LEVIATHAN Rising: An Alternative Space Age

I think this is an important piece of context that really bears highlighting. Projects LUNEX and Horizon were both, to varying degrees, service-based flag-planting vehicles which were never really serious about what they were wanting to do. They also both had not real military idea what to do with the Moon other than that their service's flag fly over it. I think LUNEX was the more honest of the two -- in that the USAF wanted to do it, but had no earthly idea what it'd practically entail -- while Horizon was straight-up cynical Pentagon politics. (I mean, there's more of the Collier's "Man Will Conquer Space!" article in Apollo than there is Horizon, which is telling.)

Actually I'd argue that Horizon by it's nature had more "Collier's" than LUNEX which was strictly more closer to Apollo than the former given it was essentially a "flag-n-footprints" design whereas Horizon was "built" (unrealistically to be sure) around a "military base on the Moon" as a basic goal. (Providing enough fodder for US Army Weapons Command "Future Weapons" Division to jump on the band-wagon in 1965 :) Horizon looked to a permanent presence of both humanity and the military in space and on the Moon. (Unsurprising given who was involved in both Colliers and Horizon) LUNEX, like Apollo, only looked to a single immediate goal and how to resolve it. Any long term "planning" (beyond ensuring Air Force supremacy and requirements) were left to some "later" date.

What I've labored on is creating a different context entirely. The Navy's people are tackling this as a serious military question, attempting to identify what will be done in space, what the Navy should be doing, and how to go about doing it. It's why MAVEN and PRISM look so different from LUNEX and Horizon, as they're not being treated as PR exercises or make-work. Which also changes the logic of cost-estimation, as if you lowball things to the extent LUNEX did and it doesn't stand-up to independent audit, you've just destroyed your credibility in representing this is a serious product of military thought. And also because no program survives cost-inflation on the scale of going from LUNEX to Apollo would, at least in normal budgetary times. (Which, even if they don't know what Peak Apollo Money is, they know going to the Moon is going to take more than $1,750MM the USAF estimated in LUNEX.) So better to at least try to keep your costs where you think they'll actually be and just deal with sticker-shocked Congresscritters.

Whether that's actually enough, though, is another question. At least not without an outside intervention or two. ...beyond Sputnik, at that.

To be honest ALL the 'studies' at least tried to find justification for a military presence in space the main issue was there was little actual justification to be had. Oh there were plenty of USES for space with things like satellites but when it came to the assumption of needing personnel (as in people) up there everything suddenly became hugely more expensive and complicated with almost all 'justification' ending up being "humans are better than machines" at a time when machines were proving better than people.

Arguably the Air Force came into the 'race' both from an outdated premise, (space can be used to bomb people from manned space bombers!) and kept continually trying to work in ways to keep both the "manned" and "bomber" aspects long after the expiration date had gone by. (Dyna-Soar/X-20 being a prime example as it was always meant to be an operational rather than experimental vehicle and as such very little 'cross-support' was sought from anyone outside the Air Force leaving it vulnerable to cancelation as the Air Force literally never had a viable mission for the vehicle)
The Army at least kept some sense of space being the ultimate "high ground" (Horizon after all was 'supposed' to entail ending up with military missiles on the Moon aimed at Earth) while the Navy (OTL) focused more on the utility of space as it related to Naval surface and sub-surface operations. Both lost out to the superior Air Force PR and Congressional lobbying machine which saw most of the "space" missions handed over to the Air Force and many of which were 'shelved' simply because the Air Force was too focused on chasing the unclear 'shadows' of capability for missions it would never clearly define.

The trouble is that OTL the Air Force quite effectively used the fact that they didn't have a clear 'plan' to allow them to avoid defining either budgets or clear proposals (thereby avoiding 'discrediting' themselves) while at the same time claiming any and all 'success' as part of those ill-defined "plans" thereby gaining 'credit' for being forward looking and the obvious 'choice' to lead US military space efforts. (One of my 'hoped for' time-line concepts is what if the Army had retained the long range missile folks/mission :) )

Here the Navy is taking a huge leap (and I applaud it btw :) ) by sticking their necks out to actually define and plan for a viable militarization of space to the extent of not only seeking practical concepts (the Air Force mess that was SAMOS is a good story to read to get how trying to 'side-ways' a manned space capsule program disguised as a reconnaissance satellite can go wrong) but accurately addressing how to get from point A to point B rather than just assuming the "and then a miracle occurs" thing in-between just happens when needed.

