Author Topic: Reusable Shuttle Agena  (Read 10640 times)

Offline simonbp

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Reusable Shuttle Agena
« on: 12/10/2007 03:12 pm »
From 1974 (way before the ban liquid upper stages), it could bring 6 tonnes from the shuttle to GEO, and then come back to be refueled and used again...

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19740023215_1974023215.pdf

Simon ;)

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Reusable Shuttle Agena
« Reply #1 on: 12/10/2007 09:35 pm »
This was Lockheed's pitch for the Space Tug.  As you can see from that report, Lockheed was proposing several different variants.  Around this time several other contractors were also pitching their proposals.  They were all summarized in a congressional report.  I believe that Grumman proposed a vehicle, as did Martin (a variant of their Titan Transtage, which was never popular).  Lockheed also proposed mounting something like 3-6 Agenas in the shuttle bay as well, but it is hard to see how they could have coordinated the payloads.

Ultimately Space Tug got canceled and this forced USAF to develop the Interim Upper Stage (IUS), later renamed the Inertial Upper Stage.  Shuttle-Centaur was later approved but canceled after Challenger.

There's no good history on this fruitless quest for a good upper stage for shuttle, although the Centaur history produced by NASA is pretty good on that vehicle.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Reusable Shuttle Agena
« Reply #2 on: 04/24/2024 07:50 pm »
Just came across this. (Note that original link is dead.)

Offline leovinus

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Re: Reusable Shuttle Agena
« Reply #3 on: 04/24/2024 08:31 pm »
Just came across this. (Note that original link is dead.)
That picture is from these reports which are all on archive.org (and attached)
19720013175 ,Shuttle/Agena study. Volume 1, "1972-02-25", archive.org
19720013176 ,Shuttle/Agena study. Volume 2, "1972-02-25", archive.org
19720013177 ,Shuttle/Agena study. Volume 2, "1972-02-25", archive.org
19720013178 ,Shuttle/Agena study. Volume 2, "1972-02-25", archive.org
19720013179 ,Shuttle/Agena study. Annex A, "1972-02-15", archive.org
19720013180 ,Shuttle/Agena study. Annex B, "1972-02-25", archive.org
19720013181 ,Shuttle/Agena study. Annex C, "1972-02-25", archive.org
« Last Edit: 04/24/2024 08:31 pm by leovinus »

Offline leovinus

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Re: Reusable Shuttle Agena
« Reply #4 on: 04/26/2024 10:20 am »
From 1974 (way before the ban liquid upper stages), it could bring 6 tonnes from the shuttle to GEO, and then come back to be refueled and used again...

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19740023215_1974023215.pdf

Simon ;)
PS: While that link does not work, this one is fine

https://ntrs.nasa.gov/api/citations/19740023215/downloads/19740023215.pdf

(Also on archive.org btw)

19740023215 ,Reusable Agena study. Volume 1, "1974-03-15",
19740024172 ,Reusable Agena study. Volume 2, "1974-03-15",

There were two volumes in this NAS 8-29952 study it seems, attached
 

Offline leovinus

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Re: Reusable Shuttle Agena
« Reply #5 on: 04/26/2024 10:31 am »
From 1974 (way before the ban liquid upper stages), it could bring 6 tonnes from the shuttle to GEO, and then come back to be refueled and used again...

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19740023215_1974023215.pdf

Simon ;)
PS: While that link does not work, this one is fine

https://ntrs.nasa.gov/api/citations/19740023215/downloads/19740023215.pdf

(Also on archive.org btw)

19740023215 ,Reusable Agena study. Volume 1, "1974-03-15",
19740024172 ,Reusable Agena study. Volume 2, "1974-03-15",

There were two volumes in this NAS 8-29952 study it seems, attached
Thanks for the pointer to the project btw. I remember seeing on TV the launch of the satellites from the Shuttle payload bay. A non-reusable system.

I like the quote  from 19740023215.pdf, page 37, Conclusion

Quote
Agena synchronous equatorial placement capabilitiy substantially higher than the required 3500 pounds (1586kg) with Agena return to the Shuttle orbit for retrieval by the Shuttle.

In other words, this would have been fully reusable, flying back from GEO to Shuttle and then back to Earth to refurbish. Fun.

Offline Emmettvonbrown

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Re: Reusable Shuttle Agena
« Reply #6 on: 04/26/2024 11:38 am »
Good job. You brought together, same place, the two Shuttle-Agena studies: the 1972 one and the 1974 with reusability.

