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 #4: Making Raketoplans

    nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013

    Part II Post #4: Making Raketoplans

    Like many in the United States, the leaders of the Soviet Union were not entirely clear what missions Dynasoar would be used for. They knew that the original brief had been for an intercontinental range skip-glide reconnaissance platform and bomber, but by 1963 ICBMs and spy satellites appeared to be making these missions obsolete. Despite this, the Americans were continuing to spend huge sums of money developing their spaceplane. The official line, that Dynasoar was intended to advance techniques for the peaceful manned exploration of space, seemed inadequate in the face of the costs.

    To the minds responsible for guiding and protecting the home of the World Socialist Revolution, the absence of an obvious visible mission could only mean that there was a secret, hidden purpose to Dynasoar. If Soviet experts were unable to deduce that mission, the conclusion must be that the US were taking extreme measures to keep it secret, in turn proving that it must be a vital, even game-changing advancement of the Cold War. So came the final conclusion: The USSR must develop an equivalent capability! Even if they could not currently see the value in it, they needed to be able to match the Americans on the day their secret purpose was finally revealed!

    It was this chain of reasoning, as well as his personal contacts with a sceptical Khrushchev, that enabled Chelomei to maintain support for his Raketoplan spaceplane development even in the face of massive cuts to the Soviet military forces. Following the September 1959 decree formally authorising the project, OKB-1 quickly began drawing up plans and conducting experiments to make Chelomei’s vision of a family of responsive military spacecraft a reality. The common service module that would support the various specialised Raketoplan payloads was considered to be relatively straightforward to develop, but the protective aeroshell and in particular the manned spaceplane presented more challenging problems.

    Working closely with TsAGI (Tsentralniy Aerogidrodinamicheskiy Institut, “Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute”), LII (Lotno-issledovatel'skiy institut, “Flight Research Institute) and VIAM (Vsesoyuznyy nauchno- issledovatel'skiy institut aviatsionnykh materialov, “All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Aviation Materials”), a number of sub-scale test vehicles were developed starting in 1960 for both the spaceplane and aeroshell. These were used in a series of wind tunnel and suborbital ballistic tests through to the first half of 1962, the results of which validated Chelomei’s approach of using a standard, discardable aerodynamic heat-shield for re-entry. However, the tests also uncovered serious problems with his preferred deployable swing-wing aircraft design.

    Based on his earlier work with Naval cruise missiles, Chelomei had proposed to duplicate their pop-out wings on a larger scale in order to fit his spaceplane behind the aeroshell. However, there were severe challenges involved in scaling up this mechanism for a manned spacecraft whilst making it both reliable enough and, critically, light enough to be worth the trouble. As on almost all space projects, weight growth was a serious issue for Raketoplan, and the wing deployment mechanism soon came to dominate the system’s mass budget discussions.

    Reluctantly, Chelomei was forced to change tack and accept TsAGI’s recommendation for a fixed delta-wing spaceplane. However, this approach raised new issues, as the tips of the wings would now project outside of the aeroshell. Whilst this would provide an opportunity to improve stability and control on re-entry, it also exposed the thin wing edges to greater temperatures. In response, the shape of the aeroshell was adjusted to minimise the exposure of wings to the plasma flow, and a tough, tungsten-based alloy with a protective sheath of graphite was developed by VIAM for the wing leading edges.

    A full-scale aerodynamic model of this version of the spaceplane, code-named “Orel” (“Eagle”), took its first flight in May 1963 from Kapustin Yar. Flying without a Service Module, the Orel test article and its aeroshell, weighing a combined 5 tonnes, were installed on the nose of a modified R-6 first stage for a suborbital test. The test was largely successful, with the aeroshell demonstrating excellent hypersonic manoeuvrability and a clean separation from the spaceplane. Orel also performed moderately well at first, gliding downrange as intended, but five minutes after separation it suddenly veered sharply to the left and entered a steep dive. The recovery parachute deployed, but the aircraft hit the ground nose-first, causing considerable damage.

    Film footage from one of the Sukhoi Su-9 chase aircraft showed that a section of the leading edge of the left wing had detached, partially ripping away the skin of the wing as it departed. Later analysis proved this had been caused by a failure of the thermal protection along the leading edge, leading to a redesign of the system to include ablative “Sabot” shields built into the aeroshell along the wing edge, which would be jettisoned along with the shell after re-entry.

    This improved version took its first flight in January 1964, and proved far more successful. The plane made a smooth landing on the frozen Kazakh steppe, its rugged skids cushioning the landing, and was recovered by Army helicopter for shipment back to Moscow. The Orel was found to be in good shape, and was later re-flown on the fourth suborbital flight test in July. Meanwhile, starting in May 1964, a series of piloted test flights were performed out of the State Red Banner GK Scientific Research Institute VVS at Khodynka, outside Moscow. These test flights involved using Orel’s small jet engine to fly to altitude and then perform a series of varying approaches to the airstrip. Later tests added a small rocket stage to the rear of the plane, boosting it to the supersonic speeds and high altitudes it would experience upon aeroshell separation, then manoeuvring unpowered until its airspeed dropped low enough for the jet to cut in. Pilots reported that the aircraft handled well at high speed, but became less stable as the speed reduced, with a stall speed of around 190 knots (350 kph). It was flyable, but would require special training to ensure safety.

    Atmospheric flight testing of the Orel Raketoplan spaceplane.

    As work progressed steadily on Raketoplan, the development of its UR-500 launcher was also underway. Chelomei had sold the UR-500 in 1959 as a “Super ICBM”, capable of delivering a new generation of “Tsar Bomba” superbombs anywhere in the US. But as with Orel, changing circumstances were undermining its justification. As nuclear weapons became lighter and their delivery systems more accurate (thanks in part to Chelomei’s advances in hypersonic re-entry), the extra costs of the UR-500 no longer matched its usefulness. In particular, the huge silos that would be needed to protect the UR-500 from a disabling first strike would be prohibitively expensive, to the point where it would be cheaper to use three of Yangel’s R-36 missiles against a target rather than a single UR-500.

    In addition to these economic problems, the UR-500 was also running into technical issues. Glushko had hoped to develop a common set of engines for the UR-500 and Yangel’s R-200, but diverging requirements and scaling problems made this increasingly difficult. In response, Glushko had chosen to focus first on the R-200’s RD-201 engines, then use these as a basis for the larger RD-221 later. Partly this was down to a rational engineering assessment by Glushko, but he was also influenced by a simple preference for working with Yangel over the assertive, arrogant Chelomei. This would not be the last time that Chelomei’s focus on charming the bosses whilst ignoring his peers would come back to bite him.

    The two people that saved the UR-500 from outright cancellation were Khrushchev and von Braun. Von Braun was important because it was his Minerva rocket that convinced enough of the Soviets’ top generals that the USSR needed an equivalent. As with Dynasoar and Raketoplan, Minerva and the UR-500 were linked as move and counter-move in the chess game of the Cold War. Khrushchev was of course vital because of the personal support he lent Chelomei at the top of the Soviet government. Chelomei had plans to use the UR-500 not only for his Orel spaceplane, but also for his planned “Almaz” military space station and his capsule-based “Safir” Raketoplan variant for circumlunar flights. Whilst the military showed some interest in Almaz, it was only Chelomei’s hard lobbying of Khrushchev, and the latter’s desire for further space spectaculars, that won him support for development of Safir.

    As Chelomei’s UR-500 struggled towards realisation and Yangel’s R-200 moved smoothly through development, a third rocket was being created by Mishin. Authorised in the 1959 decree to develop a five-tonne class launcher using kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants, Mishin had quickly managed to expand the scope of his M-1 vehicle by assuming that “Five tonnes” referred to the payload of one of his Molniya military communications satellites. These were planned to use a highly eccentric (and so highly energetic) elliptical path that would keep them over the northern hemisphere for the majority of their orbit. To support this capability, the M-1 would have to be considerably larger than Chelomei had intended when he agreed to the draft decree for the Central Committee. In fact the M-1 in its final configuration would match the R-200’s 10 tonnes to low Earth orbit, double the original specification.

    Building on the experimental work Mishin had been overseeing since the mid-’50s, the M-1 design came together quickly, and the first prototype launcher had reached the pad at Kapustin Yar in April 1962. With a first stage powered by six of OKB-385’s in-house VM-12 engines, the two-stage rocket lifted from the pad, but then quickly veered off course due to a failure in the guidance system. The M-1 was destroyed as a safety measure, but even in the face of this apparent failure Mishin was able to point to the fact that no cloud of poison gas had been created during the accident.

