Kolyma's Shadow: An Alternate Space Race

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

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

    Feb 2, 2013
    OTL, Atlas development was accelerated in 1955 after getting some vague clues on how the Soviet ICBM program was proceeding.

    Is the USAF more or less worried on what's discovered in this TL so far?

    Less worried would delay the Atlas substantially
  2. NathanKell Well-Known Member

    Jul 22, 2009
    Just popping in to say: loving it so far!
    I always had a soft spot for Vanguard, too...
  3. brovane Well-Known Member

    Jun 30, 2013
    Orange County, CA
    Enjoyed reading the lessons on Soviet Missile development. The historical detail in the ATL makes it a great read. Keep up the good work.

    I have always wondered about US and Soviet rocket development from WW2-Sputnik and have had a theory about why the US never pushed hard versus the Soviets.

    You first of have Eisenhower in 1952-1960 who tried to limit military spending.

    However I think the most important piece of why US long range (ICBM) rocket development lagged was Nuclear Delivery philosophy. The primary nuclear delivery platform for the US was bombers, B-36,B-47 and then the B-52. SAC dominated nuclear delivery for the US and the primary platform was bombers. For the Soviets they had issues scaling to true intercontinental bombers with the performance of the B-36 and then the B-52 so they focused on nuclear delivery through ICBM's because they couldn't match SAC in the bomber category. For the US the development of ICBM's was secondary to pushing bomber tech forward. Any thoughts?
  4. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    As IOTL it largely depends on the support he can get. With a peak of 4.41% of the Federal budget, he was able to put men on the Moon, and he’s been dreaming of Mars since he was a kid. Will he get the backing he wants this time..?

    More is coming, don’t worry about that! I’m currently approaching the halfway point in the drafting of Part II, so Kolyma’s Shadow should still be posting through into August at least :)

    A very good point marathag. ITTL similar intelligence reports do come in and Atlas is accelerated, but later than IOTL, with the programme getting a priority bump in 1956 ITTL rather than 1955 IOTL. This delays the first launch of Atlas-A from June 1957 IOTL to December 1957 ITTL. The Air Force is definitely worried that the Soviets are keeping up, but less concerned that they may be pulling ahead.

    Thank-you, feel free to pop in any time :) I do think Vanguard got a bit of a bad press, what with the very public failure of TV3, which I suspect was at least partly down to the added pressure of having to respond quickly to Sputnik, as well as the general difficulty of launching rockets. OTOH, the Redstone/Jupiter was undoubtedly a better launcher, and Explorer a far more capable spacecraft than either the Vanguard satellite or even the heavier Sputnik 1.

    One of the reasons I combined two posts into one for Post#2 was I was worried it was all getting a bit schoolbook lecture, with not enough differences from OTL, so I'm glad you found it interesting! I just discovered so many things I never heard about before whilst researching this TL that I felt compelled to share them with you all :)

    Hmm, I’m not sure spending being limited was a problem. After all, Ike was funding several separate rocket projects under the Army, Navy and Air Force, with the USAF having two separate ICBM programmes (Atlas and Titan) running in parallel, as well as a whole bunch of rocket engine development projects. Whilst he was certainly worried about the growth of the Military-Industrial Complex by the end of his second term, I don’t think he pinched many pennies from them whilst in office, at least not those involved in rockets.

    Certainly the inability of Soviet aviation to match, or stop, SAC’s bomber force was a major driver behind the USSR’s ICBM programme (and their SAM programme). The US didn’t have the same pressure from that perspective - No ICBMs? Never mind, just send another couple-dozen bombers, I’m sure a few will get through...

    But did the US really lag so far behind the Soviets? The early Soviet ICBMs certainly had more thrust and heavier payloads - but they had to, because the bombs they carried were so much bigger, and they didn’t have convenient allies close to the enemy in which to base shorter ranged rockets. In terms of fielding militarily useful missiles, the US was never really behind, and quickly leapt ahead in the early ‘60s. For space launches, again the US (in the shape of von Braun’s team) were ready to go before the Soviets, but were blocked for political reasons.

