A Sound of Thunder: The Rise of the Soviet Superbooster

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A sketch of the Shuttle-C of TL with Skylab B
And Shuttle-C with Centaur and Titan IIIE parts, what look more like Overkill concept

52064591266_0879e75699_b.jpg
 
39B wasn't converted over to Shuttle till late, so may still be available, given the changes in this TL
It's not just the pad, but things like the work platforms in the VAB, the Mobile service structure, and the ML/MLPs. By about 1977 the ability to launch a Saturn from LC-39 was gone.

The sad part was due to some rather "odd" original specifications the Saturn 1 was originally able to launch from a pretty much 'bare' pad but by the Saturn 1B period it needed about as much support and infrastructure as the Saturn V. (One of the reasons for the "milkstool" launch platform)

The issue is they are thinking in terms of a the wrong reusable booster, something more Titan or Atlas sized would be good, there's just no way 1970s NASA is going to think in those terms and I can't see true commercial spaceflight arriving any sooner than OTL, unless Russia has a fire sale after the fall of the USSR...

This pretty much since it was in fact NASA driving most of the 'design' at the time with "commercial" interests being strung along with promises of launch "to cheap to meter" :)
A reusable Titan and Atlas "booster" stage, (both studied pretty extensively OTL it seems, but not pursued due to the assumptions that were the basis of the OTL Shuttle system) would have covered the emerging commercial market with proper upper-stages but it just wasn't in the cards due to the inherent bias's and assumptions of the day.

Well I'd also point out that the main issue with a "reusable" booster at the time WAS those same assumptions (manned and likely flyback) that would have come back to haunt anyone who tried as the payload mass increased significantly overtime and OTL they simply added booster to the expendable booster whereas that's more difficult to do to a reusable booster.

Randy
 
The issue is they are thinking in terms of a the wrong reusable booster, something more Titan or Atlas sized would be good, there's just no way 1970s NASA is going to think in those terms and I can't see true commercial spaceflight arriving any sooner than OTL, unless Russia has a fire sale after the fall of the USSR...

This pretty much since it was in fact NASA driving most of the 'design' at the time with "commercial" interests being strung along with promises of launch "to cheap to meter" :)
A reusable Titan and Atlas "booster" stage, (both studied pretty extensively OTL it seems, but not pursued due to the assumptions that were the basis of the OTL Shuttle system) would have covered the emerging commercial market with proper upper-stages but it just wasn't in the cards due to the inherent bias's and assumptions of the day.

Well I'd also point out that the main issue with a "reusable" booster at the time WAS those same assumptions (manned and likely flyback) that would have come back to haunt anyone who tried as the payload mass increased significantly overtime and OTL they simply added booster to the expendable booster whereas that's more difficult to do to a reusable booster.

A reusable first stage and a cheap expendable second stage with a 3,000kg payload in 1980 would have been both a massive commercial success and the trigger for massively enhanced space development. It's just no one who could fund it was interested.
 
A reusable first stage and a cheap expendable second stage with a 3,000kg payload in 1980 would have been both a massive commercial success and the trigger for massively enhanced space development. It's just no one who could fund it was interested.

Because both by government decree and general agreement the Shuttle was going to eat any truly "commercial" ventures lunch. It would not be till the mid-80s and the Shuttle's shortcomings and limitations being exposed that this would change by which point there were simply too many expendable "options" and not a lot of free money to play with. You'll note that OTL there were a bunch of startup attempts and proposed concepts to open up a more 'commercial' industry but the market was slumping and the main, (as always) "customer" (governments and most major satellite operators) had already decided on a course.

it didn't help that there was now relatively 'cheap' European, Russian and Chinese launch vehicles available now along with government supported American launchers and there's pretty much no real room for a new competitor to enter the market. Interest would surge again in the early 90s but the end of the Cold War and another slump in the satellite market would put an end to that as well.

Oddly the EELV 'competition' ended up showing that even though the government (Congress specifically) favored one launcher over another it turned out the Atlas was still commercially viable without government support which actually opened some peoples eyes to the idea that maybe you didn't need to have the 'whole' market (or more specifically the whole GOVERNMENT market) to be successful. Hence a lot of people with the funding suddenly DID become more interested.

