Kolyma's Shadow: An Alternate Space Race

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by nixonshead, May 11, 2014.

  1. Threadmarks: Part II Post #2: Space Race

    nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013

    Part II Post #2: Space Race

    Even as James Wood, the First Man in Space, was enjoying a ticker-tape parade in New York City on October 17th 1962, on the other side of the globe the Zarya-1 space capsule was arriving at the Assembly and Testing Building (MIK) at Tyuratam. Over the next week, the spaceship was unpacked, tested, and moved for integration with her R-6A carrier rocket. In the nearby town of Leninsk, no less careful preparations were underway as Air Force pilot Yuri Gagarin and his back-up, Valentin Bondarenko, underwent final training and medical examinations for his mission. As had been the case throughout the selection process, Gagarin passed all these tests with flying colours. He was by every measure the finest example of Soviet manhood - fit and fearless, rising from humble beginnings to greatness in service to the Motherland as was only possible under Socialism.

    On 28th October the integrated R-6A/Zarya stack was rolled out of the MIK to Launch Complex 1, the same pad from which ISZ-1 had launched almost four years earlier. Under the watchful gazes of Chief Designers Mishin and Chelomei, she was raised vertically and clamped securely into place on the pad. After a further day of checks and double-checks, the order was given to begin fueling. Clad in protective gear, technicians raised the fueling arm and gingerly connected the pipes. Even after years of experience in both the space programme and military service, no-one was taking any chances with the Blok-A and B’s highly toxic AK271/UDMH propellants - propellants which Mishin intended would soon be fully replaced by the kerosene and liquid oxygen now starting to fill the Blok-V upper stage.

    Their hazardous task completed, the fueling technicians withdrew the arm and retreated from the pad. It was now time for Gagarin, fully sealed in his spacesuit and accompanied by two more hazmat-attired technicians, to ascend the support gantry and climb into his ejection seat in the waiting SA capsule.

    With Gagarin safely sealed inside Zarya, the countdown resumed and final checks were made. Everything proceeded smoothly. Mishin had learnt hard lessons in preparation over the last few years, and had not allowed artificial deadlines to distort his timetable. For Chelomei’s part, the R-6A was now a very familiar creature, and he and his staff knew all her little quirks. The rocket and her payload were both as ready as they could be made. All that remained was to launch.

    Liftoff came at 09:12 am local time on Tuesday 30th October. “Davay!” (“Come on!”) yelled Gagarin as the R-6A cleared the pad and began its ascent. Back in the firing room, everyone nervously watched the incoming telemetry from the rocket and the chain of tracking stations down-range of Tyuratam. They thought they knew this vehicle, but this was the first time there had been a man strapped to its nose. Nothing must go wrong!

    As the Blok-A depleted and Blok-B separated, everything looked good. The RD-221 engine lighted on command, speeding Zarya-1 towards orbit. In its turn, the Blok-B shut down and fell away, leaving the Blok-V to give Zarya the final push to a perfect 180 x 330 km orbit about the Earth. “I feel fine,” Gagarin reported. “I am in good spirits. I can see the Earth very clearly. She is beautiful!”

    After a single orbit of the globe, Zarya-1 automatically re-oriented itself and fired the single rocket of its PA service module off the African coast, slowing the ship for a re-entry over the USSR. Its job done, the PA separated cleanly, and the SA began its fiery descent into the atmosphere. After experiencing forces of up to 7 gee, at 7 km altitude Zarya’s hatch was jettisoned and Gagarin ejected from the capsule. His parachute deployed as planned and he landed safely in the Samara region of the Russian SFSR, to be picked up forty minutes later by a Red Army team. The Zarya capsule landed nearby under its own parachute, with automatic measurements indicating that the impact would have been harsh, but survivable. Both Gagarin and Zarya-1 were rushed to Moscow and a hero’s welcome. Yes, the Americans had made a little hop in their Mercury, but it was the USSR who had first put a man into orbit! Finally, it seemed that the Soviet Union was starting to overhaul the Capitalist states, just as Khrushchev had predicted they would.

    A replica of the Zarya-1 capsule, seen here on display for the Cosmonautics Exhibition at the Moscow Polytechnic Museum in 1968.

    The triumphant reception of Gagarin in Moscow was echoed around the world, and the Soviet propaganda machine wasted no time in portraying their man, not Wood, as the “real” First Man in Space. The fact that Gagarin had bailed out before Zarya-1 reached the ground, technically violating the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale’s rules for aviation records, was omitted from official Soviet reports, but rumours nonetheless managed to reach the West. It was also pointed out that, strictly speaking, Gagarin landed before completing a full orbit, and so the accomplishment was in fact little more than an extension of Wood’s feat. This argument gained little traction worldwide, with the FAI accepting Gagarin’s position as the first human to “Orbit the Earth”. American complaints risked the appearance of being the sour grapes of a sore loser, so Washington offered their official congratulations on “the sending of the first Soviet man into space,” whilst at the same time pushing forward their own response with the Mercury programme.