    So yes, I’d say confidence (probably justified) in their bomber force and complacency (definitely not justified) in Soviet technological backwardness took a bit of pressure off the US military. But OTOH, the US never lagged the Soviets anything like as much as popular myth would have us believe.

    ITTL of course it still remains to be seen who is considered to be behind whom… ;)
  5. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    As nixonhead pointed out, see below, we did nevertheless push pretty hard anyway, though we didn't have to as much. The "missile gap" panic of the late 1950s, though underscored by the success of Sputnik, was like the earlier "bomber gap" panic largely driven by the partisan interest of the Air Force to get yet more funding. And to be sure, there was some room for doubt about just how far and how fast Soviet rocketry was developing. But once the objective facts were in, it was clear that in both cases there was a big big gap all right--in US favor both times.:p Advanced rocketry was something the US economy could readily afford and it was good porkbarrel politics, it kept the contractors very happy.

    Oddly enough, limiting military spending was a major goal of Nikita Khrushchev's too. He was painfully aware of just how crushing a burden maintaining the massive Red Army was on his ambitions to catch up with and pull ahead of the West by means of socialist development. And that's a major reason the ICBM program was so appealing to him--he hoped that if Soviet missiles could be "turned out like sausages" as he enthusiastically put it, a modest number, just a few hundred, such missiles with nuclear warheads could serve to sufficiently deter the possible Western aggression he (and most of his Soviet compatriots, in the wake of the trauma of Hitler's invasion) feared, allowing him to then disband much of the conventional forces and have security on the cheap.

    And this kind of reasoning was also a major plank in Eisenhower's own program he dubbed the "New Look;" by building up strategic striking power (more realistically with airplanes, in the early 50s, than missiles which would come later) the conventional forces could stand down and save taxpayer money.

    But the Congresses of his administration, mostly Democratic controlled, were not so keen as he to keep the spending in check--military buildup across the board was perceived as a win-win windfall, shoring up the prosperity of many a district, with either industries supplying the weapons or bases boosting the economies of otherwise backwater regions. The top tax rate in the Eisenhower years was 90 percent--not that many of those those taxes were targeted at paid in full of course, with all manner of legal loopholes (and illegal ones of course). Since the very rich generally got solid and reliable revenue streams back from the spending they generally didn't complain too loudly.

    Eisenhower frequently found Congress keen to fund a lot more than his budgets asked for.:rolleyes:
    That the Soviets had trouble matching is an understatement! They were terrified. (Speaking here of Kremlin leaders in a position to know the general facts of course, not common citizens). They knew just how far behind they were, that their ability to threaten the USA paled in comparison to what the Americans could do them, at any point in the Cold War. A major reason they were so determined to keep real conditions in their nation a tightly closed secret was that they feared if the Americans knew how weak they were, they'd attack immediately. The boasts of people like USAF General Curtis LeMay did not help their anxiety in the least--they knew he was probably correct.

    (That said--if there had been a war, I'm not so sure American air defenses would have worked nearly as well as most people on both sides assumed--some Soviet bombers probably would indeed have gotten through despite the apparently unbeatable odds).

    I gave a lot of my own basic "thoughts" on the matter back in Post 27. If the Russians were somewhat more driven to achieve ICBMs in order to achieve credible strategic parity, the Americans--or anyway President Eisenhower--had a peculiarly strong interest in gaining strategic intelligence on the Soviet Union. Just as Americans might have been a bit complacent about putting nukes on rockets since we had grounds to believe we had plenty of bombers to blast the Russkies, so the Kremlin did not face the enigmas Americans did in trying to learn what was actually going on on the other side. The Western nations, especially the USA, already had most of the "Open Skies" Ike tried to get the Russians to share; while military top secrets might or might not have been successfully kept, it would be pretty easy for the KGB to evaluate, to a good order of magnitude anyway, just what forces the Western powers did actually have. Reading newspapers would take care of much of the groundwork; a low-key surveillance by quiet agents could keep tabs on where the bases were, how many of which types of planes and other material they hosted, how many new weapons of each type were produced each year, and even where most of them were now currently deployed. The Western powers had a much harder time getting solid, certain intelligence on the situation in the USSR! Therefore what Eisenhower wanted from the developing space program most of all was some spy satellites; he wanted a good hard look at just what the Russians had and where they had it. When he finally got it, from the first Corona missions to actually launch successfully (about the tenth try:eek:) it put him considerably at ease.

