Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

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Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by MKSheppard » 2009-01-04 08:41am

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So I was reading through a book on the Energyia-Buran complex and I noted this line:
A LUNAR BASE OR A SHUTTLE?

Although studies of reusable space transportation systems were underway by the time TsKBEM was reorganized into NPO Energiya in May 1974, at that time they were certainly not considered the main priority. Glushko himself was opposed to the development of a Space Shuttle equivalent and in the first week following his appointment had even disbanded Burdakov's shuttle team, only to reinstate it on the insistence of Igor Sadovskiy, who in turn was placed in charge of the shuttle department [8].

Glushko feared the shuttle program would jeapordize plans to establish a per-manent base on the Moon. Despite the suspension of the N-l project, the manned lunar program was not dead. Not only was a lunar base considered an appropriate response to the short-duration Apollo flights, for Glushko personally it would be a sweet revenge on Korolyov's star-crossed N-l/L-3 effort. Initially at least, Glushko had the support of Dmitriy Ustinov, who in his capacity of Communist Party Secretary for Defense Matters served as the de facto head of the Soviet space program from 1965 until 1976. A long-time ally of Glushko, Ustinov may very well have been instrumental in getting him the top job at NPO Energiya. Opening a top meeting at NPO Energiya on 13 August 1974, Ustinov said:

"In recent days the Politburo has held serious discussions on our space problems ... It was said at the Politburo that, taking into account the successful landings of the Americans, the task of conquering the Moon remains especially important for us. Whatever task we carry out, this will remain our main general task, but in a new [form]." [9]

Even though work on a lunar base was already underway at the K.BOM design bureau of Vladimir Barmin, Prudnikov's department at NPO Energiya set to work. By the end of 1974 it completed preliminary plans for a permanently manned lunar base called Zvezda ("Star") that would see three-man crews working on the surface of the Moon for up to a year before being changed out. The plan included a Lunar Expedition Ship (LEK) to transport the crews to the Moon and a lunar base consisting of a Lab-Hab Module, a Lab-Factory Module, a manned lunar rover, and a small nuclear power plant to provide power to the various elements of the base. The scheme required multiple launches of a massive rocket in the RLA family capable of putting 230 tons into low Earth orbit, 60 tons into lunar orbit, and 22 tons on the lunar surface [10].

By the first half of 1975 NPO Energiya had devised a so-called "Integrated Rocket and Space Programme", which included the plans for the RLA rocket family, the Zvezda lunar base, and reusable spacecraft. It was submitted for approval to the Ministry of General Machine Building and the Ministry of Defense. Apparently, the hope was that all these elements would be approved. However, by this time Zvezda, Glushko's pet project, stood little chance of surviving. Not surprisingly, the lunar base received no support whatsoever from the military. Neither did it recieve the blessing of the Academy of Sciences (in the person of Keldysh) and Ustinov's initial support had dwindled for a variety of reasons [11]. Clearly, many had been sobered up by the fact that the estimated price tag for the project was 100 billion rubles [12].
Clearly, a sad thing. Stas no doubt will be along with some russian language sources shortly, or with more information...
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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by Sidewinder » 2009-01-04 12:13pm

Interesting and informative, but what is Glushko's position, i.e., why was he powerful enough to disband the Soviet shuttle team? And how much was 100 billion rubles worth in USD?

Also, did NASA ever have contemporary plans of establishing a permanent lunar base?
Please do not make Americans fight giant monsters.

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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by MKSheppard » 2009-01-04 01:00pm

The Soviets had their bureaus and research complexes do studies on the shuttle program and they bore out the following results:

TsNIIMash director Yuriy Mozzhorin:
"[The Space Shuttle] was announced as a national program, aimed at 60 launches per year ... All this was very unusual: the mass they had been putting into orbit with their expendable rockets hadn't even reached 150 tons per year, and now they were planning to launch 1,770 tons per year. Nothing was being returned from space and now they were planning to bring down 820 tons per year. This was not simply a program to develop some space system ... to lower transportation costs (they promised they would lower those costs tenfold, but the studies done at our institute showed that in actual fact there would be no cost savings at all). It clearly had a focused military goal."
Academy of Sciences' Institute of Applied Mathematics (IPM) scientists Efraim Akin:
"When the US Shuttle was announced we started investigating the logic of that approach. Very early our calculations showed that the cost figures being used by NASA were unrealistic. It would be better to use a series of expendable launch vehicles. Then, when we learned of the decision to build a Shuttle launch facility at Vandenberg for military purposes, we noted that the trajectories from Vandenberg allowed an overflight of the main centers of the USSR on the first orbit. So our hypothesis was that the development of the Shuttle was mainly for military purposes. Because of our suspicion and distrust we decided to replicate the Shuttle without a full understanding of its mission.

When we analysed the trajectories from Vandenberg we saw that it was possible for any military payload to re-enter from orbit in three and a half minutes to the main centers of the USSR, a much shorter time than [a submarine-launched ballistic missile] could make possible (ten minutes from off the coast). You might feel that this is ridiculous but you must understand how ou leadership, provided with that information, would react. Scientists have a different psychology than the military. The military, very sensitive to the variety possible means of delivering the first strike, suspecting that a first-strike cap-ability might be the Vandenberg Shuttle's objective, and knowing that a first strike would be decisive in a war, responded predictably" [14].
Energiya-Buran chief designer Boris Gubanov:
"The studies ... showed that the Space Shuttle could carry out a return maneuver from a half or single orbit ..., approach Moscow and Leningrad from the south, and then, performing ... a "dive", drop in this region a nuclear charge, and in combination with other means paralyze the military command system of the Soviet Union." [15]
This resulted in decree Number 123-51:
"The Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party and the Council of Ministers, attaching special importance to increasing the defense capabilities of the country and strengthening the work to create future space complexes for solving military, economic, and scientific tasks, has decided: (1) to accept the proposals of the Ministry of General Machine Building, the Ministry of Defense of the USSR, and the Academy of Sciences of the USSR to create a Reusable Space System consisting of a rocket boost stage, an orbital plane, an interorbital tug, a complex to control the system, launch, landing and repair complexes, and other ground-based means to launch into northeasterly orbits with an altitude of 200 kilometers payloads weighing up to 30 tons and return to the launch and landing complex payloads weighing up to 20 tons and with the purpose of:

---counteracting the measures taken by the likely adversary to expand the use of space for military purposes;

---solving purposeful tasks in the interests of defense, the national economy, and science;

---carrying out military and applications research and experiments in space to support the development of space battle systems using weapons based on known and new physical principles;

---putting into near-Earth orbits, servicing in these orbits, and returning to Earth space vehicles for different purposes, delivering to space stations cosmonauts and cargo and returning them back to Earth ..."
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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by Uraniun235 » 2009-01-04 06:20pm

When we analysed the trajectories from Vandenberg we saw that it was possible for any military payload to re-enter from orbit in three and a half minutes to the main centers of the USSR, a much shorter time than [a submarine-launched ballistic missile] could make possible (ten minutes from off the coast).
I want to make sure I'm reading this correctly: are they saying that their concern was that we would send up the Shuttle, it would loiter in orbit, and then when the time was right we'd de-orbit the Shuttle over Russia and drop a few bombs on Moscow?


Also, this part is curious:
This was not simply a program to develop some space system ... to lower transportation costs (they promised they would lower those costs tenfold, but the studies done at our institute showed that in actual fact there would be no cost savings at all). It clearly had a focused military goal.
Was there actually a focused military goal? Or was this just basically the big scam of the Shuttle, seeing as it never made as many launches a year as it originally promised?
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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by Fingolfin_Noldor » 2009-01-04 09:25pm

The USSR also had similar ideas for its Shuttle and smaller MiG-105 space plane. So I would imagine the Shuttle could be rigged for something similar if the US Military so decides to take possession of the plane. I would imagine there are top secret instructions, and that is of course left to Shep to find them. :P
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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by K. A. Pital » 2009-01-04 10:40pm

What Shep is talking about are projects "Vulkan-Zvezda" and "Vulkan-LEK".