    That response was not long coming. In November, the Air Force launched two simian-crewed Atlas-Mercury missions in quick succession, both of which performed multiple orbits and successful re-entries, their Astrochimp passengers returned in good health. Based on these results, the official go-ahead was given to proceed with mission MA-9, or “Mercury-2” as it was inaccurately named in the press. On 12th December 1962, Joe Walker became the first American to orbit the Earth in his capsule “Columbia”, completing two orbits before returning to a successful splashdown just over 400 km East of the Bahamas. His three hours aloft gave the US the duration record for manned spaceflight and demonstrated that the two Superpowers remained neck-a-neck in the Space Race.

    1963 would see the race continue and escalate, as the rocket scientists of both sides came under pressure from their respective leaderships to go further and faster. In February, the Soviets once again took the lead, when Zarya-2 carried cosmonaut Valentin Bondarenko on a six-hour mission. However, things did not go entirely to plan, with Bondarenko feeling the effects of severe motion-sickness within a few minutes of unstrapping from his seat on-orbit. When reporting this to mission control in Podlipki, he down-played the seriousness of his symptoms, insisting that he could continue the mission. After some discussions with the flight surgeon, Mishin authorised the mission to continue on the understanding that all control of the spacecraft was in any case automated or commanded from the ground, so should Bondarenko’s condition worsen he could be brought back without needing to use the controls himself. In the event, the cosmonaut’s symptoms did recede a little, although he later admitted to feeling very queasy for the entire mission. Following consultations between Bondarenko and Podlipki Control, it was decided to forego the option of ejecting as Gagarin had done and instead proceed with the plan of landing him with his ship. This he did, ending Zarya-2 with a successful (if bruising) parachute landing for the capsule and cosmonaut.

    The American counter-punch came with the flight of Al Perini in Mercury-3. Originally scheduled for launch on 3rd April, the mission was delayed two days when a wiring fault was detected in the command link to one of the Atlas sustainer engines. This was quickly corrected, and so it was on 5th April that Perini and his capsule “Liberty” ascended for a five hour mission. Although not matching Zarya-2’s time on orbit, Perini’s flight further validated the Mercury capsule and provided more data on human reactions to microgravity which were greedily seized upon by flight surgeons working on the Dynasoar programme.

    Despite concerns over Bondarenko’s adverse reaction to spaceflight, the Soviets decided to push ahead with their Zarya programme by conducting an even more ambitious mission. Mishin had from the start intended that Zarya would be an upgradable spaceship, to which a variety of modifications could be added over time to increase her capabilities. Already he was working on Zarya-B, a two-man version with an expanded service module and some limited manoeuvring capability, for launch on his M-1 rocket now under construction. If everything went to plan, the M-1/Zarya-B combination should be ready to launch by the end of 1963. However, with the initial objective of beating the Americans to orbit achieved, Chelomei was now working his political connections to cut back on the Zarya missions and focus all efforts on his own Raketoplan project. To fight this Mishin felt it necessary to continue pushing the envelop and provide new “Firsts” for the Soviet leadership to boast about.

    Mishin’s initial idea was to advance the timetable for a two-man mission by modifying the Zarya-3 SA capsule to a similar configuration to that planned for Zarya-B. Mishin’s deputy, Zarya’s lead designer Mikhail Tikhonravov, objected strongly to this. Adding a second cosmonaut would mean removing the ejection seats, both to provide more room within the capsule and because Zarya’s hatch was in any case only designed to fit one ejecting cosmonaut. For Zarya-B this would be no problem, as that capsule would be fully enclosed within a fairing equipped with an escape tower similar to Mercury’s, which would pull the entire fairing/Zarya combination to safety in the event of a launch accident. In theory Zarya-A could be modified to use an escape tower too, but the tower had not yet completed testing. If it should fail when needed, the two cosmonauts would both perish. Mishin reluctantly accepted Tikhonravov’s arguments, and so it was instead decided that the next Soviet “first” would be a demonstration of the equality of Socialist womanhood.

    When Zarya-3 stood on the pad in June 1963 it carried 22-year-old Tatyana Kuznetsova. A regional and national champion parachutist, Kuznetsova was not only the first woman to be assigned to a space mission, but also the world’s youngest trained cosmonaut or astronaut, a record that remains unbroken to the present day. Unfortunately the mission did not go well. Less than three seconds after ignition, one of the R-6’s RD-215 engines ruptured, causing the entire rocket to explode on the pad. Kuznetsova was thrown clear by her ejection seat, her expert parachute skills allowing her to land with only minor bruising despite the low altitude of the jump, but she found herself caught down-wind of the toxic cloud now emanating from the doomed rocket. Despite keeping her respiration gear on after landing, some of the noxious gasses managed to find a way through her suit seals, causing serious chemical burns around Kuznetsova’s wrists and lower arms. She also suffered injuries to her nose, throat and lungs through breathing in a small quantity of fumes. Members of the fueling team, heroically acting without orders and clad in their own protective gear, immediately jumped out of their bunker and ran to the aid of the fallen cosmonaut. She was rushed first to the base medical facility, then rapidly transferred to a specialist military hospital in Moscow. Despite their best efforts Kuznetsova never fully recovered from her injuries, which were officially declared to be the result of exposure to fumes from an on-board aircraft fire whilst training for a parachuting competition. She would continue to suffer respiratory and neurological problems over the following six years before finally sucumbing to a complication of pneumonia in December 1969.

