Boeing Unveils “Son of Blackbird” Hypersonic Spy Plane Concept

Megalith

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Boeing has offered another peek at the successor to its legendary Blackbird SR-71 spy plane, which could achieve speeds of over 2,000 MPH and outrun surface-to-air missiles. The SR-72 will be even faster, capable of reaching Mach 6, or 4,600 MPH.

“Although I can't go into specifics, let us just say the Skunk Works team in Palmdale, California, is doubling down on our commitment to speed,” Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of aeronautics at Lockheed Martin, told the SAE International Aerotech Congress and Exhibition. “Simply put, I believe the United States is on the verge of a hypersonics revolution.”
 

WhoMe

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Great, now when can we fly in one business class...LA to London in what a couple hours (including climb out and landing)? Make those TSA waits seem even longer.
 

DeathFromBelow

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I'm wondering if this aircraft competition has paved the way for a practical SSTO spaceplane. It sounds like Lockheed/Boeing have scramjets and precoolers worked out...
 

ChefJeff789

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Boeing has offered another peek at the successor to its legendary Blackbird SR-71 spy plane, which could achieve speeds of over 2,000 MPH and outrun surface-to-air missiles. The SR-72 will be even faster, capable of reaching Mach 6, or 4,600 MPH.

“Although I can't go into specifics, let us just say the Skunk Works team in Palmdale, California, is doubling down on our commitment to speed,” Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of aeronautics at Lockheed Martin, told the SAE International Aerotech Congress and Exhibition. “Simply put, I believe the United States is on the verge of a hypersonics revolution.”

To be clear here, Boeing did NOT design the SR-71. Kelly Johnson and Ben Rich of Lockheed Skunkworks' fame did (along with many others). This is an unveiling of a competitor concept to Lockheed's already-unveiled SR-72 concept: https://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/news/features/2015/sr-72.html

An exciting idea to be sure, but don't get too excited until you see one on the tarmac. As an aerospace engineer, one of the realities I've had to face is that there are some friggin cool ideas out there that just never get made... Also, don't expect to be flying on a hypersonic aircraft anytime soon over landmasses. The shockwaves would wreak total havoc on everything down below. Some supersonic designs have the potential to partially redirect the wavefront, but I doubt a hypersonic aircraft would function efficiently while doing the same.
 

Chunder

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Nice! Another project the Pentagon doesn't want, but the military industrial complex will bribe... I mean donate money to various congressman to get passed into a bloated and corrupted military budget that needs severe cuts. Can't wait for this thing to be 15 years behind schedule, underperforming, and vastly over budget. These companies need major government intervention to fix their shit like we had to do during WW2.
 

sfsuphysics

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If they're telling everyone about it, it's because they're already flying something better.
Not necessarily. It's closer to showing off this high tech cool stuff to the public so that constituents in areas where there are Boeing plants can push on their congressmen to pass funding to get the military to buy these planes at overly inflated costs and make the company billions. I mean Boeing is already pissed SpaceX came in and essentially "underbid" to get all the nifty government contracts when it comes to satellites.
 

Zepher

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That is an ugly plane. SR-71 still looks so futuristic today and was designed like 50 years ago.
 

EODetroit

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They never really did find out how fast the SR-71 could go. They only went fast enough to outrun the missiles shot at it, but in reality no one ever found out its top speed.
 

IcePickFreak

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Supposedly the SR-71 top speed was right before the airframe gave way. The ramjets were suppose to be able to suck enough air and fuel to push it well past that.

This is a great watch if the SR-71/aviation shit interests you...
 

westrock2000

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That is an ugly plane. SR-71 still looks so futuristic today and was designed like 50 years ago.

You got the number right, just the wrong context. It was conceived in the 1950's. An amazing feat. The 50's-70's were the golden age of aerospace. No computer simulation to tell you something wont work, no budget concerns to say you can't do that. Just unbridled engineering and development. You built it and saw what it did.

Can you believe this was an actual plane that flew??!? Early 1960's design. You could never pull this off in this environment. When faced with pure annihilation, mankind can be very resourceful.

bd24a4299a15cd5abce44b064d0688386db3d277.jpg

XB-70-Valkyrie-2.jpg


XB-70-Valkyrie-gigantic-supersonic-strategic-bomber-2.jpg
 

maxz01

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westrock2000 Yes, I've often wondered how they managed the moon mission and all the other incredible technical feats with such low tech, when today you read about space technology and it's all incredibly difficult. Perhaps they just got insanely lucky, rolled the 2% chance and won?
 

westrock2000

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westrock2000 Yes, I've often wondered how they managed the moon mission and all the other incredible technical feats with such low tech, when today you read about space technology and it's all incredibly difficult. Perhaps they just got insanely lucky, rolled the 2% chance and won?

