Author Topic: Frederick Pohl and the SDI ("Star Wars")/NASA relationship  (Read 3761 times)

Offline Blackstar

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http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1847/1

You can’t get to heaven on a Pentagon spacecraft
by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, May 23, 2011

"Pohl gave a talk titled “You can’t get to heaven on a Pentagon spacecraft.” President Reagan created the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) in 1983 with the goal of creating a defensive shield against ballistic missiles, which detractors (starting with Senator Ted Kennedy, who coined the term) immediately called “Star Wars.” Soon the government dramatically increased its spending on strategic defense research, investing in many different areas, but particularly on space-based defenses because they offered the only possible way to destroy ballistic missiles early in flight—on the other side of the world from the United States. Historians have gotten mired in the politics and the ideology of SDI and devoted considerably less attention to the actual research and the technology. But SDIO had flown a number of spacecraft by the late 1980s and done so fast and inexpensively. Space activists had taken notice, and were starting to flirt with the idea of hitching their goals of space settlement to the running horse of the Strategic Defense Initiative."

Offline sdsds

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Doesn't the DC-X heritage of the Blue Origin New Shepherd pretty much show  Pohl was wrong? (Assuming it ever becomes operational, of course.)
-- sdsds --

Offline grdja

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Only thing that Blue Origin can realistically hope for is crew delivery vehicle on a F9 or EELV.  Small company trying to do SSTOs and TSTOs? We have seen that many times already, all being glorious failures with pathetic ends mired in lawsuits and all sorts of crazy allegations thrown around.

From dozens and dozens of new.space startups only SpaceX actually made a LV and orbited something, because they were only ones "boring" enough to go for a 100% conventional design.

Fully reusable SSTO or TSTO performance is determined by fine decimals of performance,  I don't think they are at all possible on the cheap. No one knows how many decades and billions of dollars would have laid between DC-X and actual orbit capable SS-X.

Offline Danderman

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There was a much deeper split in the space movement concerning Star Wars in the early 1980s, right after the Reagan speech. Apparently, some people thought that implementation of SDI would require really cheap launch vehicles, and so they advocated full support of SDI. The other side said the opposite. On the pro-SDI side were some of the science fiction writers who used to frequent the space movement, and the resulting ideological split effectively divorced some of them thereafter from the space movement, except for activities involving SDI, such as DC-X.



Offline Blackstar

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There was a much deeper split in the space movement concerning Star Wars in the early 1980s, right after the Reagan speech. Apparently, some people thought that implementation of SDI would require really cheap launch vehicles, and so they advocated full support of SDI. The other side said the opposite. On the pro-SDI side were some of the science fiction writers who used to frequent the space movement, and the resulting ideological split effectively divorced some of them thereafter from the space movement, except for activities involving SDI, such as DC-X.

That's a good point.  There really was an ideological component to this subject, including people who were pro-space but anti-SDI.  They weren't going to support it even if it helped the space settlement cause.

From what I remember of Pohl's talk, he had practical objections, not ideological ones.  He was certainly liberal (heck, he had been a communist), but he objected because he did not think that military space goals aligned with space settlement goals.

Offline Archibald

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I'll be interested in any document dealing with the SDIO - NASA relations in the 80's. 

Offline Blackstar

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I'll be interested in any document dealing with the SDIO - NASA relations in the 80's. 

I posted some stuff in L2 awhile back about the Delta 180 series of missions.  Although they were SDIO and had no NASA involvement, many of the techniques and concepts developed on those missions were carried over to NASA in the 1990s.

Offline Archibald

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I've discovered those missions recently- notably the Delta 183 or Delta Star. Looks as if original plans involved the soviets and Mir: kind of SDIO Apollo - Soyuz.

Offline Blackstar

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I've discovered those missions recently- notably the Delta 183 or Delta Star. Looks as if original plans involved the soviets and Mir: kind of SDIO Apollo - Soyuz.


Where do you get that?

Offline Blackstar

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I realize that my earlier answer was not terribly helpful.  So here's a lot of words that probably still won't answer your question:

There's not a lot written about the actual SDIO missions that flew.  And there were quite a few of them--not as much as the USAF or NRO space programs during the same period, but off the top of my head there was Delta 180, 181, 183, a couple of follow-on missions to conduct IR detections and measurements (Losat?), a few small spacecraft, Clementine, a few things that they tossed out of a shuttle bay, at least one dedicated shuttle mission, etc.  Maybe somebody has a list they can provide, but in short, I would guess at least 10-12 spacecraft launched over about a decade.

But nobody has really gone into the overall history of the SDI space program and tried to figure out what the missions accomplished.  Then there's the issue of what interactions SDIO had with NASA.  I think that at least initially there was very little.  In some ways, SDIO was the "anti-NASA" because they wanted to do things quickly and cheaply and they viewed NASA and USAF as not the way to do this, so they wanted to avoid them.  However, if you look at who did this stuff, you see that some of these people crossed back and forth, working at NASA, going to SDIO, then going back to NASA.  So they may have carried stuff that they developed with them in one agency when they crossed over to another.

I hope that's more helpful.  I'll have a few more things to say about that in future posts.

Offline Archibald

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Re: Frederick Pohl and the SDI ("Star Wars")/NASA relationship
« Reply #10 on: 05/26/2011 01:58 PM »
I've discovered those missions recently- notably the Delta 183 or Delta Star. Looks as if original plans involved the soviets and Mir: kind of SDIO Apollo - Soyuz.


