Feeds

Blackswift hypersonic plane cancelled

Budget bigshots bin bleeding-edge barrelroll bid

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan
'Shuddit, smarty pants!' Some readers reacted badly to our last Doctor Who review ...
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
White LED lies: It's great, but Nobel physics prize-winning great?
How artificial lighting could offer an artificial promise
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
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.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
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?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.