The Agena really was an outstanding rocket stage.
It did so much: classified and unclassified missions.
https://space.skyrocket.de/doc_stage/agena.htm
Got the first nuke reactor (SNAP-10A), the first electric thrusters (SERT-II), the first SLAR (twice: QUILL & Seasat) also GATV, and boosted so many probes: Venus, Moon, Mars : Ranger, Mariner, Lunar Orbiter. Also flew on Thor, Atlas and Titan - no other stages got the three vintage boosters. Also the OAO space observatories (partly). And of course, all the spysats from DISCOVERER to GAMBIT-3, plus the ELINT birds.
« Last Edit: 04/26/2024 11:39 am by Emmettvonbrown »

Offline Proponent

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Re: Reusable Shuttle Agena
« Reply #7 on: 04/26/2024 02:35 pm »
Good job. You brought together, same place, the two Shuttle-Agena studies: the 1972 one and the 1974 with reusability.

The Agena really was an outstanding rocket stage.
It did so much: classified and unclassified missions.
https://space.skyrocket.de/doc_stage/agena.htm
Got the first nuke reactor (SNAP-10A), the first electric thrusters (SERT-II), the first SLAR (twice: QUILL & Seasat) also GATV, and boosted so many probes: Venus, Moon, Mars : Ranger, Mariner, Lunar Orbiter. Also flew on Thor, Atlas and Titan - no other stages got the three vintage boosters. Also the OAO space observatories (partly). And of course, all the spysats from DISCOVERER to GAMBIT-3, plus the ELINT birds.

And Agena all by itself was also the first 3-axis-stablized spacecraft.

Offline leovinus

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Re: Reusable Shuttle Agena
« Reply #8 on: 04/26/2024 04:31 pm »
Here some more materials. Did you know that besides the "Reusable Agena", there was a "Reusable Centaur" study as well?

19740023233 ,Reusable Centaur study. Volume 1, "1974-03-15", archive.org
19740023234 ,Reusable Centaur study. Volume 2, "1974-03-15", archive.org

attached.

This was Lockheed's pitch for the Space Tug.  As you can see from that report, Lockheed was proposing several different variants.  Around this time several other contractors were also pitching their proposals.  They were all summarized in a congressional report.  I believe that Grumman proposed a vehicle, as did Martin (a variant of their Titan Transtage, which was never popular).  Lockheed also proposed mounting something like 3-6 Agenas in the shuttle bay as well, but it is hard to see how they could have coordinated the payloads.

Ultimately Space Tug got canceled and this forced USAF to develop the Interim Upper Stage (IUS), later renamed the Inertial Upper Stage.  Shuttle-Centaur was later approved but canceled after Challenger.

There's no good history on this fruitless quest for a good upper stage for shuttle, although the Centaur history produced by NASA is pretty good on that vehicle.

Attached the 1973 hearing on Space-tugs-1973 with great illustrations, and both reuable Agena and Centaur. Here is a quote to summarize what each company did. EDIT:typo

Quote
General Dynamics Convair Division

General Dynamics maior emphasis is placed on the utilization of the presently developed Centaur vehicle as an expendable or recoverable system. Under the terms of the contract with NASA, General Dynamics has concentrated on Cryogenic Systems in its study of growth stages.

McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Company

McDonnell Douglas,under the terms ofthe contract with NASA ,has been investigating liquid storable systems for a growth stage Space Tug. In addition, their Delta launch vehicle was studied for the ex-pendable mode should that programmatic approach be taken. Like that of General Dynamics, McDonnell Douglas is studying the usage of Cryogenic Systems.

Lockheed Missile and Space Corporation

Lockheed has concentrated on the utilization of the Agena launch vehicle as both an expendable as well as recoverable system . This launch vehicle, like that of the Delta and Transtage, is presently operational in the U.S. Air Force inventory.

Martin Marietta Denver Division

Martin's effort has been concentrated on studying Liquid Storable systems plus the utilization of the existing Transtage vehicle for the expendable and/or growth stage.

Grumman Aerospace Corporation

Grumman has concentrated its effort on defining a Liquid Storable system for interim and full performance capability.
No committee conclusions or recommendations are included.
« Last Edit: 04/26/2024 04:35 pm by leovinus »

Offline Emmettvonbrown

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Re: Reusable Shuttle Agena
« Reply #9 on: 04/27/2024 06:32 am »
Yes. Circa 1973 they threw all the existing upper stages into a big bidding war for an "interim space tug", reusable or not: the storables (Agena, Transtage) the hydrolox (Centaur) and many solids. Many years later the IUS carried the day.
There must be a "reusable Transtage study" somewhere.

