Realistic Soviet Lunar program leading to American manned Mars landing preferably without a POD before 1966

Real quick?
- I know you mean "Metric Tons" or Tonnes as it's usually written but you might want to make that specific as there's a bit of a difference :)

- I like the idea of a more organized and centralized Soviet "Space Agency", of course, I should shouldn't I :) But because it IS such a change from the ad-hoc and dis-organized mess that was OTL's version there should probaly be a clear reason. The problem is politics again. I know you aren't wnating to dive deep into politics or background since thiw was orginally supposed to be simply a timeline, but this if fun too? Right? :) Simply stating that "the Soviet leadership acknowledged the American Lunar exploration program, known as Apollo, as a great threat to Soviet supremacy in space" as that won't work as a motivation. I pointed out that the propaganda value and international prestige that came with achieving space 'firsts' caught everyone by surprise. The fact that the US kept 'screwing-up' it's responses helped immensly but it was always clear that wouldn't last because the US would eventually get things together.

THE important bit was to both sides the missile race rather than the space race as the US had jumped in with both feet and was clearly leaping ahead of the USSR. So the USSR was less interseted in "space" than missile development and it showed as the only 'firsts' they kept getting were the essentially 'low-hanging' fruit that could be siezed with what the R7 and its varients could accomplish. This was part of the reason Korolev was fighting for support even as he racked up success and acolades. The Soviet leadership doesn't really 'care' about their "supremacy" in space, what they want it a way to relaibly and quickly counter the growing American missile arsenel. The N1 has nothing to do with that and frankly the military and leadership knew if but were aware enough of the 'glitter' that space acomplishements gathered to hedge their bets, so the N1 gets chosen as the "super-heavy" space booster, the UR500/Proton as the medium/heavy military booster and super-ICBM and R36 as the main ICBM project. In context the N1 was never a priority, the UR500/Proton was more so as it had acutal military utility and the R36 was the 'primary'.

So by early, rather than late 1962 you'd need a decison on which way the future of the Soviet space program is going to go. Probably late 1961 really so that going into the Febuary 1962 meeting of designers, (https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/yangel-presents-first-and-the-r-56-rocket-flies.398625/#post-13158032) Krushchev already has an idea and the support to make that kind of decision. (As an aside I'd really like to see Chemolie pulled from that roster, he had some good ideas but he was more disruptive than helpful at the time and since we've hooked Glushko to Yangel he wouldn't have Glushko's support as he did OTL which also reduces his influance. Have someone else hire Krushchev's son and we're probably better off) So at the meeting the N1 is choosen as the space booster and given that the 'plan' is to use a more military operations friendly keroxide propellant I would think the N11 gets chosen to fill the heavy/medium/super-ICBM role as well. The R36 is still the priority project due to it being a pure ICBM but with less of a split in resources and funding the N1/N11 should proceed a bit faster and with more support from Glushko and Yangel I'd think the OTL development probems would be less as well.

Unfortunatly that pretty much means having the heads of the various bureaus being 'in-charge' isn't going to work as that simply means they can argue longer and be more obstructive to each other with what amounts to offical approval to do so. Even the Soviets knew rule by committee doesn't work in reality :) It unfortunatly can't be Yangel in charge as he's needed to get the R36 up and running and would no doubt find himself pretty much running a similar if not parallel ICBM development and deployment organiztion. It can't be Glushko though he did a good job after he had time to mellow this is not the case in the 60s at all :) Korolev brings issues at the time too since he's getting less and less willing to compromise and didn't seem to be willing or able to 'play' the polical games needed either. (Seriously, why did he not hire Krushchev's son? Since Brezhnev was 'technically' his boss was there already political problems with such a move? It got Chemolie's foot in the door pretty well) We're assuming some earlier back and forth between the three so it's plausible I suppose and if we can keep the relations from going south like they did OTL so much the better.

- In that same direction since essentially Korolev is getting everything he wants, (N1, Soyuz, his LK design, etc) you'll probably need to explain WHY he didn't then get EVERYTHING he wanted such as kerolox stages and higher performane upper stages. It was Glushko's push-back and lack of 'success' vis-a-vis his work on the R7 and GR1 that caused the OTL split in the first place. Korolev had required Glushko to work on a better upper stage engine for the R7 which Glushko refused to do so Korolev had to design and build his own upper stage and motor and eventually the whole Molniya launch vehicle AND fix the issues with the Glusko provided booster engines. Glushko and Yangel can make the case that using keroxide propellants gives it another plus for military support, (and assume at the same time they are pushing it for missile use instead of the more dangerous and toxic storable propellants, we'll also ignore Glushko's eye-twitch since it also has less performance than them as well but if vastly easier to handle thanks to his 'breakthrough' :) ) but again Korolev really does seem in this case to be the "Chief Designer" so you have to either assume his voice is paramount or explain why he doesn't get to have the final say. This was the issue OTL as by the time Sputnik and Gagarin had flown his 'star' was on the down-swing and he was having to fight for financing and resources that he doesn't have to TTL so why 'settle' unless he has to? And then we have to tell people WHY he has to. (I've got some ideas on that if your inerested)

- Does the Cuban Missile Crisis still happen in TTL? Krushchev put the missiles in Cuba to counter US deployment in Italy and Turkey and the number of short range missiles in Europe and Japan. With a more credible and likely better organized missile and space program being more seperate maybe he has less incentive to take the risk? That would also have effects on his later removal from power I suspect.

- Brezhnev wasn't particularly interested in 'space' (no more than any other politician that I can tell) but he did take the American Lunar program more seriously. Though in TTL we have the general leadership taking it more seriously earlier so I don't think there'd be much background effect as the program already has more support than OTL, earlier.

- Parallel development programs are going to be a problem, just like Apollo you can only do so much and while thing like the 'heavy' landers can be studied they won't have enough resources and funding to actually develop them. The "Zond" program is going to absorb most of the 'spare' funding to get everything in place and running on schedule just like Apollo did OTL in the US. The good news is you should have a more reliable launch vehicle by the mid-60s which the OTL Proton was not till the late-60s. I'd suspect that with the added support Korolev will move forward with also greatly improving the R7 to support Earth orbital and other operations.

- Uhm why is the Sozuz only a two man vehicle? It was always a three man vehicle from the start due to not wanting to step back from Voshkod and to ensure partity with the American Apollo. Two men to the Moon, yes but that was an early plan for Apollo as well and frankly that was due to deciding to go with a direct, single launch architecture rather than using EOR. The single Soyuz/Zond capsule life support was the other limitation but it was always planned to upgrade it at some point. The orbital version should at least remain a three man vehicle.

- Vladimir Komarov and Soyuz 1; I'd really take this differently. Either get Soyuz 2 up near schedule or have it land rough but essentially survivable. They just are not going to be willing to put an ejector seat back into what is supposed to be their workhorse spacecraft. To be honest NASA and the astronauts hated that Gemini had them as they were far less useful, (and arguably much more dangerous) than a dedicated launch escape system such as Mercury and Apollo had. The payload limitation of the Titan II GLV precluded the use of such a system so there wasn't much choice at the time but the Russian's specifically went with a LAS because the ejection seats were of such limited value. Even if Soyuz 1 and 2 can't dock, (which given the malfunctions is unlikely anyway) they can at least show they can perform a rendzvous and they could also claim the fist space 'rescue' and personnel transfer :)

-LK4: IIRC the cabin was depressurized the entire flight since the cosmonaut was never outside his suit at any time. Bottom half, not back half I think would be 'blown-off' and I would think they would never be outside visual range of each other as a precaution. And this is the point where you want/need a three man crew because with no abilty to manuver Yeliseyev's chances of 'hitting' the Soyuz are almost non-existant. Volynov would be able to get within a few hundred meters but his radar is effectivly 'jammed' by the debris field and someone in the flight module hatch with a tether and communications can direct him close enough to be effective. Yeliseyev should be able to control the tumble with what's left of the RCS as it was a seperate system IIRC. Yeliseyev's not going to have a 'tether' to the LK as they would be more dangerous than a free jump. (One piece of debris hitting the tether while it's playing out and he's jerked off his 'trajectory', or worse the tumbling LK starts to wind him back in. Why is the "combined craft" spinning btw? Since he couldn't dock he shouldn't have an issue?) Appropiate but its kind of a truism if what-ever-just-happened didn't kill you instantly you've got a pretty good chance of making it through with enough training and work. Hence I suggest we put a third man in the Soyuz as a backup.

- Polar landing problems: I don't think either the standard Saturn V or N1 could do an effective polar mission, the possible farside mission was hard enough with their effective delta-v. They'd need a lot higher engergy upper stages to pull it off. Landing a heavy "lab" module is worse even with EOR refueling or assembly.

