Author Topic: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane  (Read 31740 times)

Online Blackstar

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ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« on: 08/07/2009 03:18 PM »
A number of years ago I wrote a response to the Aviation Week cover story about the supposed Blackstar spaceplane:

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/576/1

At the end of that article I mentioned that I had a lot of documentation on the ISINGLASS spaceplane that was supposed to replace the SR-71 and was going to write an article about it.  Unfortunately, I just haven't gotten around to it--I was busy writing dozens of other articles.  Anyway, I feel slightly guilty about teasing and not delivering, so I'm going to share some of my ISINGLASS documents.  I just grabbed these at random and they don't necessarily reflect the best stuff that I have.  I'm only doing it to assuage my guilt...

Offline Archibald

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #1 on: 08/07/2009 04:12 PM »
Hurrah !!!

Offline agman25

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #2 on: 08/07/2009 05:15 PM »
What was the Pratt&Whitney engine that was not man rated at that time. The RL-10 ? They are talking Mach 20 and 200,000 fett so I am assuming a rocket engine.

Offline JosephB

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #3 on: 08/08/2009 05:15 AM »
This article inspired a net search & led to a great webite on SR-71:
http://www.wvi.com/~sr71webmaster/sr-71~1.htm

I'm sure this will be old hat to some but hope others will enjoy it as much as I did.
One section I found particularly interesting was the tail art in this section:

http://www.wvi.com/~sr71webmaster/tail001.html

Those crews really had a pair of heavy hangers. Bet there is some great untold history there!
« Last Edit: 08/08/2009 05:30 AM by JosephB »

Offline Proponent

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #4 on: 08/10/2009 01:23 AM »
What was the Pratt&Whitney engine that was not man rated at that time. The RL-10 ? They are talking Mach 20 and 200,000 fett so I am assuming a rocket engine.

I doubt it was the RL-10, because the memo on the briefing of 26 April 1966 mentions that DDR&E assistant director John Kirk was concerned that P&W wouldn't be able to man-rate the engine within 31 months. Surely by the spring of 1966 the RL-10 was a well-known quantity.

It's made clear that this is a rocket-boosted glider rather than a rocket-propelled airplane, which is listed as the next thing to be developed, to be followed in turn by a scramjet. On the whole, this seems like an attempt to resurrect Dyna-Soar, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale, three years after its death. And the scale isn't really that much different in that the speed--Mach 20-plus--is nearly orbital.

To Blackstar: If you have any further "guilt" that needs to be "assuage," I'm sure we would all be only to happy to help! Thanks a lot.

Online Blackstar

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #5 on: 08/10/2009 02:07 PM »
In the mid-1990s I was talking to a former senior CIA official who told me about both ISINGLASS and RHEINBERRY (I have almost nothing on the the latter, and do not believe it was seriously studied).  This was several years before either was mentioned publicly elsewhere.  He said that ISINGLASS was primarily pushed by General Bernard Schriever, whom he said was interested in hypersonics.

What I scanned is perhaps 1/3 of the documents on ISINGLASS that I have accumulated.  I'm not sure I'm going to post anymore here.  (The reason is that I may still publish something on this in the future.)

As far as any remaining guilt?  My biggest guilt is still not publishing my histories of Samos E-6, SPARTAN, KH-7 and KH-8.  Also some residual guilt for not finishing my DMSP history series.  Oh, and guilt at not writing the MOL history.  And guilt at not finishing my Polyus article...
« Last Edit: 08/10/2009 02:10 PM by Blackstar »

Offline vt_hokie

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #6 on: 08/10/2009 04:57 PM »
It's difficult to believe that with all of this interest in such a vehicle over the last several decades, nothing has ever come of it!

Offline agman25

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #7 on: 08/10/2009 05:12 PM »
What was the Pratt&Whitney engine that was not man rated at that time. The RL-10 ? They are talking Mach 20 and 200,000 fett so I am assuming a rocket engine.

I doubt it was the RL-10, because the memo on the briefing of 26 April 1966 mentions that DDR&E assistant director John Kirk was concerned that P&W wouldn't be able to man-rate the engine within 31 months. Surely by the spring of 1966 the RL-10 was a well-known quantity.

It's made clear that this is a rocket-boosted glider rather than a rocket-propelled airplane, which is listed as the next thing to be developed, to be followed in turn by a scramjet. On the whole, this seems like an attempt to resurrect Dyna-Soar, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale, three years after its death. And the scale isn't really that much different in that the speed--Mach 20-plus--is nearly orbital.

