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I've got a mystery for you today:

In Dan Sharp's book, "British Secret Projects - 5 - Britain's Space Shuttle" ISBN:,9781910809020 MUSTARD (Multi Unit Space Transport And Reuse Device) is compared with many other contemporary paper and real rockets.

One of these is listed as being ~10,200M GBP development cost, and ~10^6.8 LB when manufactured, making it more massive than the largest ROMBUS design, and similar to about ~1.4 Saturn V's.

I'd like to include a reference photo, but I fear it is under copyright. If you can find a source, here's the year: 1964, and it's a BAC chart of American vs. European projects.

enter image description here

WHAT IS THIS "WANG'S VEHICLE"? I can find no reference to it anywhere other than this photo, so it may be an earlier abandoned project. I know this may be too vague, but hopefully something turns up.

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    $\begingroup$ What does 10^6.8 LB? Is it 0.8 million lb mass or 6.31 million lb mass (where 10^0.8 = 6.31)? $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Jul 5, 2023 at 5:43
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    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure that reproducing the photo here for the purpose of this question constitutes "fair use". Without it, I doubt you get any meaningful answer unless someone happens to have the book. $\endgroup$
    – Ludo
    Jul 5, 2023 at 6:28
  • $\begingroup$ @ludo, will do. $\endgroup$ Jul 5, 2023 at 9:20
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    $\begingroup$ Might have been something proposed by Wang Xjii who was prominent in the Chinese space program en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wang_Xiji $\endgroup$
    – JCRM
    Jul 5, 2023 at 9:26
  • $\begingroup$ The timeline is problematic, the only big Wang I can think of, as above, was busy with PRC's first sounding rocket at the time, fuelled by a bicycle pump. Must be another Wang... $\endgroup$ Jul 5, 2023 at 10:36

2 Answers 2

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A bit more information can be found on page 111 of the same book. "possibly the largest and most costly space vehicle ever designed - a design produced by H.E. Wang of the California-based Aerospace Corporation and known to the British as 'Wang's Vehicle'".

The Aerospace Corporation is an American nonprofit corporation that operates a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) in El Segundo, California. Its goal is "to serve the Air Force in the scientific and technical planning and management of missile-space programs."

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    $\begingroup$ Whoever named that operation "The Aerospace Corporation" clearly wasn't planning ahead for Google searches. $\endgroup$ Aug 15, 2023 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble Curious how Musk's latest business is doing, I googled "What is the value of X?" with similar results. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Aug 15, 2023 at 21:39
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    $\begingroup$ Since Aerospace Corp. still exists and has a contact page, I sent them an email. Let's see what comes from that. $\endgroup$
    – Ludo
    Aug 16, 2023 at 13:45
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    $\begingroup$ I got an answer already: no references to “Wang’s vehicle” in any of their digital or print collections. Dr. H.E. Wang did work on MOL but not on DynaSoar. All of his MOL work is labelled for internal use only, anything that is public should be on DTIC. $\endgroup$
    – Ludo
    Aug 16, 2023 at 17:31
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    $\begingroup$ DTIC only has one paper by him, title "Variable-Lift Re-Entry at Superorbital and Orbital Speeds", which is a mathematical treatise that has no vehicle designs. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Aug 16, 2023 at 17:47
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Partial or not really an answer:

(Edit update, as per Ludo's comment, its not X-20)

TL;DR:

Could it have been a future enlarged spaceplane or booster related to Dyna-soar?

Or a future enlarged version of MOL?

Note:

The chart is from 1964, Dyna-soar was already cancelled, MOL had been announced the previous year. There could already have been enlarged projections developed for beyond the X-20 program, and MOL was going to be a very large and expensive space station.

Probably doesn't fit but...

in the 1960's Wang was looking at aerodynamics of large payload fairings on launch vehicles, the type that would have carried the X-20 Dyna-soar, which was, at the time, considered pretty expensive - the launch vehicle settled upon was Titan IIIC (though the Saturn would have able to launch it as well, that was under NASA control, not the Air Force).

