Did You Know Michigan Automaker Chrysler Made a Space Shuttle?
Chrysler was well ahead of their time when it came to vehicle innovation. They made the first ever rubber engine mounts, developed the first power brakes, and electric windshield wipers. They created ignition Key starting and power steering, and were the first to put cruise control in their vehicles.
But Chrysler dreamed bigger. In fact, we already told you about their plans to build a tank for the nuclear age of war, which didn't pan out. But did you know, at one time, Chrysler was involved in the Space Race in the United States, and developed their own Space Shuttle Concept?
In the late 1960s, the Air Force and NASA were working toward a level of space travel that was more "reusable" than the current Apollo project. They wanted the ability to send a crew to space in a vehicle that would return to Earth, and be able to go BACK with a different crew, saving millions in discarded materials.
So, teams got to work designing vehicles that could be launched vertically from Kennedy Space Center, and land horizontally when it returned. So, the Single-stage Earth-orbital Reusable Vehicle program was born. So actually, Chrysler wasn't developing a shuttle, but rather the vehicle that would launch it to space, and return to be reused.
Chrysler already had established itself as an aerospace company with NASA. They built and designed the Redstone rockets that sent Mercury astronauts into space. They also worked directly with Boeing to create the first stage of the Saturn V rocket.
But they were looking ahead, and realized that single-stage rockets, with reusable capsules, or space vehicles of some kind, were the future. So, they got to work, developing their own SERV, and what they came up with was a RADICAL design.
NASA developed the Shuttle program in the early 1970s, and Chrysler got to work, and what they came up with was decades ahead of its time. It was not only capable of launching a shuttle into space, but it would be capable of carrying large payloads to a space station, interchanging modules would allow for constant resupply, AND... it would have returned to Earth, and landed itself for reuse
And if that sounds familiar, it's because it's similar to what Space-X is doing today. So, had Chrysler been able to move forward with its design, they would have beaten Space-X by more than 50 years.
But, the design proved to be TOO radical for NASA, and they never took it seriously when picking their next Shuttle launch configuration. So, Chrysler scrapped it.
Chrysler still works in aviation, developing jet engines, but mostly for smaller, earth-bound commercial and private jets. But what a different path Chrysler could have gone on, had the SERV worked out.
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Gallery Credit: Big Joe Pesh / Zillow / Keller Williams ONEChicago