Jul 302014

Two passes – Public and Press – for parking to witness the landing of the first Space Shuttle orbital flight, STS-1. The government threat/verbiage on the back is a little creepifyin’ but I’m pretty sure it’s expired by now (probably expired the moment it landed). These passes were scanned at 300 DPI and are presented half-rez.

shuttlepass1half shuttlepass2half 

These passes were obtained via an eBay purchase, and were “extras” to the items I was actually after (detailed large format diagrams of the Shuttle flight instrumentation). This purchase was made possible by my Patreon contributors. So if you like this sort of thing, please consider contributing to my Patreon campaign. Every little bit helps! The full-rez scans are available to all Patreon contributors.



 Posted by at 1:19 pm
Jul 292014

Found on the back of a 1963 issue of “Space World” magazine was this piece of artwork depicting an unusual – and perhaps fanciful – spacecraft. The same artwork had appeared earlier – at least as far back as 1961 – in a magazine ad for the Garrett AiResearch corporation. The artwork was thus *probably* created in-house at Garrett. Since Garrett was a manufacturer of turboprop engines and electronics, not an aircraft or spacecraft design firm, this is unlikely to have been a serious engineering effort. Still, it’s interesting to see what level of *apparent* effort the PR divisions of numerous companies went to back in the glory days of the Space Age.




 Posted by at 12:24 pm
Jul 282014

This appears to be an early concept for the Hughes HK-1 Hercules (“Spruce Goose”) featuring twin fuselages. It should be pointed out that a twin fuselage cargo aircraft is a reasonable notion; by spreading the load across the wingspan, the stress on the wing, and the moment arm at the point of attachment to the load (i.e. the fuselage) is greatly reduced. The usual complaint about a multi-body aircraft is that the “wide stance” means the landing gear would be equally wide, necessitating ridiculously broad runways. For for a seaplane, that’s not as much of an issue. Aerodynamic drag and construction costs, however, are generally greater for a multi-body design.

Origin of this image seems to be HERE. The claim is that this photo was taken at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, McMinnville, Oregon.

hk-1 zwilling


 Posted by at 1:28 pm
Jul 272014

A 1963 Douglas concept for a space station. This one appears to have everything… to the right, the (Douglas-built) S-IV stage; to the left the (Douglas built) S-IVb stage; docked and coming in to dock, the (Douglas designed) ASTRO spaceplane. All mounted to a core space station that appears to be based on the S-II upper stage.

douglas station63

 Posted by at 1:20 pm
Jul 262014

I’ve cut the prices on all my cyanotypes by at least 25%, up to 40%. I’ve also gotten rid of the watercolor versions; it’s all vellum paper now (not only is it more historically accurate, it’s also a lot easier to process and ship).

So… take a look.

Cyanotype Blueprints

 Posted by at 1:44 am
Jul 232014

NOTE: this is the first official “PDF Review.” The idea is to present interesting online resources for those interested in  the sort of aerospace oddities that you can find in the pages of Aerospace projects Review. This little project is supported through my Patreon campaign; at current levels, I’ll post two such reviews per month. If you’d like to see more, or just want to contribute to help me along, please consider becoming a patron.


Dynamic tow maneuver orbital launch technique

US Patent 8,727,264

Direct link to PDF

Filed in June, 2013, and issued in May, 2014, this patent granted to Burt Rutan describes an unconventional space launch system. An otherwise more-or-less conventional space launch rocket – the standard propellant-filled cylinder with a payload shroud up front and a rocket engine in the tail – is carried aloft via aircraft. This basic notion has been proposed, designed and enacted many times, from the US Navy’s NOTSNIK of the very late 1950’s to Minuteman ICBM launched from the C-5 Galaxy in the 1970s to numerous space launch proposals over the years. But this one differs in that the carrier aircraft is split into two main components. The propulsion and guidance is provided by a minimally-modified jetliner (such as a DC-10, as shown in the patent). The jetliner is modified to serve as a tow plane. The rocket vehicle itself is carried not by the jetliner, but by  an unpowered glider towed behind the jetliner.

Where this gets interesting: the glider doesn’t drop the rocket, as you might expect. instead, the rocket is carried on the gliders “back.” At first blush this seems counter intuitive. The rocket has no wings, so if you simply cut it loose there’d be no reason for the rocket to lift upwards; at bet it’d slide aft in an unfortunate manner (as the CG of the assembly slide aft, all kinds of unfortunate responses can be expected). But an interesting trick would make this system work. When  the launch point is reached, the glider pitches upwards. This greatly increases the lift it generates while also greatly increasing both drag and the tension on the tow line. The glider would have a tendency to be “flung” upwards; the tow line is released. The glider has a serious excess in potential energy, which it expends by continuing to pitch upwards, eventually pointing roughly 50 degrees up. At the chosen point, straps holding the rocket in place are released. The rocket has rested in a form-fitting cradle; cushioning it were a multitude of “balloons.” These airbags formerly provided a wide-area shock absorber; now they serve to shove the rocket out of the cradle. Since the glider has pitched well upwards, positive separation should be relatively easy. Once separated, the glider pitches down again, leaving the rocket to boost to orbit.

And all the while the expensive stuff – the avionics, the jet engines, the crew – is relatively safe, far ahead in the towplane. If the rocket decides to turn itself into a fireball at any point, the towplane is well separated from it… 3500 feet of towline keeps a good clearance.