I have to believe that yes, we did get incredibly lucky. That maybe "sufficient" and "ideal" aren't the same thing and that those guys back then had some major balls tucked in their flight suits. Chuck Yeager wasn't sure what would happen breaking the sound barrier, but he did it regardless. Lots of people don't want to take risks anymore.
 

c3k

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There are plenty of men (and women) willing to let their balls hang out and risk it all. Unfortunately, the PROGRAM MANAGERS are risk averse. You've got cultures which equate a single failure with meaning time to replace the individual.
 

Khahhblaab

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The B2 bomber has the exact same wing span as the slightly ill fated "flying wing" , the YB-35. Shows that Northrup knew - without computers - how to design a plane. But admittingly it took computers to make the B2 safer.
 

WhoMe

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I have to believe that yes, we did get incredibly lucky. That maybe "sufficient" and "ideal" aren't the same thing and that those guys back then had some major balls tucked in their flight suits. Chuck Yeager wasn't sure what would happen breaking the sound barrier, but he did it regardless. Lots of people don't want to take risks anymore.
Like that Chinese guy that killed himself free climbing skyscrapers or those people who like to eat Tide pods? Lots of people take risks, just the wrong risks.
 

Khahhblaab

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westrock2000 Yes, I've often wondered how they managed the moon mission and all the other incredible technical feats with such low tech, when today you read about space technology and it's all incredibly difficult. Perhaps they just got insanely lucky, rolled the 2% chance and won?

I have to believe that yes, we did get incredibly lucky. That maybe "sufficient" and "ideal" aren't the same thing and that those guys back then had some major balls tucked in their flight suits. Chuck Yeager wasn't sure what would happen breaking the sound barrier, but he did it regardless. Lots of people don't want to take risks anymore.

.....but it was also the early days. This is an important fact / part of the mystery. The first of anything is where things evolve from. The first car, didn't have GPS. The first computer - mainframe - filled a room. Technology evolves. When it was understood that a computer would be needed to go to the moon, NASA invested in IC's to make one small enough to fit in the module. Just enough redundancy to be safe, no 'pong' or 'space cadet, for when their may be down time. Programmed in assembly and only the exact requirements would be met. Whats a GUI?

Space flight today uses what was learned from the early days and now has GPS and a female voice that tells you to turn left at the next light<sarcasm>.

The integrated circuitry that NASA invested in, in the early days has become billions of transistors on a chip. This equates to more complexity - that wasn't possible in its infancy. The job got done.

Nina, Pinta, Santa maria or Carnivals Oasis of the seas do the same job.

Its still possible to get around a strange city with a hand-held, folded paper map. GPS, since its available is more current.
 
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Khahhblaab

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2018 and still not 1 video of sex in space. How much have we advanced really?

NASA's astronauts are very well trained and versed on how to keep secrets. Someone has to f'k up before they will 'accidentally' get released.

I bet VR will get it right first.
 

StoleMyOwnCar

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Like that Chinese guy that killed himself free climbing skyscrapers or those people who like to eat Tide pods? Lots of people take risks, just the wrong risks.

The problem is that the "wrong" and "right" risks are often delineated by their success or failure. Not to say that all risks are inherently "valuable" (in terms of society) ones, but frankly... we tend to forget that a lot of humanity's success is founded upon a bunch of idiots fumbling around in the dark with a stick, hoping they poke the right thing...
 

Khahhblaab

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The problem is that the "wrong" and "right" risks are often delineated by their success or failure. Not to say that all risks are inherently "valuable" (in terms of society) ones, but frankly... we tend to forget that a lot of humanity's success is founded upon a bunch of idiots fumbling around in the dark with a stick, hoping they poke the right thing...

...and we also forget that climbing skyscrapers and biting into pods are sometimes just testosterone trying to impress some guys or a girl. It can be said that the space race was a pissing contest, but its a different classification.

At its root, all exploration is risk. America, Mt Everest, Space, The Andes, The source of the Amazon (when it was only known as a really, really long river).

