Friday, January 15, 2010

The X-37B and Beyond. The Future of the Space Plane

I have been wondering why the USAF created the X-37B? Why has the USAF and NASA gone in separate directions when it comes to accessing space. Basically it boils down to the mission and the money. The USAF is looking for faster turnaround of unmanned missions to LEO and futuristic semi-suborbital once around atmospheric skip missions. Where NASA's mission is to launch men to the Moon. Then there is the budget. While the USAF's is black and deep. NASA's is public and gets tighter by the minute. So this is what drives the USAF into cutting edge futuristic space planes and why NASA has gone back to the monkey in the capsule approach.

So you may be asking yourself. What's the future hold for the space plane once the shuttle retires? Well I am pleased to inform you that there is a bright future ahead and it involves some serious new hypersonic technologies. Air breathing scram jets, Reusable first stages that fly back and land on a runway autonomously. Yes my friends the future is bright when your pockets are deep.

So here it is. The USAF's master plan for orbital and suborbital access. This is the future. The FAST program. A must read document.

Fully Reusable Access to Space Technology (PDF)

New military space shuttle technology
Dec 28, 2009 02:12 GMT - Multimedia
A 4-percent model of the Fully-Reusable Access to Space Technology (FAST) proof-of-concept launch vehicle underwent aerodynamic testing in Arnold Engineering Development Center’s von Kàrmàn Gas Dynamics Facility (VKF) Supersonic Wind Tunnel A.

FAST is an Air ForceResearch Laboratory initiative to methodically mature the technologiesrequired for next generation operationally responsive space access – an Air Force Space Command mission. Program goals andrequirements are delineated as well as technology approaches. Theacquisition strategy matures key technologies in ground experimentsthrough 2011, and then integrates the experiments into a subscale Xaircraftfor ground or potentially flight test by 2013. The airframeexperiment includes propellant tanks, structure and thermal protectionsystems fabricated and tested at the X-aircraft scale.

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