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Space Plane: Mysterious US military aircraft launches (bbc.co.uk)
205 points by willvarfar 17 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 173 comments



Sat here in lockdown, I have just rewatched Matt Damon's The Martian and yes, we want to go up and out. I am so glad someone is still trying.

I am also blown away by the American Federal budget - this is a classified military space program. How much does one of those cost ?!


This comes from the military budget; they can light Cuban cigars with hundred dollar bills as a rounding error. The US Navy has 11 large fleet aircraft carriers, 9 assault carriers, when the rest of the World considers two carriers to be a lot. Schools hold bake sales to buy supplies, the Pentagon/The Congress spends a Trillion USD on a new manned fighter we don't need just to shovel pork into as many Congressional districts as possible.

In a similar vein as our Carriers, we have 123 military satellites. Since the X-37 is maneuverable and reusable, it might be cheaper in the long run than more satellites.


It’s hard to quantify because military supremacy and having the best weapons in the world is a huge part of why the dollar is THE global currency. And we can print dollars, hell we just printed 5 trillion in a couple weeks. This gives us insane leverage when it comes to foreign debts because most debts are in dollars. The dollars for military budget and the dollars raised by a school fundraiser are not even the same currency.


> [...] military supremacy and having the best weapons in the world is a huge part of why the dollar is THE global currency.

However, in "How the United States Could Lose a Great-Power War" (RAND, 2019)[0], we read:

> [...] For now, U.S. forces appear poorly postured to meet these challenges. That's because both Russia and China have developed formidable networks of missiles, radars, electronic warfare systems, and the like to degrade and potentially even block U.S. forces' ability to operate in the Western Pacific and Eastern Europe to defend allies and partners in those regions. China in particular is developing increasingly impressive capabilities to project military farther afield, including through systems such as aircraft carriers, long-range aviation, and nuclear-powered submarines. Together, these forces have tilted the military balance over places such as Taiwan and the Baltic states from unquestioned U.S. dominance to something much more competitive.

And[1]

> The US keeps losing, hard, in simulated wars with Russia and China. [...]

[0]: https://www.rand.org/blog/2019/10/how-the-united-states-coul...

[1]: https://breakingdefense.com/2019/03/us-gets-its-ass-handed-t...


This is a farce.

The United States is done fighting Great Power wars. No one talks about it publicly at all because doing so would shatter America's self-image as the Lone Superpower. The military the United States has now is quite capable of wrecking any nation that is not another Great Power. I say wrecking and not defeating, because as should be obvious from the last three decades, the United States has zero interest in winning wars. It really doesn't even bother trying - too expensive, and too hard. Instead the United States has made it very clear that if you displease it too much, and aren't another Great Power, it will trash your nation, and then either walk away or hang around stomping on you every so often.

The unspoken assumption is that there never will be a "real" war with China or Russia or any other 'near peer'. Whether that ultimately turns out to have been a foolish approach remains to be seen. But, it does leave a lot of money floating around to be siphoned off by various parts of the military-security industry, because Americans think they're paying for a Cold War military, when what they're actually getting is a military good for knocking down weaker opponents and then kicking them, but that barely even tries to pretend it can do anything else. (Except via propaganda, which is really cheap compared to manpower and materiel.)


As we used to say when I was in Iraq (with the US Army), "Don't mess with America, or we'll bring freedom to you too!"

Look how well it worked out in Libya, Iran, Iraq, etc.


I think it was the British and the French who brought freedom to Libya. Foreign intervention seems to nearly always make things worse. Just the other day there was an appalling attack on a maternity hospital in Afghanistan. People are saying that the West needs to do something...


The military intervention in Libya was initially led by the United States and then handed off to NATO. The US contribution to direct attacks consisted mostly of cruise missile strikes. The British, French and Canadian air forces also played a major roles.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_military_intervention_in_...


The amount of deaths and horror that freedom has brought to Libya is soul crushing. I would wager that a good percentage of Libyans would Trade that freedom for the dictatorship with all that it entails, obviously not those that suffered injustice of a dictatorship but the majority ... work home life ...


As an American, who is also a veteran of OIF II, it really dismayed me to watch what happened in Libya. Granted, I did watch the liveleak of the end of Gadaffi and I'm not sad a truly horrible human being is no longer in charge of a country. That said, I'm very sad for the people who have to endure so much upheaval.

The reality is that you can't go from a strongman authoritarian to a magical well functioning democracy overnight (or maybe even ever) without a a few generations of change. It is really heart breaking to see it.


I guess "freedom" can't just be the dismantling of a government. Since "freedom" as our societies value it only emerges in the context of some ordered society and government that protects those things.

The problem in those places seems to not have been, how hard is it to get rid of the established order, but rather, how hard is it to create a new order which preserves people's freedoms.


If America goes home China's rise is quickly OVER, without anyone providing global trade security on the open oceans. This would drive unrest internally, and over the last 1500 years when China's central control has been threatened, they have turned inward and become shut ins.

The Belt and Road is partially an attempt to deal with the risk of the US pulling out of providing global security, but they need a LOT more time, and somewhat ironically because of COVID-19 they may have run out. While the US is spending trillions to move away from global trade very very quickly.


I guess, but ISIS still seems to be a thing.

Or in geek-speak. We have the Death Star, as we are the Empire. The Empire still lost.