- Zarya 5; One thing about a TL like this is the Soviet's can no longer 'deny' a failed mission as not only the US but the whole world will be watching and monitoring. The British watched and monitored the failed Soviet Lunar sample return mission from de-orbit to impact in real-time so the Soviets are going to have to own up to this one publicly. :) While finding water ice would be a coup, having an cosmonaut do so it far to dangrous especially on his own. As it is the Soviets are going to in some ways have even more issues with the Lunar samples than the US did. (There's a thread on here on Lunar water and guess what? We knew the Moon had more water than it was thought from the Apollo samples but the kicker was no one thought it WAS Lunar water. It was so chemically similar to Earth water it was assumed, due to the small diameter drill sample size, to be contamination from the astronauts suits) The up-side is you have robotic sample return missions working which means that such contamiation, if they can prove the evidence chain well enough, will be ruled out and the water content of the Moon looks a LOT better even with such small sample sizes :)

- Secrecy in space; Not really a possibilty under the circumstances. The 'boosters' for the TMK are going to be obvious, especially since there are three (3) of them. One would be arguable as a TLI stage and two arguable for a Lunar mission. Three is interplanetary and it would be rather obvious. MDK is also obviously NOT a "Lunar" lander, heavy or otherwise. It's performance when making a burn will be obvious that it's lightly loaded and has much more performance than needed for a Lunar mission. And space electric propulsion, (both nuclear and solar) were extensivly studied in the US in the 60s. We wouldn't be surprised the first time the USSR tests it in space. (They did didn't they? Because that's a rather foolish risk if they didn't. Not to mention the power reactor itself which will be visible and easily identified) The thing was while the US didn't even try to hide what we were doing the USSR litterally couldn't after the early 60s. The original voluntary, (and as such easily suborned or given false data) MiniTrack system had been replaced world wide with a much more comprehensive and sophisticated tracking and identification system by both sides in the Cold War. (And in fact just about any nation with radar and telescopes)
The Soviet system still had pretty glaring gaps that required dedicated tracking and control ships but in general the world was well aware of what went on in space and by the early 70s you even had the beginings of amature tracking and identification coming into being. With even more spaceflight in TTL there's an even more vanishingly small chance that anyone can 'fool' anyone else about what they are doing.

- Ion propulsion: Why shut it off? The whole point is you pretty much keep accellerating along the trajectory till you reach a point where you go from accelleration to decelleration and thus make the trip faster. With Nuclear or Chemical propulsion you have a "short" high thrust period followed by a ballistic trajectory till you either aerobrake or use retro-propulsion to rendzvous with the target. Ion, arc-jet, plasma thrusters, et-al you use them to build up tremendous speed with low thrust and then use them to slow down at the other end. If they only use it and then shut it down it's actually possible for the American's to beat them by going all Kerbal and simply adding 'more-boosters' to the stack. Unlikely mind you but if they REALLY want to make it a close race ... :)

Btw, yes, that ending was shamelessly copied from this: https://preview.tinyurl.com/v2s74w6. I'm not sure why, but the version I wrote doesn't seem to convey the same amount of emotions as his. I'll just have to see if I can get better at writing I guess.

Anyways, any thoughts? Did I write something that was semi-realistic, or was it terrible?
I actually liked it though, two months shy of being any use. That's tough but it sentimental at the same time. Very good job.

Of course I'm going to point out a few flaws with the narraive :)
While the main coms would be down with the loss of the main lander com-system there should be enough backups and power to still let everyone know they are alive. Worst come to worst the orbiting ship can probably see the landing site once they can locate it and there will be clues if they don't go out and delibritly make big pictures in the sand. Further even if the hab and lander is wrecked they 'might' still be able to salvage enough to survive for the (I assume) planned or near planned original stay duration, so the American's might be useful after all :) That's me being an optimist most likely but hey I LIKED "The Martian" both in novel and film form :) Now 'what' the American's could actually do is a major question because even if they land next to the Soviet lander they ONLY have enough space and resources for three people on the surface and enough delta-v to get that amount and a certain amount of samples back to Martian orbit. ("Yes it's a rock cabinet and yes I"m telling you to get inside. Do you want to go home or not? You're thinking about it??!!??") Again mostly because I tend toward "happy endings" but if not, well we had something similar happen to a mixed British and American Mars expedition crew here :)

Randy
 
Oh something I wanted to expand a bit on was the military interest in the "super-ICBM" and "Tsar-Bomba" combination. This should obviously be a pretty clear indicator of how worried and desperate they were on the subject of both the growing missile gap and the way the USSR was 'surrounded' by American firepower. Arguably a valid concern under the circumstances and one most of the American public (and it looks like most of the polticians as well) were quite unaware of. Why is this an indicator?

If I'm recalling my notes correctly the point was that five (5) to ten (10) of these missiles, launched through the Southern arc, (approching over the South Pole and Southern Hemisphere) should avoid most of the US detection and anti-missile defenses which were all concentrated to the North. Detonating in succession at set altitudes and dispersion the overlapping blast waves 'should' devistate the North American continent from east coast to west in a single strike. This was in essence the basics of the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System or FOBS but the use of even such large warheads would be only marginally effective against hardened targets such as the planned US missile silo complexs. While they were closed up at any rate since the early US missiles had to raised to the open to prepare for firing.

While I get the idea that the original operational concept was as a weapon to use to destroy most of those missiles before they could launch as a deterrent the main reason I think it wasn't deployed was because at the real core of this concept this isn't a "deterrent" system at all but more of a 'first strike' decapitation and devistation weapon. And it's very hard to see the US seeing it as anything but an obvious first strike weapon, especailly as it was supposed to be silo based and have a rapid (for such a large weapon) preperation and launch time. LIke putting nuclear missiles in Cuba it was less 'threatening' in a direct manner but a desperation concept to build a credible counter to US weapons deployment. Unfortunatly at the time it's not clear the US had a clear idea what kind of threat they faced from the USSR but one can argue the US 'response' was far more threatening than that of the USSR.

A 100 megaton bomb isn't really "useful" as an actual milltiary system, but the simple fact that the USSR could and did build and detonate one was in and of itself a pretty clear message. The US got the message but likely didn't react at the USSR had hoped. (Don't laugh, it happened again in the early 80s when they 'slipped' a message into a nuclear physics conference by revealing they had the equations and theory to build a gigaton level device, we got that one too but reacted a 'bit' better I think) Still the fact the USSR spent a lot of funds and effort on developing the vehicle to carry such a weapons system, (they built a prototype silo for the Proton IIRC) says a lot about the mental attitude they had at the time which in and of itself goes a long way to explain why they weren't that 'interested' in the Lunar race until it was too late.

Earthly "priorities" will always over-shadow those off-Earth unless those are something like a killer asteroid or comet. (Or Alien invasion fleet, that one I'll grant as well :) ) Space "firsts" turned out to have far more benifits for the Soviets than anyone had expected but at the same time they hadn't put any major effort into what they were doing and it utilized mostly existing and near-term developments and equipement. This was clear to the US as well which is why the Lunar goal was a clear. (well mostly clear as I noted there were some who thought it wasn't big enough) 'win' for the US even if we hadn't in fact 'won' in the end. The main point was always to show what the US 'could' do when pushed.

Had the Soviet's stepped up and 'played' the game as the US was doing they would put all their previous 'winnings' on the table and at stake, even if they didn't (as we know from OTL) the 'shine' would quickly wear off their earlier achievments as the US effort ramped up. OTL the USSR simply stated that they were never "in" a race and that actually worked out for them at the time with many in the West and the US asking hard questions on why we were spending so much money and effort to 'race' ourselves. TTL that's no longer a questoin and therefor the background will be different in and of itself, but there's still the question of even a closer race being enough to motivate the needed effort and support for the length of time needed. The more we've discussed this the less sure I am that it wouldn't IF you can find enough butterflies along the way to makes some major changes in the background.

The major question in the end that I have is where does the main motivation for both sides to continue playing the game come from with all that happens and is at stake? The USSR going all-in on the Moon race can be made to make sense as can the US response. The problem is in both cases the actual way this would be done isn't sustainable or really useful past that one goal and that's something that was obvious even in OTL so where do you go from there? Both sides can rush to the Moon but after a few landings and returns it's old-hat and both public and political support will evaporate. Not TTL specifically but in general I'm struggling to find a motivation and incentive that doesn't immediatly go for a 'reset' in order to go back and start all over doing things the 'right' way this time which is what we saw OTL with the Shuttle and Salyut for examples. I actually understand the urge to 'get-there' since "we've done it before" but on the same hand Apollo per-se was always a limited and pretty much 'dead-end' program given the way it was done. (So rather similar the Soviet program and in fact both of them end up having the 'advanced-future' programs doing a lo backfill infrastructure and capability)

So what do you folks think?

Randy
 
Unfortunatly at the time it's not clear the US had a clear idea what kind of threat they faced from the USSR but one can argue the US 'response' was far more threatening than that of the USSR.
Khrushchev and his boasting is the fault here.

It was feeding into the whole Bomber and then Missile gaps(that did not really exist), rejection on on site inspections for a nuclear production moratorium. not wanting 'Open Skies' with the US response of turning the nuclear weapon production up to 11, along with platforms to carry them. 'We are making them like sausages!' a great boast, but not when the other guy can actually make them in that quantity.
By time U2 and Corona proved that the USSR was way behind, was too late , and then the USSR spiraled into too much 'Guns' and not enough 'Butter' that would doom them, in trying to match, and then far exceeding US warheads and platforms. They didn't need 40,000 Warheads
 
Real quick?
- I know you mean "Metric Tons" or Tonnes as it's usually written but you might want to make that specific as there's a bit of a difference :)
Sorry, I'm just so used to metric I usually assume that everyone else defaults to that as well. I'll try to be more specific in the future.

