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I first encountered this amazing infographic hanging on a professor’s office wall when I was visiting law schools back in 1999. I’ve been trying, off and on, to run down my own copy ever since. It’s been one of those back-burner projects that I’ll poke at when it comes to mind, every now and again, but until quite recently all my leads had come up dry. All I really knew about the poster was that it had been created in the 80s by analysts at Rockwell International and that it was called the “Integrated Space Plan.”

From Wikipedia:

Rockwell International was a major American manufacturing conglomerate in the latter half of the 20th century, involved in aircraft, the space industry, both defense-oriented and commercial electronics, automotive and truck components, printing presses, valves and meters, and industrial automation. It was the ultimate incarnation of a series of companies founded by Willard Rockwell. At its apex in the 1990s, Rockwell International was No. 27 on the Fortune 500 list, with assets of over $8 billion and sales of $27 billion.

At the end of the 1980s, the company sold its valve and meter division, formerly Rockwell Manufacturing, to British Tyre & Rubber. It also sold its printing press division to an internal management team. Following the “peace dividend” after the fall of the Soviet bloc, the company sold its defense and aerospace business, including what was once North American Aviation and Rocketdyne, to Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in December 1996.

About a month ago, all the little threads I’d been pulling on suddenly unraveled, and I was able to connect with a generous donor willing to entrust an original copy of the poster to me long enough to have it scanned at high resolution. It’s a large document, at 28 x 45″, but fortunately it’s monochrome, and reproduces well using 1-bit color at 600dpi, so even uncompressed bitmaps come in at under 5MB.

Thanks to Todd Blecher at Boeing for assistance with their archives, to Austin’s Miller Blueprint company for their quality large-format scanning work, and of course to our anonymous donor.

Integrated Space Plan (Preliminary) (.PNG)
Integrated Space Plan (Preliminary) (.PDF)

Update: Please note your browser may not be able to display the PNG image, above. It is not large in terms of data, but in terms of pixels, it is huge: 16800 x 27000. At typical monitor resolutions, that’s about 12 screens wide by 30 screens high. If your browser won’t display it, try right-clicking on the link, selecting “Save as…”, and then opening it in a dedicated image-viewing and/or -editing program. Thanks!

Update: Many thanks to Caltech’s Dr. Nicolas Lee for redrawing this document and making it publicly available as vector art.

Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


53 Responses to The Rockwell International Integrated Space Plan

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  1. davidabarak on said:

    When I was a kid, I lived a few miles from the Rockwell plant in Downey, California. About once a month or so, they’d have a surplus sale, so I’d head down with my friends to look for cool junk.

    One day, I saw a filing cabinet and opened it up. Inside was a VERY long, maybe 12 feet, blueprint of a manned orbiter. I can’t remember exactly what it was called, but I do remember “orbiter” was part of the name. It was vaguely airplane-shaped, but too small relative to the included human figures to be the space shuttle.

    I asked the guy overseeing the sale if it was for sale. He said if it was in the file cabinet it was for sale. I think I got it for 50 cents or so. I eventually sold it on eBay a few years ago. I think I got maybe $15.

  2. Looks like around 2012 we were supposed to be in the middle of “BIPLANETARY (EARTH-MOON) CIVILIZATION EVOLVES TO EXPLOIT EXTRATERRESTRIAL RESOURCES”.

    Sad, so sad…

    • Really where it all started to wrong was at the turn of the century, with “Space Station Enables In-Space Commercial Activity”, and “Western Proliferation of Manned Reuseable Spacecraft”. Which was still more than 10 years after this document was written – not too shabby.

  3. Anyone care to color in the boxes based on whether they were accomplished, abandoned, in progress, or in planning?

  4. I will try make it vectorial…

  5. This paints a beautifully optimistic expectation of humanity. Now that the US government has all but given up on space exploration, I wonder what Ronald M. Jones, and the other authors, would have to say about how things have played out the past 23 years.

  6. Perhaps it takes the entire resources of a planet for the life that starts there to get up and out of the gravity well. And in most cases, those resources are spent on hedonism rather than escape. Which is why we haven’t seen any evidence of alien life out there.

    • I doubt it, since there are far more exploitable resources in space and things should theoretically be much simpler to build in zero-g. Sure it’s hard, but the more you do it the easier it gets, and you can afford even more hedonism down on the surface. Or to look at it another way, going into space may make life harder, but not going will eventually make life impossible.