The "Zvezda" program was a program of a permanent lunar base, established through the N1-L3 program - the latter was ill-fated and thus "Zvezda" never came to be. It was something like a train of 9 stationary lunar modules connected with each other. The author of "Zvevda", Barmin, defended the project before Ustinov in 1971, and Ustinov agreed that it had to move on - however, the failure of all four N1 launches was the end of all associated projects in 1974. The "Zvezda" project for a while tried to utilize the new proposed vehicle (the "Vulkan" rocket) but failed and the program was cancelled ultimately.

Apparently the cost of the "Zvezda" in 1997 dollars was reaching 80 billion.

The "Vulkan-LEK" program was Glushko's idea for 1974-1976. Despite the failure of the preceding N1 project, the USSR knew that the "Apollo-17" will be the last American ship on the moon. A moon base would totally eclipse this success and once again show the USSR's leading edge. A powerful new rocket, the "Vulkan", was proposed for such a task [yes, that "Vulkan" - the "Energia-Vulkan", an upsized Energia with six boosters]

It was capable of shooting around 230 tons to LEO, of them 60 tons directly to translunar trajectory, and 22 tons were delivered to the surface of the Moon. Unlike other projects, the "Vulkan" program was a total complex - project included means of delivery of the base, and cosmonauts, and all means to continously reside there. A transport and expeditionary space ship, as well as a science lab, were proposed.

The following elements were included:

- LEK - lunar expeditionary ship. Like the preceding LK project, the landing apparatus used one engine to land and two to rise. The return module size was increased, allowing to send more cosmonauts. NPO Energia LEK - scheme and a description in Russian from Afanasiev's "Unknown Spaceships".
- LZHM - lunar habitable module, a permanent base for three cosmonauts on the Moon.
- Lunokhod - a lunar car which allowed to travel up to 200 km away from the base. It's main tasks were large-scale scientific experiments, as well as loading-unloading operations, and possibly to bury radioactive waste from the portable nuclear reactor away from the base.
- Laboratory-factory module, constisting of two hulls. The first served for various biological and physical experiments, the second was to synthetically produce oxygen out of moon ground. It was the same size as the living quarters module.
- Radioisotope generators. Every module had it's own energy plant, which were placed on safe distances after the landing and placement of the module, before they were powered on.
- A cargo spaceship to deliver additional equipment, water and food. Similar to modern "Progress" cargo ships.

One of the goals of the complex could have been industrial mining of helium-3.

The project had three stages.

First stage: three launches of the "Vulkan" rocket, which would deliver the habitable quarters, the lunokhod and the moon ship with crews.
Second stage: two launches of the "Vulkan" which would deliver another permanent living module and another lunokhod.
Third stage: one launch to deliver the lab module. At this stage the lunar base started producing it's own oxygen and needed no oxygen resupplies from Earth.

The rate of supply launches was projected around 1 transport ship per year, and 1 lunar ship per year launch to replace the cosmonauts, in total 2 launches each year.

The project of this moon base and the "Vulkan" rocket was finished by 1975, however, the special commission of the Academy of Sciences decided that this project had to be conserved in favour of the Soviet Energia-Buran multiple re-entry spaceship program.
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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by Sidewinder » 2009-01-05 01:24am

NASA's little white lies cost both superpowers big time. I remember reading the space shuttle boosters were built in segments because if they were built in one piece, they'd be too big for multiple companies to manufacture and then transport across multiple states to be assembled (according to this list, 19 different companies in 13 different states), and this diffusion was vital to get the program approved; we all know what this did to the Challenger. Then there's the fact that no escape pod or other emergency egress system was built because the cost overruns meant there was no money to design and test such a system; we all know what this did to the Challenger and Columbia's crews.

And then there's the Soviets wasting billions of dollars trying to match NASA's waste; if the Soviet military leaders calmed down and thought it over, they should realize the shuttle is absolutely useless as a first strike weapon because it takes too damn long to prepare a shuttle for flight, i.e., shipping components across the nation, assembling the damn thing, fueling it, etc. Then there's everything you have to do afterwards, e.g., replacing the damn thermal protection system's damn tiles, before you can launch the shuttle again. I doubt you can hide all the time, money, and resources needed to launch a shuttle, especially when all this time, money, and resources is spent on 19 different companies in 13 different states.
Please do not make Americans fight giant monsters.

