Apr 212018

APR Patrons contributing more than $10 per month were today sent a 1969 diagram of a preliminary design for what would become the AWACS plane… close, but with eight engines rather than four. This design was illustrated in color artwork from time to time.

And for APR Patrons at the $4 and above level, a diagram of the 777 and scans of a McDonnell-Douglas brochure on the “Med-Lite Family” of launch vehicle concepts have been uploaded to the 2018-04 APR Extras folder on Dropbox:

If you are interested in these and a great many other “extras” and monthly aerospace history rewards, please sign up for the APR Patreon. What else are you going to spend $4 a month on? Taxes?


 Posted by at 8:42 am
Apr 192018

For the APR Patreon I try to acquire as much interesting aerospace documentation as I can, and these items fall into two categories:

  1. Stuff that I can afford. This stuff winds up in the APR Patreon catalog of potential monthly rewards for patrons.
  2. Stuff I can’t hope to afford.

There’s a lot of the latter category of stuff. Sometimes it’s because the item has a ridiculously high Buy It Now price or starting bid, or because the item will be popular among bidders, or because it’s *really* good/big and thus worth every penny. But unaffordable is unaffordable.

However, there is an option for “stuff I can’t afford:” crowdfunding. I’ve done this a number of times with considerable success, and I’ve just done so again, winning a trio of General Dynamics documents describing a 1965 program to develop a logistics system for extending the Apollo lunar exploration program:

This set of documents was just much too expensive for an individual (well, I’m sure Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk wouldn’t have flinched), but with a group of like-mined funders it came in at $30 per person. So what happens now:

1: I wait for it to show up in the mail.

2: I make a complete set of scans in 300 DPI grayscale (and color, where appropriate) and convert to PDFs

3: I make the scans and PDFs available to funders, generally via Dropbox

4: I find an appropriate archive for the documents, and then donate the originals to them.

5: And that’s it. The files are shared with the funders, but do not appear on future APR Patreon catalogs or as purchasable, downloadable “Diagrams and Documents.” What the funders choose to do with their scans & PDFs is up to them.

APR Patrons get alerted to each of these occasional “crowdfunding opportunities.” So if you’d like to participate, please considered signing up for the APR Patreon.


 Posted by at 12:09 pm
Apr 112018

Some old-school animation showing the AH-56 as a recon and targeting vehicle being used in Someplace Much Like Viet Nam. If you’re at all like me, you’ll watch this and think, “I don’t recall this episode of Jonny Quest.”


 Posted by at 2:10 pm
Mar 292018

Here are two presumably wholly unrelated pieces of aerospace artwork. At least I *hope* they’re unrelated…

The first is an anonymous painting of a spaceplane. Doesn’t seem terribly realistic; most likely done for advertising purposes (I wonder if the “7-11” might indicate a relationship to the chain of the same name). The print arrived damaged, as you an see; the paper was thick and *really* brittle and really didn’t appreciate being rolled up. If anyone knows anything about it, feel free to comment.


The second is concept art from Bell Aerospace illustrating an amphibious troop carrier for the Marine Corps. The design of the assault vehicle is fairly ordinary as such things go, except for one detail: it could turn into a hovercraft and float across the surface of the water, rather than plowing through it. No further details provided, so I don’t know if the hover-skirts were deployable and retractable, or if they were simply dropped when the vehicle got to shore. The latter would certainly seem more economical.

I’ve uploaded the full rez scans to the 2018-03 APR Extras Dropbox folder, available to all current APR Patrons at the $4 level and above. If you are interested in this and a great many other “extras” and monthly aerospace history rewards, please sign up for the APR Patreon. Chances are good that $4/month is far cheaper than your espresso/booze budget!


 Posted by at 1:56 pm
Mar 292018

An old NASA video describing the HL-20 lifting body. In the 90’s NASA spent a lot of time and trouble trying to get an HL-20 built for a Personnel Launch System, a vehicle smaller than the Space Shuttle but capable of carrying as many passengers and riding a much smaller launch vehicle. For transporting passengers to and from the Space Station, it would have been much more economical and sensible than the Shuttle. And while the HL-20 was never built, the basic geometry has survived in the form of Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser, which *might* actually fly to space someday.



 Posted by at 12:05 am
Mar 272018

A piece of late 1950’s promo art from Rocketdyne illustrating a spacecraft with a solar thermodynamic powerplant. This should not be assumed to be an actual design, but much more likely just more or less pure illustrative art.

The craft is shown with a great parabolic solar reflector, the sunlight heating an element at the focus. In an actual design, most likely a working fluid would be pumped through this and boiled, the resulting high pressure gas blowing past a turbogenerator and then into a heat exchanger or directly into a relatively vast radiator. The gas would be cooled back to liquid and recirculated. Note that no such radiator is in evidence. Sometimes early designs utilized radiators built onto the shadow side of the reflectors. The craft appears to be over Mars, based on the hints of canals that are kinda visible. The ship has a parabolic radio dish on a boom below; the upper boom would seem to hold a trough, likely a launching platform for a small probe rocket (another cliche in early spacecraft art). At the rear is a boom that appears to hold two banks of ion engines or some other electrical propulsion system. Oddly, the thrusters would seem to be held off well to the side of the craft, rather than actually firing through the centerline (unless that boom is supposed to be projected straight aft and mounted at one end of the bar holding the thrusters, thus putting the centerline of thrust back through the CG of the craft).