Yup, and it’s so ironic that the Rebel heroes are a ragtag collection of desert-dwellers led by warrior priests of a religious sect.


Except in this take, I'd still prefer the Empire to the Rebels. Star Wars tells its story through the lens of the Rebel propaganda.


I think the GP is talking about Dune instead of Star Wars.

We all know what 'the spice' is.


The poster above literally mentioned the Death Star, so unless there's something like this in Dune I don't know about...


Don't forget the brainwashing of a teenager they send on a suicide mission against the authorities


ISIS got fairly wrecked though.


Not wrecked, they just relocated. They seem quite happy over in sub-Saharan Africa.


Any complex system eventually breaks down. If not this rebellion then the next. Or the one after that.

The system accumulates damage over time, maintenance can't fix everything, eventually it's not worth it to keep it operational. Looking at Trump and Biden I'd say that time is near.


In theory, repair and creating something anew are equivalent processes; at the detail level, they both involve the same act of tearing out old pieces and inserting fresh ones. So I sometimes wonder what is it that eventually makes killing and starting over preferable to maintenance? Maybe we should address that somehow, as redoing things from scratch seem unnecessarily wasteful.


yes lets draw direct analogies to science fiction lol


Fiction v non-fiction.


>The unspoken assumption is that there never will be a "real" war with China or Russia or any other 'near peer'.

Yes, because despite Wikipedia saying that the Cold War ended in the 20th century, we still have thousands of nukes ready to launch at each other in five minutes. There may someday be unconventional war, proxy war, or cyber war, but there will not be a great war unless it begins and ends with a nuclear holocaust.


Maybe the money is going to the secret space program. And one of the duties of the regular public military and security industry is to be a front.


Wouldn't that be nice. Like in StarGate SG-1, where a lot of things in the military budget fronted for the US pax-americaning our galactic neighbourhood and bringing useful tech back.

Alas, I worry that the secret space program is merely the rare not-totally-worthless exception to the overall rule.


I don't understand, what do you mean by overall rule, and what is the exception?


The overall rule: most US military spending is utterly wasted to line the pockets of politicians and the military-industrial complex. It's not useful even for defending the country.

The exception: there will most likely be something useful coming out of a space program. May or may not be useful enough to offset the costs, but it's not going to be a complete waste.


Ah, cool. Makes sense. ツ Thank you, I'm grateful for your answer.


Here's an admittedly cynical take: Analysts who suggest that the US is weak better serve the defense industry. Even your source suggests the solution is more money...


I am not sure military supremacy goes hand in hand with economic advantage, eg german and japan are great examples till very recently.

That aside, fundamentally those weapons come in play against whom ? Obviously not most of nato Europe Whom are ideological allies or dependents. can’t be against Russian or China because they have nuclear weapons or even North Korea, India Pakistan. So that leaves South America and the Middle East parts of asia. I guess (and it’s off the top of my head) the value of achieving conventional military supremacy maybe an over kill (no pun) against moderate military powers and not so advantageous against nuclear powers. But at the end I’m not a renowned military strategist, i just observe that German and japan’s influence on the world stage is not backed by a massive conventional military supremacy


The global currency thing is much more down to having the largest economy. The weapons don't matter much for that. I mean Russia has some cool weapons and how many people use rubles globally? The weapons may be worth it for keeping the world kind of peaceful though.


America MUST fight more wars in order to keep the US dollar primacy in world markets.

If it doesn't, and if people switch to another currency (see for example the attempt by Iraq and Libya to create the African Dinar to replace US $), the USA will rapidly become a third-world country.

It is currently over-valued as a nation primarily because of the threat of force it uses to keep its currency in peoples hands.


Nah global currency is easy of use, trust and rule of law.


This. Military spending may just be 'free money' in some world outlook scenarios.


> huge part of why the dollar is THE global currency.

That is highly questionable.

The doller was half way to be the dominant currency before WW2.

> The dollars for military budget and the dollars raised by a school fundraiser are not even the same currency.

They are actually.

> And we can print dollars, hell we just printed 5 trillion in a couple weeks.

That's true in a narrow sense. When monetary demand changes you increase supply, with that money however you can not simply finance arbitrary expenditure. If monetary demand decreases, the central bank will pull that money back out.


Why do you think Saudi Arabia even listens to us when we tell them not to drown us in oil?


Saudi Arabia and OPEC have their own reasons to limit oil production. Pretty good ones actually.

And the Saudis were fine with doing so when it was against US interest in the 1970s.


Yet heavens forbid if we spent a little more trying to fix healthcare. This all is thanks to mentality of fear which has deep roots in American consciousness. At the nation level - what if somebody attacks us to at the family level there all kinds of crazies here let’s not let our children play outdoors in the neighborhood without supervision- it’s a fear based society.


Is my understanding that we already spend more in healthcare than military. What would you like to fix specifically?


The US spends substantially more on health administration than other nations. Removing that administrative burden (ie the private health insurance organizations as arbiters of health care delivery) would substantially lower the cost.

As a percentage of the GDP, the health industry is a larger proportion than military production, but as a percentage of the US Federal budget, the military consumes roughly half.


Covid response was of course badly botched in the US, but look at Germany for comparison to its single-payer neighbors. A decentralised, competitive healthcare industry is worth a lot if push comes to shove.

That said, I agree that the american healthcare market is predatory and has way too high margins. But they are only part of the "problem". Doctors make a lot more money in the US than almost anywhere else, and pharmaceutical companies often get more than half their global revenue from the US market alone.


