Author Topic: ISINGLASS reconnaissance spaceplane  (Read 21576 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 !!!
That logarithm in the rocket equation is rather annoying...

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.

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