Kolyma's Shadow: An Alternate Space Race

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

  1. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe
    this take me 15 minute to make !


    Picture of 1980s Olympic station on opening day
    Picture of Cosmonaut is from concern of Jean Michel Jarre in moscow, were two were live from Mir Station.
    program Clip studio Paint
  2. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    Thanks for the enthusiasm! That was a fun post to write.

    Both Kramarov and Judge are Original Characters, as the butterflies are having an increasing effect. Particularly in the case of NESSA, which is an amalgamation of roles covered by a number of separate agencies IOTL, the flapping of wings has allowed a few different clots of cream to rise to the top (and has also mixed up my metaphors).

    Incidentally, there’s a hint as to where the names of Kramarov and Judge came from in the dialogue. Anyone care to make a guess and claim a no-prize?

    We’ll see ;)

    Indeed, I can confirm Chasovoy-2 was launched in 1973, and these Moscow Olympics are in 1980, as per OTL.

    Chelomei is less bothered about flying a US instrument than he is flying one negotiated by a rival KB :)

    Glad you’re enjoying it - stay tuned!

    Health issues? What health issues? The First Secretary is in perfect health, full of vigour! Who told you he was ill, comrade? You can tell me… ;)

    Yep, still 1980, and no boycott as there’s been no invasion of Afghanistan (well, no overt invasion, anyway), and a different US leadership is leading a different response.

    In fact the space station broadcast is a direct analogy from OTL, where cosmonauts Leonid Popov and Valery Ryumin sent greetings from Salyut-6 as part of the opening ceremony.

    Indeed. As you may have noticed from my comments on some other TLs, I believe the lack of a united leadership and a fixed target was the main reason the Soviets were unable to launch an effective response to Apollo IOTL. That, and vastly fewer resources to spend.

    The Teaser is doing its job then :D

    Thanks for that! Minor quibble, the scoreboard/screen is monochrome, and probably a bit smaller, but it captures the spirit well! I also considered having Misha the Olympics Bear suffer death by butterflies for being too kitsch, but it seems to have been one of the few Soviet marketing triumphs, and if it didn’t exist then doubtless something even more sickly would take its place :rolleyes:
  3. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    Not from Kolyma's Shadow, but could have been...


    Geoffrey Bayldon begins his six year stint as the mysterious Doctor in BBC TV's often overlooked '60s sci-fi show Doctor Who, as described in Brainbin's guest post, Part-III, Post#10.

    Image source to be found here. Check them out, there are some great images (my favourite is the 6th Doctor - perhaps it's not too late..?)
  4. Drunkrobot Well-Known Member

    Oct 5, 2014
    Wales, Unfortunately
    I just read through the whole timeline, and I've got to say that I'm loving it so far. It's even got me to start a space TL of my own!

    That bit of shameless self-promotion aside, this is a very well written and thought out piece of work, and the artwork you make in support of it is the icing on the cake and keeps getting better! Can't wait for the next part!
  5. Threadmarks: Part IV Post#2: Over the Moon

    nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    Glad you’re enjoying it! I was similarly inspired by the great (and regrettably now late) Eyes Turned Skyward, so I’m happy to continue the chain!

    So, after last week’s look ahead, it’s time for us to return to where we left Part-III - a launchpad at Cape Canaveral - for the next installment of...


    Part IV Post#2: Over the Moon

    As the Minerva-B24 rocket of the Columbia-6 mission rose into the sky above Cape Canaveral on Friday 23rd January 1976, its two-man crew carried with them the hopes and dreams of generations of scientific romantics. Their mission, to circle the Moon, was the same as that envisaged by Jules Verne 111 years earlier, and as with that fictional voyage, the journey of Columbia was not entirely incident free.

    The separation of the four kerolox boosters occurred exactly to schedule, but the larger core first stage booster shut down slightly too soon, necessitating a longer second stage burn and a further boost from the Centaur upper stage to place Columbia into its trans-lunar trajectory. The upper stage was “running on vapours” by the time it separated from the Columbia Command and Service Module, but mission controllers at Vandenberg soon confirmed that Dave Merricks and Gary Jones were within a few tens of miles of their planned trajectory and still a “go” for the mission. Ten hours later, Jones executed a three-second mid-course burn to bring this figure down to within a mile.

    The rest of the cruise to the Moon proceeded relatively uneventfully from a mission standpoint, though a fault in the handheld TV camera carried on board meant that the planned television broadcast on day two of the mission had to be abandoned after just a couple of minutes, as the received images proved to be unwatchable. Merricks and Jones continued to make audio broadcasts to international news organisations, with the lightspeed lag in interviews becoming more noticeable as they continued to recede from the Earth. They also took many still photographs whenever the command module’s small windows were orientated towards either Earth or Moon, including the most famous (though not the first) of the various “Blue Marble” pictures that became a symbol of the environmental movement in the late ‘70s.

