Apollo without the Moon

A Space Race is probably unavoidable, given the nature of the Cold War at the time and the Soviet inclination to pursue propaganda victories. As even if you butterfly away Sputnik, sooner or later they'd do something that gave the appearance they were technologically superior to the United States in space and, once that happens, the game is afoot. The Space Race as we know it is a far more contingent thing and so it's quite possible for alternative paths to be taken. The Moonshot by itself was a fairly low-probability event, requiring a fairly convoluted causality chain to enter the conversation (the U.S. being beaten twice by the Soviets for space-related firsts and the Kennedy Administration's own desperation for a win against the Communists after the Bay of Pigs) and even more chance combination of circumstances to sustain itself to completion (the martyring and canonization of Saint JFK plus LBJ's desire for a Marshall Plan for the South).
Would Houston be as big as it is without Apollo?
 
(On the gripping hand, it would be wild to get to a point where as the USAF realizes they have no justification or utility for the X-20 program and it's facing the same dire cuts it did OTL in THIS case when they turn to NASA it may not be too little/to late and a joint NASA/USAF budget worked out to get it actually flying)
That requires the USAF to actually use good judgment, which...well, I'll be generous and not say that they're lacking in it. But I will say they're very Churchillian towards it, only resorting to good judgment after having tried everything else first.

The thing is depending on the butterflies outside the space program the same budget problems that drove a 'concentration' effect to reduce the number of launch vehicle for the whole US effort may not be the same. Especially if you can avoid the over sized requirements and the ridiculously high launch rate assumptions.
Was the Shuttle's launch rate really ridiculously high? I mean, yes, it was. But if you've got a scenario like David Portree's Dreaming A Different Apollo where you've got a permanently inhabited Skylab-derived station and multimonth Lunar missions by the Bicentennial, you're probably looking at 50+ launches a year between all the Atlas, Titan, Delta, Saturn I, and Saturn V launches together. The key difference is that the vast majority of them are right-sized for the smaller LVs and don't need an 78-tonne spaceplane within a mile of them.

So I'd concur the booster ecology looks much different in a post-Apollo world if the Shuttle's siren's song of really fast, really cheap flights could be avoided or butterflied. I think eventually you do get some concentration, standardizing on a single individual light-lift, medium-lift, and heavy-lift vehicle for a total of three "in service" rockets. But it'd be interesting to see who wins, as you lock Atlas, Delta, and Titan in a room with only one of them allowed to emerge. (Go Titan!)

Actually the Ferry Rocket parachuted two stages into the ocean for recovery with the third stage being the fly-back and horizontally landing stage :) Not being nit-picky though as I was going to point out that it was the METEOR and METEOR Jr. from Goodyear that flew all three stages back to a horizontal landing and it was they who early on found that the costs of the METEOR LV were prohibitive enough to require (reluctantly) reduction to the METEOR Jr. and even then the cost-effectiveness of the such recovery for the two lower stages was questionable. (In fact the METEOR Jr. study bits I've seen "mention" in passing mounting the Mjr. third stage on a two stage "Atlas Derived" launch vehicle as a more 'cost-effective' alternative : ) And always keep in mind METEOR was NOT the "ferry" but the Space Station that was the end result)
I could swear Von Braun's Ferry Rocket had, at one or another, been proposed to have stage flyback. But given that it went through at least three major iterations in publication between Mars Project and Disneyland, to say nothing of its creator always tinkering with it, it's easy enough for me to be misremembering. Or for the Internet to be garbling the two proposals in the first place, as both are Fifties-era three-stage reusable rockets that're dedicated to building a large Earth-orbital station. Ignoring that the METEOR Station makes Von Braun's Wheel look like a toy in comparison. And even if the Goodyear three-stage system only got a name in Meteor Junior after the publication of the original unnamed rocket used to build METEOR Station.

The Meteor Junior spaceplane atop an Atlas would be neat, but the second word in "Atlas derived" is doing a lot of the work there. As most of the proposed "Atlas derived" boosters were in actuality going to end up being new designs. (Oh, Winged Atlas. You torment me so with your beauty and glibness about "structural reinforcement".)

