Category Archives: Space Age Calculators
The Space Vehicle Pocket Designer was produced in 1959 by the Denver Division of the Martin Company. The Martin Company was founded in 1912. During WW2 it produced military aircraft. After the war it moved into aerospace.
In 1961 the Martin Company merged with the American-Marietta Corporation, a chemical products and construction materials manufacturer, to form the Martin Marietta Corporation. In 1995, Martin Marietta, then the nation’s 3rd-largest defence contractor, merged with the Lockheed Corporation, then the nation’s second largest defence contractor, to form the Lockheed Martin Corporation, the largest such company in the world.
The Pocket Designer consists of four items. Continue reading
Before each Apollo mission, the press and others were given these mission analyzers. These indicated each activity that was planned at any given “Mission Elapsed Time” [the time since launch].
This calculator and an associated 33 page report was prepared for NASA in 1967. It is concerned with the mathematical problems associated with aligning orbiting satellites with earth stations.
The Earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, had been launched in 1957. There then followed a period of successful launches by the USSR and humiliating failures by the USA.
Things improved and in 1960 TIROS 1 became the first satellite to transmit television images from space. In 1962 TELSTAR 1 started relaying television, telephone and high-speed data communications. In 1964 SYNCOM 3 became the first communications satellite in geostationary orbit. By 1967 there were a considerable number of commercial satellites either in orbit or planned and it was clear that satellites were going to have a big effect on all kinds of communications.
The Sync-Sat Calculator was designed to solve problems concerning the geometric relations between synchronous, near equatorial, satellites and ground stations. These problems were important to the operators of commercial, military and other satellites.
The calculator has four parts, each requiring independent settings. Continue reading
The Space Production Calculator was designed by the Flight Propulsion Laboratory Department of the General Electric Company. The manufacturer and year of production are unknown. The calculator is 7.125 inches in diameter and consists of three plastic disks. It is described as a valuable engineering tool for swiftly computing a number of engineering characteristics of propulsion systems for space vehicles.
Note the reference to chemical rockets, nuclear rockets, plasma jets, and ion and magnetronhydrodynamic propulsion.
The Rocket Performance Computer was produced by E H Sharkey of the RAND Corporation in December 1958. The package consists of an eighteen page booklet and a 100mm [4″] diameter plastic calculator. The calculator is described as being intended for rapidly calculating approximate solutions for single stage rockets [though it can also be used for multi stage rockets by adding solutions to single stage calculations].
Though Moon Escape, Mercury and Pluto are printed on the calculator the references in the booklet are to calculating payloads and ranges for IRBMs [Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles] and ICBMs [Intercontinental Ballistic Missile].
The Cold War was in progress when the computer was produced. In 1957 the Strategic Air Command had started a 24/7 nuclear alert in anticipation of a Soviet ICBM surprise attack capability and the Soviets had launched the Sputnik satellite. The Soviets had produced the first ICBM and put the first satellite in orbit.
The computer appears to have been intended for use by engineers working on both military and space programs.