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For decades, there have been reports, which we at The War Zone recently examined in depth, about the possible existence of a U.S. military space vehicle that would hitch a ride on a supersonic mothership aircraft into the upper atmosphere, after which it would blast itself into orbit. There remains only circumstantial evidence that any such combination of aircraft and space vehicle ever came to be, but declassified documents show that there was interest in using the Central Intelligence Agency’s high- and fast-flying A-12 Oxcart spy plane for a very similar satellite-launching role nearly 60 years ago.

Lockheed’s Skunk Works, which had developed the A-12, the progenitor of the U.S. Air Force's SR-71 Blackbird, produced the feasibility study on using the aircraft as a space launch platform in September 1962. It is unclear whether the CIA or the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the super-secret U.S. intelligence agency primarily responsible for satellite intelligence, requested the report initially, but the CIA paid for it. The very existence of the NRO remained officially classified until 1992.

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Category: Science