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Eyes Turned Skywards

Can you please tell me if there's any rough estimate for the mass of the Artemis crew/cargo landers as well as the Pegasus upper stage?
 
IOTL, Hayabusa never entered orbit around Itokawa, as its gravity is so weak it would not allow a stable orbit. Instead, it used station-keeping manoeuvres to keep it in place.

Presuming that the Itokawa visited by Yumi is the same one that Hayabusa visited in OTL, then shouldn't it not enter orbit too?

EDIT: Also, I am thinking about doing some art for Yumi. I am sort of thinking that it looks like the cancelled Lunar-A spacecraft IOTL. http://www.isas.jaxa.jp/e/enterp/missions/lunar-a/image/pct_main_lunar-a.jpg <--- Sort of like that.
 
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IOTL, Hayabusa never entered orbit around Itokawa, as its gravity is so weak it would not allow a stable orbit. Instead, it used station-keeping manoeuvres to keep it in place.

Presuming that the Itokawa visited by Yumi is the same one that Hayabusa visited in OTL, then shouldn't it not enter orbit too?
TTL's Itokawa is not necessarily the same rock as OTL, an excuse we're using here to get away with not having to specify which rock it is. In part this was to let us get away with not needing to do a doctoral thesis worth of work analyzing potentially reachable targets with the given launch window and available vehicles, but it also lets us neatly dodge questions like that.

EDIT: Also, I am thinking about doing some art for Yumi. I am sort of thinking that it looks like the cancelled Lunar-A spacecraft IOTL. http://www.isas.jaxa.jp/e/enterp/missions/lunar-a/image/pct_main_lunar-a.jpg <--- Sort of like that.
Yumi probably does end up looking a fair bit like Lunar-A, given previous Japanese spacecraft in both timelines, though it might be a bit smaller and lighter. See also: Exhaustive mission analysis, avoidance of. It'd be really cool if you wanted to take a crack at a version of it, though. :)

Can you please tell me if there's any rough estimate for the mass of the Artemis crew/cargo landers as well as the Pegasus upper stage?
It'd be a bit of a troll to just say "yes," wouldn't it? In short, there are but we've been a bit busy writing the last posts to have getting them onto the wiki very high up on the priority queue. Fortunately, the main job of writing the timeline is now done, just leaving edits on the remaining posts still in the buffer, so I might be able to find some time soon to try and get those up there.
 
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TTL's Itokawa is not necessarily the same rock as OTL, an excuse we're using here to get away with not having to specify which rock it is. In part this was to let us get away with not needing to do a doctoral thesis worth of work analyzing potentially reachable targets with the given launch window and available vehicles, but it also lets us neatly dodge questions like that.


Yumi probably does end up looking a fair bit like Lunar-A, given previous Japanese spacecraft in both timelines, though it might be a bit smaller and lighter. See also: Exhaustive mission analysis, avoidance of. It'd be really cool if you wanted to take a crack at a version of it, though. :)

It'd be a bit of a troll to just say, "Yes," wouldn't it? In short, there are but we've been a bit busy writing the last posts to have getting them onto the wiki very high up on the priority queue. Fortunately, the main job of writing the timeline is now done, just leaving edits on the remaining posts still in the buffer, so I might be able to find some time soon to try and get those up there.

Okay, so is TTL's Itokawa more like Bennu (the asteroid that OSIRIS-REX is going to) or Eros (NEAR's asteroid)? As in it is massive enough to orbit it stably?

Also, I'm going to assume that Yumi has four ion engines, like Hayabusa did. Three mains, and one redundant. I might make the scene showing the penetrator being separated.
 
My first piece of art for this timeline!

I present Yumi and Ya!

Sorry nixonhead, I kinda copied your headings and description format :p. I hope that's okay.

npQIHeR.png


I'm relatively new to Blender and Cycles, so hopefully this isn't too bad, but criticism is welcome!
 
My first piece of art for this timeline!

I present Yumi and Ya!

