Can Russia rival the X-37B space plane with its own robotic spacecraft?
The head of Russia's Space Forces hinted that Russia may develop a space plane similar to the US Air Force's secretive unmanned X-37B, which was sucessfully flight-tested last year.
US Air Force/AP/File
Russia's reviving space industry might be working on its own version of the US Air Force's reusable unmanned space plane. After all, Russian space experts seemed surprised, a little alarmed, and possibly in awe of the American X-37B when it was successfully flight-tested from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on April 22.
"Something has been done along these lines, but as to whether we will use it, only time will tell," General Ostapenko was quoted by the official RIA-Novosti agency as saying.
The American X-37B, which spent seven months in orbit doing secret research before returning last December, is a remotely controlled, scaled-down space shuttle-like craft that appears to be dedicated mainly to military tasks.
Most Russian media coverage about the mini-shuttle was dominated by fear. Would the US use the enhanced orbital capabilities the space plane makes possible to undercut Russia's national security? Would the X-37B threaten Russian satellites or even install space-based antimissile weapons?