Home Space Strange Spacecraft Designs That Never Made It To Launch
Space By Joe Burgett -

Strange Spacecraft Designs That Never Made It To Launch
[Image via NASA]

Project Longshot

  • Concept Led By: NASA/U.S. Naval Academy
  • Companies Involved: N/A

There is perhaps no way we could ever name something better than Project Longshot. This real idea was, to put it lightly, exactly as advertised. This involved one of the more ambitious mission concepts and had one of the spacecraft designs that was already kind of “iffy.” The roughly 400 tonnes (or 441 tons) spacecraft was intended to be uncrewed and fly to not just the end of our solar system but go all the way to orbit around Alpha Centauri B. How would it be powered? Well by nuclear pulse propulsion, of course! You didn’t think this was going to be called a longshot and expect a “good” idea for propulsion, right? The concept was developed by the United States Naval Academy and NASA from 1987 to 1988.

If it was to be cleared for full development, it was going to be built at the Freedom Space Station. It was our precursor to the International Space Station, for those unaware. The biggest issue with Longshot was that it was not considering future concepts or tech. The developers only focused on their present-day tech from the late 1980s. They felt they could use a long-living nuclear fission reactor to power everything. Though only generating 300 kilowatts at first, it would then be powered by several lasers in the engine that would ignite inertial confinement fusion. While even today, this is not exactly a terrible concept, it would take forever to reach Alpha Centauri B, well beyond our lifetimes. Longshot, this surely was.

Strange Spacecraft Designs That Never Made It To Launch
[Image via Pinterest]

Sea Dragon

  • Concept Led By: N/A
  • Companies Involved: Aerojet

While some science fiction shows and films have sort of used this idea, it was never as wild as the real thing. Developed by Robert Truax while he was working at Aerojet in 1962, one of the many spacecraft designs he came up with was the now-infamous “Sea Dragon.” The idea was that a rocket would take off from the ocean. Of course, it was technically a floating rocket but still. Funny enough, while NASA did have some interest, one of the first private companies interested in space exploration was too, Todd Shipyards. Yet neither decided to bite.

At dimensions of just under 500 feet long and 75 in diameter, it would have been the largest rocket ever built. Keep in mind that this was a fully conceived concept too, unlike many of the proposals you see today. Among rockets that have been fully conceived but never built, the Sea Dragon is far and away the largest one. In terms of its payload into low Earth orbit, it was equaled only by the Interplanetary Transport System. The Sea Dragon was designed at the rough 600 tons limit, so it was understandably going to be useful for some ideas NASA had. However, the cost and also the mere idea of taking off from the sea just never made a lot of sense.

Where Do We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

United Nations

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)

European Space Agency (ESA)

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

British Interplanetary Society (BIS)

British Aerospace Systems (BAE)

United States Air Force (USAF)

United States Space Force (USSF)

Russian Aviation and Space Agency (RKA)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Harvard University

Stanford University

Cornell University

Lockheed Martin (LM)

The Boeing Company


General Motors (GM)


Northrop Grumman


Rockwell International

TransAstronautics Corporation


Smithsonian Institute

American Nuclear Society (ANS)