6
$\begingroup$

With the Space Shuttle system being as complex as it was I was wondering the following; did the initial engineering teams in the 70's use any form of CAD/CAE or did they simply utilize the same drafting tables as the Saturn V engineers?

It's difficult to imagine the world's most complicated mechanical machine at the time being designed with just pencils and rulers.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Anecdotally, I never had the feeling that Boeing (who bought out the Space Shuttle portions of Rockwell in 1996) had many (if any) of the design drawings in the form of readily modifiable digitized data. Whenever we (NASA) proposed a change in design, however minor, Boeing wanted to charge us a fortune just to "change the drawings..." $\endgroup$ – Digger Jan 6 '18 at 5:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In the late 1960s, CAD was still very much in its infancy (cadazz.com/cad-software-history.htm), no commercial software was available, large companies were developing their own CAD programs. Things like arbitrary curved lines (Bezier curves) didn't exist yet. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Oct 14 '18 at 8:01
8
$\begingroup$

Rockwell International, lead contractor for the Shuttle, at least had a database which stored vehicle configuration data. "Space Shuttle Technical Conference" (warning, giant pdf) refers to this when discussing manufacture of the tiles.

The Rockwell master dimension engineering data base and vehicle configuration coordinates were converted into computer tapes that drove the numerically controlled mills that machined the tiles to precise dimensions.

(page 1070 of the linked document)

Contemporary advertising in Computerworld magazine mentions the database and computer simulation applications used by Rockwell, but does not refer to any CAD-CAM systems.

enter image description here

An unsourced statement in response to a quora.com question says the company was transitioning to CAM at the time, but drawings were done in the traditional manner.

When I worked for Rockwell, they were preparing for computer controlled/aided manufacturing (this was pre-AUTOCAD so they were developing their own formats, this was before I seriously got into programming, I was shown the machine but can’t recall the hardware). I drew on company coated Mylar, so I’d expect to see NAR Rockwell logos.

So, it's difficult to find a definitive answer,but it appears that CAD-CAM wasn't used, at least in the early design days, but that the design information was entered into a large database ("Completed designs are stored online").

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Perusing through the Shuttle Drawing System on the JSC internal servers, the original 1970s and early 1980s era drawings look hand drawn and lettered $\endgroup$ – Tristan Apr 3 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the confirming comment. This answer was another case of trying to find public references for something that I knew to be true. Glad to hear SDS still exists. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Apr 4 at 2:44
1
$\begingroup$

enter image description here

Back in the early 70s, some of the drawing were done using Mylar with black tap used as lines, and printed text on stickers. Then it was photographed, then printed.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ The picture is completely unreadable. I don't think it adds much. $\endgroup$ – Nathan Tuggy Apr 3 at 9:21
  • $\begingroup$ @NathanTuggy Are you sure? I think it depends on, if the image is a real shuttle part. If yes, it adds. The problem is that it can't be decided due to the low quality of the photo, and not due to image content. $\endgroup$ – peterh Apr 3 at 9:34
  • $\begingroup$ Electronic shopper, could you please create a better photo in order to save your answer? $\endgroup$ – peterh Apr 3 at 9:35
  • $\begingroup$ @peterh: I mean, in its current state it doesn't add much. A good quality photo of Mylar+tape+sticker-printed labels that clearly showed some details of Shuttle design would add quite a bit. $\endgroup$ – Nathan Tuggy Apr 3 at 17:20
0
$\begingroup$

My understanding is that M & S Computing, later renamed to Intergraph Corporation, used CAD/CAM systems to assist in the design of the First space shuttle.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to space stack exchange! Do you have any references to back up your understanding? $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Oct 14 '18 at 1:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.