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US To Launch Military Orbital Spaceplane 270

An anonymous reader writes "Not only is the US readying its first 100% military spaceplane for a November launch, but it's going to push NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission til 2009: 'The USAF and Boeing will launch the X-38B — the first military orbital space plane if you discount the secret military shuttle — on top of an Atlas V rocket in November. They want to test its flying features in space and during atmospheric reentry. And probably its anti-matter rays and nuclear bays and hyperspace engines too (but of course, they are never going to tell you that). However, there seems to be a conflict with the civilian space program which may push one of the Moon exploration missions to 2009.' Screw the moon. We have to defend ourselves against all those alien extremists from Mars!"
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US To Launch Military Orbital Spaceplane

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  • There was a film back during the 'the commies are under the bed!' phase about communist aliens from Mars that might have inspired this?
    • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @04:57AM (#24413595)
      their called democrats
    • by pacinpm ( 631330 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .mpnicap.> on Thursday July 31, 2008 @05:39AM (#24413755)
      Isn't space meant to be like demilitarized zone or something?
      • by YA_Python_dev ( 885173 ) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @06:39AM (#24414029) Journal

        Isn't space meant to be like demilitarized zone or something?

        Yes, the Outer Space Treaty [] prohibits military bases, any kind of weapon tests and the permanent placement of WMD anywhere outside the Earth's atmosphere (nuclear ICBMs are OK as long as they stay in space only temporary on their way to their destination).

        But the article (and even more so the summary) is mostly sensationalist crap: the real news here is that they are doing a test of the small and unmanned Boeing X-37B [] technology demonstrator. But I guess yet another engineering step in a slow technology development program doesn't sound as much as newsworthy for people that are not in this kind of thing.

        Oh, BTW, there has never been anything like a "secret military shuttle" (you simply can't hide anything like that in space). There where a few NASA Shuttle missions in the 80s dedicated to the deployment of military satellites, but the DoD has for a very long time launched its payloads on Atlas and Delta rockets. If something is broken, it's much chepear to simply launch a new one that to mount a risky STS maintenance mission (and the Shuttle can't reach most of the orbits used by military satellites). So this has absolutely nothing to do with the planned STS retirement in 2010.

      • by Kohath ( 38547 )

        So what? Paper doesn't stop bullets or missiles or rockets. Treaties are only in effect until they aren't any more.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Communism was only a Red Herring...

      However, some people think Super Mario Bros is a communist plot: []

  • So does this mean we finally will have the ability to 'nuke it from orbit'? 'It' being the terrorist-sheltering target of the week.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      So does this mean we finally will have the ability to 'nuke it from orbit'? 'It' being the terrorist-sheltering target of the week.

      Not if the target has a substantial monetary value.

    • by Drathos ( 1092 )

      Forget about nuking them. Project Crossbow [] is real!

  • Weird (Score:5, Funny)

    by SimonGhent ( 57578 ) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @04:47AM (#24413543)

    That is probably the oddest article summary I've ever seen here.

    Reads like a promo for the new X Files movie.

    • Re:Weird (Score:5, Interesting)

      by johannesg ( 664142 ) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @05:35AM (#24413729)

      Yeah, but at least it follows the SSAS ("Slashdot Standards for Accuracy in Summaries") pretty well! Let's see:

      - The summary calls the vehicle "X38B".
      - The article calls it "X37B".
      - But the article also has a picture of a craft clearly labelled "X40A". Of course that could just be a red herring.

      Maybe the editors figured they'd just average the numbers from the article to be on the safe side?

  • Defense! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 31, 2008 @04:50AM (#24413555)

    Not to mention the possibility of a Goa'uld Ha'tak coming to invade Earth!

  • X-what? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    OK, its probably just part of the military's super-secret mind rays, but just what is this thing called again?

    The summary calls it the X-38B, the RTFA link calls it the X-37B, but the photo at the top clearly shows that it is called the X-40A, while the "artist's impression" at the bottom calls it the plain old X-37!

    Wait, I've got it, its some kind of bizarre shell game.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by antek9 ( 305362 )
      Bah, that's last century's technology, then. I must know, I'm typing this on a rock(et) solid X-61. Must figure out the 'shooting things out of the sky' feature, though, can't find it in the ThinkVantage menu yet.
    • Re:X-what? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Jellybob ( 597204 ) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @05:26AM (#24413697) Journal

      It's clearly X-Com. They're preparing for the inevitable invasion from Mars.

      Remember, when the aliens come, don't walk around in circles on the street. They love it when you do that, and since the X-Com teams can't shoot straight, you may be caught by friendly fire.

      • >It's clearly X-Com
        Nah, Gerry Anderson's UFO - Skydiver and the Interceptors looked way cooler than this odd looking ship.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Ihlosi ( 895663 )

        They love it when you do that, and since the X-Com teams can't shoot straight, you may be caught by friendly fire.

        Correction - you _will_ be caught by friendly fire so the Chryssalids don't get you first.

