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Thread: X-37B Countdown and Launch

  1. #1
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    X-37B Countdown and Launch

    Thumbnails (large images available at NASA MSFC X-37 artist concepts and photos):
    comp4_small.jpg re_ent2_small.jpg X-37_in-clouds_small.jpg

    Aviation Week: USAF To Launch First Spaceplane Demonstrator

    The Air Force is preparing for the Atlas V launch in December of the first U.S. robotic military spaceplane mission into orbit.

    The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle flight will mark a fundamental technology milestone for the Air Force. It will carry on winged hypersonic space vehicle technology as the space shuttle is canceled. This work is designed to propel the Air Force mission more rapidly - to where the blue sky turns to black - using a reusable hypersonic craft serviced on the ground just like an airplane.
    [...]
    See also Universe Today: Lunar Missions Postponed by US Military X-37B Spaceplane Launch

    Links:
    NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center: X-37 News (images, news, fact sheet)
    Wikipedia: Boeing X-37

    Keywords: X-37, X37, X-37A, X37A, X-37B, X37B, X-40, X40, spaceplane

    Launch:
    December, 2008

    Approximately 4 months to launch

    Edit: slightly longer list of links:

    NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center: X-37 News (currently, very old news)
    NASA Launch Schedule
    National Weather Service, Southeast Sector, Base Reflectivity
    National Weather Service, Melbourne Florida, Hourly Weather Forecast Graph
    Wikipedia: Boeing X-37
    Wikipedia: USA-212 (first X-37B mission)
    Space.com: Air Force's Secretive Space Plane Nears Maiden Voyage
    BAUT Forum topic Look familar? (some recent discussion)
    United Launch Alliance (ULA) (information, image gallery, webcast)
    United Launch Alliance: Webcast
    Twitter: ulalaunch
    Last edited by 01101001; 2010-Jun-01 at 06:30 AM.
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    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

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    Instead of repeating the Shuttle's mistake of wasting 70% of your useful payload on the ability to return an empty glider, why not simply use JPADS technology so that we can land the astronauts on dry ground? With surface and winds at 100', 200', and 300' beamed to the craft's onboard computer, you can make a perfect approach and touch down light as a feather. We shouldn't haul up any more than what's required to get the payload to it's intended orbit.

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    OSP's zombie...

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    Which means? (translate, please)

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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    Which means? (translate, please)
    It's from publiusr and thus interaction may occur at molasses-speed. You gotta wait for the next high-volume strafing run before you might get an answer.

    I take it OSP is US Air Force Orbital/Suborbital Program, and guess this craft or concept might be considered some remnant of a once-more-active program -- and hence a "zombie".

    Another guess: OSP is Orbital Space Plane (Wikipedia), but that seems to be more of a NASA program and X-38-based. X-37 was a part, though, so I guess it would fit to call it something that lived on from the effort.
    Last edited by 01101001; 2008-Aug-09 at 12:59 AM.
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    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

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    NASA unveils secret Space Shuttle replacement prototype:



    Note: tow rope is not optional.

    Actually... it's a nearly 50-year-old prototype, described in NASA history feature: The M2-F1: 'Look Ma! No Wings!'

    The planned retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2010 will bring to a close an era that opened in the Antelope Valley nearly a half century ago.

    The vehicle which began that era – the M2-F1 – was an unlikely forefather to the shuttle. The world’s first manned lifting body, the M2-F1 was made of wood, had an internal framework of steel tubes, looked like a bathtub sitting on a tricycle, and had no wings.
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    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

  7. #7
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    First, I can not start my posts here without saying THANKS PHIL and I haven't chatted with you for a long time but wow, you are 'da bomb! Saw the full moon in conjunction with the Shuttle launch and if I time it right I can watch the new moon in conjunction with Venus and Jupiter when it lands. What does Conjunction mean, really? Well, nothing. But makes for great pictures.

    The X-37B is actually the return of the X-23 PRIME and X-20 Dynasoar programs, but to understand the real history one has to go a little deeper than Milt Thompson's M2F1. I agree that those planes ... the HL-10 and the like were instrumental in developing the new approach to flight dynamics, but let's look at what they really do.

    They operate like spacecraft down to about 50,000 feet, and then they act like Cessnas without half the wings with a failed engine. Once in the normal airwaves with the deep blue sky, there is actually winged control - albeit at supersonic speeds and that's why they are shaped like lawn darts with similar aerodynamic properties. What do winged darts do? They fall in a ballistic arch straight down to the center of the Earth. The difference with this version is that as each second goes by, atmospheric pressure gets higher, and drag gets better, and dynamic pressure on the craft gets more relevant to effective flight controls, and in the process speed goes down. Now you know why the things dive straight for Earth when they get below 50,000 feet. They have no power, and they're going to eventually stall unless they maintain that dive to maintain airspeed through thicker air.

