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Hypersonic X-37 spaceplanes 'could carry astronauts'

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Hypersonic X-37 spaceplanes 'could carry astronauts'

Post by el on Tue Oct 11, 2011 12:01 am

-The Boeing X-37B, the mysterious uncrewed space-plane developed for the US Air Force, could be scaled up and modified to carry astronauts. That's the tantalising possibility posited by a Boeing chief at Space 2011, an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics conference in Long Beach, California, last week.

In a paper entitled "X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle and Derivatives", Boeing's X-37B project chief Art Grantz revealed that at least two more versions of the 9-metre long space-plane are under investigation - one of which involves adding a crew to a much-enlarged version of the space drone. If built, the bigger brother would give the US back its ability to shuttle people to the International Space Station.


The X-37B is launched on an Atlas V rocket and has small thrusters that allow it to change its orbit at the whim of ground controllers. But, like the space shuttle, it glides in for an unpowered landing. So far, one X-37B has completed one eight-month space flight, while a second, launched in April, is still in orbit. Its missions are secret - but space flight enthusiasts have done their best to track them.

According to Aviation Week, Grantz told delegates that the next evolutionary step for the spacecraft is to have it deliver cargo - small stuff like gyros and pumps - to the ISS using the capacity of its current payload bay. Next, he says, the machine will be scaled up from its 9-metre length to 14.3 metres, allowing even bigger payloads to be delivered to the station.

Success at this level would then pave the way for "a human-carrying derivative" capable of carrying "five to seven astronauts", Grantz says. Space.com has pictures from Grantz's paper showing what an "X-37C" derivative with a 6-person pressurised crew compartment could look like. Smaller numbers of astronauts could allow for more cargo, says the website.

How serious is Boeing? It is hard to say. The US aerospace sector is sore to its core over the loss of the space shuttle and it could be clutching at straws. Engineering and certifying a pressurised crew compartment and life support system would incur eye-watering expense at a time when commercial providers like Space X are supposed to be taking over the reins.

That said, Boeing knows its stuff on crew rating - its spaceflight pedigree stretches back to the Apollo moonshot capsules. The firm is also currently developing a commercial crew-rated capsule that will fly on an Atlas V called the CST-100, and has mooted plans to fly it to expandable space stations made by Bigelow Aerospace as well as the ISS.

http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/onepercent/2011/10/hypersonic-x-37-spaceplane-cou.html
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Re: Hypersonic X-37 spaceplanes 'could carry astronauts'

Post by tasoscorsair on Tue Oct 11, 2011 11:40 am

a small taste from the X-37B tests
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Re: Hypersonic X-37 spaceplanes 'could carry astronauts'

Post by el on Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:33 pm

we'll see how they X-37 will behave in the future Neutral
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