  7. So many great boxes, and so optimistic…

    “Create new moons for Mars if required”

  8. How do I buy a poster of this to hang on my wall?

  9. My father worked for North American Aviation/North American Rockwell/Rockwell International for 37 years. At the peak of his career, he was the chief test director for the second stage of the Saturn V rocket (the space vehicle which transported men to the moon). Like any kid growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I was a huge fan of the space race. Because of my dad’s involvement, I became a “space junkie” and ready almost everything I could get my hands on regarding it.

    A couple of times, my dad gave presentations at my elementary school, using (among other things) a professional-grade model of the Saturn V and other items. You can’t imagine how proud I was of my dad during that time-frame. In my mind, my dad was “almost an astronaut” which sounds silly now, but tell that to a pre-teen.

    He retired from Rockwell in March of 1984, the same month my oldest son was born. In January of 1985, I walked into the same plant as an electronic technician for the GPS satellites (called “NAVSTAR” prior to launch), and spent almost 5 years of my life and career there. I was there just long enough to vest into their retirement program (though without much equity), and I now get yearly reports from Boeing since, as you mentioned, they purchased my former division in the 90’s.

    It is interesting to see just how space exploration has changed in vision, scope, and focus. I don’t think anyone in the 60’s or 70’s would have imagined commercial space tourism as a real possibility within their lifetimes, outside of the confines of science fiction. Living now in Austin, TX, we even have a fellow Austinite who has flown to space in just such a capacity. Imagine that!

    • My father graduated from The Air Force Academy then served 7 years as a pilot in the Air Force, he then graduated from Stanford University with his masters in science, then started working for the government. My dad was an aeronautical engineer, whom worked for Rockwell International on a job contracted through NASA in the late 1960’s through the 1970’s. He and a group of engineers developed a program for the space shuttle to come back into our atmosphere. I don’t know much detail because it was all so secretive, he may have been working for them when he died 30 years ago too. I would love to know more but it is nearly impossible to get anywhere when I research. I have old drawings of the NASA flight simulation pattern in the late 60’s they are very cool with insane mathematical formulas. I would just like to know more.

  10. Pingback: Now This is a Project Plan | exitcreative

  11. It’s a shame that the ideas here weren’t followed through. I think a lot of the problem was apart from the ISS and Hubble there didn’t appear much strategy behind what the shuttle was doing. There was really no reason why a moon flyby or landing couldn’t have been attempted by a craft made of modules assembled in orbit. Certainly that would be more important than experiments that may lay the groundwork for humans living in space… maybe in the next 50 years.

    Hopefully a market driven approach led by a few (I hate this word) visionaries may result in more getting done.

  12. It all starts with a plan.

    Wonder if there are other well mapped out plans like this, it reminds me of tech trees in the gaming world. Only this is highly detailed and accurate.

  13. Gregg Maryniak, SVP Education, X PRIZE Foundation on said:

    This graphic was created by a gentleman named Ron Jones who is still with Boeing (which absorbed Rockwell). Ron works within Boeing’s facilities in Saint Louis, Missouri.

  14. Pingback: Un plan sencillo para conquistar el espacio… - Tecnología Obsoleta

  15. Wow! What’s really amazing about that chart, is that the technology and technical ingenuity it embodies and harnesses, hardware and software, focused on the many paths enabling the human expansion into space, also has enabled, along the way, a bevy or talented entrepreneurs and the government, to create and evolve a globally interactive environment, called the Internet, which, through the marvels of modern free market IT capabilities, has enabled the Makezine blog to initiate a discussion on the Integrated Space Plan (ISP) by a guy named Ragan and, within 24 hours, it can land on my computer desktop, the creator of the document in question. Someone asked “how things have played out the past 23 years.” Well, IMHO, our space program is in distress but with a few bright spots (the completed ISS and LEO being turned over to a new generation of launch providers). The space program lacks a consensus on a defined goal. And in the absence of assertive leadership, it has been overtaken by special interests. NASA’s leadership has allowed it to become politicized and it no longer pushes boundaries that the private sector cannot. Why? NASA and Congress have failed to define a common vision that defines a next step and why. This is precisely why I created this document, to help head off this kind of predicament. This all goes to prove that you can lead a horse to water but that doesn’t mean it will drink. When it does start drinking however, and decides it’s (the U.S.) serious about taking the next steps in space, I’m fairly certain it will follow a path found of the ISP. I have just initiated an effort with the National Space Society to use the ISP as the basis for the creation of a global vision for the human expansion into space available using what else but, the Internet. Any one interested in participating please feel free to contact me.