    Sixty-nine hours into the mission, Columbia-6 entered one of its most critical phases as the capsule passed behind the lunar disk and out of contact with Mission Control. During this dark period, Merricks and Jones would have to trigger their service module engine for the Lunar Orbit Capture manoeuvre. The first indication controllers would have of the success of the manoeuvre would be the timing of the first radio signal from the ship as it rounded the Moon. If Columbia re-established contact ahead of schedule, it would mean that the burn hadn’t been completed or that the engine had failed to start, and the crew would coast back towards Earth on a free-return trajectory. On the other hand, if the signal failed to reappear within a minute or so of the expected time, then in all probability the ship was lost and the crew would never be heard from again. Millions of television viewers tuned in to live news programmes as the minutes ticked by before contact was scheduled to be re-established, the tension rising with every repetition of the prayer “Columbia, Vandenberg. Over…”

    Finally, at the fifth asking, the reply came back “Vandenberg, Columbia. LOC burn completed.”

    “Columbia, Vandenberg. Roger that, good to hear your voice Dave. Any problems to report?”

    “No problems, all systems nominal. Gary thought he spotted a strange pyramid on the farside, but we’re pretty sure it was just a mountain.”

    “Ah, say again, Columbia.”

    “Just kidding, Vandenberg…”

    For the next twenty hours, Columbia-6 orbited the Moon at an average altitude of 180 km. In that time, Merricks and Jones took hundreds of highly detailed photographs of the lunar surface, both with their handheld cameras and with the 4” telescopic camera mounted in the nose of the command module. Other instruments in the service module recorded electrical and magnetic field data, as well as the incidence of high energy particles. The most exotic instrument carried was a “LIDAR” laser altimeter, which provided highly accurate readings of Columbia’s altitude above the surface, the first use of such an instrument on another heavenly body.

    The most important event for the man who had linked his political reputation to the mission came on the second orbit of the Moon, when President Muskie spoke to the astronauts from the White House in “the most incredible telephone call ever made from this office.” In a five-minute speech, the President praised the commitment and abilities of the astronauts, NACAA and the Air Force in rising to his challenge, and expressed his hope that America would use this achievement as a jumping-off point to even greater advances “including a landing on the lunar surface itself.” This was a reference to the Columbia Advanced Missions studies that Muskie had authorised, in what was widely seen as an effort to secure a legacy as he entered the final year of what was generally felt to be a failing presidency.

    Finally, almost a day after their arrival and following a few hours of sleep, it was time for Merricks and Jones to bid farewell to the Moon and start their journey home. As with the LOC manoeuvre, the Lunar Orbit Escape burn would occur over the farside and out of contact with Earth. LOE was considered even more critical than LOC, as it relied upon the SME engine successfully re-starting almost a day after its previous burn, with failure meaning not a free-return coast back to Earth, but rather condemning the crew to an ever-decaying orbit about the Moon. Once again, viewers on Earth held their breath.

    When contact was re-established, five seconds earlier than anticipated, readings confirmed that the SME had once again performed flawlessly, and Columbia-6 was on a trajectory to bring her into Earth’s atmosphere 57 hours later. The burn was in fact so accurate that the first of two planned mid-course manoeuvres was scrubbed as unnecessary. The cruise home suffered only one minor scare, when twelve hours from Earth one of the command module batteries shorted and failed. The remaining units were quickly confirmed to be in working order, and they held sufficient charge to support the module between separation from the service module and splashdown, so the crew were never in real danger. Nonetheless, Merricks and Jones were instructed to reconfigure the CM’s systems to reduce their power usage, just to be on the safe side.

    As the time for atmospheric entry approached, weather at the splash-down site off the coast of Florida was reported to be a little rough, but still within mission rules, and the service module was jettisoned on-schedule as Merricks and Jones strapped themselves in for the command module’s fiery descent. The capsule’s ablative heat shield once again worked perfectly (although Jones later noted that “watching chunks of your shield fly past the window can be darn scary when you’re used to a Dynasoar re-entry!”), and Columbia-6 splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean seventeen nautical miles from the recovery vessel, the carrier USS Enterprise.

    Splashdown for Columbia-6, the first manned flight around the Moon, 29th January 1976.

    The successful Columbia-6 mission helped to kick off a year of celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence but, despite this strong start, many of those celebrations came to be viewed with cynicism by an increasingly weary nation. Two years after the Oil Shock and subsequent collapse of the Bretton Woods system, the country was still suffering the effects of “stagflation”, severely damping many people’s enthusiasm for the anniversary. Muskie had delegated much of the responsibility for organising the celebrations to his Vice President, George McGovern, who at that time was still in the running to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for the 1976 presidential elections. The primaries campaign was becoming increasingly bitter, with the front-runner, former Secretary of State Robert Kennedy, accusing McGovern of attempting to exploit the celebrations, including Columbia, to boost his own chances. Regardless of whether or not this was in fact McGovern’s plan, the mud-slinging surrounding the events lent a sour note to what should have been a time of national unity and rejoicing.

