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Aurora - New Fuel For The Fire  
User currently offlineRichardPrice From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (8 years 3 months 1 week 23 hours ago) and read 5144 times:

Well, it would seem a recent British MoD report declassified under the UK FOIA could lead to more fuel being poured onto the flames created by conspiracy stories about the mythical SR-71 replacement 'Aurora'.

The report from 2000 mentions USAF development plans for a hypersonic manned air, with speeds in the range of Mach 4 to 6 as well as an unmanned hypersonic project. Now the USAF has publically acknowledged the unmanned project but has never confirmed the existence of the manned project, which now seems to be in the open.

Thoughts?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/5079044.stm

28 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineTedTAce From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (8 years 3 months 1 week 17 hours ago) and read 5068 times:

It's out there. It might be declassified officially before we die... Eat well, excersize, and good luck.

User currently offlineAislepathLight From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 562 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (8 years 3 months 1 week 17 hours ago) and read 5064 times:

Hmmmm.

At first sight, it seems like another hopeless USAF plan for an airplane that is mach 3-6, as in the Valkyrie. But in this day and age, I can see an astronomically expensive development, that and an aircraft that crashes and burns in the end. There are a couple of huge problems, such as storing fuel for a transcontinental flight, at mach 4-6 fuel goes fast.

Wouldn't it be cheaper to just use satellites that are already being produced? The already proven technology makes sense to me.



"We have slain a large dragon, but we now live in a jungle filled with a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes."
User currently offlineTexfly101 From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 351 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (8 years 3 months 1 week 15 hours ago) and read 5044 times:

Quoting AislepathLight (Reply 2):
Wouldn't it be cheaper to just use satellites that are already being produced?

Satellites have some problems such as being restricted to their orbital paths and known flyover times. Hence, powers that have something to hide, covers it up at times or puts it in an area that isn't easily viewed. Also, whatever the sat went up with, thats all that is available for imagery. The military has always wanted "on demand" recon ability. And at hypersonic speeds, you can make it difficult to detect the aircraft and then hide in a timely manner. Also, the optics and electronic snoops that are carried by airborne recon can be changed and tailored to the mission. So its just another ace in the hole so to speak and usually what the generals want, the generals get, particularly if its in the black, so to speak.


User currently offlineTedTAce From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (8 years 3 months 1 week 11 hours ago) and read 5007 times:

Quoting AislepathLight (Reply 2):
There are a couple of huge problems, such as storing fuel for a transcontinental flight, at mach 4-6 fuel goes fast.

Last time I checked, the SR-71 only topped off after takeoff to go across the US on 'a' tank of gas. Given that the engines are 50's technology, I can easily see engines that can support hypersonic speeds with the same amount of fuel for distance. Remember when I was here arguing that the SR-71 was a Mach 5 A/C? Someone pointed out a quote from sled rider where by increasing speed they actually did BETTER on their fuel consumption. it defies logic, but Advanced aerodynamics do that to a simpleton like me.


User currently offlineSpacepope From Vatican City, joined Dec 1999, 2930 posts, RR: 1
Reply 5, posted (8 years 3 months 1 week 9 hours ago) and read 4963 times:

Quoting AislepathLight (Reply 2):
There are a couple of huge problems, such as storing fuel for a transcontinental flight, at mach 4-6 fuel goes fast.

True, but at Mach 6, you only really need to worry about that for a half hour.



The last of the famous international playboys
User currently offlineGDB From United Kingdom, joined May 2001, 13208 posts, RR: 77
Reply 6, posted (8 years 3 months 1 week 4 hours ago) and read 4862 times:

The USAF missed SR-71 in the 1991 Gulf War.
Many suspected it's retirement just before was related to a new hypersonic type replacing it.
This does not to have been the case then, it's short lived revival a few years later seems to have been a political football too, rather than being linked to a replacement.

IMHO, if such a vehicle exists, more likely to be unmanned.


