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REV 2.4 - Wed Aug 10 18:48:13 2011

Spaceship Handbook
785 Jefferson Avenue
Livermore, CA 94550
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(Contributed - by Dick Stafford [Who's Who Page] - 11/10/05)

This book provides almost 5 lbs of information on theoretical, fictional, and real (but not developed) spacecraft that is sure to please rocketeers, space enthusiasts, and amateur sci-fi historians alike. It documents 75 spacecraft and provides detailed drawings, historical backgrounds, plot summaries (for purely fictional craft), and mission backgrounds (for potentially real craft). Its hardbound, 8 1/2" x 11" x 1.25” cover houses 534 pages and over 500 graphics. You can see sample pages, drawings, and a complete outline here on ARA Press’s site.


The presentation of each spacecraft starts with a historical background. Where there are multiple craft from one source, this includes a section on the designer, and separate sections for each craft. These include photos, diagrams, artwork, and detailed, dimensioned drawings. The dimensioned drawings are basically the same format as those presented in Rockets of the World, by Peter Always. There is a short ‘Quickspec’ for each, providing the type of vehicle, the year, the medium in which it was first documented, the designer, and the overall dimensions. The authors also provide brief modelers notes, which provide hints, suggestions and references to previous models. These are not plans (no reference to body tubes, nose cones, or balsa), and the main aide to the builder are the drawings. Finally, where the authors have opinions and/or want to present some related material, they include an epilog.

The book is organized into three major sections and two appendices. The first section, entitled “The Theoreticians”, covers works by early rocket scientists. The second section, “The Entertainers”, moves from scientists who dreamed of spaceflight, to people whose goal it was to bring that dream to the rest of us. This is the largest of the sections. The third and final section, “The Real Stuff”, presents modern conceptual vehicles. As with the first section, this is limited to vehicles that never made it into hardware. The book also includes two appendices. Appendix A is entitled “The Atomic Powered Spaceship: Yesterday’s Dream, Spaceflight’s Future?” I’ll describe this more below. Appendix B, “Model Rocketry: Plans and Personalities”, includes a tribute to G. Harry Stine and plans for four rockets.

“The Theoreticians”

This section provides detailed discussions of spacecraft by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Hermann Oberth, Eugen Sänger, Chesley Bonestell/Willy Ley, and Von Braun. Although the book provides a great deal of historical information, it does not represent a comprehensive history since the book, by design, only covers theoretical rockets and spaceships. Although this section is dominated by Von Braun, it only covers his theoretical works - you won’t find a V2 in there. As it turns out, Von Braun did a good deal of work for television shows produced by Walt Disney. Although developed for the early entertainment industry, these were backed up by some level of actual engineering thought. They thus fit nicely in this section, while providing a perfect transition to the next…

“The Entertainers”

This lengthy section includes subjects from the 1900’s through 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The media represented includes printed sources (comics, pulp fiction, and novels), radio, TV, and the big screen. The author says they stopped there because information on many of the popular spaceships since then (Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.) is already well documented in the modeling communities. The number of spaceships covered defies listing in this review and I refer the reader to the outline contained in the URL presented above. Some of the more familiar entries include Friede (from Die Frau Au Mond), Buck Rogers, the TinTin rocket, Gerry Andersons’ Thunderbirds, ships from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Josie’s Spaceship (from Josie and the Pussycats), and the Myst Island Rocket from the video game. There are even several entries by one G. Harry Stine, who also was also a sci-fi author! The one place this book let me down was that it didn’t have plans for the Fireball XL-5, which is one of my favorite subjects (you can search EMRR and see my meager efforts). This omission was due to publishing deadlines and there is teaser about a future Volume 2.

“The Real Stuff”

This section is dedicated to spacecraft from the late 1950’s, 1960’s and 1990’s that never were realized in hardware. These include the X-20, NASA 6 F-1, Project Pluto, Manned Orbiting Laboratory, Lockheed-Martin’s VentureStar, Kistler’s K-1, Kelly’s Astroliner, Pioneer’s Pathfinder, and the Rotary Rocket Roton. One thing to note is that in earlier sections, the primary designer, author, or producer could be identified. By the 1950’s, the work of rocket science was now dominated by the government and/or private companies with “armies of technical people”. I would have liked to seen this section be a bit thicker. I hope that Volume 2 will include a section on the X-Prize contestants – at least those who don’t eventually make it into space.


