Author Topic: Whatif MOL had flown ?  (Read 5291 times)

Offline Archibald

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Whatif MOL had flown ?
« on: 11/18/2015 06:36 AM »
This speculative thread suppose that the MOL made it past 1969 - Nixon decision of April 1969 was not reversed so it was the KH-9 that was cancelled.

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2121/1
Quote
on April 9, 1969, Nixon ordered HEXAGON cancelled and approved completion of MOL-DORIAN.

And again http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1774/2

Quote
on April 9, 1969 ordered that HEXAGON be canceled. Nixon also approved continuing the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program to completion.

According to Jeffrey Richelson, in his 1990 book America’s Secret Eyes in Space, Roland Inlow, who was chairman of the Committee on Imagery Requirements and Exploitation (COMIREX), which established the target lists for American reconnaissance satellites, spoke to James Schlesinger, assistant director of the Bureau of the Budget with responsibility for national security programs. Inlow told him about the importance of HEXAGON for arms control verification. Presumably MOL, with its relatively small viewing area, had less usefulness for arms control purposes. In addition, an independent recommendation of the Land Panel, the senior advisory committee to the president on satellite reconnaissance issues, went to Nixon on May 6, 1969. Land and his group favored canceling MOL.

According to one source who had been involved in training MOL astronauts how to become effective photo-interpreters, at some point Vice President Humphrey was given a briefing on both the KH-9 and the MOL at a secure briefing room in Washington, which he remembered was at the Washington Navy Yard and could have been at the National Photographic Interpretation Center located on the edge of the Navy Yard. The Director of Central Intelligence, Richard Helms, sat next to the Vice President and during the MOL briefing he wrote something on a piece of paper that he slid over to Humphrey, who looked at it without commenting. After the briefing ended, this source waited until everyone had left the room and then he retrieved the piece of note paper. On it, Helms had written “Why four inches?” Four inches was the resolution of the MOL’s large DORIAN camera. Presumably, MOL’s advocates lacked a convincing argument for why such a powerful, but limited reconnaissance system was necessary.

According to NRO historian Perry, Nixon “reversed his earlier verdict” on HEXAGON and instead ordered cancellation of the MOL.


Meanwhile, driven by George Mueller enthusiasl NASA develps the space shuttle as happened in our universe. That is, until 1971, when the OMB wants to cut its fund.

The same year the Air Force is plagued by the MOL very high price and as such can't fund the shuttle. NASA wants to make it alone, but without all the military satellites Mathematica is unable to build an economic case to the shuttle.
At the end of 1971 the shuttle gets canned. Early on the OMB wanted NASA to fly a civilian MOL but the space agency considers Gemini B a step backward when compared to Apollo.

So the OMB decides NASA will fly a Block III, 20 000 pounds Apollo atop a Titan III.

Skylab A happens as per in our universe, and then NASA don't know what to do with Skylab B. A Skylab / MOL hybrid is considered (after 1975). Still OMB and Congress insist that NASA should use MOL hardware.

In the end NASA is given a MOL. They strip it of the unuseful Gemini B and of the very heavy (and classified) camera system. In fact what they retain is essentially the pressurised "tin can".
That tin can is then transformed into something akin to a MPLM.
Apollo and the MPLM ride a Titan III into orbit, then Apollo picks up the MPLM by turning 180 degree, just like a Lunar Module.
The MPLM has two docking holes, one for Apollo, the other for Skylab. Apollo carries the MPLM on its "nose".
At the end of the day the MOL become a logistic module to be carried by an Apollo.

Comments, critics ? I was inspired by this masterpiece published at The Space Review
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2866/1


« Last Edit: 11/18/2015 06:50 AM by Archibald »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Whatif MOL had flown ?
« Reply #1 on: 11/18/2015 11:45 AM »
Seriously, this is not a science fiction discussion board.

If you want to propose a complete alternative history, write a novel.