    The Zarya-3 tragedy was kept secret from the outside world, but within the Soviet space community it served to graphically illustrate all of Mishin’s worst fears about using storable propellants on manned space missions. In angry exchanges at the Rocket Propulsion Coordination Committee (KKRD), Mishin declared that he would not risk any more lives on Chelomei’s vehicles, with all future Zarya flights put on hold until the M-1 became available. He also pushed for the future Raketoplans to be either transferred to his Bureau's non-toxic rockets or be scrapped outright in favour of Zarya upgrades.

    Chelomei of course considered this to be an overreaction, claiming that Kuznetsova had simply been unlucky to land downwind, and even then would have escaped unharmed if Mishin had provided her with a better spacesuit. At this Mishin exploded, hurling his notes across the table and storming out of the meeting. From this point on he would refuse to communicate directly with Chelomei, or even to be in the same building with him unless absolutely unavoidable. Where contact was needed between OKB-385 and OKB-1 it would be Tikhonravov who would represent the Miass team.

    With the Soviets observing a temporary moratorium on manned flights, the Americans were given a clear field for the rest of 1963. There would be two more Mercury flights before the end of the year: Robert “Bob” White’s Mercury-4 in August and Albert Crews’ Mercury-5 in December. White’s flight was marred by a failure of one of the gyroscopes used for attitude determination, causing an early end of the mission to be called after just three orbits. It was left to Crews to finally beat Zarya-2’s duration record, staying in orbit for over seven hours. However, a number of minor mechanical problems also occurred during that mission, highlighting the fact that the Mercury spacecraft was already approaching the limits of its capabilities. In order to extend man’s ability to live and work in space the US would need a new ship.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2018
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  2. brovane Well-Known Member

    Jun 30, 2013
    Orange County, CA
    Glad to see this starting up again.

    So it seems with the US not feeling they are behind the Soviet's in the Space Race there is no rush to announce a moon landing by the end of the decade. Which means the US program will proceed at a different pace and focus.
  3. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    Well, in every new space timeline I ask, "when's the girl going up, huh huh huh?" (I am influenced in this by many things, including this Arthur Clarke story.) I then worry that something will botch it so early-60s program directors have an excuse to say "no more women!" as did happen to a slight extent OTL with Tereshkova suffering space sickness. (As did other, male, cosmonauts, but they weren't women you see.:rolleyes:)

    Poor Comrade Kuznetsova! What could be worse than being blamed for keeping all other Soviet women out of space for two decades, or being one of those kept out? How about being poisoned by your own malfunctioning rocket that doesn't even take you there in the first place!:eek::mad:

    It's pretty hard for me to see how anyone in the Soviet hierarchy can blame this one on her; unfortunately it is easy to see how chauvinism in the form of protective chivalry will ban Soviet women cosmonaut trainees just as sweepingly--"The Worker's Motherland does not place its precious daughters in danger when brave sons stand ready to risk their lives in their place!"

    Well, anyway, they don't more than once...

    Chelomei, for all his prickishness, did have a good point for Mishkin. What kind of spacesuit, meant to protect a cosmonaut from exposure to vacuum, would not have protected Kuznetsova from the toxic gases of the wrecked R-6, some considerable distance downwind? Was it the case that it got ripped as she landed, or were the hypergolics still so concentrated at that point that they ate right through the materials? Or would she have been a dead duck if her Zarya capsule lost integrity in orbit and she had to try to survive in just the suit?

    The Zarya, despite some operational similarities, is a different craft than OTL Vostok, isn't it? The capsule is already a conical-thimble shape, sort of a morph between an Apollo and a Soyuz return capsule, not a sphere.

    Very glad to see no Voshkod analog here. That was a dumb idea.

    The way I define things, Gagarin was still the first human in space, since I don't think suborbital flights count. OTOH with Wood having beaten the Soviets to the shadowy distinction of such a partial orbit, it might be more evident in this timeline that the Soviets are managing what firsts they do grab by means of shortcuts, and insofar as the West comes to know the full truth of all their attempts (not just the ballyhooed successes) they sometimes trip on these shortcuts. Skipping the stage of a brief suborbital flight means they took a gamble with the more extreme possibilities that human beings might not be able to function, or even live, in sustained free fall or facing the space radiation environment--of course with the Americans having done it for them they did have that much more assurance than they did in OTL they weren't sending Gagarin to certain death.

    I rather like that both nations are at an impasse right now, realizing their respective man-in-space-soonest capsules have achieved their purpose and aren't capable of more, and now they need to design some real spaceships. It would be nice if each side can take their time and come up with something really neat.

    Gemini has its fans to be sure, and some of what I take for its vices (extremely cramped for instance) might actually be virtues--Apollo astronauts suffered space sickness that Gemini largely avoided, presumably because they were stuffed so snugly in their tight cockpit they didn't acquire the sense of moving around in zero G the Apollo astronauts did. I'd think spending weeks in such tight quarters would be physiologically risky and psychological torture, but apparently the "Gusmobile" astronauts of Gemini didn't think so. Being compact it was possible to pack much capability in a small package, relatively easy to launch with available second-generation rockets...

