company:air force research laboratory

  • Mysterious X-37B Military Space Plane Nears 1 Year in Orbit
    http://www.leonarddavid.com/military-space-plane-wings-toward-year-in-earth-orbit
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-7VNf7DCY8


    (pub de Boeing)

    The U.S. Air Force’s X-37B miniature space plane has winged past 340 days in orbit performing secretive duties during the program’s fifth flight.

    The robotic craft’s latest mission, known as Orbital Test Vehicle-5 (OTV-5), kicked off on Sept. 7, 2017, with a launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

    As usual, Air Force officials have revealed few details about OTV-5. But we do know that one payload flying aboard the X-37B this time around is the Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader, or ASETS-11. Developed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, this cargo is testing experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipes for long durations in the space environment.
    […]
    Ground tracks
    Ted Molczan, a Toronto-based satellite analyst, told Inside Outer Space that OTV-5’s initial orbit was about 220 miles (355 kilometers) high, inclined 54.5 degrees to the equator. “Its ground track nearly repeated every two days, after 31 revolutions,” he said.

    On April 19, the space drone lowered its orbit by 24 miles (39 km), which caused its ground track to exactly repeat every five days, after 78 revolutions, Molczan said — a first for an OTV mission.

    Repeating ground tracks are very common,” Molczan added, “especially for spacecraft that observe the Earth. That said, I do not know why OTV has repeating ground tracks.

    Space Force ties?
    Does the X-37B program fit into the Trump administration’s call for a Space Force?

    Ironically, the X-37B is exactly the type of program — toward giving the U.S. flexibility of operations in space — that seems to be prompting the current push for a Space Force, yet are already underway,” said Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor in the National Security Affairs Department at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.


  • Secretive #X-37B Space Plane Discovered in Orbit after Staying Hidden for 218 Days – X-37B – OTV-5 | Spaceflight101
    http://spaceflight101.com/x-37b-otv-5/x-37b-otv-5-identified-in-orbit


    Image: Boeing Phantom Works

    It circled the Earth in obscurity for more than half a year, now the semi-secret X-37B OTV 5 space plane has been conclusively identified by amateur satellite observers in a circular orbit around 355 Kilometers in altitude. The orbit’s inclination at 54.5 degrees is much different from previous OTV missions and in part responsible for the craft remaining undiscovered for so long.

    X-37B, conducting its fifth orbital flight, lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on September 7, 2017. In the typical secrecy surrounding the Air Force’s X-37B program, the launch was shown until separation of the protective payload fairing and confirmation of successful orbital insertion was provided a short time later but operational aspects of the mission like the craft’s operating orbit, intended mission duration and specifics on the payloads it carries were not disclosed.

    Given the hush-hush nature of its missions, X-37B is a target of intense observation by the amateur satellite community and the orbital dynamics of all four prior OTV missions were closely watched. Typically, the spacecraft was spotted in orbit within a few days after launch; however, there were several cases where observers lost track of the spacecraft due to unexpected orbital maneuvers.

    X-37B OTV 5 proved to be a tougher nut to crack as it was clear from the outset that the spacecraft would operate from a different orbit than its predecessors: “The fifth OTV mission will be launched into, and landed from, a higher inclination orbit than prior missions to further expand the X-37B’s orbital envelope,” the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office said in a statement before the craft blasted off atop Falcon 9.
    […]
    What the spacecraft might be up to in this type of Low Earth Orbit, some 50 Kilometers lower than the International Space Station, is pretty much unknown. As with the previous X-37B flights, only very few details on the OTV 5 mission are being shared with the public and most of what resides in the vehicle’s 2.1 by 1.2-meter payload bay will remain secret.

    One payload on the OTV 5 mission that was publicly acknowledged is the Air Force Research Laboratory Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader that will test experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipe technologies over a long-duration space flight. Three oscillating heat pipes are part of the package to evaluate the technology for future applications in space as it could offer lighter and less expensive thermal control solutions for satellite missions. The goal of the OTV-5-mounted experiment will be to evaluate the technology’s initial thermal performance and monitor it over an extended period to assess long-term degradation.

    The Air Force also said the OTV 5 mission hosts small satellite ride shares to demonstrate greater opportunities for rapid space access; however, no additional objects have been cataloged under the OTV 5 mission’s international designator 2017-052 up to this point.