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Blackstar: the US space conspiracy that never was?

Two-stage ultrasecret vehicle wows the crowds

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Crash and burn

Those are the facts, according to AWST. If true, then the US has successfully and in almost complete secrecy, developed a reusable space vehicle system with a low Earth orbit capability.

Or rather, developed said technology. AWST says the entire project may have been "mothballed" due to "shrinking federal budgets strained by war costs". On the other hand, "it may not have met performance or operational goals".

Or there may be a simpler explanation: it never existed at all, or, if it did, it was never a viable technology in the first place. Cue a counterattack by Jeffrey F Bell (former space scientist and recovering pro-space activist) who bluntly dismisses the AWST report as "almost certainly bogus".

Bell kicks off by charging that AWST has "a long history of revealing secret programs that turned out to be either government disinformation, corporate disinformation, or just plain fantasy".

He describes the Blackstar theory as a "technical absurdity", specifically challenging the claim that "a black program succeeded in building a manned reusable SSTO rocketship light enough to be lifted by a modified B-70 and small enough to fit underneath it".

Bell explains: "The whole history of X-15, NASP, DC-X, and X-33 shows that this is impossible. A launch at Mach 3 and 100,000 just won't reduce the ~90% fuel fraction needed for a ground launched SSTO enough to allow this. Every real air-launch proposal has used multi-stage expendables carried by heavy-lift jumbo jets - and they still only can handle small lightsats."

Regarding the boron fuel plan, Bell asks: "Why would the Blackstar orbiter adopt this horribly expensive, dangerous, and awkward toothpaste fuel when liquid or slush hydrogen has even higher energy? If smaller volume is needed, the H2 can be carried in drop tanks like those on some early Space Shuttle designs."

There's more. How, Bell asks, does Blackstar actually operate?: "The alleged function of Blackstar and the alleged sightings don't make any sense.

"The manned orbiter's primary military advantage would be surprise overflight. There would be no forewarning of its presence, prior to the first orbit, allowing ground targets to be imaged before they could be hidden.

"Soviet missile-warning satellites would pick up the IR plume from the second stage, and since it would not be at a known space launch site they would interpret it as a covert nuclear missile launch. At a minimum you would get a major diplomatic crisis, at worst an accidental nuclear war!"

With regard to the Salt Lake City sighting, Bell reasons: "A basic rule of black airplanes such as F-117 and B-2 is that they are never flown outside closed airspace in the daytime. This was a major reason these programs were eventually revealed. But Blackstar has never been declassified and would never have flown over a major city in broad daylight."

Finally, Bell asks for concrete evidence of AOV's touching down: "So where are the photos of these spaceplane landings? The plane-spotter community sits outside air base perimeters with telephoto lenses, looking to complete their lists of tail numbers. But there are no convincing photos of these secret airplanes. There are no photos of the spectacular phenomena that would accompany a spaceplane re-entry. People photograph plane crashes and meteors, but never the re-entry of these covert spacecraft."

In summary, then, AWST claims it has accumulated years of evidence pointing to the existence of Blackstar. Critics dismiss it as nonsense. Readers are invited to draw their own conclusion, but the black helicopters are airborne, make no mistake. ®

Bootnote

*Black helicopters still hover over the sad story of Gary Powers. Some say he was brought down by a SAM, others anti-aircraft fire and there are, naturally, those who say he landed voluntarily.

Thanks to regular planespotter Michael Plunkett for the Blackstar tip-off.

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