Offline LittleBird

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Re: Reusable Shuttle Agena
« Reply #10 on: 04/27/2024 09:31 am »
Yes. Circa 1973 they threw all the existing upper stages into a big bidding war for an "interim space tug", reusable or not: the storables (Agena, Transtage) the hydrolox (Centaur) and many solids. Many years later the IUS carried the day.

Not sure it was _many_ years, I think some of the key decisions, about solids, were made faster than I'd remembered-I think we talked about this somewhere.

Quote
There must be a "reusable Transtage study" somewhere.

indeed, which would be a very interesting document, because of the point implicit in your post, and  in leovinus'

I like the quote  from 19740023215.pdf, page 37, Conclusion
Quote
Agena synchronous equatorial placement capabilitiy substantially higher than the required 3500 pounds (1586kg) with Agena return to the Shuttle orbit for retrieval by the Shuttle.
In other words, this would have been fully reusable, flying back from GEO to Shuttle and then back to Earth to refurbish. Fun.

about the fact that both Transtage and Agena were storable and thus at least in theory already almost space tugs.

This is particularly interesting (to me at least) in that there are a few extra variables here-the kick or circularisation stage that some GEO Agena payloads may have used (Multimission support stage for RHYOLITE-see the RHYOLITE thread  https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=37169.0), and the apparent preference of the USAF for Transtage and the NRO for Agena which I detect in some memos of the v early 70s-notably one from Lew Allen about an upcoming Titan IIIC vs. IIID/Agena decision  https://www.nro.gov/Portals/65/documents/foia/declass/sigintphaseii/SC-2017-00007lll.pdf  that I posted about, again in RHYOLITE thread. Futher complications could have come in from fact that NRO's VORTEX nonetheless eventually  used the Transtage, but it may never have been intented to be a Shuttle payload, while the new GEO SIGINT bird which debuted on Shuttle in mid 80s may have always been too big for any of these upper stages. I actually can't recall what that used [Edit: seems it was IUS after all-I tend to forget just how big this stage was].
« Last Edit: 04/28/2024 11:19 am by LittleBird »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Reusable Shuttle Agena
« Reply #11 on: 04/27/2024 02:24 pm »
Yes. Circa 1973 they threw all the existing upper stages into a big bidding war for an "interim space tug", reusable or not: the storables (Agena, Transtage) the hydrolox (Centaur) and many solids. Many years later the IUS carried the day.
There must be a "reusable Transtage study" somewhere.

Somewhere I have a congressional report from around 1973 on the Space Tug proposals. It provided a nice summary of several of them (not sure all of them). I'll have to see if I can find it.

The Space Tug was a key part of the shuttle story. The original proposal was for Europe to provide the tug. But then (I think) DoD objected that Europe could not be put in the critical path for such an important piece of hardware, so it had to be US hardware. The plan was for it to be reusable, like shuttle. I'm not sure if cost or technical issues killed it (they're two sides of the same coin). Then we ended up with the IUS, which was initially the "Interim" Upper Stage until it became clear that it was interim to nothing, and it was all we were going to get (until Shuttle-Centaur came along). Jim is a fan of the IUS.

« Last Edit: 04/27/2024 02:25 pm by Blackstar »

Offline LittleBird

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Re: Reusable Shuttle Agena
« Reply #12 on: 04/27/2024 02:33 pm »
Yes. Circa 1973 they threw all the existing upper stages into a big bidding war for an "interim space tug", reusable or not: the storables (Agena, Transtage) the hydrolox (Centaur) and many solids. Many years later the IUS carried the day.
There must be a "reusable Transtage study" somewhere.

Somewhere I have a congressional report from around 1973 on the Space Tug proposals. It provided a nice summary of several of them (not sure all of them). I'll have to see if I can find it.
Have a look at the 1973 hearing that leovinus has recently posted-it may be the one you are thinking of. Has some interesting stuff on the Agena in particular.

[Edit: See some examples below. LMSC's testimony was from Max Hunter and also their Tug manager. Intriguing pictures of an Atlas Agena with wide shroud, of an Agena with a kick stage (as far as I know no Agena ever actually carried one ?), and description of an Agena servicing mission to GEO among other things.]

 
« Last Edit: 04/27/2024 04:35 pm by LittleBird »

Offline Emmettvonbrown

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Re: Reusable Shuttle Agena
« Reply #13 on: 04/27/2024 06:24 pm »
I have "extracted" the Agena discussion from the hearings, with a free Internet tool. Interesting to note they could easily push the Bell 8096 specific impulse from 290 to 323 seconds. For storables, that's a pretty good number. Delta ended at 319 (press fed) and Briz-M engine is 326 seconds.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Reusable Shuttle Agena
« Reply #14 on: 04/27/2024 06:28 pm »

Have a look at the 1973 hearing that leovinus has recently posted-it may be the one you are thinking of. Has some interesting stuff on the Agena in particular.
 

