Author Topic: Douglas 1963 "Spaceball" space station concept  (Read 3532 times)

Offline leovinus

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Douglas 1963 "Spaceball" space station concept
« on: 10/17/2023 07:43 pm »
Came across this Douglas advertisement in Aviation Week and Space Technology from 1963. Specifically May 13th Vol 78 Issue 19. A space station named "SPACEBALL". Sounds interesting but anyone has more content and information like technical reports, memos, etc?
PS: And let's discuss the obvious humor references to movies elsewhere pls ;)

Online Blackstar

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Re: Douglas 1963 "Spaceball" space station concept
« Reply #1 on: 10/17/2023 09:55 pm »
I've seen other images like this--big cylinders connected with larger diameter spheres. So I think there is more available on this concept.

Offline LittleBird

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Re: Douglas 1963 "Spaceball" space station concept
« Reply #2 on: 10/18/2023 08:17 am »
I've seen other images like this--big cylinders connected with larger diameter spheres. So I think there is more available on this concept.

There's also the Lockheed Tinkertoy and Bucephalus designs that Saunders B Kramer was involved with in the 50s and 60s. I don't have details to hand but I am pretty sure these pics, from https://archive.org/details/rocketsmissiles0000mond/page/70/mode/2up
and https://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/images/spacestations/lockheed07.jpg
 are of the Lockheed designs, or directly inspired by them.

[Edit: At a v quick browse here https://collections.digitalmaryland.org/digital/collection/skls  I see that the lower one is probably his earlier Tinkertoy design which I think is from 50s, and that apparently Bucephalus was patented in 1960 to 1963 period. Would be really interesting to know if that was in response to Douglas' design. See also http://libarchstor.uah.edu:8081/repositories/2/resources/76 and https://airandspace.si.edu/collection-archive/saunders-kramer-bucephalus-space-station-and-ussr-space-vehicle-collection/sova-nasm-2006-0016]
« Last Edit: 10/18/2023 12:00 pm by LittleBird »

Offline leovinus

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Re: Douglas 1963 "Spaceball" space station concept
« Reply #3 on: 10/18/2023 09:07 pm »
I've seen other images like this--big cylinders connected with larger diameter spheres. So I think there is more available on this concept.
There's also the Lockheed Tinkertoy and Bucephalus designs that Saunders B Kramer was involved with in the 50s and 60s.
Thanks for that. The Lockheed concept with balls and connections I have seen a few times. A wonderful dream of what could have been. It seems to go back to at least 1960, one of the earliest Lockheed concepts. I like the idea that Douglas might have used this as inspiration to something even more modular. Remember that there was a concept of a Modular Space Station Evolving from Gemini ?

Also, Saunders Kramer wrote a paper titled "A modular concept for a multi-manned space station" as well as "EARLY ENGINEERING DESIGNS OF SPACE STATIONS IN THE UNITED STATES: A MEMOIR" in JBIS Vol46 pp 163-172, 1993. In the latter paper, Figure 4 and 5 are very similar to your lockheed07.jpg and are clearly labelled as going back to 1960. No mention of an even more modular Douglas SPACEBALL concept though. Bucephalus is mentioned as well including a reference #4 saying "Neither the Olympus nor the Bucephalus studies were published as final reports, and thus are unfortunately not available".

What surprised me was that the various, contemporary 1963 Douglas reports related to S-IVB Manned Space Laboratory do not even mention SPACEBALL, even though the advertisement I posted to start the thread clearly refers to the S-IVB Manned Space Laboratory. Therefore, contemporary Douglas projects but not related? And no obvious technical reports, references in other Douglas reports, nothing obvious in MORL, no mention on astronautix.com, or ... anything? A mystery to me :) Though MOL could have eating the budgets around 1963 and therefore maybe all proposals where secretly rolled in there, you would expect at least a technical report "SM-xxxx" about Spaceball. However, Kramer's footnote #4 about Bucephalus could be a prophetic warning that this Douglas Spaceball concept was never properly documented. Then again, let's stay optimistic and maybe someone remembers "something" :)

PS: Thank you for the GREAT link https://collections.digitalmaryland.org/digital/collection/skls
NASA HQ and NASM have some of those and archives by Saunders Kramer.  Also, just like Spaceball, I never heard about Tinkertoy. So if those prints are from 1960s then Tinkertoy must have been a very early concept ?
« Last Edit: 10/18/2023 09:08 pm by leovinus »

Offline LittleBird

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Re: Douglas 1963 "Spaceball" space station concept
« Reply #4 on: 10/19/2023 05:11 am »
I've seen other images like this--big cylinders connected with larger diameter spheres. So I think there is more available on this concept.
There's also the Lockheed Tinkertoy and Bucephalus designs that Saunders B Kramer was involved with in the 50s and 60s.
Thanks for that. The Lockheed concept with balls and connections I have seen a few times. A wonderful dream of what could have been. It seems to go back to at least 1960, one of the earliest Lockheed concepts. I like the idea that Douglas might have used this as inspiration to something even more modular. Remember that there was a concept of a Modular Space Station Evolving from Gemini ?

