Below is concept art from North American Aviation depicting a manned hypersonic airbreathing vehicle… presumably using scramjets (not a certainty, however). It was clearly painted by the same artist, using the same technique, as this rendering of the Manned Hypersonic Test Vehicle-3 (MHTV-3). Date is uncertain, but is from the latter portion of the 1960′s. This design might be the MHTV-1, -2, or something completely other. As with a lot of concept art from decades ago, it was found without context… in this case, a transparency found at a yard sale.

The aircraft features six engines, three on either side of a semi-conical fuselage. A ventral ridge runs from the nose past the engine exhausts;panel lines indicate that the landing gear was contained within this ridge. Another line behind the cockpit indicates that the forward fuselage could pop off in the event of an emergency. Downward angled wingtips indicate B-70-like compression lift; a large expansion ramp  forms the aft end of the rather tubby fuselage.

You can download a 5.7 megabyte JPG file of the artwork; the link  is HERE.


Lights Out For The Airborne Laser

It’s apparently not *all* bad news. While the ABL has been making progress, it’s far over budget, and thus an obvious target for budget cuts. But the USAF claims to have entirely new laser technology coming down the pike which will allow similar laser capability to be put on unmanned aircraft (type undescribed) within a few years. If this means something akin to Global Hawk, then that would mean a rather staggering decrease in system mass, and presumably cost. Which would, at least in principle, allow the skies to be filled with laser-armed aircraft.

The F-35 would be an obvious platform… the bay for the forward lift-jet would make a dandy location for a laser. Without a major sensor upgrade, an F-35 based anti-missile system seems unlikely, but an F-35 based laser-ground-attack system seems possible. Such a laser system would also be an obvious addition to the weapons complement of the AC-130.

APR issues used to be published with a mishmash of of 8.5X11 and 11X17 pages. When I started releasing issues on MagCloud, APR became an all-8.5X11 publication.

However, there are oftentimes illustrations that would benefit from being on 11X17, such as many in issue V3N2. Additionally, there are often more illustrations than can be conveniently added to a coherent article. So I have put together an addendum for V3N2, including a number of larger-format illustrations and some new ones that didn’t make it into V3N2. This includes:

  • 1/72 scale CAD drawings from the F-23 derivatives article (they were 1/144 scale in V3N2)
  • 1/96 scale CAD drawings of the FB-23 (formerly 1/144 scale)
  • Larger-size and additional color renderings of the F-23A and NATF-23 by artist Ken Scott
  • Larger-size versions of the “Christmas Fighter,” YF-23, F-23A and NATF-23 diagrams
  • Larger-size and additional diagrams covering the STAR Clipper and derivatives

The V3N2 Addendum can be picked up HERE.

A three-view drawing of the North American Rockwell FX, dated June 1969, with a good deal of dimensional and other data. Note the large ventral fins which fold out of the way for takeoff and landing.

A kinda-high resolution version of the diagram can be downloaded HERE.

In 1947, NACA-Langley conducted ditching tests on a  1/20 scale model of the XB-36. This involved accelerating the model under a rail system and releasing it over water, letting it glide down to a landing. In order to more accurately represent the configuration of the aircraft, panels were removed from the underside… landing gear doors, bomb bay doors, skin panels, etc. Obviously, a B-36 would not land in the water without good reason; and battle damage would rank way up there. While the plane remains stable during these battle-damage-landings, it sure does grind to a halt in a hell of a hurry. In suspect a real-life ditching like this would involve the aircraft breaking into several chunks.

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DARPA is looking at air launch options… but instead of giant, world-record carrier aircraft, they are also interested in the possibility of using fighters and/or small corporate jets as the carrier aircraft in order to launch 100 pound payloads. The goal is a mission cost of one million dollars or less… equating to $10,000/pound, which is the equal of the most expensive large launchers. But the benefit for such high per-pound cost launch systems will be, it is hoped, the ability to launch on short notice, from innumerable airfields, and with high annual launch rates.
One design not mentioned but that springs to mind anyway is the XCOR Lynx. It’s a two-seat rocketplane designed to carry a small payload on its back; payload deliverable to LEO is not  given, but with a dorsal payload of 650 kilos, it’s probably in the range of  20 kilos or so. The targeted price of a ticket on Lynx is just shy of $100 grand; so based just on that, Lynx would haul payload for the equivalent of $5000/kilo, or about $11,000 per pound. This, sadly, does not include the cost of the upper stages, which likely will be substantial, and probably expendable (although I wouldn’t rule out reusability here). This indicates that reaching that $10K/lb launch price at this scale may be a bit tricky, but is at least within the range of the possible.

The Lockheed CL-1317, a 1977 design for a hydrogen fueled jetliner. Done for NASA, this was one of a large number of jetliners designed to use cryogenic fuels… hydrogen mainly, with several methane designs. For those who don’t remember 1977, it *sucked.* The era of petroleum seemed like it would probably end tomorrow, and so non-fossil-fuel system studies (such as Solar Power Satellites) were all the rage. A hydrogen fueled jetliner would seem obvious, but as can be seen from the diagram, the extremely low density of liquid hydrogen meant extremely large fuel tanks.

A giant descendant of the White Knight/SpaceShip 2 system seems to be under development. Paul Allen and Burt Rutan are behind “Stratolaunch Systems,” which would develop the worlds largest aircraft to carry a derivative of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher.

Carrier Aircraft

The carrier aircraft, built by Scaled Composites, weighs more than 1.2 million pounds and has a wingspan of 385 feet – greater than the length of a football field. Using six 747 engines, the carrier aircraft will be the largest aircraft ever constructed. The air-launch system requires a takeoff and landing runway that is, at minimum, 12,000 feet long. The carrier aircraft can fly over 1,300 nautical miles to reach an optimal launch point.

Multi-Stage Booster

SpaceX’s multi-stage booster is derived from the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. At approximately 120 feet long, the booster is designed to loft the payload into low earth orbit. After release of the booster from the aircraft at approximately 30,000 feet, the first stage engines ignite and the spacecraft begins its journey into space. After the first stage burn and a short coast period, the second stage ignites and the orbital payload proceeds to its planned mission.

The carrier aircraft is a twin-body design to be built – or at least designed – by Scaled Composites. The design is very much a Scaled Composites design, though rather slab-sided compared to usual Scaled designs. Payload would be on the order of a half-million pounds, and propulsion would be provided by six “747 engines.” The Falcon 9 rocket would be given a Pegasus-like delta wing, located very far aft. Payload delivered to LEO is 13,500 pounds, and could include the manned Dragon space capsule.

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Some images:

It’s unclear as yet what the actual status of the program is… whether it’s in the conceptual design stage, advanced design or maybe even construction (unlikely, that).

Round Two in ExcessRez is available HERE.

Posted a medium-rez version of this a while back. But I’ve made a full-rez 4 megabyte version available Over Yonder.

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