Author Topic: Was N1's failure due to the number of engines? (seeking clarification)  (Read 11469 times)

Offline Toast

A) there were too many engines
B) they were packed too close together
C) individually they had terrible quality control and nonexistent testing

I disagree with you on both A and B. Having thirty engines was not what caused the failures, it was poor quality control practices. The rest of your post seems to support the same conclusion--the fact that the NK-15 engines could not be static tested is a massive problem. So the issue isn't that there's thirty engines instead of one really big one, it's that those engines weren't reliable. The close packing also isn't the root cause--had they been properly shielded from one another (e.g. Falcon 9 octoweb) then the proximity is irrelevant. It's your third point that's the real problem: Lax quality control and testing.

Offline baldusi

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Nothing was ground tested. Even the tanks were shipped in parts, welded on site and used. They didn't had a dynamic test stand, the NK-15 used munition acceptance testing (I think it was 3/8 rather than 2/6). And it didn't had economic nor performance reserved. They originally pretended to do with a 80 tonne to LEO rocket, and then they had to increase it to 95. Which was still insufficient.
In my mind, the N-1 was an example of how not to manage a project from a system engineering POV. They started with the rocket, rather than the payload. They didn't had the minimum budget nor schedule reserves. They didn't had any small demonstrator project. They did away with the ground validation and testing, both for the design and for each flight vehicle. Mishin went with the most complex system possible.
And they were used to that because Koroloev had been a genius and had had some luck. He died mid project and their lucky streak run out.
That's as short as I can state it.

Offline John-H

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Projects always seem to be more successful with a "hands on"  Chief Designer. I am having a hard time thinking of a large, successful project without a name attached to it.

John

Offline Patchouli

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Nothing was ground tested. Even the tanks were shipped in parts, welded on site and used. They didn't had a dynamic test stand, the NK-15 used munition acceptance testing (I think it was 3/8 rather than 2/6). And it didn't had economic nor performance reserved. They originally pretended to do with a 80 tonne to LEO rocket, and then they had to increase it to 95. Which was still insufficient.
In my mind, the N-1 was an example of how not to manage a project from a system engineering POV. They started with the rocket, rather than the payload. They didn't had the minimum budget nor schedule reserves. They didn't had any small demonstrator project. They did away with the ground validation and testing, both for the design and for each flight vehicle. Mishin went with the most complex system possible.
And they were used to that because Koroloev had been a genius and had had some luck. He died mid project and their lucky streak run out.
That's as short as I can state it.

Had Korolev not died the Soviets probably would been the second to land on the moon.

The N1 almost worked on flight four though a test stand probably would have exposed that failure mode.
« Last Edit: 10/21/2016 02:46 AM by Patchouli »

Offline savuporo

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Projects always seem to be more successful with a "hands on"  Chief Designer. I am having a hard time thinking of a large, successful project without a name attached to it.

John

Space shuttle. George Mueller's name is attached to it, but he wasn't a hands on chief designer. Hard to credit any single person
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Offline ThereIWas3

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The excellent BBC mini-series "Space Race" is currently on NetFlix.  It is one of the best dramatizations I have seen of what was going on in the US and Russian space programs at the time.  I think it is 4 episodes.   The lack of funding in the Russian program is covered as well as the personality conflicts.
"If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea" - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Offline Patchouli

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The excellent BBC mini-series "Space Race" is currently on NetFlix.  It is one of the best dramatizations I have seen of what was going on in the US and Russian space programs at the time.  I think it is 4 episodes.   The lack of funding in the Russian program is covered as well as the personality conflicts.

Conflict was one of the problems with in the Soviet space program.

Glushko and Korolev didn't exactly see eye to eye on issues such as use of cryogenic propellants and hypergolics.
One big issue the Soviets had was they never were able to solve the combustion stability issues for large chambers. Glusko's solution was in the end for the RD-170 was to just use four smaller chambers.


Offline baldusi

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Had Korolev not died the Soviets probably would been the second to land on the moon.

