Saturn IB (Skylab 2): On the milkstool of Titans.

And forty-five years ago the Skylab program continued unabated. This Space Station had its origins in the Apollo Application Program (AAP) as a way to find further use from the Apollo program hardware developing science-oriented manned missions. The somehow make do roots of the AAP program shows from the ground up. The first Saturn IB rockets had been launched from either LC-34 or 37 launch complexes. By the time of the Skylab missions both were inactive, so the manned Apollo crew were launched utilizing LC-39B instead. But that complex was configured for Saturn Vs. In order to enable the launch of IBs, the LC-39B’s Platform No. 1 was modified by adding a clever elevated pedestal known as the “milkstool” to accommodate the height differential between the Saturn IB and the much larger Saturn V in order to employ the later service facilities.

The second manned Skylab mission rocket (SA-206) ready to “Rock & Roll” next to the Mobile Service Structure. Those were the times.


Curtiss SOC: Shockproof elan.

The tough and ready Curtiss SOC Seagull was a scout/recon floatplane employed by the US Navy in their catapult-equipped battleships and cruisers from 1935 until, in some cases, well into 1945. The cause of its commendable front line longevity was the failure of its intended replacement: Curtiss’ other Seagull, the SO3C. They also saw service with the US Coast Guard. Produced both by Curtiss and by the Naval Aircraft Factory (NAF) as the SON-1, around 320 of them were produced.

Jumping over the heavy waves and don’t giving a damn. Pure poetry this photo.

USAAF A-2 Jacket: Oversexed, overpaid and over here.

The sheer elegance of the iconic A-2 jacket as usually “tarnished” by its owners. In this case, “Der Grossarschvogel” (The Big Butt Bird) was listed as the name of a B-17G of the 8th AF 401st BG.

To many of the stoic Europeans the average American soldier appeared to act like a not yet totally grown-up teen. Don’t know why.

Boeing 2707-100: Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

The 2707 was the winner of the American late 1960s SST competition. With its swing-wing, it was a bold and innovative design which won over the more orthodox fixed-wing Lockheed L-2000.
The -100 the coolest stage of the Boeing design with its four engines placed below the horizontal stabilizer. From there the project went downwards. Weight became soon a problem and range suffered accordingly so in the end, the capital sin: they scrapped the whole wing design to one similar to the Lockheed L-2000(!!) but equipped with a tail. Riddled with technical and political problems cancellation was the obvious conclusion.

The superlative mock-up and its gorgeous canary livery.

Atlas & Deke: So near, yet so far.

The neatly dressed Project Mercury astronaut Deke Slayton observes the night launch of an Atlas missile from Cape Canaveral. Sadly, Slayton didn’t have the chance to ride one of those fiery Atlases because he was grounded in 1962 due to an irregular heart rhythm. Thirteen patient years later Deke reached orbit at last with the Apollo-Soyuz mission.

Photo by Ralph Morse (LIFE magazine).

Lockheed R6V Constitution: A giant with tiny muscles.

The Galaxy‘s anniversary the other day reminded me Lockheed’s unsuccessful prequel of the 1940s. Started in 1942, the Constitution was conceived by request of the US. Navy and the Pan Am company both looking a giant leap in range and load capacities. The design chosen employed a huge double-deck fuselage aircraft powered by four P & W R-4360 Wasp Majors, the more powerful engines available. It was not enough. First flown in 1946, the R6V turned out to be seriously underpowered even when re-engined with a more powerful variant of the Wasp Major. Worse, the engines also suffered cooling issues. Due to those problems, just two prototypes were produced and they only saw a brief service with the US. Navy until 1953. Pan Am’s interest had evaporated long before.

Ship No.1 (BuNo 85163) was employed in testing RATO (rocket assisted take-off) operations. It sure needed it at max gross weight. Those minute-looking engines on such an humongous aircraft….