Author Topic: Pre-Launch History: Atlas V - OTV X-37B - April 22, 10  (Read 151072 times)

Online robertross

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Re: Pre-Launch History: Atlas V - OTV X-37B - April 22, 10
« Reply #460 on: 02/27/2010 01:23 AM »

My take?  This vehicle, so far as can be determined, offers only one obvious function that a regular expendable satellite cannot offer.  It can bring stuff back. 

The intriguing question is;  "what stuff"?

 - Ed Kyle

One of the things I found intriguing was the 270 day in orbit requirement.

In a NASA science experiment document rdale posted a few days ago, it talked about the great promise of research & requirement of high purity semiconductor base material for IR sensors.

So I wonder if this a great way for DOD to manufacture its cutting edge sensor technology (or any other semiconductor) starting with the base material right in orbit in a furnace in zero G.

Furthermore, they could fly them later in a demonstrator mission, with PLB doors open to Earth, and check the performance of each. Close the doors, come home, and now you have flight qualified sensors/components.
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Online Bubbinski

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If the X-37 can last 270 days in orbit....well that would be great for an ISS crew return vehicle too.  Stick a crew compartment in the payload bay......I know, I know, it's not really meant for that, it's an unmanned test vehicle owned by the Air Force.  But if this vehicle successfully flies, might a derivative be offered up as a commercial crew return vehicle or cargo craft?
I'll even excitedly look forward to "flags and footprints" and suborbital missions. Just fly...somewhere.

Offline vt_hokie

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Re: Pre-Launch History: Atlas V - OTV X-37B - April 22, 10
« Reply #462 on: 02/27/2010 03:21 AM »
If the X-37 can last 270 days in orbit....well that would be great for an ISS crew return vehicle too.  Stick a crew compartment in the payload bay......I know, I know, it's not really meant for that, it's an unmanned test vehicle owned by the Air Force.  But if this vehicle successfully flies, might a derivative be offered up as a commercial crew return vehicle or cargo craft?

It would have to be a much larger derivative, but it frustrates me to think of how close we could be to having this right now if NASA had pursued it 5 years ago, rather than wasting precious time and resources on "the stick"...

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Offline Jim

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Re: Pre-Launch History: Atlas V - OTV X-37B - April 22, 10
« Reply #463 on: 02/27/2010 03:30 AM »
If the X-37 can last 270 days in orbit....well that would be great for an ISS crew return vehicle too.  Stick a crew compartment in the payload bay......I know, I know, it's not really meant for that, it's an unmanned test vehicle owned by the Air Force.  But if this vehicle successfully flies, might a derivative be offered up as a commercial crew return vehicle or cargo craft?

no, it is too small and would be too expensive to enlarge.  Boeing is going with a capsule

Offline Jim

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Re: Pre-Launch History: Atlas V - OTV X-37B - April 22, 10
« Reply #464 on: 02/27/2010 03:32 AM »

BTW, If 2.2 km/s is in the right ball-park for the X-37B, then I think it could put itself into low orbit powered just by an Atlas V first-stage... That's sort of like SSTO (but cheating, since your payload is also another stage). If the delta-v is higher, like 3km/s, then even a double-sized (22 ton) X-37B could be put into LEO with just an Atlas V first stage. Of course, I am probably forgetting something important.

(Now, recover that first stage and you've got yourself a reusable launch vehicle of sorts, though it'd be too small to make sense, with only a 1-ton payload size with a 22-ton X-37B-derivative...).

X-37 is a spacecraft and not a launch vehicle stage

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: Pre-Launch History: Atlas V - OTV X-37B - April 22, 10
« Reply #465 on: 02/27/2010 05:30 AM »

Close the doors, come home, and now you have flight qualified sensors/components.

One minor nit with that. It is not that you will end up manufacturing a sensor/component on orbit. It is more likely you will manufacture either a high purity or exotic bulk material that can be turned into a sensor/component on the ground.
 
High purity bulk materials will allow the production of very large semiconductor devices (think giga pixel imaging chips). Exotic materials produced in a gravity well may have so many defects in them that it is difficult (if not impossible) to produce large devices with them (This has been one of the limitations with IR sensors).

Just a thought, in my minds eye you can not fit an entire fab inside of an X-37. I honestly wonder if you could fit one inside of ISS. For real bulk material manufacturing, I do wonder how large the equipment will be and how much power will be required.

