Kolyma's Shadow: An Alternate Space Race

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

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  1. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2007
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    Liege Belgium Europe
    It's only a Rumor
    It claimed that Orbiter Challenger was marked by Laser from Terra-3 site at the Sary Shagan ABM testing range in USSR.
    but the Crew of STS-41-G mission explain that "incident" never happened.
     
  2. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2013
    This is part of the reason for a more active ASAT development ITTL, but probably the most significant change is the huge military build-up Shelepin kicked off after ousting Khruschev. He poured resources into military applications, including Chelomei’s IS project (one of the few areas where Chelomei wasn’t facing serious competition from the other Chief Designers), as well as the more traditional military support birds. With the Soviets making this push, the US naturally pushes back with their own developments.

    On the topic of ABM, I agree with Shevek23. A kinetic kill ASAT capability is a long way from having an effective ABM system. A satellite generally follows a well defined path, which can be observed and refined in detail for a long period before launch, and with very little option to deviate. A ballistic missile on the other hand gives very little time to detect and refine its path. Then, on re-entry, you have aerodynamic forces affecting the trajectory in unpredictable ways, including from deliberate manoeuvring. Even without these forces, a ballistic trajectory means the speed of the warhead varies a lot more over the course of its trajectory than a for a near-circular satellite orbit. Add in decoys and other countermeasures, and you leave the defender with a near-impossible task. Even today, after decades of research and who knows how many billions of dollars spent, the US GMD ABM system only scores a hit about 50% of the time in tests. However, the US was able to hit satellites IOTL thirty years ago with its F-15 launched ASM-135 ASAT.

    A nuclear-armed Starbolt would have a better chance as an ABM, simply because of its greater destructive radius. But even then, the effectiveness against a tough missile RV from a nuclear explosion in a vacuum are… debatable.

    At this point ITTL, development of an ABM that would be effective against a superpower’s arsenal is not considered realistic (no sci-fi authors have nobbled the President/First Secretary), so research has pretty much stayed in the lab.

    The impression I wanted to create was as e of pi describes. Don’t forget, the first use of DREWs is during the Shelepin years, during the coldest days of the Cold War. By the time the thaw starts, a low-powered sweep has become another part of the accepted cat-and-mouse of the conflict, much like shadowing subs or skirting airspace. None of the sweeps against enemy targets is powerful enough to cause permanent damage, but it is enough to keep the forces trained and to send a message to the opposition in times of tension (and there will be a few of these even after the start of the thaw).

    As Shevek noted, this inevitably prompts an arms race to develop better hardened satellites to thwart the enemy’s weapon, which is part of the reason both sides are starting to look to more energetic parts of the EM spectrum.

    Three main differences:

    1. The Soviet co-orbital interceptor is deployed as an operational orbital force in the 1970s. IOTL the system was tested from the 1960s up until the 1980s and only deployed on the ground, ready to launch as needed, until is was scrapped by Gorbachev in an effort to get Reagan to give up Star Wars. ITTL, they try the larger, more challenging option of an on-orbit space mine (Agat) first, before later opting for the launch-as-needed Oniks.
    2. The development of Starbolt. IOTL, the US didn’t have an effective non-nuclear ASAT until the ASM-134 in the ‘80s. Here they have more incentive to develop it earlier (Agat spacecraft are tempting targets…), and the retention of Skybolt (which was scrapped IOTL) gives them a different option to base it on.
    3. Weaponised use of radio jamming. AFAIK, this type of high powered radio system has never been officially deployed as a weapon IOTL, but there have been several reports of commercial satellites being jammed by Cuba and Iran, and upping the power could in theory cause damage to the signal amplifiers of a satellite, potentially leaving it deaf to ground commands. So its use by the superpowers seemed like a reasonable extension in the heightened Cold War of TTL’s late-60s/early-70s.

    I did the images, but they’re all classified ;)

    Unfortunately, this was a just case of running out of time. I had hoped to do an image of Agat (and so produce my long-delayed model of the Raketoplan AOO), but other things came up. To make up for it, I’m planning two images for next week :)

    I’d heard this rumour too, but I’ve no idea if it’s true or not. Technically speaking, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Soviets had the capability to illuminate the shuttle with enough watts to dazzle astronauts at that time (the US MIRACL weapon could probably have managed this in the 1980s, though it’s ASAT capabilities weren’t tested until 1997).

    ITTL, Dynasoar and Chasovoy crews would have occasionally found their communications with the ground disrupted, but nothing more serious than that, and nothing posing a serious risk to their health.
     
  3. EnglishCanuck Blogger/Writer/Dangerous Moderate

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    The Commonwealth
    Just been chipping through this over the last couple days, gotta say that I'm loving it :)

    Keep up the excellent work here nixonshead!
     
  4. Threadmarks: Part IV Post#10: Handshake in Orbit

    nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2013
    Glad you’re enjoying it and thanks for posting!

    Last week we looked at how the Superpowers compete militarily in space. However, overall the late-70s is a time of improving relations between East and West, as exemplified by the mission we look at in this week’s...

