Monday, November 19, 2007

Wernher von Braun's Space Shuttle (1950s)

These illustrations by Fred Freeman show Wernher von Braun's concept for a space shuttle in the 1950s. The illustrations can be found in the book Visions of Spaceflight: Images from the Ordway Collection.

To provide safety in case of a malfunction of the reusable upper stage - von Braun's 1950s shuttle concept - crew and passengers press buttons on their chair arms. Contour seats straighten automatically and enclosures snap shut forming sealed escape capsules. To abandon ship, the crew and passengers push another button and the capsules, guided by rails, are ejected by explosive powder charges. The arrangement is seen in cross-section.

After ejection, the capsules' descent is controlled by four-foot steel mesh parachutes. At about 150 above the ground or water, a proximity fuse sets off a small rocket that further slows the rate of fall.

See also:
Challenge of Outer Space (circa 1950s)
The Complete Book of Space Travel (1956)
General Dynamics Astronautics Time Capsule (1963)
Mars and Beyond (1957)
Man and the Moon (1955)
Closer Than We Think! Space Coveralls (1960)


Anonymous said...

That means that von Braun's space shuttle from 1950s is more advanced that what the nasa has today? (today the astranauts just die in case something happens)

Anonymous said...

If there was a sudden explosion, like with Challenger, then they'd all probably die as well since they would be sitting on all those additional explosives and their ejection rails would surely be bent. That is, if they even have time to shut their enclosures.

Von Braun's first cutaway looks like a B-25 cross section.

. said...

Couldn't these also be used as orbital drop-pods?

Or even dropped from planes like bombs, to protect paratroopers from AA gunfire?

If you could make them quick-deploy rather the quick close (the solider needs to get out quickly, he has plenty of time to be sealed in before the mission) they would be militarily useful. Like explosive bolts or something, you'd need to be out of it almost as soon as you hit the ground.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't these also be used as orbital drop-pods?

That's pretty close to what Robert Heinlein predicted in Starship Troopers (book)

Anonymous said...

Von Braun's space shuttle is not more advanced that what NASA has today. Once the space shuttle orbital stack has accelerated beyond a few hundred miles per hour, you're correct in your assertion that "the astronauts just die in case something happens." Ejecting at high speed within the atmosphere would be immediately fatal. This is the reason that the shuttle orbiter was built without ejection seats - on ascent the space shuttle is only in a position for them to be useful for a few seconds.

If something goes wrong that doesn't immediately destroy the orbiter (such as the challenger disaster) the crew has a much better chance of survival by staying with the orbiter and following one of the several abort routines that have been prepared.