    More tests followed, starting at Kapustin Yar and then moving to Tyuratam as Barmin completed the necessary facilities in late-1962. These tests culminated in March 1963 with the successful orbiting of an experimental communications satellite.

    With the Zarya-3 tragedy coming just three months later, Mishin received authorisation to push ahead with the modifications needed to launch manned Zarya capsules on the M-1. These modifications were tested in November 1963, with the unmanned launch of a Zarya-B spacecraft. Enclose within a new fairing design that sported a launch escape tower on its nose, the rocket successfully delivered the capsule to a 300 km circular orbit. Supplied by its enlarged service module, the Zarya-B (given the cover name “Kosmos-27”) remained on-orbit for six days before performing a re-entry burn. Separation from the service module was clean, and the return vehicle made a perfect landing back in Russia. When a second unmanned test showed similarly textbook mission profile in January 1964, Mishin gave the go-ahead for a manned flight, which if successful would be the USSR’s first manned mission for over a year.

    On 10th March 1964, cosmonauts Aleksei Leonov and Pavel Belyayev were strapped into their capsule at Tyuratam for the Zarya-3 mission (Kuznetsova’s failed mission of the same name having been deleted from the official history books). Unlike the earlier missions, this time there was no ejection seat. If anything went wrong with the M-1, the two cosmonauts would have to rely on the Escape Tower to pull them clear of the explosion. Whether the tower worked as planned or not though, Leonov and Belyayev knew that the M-1’s non-toxic propellant mixture meant that they would at least be spared the fate of poor Tanya.

    At 10:15 am local time, the VM-12 engines roared into life and Zarya-3 left the launchpad. Despite their fears, the first stage burn went completely according to plan, with forces on the two test pilots climbing to over 6 gee at first stage burnout. The first stage was jettisoned, along with the unneeded escape tower, and the single VM-22 second stage engine ignited to complete the insertion of Zarya into its planned 220 km by 330 km orbit. Both cosmonauts reported a smooth ride and no problems as they separated from the second stage and deployed the PA module’s small solar panels.

    Zarya-3 stayed in orbit for over a full day, smashing the 7 hour duration record set by Mercury-5 the previous December. In terms of man-hours on orbit, Zarya-3’s record was an even more impressive, topping 51 hours for a single mission. Although conditions were cramped for Leonov and Belyayev, the removal of ejection seats meant that they had enough space to remove the outer layers of their spacesuits, and both men were able to sleep for short periods during the mission.

    The only significant problem encountered during the mission occurred during the return to Earth. Following the separation of the PA, the SA re-entry capsule experienced a sudden depressurisation. Fortunately both cosmonauts had been wearing their spacesuits for the critical return journey, and both were able to seal their faceplates before suffering any worse than a bloody nose and a minor fright. However, the air-cooled electronics in the SA module soon began to overheat in the near-vacuum of the cabin, and the cosmonauts were forced to quickly shut down all unnecessary systems in an effort to keep essential systems functioning. Fortunately the aerodynamic design of the Zarya capsule meant that the re-entry was able to continue unguided to a successful ballistic landing in Russia a few hundred kilometres from the target zone, with recovery forces arriving on the scene around two hours after touchdown. The cause of the depressurisation was later traced to a faulty valve in the SA - a case of poor quality control. This event solidified the Soviet practice of cosmonauts always wearing full spacesuits for critical mission events.

    The Zarya-3 mission was a badly needed propaganda boost for the Soviet Union. Whilst the USAF could just about manage to send one man into space for a few hours, the USSR was launching multi-man, multi-day flights. For Khrushchev the mission gave him a genuine triumph to point to at a time when the Soviet economy was slowing and Soviet influence abroad was waning.

    Mishin too was buoyed by the success. He was directing real missions with real achievements, whilst arch-rival Chelomei played with his toy spaceplanes. With his next flight, Mishin aimed to top Zarya-3’s achievements with something even more spectacular - something that would finally give him enough prestige to overcome Khrushchev’s patronage and supplant Chelomei as the undisputed leader of the USSR’s space programme.
    pattontank12 likes this.
  2. Bahamut-255 Space Lover

    Jul 28, 2010
    So the USSR seeks to maintain parity with the US in the Spaceplane field? Can't say I'm surprised, even if IOTL that was a visible symptom of the problems they faced and aided in its collapse.

    I get the feeling that Mishin will be trimming back on the Vodka for the time being, having a real success that gives him the possibility of overcoming Chelomei.

    And I have to say, that was a clever - if not risk-free - manoeuvre on Mishin's part, interpreting the 5,000 Kg payload as being for a higher-energy orbit which gives it the means to handle an OTL Soyuz-Sized Spacecraft - perhaps with slight improvements to its performance.

    But the big piece here, Cabin De-Pressurisation. At least here they could fit into their Pressure Suits an thus survive the event, the only way that they could agree to making their use mandatory without a fatality IMHO.
  3. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    I spoke too soon then saying "at least there is no Voshkhod ITTL!" Modifying Zarya to handle two cosmonauts is the only way Mishin could have gotten another manned launch so soon. It's nice that getting rid of the ejection seat and putting it on a new, bigger rocket not only allowed for the second cosmonaut but a suitable escape tower too, and apparently Zarya, at least with these modifications, can soft-land on the ground well enough that they don't need to bail out but can stay with their craft.

    I guess it is less marginal than the OTL Voshkhod because of the M-1 rocket launching it, exceeding the maximum capability eventually squeezed into the 1950s missile design of the R-7--if the M-1 is stretched by various incremental tricks as the R-7 was OTL the capability will approach that of the OTL Saturn 1-B and it apparently already exceeds the Titan II by a significant amount. It could already launch an OTL Soyuz with margin to spare! Meaning a third iteration of Zarya, or a new clean-sheet ballistic reentry capsule design, could allow the Soviets to launch three cosmonauts at once, fully suited for critical maneuvers and with room to get out of the suits for long-duration orbital missions.

    But ITTL ballistic capsules are not in fashion, being resorted to only under severe deadline pressure. Similarly the M-1, capable as it is, is eclipsed by the desires of American, hence Soviet, officials to launch even bigger payloads and thus appears as a mere expedient, with Chelomei still gung-ho on hypergolic fuels for the heavier rockets he aims for. Similarly with everyone regarding only spaceplanes as "real" spaceships, the weight to achieve a given payload plus heavier plane reusable structure is going to be higher, demanding better rockets and reducing the M-1 to a footnote--if the plans are not going to be shelved for simpler capsule designs in the light of experience.

    I notice that Chelomei is not trying for a fully reusable, non-ablative TPS aerodynamic-flying Raketoplan; the idea is to encase the flyable structure in an ablative and disposable heat shield to be ejected. Whereas the Dyna-Soar concept does depend on structural metal that is not supposed to ablate away but remain a permanent part of the craft to do the job of surviving orbital reentry.

    This means that although the Russians are indeed looking at a ballistic capsule for return from high-energy orbits such as lunar missions, they might not have to. Although OTL conventional wisdom certainly says they should, since the aerodynamic capabilities of a spaceplane cradled in an ablative shield are not really needed, and cost considerable weight.

    I've been trying to work out the possibility of using a craft designed for low-orbital reentry, that has to shed some 8 kilometers/sec orbital velocity by aerobraking, to safely return from a high-energy return orbit, initially comparable to escape velocity around 11 km/sec, using a two-step profile. First, aim for a high level of the atmosphere where the air is less dense than the layer that would start to "bite" on the orbital descent trajectory, and shed the excess 3 km/sec in a profile that would leave it with about 8 km/sec putting it in a moderately elliptical orbit; during that orbit the heat shield would radiate away its excess heat, preparing it for an essentially normal orbital descent as it passes back toward perigee. (Or, the craft could fire engines at apogee, some 40-50 minutes after bouncing off the upper atmosphere, and stabilize in a higher circular parking orbit, perhaps to then rendezvous with a space station). The amounts of energy that need to be shed are the same; if each maneuver takes about the same time the average heat flux on the TPS should then also be the same. Actually I think the peak heat flux on the brake-to-orbit maneuver would be higher in that case, which is probably critical, so the average has to be even lower to bring it down--so we aim to take longer which reduces the average acceleration even lower and also peak acceleration. (Heat flux is a power, found by multiplying acceleration by velocity; the average velocity of the brake-to-low-orbit phase is a lot higher so the acceleration must be lower to keep the peak heating flux within bounds, this is why we take longer to go from 11 to 8 km/sec than from 8 to essentially zero). The good news is that this means the G-force on the craft is lower than on the reentry it is designed for, and the pilots have longer times to react in controlling the attitude; the aerodynamic pressure is lower so the control can be more precise.