The Mission Module was an initial requirement WITHOUT the need to rendezvous and dock with said module which the 'plain' capsule could not do unless there was a hatch in the heat-shield. (Later to be proven possible but not something NASA was wanting to experiment with initially even though several contractors suggested it, including Martin)
In theory your Mission Module could be built like the one in the D-2 and you just pilot your capsule into its waiting socket, with your airlock sealing with the normal crew hatches of the capsule. Which is less bad than going in butt-first with a hole in the heatshield! But this requires either convoluted docking controls -- most especially optics -- for your capsule or better avionics than were being considered, to say nothing of needing an orbital rendezvous in the first place. Just because McDonnell got away with it doesn't mean it was a good idea.

Of a similar nature OTL once the Lunar goal was set the interest and incentive for a lot of work towards commercial and practical orbital satellite work was shunted to the side and pushed more on actual commercial interests with less government input or support. In some ways this helped push industry but with more government support the rate of growth and expansion would likely have been bigger but it also might be more restricted with a higher dependence on government support.
I tend to agree that the satellite market is certainly different with an Earth-orbital Apollo. But I think dependency is a wash, at absolute worst, and could be considerably less than comparable OTL. As OTL the primary area of governmental dependence in the eras we're talking was simply getting the payload into orbit at a commercially acceptable cost due booster limitations, either from the Shuttle's bloated costs or from the max throw-weight of the alternatives. In an Earth-orbital Apollo TL, with an emphasis on developing routine orbital flight and that large manned space station that will desperately want to justify its existence, the point of dependency shifts (most likely) to on-orbit servicing and maintenance for a decade or two until computers are good enough to support autonomous satellite refueling and inspection in GEO. And by that time, significant operational experience and economies will have (hopefully) been developed using the that large manned space station as a base for that kind of work.

Oh they did :) After all, NASA paid Hughes to study catching (and returning) the entire S-1C stage in mid-air after all :)
That particular contract was basically the height of Apollo-era NASA's willingness to throw a few-hundred-thousand dollars of study contract money at any idea that could produce awesome concept art. Which is really hard to oppose, because that concept art is indeed awesome. But I'm trying to be serious. Mostly.

You can try to up-engine the CH-53 into the Super Stallion ahead of schedule and catch a falling S-IVB-sized stage with it. Even if the S-IVB won't get anywhere near the size it did in an Earth-orbital Apollo TL. Still, makes for more interesting stage recovery that just boring old splashdown...

How high & fast up did the booster engines of Atlas drop off, could they not be recovered in later Atlas-Centaur developments?
I'm fairly sure recovery and reuse of the MA-2/-3/-5 was studied in some detail by Convair, if not also NASA. There's no reason it can't be pursued in an allohistorical context, as the primary reason OTL that it wasn't was that the development cost couldn't be justified in light of Atlas's flight-rate.

Would Houston be as big as it is without Apollo?
Houston is going to be a large and prominent metro area regardless of whether or not Apollo pours money into it by the bucketload. That said, LBJ remains a rainmaker in the Senate, and seems highly improbable that his support will not require putting a finger on the scales to site facilities within Texas, just as it did OTL.
 
The Meteor Junior spaceplane atop an Atlas would be neat, but the second word in "Atlas derived" is doing a lot of the work there. As most of the proposed "Atlas derived" boosters were in actuality going to end up being new designs. (Oh, Winged Atlas. You torment me so with your beauty and glibness about "structural reinforcement".)
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Would Houston be as big as it is without Apollo?
More or less, Houston's main industry was oil and petrochemicals and those aren't going anywhere (after all, they're in Houston because Houston is on a big bay next to all of the oil). It would certainly have less aerospace, but it might try to get something else to compensate, and that might even work out.

Houston is going to be a large and prominent metro area regardless of whether or not Apollo pours money into it by the bucketload. That said, LBJ remains a rainmaker in the Senate, and seems highly improbable that his support will not require putting a finger on the scales to site facilities within Texas, just as it did OTL.
As usual I have to point out that the key figure was Carl Albert, not Johnson (who was safely ensconced as VP), and anyway they nearly located "Johnson" in Tampa (at MacDill), except that at the last minute the Air Force decided that they wanted to keep MacDill after all, and they went to their #2 choice in Houston.
 