    I know you already must have the Gemini-equivalent craft planned out, but here's my guess, given the obsession the Air Force has with something Dyna-Soar like. It would be a two-man spaceplane a lot like Dyna-Soar, with metal hot-structure heatshield "below" rather than "behind" the crew, compact like Gemini but with an integral tunnel surrounded by the "service module" stuff leading to a standardized rear docking port. That rear part is not reentry-survivable and is ejected before reentry. But in itself it offers a tiny extension of habitable space in orbit, allowing one astronaut to go back and operate auxiliary instruments mounted in its wall, or serve as an airlock for EVA. Then, for future, more ambitious missions, it can either serve as a docking port for separately launched orbital facilities, which can be fueled spacecraft for more ambitious missions or miniature space stations for extended orbital stays. Or these extra components can be launched along with the standard crew module. No need for a hatch through a heat shield then.

    The program can start with brief orbital missions with just the spaceplane and a minimal maneuvering module in place of the full tunnel-service module extension, then add the extension for longer orbital stays and EVAs, then expand to docking missions. The one thing it couldn't do would be expand to Lunar missions, because it will be tough enough to make the large, flyable capsule-plane endure orbital speed reentries; the doubled energies of a high-energy reentry from very high orbits would probably overtax the design too much.

    Unless of course it proves possible to do a two-stage aerodynamic capture and then reentry; aerobraking from a high orbit to low-orbit speeds then cool off in orbit, then come down conventionally after that. Hitting the upper atmosphere at near-escape speeds, the air would be twice as energetic but if they aim for a higher layer that is less dense, they need to only lose less than half the velocity so the same G-forces would need to be survived for a lot less time, or aiming for still thinner air lower G-forces mean the heat flux might still be in the same ballpark as a full reentry.

    If that can work the same basic two-man orbiter, or an upgraded three-crew version, can serve as workhorse for decades to come, with various extra modules stacked below them for various purposes, or launched separately.

    There might never be a need for something like a Saturn V, just lots of launches of something on the scale of the Saturn 1B.

    The Soviets of course are supposed to be committed to developing versions of the Raketoplan, with Zarya just an interim detour.
  4. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe
    nice update on story, Nixonhead

    it show clear the danger of Toxic fuel in rockets, even if R-6 is tiny compare to UR-700, what i and SpaceGeek regular blow up in 2001: A Space Time Odyssey.

    The Zarya spacecraft is nice, i hope it got a future in this TL.

    on Shevek23 remarks on Dyna soar
    Boeing had made similar thought like you and produce similar concept of Dyna soar with laboratory module at it's back
    called Self Contained Development Station for 3 men on 74 days mission (include 14 day reserve) 24000 Lb.

    on Lunar return, yes Boeing had Dyna soar like glider in mind, only bigger in size
    because it metal hot-structure heat shield work better if craft is bigger!

    on minimal living space in Gemini on Dyna Soar it was even smaller for pilot and others on board.
    80 cubic feet for 4 men in space suit and there seat...
  5. Bahamut-255 Space Lover

    Jul 28, 2010
    Eep! That's gonna cause some serious repercussions there, the R-6 technically being responsible for the death of a woman who never even made it into Space. :eek:

    I hope the Zayra continues, or at least has a successor based on it, it is a fine craft.
  6. Petike Sky Pirate Extraordinaire

    Jun 25, 2008
    Clockpunk Zemplín Kingdom / Franz Josef's Land
    Erm, I thought the term was thruster, not rocket ? :confused: Surely the service module doesn't carry a large rocket strapped to its behind, but only has a normal thruster at the end... And I find it peculiar that Gagarin is still the first cosmonaut, but OK, I guess I'm just nitpicking now. :eek:

    Interesting that it's the Soviets who have to play catch-up in this timeline, and not in a way one would expect. :cool:

    Shame to see the cosmonaut lady suffer such a terrible accident, though. :(

    In that case, I'll spoil my timeline for you right away and tell you that she's going up in the first half of the 1970s, in a two-seater mission. ;) Well, the VUSP one is, at any rate. I haven't decided about British and French astronautixes/cosmonautixes (are those words ?) yet... :eek:
  7. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    So, here at last is my chance to catch up with the comments from the past week!

    In fact there are some differences in approach and emphasis ITTL that will have consequences further down the line...

    Oh, it gets better, trust me :D

    Incidentally, Cpl Paul Roesen is an Original Character with no counterpart IOTL (or at least no counterpart who’s come to the attention of history). He is TTL’s second OG, counting Vega the Dog as the first. Astronaut Al Perini (in Part-II Post#2) is the third.

    Well, as we’ve seen in Post#2, they’re experiencing some difficulties, but they’re definitely not out of the race!

    I’ll have what he’s having ;)
    I thought this would particularly pique your interest! We’ll be exploring Perry Rhodan’s fate more later in Part-II, but I think it’s safe to say there’s a reason I invented Cpl Roesen and his nephew!

    Oops, I didn’t realise that! My main exposure to Rhodan has been through the modern booklets to be found at German newsstands everywhere, which don’t seem to have illustrations inside (at least the copy I picked up didn’t). I’ll update my posts accordingly.

    Thanks brovane! I’ve been enjoying your own “The Journeys of Saturn”, though I’m afraid I’ve fallen a bit behind. I’m looking forward to spending a quiet afternoon with it on the iPad and a nice cup of tea!

    Yep. Gagarin might have taken the shine off Wood’s achievement, but the Soviet’s unexplained (to the West) break after Zarya-2 has let the US dominate in 1963. The Military-Industrial Complex is happy with the nice, fat contracts they have, so Nixon feels no need to make any grand, expensive gestures.

