Feeds

Blackswift hypersonic plane cancelled

Budget bigshots bin bleeding-edge barrelroll bid

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

US military crazytech chiefs have cancelled the planned "Blackswift" Mach-6 runway aeroplane, following an almost complete cutoff of funding by Congress.

Aviation Week reports that the challenging Blackswift project has now definitely been closed down, following a reduction of its FY 2009 budget from $120m to just $10m. It appears that the Congresspersons responsible doubted that the aircraft could really be built, certainly to the planned timescale.

That seems reasonable, as the Blackswift (aka Falcon HTV-3X) was to achieve very ambitious goals. It was to take off from a standing start on a runway, accelerate to Mach 6, perform a barrel roll at that speed, and then return to a runway landing - and do all of this without using exotic fuels. Here's a concept vid courtesy of YouTube:

Making the Blackswift work would have required several breakthroughs, not least the use of scramjets - ramjets that can sustain a flame with air passing through them faster than sound - able to burn ordinary jet fuel. Such systems have been tested successfully in wind tunnels, but flight trials have seen problems.

These nifty hyper-engines would need to be combined with ordinary turbojets somehow, as ram/scram jets can't even fire up until they're moving fast. Then a way would need to be found to prevent the whole plane melting under the intense friction heating of hypersonic flight. Tricky problems of turbulence and boundary control would also need to be solved.

A tall order, then, and the immediate military need for such aircraft is far from plain to many observers. So perhaps it's not a surprise that the Blackswift idea came from DARPA, the Pentagon super-nerds who have a positively spartan intellectual diet policy. No low-hanging fruit or pieces of cake for them; at DARPA the bacon must be strictly from flying pigs, the black pudding* from the bleeding edge and every pie fresh from the sky.

Perhaps the most ambitious hypersonics effort left with the demise of Blackswift is the X-51 "WaveRider" project, jointly funded by NASA, DARPA and the US air force. The scramjets for this are now said to be ready. However, WaveRider seems unlikely to turn into a radical new aircraft - it's more oriented towards new missiles or similar one-shot applications, at least in the near term.

NASA and DARPA will both press on with more limited hypersonics work aimed at reusable aircraft, but there's now no real prospect of a runway hyperplane in the immediate future. ®

*Overseas readers: blood sausage, boudin etc.

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Business security measures using SSL
Examines the major types of threats to information security that businesses face today and the techniques for mitigating those threats.