PDA

View Full Version : Blackstar: "black" spaceplane revealed....



Dr Mordrid
12th August 2006, 00:45
http://www.aviationnow.com/avnow/news/channel_awst_story.jsp?id=news/030606p1.xml


Aviation Week

Two-Stage-to-Orbit 'Blackstar' System Shelved at Groom Lake?
By William B. Scott

For 16 years, Aviation Week & Space Technology has investigated myriad sightings of a two-stage-to-orbit system that could place a small military spaceplane in orbit. Considerable evidence supports the existence of such a highly classified system, and top Pentagon officials have hinted that it's "out there," but iron-clad confirmation that meets AW&ST standards has remained elusive. Now facing the possibility that this innovative "Blackstar" system may have been shelved, we elected to share what we've learned about it with our readers, rather than let an intriguing technological breakthrough vanish into "black world" history, known to only a few insiders. U.S. intelligence agencies may have quietly mothballed a highly classified two-stage-to-orbit spaceplane system designed in the 1980s for reconnaissance, satellite-insertion and, possibly, weapons delivery. It could be a victim of shrinking federal budgets strained by war costs, or it may not have met performance or operational goals.

This two-vehicle "Blackstar" carrier/orbiter system may have been declared operational during the 1990s.

A large "mothership," closely resembling the U.S. Air Force's historic XB-70 supersonic bomber, carries the orbital component conformally under its fuselage, accelerating to supersonic speeds at high altitude before dropping the spaceplane. The orbiter's engines fire and boost the vehicle into space. If mission requirements dictate, the spaceplane can either reach low Earth orbit or remain suborbital.

The manned orbiter's primary military advantage would be surprise overflight. There would be no forewarning of its presence, prior to the first orbit, allowing ground targets to be imaged before they could be hidden. In contrast, satellite orbits are predictable enough that activities having intelligence value can be scheduled to avoid overflights.
>

WORK ON THE ORBITER moved at a relatively slow pace until a “fuel breakthrough” was made, workers were told. Then, from 1990 through 1991, “we lived out there. It was a madhouse,” a technician said. The new fuel was believed to be a boron-based gel having the consistency of toothpaste and high-energy characteristics, but occupying less volume than other fuels.

>moreOverview of SR-3 mothership & XOV Spaceplane
http://digitalvideo.8m.net/blackstar/blackstar.jpg

SR-3 Mothership
http://digitalvideo.8m.net/blackstar/launcher1.jpg

XOV Spaceplane
http://digitalvideo.8m.net/blackstar/xov.jpg

Mission Launch
http://digitalvideo.8m.net/blackstar/blackstar2.jpg

Jammrock
12th August 2006, 04:28
There's been rumors of two stage jobs for a long time. I remember one called "Aurora" that is very similar to this one. The mothership was a slightly larger modified SR-71 blackbird. The drop ship was an umanned scramjet that could reported reach MACH 11 or so. I think it even ended up in Jane's, but I can't remember.

Jammrock

DGhost
12th August 2006, 07:16
There's been rumors of two stage jobs for a long time. I remember one called "Aurora" that is very similar to this one. The mothership was a slightly larger modified SR-71 blackbird. The drop ship was an umanned scramjet that could reported reach MACH 11 or so. I think it even ended up in Jane's, but I can't remember.

Jammrock

Project Aurora was supposedly the hybrid scramjet test plane from the 1980's. It's been rumored to be a test platform for just about every new aviation technology under the sun since then. Although, interestingly enough, I heard of the name "Darkstar" in relation to that.

You are probably thinking of the M-21 / D-21 program (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_D-21/M-21) - it was a modified A-12 (SR-71 precursor) that carried a supersonic recon drone powered by a ramjet engine. It never succesfully completed an operational mission, however.

Interesting tidbit off of that...


When Ben Rich, Kelly Johnson's successor at the Skunk Works, visited Russia in the 1990s after the fall of the USSR, a contact gave him a package that contained parts of the D-21 that had disappeared on the first operational flight. It had crashed in Siberia. The Soviets had apparently been puzzled as to what it was, but it appears that they also obtained the wreckage of the D-21 lost on the fourth operational flight. The Tupolev design bureau reverse-engineered the wreck and came up with plans for a Soviet copy, named the "Voron (Raven)", but it was never built.

