Kolyma's Shadow: An Alternate Space Race

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

  1. Threadmarks: "The First Woman in Space - Part 3"

    Tonyq Well-Known Member

    Mar 1, 2008
    "The First Woman in Space - Part 3"

    By early July 1973, with the hardware for the female mission already tested and ready to be assembled at the Tyuratam cosmodrome, the women back from their leave, and their final pre-flight tests imminent, Chelomei sought the permission of the Council of Ministers to set a launch date. The Kuznetsova/Zarya anomaly, a decade before, still caused some political concerns and he had to fend off questions not only over the womens’ preparations and readiness, but also around irrational superstitions that women always brought misfortune to such to military operations.

    In the end, Chelomei had to give assurances that the planned flight would be 100% successful, and that the chosen woman would return to Earth fit and healthy, and ready to become a new Soviet heroine, and a poster girl the Party. He knew that, like any other manned mission, the flight would carry a tangible degree of risk, but he had to tell the politicians everything would be fine, or they would not sanction the mission.

    Concurrently with Chelomei’s political wrangling, after their return to the training centre, for the first time, each of the three women undertook two full simulated spaceflights, in real time, in the Orel ‘hot mock-up’. The first lasted just 24 hours, the second five days. During each ‘mission’ engineers created a number of challenges and problems for the cosmonaut to handle. Solovyova and Kotova each completed their ‘missions’ with flying colours, successfully ‘returning to earth’, on schedule, and in good physical and mental shape.

    However, Galina Korchuganova, was not so fortunate. Although her 24 hour mission was uneventful, on the second run, she was identified by doctors as showing signs of fatigue, during the latter stages of her ‘flight’. She then ran into problems during re-entry, which she struggled to deal with. Engineers determined that had she been in orbit, she would not have returned to earth safely. The next day, Shatalov had the tricky task of telling the shocked Korchuganova that she would not now, be considered for the real spaceflight.

    Clearly, this left two candidates, who, in the light of the Korchuganova incident were both required to fly yet another mission in the ‘hot mock-up’ albeit over just two days, and focusing on just the key phases of the flight.

    After both Solovyova and Kotova completed their second simulated flights without incident, Chelomei was satisfied. He knew that both women were ready, the hardware was ready, the leadership were ready, and the likelihood of a successful outcome was high. He signed the order to prepare for the launch attempt, in two weeks time.

    In late August, a week before the scheduled lift-off, Solovyova and Kotova, and their medical and technical support teams, plus Shatalov and other cosmonauts, flew to the Tyuratam, aboard an IL-18 passenger aircraft. The final decision on who would be the first woman in space would not be made until the last moment, to keep both candidates at peak physical and mental readiness. Korchuganova did not travel with them, but she fly down later, to witness the launch.

    Solovyova and Kotova had flown, and worked, together for several years, and were friends as well as rivals. All three girls had worked well together during the arduous training, with a strong teamwork and mutual support ethic, but with the launch imminent, the relationship between the remaining duo was more tense. Everything about their respective futures would be decided over the next few days.

    Technically, there was nothing to choose between the two candidates. Their skill levels in flight simulations, medical and physical tests, and evaluations of political and ideological reliability, were all closely matched. The final choice of the first woman in space would be a close run affair.

    On the day after their arrival at the cosmodrome, the two cosmonauts visited the vehicle assembly building, where engineers were preparing to encase the Orel spacecraft in its launch shroud, before it was mated to the Proton booster. The two women were given a guided tour of the hardware, impressing the engineers with their intelligent questioning. Later, both donned their pressure suits and, in turn, entered the Orel cockpit to gain a measure of familiarisation with the craft assigned to their mission. The supporting technicians were not only impressed by the cosmonauts’ technical awareness, but by their unruffled and professional demeanour.

    Otherwise, the final few days before the launch of the World’s first spacewoman were mostly occupied with light trainings, final flight briefings, and interviews with specially selected Soviet journalists, who had been flown down to witness the preparations, and the flight itself. Of course, nothing was to be reported in written or visual media until the chosen woman was safely in orbit.

    Lidiya Kotova, in particular, made a good impression with the newspaper and TV men. Although she was a military officer, and she conducted herself with appropriate discipline and restraint, she was photogenic, confident and charming in front of the microphone or camera, yet, also unassuming about her aviation achievements, qualifications, and her present remarkable situation. She was obviously skilled, tough and brave, but beneath her uniform, was just like any young Soviet woman of her age.

    Marina Solvyova was more direct in her style, talked proudly about her aviation records and other career achievements. She spoke calmly about the coming flight, and her wish to be the first female cosmonaut, but overall she lacked a spark, an edge, something to distinguish her, in her personality.

    Two veteran journalists N N Denisov from Pravda, and G I Ostroumov from Isvetiya, who Chelomei knew well from previous launches, spoke to him and showed him their notebooks. They told him that Kotova had really impressed them. There would be a major post-flight role for a woman cosmonaut who returned safely, and she had the required star potential. She was clearly exceptionally skilled and courageous, but could otherwise be anyone’s sister or daughter. It was an aspect that Chelomei had not really considered, but he noted their choice of words. It was a pivotal conversation.

    The launch of the UR500 Proton was scheduled for shortly after dawn on the prescribed September morning, and Chelomei determined that the final crew decision would be made three days before launch, and announced to the candidates later the same day.

    With less than 72 hours left until lift-off, both women underwent final thorough physical, medical and psychological examinations, before Chelomei’s selection panel met to make the final decision on who would be launched into space, and into the history books.

    It was a knife edge decision, considering training outcomes and all manner of other data collected over a period of a year. The doctors had confirmed that both women were in peak physical and mental condition and both were ready, and willing, to go. The discussions lasted several hours, until Chelomei himself settled the issue, and announced that Lidiya Kotova would fly. He would later suggest that her sparkling performance with the media, and her post flight potential, had been the decisive factor which had split two exceptional candidates.

    While the selectors had been meeting, the two female cosmonauts had been undertaking light training in the gym, followed by a leisurely three mile run, all under continuous supervision of their ‘minders.’ Many years later, Kotova would disclose that they hardly spoke during this period of several hours, such was the tension around the monumental decision.

    Eventually, late in the afternoon, the 28 year-old instructor pilot was brought before the selection board to be told the news that she was to be the first woman in space. Standing to attention, Kotova, maintained a professional façade, showing no emotion, as she was handed the assignment, before making a spirited, and assured, acceptance speech, confirming her commitment to the Motherland, the Party and the Air Force, and that she was ready to go.

    Moments later the formal meeting broke up and Chelomei looked across the room at the girl, now smiling broadly, and chatting informally to his team, as she was showered with handshakes and hugs.

    Chelomei smiled to himself. He knew, in that moment, that he had found the ideal woman for the task. Then he remembered that he still had to speak to Marina Solovyova.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2015
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  2. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    I'm trying to remember now whether Solovyova was in fact the same person who was Tereshkova's runner-up OTL--meaning when they were all a decade younger. Poor Marina!

    I should Google it but I'm afraid to open more windows in my browser right now.

    What edged out Tereshkova's competition OTL was not that they fell shorter in the "star quality" that favors Kotova here. (I'm going to break down and admit right now that the drawing you presented in part 1 of her on the monitor with Chelomei wowed me because her face is that of a real babe. Well, whether Solovyova is the real person from OTL or someone else you've fictionalized I imagine her face looks quite nice in a cosmonaut helmet also). OTL Tereshkova was chosen because the others were less ideally proletarian than she was; her classmates were all, like Chelomei's three, professional aviators who were from less humble backgrounds which helped account for their having the opportunities they had that honed their professionalism.
    Just as Gagarin was not the absolute best in terms of aeronautical accomplishments but was the most iconic symbol of the Worker's State, so was Tereshkova. Unfortunately the real-life gender roles of the postwar USSR mean that while Gagarin was not the absolute top in terms of performance, he trailed the best by only small margins, having had ample opportunity as a regular Air Force officer, that a woman with as few connections as Tereshkova could not have, and I fear that her performance in space showed her inexperience; had Korolev chosen one of the other women I think the mission would have gone better.