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    Part IV Post#10: Handshake in Orbit

    In contrast to the vibrant unmanned space programme, the situation for manned spaceflight in the United States at the end of the 1970s was looking bleak. The last of the Columbia circumlunar missions, Columbia-10, had flown in June 1978, carrying Air Force pilot Doug Boone and NACAA scientist-astronaut Eugene Lippmann. Although gaining slightly higher public attention than the previous Columbia-8 and 9 flights, the number of people following the mission was still way down when compared with Columbia-6. A poll commissioned by the New York Times in March 1978 found that around 54% of Americans felt that the government should not be funding manned travel to the Moon. Perhaps more worryingly, the same poll showed almost a third of Americans hadn’t realised that Columbia missions were still ongoing. Those who believed the Columbia missions should be extended further were in a clear minority, although 71% of respondents believed that Americans would land on the Moon within the next 20 years (whilst a persistent 6% claimed they already had…).

    The job of making that happen rested with NACAA and its Columbia Applications Program. With just modest funding, and a much smaller team than it had managed during the heyday of the Columbia development effort, NACAA produced study after study on possible pathways to the lunar surface. Virtually all of them would make use of multiple launches to assemble the expedition in Earth and/or lunar orbit. Most took an upgraded Columbia capsule as their starting point for Earth departure and return, with a significant minority positing use of Dynasoar or the new Shuttlecraft to ferry crew to and from a lunar transit mission. Some architectures were optimised for a one-off mission, whilst others sought to establish an expanding infrastructure supporting an ongoing lunar presence. All were accompanied by detailed performance metrics, reams of analysis, and carefully weighted assessments of their relative merits. And all were ignored by a Congress and White House struggling with more earthly concerns.

    At the same time, America’s other manned space programme was in a state of transition. As the Shuttlecraft project ramped up, Dynasoar missions were being gradually reduced. This was particularly true of the Mk.II/DEL missions, of which only one had flown between the retirement of Starlab in 1975 and the August 1978 launch of Thebe with a DEL-ED (Extended Duration) module, which was left on-orbit at the end of the five day mission to allow long term tests, the results of which would be retrieved by another Mk.II mission a year later. Mk.I missions had been slightly more frequent, with a total of five missions flown between 1974 and the end of 1978, but even this was greatly reduced from the peak of up to four missions per year in the early 1970s. This reduced flight rate was partly a function of the increasing capability of the Air Force’s unmanned systems, but was also related to concerns over the increasing age of the spaceplanes. Following the commissioning into service of Tara in 1976, the oldest spaceplane, Aura, had been effectively retired following a partial collapse of its undercarriage at the conclusion of mission DS-27. The Mk.II orbiters, Thebe and Athena, were both experiencing various minor problems that required ever-longer maintenance periods post-flight. All in all, the Air Force were looking forward to the day they could trade in their Dynasoars for the sporty new Shuttlecraft, which was now projected to begin test flights in late 1982. Until then, the Air Force would have to carefully conserve its Dynasoar orbiters.

    Rockefeller’s November 1979 agreement to conduct a joint manned mission with the Soviets immediately brought up questions of exactly how this should be accomplished. Although Kirilenko had (somewhat mischievously) offered to fly an American astronaut to Chasovoy aboard a Zarya capsule, the State Department was adamant that American participation should be through the launch of an American vehicle. As part of the public justification for the mission was to test techniques enabling space travellers from one nation to be rescued by the other in the event of an emergency, a docking between US and Soviet vehicles was quickly agreed upon.

    On the Soviet side, Chasovoy-3 was the obvious choice to play host, but the selection of its American counterpart was more problematic. Secretary Bundy was known to favour making this a NACAA mission, to highlight its peaceful, civilian nature, but with the flight of Columbia-10 NACAA had exhausted its stock of space capsules. No further ships had been ordered, and a quick investigation found that re-starting production for a single vehicle would be extremely costly. It may have been possible to assemble a new flight model from ground spares and test articles, but NACAA’s engineers were leery of the safety of this approach. By default therefore, the mission was assigned to the Air Force. Unless the government was willing to wait for the Shuttlecraft, this meant using one of the two Mk.II Dynasoars.

    The government however increasingly had other things on its mind, due to the fallout of an incident that had occurred well before the November summit. In June 1979, President Rockefeller had suffered a heart attack in the Oval Office whilst working late. White House medical teams reacted quickly once summoned, saving the president’s life and enabling him to go on to make a full recovery over the following months. However, it soon leaked that the medics had been called in by a 22 year old intern, Sara Gibney, who had been alone with the president at the time of his heart attack. It didn’t take long for the press to put two and two together and for rumours to start flying that Rockefeller and Gibney had been having an affair. The story rumbled on as tabloid innuendo throughout the summer, with Rockefeller issuing firm denials, until finally in September a journalist managed to obtain a recording of a drunken Gibney sobbingly confessing to the affair. Now with something more solid than rumour upon which to base a story, the confession was published in the next day’s Washington Post.

    Coming hard on the heels of lackluster economic figures and the bloody resolution of the Tehran crisis, the revelation of Rockefeller’s infidelity was the final nail in his hopes for re-election. However, the president did not yet see it that way, and continued to deny any impropriety, despite Gibney’s increasingly frequent and revealing TV and magazine interviews. With the signing of NALT in November, as well as his earlier success in negotiating the reopening of the Suez Canal, Rockefeller hoped to establish a foreign policy legacy that would overcome the negative press of the Gibney scandal. This would prove to be a vain hope however, as his bid for re-nomination as the Republican candidate for 1980 quickly began to unravel, with even his own Vice President, Daniel Evans, urging him to stand aside for the good of the party. With the press and the Democrats hammering him daily, calls for his impeachment from some of the more puritanical voices in Congress, and following a further stress-induced heart murmur in February 1980, Rockefeller finally bowed to the inevitable and withdrew his candidacy for re-election.

