Boeing is already on contract to supply a second X-37B orbital test vehicle to the Air Force, and the service anticipates its maiden space mission sometime in 2011, Gary Payton, top space official in the Air Force Secretariat told reporters Tuesday. He said the Air Force would send this second X-37B into orbit only after the first X-37B has returned from its inaugural space flight (slated for today, see Putting Reusability to the Test) and service officials have incorporated the lessons from that mission. Payton said the true value of these reusable space vehicles would be their ability to carry new technologies into space for testing and then bring them back to Earth. They could also be invaluable for the rapid deployment of small-sized satellites, he said. But they must prove to be affordable to operate and maintain to justify their widespread use, he said.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.