Mar 282017

Google has a collection of thousands of photos from Life magazine, including some relatively rare color photos of the Lockheed L-2000 supersonic transport full scale mockup. Sadly the website is set up for lookin’ at, not for easy linking or downloading of the photos. You can zoom in on the images, but good luck on copying the full-rez images.

Lockheed Supersonic Airplane

Lockheed Supersonic Airplane

Lockheed Supersonic Airplane



There are a bunch more if you go searching (search for “supersonic” brings up quite a few), but most are in B&W.

 Posted by at 12:19 pm
Mar 262017

A piece of NASA art circa 1961 depicting an early Apollo capsule concept, current being sold on eBay:

This concept seems to depict the use of a cluster of sizable solid rocket motors, possibly dual-use abort (jettison) and orbit circularization motors.


 Posted by at 5:16 pm
Mar 222017

Here are three pieces of art taken from North American Aviation documents from the early 60’s, part of the Spivak collection. Not the best reproduction quality, but whatryagonnado. The two with downturned wingtips depict the B-70 as actually built; the other is slightly earlier, with some differences from the final configuration. The most obvious is that the vertical fins have leading edge extensions; additionally the forward fuselage contours seem off, though that might be an artistic flub. As well, it does not appear to depict the existence of the wingtip fold hinges, which is either a mistake or artistic license for some purpose.


 Posted by at 2:22 am
Mar 202017

One of the oldest and most tiresome of the “Nazi Wunderwaffen” myths is that of the “Sun Gun.” The idea is that the Nazis were found to have been working on the design of an orbital mirror, miles in diameter, that would have reflected sunlight to the surface of Earth in such a way to cause enemy cities to burst into flames. This idea first hit the US press quite soon after the defeat of Nazi Germany, and *before* the nuking of Japan. Several articles appeared in the New York Times on the topic beginning in late June, 1945, and the idea reached its peak with an illustrated article in Life Magazine in July, 1945.

The “Sun Gun” was claimed to be a circular mirror one mile in diameter, orbiting at 5,100 miles. The mirror, it was claimed, would be made from large cubical and pressure-tight blocks, providing *vast* internal volume for the crew and their crop of oxygen-producing pumpkins.

Small problem: it’s BS.

Now, there *were* ideas for vast orbital mirrors. Hermann Oberth had proposed such a thing as far back as the 1920’s, so an orbital mirror was not unknown as a concept in wartime Germany. And in reading the lean details in the articles, it’s clear that what is described is the Oberth mirror as described after a round of “telephone.” The basic idea is Oberths, and Oberth even gets a shout-out in the articles, but Oberths ideas got mutated and bent out of recognition. Not leastways because an orbital mirror a mile in diameter 5,100 miles overhead *cannot* set a city, or even a dry piece of of tissue paper on fire. The basic physics of optics prohibits that. Thought experiment: take a mirror one inch in diameter. Can you use it to start a fire? If it’s precise enough and close enough to the target… sure. Now, move that one-inch mirror 5,100 inches from the target. Gonna set anything on fire *now?*

I suspect what happened is that the the US Army officers who reported on the “sun gun” were simply told about the Oberth mirror – which, by the way, was a far less insane idea than the “sun gun” in that it was essentially foil rather than a large solid structure – by Germans who either wanted to screw with them or, like von Braun, wanted to pump up their apparent usefulness to the US military in the hopes of getting transferred to the US. Given the conditions in post-war Germany and the risks of getting sucked into the black hole of the Soviet Union, it would make sense for *anyone* to try to wrangle a ride to the US for an actual job.

I have gathered together scans of newspaper and magazine articles on the subject and mashed ’em into a PDF file which I have uploaded to the 2017-03 APR Extras Dropbox folder. This is available to all APR Patreon Patrons at the $4 level and above. If interested, check out the APR Patreon.




 Posted by at 10:29 am
Mar 172017

Recently sold on eBay (for $500) was a display model of the Boeing proposal for the C-5 program, which of course lost out to Lockheed. The Boeing design (circa 1965) was vaguely like a Lockheed C-5 merged with a Boeing 747… roughly the configuration and fuselage size of the C-5, but with the raised upper deck and the standard “jetliner” lower tail surface of the 747. I have surprisingly little on the Boeing C-5, but I do have some fairly detailed diagrams of a civilian passenger version, and a few derivatives. Interestingly, while this was clearly part of the genesis of the 747 – which by every metric was a far greater success for Boeing than the C-5 was for Lockheed – it was actually a model 757. As the design effort continued the 747 designation would become the jumbo jet, while the 757 designation would be applied to a much smaller jet.

 Posted by at 1:44 am
Mar 102017

So here I was, minding my own business when several of my cats started acting glitchy. This is not unknown… where some dogs will bark their damnfool heads off if they hear a stranger on their turf, my cats warn me of visitors or trespassers in their own quieter way. In this case it was a UPS truck and the driver bringing a box to my door. As I hadn’t ordered anything recently, this was a puzzlement.

As it turns out, it was a copy of Dennis Jenkins three-volume book “Space Shuttle: Developing an Icon 1972-2013.” This is the latest, and presumably last, edition of the premiere tome on the history of the Space Shuttle. It is vastly expanded from the previous editions, now over 1,500 pages.

In short… if’n you’re at all interested in the Space Shuttle, procure yourself a copy of this book. It’s a billet of hardback paper massive enough to brain an ape, filled with full-color art & photos, diagrams and data galore. The first volume describes the early history of the Shuttle from World War II up through the 70’s; the second volume is a detailed technical description of the Space Transportation System. The third volume describes the operational history of the Shuttle program.

If you like projects/unbuilt designs, the first volume in particular provides an embarrassment of riches.

In short, I wholeheartedly endorse this book. It’s friggen’ awesome.

With every purchase of “Space Shuttle,” you’ll receive one free Raedthinn-approved Fort Of Imagination.

Note: seems my copy came to me due to my having contributed very, very slightly to it, another concept I wholeheartedly approve of. Thus, thanks to Dennis Jenkins for providing me with this!

 Posted by at 7:58 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
Mar 042017

I have posted in the 2017-03 APR Extras Dropbox folder for APR Patrons a small pile of aerospace history images yoinked out of a few reports. Included is a 1944 NACA reconstruction of the German V-1 buzz bomb (generally correct, but off in detail), three photos of a wind tunnel model of the Bell X-1 modified to have variable sweep wings, three pieces of NASA art depicting some then-future applications of space propulsion systems including a one-man lunar flyer, an early concept for what became Skylab, and a more advanced modular space station. The full-rez verions are available to all APR Patreon patrons at the $4 level and above. If interested, please consider signing up. There are  a whole  bunch of other goodies available in past months folders, more stuff coming.

Much more aerospace stuff is available via the APR Patreon. If this sort of thing interests you, please consider signing up… not only will you help fund the search for obscure aerospace history, you’ll gain access to a lot of interesting stuff, not available elsewhere.


Space Propulsion Systems c Space Propulsion Systems b Space Propulsion Systems a swing-wing X-1 c swing-wing X-1 b swing-wing X-1 a NACA V-1 reconstruction

 Posted by at 5:06 pm