    Following his decision not to stand, Rockefeller made one final push to establish some sort of legacy that might put a face-saving buff on his tarnished presidential reputation. With little support from either party in Congress (no-one facing re-election in November wanted to be associated with a philanderer), Rockefeller turned back to foreign policy to make his mark. This would prove a mixed blessing for America in the long term, with the triumphant signing of the Protocol on Conventional Forces in Europe with the Soviets being largely offset by the escalating deployments to Iran, wading America deeper into the Middle East quicksand that would come to dominate US foreign policy in the early 1980s.

    The Chasovoy-Dynasoar flight was another part of Rockefeller’s search for a legacy. The joint mission would provide a fitting capstone to what was perhaps the president’s greatest achievement, his rapprochement with the Soviets, and so Rockefeller put pressure on the Air Force and State Department to make sure that the flight would take place before the end of his term in January 1981. This posed some serious engineering problems, as it would be necessary to design, build and qualify a docking system compatible with the Soviets’ ports in no more than six months. The problem was somewhat simplified by the switch of Dynasoar to a sea-level oxygen-nitrogen atmospheric mix after the loss of Rhene, which was compatible with that used on Chasovoy, but it still implied an extremely challenging timetable, especially for a man-rated system. In the end, the Secretary of the Air Force managed to convince the president that the timetable was just too tight to be met whilst guaranteeing safety, and Rockefeller reluctantly agreed to a more realistic (though still tough) date of late 1981.

    The technical issues were almost as daunting as the diplomatic and security concerns. To ensure a compatible docking port, it was necessary to obtain detailed engineering data from Glavkosmos on their systems, but this alone would not be enough. To meet the tight deadline, Boeing’s engineers wanted to get their hands on a full working docking port, with Soviet engineers on-site to provide direct assistance on the modifications needed to integrate the port with the Dynasoar Mission Module. This faced resistance on both the US and Soviet sides, with neither superpower keen to give their opponent access to military expertise or facilities, rapprochement or not. A compromise was worked out whereby the Mission Module was moved to a separate, quarantined assembly hall on the Boeing site at Charleston, well away from the Seattle location where the Shuttlecraft was being put together. The Soviets agreed to provide a small team of cleared engineers to the site (including, of course, separate plants from the KGB and GRU, both of whom were quickly identified by their CIA counterparts and kept well away from anything sensitive - in fact the CIA was aware their identities before either Soviet agent knew of the other).

    An attempt to obtain a copy of the Soviet rendezvous beacons was less successful, although more due to the complexity involved in integrating it with American systems rather than from security considerations. It was instead agreed that Dynasoar would approach Chasovoy under its own on-board and ground control guidance, with the final approach and docking being piloted manually in close coordination with Soviet mission control. Having closely followed Dynasoar’s Starlab and DEL-ED docking missions of the 1970s, the Soviets were confident that the Americans could perform such proximity operations safely. For their part, the Americans knew the Soviets knew about Dynasoar’s capabilities in proximity operations, which would in any case soon be superseded by Shuttlecraft, so there was no significant concern over inadvertently tipping their hand.

    By late October 1981, thanks to heroic efforts by Boeing’s engineers, the modified Mission Module had completed testing and was ready to ship to the Cape for mating to the Mk.II glider Thebe. A year after America had voted on Rockefeller’s successor, Air Force Space Command technicians were performing electrical and structural checks on the integrated Dynasoar vehicle. These tests would go on for most of the next month, before the spaceplane was mated to its Minerva launcher and rolled out to the pad for a launch date of 12th December.

    Commanding the mission was Columbia-7 veteran Albert Crews, in what was to be his final mission before retiring from flight operations. His selection was mostly based on his experience and seniority - his first spaceflight had been on Mercury-5 in 1963, and since then he had piloted every manned spacecraft the US had flown. At 52, he would be one of the oldest men ever to fly into space, and the Air Force medics were eager to obtain biometric readings to compare with those from his earlier missions, which should give a good indication of how the effects of space on the body varied with age. However, another factor was undoubtedly Crews’ Columbia experience being a chance to remind the Soviets just who had won the Moon race.

    The US advantage in space was to be further underlined by the inclusion of two other astronauts, Martin Quinn and Frank Delao. Quinn was a veteran of the Starlab-1 mission, making him an ideal candidate for sizing up the Chasovoy station and understanding its similarities and differences compared to the only large American station to have been launched. Delao was a rookie, but was heavily involved in the Shuttlecraft development programme, and after earning his wings on Chasovoy-Dynasoar was strongly tipped to command one of the early orbital test flights of the new ship. This was intended as a reminder to the world that America had exciting things to look forward to in manned spaceflight, whilst the fact of Dynasoar carrying three men to Chasovoy whilst the Soviet Zarya could only manage two further underlined that the US was in no way falling behind the Russians.

