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General Discussion => Historical Spaceflight => Topic started by: Jim on 01/19/2011 02:39 PM

Title: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 01/19/2011 02:39 PM
The hatch through the heat shield was the chosen method for the crew to move from the capsule to the lab.  This raises a question in my mind.  How was the tunnel to the lab connected to the capsule and how did it provide an airtight seal?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: simonbp on 01/19/2011 04:01 PM
IIRC, the heat shield hatch swung inside the Gemini (between the crew seats), and was connected by a narrow tunnel to the main pressurized compartment.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 01/19/2011 04:53 PM
IIRC, the heat shield hatch swung inside the Gemini (between the crew seats), and was connected by a narrow tunnel to the main pressurized compartment.

So how does the tunnel interface with the hatch and account the heatshield.  Did the tunnel butt up against the heatshield with a compliant material that could handle the interior air pressure?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: e of pi on 01/19/2011 05:16 PM
IIRC, the heat shield hatch swung inside the Gemini (between the crew seats), and was connected by a narrow tunnel to the main pressurized compartment.

So how does the tunnel interface with the hatch and account the heatshield.  Did the tunnel butt up against the heatshield with a compliant material that could handle the interior air pressure?

Just a butt connection like that seems like it could be made to work but it does seem like it could be problematic. Perhaps there was a actual docking mechanism that was exposed once the heat shield hatch swung aside?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: tankmodeler on 01/19/2011 07:49 PM
No, there couldn't be a separate mechanism because you'd have to have a way to disengage it to provide a smooth heat shield surface for a proper re-entry. I've always suspected that it was to be a compliant seal. Tolerance control of the mating surfaces would have been a real b*tch, for sure, but if there is a perfect sealing door at the base of the tunnel, the approach could be to permit the capsule & tunnel to bleed down to near vacuum due to an imperfect seal. This would likely have been an acceptable ops concept during the period. It likely wouldn't fly today, but it might have then.

You could get away, perhaps, with an inflated collar with an RTV interface seal between the collar and the heat shield, the RTV actually being bonded to both sides of the interface. At capsule separation you pop the separation plane and either the forces involved break the RTV seal or there is a  small line charge in the inflated collar leaving a rubber collar bonded to the heat shield. Cut it close enough to the heat shield surface and you won't disturb the airflow enough to destabilise the capsule during the start of re-entry. As re-entry proceeds the collar and RTV will all boil/burn away rather quickly and the capsule re-enters normally.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: hoku on 01/19/2011 09:21 PM
Figure 5.1-5 of the "GEMINI SPACECRAFT STUDY FOR MORL FERRY MISSIONS" from 1963 hints that a "large pressure bulkhead" would have encompassed the entire heat shield base: http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19750069218_1975069218.pdf (http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19750069218_1975069218.pdf)
(Don't know, though, if this was the final design).

Here is a view of the modified heat shield of the Gemini 2/Gemini B spacecraft (suborbital flight with the modified heat shield in 1966):
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/ea/Gemini2xrear.jpg (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/ea/Gemini2xrear.jpg)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 01/19/2011 11:15 PM
So here's an intriguing question: how would they have brought back to Earth the big roll of exposed film they took?

Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Danderman on 01/19/2011 11:52 PM
The whole concept seems like a mess.

I suspect that had The Powers That Be made a more rationale decision in 1963, it would have been to significantly redesign Gemini to allow crew transfer via the nose, separate Gemini launches from MOL, and thus allow MOL to be launched on Titan IIIC (obviating the need for Titan IIIM), and probably would resulted in MOL launches in 1967.

In technical programs, the initial constraints and requirements dictate success or failure of the program, if in doubt, see "Mike Griffin" "Ares".

Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 01/19/2011 11:56 PM
You're assuming that the requirement for a Titan IIIM was the long pole in the tent for MOL.  I don't think that's the case.  MOL was incredibly complex, and had little real justification.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Danderman on 01/20/2011 12:05 AM
You're assuming that the requirement for a Titan IIIM was the long pole in the tent for MOL.  I don't think that's the case.  MOL was incredibly complex, and had little real justification.

AFAIK, Titan IIIM was a long pole, with flight tests not even started as late as 1969. Without the requirement for development of SLC-6 to accommodate Titan IIIM, along with development of Titan IIIM itself, the program would have attained flight status might earlier. Of course, without Titan IIIM, a different flavor of Gemini would have been required, but IMHO, early modifications to Gemini would have been cheaper over the program lifetime than the path actually chosen, which was later and smaller modifications.


Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: mike robel on 01/20/2011 12:35 AM
I am away from my Spacecraft Films disc, but the hatch was pushed "out" from the heatshield and stored in the tunnel.  There was a distinct lip on the hatch that overlapped the heatshield.  The storage compartment had some positive latch mechanism that prevented the hatch from floating up. 

When I last launched the video, I did not notice how the join was made air tight, perhaps someone else has the video at hand.

The astronauts tested their ability to go through the tunnel both in and out of suits, with film cartridges, and towing or pushing a suited/unsuited incapacatated astronauts.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Proponent on 01/20/2011 01:13 AM
AFAIK, Titan IIIM was a long pole, with flight tests not even started as late as 1969.

Actually, the UA-1207 SRM for the III-M was test-fired in April 1969, according to astronautix.com.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 01/20/2011 01:17 AM
It wasn't the Titan IIIM that killed MOL.  It was high costs and continued program slips.  Yeah, a smaller spacecraft would have required a smaller rocket.  But your alternative sounds more complex.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Danderman on 01/20/2011 02:35 AM
It wasn't the Titan IIIM that killed MOL.  It was high costs and continued program slips.  Yeah, a smaller spacecraft would have required a smaller rocket.  But your alternative sounds more complex.

I would imagine that a redesign of Gemini to allow for transfers through the nose/top would eventually have been cheaper and easier than all these through the heat shield design ideas.

Having said that, the Russians slavishly copied MOL and executed missions with landing craft featuring hatches in the heat shield, although they never risked a crew landing with this architecture.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Proponent on 01/20/2011 04:47 AM
[T]he Russians slavishly copied MOL and executed missions with landing craft featuring hatches in the heat shield, although they never risked a crew landing with this architecture.

A heat-shield hatch sure seems scary, but I wonder whether it's really as risky as it looks.  The Air Force did perform a successful flight test, after all.  Also, IIRC, on an early, unmanned Soyuz flight a plug at the center of the heat shield actually failed.  Although the crew cabin lost pressure, the temperature inside stayed within reasonable limits (I think I read about this in a Jim Oberg piece).
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Hoonte on 01/20/2011 06:02 AM
A heat-shield hatch sure seems scary, but I wonder whether it's really as risky as it looks.