Well, the purpose of bringing up that 1955 study was -- more than anything else -- to get Team Heinlein's eyes on the prize nice and early. Whether their funding situation lets them do anything with it for the foreseeable future is something else, at least in the absence of Taylor and Dyson shopping it for General Atomics, which won't be for a few years yet. But yeah, Stan Ulam was thinking about since the Manhattan Project was still underway, and operating principles go back even further as you illustrate.

Well it makes sense in the context it was just that Dyson/Taylor-et-al were needed to figure out HOW to make it work as Ulam's concept was really just a though experiment. Having said that...

Re: control of nuclear weapons, what I'll say is this: That might actually be a feature and not a bug. Sort of. As, if you do fly Orion, the service that controls will require a complete nuclear weapons assembly line to service their atomic rockets. That production line does not, necessarily, have to be the same one which furnishes the American strategic and tactical nuclear weapons pipeline. An entirely separate assembly line for pulse-units opens up possibilities to mitigate the concerns of a runaway arms race by subjecting that assembly line to a different arms control regime -- one whose requirements would not otherwise be tolerable for strategic weaponry -- and perhaps provide grounds for actual agreement between the Americans and Soviets on that front. (You still have the problem of building that assembly line out of loose bits that don't implicate your strategic bomb-building methods, but that's essentially an engineering problem. And a financial one, as "we want to build an entirely separate nuclear production line from fuel enrichment/creation to bomb-assembly" is not something that's going to be cheap.)

It's actually a lot deeper than that and as is pointed out in the "Orion" book by one of the pulse-unit designers the implications of JUST even how you design the pulse units and the path that leads down (Casba-Howitzer for example) means an awful lot of your ability to even consider a viable 'arms-control' environment goes right out the window if Orion drives are around. The ability to produce thousands of 'bombs' (and while pulse-units are lousy bombs they are still bombs) a month skews your capability to produce 'regular' weapons even if you keep the "lines" totally separate on paper.
Couple that with the fact that as noted above the design process and requirement to increase the efficiency of the "pulse-units" tends to lead towards certain lines of research both in miniaturization and energy direction (CB above) and your deterrence environment suddenly evaporates as now the 'need' to actually land a bomb near a target is replaced by the ability to literally vaporize any 'target' on Earth from hundreds if not thousands of miles out into space...

Meaning an attack can literally come with almost no notice... Ya, there were a number of sound political reasons for avoiding deploying Orion despite how much of an awesome concept it is. You end up with having to develop things like the "Mini-Mag Orion" to get it t be politically viable and frankly that negates a lot of it's advantages. (Like being able to deploy to stop a short-notice impactor for example)

So, Sirius is a Rocket of Unusual Size, is it?
Or, on second thought, you probably were suggesting it worked for the competition.
I mean, given who's heading-up rocketry for the Army, it's entirely possible it's working for the competition. Von Braun's going to bat for anybody that gives him a decent budget and the hope of shooting for the Moon.

If you have to explain the joke... :::sigh::: guess I was to circumspect on this one:
To whit: Military nomenclature being what it is and how the container marking system works a container delivering a "Sirius" rocket would be marked:
"R. U.; Sirius"

Why yes, yes I am. Quite Sirius in fact :)

Randy
 
Overly complicated, yes. Just drop the second tanker, put a kick stage on the payload, and the concept is good to go as is.