I suspect you're only counting discretionary spending, when you should be counting all federal government spending, as important programs like Medicare are non-discretionary. Overall, the military is less than 20 percent of federal spending in the US.


The U.S. government spends more on healthcare than the UK government does [1], even though the latter insures all citizens and the former doesn't. The cost of universal healthcare isn't really the issue. The U.S. is spending much more and getting much less.

You see the same thing with the U.S. military. The U.S. spends far more than any other nation on the military, yet look at what happened when Yemen fell apart - the Chinese military evacuated Chinese citizens, the Indian military evacuated Indian citizens, the Pakistani military evacuated Pakistani citizens, and the U.S. government told U.S. citizens that they were on their own[2].

[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-42950587 [2] https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/04/21/washington-to-americans...


If you think about it, then it’s clear that in free society healthcare will capture all excess money. Essentially you can spend unlimited money on life extension, and people are genetically pre-disposed to fear death. There are some nuances, but essentially healthcare is only going to grow and will continue to be and become overly-dominant sector of US economy. Ironically, if it’s de-regulated, it will capture excess money more effeciently.


And this children is why you should go bankrupt if you get appendicitis...

Every other developed country on Earth gets more down while spending half as much per person. Your system is just corrupt garbage.


To your first point: it’s not true in US healthcare.

To your second point: US has very low interest rates, money are cheap, nobody wants to work, thus services are expensive.

To your third point: system is not corrupt, but over-regulated garbage.

To your general sentiment: my point is not related to the actual cost of services.


Your point is being made as though it's relevant to a healthcare system that exists today anywhere on the planet. It isn't.

It especially isn't related to the US healthcare system, which again, costs the US government - not the US consumer who pays astronomically more then any other developed nation - about twice as much per capita as other developed nations, while providing less services to the public.

Whether or not healthcare might consume all the remaining spending is irrelevant when your system manages to be twice as expensive per capita while excluding tens of millions of people from any coverage at all.

An emergency appendectomy - life saving surgery - costs $15,000[1] unless you manage to find a surgeon who's in your healthcare network, available right then, and you also don't get unlucky enough that anyone in that operating theatre while you're unconscious is also in your healthcare network.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-health-care-indu...

Your system is corrupt garbage.


Self-deception. "We live in THE greatest country, ergo what you say can't be true. Also I have ideological stances I'm not willing to consider. QED." - A summery of most conversations I have with about 40% of the US population on healthcare.


This and similar mission are not NASA missions but USSF's missions (United States Space Force), and USFF is part of the United States Armed Forces, different budget:

Sources:

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_X-37#Operational_histor...

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Space_Force


I'll never get used to that "Starfleet" logo. I don't suppose Viacom/CBS would be able to sue the Dept. of Defense for copyright violation?


If they could, they would have done it 40 years ago.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Force_Space_Command


Schools hold bake sales to buy supplies

https://www.epi.org/publication/books_wheremoneygone/: "With appropriate inflation adjustment, it appears that total real education spending per pupil increased by 61% from 1967 to 1991." And that's from 1995. Real expenditures have grown enormously in the last four decades, and the results are to be left as an exercise to the reader.


Spending since then has only increased ~20%, though. [1] That is not adjusted for inflation, which since 1996 was an impressive 67.58%.

[1] https://www.usgovernmentspending.com/education_spending


AS a portion of GDP, US K-12 education spending

  2000: 3.7%
  2005: 3.8%
  2009: 4.0%
  2012: 3.6%
  2015: 3.5%

https://data.oecd.org/eduresource/education-spending.htm

France and UK spend more in the G7, Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan spend less.

US defense spending

  2000: 3.0%
  2005: 3.9%
  2009: 4.6%
  2012: 4.2%
  2015: 3.3%
https://data.oecd.org/gga/general-government-spending.htm

I was surprised to be honest. US spending on defense is way down on most of the 70s and 80s (6%ish, lowest was 78 with 4.9%)


>Schools hold bake sales to buy supplies.

Did you have a chance to compare US schools to other countries’ schools? By any other standard US schools are lavish. The only reason schools have bake sales to raise funds because of bureaucracy and because parents will pony up anyway.


I cannot help myself thinking, although probably is not comparable: USD 1 trillion for new fighter vs. USD 10 billion for the entire Startlink constellation

:/


>> it might be cheaper in the long run than more satellites.

Wrong comparison. It is cheaper than the previous military spaceplane: Shuttle.


Enlighten a simpleton here please, why do "we" need to leave the planet. I am far from a space nerd but I do know that neither mars or any solar object other than other is known to contain climate that is better or would even come close to earth's climate even with no polar ice caps and extreme global warming.

Wouldn't it be cheaper (more humane as well) to "colonize" earth? For the next 100 years,even with full on warming , coastal areas and certain eco systems will be lost but you will still no matter have most parts of the big continents in tact. The land there exists now can support humanity even with 10x the population (if made arable). I mean things like beef and single story housing would certainly be rare.

How about building new cities by the rockies and great planes and build things like the hypertube (whatever it:s called) to make emmigration easier. Have friendly eco-immigration policies to avert a humanitarian and geopolitical crisis. Heck, even "colonize" the sahara,antarctica or ocean beds! Half your problem is solved on earth once you desalinate ,irrigate and build viable transport.


