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.

wp_20161016_001 wp_20161016_002wp_20161016_003 wp_20161016_004wp_20161016_005 wp_20161016_006wp_20161016_007

 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.

img_2502 img_2487 img_2489 img_2490 img_2491 img_2495 img_2497 img_2499 img_2501 img_2484 img_2483 img_2480

 Posted by at 3:21 pm
Oct 072016

A piece of NASA art illustrating a lunar-bound craft equipped with three relatively small nuclear thermal rockets. The payload is a lunar lander, similar in appearance to the “First Lunar Outpost” landers of the early 1990s, dating the art. To my eye this looks a bit dubious from the standpoint of nuking the crew… the reactors aren’t that far from them, what with the rather short hydrogen tank. *Perhaps* this was intended to be sent to lunar orbit unmanned, there to be met by a crew sent via chemical rockets. For lunar missions the utility of nuclear rockets would not be in getting payloads to the destination sooner; three days just isn’t that long, really. The advantage would be in sending *massive* payloads. So a small manned capsule sent chemically and a big heavily loaded lander sent via nukes might well make considerable sense.


 Posted by at 4:14 pm
Sep 192016

There was a time when American auto manufacturers had important aerospace divisions. Chrysler, for example, was responsible for rockets such as the Redstone, Jupiter and the Saturn I and Ib first stage.

In late 1956, Lovell Lawrence Jr, an assistant chief engineer at the missiles division of Chrysler, publicized a concept for a nuclear-powered “flying saucer.” It seems to have been *partially* a reasonably rational concept for a long duration spacecraft for missions to Mars.  It would spin like a frisbee to generate artificial gravity, though the relatively small radius would be likely to produce some harsh Coriolis effects. The saucer would be about 50 feet in diameter and only 6 feet thick.

Where the design goes a bit off the rails is that the performance expected of the craft was insanely impressive. It was a single-stage-to-solar-orbit craft, capable of taking off horizontally from a runway using nuclear-powered jet engines (note: “jet” in this case might mean “rocket.”) The craft would be capable of going from the Earth to Mars in 9 to 12 weeks.

Being that close to an atomic reactor (with a light enough shield to allow the thing to take off) would be a death sentence long before the craft would get to Mars.

After years of trying to research this concept, all I’ve managed to scrape up are three things from Ye Olde internet: two newspaper articles and one cover story from a UFO “fanzine.” I have tried over some years to obtain a copy of the “Saucer News” from August-September 1957 from sites like ebay, but without success. It seems like an original printing, or at least a decent scan, would provide a reasonably good version of the Chrysler saucer art.

saucernews25-1957-aug-sep chrysler-saucer-2 chrysler-saucer-1

 Posted by at 1:28 pm
Aug 292016

Military hardware design programs often have code names that are random or nearly so, so you can’t figure out what they are if you overhear them. Concepts like “Have Blue” or “Copper Canyon” or “Science Dawn” or even “Silver Bug” are pretty opaque. But every now and then there are concepts like Avro Canada’s 1960 idea for a truck capable of carrying and launching two Minuteman ICBMs: “Big Wheel.” For once, the name matched the product.


One wonders what sort of career these might have had in the Monster Truck circuit after they became obsolete.

This is a document I scored off ebay a little while back; it arrived and I’ve scanned it and will include it in the very next APR Patreon catalog. If you’d like a copy, a monthly contribution of as little as $4 will get you the full-rez 300 dpi scan of each months reward documents and diagrams… currently, three documents, one large-format diagram or piece of artwork. That’s a buck an item. Give the APR Patreon a look.

bigwheel layout

 Posted by at 7:21 pm