Sorry nixonhead, I kinda copied your headings and description format :p. I hope that's okay.

I'm relatively new to Blender and Cycles, so hopefully this isn't too bad, but criticism is welcome!

Looks good! I especially like the texture you've used for the asteroid's surface. I might recommend adding a subdivision surface modifier (or upping the number of subdivisions if you already have one) though, as some of the peaks at the top are a bit pointy and there are some minor artifacts.

No problem using that header/footer style either - in fact I'd be happy to provide you with the GIMP file I use as a template if you'd like!

[edit] I've added it to the artworks section of the Wiki.
 
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Looks good! I especially like the texture you've used for the asteroid's surface. I might recommend adding a subdivision surface modifier (or upping the number of subdivisions if you already have one) though, as some of the peaks at the top are a bit pointy and there are some minor artifacts.

No problem using that header/footer style either - in fact I'd be happy to provide you with the GIMP file I use as a template if you'd like!

[edit] I've added it to the artworks section of the Wiki.

I did have GIMP in my previous version of Ubuntu, but I lost it when I updated to 14.04. Never really got round to it. I just used the online Pixlr for this one, but the template would be much appreciated.
 
Okay, so is TTL's Itokawa more like Bennu (the asteroid that OSIRIS-REX is going to) or Eros (NEAR's asteroid)? As in it is massive enough to orbit it stably?
I'm not sure--we're deliberately leaving those kinds of details vague. It could also be taken that "orbit of Itokawa" is being used loosely to refer to what might be more technically described as "controlled ongoing proximity operations within the gravitational influence of Itokawa" as a distinction from a flyby. I'll let Workable Goblin respond in more detail to that. :)

My first piece of art for this timeline!

I present Yumi and Ya!
Oooh, pretty! Very cool to see. I've been mulling over the title--maybe something like "aiming for the stars," something a bit more punny/poetic? Dunno. It looks really good, anyway. :)
 
I'm not sure--we're deliberately leaving those kinds of details vague. It could also be taken that "orbit of Itokawa" is being used loosely to refer to what might be more technically described as "controlled ongoing proximity operations within the gravitational influence of Itokawa" as a distinction from a flyby. I'll let Workable Goblin respond in more detail to that. :)

That's what OTL's Hayabusa did. It used its ion engines to keep it in place. A relative velocity change of even 1 cm/s would cause it to drift out of Itokawa's very weak pull.

For my next art, I'm doing the Hermes Mercury orbiter. I'm going to make it a hybrid of OTL's NASA's MESSENGER and ESA's Solar Orbiter probe.
 
Part IV, Post 24: New space stations for Russia, China and the US
Good afternoon, everyone! Workable Goblin's at a conference this week, so I'll be taking back over posting duties. Last week, we took a look at what some of the rising powers of the world were doing with probes. This week, we're looking back at the manned side of things, both for those same nations and around the world. Hope you all enjoy!

Eyes Turned Skyward, Part IV: Post #24

The end of the first decade of the twenty-first century found NASA at the center of a frenzy of activity. In space, Freedom and Orion continued their operations, while back on the ground NASA and contractor engineers and technicians pushed forward on the key elements of the Banks Plan. Lockheed-McDonnell was working on the development of the new modules for Freedom’s replacement, building on McDonnell’s legacy with every past American space station, though Boeing’s experience with inflatable modules for the lunar program was called upon for the development of some of the expandable laboratory and habitat modules (which would use a rigid structural core with an annular inflated section [1]). Boeing, for its part, was pushing forward with the detailed design of Saturn II, finalizing details of the vehicles design ahead of a 2011 planned design freeze, and calling in turn on StarLaunch, who served as a subcontractor in the design and development of Saturn II’s landing systems and software. While Boeing had their own ex-Grumman engineer’s X-40 Starcat experience, many of these individuals had spent the last decade working on the Artemis lander program, while StarLaunch’s ex-Grummies were building and operating Thunderbolt. Since Saturn II wouldn’t directly compete with Thunderbolt, StarLaunch was happy to assist--for a price.