    Not for a long time, I fear! With a moratorium on manned launches until Mishin’s non-toxic rocket is ready, he has time to prepare for space spectaculars that don’t require double-X chromosomes, and even in the enlightened Worker’s Paradise, in the 1960s it’s still very much a Man’s World. On the American side, the manned space programme is firmly under Air Force control, and the fighter jocks aren’t about to let any girls jump queue for astronaut seats (even IOTL it took until 1983 for America to launch a woman into space). So it could be quite a while before we see equality in space :(

    It basically came down to the wrist seals unlocking during the ejection and landing, plus damage to the visor mechanism on landing, so Chelomei does have a point - those wrist locks should have been more durable. Mishin though isn’t about to take any lessons in safety from Chelomei, not after a decade of warning against the use of hypergolics.

    Zarya is indeed quite different from OTL’s Vostok. Similar vintage equipment, but with more time for development, plus the competition on the horizon from Raketoplan, Mishin and Tikhonravov have taken the chance to build in some future-proofing. The Zarya service module is larger than OTL’s Vostok, with more room for consumables, whilst the re-entry module is closer to OTL’s Soyuz than Vostok (though slightly smaller than Soyuz), intended to be adaptable for high-energy returns in the future. Mishin is planning incremental upgrades of both modules, and so the first model Zarya is build with that in mind. So it should be around for a while - assuming political manoeuvring doesn’t kill it somehow… ;)

    Here’s a clearer look at her from a different angle:


    Voskhod was very much a desperate improvisation to keep ahead of the US and provide Khrushchev with a steady supply of bragging rights. ITTL, the Space Race has less heat in it and is not seen as being quite as important a yardstick of greatness as IOTL, so there’s correspondingly less pressure to take unreasonable chances - especially as Mishin already has plans for Zarya upgrades to achieve more ambitious aims.

    Most of the general public ITTL would agree with you, Gagarin is the ‘real’ first man in space. Fortunately for American pride, Walker goes up only about 6 weeks after Gagarin, and the US then goes on to perform a further three missions in 1963 vs just one from the Soviets. The Russians didn’t take too much of a chance with Gagarin, since they’d already sent up dogs, and his Zarya capsule was fully automated in case he should be incapacitated. The biggest risk versus a suborbital mission would be failure of the re-entry burn, but they’d had plenty of practice of that with their Sammit spy sats, which shares a lot of commonality with the Zarya service module.

    We’ll be looking into those next steps in the next couple of weeks, with the next post going into some detail on US plans for following up Mercury and utilising Dynasoar, so I’ll hold off commenting until then.

    Thanks! ITTL there have been incidents (including fatalities) with hypergolics before, but it gets a much higher profile when the victim is a cosmonaut, especially a young, pretty, female cosmonaut. It shouldn’t be the case, but...

    Regarding Dynasoar, as mentioned, stay tuned!

    Let’s just say it doesn’t hurt Mishin’s attempts to justify development of his M-1 rocket...

    The two terms are pretty much interchangeable AFAIK (I’ve used them as such, anyway!). See the image above for a look at what’s on the end there.

    Whoops, I just responded to this on the Air and Space Photos thread! To quote myself:

    Indeed. We can only hope that, as with OTL’s Apollo 1 and Soyuz 1, lessons are learnt that will spare future space travellers a similar fate.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2014
  8. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

    Aug 3, 2009
    To be fair, for the US that was partially a consequence of the lengthy gap in astronaut selections and flights during the 1970s. Between 1967 and 1978, there were no new astronaut selections at all (aside from a one-off transfer of ex-MOL pilots to NASA in 1969), which, given that feminism really became a thing during the period, meant that there simply weren't any women to fly. Not only that, but since there were a total of nine US crewed space missions during the entire decade of the 1970s, all of them in the first half, there weren't that many opportunities to fly any women, anyways. If NASA had been selecting and launching astronauts as frequently as it did during the Shuttle days, or as frequently as it does now, then doubtlessly a woman (and other minorities; no African-Americans flew until 1983, too!) would have been selected and flown appreciably earlier than OTL. If nothing else, you could have Robert Lawrence not die in an accident and end up flying. He could easily have been on one of the first Space Shuttle crews OTL, like his fellow MOL trainees Truly, Crippen, Hartsfield, Overmyer, and Peterson.

    Yeah, women should have been flying from the beginning...but even if sexism had been removed from the leadership in 1970, it's really unlikely that any women would have flown earlier than OTL (presuming the space shuttle still happens), just because of the lack of selection opportunities and flights.
  9. Tonyq Well-Known Member

    Mar 1, 2008
    The following is an extract from a Russian language document in my collection on the subject of Vostok launch escape, which may be of interest.

    Extract from: Molodtsov, V.V., "Design History of Sphere Vostok," Cosmic Almanac No. 5, 2001
    "Questions arose of emergency rescue of a cosmonaut in case of a launch failure of the booster rocket, as this was considered a rather probable event.
    The percentage of unsuccessful launches was rather high, and working on this problem of rescue were B.G. Suprun and V.A. Yazdovski as co-authors of the System of Emergency Rescue (SAS), but actually, S.P. Korolev worked them through it.
    On a regular basis he visited Suprun, he gave advice on increasing efficiency of this system and he knew the workings of this system to the smallest detail. This was natural for him, for the life of the cosmonaut, S.P. Korolev answered personally, and he did not remove this responsibility from himself.