    But then again, perhaps having successfully launched and landed their one-off stunt woman, he and his "eagles" didn't want the sole female to perform too well, as it might lead to pressure to send up more women.:rolleyes:

    Again I'm impressed that this ATL Chelomei at any rate takes these three women seriously and they are expected to do well. It's really too bad we don't have any particular reason to think they will be chosen for more missions in the future.

    I'm assuming the mission will go well of course.

    ....I've also been going back through the archives for references to Orel, and I have to say that it is a disappointment. I notice from my search that whenever the "raketoplan" came up, I ignored it in favor of other topics such as Zarya, and the more I think about it the more right I fear I was to do so.

    A picture is worth a thousand words and nixonshead makes pictures worth ten others, so I think this is the best reference we could have from a single link. Here we see the basic plan of the Orel orbital craft--three units, the Orel airplane itself (that's what it is, in no sense a "spaceplane") which fits inside a conical thermal protection shell (except for the wingtips in their own TPS socks) and attached at the back, a service module (the "instrument apparatus" in Russian terminology). One striking thing is that no Orel cosmonaut would ever actually see space or Earth below them; the TPS shell has no windows or hatches. The airplane sits cocooned inside it. If it were a lot bigger, there could be a tunnel inside the fuselage--or on that scale, a disposable one discarded along with the TPS outside the airplane body--back to the "IA" which could integrate habitable space to become something more like OTL Chelomei's 1970s vision, TKS--the airplane would merely be the vehicle the crew lands in, the real spaceship being disposable and aft. Indeed unlike the OTL American capsules that all incorporated reaction control structures in the landing capsule itself, the only operational unit in space is the IA, the service module; it alone has the engines that can maneuver the whole; the forward TPS cone and its airplane contents are mere baggage. But since the Orel is much to small to allow any crew to clamber back there, the pilot sits in the airplane cockpit, quite blind except for instruments and possibly a TV monitor, to control the active module behind them. Any useful mission payload, such as surveillance cameras, would have to be in the IA as well.

    Once returning from orbit, the deorbited craft blows off the IA (presumably retrieving any film from it first and stowing it in the airplane) and ballistically reenters the same as any Varya. It is not entirely clear to me if it reenters with the tip of the cone going in first or with the undepicted rear circle of the cone being the main surface facing the airstream, as we'd expect with American conical capsules. Both designs have I believe been developed for ICBM warheads or for capsules returning film from spysats. If it is nose first the rear TPS, on the circular disk "base" of the cone, might be quite minimal, or possibly omitted entirely. Nose first might also allow for some lift if the capsule is tilted off axis--lift that could also be gotten off the circular base if it were the primary surface and bulked up accordingly. But capsules control their modest transverse lift by filling the volume so that the center of mass of the material within is biased "down" toward the anticipated center of the airflow impacting at the planned entry attitude. To encase an airplane in such a shell would constrain the placement of the center of mass quite a lot, interfering with any such plan to site the CM strategically.

    Tail first or nose first? In the latter case, the acceleration stress on the cosmonaut would have them hanging from the straps of their seat, and one would indeed hope that the conical shape going in that way does give lift because an entry unbuffered by lift to draw it out is at very high G levels, up to 10 or more! Eyeballs out would be pretty nasty. The alternative of disk-first would have the airplane within coming down tail-first, which is much better from the point of view of bearing high G's since the pilot is then on their back. But then either the thing has to turn around 180 degrees before blowing off the TPS shell, or else the airplane would be exposed to a supersonic slipstream while flying backwards!:eek: I think it would enter nose-first after all, G stress be damned.

    While the text in an earlier post assures us the TPS does come off briskly and without setting the plane within into some disastrous spin or tumble, what is then exposed is your basic supersonic small fighter/interceptor shape, except with a rather weak engine. It is only at this point that the pilot can see anything with their own eyes, when the mission is just about over. They get to pilot their airplane to a dignified landing on a runway.

    But that airplane could in no way have survived reentry without its shell.

    The Orel seems to have about as much habitable space as a Mercury capsule. With supplies and instruments kept in the IA, I suppose the endurance is much better than Mercury ever offered, and capabilities markedly superior to it. But not better than OTL Gemini I'd judge, and that came in under 6 tons, service module "transstage" and all. Orel needs a Proton to launch it into orbit--this means it has to mass nearly 20 tons, over 3 times a Gemini of comparable capability--greater really since Gemini carried two astronauts, Orel can evidently hold just one cosmonaut. The Gemini astronauts each had their own window to look out into space, important not just for psychological reasons but to have a good view of what they were doing.

    The first Varyas, which were comparable to Vostok in capability, apparently had ejection seats like Gemini; the later editions launched on the ker-lox M-1 rocket have escape towers to pull the entry capsule and also the orbital module on top of that away from launch explosions, then the crew ride down in the capsule on its parachutes the same as they would after reentering from orbit. As far as I can see, there would be no way to escape from Orel's TPS cone quickly; to escape a failing Proton booster the entire mass of cone and airplane within would have to be tractored away with an escape tower. Then I suppose the TPS would be jettisoned and the airplane would attempt to stabilize itself in flight and fly back to a runway. (I suppose the Orel airplane itself has an ejection seat, so we could wind up seeing both types of launch escape strategies in place:p)

    The American Dynasoar can be criticized as well for being much heavier than a two-man orbital spacecraft needs to be, but unlike Orel, the pilots have a clear view out at all times (anyway all times once the launch escape tower is jettisoned with its associated nose shield) and the entire spaceplane endures the full range of reentry and lands as a whole, ready to be used again. Furthermore, although a canon post confirms suspicions that orbital-speed hypersonic maneuvers off the upper atmosphere don't really have a lot of practical use, should one turn up, the Dynasoar can do it--that's a true spaceplane! I've come to believe that quite a different design would be needed for efficient use of such a capability, one that would look a lot less like an airplane and more like a spaceship, but could deliver superior lift/drag ratios for such purposes, and therefore also have better options for reentry than either Dynasoar or a traditional (in OTL) capsule. Such a properly designed "orbital maneuvering craft" would probably not be able to land like an airplane, though it might pack parasails. But the mass savings of such a design might be such that simply landing on retrorockets after simple parachutes have braked the descent speed down, like Soyuz (or Varya ITTL) capsules is an option instead.

    I suppose Chelomei's raketoplan approach had its virtues in the pioneering days of the late 50s and early 60s, but faced with the practical advantages of Mishin's Zarya I think he clearly should have rethought it. OTL he came up with TKS which completely abandoned the whole thermal-shell-containing-airplane concept in favor of reorganizing the units of Soyuz to integrate the IA with the "orbital module" and putting a minimal capsule on the nose for the crew to ride up and down in, then opening a hatch to access the habitable volume, supplies and mission apparatus in the "functional block" behind them; this is discarded upon reentry of course. The problems of launch escape and also of final landing are minimized by applying solely to the crew capsule.

    Had he stubbornly insisted on sticking with the raketoplan notion but faced the criticisms I have here, I suspect that like the Devil's "fool" I quote Blake about, he might have by the 1970s devised something less wasteful and awful than Orel. The conical nose-first entry I guess the TPS uses in Orel bears some resemblance to a biconic capsule--it's "monoconic!":p The biconic capsule approach I've been learning about recently might lend itself very well to the raketoplan design; instead of having a supersonic small jet plane occupying the shell, pack it full of spaceship--pull the service module inside, free up ample room for not one but half a dozen or more cosmonauts and lots of functional instruments. The biconic entry plan leaves one face of the cone protected in the shadow of the rest of the ship; that top side can have view ports, hatches, camera sites, etc which can be covered with relatively light TPS as entry nears. If the TPS is necessarily ablative, it might be just as well to blow it off once speeds have been reduced to lower supersonic ranges or even to subsonic, but this would expose not a small airplane but a capsule with mold line comparable to the TPS shell. Such a body would not be able to land like an airplane but it could come down under a parachute and retro-rocket to a soft landing. The functional aspects of the spacecraft--its thrusters, its tankage, its avionics and mission devices, as well as extensive and spacious life support--would all land with it and be potentially reusable with the addition of a new TPS shell. Conceivably by the 1970s Chelomei might have proven out some non-disposable form of TPS and then the whole thing is ready, after inspection and refitting, for another mission.

