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. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

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    Unfinished? How so?

    The biggest gap I can detect is no mention of the Corona project--which OTL Ike had ready to roll, it being the endgame of his whole concept of the Space Race that mattered. As a top secret project he perhaps would take great pains to avoid mentioning it of course. Also OTL it was inglorious for quite a few launch attempts, a run of ten or so before everything finally went right.

    So aside from not mentioning that with ISK's overflight of Washington Corona as well as Redstone Arsenal gets the green light, things seem to move along much as OTL. Unless things go better than OTL with the spy sat program, he won't actually see satellite photography until his last months in office, but leaving his successor this capability will satisfy him a great deal. Therefore I figure some spysat program, in parallel with the two publicly acknowledged orbital program and several missile programs, has been secretly set up and is ready (so they naively hope:rolleyes:) to start launching on his say-so which is forthcoming as of now. That is, he has cleared two new orbital programs for launch, but one is top secret.

    I can also see that maybe the American reaction to ISK is not as complacent as I feared, though clearly less panicky than OTL--although not humiliated by the Russians actually getting there first, the fact that they can get there a close second is alarming enough and may still give VP Nixon some serious headaches on the 1960 campaign trail.
     
  2. Michel Van Well-Known Member

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    interesting Post Nixonhead

    That US Navy build new bigger rocket is unusual in look of what the US military Service is building and have in research and development (R&D)

    USAF: ICBM SM-65 Atlas, it backup SM-68 Titan-I and in same time, R&D goes on LGM-30 Minuteman (Solid) and it's backup LGM-25C Titan II.
    ARMY: MRBM SSM-A14 Redstone and SM-78 Jupiter, R&D on MGM-31 Pershing I (Solid).
    Navy: SLBM R&D on UGM-27 Polaris (Solid).

    with rivalry between the Service, none will help each other for moment.
    The USAF team of Atlas even refused to launch any Satellite, until order from White House!
    So that's the reason for new US Navy rocket "Explorer"

    i guess it's enlarge version of Vanguard rocket with 5 x XLR50-GE-2 engine in first and one XLR50-GE-2 in second stage.
    but like i say just a guess.
     
  3. Shadow Knight Grand Master of the BAM Order

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    Stupid autocorrect. :|

    It must have corrected right before I hit submit. It was supposed to be 'nixonshead'. :sigh:
     
  4. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

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    No comment by anyone on the SIZE of the Russian satellite?

    The US just orbited a 1.5kg satellite and a 10kg satellite (assuming that Vanguard 1 and 2 are similar to OTL's), and the Russians just launched a 1.3 TONNE satellite? And the Russians aren't gloating wildly and publicly about this? The US military isn't panicking about this?

    Hunh?
     
  5. e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

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    The US isn't particularly panicked because they have Atlas coming, which can orbit a similarly sized satellite, plus other launchers planned that can loft more. The size differential is noted, I'm sure, but there's no special slot in the record books for "first satellite larger than 1 ton" the way there is for "first satellite, period" so the public in general isn't as shocked as IOTl with Sputnik. There's probably still some shock, but not as much as IOTL.
     
  6. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

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    Hunh! I didn't realize the Atlas was ready that early. But, yes, you are of course right.
     
  7. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

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    I've been trying to track down just how much preparation the US systems have at this point, in particular how far off base I might be in claiming Eisenhower had this agenda regarding Corona I've been saying he had.

    At first glance it doesn't look good for that last claim; under the name "Corona" the project was paper and not given serious operational funds until well into 1959.

    However--just about every program had an antecedent. Atlas actually was unusual in being developed under that name from the inception to operational status--and the inception was 1951!

    Corona satellites, as they were finally deployed, were themselves quite large, launched on Thor-Agena rockets; the second attempt (which successfully achieved orbit but failed in other aspects) under the cover name Discoverer II, was the first satellite sent into polar orbit--not only were the Coronas massive, their purpose entailed their being sent into difficult-to-reach high inclination orbits.

    So I'd agree with e of pi here, Dathi--those Americans sophisticated enough to pay attention to the sizes and orbital characteristics of the Soviet launch would also know that American capabilities in the same range and surpassing them were right on the horizon.
     
  8. marathag Well-Known Member with a target on his back

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    I would agree.

