back to article America's X-37B top-secret spaceplane returns to Earth

Super-secret spaceplane the X-37B landed back at Vandenberg Air Force Base on Saturday after 469 days of mysterious missions in space. The second unmanned reusable Orbital Test Vehicle, which carried out unknown experiments in orbit, launched from Cape Canaveral in March last year. "With the retirement of the Space Shuttle …

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  1. Anomynous Coward

    Cool space toy.

    This is almost as exciting as LOHAN.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Cool space toy.

      but it does get higher than LOHAN, which is an achievement in itself

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Cool space toy.

      It was up there taking Jesus some fresh sammiches, ladies underwear, wigs, dresses and makeup.

      He likes the ham and cheese ones.

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    The simplest answer

    Maybe it spent so long in space because nobody could remember the command to bring it back?

    1. Graham Marsden
      Terminator

      Or maybe...

      ... it was refusing to obey the orders of the weak fleshy ones...!

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. ukgnome
    Facepalm

    It's so secret

    that the safe return has been advertised.

    Erm yeah, whatever

    1. Anonymous John

      Re: It's so secret

      There's no way of hiding it landing at Vandenberg. Or being launched from the Cape. And there are enthusiasts who can track its orbit.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: It's so secret

        And why would they bother hiding it? There would be value in just making other world powers think you have all sorts of orbital capabilities.

        1. James Micallef Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: It's so secret

          In fact, it's probably better from the US point of view to have all the other nations know about the spaceplane so they can speculate wildly about it's missions / capabilities, even if what it's actually doing is very mundane stuff

  4. ByeLaw101
    FAIL

    That's a space craft? It .looks a little gay....

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Really? It didn't trigger my gaydar- maybe its been coated in stealth tech (cos it doesn't rain in space).

      The only spacecraft I can think of that was outrageous had a naked Jane Fonda in it.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Probably doesnt trigger gaydar

        But the award for most outrageous spaceship design outside of flesh gordon is probably the one from Battle Beyond the Stars featuring John Boy Walton, Hannibal from the A team and the old guy from Hustle.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Probably doesnt trigger gaydar

          I see a Reg 'Best gay sci fi spaceship' reader poll coming on...

          1. ObSolutions, Inc
            Thumb Up

            Best gay sci fi spaceship

            I vote for Gay Deceiver

            1. FrankAlphaXII
              Thumb Up

              Re: Best gay sci fi spaceship

              To be fair She wasn't really a spaceship in the traditional sense (though she could travel in space). She was more like the TARDIS but interdimensional instead of temporal. You still get an upvote though because I was just thinking of "Number of the Beast" for precisely that reason.

        2. Crisp
          Coat

          Re: Probably doesnt trigger gaydar

          He's probably picking interference from a gay weather balloon.

    2. Elmer Phud
      Flame

      Gay?

      Gay = rubbish, no good , useless, not right

      Enough of this constant insinuation that 'Gay ' is not right.

      Enough of this propogation of Tea Party shit.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Gay?

        People who use 'gay' as a negative are just self-identifying themselves as insecure 15 yo boys who aren't worth listening to, and it is better for the rest of us that we can quickly and easily recognise them as such as and when they post on forums.

        That said, 'gay' didn't always refer to someone's sexuality, but of course meant 'happy', in a way that always reminds me (probably because of the song 'I feel pretty, and witty, and gay') of the cheerfully skipping Fotherington-Thomas' saying 'Hullo Clouds, Hullo Sky". Obviously such cheerfulness is only going to annoy the pessimistic schoolboy Nigel Molesworth - whose outlook better reflects the school experience of many of us (especially in the realms of sport and games) - and provokes him to call FT a 'gurl' and a sissy.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fotherington-Thomas

        Another example of happiness being equated with ineffectualness (without any homophobia) would the "Isn't [the countryside] amazing?!" lad from The Fast Show.

        None of which is in any way applicable to a pricey bit of military hardware.

        [Smiley, because]

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Gay?

          I bet you are a Harley Riding fag !

