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 182018

SpaceX has launched the TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) planet-hunter satellite and recovered the first stage booster on a recovery barge out at sea. TESS will be put into an unconventional orbit with a perigee of 108,000 km and an apogee of 375,000 km. if it works, it should find a *lot* of exoplanets, around the order of 20,000 of them.

Note: When I first entered college, there were *nine* known planets. There are currently 3800 or so. There may soon be 24,000 or so.

 Posted by at 8:21 pm
Mar 302018

Sigh. Now the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency is using it’s power to help ruin the promising future of spaceflight that SpaceX is trying to usher in.

NOAA statement on today’s broadcast of the SpaceX Iridium-5 launch

The National and Commercial Space Program Act requires a commercial remote sensing license for companies having the capacity to take an image of Earth while on orbit.

Now that launch companies are putting video cameras on stage 2 rockets that reach an on-orbit status, all such launches will be held to the requirements of the law and its conditions.

The NOAA thinks that you need a special license to take a photo of THE EARTH. Apparently this new development is a result of the Starman videos.

Expect this sort of thing to become a *real* problem if someone looks likely to make a real go of orbital tourism. Imagine if you need a special license to take your Nikon with you… or even your cell phone.

If one was of a conspiratorial bent, one might conclude that the government is doing a “death by a thousand cuts” thing, using a mountain of seemingly small regulatory headaches to keep the private companies from getting too uppity. Just imagine what new and innovative laws will be interpreted if the BFR actually looks likely to start sending private citizens to Mars.

 Posted by at 8:43 pm
Mar 302018

Tell me this ain’t impressive lookin’:

This is a test of the launch system of the Russian RS-28 Sarmat superheavy ICBM, capable of hurling 10 heavy MIRVs or 15 standard ones or up to 24 light warheads. Keep in ind that the American Minuteman III ICBM carries a grand total of *one* warhead. It’s likely a fractional orbital system, meaning that it could actually put its warheads into low orbit, where they’d rather suddenly drop from the sky as required. Additionally, it could launch over the *south* pole, bypassing whatever remains of the North American early warning system.

Note the tuna-can-shaped little booster used to shove the ICBM up out of the silo before main engine ignition.

 Posted by at 2:51 am
Mar 282018

Solid rocket propellant is *typically* made by mixing liquid rubber with ammonium perchlorate (a dry, salt-like powder and an oxidizer) and powdered aluminum (the fuel). Small amounts of other materials (cyanoacrylates, iron oxide, etc.) can be added to give the propellant different properties. But regardless of the specific mix, the trick is the actual mixing process. Generally propellant mixers look like giant versions of kitchen mixers, and operate in the exact same way as the machine you might use to turn water and flour into bread dough. But here’s the thing: if something goes wrong while you mix the dough and *somehow* the mixing blades strike the side of the bowl, the likelihood of it thing blowing up your house are minimal. The forces and energies involved in mixing propellant has several times resulted in facilities blowing up or burning down. Failures have resulted from sparks, scrapes, foreign objects being banged between blade and bowl. In short, metal parts, electrical systems and moving parts are a little dangerous when mixing propellant.

Enter the Japanese. Specifically, enter Japanese WTFery.

Watch This Robotic Intestine Puke Rocket Fuel

Instead of a metal kitchen mixer, this device is a pneumatic “artificial intestine” that mixes things much more gently, and in a continuous process. With a standard mixer, you pour in a batch of materials, mix, then pour. This system could in principle be constantly fed materials, producing an unending stream of mixed goop. It has the safety advantage of having no moving mechanical metal components in contact with the ingredients, just a constantly flexing rubber tube.

Note, though, that the headline isn’t exactly right. Intestines do indeed move… uhhh, stuff… through peristaltic pumping. But the end process isn’t to “puke” it. It goes out the *other* end.

The thing seems to work. But being Japanese, I’m a little surprised that it doesn’t involve tentacles. Give it time, I suppose.




 Posted by at 11:34 pm
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