    The Navy just launched a Softball and a Soccer ball, and the USSR lofted something nearly as heavy as a Nash Metropolitan[​IMG]

    Bigger Redstone won't cut it, putting a Beachball sized object in orbit

    And possibly Atlas might not be enough. Its first Sat loft was the now near forgotten SCORE, a communication satellite, 150 pounds in OTL

    I would see a clamoring for 'Big Atlas' with four boosters to put a 'real' payload in space that matches the Soviets.
    [​IMG]
     
  9. brovane Well-Known Member

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    Right around August 1958 ITL the Saturn 1 program was started with a booster capable of 1.5 Million Lbs of thrust. The Titan series of launch vehicle's was already under development and had a larger payload than Atlas. However neither ICBM can match the Saturn 1 capability of 9,000kg to Earth Orbit.
     
  10. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

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    Americans don't actually need an Atlas to put up something bigger than 150 kg. A Thor-Agena can do it. Well, one time in ten anyway.:rolleyes::eek:

    They got better. The Thor is essentially the ancestor of Delta; "Discoverer II" massed over 600 kg--no Nash car but no soccer ball either. The spy sats got bigger too, within a couple years.

    This is where the effort was going, but on the QT.
     
  11. Astronomo2010 Well-Known Member

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    very good new chapter ,now the US must put in orbit something to crossover the Soviet Territory . Cant hardly wait for the next chapters .
     
  12. nixonshead Well-Known Member

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    First up, an apology! Somehow, despite having written this Post almost 2 months ago and having reviewed, updated, and re-written it since, I missed that “Zemli” begins with a Z, not a V! The world’s third artificial satellite should of course be called “ISZ-1” Colour me embarrassed!

    Thank-you Shadow Knight! Given I hit a bit of a block writing Part II last week (don’t worry, clearing now), it seems an appropriate Freudian slip that my autocorrect username is “unfinished” :p

    You’re right, I haven’t mentioned Corona… yet ;) For now, Jupiter-C lets Ike cement the principal of US overflight that little bit sooner, plus having the advantage of using a satellite that the government will be willing to publically admit exists. In the meantime U-2s are busy flying over- I mean, “experiencing navigational problems close to” - Soviet territory ;)

    Well the Air Force has already been told to go ahead with an orbital Atlas, and that gets a little extra push given the size of ISZ-1. The CIA for one are eagerly awaiting a larger rocket. The Navy of course don’t want to be left out of the game, especially if the Army are being given a second chance!

    What he said ;) The size is noted in the press and is certainly going to be shouted about by Khrushchev in his usual understated style, but the 1950s equivalent of DoD and White House spin-doctors are ready to counter by pointing out America was first, America has operational ICBMs (kind of), size isn’t everything - and even if it is, we’ll have one just as big in the next year. For most of the general public though, a satellite is a satellite, and the USA was first!

    Something to note, Thor-Abel (the first space launch version of the Thor IRBM) was developed as an emergency response to Sputnik IOTL. ITTL ISZ-1 comes later, with the already-planned Atlas launcher that much further along in development, so the Air Force decide not to divert resources to a crash programme Thor launcher. So no Delta family of launchers ITTL! Agena, on the other hand, is in development in support of the spysat programme.

    Aside from the initial mild panic, the considered response of the DoD ITTL is that Atlas will be big enough for their near-term needs, with Titan to follow - and they’ve not yet got a clear idea of just what the R-6’s maximum payload is :eek:

    ITTL, there is no Saturn programme, but much of the basic research and a lot of the thinking behind it is still going on within von Braun’s ABMA team. You can be sure Wernher is already thinking about how to spend the political capital he hopes to gain from a successful Jupiter-C launch...

    Yep, turnabout is fair play ;)
     
  13. brovane Well-Known Member

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    Does the US DOD still put out a requirement in 1957 for a launch vehicle capable of putting 9,000-18,000 Kg into Earth Orbit?
     
  14. nixonshead Well-Known Member

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    We'll be taking a look at US plans in a couple of weeks, so I don't want to say too much now. Suffice to say whilst that specific requirement might not exist ITTL, the DoD will be looking for something bigger than Atlas.
     
  15. brovane Well-Known Member

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    I would assume something bigger than the Atlas would be the Titan which was following the Atlas program as a bigger ICBM and in-case Atlas development faultered. Or does the Titan program not exist ITTL?
     
  16. nixonshead Well-Known Member

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    From Post#3:

    ;)
     
  17. Threadmarks: Part I Post #6: The Soviet Conquest of Space

    nixonshead Well-Known Member

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    Another Sunday, another Post! Last week saw Chelomei succeed in getting the R-6 to launch the USSR's first satellite. This week we take a look at what other plans he has for cosmic exploration...