- I like the idea of a more organized and centralized Soviet "Space Agency", of course, I should shouldn't I :) But because it IS such a change from the ad-hoc and dis-organized mess that was OTL's version there should probaly be a clear reason. The problem is politics again. I know you aren't wnating to dive deep into politics or background since thiw was orginally supposed to be simply a timeline, but this if fun too? Right? :) Simply stating that "the Soviet leadership acknowledged the American Lunar exploration program, known as Apollo, as a great threat to Soviet supremacy in space" as that won't work as a motivation. I pointed out that the propaganda value and international prestige that came with achieving space 'firsts' caught everyone by surprise. The fact that the US kept 'screwing-up' it's responses helped immensly but it was always clear that wouldn't last because the US would eventually get things together.
If I'm going to be completely honest, I didn't go much into it because I had no idea how to and wanted to get the rest of the story off my chest as it were before trying to deal with the setup for it. I guess what I had in mind when I wrote that line was that Khrushchev's character was tweaked a bit to make him more interested in purely scientific endeavors, like a space program. I have no clue if that would work in reality.

THE important bit was to both sides the missile race rather than the space race as the US had jumped in with both feet and was clearly leaping ahead of the USSR. So the USSR was less interseted in "space" than missile development and it showed as the only 'firsts' they kept getting were the essentially 'low-hanging' fruit that could be siezed with what the R7 and its varients could accomplish. This was part of the reason Korolev was fighting for support even as he racked up success and acolades. The Soviet leadership doesn't really 'care' about their "supremacy" in space, what they want it a way to relaibly and quickly counter the growing American missile arsenel. The N1 has nothing to do with that and frankly the military and leadership knew if but were aware enough of the 'glitter' that space acomplishements gathered to hedge their bets, so the N1 gets chosen as the "super-heavy" space booster, the UR500/Proton as the medium/heavy military booster and super-ICBM and R36 as the main ICBM project. In context the N1 was never a priority, the UR500/Proton was more so as it had acutal military utility and the R36 was the 'primary'.
I will admit it took me a disturbingly long time to realize this. In early drafts of the story, I split the ICBM program off from the space program entirely and handed it over to the military because I didn't want any 'distractions'. In retrospect, that was a stupid idea and I'm glad I abandoned it.

So by early, rather than late 1962 you'd need a decison on which way the future of the Soviet space program is going to go. Probably late 1961 really so that going into the Febuary 1962 meeting of designers, (https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/yangel-presents-first-and-the-r-56-rocket-flies.398625/#post-13158032) Krushchev already has an idea and the support to make that kind of decision. (As an aside I'd really like to see Chemolie pulled from that roster, he had some good ideas but he was more disruptive than helpful at the time and since we've hooked Glushko to Yangel he wouldn't have Glushko's support as he did OTL which also reduces his influance. Have someone else hire Krushchev's son and we're probably better off) So at the meeting the N1 is choosen as the space booster and given that the 'plan' is to use a more military operations friendly keroxide propellant I would think the N11 gets chosen to fill the heavy/medium/super-ICBM role as well. The R36 is still the priority project due to it being a pure ICBM but with less of a split in resources and funding the N1/N11 should proceed a bit faster and with more support from Glushko and Yangel I'd think the OTL development probems would be less as well.
I set it in late 62 because that's just after Kennedy made his speech, which I assumed would be the starting off point for the race, and I thought any earlier and there wouldn't be any reason to change anything.

If I instead have the structure of the Soviet space program be called into question in 1961, then in the meeting you mentioned someone might bring up the fact that had all of the teams worked together, they would have designed a more capable series of lifters, which might lead to Khrushchev reorganizing the bureaus into a more singular agency as I laid out before. But that's just guesses, I really don't know how the politics worked with that back then.

Unfortunatly that pretty much means having the heads of the various bureaus being 'in-charge' isn't going to work as that simply means they can argue longer and be more obstructive to each other with what amounts to offical approval to do so. Even the Soviets knew rule by committee doesn't work in reality :) It unfortunatly can't be Yangel in charge as he's needed to get the R36 up and running and would no doubt find himself pretty much running a similar if not parallel ICBM development and deployment organiztion. It can't be Glushko though he did a good job after he had time to mellow this is not the case in the 60s at all :) Korolev brings issues at the time too since he's getting less and less willing to compromise and didn't seem to be willing or able to 'play' the polical games needed either. (Seriously, why did he not hire Krushchev's son? Since Brezhnev was 'technically' his boss was there already political problems with such a move? It got Chemolie's foot in the door pretty well) We're assuming some earlier back and forth between the three so it's plausible I suppose and if we can keep the relations from going south like they did OTL so much the better.
Another issue is I don't know for sure what the relationship was between the various designers, beyond the obvious 'Korolev and Glushko didn't work together very well' stuff. But, based on what you said, if we make them start talking to each other earlier then maybe we could see Korolev being more likely to listen to Glushko and the others, and eventually being appointed the head of the space program in 1962 or 63.

So, so far the list of PODs is:

- Have Glushko stumble upon kerosene/H2O2 as a propellent and pitch it to Korolev
- Make the chief designers get along better
- Have one of them point out to Khrushchev that a singular space program would be more efficient

- In that same direction since essentially Korolev is getting everything he wants, (N1, Soyuz, his LK design, etc) you'll probably need to explain WHY he didn't then get EVERYTHING he wanted such as kerolox stages and higher performane upper stages. It was Glushko's push-back and lack of 'success' vis-a-vis his work on the R7 and GR1 that caused the OTL split in the first place. Korolev had required Glushko to work on a better upper stage engine for the R7 which Glushko refused to do so Korolev had to design and build his own upper stage and motor and eventually the whole Molniya launch vehicle AND fix the issues with the Glusko provided booster engines. Glushko and Yangel can make the case that using keroxide propellants gives it another plus for military support, (and assume at the same time they are pushing it for missile use instead of the more dangerous and toxic storable propellants, we'll also ignore Glushko's eye-twitch since it also has less performance than them as well but if vastly easier to handle thanks to his 'breakthrough' :) ) but again Korolev really does seem in this case to be the "Chief Designer" so you have to either assume his voice is paramount or explain why he doesn't get to have the final say. This was the issue OTL as by the time Sputnik and Gagarin had flown his 'star' was on the down-swing and he was having to fight for financing and resources that he doesn't have to TTL so why 'settle' unless he has to? And then we have to tell people WHY he has to. (I've got some ideas on that if your inerested)
Heres what I'm thinking:

Have Glushko pitch keroxide to Korolev in 1961, and have him accept under the condition that Glushko would build Kerolev the N1's engines, using the new propellant. Then in the 1962 meeting have Khrushchev pick the N1/N11 as the super-heavy and heavy lifters/ICBMs, with the R-36 acting as a light ICBM. Also, have someone point out that they just basically designed three launch vehicle families, and if they'd only designed one it would have been more capable, leading to Khrushchev reorganizing the space program to promote working together as opposed to competing. At this point, everyone starts pushing for a completely standardized rocket fleet and Korolev agrees to take inspiration from Glushko's universal rockets, with the new fleet using common engines attached to various combinations of fuel tanks. The largest, the N1 'Herkules' would still use its conventional truncated cone tanks with 8 to 10 engines on the first stage. The N11 'Proton' would have 4 to 5, and the N111 'I haven't thought of a name' would use 2 to 3. The N111 would also use new, cylindrical tanks. The R-7 meanwhile would probably continue flying up to the 1980s but would be slowly phased out starting by the late 1960s.

- Does the Cuban Missile Crisis still happen in TTL? Krushchev put the missiles in Cuba to counter US deployment in Italy and Turkey and the number of short range missiles in Europe and Japan. With a more credible and likely better organized missile and space program being more seperate maybe he has less incentive to take the risk? That would also have effects on his later removal from power I suspect.
Huh, I didn't even think of that. I guess it still would since the new ICBMs probably wouldn't be ready until 63 or 64, but it might not. I really don't know enough to say for sure.

- Parallel development programs are going to be a problem, just like Apollo you can only do so much and while thing like the 'heavy' landers can be studied they won't have enough resources and funding to actually develop them. The "Zond" program is going to absorb most of the 'spare' funding to get everything in place and running on schedule just like Apollo did OTL in the US. The good news is you should have a more reliable launch vehicle by the mid-60s which the OTL Proton was not till the late-60s. I'd suspect that with the added support Korolev will move forward with also greatly improving the R7 to support Earth orbital and other operations.
I agree with that. The TLKs and LGKs will probably have to wait until the end of the 60s to start development, but then again if they can somehow convince the military that a Lunar base would be useful they might be able to find the funding.

The Zond, and Lunar program in general, ITTL will probably be a bit more successful since most of the earlier missions had thair Proton boosters fail, which would be less of a problem with the N11. They might be able to do a crewed circumlunar flight by March of 1968, or maybe even earlier if their luck is perfect (Could you imagine if they did it in November of 1967?). That, combined with the N1 development going more smoothly would free up enough funds to get an LK flying by 1968. At that point, they can start focusing on its successor, as well as any N1 upgrades they have planned.

- Uhm why is the Sozuz only a two man vehicle? It was always a three man vehicle from the start due to not wanting to step back from Voshkod and to ensure partity with the American Apollo. Two men to the Moon, yes but that was an early plan for Apollo as well and frankly that was due to deciding to go with a direct, single launch architecture rather than using EOR. The single Soyuz/Zond capsule life support was the other limitation but it was always planned to upgrade it at some point. The orbital version should at least remain a three man vehicle.
Interesting, I always assumed it was designed for two people from the start.

