Feb 102017

NASA has just released a report on a Europa lander mission. I haven’t read all the way through it (in fact, I’ve just glanced through it), but it seems fairly extensive. The lander design itself seems pretty preliminary. It also looks like a walking “rover,” but the legs are just long in order to allow the lander to safely come to rest on whatever terrain it happens to land on.

The lander would have instruments meant to look for the signs of life. Pretty obviously, the chances of life appearing *anywhere* near the surface of Europa are as close to zero as you can get. However, assuming that many, many kilometers below there is a liquid water ocean, and assuming that there is recognizable life swimming or floating around in the water, chances are fairly good that bits of it, everything from biochemicals on up to actual critters, would get trapped in the ice. Over extremely long periods of time the cold, icy equivalent of geological processes might drag that stuff up to the surface, where it might be detectable.

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You can download the report here:

Europa Lander Science Definition Team Report

Some of the illustrations:

Europa Lander Image1 Europa Lander Image2 Europa Lander Image3 Europa Lander Image4 Europa Lander Image5 Europa Lander Image6


 Posted by at 8:49 pm
Feb 072017

In December of 1948, American media outlets reported that Defense Secretary Forrestal had announced that the US wanted a space station for military purposes. The US had, in fact, been working on space for military applications since the end of World War II with both the US Navy and US Air Force studying space launch systems as early as 1944. However, the 1948 space station was most likely just a talking point, something that the Pentagon would *like* to have for any of a number of military purposes. So far as I’m aware, no actual designs produced by relevant government or corporate design bureaus have come to light. Still, the lack of anything firm to base an artists impression on didn’t slow down the media; a number of newspaper and magazine artists impressions were produced. Many of them, such as the one below (from the December 31, 1948, Washington Daily News, via an EBay auction), demonstrate a substantial lack of understanding of, well, *everything*. They tended to be a weird mishmash of Flash Gordon sci-fantasy with the V-2 and similar exotic and half-comprehended technologies.

Note that this cartoonish “space station” seems to have it all… radar, giant cannon barrels and a square mirror to reflect sunlight to set the enemy alight. This, of course, would not work.

 Posted by at 10:36 am
Jan 292017

Some time back there was an EBay auction for a Polaris display model with a difference. The missile itself seemed normal enough, but the warhead was distinctly unusual. It was a plexiglas cone filled with small metal spheres:

eby non-nuclear polaris 3 eby non-nuclear polaris 2 eby non-nuclear polaris 1

Assuming that this model is truly official (it seems to be, but who knows), then it would appear that Lockheed gave some thought to a Polaris armed with biological or chemical warheads. I would speculate that this probably isn’t a biological weapon… biowar agents are usually fairly slow and you generally want to distribute them quietly, while a SLBM is terribly fast and not at all sneaky.  My guess is that the metal spheres are the M139 bomblets, designed to carry 590 grams of Sarin nerve gas. The M139 was loaded on the Honest John and Pershing missiles in the 1960’s. The preceding design was the M134 bomblet, some 334 of which could be carried by an Honest John, as shown in the display piece below:

I have doubts that the Navy would load Sarin or bioweapons on board a submarine… seems to be just asking for trouble. Perhaps this was for a land-transportable missile, carried on a trailer behind a truck. Lockheed tried to sell just such a thing a few times with no success.





 Posted by at 9:04 pm
Jan 292017

In 1961 Ryan Aircraft looked at alternate means of ground launching their Firebee UAvs. A number of companies put forward ideas for various catapults. The SDASM Flickr account has illustrations of a number of the concept put forward. One of them was Brodie Rig, similar to the suspended runway I posted about a few weeks ago. Sadly details on this and the other studies is very limited… basically the date and the illustrations. The Brodie rig has what appears to be a winch a tthe end, indicating that the drone would have been accelerated not only by its jet engine but also the rig itself, getting it up to flight speed ASAP. Whether it would be able to be recovered with the rig at the end of the mission is difficult to determine, but doing so would require a definite level of precise flying that I’m not sure the Firebee would have been able to attain in 1961.

See somewhat higher rez version of this illustration HERE.


 Posted by at 4:15 pm
Jan 282017

Below is a piece of Convair art from the SDASM Flickr account showing an early (1959) concept for a space booster with a glideback manned first stage. It’s a little unclear what’s going on with the second stage… the cutaway *seems* to show a space station-like payload where you’d expect to find the second stage engine.

See the SDASM Flickr page for a higher rez version.

 Posted by at 12:56 pm
Jan 262017

Just sold on EBay (not to me, sadly) is a kinda rough Topping display model of a little known proposed variant of the Atlas space launcher, the  SLV-3X. This design had a widened body, from ten feet to 12 feet, 7 inches. This allowed for more propellant to be carried without lengthening the vehicle, meaning that the existing launch infrastructure could be used. Additionally, the MA-5 sustainer rocket engine would be replaced with a higher thrust H-1D engine. See HERE for stats.

ebay 2017-01-26 fat atlas 1

The SDASM Flickr account has a nice illustration of the SLV-3X/Centaur. See their site for the higher rez image.

 Posted by at 8:33 pm
Jan 222017

Here’s an interesting illustration of the Polaris sea launched ballistic missile, taken from a technical manual. I’ve uploaded the full-rez version to the APR Patreon Extras Dropbox folder for 2017-01, so if you are interested, consider signing up for the APR Patreon.


 Posted by at 2:52 am
Jan 182017

Currently for sale on EBay is a presumably-vintage model of a Lockheed C-141 in civilian livery. While the C-141 wound up solely a military transport, it would not be surprising that Lockheed would try to sell it on the civilian market. The model doesn’t depict passenger windows, so this was, presumably, still a cargo carrier.

commercial C-141 model 1 commercial C-141 model 2 commercial C-141 model 3 commercial C-141 model 4 commercial C-141 model 5

 Posted by at 8:51 pm
Jan 122017

The Aerospace Projects Review Patreon rewards for January will include a reasonably massive Douglas report on the Saturn V-launched pre-Skylab “Early Orbital Space Station” and a scan of a reasonably gigantic diagram of the Boeing 2707-300 SST. These will be released before the end of January and will be available to all then-current Patrons. So if these items interest you, and/or if you are interested in helping the effort to find and preserve this sort of aerospace history, be sure to check out the APR Patreon.

EOSS_0053 EOSS_0027 EOSS_0014


65A12841 general Arrangement 2707-300 websize

 Posted by at 10:24 pm
Jan 082017

Currently on EBay is a vintage piece of artwork that depicts – apparently – a robotic Mars lander probe. it looks a lot like a cross between Surveyor and Viking; it *might* be an advanced Voyager design (from when Voyager was a Saturn V-launched Mars mission, before it was a Titan III-launched outer solar system mission) from the late 1960’s.

 Posted by at 12:42 am