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
  • John Nowak

    Not only in the floor, but moving as the station spins.

    • publiusr

      I actually have no problem with the hatch location where it is in the painting–no worry about something loose rolling out.

      My problem is that the taxi needs to be seen along side the door–as it is doing a pass by where the hatch will be–you step off and are scooped up by the taxi–with something of a catchers mitt on the side.

  • “Collier’s” for 22 March 1952, pg. 31, there’s a cutaway view of this thing, appearing to approach the “floor” side of the space station — but there is no hatch in the station at that location and pg. 30 clearly shows a labeled docking area at the hub.

    The online PDF I’m looking at has a lousy grayscale and details are difficult to make out but I have always wondered just what those “taxis” were supposed to be carrying: there’s little if any extra space inside and no provisions for lashing anything to the hull. Why do they even have a hull? To protect the pilot from dropped nuts and bolts?

    The (Collier’s/Disney) wheel-type space station is well worked out; the ferry rockets weren’t too bad, either (okay, there was that “burning up on re-entry” problem, along with the “seriously nasty propellant” thing). But the space taxis were lousy engineering. (There does seem to be a hatch in the nose — good luck negotiating that in a space suit, especially given there’s no room to turn around.)

    I’m going to dig out my Bonestell books and see if it’s in one of them.

    • Ah, here we go — same illustration can be found in “Across The Space Frontier,” pp. 106 -107. Down in the corner of pg. 107, the space taxi is clearly a two-seater, with what may be a little luggage space fore and aft. Almost no space for fuel/oxidizer, maybe some off flat tanks at the very front and rear. There’s an antenna sticking straight up from the top of the canopy, which would surely interfere with the gridded funnel that guides the space taxi to cork-in-a-bottle docking shown on pg. 106.

      The more I look at this thing, the worse it gets. No way in, no way out, damn-all for go-juice, limited carrying capacity, no directional control, wretched docking…. Can’t we just sneak the ferry rocket a little closer and run a long line to the stationary hub of the space station? I’ll take my chances with hand-over-hand!

      This may be the worst thought-out part of the whole thing.

  • Thucydides_of_Athens

    The only thing that comes to mind is a bit of “brand recognition”. the canopy is pretty useless in a space taxi (or almost any other sort of spacecraft), but is pretty reminiscent of the bubble canopy on a P-51 Mustang. The space taxi is also pretty close fitting, much like a traditional WWII fighter, and indeed early jet fighters were fairly compact as well. The astronaut inside is pretty clearly flying the thing, not just along for the ride while an autopilot does the work.

    So this is perhaps a means of linking North American Aviation’s glorious past achievements to the Space age.

  • Bob

    “Fantasy.” You use the word fantasy. I think that’s the operant word here.