X-37b space plane | A U.S. step toward militarizing space?

The Boeing X-37b space plane is shown pre-launch, with rear booster still attached. Many question whether the craft will be used merely for research or as a platform for surveillance and missile strikes from space.

The Boeing X-37b, pre-launch. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Many people are unhappy about the state of NASA’s budget under President Obama (they think the program might need corporate payday loans), and the introduction of the Boeing X-37b certainly won’t help matters. The launch of the new Boeing space plane is a scientific boon in the minds of some in that the X-37b can be a station for scientific experiments and “offer insight on transporting satellite sensors and other equipment to and from space,” reports CNET. However, there are many others who think Air Force Deputy Undersecretary for Space Programs Gary Payton’s comment that the X-37b will “push us in the vector toward being able to react to warfighter needs more quickly,” means that militarizing space is the real agenda for this exciting new craft.

The X-37b runs on auto-pilot

The 29-foot-long, 11,000-pound craft with 15-foot wingspan can stay in orbit for as many as 270 days, all without any human passengers or remote pilots on the ground. It recently launched on a classified mission, but CNET reports that internal functions will be tested and evaluated. Once the Air Force sends instructions for the X-37b to return to Earth, it will automatically return to a designated runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Maria, California.

What about the big guns?

Nothing is known for certain at this point. The X-37b will likely not be ready to serve as an airborne laser station right now, as that technology is still in its infancy. Possibilities for surveillance are many, however, as is the possibility of missile launches from space. Director of Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office David Hamilton admitted in a statement to the press that while the military still has much to learn about what the X-37b will be able to do, discussions are underway as to when the unit will be fully operational. Whether or not it will be cost effective is also vitally important to an American space program that is already shopping for corporate sponsorship and fast cash loans.

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