Offline Archibald

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Re: Whatif MOL had flown ?
« Reply #2 on: 11/18/2015 02:46 PM »
You have no idea... I've done it. Can read it here http://www.alternatehistory.com/discussion/forumdisplay.php?f=16&order=desc

 :P

Offline Jim

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Re: Whatif MOL had flown ?
« Reply #3 on: 11/18/2015 03:08 PM »
I don't buy it.   Your premise fails at the beginning and it continues throughout.  The USAF didn't provide any shuttle funding anyways, so MOL overruns would have no impact on the shuttle program development.   OMB is not going to force NASA to use MOL.  AAP purpose was to use Apollo hardware.  There is no purpose for a NASA MOL.  Also, a lite Apollo CSM can't fly with a MOL can.  There is no performance available.  Also, MOL couldn't support a CSM without major mods (and hence no benefit by using MOL hardware). 
« Last Edit: 11/18/2015 03:12 PM by Jim »

Offline RonM

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Re: Whatif MOL had flown ?
« Reply #4 on: 11/18/2015 03:26 PM »
What killed MOL was improvements in spy satellites and electronics. There wasn't a need for astronauts pointing cameras.

Offline Danderman

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Re: Whatif MOL had flown ?
« Reply #5 on: 11/27/2015 02:45 AM »
The Russian OPS experience demonstrated that MOL was kind of pointless.


Offline Archibald

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Re: Whatif MOL had flown ?
« Reply #6 on: 11/27/2015 09:55 AM »
Quote
The USAF didn't provide any shuttle funding anyways, so MOL overruns would have no impact on the shuttle program development

WTH ? That I didn't knew. I really thought that the Air Force had provided some funding for the shuttle, if only because of the big payload bay and the delta wing with large crossrange they wanted.
At the end of the day role of the military in the early shuttle program was at best very ambiguous. They really didn't helped NASA a lot. Talk about a lousy business
« Last Edit: 11/27/2015 09:55 AM by Archibald »

Offline Jim

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Re: Whatif MOL had flown ?
« Reply #7 on: 11/27/2015 11:52 AM »
WTH ? That I didn't knew. I really thought that the Air Force had provided some funding for the shuttle, if only because of the big payload bay and the delta wing with large crossrange they wanted.
At the end of the day role of the military in the early shuttle program was at best very ambiguous. They really didn't helped NASA a lot. Talk about a lousy business

The USAF contribution to the Shuttle program was SLC-6 and CSOC.
« Last Edit: 11/27/2015 11:53 AM by Jim »

Re: Whatif MOL had flown ?
« Reply #8 on: 11/29/2015 08:17 AM »
"WTH ? That I didn't knew. I really thought that the Air Force had provided some funding for the shuttle, if only because of the big payload bay and the delta wing with large crossrange they wanted.
At the end of the day role of the military in the early shuttle program was at best very ambiguous. They really didn't helped NASA a lot. Talk about a lousy business"


Bringing the Air Force in was actually very good for NASA as it allowed the Shuttle to actually get built! By showing that it could be the main national launcher for both military and civilian payloads, the case for STS was strong enough to secure the funding - but only just.

It is somewhat surprising to find that the Air Force wasn't involved in the funding, but got most of what it wanted from the system, but they were in an extremely strong position and this was the deal at the time. While Air Force requirements did have a huge influence on the eventual shuttle design (see: https://thehighfrontier.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/blue-shuttle-how-the-air-force-influenced-the-sts-design-process/ ) it's worth remembering that the increased cross-range added a measure of safety for all flights and the size of the cargo bay allowed NASA to carry large probes and scientific payloads like Spacelab, as well as the ability to play a huge role in the construction of the ISS.

Regarding how the shuttle may have fitted with MOL had this flown, I suspect (and the military influenced Baseline Reference Missions seem to point to this) that the Air Force had other missions, payloads and objectives beyond what MOL would have provided, so their involvement in the shuttle would likely have happened anyway. Of course, had MOL flown the 'Slick-6' complex at Vandenberg would have been used to support this programme, so it wouldn't have been available for conversion to support shuttle launches. Would they have built a second launch complex? Again hypothetical questions and 'what-ifs'!

Offline Archibald

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Re: Whatif MOL had flown ?
« Reply #9 on: 11/29/2015 09:04 AM »
Chris,
I've just discovered your blog and added to my favorite list. I'm very interested in the Baseline Reference Missions BRM-3A and BRM-3B.

