Nov 202017

The headline is more than a little misleading. “Mad Mike” here isn’t a rocket scientist; in fact, this actual-Flat-Earther states quite clearly that he doesn’t believe in science. Still, he spent a whole lot of money building himself a “skycycle”- like rocket vehicle with which to lob himself into the air.

If you have time to kill and want to chuckle sadly, take a look at this winners Facebook page. He’s not just any Flat Earther, he’s one of those belligerent ones. He thinks that somehow lobbing himself a short distance into the sky will “prove” the Flat Earth delusion to be true… where somehow decades of high altitude balloons, sounding rockets, orbital flights and missions to the moon and beyond somehow all seemed to miss it.

And if there was any lasting doubt that the news media is just not very good, here’s a collection of headlines that will make aerospace engineers – including former rocket engineers like myself – want to pull their hair out:

Self-Taught Rocket Scientist Mad Mike Hughes Plans to Launch Over Ghost Town

This barmy self-taught scientist called ‘Mad Mike’ is going to launch himself over California in a homemade rocket

Not only is there a whole lot of copying off each other – rather than, you know, actual journalismizing – there’s the repeated mis-use of the word “scientist.” Even disregarding the fact that he doesn’t believe in  science, there’s the basic fact that he’s not actually *doing* any science.

 Posted by at 11:12 am
Nov 182017

A recent acquisition from ebay was a pretty good B&W glossy showing a Martin Company illustration of the Titan IIIC launch vehicle, circa August, 1964. One of the better Titan IIIC illustrations I’ve seen, showing the innards to good effect.

I have uploaded the full 600-dpi scan to the 2017-11 APR Extras Dropbox available to all $4 and up APR Patreon patrons. It’s in two formats… the raw scan, and a cleaned-up version that looks better. Also included is the press release printed on the back of the glossy. If you are interested, take a look at the APR Patreon and consider signing up.

 Posted by at 10:20 pm
Nov 052017

Currently being sold on ebay is a display model of a missile, a “Martin ASM.” ASM almost certainly means “Air to Surface Missile,” but otherwise there’s no further info. Seller seems to think it’s related to the Assault Breaker project, but it looks vaguely like a Skybolt-ish air-launched ballistic missile.




 Posted by at 4:56 pm
Oct 222017

A rare piece of color art depicting an early Dyna Soar being dropped from a B-52. The Dyna Soar is equipped with two rocket engines used to boost it to higher altitude and higher speed (supersonic, though not very supersonic… think the test flights of the M2-F3 and the HL-10). Note that this shows the Dyna Soar having been tucked into a modified bomb bay in the B-52’s fuselage; planning would soon move the Dyna Soar to under the wing, using the same attachment point used by the B-52 to carry the X-15 and the lifting bodies.


 Posted by at 7:22 pm
Oct 112017

The Space Review has an interesting piece that attempts to figure out how much BFR might cost to fly. My own estimate: I dunno. Done the old fashioned way, you’d go through a thousand pages of calculations, totaling up all the palm-greasing and bonuses and regulatory hoop-jumping and congresscritter bribes and extraneous R&D and sub-sub-subcontractor troubleshooting… and only then try to figure out what the actual manufacturing and testing and propellant and operations and maintenance will cost. And then tack on an extra zero, because of course you will. But here, SpaceX is operating in a whole new environment. Ten years ago I would have said the BFR would have been a ridiculously, laughably optimistic concept; now… you know, I bet they can pull it off, even if they need to slip the schedule some.

