Author Topic: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane  (Read 36926 times)

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 ďavoid 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.

Offline kevin-rf

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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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Online Blackstar

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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.

Online Blackstar

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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.

Offline ChileVerde

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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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Online Blackstar

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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 »

Offline suhler

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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.

Online Blackstar

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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.

Offline suhler

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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.

Online Blackstar

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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.

Offline suhler

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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.

Offline suhler

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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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