Author Topic: Energia/Buran--superior design to STS/Shuttle?  (Read 9204 times)

Offline SalemHanna

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Re: Energia/Buran--superior design to STS/Shuttle?
« Reply #15 on: 03/16/2013 08:46 AM »
I'd like to think that at the time of its 1988 launch, the Buran-Energia stack was more advanced and flexible than STS was in 1981, but STS underwent upgrades and modifications throughout its 30 year history. There can be no doubt that whoever had the more advanced electronics in the 1980s, STS was ahead of it by 2011.

The Buran orbiter could have launched a little more crew and cargo due to the cabin design and lack of main engines, but once both orbiters were in space there can't have been much difference between them in the missions they were capable of. How many American flights desperately needed a crew of 10 rather than up to 8, or a cargo of 35 tonnes rather than 30?

The standalone Energia booster, now that's a different matter! Had they kept that going after cancelling their orbiter plans, the ISS could have been built a lot sooner. Assuming one launch disaster didn't set back construction by destroying a huge proportion of the modules before they'd even reached orbit  :-[
Apollo, Soyuz, Shuttle...SKYLON.

Offline Archibald

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Re: Energia/Buran--superior design to STS/Shuttle?
« Reply #16 on: 03/16/2013 09:01 PM »
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Reading about how the Energia/Buran program started is beginning to sound like it would be rather entertaining.  Would anyone have a book in mind that addresses this very subject? 

Hyperion - it is an unbelievable history. It looks like a conspiracy theory, but it is not (try Asif Siddiqi Challenge to Apollo)

In 1974 at the Moscow math institute was M. Keldysh.
Keldysh and his students had hard time believing the shuttle economic studies; the Americans planned 700 shuttle flights over 12 years, each with 30 tons of payload. Total payload: 21 000 tons !
Keldysh was very paranoid, and he was also special advisor to senile soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.

Meanwhile, in Vandenberg, California - the US military is building a shuttle launch pad (SLC-6). The goal: launch spy satellites into polar orbit.
One day of 1974 a Keldsyh student hear of that - of the Vandenberg base. He does some quick math, and came to the following conclusion.

A shuttle could lift-off from Vandenberg, fly over Moscow, drop a nuke (decapitation strike on the Kremlin!) then thanks to its 2000 km crossrange, land back at Vandenberg after a single orbit.

When told this the paranoid Keldysh had its blood boiling.
He imediately tell that to Breznhev
 "the shuttle is a space nuclear bomber - the perfect hybrid of a B-52 and a Minuteman, it could sneak above the SAMs and below the A-135 and drop a nuke on Moscow."

Breznhev answer "Well, that's worrying. Keldysh, we need a carbon copy of the shuttle. Tell Glushko to build it - forget a lunar base."

Et voila ! This is a true story.
That logarithm in the rocket equation is rather annoying...

Offline Zero-G

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Re: Energia/Buran--superior design to STS/Shuttle?
« Reply #17 on: 03/16/2013 11:25 PM »
Just a few remarks and answers to questions about Buran, that came up in this discussion:

- Reuseability of the boosters (Block A): For later missions the Block A boosters were planned to be reused after launch, but for the first two Energia launches the boosters had not yet been fitted with the recovery systems and were written off.
Recovery systems not only included parachutes, but also landing gear and soft-landing engines, because the boosters had to land on terra firma, because the ocean was to far away.
Boris I. Gubanov, the chief designer of the Energia rocket, described the recovery systems in his memoirs, here: http://www.buran.ru/htm/09-3.htm (In russian, but can be easily translated via any online translator.)

- Foam insulation: The core stage (Block Z) had external polyurethane foam insulation and also ablative coating on both the LOX and the LH tanks. It's described by Gubanov, here: http://www.buran.ru/htm/15-3.htm (at the end of the 4th and 5th paragraph)
Foam shedding seems not to have been an issue for the Soviets back then (just like in the US at that time). After Buran's maiden flight, there was some damage to the TPS tiles and seven of them had been lost completely, but all this had been blamed to falling ice from the core stage and the launch pad. Also, we have to consider that Buran's launch took place in the early morning hours in poor weather conditions, which would have made it very difficult to observe or photograph any foam shedding. The same is true for the first Energia launch with Polyus.
So, it seems that today nobody actually knows if there really had been a problem with foam shedding on Energia or not.

