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article imageOp-Ed: Secret U.S. space drone orbits Earth thousands of times

By Larry Clifton     Apr 7, 2014 in Politics
Denver - Do you ever get the feeling you're being watched? Truth is, it's probably not just a "feeling." It might even be cold mechanical eyes watching you from a robotic spaceship that can count human hair follicles.
It's not just the tens of millions of cameras lurking in public places around the world or hackers peering through home computers at unsuspecting victims. It's not just drones that can only stay airborne as long as their fuel lasts. There may be Hubblesque telescopes capable of recognizing faces and other bodily features peering down at us from Space.
The top-secret X-37 B robotic space drone built by Boeing and operated by Air Force space flight controllers at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado has orbited the Earth thousands of times during the 483 days since it blasted off atop the nose of an Atlas-5 rocket in December 2012. Yes, the same government that ordered NSA Internet and communications surveillance around the world, the same one that operates the Hubble telescope — is receiving extensive data from OTV-3's top-secret mission.
The original space shuttle operated by NASA was only able to stay in space for 17 days, mainly because of the needs of astronauts. By comparison, the first X-37 B mission, OTV-1, set a record for space shuttles by spending 225 days in space. The following OTV-2 mission more than doubled that record by orbiting the earth for 469 days. The current OTV-3 mission has logged 482 days in space and is still up there — spawning a host of spacey spy rumors.
Some analysts suspect the spacecraft is the equivalent of a small truck launched into space to steal other nation's satellites while others believe the X-37 B was designed to hook up with satellites and disable them. However, the US already has smaller, cheaper space hardware capable of monkeying with satellites.
The X-37 B looks a lot like a Space Shuttle but the spacecraft has no cockpit windows and its payload bay is about the size of a pickup truck bed. No one outside of project management and a handful of G-men know when the mini-shuttle will return to Earth or what information it is sending back.
Built by Boeing's Phantom Works, the X-37B began as a NASA project to build a small, unmanned space plane before NASA handed the project over to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in 2004. After running over budget the reuseable spacecraft program was transferred to the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office that currently manages the X-37B program.
While it is unlikely that the X-37B can gobble satellites like the giant clam-like spacecraft in You Only Live Twice, Brian Weeden, a former Air Force officer with the Space Command’s Joint Space Operations Center whom is currently with the Secure World Foundation, believes that the X-37B is a platform for testing cutting-edge technologies.
While the OTV-3 mission remains top-secret, it might behoove Earth's citizens not to pee in public places or throw litter from their cars before the X-37 B glides back to Earth.
After all, it's way past 1984.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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