    This turning of the political mood may have contributed to NACAA Chairman Edgar Cortright’s recommendation to the President that the next Columbia mission be postponed whilst the issues noted on Columbia-6 were ironed out. When Muskie had made his announcement back in 1970, he had originally intended to have a mission in progress over the July 4th holiday itself, but the iron laws of celestial mechanics made this impractical. It was quickly discovered that the last launch window from Cape Canaveral before the 4th would occur more than three weeks earlier, well beyond the practical endurance of a Columbia mission. It was in part this limitation that had driven Muskie to declare “mission accomplished” in his Columbia-6 phone call, and so given this, plus the unthinkable consequences should an accident befall Columbia-7, it was agreed in a meeting on 8th March that the next mission should be delayed to give the engineers more time to ensure everything was ship-shape. This would also push the mission to after the Democratic National Convention, hopefully preventing it from becoming a political football in the primaries.

    Barely had the decision to postpone been taken than the Soviet reply to Columbia was received. On Saturday 20th March 1976 a Proton booster lifted off from Tyuratam with a Sapfir-L spacecraft at its tip. Jammed inside the diminutive capsule were cosmonauts Viktor Petrov and Juris Mēness, both veterans of Earth-orbital Orel missions. Although theoretically capable of carrying a crew of three for missions to LEO, weight-growth issues had forced Chelomei in 1973 to downgrade Sapfir-L to a two-man capsule[1]. He still hoped to expand it to a crew of three at some future date, pinning his hopes on Glushko’s recent advancements in hydrolox engine development to allow him to add a high-energy upper stage to Proton in the late ‘70s, but in order to meet the American challenge whilst still besting Mishin’s Zarya, a two-man crew would have to do.

    As on the Earth orbit test conducted following Proton’s return to flight in November 1975, the initial launch passed off without any problems. Following 3rd stage separation, the Blok-D upper stage successfully fired, injecting the VA/AOO modules onto its trans-lunar trajectory. It was at this point that TASS made the formal announcement that the Soviet Union was matching the Americans’ Columbia-6 mission with their own Sapfir-2, a designation that continued the Soviet practice of ignoring unsuccessful missions and secret test flights wherever possible.

    The mission at first followed much the same profile as Columbia-6, with Petrov and Mēness making a few short radio interviews in which they reported their high spirits and excitement to be part of such an historic mission. Unlike Columbia, Sapfir’s wafer-thin mass limits meant that no bulky TV system was even installed, but given that Columbia-6 had been unable to transmit television images either this shortcoming was less noticeable.

    The most significant difference between the Columbia and Sapfir missions became apparent on 23rd March, as the Soviet spacecraft approached its target. As with Columbia-6, there was a tense wait for Sapfir-2 to reappear from behind the Moon, but this time the returning signal heralded not a successful capture into lunar orbit, but rather the beginning of Sapfir’s journey home, as she swung around the Moon and headed straight back to Earth.

    During the first half of their high-speed pass over the farside, Petrov and Mēness had been fully engaged in taking high-resolution photographs of the surface feature beneath them, using a telescopic camera located in the AOO, with the film being later retrieved by the cosmonauts via a small hatch in the VS’s heat shield - an innovation that had caused some considerable debate amongst the design team and absorbed a lot of test resources to validate. Sapfir passed over the terminator shortly after its closest approach to the Moon, after which the cosmonauts focussed on preparing their ship for the planned trans-Earth correction manoeuvre shortly after re-establishing contact with Moscow. In total, Petrov and Mēness spent less than an hour of their encounter on lunar science.

    Sapfir-2 rounds the Moon, 23rd March 1976.

    Following their trouble-free lunar encounter, the almost three-day journey back to Earth became increasingly tense as the small capsule’s systems struggled to cope with the load placed on them. Several minor systems began to malfunction as the fourth day of the mission passed into the fifth. This included a failure of one of the three star trackers, and a worrying, though brief, loss of contact with Earth when the high-gain antenna lost lock. Tempers also began to fray in the capsule, as Petrov and Mēness suffered through their confinement together with increasing ill-grace. This of course went unreported in the official TASS releases, but Soviet space watchers would later note that the pair would never be teamed together on future missions.

    Finally, almost six days after lifting off, the Sapfir’s VA capsule faced the brutal G-forces of Chelomei’s direct entry trajectory, with the cosmonauts experiencing over 7g before the parachutes deployed and Sapfir came to Earth with a thud in the Ukok Plateau.

    The return of the intrepid cosmonauts was celebrated across the Soviet Union and the world, with First Secretary Kirilenko declaring it proof of the continuing capabilities of the USSR to match the USA in scientific endeavours, and Premier Teplov suggesting that the technologies and skills developed would prove invaluable in driving forward the Soviet economy. One person who was not celebrating, however, was Vasily Mishin.

