Needle in a haystack, giant booster edition


ACCESS: Top Secret
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Dec 31, 2006
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I consider myself a pretty decent researcher/archive detective, but I have to admit this one has me stumped.

I’ve been cleaning up the old homestead as my wife and I, now empty-nesters, contemplate a downsizing. I am an unreconstructed keeper of all kinds of printed material, and having been married twice, I can tell you it is a uniquely irritating trait for one’s significant other. Anyhow, I agreed to purge a glob of stuff that, if I’m being honest, I’m 99.99% unlikely to ever read again.

I was making pretty good progress until I came across the item in the attached image. It was a single piece of paper in a slash folder, buried in the bottom of a sealed plastic storage bin helpfully labeled “Space”. There are no headers or footers showing a page number, report name, or other identifying info. I tried correlating it with other content in the folder or elsewhere, to no avail. I searched my digital library, again with no success. I killed a fair amount of time looking through NTRS, DTIC, OSTI, AIAA, and SAE, no joy.

Here’s what I can surmise:
  • Based on the age of the other materials with it, the condition of the paper, the fonts and the table style (MS Word), the item was printed at least 15 years ago from a report authored well before that.
  • ESMC was the Air Force organization that owned the Eastern Test Range, and is now the 45th Space Wing. That re-designation took place in 1991. This “classification” shown in the table is apparently a ground/launch systems exercise written no later than 1991 and looking forward (very optimistically) to the types of vehicles the Cape might need to support by the mid-2000s.
  • ALS was short lived, 1985-1989 more or less, replaced by NLS around 1990.
  • Super Magnum was a Martin Marietta design exercise dating from 1988. It envisioned a single-launch of a full-up Mars mission using Shuttle SRMs and SSMEs to the maximum extent. The largest documented variant used 12 SRMs and 16 SSMEs and could lift 1.5 million lbs to LEO. The “all-liquid” variant shown here (not mentioned in the MM Mars study) apparently has 60% greater capacity, which is a hell of a lot.
  • The Boeing/Grumman “Recoverable Bulk Freighter” could be related to the “ballistic cargo carrier” designs that emerged in the mid-1970s Future Space Architecture Study and were later included in the Solar Power Satellite Study.
  • Somebody really really liked big rockets.
My best guess: this is some kind of speculative launch systems planning report dating from 1988-89 but before the SEI and 90-Day Study, based on a tremendously large space industrial or exploration effort. Maybe it was from a draft that found its way onto the Internet when each of the NASA Centers had their own report servers, which would explain the lack of normal navigational references. It could also be from the USAF given the “ESMC” reference. Again, there were a number of sources for reports and similar documentation when the WWW was in its infancy (I was there) and before centralization and control became the main organizing principles for most organizations.

So, my fellow SPF co-conspirators . . . any ideas on how to figure out what report/paper/fantasy this is from? Thanks in advance.


  • ESMC 2005.jpg
    ESMC 2005.jpg
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ACCESS: Top Secret
Jan 6, 2009
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The ESMC 2005 Study is outlined at the end of this document:


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