Jul 202016

Bonham’s just wrapped up another one of their “no you can’t afford these” space history memorabilia auctions. Among the interesting stuff I looked at, sighed over and wished I lived in a world where somehow I was rich enough to afford, there was this item:

The other items listed all have their sales prices listed (like the $269,000 Sputnik model… yow), but this item seems to still only have it’s estimated price of $1500-$2500. My guess is that that means it didn’t sell. And if it didn’t, maybe it’s because it was advertised as being something far less interesting than it actually is. Consider: the description goes thus:


Large scale model of a Geodetic Satellite. 37½ inch tall plexiglass pole topped with 16½ inch tall conical satellite with ten 21 inch long folding blue panels.

Employed by the United States Navy, the GeoSat was an Earth observation satellite launched in 1985. The goal of the GeoSat mission was to provide information on the marine gravity field.

Which, yeah, I guess that’s nice, but it’s not really one of the more exciting satellites out there. By the way, here is a geodetic satellite rendering:

And here is the model that was up for auction:

sp-100 model

Are there similarities? Sure. But you know what that model *isn’t* a model of? A geodetic satellite. It’s a model of this:

Yup. That there is the business end of an SP-100 space nuclear reactor.

Now, I don’t know that the model is *really* anything special… the payload it’s attached to is dreadfully small and dull. It’s not like it’s attached to a neutral particle beam weapon or something similarly intriguing, and the SP-100 was hardly a classified program. But still a nuclear reactor powered spacecraft has *got* to be more interesting than a geodetic satellite, yes?

See also:

SP-100 art

This is what happens when people and institutions do not contract with me to vet all their aerospace stuff. Reasonable rates, people!
 Posted by at 4:34 pm
Jul 142016

For the past several months Syfy has been in a bit of a programming lull. Prestige shows like “The Expanse” have finished their seasons, and we’re many months from new episodes. Modestly entertaining shows like “Dark Matter” and “Killjoys” have only just started new seasons. Shows like “Footfall: The Series” only exist in alternate universes. So Syfy has had to rely on their tertiary shows to fill the schedule. Of of these has been “Hunters,” a generally “meh” show. Production values are good, acting is… meh. Basic idea is that a few decades ago an alien species crashed to Earth (some trouble on their colony ship, stuck in orbit around Saturn) and assumed human identities; sadly, these aliens are generally kinda dickish, what with slaughtering people and all. So there’s the requisite shadowy government organization tasked with capturing/killing the alien “Hunters.” In the last several episodes it has been clear that the aliens were working on a spaceship of some kind, somewhere off screen.

The show, as I said, is “meh” grade entertainment. Not good enough to watch live, entertaining enough to DVR and watch later, distractedly while preparing supper, working on the computer, cleaning out the litter box, whatever. So finding myself burned out a bit from the current projects I’m plugging away at today, I plopped myself before the idiot box and called up yesterdays episode. Imagine my surprise when *this* is how the show started:


This was followed by clips from relatively well-known (among space nuts, anyway) General Atomic films of tests of subscale Project Orion hardware. Static fiberglass models on up to the “Hot Rod.”


As it turns out, the ship the aliens have been building in the northern Mexican desert is an Orion. The characters describe Project Orion specifically, by name; and while the cataclysmic apocalyptic results of a small Orion launch are overblown, they otherwise don’t *totally* screw up the description.

The design of the ship… well, it’s far from perfect, but it’s actually one of the more clearly-Orion nuclear pulse vessels I’ve seen on scree. Whoever designed it clearly had access to some Orion design info. Perhaps little more than a Google image search might pull up, but still, they did a better job than anyone else can think of offhand. The screenshots below were taken via the expedient of pointing a digital camera at the TV screen.


Dsc_4153 Dsc_4164

One of the computer interfaces shown on the ship – everything is in English, which is odd given that the ship was built by and for aliens – gives a few diagrams. Shown here is a schematic of a very recognizable pulse unit.


I was of course looking forward to see how well they showed the vehicle in flight. Sadly, that did not occur.


Interesting timing, given my Space Show interview just two days ago. One of the main subjects I was thinking I would cover on the show was the depiction of Orion/NPP on film and TV, but obviously we got nowhere near that subject. Oh well…

 Posted by at 1:42 am
Jul 082016

A while ago I was asked by another aerospace historian if I had any artwork of the “Dual Keel” version of the Space Station design from the mid/late 1980s. This was a predecessor to the International Space Station (the “Russians” being the “Soviets” at the time) and was to be used not just as an orbiting shack for some basic research, but also as an assembly area for manned missions to the moon and Mars. Turns out I had a fair amount of Dual Keel art. As is the way of things, a lot of that art is moderately poor… scanned from dusty slides, in many cases. Still, it’s what I had. It dawned on me that others might be interested in it, so I put all the images into the same size and format (standard 8.5X11) and made  a PDF out of it, seventy some pages. I have uploaded Part One to the “APR Extras” Dropbox site into the “2016-07 APR Extras” folder. This is accessible to all APR Patreon patrons at the $4 level and above (if you are such a patron and don’t have access, send me a message via Patreon, I’ll get you fixed up).


