I do not wish to discount the possibility of it being "not-of-human-origins". But I was trying to suss-out the why of the event and I came up with a
possible earthly reasoning that could tip the balance in favour of the "works" Phantom or Skunk as being the toy-shop-of-origin. Don't mind me I'm
First, what was Shuttle doing at the time? Collecting Hi-Res photos of the ET as it fell away owing to concerns of foam loss - as Wayne Hale has said
publicly several times, "Remember we don't get them (the external tank) back." They burn up on re-entry and are valuless for study at that point.
What has the primary concern of NASA been since STS-107? Foam loss and ET data-gathering/redesign. The idea being more data is better than less data
to arrive at engineering solutions.
Second, how could NASA insure that "we've got the tank right"? Perhaps a little help from "contractors other" like Boeing or Lockheed Martin?
Let's for the moment assume that was the case. How'd they collect such data? The easy way would be to have a look "in-situ" after all the rigors
and stress of atmospheric ascent - just fly right up to that puppy and have a look-see at how well the ET survived ascent.
What instruments could be used from such a small platform (my guess 60 - 90 foot long craft as the ET is roughly 30 feet in diameter and about 150
feet long)... how about a 1 meter lens optical suite? Or better yet an imaging laser suite much like shuttle uses on orbit to examine itself now. That
might satisfy the engineering folks to say, "Yup, Uh huh we got a good tank design now."
Well as the article I posted earlier clearly says such devices are thought to be "standard equipment" on such an XOV. The article also gives a
fairly good accounting of what such a craft may look like and for me that fits. I am prepared to change my assessment any time a better explanation
The following is from an external source at
Mods I'm sorry but I can't figger out this external stuff... if I blow it can someone fix it for me please... thanx!
Description of Vehicle from the external article:
"During the system's development cycle, two types of spaceplane orbiters may have been flown. Both were a blended wing/fuselage lifting-body design,
but differed in size. The smaller version was about 60-65 ft. long and may have been unmanned or carried a crew of two, some say. Industry engineers
said this technology demonstrator was "a very successful program."
The larger orbiter is reportedly 97.5 ft. long, has a highly swept, blended wing/body planform and a short vertical fin. This bulky fin apparently
doubles as a buried pylon for conformal carriage of the spaceplane beneath the large SR-3. The "Q-bay" for transporting an optics-system pallet or
other payloads may be located aft of the cockpit, with payload doors on top of the fuselage.
Outboard sections of the spaceplane's wing/body cant slightly downward, possibly for shock-wave control and compression lift at high speeds while in
the atmosphere, whether on ascent or reentry. The only visible control surfaces are flap- or drag-type panels on the wing's trailing edge, one
section on each side of the stubby vertical fin. A relatively large, spade-shaped section forward of the cockpit--which gives the orbiter a
"shark-nose" appearance--may provide some pitch stability, as well."
Imaging Suite Elements from the external article:
"The spaceplane is capable of carrying an advanced imaging suite that features 1-meter-aperture adaptive optics with an integral sodium-ion-sensing
laser. By compensating in real-time for atmospheric turbulence-caused aberrations sensed by the laser, the system is capable of acquiring very
detailed images of ground targets or in-space objects, according to industry officials familiar with the package."
If such a bird exists this is one way to use it... there may be others - DPRK's Lil' Kim may wish to avoid surface travel for a while...
As I mentioned earlier perhaps we could get someone familiar with aerospace history and "techo-possibilities" but not bound by NDA's or involved
workin' for any official/unofficial program to have a gander and see whether shizzle or fizzle. Someone maybe like oh I don't know - Waynos? Someone
not part of the "machine", who'd not have a dis-info interest or COI.
I'm still undecided as to what this "thingie" is, but so far I'm leaning to "made in USA."