    The launch of mission DS-34 passed off with the smooth efficiency of long practice, and over the following two days Thebe chased down Chasovoy in a slow celestial dance that saw her come to a relative rest 500 metres from the Soviet station. Quinn then piloted the spaceplane to circle the station, taking numerous photographs of Chasovoy and her attendant Zarya capsule, whilst cosmonauts Boris Tokarev and Arciom Ramanchuk simultaneously photographed Thebe. The station and the spaceplane were in direct radio contact by this point, communicating in both Russian and English, with the speaker using his counterpart’s language. Using this method, each side confirmed that their visual inspection of the other had revealed no problems, before Quinn lined up Thebe in front of Chasovoy’s vacant docking port, nose pointed away from the station, as Crews took up his position at the docking control panel set up in Thebe’s modified Mission Module. Control of the ship’s RCS was transferred to Crews, allowing him to use short bursts of cold nitrogen gas to gradually back Thebe up to Chasovoy’s port. After a number of pre-scheduled pauses to verify the status of the approach, Crews finally made hard dock at 16:47 UTC (09:47 at Vandenberg, 19:47 in Moscow) on 14th December, 1981. Thirty minutes later the hatch was opened and Albert Crews made his historic handshake with Boris Tokarev. East and West had at last met in space and greeted one another as equals. Whether another such event would be possible in the future depended a great deal on the new leaders who had recently taken up residence in the Kremlin and the White House.

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    Chasovoy-3, taken from the Dynasoar glider Thebe, 14th December 1981.


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    Thebe circles the Chasovoy-3 space station, 14th December 1981. Her specially modified Mission Module with its Soviet docking adapter is visible in this image.


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    Chasovoy-Dynasoar mission docked configuration.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2017
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  5. Archibald space jockey ! Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2008
    so beautiful (my new wallpaper)

    Stunning artwork as usual. So beautiful, notably the DynaSoar with the mission module.

    I'm glad for Al Crews - OTL i consider him as the most frustrated wannabee astronaut ever. H endured Dynaoar and MOL cancellations, and then he went to NASA and was considered too old, so he flew only WB-57F high altitde aircrafts. There is a sense of injustice there that you "corrected" in your TL.
     
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  6. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2007
    Location:
    Liege Belgium Europe
    Those CGI from the Station and Dyna Soar in orbit, look so photo realistic !
     
  7. TheBatafour Complete Anarchy

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2012
    Dynasoar docking with an alt-Salyut station? It's ASTP on steroids! Another great update this week, the worst part about it being that the next one is a week away. You've surely made up for the lack of images this week too!
    If part IV ends next week, then I know what it'll be about, as we still have a shuttle to launch! Also curious as to how the Soviets are going to go into the next phase of this alternate space race...
     
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  8. Archibald space jockey ! Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2008
    The DynaSoar service module has a strong Gemini touch (Gemi-what ? what I'm talking about? ) ;)
     
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  9. Bahamut-255 Space Lover

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2010
    That last image really stands out for me, seems to put the Dynasoar, Chasovoy-3, & Zarya into perspective, if only in terms of size. Something tells me it's what's underneath the respective surfaces that is going to be the watch points for all involved.

    Still kinda a shame that there's no immediate Manned Lunar Landing happening anytime soon, but, given the real legacy of Apollo, that's not a terrible thing IMHO.
     
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  10. Roger Redux The Revisionist

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    Feb 14, 2015
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    The Mother of all ASBs (a.k.a. "The Real World")
    Still here, and still thoroughly enjoying the torture of the slow-burn.

    I'm kinda surprized by the proto-Lewinski scandal. I thought people minded their own business back then; I mean everyone knew JFK had affairs, that didn't slow down his political career IOTL.

    Those pictures are just gorgeous! And if not for braking/reentry issues brought up several pages ago, I'd say the whole joined DS-Chasovoy assembly looks ready to launch out of orbit on course for Mars!
     
  11. TaintedLion Prince of Reference Books.

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2014
    Location:
    Winchester, England
    Absolutely loving this TL, considering making some art for it :), if that's okay with you.

    Loving the slow pace of this TL, not SATELLITE->PEOPLE IN SPACE->PEOPLE ON MOON NOW WHAT. Feels like only a couple of weeks ago you started Part IV, why does it have to end so soon? :(
     
  12. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2010
    Location:
    Reno, Nevada USA
    Me too. I do think that general social progress would make Rocky's affair more risky politically than Kennedy's, but even OTL it is hard to imagine that Jimmy Carter would have been in particularly hot water if he'd been caught in a similar way. I don't think it can just be slipped back 20 years.

    The more so because I think it is quite evident that the Clinton impeachment was the act of a Republican party desperate to pin some sort of scandal on any Democrat who might manage to be elected, to balance the scales of Watergate and the Iran-Contra hearings. Without the OTL political dynamic of Watergate, the ideological transformation of the Republicans under and in the wake of Reagan (which involved the Republicans developing a sense of entitlement to executive power and the repudiation of the New Deal consensus as their model of progress) and meanwhile Civil Rights progress in legislation, the courts, and popular mentality that enabled sexual harassment charges to be taken quite seriously (a position the Democrats largely owned on both race-relations and feminist fronts) the Lewinsky scandal could hardly have had the traction it did OTL. And it had to wait until the 1990s.

    OTL it was Watergate that did the most to break down the "gentleman's agreement" between the press and high-level government that what national leaders did in bed was not proper material for serious respectable journalism. Also, the 1970s were a pretty "swinging" time, and if the cultural clashes of the 60's were muted in this TL compared to ours, one would expect even more of that libertine spirit to carry over into the "Me Decade." OTL it was the conjunction of Reagan's election and the outbreak of HIV that splashed cold water on the popular wave of "sex, drugs and rock'n'roll forever!" HIV should still be lurking in the shadows but it hasn't apparently been noticed yet.