          1. Rampant Spaniel

            Re: Gay?

            who doesn't wear a helmet ;) Then expects the state to pay for their medical care, because you know, insurance is for communists. Socialised healthcare is basically communism, but a socialised army, that's pure capitalism! Seriously, you can't make this junk up. John Stewart should be paying them royalties.

            They are the poster children for not humping your sister.

      2. Figgus
        Stop

        Re: Gay?

        The Tea Party is about fiscal responsibility. Nice job buying into the media misinformation field, though. How did their kool-aid taste?

        (I'm not affiliated with either party, but the rampant misinformation from both sides is annoying as hell and prevents any real discussion on the many problems at hand.)

        1. Elmer Phud

          Re: Gay ?

          Tea Party appears to be motivated by financial issues but the same people tend to have rather right-wing attitudes to just about everything.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Gay?

          Social and economic issues are different. But it was the politicians with certain economic policies that pandered to groups with certain social views has muddied the water, not just the journos. Not that I'm blaming them- they have to play the game. A rough matrix of two axis, social and economic - and thus four corners, liberal freemarket, liberal socialist, conservative freemarket, conservative socialist- ends up being condensed in to a vote for either Party A or Party B.

          The Occupy Movement and Tea Party are both symptoms of a fairly justified anger (the people who were paid a stupid amount of money to do a job don't appear to have done it very well). Both have elements that are anti-reason, though, unfortunately.

          We like to bash the BBC here, but it ain't Fox News nor an activist newsletter printed on hemp.

        3. Rampant Spaniel

          Re: Gay?

          I agree with the frustration over misinformation, I don't like either party these days. However, that being said there is a very strong correlation between the supporters of the fiscal conservatism of the Tea Party and the strong social conservatives (no teaching evolution, anti anything not heterosexual, anti choice pro life etc etc). Whilst the Tea Party itself doesn't concern itself so much with social issues, it's supporters do.

          Having said that, I think. We should start the coffee party, for those of us working our assess off to everyone elses benefit but our own.

          The curious thing is that one of the best democratic presidents was a republican (pro choice initially, raised taxes, increased the deficit and debt, supported and enlarged social spending etc), I speak of the wonderful Mr Raygun himself. Also consider which president did a lot of the opposite, including massive deregulation of the banks, Mr I didn't inhale but she did Clinton. Both fairly decent presidents imho.

          1. JEDIDIAH
            Linux

            Re: Gay?

            > Whilst the Tea Party itself doesn't concern itself so much with social issues, it's supporters do.

            Like the GOP itself from which the Tea Party sprang, an organization is ultimately nothing more than the sum of it's membership.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Gay?

              Dear all the social conservatives who desperately want to outlaw/ostracise/demean LGBT individuals, put the wimmin back in the kitchen (bake me a pie!), put the blacks "back in their place," and "send the latinos back where they came from," (amongst other, abhorrent bullshit,):

              Fuck You.

              Oh, and news flash? YOUR REDICULOUS GOD DOESN’T EXIST, EITHER.

              Now, quit trying to push your beliefs on the rest of the world. If you want to go build a building to practice your asshattery, that’s just fine. You can do that. What you don’t get to do is take your asshattery outside of that building and try to make the lives of other people miserable.

              I don’t give a rat’s ass what political party you belong to, what economic policies you subscribe to or however else you define yourselves. What matters is how you treat others. When you start treating others like crap, then the rest of the world has zero reason to believe you yourself are anything other than crap.

              Religious tolerance extends only to the point at which that religion espouses harm, diminution or ostracisation of others. Once your religion starts pissing on the rights of others, then your religion should not be allowed to continue.

              End of.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Gay?

                Fuck you too.

              2. Rampant Spaniel

                Re: Gay?

                well said.

                The small government crowd are the first in line begging for the government to help when they get flooded out for the 92nd year in a row because they strip mined the surrounding area.

                Always the first to crow about their rights, never about their responsibilities. Always wanting the government out of their lives but in others. The sad thing is their lack of sense and responsibility will cause their rights to be revoked, affecting all of us.

        4. JEDIDIAH
          Linux

          Re: Gay?