    Having worked long hours to bring Zarya-V’s life support and power systems up to full maturity - a task made all the harder by the death in 1974 of his talented deputy and Zarya’s chief designer, Mikhail Tikhonravov - by October 1975 Mishin had been ready to attempt a flyby mission carrying animals, only to find his access to Chelomei’s Proton booster blocked by higher priority military launches and OKB-1’s own Sapfir test flight. Frustrated, Mishin re-jigged his plans to instead test Zarya-V with a manned Earth-orbit mission of the same duration as a lunar flyby, to be launched on his own M-1 rocket. This too had been blocked, this time by a newly-assertive Council of Ministers keen to eliminate unnecessary duplication from government spending as part of the wider “Khozraschyot” reforms. With Chelomei promising a two-man mission on the same timetable as Mishin’s one-man shot, it seemed clear to the apparatchiks where the priority should lay. Thus Zarya-V, despite being in many ways more mature than Sapfir, found itself grounded.

    As he had so many times in the past, Mishin turned to the bottle in his hour of despair, locking himself in his office on the day of Sapfir-2’s return and refusing the pleas of his colleagues to come out. According to the testimony of a security guard, Mishin finally emerged from the office after 2am on 27th March and staggered his way into the main assembly hall, where an almost fully integrated Zarya-V stood on its test stand, waiting for a flight that it now seemed would never come. The guard watched from across the large hall as Mishin climbed a ladder up the the spacecraft’s entry hatch. He paused briefly at the top, turned slightly, and reached for the hatch’s handle. It was at that point that he missed his footing and slipped, falling three metres down the metal steps to land head-first on the concrete floor of the assembly hall. The guard rushed to the scene, but as soon as he arrived saw that the situation was hopeless. Vasily Pavlovich Mishin lay dead, his neck broken, alongside the embodiment of his dreams.

    [1] Sapfir was previously mentioned to be a 3-man capsule. However, further investigation has convinced me that this is unrealistic given the constraints, so I am ret-conning it to be a two-man ship. The manned test launch that ended in failure in May 1975 should therefore be read as having carried two cosmonauts, not three.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2017
    Dlg123 likes this.
  6. TheBatafour Complete Anarchy

    Nov 23, 2012
    Oh no! Poor Mishin. But quite a twist! Let's hope this tragedy will at least stop some of the infighting in the soviet space program. Maybe Chelomei could even get over himself and use that Zarya capsule, as technically speaking Mishin wasn't even its chief designer.

    Now, these lunar flights are pretty exciting. It's interesting how the soviets are trailing behind the US, but make the lead those capitalists have on them seem smaller than it actually is. It's a shame their manned lunar flights IOTL never got off the ground (pun intended).

    And just to be curious, how long have you been planning this awful twist? Don't start turning into George R. R. Martin now, we don't need the entire soviet space program dead :p

    EDIT: also, nice picture! If I could make a request, I'd really like a wallpaper-size image of TTL, just so I could set it as my desktop background :) Maybe for the part IV finale?
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2015
    Dlg123 likes this.
  7. Petike Sky Pirate Extraordinaire

    Jun 25, 2008
    Clockpunk Zemplín Kingdom / Franz Josef's Land
    Very interesting update ! It's nice to see a Columbia and Safir lunar flight succeed, even with issues. And I like the fact that there's an actual lunar space race in this timeline, even if "behind OTL schedule" and with manned vehicles with a capacity more in the vein of Gemini. :cool:

    I have to second TheBatafour. Poor, poor Vasily. :( The moment I read how he was climbing up to the capsule while drunk, I knew something bad was about to happen.

    Quite like OTL Odyssey, I have to say, though obviously influenced by the changed geopolitics. I love the fact that they've kept the pyramidal shape for the monolith.

    And isn't the entering-the-pyramid thing a bit similar to Mission to Mars' ending ?

    So, this is basically an Ijon Tichy : Raumpilot-style American adaptation of Mr. Rhodan and co. ? :D (OK, not a zany sitcom, but still a comedic series based on serious source material.)

    DW seems to get canned in a lot of timelines ! :p
  8. Linkwerk Member

    Jan 2, 2004
    Fantastic timeline! I'm really enjoying this slow-burn take on the space race.

    What exactly, however, is the difference between Safir and Zarya? As I understand it, the Soviets have three different crewed spacecraft in this TL- Orel, Safir, and Zarya. IIRC Zarya is something like truncated two-man Soyuz, is that the case? If so, what is Safir?
  9. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

    Apr 13, 2007
    Syracuse, Haudenosaunee, Vinland

    You have a moon god flying to the moon? How interesting.
  10. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

    Apr 13, 2007
    Syracuse, Haudenosaunee, Vinland
    Russian, because of the host country.
    Why English? French is the official language of the Olympics, no?
  11. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    Safir is Chelomei's answer to Mishin's Zarya. Orel, also a Chelomei production, is an airplane embedded in an ablative cone, nose of the plane to the tip of the cone. On the tail of the airplane is mounted a sort of service module that contains the propellant, holds the orbital maneuvering engines, along with sensors and so forth.