Risky behavior but, these things forge understanding....and sometimes gold, diamonds or other valuable mineral.

Irian Jaya - The Grassberg mine is one of the largest copper / gold mines in the world - in the most inhospitable place in the world. Saw a documentary on it some years ago:



and basically, no major construction firm would attempt it. The ones left, placed some enormous price on it just to see if they could pull it off. Not to do it, just to see if it could be done.

Some guy said give me a small bulldozer, fuel and i'll do it. Mind you, what he was attempting was to make a path on top of rock ledges to form a road from where the copper was to where it could be taken away. If he made a mistake - risk vs reward - risk would win and the body likely wouldnt be found.

He did it and the mine is still making billions - open first in 1973.

This mine is at 14,000 ft. Virtually unreachable.
 

aaronspink

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westrock2000 Yes, I've often wondered how they managed the moon mission and all the other incredible technical feats with such low tech, when today you read about space technology and it's all incredibly difficult. Perhaps they just got insanely lucky, rolled the 2% chance and won?

Money, LOTS and LOTS of money. The budget for the Apollo project alone exceeds all funding NASA had received before or has received since, combined!

The thing that is difficult about space today is doing it on a budget and making it cheap. For instance, SpaceX's goal isn't to get to space or the moon or mars, but to do it at a cost that makes it a practical reality going forwards. That's a much harder problem than just getting a payload somewhere.
 

aaronspink

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They probably know the top speed but never disclosed it to the public.

Apparently we do know the fastest that the SR-71 ever actually flew and it was over Libya. Mach 3.5+: https://sploid.gizmodo.com/5511236/the-thrill-of-flying-the-sr-71-blackbird

The engines were apparently good for up to ~Mach 4 but it was never operationally designed to go that fast and they never planned out a mission at more than 3.2. The pilot and co-pilot though did have operational authority to push it faster if required for defensive purposes. The primary limit to actual speed was skin temperature, not the actual engines. The engines have more than enough thrust to push it well beyond designed airframe speed.
 

Grahamkracka

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To be clear here, Boeing did NOT design the SR-71. Kelly Johnson and Ben Rich of Lockheed Skunkworks' fame did (along with many others). This is an unveiling of a competitor concept to Lockheed's already-unveiled SR-72 concept: https://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/news/features/2015/sr-72.html

An exciting idea to be sure, but don't get too excited until you see one on the tarmac. As an aerospace engineer, one of the realities I've had to face is that there are some friggin cool ideas out there that just never get made... Also, don't expect to be flying on a hypersonic aircraft anytime soon over landmasses. The shockwaves would wreak total havoc on everything down below. Some supersonic designs have the potential to partially redirect the wavefront, but I doubt a hypersonic aircraft would function efficiently while doing the same.

If you really are an Aerospace Engineer you would know the main variable in sonic boom intensity is the quantity of air being accelerated, therefore the main driver(s) of a strong sonic boom is aircraft size and shape. You would also know that beyond about 1.3-1.4 speed is almost an irrelevant factor in increased sonic boom intensity. In fact, the faster you go beyond that particular threshold your shock cone will actually compress which actually reduces the intensity of the boom felt on the ground. This would be even more pronounced with hypersonic aircraft as they typically are of long, slender design with minimal wing leading edge cross section...all of which reduce sonic boom by keeping the cone tighter. The high operating altitude would also be a significant mitigation factor. All of this is proven by the fact that the SR-71's sonic boom was much less intense than the Concord despite being a faster aircraft. Hell, the space shuttle operated in hypersonic regimes while over landmasses during re-entry and little havok was wreaked on anything during each successful re-entry.

If you were an Aerosapce Engineer you would probably also know the main technical challenge of a useful, reusable air breathing hyper-sonic vehicle (other than materials and heat mitigation) is the gap between the maximum possible speed of the modern turbojet (Mach 3-ish) and the lowest speed for (sc)ramjet operation (Mach 4-ish, with a couple exceptions). Unless you want to strap a rocket for each flight this is a major issue.
 

krotch

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Skin temperature.

That's what I was thinking. I wonder how long you have to wait for the plane to cool down before you can get out of it. I don't know if it was ever disclosed how long the cool down period was for the SR-71.
 