Appendix A, entitled “The Atomic Powered Spaceship: Yesterday’s Dream, Spaceflight’s Future?” is a paper on interplanetary space travel. Although the title sounds somewhat specific, this covers a wide range of topics and presents the results of a bit of number crunching buy the author. This paper includes: challenges in manned interplanetary space flight; a tutorial on how rockets work; the human factors of space flight; a methodology for comparing engine/propulsion options; a subsequent analysis of a wide variety of engines, from chemical to matter/anti-matter; the potential destinations within our solar system; and a description of what it will take to get to those destinations. Most of this paper is not very detailed or highly technical and should be of interest to those of our hobby.

Appendix B. The Tribute to G. Harry is part biography and part a personal memoir by the author. The plans vary in detail, but should be sufficient for a scratch builder to replicate the four craft: Luna from Destination Moon, Thunderbirds 1 and 3, and the X-20 Dyna Soar/Titan IIIE. These plans were taken from 3rd parties and the proper credit is given.

I am amazed at the quality and amount of material covered in this book. The book exceeded my expectations and even if I don’t build a single model from this book, it will provide continuous inspiration for my future modeling activities. I would have liked to see the Fireball XL-5 and more ‘real’ spacecraft described, so I offer this a suggestion for a future Volume 2.

I want to thank Jack Hagerty of ARA Press for the signed copy that he so generously donated to the EMRR NASROC and MonsterROC photo contest. I hear his stock is running short so you should hurry if you want a copy. I doubt if many owners will be wanting to give theirs up. Maybe if enough people contact him he’ll consider reprinting it.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

[NAR][Sport Rocketry]

The following excerpt is from "Sport Rocketry". The intention is to allow guests to get a basic feeling about a kit. We strongly suggest that you get a copy of the referenced Sport Rocketry and read the entire article. Inside you will find many helpful hints in construction as well as other useful information. For more information, use the two links above.

(Sport Rocketry - January/February 2002 - page 38 - by Mark Johnson) 

Handbook"Jack Hagerty and Jon Rogers chronicle the development of the spaceship from Tsiolkovsky and Oberth's engineering papers, through the golden age of the movie science fiction in the 1950's, all the way up to the Lockheed VentureStar and Rotory Rocket Roton."
"...we encounter illustrator Chesley Bonestell, whose wonderful artwork appeared in Willy Ley's Conquest of Space....Bronstell's illustrations...are almost photographic, anc are still popular today."
"The comic book and movie serials of the 1930's...get their just due...."
"There's plenty here for the 'baby boomer' crowd of rocketeers, too."
"There are alos tributes to the writers of juvenile science fiction-two names we know well: Robert Heinlein and the NAR's own founder, G. Harry Stine."
"The last seciton of the book discusses "The Real Stuff"-spaceships...."
"Finally...the Appendix, "The Atomic Powered Spaceship" by Jon Rogers.

The article suggests this book can be used as a source volume for the NAR fiction/Future Sport Scale event and rocketeers and space enthusiasts will find this book fascinating reading.

[Submit your Opinion]

01/04 - "I agree with all the positive reviews here. I'm not sure 'HANDbook' is the right word for this book. It is huge - 540 pages, packed with tons of useful and interesting information. There is a nice balance of fiction and reality. The writing style is very interesting and enjoyable, and the artwork and layout is all beautifully done. Highly recommended." (B.C.)

08/03 - "An excellent book, well worth the price. Very professional from cover to cover. Fascinating and easy to read, even when covering some pretty technical subjects. Lots of excellent scale drawings that provides modelers with the detail needed to produce one of a number of fantastic spaceships, prefaced with the "inside story" of each one of them. An exceptional, intellectual review of the development of the spaceship during the 20th century. I found it hard to put the book down once I started reading. A definite classic!" (J.R.G.)

03/02 - "This is a really cool book. I was amazed at the level of detail in the history provided for each rocket. It's obvious that a lot of research went into producing this book. I found the drawings to be well done and precise. Even if I don't use the drawings to actually build one of the designs, it is still a fun book to look at." (L.B.B.)

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