Also, Saunders Kramer wrote a paper titled "A modular concept for a multi-manned space station" as well as "EARLY ENGINEERING DESIGNS OF SPACE STATIONS IN THE UNITED STATES: A MEMOIR" in JBIS Vol46 pp 163-172, 1993. In the latter paper, Figure 4 and 5 are very similar to your lockheed07.jpg and are clearly labelled as going back to 1960. No mention of an even more modular Douglas SPACEBALL concept though. Bucephalus is mentioned as well including a reference #4 saying "Neither the Olympus nor the Bucephalus studies were published as final reports, and thus are unfortunately not available".

What surprised me was that the various, contemporary 1963 Douglas reports related to S-IVB Manned Space Laboratory do not even mention SPACEBALL, even though the advertisement I posted to start the thread clearly refers to the S-IVB Manned Space Laboratory. Therefore, contemporary Douglas projects but not related? And no obvious technical reports, references in other Douglas reports, nothing obvious in MORL, no mention on astronautix.com, or ... anything? A mystery to me :) Though MOL could have eating the budgets around 1963 and therefore maybe all proposals where secretly rolled in there, you would expect at least a technical report "SM-xxxx" about Spaceball. However, Kramer's footnote #4 about Bucephalus could be a prophetic warning that this Douglas Spaceball concept was never properly documented. Then again, let's stay optimistic and maybe someone remembers "something" :)

PS: Thank you for the GREAT link https://collections.digitalmaryland.org/digital/collection/skls
NASA HQ and NASM have some of those and archives by Saunders Kramer.  Also, just like Spaceball, I never heard about Tinkertoy. So if those prints are from 1960s then Tinkertoy must have been a very early concept ?

My pleasure. I think Tinkertoy was indeed v early, somewhere between late 50s and 1960, and is sometimes asserted to be the first of its kind, e.g.

Quote
[Kramer] was a research scientist who worked on aerospace projects for Lockheed Corporation from 1955 to 1971, where he directed the first detailed study of a manned space station and space shuttle

from the Space 3.0 digitalmaryland link-the name Tinkertoywas new to me too.

The Tinkertoy (and possibly Bucephalus) pictures, as you say, crop up all over the place and I think first place I saw them was the artwork from my first grab. This was done for a late 60s book called Rockets and Missiles by John W R Taylor https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_W._R._Taylor, and then re used in the hardback book by David Mondey I linked to-v nostalgic for me.

Kramer was evidently very proud of his station designs, and used one for example in a Spaceflight article from mid 70s [*] to illustrate his rather optimistic vision of the future Soviet programme-robot Jupiter missions etc etc. I see that Space 3.0 sites says Kramer "received a patent for one of his space station designs for the Lockheed Bucephalus in 1963", the similarity of this date to that of the Douglas ad is what made me wonder if their resemblance was pure coincidence. Presumably the patent is available, and might make up a bit for the absence of other documentation.

As to the Douglas concept itself, though, I know nothing ...

PS if you don't already have a copy of Megan Prelinger's book Another Science Fiction: Advertising the Space Race 1957-1962 do check it out, I think you'd love it. I had  a quick look to see if these ideas figured but I don't think so, but an excuse to revisit its pages is always welcome. Reviewed, by Fred Ordway no less, here: https://space.nss.org/book-review-another-science-fiction-advertising-the-space-race-1957-1962/ while Wallpaper has a few of the pics to give a flavour: https://www.wallpaper.com/lifestyle/advertising-the-space-race-1957-1962


[* Edit: article is Soviet Space Activity: The Next 10 Years, in Spaceflight, 17(7), 242-251, July 1975. He used the Ziemba painting and a painting of a smaller station. He noted that the larger design weighed 832 tons and "was designed to be assembled using almost 100 separate units", maybe the key innovation in the Douglas design was just being a bit less ambitious ;-).  Same issue of Spaceflight had Dorsey and Trotti on Counterpoint: A Lunar Colony, and Phil Parker on colonies at L5-I was getting my money's worth as far as imaginative ideas went !]


« Last Edit: 10/19/2023 05:14 pm by LittleBird »

Offline leovinus

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Re: Douglas 1963 "Spaceball" space station concept
« Reply #5 on: 10/20/2023 08:02 pm »
I've seen other images like this--big cylinders connected with larger diameter spheres. So I think there is more available on this concept.