While we are making stabs at what could need 270 days in LEO* What about researching to how coatings and paints hold up to LEO. This way you get the samples back. A capsule would be cheaper, assuming someone has one to sell/rent for your needs. Depending on the X-37 DeltaV capabilities it could also be used for studies on how things behave/degrade in the Van Allen. Solar Cells and Semiconductors come to mind.
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Offline edkyle99

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Re: Pre-Launch History: Atlas V - OTV X-37B - April 22, 10
« Reply #466 on: 02/27/2010 07:38 PM »
If the X-37 can last 270 days in orbit....well that would be great for an ISS crew return vehicle too.  Stick a crew compartment in the payload bay......I know, I know, it's not really meant for that, it's an unmanned test vehicle owned by the Air Force.  But if this vehicle successfully flies, might a derivative be offered up as a commercial crew return vehicle or cargo craft?

no, it is too small and would be too expensive to enlarge.  Boeing is going with a capsule

A capsule makes perfect sense for crew.  On the other hand, if someone wanted to return a classified something back to Earth, tucked away in a closed payload bay, wings and cross-range and a controlled landing on a runway located inside a secure area would seem desirable, if not essential. 

Of course the Corona/Keyhole program did something similar with capsules and parachutes, but the payloads (film return buckets) were pretty small and, it might be argued, not a catastrophic national security loss if recovered by the "bad guys" instead, since they were merely photos of the "bad guys" own territory. 

Makes you wonder if there hasn't been a wings versus capsule debate in the classified world in recent years.

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Online robertross

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Re: Pre-Launch History: Atlas V - OTV X-37B - April 22, 10
« Reply #467 on: 02/27/2010 08:57 PM »

Close the doors, come home, and now you have flight qualified sensors/components.

One minor nit with that. It is not that you will end up manufacturing a sensor/component on orbit. It is more likely you will manufacture either a high purity or exotic bulk material that can be turned into a sensor/component on the ground.
 
High purity bulk materials will allow the production of very large semiconductor devices (think giga pixel imaging chips). Exotic materials produced in a gravity well may have so many defects in them that it is difficult (if not impossible) to produce large devices with them (This has been one of the limitations with IR sensors).
Actually, this was point #2 in my post. My first response was the manufacture of the bulk material  ;)

Quote
Just a thought, in my minds eye you can not fit an entire fab inside of an X-37. I honestly wonder if you could fit one inside of ISS. For real bulk material manufacturing, I do wonder how large the equipment will be and how much power will be required.

I though about this last night, and came up with a more viable solution. The main point of the flight is to obtain the necessary environment: microgravity/zero gravity. So all you really need is to maintain the temperature of the sample as much as possible, and facilitate its correct cooling in orbit so that it solidifies perfectly. Perhaps all that is needed is to heat it on the pad or in the Payload Integration Facility, launch, and allow a special 'thermos' do cool the product.

The other parts of you post are best discussed in the Science experiments portion of the ISS thread  ;)
But I would say that if it truly is for DOD work, then there could be issues with international partners being on orbit during manufacturing. Hence all the more reason to have a dedicated military vehicle like X-37.
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Offline Antares

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Re: Pre-Launch History: Atlas V - OTV X-37B - April 22, 10
« Reply #468 on: 03/07/2010 03:18 AM »
Do we have enough facts and intelligence to back the cross-range capability out of the pictures and dimensions we know?
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Offline TimL

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Re: Pre-Launch History: Atlas V - OTV X-37B - April 22, 10
« Reply #470 on: 03/14/2010 03:48 PM »
Does anyone know if/when the 501 was delivered to the Cape? Seems like past flights have had the booster show up about 30-45 days out.
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Offline neilh

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Re: Pre-Launch History: Atlas V - OTV X-37B - April 22, 10
« Reply #471 on: 03/14/2010 07:30 PM »
I came across the following slashdot comment about the X-37 having an "ablative spike" (which seems to be in the WK2 photos). Anybody know anything more about this, if the comment below is nonsense, or if ablative reentry spikes have been tested in the past?

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1582228&cid=31473292
Quote
If you check out the photos on Wikipedia of X-37B underneath the Rutan lift vehicle, you can see what looks like a flagpole sticking out of the nose. This spike is retracted at launch and extended prior to re-entry. The purpose of the spike is to create the leading sonic boom (hypersonic bow wave) and transonic region during re-entry -- well in front of the vehicle itself. The atmosphere reaching the wings and thermal protection surfaces is much slower than the hypersonic bow wave -- thus less heating occurs on the fuselage than on the spike.

The retractable/extensible spike absorbs such an enormous amount of energy and transforms it into heat, yet the spike is not very massive. In order to dissipate the heat without transferring it to the fuselage or melting in an uncontrolled manner, the spike is designed to ablate like many heat shields have (e.g. Apollo). "Ablate" means that the spike flakes apart in a controlled manner which leaves behind useful which continues to be the interface between the craft and the hypersonic flow.

The spike is shown extended in the re-entry test photo because the vehicle was configured for re-entry.

