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DARPA seeks bidders for hypersonic Blackswift

Blackswift may have emerged out of Lockheed Martin Skunk Works’ Falcon hypersonic technology demonstration, but DARPA is looking for competitive bids to design and build the unmanned demonstrator, issuing this solicitation in early March: “The Tactical Technology Office (TTO) of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting proposals to develop an extended duration […]

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First flight for PDE = pretty darned extraordinary

It’s not every day a new form of propulsion makes its first flight: the turbojet in August 1939 (Heinkel He178), the ramjet in April 1949 (Leduc 010), the scramjet in July 2002 (University of Queensland HyShot). Now it’s the turn of the pulsed detonation engine (PDE) – a simple, lightweight powerplant that promises efficient operation […]

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5 minutes with the Skunk Works’ Frank Mauro

It’s conference season again, and last week it was the Air Force Association’s winter symposium in Orlando – where I grabbed 5min with Frank Mauro, vp advanced systems development at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works. Here’s some of what he said. Polecat (video) – LM has decided against building a replacement for the P-175 Polecat flying-wing […]

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What has Scaled done to Rutan’s Ares?

It was always an unusual-looking bird, but Scaled Composites’ Ares had a certain style. Not any more. Mojave-based photographer Alan Radecki has captured the long-stored Ares taxiing under its own power and boy does it look ugly now, covered in lumps and bumps of unknown purpose. Ares then… (Bernard Klein Collection photo from 1000aircraftphotos.com) …and […]

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Whatever happened to…NASA’s X-34?

It ended up in a hangar covered in bird crap, that’s what. A remnant of an unhappy time in NASA’s recent history, the Orbital Sciences-built X-34 was photographed by Ashley Wallace in storage at Edwards AFB in California. The X-34 was built as a flying testbed to demonstrate technology for future low-cost reusable launch vehicles. […]

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Can you hear me now? At Mach 6 it matters

When a test flight lasts only minutes and ends in a fiery plunge into the ocean, you want to make sure the radios work – to ensure telemetry data is safely sent to the ground. So Boeing is testing the antennas for the US Air Force Research Laboratory’s X-51A Scramjet-Waverider hypersonic demonstrator in the anechoic […]

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DARPA stays ‘out there’ with FY09 budget request

I’ve taken the bullet on your behalf and ploughed through DARPA’s fiscal year 2009 budget request to look for goodies. Here’s what I’ve found. New programmes for FY09: Multi-Modal Missile – manportable surface-to-surface and surface-to-air weapon with direct and indirect fire modes against vehicles, bunkers, helicopters and UAVs. Small UAV Strike Munition – inexpensive, lightweight […]

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Blackswift breaks cover – DoD funds hypersonic aircraft

The Pentagon boffins have been keeping mum, but the DoD’s fiscal year 2009 budget request lifts the lid on Blackswift – DARPA’s prototype hypersonic aircraft. Formerly the Falcon HTV-3X, and being designed by Lockheed’s Skunk Works, the unmanned Blackswift is intended to take off conventionally on turbojet power, transition to scramjets, cruise at Mach 6 […]

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Blended wing-body – the future of flight?

Like it or not, the blended wing-body airliner will not go away. Those that like the BWB point to its aerodynamic and structural efficiency, its ample volume for passengers, cargo and fuel. Those that don’t point to its lack of windows. non-circular pressure vessel and edge-of-the-envelope flying qualities. But if the world starts to take […]

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Northrop takes tailless approach to future airlifter

My former colleague Guy Norris has a story in Aviation Week about Northrop Grumman’s future airlifter work with the US Air Force Research Laboratory. I can’t link to his story, but here’s the gist: Northrop is proposing a tailless flying wing with powered-lift system for AFRL’s Speed Agile technology demonstration to refine the concept of […]

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