    SAS worked as follows:
    • From launch until T+40 seconds by radio command emergency ejection of the cosmonaut with the subsequent ejection of seat and a landing by parachute is made
    • From T+40 seconds until T+150 seconds, there is capability for an emergency shutdown of engines of the booster rocket and when the falling rocket has reached 7 km altitude emergency ejection of the cosmonaut, etc. is made.
    • From T+150 seconds until T+700 seconds from trailer contacts (Gyro equipment) there is an emergency shutdown of engines of the booster rocket and the separation of the decent module is made. However, the automatic system of normal landing joins from the independent time mechanism on 70th second of flight. After falling to 7 km descent proceeds under the regular plan;
    • From T+700 seconds until T+730 seconds there is an emergency shutdown on engines of the 3rd stage and the separation of the entire ship is made. At an input in dense layers of the atmosphere on a signal from other modes there is a division of the ship to subsequent descent SA under the regular scheme.
    However the problem of rescue of the cosmonaut on the first 15-20 seconds of flight had no satisfactory outcome. The only thing that it was possible, was to hang out metal nets in an area where, after ejection, the cosmonaut was expected to fall, as in this situation, the parachute simply would not have time to deploy fully. But even if the cosmonaut survived this ejection, the resulting explosion and fire would probably kill them anyway. All the same, S.P. Korolev felt terrible because of the impossibility to solve the problem of rescuing the cosmonaut during these potentially fatal seconds, but a solution was impossible. In the end, Sergey Pavlovich has resolved, that piloted flights should be made only after two successful pilotless flights."
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2014
  10. Tonyq Well-Known Member

    Mar 1, 2008
    As someone with a great interest in the OTL Vostok female team, and after not visiting this thread for a couple of weeks, I was pleased to return, just in time to see 'when the girl's going up'. Shame about the outcome.

    I've always found the OTL Kuznetsova to be the most intriguing of the 1962 group. She was a personal favourite of Korolev, and many sources suggest she was the early favourite to make the female flight. However she fell from favour, as the pace of training intensified.

    I'm curious to know why you picked her name for Zarya 3, and, bearing in mind that Gagarin only flies in October 1962, and the decision to fly a woman is made after Zarya 2, when were Kuznetova (and any other women) actually selected as cosmonauts?
  11. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

    Apr 13, 2007
    Syracuse, Haudenosaunee, Vinland
    Thruster is usually used for the attitude controls, or for Ion engines. Basically, low power stuff.

    Rocket would more likely be used for anything that involved a perceptible thrust. Heck, even the little retrorockets on Mercury were called retroRockets, not retroThrusters.

    What the usage is any other language, I don't know.

    Errr... Adding to my post. Actually, what you would LIKELY say is 'the engine fired', not 'the rocket fired'. IMO.
  12. BigRIJoe Active Member

    Feb 20, 2008
    Well if you want to get technical, Garagin did not complete a full revolution of the Earth, landing about 300 miles WEST of Tyuratam
  13. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    Very good points. As you mentioned, the 1970s IOTL suffered a real drought of US manned spaceflights as the Shuttle was undergoing development. Flight rates will definitely be a factor when I look into astronaut cadres and crew selections going forward.

    Welcome to the board Tonyq and thanks for making this only your 2nd and 3rd posts! Also thanks for the details on Vostok ejection scenarios, it’s really interesting information.

    One thing to mention, at least as far as I understand it, is the hypergolic propellants of the R-6 would produce a smaller explosion than the OTL kerolox R-7. I got this understanding from the history of Titan-II and Gemini, which also used ejection seats rather than an escape tower. (If anyone has different information on the reasoning behind the use of ejection seats on Gemini, please share, I’d be interested to find out!)

    So a cosmonaut ejecting from the R-6 should have a better chance of surviving the fireball, but will then face the danger of toxic fumes which wasn’t present for OTL’s R-7.

    To clarify, the decision to fly a woman on Zarya-3 was confirmed after Zarya-2, but Mishin had planned a female flight in the mission sequence earlier as part of his charm offensive to the Soviet leadership. His preference was to go for a 2-man launch first, but when that appears unfeasible he swaps the order and accelerates the woman-in-space mission. So the selection of the female candidates would have been around mid-1962, a few months later that the OTL female group selection, and with the accelerated schedule giving less time for training compared to OTL. As with Gagarin’s selection, I’ve assumed that looking for similar skills at a similar time throws up a similar pool of candidates. The reduced training regime here and butterflies (plus perhaps Mishin’s personal preferences compared to Korolev) mean she copes better with the training and gets the nod to fly.

    It basically came down to an aesthetic editorial choice on my part rather than being driven by any technical justification. Maybe one to edit before posting to Finished Timelines.

    Welcome to the conversation, BigRIJoe!

    Yep, but of course IOTL Titov’s Vostok-2 mission closed even this small loophole to put to bed any doubt that the Soviets had beaten the US to a manned orbital flight, though they did admit Titov hadn’t landed with his craft this time, so I guess there is a tiny sliver of hope for those claiming Glenn was first under FAI rules.