The dynamics of the system provides for some interesting effects. When the glider begins its pitch-up, it begins to describe a circular arc, rising above the tow plane. This necessarily means that it begins to accelerate both upwards and forwards relative to the two plane. Something like 25% of the kinetic energy of the tow plane is transferred to the glider and rocket payload, providing a velocity boost of 12% just when needed most.

The glider is very clearly from the same design family as the White Knight One and Two carrier planes. It features twin fuselages  spread out on a long high aspect ratio wing with upward-curving, backward-bending wingtips. Dimensions and weights are not given, but scale can probably be determined by comparison with the DC-10 tow plane.

The basic aircraft configuration. Scale compared to the DC-10 is not necessarily accurate, but this is the best there is…


Isometric sketch of the glider. Family resemblance to *everything* Rutan is clear.


The balloon-lined launch cradle.


8A shows normal towing. 8B shows the configuration as the glider begins to climb, accelerating upwards while extracting kinetic energy from the tow plane.


The moment when maximum flight path angle is reached and the tow line is cut loose.


8F shows the holding straps being jettisoned, allowing the rocket to separate from the glider. 8G shows the glider pitching down as the rocket begins its boost to orbit.
If you liked this review and/or found it useful, please consider helping out:

 Posted by at 5:57 pm
Jul 232014

Found on ebay a while back, an artists concept (almost certainly an AP artist, using imagination more than primary documentation) showing an odd little submarine carrying four Polaris missiles while would launch through the sail. Such concepts *were* studied early on in the process, but I think this one is pure artistic license.


 Posted by at 11:22 am
Jul 212014

For $10 patrons on my Patreon campaign, a new message should appear there asking you to vote on what I’ll release in August (two documents and one large format diagram). For those who are $10 patrons, here’s a partial list anyway… if you see something there and you really want to make sure it becomes available, well, the obvious thing to do is sign on and vote!


Drawing: fairly detailed 3-view of Lunar Roving Vehicle (as actually flown to the moon)

Drawing: “Plans for Scale Model Construction of the Honest John Surface-to-Surface Missile” by McDonnell-Douglas, 1971 (does anyone know of more of these???)

Document: “Douglas Aircraft Company: An Overview,” 60+ page brochure showing existing and proposed jetliners, by McDonnell-Douglas, ca. 1980

Art: a vintage lithograph of the Lockheed L-2000 SST in flight, w/3 view on the back.

Document: “CT-39 International Sabreliner,” a Rockwell International booklet/brochure describing the multipurpose utility jet

Document: “Air Force Expeditionary Catapult,” a truly massive billet of paper serving as a proposal from the All American Engineering Company for the System 300 Catapult, 1955. This was to be a turbojet-powered cable launching system for jet fighters which could be easily transported and set up in the field. (NOTE: this one counts as two reports, as it’s fairly gigantic)

Document: Aeroassisted Flight Experiment Nonadvocate Review, 1989, NASA

Document: Pocket Data for Rocket Engines, 1953, Bell

Document: SAM-D Air Defense Weapon System, 1973, US Army

Document: Pilots Handbook of Operation XLR11-RM-3 & XLR11-RM-5, liquid Rocket Engines, 1950, Reaction Motors

Art: X-15 lithograph (date unknown)

Document: The Centaur Program, 1961, Convair

Document: Orbiter Vehicle Structures, Rockwell

Document: An integrated Moonmobile-Spacesuit Concept, 1961, Aerojet

Document: The Intercontinental Stratoliner 707-320, 1955, Boeing

Document: Douglas DC-8 Design Study, 1953, Douglas

Document: Transport Weight Comparison Based on Lockheed 49-10, 1943, Lockheed

Document: ETR Launch Operations Plan for Cenaur on Shuttle, 1979, General Dynamics

Diagram: MD-11 wing diagram, six-feet long: McDonnel-Douglas, 1995

Document: A Lockheed presentation on the GL-224 Turbo-Jet VTOL Aircraft, 1958

Document: A Project RAND report on the GG-2 all-wing bomber, 1949

Document: A small Rockwell brochure on the “common core” concept for a fixed-wing subsonic B-1 variant, 1979 4) A presentation on the Douglas “Skybus,” 1944

Document: A NAA report on a turboprop-powered F-82E for ground attack, 1949

Document: A Curtis report on the twin engined F-87C, 1948

Document: A Vertol report on VTOL transport aircraft, showing several very different configurations, 1956

Document: A Lockheed presentation to the AIAA on the history of the Fleet Ballistic Missile, 1978

Document: A collection of Manned Spacecraft Center Space Shuttle orbiter concepts, 1972

Document: A Convair collection of design drawings of an Assault Seaplane, 1948 (NOTE: this one counts as two reports, as it’s fairly gigantic)

Document: A Vought report on the Regulus II missile with detailed diagrams, 1955

 Posted by at 3:41 pm
Jul 202014

I’m about $21 short of the next milestone, which will result in two “PDF reviews” per month of little-known online aerospace history resources. So if that idea appeals… consider signing up (and telling all your friends who have a few dimes to rub together).

Also: in August there will be three documents/large format diagrams released, along with three CAD diagrams. The documents/LFD’s are yet to be chosen (the $10 patron will get to vote on this in the next week or so), but the CAD diagrams are underway. One is already basically complete: the first accurate and clean, large 3-view diagram of the Northrop Tacit Blue demonstrator. The second will be of a proposed launch vehicle. The third is still up in the air.


 Posted by at 1:13 pm