Before GWB scuttled Al Gore's X-38 ISS re-entry vehicle, there had been some talk of incorporating the ablative re-entry spike into ISS return craft. It appeared from the outside (I'm not an insider) that the military community in the US was getting paranoid that revealing the secret ablative spike technology to the foreign competition.
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Offline Jim

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Re: Pre-Launch History: Atlas V - OTV X-37B - April 22, 10
« Reply #472 on: 03/14/2010 08:03 PM »
I came across the following slashdot comment about the X-37 having an "ablative spike" (which seems to be in the WK2 photos). Anybody know anything more about this, if the comment below is nonsense, or if ablative reentry spikes have been tested in the past?


There is no such thing on X-37.  It is just some B S by someone clueless

Does the shuttle have one?

Yes it did, it is a air data boom.  Very common on new aircraft configs undergoing flight test.

http://images.jsc.nasa.gov/luceneweb/fullimage.jsp?searchpage=true&keywords=enterprise&textsearch=Go&hitsperpage=30&pageno=2&photoId=S77-28140

Offline cheesybagel

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Re: Pre-Launch History: Atlas V - OTV X-37B - April 22, 10
« Reply #473 on: 03/14/2010 11:44 PM »
...
Anybody know anything more about this, if the comment below is nonsense, or if ablative reentry spikes have been tested in the past?


There is no such thing on X-37.  It is just some B S by someone incorrect

Does the shuttle have one?

Yes it did, it is a air data boom.  Very common on new aircraft configs undergoing flight test.
...

I figured that much when I read that comment on /. (remembered past aircraft flight tests).

I actually considered something similar for reentry once when I was reading about supercavitation and the Russian VA-111 Shkval torpedo. However I am unsure if it would work as well for different media (air vs water). Also there is the problem that if the "spike" works too well, generating a vacuum in its wake large enough to engulf the whole ship, then the wings and any other control surfaces are useless. You need to use rocket power to control the craft all the way.

Also, I remember once noticing Trident and M-51 SLBM's have spikes in the front. Never figured out what those are for. If it is just because they are supposed to be launched underwater, or what.

Offline Jim

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Re: Pre-Launch History: Atlas V - OTV X-37B - April 22, 10
« Reply #474 on: 03/15/2010 01:00 AM »


Also, I remember once noticing Trident and M-51 SLBM's have spikes in the front. Never figured out what those are for. If it is just because they are supposed to be launched underwater, or what.


That is for going thru the dense atmosphere on the way up and there is little heating.

Offline neilh

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Re: Pre-Launch History: Atlas V - OTV X-37B - April 22, 10
« Reply #475 on: 03/15/2010 01:04 AM »
I came across the following slashdot comment about the X-37 having an "ablative spike" (which seems to be in the WK2 photos). Anybody know anything more about this, if the comment below is nonsense, or if ablative reentry spikes have been tested in the past?


There is no such thing on X-37.  It is just some B S by someone incorrect

Does the shuttle have one?

Yes it did, it is a air data boom.  Very common on new aircraft configs undergoing flight test.

http://images.jsc.nasa.gov/luceneweb/fullimage.jsp?searchpage=true&keywords=enterprise&textsearch=Go&hitsperpage=30&pageno=2&photoId=S77-28140

Thanks for the correction Jim, and that's a very neat photo, too.
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Offline stealthyplains

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Re: Pre-Launch History: Atlas V - OTV X-37B - April 22, 10
« Reply #476 on: 03/19/2010 03:42 AM »
Sorry if this has been covered before:

Can the X-37B reach the ISS and return from it?  Can the X-37B practically be made to dock with the ISS?

Could a single astronaut with an ACES suit, sufficient air, and proper restraint survive launch and/or re-entry in the X-37B?

Offline Jim

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Re: Pre-Launch History: Atlas V - OTV X-37B - April 22, 10
« Reply #477 on: 03/19/2010 11:45 AM »
Sorry if this has been covered before:

Can the X-37B reach the ISS and return from it?  Can the X-37B practically be made to dock with the ISS?

Could a single astronaut with an ACES suit, sufficient air, and proper restraint survive launch and/or re-entry in the X-37B?

1.  Yes
2.  no
3. no

Offline shuttlefan

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Re: Pre-Launch History: Atlas V - OTV X-37B - April 22, 10
« Reply #478 on: 03/19/2010 12:36 PM »
Has the X-37 been mated to the Atlas 5 yet?

Offline JosephB

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Re: Pre-Launch History: Atlas V - OTV X-37B - April 22, 10
« Reply #479 on: 03/19/2010 10:00 PM »
Sorry if this has been covered before:

Can the X-37B reach the ISS and return from it?  Can the X-37B practically be made to dock with the ISS?

This question brought up another.
Recall when a free flyer was envisaged to be in formation with ISS to pursue stringent microgravity experiments. Could X-37B fill this role to some lesser degree? That is, in a civilian (NASA) role which can be talked about? Maybe the need isn't there anymore?

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