- Launch escape systems: Similar to the Shuttle, Buran would have been equipped with two ejection seats for the two-men crews on the first few test missions. For the operational missions with bigger crews, the two ejection seats would have been removed and replaced with normal seats.
Other than that, there was no launch escape system, but there were several launch abort options in case of a launch emergency, similar to the Shuttle's: Return Maneuver corresponds to RTLS, Downrange Landing corresponds to TAL and Single-Orbit Trajectory correponds to AOA. BTW: The LII test pilots who were supposed to fly the manned test missions were required to be able to land Buran on a regular runway in darkness, without any of the special navigation equipment and with no lights.
For pad emergencies before launch, there was a pad escape system which was a chute in a long tube that ended in an underground bunker.

PS: For more chapters of Gubanov's memoirs, look here: http://www.buran.ru/htm/gubanov3.htm
« Last Edit: 03/16/2013 11:41 PM by Zero-G »
"I still don't understand who I am: the first human or the last dog in space." - Yuri Gagarin

Offline veblen

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Re: Energia/Buran--superior design to STS/Shuttle?
« Reply #18 on: 03/17/2013 12:04 AM »
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This would be a good question for Jim: "Why were the shuttles never retro-fitted with autopilots after the Challenger disaster?" If the Soviets could have one on their shuttles, why couldn't the US match that safety feature? 
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There was a plan for STS-1 to be automated flight but according to John Young California pols were not keen on this idea, they wanted pilots on board in case there were problems with re-entry over the Cali coast.

I just mention this because in comparing Buran/STS specs you are comparing apples and oranges in terms of all kinds of constraints, and the Soviet military could of come up with any design they preferred, isn't it amazing though how they came up with ghost of STS.


Offline Hyperion5

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Re: Energia/Buran--superior design to STS/Shuttle?
« Reply #19 on: 03/17/2013 04:01 AM »
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This would be a good question for Jim: "Why were the shuttles never retro-fitted with autopilots after the Challenger disaster?" If the Soviets could have one on their shuttles, why couldn't the US match that safety feature? 
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There was a plan for STS-1 to be automated flight but according to John Young California pols were not keen on this idea, they wanted pilots on board in case there were problems with re-entry over the Cali coast.

I just mention this because in comparing Buran/STS specs you are comparing apples and oranges in terms of all kinds of constraints, and the Soviet military could of come up with any design they preferred, isn't it amazing though how they came up with ghost of STS.



Oh I don't know about it being apples to oranges.  The rocket engineers in the Soviet military clearly preferred a superior inline setup for the Energia/Buran stack.  That would have made it a much safer setup than what we had.  However, their optimum design choice was overridden by politicians and the demands of various bureaucracies, much like the Shuttle design was morphed by the US military's demand that it have 2000 km of cross-range capability.  The Soviet leadership thought we must have known what we were doing militarily with STS/Shuttle, so they produced a superior "ghost" of it.  Only, unlike our shuttle stack, there was nothing preventing the Soviets from launching without their shuttles.  In that regard, the Energia was without question superior to STS. 

I've often heard it said that the Shuttle and craft with payloads as large as it could lift aren't militarily useful.  I wonder if anyone bothered telling the Soviets this.  The very first Soviet launch was meant to lift the massive 80 mt Polyus anti-SDI orbital weapons platform demonstrator into orbit.  If it hadn't had a faulty inertial guidance unit, it would have made orbit, since the Energia worked as advertised.  A few of those in orbit might have really changed the balance of power in low earth orbit.  I've often wondered whether the Polyus was the inspiration for the Goldeneye satellites in the Bond film, "Goldeneye". 

I do think if we were measuring both systems (Energia vs STS) in terms of military usefulness, the Energia would take the cake. 

For anyone interested, here's the entertaining wiki description of Polyus:
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The Polyus spacecraft (Russian: Полюс, pole), also known as Polus, Skif-DM, GRAU index 17F19DM, was a prototype orbital weapons platform designed to destroy SDI satellites with a megawatt carbon-dioxide laser.[1] It had a Functional Cargo Block derived from a TKS spacecraft to control its orbit and it could fire test targets to demonstrate the fire control system.

Offline Jim

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Re: Energia/Buran--superior design to STS/Shuttle?
« Reply #20 on: 03/17/2013 11:24 AM »

I've often heard it said that the Shuttle and craft with payloads as large as it could lift aren't militarily useful. 

Unsubstantiated and totally wrong.  How come another launch system (Titan IV) was created with the same performance and cargo size capabilities?
« Last Edit: 03/17/2013 11:26 AM by Jim »

Offline Jim

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Re: Energia/Buran--superior design to STS/Shuttle?
« Reply #21 on: 03/17/2013 11:33 AM »
1.  This would be a good question for Jim: "Why were the shuttles never retro-fitted with autopilots after the Challenger disaster?" If the Soviets could have one on their shuttles, why couldn't the US match that safety feature? 

