Author Topic: Project Empire (Early Manned Planetary-Interplanetary Roundtrip Expedition) 1962  (Read 17677 times)

Offline Proponent

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- NASA before CCDs used Vidicons but they sucked at ground resolution. They nonetheless did wonders all the way from Mariner 2 to Voyager.

Mariner 2 (& 5) lacked a camera. Mariner 4 used film read-out. I'd have thought the Voyagers had CCDs.

Offline leovinus

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TL;DR - EMPIRE, the GD/A movie.

As I process the handwritten draft notes by Dr. Krafft Ehricke from Box 165, folder 1 at NASM [1], I noticed it mentioned a film. That was news to me and sounded interesting. When I asked, I was told that the Smithsonian NASM Archive does not have a copy though.

The handwritten draft starts with this
Quote
37 Development program
37.1 Introduction
In the 25- minute film, produced by General Dynamics/ Astronautics, to summarize the results of the first EMPIRE Study in 1962/63, [snip]

Today, with a bit of sleuthing through archives, I found a copy of the movie on YouTube. Very surprising but the attached screenshot demonstrates that this is indeed a move about the EMPIRE study from GD/A, NAS 8-5026, Jun-Dec 1962. In other words, a movie narrated by the man himself, Dr. Krafft Ehricke, about the recently FOIAd study NAS 8-5026. To me, the movie brings all the recently released material to life. Very cool!

The movie is titled "Empire (Unclassified Version) HACL Film 00517" and marked as a "Film from the Atlas Centaur Heritage Film Collection which was donated to the San Diego Air and Space Museum by Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance." which makes sense. The movie at YouTube is hosted .

A rough table of contents would be
Quote
0:28 Study NAS 8-5026 Jun-Dec 1962
3:06 Phopro/Deipro concept art and image
6:20 How to plan a mission
17:30 Project management charts and explanation
19:00  .... for first Lunar base
20:30 launch with post Saturn vehicle (NEXUS-like )
23:30 Advanced NERVA, Phoebus, Metal Carbide reactor, etc
26:00 Using Saturn C-5 ELV for Venus (and without fancy post-Saturn nuclear stuff as simpler alternative trip)

There are many new artwork and illustrations in there. I was pleased to find an image at timestamp 3:06 for the Phopro/Deipro Mars moon probes. I had written about those probes earlier in the thread but an illustration had eluded me and here it is, nice :)

Happy viewing.

[1] EMPIRE, NAS 8-5026, from Krafft A. Ehricke Papers, Accession 2003-0025, National Air and Space Museum (NASM), Smithsonian Institution, Box 165 Folder 1, handwritten draft notes.

Offline libra

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- NASA before CCDs used Vidicons but they sucked at ground resolution. They nonetheless did wonders all the way from Mariner 2 to Voyager.

Mariner 2 (& 5) lacked a camera. Mariner 4 used film read-out. I'd have thought the Voyagers had CCDs.

I checked, Voyager was the last to use Vidicon.

Offline LittleBird

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- NASA before CCDs used Vidicons but they sucked at ground resolution. They nonetheless did wonders all the way from Mariner 2 to Voyager.

Mariner 2 (& 5) lacked a camera. Mariner 4 used film read-out. I'd have thought the Voyagers had CCDs.

I checked, Voyager was the last to use Vidicon.

And I must admit I thought Mariner 4 was vidicon. See for example this film explaining how it was done:

https://archive.org/details/xd-45534-close-up-of-mars-vwr

and  a contmporary "instrument paper"

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0065253908612573

Quote
The successful performance of scientific measurements by the Mariner IV spacecraft of Mars and the successful transmission of these data over some 135 million miles, has demonstrated the capability of highly integrated and mechanical equipment to perform unmanned exploration of the planets. The spacecraft was fully attitude stabilized, using the Sun end Canopus as reference objects. Power was derived from the Sun, using photovoltaic cells mounted on panels having a body-fixed orientation. The primary objective of the Mariner IV mission was to obtain scientific measurements of the planet during the brief encounter period. One such measurement was the acquisition of photographic data from the planet's surface. The photographic system was to perform preliminary topographic reconnaissance of portions of the surface in two color bands. The use of vidicon television system as spacecraft scientific instrument presentes a number of new problems with respect to test and calibration. First of all, the camera must qualify environmentally for a spacecraft mission. Further picture processing consists of restoring the high frequencies, removing non-linearities of the photoconductor surface, and spatial filtering using both digital computer and optical techniques.
« Last Edit: 09/11/2022 04:58 pm by LittleBird »

Offline libra

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Quote
And I must admit I thought Mariner 4 was vidicon.

