Nov 242016

In 1965, the US Army briefly examined a need they didn’t know they had: firearms for use in space and on the Moon. The US Army Weapons Command in Rock Island, Illinois, put out a brochure detailing some ideas for lunar weapons… “The Meanderings of a Weapon Oriented Mind When Applied in a Vacuum Such as on the Moon.” While not a detailed engineering study, it nevertheless provides and interesting look at the sort of weapons that might be developed for use in a low gravity space environment.


Conventional firearms would work just fine in space… at least for a while. A vacuum would cause most lubricants to outgas and turn to waxy solids or hard rubber-like crud. The extreme differences in temperatures between sunlit and shaded would cause many metals to warp and mechanisms to seize up. And there’s always the possibility of vacuum welding, where two similar metals will simply stick together, fusing into one. And recoil that gives a shooter a good kick on Earth might knock them over on the Moon, or send them tumbling in freefall. The authors described these problems and pointed out potential solutions. Additionally, they provided a number of notional concepts for hand-held weapons, ranging from modifications to the normal sort of firearm, to guns powered by springs (with, it must be said, rather optimistic muzzle velocities) to gas-guns and handheld mini-rocket launchers. It’s odd that the Gyrojet was not included. A laser weapon is said to probably be just the thing, but development of such a thing would take 20 years. A man-portable laser weapon capable of doing useful damage in a  combat situation remains sadly unavailable.

Note that the weapons have quite unconventional ergonomics. Some don’t even have proper pistol grips; those that do have triggers roughly the full length of the grip. This is so that a space-suited hand can squeeze the trigger, something very difficult for a conventional single-finger trigger.


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The brochure ends with several pages of useful math, providing calculations for ballistic range in other gravity fields, penetration capabilities and muzzle velocities and gas pressures.

The report can be found here:

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 Posted by at 2:43 am
Nov 212016

This video has it all:

  1. Unbuilt aircraft concept
  2. Scale model (wind tunnel model) construction
  3. Cyanotype Blueprints
  4. Complete lack of an audio track

The obvious question that this video raises is… what happened with the model? Most wind tunnel models end up getting scrapped – shredded and melted down to recycle the metal. but every now and then one escapes. The company keeps it for display, or in an archive, or sometimes an employee simply takes it home. Sometimes they end up on EBay.

 Posted by at 11:28 pm
Nov 172016

Here’s another photo of the lifting body mockup I showed a month ago. Here you can see that the full display – apparently a USAF public relations  item – included a more or less full length booster, presumably a Titan II. It’s not the best angle, but it *kinda* looks like this might be just the first stage of the Titan II (or a round tube resembling one) without a second stage. It’s doubtful that there was ever a plan to launch a one-man lifting body atop a single Titan II first stage; it would be distinctly suborbital, and without some deep throttling the acceleration would probably be pretty crushing.

When i last posted this, I mentioned that photos of this were shown “many times.” I wrote that because I remember seeing such photos… but once I started actually looking for them they turn out to be rather hard to find. I imagine I must’ve seen the photos in 1960’s magazines or such. Two more not terribly helpful photos are available HERE and HERE.


 Posted by at 5:40 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:


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