    They make aim precisely one half mile short of the threshold of the runway. At 2,000 feet altitude, below Mach but still going pretty darned fast they have the speed to lift the nose up. By the time they are at 1,000 feet altitude they are holding speed and not stalling, and holding that attitude right down to a smooth touchdown.

    The principles are the same. What is new this time around is that we are seeing Boeing's developments first fielded for the bids between their Orbital Spaceplane and Lockheed's Venture Star in actual spaceflights. The main reason NASA really isn't very interested in follow-on spaceplane ideas is because they need to come in from higher altitudes - like the moon, where at a 5 degree entry angle at much higher speeds the expected skin temperature is 5,000 degrees. Shuttle tiles and no other reusable entry material can't handle that kind of heat.

    The X23A PRIME and ASSET programs (1 in Dayton's Air Force Museum) clearly shows what happens to Lifting Body spacecraft launched from atop high-powered rocket stacks. The ablative paints did not prevent the total destruction of the reusability principle. Yet no one wants to keep putting glued popcorn chalk tiles on the outside of otherwise beautiful designs. This X-37B has a promising composite alloy for tiles that will give the skin the beauty of a speedboat, and it is hoped that these composites will be the cheaper alternative to Shuttle tiles. Tests show they can handle reentry possibly even better than Shuttle tiles, but of course those tests are in laboratories on Earth. The real test will come when the X-37B is launched (with an unfortunate and needless shoroud around it for launch), and when the shroud will split, and the spaceplane will then deorbit itself (yes - there is no remote control pilot - this is a programmed automated machine) and hopefully land in the right airport.

    Some have said that this is really a secret effort to get that lost toolbag back before it burns up. Having seen the price of tools at Sears, it might be a good investment by the Air Force.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by 01101001 View Post
    Launch:
    December, 2008

    Approximately 4 months to launch
    Space.com Launch Forecast

    February 26, 2009: A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket to launch the Pentagon's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle space plane prototype from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
    Wikipedia: X-37B OTV-1

    Launch date 26 February 2009
    Approximately 3 months to launch.
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    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

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    Without the wings (or with smaller ones) it would make a good high lift Mars lander. Entry speeds are similar too.

    Jon

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    Does anyone know why an Atlas is being used? X-37B is supposed to mass 5.54 tonnes but the Atlas V-501 has a LEO payload of 10.5 tonnes. That enough to put the X-37B into a GTO. Why the over capacity?

    Jon
    Last edited by JonClarke; 2008-Nov-29 at 11:10 PM.

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    "Fudge factor"?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonClarke View Post
    Without the wings (or with smaller ones) it would make a good high lift Mars lander. Entry speeds are similar too.

    Jon
    One slight problem...

    Runways (i.e. the lack thereof)

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by JonClarke View Post
    Does anyone know why an Atlas is being used? X-37B is supposed to mass 5.54 tonnes but the Atlas V-501 has a LEO payload of 105 tonnes. That enough to put the X-37B into a GTO. Why the over capacity?

    Jon
    105 tonnes? That's a quarter million pounds. Atlas V 501 can take about 10,000 kg to LEO.

    Although they currently show the same for this one, SpaceflightNow's schedule is much better for keeping track of launches:

    http://www.spaceflightnow.com/tracking/index.html

    WGS is postponed until at least January now, so I doubt X37 is going in February anymore.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BPCooper View Post
    105 tonnes? That's a quarter million pounds. Atlas V 501 can take about 10,000 kg to LEO.

    Although they currently show the same for this one, SpaceflightNow's schedule is much better for keeping track of launches:

    http://www.spaceflightnow.com/tracking/index.html

    WGS is postponed until at least January now, so I doubt X37 is going in February anymore.
    Sorry, sticky keyboard, it should be 10.5 tonnes. Fixed it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    One slight problem...

    Runways (i.e. the lack thereof)
    You don't need runways. Once you go below Mach 3 you pop the chutes to get below Mach 1 and then use rockets, landing vertically but in a horizontal attitude.

    The high lift shape would be to ensure you actually get below Mach 3 before hitting the ground. It also allows for unexpected variations in atmospheric density, lower G loading, and better accuracy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tuckerfan View Post
    "Fudge factor"?
    Seems a bit high for that! A very heavy fairing? They want to test at very high entry speeds?

