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X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV)

bobbymike

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http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/10/13/space_plane_x37b_landing_vandenberg/
 

quellish

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seruriermarshal said:
X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle-3 Lands at Vandenberg AFB

;D

Intriguing nozzle is still intriguing
 

sferrin

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quellish said:
seruriermarshal said:
X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle-3 Lands at Vandenberg AFB

;D

Intriguing nozzle is still intriguing
You mean it being offset or something else? I also thought this discoloration was interesting.
 

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quellish

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sferrin said:
You mean it being offset or something else? I also thought this discoloration was interesting.

That's consistent with previous flights, the bay door TPS may just pick up more soot or oxidation on reentry.
 

sferrin

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DSE said:
quellish said:
sferrin said:
You mean it being offset or something else? I also thought this discoloration was interesting.

That's consistent with previous flights, the bay door TPS may just pick up more soot or oxidation on reentry.
Or possibly visualization of the flow heated by a detached shock wave off the wing leading edge at the root?
It's interesting that it starts right at the edge of the bay door. And while it's not always safe to assume, the TPS material (at least as far as one can tell from the picture) is the same on the door as the area immediately in front of it on the upper fuselage. Almost as if the "stain" occurred while the bay door was open. Wonder if it could be propellant residue from station keeping/manuevering while in orbit.
 

Archibald

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Does anybody knows why and when did they swapped the AR-2/3 keroxide engine for plain old hypergolics ? (sorry if that point has been treated before in the thread!)
 

quellish

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Archibald said:
Does anybody knows why and when did they swapped the AR-2/3 keroxide engine for plain old hypergolics ? (sorry if that point has been treated before in the thread!)

2005/2006


http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20060004795.pdf
 

phrenzy

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Being so offset it couldn't be a bell shaped rocket nozzle could it? I mean obviously it could be but there would be no practical use for it would there? Unless you wanted to have the thing uncontrollably yawing longitudinally, but that would have limited utility unless your building the world's most expensive fair ground gravitron.
 

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The USAF have unusually given details about some of the payloads carried on this flight including that one is NASA originated.

New experiments

The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office has collaborated with several partners to test new experiments on this fourth flight for the X-37B program.

The forthcoming mission will test the performance of an experimental propulsion system jointly developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory and Space and Missile Systems Center. In addition, the X-37B craft will carry a NASA advanced materials investigation.

“We’re very pleased with the experiments lined-up for our fourth OTV Mission OTV-4,” Walden said. “We’ll continue to evaluate improvements to the space vehicle’s performance, but we’re honored to host these collaborative experiments that will help advance the state-of-the-art for space technology.”
http://www.leonarddavid.com/new-details-secretive-air-force-space-planes-next-mission/

Secondary link with a tiny amount of extra detail.

http://m.space.com/29221-x37b-military-space-plane-fourth-mission.html
 

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An interesting observation & hypothesis.

http://www.zarya.info/Diaries/US/OTVwindows.php

"With launch of the third OTV mission when the first of the USAF/Boeing X-37B space planes made its second journey into space, evidence was emerging that the X-37B's launch windows are dictated by the location in space of another satellite, already in orbit.

Across the three launches, an apparently inconsistent pattern of launch windows and launch times has surfaced. They point to the possibility of the X-37B being imaged soon after launch by a (US) reconnaissance satellite."
 

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I had a random thought pop into my head a few years ago that I explored and found some interesting coincidences.

The day before North Korea launched the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2 in 2012, the USAF launched OTV-3. If you recall, the NK satellite reached orbit, but began tumbling almost immediately. More interestingly, when I threw in the orbital data of the X-37B and satellite into an satellite orbit simulator, it indicated that something like 20 minutes into launch, roughly when the satellite began tumbling, OTV-3 came within something like 100km of the satellite (it might have been more than that, or maybe less, but it was pretty close). The orbits were also significantly different, with OTV-3 having a somewhat polar orbit while the satellite orbited at a lower inclination, meaning that at the point of convergence they were nearly perpendicular (something like 60-80 degrees IIRC).