          By all means point us to good examples of these alleged fiscal conservatives not acting like the sort of stereotypical fundie busybodies described in "media misinformation".

          A link to a Tea Party webpage would be an obvious example.

          If there are any such mythical "fiscal conservatives" that are also not Puritan culture warriors, then such an example should be easy to provide. It even could have been included in your original response.

          Yes, the role of government should be the minimal necessary. That includes my bedroom too.

          1. Rampant Spaniel

            Re: Gay?

            To be fair, we didn't say they weren't bible weilding lunatics, just the the Tea Party is quite specific in its focus. They may be complete zealots under the surface, or indeed on the surface, but the Tea Party itself has very clear aims,

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_Party_movement

            Read the contract with America.

            I have no doubt that pretty much each and every tea bagger wants us all in church on a Sunday (only Sunday's because they are token Sunday christians) donating to the government they do approve of.

            Frankly they are all loony enough to give everyone plenty of reasons to pick them apart, there isn't the need to invent extra stuff. Yes they are so far right wing there are neonazis who think they are radical, but the platform for the teabaggers is pretty much purely fiscal and energy (with of course a repeal of anything socialist like obamacare, and by extension the 600bn a year socialised protection plan we call the military no?).

        5. Peter Murphy
          FAIL

          Re: Gay?

          If the Tea Party is about fiscal responsibility, where the fuck was the Tea Party in eight years of Bush profligacy? The answer is that there was no Tea Party until a president with extra melanin got elected in November 2008.

          "Fiscal responsibility" my ass. It's really "The sherrif's a ni-(CLANG)!" with the Tea Party. As for how the kool-aid tastes... it tastes of Rupert.

          1. Rampant Spaniel

            Re: Gay?

            That is a distinct possibility I grant you!

      3. Zack Mollusc
        Stop

        Re: Gay?

        The meaning of a word can change over time, grandad, get used to it.

    3. Michael 28
      Angel

      re: gay?

      hmm... the paintwork does remind none of leather chaps..

  5. The last doughnut
    Go

    Amayzing

    It's been up there in hard vacuum for a year and a third, and its tyres are still inflated. I wish my mountain bike was that reliable.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Amayzing

      Lots of brambles, nails and hard kerbs in space. But yeah, you raise an interesting question. I've found a PDF that seems to be at my level:

      http://www.aeronautics.nasa.gov/pdf/space_shuttle_tires_5_12.pdf

      Filled with Nitrogen at 315 PSI. Bigger molecules than the mixture that is air. Air pressure at sea level: 1 Atmosphere. In Space: 0 Atmospheres.

      1 Atmosphere = roughly 15 PSI. So exposing tyre to vacuum is the equivalent to over-inflating by 15 PSI, or in the case of the space shuttle, 5%.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Amayzing

        HA! I tried cutting a slice out of a used tire like that once. That stuff they use for the bead wires pretty much ate any of my hacksaws or cutter disks for dinner.

        Anyway, I found if I clean the heck out of my rims before putting a new tire on (there's lots of rubber and other crap from the old tire) then my motorcycle tires lose less than 1/2 psi a month. When they slap on new tires at the dealership, they don't take the time to do that.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Amayzing

          I don't know, but was it maybe the rubber that was causing your cutting discs to heat up, and thus wear more quickly? It has been, after all, specifically chosen for giving high friction. I would have expected the wire beading to have been chosen for its strength rather than its hardness.

          [just my assumptions, I'm happy to learn]

          1. Ted Treen
            Coat

            Re: Amayzing

            You could well be right:- next time I feel moved to dissect a tyre, I'll tread carefully.

            Coat'n'cab, please...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We'll know what it did soon enough

    When the hackers release their data...

    1. Dick

      Re: We'll know what it did soon enough

      We don't need hackers when the white house is sure to leak the details before the election.

  7. Gene Cash Silver badge
    FAIL

    Used to be a NASA project

    The USAF rescued it when NASA shitcanned it.

    And we wonder why we don't have a Shuttle replacement....

