Originally posted by arbiture
The progression of astronautics makes it only logical such technology could have been fielded in the 1980's, if not sooner. Kelly Johnson at Lockeed
was told his SR-71 Blackbird was impossible with the technology of the late 50'ss early 60's. It goes to show you the only real impossibility is
what you have made up your mind is impossible.
I suggest you read Skunk Works by Ben Rich - who was the top person at the Lockheed Skunk Works facility during the 1980s, having succeeded Kelly
Johnson after his retirement.
He covers the whole National Aerospace Plane program announced by President Reagan, and along with it all hypersonic aircraft proposal requests from
NASA, the USAF and the CIA. Basically, he said it wasn't feasible, and wouldn't be feasible for another 50 years.
He also covers the 'Aurora' name thing - it was a randomly chosen by a low ranking officer to cover the B-2 competition in budgeting documents.
Thats it. Nothing else.
The thing you have to understand about the sudden jump in aerospace technology during and after WW2 was not that miracles were being made, but that
people were suddenly becoming aware of the fantastic ability of aircraft given modern technology. And they were becoming aware because there was
conflict, and during conflict, you beat your opponent by either using quantity or quality.
In essence, there was no sudden leap in technology, there was just a take up of slack between the mass production of WW2 and modern technologies of
the day. And that takeup of slack was possible due to cold war funding.
The SR-71 wasn't impossible given 1950s technology - the J-58 engines were not infact developed for the A-12 or the SR-71, they were actually off the
shelf builds with modifications. Pratt & Whitney developed the J-58 for a previous supersonic aircraft that had been cancelled.
The thing about the A-12 and the SR-71 was that no one had wanted it before, and no one wanted it afterward - it could certainly be designed today, so
why aren't we looking at a modern Mach 3.5 military aircraft in every day service? Because no one wants it.
It was a solution with a very narrow problem range - the USAF took interest in both a bomber and a fighter variant, but when it became apparent that
the SR-71 was one of the most expensive aircraft ever to operate, they backed off.
The U-2, SR-71 et al came from a need, and that need jsut happened to have sufficient funding behind it to be fulfilled. Had that need and funding
been available sooner, then the A-12 could have been produced in the 1940s. Had either the need or the funding not materialised in the 1950s, then
the A-12 wouldn't have been seen until the 1970s or later.
Hypersonic aircraft are a nice to have, but they are not the all round game changing technology some people think they are. They pose the problems of
both an aircraft and a space craft in one. The speed is certainly achievable - the X-15 showed that, having achieved Mach 6.
But its not just achieving the speed that is the issue - Ben Rich refused to bid for the Mach 20 National Aerospace Plane in the 1980s because he knew
the problems they had on the A-12 and SR-71 with materials, and that was at Mach 3. He actually called up Reagans advisor and told him that he would
be happy to supply a Skunk Works backed bid, if the administration could give him a better material than titanium, because Lockheed sure as hell
couldn't supply the impossible.
Sure enough, NASA cancelled the program after 8 years of fruitless research, without a plane ever actually being designed.
Mach 20 is a huge figure, is the same as the Space Shuttle is going while slowing down during reentry - and the NASP was required to do this speed