    As I said in post 27, I believe Vanguard was deliberately meant to be a bit of a red herring. Eisenhower certainly wanted it to fly, and assumed it would beat any possible Russian attempt, but his purpose was to allay and preempt possible Soviet claims of sovereign "air" space going up to infinity by establishing a precedent for the free passage over anyone's territory in orbit--all of this to pave the way for future (very near future) launches of surveillance satellites. OTL he could never have hoped for such an unbeatable legal argument as the Soviets gave him by beating the USA to the punch and sending a satellite over the whole world without a by your leave offered to anyone!:p But since he figured America would of course be first he was quite concerned that that American first would be as innocuous as possible--hence Vanguard and its puny payload.:rolleyes: "Aw, what a harmless little bunny!"

    In your timeline you already have preempted the possibility that the Kremlin would play the "sovereign airspace" card and start shooting down Coronas as soon as they are launched by mentioning that the Soviets too want to have surveillance satellites of their own--not only can they not shoot, they better not bluster either, because two can play at the anti-satellite game. Like the relative ease with which attacking forces can overwhelm possible missile defenses more cheaply than those defenses can be upgraded, it is much easier to wreck a satellite than it is to launch one--a satellite must achieve orbital velocity but a satellite-killer only needs to reach orbital altitude, just at the moment its target is passing by--then the kinetic energy of the satellite itself can be its undoing as it runs into buckshot lingering briefly at a cheaply attained temporary apogee.

    So any power that can get objects into orbit has an incentive to conform to the norm that says shooting them down is a no-no, since denial of orbital space is an easy if zero-sum sort of game to play.

    Still I think it is easy to understand Eisenhower's anxiety on the matter, considering how zealously the Soviets guarded their airspace--and that the best intelligence he could get indicated, with admittedly large margins for error, that they had good reason to be afraid, if they didn't trust Western intentions.

    And since Vanguard goes up first ITTL, he's not out of the woods yet. Once the Russians launch their first satellite--that's when he can finally launch the satellites he really wants, the Coronas.
    I don't think they were ever ahead at all, at any time, in terms of net threat. The Americans always had the edge. By the time the Soviets got a handful of R-7s deployed, we had Atlases and Titan I in silos; by the time they got really serious numbers of their hypergolic, "storable" missiles deployed we had Titan II and Polaris submarine launched missiles...at no time I think did they ever actually pull ahead, and remembering they always had bigger bombs with less precise guidance, comparing sheer megatonnage throw-weight underestimates American capabilities in terms of taking out intended targets. Even by that metric biased in their favor (or of Western fear-mongers trying to drum up yet more massive forces) they always lagged.

    Factor in significant though much smaller forces in British and French hands, and the Russians were always playing catch-up.
    :p Yes indeed! I mentioned that in post 27 too--is the Soviet rocket/space mafia significantly better organized and supported by the regime here, or is it pretty much as OTL with infighting and rivalries waiting to dissipate its potentials? Can the Soviets, by sheer determination and focus, actually pull ahead ITTL? Will it really matter if they do? Probably not for the balance of terror (plenty of Westerners managed to convince themselves despite the evidence the Russkies were ahead OTL after all) but it might matter a lot for mass and tempo of Soviet space exploration.

