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
Oct 222017

Twenty six years ago, in 1991, the USAF ended the long practice of keeping nuclear armed B-52s on 24 hour standby ready to launch at a moments notice. The practice ended because the Soviet Union had collapses and the Cold War was finally over; at last there was no more threat of being nuked into oblivion by power-mad socialists.

Ah, good times.

US Preparing to Put Nuclear Bombers Back on 24-Hour Alert



 Posted by at 9:45 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 192017

Sometime around the early 1990’s, the people who get excited about such things got excited about “donuts on a rope” contrails, which many assumed were the results of pulse detonation engines powering hypersonic Aurora spyplanes. Of course it turned out that these contrails, if you actually traced them to their sources, were being left behind perfectly normal jetliners cruising at substantially subsonic speeds. I see them, or something very much like them, on a regular basis. Anyone can who lives anywhere near the normal jetliner traffic lanes. I saw this one a few days ago:

Crappy photo taken with my cell phone, but it gets the idea across. The aircraft producing it was traveling at a normal rate of speed for a jetliner… as is always the case when I see these things.

So my question is: what *is* producing these regular puffs in the contrail? They look like they come on the rough order of magnitude of once per second.

 Posted by at 2:07 am
Oct 162017

A Russian company is apparently providing “hoverbikes” to the Dubai police. The bikes are overgrown quadcopters with nicely exposed rotors, perfect for chopping into bystanders.

To be sure, these things look cool, but I’m just as glad that I’m not one of the cops beta testing them.

The payload seems to be about 100 kilos, flight time about 30 minutes. That’s really not too shabby. Come back in a few years and these things might really be some kind of practical; extend the arms some, increase the rotor size (meaning a lower disk loading and a somewhat quieter system), improve the batteries and computer system, shave off weight with new/better composite structures, and you might have something that could be hauled around on modified ambulances and/or fire trucks for rescues from buildings and in the back end of beyond. Militaries could well want them, especially if they are optionally-manned.


 Posted by at 10:24 pm
Oct 142017

For all the arguments about whether the BFR-based suborbital/fractional-orbital transport system is technologically or economically feasible, there’s one firm argument that can be made that says that it’ll never become successful: the TSA and similar government bureaucracies.

New Rule: Residents In Nine States Will Need Passports For Domestic Flights in 2018

If you are a resident of Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina or Washington, come January 22, 2018, you’ll actually need to have something like a passport to hop a flight to somewhere else in the US, because your state issued drivers license/ID card ain’t up to federal snuff. Come October 1, 202, other states may also no longer be able to use their drivers licenses.

According to the DHS, here’s a current map of which states are in compliance. Presumably a lot of the states in blue – under review – will be approved by 2020, but who knows.

 Posted by at 4:25 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


Boeing-backed, hybrid-electric commuter plane to hit market in 2022


It’s a small plane, seating only 12, designed to go about 700 miles at an airspeed of about 340 miles per hour. It is to use two electric motors running off batteries, with a backup jet fuel powered generator to extend range and keep the craft airborne when the batteries run dry. Improvements in battery technology would allow the plane to be fully electric and to eventually extend range. As a small aircraft it is meant to operate from smaller non-hub airports, theoretically shaving hours off actual trip time due to avoiding the nightmare that is modern airport security theater.


 Posted by at 10:40 pm