-LK4: IIRC the cabin was depressurized the entire flight since the cosmonaut was never outside his suit at any time. Bottom half, not back half I think would be 'blown-off' and I would think they would never be outside visual range of each other as a precaution. And this is the point where you want/need a three man crew because with no abilty to manuver Yeliseyev's chances of 'hitting' the Soyuz are almost non-existant. Volynov would be able to get within a few hundred meters but his radar is effectivly 'jammed' by the debris field and someone in the flight module hatch with a tether and communications can direct him close enough to be effective. Yeliseyev should be able to control the tumble with what's left of the RCS as it was a seperate system IIRC. Yeliseyev's not going to have a 'tether' to the LK as they would be more dangerous than a free jump. (One piece of debris hitting the tether while it's playing out and he's jerked off his 'trajectory', or worse the tumbling LK starts to wind him back in. Why is the "combined craft" spinning btw? Since he couldn't dock he shouldn't have an issue?) Appropiate but its kind of a truism if what-ever-just-happened didn't kill you instantly you've got a pretty good chance of making it through with enough training and work. Hence I suggest we put a third man in the Soyuz as a backup.
That's good advice, I'll increase the crew to three. Btw the LK probably would go outside visual range, otherwise, any test burns it could make would be extremely limited unless they have the Soyuz burn at the same time which just seems very risky.

- Polar landing problems: I don't think either the standard Saturn V or N1 could do an effective polar mission, the possible farside mission was hard enough with their effective delta-v. They'd need a lot higher engergy upper stages to pull it off. Landing a heavy "lab" module is worse even with EOR refueling or assembly.
If they can't land at the poles that means no water ice, which means no ISRU which means the cost of running the base is going to be very high. Perhaps it could work if they refueled in Earth or Lunar orbit? Or is it completely impossible?

- Zarya 5; One thing about a TL like this is the Soviet's can no longer 'deny' a failed mission as not only the US but the whole world will be watching and monitoring. The British watched and monitored the failed Soviet Lunar sample return mission from de-orbit to impact in real-time so the Soviets are going to have to own up to this one publicly. :) While finding water ice would be a coup, having an cosmonaut do so it far to dangrous especially on his own. As it is the Soviets are going to in some ways have even more issues with the Lunar samples than the US did. (There's a thread on here on Lunar water and guess what? We knew the Moon had more water than it was thought from the Apollo samples but the kicker was no one thought it WAS Lunar water. It was so chemically similar to Earth water it was assumed, due to the small diameter drill sample size, to be contamination from the astronauts suits) The up-side is you have robotic sample return missions working which means that such contamiation, if they can prove the evidence chain well enough, will be ruled out and the water content of the Moon looks a LOT better even with such small sample sizes :)
Those are some very good points. I agree, in fact, one of the things I noted is that with more reliable lifters the Lunar sample return missions are going to be more successful, and take place earlier. If they find water baked into the soil, the Soviet scientists might start looking to see if there's any in pure ice form. The obvious place to look would be the poles, of course, probably in very deep and shadowed craters, which would lead to them pushing for an expedition to one. Assuming what you said earlier is incorrect and they can, in fact, land there (which is a big 'if'), they might find some actual ice. If they can't, they might have to do with baking it out of the soil using microwaves.

As for the abseiling into a crater, you're probably right on it being way too dangerous. They would probably just land at the bottom of it.

on his own
Actually, in the story, it was on her own. Which is a question I meant to ask a while ago, how realistic are female cosmonauts at this point? I know Tereshkova basically killed that back in 1963, but would the Soviets be willing to set that aside for the propaganda gain from such a mission?

- Secrecy in space; Not really a possibilty under the circumstances. The 'boosters' for the TMK are going to be obvious, especially since there are three (3) of them. One would be arguable as a TLI stage and two arguable for a Lunar mission. Three is interplanetary and it would be rather obvious. MDK is also obviously NOT a "Lunar" lander, heavy or otherwise. It's performance when making a burn will be obvious that it's lightly loaded and has much more performance than needed for a Lunar mission. And space electric propulsion, (both nuclear and solar) were extensivly studied in the US in the 60s. We wouldn't be surprised the first time the USSR tests it in space. (They did didn't they? Because that's a rather foolish risk if they didn't. Not to mention the power reactor itself which will be visible and easily identified) The thing was while the US didn't even try to hide what we were doing the USSR litterally couldn't after the early 60s. The original voluntary, (and as such easily suborned or given false data) MiniTrack system had been replaced world wide with a much more comprehensive and sophisticated tracking and identification system by both sides in the Cold War. (And in fact just about any nation with radar and telescopes)
The Soviet system still had pretty glaring gaps that required dedicated tracking and control ships but in general the world was well aware of what went on in space and by the early 70s you even had the beginings of amature tracking and identification coming into being. With even more spaceflight in TTL there's an even more vanishingly small chance that anyone can 'fool' anyone else about what they are doing.
The TMK was to be assembled in two N1 launches, with the third flight being a Proton rocket (or N11) to launch the crew to it. A rocket like the Proton was needed because the spacecraft would fly into high Earth orbit just before the crew launched for some reason. At least that's what Astronautix says.

Astronautix also says that by using a Venus swing-by to reduce Delta-V they can launch the spacecraft in one go, but I'm less inclined to believe that. In any case, there's a good chance the Soviets would be able to cover it up since a Mars flyby needs less than 4 km/s to do, which is almost the exact same as going to Lunar orbit.

As for the MEK, there's basically no way to hide that as you said. Still, with fixed launch windows it will be hard for the Americans to beat them to the launch at least.

- Ion propulsion: Why shut it off? The whole point is you pretty much keep accellerating along the trajectory till you reach a point where you go from accelleration to decelleration and thus make the trip faster. With Nuclear or Chemical propulsion you have a "short" high thrust period followed by a ballistic trajectory till you either aerobrake or use retro-propulsion to rendzvous with the target. Ion, arc-jet, plasma thrusters, et-al you use them to build up tremendous speed with low thrust and then use them to slow down at the other end. If they only use it and then shut it down it's actually possible for the American's to beat them by going all Kerbal and simply adding 'more-boosters' to the stack. Unlikely mind you but if they REALLY want to make it a close race ... :)
I assumed that accelerating for a week or two would be enough, plus even ion drives are not efficient enough to do a burn the entire way. Going on a full brachistochrone trajectory requires insane amounts of Delta-V.

I actually liked it though, two months shy of being any use. That's tough but it sentimental at the same time. Very good job.
Thanks! :)

Of course I'm going to point out a few flaws with the narraive :)
While the main coms would be down with the loss of the main lander com-system there should be enough backups and power to still let everyone know they are alive. Worst come to worst the orbiting ship can probably see the landing site once they can locate it and there will be clues if they don't go out and delibritly make big pictures in the sand. Further even if the hab and lander is wrecked they 'might' still be able to salvage enough to survive for the (I assume) planned or near planned original stay duration, so the American's might be useful after all :) That's me being an optimist most likely but hey I LIKED "The Martian" both in novel and film form :) Now 'what' the American's could actually do is a major question because even if they land next to the Soviet lander they ONLY have enough space and resources for three people on the surface and enough delta-v to get that amount and a certain amount of samples back to Martian orbit. ("Yes it's a rock cabinet and yes I"m telling you to get inside. Do you want to go home or not? You're thinking about it??!!??") Again mostly because I tend toward "happy endings" but if not, well we had something similar happen to a mixed British and American Mars expedition crew here :)
I will admit, I did take a lot of artistic license on that ending. Firstly, as you noted, the communication systems would likely still be functioning, since the rover almost certainly would have had independent ones. Also, as you said, they could have almost certainly worked something out to survive. I would bet that a real mission would have had some sort of inflatable shelter to extend the range of the MRV which they could use. But most importantly, after I wrote that story I finally found some good transfer tables in an old Von Braun book, and it turns out even with an ion propulsion system the Americans would actually beat the Soviets, by 160 days! Well, those calculations were assuming it was a flyby mission, but still. I'll probably move the expedition to 1986 to make it more realistic in that regard. If the Soviets depart around 120 days earlier than the Americans do they can get there first in that case.

And why am I not surprised you've also read To Grasp The Heavens? Seriously, you seem to have read everything on this site. To be honest, though, that is my favorite story on the forums, but then again I am British so I might be a bit biased.

Btw, here's the transfer table I was talking about. It was from Von Braun's 1969 Mars mission studies.


Oh something I wanted to expand a bit on was the military interest in the "super-ICBM" and "Tsar-Bomba" combination. This should obviously be a pretty clear indicator of how worried and desperate they were on the subject of both the growing missile gap and the way the USSR was 'surrounded' by American firepower. Arguably a valid concern under the circumstances and one most of the American public (and it looks like most of the polticians as well) were quite unaware of. Why is this an indicator?

If I'm recalling my notes correctly the point was that five (5) to ten (10) of these missiles, launched through the Southern arc, (approching over the South Pole and Southern Hemisphere) should avoid most of the US detection and anti-missile defenses which were all concentrated to the North. Detonating in succession at set altitudes and dispersion the overlapping blast waves 'should' devistate the North American continent from east coast to west in a single strike. This was in essence the basics of the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System or FOBS but the use of even such large warheads would be only marginally effective against hardened targets such as the planned US missile silo complexs. While they were closed up at any rate since the early US missiles had to raised to the open to prepare for firing.