User currently offlineAislepathLight From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 562 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (8 years 3 months 1 week 4 hours ago) and read 4856 times:

Quoting Texfly101 (Reply 3):
Satellites have some problems such as being restricted to their orbital paths and known flyover times.

I see your point, but you have a huge number of satellites in space, and can easily arrange for more to be placed in orbit, rather than designing a new aircraft. I'm not trying to say that the aircraft doesn't make sense, but I am trying to get at the fact that there are problems. This aircraft will be flying at high altitude (60,000 feet+), and will be unmanned, which means that cameras will need to be huge. This will result in a result in a large aircraft, which will be fun to power. I am not doubting that engine technology is capable of doing this, but it will be hard to do.



"We have slain a large dragon, but we now live in a jungle filled with a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes."
User currently offlineBoeing Nut From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (8 years 3 months 1 week 2 hours ago) and read 4811 times:

I believe Aurora exists because of two reasons.

The first was stated by Texfly101 in reply #3.

The second reason is that the military does not retire a machine as capable and awesome as the SR-71 unless there is something better to replace it.

As far as the "donut on a rope contrails" being linked to the Aurora, I'm not sure a accept that part of it. I took two pictures two years ago, but noticed nothing unusual sound wise. The other picture has the beginning of the contrail, but the aircraft is not legible. Sounded link a normal transport.

Big version: Width: 2580 Height: 1932 File size: 386kb


I doubt that the USAF would risk flying this bird, if it rreally does exist, during the day light over the USA.


User currently offlineTedTAce From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (8 years 3 months 1 week 1 hour ago) and read 4796 times:

Quoting Boeing Nut (Reply 8):

As far as the "donut on a rope contrails" being linked to the Aurora, I'm not sure a accept that part of it. I took two pictures two years ago, but noticed nothing unusual sound wise. The other picture has the beginning of the contrail, but the aircraft is not legible. Sounded link a normal transport.

That's not the only evidence of the planes existance. Geologists have tracked a 'new' supersonic footprint (they haven't confirmed hypersonic, but I would be surprised they would want to make such a career limiting move), and the AF isn't saying shit about it.


User currently offlineDEVILFISH From Philippines, joined Jan 2006, 4837 posts, RR: 1
Reply 10, posted (8 years 3 months 6 days 22 hours ago) and read 4729 times:

Quoting TedTAce (Reply 4):
Someone pointed out a quote from sled rider where by increasing speed they actually did BETTER on their fuel consumption

An explanation is offered here.....http://www.flightglobal.com/Articles/2006/06/15/Navigation/177/207247/
Video:+Existence+of+secret+'Aurora'+hypersonic+successor+to+SR-71+Blackbird+revealed+in+UK+defence+ministry+report.html

There's even the video of the SR-71 record breaking flight to the UK.



"Everyone is entitled to my opinion." - Garfield
User currently offlineConnies4ever From Canada, joined Feb 2006, 4066 posts, RR: 13
Reply 11, posted (8 years 3 months 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 4707 times:

Quoting TedTAce (Reply 4):
Last time I checked, the SR-71 only topped off after takeoff to go across the US on 'a' tank of gas. Given that the engines are 50's technology, I can easily see engines that can support hypersonic speeds with the same amount of fuel for distance. Remember when I was here arguing that the SR-71 was a Mach 5 A/C? Someone pointed out a quote from sled rider where by increasing speed they actually did BETTER on their fuel consumption. it defies logic, but Advanced aerodynamics do that to a simpleton like me.

One of the problems you get though is that without a well-shaped inlet to slow the air (what's left of it) down, you cannot sustain a flame front with conventional fuels -- you need methane or something ammoniated. Or H2. The SR-71, even if you could drive it up to Mach 5 or better, couldn't sustain combustion in the engine using JP-7, which was pretty exotic for it's time. Or so I've read.

Beautiful bird, though. Kelly Johnson's team really pulled off a coup with that one.



Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
User currently offlineAirRyan From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 2532 posts, RR: 5
Reply 12, posted (8 years 3 months 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 4682 times:

With the speeds given, one would only speculate that Boeing would be in on this project or at least privy to it's technology, which would than only stand to reason as a tangible evident for their sonic-cruiser aspirations. Perhaps after the 787 is well into production, Boeing will pick that project back up again?

There w/could be a lot of similarities between these two types of aircraft.





User currently offlineThorny From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (8 years 3 months 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 4662 times:

Quoting TedTAce (Reply 4):
Remember when I was here arguing that the SR-71 was a Mach 5 A/C?

Surviving the heat from travelling that fast would be one big problem to overcome. I doubt the SR-71 could have.

Quoting AislepathLight (Reply 7):

I see your point, but you have a huge number of satellites in space,

No, there aren't that many spy satellites. Good ones that can replace SR-71 surveillance are big and expensive, requiring big and expensive rockets to launch them. Since spy satellites moved from film canister retrieval (Corona) to transmitted images (Keyhole?), launches have been few and far between. Even then, some of these satellites are electronic eavesdropping (Magnum?) and radar observation (Lacrosse) satellites that presumably aren't doing the same things an SR-71 did. There were just so many large Titan launches, so we have a pretty good idea how many spy satellites are up there, and it isn't all that many. This became an issue in the mid 80s when two Titans blew up back to back, bookending the Shuttle Challenger disaster... suddenly, the US didn't have a lot of space assets.

Quoting Boeing Nut (Reply 8):
The second reason is that the military does not retire a machine as capable and awesome as the SR-71 unless there is something better to replace it.

It was a combination of the end of the cold war reducing the need for SR-71 (and everything else in the military inventory), and the improving capability of satellites. No mystery aircraft are needed to explain this. The Air Force didn't like paying the big bills for the CIA's toy (SR-71) anyway. With satellites, the CIA or various other Three Letter Acronym agencies pay a bigger part of the bill, which was much more to the liking of the Air Force (which has always been happiest buying bombers and fighters.)


User currently offlineAislepathLight From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 562 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (8 years 3 months 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 4645 times:

Quoting Thorny (Reply 13):
No, there aren't that many spy satellites.

There are many satellites up there, and one can't know what everything that each one does. This being said, they do not nearly have the same capabilities as the SR-71s did.

Quoting Thorny (Reply 13):

It was a combination of the end of the cold war reducing the need for SR-71 (and everything else in the military inventory), and the improving capability of satellites. No mystery aircraft are needed to explain this. The Air Force didn't like paying the big bills for the CIA's toy (SR-71) anyway.

I talked to someone that I know who worked in the Skunk Works (on the SR-71s), and he said that he didn't know much about it (well, he probably did, but didn't tell me), and said that he thought/knew that it existed. He talked of how most everything in the US spy aviation business worked by groups of 30 years. The SR-71 entered service in the late 60s, and so, by his logic, that it was already testing or nearing service.



"We have slain a large dragon, but we now live in a jungle filled with a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes."
User currently offlineJarheadK5 From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 216 posts, RR: 1
Reply 15, posted (8 years 3 months 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 4586 times:

Quoting AislepathLight (Reply 7):
This aircraft will be flying at high altitude (60,000 feet+), and will be unmanned, which means that cameras will need to be huge. This will result in a result in a large aircraft



Quoting AislepathLight (Reply 14):
There are many satellites up there, and one can't know what everything that each one does.

I recall reading somewhere that the KH-11 was pretty reliably rumored to be nearly schoolbus-sized, in weight as well as physical dimensions, to accomodate the sensors and lenses/mirrors/etc. necessary to read license plates from space (yeah, I know that's a tired, old cliche...). If a particular satellite is significantly smaller than a schoolbus (or Hubble, for that matter), it can probably be excluded from a list of sats that may be conducting photo-recon from space.

Quoting AislepathLight (Reply 14):
This being said, they do not nearly have the same capabilities as the SR-71s did.