    [​IMG]

    Part I Post #6: The Soviet Conquest of Space

    Whilst the general international reaction to ISZ-1 had not been as admiring and awe-struck as some had hoped (“The Russians launched a satellite? Didn’t the Americans already do that last year?”), the Soviet satellite did impress in certain scientific and technical quarters. Firstly its shear size was noteworthy. At 1.3 tonnes ISZ-1 was 130 times heavier than the Vanguard series of satellites, indicating a powerful rocket that could not be matched in the West, at least until the Atlas missile began launching spacecraft. This large mass meant more room for scientific instruments. Whereas Vanguard 2 had carried just its radio beacon and cloud cover experiment, ISZ-1 had a suite of twelve instruments for investigations into the composition of the upper atmosphere, charged particles, cosmic rays, electromagnetic fields and micrometorite detectors. Despite having launched after the end of the International Geophysical Year, the Academy of Sciences of the USSR announced that they would follow the principles of the IGY and make their discoveries freely available to the scientists of the world.

    Certainly the most famous result obtained from ISZ-1’s mission was the discovery of what would come to be known as the Vernov Radiation Belts. As soon as the first data started to come in to Podlipki, the results showed that ISZ-1’s detectors were picking up huge amounts of radiation, almost to the point of saturating the instruments. At first there were theories that the radiation could be the result of a recent American nuclear weapons test, but as more data came in from successive orbits, dutifully recorded and relayed by the spacecraft’s Tral-D tape recorder, Soviet physicists were able to build up a map of the radiation and rule out an artificial source for the particles. At a conference held in New York City in March 1959, Academician Sergei Vernov presented a paper on their initial findings, demonstrating that the Earth was surrounded by a concentrated belt of radiation trapped by the planet’s magnetic field. Later observations by other spacecraft, both Soviet and American, would confirm Vernov’s findings, marking an important step in the understanding of the near-Earth environment.

    With the success of ISZ-1, Mikhail Tikhonravov’s spacecraft team at OKB-385 were keen to quickly follow up the mission with a second launch. As well as the back-up satellite for ISZ-1, they were working on a concept for a biological mission that would put mice and insects, or maybe even a dog into space to test their reactions. Unfortunately for Tikhonravov, it would be some time before he saw another of his satellites in orbit.

    Following the American announcement that the Atlas ICBM was now operational, as well as news of a successful first test flight of the even larger Titan ICBM in February, the rocket team OKB-1 were instructed to complete the state trials for the R-6 as quickly as possible. It was at this point however that Chelomei’s early run of luck ran out, and the next two Shesterka launches in February 1959, using a new re-entry vehicle design, both ended in the failure of the carrier rocket. Knowing that a successful deployment of the R-6 would strengthen his hand in making proposals for his future plans, and also aware of the continuing progress being made by Yangel’s OKB-586 on a competing ICBM design, Chelomei drove his team hard. Between March and June he was able to demonstrate a record of seven successful launches from ten attempts. One of the failures had been the attempted launch of the ISZ-1 back-up at the end of March, so Chelomei discounted this and reported his success rate for attempted missile launches as seven out of nine, all using the new, more robust warhead design. This record was deemed acceptable by Nedelin and Ustinov, and so at the beginning of July the R-6 started its formal service with the Soviet armed forces. Whilst one operational R-6 pad was maintained at Tyuratum, the main base for the rocket forces was to be at Plesetsk in northern Russia, closer to its US targets, and it was here that the bulk of operational Shesterka’s were deployed starting in November 1959.

    Having achieved success in nursing the R-6 through its problems, Chelomei’s stock was high with the military and political leadership, and he felt the time was ripe to present his plan for the future of Soviet space power. After first approaching Minister of Defence Rodion Malinovsky, Chelomei was invited to present his plans to a meeting of high-level government and military officials, including Khrushchev, in June 1959. Over the course of several hours Chelomei laid out his roadmap for the Soviet conquest of space.

    Chelomei’s plan had two main thrusts, the “Universal Rocket” system of missiles and launcher, and the “Raketoplan” spacecraft platform. The Universal Rockets would consist of a scalable set of rocket vehicles based upon clustered common cores. This would allow them to meet all military requirements for nuclear warhead delivery and space launch, from the current 5 tonne payload of the R-6 all the way up to 100 or even 200 tonne monster rockets for the exploration of interplanetary space.

