US Space Weapon Now Circling the Globe

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The US space weapon X-37 is now circling the globe in relative secrecy. It is an unmanned space plane that looks like a smaller version of the Space Shuttle and was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on April 22, 2010. This new weapon poses threats to global peace and risks sparking an arms race in space.

“At one time, [the X-37] was going to replace the Space Shuttle,” said Bruce Gagnon, director of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. The replacement plan was scrapped, however. In 2004 NASA handed over the X-37 to DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and the Phantom Works at Boeing, the major aerospace player racing to develop space weapons and missile defense systems with millions of taxpayer dollars.

The X-37 officially is a US Military Space Place or MSP, and like most US space weapons, spreading anxiety across the globe. The Pentagon also has an unknown number of “dual purpose” space planes in the works; the Pentagon has publicly stated in their budgets these prototypes have been tested in wind tunnels. They might be space bombers, but no one is completely sure. They’re so secret, no one can say what they’ll be used for or how far developed they are.  

A space vehicle that can repair, deploy and even attack satellites, or insert reconnaissance drones back into the atmosphere – all within hours of orders – is also desired. As one NASA official put it, the space plane will “be the key to opening and conquering the space frontier.”

To those trying to keep weapons out of space, such as Gagnon and his Global Network, the orbiting X-37 is a set-back.  “I would say it is one of the first (space weapons) to be deployed, so yes the X-37 is now operating in space and should be defined as a space-based weapon,” says Gagnon. “The Pentagon though will claim it is not permanently stationed in space and thus falls outside the Outer Space Treaty – which is why we are strong advocates for a new comprehensive treaty to ban all weapons in space.”

The fear of an American space bomber, say experts, has one significant and severe backlash: other nations will develop their own space bombers or space weapons to counter any US MSP.          

“There are scores of Chinese articles over the last two years that mention a U.S. space bomber,” said Gregory Kulacki, Chinese specialist for the Union of Concerned Scientists, from his office in Berkeley, California. “The Global Times and even television stations like Phoenix TV out of Hong Kong have a track record of hyping military technology and are unreliable, but the space bomber stories also appear in more reputable sources.”

Early in the Bush administration, and especially after 9/11, the Pentagon was making overtures that it desperately needed the ultimate quick-strike weapon when US forces, aircraft carriers, and even drones, are far from the target. Soon enough, the Pentagon was salivating over the prospects of acquiring a bomber that could take out a target within two hours of getting eyes-on-the-target intelligence. Katz-Hyman says the space bomber’s research is driven by the Pentagon’s desire to carry out this “rapid global strike”. Currently, long-range bomber runs using stealth bombers or B-52s take 12 to 24 hours to execute. Their effectiveness also depends whether certain nations will allow the US in their airspace.         

The X-37 was born from a unique, stand-alone secretive US military program (and as its name states) referred to as the “X” series. Pinpointing how many planes are in the X-series is a challenge many investigative tech-journalists and scientists have been trying to overcome since the beginning of the Cold War.

One X-series brother of the X-37 is the X-43. Just 12-feet long, the X-43 is a scramjet or Supersonic Combustion Ramjet; its engine is designed to take oxygen from the atmosphere instead of from a huge and cumbersome liquid oxygen tank on board, like all rockets must do. In November of 2004 the X-43 broke the world record for a jet-powered aircraft by reaching Mach 9.6, or about 7,000 mph.

One of the X-series most classified descendents is the spy-plane the Aurora, which unlike the X-37, is manned. Conspiracy theorists believe the “black aircraft” – researched under the Pentagon’s black or secret budget – has been tearing through the skies since the 1970s. The Pentagon let it slip the classified Aurora existed when in 1985 the name “Aurora” appeared, accidentally, below a budget request for the SR-71 Blackbird and the U2. 

Experts claim that billions have been spent on the Aurora, an aircraft that theorists stress must be hypersonic (fly between Mach 5 to Mach 20) due to all the secrecy. Speculation says the Aurora‘s speed could be one-mile per second, or just over Mach 5 (3,600 mph roughly), giving an armed Aurora the ability to reach a target potentially within minutes. Theorists say the prime contractor must be Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works (now the Lockheed Advanced Development Company), one of the US military’s most secretive civilian-run research efforts.

As for Aurora witnesses, they are few and far between. In 1989, while working out on the North Sea, engineer Chris Gibson said he saw a strange triangular-shaped craft accompanied by a pair of F-111 bombers. Indeed, a similar craft has been glimpsed several times streaking over the North Pole. Satellite imagery has also captured a single, high-altitude contrail stretching from Area 51 to deep into the Atlantic. 

Like the X-37 and the Aurora, the Obama administration’s future plans for exotic space weapons are cloaked in secrecy. Gagnon says President Obama is perceived as a typical Harry Houdini-like president.

“I call Obama the magician, you have to watch both his hands to understand what he is doing,” he said. “On the one hand he talks nice, says good things at times, but he is proving to be the classic politician who says one thing and does another. Obama is clearly comfortable carrying water for the weapons industry which is probably why the military industrial complex gave him more campaign donations than they gave john McCain. Obama is doing virtually nothing to reverse the militarization, weaponization, and nuclearization of space.” 

John Lasker is a freelance journalist from Ohio. He has a new book out, “TECHNOIR: 13 Investigations from the Darkside of Technology”.

A new space weapons documentary with interviews from Bruce Gagnon can be viewed here 

Photo from US Air Force