While I get the idea that the original operational concept was as a weapon to use to destroy most of those missiles before they could launch as a deterrent the main reason I think it wasn't deployed was because at the real core of this concept this isn't a "deterrent" system at all but more of a 'first strike' decapitation and devistation weapon. And it's very hard to see the US seeing it as anything but an obvious first strike weapon, especailly as it was supposed to be silo based and have a rapid (for such a large weapon) preperation and launch time. LIke putting nuclear missiles in Cuba it was less 'threatening' in a direct manner but a desperation concept to build a credible counter to US weapons deployment. Unfortunatly at the time it's not clear the US had a clear idea what kind of threat they faced from the USSR but one can argue the US 'response' was far more threatening than that of the USSR.
Heres an idea:

What if instead of putting the warheads on ICBMs, they put them on satellites or Almaz stations? That would technically be a breach of the other space treaty, but if they can somehow get around that, they would have a very powerful system on their hands. Let's say that in the early 1960s the Soviets decide that a nuclear-armed orbiting weapons platform would be a better way to go than super-ICBMs. If America launches a first strike, then the nuclear satellites could conceivably react and deploy their payloads before the US could shoot them down. Plus, it means they don't have to use storable propellants in their rockets. Early versions of the system might look something like a traditional satellite with a nuclear warhead and a deorbit motor strapped to it, but later versions might be attached to manned Almaz space stations.

Consider this: http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/astromilitary.php#id--Satellite_Interceptor. Scrolling down a bit you'll find that Atomic Rockets managed to dig up some very interesting stuff. Specifically, credible evidence that MOL and the Gemini-B program was to be used not only as a reconnaissance platform but as a satellite interceptor and destroyer. IOTL a program like that would never go anywhere, but ITTL? We could see a full-on Storming Intrepid-style game of space espionage! If that doesn't increase funding in the space race, I don't know what will.

Heres some cool drawings/blueprints of a Gemini/MOL interceptor, and a nuclear-armed Almaz:

http://www.mikejennebooks.com/tech_drawings.htm

Also, here's a spreadsheet with some Mars spacecraft calculations on it:


And here is an image album with everything I could find from that book on the mission profile:

https://imgur.com/gallery/KkxRIYG
 
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Percipitating and organizing what amounts to a 'coup' is a bit 'rockiing-the-boat-ish' I'd say.
But keep in mind, he launched his coup because Khrushchev was rocking the boat too much. I would not be surprised if a coup was the most conservative option in his eyes.

Seriously, why did he not hire Krushchev's son?
Remember, Chelomei had lost his previous design bureau (OKB-51) to this guy who'd hired Beria's son (his name was Artem Mikoyan by the way, you may have heard of him). No surprise that when he re-built the remnants left to him into OKB-52 he took some pages out of the playbook of the guy who ruined his career. And then after all that work, Khrushchev gets overthrown just as he was starting to get close to the top job...

Also, considering just how hard Glushko worked to undermine and shatter Chelomei, I don't think it's hard to find ways to separate Chelomei and Glushko. Glushko saw Chelomei as a thoroughly unreliable sort by at least the late 60s.

What if instead of putting the warheads on ICBMs, they put them on satellites or Almaz stations?
That's great if the Soviet regime commits to making a genocidal first strike, since launching an attack on, say, DC from low earth orbit gives the US very, very little time to react. However, if the Soviet regime has not decided on genocide, orbital weapons are (1) incredibly vulnerable to cheap enemy strikes (sub-orbital countermeasures can destroy the weapons for much less cost than it takes to launch the weapons in the first place) and (2) encourages the US to make ITS first strike before the USSR can get in their obviously pending death-blow.

Serious space weaponry is bad news for everyone.

fasquardon
 
Problem with orbiting platforms, you should have good an idea what they will be targeting from their path, on if it's going to be counterforce or countervalue.
Sure, you can have another stage rather than just a simple deorbit burn to aid in the target selection, but getting that DeltaV up there, and then stay 'fresh' for long idle periods is a whole different thing.
 
That's great if the Soviet regime commits to making a genocidal first strike, since launching an attack on, say, DC from low earth orbit gives the US very, very little time to react. However, if the Soviet regime has not decided on genocide, orbital weapons are (1) incredibly vulnerable to cheap enemy strikes (sub-orbital countermeasures can destroy the weapons for much less cost than it takes to launch the weapons in the first place) and (2) encourages the US to make ITS first strike before the USSR can get in their obviously pending death-blow.

Serious space weaponry is bad news for everyone.
Problem with orbiting platforms, you should have good an idea what they will be targeting from their path, on if it's going to be counterforce or countervalue.
Sure, you can have another stage rather than just a simple deorbit burn to aid in the target selection, but getting that DeltaV up there, and then stay 'fresh' for long idle periods is a whole different thing.
I was thinking of a system like this:

Where a few dozen small spacecraft, like the modified Soyuzies above, are placed in high Earth orbit and put into a standby mode. If a first strike is ordered the spacecraft perform a retrofire burn and reenter over their targets. Since the payload was already in orbit it takes less time to hit the target compared to an ICBM leaving the enemy less time to react. If an enemy's first strike is detected, the spacecraft enter a standby mode, pointing their radar-reflection mirrors at the ground and preventing ASATs from locking onto them. After the enemy strike is over, they reorientate themselves and perform a retrofire burn, reentering over their targets.

The Soviets might also want to invest in the construction of a space-based nuclear command post, which can ride-out a nuclear attack and then command ground silos and ONB spacecraft to fire remotely. Of course, in reality, such a vehicle would be almost pointless, but I heard that they were considering such a thing OTL, so they might not have realized it at the time.
 
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- Polar landing problems: I don't think either the standard Saturn V or N1 could do an effective polar mission, the possible farside mission was hard enough with their effective delta-v. They'd need a lot higher engergy upper stages to pull it off. Landing a heavy "lab" module is worse even with EOR refueling or assembly.
If they can't land at the poles that means no water ice, which means no ISRU which means the cost of running the base is going to be very high. Perhaps it could work if they refueled in Earth or Lunar orbit? Or is it completely impossible?
To elaborate on polar landings with Saturn and N1, my recollection is that the issue is not so much in the landing, but in the ascent and rendezvous and in aborts. Injecting into a polar orbit of the moon requires a deviation of only a few fractions of a degree on the departure from LEO, and much the same TLI and LOI delta-v. Similarly, once you make rendezvous in lunar orbit for return, the TEI burn also requires something pretty similar to the delta-v from an equatorial or low inclination orbit. The bigger problem as I've come to understand it lies in the use of polar landings with the LOR profile--the polar orbits tend to precess quickly, making it hard for the lander to get back to the orbiting comand module without the command module having to adjust its orbit. This may be more of a challenge for longer stays--it's been a few years since I looked at this. More delta-v for ascent and rendezvous in an off-nominal circumstance means payload you can't bring on the nominal mission, since you need to preserve propellant and reserve performance for the worst case. Another issue is that there's much less ability to make a "free return" trajectory that aims for a polar rendezvous. Apollo moved more away from free-return trajectories themselves as missions went on--they'd inject into a free return, then do a mid-course burn after TLI to adjust the inclination of the targeted orbit to match the non-equatorial landing sites of the later misions, but for polar it's very hard to manage one at all.

Edit: Some data is on page 4 of this quick paper, mostly going into the above reasons, but pointing out another: sun angles. https://www.naefrontiers.org/File.aspx?id=22062 For the record, the easier ability to manage ascent to rendezvous to the command module and return trajectories to earth is a major benefit of staging points like the Lagrange points (as we used in Eyes) or (IIRC) the types of NRHO and other orbits being considered for Gateway--but with a downside of higher delta-v from the staging point to the surface, putting more requirements on the lander/ascent stage.
Actually, in the story, it was on her own. Which is a question I meant to ask a while ago, how realistic are female cosmonauts at this point? I know Tereshkova basically killed that back in 1963, but would the Soviets be willing to set that aside for the propaganda gain from such a mission?
My general impression is no, they wouldn't be willing to put it aside. In the entire history of the Soviet program, there were a total of two women flown to space, both in rather automated missions or with other crew aboard. Since 1990, there have been only an additional two from Russia, both in the last five years. Their politics don't seem favorable to the task of taking a lead in women in space beyond stunts.
 
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Well I need to catch up since today was a mess but as we ALL are aware, the US would have a rational and calm discussion over the Soviet efforts and make a very detailed and long-term vision for their response.. Oh who ham I kidding they'd do this:

Randy :)
 
Well I need to catch up since today was a mess but as we ALL are aware, the US would have a rational and calm discussion over the Soviet efforts and make a very detailed and long-term vision for their response.. Oh who ham I kidding they'd do this:

Randy :)
Making sure the launch trajectory passed over the Soviet Union, just to make a mission statement.
 
Where a few dozen small spacecraft, like the modified Soyuzies above, are placed in high Earth orbit and put into a standby mode. If a first strike is ordered the spacecraft perform a retrofire burn and reenter over their targets.
You're going to need more Delta V to park that at HEO, and then deorbit.
Atlas as an ICBM had around 5.7km/s Delta V, to reach an apogee of 1400km Apogee and then deorbit in the USSR
Atlas with a Mercury onto that Atlas could orbit a spamcan Mercury@ 120km, with 7.8km/s Delta V

So you're going to need a big booster.

