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Flat Stanley Explores the U.S. Space & Rocket Center

Huntsville Visit Includes Lots of Space!

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SR-71 Blackbird at Hsv. Space Center
One of the highlights of Flat Stanley's visit to Huntsville was his exploration of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Flat Stanley knew Huntsville was home to an awful lot of rocket scientists that helped put the first man on the moon. In fact, Flat Stanley no only liked to explore the world, he had always wanted to be an astronaut, so the U. S. Space & Rocket Center was the perfect place for him to test his skills. After all, it was where everyone went to go to Space Camp. Flat Stanley was surprised to find out that not only kids, but adults went to Space Camp, too. Huntsville was also the place where 1986 movie Space Campwas shot. Disney is planning a movie basked on the book A Smile As Big As the Moon and will be shooting it in Huntsville, also.

After exploring the inside of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Flat Stanley was fascinated by the big black airplane-thing outside the Center. He learned that it was an SR-71 Blackbird. He read all about it and learned a lot of stuff. More research helped him learn these facts about the Blackbird.

The SR-71 Blackbird

This is some information on the Blackbird Flat Stanley learned from the U.S. Space & Rocket Center:

  • The SR-71/A-12 on display in front of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center is the seventh vehicle of its type built by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. It logged 258 flights resulting in 499 hours and 10 minutes of flight time.

  • The Blackbird was retired by the U.S. Air Force in 1990 after 25 years of service, but was reactivated in 1995.
  • NASA uses 3 of the planes for research and development of an aerospace plane and for tests that involve high altitude, speed and extreme thermal conditions.

  • The Blackbird cruises above Mach 3 (3 times the speed of sound).

  • The SR-71/A-12 on display is a single-seater. The rear compartment was reserved for its ultra-sensitive and top-secret sensor equipment.

  • The two-seater SR-71 was manned by a pilot and a Reconnaissance Systems Officer (RSO). The RSO was a rated navigator/bombardier whose primary concerns were the aircraft's electronic and optical sensors, as well as its passive and active electronic defense systems.

  • The Blackbird is 99' long, 55' wide and 18' tall. It weighs 60,000 lbs empty, 120,000 lbs fully fueled.

  • Designed primarily for photographic missions over a given area. Later versions of the SR-71 could remain in international air space and still "see" deep within a given location by using radar, state-of-the-art cameras and electronic reconnaissance systems.

  • The last A-12 flight took place in June 1998. All flights requiring the A-12's capability were immediately assumed by the SR-71.

  • Blackbirds are constructed with a titanium alloy that makes up 93% of the plane's empty weight.
  • Approximately two-thirds of the plane's fuselage and half the wing space is devoted to the 84,180 pounds (12,200 gallons) of fuel carried by the SR-71.

  • Nitrogen is used to pressurize the fuel tanks and prevent inadvertent vapor ignition. An in-flight refueling receptacle is mounted on top of the fuselage behind the pilot.

  • The Blackbird is painted with a black paint that consists of a pigmentation containing minute iron balls. These dissipate electro-magnetically-generated energy and effectively lower the chances of the plane being "seen" by radar. The special black finish also wards off heat caused by high speed flight.

  • The Blackbird propulsion system consists of a Pratt & Whitney J58 turbo-ramjet power plant capable of producing 32,500 pounds of thrust.

  • Fuel consumption at Mach 3 is about 8,000 gallons per hour. Additional thrust is also provided by an air inlet and ejector.

  • The SR-71, at Mach 3, is capable of surveying 100,000 square miles in one hour from a working altitude of 80,000 feet.

  • The SR-71 has been called an "engineering miracle" and is one of the safest planes ever flown.

Flat Stanley would never forget his day at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville and made plans to come back soon and attend Space Camp and learn more about the science and experience of being in space. After that, he was thinking about looking into Aviation Challenge--a "Top Gun" type of program also offered at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. No wonder Huntsville's slogan is The Sky is Not the Limit!

Photos of Flat Stanley at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center
Flat Stanley Visits Huntsville
Flat Stanley Checks Out Oktoberfest 2004
Flat Stanley Sees the Huntsville Botanical Garden
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