    That's good, because the cost of having much higher lift/drag ratios that is a touted advantage of a spaceplane is that control would be far more critical. The extreme case of a simple ballistic capsule would be a sphere like Vostok's OTL return capsule; this gives absolutely no aerodynamic control whatsoever, meaning the reentry trajectory is controlled solely by the mass/area ratio and the exact trajectory at which it enters the effective atmospheric drag; after that it is all a matter of differential equations dictating braking forces and rate of descent as it falls into thicker layers of atmosphere, and peak accelerations even in the best cases are high, meaning high heat flux--but also brief endurance of same. But it is easy to keep the heat shield oriented correctly; just pack the capsule so its center of mass is well toward it and it will automatically pitch over to keep it centered--on average, it may be necessary to damp out oscillations. Much the same is broadly true of the sorts of conical capsules NASA favored OTL or the "headlight" shape adopted for Soyuz and recommended by some American engineers; however these shapes do have some aerodynamic steering capability, if you hold the bottom a bit off axis, you get some transverse lift force which can be used to control rate of descent or yaw the craft, giving some cross-range and control of the length of the ground track--yet, this modest lift varies relatively little with the angle, meaning that the pilot has good control with only modest maneuvering using attitude jets and some margin for error.

    A hypersonic lifting body with a much larger potential lift-drag ratio on the other hand would therefore reach its peak lift and possibly stall at a lower angle of attack; while the transverse forces available to the pilots are much greater allowing superior cross range, a gentler rate of descent with gentler decelleration and so on, controlling it would be far more critical. Also the "advantage" of drawing out the descent with a gentler acceleration also means that while heat flux is lower it persists longer; the net heat input to the TPS tends to be worse. But what I'm stressing here is that the control of aerodynamic attitude must be very fine and is going to be opposing much stronger destabilizing forces--the craft might use up quite a lot of reaction control propellant holding itself at the proper angle. It is obviously harder to stabilize it by the simple expedient of packing fixed weight toward the bottom, since there is a lot less height to work with on the spread-out structure.

    If the spaceplane can handle well enough to be relied upon for orbital reentry, handling the brake-to-low-orbit maneuver should be relatively easier.

    OTOH, trying to visualize how that passage would work, given the exponential drop-off of atmospheric density over ten kilometers or so scale height, seemed to show me that actually the hard trick is to do the braking while staying in a layer of given density without either going down too far and burning up or failing to go deep enough and not braking down to an acceptably low orbit; it looks to me now like the approach to perigee is mainly going to be about killing the downward velocity (even though the balance of energy and angular momentum is already braking that velocity at about 1 G on their free-fall orbit) so they can then do most braking as they slowly (relatively) climb from minimum altitude. I think there must be a right way to do it, but the simple ideas I originally had are clearly off and it must involve some careful and esoteric calculation. I still think the maneuvering demands, assuming they aim for the right initial free-orbit perigee, are going to be easier than the final descent, but I could be quite mistaken.

    There is another fly in the ointment that e of pi has pointed to several times in his own timeline and others--the layer of atmosphere that has the right density actually fluctuates in altitude, depending on solar activity and perhaps other variables. A case in point being Skylab, brought down much earlier than anyone expected due to a solar activity maximum heating the upper atmosphere and raising the density of air at its orbital height.

    Now, I'd think that although we are aiming for air that is a third or less the density of the effective first "bite" on a reentering orbital craft, we are still aiming for air a lot denser than even the high levels Skylab suffered. And that the fluctuations in atmospheric density get worse with altitude and reduced average density, so that at the layer we'd be aiming at the most extreme fluctuations are far less than at low Earth orbital heights. Also, it would be possible to closely observe all satellites placed in orbit for anomalous braking, and thus plot the fluctuations, and adjust the layer we aim for accordingly. We could also orbit a constellation or series of polar-orbit satellites designed to closely measure the density and drag of the atmosphere they pass through, to more closely map and log the upper atmosphere's behavior.

    Then the question is, what is the time scale of these fluctuations, and also how do they vary over the area of the Earth? If these variations are such that we can predict, within 10 percent or so, the density of the air at the perigees the orbital capture maneuver aims for on a time scale of say a week, then a spacecraft returning from the Moon will have a target it can aim for that won't wander too far; minor mid-course corrections can keep it on track.

    On the other hand, if the fluctuations are very patchy over the Earth and unpredictable on a time scale of hours at that level, then such a return would be a gamble; it might be too thin or too thick and the cost of a last-minute course correction using rockets far too high to compensate.

    I'd think that by now, the empirical question I'm asking would have a well-known answer, but I don't know it.

    If in fact the appropriate atmospheric layer is stable enough to be planned for and tracked, then the USAF Dyna-Soar type craft can indeed be used for Lunar missions if the advantages they offer are deemed worth their extra mass. It might still be necessary for the Air Force to learn a lot more than they realize now about the behavior of the upper atmosphere though.

    Also--some others have wondered if the plan for future deep exploration of space is going to involve, as per OTL, spacecraft launched direct from Earth and any return capsules coming straight back to the surface, versus the old Von Braun/"Collier-Disney space program" notion that we'd establish orbital stations, and deep space craft would depart from them and return to them, with final return to Earth being the province of specialized, possibly reusable, shuttle craft.

    The catch there is that if we send a specialized orbital spaceship out from a LEO station, and then expect it to return to that same station from the Moon (or interplanetary deep space) not only must we launch it from LEO at a bit under 8000 m/sec to near-escape speeds (or well above them to go to Mars or Venus), that is most of or more than a delta-V of 3 km/sec--we also have to then reverse that when it returns to low orbit.

    I was thinking conceptually about a gradual strategy that takes establishing a base (usually unmanned, but mannable) at Earth-Moon L-1. (I have my reasons for that point instead of L-2 despite the latter's theoretical advantages--if the program went on to deep space though I'd think then it would be time to shift over to the outer point). I figure that a minimum-energy Hohmann type orbit to L-1 would take about 5 days for a half-orbit and involve, upon reaching the point's vicinity, a course matching maneuver of about 800 m/sec; allow 1000 for margin, and thus to send such a ship to L-1 and later have it return (with the same mass--realistically it might well have far lower mass on the final leg) therefore costs about 5000 delta-V altogether, if we don't have to brake at the final approach to LEO with rockets. Braking down to rendezvous with the space station would cost another 3000 m/sec which would thus double the mass requirement if we are using a sophisticated hydrogen-oxygen engine with ISP above 450.

    I suspect it might be feasible to make such a LEO-L-1 shuttle spaceship in the form of a conical or Soyuz-headlight shape with a reusable heat shield, and aerobrake off the atmosphere for the return to space station. That makes for very nice economies compared to having to do it with rocket braking!

    Of course the plan might be instead to use an atomic thermal rocket which gets an ISP of 1000; then the mass ratio of the round trip with rocket braking to the space station at the end would be lower than the hydrogen-oxygen version with the lower delta-V. However there are a number of objections to that, one being that OTL planned nuclear shuttles of that type were expected to become severely radioactive after burning, such that they had to be kept many hundreds of miles away from other spacecraft while they "cooled off," a process that would take months or the better part of a year.

    The point is that these sorts of nifty plans to build a permanent space infrastructure have to be evaluated carefully against reaching the goal with one-shot rocketry as per OTL; it might seem obvious that reusing stuff should be more economical and thus raise capabilities on a fixed annual budget, but in fact that might not work out to be the case. It would be neat if atmospheric aerobraking can save us a lot of delta-V for deep space operations that go round-trip.

    But perhaps the real answer is not to go round-trip, or to minimize what does.
  4. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

    Apr 13, 2007
    Syracuse, Haudenosaunee, Vinland
    Common core booster versions of the M1 could do a lot better, a la Falcon 9 or Delta IV Heavies.

    Shevek, why do you say it could appoach a Saturn 1b?

    Cant a 1b launch a full apollo csm? Which is a LOT heavier than a Soyuz. Or did they have to launch them half fuelled or something? I forget.
  5. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe
    On a Saturn IB, they launch the Apollo CSM with almost empty fuel tanks
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  6. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

    Aug 3, 2009
    They had to offload propellant to put up a Block II CSM, yes, but since the SM was sized for the LOI and TEI burns, which are massively larger than anything it could possibly be expected to do in Earth orbit, this wasn't really a problem. Some plans for modifying Apollo to serve as a space station logistics craft would have taken advantage of this by modifying the SM to have storage space for consumables and other supplies, replacing most of the propellant storage volume.

