The mighty J58 engine, the SR-71’s secret powerhouse

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.

An evening pause: For the geeks out there, this video is a very nice and detailed explanation of the engineering that makes this jet engine so powerful.

Hat tip Tom Biggar.


Every July, to celebrate the anniversary of the start of Behind the Black in 2010, I hold a month-long fund-raising campaign to make it possible for me to continue my work here for another year.

This year's fund-raising drive however is more significant in that it is also the 10th anniversary of this website's founding. It is hard to believe, but I have been doing this for a full decade, during which I have written more than 22,000 posts, of which more than 1,000 were essays and almost 2,600 were evening pauses.

This year's fund drive is also more important because of the growing intolerance of free speech and dissent in American culture. Increasingly people who don't like what they read are blatantly acting to blackball sites like mine. I have tried to insulate myself from this tyrannical effort by not depending on Google advertising or cross-posts Facebook or Twitter. Though this prevents them from having a hold on me, it also acts to limit my exposure.

Therefore, I hope you will please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


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  • Joe

    I wonder if the Russians ever had a powerhouse recon aircraft like the sr71, after all they copied the space shuttle!

  • pzatchok

    I am sort of honored to have been one of the last few to have actually watched one fly and been able to service it on the ground,

    Personally my favorite plane of all time.

  • pzatchok

    They couldn’t even make missiles capable of its speed and altitude.

    Sadly some of its last missions were little more than acting as a fast carrier pidgin.

  • Cotour

    Watching the video explanation of how complex the engines were in order accomplish their job I am not surprised when I watched a documentary about its operation one of the pilots who flew it I believe said it took three years of training to qualify to fly it? Am I remembering that correctly?

    He said that there was little to no time to enjoy the scenery at 80,000 feet and at speed because if you did not pay complete attention to the plane and all of its complexities it could begin to set a series of operational problems.

  • E Wolf

    As a non-engineer, I was fascinated by this video. I was also reminded of this description of the Turbo Encabulator. Both videos made an equal amount of sense to me:

  • I posted this as an evening pause back in November 2014. Quite funny, and revealing in a way.

  • Phill O

    A refueling speed of 0.9 Mach seems it would be not for your average pilot. I wonder what plane they use to refuel it with/from.


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