    I'm staying tuned, and greedily wishing you'd just post all the buffer stuff right now, so we can start badgering you for what you haven't written yet!:D

    But that's just greed talking--this is quality stuff nixonhead, I look forward to the next installment..oh, so very patiently....:rolleyes:
  6. jlckansas Well-Known Member

    Mar 31, 2010

    Don't forget the submarine launched rockets. IIRC some of the early USSR ones used liquid propellents onboard the subs.

    Imagine Pentaborane with FOOF on a sub launched one. Make a really nice hole in the water.
  7. brovane Well-Known Member

    Jun 30, 2013
    Orange County, CA
    I was reading through my copy of "To Reach the High Frontier: A History of US launch Vehicles" through the area focusing on the 1950's. I thing one thing that strikes me is the amount of launch vehicles that where being developed in the US. You had both Atlas and Titan ICBMs. You then had Vanguard, Thor, Delta, Jupiter, Redstone, Polaris, Saturn. You had the US Army, USAF and Navy all working on long range missiles. I am not any expert on Soviet Missile/Rocket development but where they more focused than the US? To me it seems like the US had all these different military branches going separate ways and then throw in NASA on top of that going another direction. In addition to all the rocket development the USAF was also working on going into space using the X-15 and then X-20.
  8. brovane Well-Known Member

    Jun 30, 2013
    Orange County, CA
    Yeah trying to use Liquid missiles on a submarine, that was not a real good idea.
  9. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    Just to say I’m pretty much in agreement with everything you’ve written here, Shevek :)

    In fact this was the case IOTL too. “Vostok” was originally the code-name for the military recon satellite, which Korolev and Tikhonravov managed to get merged with the man-in-space programme (in fact the spy-sat was used to sell the manned ship). The spy-sat part became Zenit IOTL, whilst everyone knows what happened to Vostok, but both shared a lot of features. ITTL Sinilshchikov kept the focus on the spysat mission, so Sammit is not designed from the start to be a manned spacecraft the way OTL Vostok was. The overflight issue is one that will be explored more in the next couple of updates.

    For the answer to all these questions and more, stay tuned to Kolyma’s Shadow :D
    I’ll just point out that Chelomei is already circling… ;)

    Well, it is tempting for me to up the post rate, but it’s also interesting to see the comments and thoughts coming in as people digest the story so far. It also gives me the chance to steal- I mean, “remain responsive to” things people point out that I perhaps hadn’t considered ;) Finally, it of course lets me continue drafting the next part so we can carry on with a minimum of a hiatus.

    They did indeed. Korolev and Chertok took a cruise on an early missile-launching sub in the mid-50s, and it seems to have been a pretty hair-raising experience. ITTL responsibility for sub-launched missiles has been taken away from Sinilshchikov’s OKB-1 (probably to Chelomei’s OKB-52), but I expect the development to be broadly as it was IOTL, with liquid-fuelled missiles (ballistic and cruise) being deployed in the early 60s. The US Polaris programme continues pretty much as per OTL.

    Indeed. One section of Post#2 that got edited out would have commented on how the approaches of the two Superpowers mirrored their political philosophies. In the US, multiple providers compete to supply the market with the best product, at the expense of sometimes duplicating efforts. In the USSR they moved all development under Ustinov’s ministry coordinated through NII-88 as a centrally-planned effort. As time went on IOTL, these two different tracks converged, with the US space effort focussing down to the USAF and NASA, whilst the Soviet effort spread between Korolev, Yangel and Chelomei’s competing design bureaux. ITTL we’re already seeing how the US Army is being gradually frozen out, whilst Yangel has been set up with an independent bureau in Ukraine.

    Very true, but I guess when liquid’s all you’ve got, you have to make the best of it!
  10. Threadmarks: Part I Post #4: We Have Liftoff!

    nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    Sunday is here and I've managed to find a computer :) Last time we left the Soviets preparing to launch their R-6 missile for the first time, so now let's pick up the story in....


    Part I Post #4: We Have Liftoff!

