HOME > Space Technology News >

Is the Air Force's Secret Robot Space Plane Spying on China?

Is the Air Force's Secret Robot Space Plane Spying on China?

The U.S. Air Force’s top secret X-37B space plane may be spying on China, according to a report in Spaceflight magazine.

Top secret X-37B space plane may be spying on China

The unmanned craft was launched into Earth’s orbit 10 months ago, but the Air Force has kept quiet on its mystery mission, where it's been, and when it will return. Faithful onlookers now believe the space plane might be snooping on China’s new space station, Tiangong-1 -- after discovering how closely their orbits matched.

"Space-to-space surveillance is a whole new ball game made possible by a finessed group of sensors and sensor suites, which we think the X-37B may be using to maintain a close watch on China's nascent space station," Spaceflight Editor Dr. David Baker told the BBC.

Built by Boeing's Phantom Works division, the 29-foot-long X-37B spacecraft was originally developed by NASA in 1999 before it was eventually taken over and classified by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The robot craft’s official purpose is to test new spaceflight technologies but there has been speculation about X-37B’s potential military capabilities with Iran’s PressTV calling the vehicle a “secret space warplane” -- an opinion partly echoed by Brian Weeden, a technical adviser to the Secure World Foundation and a former orbital analyst with the U.S. Air Force.

Weeden suspects that the X-37B may be testing out gear for the National Reconnaissance Office, the intelligence agency that builds and operates the U.S.'s spy satellites -- which would explain the secrecy.

"As we know through experience, everything and anything about them [the NRO] is classified,"
Weeden told Space.com early last year.

The space plane, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle-2, was boosted into Earth orbit atop an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on March 5, 2011, and amateur skywatchers have been keenly tracking it ever since.

"The parallels with X-37B [and Tiangong-1] are clear," Baker said in this month’s Spaceflight. "With a period differential of about 19 seconds, the two vehicles will migrate toward or against each other, converging or diverging, roughly every 170 orbits."

But Weeden and others believe the orbital similarities between the two could be a red herring.

"A typical spy satellite is in a polar orbit, which gives you access to the whole Earth,” Weeden told the BBC.

"The X-37B is in a much lower inclination which means it can only see a very narrow band of latitudes -- and the only thing that's of real interest in that band is the Middle East and Afghanistan.”

Source:  05 January 2012 -  Military Tech - SCITECH News (www.foxnews.com)

The U.S. Air Force X-37B space plane (Photo by NASA)

Photo Story: Is the Air Force's Secret Robot Space Plane Spying on China?

Inside the Air Force's Secret Space Plane

The U.S. Air Force launched the robotic X-37B space plane in early 2010 on a space mission that remains a secret -- even after the craft touched ground 225 days later at Vandenberg Air Force Base. In early 2011, the ship took off again on its latest mission.



American Air Force News
African Air Force News
Asian Air Force News
European Air Force News
Middle Eastern AF News
Ocean Air Force News

• Boeing Invests in Commercial UAS Services Provider Robotic Skies

Startup manages maintenance, inspection and alteration services for global manufacturers and operators of commercial unmanned aircraft systems....>>

• Russia Wants Answers From NASA About Alcohol Smell on ISS After Dragon Docking

Last month, outside observers marked concerns with SpaceX's Dragon 2 programme after one of the crew capsules unexpectedly exploded during a static fire test....>>

• USAF test launches 2nd ICBM this month

The U.S. Air Force has launched an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile from California in the second such test this month. A Minutemen 3 missile roared out of a silo at Vand...>>

• USAF Welcomes Fifth Lockheed Martin-Built AEHF Satellite To Cape Canaveral For June Launch

AEHF-5 Satellite Increases Resiliency of Global Protected Communications Constellation...>>

• Airbus and Ursa to continue partnership on use of radar satellite data

Airbus Defence and Space will continue to provide access to its radar satellite data to Ursa Space Systems (Ursa), a data fusion and analytics company. Both parties signed a new fo...>>

• NASA posts photo of crashed ‘flying saucer from outer space’

A “flying saucer” crash landed in a Utah desert 14 years ago and now NASA is sharing pictures for the first time....>>

• Raytheon to supply Romania with missile defense systems

U.S. Army has signed a deal to supply the Romanian government with three Raytheon defense systems....>>


       info@xairforces.net Webmaster: REFLX DESIGN - © 2011 xairforces / Aviation Society,