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.
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:
I recently realised that I hadn’t blogged this design, which I did a few years ago. I realised this after seeing an image I had provided of it for a board game had been bodged onto a new background, and looked awful. So I figured I should get my version online ASAP!
This is a serious NASA design for a nuclear craft capable of reaching Mars.
This concept is a flying wing, or bodyless plane, currently being tested for a possible flight to prove the concept. It is intended to work well in the thin atmosphere of the planet Mars, and would be tested at very high altitude on Earth, where the pressure is similar.