Your ideas for the Earth would play out in a catastrophic manner in practice. Every bit of it requires violation of a basic economic principle - we build out based on the lowest marginal cost. Before we go to the Rockies, we will saturate more fertile and coastal areas. Easier to use what nature provides than to supply those things artificially. Humans will eventually switch over to artificial options, but only after collapse of the parallel natural system is in terminal collapse. Examples start with fishing, and then never end.

In these macroeconomic terms, there is 1 viable way to save life from destruction - open up new frontiers that have characteristics which are MORE attractive to humans than counterparts on Earth.

In practice, that means the moon. The moon is smaller than Earth, but the accessible area is possibly greater because of lack of oceans and lack of existing use. It doesn't end there. Lower pressure and temperature gradients mean that you can dig MUCH deeper. With similar original compositions, industrial mineral availability (in terms of raw elements) from the moon vastly outstrips the Earth. Some asteroids can be cherry picked, but depth of the resource is more shallow.

Much high-tech lithography requires vacuum, which is produced artificially on Earth. Space gives you that for free. We don't even really know what's possible industrially with diffusion and surface tension effects, because gravity cannot be eliminated on Earth for factory-type work, at all. Combined with the mineral abundance, you have what you need for a self-sustaining super advanced and practically limitless robotic industrial society. That is the draw. Other things that fleshy humans need are a cost, which the other benefits have to offset.

Materials from the moon can be delivered to low-Earth orbit at extremely low physical effort compared to delivery from Earth's surface. Rockets are improving such that human trips to space stations from Earth could be economical, but a cislunar robotic presence must be able to sustain activities beyond there.

This is the only option for saving the planet, and we are lucky that the richest person on the planet shares the view that Earth should be light industrial and residential... but ultimately, narrowly specialized in environmental tourism. All we have to do is move the primary economic engine into orbit.


> lowest marginal cost

> moon

The energy economics alone doesn't work out. We might be able to make a robot economy in space, but we can't have a significant human economy in space.


It's a long term investment in the future of the species. Much more space in the near-earth region than we will ever have on the planet itself. It also is a technology driver. Microchips, image sensors, advanced synthetic fabrics and super-alloys are all products of the space program in one way or another.


I just want an off-site backup for humanity. Sure, it's high latency and the restoration process takes forever - but it's something!


In a very long-term perspective, this is pretty much it. Off-site backup -- we don't have any redundancy when it comes to our own environment.

There are also a bunch of other benefits but they pale in comparison to this one.


The way I see it, it's not about you and me, but humanity. Humanity needs to step forth from Earth, to avoid future destruction. Until humanity is space-faring and multi-planetary, it is vulnerable to total erasure.


1. Adventure, exploration. 2. The earth will be destroyed by the changing Sun in a few 100 million years. :) 3. Better to not have 10x the human population here. Leave big open spaces for the other animals and national parks. I'm sure there are other reasons too...


I mean I wasn't saying why you would want to. I was questioning why "we need to"


The main goal of any species is to survive/reproduce.

We don't know if there's any other intelligent life in the universe, or how common it is. The one thing we do know is that we haven't found any.

There could be many reasons for this, and one of those is the Fermi Paradox (great filter).

Whether this is a real thing or not we don't know, but by establishing sustainable settlements in space, we hedge against the idea of us dying out via ourselves, asteroids, etc.


If there are space aliens hanging around, they likely wouldn't contact us

Just seeing them would give us a huge technological leg up. Right now we don't know that interstellar travel is readily feasible, but if we did know that then it would suddenly make sense to spend 100 times as much on space tech

Considering what a bunch of jerks we are to each other, I don't think aliens would want us roaming around freely


Yeah, there's really no reason for them too. If they are able to do interstellar travel, resource harvesting (from asteroids, comets, moons, planets, and suns) is relatively simple.

The thing is, I don't think it'd matter technologically. I don't think a kardashev 1 civilization could ever catch up to a kardashev 2 civilization.

Maybe once they've reached a "technological plateau" it becomes mutually assured destruction? But instead of nukes, it's targeted gamma-ray bursts? Who knows...


As they say, "There is no Planet B".


Why did Humans need to move out of Africa?


Mostly because it’s not a zero sum game.

Yes it’s more achievable to build a pod on the antarctic (we’ve done that) or the ocean floor, but we should also see what we can do outside of our bubble.

I personally think Venus cloud stations are a better target, but why not try them all?

We learn great things and enable wonderful tech like the internet and GPS when we do huge projects like this, so why not?


Why not? Because trillions and trillions of dollars. Even $2T is barely enough to feed america for a few months and it is barely afforded.

My point also ws that it's not zero-sum. As in, "we" don't need to colonize mars,but I see no problem in doing so as long as it isn't done by sacrificing people's lives on earth.


But there's also a difference between $2T dollars invested over a long time horizon, dripping out of the collective budget of (hopefully) more than one country and spending it in one chunk across the whole of society.

Again, a lot of it is forward planning - extra resources, hedging against future threats etc. I'd rather they start active planning in case we have to, rather than waiting until it's almost too late (like we have with some issues on Earth as it stands).

Balancing investment at the expense of present day spending is a standard knife-edge for governments around the world. It's a sucky balance to have to strike though.


