Communion Of Dreams

Secret space plane? What secret space plane?
April 25, 2010, 1:48 pm
Filed under: DARPA, Government, NASA, Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, Space, tech, Wired, Writing stuff


The Air Force launched a secretive space plane into orbit Thursday night from Cape Canaveral, Florida. And they’re not sure when it’s returning to Earth.

Perched atop an Atlas V rocket, the Air Force’s unmanned and reusable X-37B made its first flight after a decade in development shrouded in mystery; most of the mission goals remain unknown to the public.

The Air Force has fended off statements calling the X-37B a space weapon, or a space-based drone to be used for spying or delivering weapons from orbit. In a conference call with reporters, deputy undersecretary for the Air Force for space programs Gary Payton acknowledged much of the current mission is classified.

The X-37B looks like a miniature space shuttle, and evidently the design was based on that system. The much smaller size (about one quarter the size of the shuttle) does give some indications of the limitations of the missions it could be used on, and it seems to not be quipped for life support – but beyond that, not much is publicly known.

One particular reason I find this of interest is that in the ‘future history’ in which Communion of Dreams occurs, this is exactly the sort of secret tech which has been developed by joint US & Israeli efforts – a fleet of these sorts of unmanned vehicles forms the basis for a concerted effort to establish a colony on the Moon, which are then supplied with personnel by use of new full-size shuttles which have built using the same technology but equipped to handle human life support. One of the main characters of Communion of Dreams, Darnell Sidwell, is heavily involved in this effort, and his role is mentioned in CoD. In my future history, this whole development is about ten years ahead of what is indicated by the news of the X-37B launch. In fact, most of this story forms the background for the prequel to CoD which I have mentioned previously, titled St. Cybi’s Well.

But then, who knows how much of what we’re now finding out is the actual truth? I mean, the Atlas lift capability has been around since the Apollo days. The basic shuttle design goes back to the 1970s. Do you really think that they stopped improving the tech for military applications until just ten years ago?


Jim Downey

(Also via MeFi.)

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