To Blackstar: If you have any further "guilt" that needs to be "assuage," I'm sure we would all be only to happy to help! Thanks a lot.

The report keeps talking about no. of engines to be procured which led me to think that the engines are mounted on the airframe.

Online Blackstar

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #8 on: 08/10/2009 06:42 PM »
It's difficult to believe that with all of this interest in such a vehicle over the last several decades, nothing has ever come of it!

Not really.  There are plenty of things that have been studied intensely for a short period of time and never turned into a real program.  For example, the nuclear-powered airplane.  There are also plenty of things that have been studied on and off for long periods of time and never got adopted in a major way.  For example, aerostats and heavy-lift blimps.

You could study a perpetual motion machine for decades and never build a successful one.

Offline yinzer

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #9 on: 08/10/2009 09:51 PM »
Mulready's book about advanced engine development at Pratt and Whitney says that they designed and built a reusable staged combustion LOX/LH2 engine for some secret Air Force project, and used the knowledge from that project in their unsuccessful SSME bid.  I don't have it with me so I can't look up the name of the engine, but it seems likely that this is the engine that is being discussed.  I seem to recall it was around 200klb thrust, which at two engines a vehicle means that this would be pretty damn large for an air-dropped system.

The use of the term "man-rate" is interesting.

Mulready's book also has a mention of an impressive-sounding fabrication technology to make titanium sandwich structures with conventional steel-rolling technology.
California 2008 - taking rights from people and giving rights to chickens.

Offline HMXHMX

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #10 on: 08/13/2009 10:02 PM »
Mulready's book about advanced engine development at Pratt and Whitney says that they designed and built a reusable staged combustion LOX/LH2 engine for some secret Air Force project, and used the knowledge from that project in their unsuccessful SSME bid.  I don't have it with me so I can't look up the name of the engine, but it seems likely that this is the engine that is being discussed.  I seem to recall it was around 200klb thrust, which at two engines a vehicle means that this would be pretty damn large for an air-dropped system.

The use of the term "man-rate" is interesting.

Mulready's book also has a mention of an impressive-sounding fabrication technology to make titanium sandwich structures with conventional steel-rolling technology.

The ISINGLASS (possibly air-launched) boost-glider was to be powered by the P&W XLR-129 engine, rated at 250,000 lbsF.  The XLR-129 technology later become P&W's entry into the SSME competition, though at a thrust up-rate to 350,000 lbsF.  A notable feature of the XLR-129 was its transpirationally cooled chamber, which had essentially unlimited life.

Offline William Barton

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #11 on: 08/13/2009 10:22 PM »
I'm curious about the name. Isinglass is fishbladder gelatin, which was most commonly encountered in the lickable glue on envelopes and stamps. I have no idea if they still make it that way anymore.

Offline JosephB

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #12 on: 08/14/2009 03:02 AM »
A question if I may.
I came across this interesting article in Janes:
http://www.janes.com/defence/news/jidr/jidr000105_01_n.shtml

After reading this (and with our thread here in mind) I was wondering if it may be russian, overflights?

Here is a good page on the Open Skies Treaty:
http://www.dod.mil/acq/acic/treaties/os/congr_test.htm

Also, perhaps this is why there is no Blackstar Spaceplane?
Thoughts, comments very appreciated!





Online Blackstar

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #13 on: 08/14/2009 03:20 AM »
A question if I may.
I came across this interesting article in Janes:
http://www.janes.com/defence/news/jidr/jidr000105_01_n.shtml

After reading this (and with our thread here in mind) I was wondering if it may be russian, overflights?

Sweetman is a well-regarded aviation writer.  But that article was written over nine years ago.  We could ask what has become known since then that was mentioned in that article.  I don't know of any "high speed aircraft" revealed in US publications since that time.
« Last Edit: 08/14/2009 03:32 AM by Blackstar »

Offline JosephB

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #14 on: 08/14/2009 01:04 PM »
Kelly Johnson had stated in 1981 the SR-71 had over 1000 missles launched against it, none successful.

I'm assuming the Open Skies Treaty establishes some "etiquette" for such flights and getting shot at is no longer an occurance (with Russia at least)? True? Partially true? I suppose the public will never really know and I should do some more research on OST.

I wonder about the frequency of Russian overflights and at what speed & altitude they may fly.


Offline Jim

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #15 on: 08/14/2009 01:30 PM »
Kelly Johnson had stated in 1981 the SR-71 had over 1000 missles launched against it, none successful.