The cash infusement from the Saturn II contract was particularly welcome as it enabled the acceleration of internal efforts aimed at a reusable second stage, a key part of StarLaunch’s original business plan which had been under development for several years, but whose development had been limited by internal cashflow. However, as TransOrbital came online and Thunderbolt’s flight rate rose, the business case for the Thunderbolt L2 increased, and paired with Boeing’s development money, StarLaunch was able to finally unveil the design in 2010. Unlike its potential fully-reusable competition from Lockheed and Europe, the Thunderbolt L2 orbital stage wouldn’t have wings. Instead, it would be a scaled-down version of the Thunderbolt L1--a vertical-landing stage, powered by an RL-10-derived radial aerospike system, which would be used during entry as part of the vehicle’s thermal protection system, actively cooled by residual cryogenic hydrogen. This plug design, SLS’ first internal engine project, was key to achieving effective engine performance from separation and ignition in the upper atmosphere all the way to orbit, and then for the much-lower-thrust final touchdown at sea level.

While launch vehicle and development on the next-generation space station was underway, Northrop was pushing ahead on scaling TransOrbital’s depot and tech technologies from their currently-operational Centaur form, which saw three payloads placed on the way to GTO in 2010, to the Centaur’s “big brother” Pegasus. Fortunately, the process was relatively smooth, given the technical and construction similarities between the stages. Instead, the main concern between the development efforts and NASA’s 2015 introduction-into-service goal was NASA’s insistence on an actively-cooled depot. While TransOrbital could cope with the minor boiloff of a passively-cooled system, given the relatively small gaps between refills and tug top-offs assured by their planned annual payload throughput, with only a few annual lunar missions NASA wanted an active refrigeration system installed on the Earth-orbiting Pegasus and the Centaur EML-2 depots. The resulting increases in radiator and solar capacity were the main complications for Northrop’s engineers in the system, but with four years the project was well-in-hand, as was the Saturn II--good news for NASA given that the two transport elements were key to their plans for achieving a new station and an expanded lunar base without requiring substantial budget increases.

However, even these “cost-restrained” American plans dramatically exceeded the opportunities available for some of their international partners. For the Russians, the end of the Soviet era had seen a dramatic reduction in their ability to fund such grandiose plans. Though they began their own reusability program, aiming to recover Neva or Vulkan cores downrange on land, the development budget available was limited, and it only proceeded slowly, corruptly, and with a focus on propaganda value over practical introduction. For the moment, their plans had to be focused on the more practical and near-term: the annual Luna-Pe launches of supplies to the Orion outpost, the replacement of several of the satellites in the aging Mesyat network with a new generation of five Mesyat-II satellites, and the training and coordination of the resulting launch availabilities to the lunar surface they received with the Americans. Foremost beyond this was the replacement of Mir, which after 23 years of service was beginning to rapidly transition from obsolete to decrepit, unlike its well-maintained sister Freedom. The station was forced into retirement and deorbited in 2009. To replace it, Russia had partnered with several commercial investors--primarily from the US--to establish a new station to be partially supported by regular commercial tourist flights, and based on the MOK module core supplemented with TKS-derived labs and temporary modules for commercial orbital science.

Unfortunately, the station’s plans hinged on the availability of the MOK-2 module, which proved to have been less securely stored over the past two decades than had been initially thought, and problems cropped up persistently throughout the manufacture process. The new “Mir-II” sation remained perpetually poised four years from launch, slipping a year every year. In order to salvage the concept, the station was officially re-designed in 2009 to include a DOS module (which could be built from scratch on available toolings) which would possess nodes at both ends. In the new “final” configuration, the MOK module would dock to one end of this DOS module, while TKS lab, supply and crew modules would dock to the available ports. However, in an “initial” configuration, this DOS would serve as the “service module” for the station, providing basic power, communications, propulsion, and control “until MOK-2 was ready”--a date that remained unspecified even as the launch date of the “temporary” station modules began to move forward, aiming for a launch in 2013. With the downscoping, much of the station’s originally planned scientific value for the Russian program evaporated, but the reduced “initial” station could be developed on the current budget, and would be easier to support on the funds available from tourism flights--and just having the station was enough to satisfy the “soft-power” requirements for the Russian government. Russia and its commercial partners in the West also reached out to other commercial operators, such as capsules proposed for the variety of reusable vehicles emerging around the globe, offering the newly downsized station as a “getaway destination” for tourism or a “commercial lab” for firms interested in space research.

