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I've got a 7 AM flight, and just got cleaned up from demolishing the kitchen, so I don't have time to comment on this "Blackstar" story. Fortunately, over at RLV News, it's all Blackstar, all the time. Clark Lindsey has comments here, here and here.

I agree with Clark--it's a pretty fishy story, with a lot of inconsistencies. I remain a Missourian on this one for now.

[Monday morning update, from LA]

Jim Oberg has an update at MSNBC.

Posted by Rand Simberg at March 05, 2006 07:44 PM
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So… What IS An Exotic Fuel?
Excerpt: It’s expensive, it’s got boron in it, and it probably doesn’t work. Heh. The Blackstar story has gotten a fair bit of attention in the last few days, some of it skeptical. I still think there is something to this story; it has the...
Weblog: De Doc's Institute For Memetic Engineering And Polymathic Pursuits
Tracked: March 9, 2006 11:47 AM

Gotta admit, if AW&ST does a story I pretty much go with it.
In the 80's I was a Mergers & Acquisitions guy who ended up specializing in EW, even tho' I was a BusAdm grad, (belonged to the Old Crows and used to debate Wm Perry on policy), anyway Aviation Leak was the best source of business, both info and client, that existed. To the extent I earned mid six figure income for those years.
What happened? you may ask, I'll state what a world class embezzler once told me, fast women and slow horses.

Posted by MikeD at March 5, 2006 09:51 PM

Um, I've seen plenty of Av week articles that were blowing smoke. Most recently, the "donuts on a rope" vehicle. In the distant past, the Soviet orbital particle beam weapons that were being portrayed as near operational.

Posted by K at March 5, 2006 11:36 PM


The article says that the system's mothership "closely resembled the Air Force's historic XB-70 supersonic bomber." Only two XB-70s were built; one crashed, the other went to the USAF Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where for a couple of decades it dominated one end of the Modern Flight Hangar.

A couple of years ago, the XB-70 disappeared from the Modern Flight Hangar, and no one seems to know where it is now...

[/loony conspiracy theory imitation]

Posted by wolfwalker at March 6, 2006 06:29 AM

Aviation Week did a cover story on the "TR-3 Manta" spyplane in the early 1990s that we now know to be essentially false. It was based on _plans_ for a "Tier-3" project (not "TR-3") that got canceled. But Aviation Week said it was operational and had even seen combat. They never retracted that story.

Posted by Tom Shembough at March 6, 2006 08:32 AM

Not a new story. There was even a model kit of a "mothership" and orbital spaceplane over a decade ago:

Posted by at March 6, 2006 10:21 AM

Actually, I think Clark's idea of someone handing disinformation to AV week is a good one. Secret info leaks have suddenly become a big deal with this administration and one way of handling that is to release some disinformation from time to time for jamming purposes.

Posted by K at March 6, 2006 10:54 AM

AWST is prone to stories such as this.

In 1990, they mentioned an "unmanned diamond shaped hypersonic vehicle [with] control surfaces on leading and waning edges, and 121 ports for dispensing nuclear war-heads" as a serious See

Posted by at March 6, 2006 11:19 AM

>>"In the distant past, the Soviet orbital particle beam weapons that were being portrayed as near operational."

Well, Polyus was nearly operational. They just installed an inertial guidance sensor backwards.

Posted by at March 6, 2006 02:21 PM

The only named witness to this vehicle is "James Petty, the president of JP Rocket Engine Co" who "spotted [it] flying over Salt Lake City at about 2:35 p.m. local time" on October 4, 1998.

The "JP Rocket Engine Company" is apparently "JP Rocket Engines" an (amateur?) group that appeared in the 3/31/03 issue of AWST. At the time, they had reportedly launched an Aerotech solid rocket with an aerospike nozzle of their own design.

Now, we have a reported TSTO vehicle believed to use aerospike engines, spotted flying a major city in broad daylight, and the only reported witness happens to be president of JP Rocket Engines.

That could be a remarkable coincidence, but it raises a number of red flags. Why would a very large, top-secret aircraft be fliyng over Salt Lake City? Why would no one else report it? (The Utah UFO Hunters do not list any sightings for that date.) If the vehicle really was low and "climbing slowly," then it must have taken off from an airport near Salt Lake City. The nearest military field would be Hill AFB, which is a maintenance and supply base -- not the sort of place likely to be testing experimental aircraft. An existing aircraft carrying an external fuel tank or missile load might be mistaken for a TSTO and is much more likely to be operating near Salt Lake City.

Posted by Edward Wright at March 6, 2006 02:44 PM

What is the advantages of having an aerospike on a vehicle that lights at nearly 100,000 feet?

I thought aerospikes came into their own flying a profile from sea level to orbit?

Posted by Mike Puckett at March 6, 2006 05:58 PM

That's crazy talk! Next you'll be claiming that scramjets aren't the key to space launch.

Posted by Big D at March 6, 2006 10:40 PM

Have enjoyed the animations done over at showing Dyna-Soar might-have-beens, and Blue Gemini. Have also enjoyed Stephen Baxter's Voyage account of an Apollo Program which was a beginning, not a Neanderthal-like dead end of real space exploration. I mourn the actual space-worthy ships picked apart and rusting in front of KSC and JSC I know we wuz robbed of the future that we were building, if only that damn Proxmire would have choked on a chicken bone or Nixon had had real gumption. The prospect that we have had a space plane and DUMPED it is beyond frustrating.

Posted by Z-Man at March 8, 2006 09:08 AM

Serious Kudos for stating what really happened "back then"

Posted by MikeD at March 8, 2006 10:12 PM

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