I'm assuming the Open Skies Treaty establishes some "etiquette" for such flights and getting shot at is no longer an occurance (with Russia at least)? True? Partially true? I suppose the public will never really know and I should do some more research on OST.

I wonder about the frequency of Russian overflights and at what speed & altitude they may fly.



SR-71 never overflew the USSR

Online edkyle99

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #16 on: 08/14/2009 02:10 PM »

Not really.  There are plenty of things that have been studied intensely for a short period of time and never turned into a real program. 

I saw this stealthy "thing" at the Air Force Museum a few weeks ago.  It was hard to photograph.  The damn thing is still almost invisible!  You can't see its means of propulsion from the public viewing spots.

This "thing" (I'll let people guess what it was) is a prime example of how some of these dark programs must turn out.  A whole "fleet" of these were developed to perform a mission that now seems unbelievable and impossible.  Then, just as they were to be put into operation, the program was canceled and the "things" were scrapped.

Or so the story goes.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 08/14/2009 02:15 PM by edkyle99 »

Online Blackstar

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #17 on: 08/14/2009 02:15 PM »
In the middle of 2001 (i.e. before 9-11) I attended an unclassified symposium at the Defense Intelligence Agency.  It was about historical overflight.  As part of the symposium we got a tour of the DIA's imagery analysis center, which at the time was pioneering the government use of commercial remote sensing imagery.  The value of such imagery was that it could be freely distributed to allies, law enforcement, etc., because it was unclassified.

At the end of our tour we saw the room where they processed U-2 film.  There was a light table there with some U-2 imagery on it.  I took a look and saw an image of several C-17s on a ramp.*  We were told that this was Open Skies imagery.  The US and the Russians took imagery of either sides' installations and apparently shared their imagery.  We used the U-2's film cameras (I think) because it was old technology and we didn't want to show them our current digital capabilities.

Open Skies was not really about intelligence, it was a confidence-building exercise intended to get the two countries talking to each other.




*Our guide, a photo-interpreter, was impressed that I could identify the aircraft and told me I'd make a good PI.  I got a laugh out of that--I think they have eyesight requirements that I wouldn't pass.

Offline JosephB

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #18 on: 08/14/2009 03:26 PM »
Thanks for the feedback. I'm surprised SR-71 didn't overfly the Soviets. Years ago I had read a book on converted bombers that overflew the soviets in the 50's (some were downed) and I just assumed overflights continued in later decades. So much for assuming. With recon sats everywhere I wonder how much practical use there is for overflights now. If a pop up capability is needed wouldn't a Pegasus fit the bill? And how often would that be anyway?

There is a whole laundry list of books I'd like to get, once some of our damn bills are paid, and Shades Of Gray: National Security And The Evolution Of Space Reconnaissance by L. Parker Temple is one I was thinking about.
Has anyone read it? Amazon gave it an ok rating.

I have to say Blackstar, you get access to some pretty neat stuff.
Jim as well. I'm guessing he's working on the next Atlas/Payload.
I should have picked a different Major back in the day.

And Ed, I've never seen that unmanned whatever it is. This webfind is maybe an offspring? The (white) world may never know...
« Last Edit: 08/14/2009 03:28 PM by JosephB »

Online Blackstar

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #19 on: 08/14/2009 08:05 PM »
1-There is a whole laundry list of books I'd like to get, once some of our damn bills are paid, and Shades Of Gray: National Security And The Evolution Of Space Reconnaissance by L. Parker Temple is one I was thinking about.
Has anyone read it? Amazon gave it an ok rating.

2-I have to say Blackstar, you get access to some pretty neat stuff.

1-I suggest getting it through interlibrary loan to see if you really want it.  If I remember correctly, it is very expensive.  I think the material is dated now.

2-Requires lots of effort.

Offline rsp1202

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #20 on: 08/14/2009 08:37 PM »
I saw this stealthy "thing" at the Air Force Museum a few weeks ago.  It was hard to photograph.  The damn thing is still almost invisible!  You can't see its means of propulsion from the public viewing spots.

Teledyne-Ryan Compass Arrow

Online Blackstar

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #21 on: 08/14/2009 09:53 PM »
Thanks for the feedback. I'm surprised SR-71 didn't overfly the Soviets. Years ago I had read a book on converted bombers that overflew the soviets in the 50's (some were downed) and I just assumed overflights continued in later decades.

SR-71s did not overfly the USSR.  This was because of the May 1960 U-2 incident.  There were proposals for A-12 OXCART flights, but all were denied.

