Jan 142018
 

A 1966 Aerojet concept for a space probe with a nuclear reactor and ion engines. Note the largish thermal radiator “wings;” such things are usually left off spacecraft in science fiction, but they are a vital part of any nuclear spacecraft. Nukes, after all, are simply heat sources; in order to get useful electrical power out of them, the heat must be used to boil a working fluid which runs a turbogenerator; and the hot gas then needs to be condensed back to a liquid by radiating the heat way to space. And thermal radiation is a terribly slow and weak process, necessitating large radiators. Electricity can also be created with thermionic systems, which generate electricity across a thermal differential… hot on one side, cold on the other. But unless the cold side it attached to some radiators, the cold side will soon be just as hot as the hot side, and then… no thermal differential, no power generation.

Note also that even with a substantial powerplant and the sizable bank of ion engines, acceleration is going to be creakingly slow. Thus you can get away with spindly structures. The reactor itself is the tiny little tin can-looking thing, top and centerline; the U-shaped structure around it is a radiation shield protecting the electronics, structure and radiators from the radiation spat out by the reactor.

 Posted by at 2:38 am
Jan 012018
 

This piece of art depicts the McDonnell-Douglas “Drawbridge” orbiter in orbit delivering a satellite. Note that the wing are deployed, even though they would be folded up during entry. The geometry of the craft was such that in order to get the cargo bay door open and payloads safely in and out, the wing needed to fold down out of the way.

This points out one of the reasons why you don’t often see a whole lot of “cool” stuff in aerospace… everything has tradeoffs. And needing the wings to constantly go up and down is a bit of a headache. When it comes to spacecraft, mass is a primary priority; the mechanisms needed to deploy the wings weight a lot… never mind the mechanisms needed to retract the wing again. As an example, the real space shuttle orbiter had no landing gear retraction system. And why should it? The landing gear is hardly something the Orbiter would ever need to retract. That could be done by the ground crew without adding weight and complexity to the craft itself.

Note that the Orbiter and the payload here seem to have not NASA markings, but Red Cross markings. I suspect that a number of variants of this piece of art would have been produced with several different markings (NASA and Pan Am being the obvious ones), but why exactly Red Cross? Dunno.

Also note that this might not be an actual “Drawbridge” design, as no extension mechanism for the wing s in evidence. This might be an oversight on the part of the artist; it might be that this was a fixed-wing design. Given the RCS thrusters on the wingtips, this is most likely *not* a Drawbridge.

I’ve uploaded the high-rez version of this artwork (11.2 megabyte 6271×4763 pixel JPG) to the APR Extras Dropbox folder for 2018-01, available to all APR Patrons at the $4 level and above. If you are interested in accessing this and other aerospace historical goodies, consider signing up for the APR Patreon.

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 Posted by at 3:59 pm
Dec 302017
 

The rewards for APR Patrons have been issued. This month:

CAD Diagram: Marquardt hypersonic burning ramjet booster

Diagram: Convair Class VP Airplane High Performance Flying Boat

Document 1: Apollo Exploration Shelter System

Document 2: Chrysler Work Station Capsule (“work pod” for astronauts)

Document 3: Sikorsky S-97 “Raider” brochure

 

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

 

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 Posted by at 12:06 pm
Dec 252017
 

This piece of art depicts the McDonnell-Douglas “Drawbridge” orbiter staging off the manned flyback booster, showing the wings still folded against the sides of the fuselage. The wings served no purpose during ascent; they would only be used after-re-entry. Of course, in the event of a mission abort shortly after launch, the wings would need to deploy fairly quickly. There are no doubt numerous abort scenarios where the orbiter would be left intact after separation from a presumably stricken booster (or after a main engine failure on the orbiter stage), but would nevertheless still be doomed due to inability to get the wings deployed in time.

I’ve uploaded the high-rez version of this artwork (5 megabyte 3951×2121 pixel JPG) to the APR Extras Dropbox folder for 2017-12, available to all APR Patrons at the $4 level and above. If you are interested in accessing this and other aerospace historical goodies, consider signing up for the APR Patreon.

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 Posted by at 4:18 pm
Dec 212017
 

The early development of the Space Shuttle was filled with bizarre designs, attempts to jam capabilities into existing technologies. One such unconventional concept came from McDonnell-Douglas: a low-cross-range orbiter atop a flyback booster. The orbiter, unlike the Shuttle Orbiter actually built, contained considerable internal propellant; the booster would get it up to high altitude and velocity, but the bulk of the actual delta V would come from the Orbiters own propulsion. The vehicle had small, straight wings that would fold up against the side of the fuselage for launch and for re-entry… but they would have to deploy on-orbit to allow the payload bay doors to open, and they’d deploy again once the craft had entered the atmosphere.

