Aug 312017
 

Russia claims new Mach 4+ MiG-41 Interceptor will be able to operate in space

No actual details.

An aircraft capable of Mach 4+? Sure, I suppose. Seems an odd thing to develop these days. Those sort of speed were an aviation fetish in the 50’s and 60’s, but there really isn’t a whole lot of need to go that fast and the penalties for doing so are *harsh.*

Operating in space? Meh. Might be a translation error or a simple misunderstanding. An aircraft capable of going that fast could potentially pop above the sensible atmosphere, perhaps like the X-15. So it would be in space, but nowhere near orbit (which would require Mach 25, not merely Mach 4). if it did so, it would need to have some ability to control its attitude, presumably with attitude control thrusters.

Or it could be BS. That would be entirely unsurprising.

 Posted by at 12:39 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:

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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:

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 Posted by at 11:43 am
Apr 022017
 

I’m essentially done with the drafting portion of the exercise. Now to finish the writing. I had planned on releasing ll five at once, but due to external factors I’ll almost certainly have to split this up. So… which ones do people want more? The publications forthcoming are Fighters, Bombers, Transports, Launchers and Recon & Research. Comment below…

 Posted by at 11:05 pm
Mar 102017
 

Coming soonish: the return of USXP publications. Five are under current development and are mostly done. There is a new title in the bunch… USRP. Strictly speaking it should probably be USR&RP… United States Research and Recon Projects. Perhaps Recon and Research aren’t necessarily the most obvious categories to link together into a single title, but apart from the vitally important alliteration, there is this important fact: compared to, say, Bombers, there aren’t that many Recon and Research projects out there.

If there are specific proposals, or general categories you’d like to see in future publications, feel free to comment below.

 Posted by at 10:41 am
Mar 072017
 

Bell has unveiled a very sci-fi mockup of a “concept helicopter.” It features some unusual things:

A hybrid propulsion system

Variable geometry rotor tips

Lots and lots of glass

Only a single pilots seat

No physical control.

It’s that last one that’ll probably cause the most consternation. The pilot is meant to wear augmented reality goggles/visor/glasses/whatever; this will place data screens in front of him in an arrangement the pilot prefers. Control will still be manual, but the choppers onboard AI will presumably be able to track the pilots hands as he manipulates phantom controls.

Sure, it sounds cool, but two issues immediately present themselves:

1: Computer goes goofy. Malware, hacking, power surge, EMP, whatever… this thing seems like a deathtrap if the computer goes down.

2: Phantom controls that exist solely in the computers imagination and the pilots visor… sure, that sounds cool, and is certainly a common enough trope in sci-fi. Witness anytime Tony Stark wants to design anything, for instance. But in reality, your hands and arms get tired. You actually rest on the steering wheel or the yoke or the collective. Additionally, pilots really like to get direct feedback, which seems as yet beyond the ability to reproduce virtually. More, with every bump or jolt, the pilots hands will flail around. In a conventional helicopter, the pilots hands will be constrained by the controls they are gripping. In this one… nothing.

I would suggest a compromise: a set of *basic* physical instruments. Just what the pilot needs to safely fly the chopper. And I’d damn sure stick with physical controls. But… keep the augmented reality for the *secondary* instruments. Navigation, radio, air conditioning, whisper mode, thermal vision, fire rearward missiles… that can be via virtual reality. Instrument panels that are called up with a voice command, and recede when not in use.

Bell Helicopter unveils futuristic FCX-001 concept aircraft

 

 

Not at all related:

 

 Posted by at 2:14 pm
Feb 102017
 

NASA has just released a report on a Europa lander mission. I haven’t read all the way through it (in fact, I’ve just glanced through it), but it seems fairly extensive. The lander design itself seems pretty preliminary. It also looks like a walking “rover,” but the legs are just long in order to allow the lander to safely come to rest on whatever terrain it happens to land on.

The lander would have instruments meant to look for the signs of life. Pretty obviously, the chances of life appearing *anywhere* near the surface of Europa are as close to zero as you can get. However, assuming that many, many kilometers below there is a liquid water ocean, and assuming that there is recognizable life swimming or floating around in the water, chances are fairly good that bits of it, everything from biochemicals on up to actual critters, would get trapped in the ice. Over extremely long periods of time the cold, icy equivalent of geological processes might drag that stuff up to the surface, where it might be detectable.

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You can download the report here:

Europa Lander Science Definition Team Report

Some of the illustrations:

Europa Lander Image1 Europa Lander Image2 Europa Lander Image3 Europa Lander Image4 Europa Lander Image5 Europa Lander Image6

 

 Posted by at 8:49 pm
Nov 152016
 

Boom Technology, a company working towards a supersonic passenger transport, is unveiling in Denver the mockup of their “XB-1,” a 1/3 scale technology demonstrator.

A supersonic jet faster than the Concorde will get public design debut in Centennial

See the link above for some hugenormous photos, but here’s what the thing looks like:
xb-1-b

xb-1-a

To me the XB-1 looks like the Rose Mach Buster and a T-38 got a little drunk and made the plane with two backs, then slathered the baby with Bondo and sanded real, real smooth.

Boom Technology is working towards a commercial SST with a cruise speed of Mach 2.2, 44 passengers and transAtlantic range. They are hoping to reduce sonic boom to levels low enough that the FAA will let them fly overland, but as the law is currently written I don’t think they could legally do it if their plane was utterly silent. Getting the bureaucrats and politicians to change the regulations that stifle progress is probably a much bigger chore than designing a supersonic jet that’s actually commercially viable.

 Posted by at 2:20 pm
Sep 122016
 

Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin has described a new rocket his company is working on , the “New Glenn.” It’s kinda big:

new-glenn-large2

The “New Glenn” will be 27 feet in diameter (close to the Shuttle External Tank, it seems), 270 feet tall in a two-stage configuration and 313 feet tall in a three stage configuration. The first stage is recoverable, landing vertically under rocket power. It will have seven BE-4 engines burning natural gas and oxygen, producing 3.85 million pounds of thrust. The second stage uses a single BE-4 engine with an increased expansion ratio. The third stage uses a LOX/LH2 BE-3 engine.

The article says that Bezos has claimed that the rocket will fly “within the decade.” If that means by the end of 2019, that’s pretty ambitious.

 Posted by at 9:58 pm