Atlas 5 on Pad at Kennedy
The Air Force launched its X37B recoverable test vehicle on Thursday, and started a cascade of rumors among the press. As many of you know, our AF tends to be quiet about their test activities, and some parts of this program they are keeping classified. Of course, every time they do that there are a huge number of people in our country who immediately jump to conclusions and assume the worst. In this case, the worst of the rumors is that the United States is testing an armed space plane which will be used to start wars in space.
What in the world is in these people's cereal? What makes them go so batty? The AF told people what was in it this flight - test equipment! Of course, the AF is going to have to test communications, flight systems, engines, payload equipment, etc. But they don't have to explain the details. Those of us who follow space systems and understand engineering principles know the sort of stuff that goes into making such a vehicle work.
Also, why do so many people automatically assume it's the USA that is going to be arming its spacecraft? Don't they remember we have a policy against that? In fact, it's the Russians or Chinese I'd be more concerned about. In the 1960's there was strong evidence supporting the idea that one of the Soviet Salyut space stations carried a projectile weapon for testing, although they of course denied it. Yet those two countries have a history of doing that sort of thing, whereas the USA does not. Grrr.
And for anyone paying attention, we do not need to put a weapon in space. We can do the damage from the ground! Not long ago the Navy tested a precision missile fired from a Destroyer that pinpointed and knocked out of orbit a dangerous satellite that could have crashed into a populated area. Fortunately, by shooting it down precisely we were able to bring it down into a safe area. As well as show that we can knock down a rogue missile from a country like, say, Iran.
Art of the X37B and Atlas V
Looking at the X37B, I like its design. Cool looking little robo space plane. I hope they sell one to NASA! Without a shuttle next year, how will we return valuable bulky items to the Earth from the ISS? I am certainly hoping for a successful flight this mission. I want our AF to keep space superiority.