back to article USAF spaceplane back on Earth after mystery 2-year jaunt in orbit. Jeepers creepers, what has it been doing up here?

While the past seven days were light on launches, space fans had plenty to enjoy, with the Air Force's mystery mini Space Shuttle finally returning from space and the James Webb Space Telescope inching closer to blast-off. Happy Halloween! Mysterious Space Shuttle touches down after two-year orbital mission It has been a while …

  1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    What is the sky?

    "The sky is no longer the limit for the Air Force"

    So where does the sky end then? Looking from Earth at night I can view galaxies far, far away that are certainly 'in the sky'.

    According to the ever truthful 'net it's "the region of the atmosphere and outer space seen from the earth." which basically corroborates my thoughts.

    Have they developed a Stargate so they don't have to use the sky any more?

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: What is the sky?

      Their definition of "sky" probably has a lot to do with the thickness of the atmosphere and how far up one can go before the planes just won't go any further. Which, granted, is barely up at all in the celestial scale of things.

      1. Baldrickk Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: What is the sky?

        If you just want to occasionally bump into the odd particle, you can go to the moon!

        https://www.space.com/earth-atmosphere-extends-beyond-moon.html

        [highest flying icon]

        1. Dusty

          Re: What is the sky?

          Funnily enough, This is not a new idea. Only the other day I read a very old Sci-Fi short story that basically included this idea and expanded on to suggest that it is the presence of the Moon, gradually peeling away the Earths atmosphere over eons of time by flying through it, that is what gave us the atmosphere that we have today rather than the much thicker one of Venus.

    2. The Nazz Silver badge

      Re: What is the sky?

      My son came home today from college, distraught.

      "What's the matter?" i asked.

      "I went to see the Careers Adviser today."

      "But that's good" i said. "So why the tears?"

      "Well, she said what with my qualifications and expected grades, the sky's the limit. But, but i wanted to be an astronaut."

    3. Aqua Marina
      Black Helicopters

      Re: What is the sky?

      "Have they developed a Stargate so they don't have to use the sky any more?"

      The TV series Stargate, was in fact a cunning ploy to divert attention from the US military's Wormhole X-Treme program, by hiding it in plain sight in the guise of a science fiction TV entertainment serial

  2. thexfile

    Up here in space, I’m looking down on you

    It's a reusable space platform that's used to spy. "no secret"

    1. Handle123456

      Re: Up here in space, I’m looking down on you

      US and others have plenty of satellites for that. Better equipped for the task and there's no need to bring them back on earth to retrieve the pictures for quite some time already.

      1. TVU

        Re: Up here in space, I’m looking down on you

        "US and others have plenty of satellites for that. Better equipped for the task and there's no need to bring them back on earth to retrieve the pictures for quite some time already"

        Indeed, and that makes me think that there are other factors at play here as well. While the Boeing X-37 is currently being operated as a reusable robotic spacecraft, it also gives every impression of being able to be converted to a two person crewed vehicle and I'd be will to bet that the necessary plans and conversion kit have already been prepared.

      2. Kernel Silver badge

        Re: Up here in space, I’m looking down on you

        "US and others have plenty of satellites for that. Better equipped for the task and there's no need to bring them back on earth to retrieve the pictures for quite some time already."

        They're not bringing it back to retrieve the pictures - as you say, that problem was solved long ago.

        The limitation for spy satellites such as the KH-11 series is fuel for adjusting their orbit to cover changing areas of interest. A retrievable (and presumably reusable) platform such as this one allows for maintenance, including refueling of the in-orbit manœuvring systems, as well as hardware updates to the surveillance payload.

      3. Kiwi Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Up here in space, I’m looking down on you

        US and others have plenty of satellites for that. Better equipped for the task and there's no need to bring them back on earth to retrieve the pictures for quite some time already.

        I expect that their spy sats do need refuelling from time to time. A small vehicle carrying fuel supplies (and perhaps other parts if the sat design allows a robot to easily replace modules) is a lot more difficult to trace than something as large as a manned capsule. It may also have been used to ferry fuel from other sites in orbit - perhaps raiding those musky astronomer-annoyers so the USTLA doesn't have to launch supplies of fuel themselves :)

  3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    First DJ in space

    So Parmitano, who was nearly the first man to drown in space, is rewarded for his efforts on his last mission by being submerged in a swimming pool for 100 hours! Has he annoyed someone?

    I guess he proved he's a steely-eyed missile-man with balls of steel the last time he was up there. Let's hope he has better luck with space suits.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: First DJ in space

      Someone probably thought he might need the extra practice in case he was a little rusty.

  4. adam 40 Bronze badge

    If we are talking area

    It's 13 * 10^-9 Waleses.

  5. Mike Richards

    James Webb Space Telescope

    'Engineers used pulleys and weights to simulate the gravity environment of space, and now face the arduous task of folding the thing away again. '

    This thing is 22m by 10m - as someone who struggles to fold a map, I salute their bravery.

    1. sbt Silver badge
      Coat

      Folding the thing away again

      If they start with the sharpest creases first, they'll be fine.

      Mine's the one with the OS 1:10000 of Coventry. -->

      1. MyffyW Silver badge

        Re: Folding the thing away again

        Indeed, although for preference I'd choose the one-inch-to-the-mile map of Manchester from the '60s which had all the Beeching lines marked with white "disused railway station" symbols.

        I'll be on Warrington Bank Quay Low Level forever kissing nostalgia goodbye.

    2. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: James Webb Space Telescope

      as someone who struggles to fold a map...

      It's possible to fold maps back up again? To the original dimensions?

      Who knew?

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: James Webb Space Telescope

        No, that's a myth

  6. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Spy Space Craft

    Learn nothing about its record breaking mission here:

    FTF USAF - No Charge

  7. Arachnoid

    Apophis' attack on Earth

    Master Bra'tac to Jack Oniell

    How many great ships do you have to defend Earth?

    Oh just some Shuttles.

    These are mighty Warships yes?

  8. Bunker_MonkeyUK
    Alien

    Trip to Eben

    Maybe just maybe they actually took some proper spam to Eben, its about 9 month trip........?

  9. steviebuk Silver badge

    what has it been doing up here?

    Looking for a better mobile signal.

    I'll get my coat.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: what has it been doing up here?

      Surely that should be "up there", anyway?

  10. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    Telltale whiffs of methane and brown streaks reveal it's been in Uranus

  11. RunawayLoop

    Obama was on it

    Funny how the spaceplane just landed then suddenly Bbama is making comments about being 'woke'.

    I think they stuffed him on the spaceplane so he wouldn't embarass Trump (by calling him out on his stupidity and lack of diplomacy).

    Fortunately Trump handled that all by himself.

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