Q and A With The Darkstar’s Project Leader

YouTube / Sam Eckholm

Sam Eckholm gets a chance to talk to the people who made the Darkstar from Top Gun: Maverick. Here are the five most interesting questions asked in the video:

1. Can the Darkstar actually fly?

Skunk Works Engineer and DarkStar Project Leader, Brian Hershberger, confirmed that the aircraft couldn’t fly unless you use Hollywood magic. The Darkstar is merely a mockup of their hypersonic airplane concept for the movie. 

2. How was the Darkstar design chosen?

Paramount Pictures paired the Skunk Works team with Daniel Simon, a graphic designer who does a lot of futuristic concepts in movies (i.e., Tron Legacy). The two sides bounced ideas back and forth until they came up with “Iteration 43,” now known as the Darkstar.

3. Would hypersonic planes be unmanned in the future?

According to Hershberger, a pilot inside a hypersonic aircraft is more plausible than you think. A space shuttle can go over Mach 20 with people inside it. But really, it just depends on what the mission needs. Designing a hypersonic plane with a cockpit is definitely more challenging, but it isn’t impossible.

4. Were there any hidden Easter Eggs throughout the plane?

Hershberger’s team found many creative ways to put their stamp on the Darkstar’s cockpit. You’ll see some of their initials and company logos on the switches and panels.

5. What would the Darkstar’s engine be like?

To get hypersonic speed, you need a lot of thrust – and a scramjet is a perfect fit. Scramjets burn the air inside the engine “supersonically,” allowing the scramjet to operate efficiently at extremely high speeds.