NASA X-37B for Spy Satellite or Space Weaponry Secrecy?


NASA X-37B is the first U.S. robotic space plane. Some suspect that the military craft is a part of the development of spy satellites, while others say it was designed for the development of space weapons. The Pentagon denies any development of space weapons. There is a group of  greenhorns watching the skies all over the world who suspect the X-37B is being kept secret either to develop space weaponry or spy satellite development.

NASA X-37B took off from Florida for its debut mission with very little public attention, as it was not announced what the robotic plane was doing or where it was going. The space plane has been kept in operational secrecy. Civilian specialists have given reports that it may be going on mysterious runs for periods as long as nine months before returning to the California runway.

Pentagon leaders have been interviewed and strongly deny that the space plane has anything to do with space weapons, while admitting that the ultimate goal is to be able to assist earthbound war fighters with several supplemental missions. According to Gary E. Payton, who is under the secretary of the Air Force for space programs, says although the NASA X-37B has been talked about very little, there are no aggressive capabilities. The program supports electronics risk reduction, operational idea development and experimentation.

Civilian specialists believe that the secret debut flight was at least partly centered on testing strong sensors for a new series of spy satellites. Greenhorn sky watchers successfully tracked the NASA X-37B, and have discovered clues that would support their spy satellite theory. A sky watcher in Toronto, Ted Molczan, said the space plane kept passing over the same area, on the ground, once every four days. He called the pattern “a common feature of U.S. imaging reconnaissance satellites.”

In six different sightings, the team of greenhorn sky watchers discovered that the NASA X-37B, has orbited as far north as 40 degrees latitude, which is below New York City. On a clear night, an observer may see the space plane as a bright light moving across the southern sky.

When the NASA X-37B travels from 40 degrees north latitude to 40 degrees south latitude, it passes over several global trouble areas, such as, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and Pakistan, according to sky watchers in South Africa and Canada, who made observations of the space plane. Greg Roberts and Kevin Fetter saw the space plane from Brockville, Ontario and Cape Town, it was orbiting 255 miles up, which is standard for a space shuttle, as it circled the Earth every 90 minutes.

The NASA X-37B was birthed 11 years ago. It was a project that belonged to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, operating American space shuttles. However, the Air Force took the program over in 2006, and has kept the budget and missions a secret since.

The wingspan of the NASA X-37B, is over 14 feet and it is 29 feet in length. It looks similar to a space shuttle, but it is a quarter of the length. The payload bay is about the size of the bed of a pick-up truck. The space plane not only has the capability uncover experiments to the emptiness of space, but it has the capacity to be able to deploy and retrieve small satellites. The X-37B can stay up for as long as nine months. It uses solar panels for power, unlike the space shuttle. The duration of the space plane’s flight would depend on how well it runs in orbit. The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Offices runs the X-37B program for the “development and fielding of select Defense Department combat support and weapons systems.”

Payton is a former astronaut and a senior NASA official, has said, that the space plane was meant to give an advantage to the U.S. on an Earthly battlefield, but at the same time he denies that the space plane is any kind of space weaponry. April 20, he told reporters that, if successful, the space plane would help the Air Force to respond to war-fighter needs faster. Although Payton did not offer any specifics, he added that the response to an emergency war-fighter is needed, and may even prevent other rockets from launching.

The space plane is an orbiting laboratory that reveals new technology in space for a while, and then brings it back for inspection. NASA X-37B is at Air Force Space Command, at a Colorado Springs Air Force base. The Air Force is also building another X-37B to launch next year. Boeing has built two X-37B space planes.

April 22, an Atlas 5 rocket fired the NASA X-37B into orbit from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, its fourth secret mission. The space plane was put into an unknown orbit around the sun. This would be the first time the U.S. has put a space vehicle into a solar orbit, and it is  one that is supposed to be a secret. It is still unknown what the craft is actually being used for, but sky watchers maintain the theory of either spy satellite or space weaponry development.

By Jeanette Smith

NY Times: Surveillance Suspected as Spacecraft’s Main Role
NY Times: U.S. Military Space Plane Begins a Fourth (Mostly) Secret Mission
NASA Space Flight: ULA Atlas V Conducts X-37B Spaceplane Launch
Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force Michael Stonecypher’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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