Kolyma's Shadow: An Alternate Space Race

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

  1. e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

    Nov 27, 2008
    Halfway to Anywhere
    It's not only a real name, it's a real guy! Soviet cosmic ray guy, working on studying them with space-based systems. Seems like a good choice for a name if the Soviets get around to seeing them first.
  2. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

    Apr 13, 2007
    Syracuse, Haudenosaunee, Vinland
    'Plan' in Russian is 'plane' in English, no? Ie something with wings?

    Putting wings on spacecraft reduces available payload significantly (immensely, even), and would prevent a one man craft launched on an R6. Otoh, you DO talk about manned spaceplanes, and a common hearshield, so maybe they ARE all spaceplanes.

    Ot3h, carrying wings all the wsy to lunar orbit would massively impact any payload on said craft, and you talk about lunar probes using the same family of 'rocketplanes'.

    So Im really confused.
  3. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    I agree ;) Chelomei’s plan is to keep Mishin busy with what he sees as peripheral developments, keeping Mishin from making trouble with Chelomei’s core objectives of the larger UR rockets and Raketoplan.

    Yep. In some ways Chelomei was a master political player, getting close to Khrushchev to ensure support for his projects, but in other ways he seems quite naive. As long as he has the support of the man at the top, he thinks he can ignore everyone else - and there are quite a few big-shots in the Soviet leadership who hate to be ignored!

    Chelomei has half an eye on a Moon landing and eventual Mars missions, so to paraphrase Chief Broady “We’re gonna need a bigger rocket”. The idea of modular Universal Rocket system is similar to his OTL plan in concept, but will vary in the details.

    Incidentally, this seems like a good point to note one of my little conventions for naming things ITTL. In general, if an item or project is fundamentally identical to its OTL equivalent, I use the same name as OTL to avoid needless confusion (e.g. UR-500 is at this point basically the same design ITTL and IOTL). If you see me using a name that isn’t from OTL, that means there are significant differences (e.g. R-6 ITTL vs. R-7 IOTL).

    Indeed, Vernov is a real person (as is everyone mentioned in the TL up to this point), a lead scientist on the “Object D” ISZ, which was launched IOTL as Sputnik 3. ISZ was planned to be the first Soviet satellite, but it wasn’t ready by the time R-7 became available, so Korolev ordered Sputnik 1 as a simple payload to ensure the USSR was first. ITTL though, delays to the R-6 mean that the ISZ is ready to go before the launcher, and so is the first Soviet satellite.

    IOTL of course Explorer went up first, with Van Allen getting the honour of naming the belts. Sputnik 3 did detect the belts, but IOTL the Tral-D tape recorder failed, meaning results could only be obtained when the satellite was directly over the ground stations. ITTL the extra time before launch means the Tral D fault is discovered and fixed, so Vernov’s team get complete records over the entire orbit before the US launch any radiation detectors.

    And congratulations to Shevek23 for getting the 100th comment on this thread :)

    I fully understand your confusion! Raketoplan and Kosmoplan were real projects that Chelomei pushed IOTL, and “Plan” does indeed mean “Plane” in Russian - so they translate as “Rocketplane” and “Spaceplane”. Raketoplan in particular does include a proposal for a winged spaceplane, but it’s more complicated than that as the project includes not just the aircraft, but an entire system of in-space propulsion modules, a manoeuvring re-entry aeroshell and various specialist payload modules, all of which are designed to be interchangeable depending on the mission.

    The lunar version of Raketoplan would have lost the wings and used a conical re-entry capsule for just the reasons you state - the wings are a massive weight penalty for a lunar craft and would anyway be useless at lunar return speeds. IOTL this capsule evolved into the VA reentry vehicle of Chelmoei’s TKS spacecraft. The other major OTL outcome of Raketoplan was the IS co-orbital ASAT, which in turn is rumoured to be the grandfather of the modern-day Fregat upper stage.
  4. Threadmarks: Part I Post #7: America’s Road to the Stars

    nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    So, we've seen what the Soviets are planning. Let's take a look at how the Americans are getting on.


    Part I Post #7: America’s Road to the Stars

    True to Major General Medaris’ word, April 1959 saw the Army Ballistic Missile Agency’s Jupiter-C rocket ready for launch at Cape Canaveral. Re-named “Juno” to distinguish it from those military versions of the same missile, the completed rocket stood just over 21 metres from tip to tail, its Sergeant-based solid rocket 3rd stage and Explorer 1 payload balanced on its nosecone as a trained seal might balance a ball. Neither the rocket nor the payload seemed any the worse the wear for having been held in warehouses for two years: von Braun’s “long term storage test” had apparently been passed with flying colours.

    Winds at the Cape averaged a frisky 33 km/h on the preferred launch date of Tuesday 14th, with sustained peaks of 44 km/h, so it was decided to postpone the launch by a day to see if conditions approved. As the 15th dawned, the winds did indeed die down, averaging just 18 km/h by midday, and so the decision was taken to go for launch.

