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SR-71 Blackbird

DFRC Movie # Date Movie Description
EM-0025-01 1990s SR-71 takeoff and flight
EM-0025-02 1990s SR-71 flyover
EM-0025-03 1991 SR-71 takeoff from Edwards Air Force Base
EM-0025-04 1991 SR-71 in-flight refueling
EM-0025-05 1998 SR-71 LASRE refueling from a KC-135
EM-0025-06 1998 SR-71 LASRE in flight over the Mojave Desert
EM-0025-07 1992 SR-71B Blackbird pilot trainer aircraft

Two SR-71A aircraft were loaned from the U.S. Air Force for use for high-speed, high-altitude research at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California. One of them was later returned to the Air Force. A third SR-71 on loan from the Air Force is an SR-71B used for training but not for flight research.

Developed for the U.S. Air Force as reconnaissance aircraft more than 30 years ago, SR-71 aircraft are still the world's fastest
and highest-flying production aircraft.

These aircraft can fly more than 2200 miles per hour (Mach 3+ or more than three times the speed of sound) and at altitudes
of over 85,000 feet. This operating environment makes the aircraft excellent platforms to carry out research and experiments
in a variety of areas--aerodynamics, propulsion, structures, thermal protection materials, high-speed and high-temperature instrumentation, atmospheric studies, and sonic-boom characterization.

Data from the SR-71 high-speed research program may be used to aid designers of future supersonic or hypersonic aircraft
and propulsion systems, including a possible high-speed civil transport.

The SR-71 program at Dryden has been part of the NASA overall high-speed aeronautical research program, and projects have involved other NASA research centers, other government agencies, universities, and commercial firms.

One of the first major experiments to be flown in the NASA SR-71 program was a laser air-data collection system. This system used laser light instead of air pressure to produce airspeed and attitude reference data such as angle of attack and angle of sideslip. These data are normally obtained with small tubes and vanes extending into the air stream, or from tubes with flush openings on the aircraft outer skin. The flights provided information on the presence of atmospheric particles at altitudes of
80,000 feet and above where future hypersonic aircraft will be operating. The system used six sheets of laser light projected
from the bottom of one of the two "A" models. As microscopic-sized atmospheric particles passed between the two beams, direction and speed were measured and processed into standard speed and attitude references. An earlier laser air-data
collection system was successfully tested at Dryden on an F-104 testbed.

The first of a series of flights using the SR-71 as a science camera platform for the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory was flown
in March 1993. From the nosebay of the aircraft, an upward-looking ultraviolet video camera studied a variety of celestial objects in wavelengths that are blocked to ground-based astronomers.

The SR-71 has also been used in a project for researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) who are investigating the use of charged chlorine atoms to protect and rebuild the ozone layer.

Operating as a testbed, it has been used to assist in the development of a commercial satellite-based instant wireless personal communications network, called the IRIDIUM system, under a NASA commercialization assistance program.

The last SR-71 flight was made on Saturday October 9, 1999, at the Edwards AFB air show. The aircraft used was NASA 844. The aircraft was also scheduled to make a flight the following day, but a fuel leak grounded the aircraft and prevented it from flying again. The NASA SR-71s were then put in flyable storage, where they remained until 2002. They were then sent to museums.

SR-71 Project Home Page

Last Modified: September 11, 2003
Responsible NASA Official: Marty Curry
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