Agreed - the SR-71 was kinda on-call, and therefore unpredictable; satellites are subject to the laws of physics and orbital mechanics, which means that their locations and overhead times are able to be calculated, and therefore spoofed.



Cleared to Contact
User currently offlineThorny From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 16, posted (8 years 3 months 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 4576 times:

Quoting AislepathLight (Reply 14):

There are many satellites up there, and one can't know what everything that each one does.

One can take an educated guess. As Jarhead noted, optical surveillance satellites are historically large, they carry large optical mirrors and a lot of fuel to maintain they're low orbits. It is almost universally believed that the Hubble Space Telescope is derived from the Keyhole reconnaisance satellites (same manufacturer for both spacecraft and optics.) Hubble weighs 24,000 lbs and doesn't have all the fuel requirements that surveillance satellites do (its up much higher). That means surveillance satellites have to be launched on large launchers such as Titan 34D or Titan IV.

Next, we know what kind of orbit surveillance satellites must be in. They need to be as near to polar orbit as they can get, so that they overfly most or all of the Earth's surface (particularly important during the Cold War, due to Russia's northerly latitude.) Nearly all of these surveillance satellites were launched from Vandenberg AFB. Most of the launches from the Cape sent up communications satellites and missile-warning satellites that went into equatorial orbits, so nearly all of them can be ruled out as surveillance satellites (there are a few Shuttle-launched exceptions.)

Next, we know that surveillance satellites stay down low, to be as close to the subject as possible (hence the high fuel requirements, needed to counter drag from the atmosphere even 100 miles up.)

Add up all the Titan 34Ds / IVs launched into low altitude, polar orbits, and you have a very good idea how many surveillance satellites the US launched.

It's not a great number. The US has been working on a new generation of satellites that can be smaller and cheaper (part of the Future Imaging Architecture effort) but nothing has been launched yet.


User currently offlineDEVILFISH From Philippines, joined Jan 2006, 4837 posts, RR: 1
Reply 17, posted (8 years 3 months 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 4539 times:

Quoting AirRyan (Reply 12):
There w/could be a lot of similarities between these two types of aircraft.

Actually, a related news article dealt with the research into a Mach 5 civilian airliner concept. I wondered if passengers on such flights would be donning G-suits and if it was commercially viable. I tried starting a thread on it yesterday in Tech/Ops but it didn't go through. http://www.flightglobal.com/Articles...+fly+Brussels+to+Sydney+in+2h.html



"Everyone is entitled to my opinion." - Garfield
User currently offlineRichardPrice From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 18, posted (8 years 3 months 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 4536 times:

Quoting DEVILFISH (Reply 17):

Actually, a related news article dealt with the research into a Mach 5 civilian airliner concept. I wondered if passengers on such flights would be donning G-suits and if it was commercially viable.

Why would passengers need G suits? Its not the speed thats the issue, its the Gs (surprisingly) and lethal levels of G force can be generated at subsonic speeds (the majority of dogfighting occurs at subsonic speeds, thats why fighter pilots use G suits).

So long as the acceleration to Mach 5 is gradual, its not an issue.


User currently offlineDEVILFISH From Philippines, joined Jan 2006, 4837 posts, RR: 1
Reply 19, posted (8 years 3 months 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 4509 times:

Quoting RichardPrice (Reply 18):

Why would passengers need G suits? Its not the speed thats the issue, its the Gs (surprisingly)

Exactly. I'ts just that I'm not sure how a Mach 5 aircraft would behave (as I haven't been on one..... know of somebody who would let me hitch a ride?  Smile) so I ask.



"Everyone is entitled to my opinion." - Garfield
User currently offlineAirRyan From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 2532 posts, RR: 5
Reply 20, posted (8 years 3 months 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 4469 times:

Quoting RichardPrice (Reply 18):
So long as the acceleration to Mach 5 is gradual, its not an issue.

And deceleration as well. Heat issues I think would also be a concerne a la Shuttle Columbia, especially for a commerical product with numerous cycles.


