Secret Shuttle Launch: X-37B Has Mystery Mission [VIDEO]

By iScienceTimes Staff on December 11, 2012 12:56 PM EST

X-37B
The X-37B being inspected by U.S. military personnel during a 2010 launch. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

A secret shuttle launch is scheduled to take place today between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. EST at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The secret shuttle is the unmanned X-37B, built by Boeing, and is about 1/4 the size of a shuttle orbiter or, in layman's terms, the size of a small school bus. The secret shuttle has two short wings and requires the help of an Atlas 5 rocket to get into orbit. It's got a fully automated navigation system and is capable of landing without the help of a pilot, a feature believed to be tested in this footage of an X-37B from June.

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An X-B37 was also launched into space in 2010, but the purpose of that launch as well as today's is unknown. The secret shuttle launch is raising the suspicions of a number of groups including military adversaries Russia and China down to anti-nuclear activists who feel the secret shuttle launch is part of some weapons program. Theories about the secret shuttle include its use as a satellite destroying space vehicle or some sort of advanced bomber.

Here's what the U.S. Air Force says in its official spec sheet for the X-37B:

"The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft. Based on NASA's X-37 design, the unmanned OTV is designed for vertical launch to low Earth orbit altitudes where it can perform long duration space technology experimentation and testing."

And what will the secret shuttle launch be testing? The U.S. Air Force reveals that too:

"Technologies being tested in the program include advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, avionics, high temperature structures and seals, conformal reusable insulation, lightweight electromechanical flight systems, and autonomous orbital flight, reentry and landing."

Boeing also released a lengthy spec sheet for the X-37B, but no one has said anything official about what today's secret shuttle launch is all about.

But people are talking.

On the Free Republic forum, users discussed the mission of the X-B37 when it first launched in 2010.

"I think the ability to have a mini-shuttle fleet that can field service satellites would be a tremendous advantage, and a huge money saver. It could also prevent serious damage and loss of satellites from other damaged satellites," wrote one commenter.

"That cargo bay of 7 ft by 4 ft could rescue one or two stranded astronauts. The ride won't be comfortable, but at least it could get them home alive," wrote another.

The secret shuttle launch has sparked the curiosity of conspiracy fans and space geeks alike. What do you think the secret shuttle launch is all about? Is it just for testing new technologies? Or is the Air Force pioneering satellite warfare? Let us know in the comments section!

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