Space Engine Encyclopedia

(Last Updated 10 March 2014)

A Note Regarding References in the Encyclopedia:

My stance on this has changed regarding the catastrophe that befell the NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) in May 2013 when at the behest of Congressman Frank Wolf (Idiot-VA), the entire archive was taken offline for “technical review” following a furor over the case of Bo Jiang, a Chinese national who did contract work for NASA, and was suspected of spying on America.

Hilariously enough, when Bo’s laptop was inspected after it was seized, inspectors did not find TOP SEKRIT information, but...pornography, lots of it, along with pirated software.

Before this incident, I had been more than happy to provide a name for the reference; e.g.

Boeing Integrated Manned Interplanetary Spacecraft Concept Definition – Volume IV (January 1968)

So that people could then look it up on their own via NTRS, as opposed to hosting dozens of 50+ MB and above files on my own web server.

Unfortunately, the Boeing IMIS studies disappeared in the Great Frank Wolf Debacle of 2013; and as of March 2014, are still not back on NTRS, despite claims of “75% of material restored”.

I suspect this is because the Boeing IMIS studies used NERVA II nuclear propulsion modules, and anything with “nuclear” attached to it is classified automatically in the post 9/11 paranoia environment.

Fortunately, I had the Boeing IMIS studies saved to my hard drive; so I will upload them at some future date as they are an important series of historical documents.

As a result of the Frank Wolf (Idiot-VA) debacle, I will now in the future provide full PDFs or excerpted PDFs so that people can see what exactly I’m referencing in each entry and I will work to update older entries in this document.

A Note Regarding Prior Versions of the Encyclopedia:

I used to have every reference contained within a single HTML file titled “Spacecraft Reference Engines”, but by March 2014, having everything in a single file/page had become unwieldy; because the file size was well above 300 kilobytes, and the total printed size was above 100 pages. So I decided to reorganize things into a hyperlinked encyclopedia of engines.

Early Rocketry up to the Second World War

Every major and minor industrialized country before World War II had at least one (or two) hobbyists who investigated rocketry, whether it was liquid propellant or solid propellant. In many cases, each hobbyist operated on their own and never truly published their work.

The most notable case of the “independent hobbyist” was Robert Goddard in the United States. Despite coming up with many innovations which would later be repeated by everyone who went into the liquid propellant rocket field, Goddard’s work was ultimately a ‘dead end’, because he was intensely secretive and did not publish his work and kept his patents hidden.

Thus, all modern rocketry stems from three sources essentially:

  1. Military-backed attempts to develop rocket engines for aircraft to boost their speeds and/or reduce their takeoff lengths. Aerojet in the United States was founded for JATO work along with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Their work involved various aircraft (A-20A, USN Flying Boats, P-51D, etc). In the Soviet Union, Sergei Korolev’s first major rocket propulsion project was the BI-1 rocket plane, followed by the usual conventional aircraft boosted by rockets (Pe-2RD, La-7R1, La-7R2 and Yak-3RD). These engines generally used hypergolic propellants and were “low” performance, with thrust levels measured in a few thousands of pounds of thrust. The engineers working on these programs encountered all the problems that that hobbyists like Goddard did, but unlike the hobbyists’ work, their ‘corporate knowledge’ was retained; providing a foundational base for post-war rocket research.

  2. Military-backed attempts to develop compact (and somewhat safe) solid propellant motors for a variety of tasks, such as air launched ground attack rockets (HVAR, Tiny Tim, Holy Moses) or ground launched artillery rockets (Katyusha). The ‘corporate knowledge’ involved in developing these motors was (at least in the United States) later used for the first upper stages of space launch vehicles (Explorer I was placed into orbit via a cluster of solid motors).

  3. Post-war analysis of captured V-2 rockets and interrogations of captured German rocket engineers. At the time, the V-2 was the largest rocket ever manufactured, with an unprecedented 25 tonnes of thrust. The V-2 itself was a very unoptimized system, being a very hasty kludge to get a totally new weapons concept into service in a compressed time frame. This meant that post war, it was not hard for everyone to significantly improve on V-2 performance.

    The V-2’s biggest contribution to aerospace was turning rocketry into a serious science/engineering discipline accepted by everyone. It’s hard to believe, but before WWII and the V-2, there was a serious ‘giggle factor’ attached to the term ‘rocket’ – thus why JPL was called that instead of RPL; and why so many early RATO (Rocket Assisted Takeoff) concepts were called JATO, despite the name(s) being technically inaccurate.

Miscellaneous Trivia

Space Propulsion Systems
arranged by
Country / Manufacturer

German Space Engines (1920 - Present)

Notes: This page contains the early experiments by various rocketry societies in the interwar period, wartime research such as the A-4/V-2 engine(s), and post-war work by MBB.

Russian Space Engines (1922 – Present)

Japanese Space Engines (1930 – Present)

American Space Engines

Miscellaneous Space Engines (1920 – Present)

Theoretical Space Engine Concepts (1920 – Present)

Aerojet General Space Engines (1942 – 2013)

Notes: This page contains all engines by Aerojet GenCorp up to their acquisition of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne in 2013.

Pratt & Whitney Space Engines (1925 – 2005)

Notes: This page contains all engines by P&W up to their acquisition of Rocketdyne in 2005.

North American Rocketdyne / Boeing Rocketdyne Space Engines (1955 – 2005)

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Space Engines (2005 – 2013)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Space Engines (2013 – Present)

Ad Astra Rocket Company (AARC) Space Engines (2005 – Present)

Blue Origin Space Engines (xx – Present)

Bell Aircraft / Textron Space Engines (1935 – Present)

Notes: This page contains all engines by Bell up to their takeover by Textron in 1960, and engines by Bell Textron after that point.

Curtiss-Wright Space Engines (xx – xx)

Lockheed Propulsion Company Space Engines ( xx – xx)

Reaction Motors, Incorporated Space Engines (1930 – 1958)

Notes: This page contains all engines by RMI up to their takeover by Thiokol in 1958.

General Electric Space Engines (xx – 1966)

Notes: This page contains all engines by GE’s rocket division up to when the division was shut down in mid-1966.

United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) Space Engines (xx – xx)

Thiokol / Morton Thiokol / Allant Techsystems (ATK) Space Engines (1929 – Present)

Boeing Space Engines (xx – Present)

Douglas / McDonnell Douglas Space Engines (1920 – 1997)

TRW Systems / Northrup Grumman Space Engines (1953 – Present)

NASA/AEC Project ROVER / NERVA Nuclear Rocket Program (1955 – 1972)

SpaceX Space Engines (2002 – Present)