    So--I'd think that first of all the "scandal" would not be picked up in the mainstream press in the first place, and insofar as it did leak out it would tend to humanize Rocky and give him a somewhat macho, one-of-the-boys aura that would tend to benefit him more than otherwise.

    Might someone in Congress somewhere call for impeachment? Maybe. But this TL has not had Watergate, where the question was debated very seriously in regards of serious issues of governance. Here the last precedent for impeachment was over a hundred years before, against the accidental President Andrew Johnson, who was not of the party of the President he'd been elected with and pursued policies the ruling Republicans found extremely counterproductive and defied them daily. I'd think even an extreme partisan, or some Republican who despised the Rockefeller wing of the party, or an extreme Christian fundamentalist or other radical conservative in Congress would think twice before trying to put impeachment on the table lest they simply look ridiculous. There certainly would be no prospect of it going anywhere serious though the sorts of people I mentioned above might go ahead and formally propose it as a sop to the minority constituencies who presumably elected these extremists in the first place.

    Rocky is weak for much the same reasons Carter was (and would be were he to have committed such a scandal). Mainly it is the global economy, which no President can control, that makes his term seem unsatisfactory. Among Republicans (probably less distinctly ITTL than in OTL when the parties were already on the way toward the modern polarization of Democrats as liberal/progressives, Republicans as what we call "conservative"--ITTL surely both are more mixed and muddled) Rocky is a liberal and a moralist--his speeches infamously always ended with the catchphrase "...the brotherhood of man and the Fatherhood of God..." aka "the BOMFOG" which was the experienced journalist's cue to head for the door:p--therefore perhaps it would be more tempting for his enemies to try to tar him with this particular kind of scandal. And he is generally weak so there might be some pile-on.

    But if it happens at all, I'd think it would be a muted sideshow compared to the serious issues raised against a second term for him. The fact of the heart attack itself ought to get more press and be mentioned more often than the circumstances that triggered it.
     
  13. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2013
    Indeed, I hadn’t heard about him before researching this TL, but it seems he was unusually unlucky IOTL. He recently got a mention in an article on The Space Review about MOL.

    Thanks, I try :)

    Well, in a sense it’s not actually too far removed from the OTL mission, which also involved 3 Americans meeting with 2 Soviets - though ITTL they do have more elbow room!

    Part-IV does indeed come to an end next week… and that’s all I’m saying ;)

    That was indeed to look-and-feel I was aiming for :)

    Both sides will be very interested to see the interior of their partners’ craft - but neither will be uncovering any secrets. Chasovoy-3 has fewer military experiments than the previous two stations (though you may have noted it does include a large SAR antenna, which has some military use), and Thebe has been ‘sanitised’ for the mission. Plus both systems are due to be replaced in the near future.

    Unfortunately, the backing is just not there to justify the costs at this point. Incidentally, those poll numbers at the top of the post are based on real OTL surveys, which is a little depressing.

    Good points here, and it may be that I’ve anticipated a more modern sensibility than would be expected at this point. As Shevek points out, there’s been no Watergate scandal ITTL, so there’s not been a single equivalent turning point when people woke up to political corruption and lost their faith in politicians… but I don’t think that would mean they still think their elected leaders are all just working for the common good (if they ever did). ITTL I’d expect it being more of a slow general shift towards cynicism by a new generation, particularly given the depressing economic situation that’s stretched out in the ‘70s.

    On the economy, in fact the Oil Shock and collapse of Bretton Woods has occurred a few years later than IOTL. Nixon did not administer the Nixon Shock, so the system lasted longer… but its implosion was correspondingly more damaging. The economy is turning around by 1979, but not fast and after a lot of pain, and Rocky’s poll ratings reflect this.

    The specific incident with Gibney is based on Rockefeller’s OTL death, but ITTL medical help is on the scene sooner and able to save him. As mentioned in the post, the papers all know he’s having an affair (probably several, in fact), but most are pretty restrained about reporting it - until Gibney goes public after the president has explicitly denied it. The fact he then continues to deny it undermines any trust people may have had in him. Even then though, it’s the second heart murmur in 1980 that proves the final straw.

    That was my thinking, anyway. The plausibility or not is of course, as always on this site, open to discussion :)

    Fine with me, I’d love to see it!

    I must admit that part of what I wanted to achieve with this TL was a plausible space race that didn’t necessarily turn out ‘better’ than OTL. There are several excellent TLs out there that show how manned space exploration could have advanced further or have been done better. I’m happy to show an option that’s just… different :)
     
  14. Threadmarks: Part IV Post#11: End of an Era

    nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2013
    So we come at last to the final post for Part-IV of...

    [​IMG]

    Part IV Post#11: End of an Era

    The early 1980s marked a watershed period in spaceflight, as both the nature of and participants in space travel began to shift. One of the most visible manifestations of this change was the end of what was retrospectively dubbed as the “First Space Race”. This point is often dated in the public mind at the joint Dynasoar-Chasovoy mission which concluded 1981, but the first phase of manned spaceflight could more accurately considered to have ended in 1982. Though the triggers for these shifts were complex and deeply rooted, for many people they became associated with the changes in leadership that had occurred in both the USA and USSR during 1981.

