Blackswift Spaceplane  (Source: Image Via Danger Room)
DARPA revives Reagan era hypersonic aircraft dreams with Blackswift

Back in the 1980's during the Reagan administration plans were announced for a new Orient Express, which amounted to a plane that would take off and land like a normal aircraft, but cruise at Mach 25 making runs into low Earth orbit as it went from Dulles airport to Tokyo in two hours.

Obviously, since the flight still takes most of a day to make, the plan for the new Orient Express didn’t pan out as hoped. DARPA is coming back around to the idea of a hypersonic vehicle, but not to the extreme the Regan era government tried to undertake.

The new hypersonic project, dubbed Blackswift, shares the same take off and land normally approach. It aims for a more achievable speed of a Mach 6. Blackswift came from a DARPA project called Falcon that originally intended to build a family of hypersonic test vehicles.

Details of the project point to the famed Lockheed Skunk Works as the main contractor for the vehicle. Reports are saying information gleaned from several sources point to Blackswift being a fighter sized unmanned aircraft.

The propulsion system to take Blackswift to the Mach 6 speeds is a hybrid power plant consisting of a combination turbine engine and ramjet. The turbine engine would take the aircraft up to Mach 3 where the ramjet would kick in and carry the craft up to the Mach 6 cruise speed. Blackswift reportedly doesn’t have the backing of the Air Force at this time, which will obviously be crucial to the project reaching maturity.

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