IcePickFreak

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That's what I was thinking. I wonder how long you have to wait for the plane to cool down before you can get out of it. I don't know if it was ever disclosed how long the cool down period was for the SR-71.
In that video I linked the guy says that over time, from going supersonic and then having to drop down altitude and speed to refuel, it basically annealed the aircraft (and actually made the plane better.) Thought that was interesting.

Having said that, I would imagine it's was plenty cooled by the time it landed because as supported by the ex-pilot & program commander, the external heat is only created at supersonic speeds from friction. He said the outside of the little cockpit window reaches something like 622°F iirc, at supersonic speed. So if the plane was cooling enough to get annealed doing refuels, by the time they land it's gotta be cool to the touch like any other aircraft. That's a lot of cool air flow at any sub-sonic speed.
 

DeathFromBelow

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Money, LOTS and LOTS of money. The budget for the Apollo project alone exceeds all funding NASA had received before or has received since, combined!

Not really. NASA has sat between 0.5 and 1% of federal budget for most of it's existence. Between 62-68 it gradually ramped up to 5% and then back down. Total cost of the Apollo program was something like $100 billion in today's dollars. The ISS program is estimated at $160+ billion.

You are correct that throwing money at the problem played a role. It's a shame that they didn't just keep flying the Saturn rockets since the Shuttle didn't save much money per flight. Each Saturn V could launch 5x the payload for 1.5-2x the cost of a Shuttle flight...
 
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krotch

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In that video I linked the guy says that over time, from going supersonic and then having to drop down altitude and speed to refuel, it basically annealed the aircraft (and actually made the plane better.) Thought that was interesting.

Having said that, I would imagine it's was plenty cooled by the time it landed because as supported by the ex-pilot & program commander, the external heat is only created at supersonic speeds from friction. He said the outside of the little cockpit window reaches something like 622°F iirc, at supersonic speed. So if the plane was cooling enough to get annealed doing refuels, by the time they land it's gotta be cool to the touch like any other aircraft. That's a lot of cool air flow at any sub-sonic speed.

That's true, but if the plane ride is short, wouldn't have much cool down flight time. Unless they just fly around in a big circle for a while. Could be quicker than sitting on tarmac waiting. Although, winter time it'd cool much quicker, depending on location.
 

Khahhblaab

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That's what I was thinking. I wonder how long you have to wait for the plane to cool down before you can get out of it. I don't know if it was ever disclosed how long the cool down period was for the SR-71.

I bet its a slight concern, but only a concern. Space shuttle upon re-entry dissipated much more heat - from orbit. I see how titanium could store more heat since its a metal and not designed to insulate against it, but I feel its an similar example.

Thought: After cruising at Mach-'X', its entirely possible that depending on its distance from the landing zone and the path it took to get there, the plane could be 'cool' to the touch since at altitude air is at negative temperatures.

Imagine flying at mach 2 for a hour, then staying at 85,000 feet where air temps are below freezing, and gently gliding through the atmosphere on the way to a landing. Could be cool to the touch. But if after flying at Mach it comes directly in, the plane would have retained much of the heat generated by going so fast.

So it could be it depends on the flight envelope. Fast in - HOT. Easy glide - cool.

-------------updated-------------------->

Theory not likely. Plane gets over 427 degrees C when air temp is -56 C at 83,000 ft and mach 3.2. Below is the flight envelope:
Sr-71 mission profile.GIF


Unless specifically to cool down by flying a protracted slope, the blackbird just come in after doing its thing. No real time for low air temps to cool down its skin.

A few more interesting picts:
SR-71 01 frame temps.png


View attachment 51149

SR71_J58_Engine_Airflow_Patterns(fixed).png


The PDF is a interesting read.
 

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  • SR-71-Nasa Test Bed (10.1.1.33.8566).pdf
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c3k

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Total Air Temperature at high Mach numbers cause the leading edges to heat up...past the melting point of most metals. High temp alloys had to be used. Aft of the leading edges, the heating was negligible.
 

krotch

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If it's a passenger jet, I guess they would just make special terminal tunnels to withstand the heat. Then cool down that section with A/C or something to allow passengers to disembark. Although, not sure if that'd be detrimental to the integrity of the plane to be doing something like that. Well, there's geniuses out there that can figure it all out, if we make hyper sonic passenger jets.
 

