Jul 162017

Every month, patrons of the Aerospace Projects Review Patreon campaign are rewarded with a bundle of documents and diagrams, items of interest and importance to aerospace history. If you sign up, you get the monthly rewards going forwards; the “back issues” catalog lets patrons aid the APR cause by picking up items from before they signed on. The catalog, available to all patrons at the APR Patreon, has been updated to include everything from the beginning of the project back in 2014 on up to February, 2017.

Below are the items from 2016 (and the first two months of 2017):


If you are interested in any of these and in helping to fund the mission of Aerospace Projects Review, drop by the APR Patreon page and sign up. For only a few bucks a month you can help fund the procurement, scanning and dissemination of interesting aerospace documentation that might otherwise vanish from the public.

 Posted by at 12:49 am
Jul 012017

The Pluto nuclear ramjet is often considered one of the crazier (or perhaps more accurately, “badass”) weapons systems ever considered by serious people. In short, it used a nuclear reactor as the heat source for an airbreathing ramjet; it would fly at a few hundred feet altitude at Mach 3 with nearly unlimited range. Several American aerospace corporations vied for the contract; LTV won the contract to build the airframe in 1961. The “Tory” nuclear ramjet was static ground tested with some success, but the program was cancelled in 1964.

Convair gave the concept considerable study from the beginning of the program in 1957 until at least 1961. Their “Big Stick” concept has been reasonably well known, but they had another idea that was somewhat further from the basic idea. It was mentioned in at least two briefings that I’ve come across; some amount of serious work was done on it, but the information I have is fragmentary. The concept was called simply the “Submersible Nuclear Ramjet.”

Pluto and Big Stick were unmanned cruise missiles. They would be launched from the ground with solid rocket boosters (some though was given to launching from ships, subs and aircraft) and would fly “grand tours” of the Soviet Union, spitting out a number of individual nuclear bombs. They would leave in their wake a line of ruin… the shockwaves from their passage would likely shake apart civilian structures, and the reactors would constantly spit out radioactive particles. At the end of the mission the missiles would crash into one final target.

But the Submersible Nuclear Ramjet would work a little differently. For starters… it was manned. There would be a crew on board throughout the mission.

Rather than starting off at some Air Force base, the Submersible Nuclear Ramjet would actually start off as a submarine, floating around on its own in the ocean. Propulsion would be provided by the nuclear reactor, serving as a “water ramjet” by heating seawater and expelling it. Feeding salt water, diatoms, kelp, fish and all the rest of the junk  the ocean has to offer directly through a nuclear reactor seems a bit dubious.

When the order to begin an actual mission comes in, the propulsion system would be reconfigured from seawater-burning ramjet to seawater-burning rocket. The vehicle would expel stored seawater through the reactor, generating a large amount of thrust, enough to launch the craft vertically out of the water and up to high speed. The craft would then angle over towards the horizontal; the propulsion system would reconfigure once again, this time to an airbreathing nuclear ramjet. The vehicle would then fly a mission essentially similar to Plutos… low altitude, screamingly high speed, ejecting nuclear weapons as it goes. At the end of the mission, unlike Pluto it would *not* crash itself into one final target. Instead, the manned vehicle would return to secure waters and slow to subsonic speed. It would enter a vertical climb and slow to a stop; the ramjet would again reconfigure, this time back to rocket mode. Four drag brakes would deploy around the nose and the vehicle would back down into the water for a soft “splashdown.” It would of course land with nearly empty tanks, so it would be quite buoyant; until the tanks refill, it would likely sit tail-down in the water.

I’m going to try to find out more about this concept, but I have minimal hopes. I’ve gone all this time without hearing about it until just a few weeks ago.

Because why no, I’ve made a basic model of the concept. Complete accuracy is not assured… I have a top view and an inboard profile; as with a distressing number of concept aircraft diagrams, the views seem to conflict on things such as the cockpit canopy, and the inlet configuration is only partially shown. Still, it’s a really interesting concept.

If you’re interested in Pluto, take a look at Aerospace Projects Review issue V2N1. There is a very large, highly illustrated article on Pluto in that issue. If you are interested in the Submersible Nuclear Ramjet, keep an eye on US Bomber Projects… it will show up in the next issue or two.

The renders below show the Convair Submersible Nuclear Ramjet to scale with the LTV Pluto.