There were a number of overflights by converted bombers around 1954-1956.  There was some substantial misinformation on this in the late 1990s, but a 2-book series by Cargill Hall, "Early Cold War Overflights," really set the record straight.

Online edkyle99

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #22 on: 08/14/2009 10:07 PM »
I saw this stealthy "thing" at the Air Force Museum a few weeks ago.  It was hard to photograph.  The damn thing is still almost invisible!  You can't see its means of propulsion from the public viewing spots.

Teledyne-Ryan Compass Arrow

That's right!  It was designed to overfly mainland *China*, at 78,000 feet, to photograph nuclear sites, unmanned.  Its jet engine was mounted on top, and its underside was shaped to minimize radar cross section.  This was an early "stealth" plane!  It would have been air-launched from a C-130-something and recovered while it dropped under a parachute, by a helicopter.  This was an extension of the Ryan unmanned drone effort during Vietnam.     

Teledyne-Ryan was all set to go, then Nixon went to see Mao and the program had to be shut down!

http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/shared/media/photodb/photos/050323-F-1234P-012.jpg

 - Ed Kyle

Online Blackstar

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #23 on: 08/15/2009 12:58 AM »
That's right!  It was designed to overfly mainland *China*, at 78,000 feet, to photograph nuclear sites, unmanned.  Its jet engine was mounted on top, and its underside was shaped to minimize radar cross section.  This was an early "stealth" plane!  It would have been air-launched from a C-130-something and recovered while it dropped under a parachute, by a helicopter.  This was an extension of the Ryan unmanned drone effort during Vietnam.     

Teledyne-Ryan was all set to go, then Nixon went to see Mao and the program had to be shut down!

There's a picture of one of these pancaked on a highway somewhere.  I think they had a flight control failure.  If memory serves, that exposed the program.  It is also shown, but not explained, in the book Lightning Bugs and Other Reconnaissance Drones.  (There's a story behind that book.  I don't know the full details, but apparently it was a classified drone history that somebody let get public by accident.)

Online edkyle99

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #24 on: 08/15/2009 03:13 AM »

There's a picture of one of these pancaked on a highway somewhere.  I think they had a flight control failure.  If memory serves, that exposed the program.  It is also shown, but not explained, in the book Lightning Bugs and Other Reconnaissance Drones.  (There's a story behind that book.  I don't know the full details, but apparently it was a classified drone history that somebody let get public by accident.)

I have that book, which still amazes.  The horizon to horizon photo returned from one drone taken as it flew *under* a high voltage power line deep inside North Vietnam while people stood below, gaping up at the unmanned jet, is alone worth the price of the book.  Compass Arrow and something even bigger called Compass Cope are shown in drawings presented in the book, with little or no description in the text. 

 - Ed Kyle

Offline JosephB

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #25 on: 08/15/2009 04:24 AM »
"The horizon to horizon photo returned from one drone taken as it flew *under* a high voltage power line deep inside North Vietnam while people stood below, gaping up at the unmanned jet, is alone worth the price of the book."


I got a good belly laugh at that one, quite the visual.
How do you say "CHEESE" in vietnamese?

So many great books to get...

Offline JosephB

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #26 on: 08/15/2009 10:54 PM »
Would it be fair to say the need for a winged vehicle to make a high speed intel run is history with the advance of sats? As much as I'd like to hope there was a follow on to the A-12, I just can't see what you could do that a sat couldn't.

Tactical & loiter are another thing of course.
I was wondering if anyone could recommend a good book on the P3 Orion that had to land in china? Any comment on how much damage was done or did the crew manage to take care of the critical items? Sorry for getting off topic.

Online Blackstar

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #27 on: 08/16/2009 02:23 AM »
1-Would it be fair to say the need for a winged vehicle to make a high speed intel run is history with the advance of sats? As much as I'd like to hope there was a follow on to the A-12, I just can't see what you could do that a sat couldn't.

2-Tactical & loiter are another thing of course.

3-I was wondering if anyone could recommend a good book on the P3 Orion that had to land in china? Any comment on how much damage was done or did the crew manage to take care of the critical items? Sorry for getting off topic.

1-Yep.  That's been true since the early 1990s.

2-The term is "persistent surveillance."  Flying over a target at Mach 3 means that you can see that target for a few minutes at most.  But if you're looking for the insurgents planting an improvised explosive device alongside a road, or the terrorist emerging from his house and getting into an SUV, you need to stay overhead for a long time, waiting for something to happen.

