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US Airforce Device in Orbit... Around the Sun?

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posted on May, 24 2010 @ 08:52 AM
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Ok, I know that there has been extensive coverage of this story on this site and on the news, but there is a really interesting side story that I would love to get some more information about.

www.nytimes.com...

For those of you who don't know, the US Airforce took over a NASA project that was slated to replace the aging Shuttle Program. This innocuous program was, for all intents and purposes, a robotic shuttle that could stay in orbit for about 10x longer than a manned mission. Honestly, I have no doubt that the purpose is purely benign: topographical mapping, military spying, and satellite repair. It's cool, but not worthy of ATS.

However, please turn your conspiratorial sensors on to this part of the story: (This is the New York Times, by the way, not some crazy story on the internet)




Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astronomer who tracks rocket launchings and space activity, said the secrecy surrounding the X-37B even extended to the whereabouts of the rocket’s upper stage, which was sent into an unknown orbit around the sun. In one of his regular Internet postings, he said that appeared to be the first time the United States had put a space vehicle into a solar orbit that is “officially secret.”


This little paragraph really got me thinking. It's just thrown in there on page two, but it's the big question of this project.

Thus, ATSers, my question to you: what is this upper stage? If it is more than just an ancillary piece of space debris, what is its mission? Was the robotic shuttle cover for some more important mission? Am I reading too much into this?




posted on May, 24 2010 @ 08:59 AM
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I think it`s already discussed here: www.abovetopsecret.com...



posted on May, 24 2010 @ 09:00 AM
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Not precisely. Rather than discussing the nature of the satellite mission, I am more concerned about this Upper Stage thing.

The satellite is probably just as they said, some kind of military thing.

I am interested in this secondary part of the mission that has, allegedly, been put into solar orbit.



posted on May, 24 2010 @ 09:12 AM
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So, the upper stage doesn't re-enter the earth, but rather becomes space-junk in solar orbit...

...That's not really new -- some of the S-IVB upper stage rockets from the Apollo Moon missions are still in solar orbit to this day.

Apollo S-IVB

Also, the "cruise stage" rockets of many other robotic space probe missions beyond the Earth have ended up out there somewhere in a solar orbit.



[edit on 5/24/2010 by Soylent Green Is People]



posted on May, 24 2010 @ 09:16 AM
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But Why Solar Orbit?

It has to take more energy to enter a solar orbit than it does to crash back to Earth. It takes a lot more planning and navigating than simply releasing it into space or allowing it to crash into the Sun?

There absolutely has to be a purpose for something deliberately put into a solar orbit. Why not make the mission known?



posted on May, 24 2010 @ 09:20 AM
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Originally posted by getreadyalready
But Why Solar Orbit?

It has to take more energy to enter a solar orbit than it does to crash back to Earth. It takes a lot more planning and navigating than simply releasing it into space or allowing it to crash into the Sun?

There absolutely has to be a purpose for something deliberately put into a solar orbit. Why not make the mission known?

If it has enough momentum, then just "releasing it into space" would naturally cause it to go into solar orbit. That orbit may not be "permanent", though -- I suppose it may eventually be pulled in by the Sun.

Just like the Apollo S-IVB's -- they basically just "fell into" their present orbit.

[edit on 5/24/2010 by Soylent Green Is People]



posted on May, 24 2010 @ 09:23 AM
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reply to post by Soylent Green Is People
 


See, that's the way I read it at first too. If I understand the technology correctly, this new Atlas rocket is far more powerful than its predecessors. Thus, yeah, I could certainly understand that it is just a piece of garbage we threw into space.

However, my inner ATS has a few problems with this.

Atlas V
Wiki Atlas V
Atlas V Stages Diagram

I don't really understand (which could just be my lack of scientific knowledge), why, if the "Upper Stage" was unimportant, it would have been put into a solar orbit rather than just falling back to Earth.

If you look at the above links, it provides a rudimentary understanding of the Atlas V system that brought the Robot Shuttle into orbit.

I'm just interested in this classified part that went into solar orbit. Was it just junk or was it something more interesting?



posted on May, 24 2010 @ 09:23 AM
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I think you are confusing "solar" and "earth" orbit. Solar orbit means it is orbiting the sun, like the earth.
Eart orbit means the object orbits the earth (which in turn orbits the sun). Two different centers of gravity, earth and sol.



posted on May, 24 2010 @ 09:25 AM
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reply to post by Iago18
 

This might have something to do with it!!


A strange looking object at 4 o'clock

Any thoughts???



posted on May, 24 2010 @ 09:29 AM
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reply to post by 35Foxtrot
 


In this case, I am not. I am referring to the upper stage part of the X37B experiment that was put into solar orbit.

I understand that the Robotic Shuttle/Space Plane is orbiting around the Earth. This discussion was started in reference to the quoted material I provided at the outset, namely: that there was part of the launch material that was sent into solar orbit.



posted on May, 24 2010 @ 09:58 AM
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Originally posted by Iago18
I don't really understand (which could just be my lack of scientific knowledge), why, if the "Upper Stage" was unimportant, it would have been put into a solar orbit rather than just falling back to Earth.