I don't necessarily believe that there was an intercept / malicious play involved, but as far as possibilities go, it would have been a great opportunity to test an orbit-to-orbit kinetic kill microvehicle, and there's reasonable justification for a US program for sabotaging the NK space program (to dissuade ICBM development). But again, it's just an idea, and more of what you'd expect from a Tom Clancy novel at that.
 

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Given that the two orbits are steeply inclined to each other, their relative velocities would be very high even if there was a relatively close approach. A kinetic kill vehicle would need far too much delta-v to make an intercept from one to the other. And in the immensely improbable chance that there was an intercept, the impact would have shattered the North Korean satellite into tiny pieces. Since it was seen to be intact (albeit tumbling) after that point, we can discount the possibility.

Also, the X-37B launch was scheduled long in advance of the North Korean launch. How could the US have known that this launch would work and not the earlier windows? If they'd been even an hour or two off, that "close" approach might have been half a planet apart instead.
 

starviking

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TomS said:
Given that the two orbits are steeply inclined to each other, their relative velocities would be very high even if there was a relatively close approach. A kinetic kill vehicle would need far too much delta-v to make an intercept from one to the other. And in the immensely improbable chance that there was an intercept, the impact would have shattered the North Korean satellite into tiny pieces. Since it was seen to be intact (albeit tumbling) after that point, we can discount the possibility.

Also, the X-37B launch was scheduled long in advance of the North Korean launch. How could the US have known that this launch would work and not the earlier windows? If they'd been even an hour or two off, that "close" approach might have been half a planet apart instead.

Could some kind of electronic attack be a possibility?
 

bobbymike

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starviking said:
TomS said:
Given that the two orbits are steeply inclined to each other, their relative velocities would be very high even if there was a relatively close approach. A kinetic kill vehicle would need far too much delta-v to make an intercept from one to the other. And in the immensely improbable chance that there was an intercept, the impact would have shattered the North Korean satellite into tiny pieces. Since it was seen to be intact (albeit tumbling) after that point, we can discount the possibility.

Also, the X-37B launch was scheduled long in advance of the North Korean launch. How could the US have known that this launch would work and not the earlier windows? If they'd been even an hour or two off, that "close" approach might have been half a planet apart instead.

Could some kind of electronic attack be a possibility?
I was thinking of something that could launch out of the payload bay, fly and attach to a satellite and then a small rocket would fire driving the satellite out of orbit or even back into the atmosphere to burn up? Then no debris and it looks like a sat failure.

Modify one of these?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LC97wdQOmfI

Or is that totally science fiction?
 

quellish

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bobbymike said:
Or is that totally science fiction?

It's also possible that it's flying experiments that would benefit from being brought back to Earth.
 

Grey Havoc

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With regards as to possible ASAT payloads and the fate of the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3, another possibility that comes to mind is what one could call a 'pop-down', in other words inserting a low density, widely spaced artificial debris field with correspondingly low visual & EM signatures into a short-lived very low earth orbit, at a point where launch trajectories from Sohae would be most likely to pass through en route to higher orbits. Even particles of sand could be dangerous to a rocket at the relative speeds involved.

Just a thought.


EDIT: By the way, the Chinese did have a 'parasite satellite' project at one stage, for espionage and wartime use, but it's current status is uncertain.
 