    So Orel is an example of a general concept Chelomei came up with in the early 60s--the "raketoplan"--the template being an orbital service module destroyed on reentry, a conical heat shield discarded after reentry brings the craft to low airspeeds, and an aircraft within the cone that ultimately flies to a final landing site.

    I don't believe nixonshead has yet told us in any great detail what Safir is like exactly, but I infer it is a raketoplan heavily modified to enable a Lunar space mission. That is to say, it first of all must be light enough for a Proton (this being the USSR's currently heaviest launch rocket) to loft it and a suitable translunar injection rocket to low Earth orbit, and for a feasible TLI rocket that fits in that payload to send it on to the Moon. And secondly, since returning from Lunar space is tantamount to entering Earth's system from infinity--that is to say down where the atmosphere is, it will be going just a little bit slower than escape velocity, over 40 percent faster than circular low orbital velocity and with nearly twice the kinetic energy--it needs a heavy-duty reentry shield. Since the overall mass is limited by what a Proton can send to the Moon, it follows that the package shielded must be light. So Chelomei was forced to abandon the concept of an airplane within the heat shield and go with a minimal capsule, as light as possible. Yet this capsule needs to support the lives of two crewmen for a week or so.

    Basically the limits of a Lunar flyby launched from a Proton have largely eradicated the fundamental differences between Safir and Zarya, I'd guess, and it is hard to see how retention of any distinctive raketoplan features would amount to an improvement over Zarya.

    Mind, something rather astonishing the author has claimed for Orel is quite interesting--bear in mind that in this timeline the major American spacecraft used before Columbia was the Dynasoar, which is considerably heavier than a capsule design of the same cubic capacity would be but is a lot more maneuverable in the upper atmosphere at orbital speeds. Not, unfortunately as it turned out, as maneuverable as its supporters often hoped it would be though!:p Still, an orbital speed lift to drag ratio of 3.5 or so pushes the theoretical limit which is under 5--and far exceeds that of any capsule, or even the OTL Shuttle Orbiter (which had a hypersonic L/D of about 1). Still, the Air Force wanted it to do better still and were disappointed.

    Well--Orel with its simple conical heat shield (entering point first--I believe the author has denied it even has any TPS or perhaps no solid covering at all on the circular base:eek:) can match Dynasoar's orbital-speed atmospheric maneuverability! Unlike Dynasoar, the cone is ablative, so there would be a limit on how much such maneuvering it could do before the material was so worn away reentry would be problematic. But then again, with L/D under 5, quite a lot of propellant would need to be used up during any significant atmospheric maneuver, so the Dynasoar too has a limit.

    The lesson I take from this is, abandon both spaceplanes and raketoplans and concentrate on developing conical advanced capsules that land everything--either get past ablatives a la Dynasoar or plan on a new coat of them.

    It seems no one is taking this lesson though. Columbia is a lot like an Apollo; Zarya is a mini-Soyuz, and perhaps nixonhead has by the time I finish typing all this speculation shown us an actual picture of a Safir, or anyway given a more complete verbal description.

    I was meaning to suggest that one reason the Soviet authorities might have chosen Safir over Zarya is that with its conical heat shield, it can hope to compensate for errors in the final return trajectory to Earth. As we probably all know, Apollo capsules had to approach Earth in a narrow band of trajectories; too steep and they'd burn up, too shallow and they'd bounce off the atmosphere and go into a high orbit from which they could never be recovered before dying for lack of essential supplies. With some version of the conical raketoplan heat shield instead, and higher lift/drag ratios available, I'd think the Safir might have a wider band, being able to correct errors--generating downward force to compensate for coming in too shallow, and lift to oppose an otherwise too steep entry that would otherwise slam them into incineration.

    Zarya would be about like a Soyuz, which is to say very modest ability to aerodynamically control entry. A bit less than Apollo or presumably here Columbia.

    Still--not only would the Safir's heat shield be considerably heavier than Zarya's; I worry that it, and that of all raketoplans, is exposed to open space from the moment of launch. A capsule's heat shield is generally protected until reentry is at hand. Well, this was not the case with Mercury, but it was OTL with Gemini (no Gemini ITTL, they went to Dynasoar) and Apollo, and Soyuz OTL and Zarya ITTL. It is not the case with Dynasoar, but Dynasoar uses a tough metal TPS. It wasn't the case with OTL Shuttle Orbiter--hence the fate of Columbia (the Orbiter):eek: To be sure Columbia the Orbiter lost its TPS during launch, and no other Orbiter ever failed to survive reentry due to incremental erosion of its TPS by micrometeoroids or the like. They did lose tiles, and replacing lost tiles was one of the major overhead costs of time and money.

    I'd conclude then that a continually exposed TPS is probably acceptable, especially if the stuff is reasonably tough. Ablatives are less vulnerable than OTL Shuttle tiles, and metal TPS is tougher still.