"Overly complicated"? Have you ever met the actual "Aerospaceplane" concept of the late 50s and early 60s?
How about Mach-6, in-atmosphere, wingtip-to-wingtip "air-to-air" propellant transfer of liquid hydrogen propellant complicated? :)
Note this was "needed" because the Aerospaceplane would be creating liquid oxygen by using on-board liquid hydrogen to liquify oxygen out of the air at hypersonic speeds and since this would use a lot of liquid hydrogen by the point where the LOX tank was full there would not be enough liquid hydrogen left on-board to reach orbit. (And mind you a LOT of hydrogen was being dumped over-board during the liquefication process because it was now 'gaseous hydrogen' instead of liquid and that's after what could be used to power the air-breathing propulsion systems)

Sadly one of the contractors for the LOX liquification system ignored a sub-contractor report that by only 'deep-cooling' the incoming air rather than turning it into a liquid it was dense enough to be used in a turbopump, (This may sound somewhat familiar :) ) which would save a lot of liquid hydrogen. Unfortunately since no one on the project was actually talking to real 'rocket engineers' everyone assumed a "liquid" rocket engine required "liquid" propellants...

Randy
 
Again the re-reading of that TASSEL report kind of brought home the 'thinking' of the time in that one of the main reasons for 'three' crew was to have someone on 'duty' at all times because at the time (late '50s through early '60s OTL as well) "communications" was actually a problem with the orbital vehicle being "out-of-contact" with the ground for large segments of time due to a lack of surface stations. (Granted the Navy is going to quickly consider using ships as communications stations and relays the ability of most 'normal' ships to support such is rather minimal and there fore you need to get into the idea of dedicated support ships which cost you even more money....)

Mini-track was never as 'good' as it was hoped to be specifically because it was never as integrated or efficient as it was envisioned to be and it took OTL Apollo levels of spending for the US (and near such for the USSR) to get a truly world-wide tracking and data system up and running. The less you have financially and support wise the less you have capability and technology wise...

And a lot of the utility is "baked-in" from the start in that (for example) OTL the Soviets had bigger boosters and therefore bigger capsules whereas the US was limited on boosters and therefore limited on capsule space. Hence Vostok could take one, two or three with a bit of stuffing (albeit the latter was a one-time stunt the two-person "Voshkod" was arguably 'operationally' possible for longer use) while Mercury was never going to be able to take more than one person* no matter how much you 'rebuilt' it so the US was 'stuck' until the planned "Apollo" capsule came on-line. (*Arguably Gemini OTL was a pretty hefty rebuild of Mercury but that's also a minimum and given different priorities and assumptions a "two" person orbital crew may not make a lot of sense)
Which just goes to show that Future Bob Truax is right, the answer really is sea-launching everything. And then you can spend all the money you would've sunk into building expensive terrestrial launch pads into building a proper sky-gazing tracking network. And, of course, have a massive fight with the USAF and maybe the Army over who gets to control them.

The @9Klbs for Gemini was actually "in-the-ballpark" figured to be what the minimum (original) Apollo configuration was going to be, so two to three isn't going to seem that much of a stretch I suspect. ("Fun" part is a "bigger" initial spacecraft means that the US is going to find out all about SAdS sooner rather than later :) )
It could! But this is the fun of early design specifications: They're always subject to change. But "stretch" is probably the wrong term to use in the context of a Gemini-like ballistic capsule where there's lots of talk of space stations. As Totally Not Big G is bound to show-up sooner or later, at least conceptually.

Well they ARE 'only suggestions' unless you tell them you really, really, really, (and by that we're not paying you a dime for anything OTHER than the requirements) mean it... At which point they only offer a half a dozen or so 'suggestions' for why you really, really, really need gold-plated tweezers for this concept...
Man in space soonest? Oh not a problem... Wait what? You want them to survive? grumble, grumble, grumble.. WHAT? And do "something useful" as well? Look if you're going to put these wild and irrational "requirements" on the contract...
This will unironically be a thing once the folks from the Atomic Reactors Branch get involved, as "safety" is going to become a four-letter word for contractors working with the Navy. As the safety culture that they're going to be demand be cultivated -- at least if Team Heinlein wants access to nuclear reactors -- frowns upon things like "orbital rendezvous without docking with all people and cargo transferred via spacewalking being SOP". (And Hyram Rickover considers every atomic pile used in nuclear-thermal rockets to be his rightful property.)

