lowed engineers to gather aerodynamic data
under realistic ight conditions.
By the time the Air Force loaned the two SR-71s to Dryden the center already had a de-cade of past experience with the Blackbirds.
Three of the aircraft were own at the facilitybetween December 1969 and November 1979
in a joint NASA/Air Force program aimed atlearning more about the capabilities and limi-
tations of high-speed, high-altitude ight. Therst two were YF-12A prototypes of a planned
interceptor aircraft based on the initial A-12design that ultimately evolved into the SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft. While plans were
under way to add another aircraft to the eet,
one YF-12A was lost in a non-fatal mishap in1971. The third aircraft, an SR-71A that wasgiven the designation YF-12C for administra-tive purposes, soon took its place.NASA researchers used the YF-12s for a widevariety of experiments involving aerodynamicand thermal loads, aerodynamic drag andskin friction, heat transfer, airframe and pro-pulsion system interactions, inlet control sys-tem improvements, high-altitude turbulence,
boundary-layer ow, landing gear dynamics,measurement of engine efuents for pollution
studies, noise measurements and evaluationof a maintenance monitoring and recording
system. On many YF-12 ights medical re
-searchers obtained information on the physio-
logical and biomedical aspects of crews ying
at sustained high speeds. Research data fromthe YF-12 program also validated analyticaltheories and wind-tunnel test techniques thatwill improve design and performance of futuremilitary and civil aircraft.
From February 1972 until July 1973, one
YF-12A was used for heat loads testing inDryden’s High Temperature Loads Laboratory(now the Thermostructures Research Facility).The resulting data helped improve theoreti-cal prediction methods and computer modelsdealing with structural loads, materials, andheat distribution at up to 800 degrees Fahren-heit, the surface temperatures reached during
sustained speeds of Mach 3.
SR-71 Specications and Performance
Two Pratt and Whitney J58 axial-ow turbo
jets with afterburners, each producing 32,500
pounds of thrust, powered the Blackbirds.Less than 20 percent of the total thrust used to
y at Mach 3 was produced by the engine it
-self, however. During high-speed cruise condi-tions the balance of total thrust was producedby the unique design of the engine inlet anda moveable conical spike at the front of eachengine nacelle. Under these conditions, air en-tering the inlets bypassed the engines, goingdirectly to the afterburners and ejector nozzles,thus acting as ramjets.The airframes were built almost entirely oftitanium and other exotic alloys to withstand
heat generated by sustained high-speed ight.Capable of cruising at Mach 3 continuously for
more than one hour at a time, the Blackbirdsprovided a unique research platform for ther-mal experiments because heat-soak tempera-
tures exceeded 600 degrees Fahrenheit.The aircraft was 107.4 feet (32.73 meters)long, had a wingspan of 55.6 feet (16.94 me
ters), and stood 18.5 feet (5.63 meters) high
(from the ground to the top of the rudders