Spiral Air-Orbital Plane (VOS): 2nd to none.

Designed by a Mikoyan OKB-155 design team headed by Gleb Evgeniyevich Lozino-Lozinskiy, the Spiral (aerospace system) was a Soviet project created as a military orbital spaceplane in response to the American Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar. Ironically by the time the design was started (1965) the American project was already cancelled so after four years it was also stopped….to be initiated in the middle 1970s as a possible answer to the Space Shuttle. The project reached the hardware state with sub-scale orbital test models and a manned test vehicle to explore low-speed behavior, the MiG-105.

To no avail, in the end the Spiral was cancelled when the Soviet authorities decided to follow closely the American Space Shuttle concept. The Buran project was the result.

This clever GIF gives us an idea of its audacious configuration. The Spiral spaceplane with its attached  liquid fuel booster stage seats atop hypersonic jet mothership designed by the Tupolev OKB. That reusable mothership acted as the complex’s first stage which launched Spiral and its booster at high altitude.


Apollo CM: Inside a neon tube.

A very descriptive North American-Rockwell Corp. 1968 artwork of the Apollo Command Module (CM) reentering Earth’s atmosphere on his way back from the moon. The heat generated during reentry into Earth’s atmosphere ionized the air around Apollo with some spectacular effects.

Source: NASA Images.

Boeing EC-135E ARIA: “My nose isn’t big. I just happen to have a very small head”.

The ARIA marries two subjects very dear to me: early space exploration and aircraft “ugliness”. The original Apollo Range Instrumentation Aircraft were C-135B cargo aircraft modified into EC-135N to provide tracking & telemetry in support of the US space program during those epic the late 1960s/early 1970s. Later renamed “Advanced” instead of “Apollo” at the end of that program the ARIA’s continued to provide service in space/missile related duties until they became redundant in the middle 1990s.
The heart of the ARIA systems was its 7ft diameter two-axis steerable antenna, a “world’s largest”. The antenna was located in this humongous 10ft diameter nose. A nose both hilarious and draggy, its nickname “Jimmy Durante” was well-deserved.

In this photo, “Droop Snoot”, an EC-135E on display at the USAF Museum. The -E was the original -N model re-engined with P&W TF33 turbofans.

Another C-135’s nose proboscis.

John W. Young: Ad Astra, Titan.

The painting shows a pensive John Young during suit-up for the first space shuttle mission. Yep, that incredible all-up manned first flight. He sure had things to think about.
The incomparable John Young has taken another first flight. Sadly, the non-return one.


“When Thoughts Turn Inward”,  a water color by Henry Casselli.

“Martin XRV”: Save your backpacks for the EVA transfer.

Last night I took the time to watch again 1969 “Marooned” movie. Inspired in Martin Caidin’s book, this movie it’s not one of those I revisit often (dull acting and so-so story), but some of its props had real charm.
The jewel of the crown to me was its “XRV”, a lifting body (LB) shape inspired in the Martin SV-5. This USAF-sponsored LB aircraft was tested in space in the middle-late 1960’s as the sub-scale X-23 PRIME and later in earth atmosphere, as the full-scale X-24A, in the early 1970’s.  A design which has merits; NASA applied later the concept to its now cancelled X-38 rescue vehicle. By the way, the Martin Marietta company had a crystal ball in 1965.
I’m not going to start relating its technical goofs, but the rude way that Sikorsky CH-3C deposited the “XRV” on the lorry couldn’t have done any good to its thermal protection.

Not at Kubrick’s “2001” level, yet the “XRV” cockpit had style and some really convincing gadgetry. The movie’s spacesuits, not being superb, were decent enough.