Kolyma's Shadow: An Alternate Space Race

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

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  1. fasquardon Cosmonaut

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    Sep 24, 2012
    Seeing this quoted by Shevek also gave me another thought: It is hard to maintain things in space. Doubly so with the technology of the 60s and 70s. How many round trips would a moonship be able to manage without getting dangerously unsafe?

    fasquardon
     
  2. marathag Well-Known Member with a target on his back

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    For reusable and good 'fuel' storage characteristics, there is always Orion.:D

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  3. brovane Well-Known Member

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  4. Michel Van Well-Known Member

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  5. arkades Active Member

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    May 13, 2011
    Orion, the coolest rocket ever, and the most insane one.

    On space tugs , a craft dedicated to orbit-to-orbit seems a good idea but you need to have a serious exploration program (like in "2001") to really benefit from it.
    A NERVA like reactor seems the best choice, but you must launch the propellant regularly, which must be kept in orbit (in a propellant depot) between mission.
    To me it implies a moon base and making rockets by the dozen.
    Or am I mistaken and a dedicated space tug is useful for smaller programs ?
    Venus flyby ? Mars exploration ? What were NASA plans for space tugs ?
     
  6. Michel Van Well-Known Member

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    That my and SpaceGeek resort: the TL 2001:a Space-Time Odyssey
    here NASA apply the Odyssey program with all mention above

    the Space tug was weird Concept, NASA wanted one spacecraft for multitude of mission
    launch satellites from LEO to GEO, as Pod to repaire Satellite, as tug tor Cargo and Parts for Space station or Spaceships
    or as lander for Moon base or autonom lunar outpost up to 90 day or lander for heavy cargo on moon.
    and operational for 2 years in orbit.

    The Industry present a modular concept of fuel tanks, engines, pods and landing legs. to carry out NASA specification.
    but in OTL as ambitious plans were ignore by Nixon
    Space tug became unmanned, then reduce to stage with Engine for Space Shuttle, then it's replace by Centaur stage, in end they abandon the idea as too dangerous after january 1986...
     
  7. nixonshead Well-Known Member

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    Hi everyone, sorry I’ve been a bit slow responding recently, I’ve had lots on. Part-III is currently hovering around the 75% mark, so I’m still hoping to get it out there by the end of the year (I have a few days holiday still to use up, so there may be some long weekends writing ahead!). In the meantime…

    That’s a very thorough analysis! Without going into similar detail, my impression is that space stations and waypoints are most valuable as part of an overall system for continuous, long-term missions. Even more so if they can be supported from both ends (e.g. with lunar-sourced propellant). However, getting support for that sort of infrastructure is difficult to say the least. If the best you can hope for is a political shoot-for-glory type mission, then simple, throwaway craft are significantly cheaper to develop - and if you’re only going to fly them a few times, the recurring costs are not so important.

    Of course, leveraging your current capabilities also makes a lot of sense (if you can hide your development funding as an upgrade to an existing system, so much the better!).

    I think this is a very good (and often overlooked) point. Lower performance is often preferable if it offers greater reliability, especially in situations where you’re trying something that’s never been done before.

    ITTL of course, the US as of 1968 have not yet performed a spacewalk, nor even a true orbital rendezvous, so mission architectures requiring large numbers of rendezvous and docking events will be received with a sceptical eye, for now at least.

    I must admit to being a fan of the slightly unfashionable “Build ‘em Big” approach to launching exploration-class missions. The best place to screw up any system is its interfaces, so having any more than is absolutely necessary should be avoided. It’s a lot easier to integrate and test something on the ground, with air, gravity and cheap local services for your workforce, than try to wire it up on orbit.

    Of course, if you’ve not got any plans for building that big chunk, it’s kind of pointless paying to develop a rocket to launch it, but that’s a discussion for another forum :)

    We’ll keep a note of that prediction ;)

    Of course, it could well depend on what you count as a Station. The Dynasoar Experimental Lab is already in development, as is the Dynasoar Orbital Lab, while no lunar missions have been formally proposed. But then again, as we know from OTL, there is a significant difference between “in development” and “flown”...