    Shevek, I have to point out that NASA did a lot of studies on reusable aerocapturing spacecraft in the 1980s, as part of the OTV work...you might want to look at that. Also, and this is a more recent thing, it turns out that you can use the Earth's magnetic field as a kind of brake as well. Much easier on the structure than aerocapture, for sure, but it doesn't really work for people (you don't lose energy fast, so you end up making a lot of passages through the van Allen belts and taking a while). Of course, people and the spacecraft needed to move them from Earth to wherever the spacecraft is in Earth orbit or in circumEarth space are light and cheap, relatively speaking, so braking the big, expensive interplanetary spacecraft without any people on it is fine.

    I don't think you'd want to try to do a two-part return in a spaceplane (or indeed any kind of RV), because you're going to end up in a VERY elliptical orbit returning from any reasonable beyond LEO destination, meaning van Allen belt passages, a long extra duration spent in space in the reentry vehicle, and a tough reentry environment regardless of the delta-V you shed. Skip reentries are one thing, bouncing off the atmosphere deliberately is another. If you want aeromanuvering capability and decent very-high-speed-reentry performance, a very simple hypersonic lifting body like the M1 (essentially a half-cone) or a biconic capsule seem your best bets. They don't have the...complications of more aerodynamic forms, but they're still more maneuverable than capsules. Of course, you don't get much subsonic performance with either of those, but that's what parawings and parafoils are for.

    (As a rather parenthetical note, I think you're wrong about L-1. As you note, L-2 is better in the long-run; it's also better in the short-run, inasmuch as the principle disadvantage of it relative to L-1 is longer transit times. But if you're accepting the delta-V penalty of launching to L-1, then you can use ballistic trajectories to L-2 that will hardly take any longer than getting to L-1 or to the Moon directly, and have the advantage of putting all your infrastructure and experience in the right long-term spot, while being able to save delta-V if you accept the transit time penalties. Given the transit times needed to go anywhere but the Moon, in my view it's better to learn how to deal with that rather than handicap yourself at the starting gate to put off working with them. Plus cargo doesn't care anyways.)
    Dlg123 likes this.
  7. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    Because I'm thinking, perhaps wrongly, that the 1b was meant to lift just under 20 tonnes, around 18 or so, to LEO--heh, the ETS technical page records it as 16.4.

    The early R-7 of OTL started out just barely able to lift Sputnik 1, but soon was evolved to stretch that to a Vostok, and then to a Soyuz, then eventually, using every trick in the book, a Soyuz craft plus a few extra tonnes. The M-1 orbits ten tonnes in LEO out the gate; if they stick with it and fiddle with it a la the OTL R-7, eventually they could get it up past 16 tonnes, I suppose.

    Anyway it already bears a similar relationship to a Saturn 1B as the "Red Star" timeline's N-1 bears to a Saturn V, about 3/5 the capability of its American counterpart--except the 1B does not exist here; I look forward to a more detailed description of the Minerva family to figure out which of them matches it most closely.

    And the Minervas are probably going to undergo comparable evolutions. According to Encyclopedia Astronautica for instance the E-1 engine has an ISP well under 300; that's pretty sad. I'd be tempted to get back on my hydrogen peroxide soapbox, arguing that that 290 is OK, 270 doesn't look so bad in comparison--except I know no project with von Braun in charge is going to ever consider peroxide...:rolleyes: I hope that an upgrade, an E-2 if you will, is going to be available soon that will raise it past 300; OTL Soviet ker-lox engines of the early '70s could do 330 after all. If the F-1 could do 315 I'd think the improved E's ought to do 310 or so anyway. I hope.

    That would raise the capability of each member of the Minerva family across the board.
  8. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe
    The Soviet Military demanded a reaction with "analogous tactical-technical characteristics" of US hardware, in simple words "Build it like it US version"
    This "analogous tactical-technical characteristics" mirror true out the Soviet military hardware see Rockwell B-1 vs. Tupolev Tu-160 or STS vs. Buran
    Dlg123 likes this.
  9. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

    Apr 13, 2007
    Syracuse, Haudenosaunee, Vinland
    hunh. I had in my head that the Saturn 1B had heavier lift than that, I think. Encyclopedia Astronautica gives payload for the Saturn as 18.6 tonnes, which is perceptibly higher than what the wiki page you cite says. OTOH, EA has been known to have problems....

    Thanks for the explanation. Also Michel and Workable Goblin.
    Dlg123 likes this.
  10. brovane Well-Known Member

    Jun 30, 2013
    Orange County, CA
    The difference I think is in how you define Earth Orbit. The EA cites a 185kmx185km at 28 degrees orbit while the ETS is looking at a 237kmx237km(I think it was Km but no unit cited) at 51.6 degrees.
    Dlg123 likes this.
  11. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    The search process is a bit clumsy; I've downloaded a lot of reports but digesting them might take a while and I don't know what I'm overlooking.

    Do you have any favorites you might post a link to?
    I'm focused on manned missions, and not seriously looking ahead to interplanetary ones.

    Mainly, I was responding to the idea that a LEO space station might be both launching point for Lunar missions and also the place returning astronauts (or geological samples) might return to, to then be brought to Earth in a standard Earth-to-orbit and return shuttle vehicle of some kind. Especially if we nix the idea of aerocapture to low orbit, it seems to me the latter is a bad idea; returning astronauts would need to return directly to Earth, in an aerobraking direct landing capsule similar to an Apollo CM.

    Ironically when I was exploring the idea of aerocapture to orbit, it became apparent to me very quickly that there is no need for the orbital transfer craft to be a "spaceplane;" something like a Soyuz capsule shape would probably be quite suitable.

    Or maybe not...
    Well, I suppose I'll understand more if I read the NASA stuff from the mid-80s.

    What I was going for, conceptually, is a single passage, essentially the near-parabolic perigee we'd expect from an approach where there is no significant atmospheric drag, modified by the drag there is, sufficient to take 3000+ m/sec off the approximately 11,000+ we'd expect, so that it winds up in a moderately elliptical orbit, with apogee well below the Van Allen belts and a period measured in less than three hours at most--so it winds up in the ballpark of the assumed LEO station if docking there is desirable, or a run-of-the-mill orbital reentry most of an orbital period later, when the heat shield has cooled off again.

    The more I think about it, the more tricky the flight pattern through the atmosphere appears. The problem is that although the rate of descent is mostly arrested already as it enters atmosphere of significant density, it is still pretty fast--the time frame between the drag becoming noticeable and becoming excessive seems pretty low; we'd need to stretch it out by aerodynamic lift, but any acceleration in any direction counts as something to multiply the speed by to get thermal flux I suppose, and I'm not sure any reasonable design can get the lift needed to keep the craft in the layer of desirable density on a single passage.

    Your remarks imply to me that indeed, either there is no single-pass solution possible at all, or that it is so difficult to attain without risking disaster of one kind or another that the only practical way is to use multiple passes, each one braking only to a modest degree--we can't take off 3 km/sec in one go in a human-survivable fashion.

    If that's true, then of course all the dire consequences you mention would follow--the first passage would barely reduce the speed below escape velocity, implying a very high apogee, trips through the scenic VA belts (Oops, they have a different name ITTL--Vernov, that's right!:p) and days before the second passage--which still would not be the last I suppose.

    I suspect that the single passage is doable, but it's beyond me to prove it.

    I was expecting to be shut down with data showing the target layer of atmosphere fluctuates (or anyway, can, unpredictably on deep space mission time scales, due to unexpected solar activity) too rapidly for the appropriate course to be set with enough confidence to bet space traveler's lives on.

    Does anyone know those facts?
    I was putting out a conceptual sketch to compare OTL direct-launch to Luna strategies to, and hadn't finished fleshing it out. Transfer to and from L-1 is conceptually much easier to visualize; if it is true it takes less delta-V to reach a wide halo orbit around L-2 that's presumably because of clever slingshot maneuvering close to Luna; indeed what I recall of Farquahar's classic paper illustrates just such a burn. Whereas getting to L-1 involves, if I visualize it correctly, a Hohmann transfer to an imaginary point "below" L-1, by some 20,000 km if my calculations don't mislead me--essentially I aimed for a point that has the same gravitational potential as L-1, accounting for Luna's field depressing it, in an Earth orbit far from Lunar influence--such an orbit should have a half-period of a bit over 3.5 days and require a delta-V of 3140+ m/sec from a 300 km parking orbit. (I did more detailed math after looking up figures on the Moon some time after my prior post--so I underestimated the injection delta-V, mainly due to overestimating parking orbit speed, but overestimated the transit time, when figuring very roughly in my head.:eek:).