The centaur upper stage had a lot of extra fuel after completing the boost of the x-37b; deorbiting a mostly-fueled vehicle is generally something space organizations try to avoid. It's also possible, maybe even likely that they modified the centaur to be compatible with the X-37B in ways they didn't want any adversary to see. Putting it into solar orbit insures no one can peek at it. It may also be a way for them to simulate or test additional performance capabilities they don't want to be public knowledge; if there was an extra dummy weight the same mass as the X-37B, but hiding behind the fairing on the centaur stage as it was boosted into orbit, this would have been a way to test to see if they could put an X-37B into solar orbit if need be. I'm pretty sure this would mean they'd either have to be lying about the true mass of the X-37B, but that would be another reason to hide the dummy mass sitting on the centaur by boosting it into solar orbit.

[edit on 24-5-2010 by ngchunter]



posted on May, 24 2010 @ 09:59 AM
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reply to post by Iago18
 


It sounds to me like the USAF was afraid the large piece of debris had a chance of posing a hazard before or during reentry.

Here's a thought; perhaps the upper stage is radioactive?



posted on May, 24 2010 @ 10:14 AM
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Originally posted by ngchunter
The centaur upper stage had a lot of extra fuel after completing the boost of the x-37b; deorbiting a mostly-fueled vehicle is generally something space organizations try to avoid. It's also possible, maybe even likely that they modified the centaur to be compatible with the X-37B in ways they didn't want any adversary to see. Putting it into solar orbit insures no one can peek at it. It may also be a way for them to simulate or test additional performance capabilities they don't want to be public knowledge; if there was an extra dummy weight the same mass as the X-37B, but hiding behind the fairing on the centaur stage as it was boosted into orbit, this would have been a way to test to see if they could put an X-37B into solar orbit if need be. I'm pretty sure this would mean they'd either have to be lying about the true mass of the X-37B, but that would be another reason to hide the dummy mass sitting on the centaur by boosting it into solar orbit.

[edit on 24-5-2010 by ngchunter]


The dummy mass could be used to represent heavy nuclear weapons.



posted on May, 24 2010 @ 10:14 AM
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Originally posted by Iago18
reply to post by 35Foxtrot
 


In this case, I am not. I am referring to the upper stage part of the X37B experiment that was put into solar orbit.

I understand that the Robotic Shuttle/Space Plane is orbiting around the Earth. This discussion was started in reference to the quoted material I provided at the outset, namely: that there was part of the launch material that was sent into solar orbit.


Yes. That wasn't directed at you, shoulda been more specific...

It seemed like the responses were discussing objects in earth orbit.

I too would like to know what they placed in solar orbit. I don't think they'll be calling me anytime soon to tell me, but I'd still like to know.



posted on May, 24 2010 @ 10:24 AM
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Imagine if this payload device/upper stage you say may be going around the sun was some type of particle weapon? Hell, I don't know if we even have weapons like that, or at least, that small.

Now imagine you have the ability to CAUSE a solar flare. With orbital timing, and say they wanna knock out ALL power plants in China. or Russia.... well, they calculate the timing of the flare/rotation of Earth and bam!

Question is, our tiny little weapons probably can't cause a disturbance on the sun. We've seem comets smash into the sun and the sun doesn't even burp.

But I bet darpa/skunkworks are THINKING of that. Use the sun as a weapon. Very dangerous, as they have no clue what could happen.



posted on May, 24 2010 @ 10:59 AM
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So...why are we keying on THIS particular upper stage rocket that happens to be in a solar orbit? Why wasn't a thread started long ago about all of the other upper stage rocket boosters that ended up in a solar orbit?

What makes this one special?

[edit on 5/24/2010 by Soylent Green Is People]



posted on May, 24 2010 @ 11:05 AM
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Originally posted by 35Foxtrot
...I too would like to know what they placed in solar orbit. I don't think they'll be calling me anytime soon to tell me, but I'd still like to know.

From what I know (and I'm no "rocket scientist", literally
), if the upper stage engine has broken free of Earth's gravity (such as the case with the Apollo S-IVB boosters) or has enough momentum to eventually break free of Earth's gravity, then it would naturally end up in some sort of solar orbit.

I.E....If it's in our solar system, and it's not in Earth orbit, and it isn't in orbit around a planet, moon, or other small body, and it hasn't crashed, then it's in solar orbit.

I don't think it takes a lot of extra planning to get it to "any" solar orbit, beyond whatever planning it takes to allow it to become free of the Earth's gravity.

If someone else has better knowledge on the subject, please correct me if I'm wrong.



[edit on 5/24/2010 by Soylent Green Is People]



posted on May, 24 2010 @ 11:06 AM
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Originally posted by BlankSlate
The dummy mass could be used to represent heavy nuclear weapons.


You got it totally backwards. The mass was not dummy. It WAS a heavy nuclear weapon.



posted on May, 24 2010 @ 11:09 AM
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Originally posted by buddhasystem

Originally posted by BlankSlate
The dummy mass could be used to represent heavy nuclear weapons.


You got it totally backwards. The mass was not dummy. It WAS a heavy nuclear weapon.

Source?



posted on May, 24 2010 @ 11:12 AM
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The payload bay of this craft really limits what it could be carrying into orbit. It's bay is the size of a typical pickup truck bed.




But there are also some limitations, Weeden said, given that the space plane's payload size is roughly equivalent to a pickup truck bed. That means it likely would not find a good fit serving as a retrieval or repair ship for satellites


Article

[edit on 24/5/2010 by Chamberf=6]



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