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
Sep 232017

A piece of NAA concept art from the late 50’s or very early 60’s depicting a “space taxi.” Such devices were a common staple of space station thinking well into the 60’s, though it’s difficult to tell just how serious of a design this one was. The canopy, for example, seems an odd choice. The shape of the bubble and of the hatch indicates that this was not designed to hold pressure; the fact that the pilot is shown in a full space suit backs that up. It would make it difficult for the pilot to enter and exit the craft. And of course, the taxi is shown without reaction control thrusters, making it rather difficult to maneuver the thing. Very likely this is an artists fantasy done purely for marketing, showing people things they expect to see. Note, for example, that the space station appears to be cribbed directly from the Collier’s series. And if the station was rotating, that door would be in the *floor.*

 Posted by at 1:54 pm
Sep 222017

Kalashnikov statue changed because of German weapon

Woopsie. A statue commemorating Mikhail Kalashnikov, designer of the AK-47, was unveiled in Moscow this week. Looks like a good statue.  At the base of the stature there’s a sculpted “exploded view” diagram of the AK-47. Well… of the German StG 44, in fact, not the AK-47. They look similar to be sure, but they are not the same. And once that mistake was discovered, they delicately chopped the diagram off with an angle grinder. The link above shows the before and after photos.

This sort of screwup is not as uncommon as you might hope. Sometime circa 1994 I attended the unveiling of a veterans memorial on (or near, I forget exactly) Rock Island Arsenal. It consisted of polished black marble slabs, one for each war on up to the Persian Gulf War. Each slab had “art” laser or chemically etched into the surface; pictures rather than actual sculpture. I had a difficult time not making a scene when I realized that the Persian Gulf War slab showed what was *supposed* to be an AH-64 Apache, but was actually an Agusta A129 Mangusta, an Italian attack helicopter that the US military most assuredly did *not* use in Iraq.

This is also not an AK-47. Or is it? Hmmm…


So where are the statues of Eugene Stoner, Edward Teller and John Moses Browning? I suggest for every statue of Jefferson Davis or Robert E. Lee taken down, they be replaced with prominent American weapons designers.

 Posted by at 11:44 pm
Sep 212017

Now available: two new US Aerospace Projects issues. Cover art was provided by Rob Parthoens,

US Bomber Projects #20:XB-59 Special

US Bomber Projects #20 is now available (see HERE for the entire series). Issue #20 collects all the previously published articles and diagrams of the XB-59 antecedent designs and updates them. Additionally, more antecedent designs have been included as well as several designs that followed along after the XB-59. The biggest USXP publication yet!

USBP 20 includes twenty nine unique aircraft concepts (the usual issue of USXP has eight designs) from Boeing Models 484 and 701 showing how Boeing evolved the XB-59, their competitor to the Convair B-58 “Hustler.” Beginning with subsonic flying wings, the concept saw concepts both conventional and unconventional before eventually settling on Model 701-299-1, the final XB-59 design. This issue includes a half dozen Model 701 designs that followed along after the cancellation of the XB-59 program.


USBP #20 can be downloaded as a PDF file for only $8:



US Launch Vehicle Projects #04

US Launch Vehicle Projects #04 is now available (see HERE for the entire series). Issue #04 includes:

  • Space Carrier Vehicle: A US Army lunar rocket with 8 F-1 engines
  • Convair Reusable Helios: A stage-and-a-half monster with a gas core nuclear engine
  • Boeing Model 896-111: A 1980’s two stage transatmospheric vehicle
  • Project RAND Satellite Rocket 3-Stage: A 1947 satellite launcher
  • Convair Saturn V-R: An idea on how to make a fully reusable Saturn V first stage
  • Lockheed STAR Clipper: A 1968 stage-and-a-half lifting body Space Shuttle
  • Shuttle-C: The Shuttle derived vehicle design that came closest to being built
  • Titan III Growth/156-inch boosters: A more powerful version of the Titan III for Dyna Soar launch