3-The pilot of the plane wrote a biography a few years ago.  But it was apparently mostly a personal religious account, not anything about the mission or aftermath.  That was 8 years ago, however.  If the US took an intelligence hit because of it (such as the Chinese learning how to hide their signals), that happened years ago.

The E-3 is being replaced in the next few years.

Offline JosephB

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #28 on: 08/16/2009 04:01 AM »
In your last article you mentioned Dwayne Day watches too much bad television and needs to read more books. Well, my personal TV peeve is Discovery, TLC & History channels should be grounded in science or fact. Monster Quest? What the…
Or how about a team setting up their ghost detecting equipment while filming a paranormal show in “nite shot” mode? Reverse engineering Alien technology at Area 51? How many crab pots can a guy take? Yep, there goes another truck down the ice road. Hope they don’t slip.

I live in MN, I drive a damn ice road 5 months out of the year.
If upgrading to the highest cable tier didn’t soak me for an additional 60 bucks in order to get science channel etc… How about shows with some substance? The latest developments in any science field and it application?

Anyway, sounds like the P8 & (E8)Poseidon will be a real Cadillac.

For those that want a quick summary of the P8:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3936369728460662331
Edit: another neat vid

« Last Edit: 08/18/2009 05:12 AM by JosephB »

Online Blackstar

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #29 on: 08/16/2009 12:08 PM »
In your last article you mentioned Dwayne Day watches too much bad television and needs to read more books.

He does.  The kid needs to get outside more.

In my view, Discovery Channel does a pretty good job with their science documentaries.  It is the History Channel that resorts to a lot of pseudo-science crap.

Online Blackstar

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #30 on: 04/12/2010 02:45 PM »
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1602/1

A bat outta Hell: the ISINGLASS Mach 22 follow-on to OXCART
by Dwayne Day
Monday, April 12, 2010
 
Soon after the U-2 was flying in the latter 1950s, the CIA began work on a successor that eventually resulted in the A-12 OXCART, better known because of its more prominent offspring, the SR-71 Blackbird. The May 1960 shootdown of Francis Gary Powers over the Soviet Union threw ice water on plans to send more manned reconnaissance aircraft over the Soviet Union. Even though CIA officials talked about OXCART missions over the USSR, some of them even flying missions coordinated with satellites far overhead, both politics and the perceived vulnerability of the OXCART to sophisticated defense prevented this from ever happening. But by the mid-1960s the CIA began looking at a potential replacement for the OXCART, a Mach 22 rocket-powered glider known as ISINGLASS.
 
« Last Edit: 04/12/2010 04:54 PM by Blackstar »

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #31 on: 04/12/2010 03:22 PM »
Excellent article, two quick questions.

1. Did the nozzle extension extend while the engine was running vs. shutting down in flight, extending, restarting?

2. So did your research indicate if lesson's learned applied to the RL-10 nozzle extension?
I just saw some idiot at the gym put a water bottle in the pringles holder on the treadmill.

Online Blackstar

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #32 on: 04/12/2010 03:48 PM »
1-I presume it extended while in operation.  This was a booster, so it burned for a short period and then shut off.

2-I don't know.

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #33 on: 04/12/2010 05:31 PM »
Just noticing the Jack screw and wondering if there was a connection to a similar solution.

One and one may not equal two here, but a web image of an RL-102-B showing the screws

http://www.b14643.de/Spacerockets_2/Diverse/US%20engines/RL-10B-2_1.jpg

and your article image

http://www.thespacereview.com/archive/1602b.jpg
 
I just saw some idiot at the gym put a water bottle in the pringles holder on the treadmill.

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #34 on: 04/12/2010 06:53 PM »
You can download the report on the XLR-129 engine here:

http://handle.dtic.mil/100.2/AD881744

WARNING: this is a 17 megabyte file!

Offline yinzer

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #35 on: 04/12/2010 06:59 PM »
Quote
Pratt & Whitney engineers obviously felt they had a superior product, but what happened to it and why probably requires further investigation.

Bill Mulready's book talks a lot about the XLR-129 and the Space Shuttle and a little about ISINGLASS.  Once you account for his obvious and justifiable personal biases, it seems like a pretty clear chain of events.

NASA issued reliability/reusability and performance goals that in combination were probably out of reach.  Pratt offered an engine that would be reliable and reusable but had a performance hit, while Rocketdyne offered an engine that was lighter but less reliable.  NASA had a long and positive history with Rocketdyne, NASA has always been a sucker for high performance, Pratt was probably going to have their hands full with the F100 turbofan for the F-15 and F-16 anyway, and without the SSME Rocketdyne would have been in a bad spot.  SSME contract goes to Rocketdyne.

