Silbervogel, German for Silverbird, was a design for a rocket-powered sub-orbital bomber aircraft produced by Eugen Sänger and Irene Bredt in the late 1930s. It is sometimes referred to as the "Amerika Bomber"Fact|date=January 2008, although it was only one of a number of designs considered for this mission. When Walter Dornberger attempted to create interest in military spaceplanes in the United States after World War II, he chose the more diplomatic term "antipodal bomber". The design was a significant one, as it incorporated new rocket technology, and the principle of the lifting body. In the end, it was considered too complex and expensive to produce. The design never went beyond wind tunnel testing (pictured).

The Silverbird was intended to fly long distances in a series of short hops. The aircraft was to have begun its mission propelled along a 3 km (2 mile) long rail track by a large rocket-powered sled. Once airborne, it was to fire its own rocket engine and continue to climb to an altitude of 145 km (90 miles), at which point it would be travelling at some 22,100 km/h (13,800 mph). It would then gradually descend into the stratosphere, where the increasing air density would generate lift against the flat underside of the aircraft, eventually causing it to "bounce" and gain altitude again, where this pattern would be repeated. Because of drag, each bounce would be shallower than the preceding one, but it was still calculated that the Silbervogel would be able to cross the Atlantic, deliver a 4,000 kg (8,800 lb) bomb to the continental US, and then continue its flight to a landing site somewhere in the Japanese held Pacific, a total journey of 19,000 to 24,000 km (12,000-15,000 miles).

Postwar analysis of the Silverbird design involving a mathematical control analysis unearthed a computational error and it turned out that the heat flow during the initial re-entry would have been far higher than originally calculated by Sänger and Bredt; if the Silverbird had been constructed according to their flawed calculations the craft would have been destroyed during re-entry. The problem could have been solved by augmenting the heat shield, but this would have reduced the craft's already small payload capacity. [cite web | last = Westman | first = Juhani | authorlink = | title = Global Bounce | work = | publisher = | date = 2006 | url = | format = | doi = | accessdate = 2008-01-17 ]


After the war ended, Sänger and Bredt worked for the French government and in 1949 founded the Fédération Astronautique. Whilst in France, Sänger was the subject of a botched attempt by Soviet agents to win him over. Stalin had become intrigued by reports of the Silbervogel design and sent his son, Vasily, and scientist Grigori Tokaty to kidnap Sänger and Bredt and bring them to the USSR [cite book | last = Duffy | first = James P. | authorlink = | title = TARGET: AMERICA : Hitler's Plan to Attack the United States | publisher = Praeger | date = 2004 | pages = 124 | doi = | isbn = 0-275-96684-4 ] [cite book | last = Shayler | first = David J. | authorlink = | title = Women in Space - Following Valentina | publisher = Springer | date = 2005 | pages = 119 | doi = | isbn = 1-85233-744-3 ] . When this plan failed a new design bureau was set up by Mstislav Vsevolodovich Keldysh in 1946 to research the idea. A new version powered by ramjets instead of a rocket engine was developed, usually known as the Keldysh bomber, but not produced. [cite web | last = Westman | first = Juhani | authorlink = | title = Global Bounce | work = | publisher = | date = 2006 | url = | format = | doi = | accessdate = 2008-01-17 ] The design, however, formed the basis for a number of additional cruise missile designs right into the early 1960s, none of which were ever produced.

In the US, the project eventually gave rise to the abortive X-20 Dyna-Soar, a direct development of the Silbervogel, to be launched on a Titan II booster. As the manned space role moved to NASA and unmanned reconnaissance satellites were thought to be capable of all required missions, the Air Force gradually withdrew from manned space flight and Dyna-Soar was cancelled.

One lasting legacy of the Silverbird design is the "Regenerative cooling|regenerative engine" design, in which fuel or oxidizer is run in tubes around the engine bell in order to both cool the bell and pressurize the fluid. Almost all modern rocket engines use this design today and some sources still refer to it as the Sänger-Bredt design.



*cite web | last = Sänger | first = Eugen | authorlink = | coauthors = Irene Sänger-Bredt | title = A Rocket Drive For Long Range Bombers | work = | publisher = | date = August 1944 | url = | format = PDF | doi = | accessdate = 2008-01-17

External links

* [ Luft '46]

ee also

* Keldysh bomber
* Spacecraft propulsion
* Miles M.52

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