USLP #04 can be downloaded as a PDF file for only $4:


Also recommended, these previous Specials:

US Bomber Projects #14: System 464L Special

USBP#14 brings together the competitors to Weapon System 464L, the first major effort in the Dyna Soar program. These designs were previously shown individually in prior issues of USBP; here they are brought together, with some updates, as well as a few extra diagrams and a section of diagrams formatted for 11X17 printing. This issue includes info and diagrams of the Lockheed, Republic, General Dynamics, McDonnell, Boeing, Douglas, Northrop, North American and Martin-Bell entries as well as their various booster systems. Also included are detailed diagrams of the ultimate Dyna Soar design, the 2050E.

USBP#14 can be purchased for downloading for the low, low price of $6.


US Bomber Projects #16: The B-52 Evolution Special

Boeing Model 444 A: A late war turboprop heavy bomber
Boeing Model 461: An early postwar turboprop heavy bomber
Boeing Model 462: A large six-turboprop ancestor of the B-52
Boeing Model 462-5: A six-turboprop B-52 ancestor
Boeing Model 464-17: 1946 four-turboprop strategic bomber, a step toward the B-52
Boeing Model 464-18: a reduced-size version of the 464-17 turboprop strategic bomber
Boeing Model 464-25: a modification of the 464-17 turboprop bomber with slightly swept wings, among other changes
Boeing Model 464-27: a slightly-swept turboprop B-52 progenitor
Boeing Model 464-33-0: A turboprop B-52 predecessor
Boeing Model 464-34-3: A turboprop B-52 predecessor
Boeing Model 464-40: The first all-jet-powered design in the quest for the B-52
Boeing Model 464-40: The first all-jet-powered design in the quest for the B-52
Boeing Model 464-046: A six-engined B-52 predecessor
Boeing Model 464-49: The penultimate major design in the development of the B-52
Fairchild M-121:A highly unconventional canard-biplane
Convair B-60: A swept-wing turboprop-powered derivative of the B-36
Douglas Model 1211-J: An elegant turboprop alternative to the B-52
With additional diagrams of the B-47, XB-52 and B-52B

USBP#16 can be purchased for downloading for the low, low price of $6.



 Posted by at 7:53 am
Sep 182017

A rare piece of color art of an early Dyna Soar being lofted atop an Atlas/Centaur. Color artwork of the Dyna Soar was created in some considerable abundance, but it was mostly reproduced in B&W, and its sadly rare for even those B&W reports to have been printed well, rarer still for them to have been scanned or copied well.

 Posted by at 7:34 pm
Sep 142017

The post-war German “Hoffman” looks like it was wrong on every level. I gather that  in various countries and at various times there have been laws that have provided advantages to three-wheeled vehicles… easier registration, lower legal hurdles to ownership and operation, etc. But three wheeled “cars” have all seemed to be just terrible, terrible designs.


 Posted by at 8:40 pm
Sep 142017

The AlternateHistoryHub YouTube channel runs through some interesting “what if” scenarios. A recent one – which the guy had the bad timing to release just after the national socialist LARPer in Charlottesville ran into the crowd of international socialist LARPers – discusses the scenario of what America might be like if the African slave trade never happened. It’s an interesting thought experiment, but a difficult one. The roots of the issue go back so far that even if somehow history could be altered so that the European powers never sailed down to Africa and bought African slaves for use in the New World sugar, cotton and tobacco plantations, so much time has passed that the number of alternate divergent timelines is uncountable.


But what he comes up with basically ends up with Europe being somewhat poorer, because they didn’t make as much profit from sugar and such, and the industrial revolution takes a little while longer to kick in. And the USA? Assuming it still comes about, it doesn’t have the same nasty racist history… but it also doesn’t really have any black folks, either.

