron bars can you pack in it?"

Doesn't matter. Steel will vaporize long before it gets to the earth.

OTOH Tungsten survives quite well (Like Carbon-Carbon it melting point may be >3000c but it starts reacting with air at *considerably* lower temps) and its mass is a positive benefit in this application. I suggest a search for the phrase "A rod from God."

Precision strike is one of *potentially* a lot of applications which a reusable space vehicle could support. Hence presumably the ongoing secrecy over planned payloads.

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I think it's seriously good news.

Ok, "payload" (I'd never pay to shed my load in it - prolly doesn't even have a toilet) is a bit small -7x4* -, but - isn't it a backup for the russian lifeboats?

Nifty.

* Reminded me of Billy Connoly's statement "About as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit"

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Yannick

What's this Doom 4 you speak of?

In Quake II, call sign Bitterman dropped in at the beginning in what could be described as a marine drop pod.

Perhaps you're thinking of Quake 4 in which Kane comes down in the entire ship?

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Re its size

Assuming we're talking 7'x4'x4', I can't see any problems getting 6 people in there. It's not going to be comfy, sure. But given the alternative, which would variously be burning to death as the ISS deorbits into the atmosphere, asphyxiation as air seeps out of a small-but-unpluggable leak, or the full-on freezing/boiling extravaganza that is explosive decompression, I reckon I could deal with Bubba lying on top of me for the flight down.

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Back in school

we used to get 5 people inside the cab of a small pickup truck. That was about 4 feet by 3 feet. The real question is how deep is the cargo area?

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Flame

Old-style British rocketry returns

I see that the X-37 uses essentially the same propellants for the on-board rocket motor as the British satellite launch used--hydrogen peroxide and kerosene.

Of course, 21st Century Americans will have different handling procedures for the hydrogen peroxide. I understand that British boffins (including Morris dancers in their number), regarded their cardigan catching fire as a routine event.

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Coat

@Dave Bell

"I see that the X-37 uses essentially the same propellants for the on-board rocket motor as the British satellite launch used--hydrogen peroxide and kerosene."

If they are still going ahead with that plan the engines they are using were actually *built* in the 1950s, originally to act as either reusable rocket assisted takeoff packs or as high altitude boosters. Reliability was preferred over absolute performance since the low (by rocket standards) T/W of 40:1 (A state of the art 1950s jet was around 5:1)

BTW the Black arrow engines had a similar pedigree, cut down versions of the Blue Steel standoff missile. sadly it's a myth that Blue Streak was a peroxide launcher. *Half* of the velocity was imparted by the "Waxwing" 3rd stage solid rocket motor.

Mine's the one with the JBIS special edition in the pocket.

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"Will that be delivery, or take out?"

could be used to rapidly deliver a payload anywhere there's a runway, any time, any weather. Or if it's an explosive payload, well there's your take-out. If it's not intending to be reused, no runway needed.

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Terminator

peon of SkyNet?

hmmm....

/shudder

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Ru
Boffin

On noes, there's not enough space!

Maybe they will need to have *more than one* available to the ISS, were it required for lifeboat duty. You are all forgiven for not following such complex engineering concepts as multiplicity.

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Big Brother

goodbye Hubble...

No need for those mystery visits to hubble any more to collect super secret pictures of earth... now can all be done by robot plane...

Could you map the whole world in the flight period? don't see why not...

@ Ian Emery - get back to your legal interrogation!

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Coat

7 feet long by 4 feet wide

That's a 48 inch chair.

That Club class is it not?

7 feet would be a bit short for 6 people though.

Also note, unlike the Shuttle it has *no* side door.

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