I wonder what's replacing the Blackstar?
For those of you unwilling to read the article:
The SR-3 features:
A roughly 200-ft.-long, clipped-delta-winged planform resembling that of the North American Aviation XB-70 trisonic bomber.
Canards that extend from the forward fuselage. These lifting surfaces may sweep both fore and aft to compensate for large center-of-gravity changes after dropping the spaceplane, based on multiple sighting reports.
Large, outward-canted vertical tail surfaces at the clipped-delta's wingtips.
At least four engine exhaust ports, grouped as two well-separated banks on either side of the aircraft centerline.
Very loud engines. One other classified military aircraft may have used the same type of powerplant.
Operation at supersonic speeds and altitudes up to 90,000 ft.
During the system's development cycle, two types of spaceplane orbiters may have been flown. Both were a blended wing/fuselage lifting-body design, but differed in size. The smaller version was about 60-65 ft. long and may have been unmanned or carried a crew of two, some say. Industry engineers said this technology demonstrator was "a very successful program."
The larger orbiter is reportedly 97.5 ft. long, has a highly swept, blended wing/body planform and a short vertical fin. This bulky fin apparently doubles as a buried pylon for conformal carriage of the spaceplane beneath the large SR-3. The "Q-bay" for transporting an optics-system pallet or other payloads may be located aft of the cockpit, with payload doors on top of the fuselage.
Outboard sections of the spaceplane's wing/body cant slightly downward, possibly for shock-wave control and compression lift at high speeds while in the atmosphere, whether on ascent or reentry. The only visible control surfaces are flap- or drag-type panels on the wing's trailing edge, one section on each side of the stubby vertical fin. A relatively large, spade-shaped section forward of the cockpit--which gives the orbiter a "shark-nose" appearance--may provide some pitch stability, as well.
The orbiter's belly appears to be contoured with channels, riblets or "strakelets" that direct airflow to engine inlets and help dissipate aerodynamic heating. These shallow channels may direct air to a complex system of internal, advanced composite-material ducts, according to an engineer who says he helped build one version of the orbiter in the early 1990s. Air is directed to what is believed to be aerospike engines similar to those once planned for use on the NASA/Lockheed Martin X-33.
If you're wondering how the US Government paid for it:
time might also have been charged to the National Aero-Space Plane (NASP) and the Navy's A-12 fighter accounts, they say. Both multibillion-dollar programs were canceled with little but technology development gains to show for massive expenditures.
... Interestingly, after both Lockheed and Boeing pulled out of the NASP competition (or were "eliminated") in the 1980s, they may have collaborated to develop the two-stage-to-orbit Blackstar system under a highly classified "fast-track" program. However, many other contractors' "deep-black" teams probably also were involved in order to bring the nation's best expertise to bear on what must have been daunting technical challenges.
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