Remember the US military’s shadowy, unmanned X-37B? Well Russia won’t just sit there and let us be the only ones flying shadowy robot planes into space – they’re building their own, and it’s even more shadowy.
Just how mysterious is this mystery spacecraft? So mysterious that there isn’t a single image of it, and it has no name. But it’s intended to mimic the functionality of the X-37B – small, light, easy to put into orbit, and able to carry a truck’s worth of gear (whether it be peaceful gear or otherwise). Russia’s military space chief, Oleg Ostapenko, has said only this of the project, in reference to the X-37B’s success: “Something has been done along these lines, but as to whether we will use it, only time will tell.” Now that is Goddamn shadowy! He won’t even say if they’ll use it! Very coy, Oleg.
Unmanned spacecraft will only be of greater importance in a post-Space Shuttle world, so we’ll watch Russia’s stab at it with great interest. The news will, of course, drum up all sorts of space panic about the prospect of Russia beating us in some way – sentiments that should have been put to rest with the last Space Race. Which would be a shame, with Russian/American relations at unprecedented highs. And if Russia’s being secretive about their version, it’s only because we’re being just as mum—nobody knows what the US military plans on sticking in their robo-plane either. [Flightglobal via Danger Room]