Heather Wilson, former Secretary of the Air Force, has revealed to an audience last week about the X-37B spaceplane’s incredible maneuvers in space that can make the potential adversary go nuts. There were no more details, but the experts agree that she was talking about the X-37B’s capability of changing its orbit.
It is a move that can throw off not only amateur satellite watchers but also the professional ones and can render X-37B quite unpredictable. Wilson was speaking at the Aspen Security Forum when she commented that X-37B ‘can do an orbit that looks like an egg and when it’s close to the Earth, it’s close enough to the atmosphere to turn where it is. Which means our adversaries don’t know—and that happens on the far side of the Earth from our adversaries—where it’s going to come up next. And we know that that drives them nuts. And I’m really glad about that.’
Experts have ascertained that Wilson was talking about the increased drag that X-37B encounters when it is flying close to the atmosphere. The atmospheric drag along with the stubby wings of the vehicle would enable it to change the orbit thus throwing off space watchers that might have previously detected it, and were hoping, based on their prediction, about where it would arrive at a certain point. The maneuver will have to be carried out while the spacecraft was on the opposite side of the Earth from the potential adversaries’ views.
For example, if Chinese military has pinpointed the location of the X-37B in space and is changing its satellites to take a closer look at it; the US can make the vehicle to change its orbit while it was crossing South America thus the Chinese satellites won’t be able to pick it up when it makes the round and will have to start the operation all over again.