Space Vehicle Size Comparison Chart

Have you ever wondered what the size difference between the Mir space station and the International Space Station was? Or perhaps how the current Soyuz-FG rocket stacks up against the mighty Saturn V? Well thanks to reddit user Heaney555, and a rather simple but effective size chart you need wonder no more.
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The NASA MMU (Manned Maneuvering Unit)

Back in the ’80s, when the Space Shuttle was at the pinnacle of man’s technological achievements, there was another space vehicle carried aboard a handful of early missions. The NASA MMU, or Manned Maneuvering Unit, was a single-person compressed nitrogen jet propelled unit which allowed astronauts to perform untethered spacewalks some distance from the shuttle. The MMU was designed, built, and tested by Lockheed Martin at its space center near Denver, and at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The single-piece MMU was designed to fit over the backpack of the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) – or spacesuit as those outside of the space exploration fraternity call it. The units were stored in a special mounting and recharging stations attached to the wall of the shuttle’s payload bay. One was located near the airlock hatch, while the other was on the opposite wall. To save space, the two control arms of the MMU were folded away when not in use.
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Google Executive Alan Eustace’s Record-Breaking Skydive

Felix Baumgartner must be one crest-fallen man this morning. His 2012 record leap from 128,000 feet was broken yesterday by Alan Eustace, a 57-year-old Google Executive, who dove from an altitude 135,890 feet (30,480 m). That’s 25 miles (40 km) above the earth’s surface. Eustace’s near-space dive was part of a StratEx project led by the Paragon Space Development Corporation.

The record-breaking jump was made from an abandoned airfield in New Mexico early on the morning of Friday 24 October 2014. Unlike Baumgartner, who used a specially designed balloon capsule to get him to altitude, Eustace relied on a self-contained commercial space suit slung precariously underneath the high altitude balloon. It took over two hours for him to reach altitude as the balloon ascended as speeds of up to 1,600 ft per minute.
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Galactic Gear “reviews” Origin M50 Interceptor spaceship

In order to garner some extra publicity for the upcoming massive multiplayer role playing game Star Citizen, its creators have developed a humerous little spoof video showing a Top Gear-esque review of the Origin M50 spaceship.

In the review a digital Jeremy Clarkson hommage introduces the M50, before taking it for a spin and pitting it against a previous model. It’s superbly done, and has certainly done the job of attracting more attention to the crowd-funded game. Not that it needed the additional exposure, having successfully attacted over $51 million in funding as of last month!
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Textron AirLand Scorpion – “Affordable” Military Jet

“Affordable” and “military jet” are not two phrases which are usually used in conjunction. But Textron AirLand Enterprises have just rewritten the rule book when it comes to military jets.

Firstly, as you may or may not know, the US military is still waiting for the Lockheed-Martin F-35  joint strike fighter to be delivered. It has been in development since the early 1990s, and to date is the most expensive military jet program the world has ever seen – currently estimated at $1.0165 trillion overall, and with a unit cost of between $124 million and $156 million depending on specification. The F-35 has been plagued with delays, engineering problems and disgraceful budget increases over the years. And just before it was due to make its international debut this week at the Farborough Airshow in the UK, the entire fleet was grounded while engineers try and figure out what caused one to set alight while sat on the runway.

The other US fighter jet which made its world debut at the Farnborough Show was this, the Textron AirLand Enterprises Scorpion Jet. It has taken less than two years to go from paper to prototype, and has a unit cost of just $20 million. The two aircraft offer very different things, the F-35 is the most advanced jet the world has ever seen is yet to see, and it employs the very latest and most expensive technology available. On the other hand, the Scorpion Jet uses already existing, tried and tested off-the-shelf components from a number of manufacturers.
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ISX Enterprise – what a real warp-drive spacecraft might look like

ISX Enterprise warp-drive spacecraft

Even if you hate Star Trek, you still know the flagship spacecraft of the Federation is the Enterprise, you also probably know it can travel at warp-speed. That’s faster than light in case you’re wondering. What you might not know, is that despite its sci-fi storyline, much of the technology used in the show was based, albeit very loosely, on scientific hypothesis, theory and fact.

Using the best available information from NASA, and adding a healthy dose of artistic license, designer Mark Rademaker has created a series of images showing what the very first warp-capable spacecraft built by humans might look like. He’s called it the ISX Enterprise.

