Retrofuturist Flashback: 70s Shuttle Design

BY Robert Lamb / POSTED November 21, 2013
Up, up and away! (© Bettmann/CORBIS) Up, up and away! (© Bettmann/CORBIS)

I love looking at old space shuttle concepts. You get to glimpse the raw ingenuity that went into a truly remarkable vehicle. I mean, what were the space shuttles but modern pyramids? Of course as Neil deGrasse Tyson reminds us, that’s part of the problem.

But let’s talk about this design. We’re looking at a proposed North American Rockwell space shuttle craft proposed to haul crew members and 50,000-pound cargoes into orbit. The delta wings and high tails are particularly noteworthy,

Shuttle system “booster” (in background) carries the orbiter to fringes of space, then drops away for landing on conventional runway for reuse. Shuttle craft and booster are shown here in North American Rockwell artist’s concept. It reminds me a lot of the XB-70 Valkyrie.

In the background we see the shuttle’s manned “booster” craft dropping away and returning for landing — a design element that’s certainly more in keeping with Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo.


About the author: Robert Lamb is a senior writer and podcaster at HowStuffWorks, where he co-hosts Stuff to Blow Your Mind with Julie Douglas. He has a love for monsters, an aversion to slugs and a hankering for electronic music.

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