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by JonClarke View Post
    Seems a bit high for that! A very heavy fairing? They want to test at very high entry speeds?
    It can't fit in the smaller four-meter fairing, that's why they need the large one. It was either going to be Atlas 5 or Delta 4.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BPCooper View Post
    It can't fit in the smaller four-meter fairing, that's why they need the large one. It was either going to be Atlas 5 or Delta 4.
    Do you know what the mass of the fairing is?

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    I still think they should consider using retractable cloth wings for a gentler re-entry. There's something about a screaming dive out of space towards the surface only to pull out at the last second skimming the treetops that doesn't appeal to me.
    Et tu BAUT? Quantum mutatus ab illo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ara Pacis View Post
    I still think they should consider using retractable cloth wings for a gentler re-entry. There's something about a screaming dive out of space towards the surface only to pull out at the last second skimming the treetops that doesn't appeal to me.
    Something like the Rogello wing (sp?) proposed for gemini, you mean?

    Actually one of the advantages for Mars entry of moderately high lift shapes is that you can come in at a much shallower angle.

    Jon

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by JonClarke View Post
    Do you know what the mass of the fairing is?
    7,770 lbs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BPCooper View Post
    7,770 lbs.
    Thanks, assuming wikipedia is right for the X-37B'ss mass, that takes the combined spacecraft and fairing to 8.986 tonnes. This is much closer to the Atlas payload, although the fairing probably won't be carried all the way to orbit.

    I wonder if there will be secondary payloads, or whether the extra performance will be used by a high velocity entry?

    Jon

  23. #23
    The fairing is not counted in payload-to-orbit mass. The fairings are jettisoned a few minutes into the launch and tumble into the Atlantic far downrange. I haven't heard of any secondary payloads but I don't know.

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    Maybe the inefficiency is accepted as a inevitable consequence of needing the larger fairing?

    If the full payload capacity is not needed, would the Atlas be launched with less propellant to compensate?

    Jon

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonClarke View Post
    Something like the Rogello wing (sp?) proposed for gemini, you mean?

    Actually one of the advantages for Mars entry of moderately high lift shapes is that you can come in at a much shallower angle.

    Jon
    Yeah, I've been promoting rogallo wings and hypersonic shapes on other threads, not meaning to derail.

    The designs above, though using a lifting body, still bug me for some reason. I think it's the lack of redundancy or survivable failure modes and how close to the edge of disaster they fly, or seem to fly... or fall as the case may be. The blended-wing body does sorta resemble a hypersonic design (cone cut in half longitudinally with a flat top and round underside for compression lift), but I'd like something that comes in slower and at a more shallow angle. But maybe I'm thinking ahead to re-usable re-entry craft that carry 20 passengers and crew and their luggage or cargo. Wouldn't a really big wing rogallo provide a high lift shape, even for Mars?

    Oh wait, I see I was looking at the picture for the M2-F1, not the X-37B. Still, I'd like to see more testing of the rogallo wing concept.
    Last edited by Ara Pacis; 2008-Nov-30 at 06:20 AM. Reason: realized recognition error
    Et tu BAUT? Quantum mutatus ab illo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ara Pacis View Post
    Still, I'd like to see more testing of the rogallo wing concept.
    From what i have read there were lots of problems with it in the Gemin tests, which was why it was dropped.

    What would a flexible wing offer that a paraglider (as in the X-38) would not?

    Jon

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    The gemini test was a parawing in a rogallo wing shape. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogallo_wing

    A flexible cloth wing might offer increased wing area and improved lift and variable geometry at lower mass. If properly designed, it might allow for shallower descent with lower g-forces and with less re-entry heating. I suggest a flexible cloth wing in order to vary with velocity to a better shape, and to roll up into fairings along the fuselage when not being used in order to reduce drag and chance of damage during vertical launch. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waverider
    Et tu BAUT? Quantum mutatus ab illo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonClarke View Post
    Thanks, assuming wikipedia is right for the X-37B'ss mass, that takes the combined spacecraft and fairing to 8.986 tonnes. This is much closer to the Atlas payload, although the fairing probably won't be carried all the way to orbit.

    I wonder if there will be secondary payloads, or whether the extra performance will be used by a high velocity entry?

    Jon
    I'd vote for payloads, but that's just a guess.
    At night the stars put on a show for free (Carole King)

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    Wikipedia: X-37B OTV-1

    It is currently scheduled for launch in late 2009 or early 2010 atop an Atlas V rocket from LC-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
    Apparently many months to launch.
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    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ara Pacis View Post
    I still think they should consider using retractable cloth wings for a gentler re-entry. There's something about a screaming dive out of space towards the surface only to pull out at the last second skimming the treetops that doesn't appeal to me.
    Treetops? On Mars?

    Is there something you'd like to share with us, Ara?

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