    At 13:15 local time, loading of the Redstone 1st stage’s Hydyne fuel was started. More toxic than the earlier alcohol-based fuels (but less so than UDMH), this blend offered significant thrust and specific impulse gains over previous fuels. As loading of the Hydyne was complete, the oxidiser tanks began to fill with liquid oxygen, so that by 13:45 the Juno stood fully loaded, its solid rocket 2nd, 3rd and 4th stages needing no further attention. Apart from a brief hold to confirm some spotty telemetry from a launchpad pressure sensor, the countdown proceeded smoothly all the way to zero, with the Juno rocket lifting off at 14:37 local time.

    As advertised, von Braun’s rocket worked perfectly, inserting the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Explorer 1 satellite into a 350 x 1 600 km orbit at an inclination of 52 degrees. The satellite passed over the USSR before even completing its first orbit, firmly establishing America’s right to orbit above Soviet skies just as Russian satellites could pass over the USA. In addition to this political purpose, Explorer 1 added further data to the sum of human knowledge on the Vernov Belts, confirming the existence of a particular concentration of radiation above the South Atlantic that would become known as the Van Allen Anomaly.

    Despite the complete success of the Explorer 1 satellite and its Juno launcher, the mission was to be the last hurrah of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency’s work on space vehicles. Their political objectives met, Eisenhower and McElroy re-imposed the moratorium on Army missiles of over 1 500 km range. Space exploration was to remain the preserve of the “Civilian” Naval Research Lab, with military space efforts assigned to the Air Force. The deflated ABMA team were sent back to work on the Jupiter IRBM and its successors, forced to watch from the sidelines whilst others continued the conquest of space.

    For von Braun this was the last in a long line of frustrations. The same political and military bureaucracy that had thwarted him for the past decade was snatching away his prize at the very moment of victory. Dejected, von Braun left the ABMA in November 1959 to take up a role in industry, from which he hoped to one day further his dreams of manned spaceflight.

    Wernher von Braun was not the only person in the United States who dreamed of putting a man into space. The Air Force had been looking into crewed spaceflight as far back as May 1955, when they released their General Operational Requirement 12 for a piloted, high-altitude, reconnaissance weapon system available by 1959. Less than a year later they requested industry to submit proposals for a two year study of manned ballistic missile systems that would take advantage of the Atlas and Titan ICBMs then in development. In parallel, following the success of the X-15 high-altitude research jet, the Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) in October 1956 requested that the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) look into potential follow-on vehicles that could push man higher and faster than ever before - perhaps even the fabled “Boost-glide” transcontinental vehicle that had been an aviation dream since it was first conceptualised as German scientist Eugen Sänger’s “Silbervogel” (“Silver Bird”) during the Second World War.

    The NACA was at that time a relatively obscure government agency based out of Langley, Virginia. Created in 1915 to act as a government sponsor and coordinator for aeronautics research, the group had gone on to develop much of the theoretical knowledge on transonic and supersonic flight. Previous collaborations with the Air Force had resulted not only in the X-15, but also the legendary Bell X-1, the world’s first supersonic aircraft. Many at the NACA were therefore pleased to be able to continue this successful working relationship, establishing in early 1957 a dedicated "Round Three" Steering Committee (Rounds One and Two being the X-1 and X-15 programmes) to study feasibility of a hypersonic boost-glide research airplane.

    Not everyone at the NACA embraced the boost-glide airplane idea as the best way to put a man into space. A small but vocal group around Maxime A. “Max” Faget instead took their inspiration from the work done on warhead re-entry vehicles to propose a high-drag ballistic capsule, which would bring its pilot in to a landing under parachutes. This group argued that eliminating the wings of an aircraft-like concept would reduce the overall mass of the system and simplify the thermal control and stability problems of re-entry. This in turn would make it easier and cheaper to develop, ensuring that the first man in space would be an American.

    Despite these technical and programmatic advantages, and the fact that a hard-core group at the USAF were pushing for a capsule under the “Man In Space Soonest” banner, most others at the Air Force remained unconvinced. A ballistic capsule would have to rely completely on its booster to project it across its entire range. It would not be able to skip off the atmosphere to gain extra range, as in the boost-glide concept. A capsule would also have only a very limited ability to steer in the atmosphere, severely reducing its cross-range capability upon re-entry, and so limiting its flexibility. Finally, and more emotionally - a capsule just didn’t look “Air Force”. Air Force pilots were aviators, not mere payload. They flew planes. You couldn’t expect the likes of Chuck Yeager to just sit passively in a box while you lobbed him over the Atlantic.

    In November 1957 a joint NACA-USAF conference was held at Wright Patterson Air Force Base to review the various proposals submitted by contractors of the 1956 study award as well as Langley’s in-house studies. This meeting resulted in a combination of all of the boost-glide studies into a single programme to develop an initial one-man spaceplane with intercontinental range (not orbital, at least at first). This plan was approved in January 1958, and in June of that year a formal agreement was signed between the NACA and USAF to jointly develop the boost-glide spaceplane, now christened “Dyna-Soar”.