[Edit [snip] and that apparently Bucephalus was patented in 1960 to 1963 period. Would be really interesting to know if that was in response to Douglas' design
Although this is a tangent, that "patent" by Saunders Kramer on a space station of tubes and connecting spheres is at this link. Attached as well. It seems that this is the patent >disclosure< only, 2 pages from 1960, and the full patent which should allow you to reproduce the thing is elsewhere.  No mention of Douglas btw. Anyone has the full Saunders Kramer patent?

Offline LittleBird

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Re: Douglas 1963 "Spaceball" space station concept
« Reply #6 on: 10/21/2023 09:29 am »
I've seen other images like this--big cylinders connected with larger diameter spheres. So I think there is more available on this concept.

[Edit [snip] and that apparently Bucephalus was patented in 1960 to 1963 period. Would be really interesting to know if that was in response to Douglas' design
Although this is a tangent, that "patent" by Saunders Kramer on a space station of tubes and connecting spheres is at this link. Attached as well. It seems that this is the patent >disclosure< only, 2 pages from 1960, and the full patent which should allow you to reproduce the thing is elsewhere.  No mention of Douglas btw. Anyone has the full Saunders Kramer patent?

Fascinating, I love those line drawings-but I can't help feeling the patent was largely about the merch ... ;-)
See grab below. Space toys were going to be in every Xmas stocking for a while ;-) ... and indeed had been for several years, see the reference to the March 1959 Playthings: https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/1959-toy-fair-playthings-magazine-1900609472 whereas actually building an 862 ton station might take just a tad longer ...

btw looks like the patent was filed in 1960 but not granted until 1963.



« Last Edit: 10/21/2023 10:45 am by LittleBird »

Offline LittleBird

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Re: Douglas 1963 "Spaceball" space station concept
« Reply #7 on: 10/22/2023 09:51 am »
Meanwhile, back on your original thread, there's a couple more pictures of the Douglas Spaceball design here: https://e05.code.blog/category/spacecraft/launch-vehicle/space-plane/rttocv/douglas-astro/

Offline leovinus

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Re: Douglas 1963 "Spaceball" space station concept
« Reply #8 on: 10/22/2023 03:09 pm »
Meanwhile, back on your original thread, there's a couple more pictures of the Douglas Spaceball design here: https://e05.code.blog/category/spacecraft/launch-vehicle/space-plane/rttocv/douglas-astro/
Thank you!. The "Assembling spaceball" picture was new to me. I did some digging (surprise :) ) and there is a reference to a book on the blog and the Flickr page where that picture originates. The book is
 
Orbiting Stations: Stopovers to Space Travel
Irwin Stambler
G.P. Putnamís Sons, 1965
Library of Congress (LOC) Catalog Card Number: 65-20700
95 pages

That is a book written in 1965, only two years after the Douglas Spaceball concept was conceived at Douglas. If you search the attached PDF version of the book then you will see that Chapter 9 "Towards the Planets" has two pages of discussion how Spaceball would have worked. Nice! As we speculated, there is a link to "S-IVB rocket stages as space station" for which we do have Douglas' technical reports via JSC such as SM-43257 "S-IV/S-IVB as Manned Space Laboratory" from Feb. 1963, 60+ pages.

Page 89 in "Orbiting Stations" says
Quote
Hereís how it would work. From Cape Kennedy, a series of Saturn C-5 boosters would be prepared. Some would be topped with the large 50-foot diameter spherical capsules. Others would simply have the basic three stages of the booster. The astronauts would enter the capsules and the countdown would start. As the green lights flickering on the com≠ mand consoles in the blockhouse showed all was in proper working order, the first capsule would roar off into the skies above the Cape. Soon after, when signals from space showed the Spaceball had orbited, an unmanned Saturn would be carefully oriented to meet the first payload in orbit. The S-IVB top stage would contain fuel enough to gain orbit, but it also would be covered on the outside with micrometeoroid protec≠ tion and have the necessary fittings to which internal walls and floors could be added.


The book is really interesting to me as it also discusses, MORL, LORL, Dyna-Soar, MOL, the historical context as perceived in 1965. Even Astrospaceplane makes an appearance. I need to read this in more detail. The illustrations as good as well. Some I have seen at NASA HQ History division and others on Flickr.

You can download the book from archive.org via https://archive.org/details/orbiting-stations
As that copy is 340MB, I ran it through some OCR software and have attached a more compact version of 26MB.

In any case, it is clear that Spaceball was a well thought-out concept at Douglas, and related to the general thinking at the time of using an empty S-IVB rocket stages as a space station. There got to be old technical reports somewhere. Sadly, the "Orbiting Stations" book has an index but not a list of references what Douglas report was used as basis. Someone will know.

Maybe, just maybe, these reports survive in the Boeing library in Seattle as Douglas merged with McDonnell and they merged with Boeing. Will put out some feelers.
« Last Edit: 10/22/2023 03:12 pm by leovinus »

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