X-37B has returned to Earth

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modeltrains

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The whole deal is fascinating, with the mystery element being a large factor.
Radial pattern of tiles on lower nose is a detail of interest.
 

OverTheTop

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Interesting. There is a comment in there "first unmanned vehicle to return from space and land on its own". The Buran (Russian version of the Shuttle) that the Soviets built had one orbital flight that returned under autopilot I believe. I think the Marketing people are a bit enthusiastic. Either that, or now that the election is over some of the other Marketing people needed to find another outlet for their wide-sweeping, not-necessarily-true statements that most people will take at face value as a real fact.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buran_(spacecraft)#Orbital_flight
 
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Viperfixr

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Proud of my beloved Air Force and what we've achieved despite the many impacts of sequestration. Our military will be recovering from that for the next decade plus.
 

modeltrains

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Interesting. There is a comment in there "first unmanned vehicle to return from space and land on its own". The Buran (Russian version of the Shuttle) that the Soviets built had one orbital flight that returned under autopilot I believe. I think the Marketing people are a bit enthusiastic. Either that, or now that the election is over some of the other Marketing people needed to find another outlet for their wide-sweeping, not-necessarily-true statements that most people will take at face value as a real fact.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buran_(spacecraft)#Orbital_flight
I'm expecting the meaning is intended to be the first one designed to be permanently unmanned: Buran was for man, it had windows and seats.
 

OverTheTop

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I'm expecting the meaning is intended to be the first one designed to be permanently unmanned: Buran was for man, it had windows and seats.
Possibly. It is a spectacular achievement for all involved, but it is still not what they said in the quote.
 

jadebox

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We heard the sonic boom as it passed us in the morning. It rattled our bedroom door. We yelled at the cats to let us sleep.

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Winston

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[video=youtube;IoailiPGTZQ]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoailiPGTZQ[/video]

Mysterious X-37B Unmanned Space Plane Returns After Long, Secret Mission.
May 08 2017

https://theaviationist.com/2017/05/...pace-plane-returns-after-long-secret-mission/

In that article you'll find some mission speculation.

As observed in orbit just prior to landing:

https://www.satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0161.html

From: Mike McCants via Seesat-l <seesat-l_at_satobs.org>
Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2017 23:31:52 -0500 (CDT)

I had a favorable pass of OTV 4 from Austin and Ed Cannon saw the same pass from San Antonio.

OTV 4 tumbled from about magnitude zero to about magnitude 5 with a period of about 12 seconds or so.

We observed at least 3 cycles.

Mike McCants
Austin, TX


https://www.satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0170.html

From: Mike McCants via Seesat-l <seesat-l_at_satobs.org>
Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2017 23:30:50 -0500 (CDT)

OTV 4 seemed quite steady this evening.

I observed it for about 45 seconds.

It got brighter gradually as expected due to decreasing range and a better phase angle.

Mike McCants
Austin, TX

Mike McCants' Satellite Tracking TLE ZIP Files (spy sat tracking elements)

https://www.prismnet.com/~mmccants/tles/

Some time ago, the Russians claimed they were going to release all of the tracking elements for US spy sats just as the US releases the elements for all of the Russian ones (but not those for US spy sats), but that hasn't happened. Mike McCants compiles those US spy sat elements for all US spy sats that are being tracked by amateurs worldwide.

One of the best amateur trackers:

SatTrackCam Leiden (b)log
THE SECRET SPIES IN THE SKY - Imagery, Data Analysis, and Discussions relating to Military Space

SatTrackCam Leiden (Cospar 4353) is a satellite tracking station located at Leiden, the Netherlands. The tracking focus is on classified objects - i.e. "spy satellites". With a camera, accurate positional measurements on satellites of interest are obtained in order to determine their orbits. Orbital behaviour is analysed.

https://sattrackcam.blogspot.com/

Also, examples of what amateurs can photograph in orbit:

https://www.astrophoto.fr/spy_satellites.html

This otherwise excellent military topic author was, IMO, confused on this topic. He suspected that the mentioned facility will be used for just the drone mentioned:

Exclusive: Uniquely Configured RQ-170 Stealth Spy Drone Appears At Vandenberg AFB


https://www.thedrive.com/the- war-zone/8036/exclusive- uniquely-configured-rq-170- stealth-spy-drone-appears-at- vandenberg-afb

"To the southwest, the old Orbiter Processing Facility that was built to support the failed military Space Shuttle program and its co-located SLC-6 launch complex is connected to the runway via a long taxiway. It is unknown what this facility is used for today, but it appears to feature high security and is still active, judging from satellite photos.

I emailed him to speculate that the facility was probably being prepped for polar launches of the OTV based upon my finding of this news blurb about the conversion of a similar facility at KSC:

Boeing to Use Former Space Shuttle Hangar for Secret Space Plane
January 6, 2014

https://www.space.com/24168- secret-x37b-space-plane- boeing-hangar.html

"A former NASA space shuttle hangar will serve as the new home and servicing facility for a fleet of secretive military space planes.

"The Boeing Company announced on Friday (Jan. 3) it will begin converting Orbiter Processing Facility-1 (OPF-1) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to support the U.S. Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV). Built by Boeing's Phantom Works, the winged X-37B space plane resembles in some ways a smaller version of NASA's shuttle with a 15-foot (4.5 m.) wingspan.
 
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