Re: Whatif MOL had flown ?
« Reply #10 on: 11/29/2015 10:46 AM »
Those missions are really interesting although it's important to note that the requirements 'went away' in the mid to late seventies. I'm not clear whether this was due to the Air Force no longer feeling this profile was necessary operationally, or if was decided a single orbit mission just wasn't feasible.

Offline Jim

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Re: Whatif MOL had flown ?
« Reply #12 on: 11/29/2015 03:37 PM »
I should point out that it's thanks to Jim's input that I have the references to BRM-3 (a/b) and the relevant MPAD documents in my article!

Offline Hog

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Re: Whatif MOL had flown ?
« Reply #13 on: 11/29/2015 11:00 PM »
I have a book "Global Air Power" from the late 1980's.  It has copies of the USAF's budget and it lists appropriations for the "Space Shuttle" and "Space Shuttle Operations" until 1989.  Under the "Space Launchers" section it lists 3 Orbiters in stock. 
It also talks briefly about Shuttle Ops at SLC-6 at VAFB and how the redesign of the propulsion systems post-Challenger made launches from SLC-6 impossible. Not sure if the author was referring to SRB changes or not?
IIRC the original SRB's were already stacked for Octobers launch of STS-62-A-Discovery from Vandenberg when Challenger met her fate.
Paul

Offline sghill

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Re: Whatif MOL had flown ?
« Reply #14 on: 12/01/2015 01:07 PM »
Speaking of MOL.

I recently came across the Gizmodo article that links to the MOL program photos that were declassified in July 2015.
http://gizmodo.com/newly-declassified-photos-show-the-crewed-usaf-spy-spac-1739613728?utm_source=taboola

Interesting reading and tons of photos if you haven't seen them yet.

As a sidebar.  I've donned a MOL spacesuit on several occasions.  Somehow a couple of them wound up at Space Camp in Huntsville back in the 1980's.  They used them in the program there all the time.  I clearly remember how different the helmet was from any other spacesuit I'd ever been around.  Space Camp had (literally) tons of unflown equipment courtesy of NASA, the Air Force, and the Space Flight Center there for the kids to use firsthand.

I've no idea how many of them they made (there were 17 astronauts in the program when it was cancelled) but it's not the first time these mysterious blue space suits have resurfaced: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/about/history/molsuits.html



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Offline kevin-rf

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Re: Whatif MOL had flown ?
« Reply #15 on: 12/01/2015 01:28 PM »
Speaking of MOL.

I recently came across the Gizmodo article that links to the MOL program photos that were declassified in July 2015.
http://gizmodo.com/newly-declassified-photos-show-the-crewed-usaf-spy-spac-1739613728?utm_source=taboola

Interesting reading and tons of photos if you haven't seen them yet.

I'm pretty sure those are the same photos linked in the MOL thread, just put in a nice format that one can scroll through without attribution to the NRO site they came from. Which Blackstar pointed out most likely came from Aerospace Corp.

http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/MOL_Pics.html
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Offline Blackstar

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Re: Whatif MOL had flown ?
« Reply #16 on: 10/26/2017 02:57 PM »
I'm going to drop this in several of the relevant reconnaissance satellite threads. Here is a link to a bunch of newly declassified documents from the NRO. Included in the latest batch are documents on the Film ReadOut GAMBIT (FROG), the HEXAGON camera system (and the HEXAGON Mapping Camera) and the MOL. One of the MOL documents is particularly interesting, discussing the value of man for the MOL operations.

http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/OtherReleases.html



Offline Archibald

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Offline Michel Van

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Re: Whatif MOL had flown ?
« Reply #18 on: 10/27/2017 03:05 PM »
My take on MOL flights.
The Mystery about  USAF idea to Take Chimpanzees on board on MOL 
It went very far ,they even Design a Space suit for Chimp
Still a Question: how bring the Animal down in Gemini B capsule with Two Astronauts and Film cassette taking most place.
in particular if Chimp is very uncoperative


Offline Archibald

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Re: Whatif MOL had flown ?
« Reply #19 on: 10/28/2017 09:31 AM »
plus all the monkey faeces floating around... yikes.

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