    The ballistics group at Langley were not happy at the sidelining of their cheaper, faster and (in their view) better approach to manned spaceflight, and continued to work on the concepts independently of the Dyna-Soar programme. They had managed to get a small amount of Air Force funding via the ARDC to study ballistic capsule designs as a potential option for gaining early experience on the effects of spaceflight on animals and perhaps men. The idea was that this knowledge could then be fed back into the Dyna-Soar project, but from the start Faget made sure that every concept and design the team put forward would be easily upgradeable to a full, manned orbital system. His plan was that, when Dyna-Soar inevitably became bogged down in the technical problems of its approach, he would be able to step in with a mature alternative design that could be ready within a year of the go-ahead.

    As things transpired, Faget didn’t even have to wait that long. Although the launch of ISZ-1 by the USSR in January 1959 had failed to generate the same level of buzz as Vanguard’s first success, the much greater mass of the Soviet satellite had highlighted a worrying possibility. The 1.3 tonnes of ISZ-1 was about the same as the minimum mass Faget’s team was proposing for a manned capsule. The implication was that, should they choose to, the Soviets could very quickly leap-frog the Americans by launching the first man into space. Around the same time that Secretary of Defense McElroy was calling Huntsville, the ARDC were on the phone to Langley, asking NACA Director Hugh Dryden how long he would need to put a man into space on one of Faget’s capsules. Dryden’s reply, after consulting with Faget, was that a concerted priority project could put an American in space in the next three years. The ARDC formally kicked off a joint project with the NACA in June, but with the Air Force brass focussed on Dyna-Soar, Faget’s team found themselves very much the unwanted step-child. It also didn’t help that, although McElroy was supportive, President Eisenhower was reluctant to feed what he would later call the “Military-Industrial Complex” with a second manned spacecraft project, and the next year’s budget allocation was correspondingly limited.

    With Juno having countered ISZ-1’s overflight capability, and with Dyna-Soar and the newly-named Mercury projects ongoing in a bid to ensure America was first in manned spaceflight, it was left to the Air Force’s Atlas team to demonstrate that the US could match the R-6’s payload capability. Fortunately for them, the USAF had for a number of years been developing the Agena upper stage in support of the top secret WS-117L spy satellite project. Consideration had been given to first try out the Agena-A stage atop a Thor first stage, but in early 1959 it was decided to jump straight to the more capable Atlas-Agena combination.

    The satellite to be launched by Atlas-Agena was officially declared to be a “Space technology test satellite”, and was given the mission name “Discoverer”. Off the record, its primary mission was to test the new spy satellite in operation. The 800 kg primary payload consisted of a sophisticated optical system, guidance and orientation capabilities to point the satellite at its chosen targets, and a re-entry capsule to return the exposed film to Earth. In addition to this, a number of other instruments were added, bringing the entire mass up to just over 1200 kg. This was done both to provide a veneer of scientific data as part of the cover story and to increase the spacecraft’s mass and so demonstrate that US launchers could match (or almost match) those of the USSR.

    The first launch of Atlas-Agena took place from Vandenberg Air Force Base in July 1959. The location was chosen because, unlike the Cape, Vandenberg provided clear launch trajectories for the satellite’s intended polar orbit. However, like so many maiden rocket flights, this first launch attempt ended in failure when the Agena refused to separate from the Atlas first stage. However, the second attempt in September succeeded in placing Discoverer 1 in a polar orbit with an altitude varying between 180 and 990 km. This success was tempered when contact was lost with the spacecraft two days after launch, before the re-entry capsule could be tested. The cause of the failure was never definitively tracked down, but a likely aggravating factor was the added complexity of the “Science” payload interfering with the “Military” payload’s systems. For the next test scheduled for November, all scientific instruments would be removed and the focus would be purely on demonstrating the military mission, in particular the re-entry capability. This test ended in failure when the Agena stage failed to light after separation, but the next test flight in late November succeeded, with the re-entry capsule coming down in the forests of British Columbia.

    As this was going on, the Dyna-Soar project was progressing well, with contracts awarded to Boeing and Martin in August 1959. The requirements for the contract awards confirmed the earlier intention that a two-man, fully orbital version of the spaceplane was to be provided, following early glide and suborbital skip-glide tests. The booster to be used to launch Dyna-Soar was the subject of continued debate, however, with a derivative of the Titan ICBM or a dedicated, all-new heavy lift launcher both considered front runners.

    In comparison, work on Mercury was slow, limited mainly to wind tunnel testing of various capsule shapes at Langley. As 1960 dawned, Faget was pushing the Air Force to provide him with an Atlas missile for testing of a full-sized aerodynamic mock-up in the second half of the year, but was meeting with considerable resistance. However, a possible alternative presented itself in February 1960 when the Chrysler corporation proposed to provide a small number of Redstone missiles at a reduced price. This deal was pushed and facilitated by Chrysler’s new Chief Engineer, one Wernher von Braun, who used his contacts in the ABMA to arrange for Army part financing in return for a joint test programme. As a joint project, this would allow the Army to keep a foot in the door of long-range missile technology whilst circumventing the Presidential directive that the Air Force and Navy should lead space projects.