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Nobody seems to be able to identify what type of payload would be worth the cost of return. The argument goes that any research payload or mission function could be more cheaply executed by a traditional satellite. So we have:
-the payload is expensive enough to merit return
-the payload function works at low orbital altitudes
-the payload has high technical risk and needs more development which can only be conducted in space
-the payload function might be determined if a clear view of it were possible (ie, hosted on a satellite)
Pure Speculation:
-Neutron backscatter to determine mass of orbital targets (cooperative target required due to possible side effects)
-X Ray backscatter alternative to above
-Wide Band Hyperspectral imager to map signatures of orbital targets (passive, anyone can be observed and cooperative for certain target types—ie, a re-entry cone)
-Active LIDAR for precision realtime 3D ephemeris of orbital targets (depends on power level and if targets have sensors in-band to the LIDAR beam)
-Cooperative tests with ground based systems (example, target board in space)
-Cooperative test with space based systems (present target signatures to classified satellites that do all the above)
Mundane Possibilities:
I can’t think of a classified mundane experiment which couldn’t be performed on the ISS. You could strip out a lot of specific aspects to an experiment to leave a pure science based test with no application relevance.


Final Possibility:
Space pork. Some senator got an earmark that just won't quit. I don't know if there is anyone left with that kind of horsepower.
 

TomS

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bobbymike said:
I was thinking of something that could launch out of the payload bay, fly and attach to a satellite and then a small rocket would fire driving the satellite out of orbit or even back into the atmosphere to burn up? Then no debris and it looks like a sat failure.

Modify one of these?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LC97wdQOmfI

Or is that totally science fiction?
Yep, total fiction. Making a rendezvous like that from the X-37B orbit to the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2 orbit would require a dramatic plane-change maneuver and a significant altitude change as well. The delta-v required for such maneuvers would be close to the delta-v required to put the satellite in orbit in the first place.

And the orbital mechanics of satellites are very well understood -- if there was a significant altitude change in a satellite in a stable orbit, it would be immediately obvious that someone was interfering with it. The only time orbital decay gets significantly unpredictable is when the satellite is already grazing the tangible atmosphere, which generally means its already failed.
 

TomS

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starviking said:
TomS said:
Given that the two orbits are steeply inclined to each other, their relative velocities would be very high even if there was a relatively close approach. A kinetic kill vehicle would need far too much delta-v to make an intercept from one to the other. And in the immensely improbable chance that there was an intercept, the impact would have shattered the North Korean satellite into tiny pieces. Since it was seen to be intact (albeit tumbling) after that point, we can discount the possibility.

Also, the X-37B launch was scheduled long in advance of the North Korean launch. How could the US have known that this launch would work and not the earlier windows? If they'd been even an hour or two off, that "close" approach might have been half a planet apart instead.

Could some kind of electronic attack be a possibility?
Exceedingly unlikely.

First, consider the timing -- X-37B launched the day BEFORE the Korean launch, before anyone knew for sure when Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2 would launch or precisely what orbit it would be launched into. The fact that the two even passed near each other (assuming they did) is pure coincidence and small variations in timing of the North Korean launch would have meant no close approach at all.

Second, orbiting satellites havcwe to be pretty ahrdened electroncially to work at all. An EMP or other effect powerful enough to disrupt a satellite's electronics would likely be detecteable by other observers at considerable range.

Third, to what purpose? Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2 was not exactly a sophisticated device. What purpose would there be in disrupting it?
 

quellish

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fredymac said:
Nobody seems to be able to identify what type of payload would be worth the cost of return. The argument

Huh? How about risk reduction for a many-billions of dollars program?
The X-37B is a reusable, returnable satellite bus. It is ideal for testing technologies that are high technical risk in an operationally relevant space environment.


For example, the space-deployable membrane optics of DARPA MOIRE could be tested using X-37B and brought back for inspection. Did the system deform over 300 days? Did debris damage it? What could be improved before more money is spent on the program?
 

sferrin

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quellish said:
fredymac said:
Nobody seems to be able to identify what type of payload would be worth the cost of return. The argument

Huh? How about risk reduction for a many-billions of dollars program?
The X-37B is a reusable, returnable satellite bus. It is ideal for testing technologies that are high technical risk in an operationally relevant space environment.