And I must admit, I never realized that the early-Mariners-to-Venus had no camera whatsoever. Only to realize, as I type this, that (early) cameras at Venus were mostly useless, because of the clouds.

This de facto "isolates" the Ranger vidicons  in time - until the 1969 Mars Mariners (number 6 and 7).

D'oh, d'oh, d'oh, this was the Great Simpson Moment on nasaspaceflight.

Offline Proponent

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And I must admit I thought Mariner 4 was vidicon. See for example this film explaining how it was done:

https://archive.org/details/xd-45534-close-up-of-mars-vwr

and  a contmporary "instrument paper"

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0065253908612573iltering using both digital computer and optical techniques.

Thank you for correcting me.  The reason I thought Mariner 4 used a photographic system was that I recall reading that it could return only a set number of images.  Am I wrong about that too, or did such a limit apply to the vidicon system for some reason?

Offline Proponent

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The reason I thought Mariner 4 used a photographic system was that I recall reading that it could return only a set number of images.  Am I wrong about that too, or did such a limit apply to the vidicon system for some reason?

On reflection, I'll hazard a guess.  Images from the vidicon were probably stored on magnetic tape for later transmission to Earth, and that tape may have had relatively low capacity.

Offline leovinus

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While I enjoy all the insights and discussion, Mariner IV is probably better discussed at its dedicated thread ;)

Offline LittleBird

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While I enjoy all the insights and discussion, Mariner IV is probably better discussed at its dedicated thread ;)

OK. Interesting to think about what could be done in unmanned craft even as Empire aspired to send people, though, and what the subsequent rate of progress was, so just before I move over there please allow me to quote Oliver Morton's excellent book "Mapping Mars". He says the pacing item was "the speed at which the tape recorder ... could play ... back ... [which] was staggeringly slow: eight bits per second." He then notes that each frame was 200 by 200 pixels, with brightness at each pixel recorded as 6 bits, and each frame was thus 30 kilobytes. It thus "took eight hours to get each picture back to JPL".

The thing that seems relevant to the ambitions of Empire etc is the rate of progress; Morton notes that by 1969 each of Mariner 6 and 7 returned a hundred times more data than Mariner 4, while Mariner 9 was about 100 times as much again.

Anyway, as requested I'll take this over there.
« Last Edit: 09/12/2022 09:43 am by LittleBird »

Offline LittleBird

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Re: EMPIRE Photographic mapping of Mars and overlap with 1960s Earth reconnaissance satellite optics such as CORONA et al?

The JBIS EMPIRE summary articles discussed upthread mentions the photographic mapping of Mars as one of the goals, for science as well as reconnaissance for a future human landing. The GD/A and Lockheed reports go into considerable detail. The whole discussion on high resolution optics, analog film vs digital storage, data transmission, storage is strikingly similar to 1960s optical reconnaissance satellites in Earth orbit. There is a memo at NASM [1] where the GD/A team discusses with Perkin-Elmer (from Hubble optics) on the Mars mapping optics and design. Hence, I am curious on what overlap there was, if any, with the KH-x programs on optics, mapping, and telescope design.

1) General Dynamics/Astronautics (GD/A)

[...]

Next, I thought it is interesting that a Laser communication between Mars Mapper and EMPIRE Crew Vehicle was considered for power and bandwidth reasons (page 1, point (c), and page 5). While we know of Perkin-Elmer involvement with Hubble, I do not recall seeing similar proposals for Laser communications with reconnaissance satellites in Earth orbits in this 1960s timeframe, or anywhere else. Am curious about the state of Laser communication at that time as LASER was only invented in 1960. Maybe the team figured that by the 1970s this would be feasible? Their quotes below sound like straight out of SpaceX Starlink laser links (ISL) which surprised me.