The SSME's reliability and reusability turned out to be a problem, and down the road Pratt got a few big contracts to significantly redesign the SSME to enhance reliability at the cost of some weight and performance.
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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #36 on: 04/12/2010 10:59 PM »
I was responding to what seems like an urban legend that grew up at P&W that they had a superior product and they got screwed over.  I always doubt those kinds of claims, because the people making them a) are biased, and b) usually lack the information on why decisions were really made.

Offline yinzer

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #37 on: 04/13/2010 02:24 AM »
I agree that most claims of "we had a better product and got screwed over" are self-serving, even if the person making the claim truly believes it.  But in this case it's easy to see why each party thought they had a better product at the time.
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Offline Graham2001

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #38 on: 04/13/2010 05:14 PM »
You can download the report on the XLR-129 engine here:

http://handle.dtic.mil/100.2/AD881744

WARNING: this is a 17 megabyte file!

Interesting, if the Space Review article is correct all documentation on this engine was supposedly destroyed...

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #39 on: 04/13/2010 06:01 PM »
Interesting, if the Space Review article is correct all documentation on this engine was supposedly destroyed...

That's not what the article says.  It says "Pratt & Whitney employees later claimed that they were told to destroy their blueprints and test data to “avoid embarrassing NASA."


Offline yinzer

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #40 on: 04/13/2010 07:47 PM »
Interesting, if the Space Review article is correct all documentation on this engine was supposedly destroyed...

That's not what the article says.  It says "Pratt & Whitney employees later claimed that they were told to destroy their blueprints and test data to “avoid embarrassing NASA."

Without knowing the context in which they said this (hint, hint) it's hard to judge.  But Pratt management certainly could have come to an internal decision to give up on the XLR-129 and then tried to soften the blow to their employees that really wanted to keep it alive by pointing the finger at NASA.
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Offline Proponent

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #41 on: 04/13/2010 10:10 PM »
I once met someone who'd been working on MOL at the time of its cancellation.  He said there had been a rumour that the cancellation was due to a Soviet threat to do something very unpleasant if MOL were ever launched.  Obviously the implication of the rumour is that MOL was a very valuable military asset.  I think we can be virtually certain the rumour was untrue (many discussions in this forum indicate it was doubtful that MOL had much military value to the US, and furthermore the Soviets launched manned military stations of their own).  It's an example of a self-serving myth created by the death of a program.

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #42 on: 04/14/2010 02:41 AM »
I will make one observation that has been true of every product development I've been on. The team always believes the product is better than all other competitors "equivalent" even in the face of reality. You can always find something that lets you point at your team being better. No self serving myths needed. It is pride in ones work.
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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #43 on: 05/20/2010 11:31 PM »
Got more info from a former senior CIA official, working from memory.  Here are some of the details:

-the rocket engine was only for the boost phase.  After that, a scramjet would take over.
-General Schriever was particularly interested in the scramjet.  He could not get that technology funded by the Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, so he was hoping that the CIA would pay for it.
-it's not clear that there was ever a final configuration of the craft.  McDonnell may have gone through a bunch of iterations, just like for OXCART.
-project was sponsored by the airplane side of CIA, without the endorsement of the Directorate of Science and Technology.
-CIA was not convinced that it was possible to solve the window problem.  They had faced a major challenge to get the window to work on the OXCART at Mach 3, and ISINGLASS would have had to fly much faster.  Although it would have been at a higher altitude, there would be major problems in this area.
-the project was too expensive to be funded by CIA alone.  Because DoD was opposed, there was no way that it would get funded.
-CIA had to inform McDonnell that it was not going to happen (because of DoD opposition) and they should stop spending internal funds.
-another major problem was the operational utility.  ISINGLASS could essentially only fly in a straight line and could not maneuver.  This really limited how it could be used.  For example, you had to pick a starting point and an ending point (friendly airfield) and could only photograph targets along that line. If what you wanted to look at was off that line, it was too bad, you were SOL.

This will all go into the article that I'm writing on the program based upon previous documentation.

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #44 on: 11/23/2011 03:50 PM »
We have what is apparently the first illustrations of the shape of the air-launched ISINGLASS vehicle (in manned and unmanned configurations), the interior arrangement of the forward part of the vehicle, including the camera payload, and also a proposed ballistic reconnaissance vehicle.

Details are still sketchy, and I'm hoping to get more. No information on where the pilot would sit in such a small vehicle, or how he would see anything to control it.