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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by PeZook » 2009-01-05 05:04am

Sidewinder wrote: and this diffusion was vital to get the program approved; we all know what this did to the Challenger.
Responsibility for the Challenger lies solely on NASA decision maker who approved the launch: they were informed beforehand that launching in such cold weather was dangerous. Diffusion has nothing to do with it.

Furthermore, the segmented construction of the SRB makes it ridiculously easy to scale the thing up: see the Ares I launch vehicle family.
Sidewinder wrote:Then there's the fact that no escape pod or other emergency egress system was built because the cost overruns meant there was no money to design and test such a system; we all know what this did to the Challenger and Columbia's crews.
Uh...actually no ejection system was implemented because it's an extremely difficult technical problem to do it with a Shuttle-style spacecraft. And, of course, ejection from the Columbia during re-entry would be suicide, and may be downright impossible in the time from the crew realizing the damage was catastrophic to destruction of the spacecraft.

I'd also like to present the fact that the Shuttle made 133 flights, only two of which ended with catastrophic failure. This gives the system an impressive 98.5% reliability rate, quite sufficient for a manned system. The Soyuz had two fatal accidents, too, and somehow it's widely regarded as an extremely safe and reliable system.
Sidewinder wrote:And then there's the Soviets wasting billions of dollars trying to match NASA's waste; if the Soviet military leaders calmed down and thought it over, they should realize the shuttle is absolutely useless as a first strike weapon because it takes too damn long to prepare a shuttle for flight, i.e., shipping components across the nation, assembling the damn thing, fueling it, etc
It is useless, but not for the reasons given: it's of no use as a first strike weapon because it's designed for transporting cargo and people (it has a huge, comfortable seven person living space, the largest of), rather than deploying weapons. Make the ship smaller (perhaps unmanned, so that a mission to foreign territorry isn't suicide), design it like a bomber, give it a capability to remain in orbit for a couple of weeks or so, and you have a very viable first-strike weapon system, though it's possible it can be murdered by international conventions prohibiting weaponization of space.

This, incidentally, may be why the Soviets thought the Shuttle is a bomber-in-disguise. I think Stuart once commented that when Soviet intelligence found no evidence of one program or another, they usually went "Holy shit, it's so secret we couldn't find anything about it!". This mindset is probably the reason why they saw a civilian space transport and went "Holy shit, it's gotta be a bomber in disguise!", because conventions forbid weaponization of space, thus it couldn't be just a bomber, and Americans wanted to KILL RUSSIANS more than anything else, right?
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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by Fingolfin_Noldor » 2009-01-05 05:54am

There is nothing that can prevent the shuttle from being reconfigured into something that can launch weapons from orbit. The loading bay has to be reconfigured anyway each time someone fits a piece of cargo in it. Design a cargo module that can fire off MIRVs and there you have it: a space bomber.
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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by PeZook » 2009-01-05 06:37am

Fingolfin_Noldor wrote:There is nothing that can prevent the shuttle from being reconfigured into something that can launch weapons from orbit. The loading bay has to be reconfigured anyway each time someone fits a piece of cargo in it. Design a cargo module that can fire off MIRVs and there you have it: a space bomber.
It's a pretty jury-rigged solution, though. The thing's just plain too big to use primarily as an orbital bomber: why the hell does it need spacious accomodations for seven people, for example? Two would suffice just fine...so it's either a cargo transport consciously designed so that it can serve as an orbital bomber (and it's not), or a cargo transport which can incidentally serve as a bomber. Which I suppose it is, just like the Soyuz can be :D
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JULY 20TH 1969 - The day the entire world was looking up

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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by Fingolfin_Noldor » 2009-01-05 07:51am

PeZook wrote:It's a pretty jury-rigged solution, though. The thing's just plain too big to use primarily as an orbital bomber: why the hell does it need spacious accomodations for seven people, for example? Two would suffice just fine...so it's either a cargo transport consciously designed so that it can serve as an orbital bomber (and it's not), or a cargo transport which can incidentally serve as a bomber. Which I suppose it is, just like the Soyuz can be :D
Well, you know, you could have the 1st and 2nd person the pilot and co-pilot, the third person (or the fourth), the flight engineer, the fourth person a bombardier, and convert the rest of the space into something for the fire control electronics... And there's no such thing as "too much space on a bomber".
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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by K. A. Pital » 2009-01-05 09:14am