 Posted by at 1:27 am
Jul 062016

Every now and then ebay provides some interesting items that are just plain too expensive. One such is a Boeing presentation on using the 747 to carry and air-launch MX ICBMs. The original Buy It Now price was over two grand; consequently, the document remained on ebay for something like a year. However, I negotiated down to $250. Still too expensive, but crowdfunding makes it reasonably affordable.

I currently have about 9 people interested in splitting the cost. Nine plus me means the cost is $25 per person… suddenly not quite so horrible. If more people come on board, the price will fall even more. Twenty people total drops it to $12.50 each. Thirty drops it to $8.33, and so on. Each contributor gets a complete high-rez scan of the document.

If you are interested in getting in on this, it’s open to APR Patreon patrons at all levels. Check out the APR Patreon for this and other rewards. The most recent posting at the APR Patreon has a place to comment and express your interest in getting a copy of this document.

The opportunity will be open until the document arrives in the mail, which should be a few days.


 Posted by at 7:53 pm
Jun 282016

NOTE: Not the best photos, but… ehh, what’re ya gonna do…


I have a new batch of physical media… digital prints and old-school cyanotype blueprints. What sets these apart is that they are BIG.

First, a book: Space Transportation System Diagrams. This is a collection of 27 wide format (the standard 11 inches high… but up to *40* inches wide) Space Shuttle diagrams. They are all official NASA.industry diagrams, painstakingly cleaned, depicting all aspects of the STS. Includes numerous instrument panel diagrams as well as structural arrangements, general arrangements, insulation/tile layouts, etc. This is available for $75. Ten were printed. Seven Six  Four  Three are currently available.

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STS Diagrams book: $75

Second, some very large digital prints of the Shuttle orbiter underside tile maps. Three maps provided… left wing, right wing and fuselage. They are all 20 inches high, with the centerline diagram being about 80 inches long. Shows you where every tile goes, all for only $30. This has sold out. If you are interested, send me an email and I’ll let you know when/if more are made available.

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Third: 1/72 scale cyanotype blueprints, handmade, of the Space Launch System Block 1 launch vehicle. This blueprint is 24 inches wide by about 67 inches long, based on a CAD layout of my own creation and is available for $80.

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1/72 SLS Cyanotype Blueprint: $80

All of these are likely going to be available for only a limited time. I’ve had ten copies of the STS Diagram Book printed; each is individually numbered. So far, one sold. The 1/72 SLS is also likely to be only  limited print run; while undeniably awesome, it is kinda big, and I think I’d do better to replace the 1/72 diagram with a 1/144 version. So snap ’em up fast before they become collectors items!

As always with physical items, postage is required. A single flat fee is charged no matter how many items… if you’re in the US, you pay $10 in postage is you order one item or a dozen (so order a dozen). Elsewhere… costs a little more.

US postage: $10

Non-US postage: $18

 Posted by at 1:05 pm
Jun 252016

A heavily illustrated USAF brochure on turbine engine technology included, among a vast number of little photos of engines and aircraft, a few illustrations that might be of interest.

Several futuristic concepts here, several old ones. Of particular interest is the “Supersonic Multirole Fighter,” which looks like a cross between the old Lockheed Hopeless Diamond concept and the Northrop XST design… tailless with an inlet on top, with features reminiscent of the F-117, but blended rather than faceted.



Of these “Emerging Concept Needs,” several are distinctly old. The middle row of three designs are all 20+ year-old concepts.



 Posted by at 6:08 pm
Jun 222016

A General Dynamics concept for a logistics spacecraft (personnel and cargo transfer to/from space stations) from 1966. The VL-3A was a narrow lifting body design to be launched by a Titan IIIc, and featured flip-out wings and turbojets for runway landings. The VL-3A and other spaceplanes were presented in US Spacecraft Projects #2.

ussp 02-06-3

 Posted by at 9:34 am
Jun 132016

A piece of artwork yanked out of a Russian book, attributed to Rockwell. This appears to show a Mars-bound (or perhaps Mars-orbiting) spacecraft equipped with two biconic entry vehicles. The long truss structure and radiators would indicate a nuclear powered vehicle, presumably NERVA.

rockwell mars art

 Posted by at 10:28 am
Jun 112016

An early Boeing concept for the 767. This was designed for cruise at high subsonic speeds; the unusual “wasp-waisted” fuselage was to give the configuration the area ruling needed for low-drag transonic flight. This concept, studied by Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed, NASA, Bell and others, arose after the spike in oil prices in the early 1970’s and the demise of the SST program. The goal was to create a jetliner that could fly just as fast as possible while still being economical with fuel. But production costs of the curvy fuselage and wings doomed the effort.

This scan is from a print currently on ebay.


 Posted by at 5:37 pm
Jun 102016

This one is new to me… apparently the Germans used standard railway tracks and RATO-bottle-boosted sleds to launch replica Messerschmitt Me 163’s, with variable success. Given the fuel-hoggishness of the rocket plane, anything that would get them up to speed and into the air quickly would seem to be an advantage.

 Posted by at 6:16 pm