(Image Source: U.S. Air Force)

BY SHANLEY REYNOLDS
ANCHOR ZACH TOOMBS


The U.S. Air Force will launch an unmanned space plane Tuesday afternoon.

The X-37B is about a quarter of the size of a space shuttle. The plane runs off of solar power, which allows it to stay in orbit for hundreds of days.

The launch is set for 1pm Tuesday afternoon, but we know little more about the mission than that because it has been kept top secret.

The United Launch Alliance is supplying the Altas V rocket that will carry the space plane, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle, into orbit.  The alliance lists the key objectives of the program to include....

“...demonstration and validation of fault tolerant, autonomous re-entry and landing, lightweight high temperature structures and landing gear, thermal protection system, and lightweight electromechanical light systems.”  

CNN’s Chad Myers takes a guess as to what he thinks the mission might be...

ANCHOR: “Why is it such a secret?”
CHAD MYERS: “Well, because we don't know what’s up there, and they don’t want us to know.” … “We don't know whether it's some kind of laser thing. We don't know whether it's weather modification -we doubt that. We don't know whether it's some kind of special camera looking down, working on, training, see if they work.”


And Ozzie Osband, who runs spacelaunchinfo.com tells BayNews 9 he thinks the mission could be focused on the Earth, not space.

"It may be a spy mission, it may be just a research mission, there might be some things they want to know.”

The X-37B program was launched in 1999 by NASA, but the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency took over shortly after. The mission is classified, and PC Magazine points out the secrecy has alarmed some.

“The revelation that the Air Force has a space plane caused some concern among foreign governments, with some questioning whether the U.S. has deployed a space-trotting spy vehicle or weapons platform for taking down satellites.”

PCMag also says Air Force officials have tried to dispel those rumors.  The first plane was in orbit for 226 days back in 2010, the second one remained in orbit for 496 days.

This third voyage uses the same plane from 2010, but has been delayed for several months due to an investigation into an accident that occurred on the launch pad in October.
 

The launch will go ahead as planned Tuesday afternoon, if weather cooperates.  

Air Force Space Plane Set to Launch on Super Secret Mission

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Dec 10, 2012

Air Force Space Plane Set to Launch on Super Secret Mission

(Image Source: U.S. Air Force)

BY SHANLEY REYNOLDS
ANCHOR ZACH TOOMBS


The U.S. Air Force will launch an unmanned space plane Tuesday afternoon.

The X-37B is about a quarter of the size of a space shuttle. The plane runs off of solar power, which allows it to stay in orbit for hundreds of days.

The launch is set for 1pm Tuesday afternoon, but we know little more about the mission than that because it has been kept top secret.

The United Launch Alliance is supplying the Altas V rocket that will carry the space plane, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle, into orbit.  The alliance lists the key objectives of the program to include....

“...demonstration and validation of fault tolerant, autonomous re-entry and landing, lightweight high temperature structures and landing gear, thermal protection system, and lightweight electromechanical light systems.”  

CNN’s Chad Myers takes a guess as to what he thinks the mission might be...

ANCHOR: “Why is it such a secret?”
CHAD MYERS: “Well, because we don't know what’s up there, and they don’t want us to know.” … “We don't know whether it's some kind of laser thing. We don't know whether it's weather modification -we doubt that. We don't know whether it's some kind of special camera looking down, working on, training, see if they work.”


And Ozzie Osband, who runs spacelaunchinfo.com tells BayNews 9 he thinks the mission could be focused on the Earth, not space.

"It may be a spy mission, it may be just a research mission, there might be some things they want to know.”

The X-37B program was launched in 1999 by NASA, but the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency took over shortly after. The mission is classified, and PC Magazine points out the secrecy has alarmed some.

“The revelation that the Air Force has a space plane caused some concern among foreign governments, with some questioning whether the U.S. has deployed a space-trotting spy vehicle or weapons platform for taking down satellites.”

PCMag also says Air Force officials have tried to dispel those rumors.  The first plane was in orbit for 226 days back in 2010, the second one remained in orbit for 496 days.

This third voyage uses the same plane from 2010, but has been delayed for several months due to an investigation into an accident that occurred on the launch pad in October.
 

The launch will go ahead as planned Tuesday afternoon, if weather cooperates.  

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