A 1999 four-flight research series for the SR-71 Blackbird, with a 41-foot-long test fixture mounted atop of the rear section of the aircraft, wrapped up Sept. 27 at Dryden. The flights showed that the fixture barely impacted the SR-71's stability, handling and flying characteristics while soaring at Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound. SR-71 Project Manager Steve Schmidt is pleased with the flight series. "It went better than we predicted. Now we will wait for an opportunity, or a customer with a project. There are several in the wings," he said.
A tremendous roar thundered over the high desert Monday as the SR-71 spy plane punched through the skies above the Antelope Valley carrying on its back 10,000 pounds of steel, and nearly all hope for its own future. As the engines revved, a seemingly endless stream of searing exhaust contorted the image of Joshua trees in the background. The long, black, ominous frame rolled forward, then up toward the heavens, where, even saddled with a massive testing platform, it easily cruised to Mach 3 -- about 2,000 mph at an altitude of 75,000 feet, or three times the speed of sound.
Thirty-five years ago this December, government officials acknowledged the existence of a top-secret spy plane so technologically advanced, it could fly to the edge of space and cross the continent in an hour flat. The needle-shaped aircraft was powered by massive jet engines that propelled it at 35 miles a minute. Constructed with imported Russian titanium and painted midnight black, it had a sleek, sinister appearance straight out of science fiction. By the time the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird was retired by the military in 1989-briefly flying again between 1995 and 1997-it had solidified its place in aviation history for flying faster and higher than any other plane.
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., sent its fastest and highest-flying airplane, the SR-71A, into the air for further research flights to evaluate the SR-71's performance, handling and flying qualities with a test fixture mounted atop the aft section of the aircraft. This test fixture was originally used for the Linear Aerospike SR-71 Experiment (LASRE), supporting research for the X-33 program.
Ten members of Congress are seeking to return to duty the SR-71 Blackbird spy planes, saying the high-flying, triple-supersonic jet would fill a ''gaping hole'' in the nation's intelligence capability at a bargain price. The congressional supporters of the SR-71, which include Rep. Howard P. ''Buck'' McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, asked the House Appropriations Committee to restore funding for the program, without specifying an amount.
From Skunkworks Digest
My latest intel is that the B model is to undergo its planned Phase inspection and then go into flyable storage for a year or so. I do not know if it'll be flown on a Functional Check Flight when it comes out of Phase before going into flyable storage.
Presently we have mounted a scale model of the AeroSpike ( X33 access to space vehicle engine ) rocket engine on the top of the SR71. This project is now cancelled.
Subject: SR-71 TERMINATION
FM HQ USAF WASHINGTON DC//XOI
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