The N1 almost worked on flight four though a test stand probably would have exposed that failure mode.
From Chertok's memoir, I get the impression that even with Korolev's capability intact, it would have been a failure. They were on the verge of switching engines. They hadn't even proved the second stage, and they had five rocket stages, plus two spacecraft, each with its own propulsion module.
And those were basically dummies in the first three launches. Yes, Blok-D had worked on Proton-K, and LOK was closely related to the Zond 3 to 6, it was not complete.
But more importantly, they didn't had the mass reserves. When the Grumman engineers presented Von Braun with a 25% mass reserve, he increased that to 50%. That determined the size of Saturn V (a 4 F-1 rocket would have been needed otherwise). They had the equivalent of a 120 tonne to LEO launcher, and two hydrolox upper stages, which equated to 45tonnes to TMI.
Korolev started with 80 tonnes to LEO (not the correct TMI capability), and then had to add stages and engines until he was at a 95 tonne to LEO kludge. I simply don't see how it could have been a successful launcher without at least 20 missions. And they had no time, schedule nor political will for such a program.
And the fact that they basically had no acceptance testing for the big stages with tens of engines meant that they were never ever going to have a highly reliable rocket.
Just compare that to the Energyia/Buran program that was handled extremely professionally and which has left a legacy that has lasted for more than 30 years. It was very clear that they learned their lesson.

Online Robotbeat

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I agree with everything Ed Kyle said.

N-1 could've worked if they either stuck with it for a few more failures or if they did significant ground testing.

Having 42 engines is a lot, but nothing that can't fundamentally be done.

And SpaceX has done a lot of ground testing. Perhaps even too much! Regardless, lots of testing will be critical to the success of ITS and is a big part of its multi billion dollar price tag.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline Arch Admiral

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Another fundamental defect in the N-1/L-3 program was the timeline. Apollo was approved by Congress in May 1961, while N-1/L-3 got Politburo clearance in August 1964. You can't start 3.2 years late in a ~10-year race and win unless the other team screws up badly. This was Nikita Khrushchev's fault. He was scared by the projected cost and seems to have thought that Kennedy was bluffing.


Offline ThereIWas3

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That Glushko had been personally responsible for Korolev being sent to the Gulag could not have put either of them in a mood to cooperate.
"If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea" - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Offline Proponent

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Projects always seem to be more successful with a "hands on"  Chief Designer. I am having a hard time thinking of a large, successful project without a name attached to it.

John

Space shuttle. George Mueller's name is attached to it, but he wasn't a hands on chief designer. Hard to credit any single person

But the Shuttle failed to meet any of its major design goals -- cost, flight rate, safety, payload -- by margins ranging from substantial to enormous.
« Last Edit: 10/23/2016 08:30 AM by Proponent »

Offline Jim

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Projects always seem to be more successful with a "hands on"  Chief Designer. I am having a hard time thinking of a large, successful project without a name attached to it.

John

Quite the opposite.  Name the projects with them

Offline pippin

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Projects always seem to be more successful with a "hands on"  Chief Designer. I am having a hard time thinking of a large, successful project without a name attached to it.

John

Quite the opposite.  Name the projects with them
Well, R7 comes to mind...

Offline Arch Admiral

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Also R-9A, RT-1, RT-2, RT-15, RT-15M, RT-25 - All military missiles designed by Korolev, all pretty much failures. The Strategic Rocket Force high command was so angry at Korolev's poor performance on these projects that in 1964 they asked that he be sacked as Chief Designer of OKB-1. This might have happened had Khrushchev not been overthrown in October 1964. As it was, the unmanned lunar and planetary program was taken away from him in May 1965 due to a long series of dismal failures.

The whole popular picture of Korolev as an engineering and management genius just doesn't stand up anymore. His biggest failing was taking on too many projects for his limited staff to handle, and then resisting all attempts to switch them to other organizations. The worst example is the L-1 Zond manned lunar-loop mission. This project was switched to Chelomei's OKB-52 by Khrushchev, but then Korolev lobbied Brezhnev to get it back. Even Korolev's own staff thought this program was silly. The only reason for it was empire-building.