User currently offlineTexfly101 From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 351 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (8 years 3 months 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 4413 times:

Quoting Thorny (Reply 16):
Add up all the Titan 34Ds / IVs launched into low altitude, polar orbits, and you have a very good idea how many surveillance satellites the US launched.

Basically, take any launch and if it has public info regarding the payload, on a Delta II, launched from the Cape, its a good bet that its not a "black" spy sat. Take a launch, particularly from Vandenburg on one of the heavies, have the payload listed as classified, or better yet, have no public info of a launch and its a good bet that its "black". When the shuttle used to do non NASA missions, let the crew be all military, no info on the payload and in an unusual launch profile, most likely a DOD mission to put an asset in place. Also, if its not a USAF payload on a heavy military launch, say its listed as DOD and then again its a good bet its "black". The spy sats have a "misinformation" type of manifests for security reasons. Also, they usually are put in a parking orbit and then are moved at an unannounced time into their needed orbit, again, to not advertise their use and presence. The spy missions have been under governmental orgs like the DOD, NRO and others that are best left unamed. Just let it suffice that at the Cape, there is a very big building that has almost no windows, its whole roof is covered with attennas and its filled with super computers like Cray's. Processing all this info that the spy sats collect is as important as the bird in the sky itself. I'm not telling anything that hasn't already been written about, talked about and is known, but these are truely "black" missions and assets that are hard to track. Our tax dollars at work and some of the best uses of them IMO.


User currently offlineAislepathLight From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 562 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (8 years 3 months 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 4395 times:

Quoting AirRyan (Reply 20):
And deceleration as well. Heat issues I think would also be a concerne a la Shuttle Columbia, especially for a commerical product with numerous cycles.

For The Aurora (if it exists), there is no problem with crew and their safety, as it is unmanned. Also, the sonic cruiser would not be going into space, although reaching a high altitude, would not have the problem of burning up at mach 5+



"We have slain a large dragon, but we now live in a jungle filled with a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes."
User currently offlineTedTAce From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 23, posted (8 years 3 months 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 4394 times:

Quoting AislepathLight (Reply 22):
although reaching a high altitude, would not have the problem of burning up at mach 5+

 rotfl   rotfl   rotfl   rotfl   rotfl 


User currently offlineThorny From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 24, posted (8 years 3 months 5 days 5 hours ago) and read 4341 times:

Quoting AislepathLight (Reply 22):
Also, the sonic cruiser would not be going into space, although reaching a high altitude, would not have the problem of burning up at mach 5+

It's not the altitude, its the velocity. In fact, it is harder to go Mach 5 at lower altitudes than it is at higher altitudes, because the atmosphere is denser and creates more drag, which requires more fuel and thrust to overcome and creates more frictional heat that must be protected against.

That has always been the Catch 22 of air-breathing hypersonic aircraft studies such as the X-30/NASP. To use oxygen from the air (air breathing engines) you need to be down low where the atmosphere is thick enough to provide lots of it and not require humongous intakes. But to go fast you need to get above the dense, lower atmosphere.

A Mach 5 SST (which Sonic Cruiser could never dream of achieving, by the way) is going to have awful heat protection and dissipation problems. There's a reason why most SST / HSCT studies peaked between Mach 2 and Mach 3: the concept, hard enough already, becomes radically harder at even higher speeds.


25 Texfly101 : Very true. They are incredibly expensive to build and also to launch. Their numbers are consequently smaller. This area, as Thorny states, is one whe
26 AislepathLight : That is quite obvious, but the point that I was trying to make was that you aren't gonna be coming down from space at space shuttle speeds from space
27 Thorny : Ah, okay. It was your statement, "would not have the problem of burning up at mach 5+" that had me scratching my head. I'm still not quite sure what
28 AislepathLight : The only reason that I say is that is unmanned because that what the article says, "hypersonic unmanned craft which will fly in the upper atmosphere a
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