As usual I have to point out that the key figure was Carl Albert, not Johnson (who was safely ensconced as VP), and anyway they nearly located "Johnson" in Tampa (at MacDill), except that at the last minute the Air Force decided that they wanted to keep MacDill after all, and they went to their #2 choice in Houston.
My gaze was fixed upon NASA's formative years prior to the 1960 election and the usual trope of avoiding a Moonshot by avoiding President JFK (and, by extension, VP LBJ). But you are correct that the Speaker of the House ultimately wields much greater influence on budgetary matters. But in the reference-frame I'm looking at, that's Sam Rayburn, who's also a Texan. So the the dynamic -- Texas, if not necessarily Houston itself, is likely going to get some space program patronage due to the power of its Congressional delegation -- remains the same.
 
Albert Thomas (I misremembered the name) was actually the chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversaw NASA's budget, so considerably more important than the Speaker in this connection. He was also from Houston...so there is that. But I think it's not very reasonable to suppose that this influence meant that "Johnson" had to end up in Texas or Houston; there were plenty of other influential and powerful political figures who wanted it elsewhere*. Some form of "space program patronage," sure, but there's at least as high and probably a higher chance that this ends up looking like the "subcontractor and subsubcontractor" type of thing that military and NASA projects always have than any permanent facilities being located there.

* There was apparently a lot of pressure to locate it in Massachusetts!
 
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That requires the USAF to actually use good judgment, which...well, I'll be generous and not say that they're lacking in it. But I will say they're very Churchillian towards it, only resorting to good judgment after having tried everything else first.

As you say since OTL the waited just a 'bit' too long anyway and lost Dynasoar to the fact that NASA no longer had any budget room to assist with the program. They then got an essentially "free" spacecraft in Gemini (which they then decided to heavily modify at their own cost) and tied it to another program that had no actual value except to keep trying to build an Air Force space program...

Even knowing and pretty well understanding where all this was coming from (in the Air Force) it's still pretty amazing/odd how obsessed with and over-reaching the Air Force was about gain a space mission commitment. I understand why the AF brass didn't consider the "non-military" mission to be valid but then again it's an executive decision totally out of their reach to effect. (Specifically since you had Presidential and Congressional support for the use of NASA)

Of course one of the more fascinating threads to try and explore would be one where they (or someone else, say the Navy :) ) ended up with the mission :)

Was the Shuttle's launch rate really ridiculously high? I mean, yes, it was. But if you've got a scenario like David Portree's Dreaming A Different Apollo where you've got a permanently inhabited Skylab-derived station and multimonth Lunar missions by the Bicentennial, you're probably looking at 50+ launches a year between all the Atlas, Titan, Delta, Saturn I, and Saturn V launches together. The key difference is that the vast majority of them are right-sized for the smaller LVs and don't need an 78-tonne spaceplane within a mile of them.

Keep in mind the Mathmatica study was based on assumed flight rates of over 100 per year and that was actually down from some estimates so very much yes it was crazy. The other aspect was that the Shuttle was far to much vehicle for the majority of payloads and you didn't have much room to adjust other than piling multiple payloads into the same vehicle, along with individual boosters to get them all to the right orbits and so on which was awkward to say the least.

Part and parcel of David's AH, (and many others :) ) is that we take the time and effort to build up on-orbit infrastructure and operations experience which in and of itself then lends support to supporting other elements of space exploration and exploitation which OTL we've pretty consistently failed to do.

So I'd concur the booster ecology looks much different in a post-Apollo world if the Shuttle's siren's song of really fast, really cheap flights could be avoided or butterflied. I think eventually you do get some concentration, standardizing on a single individual light-lift, medium-lift, and heavy-lift vehicle for a total of three "in service" rockets. But it'd be interesting to see who wins, as you lock Atlas, Delta, and Titan in a room with only one of them allowed to emerge. (Go Titan!)

:) Actually of those three early-Delta (through III) and Atlas were the only ones with actual commercial utility. Titan needed subsides and continuing AF support (including underpricing) to keep flying and Delta IV was never commercially successful so... My suspicion is you'd end up with more than one vehicle in any case and it would simply depend on which ones there were a market for.

I could swear Von Braun's Ferry Rocket had, at one or another, been proposed to have stage flyback. But given that it went through at least three major iterations in publication between Mars Project and Disneyland, to say nothing of its creator always tinkering with it, it's easy enough for me to be misremembering. Or for the Internet to be garbling the two proposals in the first place, as both are Fifties-era three-stage reusable rockets that're dedicated to building a large Earth-orbital station.

