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Celestial Eagle

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Chat' started by toddnjoyce, Dec 9, 2018.

  1. toddnjoyce

    toddnjoyce Well-Known

    Sep 27, 2017
    I promised in the cool pics thread I would tell the story of this picture:


    If you remember the '80s, Ronald Reagan had one goal: end the Cold War. Doing so was in the national interest. Mutually Assured Destruction was a phrase well known to most Americans, and TV showed movies like The Day After. Star Wars transformed from a movie, to the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). SDI promised to provide the US an anti-ballistic missile edge over the Soviet Union. SDI was a huge program and tucked in one corner, was an F-15 Eagle.

    This is the true story of Aggie 01. On September 13, 1985, an Air Force fighter pilot shot down a satellite on the third of five test flights in the Celestial Eagle program. The pilot, then-Major Doug Pearson, launched on a 3+ hour mission in the mighty F-15 Eagle. The aircraft, an F-15A, tail number 76-0084, had rolled off the McDonnell Douglas line on Veteran's Day 1977, shortly after the Air Force's 30th birthday.
    Nearly eight years later, it would be the first and only US aircraft to successfully employ the ASM-135 anti-satellite missile. The target was the US owned Solwind P78-1 weather satellite, speeding along at 17,500 miles per hour approximately 326 miles above earth. Solwind was chosen primarily because it had reached end-of-life and began to suffer under-voltage shutoffs more and more frequently.

    The flight launched out of Edwards Air Force Base, California, hit a tanker, then began it's launch profile, set his speed to to 1.26 Mach, pitched up to a sixy degree nose-high attitude, and began a climb to flight level 360, almost six miles above the earth. He had to reach FL360, while maintaining Mach 1.26, at a specific point over the ground AND pickle at 12:42 pm PDT, then wait.

    So he did. As soon as he hit pickle, the ASM-135 separated from the mighty Eagle and rocketed off towards Solwind, which was over Hawaii, speeding eastward. The missile needed to acquire Solwind while closing at a rate of six miles per second, reject all other infra-red objects in its field of view, and manuever to a kinectic solution. Which it did.

    Now, as Paul Harvey says, for the rest of the story. Maj Doug Pearson, the first man in history to succcessfully engage a satellite with an airplane rose to the rank of Major General before retiring. Along the way, he had a son, Todd.

    At the end of it's usefulness to the US Air Force Operational Test Evaluation Center in 2007, the Air Force transferred F-15A 76-0084 to the Florida Air National Guard (FANG). The FANG had to put a 20mm cannon back into the F-15, since it had been removed as part of a 'diet' 76-0084 went on in order to strap the 3,000lb ASM-135 to its center station, where an external fuel tank normally sat.

    In doing so, the FANG's historian learned the history of 76-0084 and reached out to Major General (Retired) Pearson. The historian got to hear first-hand, the stories associated with this particular bird and also got hear about Capt Todd Pearson, an F-15 fighter pilot with the 390th Fighter Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base. Then, the historian set out on a mission tha few historians could do. Staff Sergeant Aaron Hartley set out to make history.

    SSgt Hartley's day job with the FANG was an F-15 crew chief. He's the man who cares for and readies the jet for flight. SSgt Harltey, decided he was going to launch Capt Pearson and Maj Gen (Ret) Pearson in 76-0084 on September 13, 2007 as part of the Air Force's 60th Anniverary heritage program.

    So he did.

    And now you know the rest of the story behind the picture below, taken on September 13, 2007, 22 years after it's historic flight, when Capt Todd Pearson and Maj Gen (Ret) Doug Pearson shared the jet that carried the first missile in history to shoot down a satellite.


    F-15A 76-0084 was the 275th F-15 fighter jet to roll off the McDonnell Douglas assembly line in St. Louis, and it flew its maiden flight on Veteran's Day, 1977.

  2. benenglish

    benenglish Lifetime Supporter Staff Member Lifetime Member Admin

    Nov 22, 2011
    Thank you.
    toddnjoyce likes this.
  3. MetalCutter

    MetalCutter Active Member

    Aug 20, 2014
    Woodlands, TX
    Thank you for sharing this great piece of history.
    toddnjoyce likes this.
  4. Davetex

    Davetex TGT Addict TGT Supporter

    Mar 27, 2010
    Amazing story, thanks for sharing such a great piece of history.
    toddnjoyce likes this.
  5. Byrd666

    Byrd666 TGT Addict

    Dec 24, 2012
    Hill County
    It never ceases to amaze me. The things that can be learned on this site. Thank you for sharing.
    Southpaw and toddnjoyce like this.
  6. Dad_Roman

    Dad_Roman Well-Known TGT Supporter

    Apr 1, 2018
    Great story...thanks
    toddnjoyce likes this.
  7. Coiled

    Coiled Well-Known

    Nov 25, 2016
    He made a few typos so I have to question the whole write up. :p

    Six miles per second = 21,600mph! Holy frijoles that's cookin' !!!
    Thanks Todd
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2018
    toddnjoyce likes this.
  8. oldag

    oldag TGT Addict

    Feb 19, 2015
    Good stuff.

    Did some rocket motor work related to the ASAT programs in another life.
    toddnjoyce likes this.
  9. toddnjoyce

    toddnjoyce Well-Known

    Sep 27, 2017
    Well, it’s a closure rate so you have to subtract out the 17,500mph.

    But you still end up with a pretty fast rocket.
  10. Shotgun Jeremy

    Shotgun Jeremy TGT Addict

    Jul 8, 2012
    Copperas Cove
    What a great read - thank You

    Sent from my VS996 using Tapatalk

    toddnjoyce likes this.

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