Wernher von Braun's Space Shuttle (1950s)
These illustrations by Fred Freeman show Wernher von Braun's concept for a space shuttle in the 1950s. The illustrations can be found in the book Visions of Spaceflight: Images from the Ordway Collection.
To provide safety in case of a malfunction of the reusable upper stage - von Braun's 1950s shuttle concept - crew and passengers press buttons on their chair arms. Contour seats straighten automatically and enclosures snap shut forming sealed escape capsules. To abandon ship, the crew and passengers push another button and the capsules, guided by rails, are ejected by explosive powder charges. The arrangement is seen in cross-section.
After ejection, the capsules' descent is controlled by four-foot steel mesh parachutes. At about 150 above the ground or water, a proximity fuse sets off a small rocket that further slows the rate of fall.