You may recall stories we ran last year of the mysterious X-37B space plane, which remains as one of the great mysteries of the modern space program. But even amid budget cuts in NASA and talks of more layoffs being circulated for another round, the highly secretive and largely unknown project has been launched after a short delay due to inclement weather. And with this unknown cargo on-board an Atlas rocket fueling the flames of conspiracy theories, we can only begin to speculate on what this mystery rocket could be launching up into space.
The X-37B is not a NASA project, but actually hails from the fortune of a Defense Budget currently in place. And with talks of military spending expanding to allow weapons to be put into space, the Air Force’s project has a number of reasons to stay secret. The Atlas 5 rocket had the X-37B in its nose cone as the massive rocket shot out into space and in the meantime theories abound about just what the on-board device could be. Speculation has ranged from an aerial spying vehicle to a space based defense system designed to deter rogue satellites, space debris, and other space based craft.
The launch occurred at 22:46 GMT amid cheers from the ground. But shortly after the mystery craft was launched the media was informed that the classified project would not have any future announcements to the public. When asked that the mysterious craft did, Air Force Officials declared it was an experimental craft designed to test future spacecraft technologies. But the official story ends there and that’s where the speculation picks up. And if the previous mission, known as the OTV-1 is any indicator we already know the mission will likely come and go under similar secrecy and we’ll be left just as in the dark after the project is concluded.
But what the X-37b does suggest is the Air Force definitely has an interest in space. Whether this interest is due to some interest in conquering other worlds or defending us from the inhabitants of those worlds we can only guess. But the secrecy involved in the project suggests it must have some real world applications on our own planet (or rather above it.)
Some have even suggested the X-37b might be a highly advanced spy plane capable of entering orbit from space or deploying smaller surveillance “drones” to photograph sensitive installations which can survive reentry into the atmosphere but then can be destroyed when impacting the planet’s surface. Could this incredible robotic space drone actually be the first miniature military aircraft carrier to be deployed in space? The Air Force has emphatically denies deploying any sort of weapons system into space.
Critics of the program have suggested the Air Force could eventually start receiving the funding once dedicated to NASA resulting in a more militarized orbit and the friendly skies becoming less friendly.