While the Americans and Russians pushed forward on their own new stations, a third nation had been slowly but surely rising to a level with these two titans of spaceflight: China, Russia’s former partner on Mir. Their close partnership had characterized the nineties and noughties for both nations, with Russian advice and assistance being key to the rapid development of China’s Long March rockets and the Longxing capsule, while Chinese funding had been critical to keeping Mir functioning during the dark days of the early 1990s. Similarly, China’s purchase and conversion of DOS-11 into the Tiangong module for Mir had been an important learning experience for the Chinese, with over a dozen Longxing crew rotation missions ensuring continual habitation by Chinese cosmonauts of the semi-autonomous module, along with ongoing research into a range of topics. However, with the impending retirement of Mir and Tiangong, the Chinese frustrated Russian hopes of continued Chinese funding for Mir-2 in favor of resuming the station plans they had been tentatively drawing up before the collapse of the Soviet Union, this time with real experience behind them.

This renewed program bore fruit well before the Russian’s own long-delayed Mir-2: the all-Chinese Tianjia-1 module was launched in 2007. Named a hortened form of “Sky Home” which also meant “assembly,” the first station launched since Mir and Freedom was described by Chinese press as an “experimental station” and indeed it bore more resemblance to the Salyut and Skylab programs than its contemporaries. Indeed, limited by the capacity of the Long March 2F rocket to a mass of just 13 tons, Tianjia-1 was smaller than the Tiangong module on Mir. However, it was large enough to verify critical avionics, propulsion, and life support systems, and it was entirely Chinese-built. Over the next several years, a number of Chinese crews visited the station, though it was not continuously occupied. In 2009, after the de-orbit of Mir, a second Tianjia module was docked to a port on the aft end of Tianjia-1, doubling its volume and testing modular assembly, just as Spacelab or Salyut-7 had. Additionally, several Tianjia-derived logistics spacecraft were used to top off propellant and consumables--including one which docked to the aft end of the expansion module, testing transfer of propellant and other consumables across multiple modules.Though such accomplishments for the Americans and Russians lay almost 30 years in the past, the advancements that had taken them almost a decade’s work were replicated by the Chinese only two years apart. Before its retirement and deorbit in 2012, the station served as a proving ground for Chinese engineers to develop the technologies to build and supply their own larger, multi-module station, and they were ready to take the next steps. While their plans were not as grand or advanced as the Americans, the Chinese certainly had more success in meeting their goals than the Russians.

While the Chinese charted an independent course for developing stations, to the east another nation was seeing their long-term plans finally pay off at Tanegashima Space Center. The pairing of the H-I and the HOPE spaceplane had been the official goal of Japanese spaceflight for almost twenty years, coupling a new reusable spacecraft with an all-Japanese launch vehicle using a high-efficiency hydrogen/oxygen core stage and solid rocket boosters. At this time of the concept’s creation in the nineties, this would have allowed the H-II to boost a higher fraction of its launch mass to orbit than any competing launch vehicle, while HOPE had promised to put them in the lead in the development of reusable orbital vehicles. Unfortunately, the delays in the H-I and particularly the HOPE-C had left Japan’s ambitions standing at the starting line while others raced ahead. However, by the end of the 2000s, Japan had finally begun to make progress on achieving its deferred goals and make revised plans for the future.