They do tend to get confusing and the only reason I probably remember that bit is because all the work I had to do to find information about the experiments on recovering the Saturn 1 first stage. That lead me back to the original von Braun Ferry Rocket work which let me find out that was where he came up with the recovery idea (at sea, by parachute and retro-rocket) from in the first place! I recall METEOR because it was such a neat concept and because it was part of an earlier assumption that White Sands New Mexico would be the US's primary launch facility which puts some constraints on your LV profiles :)

Ignoring that the METEOR Station makes Von Braun's Wheel look like a toy in comparison. And even if the Goodyear three-stage system only got a name in Meteor Junior after the publication of the original unnamed rocket used to build METEOR Station.

Oddly while both stations are seen as kind of the "Holy Grail" of space stations no one has really sat down and worked out how hard on-orbit construction really was. Even at the time under-sea construction of a similar type was very difficult and expensive yet the assumption was it would be closer to 'regular' construction work. Again a big issue of not knowing that you don't know something.

The Meteor Junior spaceplane atop an Atlas would be neat, but the second word in "Atlas derived" is doing a lot of the work there. As most of the proposed "Atlas derived" boosters were in actuality going to end up being new designs.

Oh very much so, in fact I suspect that in most cases "Atlas derived" pretty much meant "this happens to be the only missile we know about so we're using it" :)

(Oh, Winged Atlas. You torment me so with your beauty and glibness about "structural reinforcement".)

You're not the only one :) I actually have notes and bits for a "Winged Atlas" vignette that I will as usually likely not actually write :) (Booster pilot has some 'issues' with a flight while dealing with various payloads of "Harvey" and "Pye Wackett" :) )

In theory your Mission Module could be built like the one in the D-2 and you just pilot your capsule into its waiting socket, with your airlock sealing with the normal crew hatches of the capsule. Which is less bad than going in butt-first with a hole in the heatshield! But this requires either convoluted docking controls -- most especially optics -- for your capsule or better avionics than were being considered, to say nothing of needing an orbital rendezvous in the first place. Just because McDonnell got away with it doesn't mean it was a good idea.

Oddly "rendezvous" was talked about even from early on but mostly avoided for some reason. And they did prove that having a hatch in the heat shield will work, not recommended though :) All this is part of why there was an initial suggestion to avoid all that by NOT actually 'separating' the vehicles and having some type of mechanical connection to avoid having to do maneuvers. (Which actually turned out to be both easier and more difficult than had been anticipated. IIRC the first experiments found that the maneuvers were totally non-intuitive, and one of the astronauts wrote a paper on just that)

I tend to agree that the satellite market is certainly different with an Earth-orbital Apollo. But I think dependency is a wash, at absolute worst, and could be considerably less than comparable OTL. As OTL the primary area of governmental dependence in the eras we're talking was simply getting the payload into orbit at a commercially acceptable cost due booster limitations, either from the Shuttle's bloated costs or from the max throw-weight of the alternatives. In an Earth-orbital Apollo TL, with an emphasis on developing routine orbital flight and that large manned space station that will desperately want to justify its existence, the point of dependency shifts (most likely) to on-orbit servicing and maintenance for a decade or two until computers are good enough to support autonomous satellite refueling and inspection in GEO. And by that time, significant operational experience and economies will have (hopefully) been developed using the that large manned space station as a base for that kind of work.

I agree that it's likely things will be more 'on-orbit' orientated for such a time line which is itself interesting since that's quite different from what we know. And the development of routine orbital flight has a lot of butterflies in and of itself.
(Not really a "problem" but as aside would be extreme likelihood of having a "built-in" imperative for "manned" orbital operations due to early manned flights with a vested interest in keeping "people" in the loop more so than we'd be used to)

That particular contract was basically the height of Apollo-era NASA's willingness to throw a few-hundred-thousand dollars of study contract money at any idea that could produce awesome concept art. Which is really hard to oppose, because that concept art is indeed awesome. But I'm trying to be serious. Mostly.

Hey Hughes had already built a prototype "huge-helicopter" so it was just a matter of asking "can you make it bigger?" after all :)

You can try to up-engine the CH-53 into the Super Stallion ahead of schedule and catch a falling S-IVB-sized stage with it. Even if the S-IVB won't get anywhere near the size it did in an Earth-orbital Apollo TL. Still, makes for more interesting stage recovery that just boring old splashdown...