Quote
(c) Data transmission is accomplished with a laser high intensity narrow light beam which originates at the Crew vehicle and is reflected at the Mapper back to the Crew vehicle. In the reflection, map data are added by a modulation of the light beam. Thus no high power transmitter is required on the Mapper
and
Quote
Laser development. Dr. Scott stated that suitable Laser light sources have already been developed. Two necessary elements of the proposed system are not yet available but should be developed by 1967 - 1968:


Reading back in this rich and dense thread I was intrigued by this. Not exactly  laser comms, but just as an indication of the kind of talent that the recon industry had at its disposal in laser area in the early 60s I wanted to mention the late Frank Lee Vernon, of Feynman and Vernon (http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Caldeira-Leggett_model) fame. An oline biography entry from SMU photonics (https://s2.smu.edu/ee/smuphotonics/NotableSMUGraduates/Frank%20Vernon%20bio.htm, no date but at least post Brilliant Pebbles and the Delta Star mission of March-December 1989 https://www.jhuapl.edu/Content/techdigest/pdf/V11-N1-2/11-01-Dassoulas.pdf ) says :

Quote
Assistant Recorder, Geophysical Division, Texas Company, 1949-1950; Research Fellow, California Institute of Technology, 1959-60.

In 1951 Dr. Vernon joined the Microwave Laboratory at Hughes Aircraft Company as a Member of the Technical Staff and remained there until 1961 at which time he was Head of the Microwave Physics Section.

[It was during the 50s and early 60s that he was, in parallel, Feynman's student at Caltech, working on the theory of Masers and quantum Brownian motion].

Quote

In 1961 he joined The Aerospace Corporation as a Member of the Technical Staff in the Electronics Research Laboratory.  Since that time he has been Head of the Low Temperature Section, the Solid State Electronics Department, and the Physical Electronics Department all within the Electronics Research Laboratory.  Currently, he has the position of Senior Scientist in the Photonics Technology Department, Electronics and Photonics Laboratory. At present his primary responsibility is directing the laser beacon activity which, in turn, supports the Air Force surveillance satellite programs.

and

Quote
Except for classified projects, much of the technical work with which he has been involved is obvious from his publications.

[...]

The activity that has occupied much of his time is development of a technique for using ground-based lasers to calibrate on-orbit surveillance satellites and to assist in troubleshooting in the case of malfunction.  In fact, there are numerous additional uses for this system depending on the characteristics of the particular satellite being tested. 

[...]
 
At the same time the beacon activity has been under development (since 1971) his group was fortunate to be able to carry out a number of other interesting investigations.  These include:

 

(a)                 High frequency and millimeter wave properties of superconducting point contacts, thin film tunneling junctions and squids (11 papers since 1970).

(b)                 Cosmic Background Radiation at 3.3 mm.  This was the second independent measurement which showed that the radiation followed the Planck distribution rather than the Rayleigh-Jeans curve.

(c)                 Irradiation of the Delta Star satellite (low orbiting) using a ground-based laser.  This was performed using one of the optical beam director telescopes at Malabar, Fla.   

(d)                 Development of a diode-pumped 1-W continuous wave Er:YAG 3 micron laser.  This is one of the laser sources developed for beacon applications.

(e)                 Studies of satellite-to-satellite laser communication.

(f)                   Studies of two-way laser communication between satellite and ground.


(g)                 Measurements of the radiation sensitivity of Nd:YAG and LiNbO3.

(h)                Studies of brilliant pebbles lasercom.

(i)                   Studies of loss mechanisms for guided waves in a nominally loss-free medium. (theoretical)

(j)         Presently, his group is conducting studies into coupling high power (approx. 3 W) of CW SWIR radiation at a wavelength of 3 microns from the output of an OPO [i.e. one of these https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optical_parametric_oscillator] into a single mode fiber.