    The election year of 1980 was a time of turmoil in American politics. The Oil Shock and subsequent collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1974 had triggered a period of so-called “stagflation”, the reversal of which had been one of the key objectives of the Rockefeller administration. In this they had some success, managing to stabilise the value of the dollar and bringing the country out of recession in 1977, but the growth that followed remained stubbornly slow. With government expenditure holding steady, or even increasing in the hope of stimulating the economy, America’s deficit continued to grow.

    The sluggish economic recovery underlined a wider loss of confidence in America. The reduction of tensions with the Soviets was generally welcomed, but the apparent success of Kirilenko in re-invigorating the Soviet economy only made the contrast with America more stark. The intervention in Iran was generally supported by the public, but a vocal minority grabbed headlines in a growing number of anti-war protests, claiming that the action had less to do with protecting civilians from terrorism than protecting a corrupt allied leader and Western oil and gas interests. With the Gibney scandal undermining what little faith the public still had in the integrity of its leaders, the 1980 elections had the feeling of a turning point.

    With the Republican party caught off-balance by the late withdrawal of President Rockefeller from the running, potential candidates had less time to organise. The party finally chose to put forward Vice President Daniel Evans as their candidate, following a strong challenge from Senator Ronald Reagan. Although Reagan’s supply-side economic platform was becoming increasingly fashionable amongst economists, his strong rhetoric against improved relations with the Soviets worried some, whilst others pointed to his lack of executive experience and his age (Reagan would be the oldest president in US history if elected). This tilted the balance towards Evans, who was able to walk the line of taking credit for the Rockefeller administration’s achievements whilst distancing himself from the President’s moral failings.

    Ironically, many of the economic policies put forward by Reagan were similar to the positions adopted by the Democratic candidates, the most vocal of whom was William Proxmire. Elected to the Senate in 1957, Proxmire had made a name for himself in opposing wasteful government spending, seeing a profligate expenditure as one of the root causes of America’s economic woes. Indeed, his vocal opposition to “pork barrel” politics had earned him enemies both amongst Republicans and within his own party, as with his loud and repeated opposition to President Muskie’s Columbia project. In the end it was this (along with his pledge to refuse to accept campaign donations) that scuppered his chances of being selected. Despite some early successes with his public campaigning, he’d burned too many bridges, and the support he needed from the party machine was simply not present.

    Despite Proxmire’s withdrawal from the race, his message on the necessity of cutting back on wasteful spending and reducing the size of the federal government had struck a chord, and were incorporated (in a watered-down version) into the campaign of the eventual candidate, Frank Church. This won Church the support of Proxmire, but he also gained endorsements from a number of establishment Democrats, including the Kennedys - though how much value this had was much debated, given the Kennedy name had become synonymous with election defeats. Despite jokes about Church having been given “the Kennedy curse”, he went on to soundly beat Evans at the polls in November, gaining a clear a mandate to reform the national finances and reduce waste.

    The change in leadership in the USA was soon echoed in the USSR, as Andrei Kirilenko made the surprise announcement in March 1981 that he planned to step down from both his role as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (which had latterly been styled, inaccurately, as “President of the USSR” in the foreign press) and the leadership of the Party. Publically, Kirilenko stated that he wished to ensure the continuing vigour of the national leadership by allowing fresh blood to come through the ranks. Whilst this may well have been true in part, his decision to step down was undoubtedly influenced by his worsening health, as he slowly succumbed to arteriosclerosis. His illness was known of only at the highest levels of Soviet leadership, and so far had not seriously impacted his ability to work, but Kirilenko felt that it would be better to have a managed handover of power whilst he was still fit enough to influence events rather than risk the sort of chaos that had followed Shelepin’s death.

    The outgoing First Secretary’s call for new blood notwithstanding, it had been clear for some time that Premier Maxim Teplov, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers and long term confident of Kirilenko, was the heir apparent, and indeed Teplov was duly elected President of the Supreme Soviet in March 1982. A few weeks later, on Kirilenko’s recommendation, he was also elevated to the post of First Secretary of the Central Committee, consolidating his position at the top of both the Party and the State. Replacing Teplov at the Council of Ministers as Premier was Boris Gostev, a Belarusian economist who had been an early supporter of Kilirenko’s and Teplov’s Khozraschyot reforms. This marked the first voluntary transition of power at the top of the USSR since the creation of the state in 1922.

    Even as Teplov rose to the commanding heights of the Soviet state, the reforms that he had helped to spearhead as Premier were coming under increasing scrutiny. The economic growth experienced in the Soviet Union since 1976 had been largely based upon extractive industries, especially an expansion in oil and gas exports following the 1970s Oil Shock. The gradual opening of Western markets to Soviet exports, as well as the reforms to the pricing of energy sales to Eastern Europe, had enabled to USSR to tap into this rich revenue stream, and the economy was given an extra boost from the turmoil in the Middle East after 1979, reaching a peak during the attempted Saudi coup of 1981. However, this influx of petrodollars had served only to paper over the cracks in the Soviet system, not fix them. It had given an illusion of effectiveness to the Khozraschyot reforms, when the reality was that the attempt to mimic market values in the Soviet economy had only served to add one more layer of deception. The “real economic values” assigned to production by Gosplan were based on unreliable inputs from factory managers, and in any case were unable to keep up with the real demand in the economy. A real expansion of the civilian economy did take place as resources were shifted away from the military, but the increased volume of consumer goods wasn’t matched by any increase in quality, and productivity continued to stagnate, or even decline, as the system failed to provide incentives to modernise production or develop new techniques. By 1982, as world oil prices began what would turn into a sustained fall, the inefficiencies of the Soviet economy threatened to become visible for all to see.