Randy
 
Because both by government decree and general agreement the Shuttle was going to eat any truly "commercial" ventures lunch. It would not be till the mid-80s and the Shuttle's shortcomings and limitations being exposed that this would change by which point there were simply too many expendable "options" and not a lot of free money to play with. You'll note that OTL there were a bunch of startup attempts and proposed concepts to open up a more 'commercial' industry but the market was slumping and the main, (as always) "customer" (governments and most major satellite operators) had already decided on a course.
Quite right. While you can get a true commercial launch market going long before when it did OTL, you're probably not going get it with NASA as we know it, and you're absolutely not going to get it so long as the Shuttle uses doing commercial launches to will itself into existence. You need a different space program for something like that to happen, likely with major changes going back to the Fifties or earlier, and all of the butterflies that causes in the intervening quarter-century.

Not that I've been thinking particularly hard about this topic, whistles the man with an ongoing TL involving changes in the Fifties that butterfly many of the particulars of the American space program.
 
I understand the reasons why nothing happened in OTL though maybe an earlier, better funded, more serious Arianespace going for a more ambitious option instead of the OTL Ariane 2/3 in order to compete with the "threat" of Shuttle dominating the launch market.
 
Since the recent chapter was dedicated to a discussion of individuals with divergent opinions of the Groza Rocket and the Space Shuttle.


I went searching and found an illustration that conveniently had the N-1 and Shuttle standing next to each other, here is a link to the full image.

20220511_030956.jpg

The size of the Space Shuttle up against the Saturn V and the Groza really shows how small the space plane actually is to all the other big rockets.



I included the Saturn V illustration for that one deranged person that had the totally "brilliant" and "genius" idea of restarting the Saturn V production line and then making the first stage of the rocket completely reusable to save cost,
It was also convenient that the Saturn V was right next to the N-1.

Edit: Yes I know the N-1 height is incorrect, but it would be accurate if the rocket was actually an N-1F instead.
 
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I'm not sure that image is to scale as the Saturn V was 5m taller and the base of the N1 was 7m wider but that image has them exactly the same height.
 
I'm not sure that image is to scale as the Saturn V was 5m taller and the base of the N1 was 7m wider but that image has them exactly the same height.
Well the size is a bit unusual if you consider the fact that the original N-1 was 5 meters sorter than the Saturn V.

But the N-1F, the "production" version of the Groza is almost as tall as the Saturn V itself since the design was lengthened, so I decided to post the image anyway, it's obvious that the illustrations are not 100% accurate but they were still helpful.
 
Someone over on DeviantArt asked about the dimensions of Baikal, as there's apparently some interest in modelling it in KSP (I think Nurbel Space Race has better modding support, but unfortunately it isn't real ;) ). For those interested, the model is currently very basic (yes, those tail planes are currently in line with the jets...), but the dimensions with wings extended are 43.8m x 31.7m x 6.36m. Attached are some orthos. I plan to do a much more detailed model in future, so details will change (or maybe some major things - after all, Buran was planned to have jets, but then flew without), but here's the current status for what it's worth.

baikal_orthos.jpg
 
What are the payload bay dimensions of Baikal, Buran in OTL had a bay a tiny bit larger than the STS one at 60.9 ft by 15.3ft.
In this model the payload bay is 60'x15', exactly the same as the Covair FR-3. Indeed, the whole airframe and wings are based on FR-3, with just some modifications to the cabin (separable, with a bulge for the cockpit to give better visibility than the Gemini-style windows of FR-3) and the tail (Buran style OMS and RCS). I also moved the jets, and swapped them for Buran/Sukhoi units. This means the airframe will have plenty of room as there's much less internal fuel carried, but I didn't want to mess with the (more-or-less) validated aerodynamics of FR-3. That could be a good thing anyway, to lower the density of the airframe for re-entry.
 
Ok, that section aft of the payload bay looks big for just two OMS engines and their fuel tanks. I suppose you could just have very big fuel tanks giving you massive orbital manoeuvring capacity.
 
Someone over on DeviantArt asked about the dimensions of Baikal, as there's apparently some interest in modelling it in KSP (I think Nurbel Space Race has better modding support, but unfortunately it isn't real ;) ). For those interested, the model is currently very basic (yes, those tail planes are currently in line with the jets...), but the dimensions with wings extended are 43.8m x 31.7m x 6.36m. Attached are some orthos. I plan to do a much more detailed model in future, so details will change (or maybe some major things - after all, Buran was planned to have jets, but then flew without), but here's the current status for what it's worth.

View attachment 740800

Wonderful as always and yes "Nerbal" is the superior program, at least until Nerbal Two comes out :)

Jets in-line with the aft fins is for finer control since they handled reentry what's a little jet exhaust going to do :)

In this model the payload bay is 60'x15', exactly the same as the Covair FR-3.

