An objective system for how realistic / credible a spacecraft is…

I sometimes get into discussions about if a spacecraft design is realistic. These are frequently interesting, but it’s not straightforward. For example, there are serious designs from the early days of spaceflight which we now know could not work. Manned craft without heavy radiation shielding are a common example of this.

On the other hand, you have some fictional craft carefully designed to be as realistic as possible – the vehicles in “2001 a Space Odyssey” are a great example.

So how to handle it when some fictional craft are more credible than serious designs? here’s my attempt at a system, from the most realistic to the least. Comments and additions are very welcome.

1. Real space hardware that actually flew successfully.

Clearly you can’t get more realistic than this!

Example: Saturn V rocket

Saturn V rocket
Saturn V rocket., perspective free views. Render by Nick Stevens

Continue reading “An objective system for how realistic / credible a spacecraft is…”

The Saturn 1B model, Follow along with the build.

I gather from Twitter that some people find it interesting to follow my approach and progress when building a new model. So here’s a blog post where I will show how a project comes together, with lots of illustrations.

My starting point is to gather references, particularly high resolution photos, and plans with dimensions. Fortunately this one is covered in the excellent “Rockets of the World” by Peter Alway. It’s not highly detailed, but I find if you can get the overall dimensions of major features correct, then it’s not too tricky to fill in the rest from good photographs.

Rockets of the World
Rockets of the World

Continue reading “The Saturn 1B model, Follow along with the build.”

The Frank Tinsley “Lunar Unicycle”

I recently came across the Frank Tinsley illustration of what he called a “Lunar Unicycle”, which might be better described as a monowheel.

Lunar Unicycle Illustration
Lunar Unicycle Illustration

Despite the lack of many illustrations, the design seems clear, and I decided to do a 3d version of it in Lightwave. Though I did later find a couple more pictures… Continue reading “The Frank Tinsley “Lunar Unicycle””

The National Space Centre, Leicester

I visited the UK’s National Space Centre, partly to get better references for a CGI “Skylark” rocket, and thought it was worth a blog entry. I’ll be publishing reference photos, for the benefit of other modellers, in a separate post.

It’s located on the outskirts of Leicester, and a bit of a pain to get to if you are not familiar with the local public transport system. Easy to spot by it’s distinctive shape, dominated by the Rocket Tower.

NSC Sign

The National Space Centre Web Site Continue reading “The National Space Centre, Leicester”

Skylark. The most successful rocket you never heard of…

The Rocket

The Skylark was an incredibly successful British sounding rocket, with over 400 successful launches. Despite sounding like the title of an Enid Blyton book, at the time of the final launch it was the longest running rocket program in the world, bar none. First launch was 1957, and the 441st final flight in 2005. Continue reading “Skylark. The most successful rocket you never heard of…”

Soviet Manned Lunar Craft Designs

Galina Balashova

Before I get started I must give credit. The illustrations here are largely by Galina Balashova. Little known in the west, she was responsible for the interior design of pretty much every Soviet spacecraft. Combining Art and Architectural skills, it was her job to make the spacecraft a productive, pleasant environment.

Galina Balashova, left, presenting her designs
Galina Balashova, left, presenting her designs in 2017

If you have any interest in this area, the book “Galina Balashova, Architect of the Soviet Space Program” is absolutely essential, and is packed with elegant and informative paintings and drawings. 

Galina Balashova, Architect of the Soviet Space Program.
Galina Balashova, Architect of the Soviet Space Program.

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The role of Lunokhod in Soviet Union manned lunar program.

It was not realised at the time, but the Soviet “Lunokhod” robotic moon rover was also a key component of the plans to put a cosmonaut onto the Moon.

Here’s how the mission sequence would work:

Identify landing sites.

Lunokhod would provide close up examination of prospective landing sites for a manned mission. This required a “Proton” (UR-500) class launcher.

Proton Rocket Ascending
Proton Rocket Ascending

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Krafft Ehricke’s Hyperion, a manned nuclear Mars mission

This is not the Hyperion by Phil Bono, (which you can read about here), but an earlier design from Krafft Ehricke, dating all the way back to the 1950’s. It’s for a manned mission to Mars, (no landing), and a fleet of 3 or 4 ships would be sent for mutual support. I got the information on this project from the always excellent “Atomic Rockets” site, including this plan, which is the basis for my mesh:

Hyperion Plans
Hyperion Plans

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RN-2, the Nuclear R7, The Historical Reference Information

Here’s the historical information on the nuclear Soyuz variants I have been able to find. My Russian is not great, in some cases the translation is awkward or not completely clear. Nick

The draft design of the rockets started on the basis of the Decree of June 30, 1958. Two bureaus, OKB-456, and OKB-670 were involved. The design chosen was based on direct heating of the working fluid, and it’s ejection through the nozzle. An open core reactor, in other words.

OKB-456 is now known as NPO Energomash, and at the time was run by the brilliant but prickley rocket engine designer, V P Glushko. OKB-670 was run by M M Bondariuk. Bondariuk had been working on nuclear ammonia rockets since 1954. Continue reading “RN-2, the Nuclear R7, The Historical Reference Information”