The most immediately visible step forward for the Japanese program came with the maiden launch of the HOPE-C logistics spaceplane to Freedom in 2009. Launching from Tanegashima, the HOPE orbiter made its way to Freedom’s orbit with more than two tons of external cargo nestled in its cargo bay. Upon reaching the station, HOPE employed a radical new method for attaching to the station. A standard Freedom CADS docking ring would have consumed much of the volume available in the relatively small vehicle’s payload bay, while other locations were occupied by the vehicle’s thermal protection systems or engines. Thus, the vehicle was designed to use both of Freedom’s Canadian-built robot arms to carry out a new, alternative attachment maneuver, referred to as “mooring”. In this technique, HOPE would approach the station, then go into free drift. One of the station’s twin arms would then attach to a grapple fixture in the orbiter’s payload bay, holding it fixed relative to the station while the other arm attached to and removed a cargo pallet with the supplies, then replaced it with another pre-loaded for return to Earth (unpressurized downmass being a unique capacity for HOPE). Once the payloads were swapped, both arms could be released, and the spacecraft could return to Japan within mere days.

Unlike a proper berthing maneuvering, mooring did not create a semi-permanent rigid attachment to the station. While the one-armed mooring was sufficient to hold the relatively lightweight HOPE in place relative to the station during logistics handling, it was impossible to conduct an orbit adjustment burn during moored operations, and the station’s attitude control capacity was necessarily limited. However, in addition to minimizing HOPE’s required orbital life, the “quick-change” pallets for cargo also reduced the mooring time required for HOPE to far less than the docked periods for Aardvark or Minotaur. Additionally, the mooring operation was more flexible, able to be conducted anywhere on the nadir surface where a clear incoming path could be achieved and both arms could reach for the dual-robotic operation station crew nicknamed “arm wrestling”. In practice, the technique worked well, and HOPE completed its mission and returned to Earth carrying a mixed payload of external experiments and failed components for inspection and research without excessive trouble. HOPE’s subsequent flights, and those of its sister orbiter, were major boosts to Japan’s reputation as a spacefaring nation.

With HOPE in regular operation, however, Japan was faced with the same question facing other nations: what to follow it with. The emerging era of reusable vehicles cast doubt on the long-term viability of the H-II, and Japan risked falling behind the curve as the US, Europe, and even commercial firms invested in partially or even fully-reusable rockets. However, while JAXA’s funding was enough to enable some work, the state of the Japanese economy meant that it lacked either the ability to freely spend on research and development of which Europe was a beneficiary, or the developing commercial market which bolstered NASA’s development capacity. Without the funds to start from a clean sheet, Japan made its goal to develop a reusability solution with the maximum employment of existing development. The result were plans for a new “H-III” program. Based heavily on the H-II, the new system would nevertheless incorporate some major modifications for reusability and cost savings. First, the solid rocket boosters were to be recovered via parachutes and boats for recasting at Tanegashima--something Japan hoped would further reduce the capital cost of the already-cheap solid boosters [2]. Second, they would aim to recover a portion of their first stage. However, unlike the flyback solutions the Americans or Europeans were pursuing, which required extensive weight additions in the form of additional hardware or reserved propellant, Japan would focus on much more limited changes to recover only the primary cost center in the stage: the engines, pumps, and avionics. These would be redesigned into a separate “pod” which could be recovered with wings or a parachute, and which would divide itself after first stage burnout from the expendable (and cheap) tanks. After recovery and return to the launch site, this pod would be refurbished and reused--potentially realizing much of the savings of a full flyback system with a smaller hit to potential payload. In the future, a new upper stage with HOPE-derived thermal protection and wings could be added to create a fully reusable system.