    So it was that the new leaders of both Superpowers found themselves looking to cut costs, with spending on space being one of the areas to come under scrutiny.

    August 1982 saw the decommissioning of the Chasovoy-3 space station after five years of service, bringing manned Glavkosmos missions to a halt pending the launch of their new, modular Yedinstvo space station, the first component of which was expected to be ready in 1984. The final mission to Chasovoy also marked the last flight for the venerable Zarya spacecraft, as the versatile two-seat capsule was slated to be replaced by a more capable three-man spacecraft loosely based upon Chelomei’s Safir moonship. Named “Yantar”, the design was optimised for its role as a space station ferry, including an unmanned version for bringing up supplies. Plans had been in place to launch Chasovoy-4, a copy of the Chasovoy-3 design, as an interim station to ensure the continuation of manned space missions, but Kramarov eventually decided that, in the absence of more funding, the diversion of resources to a stop-gap station would not be worthwhile. All effort was instead focussed on the new station and its support craft.

    1982 also saw the final flight of the American Dynasoar, with Tara performing one last spysat servicing mission on DS-36 in September 1982. With the Shuttlecraft now not slated to begin air-drop test flights at Edwards AFB until 1983, and a first orbital launch not expected before 1986, the Air Force had originally planned to keep the Dynasoars flying until their replacement was commissioned. However, the cuts to Federal spending that had accompanied the arrival of President Church at the White House soon changed these plans. Faced with the need to trim spending to reduce the national deficit, the Air Force had been forced to downsize its planned Shuttlecraft fleet from four to two orbiters operating from a single 747 carrier vehicle, and even then had had to sacrifice ongoing Dynasoar operations to ensure continued funding for the Shuttlecraft. With NACAA’s lunar ambitions on indefinite hold (despite repeated political endorsement of a Moon landing as a “horizon goal” for the agency), this meant that by the end of 1982 no nation on Earth had an active capability to put humans into space.

    [​IMG]

    Last of the Dynasoars. The glider Tara returns to Edwards AFB at the conclusion of mission DS-36, September 1982.

    At the same time that crewed launch capability was disappearing, more and more organisations were gaining access to the benefits of unmanned access to space, most visibly through the increasing number of commercially available launch services. By the early 1980s, Europe’s Theseus rocket had established itself as a reliable and economical alternative to the USAF-operated Minerva for both government and commercial satellite launches. Operated under ESLA control, Theseus’ competitive pricing (thanks in no small part to considerable subsidies, both direct and indirect, from European governments) enabled it to capture 40% of the commercial launch market by 1982, necessitating the construction of a second launch pad at Kourou to keep up with demand. The continuing practice of prioritising military payloads for Minerva launch slots meant that, despite increased efforts at marketing Minerva for commercial users, Theseus was providing a welcome boost to launch capacity for US satellite operators, eating into the American market share as well as servicing its native European market.

    This foreign encroachment on the American launch market began to reverse after 1982, when the new Liberty rocket came into operation. Although unable to meet Ford’s initial promise of halving launch costs, Liberty did come in around a third cheaper than Minerva, making it competitive with Theseus even without subsidies. Over the next three years Liberty became established as a significant player in commercial launch, winning back market share from ESLA. Ford’s emphasis on simple, modular rocket stages proved to be a winner not only in terms of streamlining production costs, but also in terms of reliability, as the common stages racked up flight-hours and the ground crews quickly gained experience without having to learn different procedures for each stage.

    As the number of successful launches mounted, Ford’s competitors began looking for ways of incorporating Liberty’s lessons into their own developments. This appraisal was not just limited to the Atlantic nations: the Japanese government had been considering developing their own launch capability for some time, but their industry was not yet confident of having the necessary experience. The solution, agreed with the US government at the time of Liberty’s introduction in 1982, was to license-build a version of the American rocket adapted to Japan’s needs. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries would be the Japanese industrial partner, manufacturing rocket cores to Ford’s specifications. The engines would initially be built by Aerojet and imported by the Japanese, with a native-build version of Liberty’s AJ-200 rocket engine coming on-line around 1988. The STAR-48 upper stages would be imported for Thiokol directly, with Mitsubishi looking to develop a clean sheet liquid upper stage for their launcher by the early 1990s.

    Despite these successes for Liberty, there remained voices arguing that it didn’t go far enough in reducing the cost of space launch. Some romantics pinned their hopes on the USAF Shuttlecraft to finally demonstrate the economic bounties of reusability, but there were others who revisited ideas previously dismissed by the government sector. Ideas which, if freed from the dead hand of government, may yet realise the full potential of affordable access to space and open the far frontier to humanity’s true pioneers; her entrepreneurs.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++​

    “Doctor Kayser?”

    Lutz Kayser, CEO and Chief Engineer of Orbital Transport and Rockets, looked up from his fight with the baggage trolley to see a tall, slim man walking towards him across the arrivals hall of Heathrow’s Terminal 3. The man wore an expensive-looking business suit and had a smooth, politician’s smile on his face.