Yes, it's fast to deorbit, but only when you have that reentry window to the target.
At 120km, your Orbit is around 90 minutes. at 200k, it's 2 hours.
Higher up, it gets longer- so it your' window is out of place, you will be waiting to deorbit. A ground launch would be faster, you know it's going to be 20 minutes til impact.

Or you planning on a GSO orbit over the USA? That won't go over very well.
What's to stop the US from putting a platform nearby with a 100G acceleration Sprint ABM pointed right at that?
 
You're going to need more Delta V to park that at HEO, and then deorbit.
Atlas as an ICBM had around 5.7km/s Delta V, to reach an apogee of 1400km Apogee and then deorbit in the USSR
Atlas with a Mercury onto that Atlas could orbit a spamcan Mercury@ 120km, with 7.8km/s Delta V

So you're going to need a big booster.

Yes, it's fast to deorbit, but only when you have that reentry window to the target.
At 120km, your Orbit is around 90 minutes. at 200k, it's 2 hours.
Higher up, it gets longer- so it your' window is out of place, you will be waiting to deorbit. A ground launch would be faster, you know it's going to be 20 minutes til impact.

Or you planning on a GSO orbit over the USA? That won't go over very well.
What's to stop the US from putting a platform nearby with a 100G acceleration Sprint ABM pointed right at that?
Sorry, I forgot about orbital mechanics there for a second. You would have to place them in low orbit.

Also, the ISS orbits at 400 kilometers and has a period of 92 minutes...

I did consider the fact that you would have to wait to deorbit them. If you launch the first strike you can just time it around when they're in position, but if the US launches a first strike they would need to just fly low and ride out the storm as it were. That means pointing something curved and reflective at the ground and hoping any radar waves bounces off of it away from their source. Maybe have some decoys that don't do that as well. Then once it's over you can reorientate and retrofire over the US.
 
I was thinking of a system like this:

Where a few dozen small spacecraft, like the modified Soyuzies above, are placed in high Earth orbit and put into a standby mode. If a first strike is ordered the spacecraft perform a retrofire burn and reenter over their targets. Since the payload was already in orbit it takes less time to hit the target compared to an ICBM leaving the enemy less time to react. If an enemy's first strike is detected, the spacecraft enter a standby mode, pointing their radar-reflection mirrors at the ground and preventing ASATs from locking onto them. After the enemy strike is over, they reorientate themselves and perform a retrofire burn, reentering over their targets.

The Soviets might also want to invest in the construction of a space-based nuclear command post, which can ride-out a nuclear attack and then command ground silos and ONB spacecraft to fire remotely. Of course, in reality, such a vehicle would be almost pointless, but I heard that they were considering such a thing OTL, so they might not have realized it at the time.
The Soviets indeed designed a system like this it was called FOBS (fractional orbit bombardment system)
 
The Soviets indeed designed a system like this it was called FOBS (fractional orbit bombardment system)
The FOBS ICBMs were only putting payloads into orbit for a short amount of time (hence ‘fractional’), but I understand your point. If anything, the Soviet’s willingness to (albeit briefly) place weapons into orbit makes my point even better.
 
The FOBS ICBMs were only putting payloads into orbit for a short amount of time (hence ‘fractional’), but I understand your point. If anything, the Soviet’s willingness to (albeit briefly) place weapons into orbit makes my point even better.
but by 1970, it was pointless.
It was made to avoid detection by BMEWS radar by hitting the USA from the south. But at this time, the US had the early warning DSP Satellites watching for such launches, and that partial orbit still takes longer than a direct launch over the Pole, so it's a second strike weapon.

and if not doing the immediate deorbit to start WWIII, it has the problems mentioned above, it has limited reentry windows to hit targets along its orbit, and you need to worry on the USA deciding that orbiting Nukes over CONUS is an Act of War in itself, and does a Alpha Strike, starting WWIII

Do you want WWIII? Having OBS(not fractional) gets you WWIII
 
I was thinking of a system like this
As a defensive system: no value, remember, no stealth in space. Before launching a first strike the US simply destroys the orbital weapons.

What you are showing, regardless of the ideas of the men who build it, will be seen as a weapon of pure offense, because that's really all it can do.

Anyways, back on topic.

I have been thinking more about how you actually get the US to Mars by the end of the 20th Century. I think what may be needed is a very different Cold War. Let's say Stalin slips on a banana peel and experiences a fatal fall at some point in early 1945. Whoever replaces him (initially I would bet on a Molotov-Beria double act, but either or both could be sleeping with the fishes by the end of the power struggle) plays the early part of the Cold War much more cautiously and cooperatively (for example, the whole of Eastern Europe, while forced to be Soviet allies, have Finland-level control of their internal affairs). As such, while relations do deteriorate, they do so much more slowly and with much less fear that the Cold War will turn into a hot war - instead the fear is much more that one system will out-compete the other. This means military budgets are lower on both sides, and the desire to demonstrate that their system can lead humanity into the future is much stronger. Meaning there is more money for space exploration, more percieved utility for those in power on both sides, and enough time to plausibly arrange the state of both the Soviets and US rocket programs so that both can be competitive. (Both sides spent enough on nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles to pay for more Mars programs than you could shake a stick at.)

fasquardon
 
As a defensive system: no value, remember, no stealth in space. Before launching a first strike the US simply destroys the orbital weapons.

What you are showing, regardless of the ideas of the men who build it, will be seen as a weapon of pure offense, because that's really all it can do.

Anyways, back on topic.

I have been thinking more about how you actually get the US to Mars by the end of the 20th Century. I think what may be needed is a very different Cold War. Let's say Stalin slips on a banana peel and experiences a fatal fall at some point in early 1945. Whoever replaces him (initially I would bet on a Molotov-Beria double act, but either or both could be sleeping with the fishes by the end of the power struggle) plays the early part of the Cold War much more cautiously and cooperatively (for example, the whole of Eastern Europe, while forced to be Soviet allies, have Finland-level control of their internal affairs). As such, while relations do deteriorate, they do so much more slowly and with much less fear that the Cold War will turn into a hot war - instead the fear is much more that one system will out-compete the other. This means military budgets are lower on both sides, and the desire to demonstrate that their system can lead humanity into the future is much stronger. Meaning there is more money for space exploration, more percieved utility for those in power on both sides, and enough time to plausibly arrange the state of both the Soviets and US rocket programs so that both can be competitive. (Both sides spent enough on nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles to pay for more Mars programs than you could shake a stick at.)

fasquardon
My own Gradus ad Astra will turn out largely like this,with a later POD. That’s why I plan to wank Spaceflight in that timeline,albeit with a more altruistic bent.
 
Khrushchev and his boasting is the fault here.
No argument it was at least part of the problem. Given how much the international prestige and support being the first to launch a satellite and then a man into space unexpectedly exploded onto the USSR it's hard to blame Khrushchev for going overboard with it "while it lasted".

It was feeding into the whole Bomber and then Missile gaps(that did not really exist), rejection on on site inspections for a nuclear production moratorium. not wanting 'Open Skies' with the US response of turning the nuclear weapon production up to 11, along with platforms to carry them. 'We are making them like sausages!' a great boast, but not when the other guy can actually make them in that quantity.
The problem was any inspection or monitoring would clearly show that the boasts were in fact empty and that fact was a main reason they turned-down Kennedy's "joint Moon mission" idea as they knew they couldn't maintain the illusion. Along with the need to try and keep the new-found 'respect' the Space firsts had brought there was a need to maintaine the illusion of superiority as long as possible.
One has to wonder at an AH where the US, per everyone's expectations, gets the first satellite into space. Had Vanguard gone up first and THEN the USSR follows with orbiting a man first I suspect the dynamics of the Space Race would have been very different.

By time U2 and Corona proved that the USSR was way behind, was too late , and then the USSR spiraled into too much 'Guns' and not enough 'Butter' that would doom them, in trying to match, and then far exceeding US warheads and platforms. They didn't need 40,000 Warheads
The problem was the USSR was always going to be 'outnumbered' in warheads mostly because they couldn't belive that the nuclear weapons that France, the UK and others deployed were really anything BUT "US" assets since that's how their system worked.

The bragging didn't help but the fact they in fact did NOT have the systems in place that were being bragged about and what assets the west had being unable to find those supposed systems was a really worrisome point. I have to wonder if someone other than Khrushchev would have made the same mistake? On the other hand would someone other than Khruschev have pushed for more 'firsts' once the effect became clear?

Randy
 
Sorry, I'm just so used to metric I usually assume that everyone else defaults to that as well. I'll try to be more specific in the future.
Some of us are proudly stuck in the neolithic, non-conformist US thank you very much ;) Just toss in a "tonnes" for metric and "ton" for the US folks works :)

If I'm going to be completely honest, I didn't go much into it because I had no idea how to and wanted to get the rest of the story off my chest as it were before trying to deal with the setup for it. I guess what I had in mind when I wrote that line was that Khrushchev's character was tweaked a bit to make him more interested in purely scientific endeavors, like a space program. I have no clue if that would work in reality.
Khruschev could very well have been more interested in science, and once it was realized to be a 'thing' I'm pretty sure he was rather addicted to the prestige and international aclaim that came with gaining firsts while the US seemed to flounder but that situation isn't going to last and the USSR "space program" has always been more military oriented and dependent than the US effort. Not that the US didn't depend on the military at least initially but there was a top level decision in the late 50s to make the US effort at least 'appear' to be civilian in nature and a genuine effort to build NASA as a truely civilian agency from the ground up.

