After a decade of development, the Air Force this month plans to launch a robotic spacecraft resembling a small space shuttle to conduct technology tests in orbit and then glide home to a California runway.
The ultimate purpose of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle and details about the craft, which has been passed between several government agencies, however, remain a mystery as it is prepared for launch April 19 from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
“As long as you’re confused you’re in good shape,” said defense analyst John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org. “I looked into this a couple of years ago — the entire sort of hypersonic, suborbital, scramjet nest of programs — of which there are upwards of a dozen. The more I studied it the less I understood it.”