Robert Zubrin has what I consider a great, comprehensive answer to why we should go to Mars. But ultimately it generally applies to all space exploration.

https://youtu.be/j2Mu8qfVb5I


Because there's no money in that. If the space colonization works out, private companies can charge a lot of money for each passenger and that's what's really driving the "need" to leave the planet, so rich people can continue making money.


Not sure, but I would imagine it's less than you'd think.

The spaceplane was originally a NASA project that DoD picked up after most development was done, and it launches from commercial rockets (eg they've used SpaceX rockets to launch these before).

I would assume that the payload (experimental sensors and components, most likely) are more expensive than the amortized-per-mission cost of the vehicle.


Well, the budget of NASA is $22.6B/year for all projects combined. And as others have said, this is a small unmanned reusable vehicle, with a few flights under it's belt, after all of the reusable R&D was done for the Space Shuttle.

If I were to lick my finger and lift it into the wind, I'd estimate this flight cost between $0.5B and $1.5B, and most of that would be the gear that they are testing, given that the spacecraft itself is fully reusable.


this is part of the Air Force budget (~$165.6 billion)


The budget is classified. One can assume $texas levels of money.


It kind of reminds me of another bit about the size of the US military budget (What's the largest Air Force in the world? The US Air Force. What's the second largest Air Force in the world? The US Navy)[1]. In terms of budget, the United States probably has at least the top 2 biggest space programs in the world and depending on what parts of the military/intelligence budgets you lump together, #1 is probably not going to be NASA.

[1] I believe that this is actually true if you combine the Navy and Marine Corps and don't count helicopters


ironically, the post below this about unemployment fraud with "potential losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a new alert issued by the U.S. Secret Service."

is full of people who don't really understand the scale you're working with with federal money


Unemployment fraud hurts the state budget where money matters.


The press around the X-37B continues to perplex, it's particularly disappointing to see this "super secret but let's talk about it constantly" article using the word "very" 3 times.

I think it was drilled into me by the age of 12 to avoid "very" in written English in order not to obviously oversell, and yet here it is from a professional writer working for the BBC


In general the BBC prioritises simple writing, a reasonably low reading level, and common words to make it as accessible as possible. They don't pay much attention to ideas of artistic writing and they aren't looking to use a different adverb or adjective every time for the whimsical sake of it. It's a public news service, not a mid-atlantic magazine.


The best news choice I made, as an American, was to get my primary news through foreign outlets.

Because generally, they don't really care enough to implement systemic bias about another country.


That's quite a broad brush to paint with. There's plenty of bias in media around the world, and more than a few examples are even more systematic than what we see in the US.


Bias is unavoidable but if you read a variety of reputable news sources from around the world you will at least know when they disagree.

Then, if you care enough you can investigate the issue yourself and come to your own conclusions. In not, then at least you know that it's controversial.


Systemic bias, aka a cultural view? You don't quite get fox news levels of opinion on your news feed, but every outlet has it's roots in a particular worldview.


If you wanted simple writing you would omit "very," not replace it.


Newspapers tend to write for a very low reading level. Flourish is nice for readers of a long novel (for whom the words are as important as the story itself), but the goal here is for as many people to understand the content as possible. That includes people that don't natively speak English, children, etc.


> Newspapers tend to write for a very low reading level.

I see what you did there.


I didn't do that on purpose. I have no doubt that the author of the comment I replied to is capable of reading things at a higher level than this article.


I always assumed there's a chosen public facing secret plane with some PR management to represent the secret program in general and there's numerous other behind the scenes secret crafts without the PR.

I also assumed many of the silly rumors of antigravity or whatever planes are intentionally manufactured as part of the PR so if some information of an actual plane leaks it'll be buried with the noise.

This way, the formal channels could say "oh nonsense, that's just silly rumours, The Official Secret Plane is this one over here".

It also puts outsiders at a true zero knowledge position since there's no indication as to what is and is not nonsense.

Then you could have say, a top scientist defecting, taking all the secret plane information with them, write detailed books and lectures exposing all of it and people would just be like "oh, look at that silly conspiracy kook over there! how goofy"

Pretend it's already happened and there's scientifically sound diagrams, correct math, etc... Nobody would be able to find it among the garbage.

At least that's how I'd structure it.


This is how disinformation could work. Also, disinformation existing does not prove that UFOs/antigravity craft are just silly rumours.


Well search Google for "military secret plane" and you'll see this strategy exactly as described.

You'll get X-37 for half a page and then a bunch of click baity speculation


Wrong. Actually I got this:

https://imgur.com/a/BLWsNYd

I guess you're partly right tho. Less on the X37-B, but there are a few "Area 51" and "Tonopah" articles. Certainly active disinfo and infiltration of the UFO/Truther/free energy movement was a thing. Used exactly as you describe, to drive people off the scent of actual tech, and discredit them.

For your viewing pleasure I've included a few links to UFO videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=14&v=0CYFEZFNl6E...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnUpJw5sahg&milpo=town9

https://youtu.be/JAEi9rltoqU?t=11

https://www.youtube.com/user/myparanormalufostory/videos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKC_Iaw9EN4&feature=youtu.be...

https://www.youtube.com/user/MrAntonioUrzi/videos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9UbGpJQ054 [particularly interesting Cali find. looks like a jet but makes NO sound and no woosh/boom and no shock diamonds]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFN7KofHpcY&t=1s [the Beaver Utah video]

But I guess you could be right. Considering if this is a military disinfo op. How hard would it be to fake these videos? Probably very easy.