Actually Philip Bono had patented and proposed a ballistic recovery, land landing (ballutes, parachutes and crushable impact absorber with landing legs) "kit" massing around 6,000lbs that could be added to an S-IVB for recovery :)

Randy
 
Houston is going to be a large and prominent metro area regardless of whether or not Apollo pours money into it by the bucketload. That said, LBJ remains a rainmaker in the Senate, and seems highly improbable that his support will not require putting a finger on the scales to site facilities within Texas, just as it did OTL.
More or less, Houston's main industry was oil and petrochemicals and those aren't going anywhere (after all, they're in Houston because Houston is on a big bay next to all of the oil). It would certainly have less aerospace, but it might try to get something else to compensate, and that might even work out.


As usual I have to point out that the key figure was Carl Albert, not Johnson (who was safely ensconced as VP), and anyway they nearly located "Johnson" in Tampa (at MacDill), except that at the last minute the Air Force decided that they wanted to keep MacDill after all, and they went to their #2 choice in Houston.
My gaze was fixed upon NASA's formative years prior to the 1960 election and the usual trope of avoiding a Moonshot by avoiding President JFK (and, by extension, VP LBJ). But you are correct that the Speaker of the House ultimately wields much greater influence on budgetary matters. But in the reference-frame I'm looking at, that's Sam Rayburn, who's also a Texan. So the the dynamic -- Texas, if not necessarily Houston itself, is likely going to get some space program patronage due to the power of its Congressional delegation -- remains the same.
Albert Thomas (I misremembered the name) was actually the chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversaw NASA's budget, so considerably more important than the Speaker in this connection. He was also from Houston...so there is that. But I think it's not very reasonable to suppose that this influence meant that "Johnson" had to end up in Texas or Houston; there were plenty of other influential and powerful political figures who wanted it elsewhere*. Some form of "space program patronage," sure, but there's at least as high and probably a higher chance that this ends up looking like the "subcontractor and subsubcontractor" type of thing that military and NASA projects always have than any permanent facilities being located there.

* There was apparently a lot of pressure to locate it in Massachusetts!

The search for new NASA centers started almost as soon as NASA was organized. In the case of Houston they were looking for sites for several (at the time) non-Apollo specific campus' being one for advanced electronics work, one for instrument development research and one for manned space operations and training. There was also a need for an expanded and more comprehensive flight control and operations facility though initially this was to be built at the Cape, possibly no land rented from the Air Force.

In the case of Texas, Rice University had a bunch of land that they were looking to sell (or donate) which was in Houston and it was suggested that this could be used for any of the proposed branches since it would essentially be very cheap to acquire. The problem was it was more land than any of the planned facilities needed at the time so it was initially set aside. It's likely that 'something' gets built there even in a "no-Moon" scenario due to the logistics of the area and the availability of the land.

I'm rather on the fence on how 'big' this would have ended up being in a no-Moon timeline since the need for manned training and operations is still there but it was a tossup early on on what was going to be built in Texas and how big it all was but as noted it's likely you have a lot of political clout to back this up still. (BTW the site in Massachusetts, once Houston was chosen for the Manned Spaceflight Center was then announced to be the home of the new NASA advanced computer and electronics research and development division... which was then canceled about a year later :) )

Randy
 
The Meteor Junior spaceplane atop an Atlas would be neat, but the second word in "Atlas derived" is doing a lot of the work there. As most of the proposed "Atlas derived" boosters were in actuality going to end up being new designs. (Oh, Winged Atlas. You torment me so with your beauty and glibness about "structural reinforcement".)

Ah yes one of my favorite "what ifs"... And to answer Juumanistra, the structural reinforcing was about equivalent to the later Atlas III so doable in context :)

That kind of aerospace pornography should warrant an NFSW label.

I don't disagree :)

Seriously though, a 1,750-ton wet mass “Atlas” is funny for all the wrong reasons.

IIRC though it's often labeled as a "Flyback Atlas" I've also seen it labeled as a version of a "flyback F1" version with only two (possibly three) F1s

Rand
 
Was the Shuttle's launch rate really ridiculously high? I mean, yes, it was. But if you've got a scenario like David Portree's Dreaming A Different Apollo where you've got a permanently inhabited Skylab-derived station and multimonth Lunar missions by the Bicentennial, you're probably looking at 50+ launches a year between all the Atlas, Titan, Delta, Saturn I, and Saturn V launches together. The key difference is that the vast majority of them are right-sized for the smaller LVs and don't need an 78-tonne spaceplane within a mile of them.