[Edit: glad you liked this leovinus, I must admit Vernon's stellar achievements rather remind me of Ian Dury's song "there ain't half been some clever bastards" ;-)]
« Last Edit: 09/23/2022 11:01 am by LittleBird »

Offline leovinus

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A quick note that I am still reading EMPIRE documents, final reports and follow-ons. The large volume of materials means it will be while before any new insights bubble up. Physically, the stack of papers was about 5 inches high or so. As examples, I hope to find more on the FORTRAN software, the EMPIRE space station, artificial gravity solutions, etc. If you are interested in a particular aspect, I'll take requests ;) To be continued.

Offline LittleBird

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A quick note that I am still reading EMPIRE documents, final reports and follow-ons. The large volume of materials means it will be while before any new insights bubble up. Physically, the stack of papers was about 5 inches high or so. As examples, I hope to find more on the FORTRAN software, the EMPIRE space station, artificial gravity solutions, etc. If you are interested in a particular aspect, I'll take requests ;) To be continued.

Well I'd love you to keep a (well shielded) eye out for any laser related stuff. Have been fascinated by some  AIP oral histories I've recently read,

Marlan Scully https://www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/32147

Willis Lamb https://www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/27491-1

and

John Clauser https://www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/25096

to see how ONR/AFOSR et al interacted with their fields, and how Arizona's famous optics centre started.

A (longish, I know) taster: [Edit: decided to trim it.]

Quote

Bromberg:

Shall we go now to Arizona and that Optical Science Center. I’m really interested to know how it was set up and by whom. And why there was so much applied work… free- electron lasers and X-ray lasers and so forth.

Scully:


Yeah. Gyroscopes. As I mentioned earlier, I was at MIT and Arizona called me. The main contact that I had there was a physicist named Steve Jacobs. Steve Jacobs was a very interesting character. He was a good scientist and optical person; worked with Gordon Gould. And was involved in making the first, I think it was, sodium laser, back in the early days when nothing much but ruby had lased. Maybe the second laser, maybe the third. He went then to Arizona and invited me to come out. So I went out for a visit, enjoyed my interactions, and went back to MIT. Then he went to MIT, and suggested we go down to Washington, and talk to people in Washington about this new Optical Science Center. Aden Meinel was the one who had made the Optical Sciences Center work. He was an astronomer, discovered the Meinel bands of nitrogen, and built Kitt Peak, by the way. He then was contacted by the Air Force and they asked him if he would work on the problem of optical resolution. Well, back in those days, satellite reconnaissance was developing and it was very difficult to get scientists who knew enough optics to help the Air Force in their mission. And so the thought was, perhaps we should have another Rochester. Rochester was based on optics coming from Kodak i.e. a very different perspective. What if we had a group that was focused on big optics. Big telescopes for astronomy and perhaps big systems for satellite applications. So Aden got the money together to build the Optical Science Center. Adam was a very inventive guy. You couldn’t use government contract money to build a building. Therefore what he did was to go to bank and borrow X million dollars to build a building at the University of Arizona, with the agreement with the Air Force that they would lease that building, and the lease could be structured so that in a few years, it would pay off the loan. That’s the kind of guy he was. Then after my visit, Jacob came to MIT and said, “Let’s go down to Washington and talk to people and see if we can get some support.”

Bromberg:

Was that the Air Force Office of Scientific Research?

Scully:

That’s right. After we were there for a while and were about to leave, I said, “Why don’t we go over to the NSF and see if we can get a million dollars.” And Jacobs said, “That’s what I like about you, Scully. You think big.” I said, “I thought you liked me because of my personality!” He said “No” and he was serious. So at that point I realized that he was a quality person. He was so straightforward. So I took a leave of absence from MIT for a year and went to Arizona.

 
« Last Edit: 10/20/2022 07:19 am by LittleBird »

Offline leovinus

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Recently I came across old company newspapers by Convair and General Dynamics on archive.org. For example these. Roughly 1958 to 1964 named the "Convairiety Astronautics Edition", "General Dynamics News Astronautics Edition", "General Dynamics News" etc.