Not that risky.. It pretty much welded shut on reentry. Hatches have proven to work pretty fine. The shuttle has hatches for it's gears (Which fortunally doesn't get welded shut :-))

Modify: added some additional pictures I found
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Archibald on 01/20/2011 06:25 AM
Gemini docking per its nose ? would be a new spacecraft. I would try it differently.
As far as I remember the astronauts entered Gemini by two large swinging doors on the capsule side. I propose to replace these doors  by a side mounted docking ring (the crew would enter the capsule by this docking ring, even on the ground)
No hatch in the heatshield then, and Gemini would dock by its "side", a bit like a shuttle or biconic.

The Oberg article was entitled Soyuz 5 flamming return, and it is SCARY.

About hatches in the heatshield: I've read somewhere (can't remember where) that Chelomei TKS-VA had some clever design where the hatch was literally sealed by heat reentry and reentry pressure altogether.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 01/20/2011 11:13 AM

I would imagine that a redesign of Gemini to allow for transfers through the nose/top would eventually have been cheaper and easier than all these through the heat shield design ideas.


Huh?   No way.  Though the nose would be impossible with keeping within a Gemini design.   The diameter is less than the tunnel width.  Where would the RCS and parachutes go?  Add a docking mechanism, rendezvous equipment, 3 axis ACS, translation engines, etc. It would be a whole new spacecraft.

The MOL Gemini just required a hatch and tunnel interface and it had many unnecessary systems removed. 

MOL without a Gemini still required a T-IIIM and adding a docking system  would add back some weight.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Hoonte on 01/20/2011 11:37 AM
The hatch through the heat shield was the chosen method for the crew to move from the capsule to the lab.  This raises a question in my mind.  How was the tunnel to the lab connected to the capsule and how did it provide an airtight seal?

I believe that it didn't need to be airtight. The tunnel was merely a passage way to the MOL. The Gemini was depressurized and the floated in their suits through the tunnel to the MOL and sealed and pressurized the MOL..
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 01/20/2011 12:11 PM

I believe that it didn't need to be airtight. The tunnel was merely a passage way to the MOL. The Gemini was depressurized and the floated in their suits through the tunnel to the MOL and sealed and pressurized the MOL..

Where does it say the MOL flew unpressurized?  Where is the "backpack" and oxygen for the crew while they move from the capsule to the MOL?  The Gemini was to stay unpressurized for the duration of the crew stay?
And the MOL would have to depressurized at the end of the mission so the crew can get back into the Gemini?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: tankmodeler on 01/20/2011 01:01 PM
I believe that it didn't need to be airtight. The tunnel was merely a passage way to the MOL. The Gemini was depressurized and the floated in their suits through the tunnel to the MOL and sealed and pressurized the MOL..
No, I don't buy that. The hatch isn't large enough to exit with a sealed suit, under pressure, and with some sort of self contained life support system. Even the small emergency chest packs were too large to mange through the heat shield hatch & tunnel and, if you've seen the spacecraft films footage of the 0G tests of the hatch/tunnel arrangement, getting throught here in a pressurised suit would have been a real problem, if possible at all.

There must have been a seal and the seal would have had to have been at least good enough to support hours of operation even if it bled down over time.

Now, none of the images I have seen shows a hatch at the aft end of the tunnel. If that is true, then the tunnel must remain perfectly sealed for the whole mission, implying a really good seal.

I wonder if you could adjust the fit of the tunnel to the shield well enough to permit a grease type sealing compound to act as the final seal? That would eliminate the need for a line charge, but you'd need both some sort of actuator (probably springs) to force the separation and a really viscous goop to make the seal. Certainly the surface of the Gemini B shield around the hatch shows signs of precision machining and this is probably to prepare the surface forwhatever the seal was supposed to be.

Bloody good question, Jim. I wonder if the answer to this is still buried out there in "Classified Document Land". MOL was pretty far along by the time it was killed, so there must have been a really advanced design for this seal by then.

Paul
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Hoonte on 01/20/2011 01:37 PM
The internal tunnel structure was not the only possibility

here is a progress report on a expandable gemini to mol crew tranfer tunnel.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 01/20/2011 03:47 PM
The internal tunnel structure was not the only possibility


The internal tunnel was the final design.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Danderman on 01/20/2011 06:51 PM

I would imagine that a redesign of Gemini to allow for transfers through the nose/top would eventually have been cheaper and easier than all these through the heat shield design ideas.


Huh?   No way.  Though the nose would be impossible with keeping within a Gemini design.   The diameter is less than the tunnel width.  Where would the RCS and parachutes go?  Add a docking mechanism, rendezvous equipment, 3 axis ACS, translation engines, etc. It would be a whole new spacecraft.

The MOL Gemini just required a hatch and tunnel interface and it had many unnecessary systems removed. 

MOL without a Gemini still required a T-IIIM and adding a docking system  would add back some weight.

Again, the trade on the table is a single redesign of Gemini to allow nose-first docking with a solo launched MOL vs the actual baseline. Biting the bullet on "fixing" Gemini to convert it into a real ferry spacecraft would have been cheaper in the long run, and IMHO saved the program.

Of course, had the USAF done that, we wouldn't have SLC-6 today.

As for a solo-launched MOL requiring development of Titan IIIM, that implies that the difference in capability between Titan IIIM and Titan IIIC was more than the mass of a Gemini.

So, the trade is:

Baseline:

1) redesign Gemini for rear docking, including development of a pressurized section in the rear for a tunnel, docking, rear crew station, heat shield hatch, access hatch in the re-entry capsule between the ejection seats;

2) Develop Titan IIIM to loft Gemini + MOL for initial habitation. Required construction of SLC-6.

or

Alternate:

1) Redesign Gemini for nose docking and crew transfer, requires different shell, but same subsystems as original Gemini. Fly MOL without Gemini for all MOL launches.

2) Fly MOL from existing Titan IIIC launch pads on Titan IIIC launcher.

I suspect that the alternate would have been flying in 1967, at a much lower cost to the government.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: simonbp on 01/20/2011 07:01 PM
A heat-shield hatch sure seems scary, but I wonder whether it's really as risky as it looks.

I dunno; just how many doors does Shuttle have in its headshield? Off the top of my head, I can think of seven, at least thee of which (the ET attach points) are closed after the orbiter is on in space...
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 01/20/2011 07:02 PM

Again, the trade on the table is a single redesign of Gemini to allow nose-first docking with a solo launched MOL vs the actual baseline. Biting the bullet on "fixing" Gemini to convert it into a real ferry spacecraft would have been cheaper in the long run, and IMHO saved the program.

Of course, had the USAF done that, we wouldn't have SLC-6 today.

As for a solo-launched MOL requiring development of Titan IIIM, that implies that the difference in capability between Titan IIIM and Titan IIIC was more than the mass of a Gemini.

So, the trade is:

Baseline:

1) redesign Gemini for rear docking, including development of a pressurized section in the rear for a tunnel, docking, rear crew station, heat shield hatch, access hatch in the re-entry capsule between the ejection seats;

2) Develop Titan IIIM to loft Gemini + MOL for initial habitation. Required construction of SLC-6.

or

Alternate:

1) Redesign Gemini for nose docking and crew transfer, requires different shell, but same subsystems as original Gemini. Fly MOL without Gemini for all MOL launches.