    Such a space Winnebago is what a Chelomei thinking along these lines could put up on a Proton; vice versa if the regime demands he think smaller, a scaled-down version the right size for a crew of two or three cosmonauts would be much lighter than the Orel's all-up launch mass and this would simplify some of the problems and enable the whole thing to go up, again potentially fully reusable, on a much smaller rocket. Escape from a launch mishap would require a lot more rocket thrust than on the TKS return capsule, and so would landing, but that's the price of getting back an entire orbital spacecraft after all.

    All three women cosmonauts could go up together on such a craft.

    And two of them could go on Mishin's Zarya, and operate in space for weeks while having a good view of space all around them, with the option of spacewalking or station operations or what have you, none of which an Orel could be involved with.

    I don't know then what TTL's Chelomei has been thinking, sticking with the raketo-plan. And I don't know how he could have sold the idea of supporting it to any of the Party bosses, when they have a superior and yet cheaper alternative, and funds for improvements could yield something putting Zarya in the shade.
  3. su_liam Incompetent planetary engineer

    Feb 15, 2011
    Eugene, OR
    Up until now, I've been thinking of the aeroshell of the Orel as a payload fairing to be discarded late in the liftoff process. Now that I look at that rather beefy thing again, I'm not so sure. My first impression could be right, but if not, that would have been a glorious moment in *Soviet half-assery!
  4. Tonyq Well-Known Member

    Mar 1, 2008
    Tereshkova’s back-up in OTL was Irina Solovyeva, a top class parachutist, so my Solovyova is not her. However Marina Solovyova is a real person and her OTL biography is exactly as I set it out in Part 1. In OTL, she had featured in the early stages of selection for the 1962 Vostok Group, but did not get far. By 1967 though, she was a record breaking pilot who appears in the Guinness Book of Records, for flying a MIG-21 at an outright record speed for a female pilot, 1500mph plus, in 1967. She was born in 1939, and thus 32 years old when Chelomei began looking for pilots, so she seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I will post a photo of her.

    BTW, Galina Korchuganova is a real OTL pilot too, who also held a clutch of aviation records at this time, although nothing quite as ‘sexy’ as the absolute speed record. She had definitely been an OTL cosmonaut candidate in 1962, and made to the final 10/12.

    Kotova is totally imaginary, although there are elements of real people in her backstory.

    She is a military officer, so, as you’ll see in the next Part, accepts her fate with appropriate dignity.
    Yes, I posted that image from my collection before the story had developed, but realising I’d inadvertently made her a real babe, I needed to find a way to make her looks count, hence she captured the hearts of the tough old newspaper hacks.

    In OTL, there are conflicting views on what Korolev really felt about the ‘woman in space’ stunt, but in this TL I don’t think Chelomei has any option. It is his project so he needs to find best pilots he can, and to get them the best support and training. He's not under any pressure to send a particular type of woman, so the fact that those who come to the surface are already well-educated, successful, high-achievers, arguably from relatively privileged backgrounds, isn't an issue.
    Some clarification of these points would be useful, as it will heavily influence the narrative when Kotova is in orbit.

    Again, some clarification would be useful, just so I get the launch and ascent details right. I have assumed that the cosmonaut/pilot is in an ejector seat, in case of a problem when landing. This could double up as a launch escape mechanism, as with OTL Vostok, but such systems are marginally effective, but I agree that a launch escape tower powerful enough to pull the whole Orel assembly clear, seems improbable.

    That’s quite a cool idea, although, I don’t think they’d send all three pilots. Maybe Marina goes up, with an engineer from Chelomei’s bureau, or a doctor, or even a journalist? But let’s just get Lidiya back in one piece, for now. :)
  5. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    So, a little clarification!

    Another great update! My only comment on this episode (related to some later comments) is on this line:

    In fact Orel doesn’t use a shroud per-se. It is encased within its aeroshell, with an adapter enclosing the AOO service module and acting as the interface to the top of the Proton. So the aeroshell sits exposed at the top of the rocket (as seen here in an early test launch on an R-200). Integration is horizontal, with the full Proton stack being rotated to vertical at the pad, as with all Soviet rockets.

    Well, at the risk of spoiling the end of Tonyq’s vingette, take a look at Part-III Post#9 ;)

    Unfortunately, I never got around to making a fully detailed model of Orel, hence the lack of images, but I’ll address the design points here.

    Shevek’s analysis is correct, the Orel plane (the entire system is termed a “Spaceplane”, if for no other reason than to play up its supposed matching of Dynasoar’s capabilities) sits inside the aeroshell for the whole mission, giving the pilot no view outside, except via any instruments on the AOO (which was noted as a problem on the first suborbital test flight, though not an insurmountable one). The AOO carries main propulsion, power, supplies and instrumentation. Upon re-entry, the AOO performs the burn and is discarded. The plane+aeroshell then re-orientates to nose-first for atmospheric entry. Control flaps on the side of the aeroshell give pretty good hypersonic manoeuvrability during re-entry, until the lower atmosphere is reached and airspeed drops to about Mach 2. The aeroshell is then jettisoned and the plane’s jet engine activates (hopefully!) for a powered landing.

    Abort is provided by solid rockets which will push the aeroshell and plane free of the launcher and AOO. These are built into the aeroshell, not a separate escape tower. The shell is discarded and the pilot either attempts to fly the plane back aerodynamically, or ejects.

    The aeroshell was tested quite extensively IOTL in the early ‘60s, along with a model of the plane which I used as the basis of TTL’s Orel (though the OTL version was apparently a pure glider). The concept was that the aeroshell could be used to return a variety of different payloads, not just the manned plane, making for a very flexible system. However, as time went on Chelomei moved away from the separate aeroshell (at least for deep space purposes), and moved towards a less manoeuvrable TKS-style conical re-entry vehicle, presumably to avoid the considerable mass penalty and to give better high-speed reentry survivability. ITTL, similar reasoning and the disappointing operational performance of Orel, drives his Safir circumlunar ship to a similar conical capsule design.

    As you’ve deduced, Orel’s performance never really matches Dynasoar. It is able to make limited synergistic plane changes using the aeroshell (see Part-III Post#2), but this is no more useful than for Dynasoar. However, Orel’s crew is limited to a single pilot (though an extra seat probably could be squeezed in, it would be pretty complicated to make this an ejection seat). Space walks would be possible in theory by opening the hatch and squeezing out under the aeroshell, but it would be tight and with no crewmate to come to the pilot’s assistance it’s been considered too risky to attempt so far.

    One area where Orel does have an advantage is the flexibility of its AOO. Orel launches on Proton because the base system is just too heavy to go on R-200 (or M-1, but Chelomei would never even consider using Mishin’s rocket). Proton is actually overpowered for Orel, but this means lots of margin for expanding the AOO, something Chelomei is looking at in support of potential missions to Chasovoy. Such an enlarged AOO could also be used by the Safir capsule.

    Overall though, Orel is a failure when stacked up against Zarya or (hopefully!) Safir. It pretty much exists just to prove the Soviets can match the American Dynasoar (even if this is a propaganda fantasy by most measures). This is partially reflected in the far lower number of Orel missions that have been flown compared to Zarya (though that disparity is also related to Mishin’s political rise in the mid-late ‘60s). The flexible return capability hasn’t really be used, though the aerodynamics of the aeroshell have fed into spysat return capsules. The main area where raketoplan has been useful is the flexible AOO, which has been reconfigured for Chelomei’s Mars probes, Safir and his co-orbital ASAT weapon.