Actually I'd argue that Horizon by it's nature had more "Collier's" than LUNEX which was strictly more closer to Apollo than the former given it was essentially a "flag-n-footprints" design whereas Horizon was "built" (unrealistically to be sure) around a "military base on the Moon" as a basic goal. (Providing enough fodder for US Army Weapons Command "Future Weapons" Division to jump on the band-wagon in 1965 :) Horizon looked to a permanent presence of both humanity and the military in space and on the Moon. (Unsurprising given who was involved in both Colliers and Horizon) LUNEX, like Apollo, only looked to a single immediate goal and how to resolve it. Any long term "planning" (beyond ensuring Air Force supremacy and requirements) were left to some "later" date.
Which is a fair point. And the fairer point to von Braun and the Redstone Arsenal/MSFC was that their pre-Apollo plans -- between Collier's and Project Horizon -- got thrown into a cocked hat by Uncle Sam actually bankrolling the Saturn V and making a Lunar Rendezvous mission viable.

The Army at least kept some sense of space being the ultimate "high ground" (Horizon after all was 'supposed' to entail ending up with military missiles on the Moon aimed at Earth) while the Navy (OTL) focused more on the utility of space as it related to Naval surface and sub-surface operations. Both lost out to the superior Air Force PR and Congressional lobbying machine which saw most of the "space" missions handed over to the Air Force and many of which were 'shelved' simply because the Air Force was too focused on chasing the unclear 'shadows' of capability for missions it would never clearly define.
Yes, which is why the USAF is both a punching bag and a villain in TLs like this. As what the USAAC/USAF did between 1945 and 1961 was squander a vast amount of resources and opportunities as it first monopolized the military space program and then had it taken away (almost) entirely because of just how much of a Pentagon prestige-and-territory operation the USAF ran it as. Without getting into whether an expansive military space program was desirable, the USAF had precious little to show at the end of the day beyond its satellites. Blue Gemini withered on the vine, Dyna-Soar died to McNamaraism, Project Orion never got off the ground, and we never got our promised nuclear-turbojet planes with on-station endurances measured in months. I guess there was Project Pluto? Given that it's probably the most insidious strategic bomber the USAF ever developed, I suppose that means that Curtis LeMay really did win.

The trouble is that OTL the Air Force quite effectively used the fact that they didn't have a clear 'plan' to allow them to avoid defining either budgets or clear proposals (thereby avoiding 'discrediting' themselves) while at the same time claiming any and all 'success' as part of those ill-defined "plans" thereby gaining 'credit' for being forward looking and the obvious 'choice' to lead US military space efforts. (One of my 'hoped for' time-line concepts is what if the Army had retained the long range missile folks/mission :) )
I'm sure there is absolutely no foreshadowing whatsoever in the Army's talking about a "nuclear stool" and how the only way to maintain harmony in American strategic nuclear policy is for each service to have its own robust deterrent that has rough parity with the other services in terms of importance.

Here the Navy is taking a huge leap (and I applaud it btw :) ) by sticking their necks out to actually define and plan for a viable militarization of space to the extent of not only seeking practical concepts (the Air Force mess that was SAMOS is a good story to read to get how trying to 'side-ways' a manned space capsule program disguised as a reconnaissance satellite can go wrong) but accurately addressing how to get from point A to point B rather than just assuming the "and then a miracle occurs" thing in-between just happens when needed.
One of the things I've always wondered was, to what extent, Ike's reticence about the military in space was the fault of a serious negative feedback loop. As there was no question he was deeply skeptical about the military in space -- at least in terms of manned missions -- and was predisposed to dislike any plan that involved only military manned space programs. OTL both the Army and Air Force played into that horribly with Horizon and LUNEX, plans that had fuzzy-at-best military rationales behind them and which promised to preclude a civilian space program by doing the sorts of things that a NASA-like entity would naturally gravitate towards. And when someone you're predisposed to dislike does exactly what you're expecting them to, that is going to harden those predispositions, and make you even less receptive to their future proposals. What the Navy's doing TTL, at the very least, avoids such a feedback loop to the extent such is possible.