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #45 on: 11/25/2011 02:16 PM »
Even though CIA officials talked about OXCART missions over the USSR, some of them even flying missions coordinated with satellites far overhead, both politics and the perceived vulnerability of the OXCART to sophisticated defense prevented this from ever happening. 

I have a vague and very possibly incorrect memory that some flights were made over the Barents Sea parallel to the coast of the Kola Peninsula to get looks inland. Beyond that, a circuit of the Barents going on past Cape Kanin Nos and up the west coast of Novaya Zemlya would have afforded opportunities to see interesting things while staying out of Soviet airspace.

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #46 on: 11/28/2011 03:03 AM »
I have a vague and very possibly incorrect memory that some flights were made over the Barents Sea parallel to the coast of the Kola Peninsula to get looks inland. Beyond that, a circuit of the Barents going on past Cape Kanin Nos and up the west coast of Novaya Zemlya would have afforded opportunities to see interesting things while staying out of Soviet airspace.

I'm not sure what the off-axis capability of the SR-71 was. There were certainly aircraft that were designed to look at a long slant angle, but that requires a relatively large fuselage to fit the camera. They did this regularly with USAF transports along the Berlin corridor. I actually have a significant amount of information on the early Big Safari program that I've never published. Just don't have the energy.

As for ISINGLASS, it remains an interesting mystery. I really wonder about the performance. Somebody should be able to take those dimensions and work out how much fuel it could carry. From there they could work out performance characteristics. I assume that any first-year aerospace engineering student could do that. It's just volume and then the rocket equation. It should be easy to get maximum values.

Offline jjnodice

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #47 on: 11/29/2011 01:22 AM »
As for ISINGLASS, it remains an interesting mystery. I really wonder about the performance. Somebody should be able to take those dimensions and work out how much fuel it could carry. From there they could work out performance characteristics. I assume that any first-year aerospace engineering student could do that. It's just volume and then the rocket equation. It should be easy to get maximum values.

Some of the numbers were hard to read but everything you need for the rocket equation was on the charts. 

For the "Model 192 Unmanned-Booster Retained" I got an ideal delta-V of ~7233 m/sec. 

For the Model 122 "Expendable Booster" I got an ideal deltaV of ~6914 m/sec.

For the "Model 192 Retain Booster" I got an ideal delta-V of ~7370 m/sec.

These are pretty sporty!  Maybe someone can take a stab at figuring out the L/D.
« Last Edit: 11/29/2011 01:23 AM by jjnodice »

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #48 on: 03/12/2012 12:10 AM »
Eric Hehs, editor of LMCO's Code One magazine, has just posted an article on Convair's work on ISINGLASS in 1963-64.  He refers to it by the internal billing number, Work Order 540.

http://www.codeonemagazine.com/article.html?item_id=92

I wish I'd pursued it further when I interviewed Bob Widmer and Randy Kent in 2003 for my book on stealth and the Blackbird.

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #49 on: 03/12/2012 01:50 AM »
That article doesn't refer to ISINGLASS at all.

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #50 on: 03/12/2012 03:49 AM »
Indeed the Code One article doesn't say ISINGLASS.  I just got an e-mail from Eric that says that none of his documents even say who the customer is.

There are a number of CREST documents citing ISINGLASS from this time, which don't mention Convair.  One is precontract approval for proposals 5058 and 5059, dated 30 Dec 63 and 2 Jan 64, respectively.

A search for "Convair" turned up three documents that I've requested:
"ADDITIONAL TASKING OF CONVAIR FORT WORTH, FOR SIMULATION [Sanitized]," 18 Nov 63;
"TASKING FOR CONVAIR," 12 Feb 64; and
"TASKING FOR CONVAIR," 21 Feb 64.

Maybe when I have those it'll be nailed down completely.

I asked Bob Naka about ISINGLASS; he grinned and said that his church had some windows with isinglass.

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #51 on: 03/12/2012 02:06 PM »
My understanding of this is that it was only McDonnell that dealt with ISINGLASS because it was essentially their own proposal. It was not like the CIA put out a request for proposals/bids. Put another way, M went to the USAF and said "we want to try and build this." USAF really liked that, then went to the CIA for funding help. That's what got funded. I've posted a bunch of ISINGLASS documents in this forum (look for them), and I've written this:

http://thespacereview.com/article/1602/1

If Convair did any hypersonics research, it may have not been ISINGLASS at all. It may have simply been the CIA giving out walking-around money to contractors, and Convair got some.