I think the main issue is that the Shuttle could have lifted many orbital weapons [say, SSGMs - space to space guided missiles] into space during the launch, then go for an attack on the USSR. At least in theory. Remember, the practical interiors and what the cargo consisted of were big unknowns. And if the US was scared of a tiny artificial satellite with a primitive radio, the Shuttle as an "unknown" money siphon creates far more suspicion.

Pezook got it right, everyone knows Americans want to bomb more RUSSKIES and vice-versa, so the idea that it's just a wasteful civilian system was thrown off. The USSR contemplated it's own spaceplane and found out that it had limited military applications but nonetheless they were feasible; therefore, they concluded that the other side considered the same.

It's no coincidence that the US "experts" considered the Soviet Buran program a "space fighter-bomber" when in fact it was a similar shuttle passenger-and-cargo craft with rather similar capabilities to the American version.
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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by PeZook » 2009-01-05 09:31am

The very idea of a manned orbital bomber looming high above, waiting to strike is rather...misqguided. Why not use unmanned command-activated weapon satellites instead? The only purpose of building a Shuttle-Bomber could be to conceal the fact you're going to attack, packaging a warhead or SSGMs in a nice harmless-looking outer shell. And even then, it would be pretty hard to conceal the massed launches of Doom Shuttles necessary to inflict significant damage :D
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JULY 20TH 1969 - The day the entire world was looking up

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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by Fingolfin_Noldor » 2009-01-05 09:55am

PeZook wrote:The very idea of a manned orbital bomber looming high above, waiting to strike is rather...misqguided. Why not use unmanned command-activated weapon satellites instead? The only purpose of building a Shuttle-Bomber could be to conceal the fact you're going to attack, packaging a warhead or SSGMs in a nice harmless-looking outer shell. And even then, it would be pretty hard to conceal the massed launches of Doom Shuttles necessary to inflict significant damage :D
Well, it's not like these satellites are untrackable. The radar technology of the 80s and late 70s was good enough to throw off MWs of radar power in the X-Band wavelengths into the air to track a good portion of the objects in the sky. The only issue is distinguishing the objects in question. The Soviets did have some plans to launch weapon armed satellites (and the Mir was part of the space defence system as well). The only reason why they never deployed them fully was to avoid an arm race in space, if my memory was clear on this.
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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by Sidewinder » 2009-01-05 12:23pm

PeZook wrote:
Sidewinder wrote:Then there's the fact that no escape pod or other emergency egress system was built because the cost overruns meant there was no money to design and test such a system; we all know what this did to the Challenger and Columbia's crews.
Uh...actually no ejection system was implemented because it's an extremely difficult technical problem to do it with a Shuttle-style spacecraft. And, of course, ejection from the Columbia during re-entry would be suicide, and may be downright impossible in the time from the crew realizing the damage was catastrophic to destruction of the spacecraft.
NASA managed to design something for the Apollo program, so something similar should be possible for the shuttle (compare the Apollo abort modes with the Space Shuttle abort modes), assuming NASA didn't go along with the stupid "three or four [crewmembers] are on the middeck (roughly the center of the forward fuselage), surrounded by substantial vehicle structure" design. At the very least, it would've saved Challenger's crew.
I think Stuart once commented that when Soviet intelligence found no evidence of one program or another, they usually went "Holy shit, it's so secret we couldn't find anything about it!". This mindset is probably the reason why they saw a civilian space transport and went "Holy shit, it's gotta be a bomber in disguise!", because conventions forbid weaponization of space, thus it couldn't be just a bomber, and Americans wanted to KILL RUSSIANS more than anything else, right?
No, Americans wanted to FIGHT COMMUNISM because they thought Communists wanted to REDUCE AMERICANS INTO UNTHINKING, GODLESS COGS IN THE COMMUNIST MACHINE or KILL RICH AMERICANS (and Americans of all classes want to be rich, so this would put every American in the Communists' gunsight). Proof? Look up some media from the 90s, after the Soviet Union fell and Russia ceased to be a Communist state. In 'Terminator 2', John Connor is surprised when the Terminator describes nuclear war between the US and Russia, saying, "I thought we were friends now?" Tom Clancy's 'Debt of Honor', 'Executive Orders', and 'The Bear and the Dragon' have Russia becoming an American ally (even joining NATO!) against Japan, Iran, and Communist China. Stephen Coonts' Fortunes of War has the US deploying a Flying Tigers-like unit (USAF pilots pretending to be mercenaries so the US government can plausibly deny it took sides) to defend Russia from Japan.
Please do not make Americans fight giant monsters.