I’ve uploaded the high-rez version of this artwork (8 megabyte 5598×4529 pixel JPG) to the APR Extras Dropbox folder for 2017-12, available to all APR Patrons at the $4 level and above. If you are interested in accessing this and other aerospace historical goodies, consider signing up for the APR Patreon.

 

 

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 Posted by at 9:23 pm
Dec 162017
 

A few days ago I uploaded in the 2017-12 APR Patron Extras Dropbox folder a scan of an old magazine article on the X-24 lifting body which including this interesting piece of art depicting an X-24 atop a Titan IIIc launch vehicle. There were indeed proposals to launch X-24 derivatives into orbit with Titan IIIs, but they wouldn’t be *exactly* X-24’s. The X-24 was not built as a spacecraft or a re-entry vehicle; it would be uncontrollable outside the atmosphere and would be a molten collection of rubbish on re-entry. Still, the proposed vehicles did look a *lot* like the X-24.

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

 

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 Posted by at 4:22 am
Nov 302017
 

A bit of Martin Marietta artwork depicting the Titan IVA, rescued from ebay. I’ve put the full-rez scan (600 dpi, so it’s pretty big) in the 2017-11 APR Extras Dropbox folder, available to all APR Patreon patrons at the $4 level and above.

 

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

 

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 Posted by at 11:41 pm
Nov 282017
 

Back when NASA thought that the Apollo program would lead to more than just flags & footprints, they expressed an interest in ways for astronauts to get around on the surface. Along with rovers there were many designs for “flying vehicles,” basically “rocket packs” built into one or two-man platforms. Due to the lack of aerodynamic resistance and the lower gravity, performance of these systems was substantially less laughable than comparable Earthly systems.

Recently acquired from ebay is this bit of Bell Aerosystems artwork depicting a one-man flying platform designed to be carried by a Lunar Module. I’ve put the full-rez scan in the 2017-11 APR Extras Dropbox folder, available to all PR Patreon patrons at the $4 level and above.

 

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

 

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 Posted by at 12:40 am
Nov 152017
 

Every now and then something of aerospace history interest and importance shows up on EBay that is too expensive for easy acquisition, and so I will run a “crowdfunding campaign” to procure the funds to purchase the item. In these cases, the item – almost always a document of some kind – is scanned, the funders get complete copies, and the original is then sent to a relevant archive. Another such item has popped up.

In this case, the item is expensive because the seller has put a stupid-high Buy It Now price on it. What they have is a pair of early-1960’s Grumman documents abut manned lifting body logistics spacecraft. Very interesting-looking stuff, the sort of item I’d snap up in a heartbeat for Aerospace Projects Review… if they didn’t cost $800.

 

So, I’m looking for people willing to join in on purchasing this. I currently have six people lined up, but the minimum this time is fifteen: this would drop the price per person to about $53.50. That’s still a pretty good chunk of change, but the more people who sign on, the lower the price will be.

So if you’d like to sign on, just send me an email or comment below. You won’t be asked to put up money unless the documents are purchased, and that won’t happen until at least 15 people sign up. Check back here for updates.

UPDATE, 11/15/2017-9:37PM mountain time: 10 people signed up. 2/3 of the way there…

UPDATE, 11:17 PM: 12 people.

UPDATE, 11/16/2017-8:29 AM: 14 people signed up. One more and I’ll pull the trigger on this, but I’ll keep availability open for a little while longer in order to hopefully bring in more funders and reduce the per-person cost. Can’t keep it open *too* long, because… sheesh, 800 bucks. My mortgage payment comes due *tomorrow.*

UPDATE, 7:54 PM: Now at 17 funders. The seller is currently away for a few days and it seems unlikely that anyone else will plunk down the $802 for this, so I’ll risk it and leave things open for a few more days to get more funders on board. With 17, the price per person is now $47.17. If it gets to 20, that’ll be $40.10, and so on.

 Posted by at 9:19 pm
Nov 112017
 

A few weeks ago, some artwork was put on ebay showing an alternate concept for the Lunar Roving Vehicle. This one was apparently sold as being optionally manned, which would certainly be a useful feature. Especially if it could be teleoperated from Earth after the crew has gone home. Note that one of the illustrations shows the unmanned rover towing a two-wheeled cart loaded with nuclear power generator (an RTG); similar RTGs are shown hanging off the sides of an unmanned LRV, and two RTGs are shown in the distance in the illustration showing unmanned-to-manned conversion. What *may* be intended here is that the unmanned version would drive around under RTG power and charge up batteries; for manned use the RTGs are left in the distance and the things operates purely under battery power. If returned to RTG/unmanned prior to the crew leaving, then the LRV would have virtually unlimited range. With enough time, an LRV could even drive to another landing site and be there in time for a new crew to land and make use of it.

 Posted by at 11:15 pm