BLACK DAWN revisited

coach46

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BLACK DAWN revisited

More than a decade ago, when I started to roam the net for black aircrafts, not so many good pages could be found.
One of the first really interesting and seriously based page I fond was “black dawn”, and hundred of times I revisited this page, hoping the update of the Aurora Page, titled “coming soon”, would be online. But it did not occur…
One day, the page was offline and couldn’t be found anymore.

But now its online again, thanks to web.archeve.org. You can access it here: http://web.archive.org/web/20060323070336/members.macconnect.com/users/q/quellish/dawn.spml

Many thanks to our member Quellish an to Dan Zinngrabe!
 

XP67_Moonbat

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Sweet dude! Thanks for the find. I used to go to this site during my service on the Truman. It's good to see it again.
 

quellish

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coach46 said:
BLACK DAWN revisited

More than a decade ago, when I started to roam the net for black aircrafts, not so many good pages could be found.
One of the first really interesting and seriously based page I fond was “black dawn”, and hundred of times I revisited this page, hoping the update of the Aurora Page, titled “coming soon”, would be online. But it did not occur…
One day, the page was offline and couldn’t be found anymore.

But now its online again, thanks to web.archeve.org. You can access it here: http://web.archive.org/web/20060323070336/members.macconnect.com/users/q/quellish/dawn.spml

Many thanks to our member Quellish an to Dan Zinngrabe!


MacConnect kept it up for a long time, it got them a lot of traffic.
I have the Aurora stuff in bits and pieces here and there, unfortunately most of the hard drives they're on are SCSI and not accessible to any of the machines I have up and running now. I'd say about 1/4 of the Aurora pages were "done". It turned into more of a case study in investigating classified programs, which I've been thinking about writing up here (though not focused on Aurora).

I had one more page up else where that was supposed to be part of the version 2 of the site, but it only talked about the Air Force Special Program (IIRC). Some people thought it was a new platform, it was provable that it was actually the U-2.
 

shockonlip

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I remember this page as well back in my skunk.works list days.

I think I reviewed it for Dan several times.
 

quellish

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shockonlip said:
I remember this page as well back in my skunk.works list days.

I think I reviewed it for Dan several times.

And the input was much appreciated!
 

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I too have fond memories of the old Black Dawn site. It was one of my old haunts back in the days when I'd latch onto the slightest AvLeak rumor and run with it.
 

quellish

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CFE said:
I too have fond memories of the old Black Dawn site. It was one of my old haunts back in the days when I'd latch onto the slightest AvLeak rumor and run with it.

Well, 2.0 will come along eventually.
 

coach46

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Well, 2.0 will come along eventually.

That’s what we all are looking for!

But my favourite was and still is the Brilliant Buzzard part, which under the aspect of the well-known AW&ST article about “Blackstar” from 03-06-2006 possibly could be rewritten or at least amended.
 

quellish

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coach46 said:
Well, 2.0 will come along eventually.

That’s what we all are looking for!

But my favourite was and still is the Brilliant Buzzard part, which under the aspect of the well-known AW&ST article about “Blackstar” from 03-06-2006 possibly could be rewritten or at least amended.

I'd have to get a copy of the AW&ST article, but from what I recall of it.... I'm not sure how I would respond to "blackstar".

Now, the evidence on BB/blackstar/mothership/etc. whatever you want to call it is pretty thin. There were plenty of sightings, some very credible, but those are the worst kind of data. Eyewitness reports are way too subjective. I did have sources who were familiar with an SDIO program called "BRILLIANT BUZZARD" that matched the configuration and description, but not much more than that. It was consistent with what SDIO was doing during the time period that would have covered its development, and I don't have much doubt that SDIO would put money into a TSTO system, but I was never able to *find* the money. I could not find a line item, etc. that associated with such a program or the cost of developing or deploying such a system.
Often when I go searching for programs like these I look at "derivative" items, such as engines, or take a hollistic approach and analyze from a resources standpoint. There were periods that coincided with the eyewitness sightings where, for example, the amount of JP coming into DET 3 could have supported such an aircraft and chase aircraft easily.
At no point have I ever been able to find even a hint of large volumes of cryogenics being transported to DET 3 even on an irregular basis, or production facilities on base.