    The author has said he's retconned the Safir down from a crew of three to two, for reasons of weight. But I have to say I have a hard time seeing how it can carry even two, with only a Proton for the launch vehicle. The conical heat shield, strong enough to take a reentry at near-escape speeds, is going to be very heavy I'd think.
  12. Bahamut-255 Space Lover

    Jul 28, 2010
    Mishin dead? 28 years earlier than IOTL? While that is not something I expected, given his alcoholism at the time, I suppose it's not all that surprising all things considered. Hopefully it will at least soften the infighting with one of the Big Bruisers gone.

    Onto Columbia and Safir.

    While I can't help but think that the margins on Columbia will be quite...marginal...given even the uprated Minerva, it is carrying less crew than OTL's Apollo, and isn't needed to carry a lander, so there is that to consider. And even then, it has to be a lot higher than the margins available on Safir!
  13. Roger Redux The Revisionist

    Feb 14, 2015
    The Mother of all ASBs (a.k.a. "The Real World")
    I'm sure he'll correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought I remembered Nixonshead saying that Safir was basically the crewed version of the TTL (Kosmoplan derived?) Mars probes.
  14. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    OK--can you describe those?:p

    Obviously a manned ship that has to return two cosmonauts to Earth is going to be radically different from a deep space probe, even if that probe is putting a lander on Mars. Are those probes including landers, or not?

    A raketoplan type conical heat shield for an unmanned Mars Lander is a different proposition than one that can stand up to an 11 kilometer/sec reentry into Earth's atmosphere, delivering the two to Earth's surface, alive, not incinerated or roasted to death and not crushed by extreme deceleration. To be sure the problem with a Mars lander is not so much to avoid these extremes as it is to get enough deceleration to avoid the lander going "splat!" into the Martian surface at hundreds of meters per second. This merely emphasizes the point that one design has very little to do with the other.

    A Mars probe can also be quite light, depending on how ambitious one's program for the mission is; a human-bearing capsule has certain limits that must be met or surpassed.

    I think, unless you and I are both overlooking an explicit description of Safir as such, that I've guessed as well as anyone can the general nature and layout. And I still fear it is incredibly marginal to launch on a Proton; give some extra mass and the design seems less insane. But inherently heavier than the conventional capsule design of Zarya on any scale. It makes sense mainly if the designers anticipate it will indeed need to use its greater potential for controlled aerodynamic lift on reentry. Such control is desirable, as the G-forces of a simple capsule entry can be punishingly high, and as I said it might broaden the entry window too. The question is not so much is it worth it (I'm tempted to say, of course it would be worth it) as can they afford it at all? Author says yes they can, although it may well be that a Zarya with the same mass available could do spectacularly better.

    In this TL after all Americans are using the Dynasoar instead of Gemini; its virtues and vices are broadly speaking similar to raketoplans versus simpler capsules. Actually the raketoplan as developed does strike me as goofy and wasteful, but if you read upthread I had some ideas for converting an Orel into a magnificent spacecraft--basically by means of making use of the large volumes enclosed by the cone but not included in the airplane, filling them with air to create large volumes in which crew could work and live and give better access to space and much better visibility. I also wondered if the aircraft being designed for supersonic flight is not an unnecessary restriction, and if designing it for subsonic flight would not enable larger crews to be taken up and landed. No one is going to see the airplane component of a Raketoplan until it is on final approach for landing anyway.

    Or take the next step--don't put an airplane inside the cone, instead plan on returning the whole cone to the surface somehow (by parachute and landing rocket a la Zarya perhaps) and fill it up with useful stuff, This allows the cone to be smaller for a given mission mass, and so what we have is essentially a capsule with advanced hypersonic maneuvering ability.

    In essence this is what Chelomei has been forced to make the Safir return vehicle, I suspect. And as raketoplans go it is bloody tiny too, which might be part of the comparison to the Mars probe.

    And this would help explain why the two cosmonauts wind up hating each other so much.:rolleyes:

    The Russians need a bigger rocket.
  15. Roger Redux The Revisionist

    Feb 14, 2015
    The Mother of all ASBs (a.k.a. "The Real World")
    OK, I guess I either misread it the first time or misremembered it. Looks like it was lander from the TMK-Mars probes that was based on Safir.
  16. Kirk Kerman Kerbal Rocketeer

    Feb 14, 2015
    Safir is a new capsule, based off of Raketoplan's service module and other systems, but not the spaceplane part itself or the conical heat shield.

