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Amateur skywatchers spot secret space plane
Air Force’s X-37B spaceship doesn’t escape attention of satellite fans
By Leonard David
Space Insider columnist
updated 2:53 p.m. ET, Sun., May 23, 2010
While the U.S. Air Force is mum about the orbital whereabouts of its X-37B mini-space plane, a dedicated band of amateur skywatchers has got its cross-hairs on the spacecraft.
The unpiloted X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 1 was lofted on April 22 atop an Atlas launcher. It is being flown under the auspices of the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.
In U.S. military tracking parlance, when the space plane reached orbit it became identified as Catalog Number 36514, 2010-015A, OTV-1 (USA 212). From there it entered a cone of silence regarding any on-orbit duties.
But thanks to a worldwide eyes-on-the-sky network of amateurs, the spacecraft is reportedly in a 39.99 degrees inclination, circling the Earth in an orbit 401 kilometers by 422 kilometers (251 by 264 miles). This data may change slightly as the vehicle's orbit is better refined, said Greg Roberts of Cape Town, South Africa, a pioneer in using telescopic video cameras to track spacecraft, chalking up exceptional results over the years.
Originally posted by Iwillnever
reply to post by shaolin_dragon
lmao. well this shows that you don't have to be a professional to make important discoveries! In fact now that I think about it it seems a lot of discoveries are made by "amateurs" o.O
Originally posted by Patriotgal
I do not for one second, believe that a 1950's aircraft (The SR-71), STILL holds the REAL world's speed record!
Satellites are more capable these days, overflights outside of a military action are political suicide, and most combat is handled at long range (with an emphasis on Beyond Visual Range). The only reason to produce such an aircraft would be for those records - such an aircraft serves no practical purpose today.