Those gun nuts do not understand the meaning of "overkill," and will simply use weapon after weapon of mass destruction (WMD) until the monster is dead, or until they run out of weapons.

They have more WMD than there are monsters for us to fight. (More insanity here.)

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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by MKSheppard » 2009-01-05 12:56pm

Stas Bush wrote:It's no coincidence that the US "experts" considered the Soviet Buran program a "space fighter-bomber" when in fact it was a similar shuttle passenger-and-cargo craft with rather similar capabilities to the American version.
Weeellll, you using a 1:2 model of the Spiral (BOR-4) to test the Buran heat shield system and materials didn't help the paranoia; for years, DoD imagined that you were developing TWO spaceplanes; the bigger Buran Orbiter, and a smaller spaceplane the size of Spiral, which would be launched by a much smaller booster...

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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by MKSheppard » 2009-01-05 01:35pm

PeZook wrote:Furthermore, the segmented construction of the SRB makes it ridiculously easy to scale the thing up: see the Ares I launch vehicle family.
Actually no. Ares I is not a simple stretch. It's much wider in diameter than the SRB, so it's essentially all new; and has horrid problems in development.
PeZook wrote:Uh...actually no ejection system was implemented because it's an extremely difficult technical problem to do it with a Shuttle-style spacecraft. And, of course, ejection from the Columbia during re-entry would be suicide, and may be downright impossible in the time from the crew realizing the damage was catastrophic to destruction of the spacecraft.
Actually, Buran would have implemented ejection for the pilot and co-pilot, and the ultimate goal for production Buran was for ejection seats for all crew members. And from the start, the crew would have worn full pressure suits; making ejection survival much more likely -- you can eject up to Mach 4.

It would have saved several Challenger astronauts; because the crew compartment stayed intact for it's long plunge into the se. Since the Buran system has them wearing full pressure suits, they wouldn't have gone unconscious; thus remaining capable of pulling the ejection handles on their seats and punching out from the crew compartment and returning to earth on a parachute...

As for Columbia; Buran would have been far more survivable as well. Mission 002 for Buran was planned to be an unmanned launch into orbit; where the Orbiter would be met in orbit by a manned Soyuz spacecraft, and a docking would occur, proofing the concept behind Buran Rescue From Orbit. So in the case of wing damage during launch to the Orbiter; just send up a Soyuz and land the crew that way, and then bring the orbiter home via it's automatic landing system. If it distengrates in re-entry, well, hey, at least nobody died.
It is useless, but not for the reasons given: it's of no use as a first strike weapon because it's designed for transporting cargo and people (it has a huge, comfortable seven person living space, the largest of), rather than deploying weapons.
The shuttle has a very significant crossrange capability, thanks to the US Military requirement for polar launches from Vandenberg.

This which is what gave the Commies heartburn:

Shuttle launches from Vandenburg into a shallow orbit which takes it over the USSR from the south; and using the significant orbital manouvering capability of the shuttle, adjust the orbit into a shallow dive as it approaches central Russia; launch nuclear weapons at key centers of industry, and evade incoming ABM fire with aforementioned orbital manouvering capability.

