X-37 Moves Forward, Now What? Well, here are a few ideas of taking this craft to a whole new level and plateau in American Ingenuity and Innovation. NASA has learned a lot from the X-37 tests and will now turn it over to DARPA, which makes a lot of sense indeed.
Should we also look at a device mounted on this craft to ionize the air or atmosphere upon entry? If the craft were be launched from a large Blimp, super blimp it could be dropped and once clearing the blimp point skyward and turn on the thrusters and ionizers to rid the craft of any friction, which would occur in the atmosphere. Very little energy would be needed and getting it to an asteroid, the moon or around the planet for re-entry would be extremely efficient. If the X-37 were unmanned it could also serve as a deterrent carrying an explosive payload and be used like a smart munitions all the way to the target ionizing the air along the way through re-entry, in fact there would actually be no re-entry, only an artificial extension of a space tube which it could fly through to it's target as a single mission detonation ICBM. It could be launched from a balloon near over the equator from a Blimp land base in the Hawaiian islands fly half way around the world and drop in un-invited on a declared enemy of peace and freedom, glide effortlessly to it's destination at a very high rate of speed, virtually undetected and accurate to a square foot. Something of that ability would certainly serve the political will of the free world very nicely, wouldn't it? The costs per unit would be quite small once designed and built in large numbers.
The X-37 could also make a nice re-entry vehicle which could ionize the air on it's re-entry by using a high beam of energy and then slowly decreasing the energy for a fast to slow decent using the force of friction of increased molecules of the atmosphere to gradually slow the craft at a pre-designed rate. Less wear and tear on the craft would occur and stability and control could come from parts of the craft not fully in the slip-stream tube of the created extension of space from the ionizing atmosphere device which would be located forward the CG and facing towards the intended direction of flight. Flight control guidance airfoils could extend into an area out side the tube of created space to prevent the craft from spinning within the tube and yawing or losing control. Special landing areas could be also created for such a method of flight so that ionization against the relative wind within the crafts flight path could slow the aircraft to a near stop, thus allow it to hover in artificial space for landing. No need to flair or to worry about a rough landing. The air cushion of non-ionized air would slow it down and the space and waves generated by the ionization would put the craft into a simulated antigravity state for the time it took to land the craft. All this could be done in an automated fashion.
Such a system would allow more payload, eliminate the need for landing gear systems, save space on the craft or commercialized larger versions for space tourism later on. Less weight means more payload, more systems. Such a craft could have on board tele-robotic units to fix the International Space Station or Hubble Telescope, to Mine Asteroids or drill below the surface of the moon for samples. Such a unit could be used to intercept incoming Asteroids on collision course with Earth carrying enough payload for gravity manipulation devices, laser cutters, explosives or attach itself and use it's self propulsion to move the small body off it's current trajectory.
NASA was smart to allow DARPA to have this technology for needs to secure our nation and become part of the missile defense system, strategic surgical strikes against adversaries and defending Mother Earth from catastrophic demise of a large Asteroid direct hit which would certainly cause death and destruction and climatic change which would render the current global warming shift totally insignificant.
If we look at the X-37 as a mini scale of 1/24 the size of a full version ship, you can see the benefits of having such a craft to carry people to the moon in the future for visits, scientific expeditions, visits to Mars, orbiting of Venus, Tourists to the Lunar Surface or sight seeing trip. By adding the benefits of ionization of the atmosphere we reduce the problems of heat friction which caused the last Space Shuttle break up, reduce surface wear and tear and have a truly safe and economical space craft.
"Lance Winslow" - If you have innovative thoughts and unique perspectives, come think with Lance; www.WorldThinkTank.net/wttbbs