The U.S. Air Force made a start of a new reusable unmanned shuttle X-37B. This is the secret project that clearly low, particularly its extremely small dimensions with a length of 8.23 meters, wingspan — 4.6 meters, height — least 3 meters. The introduction of the device, but can assist to solve a number of problems of military and economic nature. Newspaper gaze tried to figure out what might these tasks.
Start a new South American unmanned reusable shuttle X-37B, an unknown reason brought forward by a few days, in the end, was produced in the evening on Thursday, reports Associated Press.
Apparatus X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle was launched from the spaceport at Cape Canaveral in Florida. In orbit, it must spend nine months later programm autopilot will return it to the Air Force base in California
The program unmanned mini-shuttle, developed in the U.S. since 1999 — the first under the auspices of NASA, the Air Force and now — is one of the most hidden in the history of the American Astronautical: apart from the overall size and appearance, it is not clear about the mysterious device is actually nothing, not even a mission he would do.
Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Air Force on gallakticheskoy programmke Gary Payton said only that the main value of the mission will be testing the automatic navigation system X-37B, and to determine the monetary costs to prepare the machine to restart, RIA "Novosti" with reference to Reuters.
"At the moment, we are planning to get a second apparatus by 2011, if all goes to normal operation during the first flight, "- said Payton.
Recall that the start of a mysterious shuttle was previously scheduled for the evening of Mon, April 19 (in Moscow, it was still Sunday), but the launch was delayed due to the fact that NASA has extended the deadline for the day orbital flight of space shuttle Discovery, delaying his return for the weather conditions. It is clear that gallaktichesky apparatus (CA) has been delivered to Cape Canaveral in late March and is mounted on the launch vehicle Atlas V in early April.
On a brand new spacecraft understandably very small. It's easy aerospaceplane (FSI) is very small dimensions: its length is 8.23 meters, wingspan — just 4.6 meters and height with landing gear — a bit less 3 meters. Take-off weight of the boat is about 5 tons and the dimensions of the cargo compartment, according to representatives of the Air Force, commensurate with the size of a pickup truck platform.
X-37B equip with 2 engines Rocketdyne two thirds of repeated acts of running on kerosene (fuel) and hydrogen peroxide (oxidizer). Among the additional features of the ship can be noted retractable folding solar panel that allows in-flight conserve resources Accum. Engines, as opposed to the engines' big space shuttle ", which they cut in from the start, are only for orbital maneuvers. Mainly ship resembles the form of a reduced space shuttle, it has with it a similar scheme except aero twin-finned tail V-shaped. It is interesting that so might look great and manned spacecraft, but at a certain stage of the diversity of plumage refused because of the placement of additional motor in the tail.
X-37B returns to Earth without the help of others: in the first step — using the free plan, in step landing — using conventional aircraft. Location of intended landing area — the base of the U.S. Air Force, "Vandenberg" is located in the north-west of Los Angeles (California). Spare bandwidth is airbase "Edwards."
It is reported that the first contract for the Technology Demonstrator X-37 was signed by NASA and Boeing in 1999. Price development of the pilot spacecraft was 173 million dollars. In turn programmke preceded tests reduced by 37% under the symbol layout X-40, which were worked out a system of automatic landing ship. Throwing tests X-40 took place in 1998 at the air base, "Edwards' dumped layout with languid transport helicopter CH-47. Apparatus, dropped from a height of 2000 meters, came exactly in the center of the runway.
First aerodynamic tests X-37 took place in September 2004, when the project ran under the jurisdiction of the Agency for promising development of South American military establishment (DARPA). Ship lifted into the air plane White Knight — a special light carrier spacecraft, from which in due time the machine started SS-1 designed by Burt Rutan (as well as the medium itself, by the way) — the first manned ship, made only by means of private investors.
What are the ability to mini-shuttle, made in the framework of programs from Future-X Reusable Launch Vehicle (Reusable carrier of the future)? Most of the observers tipped his military applications, and rightfully so. Indeed, such a boat, hardly capable of carrying much-or severe strategic system may prove very useful scout, compensating for their own maneuverability defect razvedsputnikov — rigid adherence to a particular orbit. You can imagine for yourself and some unmanned fighter enemy spacecraft, equipped with guns, rockets or, potentially, a laser. But most likely overestimated the secrecy of the project has a commercial component.
"You do not have to send into space truck Mack, if you perform the same puzzle coupe Toyota Celica», — described the difference between the ordinary and the shuttle X-37B is one of the project participants, an expert on aerodynamics, Mark Lewis of the Institute of Maryland. As the truck-wagon and a research unit reusable X-37B will probably really valuable. Easy to maneuver apparatus, able to deliver the results of research or satellite for emergency repairs in any part of the world — a very nice project. In this case, it is not necessarily to withdraw South American missile. The U.S. is to be taken away entirely for itself very exciting niche in the market of commercial launches, which currently densely occupied our homeland, France and China.