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.
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.
Quick introduction. I have recently been working on Chelomei’s UR-700, his Universal Rocket System, based on a design unit that eventually became the Proton. It was intended to replace the N-1 as the vehicle to take the Soviet Union to the moon.
Thanks to a comment left on these forums, I was refered to a website which had photos of something I never knew was built – a large scale model of the UR700, for vibration testing! It was made at 1/10th scale.
Before we get started, here’s a render I did, which shows you the overall configuration. I think this will help you understand the layout.
It occured to me that I really don’t remember ever seeing one of those really old pulp SF cover space cruisers done in a modern CGI style. You know, the ones that look like a cross between a Zepellin and an express steam train:
Identifying N-1 variants. I mentioned this briefly in an earlier post, which featured some images I stitched together from video, but here it is in a bit more depth.
You are generally trying to distinguish between 5 different N-1 variants in photographs, the four that flew, and the weight model. This is most easily done via the colours, though there are several other differences.
This post is not about ALL the differences between the variants, just about how to tell which rocket is which.
N1-3L, the first flight.
This is easy to identify, as it is the only one with entirely grey first and second stages. The third stage is half white, with the white part facing upwards on the transporter, which is the side away from the gantry once the rocket has been erected. It was transported to the pad in winter, and there are photos of it with snow on.
Note that there was no green on any of the N-1 variants! This is a widely held misconception, as many museums show it as green, (including the London science museum, and many Russian museums too). Olive green was only used to camouflage missiles, (and green would make lousy camouflage in Baikonur at the best of times). This error has spread to the point where photographs have been tinted to make them look green). And sometimes it was just poor quality film stock.