December 21, 2008

More on The Paths not Taken

Over at the Unwanted Blog, where Scott Lowther has a selection of pictures from Project Meteor, a hugely ambitious program from 1956 that was as Lowther puts it...

This was somewhat similar to the “Colliers” space program as envisioned by von Braun and others… just not so small and limited.*

Not so limited indeed...the station was half a mile long and the gravity deck (centrifuge) was 1500 feet in diameter. This was the size of an O'Neal colony...in 1956!

srrsly guys...manuver carefully!
I was familliar with the interesting and forward thinking Meteor ferry rocket, from Ron Millers, The Dream Machines. However I had NO idea that it was tied to such an ambitious project.

According to Lowther, the numbers largely work, this was a very serious proposal, but I suspect this...like other 1950's station proposals, would have run afoul of the then unknown Van Allen problem
In theory, the optimum altitude for a station is around1050 miles up or so which is beyond all traces of the earths atmosphere, however what was not known prior to Explorer 1 is that that orbital sweet spot is smack blam in the middle of in the Van Allen Belts. Low earth orbit, though considered a hard vacuum, still has enough trace atmosphere to cause some over time drag, making satellites there non-permanent or high maintenance. However, given the investment in the thing and the plans concurrent project for reusable space launchers, this could have probably been made to work.

Lowther has a 59 page report describing the project in great detail for sale here along with several other forgotten chapters of aerospace history.

*Explanation of the irony in this statement can be found at this awesome site. dedicated to the "Colliers Space Program"

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