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"We already have the means to travel among the stars, but these technologies are locked up in black projects and it would take an Act of God to ever get them out to benefit humanity...Anything you can imagine, we already know how to do."
Upon graduation Rich was hired by Lockheed as a theromodynamicist. There he worked on a variety of projects - he was awarded a patent for designing a nichrome heating system which prevented Navy patrol plane crew's penises from freezing to their urine elimination pipes. He designed inlet ducts for the F-104 Starfighter, the C-130 transport aircraft, and the F-90 fighter.
In December 1954 Rich was seconded to the Skunk Works, the secret research and development section run by Lockheed's chief engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson. There he designed the inlet ducts for the U-2 spy plane. Then he led the effort to build large-scale hydrogen liquefaction plant for a proposed hydrogen-powered supersonic aircraft, codenamed Suntan. After this was canceled when hydrogen proved to be impractical, Rich was program manager for the propulsion systems for the U-2's successor, the SR-71 Blackbird. The idea to paint the high-speed aircraft's skin black, to help dissipate the tremendous frictional heat, was Rich's. He designed the engine inlet cones, the air conditioning system, and was the chief thermodynamicist for the project.
Later, as Johnson's successor as leader of the Skunk Works, Rich championed the early prototypes of stealth technology and led the development of the F-117 stealth fighter. The use of modern stealth aircraft technology was partially based upon the work of Pyotr Ya. Ufimtsev. Ironically, Pyotr Ya. Ufimtsev is currently teaching at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the same school that Ben Rich studied at for his graduate degree.