    EDIT: Also, Mishin's death was pretty dark :eek:
  17. Linkwerk Member

    Jan 2, 2004
    I realize that Raketoplan is based off of OTL designs but when I first read the description I was like :confused::confused: - I'm a confirmed spaceplane skeptic, and think the lasting contribution of Dynasoar might have been a "what not to do" lessons learned, but at least I see what draws people to the design. Orel, on the other hand, just confounds me- building what is essentially a capsule around a spaceplane to get....horizontal landing? The common service module and overall Raketoplan infrastructure makes sense I just do not understand why they are folding up and airplane and bringing it with them, espcially if the hypersonic skip manuvers are done with a conical outer shell.
  18. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    Not a spaceplane; a supersonic airplane. The craft deorbits, sheds the AOO, the conical heat shield handles hypersonic entry and takes it down to Mach 1+, maybe a little above Mach 2 perhaps, then is ejected leaving the airplane to engage its jet engines and fly to a landing.

    Yep, I have to agree with most of what you say--with some qualifications. I think we'd best reserve full judgement on spaceplanes until we have actually experimented with some--which should have been NASA's job. (I certainly don't mean to suggest they should have jeopardized Apollo by insisting on some fancy spaceplane instead of a capsule for reentry--but I do think that they should have got the money the Air Force was going to get to do something like the X-20 project, launched on Saturn 1B or some successor of that scale--to advance the general state of the art and of knowledge).

    The author's statement that the conical raketoplan heat shield might possibly match the hypersonic performance of the Dynasoar spaceplane is something I'm taking on faith, because I believe nixonshead is researching all this seriously and has some knowledgeable advisors too. It doesn't seem incredible to me. What does seem incredible to me is that they'd launch that huge volume and not fill it with the actual spacecraft, wasting most of the space just to enable an airplane that wastes most of the launch mass to have a brief flight to a runway instead of just picking up a capsule from the steppe.

    But then again if you go over the outcome of some Soyuz landings, you'd come to realize that it was often a long time before the authorities found the capsule and picked up the landed cosmonauts--who often wound up in considerable distress--freezing because their capsule landed in a frozen lake in winter, or hunkering down in it with a pack of wolves howling outside. I only wish I were making this stuff up.:eek: I can see the motive for a vehicle that can fly to a base instead of waiting for a retrieval team to show up in the trackless Soviet wilderness. I'm just aghast that the solution winds up costing so much in terms of fraction of mass launched, and have to wonder if there couldn't be a compromise that works well.

    Which is why I suggested 1) making the plane subsonic, on the guess that the TPS ejection can be delayed until it drops below Mach 1, or that an airframe that can only sustain level flight below Mach 1 might still survive a brief exposure to higher airspeeds; a subsonic plane might be possible to make lighter for a given payload. And 2) "camping out" in the large volume above and below the airplane while in space, using lightweight pressure chambers and equipment that is either ejected with the shell or stowed aboard the airplane before reentry. This would mean we leverage the residual mass left after deducting the airplane mass, and use the otherwise empty volume, and other advantages.

    From Kirk Kerman's remark it would seem Chelomei was not only forced to abandon the airplane, but also even the high-performance conical heat shield, suggesting the Safir crew capsule is a lot like a Soyuz entry capsule--or a tiny Apollo CM; Chelomei had a propensity, when he felt called upon to design a capsule, to go with a simple cone (round side down this time) as with his UR-700 launched direct descent/ascent Moon vessel scheme (which would have been a one-cosmonaut ship) or with TKS where again the entry capsule is a tiny cone (truncated by the landing parachute/rocket system on top). So now I guess I should try to forget the long skinny cone of a Raketoplan and imagine a squat TKS type capsule atop an AOO?

    It would seem when all is said and done the mission should have been given to a Zarya; I can't imagine that any of these Chelomei designs would be lighter than that--they might be just as light, I do think Chelomei knew what he was doing--but Zarya has more development time behind it, so if Safir is only going to break even and not be remarkably better in some specific respect, the decision to go with it seems pretty irrational
  19. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    Whew! Quite a lot to catch up on this time!

    It’s been something that I had in the back of my mind as a possibility for a while, given Mishin’s famous fondness for the booze, but it only crystalised when Safir beat our Zarya-V for the moon shot. Yangel and Tikhonravov’s deaths are all pretty close to OTL in their timing and causes, so of the old GIRD rocketeers we only have Chelomei and Glushko left in the space business. But no, I’m not planning a Red Wedding ;) On the up side, Gagarin is still alive and well ITTL :)

    I have three I’ve been using myself, here, here and here. Feel free to use those. There’ll likely be at least one more by the time we get to the end of Part-IV.

    I’m glad it’s still engaging, despite the lag with OTL. I’m very aware that this TL is very much on the pessimistic side (at least for manned spaceflight) compared to other space TLs on this site, so I’m happy to see that’s not turning people off yet.

    Well, this is going back a bit to Part-III Post#10, but I’m happy to discuss further - Brainbin’s guest posts are always fun!

    On Space Odyssey, no, the ending is nothing like OTL’s Mission to Mars. For one thing, the ending of Space Odyssey is good :p Also, where the ending of Mission to Mars is about explaining our place in the cosmos (though not how come you can spacewalk from an interplanetary trajectory to a craft in Mars orbit without a breaking burn… Sorry, I really hate that movie!), the ending of Space Odyssey is much closer to OTL’s 2001, posing far more questions than it answers.