It gets difficult tho when you have real people (like Antonio Urzi, and Slattery, and Sam Chortek and Jimmy Chappie) coming forward with video and saying we saw this and filmed it. The reason is, because if those guys are part of a counterintelligence campaign, they've just publicly revealed themselves, so it should be easy for a group to put some surveillance on them and work out are they really disinfo agents, who are they meeting and communicating with, etc.

I agree that anon videos could be faked, but I'm not sure how I'd run a disinfo campaign that includes public figures, some of whom keep producing videos, and do so in front of large groups of people. Any ideas?

BTW, I love MacArthur Park. Beautiful area of LA.


> the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost, if you keep it a secret!

Dr. Strangelove


Wife and I stopped in at Edwards AFB perhaps around 2000? Maybe 1998 or so.... Have to dig up the photos to be sure.

The armed guard let us on the base so we could head to Dryden Flight Research Center (now the Armstrong Flight Research Center). In those days I figured you just tried to do a thing until someone said you couldn't. It didn't occur to me that there would be a problem driving in to Dryden.

The guard asked a lot of questions, but, pre 9-11, we had no problem getting in.

Dryden has a small museum, a few hangars. One hangars has the original M2-F1 lifting body.

I distinctly remember this space plane (or it's predecessor?) being towed down a small road near Dryden. I guessed it was some sort of X-plane. We were on a sort of mini-tour at that point, being shown around, and I believe there was an attempt by the tour-guide to distract us from that plane.



Yes, you may be correct.


Interesting that they'd allow you to make photographs while they were towing classified hardware around.


More on the "power-beaming technology", https://www.livescience.com/microwave-beam-military-space-pl...

> ... test the idea of using microwave beams to send solar power to Earth from space ... Build a big solar array in orbit, the idea goes, and it could collect enough sunlight (unfiltered by atmospheric effects or clouds,) to generate a powerful beam of microwaves. A collection station on Earth would then convert that beam into useful power ... down the road he said he hopes it will lead to a futuristic clean power source that could benefit everyone — and give the U.S. a new near-monopoly over a global energy supply.


That brings back some nostalgia. I remember playing one of the early Sim City games and that was one of the types of power plants you could set up. It had a small chance to malfunction, causing the beam to miss the collection station and set everything in the surrounding area on fire.


The Navy has also demonstrated laser based transmission of energy recently: https://www.nrl.navy.mil/news/releases/researchers-transmit-...

They are talking about beaming power to drones, but thinking a bit larger, I wonder if it be feasible to have a high power laser transmit energy to a satellite and then have a cluster ala Starlink act as an relay to direct the power potentially anywhere on earth. Maybe you could power airplanes from space? Sounds like Sci-Fi, but apparently all the components and technologies exist, and people must have been working on it for a while, when they just letting the public in on it.


Didnt' China try to do this a few years back but was shutdown for some reason? Also, this would double as a great military weapon so I am sure that is being assessed as well.


Wouldn't a tech like this be more likely to be used as an ABM tech than something for power transmission?

Maybe Ronald Regan's Star Wars program is finally getting implemented.


This is the least secretive X-37 mission yet. We know a fair amount about the payloads onboard.


Or, this information can be thrown in intentionally to divert attention from the real mission. Make it plain and boring so that people quickly lose interest and switch to next topic in the newsfeed.


Here are some additional clues on the mission: https://thehill.com/opinion/technology/498210-how-the-latest...


"One of the experiments will test the effect of radiation on seeds and other materials."

Are seeds the baseline in testing biological effects in space? Asking as I would of thought that testing seeds in space had been one of the most tested avenues and with that, a known consistent form of biological matter that can be compared with.

Certainly if you wanted to test a space shield, you could test with something that can contain a few seeds and see how the results compare. Though as one of the tests is for energy transmission, then seeing if such equipment increases biological impact in proximity is worth knowing for future plans. Seeds certainly robust enough and can crudly test them by growing them as well, so I can see many reasons for them on many missions.


I find it amusing that I now consider it so wasteful to throw away all that rocket gear just to launch a payload :-).

I also wonder if they still have the "crew return" insert for the ship. Early in its life it was envisioned as a way to bring the full crew of the ISS to earth.


A mew Kzinti lesson? "a power beam's efficiency as a weapon is in direct proportion to its efficiency as a power beam."


Did this mission not transfer to the new Space Force? If not, what kind of things are they doing?


It did transfer to the Space Force. The mission number is USSF-7, not USAF-7.

https://www.ulalaunch.com/about/news/2020/05/17/united-launc...


The Space Force is now responsible for all DOD launches. However I believe that the payload itself still belongs to the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. Most of the people operating it may be "on loan" to the Space Force, but aren't actually members yet (I think there's only ~100 people so far in the Space Force)


> I think there's only ~100 people so far in the Space Force

It has to be more than that, now - I'm pretty sure more than a hundred just went straight there after graduating from USAFA a few weeks back


According to the Wiki article, there's 88 people in the Space Force and 86 of them are 2nd lieutenants


Well that's an interesting rank structure. (I'm sure it'll change soon though)


Yeah, I'd hate to be the one enlisted guy (he actually did an AMA on reddit a few days ago)


It is transferred to the space force - the launch name is USSF-7 (https://www.ulalaunch.com/missions/atlas-v-ussf-7). The Space Force operates out of the Department of the Air Force (like how the Marine Corp operates out of the Department of the Navy), so it's it's civilian head is still the Secretary of the Air Force - it's military head is the Chief of Space Operations.