    As a side note, Western media in the 1970s probably assumes the aeroshell is just a fairing and that Orel re-enters in much the same way as Dynasoar, as almost all of the images that would have been publicly released would be of the photogenic plane. Government agencies probably know better, but to Joe Public it'll be a plane, much the same as IOTL for many years Vostok was always shown with the R-7 upper stage attached.
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  6. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    I've been thinking about Orel and the general raketoplan concept, with mixed feelings. I expressed the negative feelings pretty extensively already!:eek:

    I think the bottom line is that it isn't a very rational approach and that whittling it down and transforming in the cold light of day, Chelomei wound up with TKS, so if it ever seems that suggestions below point in that direction, well they sort of do naturally. But you've expressed some points that might make the regime support him if he can sustain his own enthusiasm for his brainchild--specifically that the thermoshell is meant to enable many alternative payloads, for instance, and that the aeroshell can perform orbital-speed hypersonic maneuvers comparable to what Dynasoar can, which means that as an integrated craft it is indeed an answer to Dynasoar, in space and at orbital speeds in the atmosphere.

    It is a little harder for me to believe it can do that while retaining its AOO, but then it is also hard to visualize Dynasoar doing a synergistic plane change without ditching its trans-stage--but to realize the potential of such in-and-out maneuvers, it is necessary for both craft to do so, since recovering to orbit will require a boost to restore the speed lost to drag. So I'm having to believe both disposable propulsion modules remain in place. (That being the case though I have to wonder why both the American and Soviet designers did not integrate the respective modules better into the general hypersonic forms they must adhere to so severely in the bodies that actually will reenter. If they never planned to do such things, it makes sense for the auxiliary (though vital!) service modules to be designed for space and vacuum, with indifference to streamlining--but not if they planned such dive, turn and climb aerobatics!

    I have to suppose that devising a form that worked well both with and without the added module was too hard, whereas the extra modules, riding behind the main aerocrafts, are in the shadow of the shock waves and their drag is not tremendous, nor are they subjected to the sorts of intense heating the main aerodynamic surface does. But I have trouble accepting these benign assumptions, though I can see how it would be too many strict conditions to realize success, so both craft simply pay whatever the price of dragging the service module along, be it high or low--and they simply have to toughen it up to whatever stresses its role demands it endure.

    Now by strict rationality, returning to the raketoplan concept, there is no need to have a free-flying airplane enclosed in the shell that can manage the tasks it does in Orel. If it is an airplane, it can land itself, but it isn't clear to me how valuable that is compared to the missed chances of using the interior volume more rationally, then simply parachuting down from Mach 2.

    But let's say it is a given for now that the chewy airplane center remains a feature to be retained, perhaps for better reasons than I can now imagine.

    So OK, how to make it better on those terms?

    But please pardon me if I won't! If it is reasonable to refer to hypersonic greater craft as a kind of airplane because it doesn't just blast through the atmosphere ballistically but can manipulate its path by varying lift and drag, well then so is an Apollo capsule, or an ITTL Varya one, also an "airplane!" They do that too--whether they do it more or less well depends on exactly what goals each craft is trying to accomplish.

    I'll reserve the airplane term for the Orel plane inside the shell, which is in no way capable of surviving an orbital reentry nor even speeds a large fraction of that speed and clearly is neither a hypersonic plane nor a spaceplane. The Orel outer shell makes the whole thing a lifting body at best--which is no bad thing if it gets the job done and might, with improvement, get it done better than Dynasoar.
    I have a Cunning Plan:D to address that deficiency and others with remarkably little modification of the basic design! Coming up after I finish letting your quote recap what that design is.:)
    I wonder about the wisdom of that; not only does this mean that the Proton rocket must push that additional mass to orbit after the phase of the launch where they might be needed is past, but they are made of pretty chemically active stuff; how smart is it to carry them, uselessly, back down to Earth's lower atmosphere embedded in a shell undergoing intense heating?:eek: Presumably it can be shown they will never be ignited by reentry heat or any other mishap, but I remain unnerved. Anyway they are dead weight after the first stage of launch and the only possible secondary use I can see for them would be as an emergency backup method of deorbiting if the main propulsion in the AOO fails. But would the burst of very powerful thrust they'd deliver briefly be in the right ballpark of delta-V change for safe deorbit? That would at least get them burnt up and most of their dead weight mass discarded. But I don't see any provision for this in the mission plans! Is it an emergency contingency? Even as such it seems dubious.

    Putting the escape solid fuel rocket in a single housing in a tower atop the TPS cone allows them to simply jettison it when no longer needed, freeing up the rest of the Proton booster's remaining delta-V for useful mass, removing the mass from the aeroshell's burden on entry as well, and eliminating any possible hazard.

    Unfortunately your illustrations don't show it, and so canon is against it; presumably also Chelomei rejected this approach OTL. But I wonder if your picture wasn't after all of an uncrewed test launch; it would make sense to install the escape tower only for actual manned missions.

    Ah, but what? The aeroshell is irrelevant to objects meant to be brought to space and left there; it can only be used to bring things down. At this early stage of spaceflight there are few manned stations and no one has gone beyond low Earth orbit at all, let alone gone to the Moon or beyond with stuff to haul back down to Earth retrieved from there. As the Soviets (and Americans) gain experience with space stations, they will come to appreciate the value of being able to ship masses back down to Earth after they've been in orbit a good long while. A shell such as Orel's can be an answer to the vexed question of downmass that e of pi and Workable Goblin was the main way in which the OTL American program proved superior to their ATL; I was thinking along those lines in a reply I drafted many times but ultimately abandoned; my starting point was to suggest gutting out an Apollo CM capsule and seeing what one could get into it, and for NASA and/or DoD to work their way up to custom-made aeroshells launched empty to be stuffed full of downmass. But I gave up writing it, daunted by a number of things. However the concept of raketoplans does provide the option of a hollow shell one can ship up relatively cheaply that can clearly be loaded with cargoes of mass, bulk, and awkward form that would dwarf anything that could get into a gutted Apollo--or even a modern Dragon capsule. The last straw for me and my ETS downmass capsule post was considering how Apollo's center of mass had to be sited just so; the long, roomy cone of Orel seems to offer a lot more wiggle room to load even awkward cargo so as to site the CM correctly.
    But no less useful either; it seems that actually the conic, point-first reentry body is quite capable as a lifting body, quite comparable in terms of hypersonic maneuvering with the American true spaceplane.
    All right! Here's Cunning Plan #1 to improve the cost-effectiveness of Orel:

    Make more use of the volume enclosed within the aeroshell.

    An airplane, by its nature as implied by inclusion of the verbal unit "-plane," is a flat sort of thing. This is, broadly speaking, how they fly; their wings slice through the air rather the way ice skates cruise on a layer of water melted by the pressure of a skater's weight concentrated on very narrow blades, and by very slightly diverting that airflow they achieve lift, as ice skaters propel themselves by actually angling their skates a bit off their net path and pushing on the sideways component of the skate path. Airplanes generally rely on specialized wings and the rest of the craft can be deep and bulky, but that tends to lead to drag so we have slim, streamlined fuselages generally (once we enter the monoplane era anyway) on the same level as the wings.

    The interior of Orel's conical shell is not flat; the Orel airplane is occupying a limited portion of it, and "above" and "below" the planform of the airplane is empty space. From the pictures, quite a lot of it on a human scale.

    I propose to make that volume useful as an extension of the habitable volume of the spacecraft, and to do it cheaply by simply installing some inflated sealed-fabric habitation. Now it may be that the pressure of say .75 atmosphere on the interior of the aeroshell cone might be significantly more force than it was designed to take, though since the aeroshell has to contend with decelerating and lifting forces on the order of at least a full G and probably a lot more, I doubt the air pressure would be a big problem. If it is it is necessary for the inflated structure inside to hold in the pressure by its own tensile strength to spare the shell the load.

    So the fabric might not be gossamer-light, it might have significant mass. But as you say...

    So we do have margin. If the airplane can only carry one cosmonaut, there is a limit to what we can accomplish even if we give that single person a lot more space to work in than just the tight cockpit of a small supersonic plane.