    We are indeed in a hurry when it comes to moving astronauts about. I only suggest L-1 as a conceptual alternative to launching an entire Lunar orbit rendezvous stack all at once (which is certainly an option, from an orbiting space station assembly point) in which case we obviously would want to go for a more direct mission a la Apollo, arriving in low lunar orbit, parking the return vehicle there, and landing on the moon and returning to LLO in a specialized LM.

    The L-1 idea was mainly to explore the wisdom of the concept of having permanent, reusable shuttle vehicles that go from a LEO station to various points of interest in deep space then return to the LEO station for reuse. It was to illustrate that that final step of braking off 3000 meters/sec or more to dock with the station is quite costly, unless you have a rocket with very high ISP, much higher than even a J-2 or somewhat more advanced hydrogen-oxygen burner. If aerocapture in one pass is ruled out, then it looks to me like no matter how useful the LEO station is for assembling spacecraft to go out, in one piece or many, if we want anything to come back best we send it directly to Earth for full atmospheric braking and landing in one shot--nothing comes back to the assembly station.:(

    If I'd done it "right" with L-2 the conclusions would be quite similar but even more difficult to flesh out.:eek:

    This leads me to venture some speculations on where the timeline might be headed, in terms of an eventual manned Lunar mission by someone or other.

    The key difference between this and most TLs about space exploration is, the Space Race, although present, is lower-key than usual, thanks to the American perception that they are comfortably ahead--something the Soviets can live with since after all everyone knows they are #2 and are coming from far behind--a nation very poor compared to the USA in per capita terms (and, since populations are comparable, only marginally favoring the Russians, in aggregate terms as well); devastated by defeat in the Great War and worse by the Civil War, pioneering a completely new form of society (from their point of view--from the Western, shooting themselves in the foot with their perverse economic irrationality); again devastated in a second Great War with the worse malice of the most powerful foe aimed straight at them--merely demonstrating parity with the most powerful Western nation is quite an achievement for them to take pride in. Ideologically it isn't enough in the long run--they are supposed to prove superiority to the West, catching up and overtaking, and Khrushchev has gone on record asserting this should happen pretty soon now. But for now, being roughly behind the Americans is acceptable, as long as it isn't too far behind and they pull off some coups that beat the Yankees every now and then. So far they are on track.

    So there is no panic, or very little compared to OTL, on either side of the Iron Curtain. The Americans are proceeding methodically on their own timetable, the Soviet threat serving merely to keep them on track and not procrastinate; the American threat serves a similar end in the Soviet mentality. It is true that we see the Russians going ahead with aerodynamic Raketoplans and grandiose hypergolic rockets they might be wiser to drop, thanks to suspicion of Yankee schemes, but these are, unlike OTL Buran/Energia, plans that Chelomei had anyway--he just has leverage here to try to follow through.

    We see that already the Soviets are nervous about their stalling economy--BTW I'm not sure that's OTL; the perception in both East and West was that, on their own peculiar terms, the Russians were doing pretty well well into the 1970s. Or so I gather anyway; obviously in the West there were always people predicting imminent collapse of the socialist monstrosity due to its inhumane irrationality, but these doomsayers generally expected it to be a political event of great violence that might well involve WWIII. As I understand it, sober Western analysts could of course list a thousand reasons the Soviet system was bad and inefficient but saw little reason to think it would fail without being pushed.

    So if the Kremlin perceives problems in the mid-60s, that might actually be good, if we can imagine they can find creative ways out of the hole they see opening before them. The timeline gives me little grounds for optimism they can; the Cassandraesque combination of grim foresight and no solutions might color the latter Soviet decades with some darkness. (It seems more likely that pretty soon, if they aren't finding non-OTL solutions, they will simply kid themselves into thinking they are probably OK anyway; this might involve a coup to get rid of Khrushchev if he is stuck with gloomy realism).

    So getting back to space programs--I guess von Braun will indeed push for a version of the "Collier Space Program" of the 1950s--first, focus on building some kind of space station (probably not with a spinning wheel:p) to practice rendezvous, supply dump and orbital assembly procedures, and eventually to serve as a base to launch deep space missions from. The obvious next step is to send men to the Moon, but they aren't on JFK's OTL time table; sticking with boosters of modest capabilities measured in tens of tonnes, the plan would be to assemble something suitable for TLI and it would quickly be realized anything coming back from Lunar space would be returning to Earth directly

    It is quite possible the advantages of Lunar Orbit Rendezvous will be overlooked and all thinking will be in terms of a single vehicle that goes directly to the Lunar surface and then sends a return capsule directly back to Earth--such a program would demand quite a heavy TLI stack even with efficient J-2 or even J-2S hydrogen burning rockets. It is conceivable the moon expedition will wait for the development of an atomic thermal rocket along the lines of NERVA/Rover.

    In that long interim, someone might belatedly start touting the virtues of LOR; certainly by then long experience with Earth orbit rendezvous will allay some of the OTL early objections.

    In that context, perhaps something like my above Lagrange point rendezvous scheme will emerge as a variant. The idea being that by then they will understand, from unmanned lunar probes, especially orbital surveyors, that due to Lunar mascons, low lunar orbits are unstable--good enough for a few days in a mission similar to OTL Apollo but not for months and years, whereas the L-1 and -2 points host halo orbits that are more easily maintained and predictable. So, if the option of breaking up the Lunar expedition into two or more launches appeals, it would be possible to send the lander vehicle ahead unmanned in a separate TLI to wait at the chosen point, and then send the manned Earth return capsule along with a modest service module--assuming all TLI is done by a high-performance J-2 engined booster, the maneuvering to rendezvous at a Lagrange point would involve relatively modest delta-Vs, something like a third or quarter of what the CSM had to do OTL in Apollo. On the other hand, the Lunar lander would be a monster, some sixty percent or more larger than the OTL LM's 15 tons; it could well have to mass thirty considering that it must descend to the Moon and then its ascent module climb back up from it over a rather long time period--that skews mission plans toward favoring longer Lunar stays, a full Lunar daylight period of two weeks perhaps.

    Thus, even launched separately, the package to depart the station to deliver the Lunar lander to its storage point would be perhaps 70 tons counting its TLI booster. The manned ship, essentially an Apollo CM with a much smaller SM, would more than make up for it by being smaller than half an OTL CSM, so the overall alt-Apollo via Lagrange might be lighter than OTL, or anyway be of similar size.

    Still at first blush it looked to me like we'd need launchers with more than 40 tonnes to orbit capability to pull it off; on second thought with clever management of twice as many 20 tonne launchers it might work out well. (The Lunar lander masses maybe 30 tonnes, but most of that is hypergolic fuel, part of which can be ferried up later, or stored in advance at the LEO station).

    If there is never any panic to put pressure on a crash program for a Nova/Saturn V sort of launcher, the Minerva family, at least after suitable engine upgrades, might be able to handle these requirements.

    The Soviet program, realizing Chelomei is in charge until either he oversteps too far, is shown up too much by Mishin, or loses his patron Khrushchev, will probably proceed along his OTL vision of the UR-700, a hypergolic monster more massive than the Saturn V, meant to send a single capsule (via braking crasher stages) to land on the Moon directly then launch it back to Earth again directly. The capsule would be comparable to a scaled-down Apollo CM and would hold IIRC two cosmonauts, in cramped conditions to be sure.

    By the time Chelomei falls (if he isn't clever enough to keep his footing even if Khrushchev is removed, retires or dies in office, something he is likely to do well before 1975) perhaps the program will be so far along the new leadership decide they must continue with it.

    That gives the Americans a deadline of the early Seventies to '78 or so (if the Soviet program is delayed some years beyond Chelomei's timetable) to try to beat the Russians to the moon; I'd think they wouldn't be sure it was on until 1970, and perhaps the next 5 years will show so much progress along von Braun's planned lines that he can confidently come up with a plan to do it via mostly existing hardware. We know that OTL the LEM had a protracted development that might lead to some nail-biting as the Soviet rocket nears readiness--perhaps instead of recklessly rushing on ahead, the Americans take a breath, pointing out that the Soviet scheme is just an expensive and dangerous stunt to plant a flag on the Moon and collect token samples, whereas the systematic American plan will yield a sustained perhaps permanent effort to systematically explore the Moon and even develop it for future ventures farther out--therefore the Americans will take their time and do it right, Soviet first or no.

