Jun 022011

As with the “A-11,” this concept was painted by an artist named de Beek while at White Sands in 1946, under the direction of Werner von Braun. It is clearly the ancestor of WvB’s later “wheel” space station concepts used for the Collier’s and Disney series of pro-space propaganda throughout the 1950’s. Unlike the “A-11,” this one seems fairly practical. It was to be at least partially inflatable, launched collapsed and expanded once in orbit. The specifics, however, are currently vague.

It rotated to generate “artificial gravity,” a feature that, at the time, everybody just knew would be pretty much mandatory for a manned space station. The effects of extended freefall on human physiology and human phychology were entirely unknown, and left to pure guesswork. As it turns out, “everybody” was pretty much right: zero gravity is fun for a little bit, and good for some science experiments, but it’s a terrible way to actually try to live.

The solar power generator is kinda unique. Keeping it tracking the sun while the station rotates around it might have proven to be a challenge.

Once again, more on this and related designs can be found in issue V5N6 of Aerospace Projects Review.

 Posted by at 11:33 pm
  • Pat Flannery
  • Jason Bontrager

    It occurs to me that there’s no reason the solar power plant has to have any direct, electro/mechanical connection to the station. Set it up in the same orbit a few miles away and beam the power to a rectenna grid that simply fills the center of the ring. I wonder if that’s ever been explored as a possible design.

    • Pat Flannery

      You would have to figure out how to keep everything in position as it orbited,
      Even slight altitude differences between the station and the solar collector (a few feet) would cause them to drift apart with time. Then there’s the difference in air drag the two would get, and the solar sail effects of the sunlight hitting the two different shapes.
      Once you get all that solved, there’s the fact that both the station and the solar array will have tiny gravity fields that will want to pull them together, like electrostatic charges that will want to push them apart, and whatever effects that power transfer microwave beam will have in generating microthrust on its emitter and receiver.
      Biggest problem though is conversion inefficiencies…it makes a lot more sense to just generate electrical power and use wires to carry it where its needed on the station, than to convert it into microwaves and then back into electrical power just a few miles away, with all the energy losses in doing the two conversions.
      On the other hand, if you were to tie the station to an array several miles higher than it was by electrical cables, not only would the cable array itself generate electrical power by being at two different places in the Earth’s magnetosphere – like the Shuttle Towed Satellite experiment did, but the whole works would be gravity stabilized as it orbited.

  • Deep Beam

    Any guess as to the diameter of the outer tube pressure vessel? There seems to be a cutaway in the image, but it’s hard to make it out. It looks to me like there’s a scale figure in there and it’s filling up the space pretty well, so even if the circumference of the station is pretty big, it still might feel cramped inside.

    Naturally WvB probably expected this thing to be launched in one throw on mega booster right?

    • Pat Flannery

      According to the article I linked to on it, the outer ring segments would be around 3 meters in diameter and 8 meters long.
      They would probably be launched one at a time, so that would be 20 launches total to build the outer ring…and about what? 15-20 more to fully outfit the thing?
      At this phase WvB was thinking of large numbers of space launches, each carrying fairly modest cargo weights, rather than a few major launches.
      At least the lower rocket stages would be recovered for re-use to keep costs down (the wartime A/9A10 ICBM design was going to have the A10 stage recovered from the Atlantic ocean after parachuting into it)
      It was the infrastructure required to recover all the Ferry Rocket and Cargo Rocket stages and bring them back to be stacked for relaunch that was one of the major problems with the later Colliers space exploration plan.
      The space station was supposed to get a daily resupply/crew exchange flight that would bring up at least 225 kg of cargo, which is what the 80-man crew needed to survive on a daily basis; oxygen would be generated by onboard algae tanks.

  • peterh

    Looks like the spokes are all in one plane, a somewhat wobbly arrangement. The hub could vibrate across the plane, and the spokes are of little effect to prevent the rim from warping. But that’s easily fixed if the de-spun power station at the hub is moved away from the plane of the rim and the spokes follow closer to a bicycle wheel arrangement.

  • Bruce

    Thinking about it and not remembering if you did it in a past blog or not and nothing to do with this
    but could you also cover another spaceship. the one that Von Braun designed, the one that is
    disc shaped that looks like an upside down top with the landing craft docked on the lower side
    at the end of the longer shaft on the bottom. I’m not sure of the name of it but it was one of the designs for a Mars spacecraft.

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