    1. Malcom Ryder 1

      Re: Used to be a NASA project

      I believe the Bush administration canceled the project, then the air force took it over

    2. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Re: Used to be a NASA project

      Boeing are closing the California plant where the plane was built and Congress are questioning the project's value so its future is pretty uncertain.

      What might keep it going is news that China is beginning testing of its Shenlong spaceplane. Nothing like a bit of Cold War style rivalry to keep cool stuff coming.

      1. John 62

        Re: Used to be a NASA project

        You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance! (Shane Long might put up a bit of a fight, too)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Used to be a NASA project

      Must be a damn sight better value than the shuttle. Cheaper to launch and you get a lot more time to do stuff out of each launch.

      1. Kharkov
        Unhappy

        Re: Used to be a NASA project

        Better value than the shuttle? Certainly not!

        It launches on a very expensive ULA rocket which is non-reusable.

        While it can do orbital science, test new materials & develop data to be used in later versions of the X-37, it is a more complicated way of doing those things which usually means more expensive.

        Add in the fact that a US company is LESS likely to try to develop an SSTO because they MAY find, halfway, that they have infringed on research and/or materials used by the classified X-37 program and you have an active impediment to developing a cheaper, better SSTO vehicle.

        Can you launch a satellite with it? Yes, but only in a more complicated & expensive way.

        Can you keep the payload secret? Yes, but there are cheaper, simpler ways of doing it.

        Is it a waste of money? Yes.

  8. FordPrefect

    Has anyone considered the possibility...

    .. that its just there to annoy the conspiracy theorists and distract them from other more important stuff. Or most likely given that its new technology that they are just testing the capabilities this time around?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Has anyone considered the possibility...

      Unless that's just what they want you to think

  9. Charlie van Becelaere
    Meh

    Ah, but were there any

    playmonauts aboard? At least one could expect a "recreation" here on el Reg.

  10. Bucky 2
    Alien

    Obviously a tool to retrieve ET Tech

    It has to be remote-controlled because the ETs can't stand the Terran radiation that pours from our Terran bodies (perhaps vice-versa, but I'm betting on us being the bad asses, since the ETs haven't taken us over yet).

  11. Richard Scratcher
    Black Helicopters

    Top secret?

    It's not secret at all! I actually worked on this project for a few months and I can tell you straight it's nothing more than a frLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquand that's about all it could ever be used for.

  12. PhilipN Silver badge

    There was an aircraft?

    Didn't notice. My brain is going into meltdown trying to understand wtf "risk commitment" means.

  13. i like crisps
    Go

    including my beloved wife

    Returning to an earlier theme in this thread,

    My top ten are:

    10 Jupiter 1, (2001)

    9 Thunderbird 3

    8 The original Klingon battle cruiser (TV series)

    7 The Battlestar Galactica

    6 Gunstar 1 (The last starfighter)

    5 Every Starship Enterprise ever

    4 Red Dwarf

    3 Mothership (Close encounters)

    2 The Liberator (Blakes 7)

    1 The Millenium Falcon

    1. proto-robbie
      Pirate

      Re: including my beloved wife

      There's no gay top ten without the Lexx, surely.

      And I'd leave out the wife, unless she's an interstellar lesbian.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a coincidence!

    Why has no-one pointed out the obvious, it returns after the Chinese space station have finally got their astronauts to dock

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/01/06/x_37b_spying_tiangong_1/

    Basically, the US are spying on how China makes its docking procedures - useful for future warfare/sabotage.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    wholy wow!, batman!

    really? there's jet engines or such on this vehicle to assist in landing breaking? it sounds like it in the video... especially with no parachute(s)... and towards the end, it looks to be a bit more breaking than what conventional brakes would offer... but the main thing i'm hearing is the sounds which sound like jets in reverse to slow the vehicle... am i just hearing things or have i had too many mushrooms this evening? :P

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      Headmaster

      Re: wholy wow!, batman!

      "...assist in landing breaking?"

      It breaks on landing? I thought it was supposed to be resuable.....

  16. thalass
    Happy

    Shortly after the footage ends, the X37B transforms, stands up, and walks back to its hangar.

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