    But it is an improvement. Being able to somehow accommodate a second cosmonaut in the airplane greatly improves the utility of an Orel flight, and there would be a lot of room for two or more people to live in in an inflated volume within the cone.

    Note that I'm not proposing to clutter the cone up with a lot of hardware; the spaceplane is where the storage compartments and tanks and machinery would be, or else the AOO. I'm just saying, being able to stretch out and move about will be a major improvement for the Orel crew.

    It also can give them access to the disk at the rear of the aeroshell. Now it has not been entirely clear to me whether that disk is solid, a partition of thinner aeroshell TPS, or whether it might be open to vacuum--I really doubt that though because although the circular base of the cone is on the trailing edge of reentry, if it were open the Orel airplane would be subjected to some very hot air--not nearly as bad as facing the brunt of the slipstream, but it would not be good. Holding it off with TPS seems only smart.

    But putting hatches in it is a lot less problematic than doing so on the main conical surface. Indeed since the AOO is connected to the cone and airplane somehow, there must be some kind of penetration of it!

    With the cone's interior fully filled with air held in by fabric, clearly the crew (even if only one cosmonaut) could have access to space via an airlock on that surface. One reason a single-cosmonaut craft is a lot less useful than a dual-crew one is that aside from the contortions you describe above assuming the spacewalker is suited and in vacuum, the "buddy principle" applies--in taking a risk like spacewalking, the probabilities of success and survival of the spacewalker are much higher with someone else to look after them and lend a hand. It is probably not a good idea to plan spacewalks as long as Orel carries just one crewmember.:(

    But anyway, it would be entirely possible to eat into that mass margin a little more and expand the AOO in volume, without increasing its mass a lot, to give even a single cosmonaut access to another small habitable volume, within the auxiliary module itself. This might allow some or possibly all of the "instruments" kept there to be inspected or fixed by the cosmonaut. And there would be no problem supplying this section of the ship with portholes, so the cosmonaut could at last look directly on the orbital space they are traveling in and on Earth below. With the main controls of the whole spacecraft sited there, the cosmonaut could supervise whatever operations the AOO of this mission was launched to perform. For space station operations, they could dock to a port mating to a port on the rear of the AOO by direct visual piloting.

    Now, could the Orel airplane carry two rather than one? It isn't clear to me why adding in a second ejection seat is such a challenge; the trainer versions of fighters and interceptors do it all the time. I suppose a proper two-crew Orel airplane would necessarily be a little bigger, and so its shell would be longer, and heavier, and between the increased mass of the AOO with its crew workspace, the heavier airplane and heavier shell, and finally the fabric making the interior of the shell habitable space all adding up, perhaps this will eat up most of the margin and become a vehicle that is overall just within Proton's maximum launch limits.

    But carrying two crew, who have ample space to live in and who can spacewalk and operate the AOO directly represents a major upgrade in the utility of the spacecraft. As presented, with a single cosmonaut confined to a tight cockpit, never able to see space and controlling everything indirectly via relay instruments packed into that little space, we had something that could at best be seen as intermediate between a Mercury and a Gemini capsule, and categorically inferior to either in certain respects. With access to the cone and AOO and with a second cosmonaut, it vaults pretty far ahead of Gemini, the large living space enabling missions that might go on for weeks or even months. Arguably superior in some respects to Apollo or Soyuz of OTL, and quite a bit better than Dynasoar as a spacecraft--as already mentioned, it can match the American spaceplane in hypersonic shenanigans as well. But it is much more capable in orbit!

    Your next point brings me to yet another Cunning Plan I would propose...
    In space the canonical Orel is inferior to Dynasoar--but I think the above proposal realistically jumps it pretty far ahead. In fooling around with fancy moves in the upper atmosphere at hypersonic speeds, it does already match Dynasoar, I gather.
    Well, unless one can think of other uses besides downmass, it is a little early for that use to become as apparently desirable as it would over the next decade or two with station ops. I suppose most of the flexible uses that excited Chelomei and won him military support were in weapons delivery. Say, suppose the Orel airplane were a capable fighter plane, and that bigger raketoplans contained supersonic bombers (of modest range)--they might have been dreaming of launching a nuclear strike at the USA by firing these manned airplanes ballistically, to arrive at "random" locations (from the point of view of Yankee defenders) in the middle of the continental US within an hour, there to be freed from the aeroshells and to strike at targets anywhere.:eek: It's exactly the sort of thing Americans were thinking of with Dynasoar's ancestors of course! I find it hard to imagine how this has any advantage over simply firing ICBMs directly and unstoppably to their targets, but that's the sort of thing Air Force types dream up. I don't know what other notions Chelomei had, but the point is the aeroshell is only useful when what you want delivered via space is actually something that operates in the atmosphere.

    Maybe instead of sending bombers and fighters to cover them, sending a troop plane to put a small number of boots on the ground fast anywhere in the world, within an hour of being ordered to go? This too is something the US Army has been daydreaming about OTL.
    It is very hard to believe they could fool the Pentagon long, and almost as hard to believe they could fool themselves into thinking they could. As soon as the first Orel mission reached full orbit, the Americans and their allies and clients would immediately have chances to observe Orel for themselves, via telescopes. They would quickly see that the "fairing" never comes off, and they never see the sleek Orel "spaceplane" in orbit. Meanwhile while the Orel airplane's sharp lines might fool the general public, professional aeronautical engineers and military aviators would quickly note that it doesn't look right for the hypersonic task Dynasoar has to perform. They might have the uneasy idea that they might be overlooking something and something shaped like that could indeed fit the bill, but they would immediately have at least the suspicion something is off. I would guess that somewhere in the archives (if only in Top Secret ones few would have access to) are tests of designs resembling Orel, and these test results would show that such an airplane shape is not good for the hypersonic regime at all. Meanwhile, the human intelligence resources cultivated by Western intelligence agencies in the Soviet Union would probably spill the beans in short order.

    The only motive I can think of that would forestall the experts from crying foul immediately would be to give cover to those covert sources, who otherwise might be exposed to KGB counterespionage. (They probably are anyway; the "Gah-Behs" were tops at what they did, though Western intelligence did get their licks in too. I would guess some moles completely innocent of passing Orel data on to the CIA would be caught and swept up anyway just on general suspicion, once it became clear that the Pentagon and other Western experts saw right through the ruse). Also of course American charges would sound like sour grapes, given the publicly known setbacks in Dynasoar. But OTL that never stopped Western journalists from expressing skepticism about Soviet claims.

    I'd guess that perhaps the true nature of the Orel spacecraft would not be conclusively known in the sense of being proven in public; Western discourse on the subject would be speculative and controversial. But the version that debunks Soviet claims would probably be out there fast and believed by many people--some because they hate the Soviets generally, others (more than usual because the skeptical version would be true) based on the evidence. Yet others might be fooled, but very few or no serious professionals in the field.

    So--given that the cat would soon be out of the bag anyway, why go on pretending the Orel airplane is in fact the actual spaceplane? When it is clear enough the deceptive aspects of the program did not work, or were anyway not as effective as hoped, then the major reason for making the Orel plane capable of supersonic performance would go out the window.

    Which is bringing me near Cunning Plan number Two--but I have to sign out for the night. More later!:D
  7. Petike Sky Pirate Extraordinaire

    Jun 25, 2008
    Clockpunk Zemplín Kingdom / Franz Josef's Land
    I've currently finished reading Part 1, and so far, I've really enjoyed it. :) Keep it up, nixonshead. :cool:
  8. Kirk Kerman Kerbal Rocketeer

    Feb 14, 2015
    Well, I got kinda bored of Zarya and Chasovoy, so I started on Orel Raketoplan:


    full album: http://imgur.com/a/6rmbz
  9. Threadmarks: "The First Woman in Space - Part 4"

    Tonyq Well-Known Member

    Mar 1, 2008
    "The First Woman in Space - Part 4"

    The day following Kotova’s selection, the prelaunch tempo increased significantly, and was dominated by the arrival of various Party and military officials, plus a final delegation from Chelomei’s bureau and some cosmonauts, including the unfortunate Korchuganova. Colonel Vladimir Kotov, now flying a desk, and attached to the Ministry of Defence, also arrived with the Air Force delegation, ready to watch his only daughter being launched into space.