I do find it very interesting that some of the current TSTO proposals out there for various programs very closely match the configuration seen by the eyewitnesses, some even to the "disappearing canard".
 

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It's interesting to speculate on a BRILLIANT BUZZARD-type aircraft from a technical point-of-view, such as the one offered by Spaceworks Engineering.

http://www.sei.aero/eng/papers/uploads/archive/SEI_Blackstar_WP.pdf

There's nothing exotic about an aircraft fitting that description. In many ways its less challenging than the baseline XB-70 (it would only need to dash at Mach 2 - Mach 3, opposed to a sustained high-speed run.) But it's pretty clear that if the Testors' "SR-75 Penetrator" model were real, it would be grossly underpowered for the mothership mission.
 

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@ quellish: I have collected everything about Blackstar (even a paper-copy from AW&ST) and therefore can send you everything through mail if you need it.

The link to AW&ST from Mar 5, 2006: http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_generic.jsp?channel=awst&id=news/030606p1.xml still works.

@CFE: I fully agree that an aircraft like Blackstar, or to be precise, the mothership called SR-3 would have been less challenging than the XB-70.
Only for take-off and for the launch-sequence it would need additional power, what could be achieved with an additional rocket-engine SSME, as you see in the Boeing Patent No. 4 802 639, Nr. 22 in the attached pic 1.This SSME would be housed in the dorsal hump, together with the launch mechanism, see pic 2.

In the AW&ST article, the most irritating aspect are the artist’s impressions, which are clearly inconsistent with the text: “At least four engine exhaust ports, grouped as two well-separated banks on either side of the aircraft centreline”, but the pics showed a single bank of 6 engines, like in the XB-70. see pic 3

Two separate banks allow to put the XOV in-between instead of underneath the engines, what would allow to keep the undercarriage about the same height as on XB-70. Many comments on the internet could have been quite different if this fact was clearly shown in the pics. I tried to convince our well-known member Jozef Gatial to build a CG-model of this but didn’t succeed yet. Josef??
 

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quellish

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coach46 said:
Two separate banks allow to put the XOV in-between instead of underneath the engines, what would allow to keep the undercarriage about the same height as on XB-70. Many comments on the internet could have been quite different if this fact was clearly shown in the picks. I tried to convince our well-known member Jozef Gatial to build a CG-model of this but didn’t succeed yet. Josef??

One of the things that has always interested me about this aircraft has been the landing gear. There is almost no way that I can see the developers using off the shelf landing gear for something like this, so someone would have to invest in creating them. Two things that are almost always off the shelf on demonstrators are the engines and landing gear. Who would have produced the gear, and did any of those companies or their suppliers have significant black world income during the years this would have been in development?
 

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Trying to draw the side viewor the longitudinal section of the Blackstar system, I’m convinced it would be possible with the XB-70 landing gear. At the moment I have only the sketch from astronautix at hand (see attached pic), but I’ll post my own as soon as I’ve scanned it.
 

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frank

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Wouldn't that nose-down attitude be a problem for takeoff? Methinks it would. I can see the benefit on landing, like the Shuttle, but I would expect the nose gear to be tall enough to keep the a/c at least level at takeoff.

coach46 said:
Trying to draw the side viewor the longitudinal section of the Blackstar system, I’m convinced it would be possible with the XB-70 landing gear. At the moment I have only the sketch from astronautix at hand (see attached pic), but I’ll sent my own as soon as I’ve scanned it.
 

quellish

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coach46 said:
Trying to draw the side viewor the longitudinal section of the Blackstar system, I’m convinced it would be possible with the XB-70 landing gear. At the moment I have only the sketch from astronautix at hand (see attached pic), but I’ll sent my own as soon as I’ve scanned it.