    :eek:

    Well, currently the ISS crew are spending something over 80% of their time maintaining the station, whilst in the last days of Mir it was practically 100% (and even then the safety of the station was a serious concern that helped decide to de-orbit it). I suspect that the level of technology of the ‘60s and ‘70s wouldn’t be too big a factor, as the extra time needed for maintaining less sophisticated components would be offset by the fact that the spacecraft are overall less complex, so the 75% mark is probably about right (assuming of course a regular supply of spares). That’s also a lot of crew training time that goes into spacecraft systems repair instead of mission objective skills, reducing the overall effectiveness of the system to deliver its objectives even during the 20-25% of crew time available to support it.

    For a reusable lander, I imagine this could be more complicated as there are a lot more critical components that would be difficult to service. I’m thinking especially the engines and the landing gear, which have to work perfectly each mission and have tough operating conditions. For the landing gear, one of the most common designs for absorbing landing shocks is a crushable structure within the legs, but this cannot be re-used, so something else would be needed - or you replace the whole gear for each landing!

    So a lot of design effort would need to be focussed on simplifying maintenance as much as possible, which means big development costs and long development times.

    Thanks for sharing the link, brovane - it is indeed an interesting read. I remember seeing this a few years back and it definitely provides food for thought.

    Their CGI sucks though ;)

    As mentioned previously, ITTL Orion died in its crib:

    Then there’s the Partial Test Ban Treaty, signed in October 1961 ITTL, which forbids nuclear explosions in space, so beyond a few theoretical DRA studies and the odd article in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, the concept has pretty much disappeared.

    Also dead, thank goodness. As well as it’s bombs, PLUTO was planned to criss-cross Soviet farmland at Mach-3 at 100ft for a couple of weeks, wiping out structures with its sonic boom and poisoning the land with its radioactive fallout. That’s just not going to be politically acceptable, especially considering the military value is probably less than the ICBMs already being fielded, with PLUTO being much more expensive to develop and deploy. It doesn’t take a McNamara to shoot that one down.

    I understand the main issue with nuclear bombers is having them able to lift the weight of the necessary shielding plus an actual payload. Well, that and the radioactive exhaust plume. Once mid-air refuelling is perfected, the minor advantages of a nuclear jet are pretty much wiped out, so no, that won’t be surviving either.

    I agree with you guys on the usefulness of space tugs. They’re useful as part of a large, permanent infrastructure, but not so great if you only need a few bespoke missions.

    For using NERVA on them… I can’t see the gains being worth the hassle. Apart from political issues involved in launching nuclear reactors, it introduces a lot of operational concerns with only being able to approach and dock with the active tug from certain directions, the risk of unintentionally disrupting passing satellites (or intentionally perhaps, if you want an ASAT with plausible deniability), etc. For me, the best option for a tug is a solar-electric ion engine for non-time critical payloads (and those that can handle multiple Van Allen - sorry, Vernov belt passes).

    I suspect the NASA concept for a nuclear tug was largely driven by von Braun’s efforts to sell their development in support of his Mars mission. He needed nukes for Mars, so came up with other missions for them as part of his sales pitch.
     
  8. nixonshead Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]
     
  9. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

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    Yaytsdjach???? And why Serbian (the 'j')?
     
  10. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

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    Reno, Nevada USA
    On Jan 4th, 1958, Sputnik 1 deorbited;
    On Jan 4th, 1959 Luna 1 reached Lunar orbit.

    These events are the only space-related ones I found on that date; they are OTL, not ITTL, and neither 46 nor 47 are a particularly noteworthy number of years, so I suppose we should mark our calendars (those of you that have them; I don't!:eek: Not an old-fashioned paper one anyway) for the next volume of Kolyma's Shadow to be posted on Jan 4th, 2015.

    It's a font that makes Latin letters look kind of like Cyrillic, at a casual glance. But nothing but the world "Kolyma" is in Russian.
     
  11. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

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    Jun 8, 2011
    Hello Nixon,

    As some here may know, PLUTO makes an appearance in Charles Stross's Lovecraft-meets-the-Cold-War short story, "A Colder War."

    PLUTO was certainly one of the wilder Cold War ideas - what's striking is that it got as far along in development as it did, not that it was cancelled. Such was the temper of the times.
     