Where do you get that?
There ;)
http://www.aero.org/publications/crosslink/summer2001/03.html

Quote
The Delta 183 program in 1989 was to be another collaborative effort between the U.S.S.R. and the United States, this time space experiments involving Mir. Specifically, an unmanned spacecraft would be deployed and maneuvered into the vicinity of Mir. An American astronaut and a Soviet cosmonaut aboard Mir would engage in extravehicular experiments using National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) space-maneuvering backpacks to inspect the spacecraft, examine material samples, and perform other tasks. Unfortunately, before negotiations were completed, a premature report of the discussions appeared in The Washington Post, and the Soviet Union withdrew.
.

PS: I have to take a look at L2 some day. I do know is it is worth the money they ask.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Frederick Pohl and the SDI ("Star Wars")/NASA relationship
« Reply #11 on: 05/26/2011 03:24 PM »
I've discovered those missions recently- notably the Delta 183 or Delta Star. Looks as if original plans involved the soviets and Mir: kind of SDIO Apollo - Soyuz.


Where do you get that?
There ;)
http://www.aero.org/publications/crosslink/summer2001/03.html

Quote
The Delta 183 program in 1989 was to be another collaborative effort between the U.S.S.R. and the United States, this time space experiments involving Mir. Specifically, an unmanned spacecraft would be deployed and maneuvered into the vicinity of Mir. An American astronaut and a Soviet cosmonaut aboard Mir would engage in extravehicular experiments using National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) space-maneuvering backpacks to inspect the spacecraft, examine material samples, and perform other tasks. Unfortunately, before negotiations were completed, a premature report of the discussions appeared in The Washington Post, and the Soviet Union withdrew.
.

PS: I have to take a look at L2 some day. I do know is it is worth the money they ask.

That stuff doesn't really make sense to me.  How was 183 connected to Mir and NASA?  I'd add that it also was pretty late in the game--1989, whereas the Soviet Union was crumbling at that time.

Offline Archibald

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Re: Frederick Pohl and the SDI ("Star Wars")/NASA relationship
« Reply #12 on: 05/26/2011 06:10 PM »
More detail there. http://books.google.com/books?ei=GJfeTZrOMMy38gOE9LiBCg&ct=result&hl=fr&id=aNfaAAAAMAAJ&dq=inauthor%3A%22Anthony+R.+Curtis%22&q=SDIO#search_anchor

(Google books is dumb)

Quote
The Reagan Administration in May 1988 killed a US Air Force plan for a joint flight with US astronauts and USSR cosmonauts in Russian spacecraft to recover a part of an American Star Wars satellite. The US Air Force Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) proposed the trip to show the US will share SDI technology.
In the plan, an American SDI satellite with a lunchbox-sized container of materials on its hull would be launched on a US rocket from Cape Canaveral. The box then would be recovered in a joint manned flight from the Soviet Union.
USSR cosmonauts would ferry an American astronaut and a US manned maneuvering unit (MMU) in a Soyuz craft to the Mir space station. An MMU is a backpack with jets of compressed gas which propel untethered astronauts around space.
The Soyuz, launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome on the central Asian steppe, would dock at Mir. An astronaut or a cosmonaut would use the MMU for a spacewalk from Mir to the SDI satellite to recover the package. NASA and the Pentagon did not confirm the plan existed, but NASA officials and some astronauts at Johnson Space Flight Center reportedly opposed the plan as engineers at a Martin Marietta manufacturing plant and at Johnson Space Flight Center looked into modifying an MMU to go through a Mir hatch.

Offline Archibald

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Re: Frederick Pohl and the SDI ("Star Wars")/NASA relationship
« Reply #13 on: 11/15/2011 06:06 PM »
More on Delta 183

Quote
a premature report of the discussions appeared in The Washington Post,

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/4554/LET-SOVIETS-FETCH-SDI-TEST-SATELLITE-IDEA-IS-SHOT-DOWN-GIGGLES-GALORE-AT-THE-WHITE-HOUSE.html
« Last Edit: 11/15/2011 06:07 PM by Archibald »

Offline Jim

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Re: Frederick Pohl and the SDI ("Star Wars")/NASA relationship
« Reply #14 on: 11/15/2011 07:05 PM »
More on Delta 183

Quote
a premature report of the discussions appeared in The Washington Post,

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/4554/LET-SOVIETS-FETCH-SDI-TEST-SATELLITE-IDEA-IS-SHOT-DOWN-GIGGLES-GALORE-AT-THE-WHITE-HOUSE.html

And this is how D-183 got the name "Wooden Stake Spacecraft"

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Frederick Pohl and the SDI ("Star Wars")/NASA relationship
« Reply #15 on: 11/15/2011 10:53 PM »
Okay, wacky. Truly bizarre. If I knew about that story, I forgot about it.

But... I have my suspicions about where the idea came from. There were certain people at SDIO who were, shall we say, inventive. And I don't mean that positively or negatively...

Offline Archibald

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Re: Frederick Pohl and the SDI ("Star Wars")/NASA relationship
« Reply #16 on: 11/16/2011 02:57 PM »
The scheme was certainly wacky. But what about Reagan idea of sharing SDI technology with the Soviets, one way or another ? Was it wacky by itself ?

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Frederick Pohl and the SDI ("Star Wars")/NASA relationship
« Reply #17 on: 11/16/2011 03:55 PM »
The scheme was certainly wacky. But what about Reagan idea of sharing SDI technology with the Soviets, one way or another ? Was it wacky by itself ?

Yes.

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