Rendering I did years ago based on sightings, with captions from my analysis at the time. The underside looked more or less like that XB-70 drawing - widely spaced engines. I never heard nor saw anything at the time that told me where a parasite craft would be attached.

One of the things that was AMAZINGLY consistent was the rounded chine/nose like on the SR-71. The canards were inconsistent in sightings, even at low level, which is why they were thought to be retractable. Some viewers reported a black trim along the edges, some not. Some reported a bare metal appearance, some white. Of those people who could see it turning, nearly all reported the hump on the back.
 

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CFE

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A BRILLIANT BUZZARD type aircraft would likely have landing gear based on the Tu-144 configuration. I'm still amazed how wide across the Tu-144 landing gear is, in spite of the narrow nacelle it retracts into. But the extra volume required for the landing gear translates into nacelles that are longer than those of the Concorde.

One prominent design feature, the wingtip rudders, deserves an explanation. Two possibilities are 1) the aircraft operates at high angles of attack, or 2) it carries a payload on its back. John Andrews and Testors assumed that #2 was correct, neglecting the dangers posed by topside launch that were observed during the D-21 program.
 

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frank said:
Wouldn't that nose-down attitude be a problem for takeoff? Methinks it would. I can see the benefit on landing, like the Shuttle, but I would expect the nose gear to be tall enough to keep the a/c at least level at takeoff.

@ frank: The short front landing gear in the astronautix sketch is not a very good solution. I think the air intake could be quite similar to the XB-70 (central, with vertical splitter plate), so the front landing gear would be much shorter, see my sketch Section 1.

The AW&ST article says “At least four engine exhaust ports, grouped as two well-separated banks on either side of the aircraft centreline” which leaves the possibility open for a central intake.


One of the things that was AMAZINGLY consistent was the rounded chine/nose like on the SR-71. The canards were inconsistent in sightings, even at low level, which is why they were thought to be retractable.

@ quellish: Perhaps the pic in AW&ST 24-AUG-1992 (attached) influenced everybody? For this unusual section I couldn’t find any other plausible explication than the necessity of additional width to store the retracted canards.


One prominent design feature, the wingtip rudders, deserves an explanation. Two possibilities are 1) the aircraft operates at high angles of attack, or 2) it carries a payload on its back.

@ CFE: Do you exclude the possibility that these “wingtip rudders” where just winglets for aerodynamic reasons? I thought Kelly Johnson was so shocked from the M-21 separation accident (he called the Mach 3 separation the most dangerous thing they ever tried to achieve) that he stopped it immediately. The Boeing patent (see pic in my post before would be a possibility to make the separation less dangerous.
 

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CFE

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It's true that the Boeing 1982 TSTO had wingtip rudders, but these had moved much closer to the mothership's centerline by the 1993 iteration of the design. I don't know the reasons for the design decision (or, for that matter, why the XB-70 needed twin rudders instead of a taller central rudder.) Placing them on the wingtips would help to generate lift, in the same way that commercial airliners use winglets to extend range. I would add that bthe wingtip rudders on the Testors concept appear to be undersized when compared with the XB-70 verticals.

I definitely think that topside carry has been rejected by most members of industry, for the same reasons that Kelly Johnson rejected it, and for the same reasons behind the XB-70 + F-104 collision. The mothership has a tendency to gain altitude after separation because it drops a lot of mass and drag. Active control needs to be maintained on the daughtercraft to keep the two apart. The only way I can see that method working is if the propulsion systems on both mothership and daughtercraft are thrusting, and the mothership drops away as its tanks are depleted (similar to a rocket staging event.)
 

quellish

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coach46 said:
@ quellish: Perhaps the pic in AW&ST 24-AUG-1992 (attached) influenced everybody? For this unusual section I couldn’t find any other plausible explication than the necessity of additional width to store the retracted canards.

