As our collective attention has been fastened on the rapidly developing FALCON & RATTLRS hypersonic global strike programs - Let us not forget another
program which has been progressing quietly at Boeing's Phantom Works and the Dryden facility.
Already brought to our attention a few times by other ATS posts, I think that this is a good time to bring up the history and progress of yet another
The Boeing X-37 is planned to be a Mach 25 single stage to orbit space plane, intended to take off and land on a runway and is most likely a candidate
for an orbital space plane/bomber. It is without a doubt that advanced propulsion technologies developed for FALCON & RATTLRS may eventually find
their way to the X-37 program or an eventual offshoot of the program, although right now the basic "get it off the ground" concept seems to be for a
Historically, the X-37 program was publicly put on hold by NASA in 2004 because the project "no longer fit NASA's long term agenda", and was even
seen by the media and industry watchdogs as having ended by proof of extensive layoffs of project personnel.
However, that demise of the X-37 was apparently an incorrect assumption by the media and industry watchers and the X-37 project was actually
transferred in the early weeks of 2004 from NASA/USAF and is now alive and well under the exclusive and classified umbrella of DARPA (Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency).
(Bear in mind, the X-37 project is not
a "black" special access program, it is however an acknowledged classified program.)
There are 2 X-37 variants - the atmospheric drop test vehicle and the orbital test vehicle.
The first of which has to date accomplished 7 drop test-flights from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter.
The orbital vehicle is due to undergo tests on a shuttle flight at some as yet unspecified point in time.
The X-37A's "mothership" for atmospheric drop tests is the Scaled Composites "White Knight", carrier of the "SpaceShip One" X-Prize winner.
Planning for flight tests started in early 2005 and the X-37 atmospheric test vehicle currently has undergone several flights docked to the "White
Knight" mothership as well as one free glide flight. The first free glide flight took place in April 2006, and was a success but the landing
experienced some unpleasant bumpiness which led to the test vehicle running off the runway and damaging the front landing gear.
Below, the X-37A is docked to the Rutan designed "White Knight"
Current status of either vehicle are unknown but what is known is that there is money being spent on extensive wind tunnel tests under the heading of
the X-37 budget.
This is certainly worth more digging by ATS members and we should watch this program for further development.
Below, The X-37 atmospheric test vehicle being assembled
Related ATS Threads:
First Captive-Carry Flight for Darpa/Boeing X-37
: ATS Member Author: FredT
SCI/TECH: NASA Transfers X-37 to Unidentified U.S. Agency
: ATS Member Author: Zion Mainframe
NASA Transfers X-37 Project to D.A.R.P.A.
: ATS Member Author: Crazyhorse
[edit on 9-5-2006 by intelgurl]