Franklin Ratliff | Chief Technology Officer

1972: Rocket Dragster and Land Speed Car Designs

Franklin Ratliff, Founding CTO, Titans Universe

Titans’ technological development and leadership is the responsibility of Franklin Ratliff, who -along with his team that includes the company’s principal founder, Neal S. Lachman– has recently finalized the Critical Design Review of the company’s planned spaceplanes and spacecraft (under Titans Space Industries), paving the way for final analysis and design. 

Franklin has more than 40 years of experience with aerodynamics and rocketry, during which he has developed a broad understanding of rocket engineering and all aspects of aerodynamic design. Over the 3+ decades, Franklin has worked on numerous stealth projects for large and startup aerospace companies, including at Lockheed Martin as a technical writer for a total of nine years.

For the last 40+ years, Franklin has been working with (jet) engines and designing rocket vehicles and systems for a variety of projects, ranging from rocket drag racing cars to spaceplanes. Franklin designed his first drag racing car in 1972 while at high school, and he was the junior/co-designer (2010-2015) for the Bullet Project land speed rocket car project where he was responsible for the rocket system and escape capsule. (See index for links)

Spaceplanes and spacecraft have long held a particular fascination for Franklin, having developed his first concept for a private suborbital spaceplane in 1980. Franklin also keeps up with past and current proposals for interplanetary flight and lunar bases.

Besides affording more than 40 years of experience in rocketry and aerospace, Franklin is also a polymath designer with a broad understanding of chemistry, physics, and engineering.

Franklin has been a frequent commentator and contributor in various forums and media on space analysis with a focus on the difficulties of space flight during ascent and descent between ground level and the top of the atmosphere.

Franklin’s in-depth knowledge is uniquely encyclopedic and has oftentimes proven essential to the company. Titans Space is convinced that Franklin and other members of its core technology and development team, which consists of aerospace and rocketry experts and consultants, can make spaceplanes, affordable space tourism, on-orbit refueling, deep-space travel -including safely landing on various terrain surfaces-, and a Moon base happen in the very near future.

Below you will find some interesting factoids about Franklin, including some of his designs as a young man, and an interview about his drag racing experience.

During the seventies, Franklin taught himself racecar design by going through about six complete iterations developing a design for a prop-driven land speed car. This was his last one. 

1972: Rocket Dragster & Land Speed Racing Car Designs

These 1972 drawings by Franklin are design studies made in high school for various rocket dragster and land speed car concepts.
In 1975, Franklin wrote a magazine article on the fascinating history of rocket dragsters. 

This is a construction paper model Franklin made in 1980 for an air-launched single seat spaceplane – about 30 feet long with a 12-foot wingspan.

In June and September 1983, Franklin designed Mark 1, Mark 2, and Mark 3 jet land speed car concepts for supersonic cars.

These are some articles about Franklin’s 1983 land speed jet car designs that were published in Bonneville Racing News, with illustrations by Jeff Teaford.

In the 1980s, Franklin also designed an air-launched shuttle concept.

In October 1999, Franklin gave an extensive interview to Drag Racing USA about his  unique experience and technological philosophy. 

To Franklin Ratliff, all knowledge is applicable to drag racing. While mere mortals struggle to follow any of Franklin’s all-encompassing conversations, eventually most come to realize he is indeed right, whether they like it or not. ‘Read everything you can. You never know when an idea or technology will appear in an apparently unrelated field which can be put to use in another idea!’

Franklin was the junior/co-designer (2010-2015) for the Bullet Project land speed rocket car project where he was responsible for the rocket system and escape capsule. 

Early 2023, Franklin joined the advisory board of Titans Space Industries. His contributions as an advisory were so extensive and valuable to the TSi team that by March, he was offered the Chief Technology Officer job to lead the Titans Space projects. Franklin’s deep aerospace and aerodynamics experience, spanning more than 40 years, his shared vision and objectives, and his continued leadership of the TSI technology and engineering efforts make him the ideal person for the job. 

Franklin has also been part of the site selection process for the TSI factories and facilities, which will be constructed from June 2024 onward. 

Franklin will lead an engineering and technologies team of more than 1,000 persons, including six Vice-CTO’s for the TSI spaceplanes, spacecraft, and project divisions. 

About the Titans Spaceplanes

Despite the media hype surrounding rockets like SpaceX’s Starship, routine space transportation, including human space travel, by means of rockets will not reach large numbers, basically due to the inherent risks of such vehicles.

For large scale space travel and space cargo transport to reach efficiency and safety levels like air travel/air cargo, the vehicles we use must operate like airplanes.

Titans Spaceplanes are the holy grail of aerospace; they are designed as a revolutionary space transportation system that eliminates the need for expensive launch facilities, vehicle assembly buildings, and (expendable or reusable) all-rocket boosters. 

A Titans Spaceplane can operate from any (partnered) large airport, and it can carry a ~100 ton payload into any 555-km (300 nmi; 344 mi) orbit; it uses multi-cycle airbreather propulsion to reach the top of the troposphere and then ignites its rocket engines to reach Low-Earth Orbit.