2. Well as I recall we did use the Shuttle for at least a half dozen or more classified military payloads in the 1980s.  That had to spook the Soviets, given how much they distrusted us.  Heck, they thought we were about to do a nuclear surprise attack on them in 1983 during Operation Able Archer. 


1.  Because the retrofit with systems dealing with payload ops was too intensive.  Anyways, the shuttle was banned from launching anymore commercial payloads and DOD left after the backlog was launched, so all that was left were basically payloads that needed man tending like Spacelab and Spacehab and ISS.

2. Not really. 

Offline Hyperion5

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Re: Energia/Buran--superior design to STS/Shuttle?
« Reply #22 on: 03/18/2013 06:45 PM »

I've often heard it said that the Shuttle and craft with payloads as large as it could lift aren't militarily useful. 

Unsubstantiated and totally wrong.  How come another launch system (Titan IV) was created with the same performance and cargo size capabilities?

Actually Jim, can't the Shuttle actually out-lift the Titan IV to LEO by about 3 mt?  Getting away from the faults of my memory, isn't the very nature of the shuttle stack problematic for flinging substantial satellites up to geosynchronous orbit?  If I had wanted to launch a 5700 kg DoD satellite up to GSO, I could have done it in one launch with the Titan IV.  I'm not so sure that's the case with the shuttle, which besides its design causing problems, is also much higher cost than even the Titan IV.  At the very least the Soviets wouldn't have had aproblem with the layout.  If they had wanted to stick a 20 mt satellite into GSO, the Energia rocket could have done it rather than Buran.  So once again in terms of military utility, the Energia stack would by its very layout be much easier to use than STS. 

--

On another subject, I just was reading that Gorbachev expressly forbade the military from testing the Polyus in orbit.  It seems he feared the US would interpret it as the weaponizing of space.  I would have to agree with that assessment, as I imagine a few Polyus anti-SDI weapons platforms would begin to alter the balance of power in orbit.  Anyone know what kind of effective range a laser like the Polyus carried had? 
« Last Edit: 03/18/2013 06:46 PM by Hyperion5 »

Offline Jim

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Re: Energia/Buran--superior design to STS/Shuttle?
« Reply #23 on: 03/18/2013 06:58 PM »

Actually Jim, can't the Shuttle actually out-lift the Titan IV to LEO by about 3 mt?  Getting away from the faults of my memory, isn't the very nature of the shuttle stack problematic for flinging substantial satellites up to geosynchronous orbit?  If I had wanted to launch a 5700 kg DoD satellite up to GSO, I could have done it in one launch with the Titan IV.  I'm not so sure that's the case with the shuttle, which besides its design causing problems, is also much higher cost than even the Titan IV.  At the very least the Soviets wouldn't have had aproblem with the layout.  If they had wanted to stick a 20 mt satellite into GSO, the Energia rocket could have done it rather than Buran.  So once again in terms of military utility, the Energia stack would by its very layout be much easier to use than STS. 


The shuttle LEO requirement was based on carrying an upperstage for higher energy orbits and the requirement was for the orbiter structural design.  There wasn't a payload that would remain in LEO at that weight.  The 32klb VAFB requirement actually was the performance driver.  That capability translated to KSC would be around 78klb to LEO.

As for the Soviets, they would have used Proton instead.
If NASA wanted to put 20 mt satellite into GSO, they could have used many of the SDV designs out there.

Offline Hyperion5

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Re: Energia/Buran--superior design to STS/Shuttle?
« Reply #24 on: 03/22/2013 03:51 PM »

I've often heard it said that the Shuttle and craft with payloads as large as it could lift aren't militarily useful. 

Unsubstantiated and totally wrong.  How come another launch system (Titan IV) was created with the same performance and cargo size capabilities?

Actually Jim, can't the Shuttle actually out-lift the Titan IV to LEO by about 3 mt?

The Titan IV could carry any DoD payload the shuttle could. That was pretty much the driving design requirement for it. Any difference in *gross* payload capacity was not relevant to DoD.

That reminds me, if we're comparing the military utility of the STS & Energia stacks, it seems like the Energia was far more militarily useful than STS.  I guess that would make sense, because if a STS cargo variant were built, the Energia stack would still be more capable.  I'm curious as to how hard it would be to convert the Energia to an inline configuration vs the STS being converted/STS hardware being used to build SLS.  Surely it would have been far easier to convert the Energia, no?  Given the rocket engines are already on the central core, surely modifying the core's tank wouldn't have been that hard? 