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #52 on: 03/13/2012 12:42 AM »
Pedlow and Welzenbach indicated that the Convair work in 1963-64 was under ISINGLASS, and Welzenbach told me that he worked from un-redacted documents:

http://www.foia.cia.gov/docs/DOC_0000645397/0000645397_0049.gif, and attached.

Granted there are lots of errors in that book, but the ISINGLASS contract documents I cited are in that time frame, even if the contractor is redacted. Is there any evidence that McDonnell or anyone else was involved that early?  So far the earliest document I've found that mentions ISINGLASS and McDonnell is "Proposed Boost Glide Device," 6 Mar 65 by Brockway McMillan (DNRO), and it also mentions Boeing and Martin as possible contractors.

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #53 on: 03/13/2012 01:05 AM »
I suspect that the early work was general, and that McDonnell's proposal got accepted. In addition to the Cunningham interview, I was told by a retired high-ranking CIA official that it was a McDonnell project.

So those other companies may have been pitching high-speed stuff, but didn't make it into what became known as ISINGLASS.

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #54 on: 06/11/2012 01:43 AM »
...
A search for "Convair" turned up three documents that I've requested:
"ADDITIONAL TASKING OF CONVAIR FORT WORTH, FOR SIMULATION [Sanitized]," 18 Nov 63;
"TASKING FOR CONVAIR," 12 Feb 64; and
"TASKING FOR CONVAIR," 21 Feb 64.
...

To follow up on this, the tasking turned out to be for developing a 1/6th scale radar model of an SA-2.  So, this has nothing to do with ISINGLASS.

For what it's worth, the second-earliest ISINGLASS document I've laid hands on has an OXCART control number, OXC-7366.

Unless further evidence turns up, I'd assume that Pedlow & Welzenbach were mistaken in saying that Convair got ISINGLASS funding, and that Dwayne is right.

Offline archipeppe68

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #55 on: 06/11/2012 06:27 AM »
Here it is my personal contribution about the matter.

Offline simonbp

Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #56 on: 06/11/2012 04:05 PM »
Nice!

Offline archipeppe68

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #57 on: 06/13/2012 03:14 PM »

Offline BrightLight

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #58 on: 09/19/2013 09:22 PM »
Just wondering how well this would work at mach 10 and that cool PW-129 engine?

Offline Targeteer

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #59 on: 09/21/2013 12:54 AM »
In the middle of 2001 (i.e. before 9-11) I attended an unclassified symposium at the Defense Intelligence Agency.  It was about historical overflight.  As part of the symposium we got a tour of the DIA's imagery analysis center, which at the time was pioneering the government use of commercial remote sensing imagery.  The value of such imagery was that it could be freely distributed to allies, law enforcement, etc., because it was unclassified.

At the end of our tour we saw the room where they processed U-2 film.  There was a light table there with some U-2 imagery on it.  I took a look and saw an image of several C-17s on a ramp.*  We were told that this was Open Skies imagery.  The US and the Russians took imagery of either sides' installations and apparently shared their imagery.  We used the U-2's film cameras (I think) because it was old technology and we didn't want to show them our current digital capabilities.

Open Skies was not really about intelligence, it was a confidence-building exercise intended to get the two countries talking to each other.


That US imagery is now processed by a unit (the Sq was in my Group) at Wright-Patt and apparently their equipment is some of the only in existence still capable of doing it--spares are a huge problem.  I believe they also process Russian film for distribution to all treaty parties but I could be wrong.  The Russian Open Skies birds base at WP when they are in the US for Open Skies missions and I saw a crew at the Commisary/BX and I swear the crew of at least 15 didn't have two uniforms that matched.  It will be interesting to see how imagery from the new Russian TU-214 http://dtirp.dtra.mil/OST/ost.aspx will be processed since the Russian images will now be digital.
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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #60 on: 03/14/2017 08:36 PM »
Something new.

Offline Star One

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #61 on: 03/14/2017 09:00 PM »
Thanks for that. Shame there's no illustrations in the paperwork.

Online Herb Schaltegger

Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #62 on: 03/14/2017 10:11 PM »
Some interesting details of the development work planned there in the second half of that document, especially with regard to plans for structural test section of fuselage and camera window elements, and the work planned to evaluate several types of metallic shingles to TPS.

Offline HMXHMX

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Re: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane
« Reply #63 on: 03/14/2017 10:15 PM »
Something new.

The powerplant for ISINGLASS was the P&W XLR-129, by the way.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pratt_%26_Whitney_XLR-129

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