    In June 1958 the Kazakh steppe would finally reverberate with the sound of an R-6 launch. The 25 metre missile, affectionately called “Shesterka” (“Ol’ Number Six”), had been rolled out of the Assembly and Testing Building (MIK) of the Scientific-Research and Test Firing Range No. 5 (NIIP-5) at Tyuratam on its specialised railway car and moved the two kilometres to Launch Complex 1. Here the rocket was slowly elevated to a vertical position above the flame trench and brought to rest on four short support pillars. After the base of the rocket had been clamped into place the transport car was withdrawn.

    The next day, 5th June, was spent going through a battery of electrical and mechanical checks to ensure that everything was as it should be, both within the rocket itself and the instrumented payload that would verify the missile’s range and accuracy on this suborbital test. Numerous minor issues were discovered and corrected on the pad, but nothing that would call off the launch. Finally, with great care, the toxic AK271/UDMH propellants were loaded into their tanks. This task completed, the launch crew technicians retreated from the pad to their firing bunkers. Range tracking stations were checked and reported ready. Twenty minutes before planned liftoff, the gyroscopes of the guidance system were spun up and the service towers were pulled back. All systems were go. In the fire control room, the Chief Designers Sinilshchikov, Barmin and Glushko watched with varying degrees of nervousness as the second hand of the launch clock swept towards the appointed hour. With them for this inaugural launch were a host of military and Party observers, including the Deputy Minister for Defence, Chief Marshal Mitrofan Nedelin. He would report directly to Ustinov on the results of the day’s test.

    At the appointed time, the commands were given: “Broach! Key to ignition! Purge! Key to vent! Launch!” and the four twin-chambered RD-215 engines at the base of the Blok-A booster roared into life. The thrust of each engine steadily increased, measured and relayed to the firing room by instrumentation in the hold-down clamps and on-board the rocket itself. Once full thrust was achieved in all engines, the clamps were released and the 340 tonnes of Shesterka began to slowly rise from the earth. As the R-6 cleared the lightning towers there were loud shouts and cheers from many of the observers in launch control. Success! Congratulations comrades, all your hard work has paid off! Those specialists with more experience in test launches held their tongues. This was the most complex rocket they had ever attempted to launch, and the seasoned experts were all too aware that the dangers were not over yet.

    For the first two minutes everything appeared nominal, with the R-6 correctly following its programmed trajectory. As reports started coming in from the first of the tracking stations it seemed the missile was well on course for its target zone on the Kamchatka Peninsula. With just seconds to go before first stage separation, everything looked good.

    The first indication of a serious problem was a sudden reduction in thrust from Engine 3. In a matter of seconds, all thrust from that engine disappeared. With the three remaining engines still at full power, the rocket stack immediately started to yaw alarmingly. The on-board guidance system recognised the deviation and attempted to compensate, but the four small vernier steering rockets were unequal to the task. By the time the three remaining engines shut down together as planned, the R-6 had already entered a fatal tumble. As the explosive bolts fired to split the two stages, the angular momentum transferred to the Blok-B left it in a violent supersonic spin. Blok-B’s propellant tanks ruptured, spilling 60 tonnes of UDMH and nitric acid into the void, as aerodynamic forces finished the job of ripping the R-6 to pieces. In the midst of the destruction some of the hypergolic propellants combined and ignited, creating a bright fireball. The remaining unburnt propellant was transformed into a haze of toxic rain, which descended onto the steppe below as the more massive fragments of rocket body continued on a ballistic trajectory that would end in the wastelands of Siberia, thousands of kilometres short of the intended target.

    In the immediate aftermath of the R-6 failure, Sinilshchikov jumped to the seemingly obvious conclusion that the fault must lay in Glushko’s RD-215 engines. Glushko was infuriated by this accusation. His factory had produced dozens of RD-215s and hundreds of similar rockets. All had undergone rigorous testing before being shipped to Tyuratam for integration. Those engines had been in perfect condition when he’d handed them over! The fact that Sinilshchikov blamed the RD-215 in front of Marshal Nedelin, before a technical investigation had even started, poisoned relations between the two Chief Designers from that point on.