    • by splutty ( 43475 )

      Obviously written by someone with women on the mind.. I mean.. XXX and then they're talking about 38B, 37B and 40A.

      What's more obvious!

      Admittedly though, I think 40A would be the average man and not a woman.. But hey, nowadays everything's possible.

      • If it was aimed at women, I'd think that they would have named it 'Tarzan' or something along those lines. :')

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by oodaloop ( 1229816 )
      TFA says the X-40 was the predecessor to the X-37. I'm guessing X-38 was a typo (I know, hard to beleive a /. summary would have a mistake). The X designation is for experimental. Other aircraft receive a letter designation for its role once it goes into production: F for fighter, B for bomber, etc. Maybe this will be the S-37 (space) or O-37 (orbital)?
  • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @05:44AM (#24413793) Journal
    Isn't there an international treaty signed by US and Russia against this ? Is that the start of a new race ?
  • So how many... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @06:10AM (#24413901)
    UFO sightings does this explain? Military planes take 20 or more years of testing, and TFA says they've flowin it before. So how many times did someone in the Southwest spot one and say, "That ain't no plane. It's movin way too fast!"
    • by 4D6963 ( 933028 )
      The problem with UFO sightings is that they don't just go fast, they do what nothing we know of can do, i.e. fly at 70 knots, accelerate for a few seconds to 9 G to reach 600 knots and go up 10,000 feet, that kind of stuff... Besides, UFO sightings didn't exactly start 20 years ago.
    • Well, it does explain where the Blackhorse project disappeared to when it went black...

  • by tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd,bandrowsky&gmail,com> on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:00AM (#24414091) Homepage Journal

    I'm pretty much a hardcore Republican that thinks Obama is a sort of Pharonic anti-christ, but, Obama's criticisms of NASA suddenly stand in stark relief when we suddenly see that the USAF is actually building a credible spaceplane and NASA, in its Constellation program, is admitting that it can't do it. Sure, one might argue that NASA is strapped for funds, but I like how the USAF had no problem turning to White Knight to test its stuff out rather than NIH'ing the whole program. Maybe we -do- need to kill NASA's manned space flight program.

    • by Nyeerrmm ( 940927 ) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:28AM (#24414199)
      You have to remember, the military has a mission they're focused on and want to get the tools they need to complete. NASA's mission for the most part seems to be making sure they keep their budget. Not saying that military contracting is a paragon of efficiency, but generally having a defined goal that everyone believes in helps a lot to keep you on track.
      • by tjstork ( 137384 )

        I mean, I'm just shocked that NASA threw in the towel on space planes, and the USAF is flying one. I'm just completely shocked.

    • by 4D6963 ( 933028 )

      Maybe we -do- need to kill NASA's manned space flight program.

      Hallelujah, well, mostly. Of course we probably want to keep people in orbit and what not, but at least $100 billion to go back to the moon is plain silly and pointless. That was just the clueless Bush administration's space pissing contest and that thing needs to get killed badly, although a launcher that can get at least as much into orbit as the Saturn V is a great thing.

      I wouldn't be surprised if the motivation behind that plan was to send

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JWW ( 79176 )

      NASA and the Air Force have different missions here. NASA want to go to the Moon and Mars, and a space plane can't do that. USAF is trying to build something to fly into space around the Earth.

      I am content with both missions being done.

      As for Obama, his idea of halting work on manned spaceflight in order to increase Science and Technology education is completely backwards. Just using /. as a reference, most of the people interested in Science and Technology are keenly interested in space flight and explo

      • by TheSync ( 5291 ) *

        The kids growing up in this country are hammered with the message that to be rich and successful you need to either be a movie/rock star, sports star, lawyer, or doctor. The engineering field is suffering an uphill battle to continue to attract young people to the field.

        According to the Princeton Review, these are the most popular US college majors [] as of 2006 and their average salary [] out 10 years:

        Business Administration and Management $112,127
        Psychology $75,610
        Elementary Education $53,100 (there is no spli

    • "I'm pretty much a hardcore Republican that thinks Obama is a sort of Pharonic anti-christ"

      You jest, no? Much as I dislike pretty much all US politicians for being corporatist whores with nothing but the survival of the elite and global imperial hegemony on their mind, please tell me that you have serious policy differences with the Donks but you don't believe OBH is a marxist/the devil/a muslim/trotskyite?
    • by demachina ( 71715 ) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @10:33AM (#24416505)

      Not sure how your rant got scored interesting... and I'm the first one to bash NASA..... but I think this article is talking about the X-37B. The X-37A was DEVELOPED by NASA, though Boeing's Phantom Works actually built it under contact to them. The program was transfered to DARPA in 2004 and the X-37B is a second generation developed by the military. Since the original design is from NASA your venom is somewhat misplaced, at least in this instance.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I'm pretty much a hardcore Republican that thinks Obama is a sort of Pharonic anti-christ,

      With that kind of statement, why in the world would you expect anything else you say to be taken seriously?