The Politburo and Central Commitee were not interested in "space" but in missile development to counter the US superiority in intercontinential bomber aircraft. It was the same in the US in fact to the point where, (in a rather ironic outcome, the order was issued on October 3rd 1957) high ranking military personnel were by order DoD and strictly forbidden from discussing or talking about "space" efforts such as satellites, or manned space flight under penalty of official punishment because such discussion had become THAT prevelent among those officials. In perspective though the officials were really less interested in "space" than in their particular branch of the military being made the primary branch responsible for the US space flight efforts. So that even what discussions and planning for 'space flight' that happened was of a very 'military' nature rather than scientific. While I have some 'issues' with Eisenhower's attempts to keep from expanding the Cold War into space by trying to make the US effort 'appear' to be more civlian in nature the problem was that simply wasn't going to work at any level less than what ended up becoming NASA anyway. You have to remove the effort from both the interservice rivalry and give it a seperate budget to make it effective. But as constituted in 1958 NASA was never supposed to have ALL the space missions, (as there were still ones that the military would require to handle) nor was it going to have that large a budget so any progress was going to be slow and incremental.

In the USSR it was always an adjunct of and required high military support as it was never a seperate organization until the mid-80s. Now IF, (big if) someone can get their head around how much of an elevation of prestige and international repuation that being 'first' in space is bringing and can convince the Politburo that having an actual 'space program' might be of benifit you might see a similar 'seperation' at some point but they'd be fighting for budget and support MORE rather than less. And again that doesn't really help any with the militay situation.

I will admit it took me a disturbingly long time to realize this. In early drafts of the story, I split the ICBM program off from the space program entirely and handed it over to the military because I didn't want any 'distractions'. In retrospect, that was a stupid idea and I'm glad I abandoned it.
Well that's what the US did so we have a "real-world" example but without the 'motive' of the Space Race that lead to OTL's Apollo program the budget and priority were always going to be less, not more. With that type of motivation you'll get something like the US's "Apollo" in a focused and rather obsesive fixation on a certain political (usually) goal over sustainable or long term work. The main problem is the 'game' was always the USSR's to play or not. They lost a bit of prestigie by not going to the Moon but it wasn't till they fell that anyone even realized (or believed really) that they'd even been IN the race at all. Had they tried openly and failed the consequences would have been worse, which is essentially why they didn't openly try. A 'reverse' Space Race isn't workable I don't believe because the USSR doesn't have to play since they have very few of the 'drivers' that US politicians faced from the public.

I set it in late 62 because that's just after Kennedy made his speech, which I assumed would be the starting off point for the race, and I thought any earlier and there wouldn't be any reason to change anything.
Korolev had brought up a Lunar mission right after Sputnik, and pushed it again after Gagarin and while Khrushchev was in general supportive he was pretty clear the budget would be limited due to military needs. On the other hand he was also demanding more space stunts and firsts but without a new LV development program and a heavier payload capability they were stuck with variations of the R7 and Vostok. The early 1962 meeting essentially DID authorize a vague Lunar program as the development of the N1 was greenlit at that meeting but that support was tertiary to the development of the R36 ICBM, and the UR500/Proton as a military ICBM/LV. So the 'support' was already split three ways since an 'assumption' was that work would continue on the UR700 for the Lunar mission alongside the N1 development.

If I instead have the structure of the Soviet space program be called into question in 1961, then in the meeting you mentioned someone might bring up the fact that had all of the teams worked together, they would have designed a more capable series of lifters, which might lead to Khrushchev reorganizing the bureaus into a more singular agency as I laid out before. But that's just guesses, I really don't know how the politics worked with that back then.
Actually I could see that but it would take someone looking at the whole from a somewhat 'outside' perspective to see how badly organized the Soviet space "program" was. Someone would need to organize and select a committee that would review the space and ICBM efforts and make a report on how each would be 'better' organized and run which would essentially feed into that particualr meeting. Essentially it has to come out from there that the "space" program needs a seperate and more cohesive organization and support structure in order to keep gaining 'firsts' and spectecles in space as they are reaching the limits of the current sysems and capability. While some long term goals and plans are discussed here but no solid plans are made. The N1 is authorized for further study, (if Chelomie is still around) the UR500 authorized as a Heavy ICBM and LV and Yangel gets priority for the R36. We'll assume that Korolev doesn't lose any influance to Chelomie so that he is undesputed "Chief Designer" of the "space" program.

Once Kennedy announces the US Lunar goal the Soviet's at least take him seriously even if they don't belive he'll stick to the goal. So an early 1963 decision is made to 'match' the American effort as long as the ICBM program is moving forward. The N1, LK, and Soyuz projects are given a higher priority and support along with the UR500. Still, it's going to be hard to free up enough resources to cover all this and the ICBM program as well.

Another issue is I don't know for sure what the relationship was between the various designers, beyond the obvious 'Korolev and Glushko didn't work together very well' stuff. But, based on what you said, if we make them start talking to each other earlier then maybe we could see Korolev being more likely to listen to Glushko and the others, and eventually being appointed the head of the space program in 1962 or 63.
Korolev and Glushko had been butting heads since the early days. Yangel used to work for Korolev who felt somewhat betrayed when he was moved out and given his own beuro. (The military had a saying {paraphrased} that Koroleve worked for space, Chelomie worked for Khrushchev, and Yangel works for Us, see: https://falsesteps.wordpress.com/2016/09/11/the-r-56yangel-works-for-us/) And then there was Chelomie who figured he had an 'in' with hiring Khrushchev's son, (he wasn't wrong) and was clearly out to take over the whole rocket and spacecraft development program which Korolev had issues with but he found a kindered sprit in Glushko and Yangel since they advocated storable propellants. Glusko had also failed to deliver on several 'promised' engines for the early R1 and R7 which forced Korolev to devote resources to design and build the engines and upgrades which did not endear the two.

Convince (or force) Glushko to crack the combustion instabilty issue or maybe Korolev that large H2O2/kerosene engines are viable and have them become a closer team. Have Yangel present first and use his time to point out the flaws in the current space and ICBM program. Maybe get rid of Chelomie?

Heres what I'm thinking:

Have Glushko pitch keroxide to Korolev in 1961, and have him accept under the condition that Glushko would build Kerolev the N1's engines, using the new propellant.
Modification? Have Glushko also build the requested upper stage engines to improve the R7 though I'm not sure keroxide would provide the needed performance it might. Glushko could pitch the fact that decomposed peroxide auto-ignites kerosene which would avoid the combustion instabilities he's encountering in the large kerolox engine designs.

Then in the 1962 meeting have Khrushchev pick the N1/N11 as the super-heavy and heavy lifters/ICBMs, with the R-36 acting as a light ICBM. Also, have someone point out that they just basically designed three launch vehicle families, and if they'd only designed one it would have been more capable, leading to Khrushchev reorganizing the space program to promote working together as opposed to competing.
Yes and no as the R36 is the more miilitarily useful vehicle while the N1/N11 might be more capable as an LV with less military utility. And keep in mind what they are 'competing' for is the limited resources and support the USSR could provide. Once a decsion is made there's a lot less in-fighting... Unless you know, there's like a change of leadership or something :)

At this point, everyone starts pushing for a completely standardized rocket fleet and Korolev agrees to take inspiration from Glushko's universal rockets, with the new fleet using common engines attached to various combinations of fuel tanks. The largest, the N1 'Herkules' would still use its conventional truncated cone tanks with 8 to 10 engines on the first stage. The N11 'Proton' would have 4 to 5, and the N111 'I haven't thought of a name' would use 2 to 3. The N111 would also use new, cylindrical tanks. The R-7 meanwhile would probably continue flying up to the 1980s but would be slowly phased out starting by the late 1960s.
N111 "Vulkain"? And the 'standardized' or "Universal" rocket fleet was Chelomie more than Glushko and was part of his attempt to take over all rocket production.

Huh, I didn't even think of that. I guess it still would since the new ICBMs probably wouldn't be ready until 63 or 64, but it might not. I really don't know enough to say for sure.
Well without an earlier POD that might effect US missile development then it's likely that Congress still mandates the US develop an IRBM which the Army had already done with Jupiter which was the basis of the USAF's Thor. Now it's possible a more confident USSR makes more protests of the planned deployment in Italy and Turkey, enough that they actually stand firm about not wanting them deployed in their countries. If they don't get deployed then there's less pressure on Khrushchev to 'counter' the deployment by putting missiles into Cuba.

I agree with that. The TLKs and LGKs will probably have to wait until the end of the 60s to start development, but then again if they can somehow convince the military that a Lunar base would be useful they might be able to find the funding.
By the mid-60s no one really took a 'military' use for the Moon seriously anymore. Like orbting nuclear weapon the reality of the them compared to any other more plausible, (and affordable) terrestrial alternative was clear. I won't repeat most of the already mentioned arguments but the main one is there is no stealth in space, (your radar mirror won't work because they are also optically tracking the warheads/station and even if it 'disappears' it will remain going in the same direction and speed unless there is a very visible and obvious application of a LOT of thrust) and your warheads have only limited utility over most of their flight path. Oh, and I see no one mentioned the BIG thing that 'killed' this idea... Mainteance and operations costs and utility. Those warheads have to be maintained and they degrade over time due to cosmic and solar radiation. You have to have a large orbital infrastructure to care and maintain those orbiting assets all of which is highly vulnerable to any surface launched area-effect attack.