    • Sean Ragan on said:

      Mr. Jones, I can’t tell you how pleased I am to see you turn up in the comments, here. I find this chart beautiful and inspiring in many ways, and I think lots of other folks do, too. I hope that it spreads far and wide and gets many more people thinking and talking about our future in space. Thanks for making it.

      If you don’t mind a question, I have been wondering, are there later and/or earlier versions of this chart floating around? I have a bibliographic reference that dates a version of this chart to 1981:

      “Jones, R. M., “Integrated Space Plan (Preliminary),” Rockwell
      International, PUB 3547-H, 1981.”

      Is that a typo? Or were you really working on this for almost a decade?

      Thanks again.

      • Ron and Sean, thank you thank you thank you for creating the IPS, and restoring it to my view! I first saw this while being a clerk for Free Software Foundation at the MIT Computer Science/AI Lab building on the fourth floor in 1991. (To avoid legal IP ambiguities, FSF is ‘at,’ not ‘in,’ MIT but instead in a parallel continua that copyright legalbol doesn’t run in but copylefts do.)

        My first reaction on seeing it on one of the common lounge walls was ‘super-Heinlein future history chart!’ But I never had the chance to study it in detail, because the department was been renovated and the IPS chart vanished with the old wall surfacing.

        Now, 21 years later …

        I don’t agree with some of the IPS, but the sheer scale of all the interconnections awed me. It felt real because of the density of the vision. Thanks again for letting me really get a long look at it.

        And I’m intrigued by a Ron/NSS internet ISP collaboration. Hopefully some one (or crowd) will give us the capability to each outline our own versions and then mesh/compare/contrast/filter etc for dynamic updates and discussions as reality begins to fill in the top edge at one second per second.

        -Spike MacPhee
        (Yes, I ran Science Fantasy sf bookstore in Harvard Sq, 1977-89 – say hi if you supported me. I lost emails from disk failure if I didn’t reply to you years ago – try again.)

    • jeremycrandell on said:

      Ron, I’m a fan. Besides being a supporter of human efforts in space exploration I am also a graphic design geek and was immediately drawn to your ISP. I’ve already had it printed up large and it’s on my wall as inspiration.

      I shared this with my co-conspirators at the 5 Ton Crane artist collective (fivetonecrane.org) who created the Raygun Gothic Rocketship interactive sculpture. So fitting.

      Here’s hoping Boeing has you well-deployed.

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  20. I am a former Rockwell-Downey Space Division employee. Ron Jones was the guy behind this amazing chart. I still have my copy.

    • Amanda Gagliardi on said:

      Keith.. and anyone else who was in the Rockwell building… I have a MULTITUDE of what appears to be large foam backed prints that are stamped Rockwell International on the back.. with photos on the front.. of everything from what appears to be NASA Crew members to satellites… to the rockets themselves. I do not know much about this and I have been searching… for an answer. I assume it came from the building itself… some of these are large in size… some are enormous.. some fit together to create 40 foot scenes. Ide like to know their origination. We just purchased our new home and they were in the basement. Please let me know if ANYONE can help. Thank you!

      • Amanda Gagliardi – you might want to contact the Columbia Memorial Space Center in Downey. It is located on part of the old Rockwelll Downey property. I know for a fact that they are interested in collecting things related to Rockwell history. Their website is http://www.columbiaspacescience.org and you can contact them at 12400 Columbia Way Downey, CA 90242 (562) 231-1200

  21. I kept one hanging over my novel writing desk for years. Mine was given by Tay Vaughan of the old HyperMedia Group as we shared a strong interest in space travel, Heinlein, etc. Lovely seeing Ron Jones making a cameo here. Now I may have to dig in and make a modernized version for the XXIst century

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  23. How is everyone reading this? The PNG is broken and the PDF is illegible. Please help, I’d love to read this.

    • Sean Ragan on said:

      Respectfully, they work fine. I can’t vouch for your experience if you’re on a mobile device, but I just now downloaded them both again to be sure.

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  26. The links don’t work =(

  27. David Pearce on said:

    I have had that same poster hanging in my office since I started work on the Atlas V program. I look at it and “our” loss of direction is depressing!!! And now 50 years later the BIG talk is man rating Atlas again. Maybe before I have to retire we can “catch up” to where the ISP correctly assumes we should be by now. I don’t want my dreams and career to be completely wasted

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