    Over the following days and weeks it slowly became apparent that Glushko had been correct. The RD-215’s had been in perfect condition when they were received, but following their installation on the Shesterka OKB-1 technicians had conducted a fuel loading test. This type of test, which had been performed many times before on other rockets, involved filling and pressurising the tanks, checking for leaks, then emptying the rocket again. To avoid the risks associated with using the toxic propellants, the test instead filled the tanks with water laced with an additive liquid similar to cleaning fluid which brought the mixture to the same density as the propellants. This liquid was used and re-used for multiple tests, and it soon became apparent that at some point the batch had become contaminated. When the test fluid storage tanks were inspected a waxy residue was discovered on the inner walls. Some of this residue must have remained in the R-6’s propellant tanks after the test, and after launch a small plug of matter had been dislodged and blocked a feed line to the failed engine, cutting off the propellant supply.

    Glushko seized on these results as a complete vindication of his OKB-456. In a meeting of the Rocket Propulsion Coordination Committee (KKRD, the main forum for discussions between the various institutes involved in missile development), Glushko personally attacked Sinilshchikov as not competent to be the Chief Designer of the lead institution for ICBM development. Whilst Yangel tried to act as a peacemaker between the two rivals, Chelomei actively supported Glushko. The meeting broke up in acrimony, with the only conclusion recorded being that the test procedures would be updated, filters installed in the propellant tanks, and a second R-6 launch attempted within two weeks. As events turned out, that would be too late.

    Unaware of the Soviets’ attempted launch, the engineers of the Naval Research Laboratory were at that moment preparing for their own mission. Following their April launch attempt, which had just barely missed reaching orbit, the Navy team had gone through a detailed analysis of their design to ensure that the next attempt would succeed. The review quickly identified the cause of the April stage three separation failure and implemented a fix to avoid a recurrence, but it also threw light onto several other potential issues that had been previously missed. After eight weeks of analysis, modifications and testing, there was a feeling of confidence as final preparations began.

    Assembly of the Vanguard stack was completed on Monday 16th June 1958 with the installation of the solid rocket 3rd Stage. Unlike the Soviet R-6, Vanguard was assembled directly on the pad, with the payload left off whilst the stack underwent final checks. Throughout Tuesday 17th checks were performed on the vehicle propulsion system pressures, the pipelines supplying water to the launch stand, and the fire-fighting facilities. Also undergoing checks was the satellite that, it was hoped, would open the Space Age. At 1.47 kg, the grapefruit-sized metal ball could easily be held by one man, as long as he took care to avoid damaging the radio antennas and solar cells that studded the tiny spacecraft. With everything checking out green, the payload was declared ready.

    As Tuesday turned into Wednesday, prospects looked good. The previous Sunday had been the hottest of the year, with temperatures topping 35 degrees Celsius, and the weather forecast for the 18th remained fine and clear, with wind speeds averaging around 15 km/h and gusts not exceeding 35 km/h: perfect conditions for a launch.

    The day’s preparations started at 1am, as pad technicians began propellant loading the Vanguard 1st and 2nd stages. The 1st stage was fuelled with relatively conventional kerosene, but the 2nd stage used 1 470 kg of Nitric Acid and UDMH, necessitating extreme caution. The smallest leak of these highly toxic, highly corrosive chemicals would necessitate an evacuation of the pad whilst specialists in chemical protection suits were brought in to make the area safe. Fortunately, no such leak occurred this time, and by 11am the go-ahead was given to install the satellite payload on the nose of the fully fuelled rocket.

    At 14:00 the countdown clock was started. 45 minutes later, the satellite was switched on and checked: all systems green. At 17:25 cryogenic liquid oxygen began filling the first stage oxidiser tanks: the rocket was now fully loaded with propellant. An hour before scheduled lift-off, the service crane was retracted and Vanguard stood alone and proud on its pad in the late afternoon sunshine. The countdown was proceeding precisely on schedule. With just minutes left on the clock, the rocket’s telemetry, beacon and command receivers were switched to internal power, then the last air conditioning umbilicals were retracted and the oxygen vents closed. All tracking stations were standing by. The weather was fine.