For example, the space-deployable membrane optics of DARPA MOIRE could be tested using X-37B and brought back for inspection. Did the system deform over 300 days? Did debris damage it? What could be improved before more money is spent on the program?
IMO the promise of that technology alone would be worth the cost of X-37.
 

fredymac

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quellish said:
fredymac said:
Nobody seems to be able to identify what type of payload would be worth the cost of return. The argument

Huh? How about risk reduction for a many-billions of dollars program?
The X-37B is a reusable, returnable satellite bus. It is ideal for testing technologies that are high technical risk in an operationally relevant space environment.


For example, the space-deployable membrane optics of DARPA MOIRE could be tested using X-37B and brought back for inspection. Did the system deform over 300 days? Did debris damage it? What could be improved before more money is spent on the program?



This particular example is self answering. Distortion and reduction of signal would be immediately noted by simply putting a detector at the focus of the optic in test. The cost of an expendable experiment with maximized payload in a dedicated satellite bus is cheaper vs a reduced payload hosted on the X-37. It is the same argument of shuttle based satellite launching vs expendable boosters minus the manned component. Also, Moire is public knowledge so the added security costs are a[font=verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif]nother unnecessary factor.[/font]


This is the core of the argument. What feasible payloads are better served with the added expense of flying on the X-37? The ones that can be publicly discussed would be cheaper to perform going through the small experiments section of Space Division (Space Test Program). That leaves technology development of a nature and/or application that is optimized when kept secret. If I were a program manager for a publicly disclosed development effort and I wanted to conduct a space based hardware test, I wouldn't seek out a classified launch system.
 

quellish

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fredymac said:
If I were a program manager for a publicly disclosed development effort and I wanted to conduct a space based hardware test, I wouldn't seek out a classified launch system.

.....Like METIS?
 

fredymac

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quellish said:
fredymac said:
If I were a program manager for a publicly disclosed development effort and I wanted to conduct a space based hardware test, I wouldn't seek out a classified launch system.

.....Like METIS?



Indeed. Like METIS. I suspect some kind of horsetrading in the backrooms. Otherwise, to me it makes no sense.
 

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Orbital parameters for latest X-37 launch determined:


http://spaceflightnow.com/2015/05/27/x-37b-spaceplanes-orbit-discovered/


"Although the Air Force revealed two experiments to be conducted on this fourth mission — an electric propulsion thruster test and materials exposure in the space environment — much was classified about the flight, including the orbit, mission duration and even which of the two X-37B spaceplanes is making the trip."


Meanwhile, on the ISS:
 

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Flyaway

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Strangely low orbit & inclination, far different from the previous flights. Probably significant of some element it's testing & certainly not anything to do with the two payloads that were announced.
 

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Flyaway said:
Strangely low orbit & inclination, far different from the previous flights. Probably significant of some element it's testing & certainly not anything to do with the two payloads that were announced.
Steve Mushynsky made interesting comments on this discussing spaceflighow's article: this flight would seemingly be testing a new type of propulsion system whose familly first conceptualized way back in 1958 by Demetriades. The breakthrough engine would be the so called ELF or "Electrodeless Lorentz Force Thruster" funded by DoD and MSNW Corp.

Quoting from MSNW Corp's website:

Company Mission:
"MSNW is developing revolutionary space propulsion technologies that will dramatically increase the operational capabilities of spacecraft in traditional roles and enable more ambitious missions. MSNW also conducts cutting edge research into advanced nuclear fusion technologies with the potential to produce competitive commercial energy generation."