2) Fly MOL from existing Titan IIIC launch pads on Titan IIIC launcher.

I suspect that the alternate would have been flying in 1967, at a much lower cost to the government.


No,  two launches per mission is going to cost more in the long run especially with a new spacecraft. 

Titan IIIC launch pads did not exist on the west coast.

The difference in capability between Titan IIIM and Titan IIIC WAS more than the mass of a Gemini

Redesign Gemini would be more than the actual Gemini in cost. 


SLC-6 is require in any case and it did not cost that much.

New pad costs are cheaper than new spacecraft.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim Davis on 01/20/2011 07:40 PM
Again, the trade on the table is a single redesign of Gemini to allow nose-first docking with a solo launched MOL vs the actual baseline.

I don't think this works. Remember that MOL was to be launched into polar orbit. Gemini could not be placed into polar orbit by the Titan II. This would have meant launching the redesigned Gemini into orbit on a Titan IIIC or D.

So your scheme involves at a minimum:

1.) Massive redesign of Gemini.

2.) Two launches of Titan IIIC/D instead of 1 Titan IIIM.

3.) Manrating the Titan IIIC/D.

4.) Adding a rendezvous and docking procedure much of which would have to done independently of the ground due to polar orbit.

I think I would have gone the Titan IIIM 1 launch route.

 
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: tankmodeler on 01/21/2011 01:50 AM
Again, the trade on the table is a single redesign of Gemini to allow nose-first docking with a solo launched MOL vs the actual baseline. Biting the bullet on "fixing" Gemini to convert it into a real ferry spacecraft would have been cheaper in the long run, and IMHO saved the program.
No, as Jim says, that level of redesign of the Gemini would have cost the same as a completely new vehicle, because that's what you would have needed. The front two subassemblies of the Gemini (the recovery module and the RCS system) filled up the entire volume. If you want to use that volume for a docking system and a passageway, where do the recovery system & RCS go? An expansion of the diameters of the nose means that the outer mould line of the basic capsule has to change to ensure that that the re-entry vehicle aerodynamics remain acceptable. As soon as you do that, you have an entirely new vehicle. Big bucks and even longer schedule.

No, a "redesigned" Gemini is not a cost effective solution and it wouldn't have mattered what was done, the program wouldn't have been saved because the Gemini wasn't the problem. Modern, robotic surveillance satellites killed off MOL.

Paul
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 01/21/2011 01:04 PM
As soon as you do that, you have an entirely new vehicle. Big bucks and even longer schedule.

They really designed themselves into a bind.  If MOL had flown earlier--say, by 1966--it might have had some utility.  But they essentially designed themselves a short-lived, non-reusable reconsat.  By 1969 this made little sense, and because it would have started flying in 1971, it made even less sense.  If Gemini was capable of multiple dockings (i.e. designed with a docking collar), they could have extended the lifetime of the MOL and so it might have made more sense.  But it really had a small window of opportunity and it missed that.  By the early 1970s, it was possible to extend the lifetime of robotic reconsats to several months.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: agman25 on 01/21/2011 01:08 PM
Why didn't they just use Apollo?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Arthur on 01/21/2011 01:18 PM
Why didn't they just use Apollo?

NIH?
Military vs NASA seems a common theme between Gemini-centric and Apollo-centric proposals.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 01/21/2011 01:19 PM
Why didn't they just use Apollo?

West coast Saturn?

This discussion does have me wondering, why was a new pad needed for MOL, why couldn't the Titan III C/D pad have been used. Did it not exist yet? If not, why then wasn't SLC-6 used when the Titan IIIC came to the west coast for the KH-9? Just curious...
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 01/21/2011 02:38 PM
Why didn't they just use Apollo?

West coast Saturn?

This discussion does have me wondering, why was a new pad needed for MOL, why couldn't the Titan III C/D pad have been used. Did it not exist yet? If not, why then wasn't SLC-6 used when the Titan IIIC came to the west coast for the KH-9? Just curious...

There wasn't a T-IIID pad at the time.  MOL and T-IIID would have been flying simultaneously.

BTW, T-IIIC never was used on the west coast.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 01/21/2011 02:39 PM
Why didn't they just use Apollo?

Too big and expensive
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 01/21/2011 03:00 PM
Why didn't they just use Apollo?

Well, that's a good question.  I think the most simplistic answer is cost.  Apollo cost more than Gemini.  I don't know how much, but it was substantial.  Plus, Apollo had to be launched on a NASA rocket. 

But there were other programmatic issues too.  If USAF wanted to use Apollo, there was the risk of them getting in the way of the lunar program.  The great thing about Gemini was that NASA was going to stop using it, so USAF could essentially pick up the production run after NASA was finished and they would not interfere with Apollo or any other NASA mission in any way.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 01/21/2011 04:12 PM

There wasn't a T-IIID pad at the time.  MOL and T-IIID would have been flying simultaneously.


Was the thought at the time, that two pads where needed to keep the two programs from conflicting and each interfering with the other? Does this mean they had a good handle at how long Titan payloads would spend on the pad back then?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 01/21/2011 04:44 PM

There wasn't a T-IIID pad at the time.  MOL and T-IIID would have been flying simultaneously.


Was the thought at the time, that two pads where needed to keep the two programs from conflicting and each interfering with the other? Does this mean they had a good handle at how long Titan payloads would spend on the pad back then?

T-IIID was for an CIA Hexagon and T-IIIM was for a USAF MOL.  Separate programs, one covert and one overt and very visible.
Title: Gemini-B/MOL IVA transfer tunnel and hatches [Re: MOL discussion]
Post by: John Charles on 02/20/2011 06:19 PM
Good discussion! Sorry I am joining late.

Note that there was one hole in the heat shield, but two plugs for that hole.  The heat shield plug was stowed in the transfer tunnel (as seen in the excellent Spacecraft Films video), and the pressure vessel hatch was stowed in the hatch holder on the aft bulkhead inside the cabin.

The pressurized transfer tunnel was sealed against the Gemini-B heat shield by a pliable pressurized ring with an internal spring forcing it against a special mounting ring on the heat shield.  (See the various photos of the Gemini-B heat shield available on the web.)  Something like this also formed the airtight seal between the Apollo CM and LM.

I can post images if desired (but it will take may some time to find them in my files).

John Charles
Houston, Texas
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 02/20/2011 10:37 PM
The internal tunnel structure was not the only possibility

here is a progress report on a expandable gemini to mol crew tranfer tunnel.


Thanks very much for posting this document!  I have been looking for something like it.

