The Air Force’s experimental spaceship may look like a miniature space shuttle, but no pilot will be aboard the craft. The X-37’s development was once a closely guarded secret within military circles, but as its launch approaches interest is increasing both as to its capabilities and its purpose. The X-37 is scheduled to launch for the first time later in April.
There’s nothing groundbreaking about the method the shuttle will achieve escape velocity. It is, like any other space-faring vessel, a shuttle at the end of a powerful rocket designed to launch it into space. The difference comes both in the organization performing the launch and the device’s cargo. The agency in charge of the rocket resembling the now outdated traditional space shuttle is the United States Air Force. The cargo is minus one key component traditionally thought of as the most important component to a space shuttle: a pilot. The X-37 is completely unmanned.
The Air Force has declared that the ship will for most purposes act and look like a space shuttle, but without a crew many experiments will not be able to be performed. So what will the purpose of the shuttle be? The X-37B’s purpose, for the most part, is unknown. The mystery surrounding the new device makes the project all the more interesting to those following the military.
Though the project was originally started by NASA, when the space agency was unable to keep the project afloat, the Air Force stepped in and took it over. And the timing of the X-37’s implementation is something that’s raising quite a few eyebrows as well. China is showing a noticeably increased interest in the militarization of space. Why would a military organization rescue a project that had been dropped almost four years ago and see it to its end without announcing its purpose?
Of course just because it’s mysterious, many say this doesn’t necessarily translate directly to deadly or threatening to world peace. There is a serious push by scientists working in various fields to lower the cost of getting people and supplies into space. And with these costs gradually becoming more cost effective, any exploration into getting material and cargo into space is welcomed by many orbital enthusiasts. And with the massive budget at the disposal of the defense department, this is a previously untapped wealth that many say is a welcome addition to the brain power of space enthusiasts.
Rumors have been circulating that the X-37 may be a sort of orbital predator drone, or delivery device for similar remote controlled devices that could be deployed anywhere on the planet within minutes without requiring air transport that could potentially be intercepted by surface to air missiles. But there’s no evidence to support this claim, and many say it’s laughable even, saying this theory underestimates the difficulty of reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. Regardless, it is clear at this point that as the future approaches mankind is indeed finding several advantages to reaching into space for future endeavors.