    Wow, I’d never seen that :eek:. No, The Adventures of Perry Rhodan!, whilst obviously having fun with its subject, is not as obvious a spoof as that. As mentioned in the post, it actually has pretty decent production values, but for tone, in my mind the closest OTL analogy is probably somewhere between Batman and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

    It’s a pretty remarkable show in many ways, and the trick of regeneration has enabled it to renew itself at regular intervals. ITTL, having Bayldon play the lead for twice as long as Hartnell has butterflied the idea of regeneration (especially after most of those behind Doctor Who have moved on to other projects by then), so when he finally gets too expensive to pay, plus being on a slight downward curve from its earlier heights of popularity, means the Powers That Be decide to retire the show at that point.

    Sorry for the confusion. I always intended to provide an illustration of Safir, but it kept getting pushed down the priority list, largely because Safir is very close to OTL’s LK-1 design. That looked like this:


    ITTL, you can see Safir’s conical reentry capsule poking out of the Proton launch shroud here:


    So, as you can see, Safir does not use the conical re-entry shell used for the Orel spaceplane. Safir is rather a stunted cone, as per OTL’s LK-1 and TKS (hence the original mention of a crew of 3, which is what TKS could support). Although developed under the Raketoplan name, the only real heritage shared with Orel is the AOO service module and a bunch of subsystems, though even here there has been extensive modification.

    The TMK-Mars probes also used a modified Raketoplan AOO, and the reentry module for the landers (the first of which to succeed was Mars-5) had the same aerodynamic shape and shared ablative coatings with Safir, but was smaller and designed to open out to expose the surface instruments, as seen here (which obviously Safir is not designed to do).

    The Raketoplan family includes a number of Earth orbital satellites, some of which use an Orel-style aeroshell, but most of which only share the AOO. This includes the IS anti-satellite system.

    Like LK-1, Safir comes in at about 20 tonnes at launch, including propellant in its AOO. Competition with Mishin has led Chelomei to squeeze in two cosmonauts and their supplies for a lunar mission (water and gasses mostly in the AOO), but at the expense of cutting out redundancy wherever not absolutely necessary, and making the capsule virtually unlivable (as Petrov and Mēness discovered). He’s planning to improve matters in the Earth orbit version, as well as for Safir-L if and when the more powerful Proton upper stage becomes available, but for now it was beat Mishin by any means necessary.

    It is indeed much more similar now to Zarya than Orel. The main technical differences are the ability to (barely) support 2 crew rather than 1, and the use of direct re-entry rather than Zarya’s double-skip. It’s mainly politics that gave Safir the nod ahead of Zarya - both internal, with Chelomei able to divert more scarce resources to his own ends (and, sometimes, sabotage Mishin’s access), and external, with a 2-man Safir mission being a more favourable comparison to Columbia than a 1-man Zarya flight - even if the Zarya mission is safer and more comfortable.

    Hope that helps!

    I wanted someone from the Baltic states, it turned out there is a Latvian surname that is shared with a Moon god, so it seemed appropriate!

    Hmm, I must admit I didn’t check that, I wanted Judge to understand the announcement (as I figured he doesn’t speak Russian worth a damn) and just assumed English would be the second language for the event as it is for most international events nowadays - English language chauvinism on my part, I suppose. Can anyone confirm which languages were used in the 1980 Olympics IOTL? I can then update as appropriate.

    In fact the synergistic plane manoeuvre Orel attempted was only about half as effective as for Dynasoar (which was not very effective anyway). As described in Part-III Post#2:

    Orel is able to match precision with its aeroshell, but the big advantage is not exotic thermal protection system needed for the plane inside its shell. Incidentally, the aeroshell uses metal shingles, not ablatives, at least as far as I’ve been able to find out.

    We’ll be taking a look at US and Soviet future plans in the next couple of posts, so we’ll see then what lessons they’ve picked up from the experience.

    I’ll be adding Columbia’s stats to the Wiki shortly, but the mass budget broadly breaks down as 3400kg for the Command Module, 2330kg for the Service Module, and 5000kg of propellant, for a total launch mass of 10730kg and a delta-v of about 1.9km/s. Minerva-B24c can thus put Columbia directly into TLI, whereas Safir needs to use its AOO engine to give it the final push to TLI (hence Safir having almost 2x the launch mass of Columbia - a lot of that is propellant). Incidentally, the 3400kg CM compares to an OTL dry mass of 3396kg for all of Gemini (command module + service module). So Columbia has tight margins, but not excessively so, and is actually a bit roomier than Gemini.
  20. TheBatafour Complete Anarchy

    Nov 23, 2012
    Thanks! Now I can look at those nice renders all day :D Looking forward to the part IV one! Also, like many others, I too enjoy the slow pace this space race is acing (try saying that three times fast :p).