Of course, a more militarized shuttle would have a smaller crew compartment (just a two man flight deck), only enough capability to stay up for 72 hours, not a whole week, and a shorter cargo bay; with the weight saved put into more propellant for orbital manouvering and ARMOR -- possibly even a Colt/Pontiac M39 20mm cannon for destroying incoming hostile objects via a simple radar tracking and ranging...
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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by PeZook » 2009-01-06 03:39am

MKSheppard wrote: Actually no. Ares I is not a simple stretch. It's much wider in diameter than the SRB, so it's essentially all new; and has horrid problems in development.
According to this source, the Ares I SRM is of almost exactly the same diameter. If I understand it correctly, it has problems with vibrations (like, well - any rocket ever) and fuel grains or such.
MKSheppard wrote:Actually, Buran would have implemented ejection for the pilot and co-pilot, and the ultimate goal for production Buran was for ejection seats for all crew members. And from the start, the crew would have worn full pressure suits; making ejection survival much more likely -- you can eject up to Mach 4.
Well, I didn't know that. Still, a Mach 4 limit only gives you about a minute and a half of an ejection envelope: compare this to the typical launch escape system, which can eject the capsule up to second stage ignition (about three minutes for Apollo), due to the configuration of the spacecraft.
MKSheppard wrote:It would have saved several Challenger astronauts; because the crew compartment stayed intact for it's long plunge into the se. Since the Buran system has them wearing full pressure suits, they wouldn't have gone unconscious; thus remaining capable of pulling the ejection handles on their seats and punching out from the crew compartment and returning to earth on a parachute...
Yeah, no argument there.
MKSheppard wrote:As for Columbia; Buran would have been far more survivable as well. Mission 002 for Buran was planned to be an unmanned launch into orbit; where the Orbiter would be met in orbit by a manned Soyuz spacecraft, and a docking would occur, proofing the concept behind Buran Rescue From Orbit. So in the case of wing damage during launch to the Orbiter; just send up a Soyuz and land the crew that way, and then bring the orbiter home via it's automatic landing system. If it distengrates in re-entry, well, hey, at least nobody died.
Uh...wasn't the entire problem that they didn't know about wing damage and didn't check for it? In such a case the Buran would burn up just like Columbia did. Both Shuttle disasters happened due to human error far more than technical problems.
MKSheppard wrote:Shuttle launches from Vandenburg into a shallow orbit which takes it over the USSR from the south; and using the significant orbital manouvering capability of the shuttle, adjust the orbit into a shallow dive as it approaches central Russia; launch nuclear weapons at key centers of industry, and evade incoming ABM fire with aforementioned orbital manouvering capability.
The OMS requires minute-long burns to significantly adjust the Shuttle's orbit. A deorbit burn typically takes 250 seconds or so ; How would it be able to evade ABM and/or ASAT missiles? It may have a decent delta-v, but still maneuvers like a beached whale.
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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2009-01-06 02:43pm

PeZook wrote:
Uh...wasn't the entire problem that they didn't know about wing damage and didn't check for it? In such a case the Buran would burn up just like Columbia did. Both Shuttle disasters happened due to human error far more than technical problems.
NASA’s engineering teams very much knew there could be damage, and they repeatedly asked that NASA get the DoD to use a spy satellite or a camera plane (we have some real nice camera planes for observing ICBM warheads in mid flight) to examine the shuttle as astronaut could not easily reach the area, but NASA management shot all the request down. Part of the reason for this was quite simply that if damage was present not a single thing could be done abut it in terms of a rescue or repair. Launching a second shuttle before the crew ran out of air was within mathematic possibility but only if we’d started preparing for launch the moment Columbia went into orbit and if we bypassed literally months of normal safety checks… not the best idea.
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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by K. A. Pital » 2009-01-07 01:31am

How about moving the crews into open space, and say transferring them to a nearby Soyuz ship? You could technically ask us for a ship, although I'm not sure it was ready at the time when Columbia was up in space.
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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2009-01-07 04:39am

Columbia had seven men and women onboard, Soyuz holds three even if it flew unmanned on the way up. That doesn’t work, even if Soyuz could orbit unmanned and the airlock was able to be operated from the outside only.