So I'd concur the booster ecology looks much different in a post-Apollo world if the Shuttle's siren's song of really fast, really cheap flights could be avoided or butterflied. I think eventually you do get some concentration, standardizing on a single individual light-lift, medium-lift, and heavy-lift vehicle for a total of three "in service" rockets. But it'd be interesting to see who wins, as you lock Atlas, Delta, and Titan in a room with only one of them allowed to emerge. (Go Titan!)
I always felt that the biggest problem with Shuttle was simply that it was too big for the job and the available budget. Increasing the budget to match the scale of the project might have worked, but I doubt it: too big, too new, too many unknowns. Scaling it back by 2/3 to the shuttle designs initially contemplated would have worked. Not only easier to build, but a 10 ton capacity would have a lot more "right-sized" payloads.
 
I always felt that the biggest problem with Shuttle was simply that it was too big for the job and the available budget. Increasing the budget to match the scale of the project might have worked, but I doubt it: too big, too new, too many unknowns. Scaling it back by 2/3 to the shuttle designs initially contemplated would have worked. Not only easier to build, but a 10 ton capacity would have a lot more "right-sized" payloads.

Coupled either with a more 'conventional' booster that could have the Shuttle swapped out with a pure cargo lifter, (since NASA will be NASA it's kind of a given that they will still insist on large space station modules which is what the Shuttle bay was designed around) or a system where the "Shuttle Orbiter" can be replaced with a pure cargo module, (for the afore mentioned reason) I can see the Shuttle being much capable in most cases.

Randy
 
Of course one of the more fascinating threads to try and explore would be one where they (or someone else, say the Navy :) ) ended up with the mission :)
Someone should write a timeline about the Navy conquering space. It'd have all kinds of silly things, like the Navy's worshipping at the altar of hydrolox not abruptly ending due to HATV's being snuffed out. And Robert Truax getting a budget in the Fifties to crash all the Aerobees he wanted into the ocean (and maybe even fish them out too!), so there's a real understanding of water recovery and refurbishment that gets built into the Navy's first booster, which is obviously intended for splashdown recovery from Day 1.

Hey Hughes had already built a prototype "huge-helicopter" so it was just a matter of asking "can you make it bigger?" after all :)
I mean, sure, if you want to be boring you can just go with that. Or you can break out the crazy pills, figure out a way to have Kaman survive as a going concern, and use gargantuan rotodynes instead. Sure, the S-IC might in theory be louder than the Mil V-12-sized rotodyne snatching it on descent, but you'd be hard-pressed to tell if you had the misfortune to be in the vicinity of the latter as it spun up.

Actually Philip Bono had patented and proposed a ballistic recovery, land landing (ballutes, parachutes and crushable impact absorber with landing legs) "kit" massing around 6,000lbs that could be added to an S-IVB for recovery :)
I recently procured copies of both the 1969 and 1976 editions of Frontiers of Space specifically to get a better look at that. And the rest of Bono's brand of madness, for that matter.

I always felt that the biggest problem with Shuttle was simply that it was too big for the job and the available budget. Increasing the budget to match the scale of the project might have worked, but I doubt it: too big, too new, too many unknowns. Scaling it back by 2/3 to the shuttle designs initially contemplated would have worked. Not only easier to build, but a 10 ton capacity would have a lot more "right-sized" payloads.
Coupled either with a more 'conventional' booster that could have the Shuttle swapped out with a pure cargo lifter, (since NASA will be NASA it's kind of a given that they will still insist on large space station modules which is what the Shuttle bay was designed around) or a system where the "Shuttle Orbiter" can be replaced with a pure cargo module, (for the afore mentioned reason) I can see the Shuttle being much capable in most cases.
I've always wondered if you couldn't replicate the Shuttle's capabilities from the conceptual parts-bin if you set your mind to it. TSTO booster configuration in the Saturn INT molds -- the exact INT depending upon how lavish your payload needs are -- with the first stage splashing down and the latter either splashing down or making a parachuted landing on land. With a payload consisting of small glider carrying a crew of two plus 4-6 passengers, sitting atop a Mission Module that's an appropriately sized payload bay (15x60, 15x65, 22x30, 20x45...take your pick, really) that'll carry a suitable mount, with a maximum between 15 and 30 tons, of internally stored cargo. The Mission Module itself should be fairly cheap -- it could easily be a modified second-stage to maximize commonality and economies of scale -- which could either be recoverable, via splashdown or ground-landing, or expendable depending upon your budget and needs. Probably be a good idea to include a small pressurized area in the Mission Module and connect it to the connect the glider, which can be done via a hatch through the glider's docking port or SM.