John Charles
Houston, Texas
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 07/12/2012 11:33 AM
From the QUILL files.  Document 25. Semi-Annual Report to the PFIAB 1965-66, PDF page58m,

MOL camera layout
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 07/12/2012 02:07 PM
Is that a new document? It is the first time I remember the optical layout being published.

It also brings up some interesting questions about unmanned, man out of the loop options and the great KH-9/KH-10 debate that occurred during Nixon.

I does answer the side looking question.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 07/12/2012 03:24 PM

I does answer the side looking question.

Only for this timeframe, it could have changed later in the program.  Need all the history.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: ChileVerde on 07/12/2012 08:51 PM

I does answer the side looking question.

Only for this timeframe, it could have changed later in the program.  Need all the history.

I agree. There remain serious questions about what the final optical design looked like.  The model in the picture labeled "MOL Telescope/Camera" in http://blog.theavclub.tv/post/mol-update-4 suggests something closer to a Cassegrain design and is more consistent with the UL that the original 1.8 m mirrors for the Multiple Mirror Telescope were KH-10 leftovers.

Edit: And, of course, see http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1371/1
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 07/12/2012 08:59 PM

I agree. There remain serious questions about what the final optical design looked like.  The model in the picture labeled "MOL Telescope/Camera" in http://blog.theavclub.tv/post/mol-update-4 suggests something closer to a Cassegrain design and is more consistent with the UL that the original 1.8 m mirrors for the Multiple Mirror Telescope were KH-10 leftovers.



That isn't an original source
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: ChileVerde on 07/12/2012 09:03 PM

I agree. There remain serious questions about what the final optical design looked like.  The model in the picture labeled "MOL Telescope/Camera" in http://blog.theavclub.tv/post/mol-update-4 suggests something closer to a Cassegrain design and is more consistent with the UL that the original 1.8 m mirrors for the Multiple Mirror Telescope were KH-10 leftovers.



That isn't an original source

Would you care to favor us with the original source?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 07/13/2012 02:52 AM
Thanks to ChileVerde for the link to The AV Club and two new (to me) MOL images from Douglas Aircraft Corp. In particular, the interior image addresses my question of more than a year ago, about whether there was a pressure hatch at the lab end of the transfer tunnel. If this image is as credible as it appears, and unless the hatch is hiding in the small area behind the rack on the right side of the image, then the answer appears to be: no. This is consistent with images of the mockup used for weightless tests on the KC-135, but not with some artwork that depicts a pressure hatch there. Of course, a pressure hatch might also have been removable (like the Apollo CM docking tunnel hatch) and just not installed in any of the mockups at the time the photos were made.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: simonbp on 07/13/2012 01:51 PM
I agree. There remain serious questions about what the final optical design looked like.  The model in the picture labeled "MOL Telescope/Camera" in http://blog.theavclub.tv/post/mol-update-4 suggests something closer to a Cassegrain design and is more consistent with the UL that the original 1.8 m mirrors for the Multiple Mirror Telescope were KH-10 leftovers.

Not really. The optical train depicted in Jim's image is almost identical to KH-8 and -9, with the exception that MOL apparently did not have the big Schmidt corrector plate that its predecessors did.

So, the full optical train would have been: big flat fold mirror up front (the bottom mirror in Jim's image), the primary focusing mirror in the extreme aft of the vehicle (these are what MMT inherited), and then two flat fold mirrors before a final (not depicted) coma corrector. You can kinda think of it as a classical Newtonian, with a few extra folds.

The upshot of this is that MOL would have had a "nose-first" orientation in orbit (like KH-8 and 9), not "nose-up" like most modern depictions show.

In answer to Blackstar's question from a while ago, it looks like at least one load of film would be sent down partway through the mission, though presumably not all. Could a film canister have fit between the crew's heads, in the space occupied by the hatch? I imagine the sequence would have involved one crewmen putting the film on his lap while the other closes the hatch, and then affixing the film in the space between them.

Anyone know if the parawing would have been used for Gemini B? It would certainly make sense in as much as protecting the film from seawater...
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: ChileVerde on 07/13/2012 02:07 PM
Not really. The optical train depicted in Jim's image is almost identical to KH-8 and -9, with the exception that MOL apparently did not have the big Schmidt corrector plate that its predecessors did.

But I think Jim's point, to which I was attempting to agree, is that the system shown in the image is from the mid-1960s and may not represent what finally evolved a few years later.  There's some information that suggests that might have happened, and so I'd recommend caution in concluding that the folded, side-looking optical path shown in the image was the "final" KH-10 design.  Maybe it was, but there might be more to the story than that. 

I trust Blackstar will weigh in on this in the fullness of time.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: simonbp on 07/13/2012 02:37 PM
True, but the real kicker for me is the lack of holes in the MMT mirrors. If the mirror were supposed to be flown in an unfolded cassegrain configuration, it would almost certainly have had a center hole to get the beam to the cameras. A pickoff mirror (like MMT used) would have been unnecessarily complex for MOL.

Also, wasn't MOL supposed to have side-looking radar? That would have worked much better if mounted to the side of a horizontal optical tube.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 07/13/2012 06:22 PM
The primary mirror in the image that Jim posted is not by any stretch an f 1.8 primary. I thought MMT was provided with the mirrors that had already been figured, not blanks.

btw. For some reason I thought the original MMT mirrors where 72" not 70". Is this a metric english thing, or do I need to start taking some ginkgo root?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: ChileVerde on 07/13/2012 06:58 PM
The primary mirror in the image that Jim posted is not by any stretch an f 1.8 primary. I thought MMT was provided with the mirrors that had already been figured, not blanks.

btw. For some reason I thought the original MMT mirrors where 72" not 70". Is this a metric english thing, or do I need to start taking some ginkgo root?

AIUI, the MMT blanks as supplied by the USAF were flats, or pretty close to it, and then had to be heated and slumped to approximately the desired figure. Whether the USAF intended them to be used as flats in the originally envisaged application or was going to figure them further is unknown, at least to me.

On the diameter thing, I did a quick look this morning and found assertions that the MOL orbit was supposed to be at 150 miles (flavor of mile unspecified) and the desired resolution was 3 inches. (*)  If you take 150 statute miles and 3 inches as numbers to BOTE with, use the venerable resolution = range * 1.22 * lambda/D and use lambda = 5.5e-7 meters, you get D = 2.13 meters. Relaxing the resolution criterion to 4 inches gives a D of 1.6 meters.  These numbers are sort of consistent with the 1.8 meter MMT mirror diameter used as a primary.

(*)  Those numbers were from obviously secondary sources, and it would be a really good idea to find and catalogue, even post if possible, primary sources.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Avclubvids on 07/13/2012 07:30 PM
You guys are amazing  ;D

I have placed as many pics of the MOL as we could find here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/jjqctsfcyvd6vrs/J-_m8T6z7o (https://www.dropbox.com/sh/jjqctsfcyvd6vrs/J-_m8T6z7o)

I'll probably be moving them around and adding and removing, so grab any that you want now if I've got one that you want.

