Future Space Shuttle?

Larger versions of the Air Force’s experimental X-37B orbital test vehicle could carry astronauts to space and back. “Once qualified for human flight, these vehicles could transport a mix of astronauts and cargo to the [International Space Station] and offer a much gentler return to a runway landing for the space tourism industry,” said Arthur Grantz, Boeing’s chief engineer of experimental space systems, during a recent space conference in California, reported FoxNews.com. The Air Force has two X-37s, which resemble a miniature version of NASA’s now-retired space shuttles, in its fleet today. The second one is currently on orbit conducting classified experiments, following the successful roundtrip space mission of the first last year. Last month, Gen. William Shelton, Air Force Space Command boss, said the X-37s are a “wonderful capability,” but the Air Force might not be able to afford to keep operating them due to tightening budgets and competing priorities.