  • OK, your troops are fighting a guerilla war (actually several guerilla wars) against low-tech terrorist cells. Bugger flack jackets and armored vehicles (or better yet, 'educational' aid to Africa to head off the next generation of extremists), you need space superiority.
    • by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @08:38AM (#24414731)
      Exactly, we're fighting a guerilla warfare, so what could possibly be the use of remaining the top dogs? Let's just wait until the Chinese get the upper hand on that whole "space" thing to worry about catching up with them. By all means let's make R&D policies based on short/mid-term concerns. If something isn't going to be useful to alleviate our concerns of the hour within the next few years then it's clearly a waste of time and money.
  • checklist (Score:5, Funny)

    by Patrik_AKA_RedX ( 624423 ) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:29AM (#24414203) Journal
    Ion engines: No
    Laser cannons: No
    Photon torpedos: No
    Shields: No
    Warpcore/hyperspace drive: No
    Matter/antimatter reactor: No
    Transporters: No
    Long Range Scanner: No
    Sort Range sensors: Yes
    Space capabilities: Kind of.

    Buyers advice:

    This space fighter doesn't have any of the selling features of other space fighters on the market. The lack of ion engines make this a very dated craft. It is more appropriate for a museum than the space age. Buyers are adviced to look into more complete craft like the X-wing or the TIE-advance. This craft makes the old and very well known to be unsafe TIE-fighter look good.
  • I will probably get modded troll or flamebait - but what conceivable real strategic benefit is there from this thing? It just seems to be a case of USAF/Boeing willy waggling. In case you hadn't noticed, NASA builds stuff that works, and does some real research. Notice how we have gone in a few years from "is there water on Mars?" to "how much water is there on Mars?" - a huge paradigm shift - as a result of work by NASA and the ESA. Meanwhile this project basically does nothing but ask "can we go really re
    • by Ihlosi ( 895663 )
      but what conceivable real strategic benefit is there from this thing?

      The Terrorists(tm) are going to love it. Think of all the money that doesn't go towards effective means of fighting them.

    • by 4D6963 ( 933028 )
      Right, because what could we possibly use in the future of a plane that can be launched to space and come back to Earth when the Shuttle is about to be retired? Oh wait..
      • Something that has to be launched from an Atlas missile, has no docking facilities, no cargo space...this will replace the Shuttle how,exactly?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by RocketJeff ( 46275 )

          Something that has to be launched from an Atlas missile, has no docking facilities, no cargo space...this will replace the Shuttle how,exactly?

          Because it's a experimental aircraft (hence the 'X' designation). Rather then trying to do everything at once, without testing all of the concepts out, they're refining one piece of the technology at a time.

          It's a rather sensible approach - unlike NASA's Space Shuttle which tried to go from the drawing board to production with no real test vehicles for its new technology (very large engines that could be throttled, reusable/segmented solid boosters, etc). NASA tried paper-engineering the shuttle and it di

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bws111 ( 1216812 )
          Yup, you're right. I mean, what kind of idiots would use existing facilities just to fly an incomplete vehicle to test minor characteristics such as its "flying features in space and during atmospheric reentry". Everyone KNOWS that the correct way to do it is to build the complete system first, right down to the leather seats, and THEN see if any of your assumptions about flight characteristics are correct.
  • by falcon5768 ( 629591 ) <> on Thursday July 31, 2008 @08:22AM (#24414549) Journal
    Or at least replace it with one thats even remotely accurate?

    1) They didnt even get the RIGHT CRAFT.

    2) There never was EVER a secret military shuttle... there where plans to make military shuttles, but they where hardly secret and never made it past the drawing board AS a military project. You could say some of their ideas went into the STS, but then thats hardly a secret.

    This isnt even technically a shuttle... its a test bed system which is something NASA and the military have launched multiple times.. again technically the Air Force can not even launch the thing as a military object, it would go against the treaties in place and while I do not put it past our current government, they likely will not be in power when this thing is supposed to be tested and certainly if it get the green light for production.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      "again technically the Air Force can not even launch the thing as a military object,"
      Sure they can.
      The only treaty limitation is that you can not put WMDs into orbit or detonate nukes in spaces. I don't know if you forbidden to detonate chemical or biological weapons in space but it would kid of silly.
      Russia/the USSR tested and deployed anti-satellite weapons in the 70s and 80s. The US tested on in the 80s. China has tested one so no there is nothing stopping the USAF from launching a military system as lon

  • by Darth_brooks ( 180756 ) <clipper377@ g m> on Thursday July 31, 2008 @08:40AM (#24414747) Homepage

    Art Bell, our guest editor for the day. Art Bell ladies and gentlemen! Let's give him a big round of applause!

    • Joking aside, AW&ST ran a story about a recently-cancelled TSTO system with a "Mothership" based on the XB-70 (aesthetically at least).

      Hangar 18 at Groom Lake is fairly big, no? There's at least 2 pictures of a very large white plane that has no reasonable explanation (I believe this may be one [].
  • I thought that once we mastered the technology of the Ancients, we'd just use star gates for that kind of thing. Why we still building space planes?

The best defense against logic is ignorance.