ChefJeff789

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If you really are an Aerospace Engineer you would know the main variable in sonic boom intensity is the quantity of air being accelerated, therefore the main driver(s) of a strong sonic boom is aircraft size and shape. You would also know that beyond about 1.3-1.4 speed is almost an irrelevant factor in increased sonic boom intensity. In fact, the faster you go beyond that particular threshold your shock cone will actually compress which actually reduces the intensity of the boom felt on the ground. This would be even more pronounced with hypersonic aircraft as they typically are of long, slender design with minimal wing leading edge cross section...all of which reduce sonic boom by keeping the cone tighter. The high operating altitude would also be a significant mitigation factor. All of this is proven by the fact that the SR-71's sonic boom was much less intense than the Concord despite being a faster aircraft. Hell, the space shuttle operated in hypersonic regimes while over landmasses during re-entry and little havok was wreaked on anything during each successful re-entry.

If you were an Aerosapce Engineer you would probably also know the main technical challenge of a useful, reusable air breathing hyper-sonic vehicle (other than materials and heat mitigation) is the gap between the maximum possible speed of the modern turbojet (Mach 3-ish) and the lowest speed for (sc)ramjet operation (Mach 4-ish, with a couple exceptions). Unless you want to strap a rocket for each flight this is a major issue.

Man, being a bit aggressive with the accusations. All valid points you make, but I didn't contradict any of them. If I were an aerospace engineer, and I am, I would also know that commercial aircraft (about which I'm talking here) don't fly at the high altitudes that the shuttle flew at while hypersonic, or anywhere near the ceiling of the SR-71. The issue I see is that the FAA restricts commercial aircraft to a fairly narrow altitude range, and that range may be too low to negate the effects of the shockwaves. And yes, the shockfronts get compressed and cone narrows, but being closer the ground could negate the beneficial effects there. And in order to redirect a wavefront, you usually generate additional friction on at least a few surfaces. I was not referring to magically "louder" shockfronts when going faster, I was referring to additional thermal concerns with a passenger-friendly design. And to your last point, clearly you can't start a ramjet/scramjet at rest. If you glance at the link I posted, Lockheed's concept has a novel (potential) solution to that problem.

I see a lot of people saying 'wow, we could be flying from LA to New York at Mach 6 in a couple years!' My response is 'maybe in 50 years after we've solved the thermal problems and the FAA has altered it's regulations, but not a couple'
 

WhoMe

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.

I see a lot of people saying 'wow, we could be flying from LA to New York at Mach 6 in a couple years!' My response is 'maybe in 50 years after we've solved the thermal problems and the FAA has altered it's regulations, but not a couple'
I see a few people like me saying when? And being a bit facetious about it (given the promise of hypersonic passenger flight has not lived up to the hype). It sounds neat but like all these things we hear about, like a cure for baldness and these great new batteries just around the corner, we want to actually seem them in use. Meanwhile it's fun to posit where you could go at those speeds, but nobody here seems to be saying it's a "couple" of years away.
 

motomonkey

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........I see a lot of people saying 'wow, we could be flying from LA to New York at Mach 6 in a couple years!' My response is 'maybe in 50 years after we've solved the thermal problems and the FAA has altered it's regulations, but not a couple'

I imagine the upper flight ceiling limit is more of a combination of military restrictions and a lack of capabilities for most commercial aircraft to fly at the altitudes a Scramjet will need to fly,
 

IcePickFreak

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600°F isn't that hot, relatively speaking (a race car front brake rotors can get over 1000°F.) Mach 1 is 761mph at sea level and only gets lower with altitude, so it's not going to take that long to cool down at surface temps, much less as they descend down from altitude, where they'll be sub-sonic. I couldn't see anything outside an emergency landing, and even then I personally have my doubts, where the plane would still be hot enough to keep crew in the plane waiting for it to cool down.

I'd wager on routine flight they have 20+ minutes at the least, of sub-sonic flight, before they're on the tarmac. 500-600mph (sub-sonic) is a shit ton of cooling airflow, 600° even at 10 minutes at even 300+mph isn't going to be hot to the touch IMO.

If you look at telemetry of race car brake temps, those cool down quickly and they're generally <200mph on a hot tarmac and the heat bleeds off insanely fast as soon as they let off the brakes. They can bleed off hundreds of degrees in single straight away. Granted an SR-71 is probably going to be more heat soaked after extended super sonic flight, it's still just a ridiculous amount of cooling airflow at pretty much any sub-sonic flight speed.

Not saying I'm right and you're wrong, just throwing my reasoning out there.
 
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