Across the Space Frontier - Space Station Orbit

Across the Space Frontier, Joseph Kaplan, Wernher von Braun, Heinz Haber, Willey Ley, Oscar Schatchter, Fred Whipple, edited by Cornelius Ryan, Viking Press, 1952.

I have a copy from the second printing, June 1953

Space Station’s Orbit

Embarrassingly, before a closer read of Across the Space Frontier and Conquest of the Moon, I thought von Braun’s space station flew in a polar orbit. That’s not true.

Von Braun and company have their space station in a 66.5° inclination, circular orbit. This is about the inclination of what we call a Molniya orbit today, but Molniya orbits are elliptical. I think the point was to keep the space station in the sun at all times: the earth’s spin axis is 23.5° inclined to the plane of its orbit.

Here’s the illustration from Across the Space Frontier:

space station orbit

Here’s a graphic illustrating the orbit complete with an attempt at illustrating precession of the nodes from Conquest of the Moon:

space station orbit details

Von Braun and his fellow authors confusingly ignore the implications of a highly inclined departure and arrival orbit and precession of the nodes when describing the lunar excursion vehicle. Given how carefully they worked out other details, this seems odd.