    “Yes?”

    “I’m Martin Gilmore,” the man continued in a cultured British accent as Lutz took his hand. “We spoke on the phone yesterday. How was your flight?”

    “Quite pleasant, thank-you,” Lutz replied, his own German accent mellowed by his years in Washington.

    “Sorry we couldn’t fly you over on one of our own jets,” Gilmore went on as a second man in a chauffeur's uniform took Lutz’s suitcase and they headed for the exit. “So far we’re only running Heathrow to Idlewild. We’re planning a route into Miami for next year, but it could be a while before we get into Dulles. Still, I hear PanAm look after their SST passengers. Had you flown supersonic before?”

    “Once, on the DC to LA route,” Lutz replied as the chauffer held open the door to a black Mercedes. “There are times when the greater speed can be of real benefit.”

    “My boss would certainly agree with that sentiment!” Gilmore chuckled as he got into the seat next to Lutz. “He’s planning to have another run at the Blue Riband later in the year.”

    “He enjoys a challenge.” It was a statement from Lutz rather than a question.

    “You could say that, yes,” Gilmore replied with that stereotypical British understatement as the car pulled away into the London drizzle. “Of course, that’s one reason he’s so interested in your rocket system. Do you really think you can cut costs by a factor of ten?”

    “Certainly,” Lutz replied. “At OTR we have been refining our designs for almost fifteen years. Our consultancy work on Liberty gave us a great deal of insight into many of the practical issues, and since then we’ve built and tested a number of prototypes for our pressure-fed rocket engine. We’re also supplying satellite control thrusters to both Ford and Hughes. I am confident in the skills of my team.”

    “Forgive me Doctor Kayser, but I understand that OTR’s activities have always been as a subcontractor on a larger project primed by others, or small government R&D contracts. Are you sure you’d be able to manage something as detailed and complex as a full rocket development programme?”

    “Mr. Gilmore,” Lutz replied with exaggerated patience, “we have designed our rocket to be as simple and easy to construct as humanly possible. There are hardly any mechanisms that can go wrong, and our engineering margins are large enough that there is no need for the type of precision fabrication used on other rockets. In addition, it requires very little ground support infrastructure and the rocket modules are easy to transport. In principle, any country possessing even a basic automotive industry could build our design.”

    “Well, that’s reassuring, considering the state of the British Motor Company,” said Gilmore, wryly. “You know, usually we expect any new venture to show a return within one year of starting up. Assuming we signed on, how long would we be looking at before we could start suborbital flights?”

    “I cannot commit to one year,” Lutz stated. “Two years should be possible though, with an orbital capability coming a year after that.”

    “Two years,” Gilmore mused. “Nineteen Eighty-Seven. That should fit nicely.”

    Lutz was puzzled. “I’m sorry, Mr. Gilmore, but fit nicely with what?”

    Gilmore smiled. “Well, as you noted, my employer is a notorious thrill-seeker. He’s also very good at publicising his ventures, and in this case the two can be combined rather effectively. You see, after making his Atlantic crossing, for his next challenge he wants to take on an aviation record. He was planning a high-altitude balloon - we’ve got a special pressurised capsule for it already on order - but you, Doctor Kayser, may be able to give us something far more spectacular.”

    Lutz stared at Gilmore in astonishment. Surely he couldn’t mean…

    “How does that sound, Doctor? Your rocket making Richard Branson the world’s first private astronaut?”
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2017
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  15. Roger Redux The Revisionist

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2015
    Location:
    The Mother of all ASBs (a.k.a. "The Real World")
    Well, it's kinda sad that nobody has any manned spaceflight capabilities now; but as James Bond one said: "That's detente comrade; I don't have it, you don't have it."
    I like the Richard Branson tease though. ... ... Please don't kill him! :eek:
    As far as Frank Church being PotUS, honestly I can't comment, because I've never heard of him.

    And now the waiting game.... Any idea how long it'll be before Part V? I would presume not until after the holidays. (so maybe March-ish at the absolute earliest?)
     
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  16. dimovski Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2015
    Location:
    Zagreb, Croatia
    Nice update!

    Somewhat sad to see the USSR on the verge of collapse ITTL aswell :(

    However, what I'm really curious about... Why a black Mercedes? Did the XJ flop in this timeline? Did it retain that 40s-50s look of the 420G or what?
     
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  17. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2007
    Location:
    Liege Belgium Europe
    Richard Branson in SPACE ?!
    [​IMG]
     
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  18. Bahamut-255 Space Lover

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2010
    Richard Branson in Space? Now that is one MASSIVE PR Boost! Assuming it goes well of course. But the 90% Reduction in launch costs? That's certainly a major challenge, but if their design is as basic as they say it is, I suppose it can be done.

    But based on what you've written, it's pretty clear that the UK Car Industry is hurting in a big way right now, which, it did IOTL as well. No surprise there given everything that was acting to bring it down - I'm looking at you, SD1. :mad:
     
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  19. Archibald space jockey ! Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2008
    That Dynasoar night landing picture... just beautiful. Straight out of a sci-fi movie.
     
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  20. Petike Sky Pirate Extraordinaire

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2008
    Location:
    Clockpunk Zemplín Kingdom / Franz Josef's Land
    The ATL ASTP with a DynaSoar was pretty cool. :D
     
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