Convair FR-3 correct? I only ask because it IS a "mid-engine" design that someone in America is very much not going to like so it could be 'Unsafe At Any Speed" but ... :)

Indeed, the whole airframe and wings are based on FR-3, with just some modifications to the cabin (separable, with a bulge for the cockpit to give better visibility than the Gemini-style windows of FR-3) and the tail (Buran style OMS and RCS). I also moved the jets, and swapped them for Buran/Sukhoi units. This means the airframe will have plenty of room as there's much less internal fuel carried, but I didn't want to mess with the (more-or-less) validated aerodynamics of FR-3. That could be a good thing anyway, to lower the density of the airframe for re-entry.

Well the FR-3 forward mounting of the engines was to specifically counter-balance the rocket engines which you don't have and a down-mass cargo the FR-3 didn't really utilize IIRC. You may actually have to mount them further aft for CG purposes :) Like above the RCS blocks, possibly internally with extending scoops instead of deploying the engines...

Still love the design :)

Randy
 
Quite right. While you can get a true commercial launch market going long before when it did OTL, you're probably not going get it with NASA as we know it,

But the 'original' NASA was more a continuation of the venerable and very conservative NACA which had planned a very slow and very "step-by-step" program which would proceed building upon itself. They planned "Apollo" to follow Mercury but while Apollo would have Cis-Lunar capability they weren't looking to even get close to the Moon till the late '70s after they had established a large LEO space station and in-space transportation infrastructure.

Like NACA they could innovate and change but the imposition of the Lunar Goal pretty much required a complete rebuild of the organization and they way they operated and unfortunately there was pretty much only one recent example/organization which had done a similar job in the past: The USAF and the ICBM development So that was the paradigm and organization adopted to meet the new goal and the one NASA has been trying to un-learn ever since.

... and you're absolutely not going to get it so long as the Shuttle uses doing commercial launches to will itself into existence. You need a different space program for something like that to happen, likely with major changes going back to the Fifties or earlier, and all of the butterflies that causes in the intervening quarter-century.

In other word you'd need NASA to consider itself more a research and development organization with a tasking to encourage commercial development and innovation rather than doing all the launch and support tasks in house...

Not that I've been thinking particularly hard about this topic, whistles the man with an ongoing TL involving changes in the Fifties that butterfly many of the particulars of the American space program.

I thought you were only dealing with some Atomic Midshipmen or something? :)

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A sketch of the Shuttle-C of TL with Skylab B
And Shuttle-C with Centaur and Titan IIIE parts, what look more like Overkill concept

52064591266_0879e75699_b.jpg

Ok that now really makes me wonder if we'll see a Skylab III proposal using a modified ET Hydrogen tank as a basis...

Randy
 
Ok, that section aft of the payload bay looks big for just two OMS engines and their fuel tanks. I suppose you could just have very big fuel tanks giving you massive orbital manoeuvring capacity.

It is oversized. I did a version with a shorter aft and front section, as well as a triangular cross section a-la the MTKVP, as well as the jets further back, but it looked ugly and far too shuttle-like in the nose. For those interested, here it is:

old Baikal Factsheet.jpg


Ok that now really makes me wonder if we'll see a Skylab III proposal using a modified ET Hydrogen tank as a basis...

Randy

Come on! Re-usable Saturn stages was bad enough, but fitting out an ET as a space station is completely ridiculous!! ;)
 
Ok that now really makes me wonder if we'll see a Skylab III proposal using a modified ET Hydrogen tank as a basis...
Come on! Re-usable Saturn stages was bad enough, but fitting out an ET as a space station is completely ridiculous!! ;)

Ever since Boldly Going I've wondered about a "Enterprise done right" i.e. a Shuttle C based dry lab station core attached to an ET wet lab at launch with an (ideally reusable) boat tail containing the SSME's dropping away so you don't have that useless mass stuck up there forever. You could have the holy grail of a massive, single launch, high efficiency station all derived from existing in production programs.


The nose is Shuttle like and your solution of a clearly detachable crew compartment is both different and a sensible architectural choice so I think that change is a big improvement and the same applies to the larger tail planes. But to be honest I prefer the 1st draft rear, while the jet engines are a fugly but if we're honest so are the swing wings and this way it doesn't look like there's wasted space.

Still they're both amazing pieces of modelling and incredibly impressive.
 

Garrison

Donor
Because both by government decree and general agreement the Shuttle was going to eat any truly "commercial" ventures lunch. It would not be till the mid-80s and the Shuttle's shortcomings and limitations being exposed that this would change by which point there were simply too many expendable "options" and not a lot of free money to play with. You'll note that OTL there were a bunch of startup attempts and proposed concepts to open up a more 'commercial' industry but the market was slumping and the main, (as always) "customer" (governments and most major satellite operators) had already decided on a course.

it didn't help that there was now relatively 'cheap' European, Russian and Chinese launch vehicles available now along with government supported American launchers and there's pretty much no real room for a new competitor to enter the market. Interest would surge again in the early 90s but the end of the Cold War and another slump in the satellite market would put an end to that as well.

