Apr 212018

APR Patrons contributing more than $10 per month were today sent a 1969 diagram of a preliminary design for what would become the AWACS plane… close, but with eight engines rather than four. This design was illustrated in color artwork from time to time.

And for APR Patrons at the $4 and above level, a diagram of the 777 and scans of a McDonnell-Douglas brochure on the “Med-Lite Family” of launch vehicle concepts have been uploaded to the 2018-04 APR Extras folder on Dropbox:

If you are interested in these and a great many other “extras” and monthly aerospace history rewards, please sign up for the APR Patreon. What else are you going to spend $4 a month on? Taxes?


 Posted by at 8:50 am
Apr 192018

For the APR Patreon I try to acquire as much interesting aerospace documentation as I can, and these items fall into two categories:

  1. Stuff that I can afford. This stuff winds up in the APR Patreon catalog of potential monthly rewards for patrons.
  2. Stuff I can’t hope to afford.

There’s a lot of the latter category of stuff. Sometimes it’s because the item has a ridiculously high Buy It Now price or starting bid, or because the item will be popular among bidders, or because it’s *really* good/big and thus worth every penny. But unaffordable is unaffordable.

However, there is an option for “stuff I can’t afford:” crowdfunding. I’ve done this a number of times with considerable success, and I’ve just done so again, winning a trio of General Dynamics documents describing a 1965 program to develop a logistics system for extending the Apollo lunar exploration program:

This set of documents was just much too expensive for an individual (well, I’m sure Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk wouldn’t have flinched), but with a group of like-mined funders it came in at $30 per person. So what happens now:

1: I wait for it to show up in the mail.

2: I make a complete set of scans in 300 DPI grayscale (and color, where appropriate) and convert to PDFs

3: I make the scans and PDFs available to funders, generally via Dropbox

4: I find an appropriate archive for the documents, and then donate the originals to them.

5: And that’s it. The files are shared with the funders, but do not appear on future APR Patreon catalogs or as purchasable, downloadable “Diagrams and Documents.” What the funders choose to do with their scans & PDFs is up to them.

APR Patrons get alerted to each of these occasional “crowdfunding opportunities.” So if you’d like to participate, please considered signing up for the APR Patreon.


 Posted by at 12:11 pm
Apr 112018

Some old-school animation showing the AH-56 as a recon and targeting vehicle being used in Someplace Much Like Viet Nam. If you’re at all like me, you’ll watch this and think, “I don’t recall this episode of Jonny Quest.”


 Posted by at 2:11 pm
Mar 292018

Here are two presumably wholly unrelated pieces of aerospace artwork. At least I *hope* they’re unrelated…

The first is an anonymous painting of a spaceplane. Doesn’t seem terribly realistic; most likely done for advertising purposes (I wonder if the “7-11” might indicate a relationship to the chain of the same name). The print arrived damaged, as you an see; the paper was thick and *really* brittle and really didn’t appreciate being rolled up. If anyone knows anything about it, feel free to comment.


The second is concept art from Bell Aerospace illustrating an amphibious troop carrier for the Marine Corps. The design of the assault vehicle is fairly ordinary as such things go, except for one detail: it could turn into a hovercraft and float across the surface of the water, rather than plowing through it. No further details provided, so I don’t know if the hover-skirts were deployable and retractable, or if they were simply dropped when the vehicle got to shore. The latter would certainly seem more economical.

I’ve uploaded the full rez scans to the 2018-03 APR Extras Dropbox folder, available to all current APR Patrons at the $4 level and above. If you are interested in this and a great many other “extras” and monthly aerospace history rewards, please sign up for the APR Patreon. Chances are good that $4/month is far cheaper than your espresso/booze budget!


 Posted by at 2:01 pm
Mar 292018

An old NASA video describing the HL-20 lifting body. In the 90’s NASA spent a lot of time and trouble trying to get an HL-20 built for a Personnel Launch System, a vehicle smaller than the Space Shuttle but capable of carrying as many passengers and riding a much smaller launch vehicle. For transporting passengers to and from the Space Station, it would have been much more economical and sensible than the Shuttle. And while the HL-20 was never built, the basic geometry has survived in the form of Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser, which *might* actually fly to space someday.


 Posted by at 12:01 am
Mar 282018

A piece of late 1950’s promo art from Rocketdyne illustrating a spacecraft with a solar thermodynamic powerplant. This should not be assumed to be an actual design, but much more likely just more or less pure illustrative art.

The craft is shown with a great parabolic solar reflector, the sunlight heating an element at the focus. In an actual design, most likely a working fluid would be pumped through this and boiled, the resulting high pressure gas blowing past a turbogenerator and then into a heat exchanger or directly into a relatively vast radiator. The gas would be cooled back to liquid and recirculated. Note that no such radiator is in evidence. Sometimes early designs utilized radiators built onto the shadow side of the reflectors. The craft appears to be over Mars, based on the hints of canals that are kinda visible. The ship has a parabolic radio dish on a boom below; the upper boom would seem to hold a trough, likely a launching platform for a small probe rocket (another cliche in early spacecraft art). At the rear is a boom that appears to hold two banks of ion engines or some other electrical propulsion system. Oddly, the thrusters would seem to be held off well to the side of the craft, rather than actually firing through the centerline (unless that boom is supposed to be projected straight aft and mounted at one end of the bar holding the thrusters, thus putting the centerline of thrust back through the CG of the craft).

 Posted by at 12:41 pm
Mar 232018

China is Working on a Rocket as Powerful as the Saturn V, Could Launch by 2030

The Chinese seem to be proceeding *real* slowly on their space program, but who can say what their real goals are. They used to kinda suck at space launchers, but the Clintons saw to that; Chinas ability to successfully orbit sizable payloads has certainly improved. And now that SpaceX, Blue Origin and maybe – just possibly – even NASA may soon have heavy lifters of their own, it makes sense that the Chinese will want one as well. He who controls the heavens controls the future, after all.

Seems the Chinese hope to conduct a main engine test for the CZ-9 later this year.

Chang Zheng-9 (Long March 9)

The Chang Zheng-9 (CZ-9, or Long March 9) is a super heavy-lift launch vehicle intended for future manned lunar landing and deep space exploration missions. The launch vehicle is described as a large rocket roughly 100 m in length and 8 to 9 m in diameter, assisted by two or four 3 m diameter solid rocket boosters, with a lift-off thrust of 5,200 to 5,500 tonnes. The launcher will be capable of delivering 130 tonnes of payload to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), exactly the same as the heavier Block 2 version of the NASA Space Launch System (SLS).

If the artists impression is accurate, the CZ-9 is clearly from the same train of thought that produced the SLS. Which means that it’ll probably cost something like the SLS, adjusted for Chinese costs rather than NASA bureaucracy. Which would be fine in normal times, but we seem to be heading into a whole new era… SpaceX and Blue Origin pull it off, or even just one of them, rockets like the CZ-9 will look *really* outdated.

 Posted by at 10:12 pm