  12. Michel Van Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    i Guess Part four of this TL comes 4 January 2015


    You have no idea what for Insane projects were study in that time

    USSR project of Doomsday weapon camouflage as merchant ship were it cargo hold is fill up with a very big Hydrogen Bomb ,
    it trigger automatically if radioactivity rase in sea were ship travels as indication of Nuclear War.
    Khrushchev stop the program because it aspect to work Automatically with out his control
    also were study nuclear power ICBM and Bombers

    USA look next to PLUTO/SLAM into nuclear power ICBM (became later NERVA), Bombers.
    next Orion "Battleship" there was also Orion Doomsday weapon store as ICBM in case of war it launch on atomic bombs out it Silo into suborbital trajectory to USSR
    on board a Nuclear warhead of !700 metric tons mass or force of GiGA ton of TNT
    and also the traditional Doomsday weapon buried in US dessert were study

    lucky reason won over fear or was that black humor ?

    [​IMG]
     
  13. nixonshead Well-Known Member

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    Apr 1, 2013
    Heh! Yeah, I’m normally not much of a fan of using cyrillic letters as if they were latin, but I wanted to use the same font I’d been using for the banners, and as it turns out the phrase “Kolyma’s Shadow” doesn’t have quite so many offending substitutions as “January”, so it hadn't been so much of an issue before.

    The font is Gulag Decay by David Kerkhoff.

    Indeed, this was me jumping on the trailer bandwagon to let you all know that Part-III (I’m not quite ready for Part-IV yet!) will start posting from 4th January. I’ve got a pretty much complete draft done now, gradually being edited and polished. Plus of course I have some illustrations to prepare, plus a little something special. But I wanted to fix a date to let you guys know and to focus my attention on getting it done ;)

    Thanks for the link, I’m a fan of Stross’ novels. I first met PLUTO in the excellent Spaceship Handbook. Scary stuff.

    Yeah, it seems strange now to think how people managed to live anything like normal lives during the Cold War, with the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads (I suppose I should say “our heads”, as I was already 11 when the Wall came down). Mind you, that sword is still there…

    As for the black humour, there’s slightly less of that in the world of Kolyma’s Shadow - ITTL Kubrick never made Doctor Strangelove!
     
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  14. Threadmarks: Part III Post #1: Teaser III

    nixonshead Well-Known Member

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    Apr 1, 2013
    Thank-you everyone for your patience. As promised, here is the first post of Part III of...

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    Part III Post #1: Teaser III

    I still remember exactly what I was doing when we found out that my father was dead. It was at our home in Lompoc, on a Thursday evening, around 6:30pm, and I was twelve years old. Mom was in the kitchen, preparing the dinner, the smell of roasting ham filling the house. I was in the living room, watching a re-run of The Far Frontier. I’d been too young to really remember the show on its first-run, but had got into it when our local affiliate started broadcasting it in the evenings. On this evening they were showing the season four finale, the one where Marshal Winter is killed trying to save the people on a space mining station. Winters had just passed in Ruk’s arms during a last telepathic link between the two, and the alien was building up to one of his Andosian Rages when our doorbell rang. Maybe it was because of what I’d been watching, but I immediately got a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.

    Mom came through from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her blue-and-white apron before reaching for the door handle. I was watching her as she opened the door, and I saw her expression drop and the color drain from her face as she saw who it was.

    “Mrs Karski, I’m sorry to disturb you at home. May I please come in?”

    I recognised the voice at once. Sure enough it was Pete Knight, my Dad’s former commander on the DS-8 mission, who entered after Mom’s brief nod. Knight was wearing his full Air Force uniform, and the wane smile he sent my way didn’t reach his eyes. Seeing the direction of his glance, Mom told me “Bobby, go to your room.”

    Normally I would have complained at such an order, but something in her voice, something about the whole situation, told me that this was not the time. I switched off the TV and went into my bedroom, closing the door behind me. Through the thin wood, I could hear the muffled sound of their voices, but not the words. Sat with my back against the door, I stared blankly across the room, my eyes falling on the shelf holding the model rockets and spaceships that Dad and I had built together. Pride of place was given a 1/72 replica of Athena, the ship that Dad had flown with Pete Knight and Paul McEnnis on his first space mission, when I was just six years old. Next to her was a smaller scale model of the Mk.I glider Rhene atop her Minerva-22 launcher. It was Rhene that Dad was due to go up with next month, this time as mission commander on a solo flight. Although he hadn’t been able to tell us any details of the mission, we knew he was very excited about it. Almost every waking hour for the last six weeks had seen him over at the Base, undergoing training and testing systems.