---

On to the subject of reusability.  The STS is obviously the best-known example of a partially reusable LV.  The Energia in the beginning was purely expendable, though its booster engines were built to be reused 10 times.  There was talk of later converting its Zenit boosters with parachutes and some sort of landing system into reusable boosters.  How exactly was that supposed to have worked?  Also, I've seen the plans for the Energia Uragan, which turned the core of the Energia into something resembling a rocket with a delta wing.  How practical was that design, and could it really have been reused just like the shuttles it would carry? 

Offline carmelo

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Re: Energia/Buran--superior design to STS/Shuttle?
« Reply #25 on: 03/22/2013 04:28 PM »
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But a US version of Energyia/Buran probably would have been cheaper

This?


Offline Archibald

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Re: Energia/Buran--superior design to STS/Shuttle?
« Reply #26 on: 03/22/2013 05:39 PM »
Even closer from Energia: the MSC-042 shuttle. An orbiter without any engine, and a Titan III-L in the role of Energia.  :)
That logarithm in the rocket equation is rather annoying...

Offline fregate

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Re: Energia/Buran--superior design to STS/Shuttle?
« Reply #27 on: 03/24/2013 07:07 AM »
Smithsonian Air & Space Museum has on display at least 20+ scales models of various STS design options. 
"Selene, the moon. Selenginsk, an old town in Siberia: moon-rocket  town" Vladimir Nabokov

Offline Archibald

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Re: Energia/Buran--superior design to STS/Shuttle?
« Reply #28 on: 03/24/2013 09:00 AM »


(from the secret projects forum)

Picture of the MSC-042 shuttle. Unlike Energia the Titan III-L had no monolithic hydrogen core but two hypergolic stages. As such the orbiter had to go on top of stage 2. This thing would have had serious control issues...
That logarithm in the rocket equation is rather annoying...

Online Lobo

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Re: Energia/Buran--superior design to STS/Shuttle?
« Reply #29 on: 03/30/2013 04:26 AM »
If I had wanted to launch a 5700 kg DoD satellite up to GSO, I could have done it in one launch with the Titan IV.  I'm not so sure that's the case with the shuttle, which besides its design causing problems, is also much higher cost than even the Titan IV.  At the very least the Soviets wouldn't have had aproblem with the layout.  If they had wanted to stick a 20 mt satellite into GSO, the Energia rocket could have done it rather than Buran.  So once again in terms of military utility, the Energia stack would by its very layout be much easier to use than STS. 


I think the Titan Iv stack actually got up as expensive as STS, or close to it.  Which is why it was retired and replaced with the EELV program. 

This is Wikipedia, so for whatever it's worth, it said the Titan 401A that exploded in [1998] cost $1.4 billion.  I'm sure the flights after that must have cost similar.  That's right in the range of STS launches, if not more expensive.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titan_IV

And yea, especially with a hydrogen upper stage (did the Soviets even have hydrogen upper stages?  I think the RD-0120 on the core of Energia was their first hydrogen engine in production) Energia would have gotten a lot to GTO or escape.  With a kerolox upper stage it would have been less, but I'm still thinking it's have been pretty capable?

I suppose the question though, was there any or many payloads that big  that needed to get to GTO or escape?  Did they have anything they couldn't just have done with Proton?
Even if it was cheaper than STS (and I don't know that it was), it would have been a very expensive system for launching non Buran payloads.  Four Zenit boosters, a big core with four RD-0120's, and external payload carrier, and an upper stage.  It'd have been a pretty spendy stack compared to Proton...and it would have been in addition to maintianing Proton unless they were going to retire Proton and just have Energia, Zenit and Soyuz?

Although, in reality, they probably could have retired Proton, and used Zenit instead.  It didn't have the performance, but...but two or three of them together, and you have Proton and more.  And Zenit was supposed to replace Soyuz, but that went away with the fall of the soviet Union.

But, if Energia/Zenit had been kept, and Soyuz and Proton had been retired, and if the Soviet Union hadn't fallen apart just then, then Energia/Zenit/Buran could have possible lived as the main system for the Soviets to cover their launching requirements.
Would have been interesting if that'd happened.  Might have been good for them to develop two versions of the Energia core, a side mount one for Buran (once Buran was designed to launch side mount, I don't think it could have been modified to launch axially) and an in-line version for cargo launching.  Of course, NASA toyed with doing that for a long time and never did...so who knows if the Ruskies would have had the money to do it, even if they were -only- maintaining a Buran orbiter or two, the Energia core, and the Zenit boosters (and appropriate upper stages). 
Still, Energia as it was would have been a lot like side-mount SDHLV, and a pretty capable HLV in it's own right...just more limited than an in-line version.  So it would have been probably capable enough they might have not have needed an inline version. 


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