    And then they have to follow through of course. By the Seventies the Western world will be mired in stagflation; depending on how Nixon manages the 'Nam it seems quite likely to me much of the disillusionment and discontents of the OTL late 60s and 1970s will be expressed. Will this kill the American space program, or anyway mire it down to a desultory level?

    I'm going to stay tuned for the author's expert touch!:D
  12. e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

    Nov 27, 2008
    Halfway to Anywhere
    Actually, magnetoshell braking systems are viable for manned missions, but they're still sort of conceptual. There's a lot of cool stuff coming out about them--the really nice thing is you can do more braking higher up in an the atmosphere, and your main (physical) TPS doesn't need to be nearly as robust, which in turn could allow use of much more reusable systems like all-metal TPS. That has implications for nearly any RLV, even a manned one. We really need to see where the science and engineering falls on practicality, though.

    Indeed. No need for cross-range at all, so a traditional capsule shape (or even just a heat-shield in front of a payload, as with the old OTVs) is a lot more preferable. Simpler aerodynamics, simpler geometry, and no need for the low-atmosphere gliding that wings offer.

    Yes, it really would help to at least look at the google hits for images, it helps the concept make a lot more sense.

    This is very well explained on the wikipedia aerocapture page, the top google hit for the term "aerocapture". I'd suggest starting your research there. Basically, it's very doable, and has been explored IOTL, though little used due to the requirements of the TPS and the lack of missions for it. It's actually a classic KSP maneuver, since that game isn't great about keeping track of TPS requirements. You duck down pretty steeply into the atmosphere to scrub your hyperbolic velocity and drop your apogee to the intended atmosphere, then once you reach that apogee you have to adjust your perigee back out of the atmosphere at the apogee of the orbit you capture into, otherwise you'll re-enter--although the Zond that came closest to applying this IOTL didn't raise their perigee since they were headed on into land anyway.

    As to whether an aerocapture like this could allow a LEO-based spacecraft to be used for a landing from lunar or beyond work without TPS modification...that’s I’m not sure about. It depends a lot on the precise nature of the TPS (it would have to be something like tiles or a metallic heatshield that non-destructively deals with the heat rather than ablating away), and a lot of trajectory-specific details of the heat pulse, heat rate, and re-radiation of the heat during the apogee pass between the aerocapture and the landing. It’s a maybe, but I suspect an irrelevant one for TTL. Dynasoar masses somehwere just under 10 tons, and carries its small crew in a very small cabin, while its SM has very minimal maneuvering fuel--suitable for LEO only. You’d have to extensively overhaul the service module for more delta-v, or add a new stage entirely for it, plus add more crew space, and once you do..well, hauling all that extra dry mass to the moon and then back to TEI is a heck of a burden on the entire system. Max Faget would have a field day comparing “Mercury Mk II” or other capsule concepts to something like that!

    (By the way, just a note, but an orbit that has an apogee below the Van Allen belts is pretty close to a circular LEO anyway--it’s minimum perigee is 200 km or so, and maximum apogee would be 1000ish km. That’s pretty close to circular compared to a GTO or the like. You might as well just lower directly to the apogee you’re aiming for.)

    The upper levels of the atmosphere do fluctuate with local temperature, but that's more of a daily cycle (with some seasonal effects) than an unpredictable effect. Besides, with good onboard control, the vehicle or pilot can compensate, using MSL-style steering techniques or other controls to steer the trajectory and account for minor variations from the models.

    As to plans for LEO and beyond...I really can't comment myself since I'm helping out as an adviser, and those plans are in flux. I might hint shamelessly a bit if this wrt Eyes, but it's not my TL, so I'll let Nixonshead decide how much he wants to let the cover back on, particularly as he's still fleshing it all out. ;)
  13. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

    Aug 3, 2009
    My point there was that, although everyone fixates on the cheap lunar swingby method of reaching L-2, you can also do a ballistic transfer--see page 2-4 of this paper for an illustration. These have delta-V costs which are comparable to transfers from LEO to L-1 or lunar orbit (see pages 5-7 of this Apollo-era paper; it does take several hundred more meters per second of delta-V to brake into an L-2 halo orbit compared to an L-1 halo orbit, but this is a relatively minor cost and comparable to LOI in any case). As both papers out, it takes about four days to travel from LEO to L-2 via one of these trajectories, which is not significantly longer than the amount of time it takes to reach lunar orbit or L-1. Therefore, you can use the low delta-V cost trajectories involving lunar swing-bys or weak stability boundary trickery to move cargo and other non-time-sensitive mass from LEO to L-2, then use the fast ballistic trajectory to move the comparatively light astronauts and their spacecraft from LEO to L-2, allowing you to build up all your infrastructure in the right long-term place without suffering any significant penalties.

    My point was that we shouldn't be; orbital mechanics dictates that it take a while to fly to anywhere besides LEO. It's better to accept that and figure out ways to live with long journeys than to ignore it and limit ourselves.

    That's not obvious at all because of the many limitations that low lunar orbit puts on return to Earth and on landing location, and the restricted launch windows created by staging from an Earth-orbital location. In fact, libration point staging actually becomes much more powerful if you're also using low Earth orbit basing, because it allows relatively unlimited transit between the station and the libration point base. That's (part of) why the Decadal Planning Team was so interested in using the libration points during their studies in the late '90s and early '00s.

    Propulsive return to LEO from lunar or interplanetary return orbits with chemical rockets is indeed quite costly, which is why most people nowadays seem to be talking about staging those things at L-2--much easier to deal with ;)

    Also, there's nothing wrong with single-stage atmospheric braking; that's aerocapture, and it's been around for a long time. It's just not any easier than reentering directly. However, if you have things that you don't want on Earth, like interplanetary spacecraft, then aerocapture can be a reasonable option, which is why NASA was so interested in it during the 1980s with their OTV studies.
  14. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    Wow! I think I may have to sit out the lunar return entry modes debate for the moment, due to both my relative ignorance and simply through time constraints! Rest assured though, I will be reading through in detail and digesting the issues raised when time permits, so please feel free to carry on with the discussion. Thanks to everyone who’s contributed to these discussions!

    For the other comments...

    Without the pressure of being the front-runner, constantly having to deliver or get dragged down by the pack, he is indeed finding it easier to control his alcoholism. Not that he’s teetotal, not by a long shot, just that he’s managing to keep it from interfering too much with his work.

    Indeed, and not everyone’s happy that he pulled that stunt - not least because it leaves the Soviets oversupplied with 10t-class launchers, R-200 and M-1 having very similar capabilities.

    Zarya was designed from the start to fit two space-suited cosmonauts, so when the upgrades to the escape and landing systems permit it, it makes sense that they’d be fully suited for critical events (though as noted in the post, they had their visors open before the depressurisation started).

    As mentioned above, the Zarya capsule was always sized for a crew of 2, so not quite analogous to OTL’s Vostok/Voskhod. But you’re right, the extra capabilities of the M-1 vs R-7 allow for an enlarged service module carrying more consumables to support the larger crew on longer missions. On soft landing, Zarya-A had this capability, demonstrated on Zarya-2 (though “soft” might be overstating things), but Zarya-B refines it.

    A three-man version of Zarya might be possible, but it would be a similar lash-up as OTL’s Voskhod, and after the Zarya-3 depressurisation, neither Mishin nor his cosmonauts are going to accept flying without spacesuits. They’d rather push for an all-new module if three men are needed.

    The idea of enclosing your spacecraft in a disposable aeroshell is a pretty neat solution to putting an aeroplane in space without the need for an exotic heatshield, and gives a lot of flexibility to optimise the shape of that plane for flying rather than withstanding the heat, but comes with a considerable weight penalty (not to mention preventing the cosmonauts from looking out of the window). IOTL, Chelomei proposed Raketoplans with aeroshells for Earth orbit and Mars missions (Kosmoplans), but a blunt-cone RV for lunar missions. I’m not clear exactly why this was, but my assumption is a combination of the mass penalty and an inability to bleed off enough speed for lunar return with a sharp-nosed, high lift-to-drag aeroshell. If anyone has more information I’d be very interested to hear it.

    At this point the Air Force is having a tough time coming up with a military mission for the DEL and DOS space stations, so there’s no way they’re going to sell Nixon or Congress on a grand Conquest of Space. Of course, there is an election due in 1964...

    True, but don’t forget that at this point Mishin is basically inventing large-scale kerolox rocketry in the USSR, and in fact even having to fight for it against his comrade Chief Designers (in particular without Glushko’s experts helping with the engine). Right now he’s focussed on proving he’s able to build a useful launcher. Refinement of the concept can wait for later.

