Aug 302012

NASA has just signed a small ($100 K) study contract for a “ninja star” shaped jetliner. It would be a pointy cruciform in plan view; at low speed the longer axis would be the wing and at high speed the shorter axis would be the wing. To accomplish this, the jet engines would need to rotate 90 degrees.

Supersonic Flying Wing Nabs $100,000 from NASA

This is not an entirely new idea. In the 1970’s Boeing studied a similar concept… supersonic aircraft with single-pivot rotating wings that would present long wings for low speed and short wing for high speed.

And it goes back even further. in 1963, former German aircraft designer Richard Vogt filed a patent via Boeing for a “TWO POSITION VARIABLE SHAPED WING” based on the same idea. The patent drawings seem to show a supersonic transport.

 Posted by at 8:00 pm
Aug 242012

Sometimes plans go awry. For example… in 1963, NASA was well on the way to building the Saturn V. The Saturn V was a giant of a rocket, far bigger than what was actually available at the time. But there was no reason to believe that development of ever bigger and more capable launch vehicles would stop with the Saturn V. And so plans were in place for the “Nova” rocket. While a vast number of wildly different designs were produced, in general they were all capable of putting about a million pounds of payload into Earth orbit.

 Posted by at 9:11 pm
Aug 242012

Following on the heels of the MX-1964 mockup was a mockup of the B-58 as it more or less was built. Clearly built in the same facility, what’s unclear from the photo is whether any components from the previous mockup were re-used. All the major components appear to be substantially altered, so it might have been an all-new structure, or it might have used some of the same internal supports. It would be nice if such things were able to be preserved, but mockups like this usually wind up getting turned into firewood.

 Posted by at 11:22 am
Aug 232012

A photo of a Bell Fold-Rotor concept. The Fold-Rotor was a tiltrotor design that used the props for vertical flight and to get moving forward, but for high speed used other propulsion systems (in this case, the turboshaft engines mounted in the fuselage that drove the wingtip props would disengage and become straight turbojets), and the rotors would stop and fold back to reduce drag. It was an interesting idea, but it still had all the weight of a tiltrotor system, and then some, but with added complexity.

 Posted by at 1:39 am
Aug 212012

From the NASA HQ historical archive, a 1963 illustration of a large 12-man Ballistic Logistic System capsule. Such capsules were designed by NASA and various contractors to go atop Saturn boosters to provide crew and cargo transport to and from the large space stations that NASA fully expected to have in orbit in the early to mid 1970’s.

 Posted by at 11:10 am
Aug 132012

One of the more unconventional Space Shuttle concepts was this minor Grumman concept from 1971. Similar to the Lockheed STAR Clipper stage-and-one-half design, this design featured a fully reusable rocket powered spaceplane with expendable propellant tanks. Unlike the STAR Clipper, the Grumman design had four unattached tanks and a non-lifting body wing-body orbiter.

 Posted by at 9:32 pm
Aug 132012

The Convair B-58 Hustler grew out of a long series of design studies dating back to the years immediately following World War II. Early concepts called for small jet bombers carried aloft by B-36 or B-60 bombers, and would shed jet engine pods during the mission. These massively complex and expensive systems evolved over time to the somewhat more straightforward B-58 which was a single stage aircraft carrying an underslung pod containing both jet fuel and a single nuclear weapon. But even that was originally intended to be a rocket powered missile.

The B-58 evolved directly from the MX-1964 design from 1952. This is recognizably related to the B-58, but had the four jet engines in two pods rather than four, and a higher degree of integration between the pod and aircraft.


 Posted by at 1:48 am