    ITTL Walker follows much harder on the heels of Gagarin, so there are a few more and louder voices willing to point out flaws in the Soviet claim, but they aren’t listened to much more than their OTL equivalents.
  14. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe
    On Gemini escape system

    McDonnell wanted for the Mercury Mark II a escape tower.
    until Jim Chamberlin join the Gemini program after the Avro Arrow program was stopped (it seem that not happen in this TL )

    Chamberlin start to clean out, the mercury electronic systems especial the trigger for escape tower system
    all take he the Titan II because two reason:

    - By using hypergolic fuels, it could be stored for long periods of time and be easily readied for launch.
    - it's less explosive as Atlas ICBM who regular explode during launch.

    With less explosive rocket, Chamberlin could eliminate the launch tower and it electrical system by ejection seat.
    also play the use Rogallo wing land landing also a role for decision ejection seat.
    because NAA not manage to construct Rogallo wing on time for Gemini that was replaced for tranditional parachute
  15. BigRIJoe Active Member

    Feb 20, 2008
    Nixon Head...this is the first time that I've ever subscribed to a space related theme. This is alternative manned spaceflight history at it's finest. Bravo, Sir!
  16. Tonyq Well-Known Member

    Mar 1, 2008
    Yes, I've been a lurker in these parts for some time, mostly keeping an eye on the space programme threads, but not contributing much. However, I'm enjoying this one so much, I felt the urge to chip in.

    As you may know, in OTL, the female flight was initially slated for late summer 1962, only 5/6 months after selection, so your time scale is reasonable. The schedule turned out to be impractical for reasons connected to hardware and equipment, rather than the girls' readiness.

    'Butterflies'? Are you suggesting the abridged training window meant there was less time for fear or anxiety about being the one selected for the upcoming flight? I know that Tereshkova has said that she and the other girls were 'young and reckless' and 'burned with desire' to fly into space. Probably written with the benefit of hindsight and bravado, but the OTL Tereshkova, and your Kuznetsova, would have needed a lot of guts to do what they did, and I, for one, salute them both.
  17. NathanKell Well-Known Member

    Jul 22, 2009
    Was off for a while, finally caught up--excellent stuff!
    I actually find it decently likely that if crewed flights continue in the USSR without drastic changes, they will fly a woman reasonably soon (for the wrong reasons, but we take what we can get). On the other hand (or maybe, rather, reinforcing the parenthetical) I seem to recall that in OTL originally it was to be a pair, Tereshkova and another, but the latter (whose name I don't recall) was booted from the flight list for actually talking about equality rather than the Glories of Socialism and Soviet Womanhood.

    Couple nits to pick (I do because I love...)
    In part 1 post 8: the General Electric F118-101 turbofan is the turbofan used for the B-2 bomber, and was retrofitted to still-flying U-2s. Turbofans were barely around *at all* in the late 50s, and certainly not that one. The U-2 used the J57, same as the F-100 and B-52--in fact in the U-2A it was the -P-7 (or -7A), same *exact* engine as the F-100A used. U-2B switched to the J57-P-13 or -13B.

    In part 1 post 10, you use MA-6 for Wood's flight. That'd be MR-something; MA is Mercury-Atlas. Also 9 gees seems a bit low for a ballistic-reentry suborbital; those were usually 11 with the orbitals at 9.

    Very interested to see where we go from here! (Obviously)
  18. Tonyq Well-Known Member

    Mar 1, 2008
    Many thousands of words have been written about the rationale, and the rights and wrongs, of the choice of Tereshkova to be the first woman in space, and the full facts will probably never be known. Certainly, General Nikolai Kamanin promoted the idea of a double female flight for Vostoks 5 and 6, but this idea was dropped before it came time to consider crews, so it is impossible to speculate how that scenario would have played out. While there would still have been a 'first woman in space', the individual focus would have been diluted, and the post flight roles and responsibilities shared, so maybe different selection criteria would have come into play.

    Once the decision had been made to fly only one woman, the background, image, personal qualities, and the potential to fulfill the post-flight PR role trumped all other considerations.

    There seems little doubt that Tereshkova was not the most technically skilled, or experienced candidate - she was probably ranked third best - but she ticked all the PR boxes. So, the selectors (rightly, as it turned out) judged that, despite her ranking, she'd have the physical and mental attributes, and the resolve, to attempt, and complete, a Vostok mission.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2014
  19. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    I'm not sure why both American and Soviet designers would judge both OTL and ITTL that a ker-lox rocket launching people into space would need an escape tower on the capsule, but hypergolic launchers such as Titan II OTL and R-6 ITTL only need an ejection seat.

    The closest thing we've come to addressing it is two different points, one possibly a red herring and the other one that I'm going to take a guess at explaining:

    1) a kerlox rocket is more likely to blow up;

    2) for a given payload to a given orbit, the ker-lox rocket makes a bigger bang if it does blow up.

    1) seems a bit odd at first but might make some sense--still, it's neither here nor there unless the probability of a storable, hypergolic rocket exploding is many orders of magnitude less--if it is only say half, or even a quarter, as likely to blow, it is still just about as necessary and justified to get the crew away from an unlikely but possible failure.

    Since the propellants are two substances which ignite immediately upon any contact, and quite energetically, I'd intuitively assign hypergolics a greater risk of explosion.

    On the other hand, a structural failure that ruptures both propellant tanks and allows them to mix would need a cause--either dangerously fragile structure subject to risk of spontaneous breaks due to minor causes, or something catastrophic happening elsewhere, such as an engine shattering and casting shrapnel about.