    Finally, at 19:00 exactly, the firing switch closed and the 1st stage X-405 engine ignited. Six seconds after ignition, from out of a chaos of light and smoke, Vanguard left the launch pad and began its climb into space. From inside launch control, from the tops of buildings and parking lots all round the Cape, and from vantage points for miles up and down the Floridian coast, people looked up to follow the fiery trail of the American rocket as it arced into the unknown.

    Just over two minutes after its dramatic departure, the observers saw the distant light dim and fade, only to quickly re-appear as the first stage was discarded and the second stage took up the load. Before another two minutes had elapsed the second stage too expired, it’s job done. Tracking stations reported Vanguard was dead on course; telemetry indicated the separation was clean. Seconds later the solid 3rd stage ignited, banishing the ghosts of April’s launch failure. Controllers at Cape Canaveral nevertheless bit their nails and held their breaths as the burn continued. So close! Don’t let it fail now, please! So damned close! The thirty-second burn seemed to stretch into hours, but finally the thrust tailed off and the stage fell dormant. In Launch Control there was silence. Finally, it was one of the Tracking Stations which broke the spell: “Tracking confirmed, Vanguard is in orbit. I say again, Vanguard is in orbit.”

    With that announcement Launch Control erupted with cheers and applause, as loudspeakers began to relay the distinctive “Beep-beep-beep!” signal from Vanguard that would soon be famous all over the world. That sound marked June 18th, 1958 as the dawn of the Space Age.
  11. Bahamut-255 Space Lover

    Jul 28, 2010
    Ouch, so the Soviet R-6 launch didn't go as planned, and infighting within the agancies in question it seems, doesn't require Korolev and Glushko - though this was showing from previous posts.

    While the Navy Vanguard works once the kinks are worked out of it, so no Oopsnik here. :p

    And with the US Navy getting the first Artificial Satellite into Earth Orbit..."Yvan Eht Nioj!" :p:p
    Dlg123 and Historyman 14 like this.
  12. fasquardon Cosmonaut

    Sep 24, 2012
    To be added to this, the mid-50s also saw the first American experiments with a nuclear rocket engine, the dumbo.

    And a very dramatic update nixonshead. You write technothriller well.

    Historyman 14 likes this.
  13. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

    Apr 13, 2007
    Syracuse, Haudenosaunee, Vinland
    In terms of missiles, you're probably right. In terms of launch vehicles, the USSR was way ahead, because of the massive payload of the R7 (or R6 here).

    The Soviets could probably throw bigger warheads further than the US could, but the US probably had a lot more missiles, and likely better accuracy.
  14. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe
    Autsch, with Vanguard success will Von Braun end up as alcoholic ?

    This TL begins to be very Interesting!

    No R-7 or Sputnik in 1957, Soviet not yet launch something into Space with R-6
    US Navy won the contest "Which US Forces launch the First Satellite ?"
    Will US Navy rule the US space program or NACA ?
    Historyman 14 likes this.
  15. Orville_third Banned

    Mar 3, 2009
    Piedmont Socialist Republic
    How are solid rockets doing? Is the US considering them? Would the Soviets consider them? Would the PRC listen to Qian Xuesen and use them?
  16. brovane Well-Known Member

    Jun 30, 2013
    Orange County, CA
    I think that will depend if the Saturn gets canceled. The Saturn 1 was starting to development around this time under ARPA.
  17. e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

    Nov 27, 2008
    Halfway to Anywhere
    I'm just answering from what I know from offering advice on the writing of future parts, and trying to avoid spoilers to this excellent work. However, I think I can state this without too much worry:

    1) The US basically invented the modern solid rocket in the WWII era. While it doesn't quite predate the death of Korolev (the PoD), it does predate any butterflies from that PoD in the US by a substantial margin. The US made extensive use of this solid rocketry, fielding the first solid-fueled ballistic missile (Polaris) in 1961. From what Nixonshead has said, Polaris is still right on the OTL track, and the US is going to be using them where solids are good: highly stable, rapid-readiness missiles for strategic applications, with some look at using them for high-thrust supplemental boosters for carrier rockets.