Believe it or not there are in fact some very clever people working at NASA right now on trying to figure out, in theory, how you could build a warp drive. Just to be clear, we’re a long, long way away from something actually being built. But Dr Harold White of NASA’s Johnson Space Center has been working hard to prove that it could one day be possible. His research is based on an earlier theory put forward by Miguel Alcubierre in 1994.
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ZiL-2906 Cosmonaut Recovery Vehicle

ZilL-2906 screw-propelled vehicle

Back in the 1980s, when returning cosmonauts were sat in their Soyuz capsule awaiting collection, there was a possibility that the first person they saw would be driving one of these things. The ZiL-2906 was a screw-propelled vehicle designed specifically to retrieve cosmonauts who had landed in extremely inaccessible areas. Possibly a swamp or a bog, or even in water. Areas a helicopter couldn’t land, and a regular truck couldn’t drive.

The vehicle was transported to the general area of the returned space capsule by a six-wheeled amphibious leviathan called the ZiL-4906 or “Bluebird” – a version of which is still used to collect returning Soyuz crew. If the Bluebird was unable to get to the capsule, then the ZiL-2906 would be deployed to go and retrieve the cosmonauts. Continue reading ‘ZiL-2906 Cosmonaut Recovery Vehicle’ »

DFS 346 – German designed, Soviet trialed rocket plane

DFS 346 rocket-powered aircraft

The DFS 346 was a rocket-powered reconnaissance aircraft prototype developed by the Germans in the later stages of the Second World War. It was designed by Felix Kracht who at the time was working for DFS (Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug) – or in English, the German Research Institute for Sailplane Flight. The DFS 346 was developed alongside the DFS 228 project which was a high-altitude low-speed reconnaissance sailplane. In sharp contrast however, the DFS 346 was envisaged as a super high-speed rocket powered aircraft with swept wings and a streamlined fuselage. Interestingly the aircraft also featured an unusual prone-pilot cockpit, not dissimilar to the one used in the later Gloster Meteor “Prone Pilot” experimental aircraft.

The idea behind the DFS 346 project was to create an aircraft which could take reconnaissance photos of England before returning to base in either northern France or Germany. The mission would involve the aircraft being transported close to its intended surveillance target by a carrier aircraft – in this case the Dornier Do 217. After release, the pilot would fire up the rocket motor and accelerate to an estimated top speed of Mach 2.6 while climbing to an altitude of 100,000 ft (30,500 metres). The pilot would then glide over his target while descending, using the rocket motor in bursts to maintain speed. After taking photos the pilot would then head for home, gliding his aircraft back to base. Well that was the idea anyway. The war ended before the aircraft was finished.
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The remarkable story of Afghanistan’s first astronaut

Abdul Ahad Momand Afghan astronaut

Most stories involving Afghanistan at the moment are fairly grim. But back in 1988 the country had something to cheer about. The first Afghan spaceman had just returned to earth.

Abdul Ahad Momand was a 29-year-old Afghan Air Force Colonel and a member of the three-man crew on a Russian mission to the Mir space station. He spent 8 days 20 hours and 26 minutes in space.

During his time in space Momand took photographs of the earth, in particular his homeland, and assisted with astrophysical, medical and biological experiments aboard Mir. He also brewed traditional Afghan tea for the crew, and during a telephone conversation with the Afghan president and his mother he made Pashto the fourth language to be spoken in space.
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Bachem Ba 349 “Natter” – vertical takeoff, rocket-powered interceptor death trap

The Bachem Ba 349 “Natter” was a radical prototype aircraft produced by Nazi germany during the final years of the war when the allies were starting to push ever closer to Berlin. The aircraft was essentially a very early version of a homing missile, and it was just one of several similar projects to be under development in Germany at the time. The primary target of the Bachem Ba 349 was to be the allied bombers which were slowly bringing the German war machine to a halt.

The Bachmen Ba 349 was designed by Dr Eric Bachem, an engineer who until 1944 worked for aircraft manufacturer Fieseler. In fact the Ba 349 was a development of one of his Fieseler designs. The aircraft was built from wood, glued and nailed together. The pilot was afforded some protection in the form of a bulletproof windshield and an armour plated seat.

Powering the Bachem Ba 349, nicknamed “Natter” (adder in English), were five rockets. Four Schmidding SG34 solid fuel rocket boosters provided the thrust to fire the aircraft up its 20-metre high vertical launch ramp and into the air. After 10 seconds these burnt out and were jettisoned. A larger bi-fuel rocket motor inside the fuselage provided the thrust for the remainder of the flight.
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