Estimating the cost of BFR

They come up with a conclusion that $240,000 per ton delivered to the surface of Mars is achievable. They also come up with a cost per seat of $1,200 for a point-to-point ballistic transport version stuffing 853 passengers on board, but here I become distinctly dubious. I’d bet real money that even if the technology works fantastically, the regulatory banhammer will come down on SpaceX SpaceLines the moment they try to actually fly passengers. Heck, I bet the US FedGuv will drop ITAR on SpaceX like a ton of white-hot bricks the moment SpaceX seriously proposes to launch  a BFR upper stage to some darned furrin country like Japan or Australia, never mind China or Dubai. Plus there will be practical issues which I think stand a *very* good chance of torpedoing an affordable ballistic transport system… passengers keeling over due to acceleration (or being ejected from the boarding line because a doctor says “no”), the sort of delays that space launch systems would find trivial would be monumental for a system meant to operate for only 30 minutes, difficulties getting passengers loaded on board, bad weather at the launch or landing site making it impossible for the vehicle or its booster to safely land… these can all cause a serious headache.

I am much less interested in the global transport aspect than I am in the orbital and interplanetary aspect. Sure, it’d be great to have a half-hour-to-antipodes transporter… but that wouldn’t have one percent the impact that a colony transport to Mars would have.

 Posted by at 11:54 pm
Oct 112017

SpaceX has landed another previously-launched Falcon 9 first stage (it flew a resupply mission to ISS in February). It’s not there yet, but this sort of thing is becoming routine… which is fantastic.

Note that at about the 21 minute mark the grid fins begin to glow white-hot during entry. Which would certainly explain why they switched from aluminum to titanium for those fins.

 Posted by at 10:10 pm
Oct 082017

Got them done a little early this time, so here’s a review of what the APR Patrons will be receiving:

Patrons will receive:

A proposal brochure on the C-135A cargo transport

A brochure about the Shuttle-C

A well illustrated NASA-produced booklet from the mid 1980’s describing the space station as them conceived

A large format diagram showing a wind tunnel model of the Titan III/Dyna Soar

A CAD diagram of the ca. 2001 Russian TsAGI Integrated Wing Body large passenger transport jetliner

If these are of interest, please consider signing on to the APR Patreon.

 Posted by at 12:32 pm
Oct 062017

I have a number of new aerospace cyanotype blueprints available. Until I can repave the catalog page, I have slapped together a PDF catalog of the new items. Until Wednesday, I’m making these new 12X18 prints, as well as the earlier 12X18 prints, available. The earlier 12X18s are viewable HERE. The new items are in the following PDF file:

Cyan catalog addition 2017-10

If any are of interest, Paypal to the email address in the PDF file, and add a note in the order which items you want…. AND what your mailing address is (PayPal doesn’t automatically add the address to payments like this).

After Wednesday the prints will be again unavailable for a little bit while I retool and work on some things.

UPDATE: over for now. After some retooling I hope to have all the cyanotypes, small and large old and new, available for regular sale.

 Posted by at 10:07 am
Sep 282017

Elon Musk just gave a presentation in Australia, updating SpaceX’s plans for the interplanetary transporter. It seems they are indeed making some meaningful progress… with an aspirational goal of sending to of these rather gigantic landers to Mars in 2022 carrying cargo, and four in 2024… two of which are to be manned. Seems ambitious. But then… this is SpaceX, and they’ve accomplished some amazing things in the field of rocketry. if they’d just stop tinkering with that silly hyperloop and devote the effort and manpower to *this…*

It would be entertaining as hell of SpaceX gets the BFR up and running and shooting prototype interplanetary colonization ships to Mars before NASA even has the SLS ready to go.

 Posted by at 11:45 pm
Sep 252017

Another rare piece of early Dyna Soar color art. This one shows the Dyna Soar heading to space atop the centaur upper stage of an Atlas booster. And if you think you are seeing corrugations on the back of the spaceplane, you are correct. At this stage in the design process the Dyna Soar *did* have some fairly massive, un-aerodynamic corrugations, and for the same reason why the SR-71 has corrugations on the wing: to allow for thermal expansion. Why exactly the Boeing Dyna Soar corrugations run crossways to the airflow, I’m a little unclear on. Terrible aerodynamics, but I imagine that’s just the way the structure wanted to flex.

The corrugations rarely appear on the usually simple diagrams you see of early Dyna Soar configurations, but they were there on full-scale mockups.

 Posted by at 10:11 pm