Sorry, my previous post may not have been clear. Not the sides of the chines were rounded, I had meant that there was a nose like that of an SR-71 but broader, rounded instead of a pointed tip.
 

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quellish said:
One of the things that was AMAZINGLY consistent was the rounded chine/nose like on the SR-71.

What sightings? Can you quote name, date, when the interview was conducted, who conducted the interview, and was any follow-up conducted?

So many of these "sightings" are the equivalent of urban legends--they always happened to a friend's cousin's brother's uncle. Nobody bothers to check the stories and do follow-up, they simply start to see patterns that are never there. This was one of the problems with the Aviation Week article, where one of the sighter's credentials was that she was a "birdwatcher."
 

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coach46 said:
which leaves the possibility open for a central intake.

what for, for the God's sake, would they use *so complicated* intake construction instead of two separate paired/tripled engine nacelles? and try to find enough place for jet/rocket engines in your proposed airframe
 

quellish

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blackstar said:
quellish said:
One of the things that was AMAZINGLY consistent was the rounded chine/nose like on the SR-71.

What sightings? Can you quote name, date, when the interview was conducted, who conducted the interview, and was any follow-up conducted?

So many of these "sightings" are the equivalent of urban legends--they always happened to a friend's cousin's brother's uncle. Nobody bothers to check the stories and do follow-up, they simply start to see patterns that are never there. This was one of the problems with the Aviation Week article, where one of the sighter's credentials was that she was a "birdwatcher."

Yes. They are first person, primary source material. All graded. I *had* recordings of some, I haven't seen those recordings in years however. I do not have documented consent to publish the names of the sources and never sought it - I am not a journalist or author. I had a hobby and back then a lot of free time and blank tapes. A number of the supposed sightings I was able to connect with the presence of Beech Starships, Long-Ezs and the like. The sightings I refer to are the needles in a very large haystack.
That's how I was taught to do things.
 

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what for, for the God's sake, would they use *so complicated* intake construction instead of two separate paired/tripled engine nacelles? and try to find enough place for jet/rocket engines in your proposed airframe

I suppose, In designing the Mothership, they tried to use as many proven subassemblies and components (basically from XB-70 but also form others) as possible.

So the intake could be taken directly from XB-70, as well as the front landing gear.

Also, the second Boeing patent from 1993 shows some kind of fairing in front of the orbiter (see attached pic) which function would be provided by the XB-70-like air intake as well.

The jet-engines, of course, are positioned in the 2 laterally displaced groups on both side of the orbiter. The rocket engine, as in the old Boeing patent from 1989, in central position above the orbiter. It could be the reason for the well-discussed dorsal hump.
 

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It's interesting to take a look at the 1993 iteration of Boeing TSTO and notice four separate main landing gear struts. Seems like a pretty good solution to the "Blackstar/BRILLIANT BUZZARD Landing Gear" issue. It's important to note that the 1993 mothership was based around six pie-in-the-sky turbojets, rather than an actual engine currently in existence. The 1982 mothership used eight F101 engines. While F110 was in development at the time, F101 was a better choice (it gets better specific fuel consumption on dry thrust, while the related F110 has better SFC in afterburner.)
 

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coach46 said:
So the intake could be taken directly from XB-70, as well as the front landing gear.

Have ever heard the phrase 'it's easier to bulid it from scratch than use existing parts"?
That's the case.
Aerodynamic design of modified XB-70 intake would be, let's say, nightmare task for engineers.
And, just for second, note how much jet engines Boeing thought to be needed to boost launcher?
Hump? Don't you think it would be easier to make a cutout for vertical tail, or just fold it?
 

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If I'm not mistaken, isn't all of the BlackStar business similar to the USSR's Spiral 50-50 project of the '60s? http://www.buran.ru/htm/molniya.htm
 

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...quite as it similar to myriad of other air-launch TSTO projects around the world
 

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flateric said:
Have ever heard the phrase 'it's easier to bulid it from scratch than use existing parts"?

I confess I never heard this phrase.