    That such political manoeuvring was necessary gives an indication of just how low a priority Mercury was within the government in general and the Defense Department in particular. However, this would change very quickly following events in late April 1960.

    On Thursday 23rd April, an R-6 rocket once again lifted off from Tyuratam carrying a 1.5 tonne satellite into orbit. More sensational than its weight was its cargo: ISZ-4 carried a female mongrel dog, named Vega. Vega circled the Earth three times, her barks picked up by amateur and official listening stations around the world before the vehicle’s retro rockets fired, pushing the capsule back into the atmosphere to a landing in central Siberia. The following Friday, 1st May, a beaming Nikita Khrushchev was shown petting the world’s first space traveler during the May Day celebrations in Moscow. After starting out behind, it looked as if the USSR had taken the lead in space.
    machinekng and Dlg123 like this.
  5. Bahamut-255 Space Lover

    Jul 28, 2010
    Ah yes, I've heard that IOTL, "What Max Faget wants, Max Faget gets." I wonder how this will hold up ITTL, given Vega's flight into space - assuming the dog Krushchev petted and the one they sent up were the same.

    But poor Von Braun, with the constant shunting out, even he had to bail over to the Private Sector, though it seems he's found methods of keeping his foot in for years down the line.

    And Dynasoar, great to look at, more modern-looking than a capsule, but obviously a much more complex build with its greater requirements in terms of mass and cross-range capability. I wonder how the problems that will inevitably crop up will be tackled.
    Dlg123 likes this.
  6. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe
    Oh what post:
    Von Braun as Manager in the Chrysler Corporation.
    and USAF got Dyna Soar while Mercury is a unloved NACA project.

    Ihere is one thing that intrigue me:
    now the Juno is in OTL a advance Redstone using RP-1 fuel and LOX oxidizer
  7. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe
  8. Kaisermuffin Out of Work Rain God

    May 28, 2014
    Can anyone make one of those? (sorry to OT)
  9. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe
    yes, if your are a forum member and know to write in Wikipedia code, no problem.
  10. Unknown Member

    Jan 31, 2004
    Corpus Christi, TX
    The dog survived? How? (IOTL, IIRC, the dogs used in the Soviet Union space travel program died.)
  11. NathanKell Well-Known Member

    Jul 22, 2009
    Mary Sherman Morgan wanted to call the fuel Bagel, so Juno would run on "Bagel with LOX."
    For the Redstone used in Mercury, they reverted to the safer, non-toxic alcohol....

    nixonshead: interesting! USAF gonna USAF in any timeline... :]
  12. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe
    yes in OTL Laika (Kudryavka) died of from overheating because the Life support not work properly,
    Original they planned to euthanize Laika with poisoned food, and let here remains burn up as Sputnik 2 reenter earth atmosphere.

    Seems here the designers of ISZ-4 build a prototype of space capsule either Manned program or for spy satellite project or both..
  13. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    Yep, Faget’s legacy is a long one IOTL - all the way up to the shape of the modern Orion. ITTL… we’ll just have to wait and see ;)

    Without giving too much away, I can safely promise we’ve not heard the last of von Braun! As for Dyna Soar, so far the butterflies from OTL are surprisingly minor. I didn’t realise quite how serious the Air Force had been about the project until I started researching this TL.

    Another little tidbit I learnt researching this TL - there’s always more to learn, it seems! Thanks for posting the link NathanKell, I was planning to include it in a response following jlckansas’s earlier request, but you beat me to it!

    Thanks for that! I’ll try to update this to include some Eyes-style launcher and timeline info as we go.

    No worries Kaisermuffin, I didn’t know how to do this either!

    IOTL Laika did indeed die in Sputnik 2, as her ship had no return capability and poor thermal control killed her with heat. The mission was flown in response to Khrushchev’s request to follow up Sputnik 1 with something spectacular, so Korolev’s team designed, built and flew Sputnik 2 in one month!! :eek:

    ITTL, ISZ-4 is also a Khrushchev request (hinted at the end of the previous post), but with much less pressure (about 5 months development time) and with the benefit of a couple of years of additional research into re-entry vehicles for the Sammit spy satellite and nuclear warheads. At the time of Sputnik 2 IOTL, Soviet R-7 warheads were still breaking up on re-entry, a problem they also encounter ITTL and solved before Vega is launched.
  14. fasquardon Cosmonaut

    Sep 24, 2012
    I'm very interested to see what Von Braun will do in the private sector. All that I have read on the man is not only was he a good rocket scientist, but he was a much, much better political player. Which is why he got his rockets built, even considering all the ups and downs his career experienced. So I fully expect that Von Braun will be a giant of TTL's space program too, and looking forward to reading how you have him adapt to his circumstances Nixonshead. :D

  15. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    I've said it elsewhere but it is particularly appropriate here and now: I think it was entirely appropriate for McNamara to nix the X-20 as an Air Force project since the Air Force (nor any other military service) has never satisfactorily explained just what the military mission of a reentry hypersonic spaceplane would be--and all their attempts quickly show as something that could be better done with other spacecraft. But it's a damn shame NASA did not pick up the project instead, since I think the world could use some action about actually experimenting with such spaceplanes to have actual data, instead of endless paper projects.:( Advancing the state of knowledge of the unexplored boundaries of aeronautics and astronautics is exactly what NASA is supposed to do, darn it!:rolleyes:

    But that's OTL. OTL in the wake of Sputnik (or was it before?) the Eisenhower administration adopted the stance that space exploration was properly the task of a civil agency (eventually NASA) and founded NASA for that purpose; after that it was necessary for DoD agencies to explain how their space activities had a military mission or butt out. Here on the other hand it isn't clear that that decision has ever been spelled out in the USA (it never was in the USSR) and NASA does not exist. The blurring of the lines between military and civil space exploration is as per the 1950s still (probably because we aren't out of them yet:p) and Ike has not been spooked by Soviet counting coup in the Space Race. There is no panic, or anyway not nearly as much, to put Man In Space Soonest on the front burner. So, the Air Force is able to indulge its inclinations, in rivalry mainly with the Navy.

    I'm on the fence about Dyna-Soar's merits, especially in the TTL context (and OTL) of it being explicitly a military project. I'm obviously unaware of just what the spaceplane could do for the Air Force that couldn't be done by several other systems--bombing the enemy is obviously best done with missiles (if you are going to use rockets that is); reconnaissance with satellites--and if anyone is going to really do anything with the Sanger boost-skip-glide concept, I hope the author or other fans more knowledgeable than me will explain the math that makes it in any way better than simply going for orbit. (I used to assume the suborbital legs were optimized for maximum range at a given speed, but eventually realized that if the concept is going to work it has to involve shallower skips with lower angles of entry and rise--but that means that for a given speed the skips are shorter).

    One advantage, or anyway possibility of skip-glide is that with each skip it is possible to change the inclination of the suborbital path, by banking on the aerodynamic glides. But how is this better than simply launching into the right orbit in the first place?

    OTOH there are a lot of people who won't shut up about the concept, inferior to orbital launching as it seems to me, and certainly OTL the Kremlin was panicked by US Air Force chatter that seemed to imply the STS was going to have possibilities along these lines--enough so to command dropping other Russian efforts at other approaches to more or less aerodynamic, more or less reusable spacecraft, and throw everything into Buran, mandated to be a close copy of the Shuttle at least in general shape, because they feared the Air Force knew something they didn't.

    As a kind of spacecraft, as a reentry vehicle that offers advantages capsules do not, I look forward to spaceplane research such as DynaSoar, especially considering how very close it came to being operational (as an X-plane to be sure) OTL. I don't see how it serves as a practical weapons platform or a surveillance system, but it might be a nifty space capsule.

    But at this early date ITTL, of course, the superior weapons and surveillance systems that would preempt an operational Air Force DynaSoar are themselves in their most primitive, earliest forms and the spaceplane might seem like an advance on them even held strictly to the limited purposes each has.

    Alas I see little reason to think TTL's X-20 or whatever its designation is here could be successful earlier than it might have been OTL, so surely some Soviet space capsule will carry the first human into space, unless there is some belated panic on that score in the USA--and since that panic is already delayed and the Americans got beat OTL, despite the fact that TTL's Soviets are just a bit behind OTL's, I doubt that an American effort can be thrown together fast enough to beat the Russians even if there is a lot more frenzy behind it than OTL--and that frenzy would probably lead to cut corners and catastrophe, if it attempts a much faster pace than OTL Mercury.

    It looks to me then like the Russians are sure to pull ahead from behind, launching the Space Race political crisis in the USA some years later, despite Vanguard getting there first. I suppose the first cosmonaut will orbit somewhat later than Gagarin OTL, maybe a year later or more--and yet, despite that long delay the Americans will apparently have to delay even longer, until an acceptable version of X-20 can be launched.
    Regarding von Braun and the whole Huntsville team, it seems odd that with the Army outmaneuvered in the rocketry biz, none of the other factions wanted to poach von Braun himself or anyway cherry-pick members of his team to come over to join theirs. Well, we haven't been told just what happened to other members of the Redstone gang; maybe some of them were recruited, while von Braun being the political player he is is what hurts him--he's too identified with the losing Army team, too proud to be assimilated into some second or third-tier role on one of his rival's teams. Too much the star example of the formerly German rocket scientist.

    I don't know just how or why von Braun winds up with Chrysler ITTL--all I know about that is, the car company had the contract for the OTL Saturn 1 production. I also know that OTL they had their own concept for a reusable launcher system submitted as a competitor for the STS role; what I don't know is whether the corporation was drawn deeply into the space biz by that Saturn 1 and 1B contract, or whether the corporation had long aspirations to spacecraft design going back before. But I guess from von Braun's move there that here, and OTL, Chrysler was already involved with doing construction for Redstone Arsenal, which is why they got the Saturn contract. I just don't know if that was the beginning, or the middle, of Chrysler's romance with aerospace.