I also posted some thoughts on the side vs. down shooting camera here: http://blog.theavclub.tv/post/mol-update-5 (http://blog.theavclub.tv/post/mol-update-5), so you guys can see what kinds of ancillary considerations all of this leads to for a film.

Keep it going, this is great stuff.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 07/13/2012 07:53 PM
Nice collection, thankyou.

Question. I've noticed most art from the period depicts MOL without solar panels. It seems to me that solar panels where added in more modern depictions.

Considering it was designed to live for a couple of weeks in a low orbit and it wasn't until the KH-9 and later models of the KH-8 that solar panels appeared on US recon birds. What are the chances it was not equipped with solar panels?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: ChileVerde on 07/13/2012 09:42 PM

You guys are amazing  ;D

I have placed as many pics of the MOL as we could find here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/jjqctsfcyvd6vrs/J-_m8T6z7o (https://www.dropbox.com/sh/jjqctsfcyvd6vrs/J-_m8T6z7o)

I'll probably be moving them around and adding and removing, so grab any that you want now if I've got one that you want.

I also posted some thoughts on the side vs. down shooting camera here: http://blog.theavclub.tv/post/mol-update-5 (http://blog.theavclub.tv/post/mol-update-5), so you guys can see what kinds of ancillary considerations all of this leads to for a film.

Keep it going, this is great stuff.


Thanks a bunch for the photos; they do show that, at least, there were a lot of different concepts floating around under the MOL umbrella.

FWIW, I think that the Astronomy Mission figure is somewhat close to the in-line Cassegrain KH-10 notion. The Schmidt and its primary would be replaced by the 1.8 meter Cassegrain primary and the Cassegrain secondary placed all the way back at the end of the barrel, underneath where the "Radiation Counters" thing is shown in the figure.

The interferometer in the figure is interesting, as others have mentioned hearing that KH-10 might have included an imaging radar. I never heard that myself, but if it's so that interferometer antenna might well have been a carry-over from the radar.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: AndyMc on 07/14/2012 08:33 AM
I am away from my Spacecraft Films disc, but the hatch was pushed "out" from the heatshield and stored in the tunnel.  There was a distinct lip on the hatch that overlapped the heatshield.  The storage compartment had some positive latch mechanism that prevented the hatch from floating up. 

When I last launched the video, I did not notice how the join was made air tight, perhaps someone else has the video at hand.

The astronauts tested their ability to go through the tunnel both in and out of suits, with film cartridges, and towing or pushing a suited/unsuited incapacatated astronauts.

Here's part of the video you are referring to, I think.

From the beginning ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PC3ExAQEZU&feature=relmfu



Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: ChileVerde on 07/14/2012 02:51 PM
Quote
The model in the picture labeled "MOL Telescope/Camera" in http://blog.theavclub.tv/post/mol-update-4 suggests something closer to a Cassegrain design and is more consistent with the UL that the original 1.8 m mirrors for the Multiple Mirror Telescope were KH-10 leftovers.

To ask the question before the thread ages too much, is the provenance of the model shown in that picture known?  If it traces back to actual program information, that would be somewhat significant. If it was just made to illustrate the UL of a Cassegrain design for KH-10, not so much.

Picture attached for reference.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: ChileVerde on 07/14/2012 05:16 PM

Here's the DORIAN section from the just-released 1966 NRO report to PFIAB.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: neilh on 07/14/2012 09:13 PM
Quote
The model in the picture labeled "MOL Telescope/Camera" in http://blog.theavclub.tv/post/mol-update-4 suggests something closer to a Cassegrain design and is more consistent with the UL that the original 1.8 m mirrors for the Multiple Mirror Telescope were KH-10 leftovers.

To ask the question before the thread ages too much, is the provenance of the model shown in that picture known?  If it traces back to actual program information, that would be somewhat significant. If it was just made to illustrate the UL of a Cassegrain design for KH-10, not so much.

Picture attached for reference.

I think the person who created that model is the same as the person who started the thread here, so you could probably just ask him: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=29397.msg928795
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: BrightLight on 07/14/2012 09:52 PM
How did they intend to isolate the vibrations from the  manned portion of the system from the optics - was the pressurized side "floating" in a shock absorber system?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Dalhousie on 07/14/2012 10:27 PM
Having said that, the Russians slavishly copied MOL and executed missions with landing craft featuring hatches in the heat shield, although they never risked a crew landing with this architecture.


They didn't.  TKS-Amaz had a similar role, but was a very different concept in design and operation.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 07/17/2012 01:34 AM
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2121/1

The hour of the wolf
by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, July 16, 2012

In the late 1960s two massive, expensive, highly classified pieces of machinery clashed in secrecy. It was a classic space battle between humans and machines, and this time the machines won.

The Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program was started in late 1963 after the cancellation of the X-20 Dyna-Soar winged spaceplane. The Air Force has declassified many documents on the first year of the MOL program, but they may be misleading. From the available documentation, MOL appears to have started as a general purpose experimental military space station to determine if astronauts could perform militarily useful missions in low Earth orbit. But by 1965 MOL had evolved into an operational photographic reconnaissance satellite whereby astronauts would operate a powerful telescope, code-named DORIAN, to take images of targets inside the Soviet Union with resolution on the ground up to 10 centimeters (four inches)—almost good enough to spot a softball laying in the grass from over 160 kilometers (100 miles) up in space, if the Russians ever bothered to play softball. Exactly when and how the mission shifted remains unclear, but a group of military astronauts were soon in training to perform at least half a dozen flights starting in the late 1960s. MOL was an Air Force program, with both an unclassified, “white,” Air Force office, and a classified, “black,” program, managed by the Air Force component of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 07/17/2012 02:51 AM
DDay,
Great article, great artwork! Kudos on starting to tie up the loose ends.
The QUILL image begs the question you posed a year and a half ago: how would the MOL pilots have brought four buckets worth of film back in one Gemini capsule?
John Charles
Houston, Texas
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 07/17/2012 04:08 PM
Giuseppe and I worked on this last week. He's done a great job. I think that this is an accurate reflection of the MOL configuration. According to one document, the configuration was settled on in early 1965, and they increased the diameter of the main mirror to 70 inches. That is consistent with the mirrors made available for the MMT, and it seems highly unlikely that they would have switched the configuration later while keeping the same mirror diameter. Also, simply put, we only have one official document indicating the camera system configuration, everything else is speculation.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Rocket Science on 07/17/2012 04:12 PM
Nicely done... :)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 07/17/2012 05:03 PM
DDay,
Great article, great artwork! Kudos on starting to tie up the loose ends.
The QUILL image begs the question you posed a year and a half ago: how would the MOL pilots have brought four buckets worth of film back in one Gemini capsule?

Well, we still don't know the answer. My guess is that they planned on conserving film, only taking pictures of high priority targets. As a result, they would not have taken a lot of pictures, and they would have sent some down in a small capsule and brought the rest with them in the Gemini.