Korolev and others tried to interest the military in orbital bases and constellations of 'battle satellites' along with satellite inspection and interception mission but the military wasn't biting. Even the US efforts there quickly lost interest. Just about anything you need done in space can be done easier and cheaper with an unmanned platform and most of it can be done from the ground anyway.

The ONE possible utility has always been a deep-space/Cis-Lunar command and control station which both sides studied extensivly. It just didn't come out as any better than alternative concepts that were cheaper and easier to accomplish.

The Zond, and Lunar program in general, ITTL will probably be a bit more successful since most of the earlier missions had thair Proton boosters fail, which would be less of a problem with the N11. They might be able to do a crewed circumlunar flight by March of 1968, or maybe even earlier if their luck is perfect (Could you imagine if they did it in November of 1967?). That, combined with the N1 development going more smoothly would free up enough funds to get an LK flying by 1968. At that point, they can start focusing on its successor, as well as any N1 upgrades they have planned.
There's a LOT of preliminary work that needs to happen that wasn't just falling behind because of the Proton. The N11 and N1 would still be essentially flight tested rather than ground tested which will inevitibly lead to more rather than fewer failures. N11 failures would be less of an issue than Proton or N1 failures but even in the best case they ORIGINALLY hoped to land on the Moon by 1968 and that slipped to 1969 before they began having major problems. The only succssfully space tested part of the LK system was the lunar module engine OTL everything else was behind schedule and slipping even further. TTL they are going to have to perform orbital docking, manuevering, and rendezvous operations with the whole and parts of the complex that are going to be obvious to the Americans

Interesting, I always assumed it was designed for two people from the start.
Nope, three (3) crew without space suits, modified to two to the Moon, (since the crew had to wear space suits both for the trip and to perform the EVA's needed to get to and from the LK-lander) but standard three. Put an ejector seat in there and I'm not sure you'd have enough room for two cosmonauts :)

That's good advice, I'll increase the crew to three. Btw the LK probably would go outside visual range, otherwise, any test burns it could make would be extremely limited unless they have the Soyuz burn at the same time which just seems very risky.
The "Zond" is supposed to have more delta-v than the Lander can even think about so it should be no issue and you want to remain in visual range just in case of problems like this one. (Not to mention getting good video/film of the whole evolution :) ) You'll move out of visual range on one of the later test flights but that would likely be over the Moon ala-Apollo 10 or something.

If they can't land at the poles that means no water ice, which means no ISRU which means the cost of running the base is going to be very high. Perhaps it could work if they refueled in Earth or Lunar orbit? Or is it completely impossible?
Ahhh, not so fast! One of the 'advantages' of an unmanned sample return mission is that the chances of contamination are a lot lower than with an astro/cosmonaut involved. We actually DID discover that there was more water on the Moon than we'd originally thought but because it tested as essentialy chemically similar to terrestrial water it was ruled as contamination due to the sample cross-section size. (See instead of a 'coreing' drill the Apollo crews 'duel-used' a drill made to bury sensors in the regolith. Since the cross-section was only about an inch in diameter and the sample case seals had dust and regolith all over them it was assumed the 'water' came from either the astronauts suits or some Earthly source. Later studies determined that several of the sample were NOT contaminated and that in fact the regolith had a higher water contect than had been assumed) Once it's determined that the regolith itself has more H2O than assumed then it follows that there are either sources on the Moon for water or it is an ongoing process. The 'heat-trap' concept follows pretty rapidly from there.

Re-fueling or other Earth orbital operations would help of course but the N1/LK program was aimed at being as close to a single launch mission as possible because that was the fastest way. Once you start expanding operations you really no longer want single person missions anyway so you wait on the later series to do such tasks and take more than one person to the surface.

Those are some very good points. I agree, in fact, one of the things I noted is that with more reliable lifters the Lunar sample return missions are going to be more successful, and take place earlier. If they find water baked into the soil, the Soviet scientists might start looking to see if there's any in pure ice form. The obvious place to look would be the poles, of course, probably in very deep and shadowed craters, which would lead to them pushing for an expedition to one. Assuming what you said earlier is incorrect and they can, in fact, land there (which is a big 'if'), they might find some actual ice. If they can't, they might have to do with baking it out of the soil using microwaves.
You know depending on the overall situation a joint mission to the Lunar poles would make a 'better' analog to OTL's Apollo-Soyuz mission...

As for the abseiling into a crater, you're probably right on it being way too dangerous. They would probably just land at the bottom of it.
No that's actually worse :) You'd simply wait for another crew member, (or two) to be along before you do anything like this

Actually, in the story, it was on her own. Which is a question I meant to ask a while ago, how realistic are female cosmonauts at this point? I know Tereshkova basically killed that back in 1963, but would the Soviets be willing to set that aside for the propaganda gain from such a mission?
Ya I noted that but thought I'd either misread or a mistake :) The main issues as I understand it was less "Tereshkova" herself but a general lack of ability to put multiple females throught the training, (her flight was supposed to be a dual female mission but the second launch was scrubbed) and a lack of interest in repeating what was upfront a 'stunt' mission. These were essentially 'military' pilots assigned as cosmonauts and like the American program the initial requirements were pretty exclusive. Essentially if the American's plan or succeed in putting a woman on the Moon they might consider doing so.

The TMK was to be assembled in two N1 launches, with the third flight being a Proton rocket (or N11) to launch the crew to it. A rocket like the Proton was needed because the spacecraft would fly into high Earth orbit just before the crew launched for some reason. At least that's what Astronautix says.
Actually Astronautix says they left from LEO in both missions. The only reason to go to HEO was they could use less propellant to break free of Earth to do the TMI burn. The crew would likely go up second so that you could save mass in the Launch Escape System and some other 'crew-only' requirments that you can add to the mass of the complex or save propellant, and to avoid long exposure to the Van Allen belts.

Astronautix also says that by using a Venus swing-by to reduce Delta-V they can launch the spacecraft in one go, but I'm less inclined to believe that. In any case, there's a good chance the Soviets would be able to cover it up since a Mars flyby needs less than 4 km/s to do, which is almost the exact same as going to Lunar orbit.
The "one-launch" was if the TMK-1 went up manned or not and predicated on the assumed (at the time of around 1959/1961) N1 capabilities. The problem with it being a "Lunar" station is the same in that there weren't very many, (or good) Lunar orbits to put them in. Add in you've got a booster with over 45 tonnes (metric) of propellant and it's likely not going to the Moon no matter what they say :) The Venus swing-by reduced your total trip time, (which in turn reduces your on-board supply requirements) somewhat going from a bit over 37 months (three years, one month, two days) to a little under a year and a half IIRC my figures correctly. Normally that would be about half you consumables but the TMK had an bio-regenerative life support system so the mass was somewhat fixed. (Though lower than an non-regenerative LSS to start with)

As for the MEK, there's basically no way to hide that as you said. Still, with fixed launch windows it will be hard for the Americans to beat them to the launch at least.
"Hard, you say? Hold my beer there son..." :)

I assumed that accelerating for a week or two would be enough, plus even ion drives are not efficient enough to do a burn the entire way. Going on a full brachistochrone trajectory requires insane amounts of Delta-V.
Ion has delta-v to spare AND a huge ISP, the downside is the enemic thrust ratio. Still propulsive trip times can range from 777 days to a little under a year depending on the power and drive type. (See: https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19870014259.pdf) Your biggest issue is you can't put the crew on-board until you're almost out of Earth's influance due to those pesky Van Allen belts again as the ship has to spiral out of LEO or be boosted by a high thrust booster of some kind. (NERVA/Ion Hybrid can be found here: https://www.wired.com/2012/04/ernsts-ions-week-concludes-nerva-ion-mars-mission-1966/, and other nuclear ion concepts here: http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/realdesigns3.php#stuhlingerion, http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/realdesigns3.php#lrcion, http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/realdesigns3.php#marsnep, and the classic; http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/realdesigns3.php#umbrella, "In Thrust We Trust" even if it's only ounces for forever :) )

I will admit, I did take a lot of artistic license on that ending. Firstly, as you noted, the communication systems would likely still be functioning, since the rover almost certainly would have had independent ones. Also, as you said, they could have almost certainly worked something out to survive. I would bet that a real mission would have had some sort of inflatable shelter to extend the range of the MRV which they could use.
Happy Endings... It's a thing you know ;)

But most importantly, after I wrote that story I finally found some good transfer tables in an old Von Braun book, and it turns out even with an ion propulsion system the Americans would actually beat the Soviets, by 160 days! Well, those calculations were assuming it was a flyby mission, but still. I'll probably move the expedition to 1986 to make it more realistic in that regard. If the Soviets depart around 120 days earlier than the Americans do they can get there first in that case.
And if they are sneaky enough :)

And why am I not surprised you've also read To Grasp The Heavens? Seriously, you seem to have read everything on this site. To be honest, though, that is my favorite story on the forums, but then again I am British so I might be a bit biased.
What? Bias? On these fine forums? Not that I'd have some notes no a TL where "Oh, dear.. Seems we Brits have accidentally stumbled into being a world aerospace power by some rather near-done decsions and some luck... Oh whatever shall we do? Heh..."

Randy
 
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