While their partners and other agencies around the world were developing their own homegrown plans, the Americans were distracted from the preparations for Oasis by a legacy of the past. In the late summer of 2012, public attention was suddenly focused again on NASA, but not for the conversion and transition planning at KSC for briefly supporting both Saturn Multibody and Saturn II, the first suborbital test flights of the vehicle to both land and seaborne-platform recoveries, nor the preparations of the flight articles for the new Pegasus depots and tugs and the new Space Station Discovery. Instead, the agency was rocked on its heels with the sudden end to a part of its history--Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, died in August 2012. It wasn’t the first time the agency and the nation had lost an Apollo astronaut, not even the first since the establishment of Artemis. Alan Shepard had been lost in 1998 to little notice outside of the space community, the first American in space still overshadowed by not being the first American to orbit, and Pete Conrad had perished in a motorcycle accident in 2001 [3]. However, the loss of a name familiar to the majority of the world was different, and his death was mourned widely by the public. The President authorized a state funeral, and an act of Congress in the winter of 2012 formally renamed Shackleton Outpost Orion to “Armstrong Base”.

Armstrong’s death drew particular comment as a transition point in spaceflight. By this point, even the “token” international astronauts on the Artemis and Orion missions now outnumbered the original Apollo moonwalkers, and the new reusable vehicles were making the Saturns and capsules of Apollo look obsolete. Even as their descendants continued to serve the American program, they were changing with the times, and there were new systems jockeying to potentially replace them. Armstrong's era had passed along with him, and the future was in the hands of active astronauts like Natalie Duncan, former astronauts Don Hunt and Peggy Barnes, companies like Northrop TransOrbital, StarLaunch, and Europaspace, and politicians and ministers around the world.

[1] Similar to the OTL Transhab/Bigelow designs--the rigid core carries all the structural loads between modules of the station and houses docking apparatuses and the like.

[2] They’re not going to be rewarded with substantial savings, of course, but ITTL there isn’t quite the lesson of Shuttle regarding reusability and solids. Besides, H-II/III solids are monolithic, and recast at the launch site, which does help operations. At worst, it’s probably about the same price as continuing to expend them.

[3] He was still riding motorcycles at 69 in OTL, and eventually it was likely to catch up to him.
 
While their partners and other agencies around the world were developing their own homegrown plans, the Americans were distracted from the preparations for Oasis by a legacy of the past. In the late summer of 2012, public attention was suddenly focused again on NASA, but not for the conversion and transition planning at KSC for briefly supporting both Saturn Multibody and Saturn II, the first suborbital test flights of the vehicle to both land and seaborne-platform recoveries, nor the preparations of the flight articles for the new Pegasus depots and tugs and the new Space Station Discovery. Instead, the agency was rocked on its heels with the sudden end to a part of its history--Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, died in August 2012. It wasn’t the first time the agency and the nation had lost an Apollo astronaut, not even the first since the establishment of Artemis. Alan Shepard had been lost in 1998 to little notice outside of the space community, the first American in space still overshadowed by not being the first American to orbit, and Pete Conrad had perished in a motorcycle accident in 2001 [3]. However, the loss of a name familiar to the majority of the world was different, and his death was mourned widely by the public. The President authorized a state funeral, and an act of Congress in the winter of 2012 formally renamed Shackleton Outpost Orion to “Armstrong Base”.
I think you mean "man" here.
 
So H-III is going to be more like ULA's Vulcan (if helicopters + "parachutes" are used) or Airbus's Adeline concept (if "wings" are used)
 
1. Just a quibble, but Chinese astronauts are called "taikonauts," not cosmonauts.

2. This renewed program bore fruit well before the Russian’s own long-delayed Mir-2: the all-Chinese Tianjia-1 module was launched in 2007.

So the PRC orbits their own station even before the deorbiting of Mir? Was Mir abandoned by crews by that point?

The Chinese timeline still seems a little aggressive to me, in light of how it has played out in our timeline, but I have thought that from the outset of their cooperation with the Russians. Perhaps I underestimate the butterflies. But this all has surely required considerably more space spending on the PRC's part than has occurred in our own timeline.

But as I always say: The more space stations, the merrier.

3. The new “Mir-II” sation remained perpetually poised four years from launch, slipping a year every year.

Why does this sound very familiar? :)

4. Nope, I meant what I wrote. Not only was Shepard outshone by Gagarin, he was persistently outshone by Glenn as well.

Perhaps Area11 was thinking that Gagarin was only suborbital?

