Project Aurora RA-5S Vigilante
The ultimate recon Vigilante the RA-5S orbital spaceplane. Air launched from a Mach 3 SR-75, optionally using a strap on booster, the RA-5S is capable of reaching a wide variety of orbits allowing it to perform a number of roles. Developed from earlier experience launching a modified X-15 from a B-70 ( see later page ), its primary mission is to carry a package of recon equipment in its cargo bay, located immediately aft of the 2 man cockpit, but the cargo bay can also be used to place small satellites into orbit.
On interception missions, where an EVA inspection of another spacecraft may be required, the cargo bay can also accommodate an EMU jet pack.
Powered by a variable cycle engine, during its initial boost phase it uses oxygen from the atmosphere, before switching over to its internal LOX supply and becoming a pure rocket. Following re-entry the engines can be relit to provide additional range. While in orbit and during re-entry the engine intakes are closed to prevent damage to the engines. A strap-on recoverable booster is often used to allow the RA-5S to reach a higher orbit, or to save fuel for orbital manoeuvring.
Due to the high speed of the launch aircraft, the only option for a chase plane during launch operations is a modified SR-71 Blackbird. Additionally most launches are accompanied by an F-12 Blackbird escort, especially where the launch takes place outside US airspace.
Airfix Vigilante, wings and engines from an Airfix Space Shuttle, Italeri SR-75 mothership, this model won the 'Best SciFi' category in the 2009 Whiffie Awards