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Weird Wings - BAC MUSTARD

Enlarge image (will open in a new window)In a 1966 lecture to the Royal Aeronautical Society, Lord Caldecote, managing director (guided weapons) of British Aircraft Corporation, described a fully recoverable multi-stage aerospace vehicle which was believed capable of putting Western Europe into the space age within 10 to 15 years. The study by BAC's Preston Division was partially financed by the British Ministry of Aviation.

Lord Caldecote prefaced his lecture with the statement that some people believed a space transporter could be designed to take off horizontally like an aircraft, but thought the development was unlikely.

BAC was, however, prepared to entertain a supersonic aircraft configuration for recovery. The ship would still have to be launched as a multi-stage rocket. BAC's concept differed from the mainstream by proposing a variety of launch configurations consisting of near-identical units, among them pick-a-back, tandem, cluster and stack. BAC favoured the cluster or stack, with three similar modules in the form of crewed, winged vehicles which would launch as a unit.

Enlarge image (will open in a new window)BAC proposed the MUSTARD winged vehicle design (Multi-Unit Space Transport and Recovery Device) could place 5,000 lb. (2,268 kg) payloads into orbit. Two of the units would act as boosters to launch the third into orbit. They would be stacked for launch and would feed any excess fuel to the unit which was to become the spacecraft. At 150,000 to 200,000 ft. (45,720 to 60,960 m.) the boost units would separate and land in aircraft fashion. After placing its payload into orbit the spacecraft unit would return similarly.

BAC evolved the scheme around one basic airframe and one basic engine type to give the greatest production economies. Further study was proposed, using a 13-ft. (3.96 m.) long model launched by the first stage of a projected Westland Black Arrow rocket. They also recommended a manned lifting body research glider be built.

The project was regarded as a suitable one for joint development by European aerospace companies. Its cost was estimated to be around "20 to 30 times cheaper" than that of the expendable rocket launch systems of the time.


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