Sounds like the thing that hypothetical of the Navy-conquering-space timeline would be interested in, what with all of the splashdowns.

Wasnt the Shuttle designed around rather large Spy Satelites?
The USAF wanted a 15x65' payload bay that could put 60,000 pounds into a polar orbit from Vandenberg, IIRC.
 
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Wasn't the Shuttle designed around rather large Spy Satellites?
The USAF wanted a 15x65' payload bay that could put 60,000 pounds into a polar orbit from Vandenberg, IIRC.

Incorrect actually :)
NASA went to the Air Force saying "IF you had a cargo bay of "x by x" size and payload capability could you find use for it?" The Air Force, (assuming that they would NEVER use anything NASA offered anyway but what the heck) said "Sure, we could use that size payload bay", (Keep in mind they were also asked if "such-and-such" cross-range would be usable since NASA was planning on using delta wings as well and again they agreed they could use that capability) Which NASA then planned to pass on to OMB and others as "Air Force requirements to us the STS"

Note they did this by going directly to the Air Force advisory panel and Secretary of the Air Force office. They were later contacted by a certain "Under-Secretary of the Air Force*" who made it clear that ACTUALLY the Air Force did not in fact need such a large payload bay OR that much payload and they could consider alternative payload bays if they wanted. They didn't want to consider a smaller payload bay so ignored this obvious crank....

As NASA was not actually cleared to know but the Air Force WAS aware that certain "Under-Secretary of the Air Force" was actually in a position to KNOW for sure what the "Air Force" would need for spy satellite operations since he was wearing a 'second hat' in this case being the *Director of the National Reconnaissance Office and was VERY aware that the suggested bay was not in any way a 'requirement' being imposed by the Air Force :)

I've got notes for several timelines where this is 'reversed' by the Air Force doing this to NASA, and NASA being "blamed" for the requirements instead of the other way around :)

Randy
 
Incorrect actually :)
NASA went to the Air Force saying "IF you had a cargo bay of "x by x" size and payload capability could you find use for it?" The Air Force, (assuming that they would NEVER use anything NASA offered anyway but what the heck) said "Sure, we could use that size payload bay", (Keep in mind they were also asked if "such-and-such" cross-range would be usable since NASA was planning on using delta wings as well and again they agreed they could use that capability) Which NASA then planned to pass on to OMB and others as "Air Force requirements to us the STS"

Note they did this by going directly to the Air Force advisory panel and Secretary of the Air Force office. They were later contacted by a certain "Under-Secretary of the Air Force*" who made it clear that ACTUALLY the Air Force did not in fact need such a large payload bay OR that much payload and they could consider alternative payload bays if they wanted. They didn't want to consider a smaller payload bay so ignored this obvious crank....

As NASA was not actually cleared to know but the Air Force WAS aware that certain "Under-Secretary of the Air Force" was actually in a position to KNOW for sure what the "Air Force" would need for spy satellite operations since he was wearing a 'second hat' in this case being the *Director of the National Reconnaissance Office and was VERY aware that the suggested bay was not in any way a 'requirement' being imposed by the Air Force :)

I've got notes for several timelines where this is 'reversed' by the Air Force doing this to NASA, and NASA being "blamed" for the requirements instead of the other way around :)

Randy
That's splitting the hair mighty fine, isn't it? Especially as I go rereading the Shuttle RFP passages from Developing an Icon where the complaint from the Department of the Air Force was that, while the proposed reference missions were in general adequate for national security, they were not perfect and required operational compromises for certain performance benchmarks. (And that Reference Mission 3 of the RFP was a 40,000lb payload to a polar orbit from Vandenberg; I know I saw 15x65 and 65klb at some point in the back and forth between NASA and the USAF on the subject.)

Your point is well-taken, and that the USAF has always had trouble separating what it wants from what it needs is well-established. (Dynasoar needs its bomb-bay, after all.) But I think it's fair to say that USAF leadership, at least, wanted a big payload bay. And it was almost certainly to be a justification for why the USAF needed its own Shuttle to launch national security satellites, even if they never actually got close to obtaining it.
 