    I'd think that anyway they'll be a bigger name in aerospace than they were able to become OTL; the question is just how much bigger.
  16. Archibald space jockey ! Banned

    Jan 22, 2008
    Hmmm... DynaSoar... (drooling) Better to keep that one as a X-plane, the ultimate X-plane.
    PM me if you want some DynaSoar documents, notably the flight test program. They planned a suborbital hop to land in Brazil, at Fortaleza.
    The sad thing with the DynaSoar as a X-20 X-plane is that, when carried by a Titan II, top speed isn't much higher than what the X-15A2 ultimately accomplished, I mean mach 7. And if you use a Titan III then it become orbital and uber-expensive.
    What lacked was a medium-size booster able to bring the X-20 in the mid-hypersonic regime, mach 15 or so.
  17. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    Looks like a job for a "Titan 2 1/2"--having designed the Titan III for the job of orbiting the thing, design a family of smaller pairs of solid boosters to span the range between 2000 m/sec with just the core and no booster at all, and full orbital speed.

    Or--some liquid-fueled boosters to equal the proposed solids when fully fueled, and just don't fuel them all the way.:p

    Then again, if it is put into full orbit, it can and must pass through all lower speeds on its way down, so just how much more expensive would a Titan III launch be than a Titan II?

    Anyway if we are waiting for Titan III, that wasn't available OTL until very late in the 60s, was it? Presumably here without competition from NASA funding will be available for the III on an advanced schedule, but how much sooner can it be ready if extra truckloads of money are thrown at it? While OTL surely the NASA Saturns sucked some of the oxygen out of the project (not that Titans need oxygen, being hypergol/solids :p:eek:) I somehow doubt it was a program starved for money OTL, what with the Air Force supporting it. So can a more liberal budget really advance the timetable a lot?

    Or would the Air Force consider an alternate booster to Titan III, and be able to develop one sooner? Atlas is smaller to start with than a Titan II and quite ill-suited to upgrading with solids, with its balloon structure. So that leaves some kind of clean sheet design, yet one more readily attainable and man-ratable sooner than Titan III. (Like, OTL, Saturn 1!:p)

    Dr von Braun may be poking his head up rather sooner than we might have thought.:)
  18. NathanKell Well-Known Member

    Jul 22, 2009
    Wish I could find that excellent debunking article on the X-20. If I ever do I'll post it. Anyway, I'm certainly of the opinion that Dynasoar was (and will be ITTL) a colossal waste. It suffered massive delays not so much because it was low priority, but simply because the tech wasn't there; it takes Apollo-era tech to get a spacecraft that's little more capable than Mercury. Even so, there remained questions about whether the thermal shielding really would be good enough. As to advantages--skip reentries for plane changes don't end up working out, really; you lose as much orbital velocity as you save by not performing an orbital plane change, IIRC. About the best that can be said for it is "it'd hopefully prevent STS," and while that's a very useful thing, there are much better ways to go about preventing STS than designing and flying a *different* bad system. :D
    So that pretty much just leaves "it has wings!11one" as an advantage, which is more or less that to which I was flippantly referring, i.e. USAF gonna USAF.

    As for launching...adding LRBs to Titan II would actually *increase* the cost vice Titan IIIC; the point of SRBs is they're cheaper (albeit lower performance) than LRBs. What you might do is try launching IIIC with a dummy guidance-only upper stage; that'll save the cost of the LR-91 at least. But really, what this is telling you is that Dynasoar is heavy, heavier than Gemini, which is saying something when you recall it's more like winged Mercury than winged Gemini.

    I thought I recalled Chrysler sending a submission for Project 7969 (turned into MISS), but that seems not to be the case. However, it appears that in 1950 a Chrsyler man was appointed by Truman to be Missile Czar to get US missile projects off the ground; turns out they were in the missile game even earlier than I thought!
    (source: p26 here).

    nixonshead: I know you said ITTL there is no Saturn program proper, but did the ABMA team already start (notional) work on Saturn? OTL they started in 1956/early 1957, based on a DoD space launch requirement circulated in late 56 for a HLLV. They justified it since it wasn't a missile, it was a pure LV, and therefore was not prohibited as an over-1500km-range weapon.
  19. marathag Well-Known Member with a target on his back Kicked

    Feb 2, 2013
    Speaking of the 'USAF being the USAF'

    How ITTL are some of the real crazy tech stuff progressing?

    You know, pentaborane Zip fuels, nuclear ramjets for Project Pluto, that sort of thing?
  20. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    OK, OK! I already said if they want (American) Man In Space Sooner than I was born (1965) they're going to have to go over to a capsule, and since MISS is even more desultory than OTL, it's going to be later even than OTL--later than the Russians, even though they're running a year or two behind.

    (I never appreciated just how indispensable Sergei Korolev might actually have been.:()

    There are those arguing that slower would have been better regarding human space travel. Maybe we'll see how right they are.

    I'm enjoying nixonhead's narrative enough to take whatever ride he's offering.
    That depends on just what sort of lift to drag ratio you get--on a spaceplane that not only has to try for a fairly high one but also keep a human being or three alive and not roasted to death, or simply vaporized.

    What I figure is--if at some point we experimented around with some actual spaceplanes, we'd know more about how to make the next one better. If we keep it on paper forever we'll never know. The '60s might be the best time to screw it up the first time around so the second try is OK.

