Photo: US Air Force
Thursday the BBC reported findings of the well respected British Spaceflight magazine, claiming the X-37B spaceplane was spying on the Chinese spacestation Tiangong-1. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers disagrees.In an article titled Bloopers in Space, James Oberg outlines why the claim is “ridiculous” and offers the following reasons why.
- The X-37B’s orbit is at a steep angle compared to the Chinese station, and when the two vessels pass one another, it’s at 8,000 meters per second. A terribly impractical speed for intelligence gathering.
- Mainly, it’s the RAAN, the spot on the earth’s equator where the vehicles orbits pass into the northern hemisphere. Oberg says the data is easily available on the X-37B and the Tiangong1 and the paths just don’t align — the two orbital planes are 60 degrees apart. Which, apparently, is too much for any kind of spying in space.
- Finally, the X-37B shot into space months before the Chinese spacestation, and to get it into spying position, the U.S. would have needed to know the exact day and time of the Chinese spacestation launch. The timing couldn’t have been off by as little as 30 minutes.
Oberg goes on to highlight how in the face of declining subscriptions the once esteemed Spaceflight magazine sent emails to members claiming it was going to raise “controversial issues” to increase membership.
Looks like this effort may backfire on them.
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