It's actually a lot deeper than that and as is pointed out in the "Orion" book by one of the pulse-unit designers the implications of JUST even how you design the pulse units and the path that leads down (Casba-Howitzer for example) means an awful lot of your ability to even consider a viable 'arms-control' environment goes right out the window if Orion drives are around. The ability to produce thousands of 'bombs' (and while pulse-units are lousy bombs they are still bombs) a month skews your capability to produce 'regular' weapons even if you keep the "lines" totally separate on paper.
What does an arms control regime for Orions look like? I'd think you'd be looking at something like this, at a bare minimum:
1) Separate fissile material production facilities -- be it breeder reactors or uranium enrichment facilities -- which are jointly supervised and inspected by the signatories.
2) Separate pulse-unit assembly facilities which are jointly supervised and inspected by the signatories.
3) The right of all signatories to conduct on-demand inspections of all pulse-unit storage facilities.
4) The right of all signatories to supervise and inspect the transport and loading of all pulse-units.
5) The *Outer Space Treaty, whose provisions are understood to prevent the deployment of any nuclear-explosion-based space weapon (neutralizing the Casaba Howitzers of the world) as well as prohibiting deployment of strategic nuclear bombardment weaponry.
6) The right of all signatories to conduct on-pad and in-orbit on-demand inspections to verify compliance with the *Outer Space Treaty.

That's a system where the Soviets see the production of all Orion-related fuel and see it turned into pulse-units, as well as the ability to follow those pulse-units around from when they leave the factory to when they're floating around in orbit. While also (nominally) curing the problem of pulse-unit design leading to Casaba Howitzers. The problems which remain are fundamentally political, as it requires giving away bomb-making secrets (as the other side gets to see exactly how you build your pulse-unit) and that it requires no small amount of trust between the parties to make it work. There is also the cost, but I think we're talking on different scales of Orion usage. There's a difference between a production line to support launching Orions at a rate of once a year or two, plus resupply of pulse-units for in-orbit vessels, versus launching an Orion every two weeks which is implied by producing thousands of pulse-units per month.

Couple that with the fact that as noted above the design process and requirement to increase the efficiency of the "pulse-units" tends to lead towards certain lines of research both in miniaturization and energy direction (CB above) and your deterrence environment suddenly evaporates as now the 'need' to actually land a bomb near a target is replaced by the ability to literally vaporize any 'target' on Earth from hundreds if not thousands of miles out into space...
Have there ever been serious discussion of using orbital bomb-pumped directed energy weaponry to strike terrestrial targets? As my understanding of the little bits and pieces of Casaba Howitzer testing that've leaked was that their math and testing had shown trouble keeping "beam" coherence at ranges in the single-digits of miles in a vacuum, let alone with atmospheric interference. And that testing was done, IIRC, during the Casaba Howitzer's renaissance during the SDI era.

But that's also why you still need the *Outer Space Treaty as part of your arms control regime. Just to keep anyone from getting too cute and trying to build small production run "pulse-units" with rated outputs on par with Ivy Mike and Tsar Bomba.

Meaning an attack can literally come with almost no notice... Ya, there were a number of sound political reasons for avoiding deploying Orion despite how much of an awesome concept it is. You end up with having to develop things like the "Mini-Mag Orion" to get it t be politically viable and frankly that negates a lot of it's advantages. (Like being able to deploy to stop a short-notice impactor for example)
Oh, I've never questioned the very sound political reasons why it didn't happen. And am glad it didn't, because so long as the USAF is allowed within the same ZIP Code as a flying Orion drive, there'll be mad cacklings about the Deep Space Nuclear Deterrent. But this a TL where that might as well have the subtitle "How the USAF Learned to Live In the Astro-Doghouse", the proliferation and security problems can at least in theory be addressed. Whether the actual political climate allows for that is another question entirely.
 
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Yes, which is why the USAF is both a punching bag and a villain in TLs like this. As what the USAAC/USAF did between 1945 and 1961 was squander a vast amount of resources and opportunities as it first monopolized the military space program and then had it taken away (almost) entirely because of just how much of a Pentagon prestige-and-territory operation the USAF ran it as. Without getting into whether an expansive military space program was desirable, the USAF had precious little to show at the end of the day beyond its satellites. Blue Gemini withered on the vine, Dyna-Soar died to McNamaraism, Project Orion never got off the ground, and we never got our promised nuclear-turbojet planes with on-station endurances measured in months. I guess there was Project Pluto? Given that it's probably the most insidious strategic bomber the USAF ever developed, I suppose that means that Curtis LeMay really did win.