source: http://msnwllc.com/our-mission

Space propulsion research:
"The ELF thruster, funded by the Department of Defense, utilizes Rotating Magnetic Field (RMF) and pulsed-inductive technologies that promise radical advances in space propulsion. The ELF creates, forms, and accelerates field-reversed plasma toroids to high velocity. It has demonstrated the ability to efficiently utilize complex propellants such as Martian Air, Liquid Water, and Hydrazine . The ELF enables a broad range of high-power propulsion missions. Fundamentally, this technology has significantly greater thrust and power densities than any realizable propulsion technology. The ability to operate on in situ propellants will enable very eccentric orbit propulsion, re-fuelable orbital transfer vehicles, deep space return missions, and even direct drag makeup for extremely low orbits. At current power levels, this thruster technology minimizes system mass, size, and cost, while increasing overall mission flexibility. Finally, extending this technology to higher densities and powers that have been demonstrated in the laboratory, there are mission applications in high-altitude, air-breathing, hypersonic flight and beamed-energy upper stage propulsion that are not feasible with traditional technologies. Please see technical publications below for a complete description of experiments, thruster specifications, and results.
source: http://msnwllc.com/space-propulsion
 

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Grey Havoc

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http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Patching_up_X_37B_999.html
 

ouroboros

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antigravite said:
Steve Mushynsky made interesting comments on this discussing spaceflighow's article: this flight would seemingly be testing a new type of propulsion system whose familly first conceptualized way back in 1958 by Demetriades. The breakthrough engine would be the so called ELF or "Electrodeless Lorentz Force Thruster" funded by DoD and MSNW Corp.
Demetriades, as in the PROFAC guy? But one iteration of PROFAC was an atmosphere skimming orbital ramjet hypersonic cruiser...
 

antigravite

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ouroboros said:
antigravite said:
Steve Mushynsky made interesting comments on this discussing spaceflighow's article: this flight would seemingly be testing a new type of propulsion system whose familly first conceptualized way back in 1958 by Demetriades. The breakthrough engine would be the so called ELF or "Electrodeless Lorentz Force Thruster" funded by DoD and MSNW Corp.
Demetriades, as in the PROFAC guy? But one iteration of PROFAC was an atmosphere skimming orbital ramjet hypersonic cruiser...
Ooops sorry for getting back there so late. (These days I lack time, and am far away from the forum.)

1 - Yep that very guy Sterge Demetriades.
Familly info there:
http://demetriades-tsafka-kokkalis.com/sterge2.htm

2 - "The past to build the future on" (That's one of my beloved old Rocketwell Rocketdyne motto, unrelated to the subject… except that it's circumstantially appropriate.)
So… In the early 1970s it was reported that the Soviets had already flown tested some sort of a thruster like this, years ago. References were given from secondary literature, maybe some FBIS radio emission intercepts / transcription, but no direct quotable scientific reports. Tell tale, somehow. I'll check this out in my archives. But I am very positive that Soviets efforts were mentioned / highlighted to try to draw (renew) interest in Demetriades proposal.

A.
 

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an old one...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QDl7s8Khu8
 

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Almost forget those things are up there they stay up so long. Wonder if they'll ever have both up at the same time.
 

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sferrin said:
Almost forget those things are up there they stay up so long. Wonder if they'll ever have both up at the same time.
I wonder if they'll build more, as often as they use these, or if they're going to try and build a larger more capable (payload wise) variant? They seem to be quite successful designs.
 

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Given that these missions last so long it would seem that the payload is acting more in a quasi-operational mode rather than conducting experimental tests. Long duration experiments are usually passive (eg, materials exposure). Long duration active systems would more likely be conducting background measurements of some kind or actual surveillance functions. If the payloads were “benign” technology (such as improved solar cells or electric thrusters), the level of secrecy being invoked simply invites unwanted speculation and lets you imagine scenarios with “rods from heaven” test shots being conducted when nobody is watching. At least they are managing the secrecy with enough competence that we aren’t reading about it in Wikileaks.
 

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I wonder if we will see any pictures of the landing, or if the speculation about it being externally altered, hence no images before lift off, is correct I expect not?
 

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http://www.airforcetimes.com/story/military/2016/05/29/air-forces-secretive-x-37-space-plane-marks-year-orbit/84545824/
 
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