 Posted by at 10:14 pm
Mar 092018

Advanced “space guns,” typically lasers, railguns, coilguns, neutral particle beams and the like, have a problem: power. Nuclear reactors and solar panels can provide power for years at a time, but generally their steady-state power output is only a tiny fraction of the instantaneous power needed when the gun goes off. So to run a weapon that needs many gigawatts for a fraction of a second with a powerplant that produces kilowatts, you need an energy storage system that can convert that energy into power on a moments notice. Things like batteries are great in principle, but their weight is vast and their ability to release power at the high levels needed is generally poor.

Often this has resulted in space weapons that use chemical reactions to provide the power needed. This has meant that the total number of shots that can be fired is strictly limited.

In the 1980’s during the SDI heyday, Westinghouse looked at an alternate approach: rotating hoops. Giant wheels made of advanced composite materials would be spun up over time by a low-power system such as a nuclear reactor, and when needed these flywheels would be electromagnetically braked to generate vast amounts of power as the wheels ground to a  halt. The system could be “reloaded” by slowly spinning the wheels up again… assuming the system hadn’t torn itself part.

The weapon shown below is probably largely notional, no masses or dimensions were given. But based on a smaller terrestrial unit (with ten hoops, each 14.5 meters diameter, massing 140,000 kg each, spinning at 1800 RPM to deliver a total of 1 gigawatt for 10 minutes to power anti-missile lasers and such), this can be assumed to be a fairly *vast* construction, far heavier than anything mankind has so far launched into orbit. Obviously such a thing would be impossible to launch as a unit; it would be assembled in space using spools of fibers wound in place. Presumably the weapon itself would be at least somewhat aimable independent of the flywheels… slewing *them* about to aim at a moving target would seem to be an exercise in futility.

This came from the paper “Rotating Hoop, Pulsed-Energy Converter” contained in “Transactions of the Fifth Symposium on Space Nuclear Power Systems.” A PDF of that can be downloaded if you go HERE and click the “PDF” button.

Support the APR Patreon to help bring more of this sort of thing to light!



 Posted by at 4:23 am
Feb 282018

The L-2000 was Lockheed’s entrance into the mid-1960’s FAA contest to design and develop an American supersonic transport. The FAA wanted the US to have an SST substantially better than the Anglo-French Concorde, with up to 250 passengers and a cruise speed of up to Mach 3 (as fast as an SR-71). Interestingly, the Concorde was not expected to be a long0lived design, but rather was simply going to be the *first* SST, a technology demonstrator, a diplomatic endeavor between historic enemies Britain and France, a flying sales brochure for Angle-French industry. And the Tupolev Tu 144 was an attempt to put something, *anything*, into the air first.

In the end, the FAA selected the Boeing 2707 design, ending the L-2000. And after great promise was shown, politics killed the Boeing 2707, ending substantial forward progress in civil aviation. Since then, air flight has gotten cheaper and more efficient, but it has not gotten any faster… and it certainly hasn’t become more comfortable.

This artwork depicts an earlier configuration with a simpler, less elegant shape.

I’ve uploaded the full rez scans to the 2018-02 APR Extras Dropbox folder, available to all current APR Patrons at the $4 level and above. If you are interested in this and a great many other “extras” and monthly aerospace history rewards, please sign up for the APR Patreon. Chances are good that $4/month is far cheaper than your espresso/booze budget!


 Posted by at 11:03 pm
Feb 272018

Rewards have been issued to APR Patreon patrons for February, 2018. This month, the diagram is a 1/40 scale B-52B diagram. Normally the diagrams are sent out at full 300 dpi (with 125 dpi for the $1.25 patrons), but at 300 dpi the diagram is simply Way Too Big at over 40,000 pixels wide. Most image viewing programs will simply go “nope”and refuse to even try to display such images. so this month the image is sent out at 200 dpi (still slightly over 30,000 pixels wide), and 83 dpi for the $1.25 patrons. The 83 dpi version is also included for the higher level patrons for easier viewing.

Also: the documents this month include a United Aircraft paper on advanced future space propulsion systems as seen from 1969, and a January 1953 Douglas Aircraft design study for the DC-8. The CAD diagram this month is the Ganswindt Weltenfahrzeug… a truly terrible design for a spaceship from 1899. Terrible though it may be, it one of the first designs that is clearly in the Project Orion family tree…

If you are interested in helping to preserve (and get copies of) this sort of thing, consider signing up for the APR Patreon.



 Posted by at 3:38 pm
Feb 252018

Almost forgotten these days is the Fairchild XC-120 “Packplane,” the single example of which flew from 1950 to 1952. It was a cargo plane with a difference… the cargo was carried not in the fuselage, but in a replaceable “pod” carried below the flat-bottomed fuselage. It would permit the carriage and easy swapping of specialty pods… surgical units, housing, that sort of thing. An interesting notion, but not interesting enough to merit production.

Like a lot of aircraft, not a whole lot of good diagrams of the XC-120. I found a kinda horrible copy in a report, split into several pieces, and stitched it back together.

I’ve uploaded the full-rez version to the APR Patreon Extras Feb 2018 folder, available to all APR patrons at the $4 level and higher.

Support the APR Patreon to help bring more of this sort of thing to light!



 Posted by at 10:50 pm