Wanted to get into this more but I'm running out of time and don't expect to be able to post this weekend :(

Dyna-Soar and Blue Gemini both suffered from the same issue: The Air Force could not actually or clearly articulate an actual "mission" for either, despite actually trying really, really hard towards the end. Dyna-Soar was always an "operational" program that was supposed to lead to a manned orbital recon and/or bomber spacecraft and the shear (and obvious) issues with that concept would never let it fly. (On the other hand had it ACTUALLY been a test program and had the Air Force been willing to partner with NASA before the Lunar goal was announced it's likely it would have actually flown) Blue Gemini (and MOL) were 'consolation prizes' for losing Dyna-Soar/X-20 as the concept of a manned spy sat and orbital intercept and inspection spacecraft still made 'some' sense. But by that point it was becoming clear that robotic spacecraft could d both cheaper and better AND given the "real" reason for BG/MOL was to give the USAF a manned space program, the cost (which kept going up) could not be justified.
And for the most part that's on the USAF and again mostly due to that lack of foresight issue.

Have a great weekend folks :)

Randy
Quick thing though:
I'm sure there is absolutely no foreshadowing whatsoever in the Army's talking about a "nuclear stool" and how the only way to maintain harmony in American strategic nuclear policy is for each service to have its own robust deterrent that has rough parity with the other services in terms of importance.

I meant to mention we probably need to come up with something better than 'stool' as the reason behind "triad" is a "triangle" is a 'stable' shape... A three legged "stool" is very much NOT stable which is the general point :)
 
I meant to mention we probably need to come up with something better than 'stool' as the reason behind "triad" is a "triangle" is a 'stable' shape... A three legged "stool" is very much NOT stable which is the general point :)
Pfft. It's perfectly stable. I mean, three contact surfaces was good enough for the Reliant Robin and that was the only car thus far that's been flown as a space shuttle.

Have a good weekend.
 
Any speculative pictures available of the Navy's space program for this thread?
@NathanKell took it upon himself to model Tethys in KSP. (And for which a great job was done.) That's about it so far, though, as it's mostly been foundation-laying and the only thing that's actually kind of approaching being a real thing being Tethys. (Does the D-558-III/D-671 count? Maybe two things.)
 
Speaking of IIRC "Castor" and "Pollux" were the "alternate" names of the Recruit and Sargent solid rocket motors when used by anyone but the Army :) Now having fun with that concept I (not able to recall WHICH motor I was doing it for but..) I once proposed a "Sirius" Rocket Unit.
As I understand it, all the NACA/NASA solids got astronomical names, see also Algol, Antares, and Altair. (I don't know when exactly X-248 was named Altair, but my guess would be when it was tapped for Scout, along with Algol/Castor/Antares.)
institutionally committed both to LUNEX and the Space Launch System. There was no place for a brand-new launcher in the race to beating the Soviets to the Moon
Hmm, I'd always thought of SLS as proceeding from Titan C (the LH2 version of Titan C, not "Titan Plan C") but maybe not? Or even if that were true, it's not implausible at all that the TTL USAF would come to similar conclusions as OTL regarding optimal lifter design and have a 90%-identical SLS proposal.
It could! But this is the fun of early design specifications: They're always subject to change.
It's also possible, perhaps even likely, that ORDER would be flown on an upgraded Tethys (i.e. engines of equivalent tech to the -AJ-5 variants on Titan), yielding about 13klbm to orbit. That's, conveniently enough, precisely the quoted figures for the Martin Model 410.

Very much enjoyed the PRISM update btw, sorry I didn't respond until now!
 
Or even if that were true, it's not implausible at all that the TTL USAF would come to similar conclusions as OTL regarding optimal lifter design and have a 90%-identical SLS proposal.
"Solid boosters + hydrogen sustainer" is a concept that has a lot of merit to it, at least on paper; solids generate lots of thrust and are cheap (on paper), so good for the "first stage," while hydrogen of course has that lovely ISP that makes it good for upper stages. This is doubly true for the U.S., which was at the cutting edge for both solids and hydrogen in the 1950s (and the latter had more to do with non-rocketry-related projects, so I doubt that's changed). So I'm not at all surprised that they would come up with that again.
 
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