    Just a background note that NACAA is looking into lifting bodies as part of their basic research, but mainly focussed on the fundamental physics and wind-tunnel testing for the time being.

    Mishin’s plan is to prove he knows his stuff with M-1, then go for development of a larger set of rockets to support his dreams of space stations and eventual lunar missions. Of course he faces a Chelomei-shaped roadblock to these ambitions for now…

    I think it’s safe to say that Minerva upgrades, including the engines, will indeed be on the table in the coming years.

    It does indeed seem to have been a problem for the Soviets, one I link to Russia’s historical inferiority complex. From the Czars speaking French rather than ‘uncivilised’ Russian to stories of Russian troops shooting at their own aircraft because of the assumption that no Russian could possibly build and operate something as clever as an aeroplane, this seems to have been an ongoing theme for centuries. Here the Politburo is backing Chelomei’s spaceplane and UR-500 even though they don’t see a clear need for them, because they assume the American leadership must know what they’re doing. If only they knew… ;)

    That’s a pretty good summary of the mood I’m aiming for :)

    We’ll explore this in more detail in a future post, but for now I’ll just say that the Soviet economy up to this point is broadly following its OTL path.

    As you point out, the key difference is no Kennedy deadline to meet. This means a lot less engineering R&D to meet the specific challenges of the Apollo programme, but OTOH more time for alternative architectures to emerge, percolate and be assessed. That means that the minds behind any hypothetical future Moon mission will have a much broader theoretical background to draw upon, even though they’ll have some considerable catching up to do in turning it into a working system. I suspect that some bright grad students or aerospace engineers will come up with LOR, Lagrange rendezvous, and a dozen other possible architectures (although they will of course have to overcome the twin directives of What Would von Braun Do? and What Would Faget Do?, at least as long as those two have any pull in the US space programme…).

    Incidentally, I’m thinking that the lack of Apollo ITTL has probably retarded the development of Systems Engineering and Project Management compared to OTL (although I know several people who hold to the view that those disciplines are pretty retarded to start with...), as well as lightweight electronics (though Teflon will still be around ;)). Anyone have another view on the impact of (no) Apollo?

    Well,I found Shevek23's speculations very interesting, but to quote a great man...

    Last edited: Sep 3, 2014
  15. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

    Aug 3, 2009
    I don't think either of those things will be much affected. Although Apollo was visible, there wasn't a huge amount of demand there--only twenty or so vehicles were built, after all! By contrast, the Air Force bought hundreds of Minutemans, all of which needed compact digital electronics, and launched scores of other rockets (Thor-Delta, Atlas, Titan, etc.) IOTL, which also needed many of those developments, or at least benefited from them. Similarly, a number of project management techniques (eg., PERT) were actually developed for the Navy's Polaris missile program, which I doubt would be affected overly much by the POD--the United States Navy is hardly going to give up on the nuclear business, after all.
  16. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    Thanks for the feedback, those are good points. Based on that, I think whilst some of the details will differ, the general rate of progress in electronics and project management will progress more or less as per OTL.

    One thing to note, the Minuteman order ITTL is substantially lower than OTL, and there are probably lower orders for other nuclear weapon systems too. With a much reduced missile gap scare, the nuclear build-up on both sides is just nuts instead of completely bonkers :rolleyes:.
  17. Threadmarks: Part II Post #5: The Final Frontier

    nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    For this week’s post I’d like to again thank my regular consultants Brainbin and e of pi for their extensive help in bringing this post together and acting as sounding boards. I’d also like to give special thanks to Michel Van for consulting on a topic very close to his heart. Any destroying of childhood dreams is, however, purely my responsibility.

    So without further ado, it’s time for...


    Part II Post #5: The Final Frontier

    The dawn of the Space Age had been influencing popular culture even before the launch of Vanguard-1. Space serials like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon had been gracing comics, radio shows and the silver screen since the 1930s, whilst the early 1950s saw an explosion of space-themed movies, such as the era-defining Forbidden Planet, anticipating the coming era of rocket travel. Even real rocket scientists lended a hand in these efforts, with early example being Hermann Oberth consulting on Fritz Lang’s Frau im Mond in 1929 - a film so technically accurate that the Nazi regime later edited out sequences showing the rocket engines for fear of giving away military secrets. Over two decades later Oberth’s protegé von Braun partnered with Walt Disney to produce three episodes of the Disneyland show, outlining a sequence of missions starting with giant spaceplanes, Earth orbital space stations, Moon missions and eventually to the manned exploration of Mars. These shows, as well as the related articles in Colliers magazine, were hugely successful, and helped to solidify space in the imagination of the American public. In the USSR, films like 1924’s Aelita: Queen of Mars served a similar function, giving a Red-tinted glimpse of humanity’s cosmic destiny.

    Despite this early blossoming, there was a tailing off of space-based science fiction movies from the late fifties onwards, perhaps in direct correlation to the fortunes of one George Pal. Having made his name with such early ‘50s hits as Destination Moon, When Worlds Collide and The War of the Worlds, he was hit hard when Conquest of Space flopped at the box office in 1955. Heavily based upon the Mars missions described by Wernher von Braun in his 1954 Colliers article “Can we get to Mars?”, Pal had intended Conquest to be his most realistic movie to date. However, audiences and critics found the plot dull, whilst the mediocre special effects lacked the “Wow” factor that had been possible when such techniques were new.

    Following the disappointment of Conquest of Space, Pal found it much harder to sell his pitches for other projects. His next film, 1958’s Tom Thumb, maintained his run of fantastical subject matter, but ditched any space references. The movie was a moderate success, but it was his next project, 1960’s adaptation of H.G. Welle’s The Time Machine, which catapulted him back to the top of his game. The film, with its engaging characters, epic plot, and startling effects (including the famous scene of fashion store mannequins being hastily re-dressed as the hero speeds into the future) won Pal the plaudits he had been missing for so long, and opened the door for new projects.

    For his next movie Pal came up with a “Sword and Sandals” fantasy based upon the story of Atlantis, but the production was troubled, with the final cut making extensive re-use of scenes from previous movies. These poor production values helped to make the film an even bigger flop that Conquest of Space had been upon its 1961 release, and could well have signaled a permanent end to Pal’s career had he not already sold the concept for his next movie. This would see Pal return to the familiar territory of space in a sequel to his classic When Worlds Collide.

    1951’s When Worlds Collide, based on a 1933 book by Philip Gordon Wylie and Edwin Balmer, had ended with the landing of a spaceship carrying the final survivors of humanity to their new home on the planet Zyra, a satellite of the star Bellus that had destroyed the Earth. The ending had been portrayed as the hopeful dawning of a new age of mankind (drawing heavily on the imagery of Noah), leaving plenty of scope for a follow-on. In fact Wylie and Balmer had penned a second book, After Worlds Collide, in 1934, and this was to be the starting point for Pal’s project.

    Taking his initial cue from the plot of the book, and capturing much of the mood stemming from the aftermath of the Berlin Crisis, Pal’s script showed the survivors of the first film coming into conflict with a second group of survivors who had launched secretly from “a rival power” (the inhabitants of which spoke with heavily caricatured Russian accents). Facing harsh conditions on their new home of Zyra, the two groups initially fought one another for the limited resources available, in a conflict that threatened to wipe out the last remnants of humanity. Naturally, after many struggles, both sides eventually realised the desperation of their situation and agreed to work together to ensure the survival of their descendants, forging a common community. The optimistic ending of the movie helped to make it a major success upon its release in 1962. Although not quite matching the plaudits received for The Time Machine, After Worlds Collide made a significant profit and earned an Oscar for Best Effects.

    In contrast to Pal’s fantastical vision, the other major Berlin-inspired movie, Sidney Lumet’s 1963 thriller Fail-Safe, was an ultra-realistic techno-thriller highlighting the dangers of the so-called “Balance of Terror” between the two superpowers. Depicting the catastrophic results of an accidental US nuclear release at a time of international tensions, Fail-Safe provoked an emotive debate in the media and the wider nation as to what safeguards were in place to prevent such an event happening in real life. However, despite this cultural impact and critical acclaim, the grimness of the theme of the movie damped its performance at the box office. Stanley Kubrick, who had been considering making a film on a similar theme, later commented that the only way he could see to portray such depressing events would be to satirise them as comedy.

