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General Dynamics/Convair
San Diego, California
AIAA Paper
No. 66-959


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Flateric, do you have any additional information on the Convair "High L/D" Vehicle configuration?

NASA and Convair did some trade studies on these configurations and others in this document:



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Thanks for the information flateric!

I spoke to Marvin French who did the weight trades for the VL-3A and he did not remeber a "CVL-4" designation (which appears on the picture). My speculation was that it was a Convair model designation, similar to its aircraft, such as the CV-580, CV-880, etc. However, Mr. French told me that VL stood for Variable Lift, so the "C" may have been for "Convair" and the "4A" for a later variant of the VL-3A design.

I have speculated that the importance Convair leveled on the VL-3A (CLV-4A) configuration was greater than maybe advertised. Mr. French said that when he joined Convair's Advanced Design Group the VL-3A design was just being developed. He said this was in the early 1960's and well befor the Lynch 1966 AIAA paper.

I'm thinking that its very much a possibility that Convairs proposal for Project ISINGLASS was a variant of the VL-3A design. It is written that ISIGNGLASS was developed from FISH technology and the 'new' F-111. Fish technology: pyroceram, retractable engines, and a Mach 4-5 fuselage planform; F-111 technology: Variable geometry. Taking these elements and combining them into a known Convair configuration you may get, what looks like, VL-3A.

Or I just might be crazy. My wife would testify to my level of insanity :p
Classic lifting body as such it would probably suffer from same trans-subsonic control issue roll oscillations. The cure was developed by FDL-7 with X fins rather than the vertical stabs. Russian used pivoting fins to accomplish same effect. However fly-by-wire tech today could perhaps overcome these issues.
That detachable rocket pack is interesting.
Base drag was high for lifting bodies (I think this shallow rear end is what makes it High L/D, as seen in the modifications compared to a Dyna-Soar silhouette) so it makes sense for gliding to get rid of that.
All in all like a more refined Dyna-Soar really.
Funny how NASA (Dale Reed et al) was working on similar stuff on the civilian side back then.
The CV-4A picture has the vehicle launching and recovering at the WTR, lending itself to a possible USAF/NRO type of launches with polar orbit and sun-sync type orbits available for reconnaissance purposes. The crew ferry configuration shown above has a different hatch arrangement from the CV-4A model. The larger crew hatch may imply two crew members seated side-by-side, as in the trainer configuration, as illustrated above. The other large hatch looks like a payload bay hatch.
Dynoman said:
The CV-4A picture has the vehicle launching and recovering at the WTR, lending itself to a possible USAF/NRO type of launches with polar orbit and sun-sync type orbits available for reconnaissance purposes.

That's certainly why they would fly out of Vandenberg. However, there's no indication that the NRO was interested in this kind of capability at that time. In fact, they apparently wanted nothing to do with manned spaceflight until around 1965 and the MOL program. They viewed it as unnecessary.
Thanks Blackstar, I agree. I jumped the gun by stating (USAF/NRO) :-\ The NRO doesn't seem to be interested in the ISINGLASS program until later either, when the CIA begins looking for funds and pitches the program to the NRO. A redacted individual of the Aug 14, 68' memo by John Parangosky (in the pdf document found here on Secret Projects http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/ISINGLASSDocs1.pdf) states that he is "suprised to learn that the (CIA/OSA) never were funded by the NRO" for all of the work conducted by the CIA on ISINGLASS and that Dr. Alexander H. Flax, NRO Director, was ready to give them funds as of 1968.

The VL-3A design was developed in the 'early' 1960's and could have been applied to Convairs reconnaissance proposal of 1964. I thought it was strange that a manned NASA vehicle would be depicted launching from the WTR.

Could this vehicle have been apart of the KH-10/MOL ferry concepts?
I don't think you jumped the gun. It's a reasonable conclusion to draw. But it's something we always have to consider when dealing with contractor proposals--the customer may not be interested in what the contractor is proposing. There's not much documentation on the NRO and human spaceflight, but there are some vague indications that they were not just uninterested (their robots were good enough), but actively stayed away, at least up to the mid-1960s.
Among the postings at Flickr by the San Diego Air and Space Museum is this photo of a display in the Convair/General Dynamics lobby for the VL-3A. Again, I wish it were posted at a higher resolution, but you can discern some of the charts, illustrations, and photos used in the display, including a description of the Purple Blend ablative heat shield and the Dyna-Quartz insulation to be used on the VL-3A.

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