Oddly the EELV 'competition' ended up showing that even though the government (Congress specifically) favored one launcher over another it turned out the Atlas was still commercially viable without government support which actually opened some peoples eyes to the idea that maybe you didn't need to have the 'whole' market (or more specifically the whole GOVERNMENT market) to be successful. Hence a lot of people with the funding suddenly DID become more interested.

Randy
Basically it took NASA, or rather the Whitehouse, to decide to support commercial spaceflight at the same time as you had people willing to put real money into the idea from the private sector for it to take off. I'm not sure you could get those conditions pre-2000. There were a lot of wannabe commercial spacecraft in the timeframe of the 80s and 90s that went nowhere, Roton comes to mind.
 
Basically it took NASA, or rather the Whitehouse, to decide to support commercial spaceflight at the same time as you had people willing to put real money into the idea from the private sector for it to take off. I'm not sure you could get those conditions pre-2000. There were a lot of wannabe commercial spacecraft in the timeframe of the 80s and 90s that went nowhere, Roton comes to mind.
On the other hand, there are some that did go somewhere, Kistler got awfully close to flying for instance (though not until the 2000s). The 1990s were actually quite a good opportunity, because there was a lot of private interest in cheap spaceflight due to private interest in satellite constellations and the idea of commercial launch even for government uses was gaining some traction (although the actual practical examples were still legacy aerospace vehicles). OTL, this was mostly dissipated in the X-33 and X-34 programs, but I think it's quite plausible to imagine even the Clinton administration, let alone hypothetical alternatives, taking different approaches to developing a commercial launch sector (which was what the X-33 and X-34 were meant to do) that lead to some of the private vehicles of the era becoming successful.
 
It is oversized. I did a version with a shorter aft and front section, as well as a triangular cross section a-la the MTKVP, as well as the jets further back, but it looked ugly and far too shuttle-like in the nose.

I'd probably bury the engines in the aft fuselage and have deployable 'scoops' for intake and exhausts out the back somewhat like the Testbed Mig-51 Spiral. It's going to be somewhat 'ugly' due to the various compromises but still pretty FR-3-ish :)

Come on! Re-usable Saturn stages was bad enough, but fitting out an ET as a space station is completely ridiculous!! ;)

You're right... We should push for a reusable Space Station dry-lab based on the Saturn V first stage! Brilliant of you to think of it!

Ever since Boldly Going I've wondered about a "Enterprise done right" i.e. a Shuttle C based dry lab station core attached to an ET wet lab at launch with an (ideally reusable) boat tail containing the SSME's dropping away so you don't have that useless mass stuck up there forever. You could have the holy grail of a massive, single launch, high efficiency station all derived from existing in production programs.

The "problem" was there were actual complaints about too much 'wasted' space in Skylab and like was pointed out in "Boldly Going" what do you do with all that pressurized space and how do you utilize it given your entry/egress constraints? And then there's the effort needed to 'finish' fitting out which granted it going to be easier inside any pressurized environment but still not something that at the time was a 'common' practice or had a lot of work/training devoted to it.

On the Gripping Hand I for one am one of the advocates that we NEED all the above and to get used to and good at on-orbit construction and maintenance on all aspects of space construction and repair in every scenario so ...

The nose is Shuttle like and your solution of a clearly detachable crew compartment is both different and a sensible architectural choice so I think that change is a big improvement and the same applies to the larger tail planes.

IIRC there was a study one time of "An SSTO using Russian and American Engines" that had a VTHL SSTO design that pretty much literally used an enlarged Apollo capsule as a "nose" compartment complete with a 'hatch' in the heatshield but NO provisions for TPS on the "standard" windward side of the cabin or nose cap. Struck me as rather missing the "point" :)
It could be worse though, I recall an enlarged "Dynasoar" design concept model that literally stuffed a full size Gemini capsule into the airframe as a 'separable cockpit' concept :)

But to be honest I prefer the 1st draft rear, while the jet engines are a fugly but if we're honest so are the swing wings and this way it doesn't look like there's wasted space.

Hey if you think the swing wings are 'fugly' then we can just fold them away out of sight... Might make the landing a bit 'interesting' though :)

Still they're both amazing pieces of modelling and incredibly impressive.

Ditto and agreed :)

Randy
 
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