Aug 282011

One of the more influential books on spaceflight engineering was Maxwell Hunter’s “Thrust Into Space.” It’s one of those rare volumes that not only explains the physics and requirements well with appropriate math, it does so in a readable way. Sadly, it was only released in a few editions back in the late 60’s, and can be damned difficult to find, and expensive (there’s been one on ebay for several years now with a buy-it-now price of $350).

I’ve often thought that “Thrust” would be a good book to re-release. Since it’s a copyrighted work, I’ve not made the effort, but I always wished that someone would. Well… turns out that in 2009, someone did. And made it available for free as a PDF. Huh.

 Posted by at 6:25 pm
Aug 282011

The future of space stations was going to be *awesome.* In 1964.

Note that, like the ISS, the NMSS would use a segmented, modular approach. Note that *unlike* the ISS, the intent was to use the modules separately for other, smaller space platforms. And also note that the eventual goal was a large *rotating* space station generating artificial gravity. This would have proven to be of far greater value than the actual ISS.

Many people think it’s vitally important to study the long-term effects of microgravity on the human body. But this seems to me to be a flawed assumption. Try to imagine what a full-fledged space-based society would entail: colonies on other moons and planets, bases on asteroids, space stations, spacecraft zipping hither and yon. Which of these would actually be zero-gravity? Certainly not the moon/planet bases. The asteroid bases would have very minimal gravity… unless the bases spun to generate *more* gravity. Space stations would be *insane* to be zero-gravity… long term residents would be effectively barred from ever stepping foot on a world and many other space stations. Depending on propulsion technologies, ships might be under constant acceleration; it not they might tumble or spin to generate artificial gravity.

By the 1980’s, we were well aware of the fact that long-term microgravity has negative effects on the human body. What were were not aware of  – and remain woefully unaware of – is what effect *reduced* gravity has. What does a year on Mars do to your bones? The moon? Vesta?? These questions could be answered with a rotating space station, while still providing access to microgravity and vacuum for other areas of scientific research.

 Posted by at 10:16 am
Aug 282011

Every year, hurricane season comes. And every year, local and national news organizations send reporters to go stand in the wind and tell the viewers “hey, it’s windy… don’t stand out here.” Well, “standing in the wind and rain” is old and busted. The new hotness: standing in the wind-driven raw sewage.

Reporter Gives Update Covered In Sea Foam

WTTG-TV reporter Tucker Barnes was providing live updates for stations around the country as a wall of what he described as sea foam poured over him. …  That “organic material” was most likely the effects of raw sewage pouring into the water during the storm.

“It doesn’t taste great,” he said.


The video is *spectacular.*

 Posted by at 9:04 am
Aug 272011

Sometimes corporate press releases can be just plain odd. Take, for instance, the below… a press release from Convair of San Antonio, Texas, complaining about a newspaper story that apparently claimed that the Douglas C-133 was able to carry twice the payload of any aircraft flying. The Convair c-99, of course, was substantially bigger than the C-133, and could carry more. Rather than simply pointing that out, the press release, letter to the editor, advertisement or whatever it was meant to be goes in a whole other weird direction.

 Posted by at 8:20 pm
Aug 272011

Ummm… huh.

African space research: Dreaming of a manned shuttle

In short… some Ugandans want to build their own space shuttle, and think they’ll get it done in about six years. I’m not entirely convinced that they’ve really thought the whole thing through. For example… here’s the head of the program:

“I’ve got a jet engine on order so I’m planning to build a tunnel, put the engine at one end and when I throw a guy in he’ll float in a similar way to how he would in space.”


Still, ya gotta admire people who not only want to accomplish something, they’re willing to put in the work. In this case, they are building their own aircraft from scratch. If it flies, it will be the first aircraft ever designed and built in Uganda (which, coming 11 decades after Kitty Hawk, is both kinda cool and kinda sad).  Construction of the aircraft appears to be primarily fiberglass, though I must admit to some confusion regarding the powerplant. Photos of the unpainted aircraft are HERE. Especially, err, interesting is the side view that shows the wing profile. Ummm… best of luck with that, I guess…

Still, ya gotta love their motto:

So slow, we get smart; and so quick, we get old!

A reporter from the Bbc visited them and wrote up a story.

 Posted by at 4:17 pm
Aug 272011

A recent project: restoring the decals and finish on a vintage X-24A display model. The paint was to be left as-is; existing cracks and blemishes in the surface were not to be repaired. The goal was to make a display model that retained the appearance of being vintage… just not quite so beat up.

“Before” photos:

Since the paint was to be left alone, the decals could not be sanded or scraped off. Instead, they were removed chemically (primarily: dihydrogen monoxide). In the process of doing so, the overcoat was found to be soluble. Photo below shows the model halfway through the process, with the port side of the craft cleaned of the decals and overcoat, leaving decals and overcoat on the starboard side. The underlying silver paint was found to be substantially brighter with the overcoat off. Presumably the overcoat had fogged over the years due to oxidation and/or UV.

Decals are not available off-the-shelf for this display model, so detailed photos and measurements were made. JBOT Decals was contracted to produce a new set of replacement decals.

Some of the overcoat stubbornly clung to the model. The main patches were on the underside, indicating UV damage as the likeliest of cuplrits for both the oxidation and “loosening” of the stuff. As a result, it was necessary to touch up small portions of the surface; an extensive selection of “silver” paint was procured and one found that matched the existing silver. The patches that needed touchup – and only those patches – were painted and blended in. The end result is invisible. The pitot tube was a red-painted steel rod that had rusted; it was carefully cleaned and repainted.

A thin glosscoat was applied and then the decals; a satin clearcoat was then applied over the decals, finishing the process. The end result is a model with virtually invisible repairs to the decals; with the exception of the pre-existing surface imperfections, it looks right-out-of-the-box.

This model was restored for collector and aviation photography Chad Slattery, owner/proprietor of Chad Slattery Photography. Mr. Slattery kindly provided this testimonial:

Scott’s engineering background, combined with his meticulous craftsmanship and deep knowledge of aviation history, make him the go-to resource for restoring (or re-creating) desktop models. He sends photos to help explain procedures, makes regular progress reports, and is careful to only do what is requested. I cannot recommend him highly enough.

If you have a vintage display model in need or repair – or if you want to commission an entirely new one, just let  me know.

 Posted by at 3:05 pm
Aug 262011

After spending yet more time going through my files arranging things in preparation for maybe doing the Shuttle Wind Tunnel Models collection, I find I have north of 500 reports, at nearly 8 gig. Of those, about 250 reports/2.8 gig are of pre-Shuttle program manned lifting entry vehicles and lifting bodies… NASA reports on Dyna Soar, HL-10, M2, X-24, etc. What I’m now contemplating is breaking it up further… a “X-24A Wind Tunnel Models” book,” an “M2F1/F2/F3 Wind Tunnel Models” book, etc. and work up to various aspect of the Shuttle program. By breaking it up, the books become individually more affordable. A dozen books of 30 pages might be better than one book of 360 pages, especially if someone only wants the info on the unbuilt logistics spacecraft concepts.

The books themselves would be largely restricted to the relevant graphics… photos of the models (which in some cases were the actual vehicles), diagrams, cross-sections, that sort of thing. The books would be for people who want to model the designs or render them or… whatever. But the actual *data* simply would not pack into affordable books. So I’m thinking of having a CD-ROM or DVD supplement with all the reports that go with a particular book, available separately.

In any event, these would be fairly low priority publications. Comments welcome.

 Posted by at 8:30 pm