    For Kotova herself, it was a quiet day of relaxation, contemplation and rest, under continuous medical supervision, with, later in the day, a final series of interviews with the Soviet media, and then a private meeting at which the first female cosmonaut would be introduced to selected guests from the Air Force and political groups.

    At dawn, with just a day to go, the Proton/Orel assembly was rolled out to the launch pad, on its railway carrier, before being hoisted into the vertical launch position. The process took several hours, but by noon the rocket was on the pad and ready to be fueled.

    Chelomei had already invited Kotova to his office that morning, for a final private briefing. His intention was to both assess her state of readiness, and to reassure her about the thoroughness of his team’s preparations, the reliability of the hardware, and his total confidence in the success of the mission. Kotova arrived punctually, dressed in her training tracksuit, and they drank tea together, as he ran through the flight plan, the status checks on the hardware, the small scientific programme to be carried out. The cosmonaut listened intently, questioning some of Chelomei’s observations intelligently, and still outwardly calm and collected.

    At the conclusion of their meeting, the duo joined a delegation from the Air Force, and Chelomei’s team, to ride out and inspect the recently installed rocket at the pad. It was a tradition that had begun with the first Orel mission in 1965, and had continued during the subsequent five manned orbital flights. There was no formality or speeches, just a chance for the cosmonaut to meet the launch pad team and see the craft they would ride to orbit, at close quarters.

    With a 3am start the next day, Kotova’s final day on Earth ended early, with a medical examination at 7pm, followed by bed. With her pulse slightly elevated, her personal doctor suggested that she take a mild sedative, which she grudgingly accepted. The same doctor would later report that she subsequently slept soundly.

    The following morning, well before dawn, Lidiya Kotova was awoken by her medical minders, to the news that the countdown was still on schedule, and the rocket was being fueled. After light physical exercises and a breakfast of space food, she underwent a brief final medical, which confirmed she was fit to make the flight. The doctors reported that her resting pulse was only a few beats faster than on every other morning since her arrival at Tyuratam, that she was in good physical and emotional shape, but seemed a little apprehensive.

    Within a few minutes, Kotova was moved into the suiting area, to be dressed in her specially adapted Sokol SK-2 pressure suit, by a team of female technicians specially flown in from the design bureau. Marina Solovyova was on hand to lend encouragement and reassurance.

    It was still dark, as Lidiya Kotova began her trip to the launch pad, waving cheerfully to the watching crowds of journalists, specialists and launch centre workers, as her entourage, which included doctors, fellow cosmonauts, media, and, surprisingly, her own father, boarded the bus for the six mile drive to the waiting Proton rocket.

    Fifteen minutes later, on exiting the bus, she took a brief upward glance at the towering Proton, then was ushered straight to the gantry stairs and lift, giving a final wave to spectators, as she entered it, accompanied by Shatalov, Solovyova, and members of the launch pad team.

    Lidiya Kotova would later confess to being ‘suddenly scared shitless’ as she rode the gantry elevator, seventeen stories, to the top of the UR-500, and the enormity of what she was about to, do hit home. As the elevator doors opened, a wave of uncertainty swept over her, and she paused momentarily to gather her thoughts and steady herself. Shatalov noticed the hesitation, and a brief conversation followed, before he gave her a fatherly hug and steered her towards the waiting hatch. Whatever Shatalov had said was not revealed, but the engineers and technicians on hand to assist her, would later tell journalists that she was smiling, as they inserted her into the vehicle and strapped her into her ejection seat in the Orel Raketoplan cockpit.

    Marina Solovyova stepped forward to give her a final, rather awkward, sisterly embrace, before Kotova was sealed inside, and the two hour countdown began, with her working through her pre-launch checklist in a professional and business-like fashion, and chatting calmly to her mentor, Cosmonaut Shatalov, to Chelomei himself and, briefly, to her own father, on the downlink.

    For well over an hour, the countdown proceeded faultlessly, without any delays or holds. At T-10 minutes Shatalov reminded Kotova to close her helmet visor and put on her gloves. She confirmed completion of these tasks.

    At T-5 minutes, Chelomei himself took the microphone, asking how she felt and wishing her a good flight. Kotova replied, thanking him for his good wishes, confirming that she felt in good shape, and was ready to be launched. Chelomei then watched the television images, from the cockpit, which a few hours later would be beamed around the World. They showed her staring impassively through her helmet visor, her eyes occasionally following readings on her cockpit displays, as the final and seconds and minutes ticked by.

    At precisely the pre-arranged time of 6.45am, the multiple engines of the Proton first stage began their ignition processes, and as the thrust built up, the huge rocket, rose slowly from the launch pad and climbed into a cloudless dawn sky.

    Although there was excitement and applause on the viewing platform, and in the launch control bunker, Kotova herself remained silent during ignition, and the first moments of the ascent, before steadily delivering her anticipated series of radio calls, as early milestones of the ascent were passed. She reported that vibration, noise and the growing multiple G-forces were well within expected ranges, and that she felt fine.

    While Shatalov, provided reassurance by continually reporting the nominal progress of the ascent, doctors monitoring her vital signs had noted a pulse rate of 130bpm at ignition, which was within predicted ranges, and did not cause them concern.

    After 126 seconds of flight, staging occurred, and although Shatalov had reminded Kotova to brace herself, she let out an unplanned expletive, as the violence of the process flung her forwards, and then backwards against her restraints. However within seconds, relative order was restored as she reported the increasing force of the ascent, as the second stage carried her at increasing pace towards escape velocity and on to orbit.

    On the ground, Chelomei watched the progress of the launch anxiously, but with quiet satisfaction. So far, his hardware, and his chosen woman cosmonaut, were performing well, he just needed everything to stay on its nominal track for another seven minutes.

    Those minutes ticked by, without any undue alarm, and the ascent continued to follow a nominal profile, as the second stage gave way to the third, and the engines continued to burn as planned. Kotova grew more confident as she called out the milestones and continued to confirm her well-being.

    Finally, the third stage burned out, and separated with another violent jolt, and the Orel spacecraft entered orbit. In Kotova's headset, Shatalov confirmed the successful completion of the launch phase. She acknowledged, but without undue celebration or excitement.

    Inside the cramped cockpit, Lidiya Kotova leaned her head back inside her helmet, closed her eyes, and let out a long, slow sigh of relief. She had every right to feel both relieved, and very proud of herself.

    Then, as she was scheduled to do in her flight plan, Kotova removed her flight log book from its holder, and took one of her ample supply of pencils between her gloved fingers. It immediately slipped from her grip and floated away gently, in front of her helmet. Lidiya Kotova smiled. She really was in space.
    Dlg123 likes this.
  10. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    Bless you all, Tonyq and nixonshead (as editor in chief) that Lidiya is Not Dead Yet! Some remarks you two made earlier left me in some suspense on the point, and much of the language of the current post read like it might be a post-mortem account.

    But so far so so good, and her candor about being scared at one point sounds like the sort of thing she might share once safely back on Earth--I suppose, not to kill the suspense just yet, she could confess it on a radio signal after some undisclosed jinx dooms her and she knows it. But I don't think she would then, nor would her Kremlin handlers want her to; she'd be officially stoic.

    I'd have to read back to see if there was any mention of prior notice to anyone outside the USSR this flight was scheduled, or if it disclosed that this mission would involve anything special.

    Oh, right, I see it in the previous installment:

    So TASS is going to have all the human interest stuff in the can and dole it out to the Western media as well as for Soviet and Bloc consumption--starting next installment, because we know she is now safely in orbit (but not necessarily that everything else is going to go smoothly).