But comparing a 1955 vintage 707 to a modern day A340 e.g., I don’t think many aircrafts ever were built from scratch. If the requirements were quite similar to an existing aircraft, you have access to the experience gathered with it, you are under time pressure and tight financial limits then it could be wise to use as many existing components (engines, landing gears…).
 

quellish

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coach46 said:
flateric said:
Have ever heard the phrase 'it's easier to bulid it from scratch than use existing parts"?

I confess I never heard this phrase.

But comparing a 1955 vintage 707 to a modern day A340 e.g., I don’t think many aircrafts ever were built from scratch. If the requirements were quite similar to an existing aircraft, you have access to the experience gathered with it, you are under time pressure and tight financial limits then it could be wise to use as many existing components (engines, landing gears…).

There is using the components, and using the design. You see use of existing, off the shelf components quite a bit. Resurrecting component that are out of production is a lot more rare.
 

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from another topic (http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,5527.0.html) in this forum:

XB-70 with X-15B
 

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I have to chime in since Black Dawn was one of my old haunts from the early days of the internet I think 3 jobs ago.

Dan's writing showed he had a keen mind and was able to collate data from a bunch of sources into a cohesive whole.

I really hope that Mark II shows up some day.

Dan could make the phone book or a tech manual interesting!
 

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One of the things that was AMAZINGLY consistent was the rounded chine/nose like on the SR-71. The canards were inconsistent in sightings, even at low level, which is why they were thought to be retractable.

@ quellish: Perhaps the pic in AW&ST 24-AUG-1992 (attached) influenced everybody? For this unusual section I couldn’t find any other plausible explication than the necessity of additional width to store the retracted canards.


One prominent design feature, the wingtip rudders, deserves an explanation. Two possibilities are 1) the aircraft operates at high angles of attack, or 2) it carries a payload on its back.

@ CFE: Do you exclude the possibility that these “wingtip rudders” where just winglets for aerodynamic reasons? I thought Kelly Johnson was so shocked from the M-21 separation accident (he called the Mach 3 separation the most dangerous thing they ever tried to achieve) that he stopped it immediately. The Boeing patent (see pic in my post before would be a possibility to make the separation less dangerous.
On page 268 of his book Dark Eagles, the late aviation historian Curtis Peebles quotes US Air Force sources as saying that the object with rounded chines loaded into a C-5 Galaxy in January 1992 that reporters believed to be the forward fuselage of the "Brilliant Buzzard" was actually a radar cross section test article (the object with rounded chines also had no cockpit canopy).
 

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On page 268 of his book Dark Eagles, the late aviation historian Curtis Peebles quotes US Air Force sources as saying that the object with rounded chines loaded into a C-5 Galaxy in January 1992 that reporters believed to be the forward fuselage of the "Brilliant Buzzard" was actually a radar cross section test article (the object with rounded chines also had no cockpit canopy).
Interesting. I saw somewhere a photo of cocooned U-2s in storage and the light-coloured fabric stretched from the nose to the intakes gave the appearance of 'rounded chines'. A fuselage being shipped would match the description too.

Another scratch at the bottom of the barrel of my memory brings up a quote from Dwayne Day, I think - 'The Blind Men at the Zoo'. Reversing the parable of the blind men and the elephant who each describe a different animal, they examine many different animals and think that they're the same one.
 

quellish

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On page 268 of his book Dark Eagles, the late aviation historian Curtis Peebles quotes US Air Force sources as saying that the object with rounded chines loaded into a C-5 Galaxy in January 1992 that reporters believed to be the forward fuselage of the "Brilliant Buzzard" was actually a radar cross section test article (the object with rounded chines also had no cockpit canopy).

The thing loaded on the C-5 could have been anything, and there is no reason I am aware of to think it was connected to the Brilliant Buzzard sightings.
 

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The Peebles book was quite something, insofar as the later chapters were a sustained attack on the sources he pulls on for the earlier ones.
 

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