As an engineer, Korolev's big weakness was his opposition to complete ground testing. After Georgi Babakin took over the unmanned program, he found that none of OKB-1's Venus, Mars, or Moon probes had been tested in a vacuum chamber or a centrifuge. These facilities were reserved for the manned missions. When Babakin built a centrifuge and tested some of Korolev's Venus entry probes, they all collapsed well below the specified g levels. The N-1 and Soyuz-1 disasters were only the last of a long series of failures due to this "shoot and hope" philosophy.

Offline Dmitry_V_home

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That Glushko had been personally responsible for Korolev being sent to the Gulag could not have put either of them in a mood to cooperate.

Actually, it no more than myth. Glushko is not guilty of S.P.Korolev's arrest. At least because Glushko himself was arrested three months earlier.
The reason of disagreements  Korolev and Glushko was another.
« Last Edit: 10/25/2016 06:51 PM by Dmitry_V_home »

Offline Dmitry_V_home

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Also R-9A, RT-1, RT-2, RT-15, RT-15M, RT-25 - All military missiles designed by Korolev, all pretty much failures. The Strategic Rocket Force high command was so angry at Korolev's poor performance on these projects that in 1964 they asked that he be sacked as Chief Designer of OKB-1. This might have happened had Khrushchev not been overthrown in October 1964. As it was, the unmanned lunar and planetary program was taken away from him in May 1965 due to a long series of dismal failures.

The whole popular picture of Korolev as an engineering and management genius just doesn't stand up anymore. His biggest failing was taking on too many projects for his limited staff to handle, and then resisting all attempts to switch them to other organizations. The worst example is the L-1 Zond manned lunar-loop mission. This project was switched to Chelomei's OKB-52 by Khrushchev, but then Korolev lobbied Brezhnev to get it back. Even Korolev's own staff thought this program was silly. The only reason for it was empire-building.

As an engineer, Korolev's big weakness was his opposition to complete ground testing. After Georgi Babakin took over the unmanned program, he found that none of OKB-1's Venus, Mars, or Moon probes had been tested in a vacuum chamber or a centrifuge. These facilities were reserved for the manned missions. When Babakin built a centrifuge and tested some of Korolev's Venus entry probes, they all collapsed well below the specified g levels. The N-1 and Soyuz-1 disasters were only the last of a long series of failures due to this "shoot and hope" philosophy.

Several remarks.
The RT-15 rocket was designed in TsKB-7 (Leningrad/St. Petersburg) under the leadership of Tyurin. The sea version of the rocket - RT-15M - became in OKB-385 under the leadership of Makeev. The RT-25 rocket was created in SKB-172 (Perm) under the leadership of Tsirulnikov.

It is impossible to call the RT-1 rocket successful, but it was intended rather for experiments, than for fighting use.

The RT-2 rocket became the first Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile on solid fuel. It was considered as quite reliable and was on service more than 20 years.

R-9 probably became the first-ever rocket using the overcooled fluid oxygen. For half a century to Elon Musk  ;)

Offline RanulfC

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That Glushko had been personally responsible for Korolev being sent to the Gulag could not have put either of them in a mood to cooperate.

Actually, it no more than myth. Glushko is not guilty of S.P.Korolev's arrest. At least because Glushko himself was arrested three months earlier.
The reason of disagreements  Korolev and Glushko was another.

Apparently Korolev believed it, and added on to that was Glushko was rather obviously 'treated' better with an assignment to a penal engineering bureau where as Korolev went to a gulag. Overall it really didn't matter the actual 'truth' as it was something that drove the 'disagreements' into distrust and hatred. Both men were ambitious and over-reaching, Glushko managed to outlast all the rivals in the end.

What is really 'scary' is that the US missile and space program was in similar straights before everyone "united" against the Soviets after Sputnik and Vostok. Had we been more on par or perhaps less panicked at higher levels its possible the US would have been in similar disarray.

Randy
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Offline john smith 19

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I'll just note AFAIK this is the only large rocket that has planned to be steered with differential throttling, not any kind of gimbaling, or object being moved into the engine thrust.
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Offline IRobot

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I'll just note AFAIK this is the only large rocket that has planned to be steered with differential throttling, not any kind of gimbaling, or object being moved into the engine thrust.
VentureStar / X-33 also planned to use differential throttling.

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