    Aside from the dark influence of the Berlin Crisis, Germany would find itself impacting American science fiction in other, more positive ways. The most significant of these was through the Perry Rhodan series of comics. Originally created in 1962 by by Karl Herbert Scheer and Walter Ernsting for the Moewig-Verlag publishing company as a 30-issue series of weekly “magazine novels”, they described the adventures of the eponymous Perry Rhodan, commander of the first manned mission to the Moon in the year 1982, and the vast and strange universe that is revealed after he discovers a crashed alien spaceship. At first the series combined aspects of Secret Agent, Alien Invasion, Detective and Utopian fiction, as the implications of Rhodan’s discovery are worked through on a war-torn Earth. However, the story soon left the solar system behind, settling down into a more classical Space Opera in the style of Heinlein, A. E. van Vogt, and E. E. ”Doc“ Smith.

    The books were extremely successful in Germany, with the initial 30-issue run being expanded first to 50 issues and then to an open-ended commitment as sales outlets clamored for more printings of back-issues as well as larger runs of the new issues. During this time, copies of Perry Rhodan were brought to the US by a returning Army journalist Paul Roesen, who had been translating issues for his young nephew during his tour. Following his discharge from the Army in late 1964, Roesen took on a number of jobs as a freelance journalist, but continued importing and translating Perry Rhodan issues from friends still stationed in Germany. In 1965 he got an interview for a job at Gold Key comics and pitched them the idea of publishing his translations of the Rhodan books for a US audience. Gold Key had been looking for a space-themed issue to capitalise on a re-awakening interest in astronautics stemming from the Zarya and Dynasoar test flights, but felt that even with frequent illustrations, the format was simply not suited to an American audience. However, if converted into a more traditional comic book format, the Perry Rhodan stories could be just what Gold Key were looking for.

    Gold Key hired Roesen and immediately set him to work negotiating a licensing agreement with Moewig-Verlag. The eventual agreement gave Gold Key the right to re-use the Perry Rhodan characters and plotlines in a comic format (though explicitly not in the digest format used in Germany) in exchange for a fee, whilst Moewig-Verlag would in turn have the right to re-print translations of the Gold Key comics in Germany. Gold Key and Moewig would maintain complete editorial independence from one-another, effectively meaning that there would be two parallel versions of the Rhodan story, which would continue to diverge over time. Dan Spiegle was brought in as the lead artist for the comic, quickly joined by former Flash Gordon illustrator Al Williamson, whilst the covers started out as re-prints of the original German artwork. This proved a perfect fit with Gold Key’s long-standing practice of using painted covers, and as the series progressed these were supplemented by and later completely replaced with original work by artist George Wilson.

    The first issue of Star Captain Rhodan hit newsstands in late summer 1965 to a positive reception. The first story, “Operation Stardust”, kept the original plotline of the discovery of a crashed alien spaceship during the first American Moon mission, but discarded the German version’s notion of Perry Rhodan using the superior alien technology to impose a forced peace on the Earth’s nations. Instead the story jumped ahead, with Rhodan shown using the repaired ship to immediately head out into the universe in response to a signal from the star Vega, a choice Gold Key’s editors felt would more closely chime with the outward-looking, frontier-focussed American audience.

    As Star Captain Rhodan began to enjoy some success, television viewers were being presented with a different vision of our future in space, courtesy of former pilot and LA cop Gene Roddenberry. Roddenberry started out writing television scripts as a freelancer in the 1950s, penning episodes for Highway Patrol and Have Gun - Will Travel amongst others, but he quickly decided he didn’t just want to write for other peoples’ shows - he wanted a show of his own.

    After pitching a number of ideas in the early 1960s, police show Night Stick was picked up in 1962. Set in New York’s Greenwich Village, Night Stick ran for just one season to modest success, but had a profound influence on Roddenberry’s future career, not for the stories it portrayed, but for one story it didn’t show. Roddenberry had written and filmed an episode which dealt with the racial prejudice suffered by a young black couple, but with growing unrest over Civil Rights, the network decided that the episode was too controversial. They dropped the episode, forcing Roddenberry’s production company to pick up the bill. This experience helped persuade Roddenberry that in order to tell the stories he felt were important, he’d have to find a way to camouflage them from the eyes of the studio executives. It was then that he hit upon the idea of using a science fiction setting to tell allegorical tales of the real world.

    The concept that Roddenberry came up with in 1963 was The Far Frontier, which he pitched to networks as a sort of “Lone Ranger in Space”. Drawing heavily on his experience in scripting Westerns, the show would follow the adventures of Marshal John Winter, an officer of the Galactic Federation, who would travel to different frontier planets each week maintaining the peace and enforcing the law, as well as establishing friendly relations with newly discovered alien races. Winter would be accompanied by a young Deputy named Joss Tyler and Ruk, an alien guide, who despite his youthful appearance was over a hundred years old. In an ingenious plot device, rather than flying between worlds in a spaceship (necessitating expensive special effects miniatures), the team would make use of a “Teleporter Beam” to leave their central base and instantly materialise on that week’s planet. This format would allow a large number of varied environments to be visited, allowing almost infinite storytelling potential. Roddenberry felt he would be able to discuss almost any topic through allegory on some alien world, with the laws and mores of the Federation providing the show with a moral compass through which to expound Roddenberry’s own philosophy of tolerance and respect.

    Roddenberry began shopping The Far Frontier around the major networks and studios in 1963, but received little interest initially, although he was able to sell a concept for a straight-up Western, Pike’s Hunt, about a homesteader on a mission to track down the men who killed his family. This was a moderate success, and earned Roddenberry the credibility he needed to finally land a deal with Desilu in 1964 to film a pilot for The Far Frontier. This episode, “The Menagerie”, saw Winter (played by Jeffrey Hunter) and his team investigating the mysterious disappearances of human settlers on a recently discovered planet. Winter soon found himself captured by the aliens responsible, who were able to manipulate people by creating mental illusions. Whilst Joss (Joby Baker) and Ruk (Bill Cosby) worked to find and free the Marshal, Winter discovered that the aliens were the last few natives of the planet, and that they were capturing humans in an effort to breed a slave race to re-build their world. With help from Joss and Ruk, Winter was able to escape and free the captive settlers, but when the locals attempted to form a posse to drive out the aliens, Winter intervened to stop them. He instead proposed that the two sides work together to restore the planet to its former health, using human technology and drive coupled to the aliens’ technical and creative skills.

    The initial cut of the pilot was received coolly by Desilu’s management. They saw the potential of the show, but it seemed a little too intellectual for prime-time. At the studio’s request, Roddenberry re-drafted the script and additional scenes were shot to add a fist-fight to the escape sequence, a shoot-out between Joss and a local settler, and a love-interest for Winter. There was also some concern at the casting of Cosby, a black actor, in a leading role, but Roddenberry refused to budge on this point. His stubbornness, plus Cosby’s name recognition (he was already hugely famous for his comedy albums at this time) eventually won through. The re-edited version of the pilot episode (now called “The Cage”) was approved by the studio and a series was commissioned to be broadcast on CBS starting in 1965.

    Marshall Winter (Jeffrey Hunter) and Ruk (Bill Cosby) attempt to penetrate the alien’s mountain base with their lasers in a scene from “The Cage”.

    With space-based shows, books and movies proving increasingly popular by the mid-1960s, it seemed that America had no lack of inspiring fiction showing humanity’s future in space. What remained to be seen was if the real-life rocket scientists could match these expectations.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2014
    Dlg123 and pattontank12 like this.
  18. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe

    what you see here ?
    on Left
    A Typical scene from 1960s German version
    Rhodan fight on battlefield to liberate the Maahks (the Big guys in background )
    The Maahks are Slave race for "Master of the Island" the evil overlords of Andromeda galaxy.

    on Right
    The US version
    Star Captain Rhodan and his wife Thora in Al Williamson stile Artwork ala Flash Gordon.

    I like "The Far Frontier" concept something complete different to Star Trek
    i wonder about certain George Lucas, will he not have accident On June 12, 1962 and become a world famous race driver ?
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2014
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  19. Brainbin Kingpin of the Cultural Cartel

    Jul 26, 2009
    The British Empire
    Michel, you are a very gifted illustrator! :)
  20. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

    Aug 3, 2009
    It's at once completely different and somehow exactly the same...probably Roddenberry leaking through.

    Having Bill Cosby be the sidekick/Spock...I don't know whether that's crazy or gifted. It does make me wonder whether he'll suffer from the "Trek lock-in" of OTL, where seemingly anyone who got involved with Trek, even actors with substantial previous and later achievements like Patrick Stewart, ended up being permanently associated with their Trek work almost to the exclusion of everything else...

    And I have to concur with Brainbin, that's very good work!