space tech vintage_technology slide_rule propulsion solar_system gravity velocity retro

A Calculator To Reach For The Stars

by Txchnologist staff

Check out this GE space propulsion calculator. It’s a two-faced circular slide rule that was produced by the company’s Flight Propulsion Laboratory in Cincinnati.

We don’t know when it was made, but the front calculator let a user dial in or solve for beam power, propellant consumption, specific impulse, exhaust velocity or thrust. In that last variable, the engineer had a choice of ion, magnetohydrodynamic, plasma jet, chemical or nuclear propulsion.

The back allowed the user to solve for planetary data like satellite orbital and escape velocities, gravitational pull and revolution period. Instructions and a diagram of the solar system came on a sleeve that held the calculator. 

We found these in the International Slide Rule Museum, which says it’s the world’s largest free digital repository of all things concerning slide rules and other math artifacts. Go check them out, they have lots of interesting objects.

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