    At least she got past the launch unlike her poor predecessor. And on another hypergolic fueled rocket too! An even bigger one!:eek: The emergency ejection system available to her would presumably have taken her farther away from the poison wreckage and hopefully after that last accident steps have been take to guarantee the spacesuits will provide more reliable protection. OTOH it would be up to her to fly her plane away from the wreck once the shell came off--and if the shell did not come off I suppose she'd be screwed.

    I happen to have been reading at James Oberg's site, where there is discussion of Soyuz accidents and mishaps involving the failure of the service module to come loose from the return capsule, exposing the capsule to severe heating on the top where it was not supposed to be, as well as screwing up the descent pattern so the cosmonaut in question wound up (alone; this was one of the late 60s missions where they were practicing rendezvous and this Soyuz had transferred the other two aboard to another Soyuz, leaving one to pilot the thing down by himself) hundreds of miles uprange in the middle of winter. Rather than stay in the capsule and he reckoned, freeze to death while they looked for him, he climbed out, found the smoke of a peasant hut in the sky, and walked there to take shelter as the countryman's guest.

    So separation failures are clearly a thing and no joke.:(

    Good thing that problem hasn't been relevant thus far. I remain in suspense lest it become relevant, or any number of other things.

    I have great confidence in Lidiya Vladimirova Kotova though. If she can possibly fix any jams she might get into, she will.:)
  11. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    On another matter that can have no direct bearing on this, I still wonder what nixonshead or his advisory brain trust might think of my suggestions to upgrade Orel by using the large volumes within the cone but outside the airplane as habitable workspace and access to a revised AOO and thus direct visual views of space. I referred earlier to an alternative where the interior is packed full of more conventional compartments as a "space Winnebago;" this would be more like an orbital canvas-top camper, except the canvas is inside the shell and thus extra-safe from micrometeorites and intense sunlight and so forth.

    One of the inherent drawbacks of the whole big conical aeroshell concept is that the TPS is not so protected; like Dynasoar or OTL STS it is exposed. Well, the only incident where the STS thermal protection was compromised the culprit was ice off the hydrogen tank during launch, not a meteorite, nor have I ever heard of any manned space expedition whatsoever ever having any sort of trouble with meteors of any scale. Presumably the heavy aeroshell can endure a little pitting from any objects likely to hit it in orbit. But like STS, as it is, there doesn't seem to be any provision to verify the shell is intact before reentry either). With my proposed upgrade and a second crewmember, it would be possible to have an inspection spacewalk before committing to entry, if the crew or recording instruments aboard ever noticed a big bang. Of course with my little Cunning Plan a big enough meteor would punch right through and deflate their habitat and probably, being big enough to do that, zing right on through the airplane and out the other side, making a second leak! They'd know then, if nothing got blown up on its passage through the airplane, that they were well and truly marooned in orbit.:eek:)

    But maybe it is possible to send up a second aeroshell, open it up in back and maneuver the airplane in, bolt it down and close up the shell and then ride the new shell down?

    Since the airplane would also be damaged, I suppose the only thing to do would be to send a whole second Orel, new airplane and all, and have the crew spacewalk over to it.

    By the way, the latest post mentions Lidiya getting into the Orel cockpit--how? Is there a hatch in the aeroshell cone after all, or is there one on the disk at the base of the cone, where they extend in a ladder? The logistics of the interactions mentioned--Lidiya's unheard dialog with Shatalov, followed by an unnumbered plurality of "engineers and technicians" assisting her into the seat, then Solovyova giving her a final embrace before they seal her in, suggest the former, a hatch being explicitly mentioned. I guess the hatch is made of the same TPS the rest of the shell is and if it is sealed strongly in place does not compromise the heat shield. It might then be possible perhaps for an Orel pilot to punch out of a launch abort directly, without riding up with the shell and plane under the thrust of the escape rockets, if the hatch in the TPS is rigged with some kind of explosive ejection bolts that are sure-fire to act in conjunction with the seat itself. Or perhaps it was judged too risky to provide that option, and the cosmonaut must trust that the shell will be opened after the launch escape rockets have burned out?

    I certainly think riding up in the shell's protection, and then trying my luck flying the plane far from a broken Proton, would be the preferable course of action if at all possible; anyway ejecting from the Orel plane after the shell has blown apart a good distance up and away is better than ejecting right over the stricken hypergolic booster.
    In case anyone wonders, the next phase of my proposed modification of Orel would have been to redesign the airplane so that it can merely survive a brief period of being supersonic, but optimized for operation as a rugged and easily landed subsonic airplane. There is no need for the pretense of a supersonic plane, whereas designing it to work well at low airspeeds would give it flexibility in landing, in case an entry had to be made at sudden notice at an unplanned location above the Earth. There are lots of short, barely improved landing strips on Earth, plus I was thinking it should also be designed to ditch safely in water and then float there like a raft, what with most of our planet's surface being covered with ocean. Soviet aircraft in general were (and Russian and other former Soviet nation designs still are) meant to operate from remarkably rough field conditions. It wouldn't actually amaze me if the Orel supersonic airplane as designed could land on a gravel field, or even take off from one. But I'd think if the plane were designed to operate below the speed of sound, it could be stronger for a given weight, and have better endurance and possibly range for a given amount of fuel, and be easier to design to hold two or more cosmonauts and their supplies.

    It still has to tolerate a brief supersonic period since I'd guess the separation from the aeroshell has to happen above the speed of sound for various good reasons, but I gather quite a few aircraft not designed for supersonic flight have survived supersonic dives. I actually wondered if it might make sense to put an airplane of typical WWII fighter type layout in "backwards," tail to the tip of the cone--the G forces during reentry would then be oriented about right. But of course they'd be terribly wrong during launch, which led me to thinking about a drum-shaped or spherical cosmonaut compartment that could rotate around--that's probably a bad idea though as it might get jammed the wrong way.:eek: And upon shell breakup, the plane would be flying tail-first.:eek: I thought of workarounds for that too, but the best thing I guess is to keep the basic delta layout, but make it plump and smoothly curved and design it for subsonic speed, like the Vulcan bomber. Deltas have advantages even for subsonic flight, though not as pronounced as for supersonic options too. One being that, without the stringent requirements on making the wing relatively thin, a subsonic contoured delta can have a remarkably thick wing with lots of storage volume within it.

    As far as I can see, the main reason the Orel airplane is designed to cruise at supersonic speeds is as an attempt to fool the more gullible publics into thinking the airplane itself is the spaceplane. This is a lie, and since the cat will be out of the bag soon enough, might as well give up on it and optimize the plane for what it really is--the vehicle the crew lands in and perhaps has to survive ditched in or next to for days while the Soviets get diplomatic clearance to come in to some random country, or locate them floating in the middle of the Pacific. Give me an inflatable beach toy scale model of the Vulcan for something like that!:D
  12. Tonyq Well-Known Member

    Mar 1, 2008

    I think that it was established in her brief mention in the main plot that she completes the flight successfully, and thus raises Chelomei’s stock with the Leadership, so there was no scope to kill her off.

    That is exactly how it was intended to read. The whole tale is written from a retrospective stand point, so you’ll notice I have used the device of using post flight comments, by both Kotova and other characters, to convey certain messages, or feelings, which it is hard to capture any other way. So, yes, this comment is something she would have made when safely back in earth.

    Her backstory shows how she has been groomed for this role, by the Soviet system, and her own father, since her teens, and she has just ‘rolled with it’, taking each fresh aviation challenge in her stride, and her success has fuelled her confidence. Becoming a female cosmonaut candidate was a natural step for her, and her competitiveness and desire to be the best, and first, have stopped her thinking too much about the risk she would be exposed to.

    Even in the few days since being chosen to make the flight, she’s continued in that vein, and has impressed everyone with her calmness. Essentially, she has just ridden the sense of self-confidence and invincibility that has been with her since her teens.

    However, she is just a young woman, albeit with a rare set of skills, and when she is about to be strapped alone, aboard a giant fuelled rocket, reality belatedly kicks in, and a natural sense of fear momentarily engulfs her. Fortunately, Shatalov has just the right words sort her out!

