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Project Suntan Cryogenic Test Facility Site Exploration

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posted on May, 9 2019 @ 01:09 PM
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As many know, Project Suntan was conceived in the mid 50's. Realizing the the U-2 was vulnerable, the USAF wanted to research the possibility of using liquid hydrogen as a propellant source. Contracting with the already legendary Skunk Works, the CL-400 was conceived. It was to cruise at over 2.5 times the speed of sound and would have been almost 300 feet long. However, they could never figure out how to get enough range out of the project and it was eventually canceled. However during the project they did quite a bit of testing with the hydrogen.

This facility was located near Edwards AFB was run by the Garrett Corporation and investigated the use of hydrogen as fuel. It is unclear if they actually did full on engine tests, but looking at the facility as it sits, it was quite robust (even decayed as it is) and its possible they could have.

A search of literature does show research articles citing the site such as Single-Tube Heat Transfer Tests with Liquid Hydrogen among others.

The site is obviously in a state of decay and appears to be a local hang out for shooting and graffiti, but clues still exist as to its original purpose

Please be warned that some of the graffiti is graphic and profane. The shots were made with a Nikon D7500 and a Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens


Pool of some sort or perhaps a sump


Slab for the guard shack


These rails were on both sides on one building and the common wall had lots of access points and openings. They clearly used some sort of sled to move in and out of the shelter


some sort of trench with rails


The floor in what I am terming the 'Main' test building was 3/4 inch thick steel


Something heavy was bolted down


Overhead attachments etc.


Part of what I'm terming the main test area The center square had a normal floor with numerous opening in the wall and flanking either side was steel plated slabs with rails and numerous bolts and concrete pylons for securing gear


Im betting that asbestos wire wrapping


Steel framed door and beyond that were little revetments for storing something. I assume it was hydrogen tanks as there are numerous rusty circles on parts of the slabs


Rust rings from stored tanks


The "main" test area. As noted the center was conventionally floored and had numerous holes to access the slabs on the exterior




















edit on 5/9/19 by FredT because: (no reason given)

edit on 5/9/19 by FredT because: (no reason given)

edit on 5/9/19 by FredT because: (no reason given)




posted on May, 9 2019 @ 01:22 PM
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a reply to: FredT

Awesome thread and photographs FredT.

My favorite was the one that had a smiley face through the pipe



edit on 9-5-2019 by CriticalStinker because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 9 2019 @ 02:54 PM
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Liquid hydrogen was the fuel of the future. It has many advantages over regular jet fuel. Unfortunately, it has many difficulties as well. Some technical which can be worked around with enough money and work, others inherent to the fuel itself.

USAF hydrogen interest started in '44, and the funding for Garrett for hydrogen turbojet experimentation substantially predates Suntan. they were looking at simple turbojets initially, and the Air Force asked for more and more, eventually pairing them with Lockheed for the Suntan project(s). PW eventually stepped in which was probably the right decision because Garrett's experience was extensive in a lot of smaller turbines, but not high-performance jet aircraft engines.
A big setback was dealt right before the site you visited was built-- Garrett wanted the federal government to fund an experimental tank farm in Phoenix where it was sited (Sky Harbor). City of Phoenix found out and had kittens. They stopped all work on hydrogen storage and engine experimentation within city limits.

The site you went to investigated different methods of storage and cooling as much as anything directly propulsion related. There were dreams of transport and bomber aircraft, civil/commercial aviation all converting to LH, which was obviously going to be a huge undertaking for infrastructure and fuel production and storage.

It's relatively very clean. It is not as hard on engines, has a much higher energy density by weight, is a better, more reliable combuster at altitude, etc.
But it has a volume problem, and pressurized tanks and equipment to cool it carry a weight penalty of its own.

So a pound of LH gets you more energy than ~2.5lbs of jet fuel. But it takes 4 times as much volume to carry the pound of LH.

Kelly himself thought it was a deadend after six-months, which no doubt did nothing to advance the project further. There have been all kinds of projects for transport, bombers, reconnaissance, etc They flew a B-57 on hydrogen that could fly using regular fuel and switch to hydrogen from tip tank. The Russians had something, too. Airbus is still spending money on this as a "green" technology. No doubt other design houses have similar low-tempo efforts alive, but I don't think you will ever see the infrastructure needed become feasible.



posted on May, 9 2019 @ 02:55 PM
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Great pics as always!



posted on May, 9 2019 @ 03:03 PM
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What aircraft did you "capture"?
ATS won't let me cut and paste, so its the seventh picture up from the last.
I can't identify it...



posted on May, 9 2019 @ 03:10 PM
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originally posted by: NightFlight
What aircraft did you "capture"?
ATS won't let me cut and paste, so its the seventh picture up from the last.
I can't identify it...



Its B-1RD aka a Crow lol

A pair had made a nest in an old air conditioner vault





posted on May, 9 2019 @ 03:13 PM
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a reply to: NightFlight

That's Project "Corvus"


(Crow Or Raven, Very Usual Species)


Exceptionally "black" project.



posted on May, 9 2019 @ 03:14 PM
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a reply to: FredT

I thought it might be, but you can never be sure in that part of the country.

Beautiful pictures and another fantastic history lesson!

Thank you...



posted on May, 9 2019 @ 04:46 PM
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a reply to: FredT


For anyone wanting to know what the CL-400 looks like...


Hope this helps your thread




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