Given the frequency and consistency of narrative with which it appears in the press, at this stage I'm convinced it's an empty UAV used entirely for some marketing purpose


Most likely is for component testing - would explain the secrecy, the low flight rate, and the long (2 years or so) mission duration.

EDIT: And, in fact, the one publicly-released payload I'm finding was a test of a new heat pipe.


It's spending months in space, I don't think it's for marketing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j56s46e97Lo

Based on what this talk indicates, the US Government is doing some questionable(...) things in terms of signals intelligence in space.

We probably won't know what X37-B is doing in space for years but I imagine they will have at least tried to do some big brother exercises. The US/Western Intelligence community effectively treats all communications as fair game - they always have (e.g. MI5 were capturing encryption keys from neutral embassies using microphones in the ~50/60s) they just possess the means to do it efficiently at large scale now.

I imagine a large part of its mission is also just testing military equipment that can't go on the ISS but that's not as sexy.


They're doing some questionable sigint things I'm sure, but you don't need reentry and reusability for that. The most likely use-case is for testing components to use in conventional satellites.


Years in space, not months.


It's a resupply mission for Hugo Drax and Drax Industries. /s

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Drax


That they send it up for years at a stretch mostly indicates that they have not discovered any good uses for it yet. If it were in demand, they would need it back before two years have passed.

Keeping it parked in a hangar when it's not needed would get embarrassing. Leaving it in orbit makes it seem to be doing something, particularly if you pretend it's all hush-hush.


Is it possible to use the same "power-beaming technology" as a directed-energy weapon ?


"power-beaming technology"


Sarcasm?

Even uBeam does work, it's just not very efficient


I have no doubts beamed-power is possible, I just assume it's effectively an energy weapon and the real magic is at the receiving end harnessing the power without getting destroyed.

But if you aim it somewhere other than the receiver, it's a weapon, no?


I'm not convinced. I forgot the exact numbers but when I was trying to look at studies 5G alarmists cite* with an open mind some Energy Densities in question (being applied to animal subjects) were stronger than standing in front of one of those enormous ballistic missile tracking phased arrays (Which given the subject of this thread are also used for tracking satellites)

* My absolute favourite one was "Sleeping next to a mobile phone is correlated with lack of sleep" hmmm I wonder why


> I'm not convinced. I forgot the exact numbers but when I was trying to look at studies 5G alarmists cite* with an open mind some Energy Densities in question (being applied to animal subjects) were stronger than standing in front of one of those enormous ballistic missile tracking phased arrays (Which given the subject of this thread are also used for tracking satellites)

Thank you for implicitly putting me in the company of 5G alarmists.

We're not talking about 5G here.


It's an extremely inefficient weapon, is my point. Sending energy from orbit to earth sufficiently strong to kill someone would need something like thousands of gigawatts as a point source I think


> Sending energy from orbit to earth sufficiently strong to kill someone would need something like thousands of gigawatts as a point source I think

It doesn't need to kill people to have utility as a weapon.

Just look at how the unexplained alleged "sonic attacks" on the US embassy in Cuba played out.

I also presume there's potential for damaging sensitive electronics.

I'm not in objection of any of this, it's a military mission in nature. It just seems obvious to me that anything capable of beaming useful amounts of energy from space to power drones or anything portable on earth also has potential for direct use as a weapon. The energy density must be relatively high for things having such limited area to collect it.


A sufficiently large antenna would reduce the power requirements significantly.


I think the expectation is that a deployed system will be used to keep drones airborne longer.


Kind of a useless thing to say, no?


it doesn't have to be efficient, it just has to keep drones aloft indefinitely


uBeam works only as the longest-running scam in the Sillicon Valley.

But workable options are in fact possible when you switch from ultrasounds to beaming EM radiation.


all the money on military, and not in investing in healthcare, improve public health responses, increasing financial reward for the front line workers that are sacrificing themselves for the greater society. In my opinion, this is sad. I would rather have this money being written as a check to every nurses and doctors served in COVID19.


I dont disagree that we spend too much on defense but the idea that we should stop all spending on science to help out some nurses is super strange.

Its akin to saying we should stop funding nasa be ause who needs space travel.

Also please stop glorifying a set profession as some kind of ulturistic calling. Theyre in it for the money and prestige, and frankly, wouldnt be there otherwise.

If you want to thank someone, thank the delivery guy, the supermarket clerks, the flight attendants, or the casual staff out of the job right now.

These people are feeling the brunt of this. These people are the front line.


Many of my in-laws are medical professionals: GPs, surgeons, physicians, anaesthetists, nurses, the list goes on.

Not a single one of them has done it for financial gain or prestige, and for the most part the driving force really does seem to be a genuine desire to help people. (I’m based in the UK, going into medicine for money or prestige would be a fool’s errand.)

Please don’t make assumptions about things with which you are clearly unfamiliar, and if you must do so please do not assert them as facts.


The "science" of Hegemony and Control and Power?


If you want a more fair system for everyone, in fact you need to remove about $1.5 trillion (~42%; equivalent to two copies of the US military) from annual US healthcare spending. That just gets you down to matching what most Western European nations are spending per capita.