It’s impossible to say that any one proposed timeline is impossible, barring the sudden use of AND THEN A MIRACLE HAPPENED, but one of his assumptions I disagree with: that the industrial revolution would be delayed. The European powers would still want to grow sugar cane and sell the sugar back home (and cotton, etc.), but without slaves they’d have to actually *pay* people. Which means the exercise would be less profitable. That much we agree on. But it seems to me… that would actually *spur* innovation. Slave-based economies tend to not be terribly innovative because they don’t really *need* to be, and because innovation can cause all kinds of social havoc. So I’d suspect that in this alternate history, if we assume the USA is still formed more or less on schedule, the Revolutionary War *might* be fought with some early steam-powered ships. Perhaps some terribly crappy locomotives are running around hauling cargo and troops. The American colonists *might* have had a substantial technological lead over the Brits for the simple reason they would have *had* to. Instead of the North being the unquestioned center of innovation compared tot he agrarian South, perhaps the South would have been industrialized early on in order to make plantations economical.

So by the time the Civil War would have broken out, the alt-USA has no need for a Civil War. The tech level in the alt-USA would be substantially higher than it was in the real-USA at the start of the war… but a few years later, with the pressures of the war, the real-USA might have done a job of catching up. But I dunno… I still think it’s quite possible that in the alternate timeline with the greater economic pressures to be an innovation nation, by the 1860’s the USA will be brightly lit with electric lights and telephone lines cross the land.

In the real-USA, the antebellum South was more-or-less broken down into a few really rich white folks, a lot of dirt-poor white folks, and a lot of dirt poorer black folks. In the alt-USA, the South would have broken down into some kinda rich white folks and a bunch of kinda poor white folks… and essentially no black folks. The poor white folks would be unlikely to be anywhere near middle class… the north, after all, didn’t have slavery in its industrial factories, but instead paid employees… and they were hardly living the high life. Still, the poor whites of alt-South would have been better off than the “poor white trash” of real-South. In the real-USA, small southern farmers were pretty well screwed; how could they compete against plantations using slave labor? In the alt-USA, that wouldn’t be an issue. Instead, they might be faced with the prospect of having to compete with plantations that are early adopters of mechanization.

Without the history of black slavery, the alt-USA wouldn’t end up with the Klan and Jim Crow laws and all that garbage. Probably wouldn’t have had laws against “race mixing” and all that. The alt-USA would have wound up almost certainly being a *really* white country; where the real-USA imported millions of black slaves, the alt-USA would have had to import a roughly equivalent number of European workers. The alt-USA would not have had the blatant racism… but maybe it would have had a more “comfortable” racism against, say, Hispanics and Asians and such. African slavery necessarily made the USA a “multi racial” society. But the alt-USA would at least in principle have had the option of being Europeans-only. *Perhaps* the alt-USA would have blocked the immigration of Chinese, Mexicans or perhaps even Italians… recall that back in the day, the likes of Italians and Irish were considered “non-white” for reasons we’d today find pretty laughable.

Or perhaps without the history of Unpleasantness, the alt-USA would turn out to be a perfectly accepting nation when it came to ethnicities, with none of that racist stuff.

Another recent video is “What if the War On Terror Never Happened?” Here I largely agree with the guy… the world would have turned out much the same, with the Middle East explodey as usual. However, one thing he missed when he assumes the US doesn’t invade Iraq and topples Saddam: the Iraqi nuclear weapons program. Yes, the WMD program that the worlds intelligence services largely though was A Thing in Iraq turned out to be a lot of misdirection by Saddam. But the experience and intelligence and industrial base was still there; all Saddam really needed to do was wait out the UN inspection regime. And as memory serves, that would have ended circa 2005. So alt-Saddam, rather than being dead, would have restarted the Iraqi nuclear program, potentially with the assistance of the Pakistani and/or North Korean programs. So then when Iraq does eventually go into civil war sometime in the two-thousand-teens, the alt-ISIS is armed with if not actual nukes, potentially with dirty bombs, chemical weapons, weaponized pathogens. Greeeeeaaaat.


 Posted by at 1:50 am