That's it. I scanned that document. I probably posted it here years ago and that's my file.

Offline leovinus

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Re: Reusable Shuttle Agena
« Reply #15 on: 04/27/2024 07:40 pm »
Yes. Circa 1973 they threw all the existing upper stages into a big bidding war for an "interim space tug", reusable or not: the storables (Agena, Transtage) the hydrolox (Centaur) and many solids. Many years later the IUS carried the day.
There must be a "reusable Transtage study" somewhere.

I wondered about the existence of such a report as well. We have the reusable reports for Agena and Centaur but I cannot find one for Transtage. The Congressional report Space-Tug-1973.pdf that was attached earlier has a long discussion on Transtage though, from page 198 onwards to roughly page 212. It says
Quote
As I pointed out earlier, we completed a study for Lewis Research Center in January of this year. That study evaluated the Transtage as an interim expendable tug. Now, we are doing a study under the auspices of SAMSO to look at Transtage as an interim reusable tug.
The fact that SAMSO is mentioned might indicate that reports are at a lesser-known document repository.

On the 'expendable tug' report, I would assume that is
Quote
7. Goyette, 1. J.; and Whiteside, D. W.: Transtage/Shuttle Integration
Study, MCR-73-22, Martin Marietta Corp. (NASA CR-121135), 1973.
Volume 1 - Executive Summary.
Volume 2 - Technical Data.

This reference is from the attached report 19740022194.pdf "COMPARATIVE EVALUATION OF EXISTING EXPENDABLE UPPER STAGES FOR SPACE SHUTTLE" which is a comparison about the >expendable< upper stages. It has a list of a all reports regarding "Shuttle Integration study" with Agena, Burner, Centaur, and also Transtage. The relevant section is the "references" at page 40 where we find this reference.

NTRS, NTRL and DTIC have no copy it seems. From the contractor report number, CR-121135, I cannot find the NASA funding number which would be helpful. There was a hint it might have been NAS3-15849. And searching via "NASA Lewis bibliographies" and STAR also got me nowhere. Anyone has a copy maybe?

From here, we could search for a >reusable< Transtage study but no luck so far. The Congressional report Space-tug-1973 mentions on page 185
Quote
In the case of Martin Marietta, we are doing a study at this point in time for DOD on the growth, or reusable, Transtage. We will cover that in some detail today.
In other words, they discussed the reusable Transtage (see screenshot) in 1973 but no pointer to study number or contractor report number, sigh. If we had a list of NASA Lewis publications from 1973/74 then it might be in there.

Finally, a year later, there was another congressional hearing "SPACE SHUTTLE,SPACE TUG,APOLLO-SOYUZ TEST PROJECT- 1974 STATUS REPORT February 1974" attached only the relevant pages Space_Shuttle_Space_Tug_1974.extract.pdf as the original is too large. On page 180 we start on the "Space Tug" which includes Agena, Centaur and Transtage as leading "growth" candidates
Quote
Mr. HUBER.I want to cover today the latest status of the Space Tug
On page 443 there is more under "INITIAL UPPER STAGE" which illustration.

Offline leovinus

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Re: Reusable Shuttle Agena
« Reply #16 on: 04/27/2024 08:05 pm »

Have a look at the 1973 hearing that leovinus has recently posted-it may be the one you are thinking of. Has some interesting stuff on the Agena in particular.
 

That's it. I scanned that document. I probably posted it here years ago and that's my file.
Then we are all on the same page :) You can download this Space Tug Congress Hearing file from Google btw
https://www.google.com/books/edition/Space_Tug_1973/incqAAAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0
which is where I got it initially.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Reusable Shuttle Agena
« Reply #17 on: 04/28/2024 12:12 am »
From leovinus:

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Reusable Shuttle Agena
« Reply #18 on: 04/28/2024 12:13 am »
Also from leovinus:

Offline LittleBird

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Re: Reusable Shuttle Agena
« Reply #19 on: 04/28/2024 12:12 pm »
All fascinating stuff, one of many things I hadn't realised is that some of these briefings seem to have been done on site at the contractors' plants rather than in DC. See for example LMSC's Guill who says "I understand we're not going to have the tour through Area 40 this morning". I wondered what this was, and it turns out to indeed have been the Agena production line in Sunnyvale, see http://lockheedmartinshare.blogspot.com/2013/04/
« Last Edit: 04/28/2024 12:15 pm by LittleBird »

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