$3.6 trillion goes into US healthcare, providing healthcare workers - including doctors and nurses - with among the highest salaries and benefits vs their peers globally. You have to go to Switzerland to find comparable industry pay.

That is five times more than what is spent on the military. You can't slash enough spending out of the military to make a dent in that gigantic expense problem.

It's not the healthcare workers suffering in the US system, it's the patients that are suffering from paying the wildly inflated salaries in the field.

If you want a more fair system, you'll need to start by reducing incomes in the industry to levels you see in Britain, France or Germany. That means slashing doctor and nurse pay across the board. You have to shift the system toward the benefit of patients and away from the workers in healthcare. You'll also need to smash the US education system for healthcare simultaneously and remove the guild protection racket that makes becoming a doctor so expensive (you can't normalize US healthcare pay without normalizing the education costs).

You have to get spending down to near $2 trillion to create a system comparable to what you see in Western Europe, so you need to slash $1.5 trillion in spending. That means you need to fire massive numbers of doctors and nurses, squeeze resources (ration service as in all universal systems), and slash pay for every single worker in the industry.

A hazard bonus as part of one of the stimulus programs for front-line workers? Sure why not. None of it is going to be paid back anyway, it's all going to be perpetually monetized by the Fed. They deserve it in my opinion. That's very different from discussing the cost problem in military vs healthcare however. We need to remove maybe $150-$200 billion from the military to get down to a more reasonable spending level for what the US should be doing. You don't fix the biggest problem in healthcare - the extreme spending per capita - by adding more spending.


>you need to remove about $1.5 trillion (~42%; equivalent to two copies of the US military) from annual US healthcare spending

You're conflating 'spending' with Value, Efficacy, Cost, Profit and Greed.

Its a far more complex subject when it comes to all 'spending' within the Government budget than just Cash Burn Rate/Volume.


https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Sta... "U.S. health care spending grew 4.6 percent in 2018, reaching $3.6 trillion or $11,172 per person. As a share of the nation's Gross Domestic Product, health spending accounted for 17.7 percent." The report itself finds Medicare spending is 21% of healthcare spending and Medicaid 16%, or about 1.3 trillion (with a "t") between them.


I genuinely believe that if Americans knew what the rest of the Developed world gets for it's tax dollars vs. what Americans have to put up with for their tax dollars, they would riot in the streets.

There's a very good reason the major news outlets in America never directly compare America to other Developed countries, and only ever compare it to undeveloped or "evil" countries (China, Sudan, Iran, Russia).


You're comparing it to nations that have little to no healthcare systems at all, the US has one of the largest healthcare systems with the main issue being the salaries of said doctors causing the imbalance of healthcare costs versus actual results. Our healthcare is among the best but at a cost. The compared countries are among the worst, and China is arguable a developed nation masquerading as a developing country. Our taxes for military also result in a lot of people having great knowledge for civilian jobs once out of the military if they plan correctly.


> Our healthcare is among the best but at a cost

You might want to check the numbers on that.

The US is at or very near the worst among OECD countries in: infant mortality, life expectancy at birth, healthy life expectancy, rate of obesity, disability-adjusted life years, doctors per 1000 people, deaths from treatable conditions, rate of mental health disorders, rate of drug abuse & rate of prescription drug use

https://data.oecd.org/


I thought this would be about the declassified UFO


Isn't X-37B the name of Elon's other child?


> Mysterious US military aircraft launches

> Mysterious US military aircraft

Journalists need to stop using adjectives like "mysterious" when writing about the X-37B. While the aircraft's technology and missions are classified, there is nothing mysterious about the existence of the plane itself.


> Journalists need to stop using adjectives like "mysterious" when writing about the X-37B.

Considering there isn't even a journalist attributed on the article, I'm not sure we should be presuming any were even involved in its publication.


BBC doesn't put bylines on articles that are merely reporting general information cobbled together from press releases and public activity.

https://www.bbc.com/news/help-41670342

That does leave a hole when articles include opinion content mixed in with general facts.


Even as far as classified launches go, it's pretty mysterious.

Like one of the other more recent launches was Intruder 8, a pair of satellites used by Naval signals intelligence to detect ships using time of arrival from radio transmissions.

Compared to that, what's the new mission of the X-37B? I'd say it's pretty mysterious.


Good thing this was built years ago, probably won’t glitch out like Boeing’s other products.


More so that Boeing is lucky it's classified or else all the blunders would be public.


One day after https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/12617475806665523... can’t be a coincidence right


If Bill Pullman ran for President I'd vote for him in a heartbeat.

Hell, I'm tempted to write him in this time around.


> Hell, I'm tempted to write him in this time around.

Another Trump vote, then?


Probably is a coincidence - these launches are planned and contracted far in advance, and Trump didn't seem to care last time one was launched during his administration.


Maybe this is a super duper space plane?


Someone hacked my computer - it looks like the president of the United States of America is posting some kind of ironic meme video about himself on Twitter.


Not the first time he did this (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/12251747139929907...). It's ... awkward to watch this as an European.


I wrote a half satire thing about how the Trump became on office, ostensibly voted to by congress, but somehow they always vote a Trump descendant into office. For life.


Someone hacked reality


What in the name of all that's holy did I just watch?


Something the President of the United States of America retweeted.


Somebody should make deep fakes of him saying offensive stuff that he'll think is tweet worthy nonetheless.




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