    2) The USSR...well, they never made much use of solids at all, mostly due to a serious lack of technical maturity. While they had a solid ICBM by the late 60s, they still kept liquid missiles as their main leg until the 1980s, and even into the present from what I know. To my knowledge, they've never had much use for solids in their launch vehicles, though that may be because they still use rockets with the majority of their design heritage dating to the period before 1969. I don't know that any of the Chief Designers IOTL or the slightly altered ones ITTL were much interested in solids, so I don't see that changing much.

    3) China...I don't know that much about. From my reading here, their first solid-fuel missile began development at about the same time as the Soviets, largely thanks to Qian Xuesen, but the Cultural Revolution threw it into total stasis, since the engineers leading the efforts were prime targets for the Cultural Revolution. It reads like there was little that could have been done to speed up the program without averting the Cultural Revolution entirely.
    Historyman 14 likes this.
  18. Astronomo2010 Well-Known Member

    Jan 3, 2010
    very good new chapter , The US Navy just launched the 1st Satellite. Lets see the Spacelab, the Moon Landings, Space Stations , and exploration of our Solar System . Can't hardly wait for the next chapters .
    Historyman 14 likes this.
  19. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    Apparently whilst in Germany in 1945/6 Glushko drove a car for around 30 minutes with the handbrake on because he refused to admit to his passenger that he'd mistakenly left it on! With someone like that around, there’s almost certain to be tension. Sinilshchikov apparently wasn’t the easiest guy to get along with either, and Mishin was notoriously bull-headed, so add in the performance pressure from above and sparks are going to fly!

    The USN have certainly won their bragging rights for the moment, but don’t forget Phase 2 of the Stewart Committee’s recommendations...

    It’s very kind of you to say so! :eek: Nuclear rocketry is something that is being looked at ITTL as IOTL, but the support those teams get will be a little different...

    One thing to factor in is that a lot of the guidance specialists that Korolev stole from Sinilshchikov IOTL stayed with the SAM missile programme ITTL. This will have effects on the accuracy of both the R-6 and the early Soviet SAMs.

    Regarding how far ahead the Soviets can be in space, you’re correct that the R-6 (assuming it works!) has considerable throw weight, but many of the payloads that were already under development at this point IOTL have ITTL suffered from Sinilshchikov’s focus on military needs.

    Well, von Braun was a notoriously capable drinker IOTL, as well as a late sleeper (he apparently believed no important decision in history had ever been taken before 10am), but given that he managed to keep control of his drinking during the wilderness years at Fort Bliss, I don’t think he’s going to let this latest setback drive him into the bottle.

    Don’t discount the other services too soon... ;)

    e of pi has pretty much covered this in his response. Solids in the US are being actively developed for ballistic missiles and looked at for potential use in space launchers. In the USSR there is some research, in particular for SLBM use, but their main focus remains liquid engines. For the PRC… To be honest it’s not something I’ve looked into in any detail yet. Part I is focussed almost exclusively on the USA and USSR, but other players will enter the field as time goes on. So if you have any thoughts or theories on how China or any other nation/consortium might be affected, feel free to speculate - it might well end up in the TL :)

    ARPA? Who are they..? ;)

    And a very good job you did of it too! Thanks for the support :)

    Glad you enjoyed it Astronomo! All these options and more are under consideration in various design bureaux and think tanks at this point in the TL, but there’s still a long way to go yet!
    Historyman 14 likes this.
  20. brovane Well-Known Member

    Jun 30, 2013
    Orange County, CA
    ARPA was the Advanced Research Project Agency which we now know as DARPA. The Saturn I program was started under ARPA before NASA took it over. It wasn't under ARPA very long before the switch but they put out the original SPEC of 1,500,000-lb thrust space vehicle.