Ohio Valley Soaceport

Ohio Valley Soaceport

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Look at the Aurora 2001 Space Clipper

In a second of a series on factual designed spacecraft from the 1968 film '2001: A Space Odyssey' we will look at one of the more esoteric spacecraft designs featured: the Pan Am Space Clipper.


By the mid 1960's the race to the moon was in full swing by both the United States and the U.S.S.R. NASA in particular was developing plans for a robust space program that they assumed would continue beyond the initial moon landing at the same frenzied pace as Project Apollo.
Von Braun proposed grand schemes included large orbital space stations serviced by winged space shuttles, moonbases, and trips to Mars.
A rare illustration from a 1968 illustration by Robert McCall showing a winged booster for the clipper.

Many of these ideas were lavishly illustrated by several space artists and designers. The space clipper design used in '2001' came from many of these designs speculating on a winged space shuttle. One possible source for the space clipper was a antipodal space bomber that German scientist Eugene Sanger designed for the Third Reich during the second world war. This bomber which was called the "silverbird" was a winged glider that was intended to be launched by a rocket-powered sled.

The Sanger 'Silverbird' Amerika Bomber

There is a cool CGI animation depicting the Silverbird at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-Lzgmg-9-c

Many early space shuttle concepts depicted either a rocket sled launcher or a 'twin' glider where one vehicle would lift the orbiter to Mach 25.

Twin spaceplane concept of the mid-1960's

The Aurora '2001' Space Clipper kit first hit store selves in mid-1968 to coincide with the film premier. This kit was re-issued once more in 1975 as the "Space Shuttle Orion". Although I had the original 1968 kit by the mid-1970's it had vanished into that dreaded "abyss" know as a mother throwing old stuff out. The kit depicted below is from the 1975 re-issue. With the exception of the box art there was no changes made from the 1968 original.

Over the decades I took care to keep my space clipper kit safe from being broken or discarded. My kit was also rebuilt twice since the mid-70's to utilize gained experiences in model building.

Having fun with PhotoShop

Below are photos of my Aurora space clipper as it looks 37 years after I purchased it.

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