On a different topic, reading the Wikipedia article on the SR-71 is quite amusing. lots of interesting tidbits of information in there.

Dr Mordrid
12th August 2006, 11:06
Project Aurora was supposedly the hybrid scramjet test plane from the 1980's. It's been rumored to be a test platform for just about every new aviation technology under the sun since then. Although, interestingly enough, I heard of the name "Darkstar" in relation to that.The "Darkstar Mike" and "Darkstar November" callsigns were used and detected by HAM radio operators in the early '90's and presumed to be referring to Aurora. Later the callsign was "Gaspipe", presumably in reference to a scramjet or pulse wave detonation powered aircraft. Supposedly this was during what some think were "Aurora" flights.

In terms of real aircraft this is the Lockheed Martin/Boeing RQ-3A Darkstar. It's a fully autonymous stealth recon UAV. By fully autonymous I mean that once programmed it could take off, fly to the target area, operate its sensors, transmit its data, return to base and land by itself. The program was cancelled in early 1999;

http://www.aeronautics.ru/uav/darkstar-005.jpg

DGhost
13th August 2006, 02:14
Wierd thoughts though...

I know in the early 90's the Army was using encrypted satellite communications system for it's Special Operations helicopters as far back as the early 90's (pre 1993 to my knowledge). I know that encrypted UHF and VHF systems do exist and should have existed existed prior to secure SatComm links.

Granted, there might be some issues with that when going Mach 4+, but... one would think that they would be very careful about what they said on an unsecured link.

KRSESQ
13th August 2006, 10:40
This two-vehicle "Blackstar" carrier/orbiter system may have been declared operational during the 1990s.


This is actually kind of cool. It means the successor generation of stealth aircraft is now fully operational. If this system was indeed operational at that time, it coincides perfectly with the retirement of the SR-71. Now that this system is being shelved, it can only mean they have a superior replacement.

Notice that as these stealth aircraft get faster, higher, more invisible, UFO sightings seem to go down? When was the last time we had a good UFO flap?

Kevin

Dr Mordrid
13th August 2006, 11:18
Wierd thoughts though...

some issues with that when going Mach 4+, but... one would think that they would be very careful about what they said on an unsecured link.IIRC the broadcast the HAM's overheard was ground control quoting their callsigns, altitude, distance etc. The aircraft were never heard.

Last good 'flaps':

Phoenix Lights, 1996. Warthogs dropping flares. More interesting is the sighting of a triangular craft NW of there. Much more interesting.

Mexico City, last 20+ years. Possible ball lightning or other plasma phenomena caused by piezoelectric effects around their local volcano.

GNEP
14th August 2006, 03:56
I hope it's not called Darkstar... anyone read the book? (Or watched the move - it's hilarious)

Also quick question for the knowledgable - how does this relate to something called HOTOL I remember being talked about years back?

Dr Mordrid
14th August 2006, 08:02
HOrizontal TakeOff and Landing; an 80's British proposal for a horizontally launched SSTO (single stage to orbit) space shuttle akin to our ill fated Venture Star....but VS launched vertically and used linear aerospike engines.

Problems with the center of gravity doomed it. They tried redesigning it as HOLTOL 2 where it would be launched from the back of an Antonov AN-225, but that too didn't cut budgetary muster and it was cancelled in '88 or '89. These days it's legacy lives on in the form of the Skylon project which was founded by members of the HOTOL team;

http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/

http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/images/imglib/Orbit_7_flat.jpg

Skylon uses a modified liquid-air cycle engine (LACE) called SABRE (Synergic Air BReathing Engine). LACE engines take in air through a conical intake like on the SR-71 but the LACE cycle lets it run as an air breather or rocket, depending on the need. In practice a LACE powered ship would take off from a runway in jet mode, accelerate to ~MACH 5-6 then switch to rocket mode for orbital insertion.

The only problem with SABRE and LACE engines in general is complexity, but Reaction Engines seems to be getting a handle on it. In terms of power to weight ratio SABRE delivers far more than either a turbojet or scramjet; SABRE = 14:1, turbojets ~5:1 and scramjets = ~2:1 with a specific impulse of ~2800 (more is better). By comparison a conventional rocket is ~400-500 and a nuclear thermal rocket is ~6000. Not bad.

IF they can ever get that thing to run and be reliable an X-Wing fighter might just be possible ;)

Dr. Mordrid