Sep 292010

Today at about 4:55PM, Koshka, my companion for about the last ten years, died peacefully in my arms at the veterinary hospital.


I am probably going to be less available for a little while.

 Posted by at 5:48 pm
Sep 272010

ADDENDUM: A brief lesson in how to make a “meh” gag into fall-down funny: tack on a tiny ridiculous vocalization at the end.

Example 1: “haa-haa”

Example 2: “Tee-hee!”

I’ve got to use “tee-hee” more often in my daily life.

 Posted by at 11:44 pm
Sep 272010

And here we get to some of the designs that can be considered “kinda big.” First up is the “Enzmann Starship.” It seems to have caught the imagination of a notable fraction of the space-nut population in the early 1970’s; it certainly looked like the first practical, well-thought-out manned starship design. And while a fair deal of really good art and diagrams was produced, the numbers… they don’t seem to add up so well. It’s been a challenge to determine just how much engineering rigor went into this design. The C-size drawing for this beast is 1/2400 scale.


And here is yet another one from Dandrige Cole, an internal-nuclear pulse vehicle that was meant to be a wholly self-supporting space colony, on the same order of size as Babylon 5. But able to move itself about. C-size drawing is 1/6000 scale.


The next step up is also a step down. Johndale Solem’s Medusa is a recent design for an Orion-type craft that uses a lightweight spinnaker instead of a solid pusher plate; in order to gain enough distance from the nuclear detonations so that the plastic cables and “sail” don’t get fried by the nuclear radiation, the dimensions are measured in kilometers.  But the core vehicle itself is relatively really quite small. The scale on the C-size drawing is 1/30,000.


And last up is far and away the largest space vehicle that I’ve ever seen seriously considered (at least that I can recall). It is a Bond/Martin design for a nuclear-pulse-propelled “world ship,” big enough to carry complete ecosystems on journeys lasting millenia, to colonise and terraform alien worlds. While the design is admittedly wholly hypothetical, and was meant more as an excercise to see what might be possible with a vaster industrial infrastructure but with physics and engineering we know today, the math behind the concept seems sound, and is more detailed than many other designs I’ve seen.

The C-size drawing is scaled at 1/600,000.


Note in the closeup of the engine section that the largest of the other vehicles are mere specks in comparison. In fact, even though the acceleration was a small fraction of a G, and would have lasted for decades, the pulse units themselves would have been astounding feats of engineering. More massive than the Orion Battleship, each pulse unit would have had a yield measured in *gigatons.* One every five seconds.

Two versions were contemplated… a “dry world” with a large hollow rotating cylinder with a terrestrial ecosystem on the inside; and a “wet world” with a much smaller cylinder, sized to support an ocean a kilometer deep (perhaps overly deep, IMO). The “wet world” would have, unsurprisingly, been notably more massive, and would have required the greatest propellant supply and most powerful (34+ gigaton) pulse units, massing over 7,000 tons each.


That little purple line? Fifty kilometers.

With the possible exception of the Medusa, these designs are well beyond our current capabilities. But a damned good way to improve our capabilities is to have something to strive for. Spacecraft such as these can fire the imagination in a way that rinky-dink little capsules cannot. Spacecraft so large that they have their own weather, that can carry not just humanity but all the forms of life on Earth, to other solar systems… how can you look at that and not be inspired, even if just a little bit?

Far more info than this, on far more projects than these, will be presented in the “Nuclear Pulse Propulsion” book.

 Posted by at 11:12 pm
Sep 272010

Excuse me.

Douglas Trumbull, director of Silent Running and Special Effects Supervisor for 2001: A Space Odyssey, is readying a documentary about his time with Stanley Kubrick. The detail in this undertaking is amazing. The filmmakers are literally crawling into never-before-seen-images.

Included in the trailer were a number of preliminary designs for the Discovery spacecraft:








UPDATE: It’s been cancelled. Goddamnitsomuch…


 Posted by at 5:43 pm
Sep 272010

After yet another incident where WordPress decided to shut down commenting, I’ve decided to take some sort of action. The response I got on the support forum was to shut down all plugins and see if that helps, then re-activate plugins one at a time. I don;t have too many… but one is the anti-spam plugin. Considering that I get something like 100+ spam messages per day… I’d expect a whole bucketload of spam to start showing up real soon now.