These newspaper are a treasure trove on personnel, Atlas, Agena, organizational news etc.  As GD/A was one of the three contractors for the EMPIRE studies and Ehricke was a prolific writer, I wondered whether the newspapers would have anything relevant. Well, no new information really but attached a few snippets from 1962/1963 with GD/A EMPIRE related announcements.

Offline leovinus

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A quick note that I am still reading EMPIRE documents, final reports and follow-ons. The large volume of materials means it will be while before any new insights bubble up. Physically, the stack of papers was about 5 inches high or so. As examples, I hope to find more on the FORTRAN software, the EMPIRE space station, artificial gravity solutions, etc. If you are interested in a particular aspect, I'll take requests ;) To be continued.

Well I'd love you to keep a (well shielded) eye out for any laser related stuff. Have been fascinated by some  AIP oral histories I've recently read,

[snip]

Two LASER communication related articles via the General Dynamics newspapers from the previous post. While LASER comms were considered by GD/A Ehricke for EMPIRE, I found no further studies yet beyond the memo discussed earlier. The newspaper articles here only support evidence that GD/A was well aware of the potential of LASERs in the EMPIRE time frame.

Offline Robotbeat

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The first laser was built in 1960 so it’s not obvious they’d have picked that for communications in 1962.
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Offline leovinus

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The first laser was built in 1960 so it’s not obvious they’d have picked that for communications in 1962.
I know which is why I wrote about it earlier in this thread post #37, section 2 titled "2) GD/A with Perkin-Elmer discussion" dated 7 November 1962 and asked what y'all think about such forward thinking in 1962.

Offline LittleBird

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The first laser was built in 1960 so it’s not obvious they’d have picked that for communications in 1962.
I know which is why I wrote about it earlier in this thread post #37, section 2 titled "2) GD/A with Perkin-Elmer discussion" dated 7 November 1962 and asked what y'all think about such forward thinking in 1962.

No idea, but I am struck that ARPA didn't need it to have been built to take an interest. Townes' first papers on how it could be done were enough. See grab below from Vol 1 of a two volume unclassified DARPA history from early 90s, attached, via one of its authors' accounts on  Researchgate (there may be other sources). [Edit: see thread at https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=2293.0 for all 3 DARPA volumes, second split for convenience.]

Lot of interesting stuff in both volumes, I'll return to this.
« Last Edit: 11/05/2022 04:49 pm by LittleBird »

Offline LittleBird

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Re laser probably also worth appreciating how well placed Townes was to communicate and influence:

Quote
In 1950, Townes was appointed professor at Columbia University.[4] He served as executive director of the Columbia Radiation Laboratory from 1950 to 1952. He was Chairman of the Physics Department from 1952 to 1955.[4]

In 1951, Townes conceived a new way to create intense, precise beams of coherent radiation, for which he invented the acronym maser (for Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation). When the same principle was applied to higher frequencies, the term laser was used (the word "light" substituting for the word "microwave").[22]

During 1953, Townes, James P. Gordon, and Herbert J. Zeiger built the first ammonia maser at Columbia University.[4] This device used stimulated emission in a stream of energized ammonia molecules to produce amplification of microwaves at a frequency of about 24.0 gigahertz.[4]

From 1959 to 1961, he was on leave of absence from Columbia University to serve as vice president and director of research of the Institute for Defense Analyses in Washington, D.C., a nonprofit organization, which advised the U.S. government and was operated by eleven universities
.[4] Between 1961 and 1967, Townes served as both provost and professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[4]
--- Wikipedia.

Offline Airlocks

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Why was "laser coms" discussed in the days of AAP yet only happened 40 years later, in the early 2000's ?

Offline LittleBird

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Why was "laser coms" discussed in the days of AAP yet only happened 40 years later, in the early 2000's ?

My (non-expert) understanding is that it was much harder than other laser applications such as beacons (which were being studied by Vernon's team from 1971 at least, see upthread). But  as to exactly why I am less sure. [Edit: and it was probably less urgent than, say, beacons. Quite a bit about some of the laser comms technolgies in that mammoth ARPA report, especially as regards the idea of using lasers to talk to submarines.]
« Last Edit: 11/03/2022 03:23 pm by LittleBird »

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