    The payloads for these Universal Rockets would be Raketoplans. These would typically consist of a service module, providing propulsion, power, communications and other basic functions, and a mission-specific payload module. This could consist of optical telescopes and film re-entry vehicles for reconnaissance missions; communications systems to allow instant radio contact anywhere in the USSR; nuclear bombs that could be dropped on enemies at a moment’s notice; or even manned spaceplanes, that could overfly enemy positions anywhere in the world before returning to land at airfields on Soviet territory. By using standardised re-entry envelopes based upon the technology Chelomei had developed for encapsulating naval cruise missiles, a variety of different Raketoplan vehicles could be returned to Earth without needing dedicated heat shields. With the largest of the Universal Rockets, appropriately modified Raketoplans would enable a Soviet landing on the Moon, with even larger Raketoplans (called “Kosmoplans” by Chelomei) using nuclear reactors and electric thrusters to perform manned missions to Mars or Venus.

    Khrushchev was impressed by Chelomei’s vision, but like many at the meeting he was not entirely convinced that such dreams were achievable. The Soviet leader believed that rocketry was the future (and cheaper) means of ensuring the defence of the Rodina, and Chelomei’s talk of larger missiles and performing reconnaissance and bombing missions from orbit certainly chimed with Khrushchev’s vision of a slimmer, high-tech military force. But people on the Moon and giant spaceships to Mars? That sounded very expensive, especially considering the relatively marginal prestige generated by the USSR’s space achievements to date. Khrushchev would need much more convincing of the value of space spectaculars before he could think about backing anything like that.

    One of those definitely not impressed with Chelomei’s approach was Dmitriy Ustinov. The Minister of Defence Industry was irritated that Chelomei had gone through the Ministry of Defence rather than his own ministry, which still had official jurisdiction over rocketry. Of particular annoyance was the way Chelomei had made use of his contacts at the Aviation Ministry and with Khruschev personally to short-cut proper channels. Any proposals for long range plans should have come to Ustinov via Nedelin, not through afternoon drinks with ministers. Despite Ustinov’s obvious anger, Khrushchev instructed the Minister to look into Chelomei’s proposals and have him present a draft decree for consideration by the Council in August. His hand forced, Ustinov agreed to consult with Chelomei on his plan. In fact, he promised, he’d make sure the proposal got the best possible technical assessment by asking for comments from Chelomei’s comrade Chief Designers at the Rocket Propulsion Coordination Committee (KKRD).

    Putting the proposal before the KKRD was a smart political move by Ustinov. Though many of the Chief Designers, notably Glushko and Yangel, had supported Chelomei over Sinilshchikov as the man to get the R-6 delivered, they had not been entirely happy with the way he appeared to be using his political contacts to hoover up projects and resources. Upon seeing the plan he’d put before Khrushchev, it was clear that aside from Glushko’s engines, Chelomei was planning to grab all large missile and space projects for himself. Yangel saw that his OKB-586 was intended to become nothing but a production sweat-shop for Chelomei’s UR designs, whilst Mishin was angered that, despite OKB-385’s success with ISZ-1 and the ongoing Sammit project, they were to be completely cut out of Chelomei’s Raketoplan developments. “Perhaps Vladimir Nikolayevich would like to have the Bolshoi Theatre assigned to OKB-1 as well?” Mishin is reported to have asked in sarcasm.

    Following a stormy first meeting, Chelomei was forced to redraft his plans to include the other Chief Designers, and so the next month was spent haggling between the design bureaux. Mishin in particular made himself a thorn in Chelomei’s side, making sure to extract as many concessions as possible from the OKB-1 Chief Designer. He especially continued to push his preferred propellant combination of kerosene and liquid oxygen as the best solution for the large carrier rockets envisaged for Chelomei’s interplanetary and lunar ambitions. On this point Glushko fought back strongly, flatly stating that his OKB-456 would have nothing to do with the development of cryogenic engines. Without the support of Glushko’s experts, it was highly unlikely that suitable engines could be developed for such large rockets in a reasonable timeframe, effectively scuppering Mishin’s proposals. As before, it was left to Yangel to suggest a compromise between the two positions, proposing that Mishin be authorised to develop a smaller kerolox launcher within his OKB-385 in order to gain experience in the technology, whilst Glushko started work on his large storable propellant engines. Yangel himself would coordinate a study of the potential of nuclear rocketry, so that a fully-informed technical decision could be taken on the propulsion systems for the larger rockets at a later date.