The next step, when/if the plugin method fails, is to re-load WordPress. And it seems the chances of wiping out all existing data… comments, uploaded files and pics, whole postings… are substantial. So, backup. But given my luck with computers, I’ve just got to assume that not only will the re-load wipe out everything currently existing, the backups will fail in some way.

 So if there’s stuff on the Unwanted Blog you’ve been thinking about saving… do so now.

UPDATE: Stage One testing is complete. Translation… I moved the folder for the June, 2008, uploaded files (images) out of the blog directory into a non-blog directory. As expected, the postings from June 2008 then would not display images (apart from the standard Red X). The folder was then restored, and the blog postings, once refreshed, showed the images again.  So if I wind up reloading WordPress, the images seem savable. Of course, if the postings themselves get wiped out… then it was still all for naught.

 Posted by at 10:26 am
Sep 272010

Something I’ve long noticed is that when someone in the aerospace world – as opposed to science fiction (author or fanboy) – envisions a truly large spacecraft, it’s almost always  powered by some form of nuclear pulse propulsion. Whether it’s driven by dirty A-bombs, cleaner H-bombs, really clean pure fusion devices or far-futuristic anti-matter initiated fusion detonations, the fact seems to be that discrete detonations of nuclear pulse units seems to be the way to go. In contrast, theoretically “better” propulsion systems like steady-state fusion or fusion-free antimatter reactions tend to have fewer designs for really large vehicles. A few designs like various laser/maser sails and the”Valkyrie”-type starship are non-nuke pulse designs, but they seem to be the exception.

In support of my “Nuclear Pulse Propulsion” book, I’m working on a whole bunch of layout drawings. They are all being sized to fit on standard C-size sheets; while the book almost certainly won’t be anywhere near that big (your average road atlas ain’t that big), I want them standardized anyway. Each design has its own sheet, at a scale that allows the design to be shown well. But I also have some scale comparison sheets with multiple designs shown side by side.

Tonight I decided to take some of the representative larger vehicles and put them all to scale on one sheet.  As will be seen, some people dream *big.*

First… the smallest practical orion, the 10-meter design, next to a Space Shuttle. Even being the smallest design, it’s still really big compared to the usual stuff we’ve bothered to send into space. The C-size drawing for this vehicle is 1/100 scale:


Next, the 4,000 ton “battleship” design. The C-size drawing for this is at 1/250 scale:


From here, the next step is pretty big. The 4,000 ton Orion is the largest design available to me where detailed engineering design work was known to be carried out. The designs that follow tend to be notional… some of them the vague handwavings of aerospace professionals, others carried out at least at the mathematical scale.

Next is the (Martin Co.) Dandrige Cole “Aldebaran” design for a single stage to orbit cargo lifter. Given a poorly described propulsion system that seems to have consisted of an airbreathing nuclear internal-pulse engine, it was vastly larger than the battleship. The C-size drawing is 1/1200 scale.


The next is another Cole design, basically a small free-roaming space colony. The landing gear is to allow it to touch down on asteroids and small moons and such, presumably for exploration and mining operations. The drawing is 1/1500 scale.


Coming soon: Part 2, where Our Hero (that’s me) describes the vehicles that are measured in kilometers. The scales for the C-size drawings for the vehicles to come start at 1/2400 scale and wander on up to 1/600,000 scale. With pulse unit yields measured in “did I read that right? Holy Crap!” units.


 Posted by at 1:30 am
Sep 262010

Shown at the informational kiosk for the Heat Transfer Reactor Experiment displays at the Idaho National Laboratory (conveniently located in the middle of nowhere – see here) is an illustration of a B-52 with a hugenormous engine nailed onto the port-rear fuselage. While it’s not described, the presumption is that this was an idea for a test flight for a nuclear powered turbojet (although I have doubts… it doesn’t really look like a good testbed for a nuke). As said, no further info than the picture below.


 Posted by at 10:08 pm
Sep 262010

As mentioned before, some of the drawings I offer were procured for a scene in “Mad Men.” I was told it was to have been the fifth episode of this season, but that episode came and went without any NAA stuff. Finally tonights episode had a scene with some guys from NAA who had some documentation with them; it’s briefly seen, but no drawings are in evidence. By the end of the episode, it seems that the business dealings with NAA are over. So my guess is that tonights episode was the episode in question, but the drawings simply didn’t make the cut. Oh well…

 Posted by at 9:57 pm