    Or anyway kill the spaceplane dream dead once and for all and get on with the cool capsules.:rolleyes:

    Anyway the higher the L/D the less costly the loss with each skip; if that is low enough then the sort of rocket with the sort of propellant supply one could have on board might make the loss up. The Sanger concept is that you do just the one boost and then skip on sheer momentum, each one less energetic than the last, but I've always been dubious about that. And more dubious about the point of the whole thing; you'd need speeds tantamount to orbital to get far with skipping so why not just boost all the way to orbit?

    A spaceplane, in my view, is not for skipping like a rock across the atmosphere; it is for a more controlled reentry that can take the craft to a wide range of possible landing sites, including the desired one, and then land at it like an airplane, rather than needing a fleet of boats to fish it out of the water somewhere or leave some cosmonauts stranded in a freezing lake or surrounded by Siberian wolves for a couple nights while the Red Army is out looking for them.:rolleyes: Bahamut upthread mentioned cross-range in the same phrase with its costs as though it is itself a bad thing--it isn't, it's a good thing, the question is how much of a price do you have to pay for it and can you afford it? Related is the matter of a gentler, lower-G reentry profile--again a very good thing if you can afford it. Not a good thing if you trade crushing your astronauts for roasting them. We can do OK with capsules; that's clear. What isn't clear is how high a price must be paid to do better; we'd know that better if someone experimented.

    If the only excuse for such a thing is the foolhardy excuses of military missions I've heard of, well then it's dumb. I just think knowing more about what can be done might be worth something, though not for purposes of bombing runs or stealing other people's satellites in acts of piracy. If the superpowers want to blow each other to hell they don't need manned skip-bombers to do it.:p Let's hope they avoid doing that at least as long as OTL.
    I've tried to say better for it--an earlier "bad" system might be more forgivable, and lead to one that doesn't suck so much. Shouldn't that Air Force enthusiasm be useful for something?

    But it's going to get preempted by something like Vostok. Hopefully a little better than Vostok. That's my guess.
    Yeah, if the people who designed Titan III woke up with some strange compulsion to ditch the solids for liquid boosters, they'd probably just make them hypergolic boosters anyway.:rolleyes::eek::(

    My little hydrogen peroxide bee in my bonnet I've been living with this past half year or so has flown on past this timeline too, unless someone thinks of Thrust Augmented Nozzles a bit earlier than they did OTL. The time for high-test peroxide to get its foot in the door of the booster biz was the earlier 1950s, it has passed already.

    Anyway I still like the notion of making the Titan III more flexible by attaching any of a range of solids to it, up to the maximum of the OTL design. I suppose if we can just monkey with the second stage instead, that's essentially what I said--just load in variable amounts of propellant to the second stage and perhaps make different sizes of it where that's cost-effective. Down to zero.

    But that's just to enable the dubious dream of suborbital skip-gliding Dyna-Soars; I want the fully orbital version myself.
    I downloaded that book and started skimming the opening: it deserves a close read. However I wonder if the PDF is formatted the same as the version you read because I don't see anything about a missile czar from Chrysler on p. 26, or anywhere within 5 pages of it either way. But I believe you.

    The fun question is, was there more before? Why did Truman pick a Chrysler man, and was it perhaps because despite being mainly in the motor vehicle business, there were people at Chrysler, in high management or on the board, who had an interest in rocketry or space from way back?

    That would be nice to know about.

    What I assumed this morning driving to work was that the main line here is probably that Chrysler was after all a contractor the Army was accustomed to dealing with, and the Navy and Air Force had already jumped on the aeronautical big shots. Convair, Boeing, Grumman, North American--these are names one is accustomed to seeing hanging out making drawings on napkins of things that fly, especially with guns and bomb bays on them. How, I had to wonder, did a car company get into their crowd? (And why didn't other aeronautical hotshots like say Lockheed succeed in getting contracts for actual rockets where Chrysler could?:confused:)

    So I figured--for one thing, von Braun was on the Army's ride, and had to choose from Army contractors. Actually until I got home and finally got a chance to look at some Chrysler background on the Internet I had naively assumed that until the Saturn I anyway, von Braun's group at Huntsville pretty much designed and constructed the rockets with people, workmen and mechanics, directly on the Army's civil payroll, a direct Redstone Arsenal production, money going straight from the taxpayer to hardware with no private contractors involved.

    Well, wrong. Apparently Chrysler's contractor business at Redstone went back to the early 50s and they were involved in the Redstone rocket and Jupiter both.

    Other than an Army project to develop a flying Jeep in the late 50s, the car company never did attempt to make anything that flies--except in partnership with von Braun in Huntsville, where they had established an entire division of the company to solidify von Braun's visions in metal. I believe it was the case that he and his Army-paid team did indeed do all the design work and made the prototypes themselves by hand, just as I had assumed, but then when it was time to productionize the things he handed them over to Chrysler--their job was to find ways to replicate his work in an economical yet reliable fashion, and they were happy to do it. And von Braun, I imagine, was happier to be the brains for a company that had no aeronautical team of its own than he would be with his prima donnaishness clashing with the likes of Kelly Johnson or the other teams the big aero firms had built up on their own. But I also imagine that over a better part of a decade Chrysler nevertheless attracted and hired people who more or less shared both the Germans' vision and competence.

