March 29, 1996
DARKSTAR'S FIRST FLIGHT IS SUCCESSFUL
The Tier III Minus, or DarkStar, high altitude endurance unmanned air vehicle successfully completed its first flight today.
The vehicle took off from the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., at 6:25 a.m. (PST). During the 20-minute flight, the vehicle achieved an altitude of approximately 5,000 feet and completed pre-programmed basic flight maneuvers. The system successfully executed a fully autonomous flight from takeoff to landing utilizing the differential Global Positioning System (dGPS).
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program manager for Tier III Minus Harry Berman said, "This marks a major milestone in the progress of the program. The entire team from Lockheed and Boeing has done an excellent job. The support and contributions of NASA Dryden and Edwards Air Force Base personnel are greatly appreciated and went a long way toward making the test program go smoothly. The team expects to review the data from this flight and proceed to higher altitude flights in the near future."
Today's flight marks the start of a flight test program to evaluate basic system performance, including the high resolution synthetic aperture radar and electro-optical payloads. NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., is conducting the flight tests for DARPA. At the completion of these tests, the system will prepare for a series of technical demonstrations with the military.
The DarkStar system is a high-altitude, endurance unmanned air vehicle optimized for reconnaissance in highly defended areas. It will operate within the current military force structure, and with existing command, control, communications, computer and intelligence equipment. It can operate at a range of 500 nautical miles from the launch site and will be able to loiter over the target area longer that eight hours at an altitude of more than 45,000 feet, carrying either an electro-optical or synthetic aperture radar sensor payload.
The DarkStar program is managed by DARPA on behalf of the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office. The prime contractor team consists of the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, Palmdale, Calif.; Boeing Military Aircraft Division, Seattle, Wash.; and Lockheed Martin Missile and Space, Sunnyvale, Calif.
Additional information on the DarkStar program can be found on the World Wide Web at: http: //www.arpa.mil/asto/tier3.html. Photographs of the vehicle during the first flight are available from NASA Dryden Public Affairs, (805) 258-3447, or via the World Wide Web at: http: //www.arpa.mil/asto/asto.html.