5. Thus, the vehicle was designed to use both of Freedom’s Canadian-built robot arms to carry out a new, alternative attachment maneuver, referred to as “mooring”.

This is certainly the most interesting development of this chapter. Exactly what kinds of cargo is the HOPE-C handling for Freedom?

In line with my concerns over the Chinese program, I'm curious how the (development and operational) costs of the HOPE-C compare to the costs of the H-II. NASDA has been rather cost conscious in our timeline...and in yours as well.

Which leads me to...

6. Japan would focus on much more limited changes to recover only the primary cost center in the stage: the engines, pumps, and avionics. These would be redesigned into a separate “pod” which could be recovered with wings or a parachute, and which would divide itself after first stage burnout from the expendable (and cheap) tanks....

So NASDA is basically taking the SMART-Reuse road that ULA is trying out right now on Vulkan IOTL? Interesting. Plausible.

7. The President authorized a state funeral, and an act of Congress in the winter of 2012 formally renamed Shackleton Outpost Orion to “Armstrong Base”.

Outstanding.

...

A closing note: It is interesting how, in this timeline, the more advanced state of manned space and launchers actually creates a fundamental difficulty for major space programs, especially the "middle ranking" powers, of which Russia is sliding increasingly toward becoming. The "next step" is invariably an expensive one, likely to exceed available space budget dollars. Russia ends up promising but under-delivering, and it's remarkable that it can even afford to keep flying the cargo missions to Armstrong and replace the MESYAT satellites on schedule. ESA seems resigned to tagging along on NASA's coattails, with some modest steps toward reusability, though still accomplishing more than they are in our timeline. Japan ends up compromising as well, going for limited reusability in its booster, and continuing partnership with NASA on both lunar and LEO efforts, being unable to afford its own station. Even NASA has this problem, with a deorbit of Freedom looming; with Armstrong on track to becoming a permanent base, it can't afford to replace Freedom, nor can it afford a truly ambitious replacement for Saturn - or Apollo.

Nor can it really afford to go beyond cislunar space for a long time to come. In this timeline, like ours, it's just hard to see how Mars is really viable as anything but a second-half of the 21st century project. For all that, however, manned space exploration and related technologies are so well in advance of ours that it makes you want to cry. At least NASA ITTL has a good deal more experience in manned exposure to deep space radiation and low gravity - knowledge critical for any eventual Mars expeditions.

Even if NASA ends up having to cede LEO to commercial station ventures (whenever they develop), they're still in a great place in terms of maintaining a viable program all around, one that will be difficult to kill off. They have a reasonably robust if still somewhat dated (and overpriced) launch system. They have increasing access to fuel depot infrastructure coming online There have not been, nor is there any danger of, any gaps in manned vehicle access. They have a soonbase-becoming-a-moonbase that Congress will be very reluctant to cut off or shut down. Even if there ends up being a loss of crew - which is likely to happen at some point - I have to think NASA could weather the storm. They have yet to lose a man in space in this history , and that will boost their credibility.
 
1. Just a quibble, but Chinese astronauts are called "taikonauts," not cosmonauts.
Not ITTL! They first fly to Mir in the early 90s as, essentially, passengers on TKS to Mir. Thus they're cosmonauts in the Russian and Western press. Even once Longxing starts flying, the crews it carry are part of Mir's staff, and sometimes even include Russians (essentially sharing the load of crew rotation). Mir/Tiangong remains their destination for more than a decade, and the term sticks. By 2007, when Chinese cosmonauts first fly to a destination that's not Russian, the term is too entrenched to change.

So the PRC orbits their own station even before the deorbiting of Mir? Was Mir abandoned by crews by that point?
No, but it was aging quickly. Launching and testing Tianjia before Mir is de-orbited provides a fallback for the program, if not for the crews, and Tianjia-1 is untended far more often than it is tended, much like Tiangong-1 IOTL.

