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SR-71 Blackbird

Two SR-71 aircraft were used by NASA as testbeds for high-speed, high-altitude aeronautical research. The aircraft, an SR-71A and an SR-71B pilot trainer aircraft were based at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. They have been loaned to NASA by the U.S. Air Force. Developed for the USAF as reconnaissance aircraft more than 30 years ago, SR-71s are still the world's fastest and highest-flying production aircraft.   SR-71 Home Page

DFRC Photo # Photo Date Image Description
  Skip links in main table SR-71 Blackbird Photo Collection Contact Sheet
SR-71 Blackbird Simulator Leaves NASA Dryden for New Home
DFRC Press Release 06-30
EC96-43525-9 April 10, 1996 Flight engineers Marta Bohn-Meyer and Bob Meyer and pilots Eddie Schneider and Rogers Smith flew the SR-71 in high-speed research experiments at NASA Dryden.
EC91-0608-6 November 1, 1991 The husband-and-wife team of Bob Meyer and Marta Bohn-Meyer flew as flight test engineers on high-speed experiments flown on the SR-71 at NASA Dryden.
EC03-0082-1 March 24, 2003 NASA's SR-71B and F-18 HARV aircraft left Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on March 24, 2003.
EC99-45065-1 1999 SR-71A taking off with test fixture mounted atop the aft section of the aircraft and F-18 chase aircraft
EC99-45065-6 1999 SR-71A in flight with test fixture mounted atop the aft section of the aircraft
EC98-44817-2 1998 SR-71A on ramp with dual max afterburner engines firing
EC97-43933-1 February 1997 SR-71A - in flight from below at takeoff
EC97-43933-2 February 1997 SR-71A - in flight over southern Sierra Nevada mountains
EC97-43933-4 February 1997 SR-71A - in flight view from tanker during an airborne refeuling
EC95-43351-1 November 1995 SR-71B - Mach 3 trainer in flight at sunset
EC95-43351-2 November 1995 SR-71B - Mach 3 trainer in flight at sunset
EC97-43902-1 Jan. 28, 1997 SR-71B - in flight - view from Air Force tanker
EC96-43862-4 1996 SR-71B - in flight with F-18 chase aircraft - view from Air Force tanker
EC96-43463-1 1996 SR-71 tail #844 landing at Edwards Air Force Base
EC90-0047-08 1990 SR-71 landing with drag chute
EC90-0047-11 1990 SR-71 taking off
EC90-0096-2 1990 Taxi arrival of second SR-71 to Dryden
EC90-105-3 1990 SR-71 on ramp
EC91-372-13 July 1991 SR-71B
EC91-0365-7 July 24, 1991 This photo shows a head-on view of NASA's SR-71B on the ramp at the Air Force's Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, shortly before delivery to DFRC.
EC91-520-1 1992 SR-71
EC92-1284-1 1992 SR-71 takeoff with afterburner showing shock diamonds in exhaust
EC93-03092-7 1994 SR-71 Ship #1 - Ultraviolet Experiment
EC95-43203-1 July 1995 SR-71 mid-air refueling with KC-135 tanker
EC95-43203-2 July 1995 SR-71 in flight over Rogers Dry Lakebed
EC92-09241-1 September 1992 SR-71 in flight over mountains
EC92-09241-2 September 1992 SR-71 in flight over mountains
EC92-7013-4 1992 Three SR-71s on ramp
EC93-03092-5 1993 SR-71 in flight with full afterburner
EC94-42531-3 1994 SR-71 ship #1 on ramp
EC94-42531-4 April 1994 SR-71 ship #1 on ramp
EC94-42531-6 1994 SR-71 ship #1 on ramp
EC94-42883-1 December 1994 SR-71 - In-flight close-up from tanker
EC94-42883-2 December 1994 SR-71 - In-flight from tanker
EC94-42883-4 December 1994 SR-71 - In-flight from tanker
EC95-43075-2 1995 SR-71 - Taxi on ramp with engines
EC95-43075-4 1995 SR-71 - Taxi on ramp with engines
EC92-3103-8 1992 SR-71 receiving flight prep maintenance pre-dawn
E92-02273-4 1992 SR-71 pilot Stephen (Steve) D. Ishmael
EC92-02273 1992 SR-71 pilot Rogers E. Smith
EC91-056FR16 1991 SR-71 on ramp with flight crew
EC91-608-1 November 1991 SR-71 pilots and crew (Smith, Meyer, Bohn-Meyer, Ishmael)
EC91-608-5 November 1991 SR-71 pilots and crew (Smith, Meyer, Bohn-Meyer, Ishmael)
EC92-2273-1 1992 SR-71 Research Engineer Marta Bohn-Meyer
EC95-43108-3 1995 Edward (Ed) T. Schneider in front of SR-71 Blackbird
EC93-41012-3 1993 Dryden Research Aircraft Fleet on ramp - 1993: X-15 (mockup), F-18, SR-71, X-31, X-29
EC97-44165-149 July 16, 1997 Dryden 1997 Research Aircraft Fleet on ramp - X-31, F-15 ACTIVE, SR-71, F-106, F-16XL Ship #2, X-38, and X-36

Additional Information

The 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/hypersonic aircraft and propulsion systems, including a high-speed civil transport.

The SR-71 program at Dryden was part of NASA's overall high-speed aeronautical research program, and projects involve other NASA research centers, other government agencies, universities and commercial firms.

Research at Mach 3

One of the first major experiments to be flown in the NASA SR-71 program was a laser air-data collection system. It used laser light instead of air pressure to produce airspeed and attitude reference data such as angle of attack and sideslip normally obtained with small tubes and vanes extending into the air stream or from tubes with flush openings on an aircraft's 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 the "A" model. As microscopic-size 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-l04 testbed.

The first of a series of flights using the SR-71 as a science camera platform for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., 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 were investigating the use of charged chlorine atoms to protect and rebuild the ozone layer.

In addition to observing celestial objects in the various wavelengths, future missions could include "downward" looking instruments to study rocket engine exhaust plumes, volcano plumes and the Earth's atmosphere, as part of the scientific effort to reduce pollution and protect the ozone layer.

The SR-71, operating as a testbed, also has been used to assist in the development of a commercial satellite-based, instant wireless personal comunications network, called the IRIDIUM system, under NASA's commercialization assistance program. The IRIDIUM system was being developed by Motorola's Satellite Communications Division. During the development tests, the SR-71 acted as a "surrogate satellite" for transmitters and receivers on the ground.

SR-71 Fact Sheet
SR-71 Flight Research Project Information
SR-71 Home Page

Last Modified: August 4, 2006
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