The more you speculate about details like this, the more the whole thing starts to look dubious. Compare MOL to the KH-9, with its MASSIVE film supply and four buckets and you see that MOL just didn't make much sense. Why have a guy selectively taking pictures when you can just photograph everything and bring it all back?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: ChileVerde on 07/17/2012 10:25 PM
The more you speculate about details like this, the more the whole thing starts to look dubious. Compare MOL to the KH-9, with its MASSIVE film supply and four buckets and you see that MOL just didn't make much sense. Why have a guy selectively taking pictures when you can just photograph everything and bring it all back?

I have a slight recollection that the idea of having the astronauts (and cosmonauts in the corresponding case) act as real-time photointerpreters/ spotters was floated. So, presumably, the film would be returned later for detailed analysis of the Severodvinsk Ship Yard and the astronauts would give warning if the 1st Guards Tank Army suddenly left garrison.

Whatever the idea was, it didn't carry the day.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 07/18/2012 04:37 AM
I have a slight recollection that the idea of having the astronauts (and cosmonauts in the corresponding case) act as real-time photointerpreters/ spotters was floated. So, presumably, the film would be returned later for detailed analysis of the Severodvinsk Ship Yard and the astronauts would give warning if the 1st Guards Tank Army suddenly left garrison.

Whatever the idea was, it didn't carry the day.

There were two arguments for astronauts:

-real time photo interpretation

-targets of opportunity

Neither was convincing. Lots and lots of effort for very little return.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Archibald on 07/18/2012 06:38 AM
Quote
real time photo interpretation

I can see the reasonning behind that "we don't have the KH-11, not yet. Recovery of the KH-8 and KH-9 buckets takes a looong time.

The answer: have the photo interpreters going into orbit together with the camera and look at the photos, real time, transmitting their interpretation by radio link, real time."

Looks like the NRO holy grail was shortening the photo transmission delay by any mean, with the ultimate goal of real-time.
Didn't they planned a special C-135 able to process the photos while flying from Hawaii to Washington ?
there was also the varied film readout /scanning atempts.
The KH-10 was part of the process - another atempt at real-time !
By the way it says a lot about how big the NRO budget was.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 07/18/2012 12:44 PM
1-I can see the reasonning behind that "we don't have the KH-11, not yet. Recovery of the KH-8 and KH-9 buckets takes a looong time.

2-Looks like the NRO holy grail was shortening the photo transmission delay by any mean, with the ultimate goal of real-time.

3-Didn't they planned a special C-135 able to process the photos while flying from Hawaii to Washington ?

4-By the way it says a lot about how big the NRO budget was.

1-Only a few days.

2-I'm not sure that it was the holy grail. They were interested in it, but I really don't see evidence that it drove what they were doing in the 1960s. They did a lot of other stuff.

3-I have really only seen one or two references to this. I don't think it was ever seriously considered.

4-It did not surpass $1 billion until the latter 1970s. NASA was always a lot bigger.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Gene DiGennaro on 07/18/2012 04:10 PM
I wonder how spacesickness would have played into the MOL project. I'm willing to bet that gazing into the telescope while things were passing by coupled with zero-g has the potential to really bring on vertigo and nausea.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Michael Cassutt on 07/18/2012 04:47 PM
I have a slight recollection that the idea of having the astronauts (and cosmonauts in the corresponding case) act as real-time photointerpreters/ spotters was floated. So, presumably, the film would be returned later for detailed analysis of the Severodvinsk Ship Yard and the astronauts would give warning if the 1st Guards Tank Army suddenly left garrison.

Whatever the idea was, it didn't carry the day.

There were two arguments for astronauts:

-real time photo interpretation

-targets of opportunity

Neither was convincing. Lots and lots of effort for very little return.

Not only unconvincing, but having astronauts on an imaging craft actually made things more difficult, at least according to one very senior SAFSP official I talked to.  To paraphrase, "too much bouncing around.  Even slight, slow movement by crew would ruin the images."

Michael Cassutt
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Archibald on 07/19/2012 09:05 AM
Quote
Not only unconvincing, but having astronauts on an imaging craft actually made things more difficult, at least according to one very senior SAFSP official I talked to.  To paraphrase, "too much bouncing around.  Even slight, slow movement by crew would ruin the images."

Interesting. In this case, what was the point of flying the Large Format Camera on STS-41G (be it a KH-9 camera or not) ?
I mean that the issue of "bouncing astronauts" certainly did not vanished between 1969 and 1984 ?  ???
(just a bit confused)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 07/19/2012 10:40 AM
Quote
Not only unconvincing, but having astronauts on an imaging craft actually made things more difficult, at least according to one very senior SAFSP official I talked to.  To paraphrase, "too much bouncing around.  Even slight, slow movement by crew would ruin the images."

Interesting. In this case, what was the point of flying the Large Format Camera on STS-41G (be it a KH-9 camera or not) ?
I mean that the issue of "bouncing astronauts" certainly did not vanished between 1969 and 1984 ?  ???
(just a bit confused)

1.  It was a low resolution mapping camera and not the main KH-9 cameras.
2.  The shuttle orbiter's mass was much higher (250klb vs 40klb)and less affected by crew motion
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 07/19/2012 02:13 PM
Yeah, the mapping camera was something like several hundred meters resolution vs. a few centimeters for MOL.

(Note: I am currently too lazy to look those numbers up.)

I find it hard to believe that normal astronaut movement could affect the MOL system, but I trust Mr. Cassutt's unnamed source. There were at least two high-level independent reviews of MOL before it got canceled, and I'm sure that senior optics experts weighed in on the design.

In fact, that will be one of the more interesting stories for me when MOL is finally declassified--who opposed it and why? The optics people that I've talked to generally end up in awe of their ability to achieve "diffraction limited" results from their systems. Put another way, the actual performance of the optics systems that the US flew has almost always been nearly the same as the theoretical best performance that they could deliver. Probably 99% range. Because that has been true in general, you could do some math with the systems that we still don't know about. For instance, what would be the theoretical max performance of, say, the KH-9?

Now that being the case, why would you want to stick dirty humans into the system? They move around, they bump things, they require fans and toilets and systems to keep them alive. And the vehicle is going to be outgassing. What about the urine dumps? What about the local environment around that vehicle?

I suspect that as they continued to engineer MOL, this kind of stuff made the optics experts twitch and then experience fainting spells. Why take a big, beautiful optics system and degrade its performance like that?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 07/19/2012 02:41 PM
I think the thing that most impressed me, with Giuseppe's excellent side by side KH-9/MOL images is I never realized how small MOL was. This was not really a big spacious space station. It was a change from a couple of weeks in the front seat of a VW Beetle to having a VW Microbus (with implements of photography)!

Also a QA, do we have any evidence that MOL actually had solar panels?



Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Danderman on 07/19/2012 05:46 PM
I think the thing that most impressed me, with Giuseppe's excellent side by side KH-9/MOL images is I never realized how small MOL was. This was not really a big spacious space station. It was a change from a couple of weeks in the front seat of a VW Beetle to having a VW Microbus (with implements of photography)!

Looking at the image produced by DeepCold.com of the MOL interior, it  looks an awful lot like the interior of the SkyLab multiple docking adapter. Based on that guess, I am providing a NASA slide on the MDA to provide some idea of the size of the MOL pressurized section.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: jcm on 07/19/2012 07:08 PM
I think the thing that most impressed me, with Giuseppe's excellent side by side KH-9/MOL images is I never realized how small MOL was. This was not really a big spacious space station. It was a change from a couple of weeks in the front seat of a VW Beetle to having a VW Microbus (with implements of photography)!

Looking at the image produced by DeepCold.com of the MOL interior, it  looks an awful lot like the interior of the SkyLab multiple docking adapter. Based on that guess, I am providing a NASA slide on the MDA to provide some idea of the size of the MOL pressurized section.


Wow, I hadn't appreciated this before. Makes sense that there's design heritage from MOL to MDA. But how much? Is the MDA really just a slightly
modified MOL pressure section  - is it even possible that the flight Skylab MDA was built from a left over MOL flight test article? The 'docking adapter' aspect is of course new design.

Sort of cool to think that part of MOL (other that the Nov 66 heat shield test) might have actually flown
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 07/19/2012 08:16 PM

Wow, I hadn't appreciated this before. Makes sense that there's design heritage from MOL to MDA. But how much? Is the MDA really just a slightly
modified MOL pressure section  - is it even possible that the flight Skylab MDA was built from a left over MOL flight test article? The 'docking adapter' aspect is of course new design.

Sort of cool to think that part of MOL (other that the Nov 66 heat shield test) might have actually flown


No, MDA was built Martin Marietta

Edit

Actually, MSFC built the hull and Martin outfitted it.

July 27-31

Representatives of government and industry participated in a Skylab AM and MDA crew station review at McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis. Storage areas, equipment, and crew operations were discussed. Astronauts attending the review conducted walk-throughs of the AM and MDA, major elements of the Skylab cluster that would also include large solar observatory quarters for long stays in space. McDonnell Douglas was developing the AM. The MDA was being built by MSFC; and Martin Marietta, Denver Division, was integrating equipment and experiments.

MSFC News Release 70-146, 28 July 1970; MSFC, "Weekly Activity Report," 6 August 1970; "Weekly Progress and Problem Summary for the Administrator Skylab Program," 7 August 1970, NASA, "Manned Space Flight Weekly Report," 10 August 1970.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Danderman on 07/19/2012 11:12 PM

Wow, I hadn't appreciated this before. Makes sense that there's design heritage from MOL to MDA. But how much? Is the MDA really just a slightly
modified MOL pressure section  - is it even possible that the flight Skylab MDA was built from a left over MOL flight test article? The 'docking adapter' aspect is of course new design.

Sort of cool to think that part of MOL (other that the Nov 66 heat shield test) might have actually flown


No, MDA was built Martin Marietta

Edit

Actually, MSFC built the hull and Martin outfitted it.

July 27-31

Representatives of government and industry participated in a Skylab AM and MDA crew station review at McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis. Storage areas, equipment, and crew operations were discussed. Astronauts attending the review conducted walk-throughs of the AM and MDA, major elements of the Skylab cluster that would also include large solar observatory quarters for long stays in space. McDonnell Douglas was developing the AM. The MDA was being built by MSFC; and Martin Marietta, Denver Division, was integrating equipment and experiments.

MSFC News Release 70-146, 28 July 1970; MSFC, "Weekly Activity Report," 6 August 1970; "Weekly Progress and Problem Summary for the Administrator Skylab Program," 7 August 1970, NASA, "Manned Space Flight Weekly Report," 10 August 1970.


My guess is that stuff went from Huntington Beach to MSFC in the middle of the night sometime in late 1969. Stuff like pressure vessels.

Or else there is a large boneyard of 10 foot pressure vessels out there.

This begs the question of the PSI for the MOL air supply, was it 5 lbs or 14 or somewhere in between. I guess that's classified information.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Bob Shaw on 07/19/2012 11:33 PM
And was the atmosphere *really* O2He as often reported? Those brave flyboys, with such, er, Mickey Mouse voices!
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 07/20/2012 12:28 AM

My guess is that stuff went from Huntington Beach to MSFC in the middle of the night sometime in late 1969. Stuff like pressure vessels.


Wrong, it didn't.  Why do you keep insisting that the MDA was MOL related.

If you want to go by similarity and coincidences, the MDA is more likely Titan than MOL hardware.

MDA was the typical inhouse work that MSFC likes to do.  Much like Saturn I, Shuttle SRB hardware design, Ares I, Orion MSA, etc
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: TJL on 04/11/2013 11:06 PM
According to the following info in Wikipedia there were supposed to be 5 manned launches in the MOL Program.
The note at the bottom indicated that the launch sites were VAFB as well as CCAFS.
Anyone know which (if any) of the manned flights were scheduled to be launched from Florida.
Also, were any other crews named besides the two noted below?
Thank you.

1970 December 1 - MOL 1 - First unmanned Gemini-B/Titan 3M qualification flight (Gemini-B flown alone, without an active MOL).
1971 June 1 - MOL 2 - Second unmanned Gemini-B/Titan 3M qualification flight (Gemini-B flown alone, without an active MOL).
1972 February 1 - MOL 3 - A crew of two (James M. Taylor, Albert H. Crews) would have spent thirty days in orbit.
1972 November 1 - MOL 4 - Second manned mission.
1973 August 1 - MOL 5 - Third manned mission.
1974 May 1 - MOL 6 - Fourth manned MOL mission. All Navy crew composed of Richard H. Truly and Robert Crippen.
1975 February 1 - MOL 7 - Fifth manned MOL.

Operational MOLs were to be launched on Titan IIIM rockets from SLC-6 at Vandenberg AFB, California and LC-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Michael Cassutt on 04/11/2013 11:33 PM
According to the following info in Wikipedia there werwe supposed to be 5 manned launches in the MOL Program.
The note at the bottom indicated that the launch sites were VAFB as well as CCAFS.
Anyone know which (if any) of the manned flights were scheduled to be launched from Florida.
Also, were any other crews named besides the two noted below?
Thank you.

1970 December 1 - MOL 1 - First unmanned Gemini-B/Titan 3M qualification flight (Gemini-B flown alone, without an active MOL).
1971 June 1 - MOL 2 - Second unmanned Gemini-B/Titan 3M qualification flight (Gemini-B flown alone, without an active MOL).
1972 February 1 - MOL 3 - A crew of two (James M. Taylor, Albert H. Crews) would have spent thirty days in orbit.
1972 November 1 - MOL 4 - Second manned mission.
1973 August 1 - MOL 5 - Third manned mission.
1974 May 1 - MOL 6 - Fourth manned MOL mission. All Navy crew composed of Richard H. Truly and Robert Crippen.
1975 February 1 - MOL 7 - Fifth manned MOL.

