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Man must rise above the Earth—to the top of the atmosphere and beyond—for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.— Socrates


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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mysterious X-37B unmanned space shuttle set to be launched by U.S. tonight... and they won't say what it's for

By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 8:44 PM on 22nd April 2010
It looks like the space shuttle's more diminutive cousin - but experts say it was created with technology from a generation beyond.
The U.S. military is poised to launch the mysterious X-37B unmanned winged spacecraft tonight - but what America plans to do with it there is anyone's guess.
The mission has been wrapped in secrecy from the get-go.
'Well, you can't hide a space launch, so at some point extra security doesn't do you any good,' said Gary Payton, Air Force deputy under secretary for space systems, in a Tuesday teleconference with reporters.
Ready for launch: The X-37B rocket in Florida tonight
Mystery: A handout shows scientists working on the prototype for the rocket prior to its launch

A computer graphic shows what the X-37B will look like in space. It's wingspan is a mere 4.5 metres with a length of 8.9 metres
But he remained cagey about what exactly the X-37B is to do.
'On this flight the main thing we want to emphasize is the vehicle itself, not really, what's going on in the on-orbit phase because the vehicle itself is the piece of news here,' was all he would say.
After a decade of development, the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is slated to launch from Florida and spend up to nine months in orbit.
It will re-enter Earth on autopilot and land like an airplane at the Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
When exactly that will happen, however, even the Air Force can't predict.
Secret: It is still unclear what kind of experiments will be conducted onboard
'In all honesty, we don't know when it's coming back for sure," Payton said. 'It depends on the progress we make with the on-orbit experiments and the on-orbit demonstrations.'
The spacecraft will conduct classified experiments while in orbit. The military still has not revealed what those experiments will entail.
Payton said the Air Force's main interest is to test the craft's automated flight control system and learn about the cost of turning it around for launch again.
Built by Boeing's Phantom Works division, the X-37 program was originally headed by NASA. It was later turned over to the Pentagon's research and development arm and then to a secretive Air Force unit.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the project, but the current total has not been released.
'After a tumultuous history of sponsorship, it's great to see the X37 finally get to the launch pad and get into space,' Payton said.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

NASA’s Single-Crewed Electric Stealth Plane

NASA has unveiled details about its one-man ‘Puffin’ that is powered by electric motors.
The Puffin is created as a stealth plane for a single pilot to be transported in it. It reminds me to a some kind of jet pack with a pilot cockpit.
NASA announced that this little aircraft can reach a speed of 240 km/h. Its range is about 80 km and it can go up to 9 kilometers in height. This aircraft weights about 180 kilograms, including lithium phosphate batteries.
Image credits: [Youtube]

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Skydiver's Glider Stunt

April 16, 2010
Skydiver's Glider Stunt
Austrian skydiver Paul Steiner pulled off a death defying stunt by somersaulting from one glider to another below it at more than 6,500 feet in the air. The daredevil then reached up and grabbed the tailfin of the first craft, before finally jumping off of the glider and parachuting safely back to earth. Video at The Telegraph.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

NASA's Hybrid Wing Drone Soars on First Flight Tests

The 500-pound airplane aims to push technologies needed for quieter, cleaner and more fuel-efficient aircraft

X-48B First Phase Look at me, no training wheels! NASA/Tony Landis
An unmanned aircraft with the appearance of a flying manta ray could herald the future of jetliners. NASA and Boeing's flying lab has wrapped up the first series of flight tests that should help pave the way for less noisy, more fuel-efficient airplanes that also emit less pollution.
The 500-pound X-48B aircraft celebrated its 80th and last flight of the project's first phase on March 19, 2010, or almost three years after its first flight on July 20, 2007.
NASA engineers spent that time testing how quickly the blended wing body responded to remote commands, and put the aircraft design through flight maneuvers such as stall testing, angle of attack, sideslip angle and acceleration to see if the onboard computer could keep the plane steady.

"This project is a huge success," said Fay Collier, manager of NASA's Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project. "Bottom line: the team has proven the ability to fly tailless aircraft to the edge of the low-speed envelope safely." The U.S. space agency plans more tests later this year with a newer flight computer for the X-48B. A second hybrid wing body aircraft, the X-48C, has an even lower noise profile and awaits test flights.
Such a design may not seem quite as radical as NASA's vision for the stealthy personal tilt-rotor aircraft that could serve future commuters. But unlike the latter computer-generated vision, the X-48B has proven its flying chops and could sooner lead to better commercial airline rides for everyone.
For more blended wing goodness, check out the images here.