The Black Horse was a proposed design for a single stage to orbit, reusable launch vehicle. The Black Horse was originally concieved as a military vehicle for on-demand orbital reconnaisance for the United States Air Force. As far as we know, it was never built.
Black Horse was to have used aerial re-fuelling from a tanker such as the USAF KC-135. Many described the Black Horse as a `stage-and-a-half' rather than a true SSTO vehicle. It was to take off and land horizontally from a runway, and was to be piloted by human pilots.
Two demonstration vehicles were planned as stepping stones to the Black Horse, called the Black Foal and the BlackColt. The Foal would demonstrate aspects of the technology and provide proof of concept. The Colt would fly to half orbital velocity and utilize an off-the-shelf `kick-stage' to put satellites in orbit.
Black Horse Specifications:
The weight of the Black Horse was 48,454 pounds. The aircraft was designed using standard fighter aircraft design methodology. Payload to orbit was 500kg. Black Horse was to use JP-5 or JP-4 as a propellant and H2O2 was the oxidant.
Aerial Propellant Transfer Method
Black Horse favoured the aerial propellant transfer method than drop-launch like using a B-52, or air-launched off the back of a 747 because to make two aircraft fly well when joined, be able to separate safely, and still fly well after the separation is dangerous. There is no way to build up in flight test to a separation; you either go for the whole thing or you don't try it.
Aerial Propellant Transfer (ATP) can support a much larger payload than an air-launched vehicle because the aircraft need only carry the oxidizer, and not the weight of the structure, payload.
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Updated: Saturday 23rd, February, 2013