Kevin's cool SpaceX Reconnaissance 1 flight test picture came alive for me today. I have just watched a TV programme on Quest called Planes That Changed the World. This episode was an hour on the development and testing of the SR-71 Blackbird.
Essentially the programme described its evolution as follows: in the 1950's the USAF and the CIA wanted a miracle spy plane that was supersonic, stratospheric and undetectable.
The current spy plane's success, the U2, was on the wane. One had been shot down in the USSR and the pilot, Gary Powers, captured and paraded on Soviet TV. It was 1960, the year I was born.
The CIA had already asked Kelly Johnson's Skunk Works to develop a plane capable of replacing the U2 in the late 1950's. The project was called Archangel. The team at the Skunk Works wove magic and ingenuity for months until they had a design that answered all three of the CIA's requirements: super fast, super high and invisible to radar. A $96 Million order was placed with Skunk Works for 12 planes.
One of the countless engineering challenges they faced was which material to use in the plane's manufacture. Conventional metals would become white hot at more than supersonic speeds and many were too heavy. The answer was titanium and therein lay another conundrum. To build a dozen Archangels they would need a huge supply and the biggest supplier was ........ the USSR!
Using trojan horse tactics many dummy companies placed orders for enough titanium to make the Skunk Works' new test planes!
Various Archangel's were developed, each one signified with the letter A. After many test flights and solving countless 'open items' or snags the new plane was ready. It was called the RS-71.
Tested at Area 51 the rumour mill of a new UFO plane in the sky went into overdrive, so President Truman went public. During his speech he mistakenly referred to the plane as the SR-71 and rather than contradict the President it became the new name of the world's greatest spy plane, the SR-71 Blackbird.
if any of this is incorrect then do let me know. It has been done from memory after watching the TV earlier this afternoon!