I have to retract my earlier statement though, apparently the investigation board determined that a piece of titanium scavenged from the crew compartment would have had at least a chance of being patch the crack to survive reentry, but this was a very chancy idea, and only thought up after the fact. Its ability to adhere would have been based on covering it with a bag of water shoved into the normal expansion joints of the heat tiles, which would then freeze. Don’t ask me how that’s supposed to help once the shuttle actually hit the atmosphere and the bag melts off. In fact the temperatures involved would have approached very near the melting point of the titanium itself.
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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by K. A. Pital » 2009-01-07 08:23am

Sucktackular. To be frank, I never understood why the US did not have any backup recovery vehicles for their crews... after all, a large crew lost is a huge public incident.
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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by PeZook » 2009-01-07 09:52am

Stas Bush wrote:Sucktackular. To be frank, I never understood why the US did not have any backup recovery vehicles for their crews... after all, a large crew lost is a huge public incident.
Complacency, probably: the shuttle made dozens of flights without massive disaster. In fact, even with the two disasters, it's slightly more reliable than the Soyuz!

Organizing the flights in a way to make a rescue possible would have been entirely doable with what they had: one way to do it may be to have a designated rescue orbiter on standby - though that's expensive, and requires the purchase of additional orbiters, occupying a valuable piece of infrastructure, etc.

Another may be to simply send up two Soyuz capsules and never load the shuttle up with seven astronauts at all, yet another to use the ISS as a temporary lifeboat and pay Russians to have at least one Soyuz on standby (the Shuttle crew could use the docked Soyuz, then wait for another to come and pick the rest up).

Finally, you could design a dedicated US rescue vehicle. Overall, though, I guess it was deemed unnecessary, since the Shuttle really performed quite excellently during its career. Though wasteful, it was designed pretty well (and the launch vehicle is very efficient: the orbiter and its cargo is only 8 tons less massive than the Apollo CSM+LM+SIVB stack delivered to orbit by a 3000 ton Saturn V)

On the titanium plate idea, it was probably expected to be held in place by air pressure during re-entry.
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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by K. A. Pital » 2009-01-07 09:59am

There's a difference between reliability rates though. If your fleet is so small as only five re-entry vehicles total, the loss of one signifies that the equipment is strained and should probably be retired. The Soyuz on the other hand are expendable ships, and thus each ship is assembled anew, meaning it's reliability and technical perfection rises with each new assembly. Or at least should be so.

Complacency certainly was a reason, but Russia's approach with the Buran (like not sending 7 people to space at once, and have a reserve capsule for descent stocked at the Mir station) looks more reliable and sturdy to me. Hindsight is a lot though; the USSR already saw Challenger explode by the time Buran was going operational.
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Re: Red Moon: The Soviet Moon Program

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2009-01-07 06:47pm

PeZook wrote: Finally, you could design a dedicated US rescue vehicle. Overall, though, I guess it was deemed unnecessary, since the Shuttle really performed quite excellently during its career. Though wasteful, it was designed pretty well (and the launch vehicle is very efficient: the orbiter and its cargo is only 8 tons less massive than the Apollo CSM+LM+SIVB stack delivered to orbit by a 3000 ton Saturn V)
Did you just totally miss that the shuttle never orbits higher then about 400km, while Saturn V boosted that payload to the freaking moon? Efficient the shuttle is not. Nothing that puts so much spacecraft mass into orbit, only to bring it all back after two weeks could be. In fact the payload to an equivalent orbit is only about 25% that of Saturn V. Counting the orbiter as all payload is total nonsense, since it holds you know, all the engines that burn the fuel from the external fuel tank.
Stas Bush wrote:Sucktackular. To be frank, I never understood why the US did not have any backup recovery vehicles for their crews... after all, a large crew lost is a huge public incident.
Remember, NASA sold everyone on the shuttle on the basis that each orbiter for fly every 3-4 weeks, and that we’d build a whole fleet of the things. If either of those things had happened, then flying rescue missions would have been completely feasible. As it was the shuttle proved far less reliable then expected, and production was limited, and NASA was stuck with enormously increased costs.

But honestly, its space travel, it’s not safe, never has or will be. The crew flew knowing the risks, and it’s still a lower loss rate then we expected say WW2 bomber crews or indeed even our pilots over Vietnam to endure.
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