I'd be curious to see how this would butterfly the Soviet program, honestly. Part of the problem with the Soviet Moon program was the rush, and iirc they called it off after a couple of technical failures. Without competitive pressure, and with a bit more time taken, there could be a Red flag up there?
Looking back the N-1 Moon Rocket was only months away from having a successful launch when it was fully cancelled, so as long as Glushko isn't able to take control of the Soviet Lunar program then their is very high chance of a Red flag on the Moon by the late 1970s or early 1980s.
 
Coupled either with a more 'conventional' booster that could have the Shuttle swapped out with a pure cargo lifter, (since NASA will be NASA it's kind of a given that they will still insist on large space station modules which is what the Shuttle bay was designed around) or a system where the "Shuttle Orbiter" can be replaced with a pure cargo module, (for the afore mentioned reason) I can see the Shuttle being much capable in most cases.

Randy
It's been a while since I watched my "Tomorrowland - Disney in Space and Beyond" DVDs. But that WvB-influenced 1950's TV show had pretty much exactly that: a 2 or 3 stage rocket where the upper stage could be either a winged shuttle or a space station module.
 
Looking back the N-1 Moon Rocket was only months away from having a successful launch when it was fully cancelled, so as long as Glushko isn't able to take control of the Soviet Lunar program then their is very high chance of a Red flag on the Moon by the late 1970s or early 1980s.

Even if the N1 worked it wasn't likely the Soviets would have used it to be 'second' to the Moon as the mission plan was quite obviously and well understood to be much lower quality than the American Apollo program. What they really needed (assuming they have the will to actually admit to still competing with the Americans*) was to be "second" to get the there but do it BETTER than the Americans. (While telling the world "We weren't "racing" the Americans, we were just planning on doing it RIGHT instead of first" :) )

Lets say that using the Proton/R7/Soyuz/Salyut technology the Soviets put a modified Salyut/Almaz into orbit along with a 'transfer-stage' capable of getting it to Lunar orbit and back. Attach a couple of their Lunar landers and send it off to the Moon where they land only two men but they do so in two separate locations that Apollo never visited. Or better yet they make the landers capable of multiple trips and they land the two men several different places each and bring the whole thing back to Earth orbit implying they can do this as often as they want. How does the US respond?

* To be clear here what this means is being willing to spend large amounts of money and resources to keep "pushing" the Americans at an extreme 'boundary' point that is on the edge of their own capability knowing that the Americans have already proven they can and will spend massive amounts of the same to achieve parity if not more. In the end it's then an American decision whether to respond or not and the signs were there in the early 70s that the American's were not really willing to do so. On the other hand we don't know because the Soviets didn't try.
This is a bit off-topic but I consider this a very plausible (structurally :) ) way to get a "Continuing Space Race" timeline IF you can make it work politically/culturally background wise :)

Randy
 
It's been a while since I watched my "Tomorrowland - Disney in Space and Beyond" DVDs. But that WvB-influenced 1950's TV show had pretty much exactly that: a 2 or 3 stage rocket where the upper stage could be either a winged shuttle or a space station module.

Yep the "Ferry Rocket" would be replaced with a "Cargo Rocket" which would bring supplies and pre-assembled part into orbit, initially to build the Space Station but eventually to bring supplies and new material into orbit. The winged "Ferry" got all the press because it was manned (and reusable) but really the "Cargo" did the majority of the work. (Sounds familiar actually :) )

Bringing this back around I can see the Saturn 1 in a "no Lunar goal" scenario developing into such a system with the S-IVB+ being the basis of a "Ferry" shuttle and a 'standard' S-IVB used to bring large payload to orbit. (With various SRB's helping the first stage along :) ) Something similar to, (but vastly less "awkward MSPaint skills" :) ) this:
1659536111885.png

(Original's cribbed from Astronautix and other sources as I can't draw :) )
Edit: Those SRB's are supposed to be Minuteman 1 Stage 1 engines for boosters to get the mess off the pad. These were studied to be the 'easiest' and 'cheapest' SRB's to use with the Saturn 1 and would actually be angled to meet the thrust structure not 'out-riggered' as shown. Just some FYI :)
The 'cargo' version replacing the "Ferry" with an S-IB and payload.

Randy
 
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