    So now the OTL handing off the Saturn 1 first stage construction to Chrysler makes a lot more sense; these same people had built the operational Redstone and Jupiter stages that the Saturn I design ganged together for that stage and were the natural candidates to build the cluster as well.

    That's OTL. Here, the same relationship between the Redstone Arsenal team and the company has presumably been built up--only to be smashed like a child stomping on an anthill when Huntsville is decidedly passed over for further development despite their accomplishments, and the Army is rudely dismissed from the space business, not even as per OTL being robbed of Redstone wholesale--it's just effectively discarded as redundant.:eek:

    So if von Braun moves over to Chrysler, it looks much less random than poor information would suggest--these people were the closest thing he had left to a place, whereas now if Chrysler management does not want to give up completely on the space biz like a normal car company, they pretty much have to hire a whole new aerospace team to direct their already established (and otherwise redundant) rocket mechanics. Who better than von Braun?

    The trouble here is that now, both the company and the Chief Designer are complete outsiders to the space business as the government currently sees it; the Air Force has its favored contractors, the Navy its, and Chrysler, whether the Army remains a good customer for trucks and tanks and so forth or not (also radar antennae:)) has no leverage in space policy circles.

    It's enough to make me wonder just what angle von Braun sells the company management on taking.

    Like say, going back to Walt Disney for instance for some much-needed publicity and advocacy? I had a whole thing going here, but I just leave it to everyone's imagination for now.:D
    Meanwhile, what can the powers that be in the USA turn to while waiting for Titan III to be developed? Can they speed it up? Will von Braun pull the rabbit out of the hat they need and will TTLs Space Age be deeply branded with Chrysler's five-sided logo and perhaps Mickey Mouse ears as well?

    Or I was wondering, can Atlas be upgraded?

    Unfortunately I watched many hours of old TV shows in lieu of trying to fish up info on the 1960 state of the art American ker-lox engines and trying to shrewdly tease out just how much structural strength Convair's Atlas (presumably pretty much identical with OTL's) has, and how much it owes this to the pressure of its balloon tankage and how much to the solid if thin steel walls of that tank, stabilized by that pressure. What is clear is that the Atlas of OTL, though too small for Dyna-Soar and barely capable of orbiting Mercury, was an extreme and a triumph of minimizing rocket structural mass, so much so that the single stage (well, "stage and a half," with the early-dropped booster rocket(s) (depending on how one counts, one or two of them) providing more than 80 percent of launch thrust) could launch itself (and a modest payload not much more than a single ton) into orbit.

    That almost unique balloon structure, replicated only in the same designer and company's Centaur upper stage of half a decade later, is as I've said not amenable to upgrading via the route of strapping on solid boosters. But what about simply making it bigger, and using more powerful rocket engines? A cluster of five identical engines, with the outer 4 in a cross being dropped about halfway or a third through the boost and the central one going on two or three times longer as a sustainer, would match Atlas's burn profile pretty closely. We might have as many as six in the outer circle with a seventh in the center, and not get too far astray. The tankage ought to scale up pretty well, in most respects. Where we tend to lose is that the strength of the tankage, as a beam in compression lofting the upper stages if any and payload, will not scale up linearly with stage mass--it would be more like to the power of 2/3 the volume since at a given pressure, the part of the strength coming from the pressure would scale as the square of the diameter, as would that of the outer skin considered as a pipe with a very narrow wall, but the mass would go as the cube of linear dimensions. Otherwise we are in good shape--at a constant pressure for instance aerodynamic bending moments scale up with the volume but so do the moments of structural resistance to them.

    But the crushing force this tank can take going down the axis only goes as the square, so if we could say have an Atlas-derived stage twice as long and twice as wide as OTL (about 60 by 6 meters that would be) it could contain 8 times the fuel--but only bear 4 times the maximum upper stack mass. To bring that up closer to 8, we'd need to nearly double the pressure and then double the wall thickness (beyond scaling up in proportion to linear dimensions)--so the overall stage would be 16 times the dry mass, but only contain 8 times the fuel.

    However, if we can come up with engines that deliver twice the thrust of the boosters' total on an Atlas (or 8 times the sustainer engine) I'd think the design would scale up well enough, and while the single stage probably could not launch an 11 ton payload into orbit, it could probably manage something between Gemini or Soyuz in mass boosted most of the way there by the giant main stage and then stabilized in final orbit by a small second stage. We might manage something Gemini sized with a considerably smaller increment of linear dimensions and engine thrust.

    So I submit that as a third possibility--that someone will ask Convair to scale up Atlas and arrive at some suitable interim "Heavy" lifter within a few years of placing the order. Meanwhile there is little reason to doubt that Centaur will get the go-ahead, and while there is some doubt it can survive the worst setbacks it endured OTL, there is a good chance it will eventually be recognized as a triumph.