 Posted by at 12:36 am
Jun 282017

This was Convairs idea for the Pluto project… a nuclear ramjet cruise missile. Capable of Mach 3 flight at an altitude of 500 feet, it would be virtually impossible to intercept, and would have virtually unlimited range. The YouTube video:

There is more on the Big Stick, including diagrams, in issue V2N1 of Aerospace Projects Review:


 Posted by at 12:50 am
Apr 152017

Now available: two new US Aerospace Projects issues:

US Transport Projects #07

US Transport Projects #07 is now available (see HERE for the entire series). Issue #07 includes:

  • Lockheed L-279-9: an early SST
  • Convair HST – Phase II Variable Sweep Configuration: A mid-1960’s hypersonic transport
  • Lockheed CL-1373: a short-haul turboprop liner
  • Boeing Model 702-134(4): a large nuclear-powered logistics hauler
  • McDonnell-Douglas Swept Wing Spanloader: a heavy cargo carrier
  • Lockheed Hybrid Wing Body: a current design for an efficient military transport
  • NASA Cut-Down 747 SCA: a 1973 idea for a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft
  • Rockwell Boost Glide Transport: An early 1970’s rocket transport


USTP #07 can be downloaded as a PDF file for only $4:


Also available, the first in a new series:

US Recon and Research Projects #01

US Recon & Research Projects #01 is now available (see HERE for the entire series). Issue #01 includes:

  • General Dynamics “FISH”: 1958 concept for Mach 4 parasite
  • NACA-Langley X-Tail X-15: early hypersonic rocket plane concept
  • “Jake’s Jeep”: WWII-era motorjet design
  • Lockheed “Archangel”: The first step on the road to the SR-71
  • Boeing Model 853-21 “Quiet Bird”: A 1961 stealth platform
  • Northrop Tacit Blue: Operational version of the early stealth experiment
  • Convair Pilotless Airplane I-40 Inhabited: WWII-era design of a manned test for a flying bomb
  • Lockheed CL-278-1-1: a proto-U-2


USRP #01 can be downloaded as a PDF file for only $4:



 Posted by at 11:43 am
Apr 122017

So very, very close on the next two US Aerospace Projects issues. I’m only lacking cover “art”and have to deal with a bit of “dead air” in the middle of US Transport Projects #7. Usually I can shuffle things around well enough to not have this sort of thing, but this time it just hasn’t worked out. I suppose it doesn’t really matter all that much, but it does look kinda lazy like that.

It’s been about a year since I released the last USxP issue. That last issue was the first time where I used vector diagrams embedded within the issue, rather than raster images; getting the diagrams from AutoCAD into Word was a bit of a chore back then. And in the intervening months… I forgot how I did it. So I had to figure it out again, and the process is different. I have to walk the AutoCAD diagram through Rhino 3D and save as a WMF and blah, blah, blah; end result is it works just fine. I’ve done some further refinement… the main outlines are set at 0.25 mm width and the ends of the lines have been reset to rounded and mitered, so sharp corners now look more like sharp corners.

Hoping to have these two out in a day or two. The other three will be rather longer.


 Posted by at 6:57 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
Dec 282016

I’d posted this YouTube video a few years ago, but I’ve found that not only was the video yanked, the whole account associated with it was nuked. Hmmmph.

A film about NERVA (Nuclear Energy for Rocket Vehicle Applications), 1968.

Provides a basic description of nuclear rockets, plus some art, animation and diagrams of nuclear propelled space vehicles along with footage of test firings.

 Posted by at 3:25 pm
Oct 162016

The History Channel has a new series, “Doomsday: 10 Ways he World will End.” Each episode describes some scientifically possible doomsday scenario… the first episode had a dinosaur-killer asteroid impact, the second had the Earth swallowed by a supermassive black hole. (One of these is more likely than the other…). The third episode, aired just a few days ago, has a rogue planet with the mass of Neptune plow into the Earth.

At the end of the last episode, discussion was made of the possibility of mankind surviving Earth getting steamrolled by an interstellar interloper by sending an emergency colonization mission to Mars. It was only a couple of minutes, mostly illustrated with stock footage of modern launch vehicles being assembled. But one of the talking heads suggested that the means of getting to mars would be via Orion nuclear pulse vehicle. A *very* brief shot of the Orion vehicle zipping past was included. The Orion CG model was obviously rather quickly slapped together. It was pretty generic, but on the whole looked reasonable enough. But for some reason the craft was given an unnecessary and impossible to justify rocket nozzle smack in the middle of the pusher plate. I took a few snapshots of the TV screen with my cameraphone… seemed good enough under the circumstances.

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 Posted by at 7:25 pm
Oct 112016

While Kennedy Space Center did not receive the apocalyptic death blow from hurricane Matthew that some were projecting, that doesn’t mean that the storm passed without causing damage. One sad casualty was the SM-64 Navaho missile and booster on display at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station; it has been *badly* damaged. Restoration will be a chore… assuming that it is restored.

These photos came to me from aviation historian/writer Dennis R. Jenkins. If you post ’em, make sure to point that out.

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 Posted by at 3:21 pm