    With the major point of contention dealt with and the allocation of projects agreed, by September the KKRD finally completed a text for the draft decree to put before the Council of Ministers. The draft decree divided the areas of work as follows:

    OKB-1 (Chelomei):

    • Upgrade the R-6 rocket in collaboration with OKB-385 for use in deep space probes and manned launches, to be ready by 1962.
    • Development of an initial 1-man capsule for launch on an R-6 to confirm the ability to support a human being in space for periods of up to 5 days, to be ready by 1962.
    • Development of the UR-500 heavy ICBM/launcher with a payload of up to 30 tonnes to LEO by 1965.
    • Presentation of a draft project for UR-600 technology development in 1961. The rocket to have a LEO payload of up to 100 tonnes to be developed by 1970.
    • Presentation of a draft project for UR-800 technology development in 1962. This would focus on capabilities and potential mission architectures for a potential 150-200 tonne launcher to be developed after 1970.
    • Development of unmanned and manned Raketoplans by 1965, with initial test launches starting in 1961. The unmanned versions would include a co-orbital anti-satellite weapon, electronic intelligence and navy reconnaissance capabilities. The manned version would carry a crew of at least two and be capable of rendezvous missions in Earth orbit for military inspections and reconnaissance, as well as having a large cross-range capability. Later manned versions to be capable of supporting lunar flyby and, eventually, lunar landing missions.

    OKB-385 (Mishin):

    • Deployment of Sammit photoreconnaissance satellites by 1961.
    • Development of an upper stage for the R-6 in support of interplanetary probes by 1962.
    • Development of a launch vehicle for small satellites (5 tonnes to LEO) using Mishin's preferred kerosene/oxygen propellants, to be ready by 1963.
    • Development of a series of early lunar and planetary probes to be launched in the period 1960-1965. Unmanned Raketoplans would take over these missions from 1965 onwards.
    • Development of scientific Earth orbit satellites, including weather satellites, over the period 1960-1965.
    • Development of an experimental communications satellite for launch in 1963.

    OKB-586 (Yangel):

    • Development of a missile meeting the UR-200 requirement (10 tonnes to LEO, heavy ICBM) for deployment from 1963 onwards.
    • Development of a Fractional Orbital Bombardment Satellite (FOBS) system for the delivery of nuclear warheads from orbit, to be ready by 1965.
    • Early development work to investigate nuclear-thermal propulsion for potential use in the UR-600 and UR-800 and nuclear electric propulsion for Kosmoplans to be developed post-1970.

    OKB-456 (Glushko)

    • Development of high thrust, storable propellant engines in support of the UR-200 and UR-500 launchers.
    • Early development work on high thrust, high energy chemical engines for the future UR-600 and UR-800, and for potential use in high energy upper stages from 1965 onwards.

    This plan was presented to the Politburo before presentation to the Council of Ministers in September 1959. The final decree deferred all UR-800 related efforts except for nuclear engine studies, but authorised the rest of the KKRD programme, as well as a new point to be achieved in the short term, added at Khrushchev’s personal urging. With this decree in place, the USSR had a roadmap to the stars.
     
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  18. fasquardon Cosmonaut

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    Innnnteresting.

    It strikes me that Mishnin's slice of the cake has alot of development potential.

    I am also looking forward to seeing what happens with the Raketoplan getting more development resources.

    fasquardon
     
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  19. Bahamut-255 Space Lover

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    Jul 28, 2010
    So Chelomei's work ethic is already biting him back, and he's effectively been forced to include the other Designers to get what he wants.

    And I note the studies on the UR-Series 'SuperBooster', which given the already major changes from OTL, could mean anything here.

    And I see the Van Allen Radiation Belts are not named after James Van Allen here. :cool:
     
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  20. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

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    But they still start with a "V"!

    Except in Cyrillic it looks like another Latin letter.

    "Vernov..." is that a real Russian name, nixonshead?

    Another possibility to it being traditional Russian is that in the 1920s someone took the opportunity of the revolutionary situation to name their child (or rename themselves) after Jules Verne, futurism being part of the Leninist package. Then later, someone else is "son of Verne."

    If your scientist had been named "Maratov" or something like that that's exactly what I'd have assumed happened.
     
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