Examples of large vehicles being drawn up throughout the period:

https://media.defense.gov/2021/Apr/06/2002615086/-1/-1/0/RECOVERABLE%20BOOSTERS.PDF

With the switch to MOL he would still have been looking at enlarged fairings on future launch vehicles.

He also had a paper on variable re-entry at orbital and super orbital speeds in 1962. With the Dyna-soar travelling at high Mach, those studies might be related.

Of course Dyna-soar was cancelled in 1963, and MOL, the military space station, was next on the development list, which was also subsequently cancelled in 1969, and was considered even more expensive than the X-20 had been (US$1.5bn).

Wangs papers could also be related to MOL as the launch fairing research is from 1967, long after X-20 was cancelled but MOL astronauts were being selected and announced by this time.

By 1969 future MOLs were envisioned - crews of 12 and 40 envisaged in orbiting command and control posts with shuttles replenishing them. MOL's roadmap continued into 1980, and included the following concepts:

40 man crew:

enter image description here

Aerospace Corporation still exists and is a federally funded research and development institution, and at the time Wang was working, its primary focus was in assisting the US Air Force with scientific, technical planning, and management of its ballistic-missile and space programs, which is where the X-20 and later MOL come in.

By the 1970s Aerospace Corporation was very much involved with NASA and the STS program and no longer solely associated with the USAF.

So with both X-20 and MOL being the very expensive programs they were, and being researched and developed during that decade, makes them potential vehicles.

Links:

Dyna-soar information:

https://documents.theblackvault.com/documents/dynasoar/AFD-080408-031.pdf

https://www.thespacereview.com/article/2866/1

The last spacemen: MOL and what might have been

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manned_Orbiting_Laboratory

MOL program managers hoped to build larger, permanent facilities. A planning document depicted 12-man and 40-man stations, both with self-defense capability.

https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/102893058

A study of the characteristics of transonic buffet pressures on a large hammerhead configuration by H.E. Wang.

https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/trecms/pdf/AD0278161.pdf

VARIABLE-LIFT RE-ENTRY AT SUPERORBITAL AND ORBITAL SPEEDS H.E. Wang

https://arc.aiaa.org/doi/epdf/10.2514/3.3142

Motion of re-entry vehicles during constant- altitude glide by H. E. WANG

Lifting Entry Concepts

Motion of re-entry vehicles during constant-altitude glide (1965)

Variable lift re-entry at super-orbital and orbital speeds (1963)

Entry vehicle design study Document ID 19640004844

On Boundary Layers Associated with Oscillating Streams 1961

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00411895#auth-H__E_-Wang-Aff1

https://ntrs.nasa.gov/api/citations/19670002370/downloads/19670002370.pdf

A VARIABLE-LIFT PROGRAM FOR SATELLITE RE-ENTRY 1961

APPROXIMATE SOLUTIONS OF THE LATERAL MOTION OF RE-ENTRY VEHICLES DURING CONSTANT ALTITUDE GLIDE 1963

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    $\begingroup$ Not really an answer, in light of Ludo's efforts, so just undeleted for the papers i found cited but mostly unavailable. A lot of them seem hypersonic related, hence my thought of x-20. But future enlarged MOL might fit the large size and expenditure expected for an orbital station. Perhaps. $\endgroup$ Aug 16, 2023 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ The graph shows that 'Wang's vehicle' has an empty weight of 7 million pounds, that's close to a fully-fueled Saturn V. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Aug 16, 2023 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ I know, i ran out of ideas, and without much further info, i sort of gave up. What is available is very much hypersonic...which made me trawl through a lot of the concepts of the period. As pointed out, his papers are mathematical and nothing points to vehicle concepts specifically. $\endgroup$ Aug 16, 2023 at 21:35

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