    Now, as my sobbing mother pushed into the room and squeezed me to her, I knew that he was dead.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Although the Air Force had been quick to inform us of Dad’s death, the details remained shrouded in secrecy for months. We were told it was an accident during training for the mission, and that it had involved a fire, and that the glider Rhene had been taken out of service as a result, but that was it. At the funeral a week after the accident, we were forbidden from opening the casket. All of Dad’s fellow astronauts were there, and must have known more, but they’d been ordered to keep quiet.

    Mom refused to let it rest. She kept badgering the astronauts, their wives and girlfriends, the Base Commander; anyone she could think of. Her first breakthrough came three months after the accident, from Nancy Boone, wife of astronaut Doug Boone. She and Mom used to meet up every Tuesday morning for coffee, but Mom hadn’t seen her since the funeral. Then one day Nancy showed up at the door, saying she felt that things were being covered up about the accident, that Nick had spoken to her about poor quality control from the contractor. Nancy was worried that the other astronauts were being put at risk, that whatever had gone wrong with Rhene could happen again.

    A week later we got another visit, this time from a grim-faced Air Force colonel. We were to have no further contact with Nancy Boone, or anyone connected with the base.

    Mom didn’t listen, of course. That summer we spent touring the country, doing interviews, raising awareness. We must have gone to a half-dozen different protest marches for CND, the Student Coalition for Peace, the Greens, whoever would give Mom a platform, and she’d speak to them about how the Air Force was trying to hide the truth. There were plenty of anti-war protests in those days, as relations with the Soviets hit their lowest point and people were genuinely afraid that nuclear war could come any day. All of them were glad to have Mom, an astronaut’s widow, to lend them some publicity. She’d speak at the gathering and then give interviews, first to radio stations, then local and even national TV, always making sure I was there in the shot as she spoke against the Air Force’s secrecy and the militarisation of space.

    I didn’t know what was going on. I just knew my Dad was gone, and Mom had become a different person. In all our travelling, I didn’t have a chance to see friends or family, it was just me, Mom and her crusade. I’d never felt so alone.

    - Excerpt from “Space Orphan” by Robert Karski, published in Reader’s Digest, March 1985 edition.

    [​IMG]
    (Comic cover artwork by Michel Van)​
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2017
  15. fasquardon Cosmonaut

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    Sep 24, 2012
    An intriguing opening!

    And again, the strength of your writing impresses me.

    fasquardon
     
  16. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

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    Sounds like they've had their version of Apollo 1, from what you've said. Only now it's all tied up in military politics.
     
  17. brovane Well-Known Member

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    Great opening. Looking forward to seeing this start up again.
     
  18. Bahamut-255 Space Lover

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    Jul 28, 2010
    Ouch. It would certainly appear that the Apollo 1 Analogue has occurred here, but being a Military Mission, is very much shrouded in secrecy thereby keeping the reality of what has happened out of view, at least, during the period described in this excerpt.

    This will be having a major effect on Manned Spaceflight. To what extent though, is something that can go in all kinds of directions.
     
  19. Michel Van Well-Known Member

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    i not understand USAF got Dyna-Soar.
    What is now that about Mk.I glider "Rhene" ?

    [​IMG]
    It look allot like TRW "Jaunus" concept a US analog to Raketoplan
    but USAF got got Dyna Soar, so is this "Rhene" a suborbital launch fighter Jet ?
    way back in 1960s they study that concept of Interceptors/Fighters Jets launch by Rocket across the world.
    it's a mystery around that Idea, no official files, except some Wind tunnel test data at NACA and NASA what is official
     
  20. e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

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    Dynasoar here comes in two marks, one with a payload bay, the other with room for more crew. Rhene is a Mark I, with the bay. That's a model of a Mark I that's been knocked onto the floor upside down, perhaps by a son who's just lost his father somewhat enraged at his life...

    (IOW, it's a Dynasoar, you're just seeing the underside.)
     
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