The Chinese timeline still seems a little aggressive to me, in light of how it has played out in our timeline, but I have thought that from the outset of their cooperation with the Russians. Perhaps I underestimate the butterflies. But this all has surely required considerably more space spending on the PRC's part than has occurred in our own timeline.
It's mostly reflective of a slight budget bump at the start to take advantage of the Mir/Tiangong opportunity, and a smoother introduction of a native manned craft thanks to extensive Russian technical assistance. That seems doable with a relatively minor increase in a budget that is surprisingly small as a fraction of government spending. The remainder is effectively a relatively consistent four-to-five year jump on OTL as those advantages are exploited.

This is certainly the most interesting development of this chapter. Exactly what kinds of cargo is the HOPE-C handling for Freedom?
As for payload, it's exclusively external payload up and down. Think the AMS-02 (or equivalent modules for Freedom's AstroMag facility) being returned to Earth for modification or repair or the return and replacement of the ammonia coolant pumps IOTL.
In line with my concerns over the Chinese program, I'm curious how the (development and operational) costs of the HOPE-C compare to the costs of the H-II. NASDA has been rather cost conscious in our timeline...and in yours as well.
They've been working on HOPE ITTL since the early 90s, so pushing it to completion should be comparable to the OTL clean-sheet development of HTV.

So NASDA is basically taking the SMART-Reuse road that ULA is trying out right now on Vulkan IOTL? Interesting. Plausible.
So H-III is going to be more like ULA's Vulcan (if helicopters + "parachutes" are used) or Airbus's Adeline concept (if "wings" are used)
Essentially. To be honest, that was written after ULA revealed the Vulcan concept, so unlike other things that can't go in our "called it" list, but it seemed sensible--cheaper to develop, many of the benefits, etc.

As for the rest of your post, Athelstane...it's interesting speculation. I can't comment much at the moment because it'd be spoilers for the remaining posts through the finale, but I might come back to it once the TL is done--certainly I'll be interested in seeing how your thoughts do or don't change as we get to the end. I would note, though, that a replacement for Freedom is coming--Space Station Discovery is on track for the mid-to-late-teens.
 
Not ITTL! They first fly to Mir in the early 90s as, essentially, passengers on TKS to Mir. Thus they're cosmonauts in the Russian and Western press. Even once Longxing starts flying, the crews it carry are part of Mir's staff, and sometimes even include Russians (essentially sharing the load of crew rotation). Mir/Tiangong remains their destination for more than a decade, and the term sticks. By 2007, when Chinese cosmonauts first fly to a destination that's not Russian, the term is too entrenched to change.

Interesting. OK, I'll roll with it.

It's mostly reflective of a slight budget bump at the start to take advantage of the Mir/Tiangong opportunity, and a smoother introduction of a native manned craft thanks to extensive Russian technical assistance. That seems doable with a relatively minor increase in a budget that is surprisingly small as a fraction of government spending. The remainder is effectively a relatively consistent four-to-five year jump on OTL as those advantages are exploited.

I think part of the problem is that it's very hard to get an accurate fix on just what the Chinese have spent on space, and that would be true in this timeline as well. I'll roll with the butterflies.

I would note, though, that a replacement for Freedom is coming--Space Station Discovery is on track for the mid-to-late-teens.

Sidebar: I didn't see that you had a name for the Bank Report station yet. Maybe I missed it.

As I understand it, however, Discovery is not a "true" replacement for Freedom, in that it's not intended as a replacement for all of its capabilities - not least because something that big would be too expensive on top of its other commitments. Right? I know it is intended to evolve, of course, with add-ons along the way, but that sounds more contingent and less concrete, and more dependent on commercial and international partners, right?

Well...in any event, I'd rather see the focus remain in cislunar space and, so it would seem, so would NASA.
 
What will Monday bring?

Nixonshead has so many possibilities to choose from for renders:

1) The new Chinese station; or
2) The new Russian station; or
3) A Hope-C "mooring" with Freedom.

My money is on (3), but I'm sure whatever he's come up with will be worth the wait.
 
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