    Since hypergolic engines are easier to design because of the fuels' inherent self-ignition, perhaps they are then always in a given state of the art more robust and less likely to fail, therefore the overall risk of a pad or early launch breakup is lower?

    But surely not orders of magnitude lower, just some midrange fraction of one.

    A specific comparison Michel Van referenced OTL was between the Atlas rocket used for Mercury and the Titan II used for Gemini. I gather there were indeed a lot of launch failures with Mercury-Atlas, and that is some years after the rocket had been tested and evaluated for Air Force ICBM service, and deployed on active duty. (To be sure, there was a rush on that process, with among other things the squadron at Vandenberg being activated long before its infrastructure or personnel were in place--this was a political move to counter public panic at the alleged "Missile Gap.")

    One might suppose Atlas was indeed fragile based on the fact that it is by far the lightest liquid-fueled ICBM or orbital rocket ever used in terms of ratio of fueled to empty rocket masses--the Atlas's pressurized structure was so mass-efficient it made no sense to break it into separate stages of fuel tank; only the booster engines (making up about 80 percent of launch thrust) were dropped, enabling tank/hull, sustainer engine, and a payload of about a ton to get into orbit in one unit. An Atlas could put itself into orbit, in other words, minus the booster engines.but dropping nothing else!

    Were frequent structural failures on launch then the price paid for this etherial lightness? I don't think so; the Atlas, and its cousin the Centaur hydrogen-burning upper stage, have over the years proven remarkably successful and reliable with their basically pressure-vessel design.

    Rather I attribute the string of launch failures in its development (and the Centaur's) to the early state of the art in the first generation of missile designs. The Titan II was of course second generation; despite going back to the drawing board to redesign around hypergolic fuels it built on Titan I experience and the generally longer experience rocket designers had had when it came time to design it.

    So the failures of a first-generation ker-lox compared to a second generation hypergolic don't really tell us much about which is inherently more risky; for that we'd need to compare two rockets of the same generation.

    2) Are hypergolic explosions inherently less powerful then?

    Again that seems odd to claim; a ker-lox versus hypergolic engine of the same state of the art ought to favor the former since the theoretical maximum ISP is some ten percent greater; at a given state of the art therefore a ker-lox orbital rocket should be somewhat lighter, in greater proportion than the specific energy difference, so that the propellent load represents a significantly lower total chemical potential, hence, smaller bang.

    Furthermore, even a small combination of the two hypergolic propellants would make an immediate and big bang that ought to set the whole stack off right away, whereas hydrocarbons or even hydrogen can in principle coexist with free oxygen without combusting, if there is no spark to set them off.

    Actually, I suspect it this last point, apparently exonerating ker-lox, that condemns it to a bigger blast if it happens.

    If the hypergolics mix, there is an instant and large bang. Could it be that actually, the reaction is so furious and fast that a relatively small amount of the total propellant load suffices to blow the rest away so rapidly that it has little time or opportunity to interact?

    If so, despite the actually greater chemical potential of the hypergolic fuels, since only a fraction are involved in directly reacting with each other, the blast is less.

    This would explain the severe danger of poisoning of course--most of the glop winds up as a deadly aerosol in the blast zone, not broken down into combustion products. As I understand it, the combustion products of fully burnt up hypergolic mixes tend to be pretty poisonous themselves, but perhaps not quite as nasty as the source materials. Anyway, they are a different kind of nasty, a sooty cocktail of chemicals, some immediately deadly, others more subtly so. And I guess they are slower to break down, having as it were already broken down a lot of the way to equilibrium. The unburnt nitric acid and hydrazine on the other hand will break down upon exposure to atmospheric oxygen, dissolved in rainwater and mixed into soil--but doing more damage as they do so.

    Thus I suppose a mere ejection seat might suffice to keep an astronaut or cosmonaut safe from the actual blast of a failing hypergolic booster. Though not to throw them clear of the cloud of scattered fuel.

    I still think an escape tower is the better remedy for what ails a dubious launcher! It pulls the whole capsule, which is protecting the crew, off the stack; it provides some shelter from blast that is not quite outrun and then from whatever is in the atmosphere where it comes down. A properly designed system would set the capsule down at a bearable impact speed and keep the crew sheltered, afloat or grounded in dangerous territory, while they wait for rescue. And most important of all to me--if it can serve to escape an abortive launch in the critical first few seconds, it can serve anytime after that. If it is the same capsule they proposed to reenter with in a nominal mission, they can abort at any point in the launch, protecting them from the vacuum of space or near-vacuum of high altitude, shielding them from the energy of reentry braking at any level short of full orbital speed or even up to beyond escape speed perhaps.

    The thing clearly masses more and thus deducts from orbital payload, but it covers all contingencies.

    If the R-6 is just too marginal to orbit a manned capsule with a suitable escape tower, they'd best design a new, more capable rocket.
  20. e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

    Nov 27, 2008
    Halfway to Anywhere

    The reason that Titan's danger was judged to be less lies in what you speculate--while LOX/kerosene or LOX/hydrogen have the ability to intermix fully before combusting, the hypergolic propellant clouds of a failing LV can only combust along their interaction front, meaning much of the propellant remains uncombusted.