    Although it won’t be mentioned specifically, the Americans will know about the small female team, through intelligence sources. They will have noted that the elite Soviet female pilots have been off the radar, for some time, setting no new records or performing other heroic aviation feats, so they will have figured that they have been drafted for cosmonaut training. Kotova will be known to them, through her father’s profile, so her launch won’t come as unexpected. However, to the public in the West and the Eastern Bloc it will be more of a surprise

    Yes, I need to see what we can do on that front. The page is blank, right now!
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2015
  13. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    Sorry for the delay in responding everyone. There’s been a lot of interesting stuff to consider!

    Glad you’re enjoying it, Petike!

    Nice little jet there :) I imagine getting the aeroshell and AOO added will be quite a challenge!

    Another great update! Thanks so much for contributing these, they’re a wonderful addition to the story! Just to clarify to everyone, my contribution has been limited to providing some background technical details and the minor corrections discussed in the comments. The wonderful characterisation and style is pure Tonyq.

    There are some pretty nifty ideas here! The concept of an inflatable module to expand living space is an intriguing one, especially as the Soviets have already used similar deployable structures for Gorbatko’s spacewalk on Zarya-4 (or OTL Leonov’s Voskhod spacewalk). IOTL there was a similar deployable tunnel considered for the Podsaka lunar mission concept, though I’m not sure if they would have been quite ready to trust such a structure as a shirt-sleeve living space (even IOTL 2015, NASA aren’t yet willing to trust BEAM with anything more than cargo). Still, for access to the AOO and perhaps a bit more storage space, the idea has definite possibilities.
    OTOH, by this time Chelomei is already focusing more on Safir (his analysis of the utility of capsules over aircraft belatedly matching your own), so I’m not sure he’d want to invest too much time or effort in upgrading Orel, especially given how tight resources are.

    Solid rockets were (and ITTL are) also included in the Dynasoar design for pushing the glider (minus the service module) off the rocket during aborts, so I took it as also capable for Raketoplan. I figured the solid rockets could also be used for aeroshell separation during descent (though they’re pretty overpowered for this), so they’re not completely dead-weight after launch. I wasn’t able to find out if this was the plan on OTL’s Raketoplans, or if they were intended to have a more conventional escape tower.

    The idea of using them as an alternative de-orbit mechanism is an interesting possibility. It would still depend upon the AOO’s manoeuvring thrusters to get the orientation right, but might be useful in a contingency.

    The original thinking was, as I understand it, a bunch of military and scientific experiments needing exposure to space and return, either to bring their recorders back or just to see how they survived the effects of the space environment (similar to some of the Dynasoar MkI missions, or OTL’s X-37B). The aeroshell would be a lot less sensitive to CoM issues than Apollo because of its aerodynamic controls, and as you’ve noted it’s quite roomy, so that removes a few constraints when designing the experiments.

    As I understand, the aft end of the aeroshell was always planned to be open, without aerodynamic or thermal problems as the shock-cone and plasma sheath would be well away from the aft of the plane.

    In fact I believe ITTL and IOTL the tests with Raketoplan aeroshells led directly to improvements in ICBM warhead targeting. ITTL, with even more experience in hypersonic manoeuvring from Raketoplan, I image Soviet warheads are even more accurate than IOTL, raising correspondingly greater fears of a potential Soviet counterforce capability. This would be offset by an overall lower number of deployed ICBMs on both sides (due to the Nixon administration ordering far fewer Minuteman missiles than Kennedy IOTL, 200 vs. 1000) - but of course the threat analysts of TTL don’t know that!

    Hopes of sneaking in a nuclear strike via the US’ southern ‘back door’ with a FOBS or Raketoplan concept would have been scuppered by the early 1970s by NORAD extending their radar tracking coverage to close this gap.

    Indeed. IIRC the first problem of this type IOTL occurred straight away on Vostok-1, where the straps connecting the service module to the re-entry module didn’t separate at first. Luckily they burned through fairly quickly, and the capsule was not seriously damaged.

    Yes, the aeroshell is exposed, but as per OTL any damage so far hasn’t been significant enough to cause a problem. For Raketoplan, this has been tempered by a low flight rate, as well as the general fact of less junk up there in the 1970s to cause a problem. For Dynasoar, which is averaging about 4 flights per year, they’ve probably had a couple of dings by now that caused a bit of concern in post-flight processing, but nothing critical so far. Knowledge of those dings (at least pre-Rhene) would have of course been kept secret.

    In fact the original proposal for Raketoplan (ITTL and OTL) was for an aircraft with pop-out wings, based on Chelomei’s experience with ship-launched cruise missiles. Problems with scaling up a reliable-but-lightweight swing-wing mechanism is what pushed him to the eventual fixed delta wing (back when the launcher was still planned to be R-200 rather than Proton). With an extra decade of experience, a more powerful launcher and more familiarity with swing-wings from fighter projects, I see no reason the concept couldn’t be re-visited.

    Just to clarify my earlier statement about public perception of Orel (sorry, I lost track of where you commented on it!), national intelligence agencies and even informed readers of public aerospace magazines are fully aware of Raketoplan’s true plane-in-an-aeroshell concept (though Aviation Week probably assume it’s nuclear powered :rolleyes:). My point was more that whenever you see it pictured on stamps, posters, newspapers, cereal boxes, or anywhere else in the wider public domain, it’s the cool plane part that gets shown, not the nosecone. Along with the reporting of Raketoplan as "The Soviet Dynasoar", this means when Joe Public hears “Orel” or “Raketoplan”, he thinks of the plane part.
  14. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    Hi everyone. Writing of Part-IV is still underway, and I'm afraid I don't have an ETA for you yet. But in the meantime, here's a little window into the world of Part-IV.


    Part of Shelepin's military build-up from the mid-'60s onwards included an expansion of the Navy. By the mid/late-'70s, the USSR's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Gorky is undergoing sea trials in the Baltic, flying her MiG-23K "Flogger" jets. NATO keeps a close eye on these developments, in this case via a Maritime Reconnaissance version of West Germany's imported Arrow fighter, deployed in small numbers with the Marineflieger.
    Last edited: May 30, 2016
  15. Kirk Kerman Kerbal Rocketeer

    Feb 14, 2015
    Have I ever mentioned how much I love carriers? Because I do.

    Anyways, good to know Part IV is progressing.
  16. RanulfC Well-Known Member

    Mar 11, 2014
    Just for the FYI-ish-ness of it though I can't find hide-ner-hair of it online at the moment;

    In the mid-90s there was a Russian proposal for an "advanced" spacecraft which would operate on-orbit as an advanced Soyuz with support-reentry-and orbital modules. However, once the reentry module was down to subsonic speed after entry it would jettison the heat shield, turn around and deploy wings and tail surfaces and a small jet engine to effect landing at runway of the crews choice.

    So it would appear that Raketoplan wasn't quite abandoned as we might have thought :)

  17. General Tirpitz Well-Known Member

    May 17, 2010
    The Kingdom of Finland
    Isn't Airbus currently planning something similar?
  18. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    Interesting, I hadn't heard of that. I would have thought it would get e mention in Anatoly Zak's book Russia in Space, but I don't remember seeing it. I know the Kliper from the noughties looked pretty much like a capsule vehicle wrapped in an aeroshell (one version even had a Soyuz-style orbital module).

    That's Adeline, which is for the 1st stage engines of the launcher rather than a re-entry capsule.
  19. Puget Sound Stop DOOMING its utterly wrong counterproductive

    Sep 4, 2007
    Cascadia, USA
    Who is the RL woman that you've used for Kotova's face?
  20. Tonyq Well-Known Member

    Mar 1, 2008
    She is Svetlana Korkoschko, a Soviet actress.


    I chose her because she appeared in the movie "Taming the Fire" (Укрощение огня) about the life of SP Korolev from which the background screen shot was taken. Sadly, she did not play a cosmonaut, but was Korolev's mistress.

    She more or less exactly the right age to portray Kotova, and there seemed to be certain symmetry about it. :)