“… Top Secret US Air Force Craft Used For ‘Testing Hardware’ In Space”


"“As far as I know the actual engine has not been revealed, but it’s probably a pressure fed system that gets 700 to 900 Newtons of thrust,” he continued. “There is no cockpit, or windows, or anything like that for people inside, but there is a payload bay door that is a couple of meters long.”

Manley states that “so far, there have been five flights with this vehicle, and we know that there are two separate vehicles that have been identified due to subtle differences in their hardware.”

He also says in the video that he believes “what they are doing is testing hardware for future satellites.”"  brobible


A mysterious object to be sure.  I would expect USSF to take this project from USAF as it "stands up."  pl


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11 Responses to “… Top Secret US Air Force Craft Used For ‘Testing Hardware’ In Space”

  1. JohninMK says:

    Seems to function as an unmanned Space Shuttle.

  2. turcopolier says:

    I am not convinced as yet that the stated mission is not cover for some other set of activities.

  3. These things have been flying for a decade now. They’re only 30 feet long, but stay in orbit for more than 2 years at a time. I can’t even guess what something that small is doing for that length of time. They will surely go to the USSF along with all other DOD launch vehicles and satellites.

  4. Leith says:

    Nice video from Manley within that link you posted. Quite a vehicle! Designed for a mission duration of nine months, but this latest mission lasted 26 months. That is just short of a 200 percent gain. Last mission was brought into orbit by SpaceX’s Falcon 9. At 5000 kg it weighs less than an empty deuce and a half. If you added humans and their life support systems that weight would probably quadruple – or much more?
    There have been several allegations of the X37B being a spybot. My guess is that it can and does do both the experimentation Scott Manley mentioned and occasionally some special reconnaissance missions. Manley seems to think it is too small to do recon missions, and it may be too small to host cameras for hi-def satellite imagery of earth. But its small size does not rule out other types of sensors.

  5. ambrit says:

    A handy craft to have available. A LEO jitney.
    If it is truly automated, then it is perfect for testing potentially dangerous payloads. No astronauts in harms’ way. It has proven endurance. Can it maneuver much? Being of a relatively small size, it should be easily launched from Vandenberg. Will Vandenberg Air Force Base become Vandenberg Space Force Base?
    Vandenberg wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Vandenberg_Air_Force_Base_Launch_Facilities

  6. Fred says:

    Interesting article. 900 Newtons of thrust doesn’t seem like a lot but then there’s no friction to overcome out there. I wonder how long the fuel supply lasts and can you recharge them?

  7. voislav says:

    Not sure how secret this is as there seems to be quite a bit of public information on its missions. Not all aspects of the mission will be publicly declared, but still, not really a top secret program. Fun fact, last mission used Falcon 9 as the launch vehicle.

  8. turcopolier says:

    Information or misinformation?

  9. pl,
    What do you think these X-37 missions are doing if not testing of satellite, ASAT or intelligence gathering/denial technologies? I can see the actual deploying of some kind of ASAT capability as a possible activity, but that’s just a WAG on my part. We would definitely want to keep that activity secret if we were doing it.

  10. ambrit,
    Vandenberg AFB is run by the 30th Space Wing which is already part of the USSF. This is a Space Force Base for all intents and purposes. We’re just waiting for an official redesignation ceremony. The same is true for Patrick AFB (45th Space Wing) on the Florida space coast.

  11. USSF is doing its first launch tomorrow from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
    “ORLANDO, Fla., March 25 (UPI) — The first official launch for the new U.S. Space Force is scheduled to lift off from Florida on Thursday afternoon with a military communications satellite aboard.”
    “The launch is planned at 2:57 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Complex 41 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with boosters attached. A two-hour launch window is in place in case of delays.”
    “The rocket will carry the sixth in a series of next-generation satellites known as Advanced Extremely High Frequency, or AEHF. The satellites have an upgraded anti-jamming capability.”
    Both the Air Force Station and nearby Patrick AFB will be the first bases renamed as USSF facilities.

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