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Report: military tested manned spaceplane
Posted: Mon, Mar 6, 2006, 1:37 PM ET (1837 GMT)
The US military secretly tested for years a manned spaceplane capable of reaching orbit, Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine reported in its latest issue Monday. The article, based on observations and other intelligence collected over the years, claims that the military and/or intelligence community tested and perhaps operated a two-stage spaceplane code-named "Blackstar" starting in the 1980s. Blackstar consisted of an aircraft similar to the XB-70 supersonic bomber, which carried a winged orbital vehicle under its fuselage; the orbital vehicle was air-launched and could achieve orbit before returning for a runway landing. The Aviation Week report suggests that Blackstar may have become operational in the 1990s, performing reconnaissance and satellite deployment missions. However, the system appears to have been quietly shelved in recent years, either because of funding problems or difficulties achieving technology goals.
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