Operational MOLs were to be launched on Titan IIIM rockets from SLC-6 at Vandenberg AFB, California and LC-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida


At the time the program was cancelled, the number of planned manned missions was down to four -- don't have the cite handy, but fairly confident of the memory.

There were no crews assigned.  The information about Taylor as likely commander for #1 came from me twenty years ago, and was based on an interview I did with Walt Williams, ex-NASA, then Aero Corp, who was playing a major role in MOL flight ops.  Any other crews, even the supposed "all-Navy" one (a Navy-oriented mission wouldn't necessarily have had an all-Navy crew) are even more speculative speculation.

Michael Cassutt
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 04/12/2013 04:32 AM
According to the following info in Wikipedia there werwe supposed to be 5 manned launches in the MOL Program.
The note at the bottom indicated that the launch sites were VAFB as well as CCAFS.
Anyone know which (if any) of the manned flights were scheduled to be launched from Florida.

Note: Wikipedia entries are sometimes, occasionally, possibly, completely wrong.

Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Archibald on 04/12/2013 06:59 AM
Whatever, four or five flights is not much considering how big an expense MOL was. I do hope more flights were to happen !
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 04/12/2013 10:02 AM
Hey, Hexagon only flew 22 times over a 14 year period. Considering how expensive it was, a flight a year is realistic.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Michael Cassutt on 04/12/2013 02:50 PM
Whatever, four or five flights is not much considering how big an expense MOL was. I do hope more flights were to happen !

Four manned flights were budgeted at the time the program was cancelled in June 1969.  Had MOL survived and gone into operation there would have been more -- at least, that was the hope.

MC
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 04/13/2013 04:28 AM
Hey, Hexagon only flew 22 times over a 14 year period. Considering how expensive it was, a flight a year is realistic.

Bad comparison. The reason there were so few HEXAGON missions was because they lasted a long time.

What was the longest HEXAGON mission? Something like 270 days. MOL could not last more than a month.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 04/13/2013 04:31 AM
Whatever, four or five flights is not much considering how big an expense MOL was. I do hope more flights were to happen !

Four manned flights were budgeted at the time the program was cancelled in June 1969.  Had MOL survived and gone into operation there would have been more -- at least, that was the hope.

Yes. We don't have the programmatic files, but MOL probably followed a familiar trajectory--as the program cost went up, they decided to buy fewer units (see: SBIRS). So MOL could have started as six missions reduced to four. Had it been successful and useful, they might have bought additional ones.

But MOL was in a death spiral by around 1966. It kept costing more and the schedule kept slipping, and while that was happening the robotic spysats were getting better and better. So what good was MOL anyway? What was the point? What did it do that was worth the high cost?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: xraydeltaone on 04/16/2013 06:34 AM

A heat-shield hatch sure seems scary, but I wonder whether it's really as risky as it looks.  The Air Force did perform a successful flight test, after all.  Also, IIRC, on an early, unmanned Soyuz flight a plug at the center of the heat shield actually failed.  Although the crew cabin lost pressure, the temperature inside stayed within reasonable limits (I think I read about this in a Jim Oberg piece).

I didn't go back through the earlier pages in the thread, but if you check out the NOVA documentary "Astrospies" at the following link:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/military/astrospies.html (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/military/astrospies.html)

As you can see on the webpage, it's a screencap from the actual DoD footage of an MOL astronaut performing egress from the Gemini capsule and handling the heat shield hatch.

Of course, the program talks about Robert Lawrence, including an interview with his widow. It also interviews with nine MOL astros, including five of the seven who signed on with NASA after the program's closure. That includes Bobko, Fullerton, Hartsfield, Peterson, and Truly. Abrahamson, Crews, Herres, and Macleay also speak. Neubeck and Crippen are the only no-shows. Adams, Finley, Lawrence, Lawyer, Overmyer, and Taylor were all deceased by the time the documentary was made.

Also, keep a lookout in the footage of the Air Force test pilot schools, and you'll see some of the Group 3 and Group 5 astros in the background, like Collins, Engle, and Freeman.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 04/18/2013 02:31 AM
DDay,
Great article, great artwork! Kudos on starting to tie up the loose ends.
The QUILL image begs the question you posed a year and a half ago: how would the MOL pilots have brought four buckets worth of film back in one Gemini capsule?

Well, we still don't know the answer. My guess is that they planned on conserving film, only taking pictures of high priority targets. As a result, they would not have taken a lot of pictures, and they would have sent some down in a small capsule and brought the rest with them in the Gemini.

The more you speculate about details like this, the more the whole thing starts to look dubious. Compare MOL to the KH-9, with its MASSIVE film supply and four buckets and you see that MOL just didn't make much sense. Why have a guy selectively taking pictures when you can just photograph everything and bring it all back?

I was relooking at this thread because I found a person involve with MOL and the mirrors.   I realized that MOL has at least one bucket.  In Giuseppe's diagram side view, it is in the pressurized section, on the "bottom", next the fluid tanks.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 04/18/2013 04:27 AM
It only had one. I talked to some MOL astronauts about that.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: simonbp on 04/18/2013 08:48 PM
Would all the film have gone in the bucket, or did the crew bring any back in the Gemini?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 04/19/2013 01:26 PM
Would all the film have gone in the bucket, or did the crew bring any back in the Gemini?

Both. I asked "Would you have any room?" And got a snort from the (famous) MOL astronaut. "Not much!"
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Archibald on 08/21/2013 03:36 PM
Folks,

In this month french astronomy ciel et espace (which is pretty serious) there's a story about an amateur stargazer with the name of Mike Clements that wants to build the largest amateur telescope in the world.
(another article on this, much less detailed. If anybody interested I may scan the Ciel&Espace article which is somewhat better)
http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=22987812

Acording to Ciel et Espace, in the 80's Mike Clements obtained a 1.80 m mirror from an Itek employee named Vaughn that didn't wanted it to be destroyed (it's a bit more complex than that, but I haven't Ciel et espace on hand while typing)

I'm reminded of Blackstar Space Review article on the Multiple Mirror Telescope, whose six original mirrors aparently come from the MOL program in the late 70's.
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1371/1
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Melt Run on 08/21/2013 10:31 PM
Folks,

In this month french astronomy ciel et espace (which is pretty serious) there's a story about an amateur stargazer with the name of Mike Clements that wants to build the largest amateur telescope in the world.
(another article on this, much less detailed. If anybody interested I may scan the Ciel&Espace article which is somewhat better)
http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=22987812

Acording to Ciel et Espace, in the 80's Mike Clements obtained a 1.80 m mirror from an Itek employee named Vaughn that didn't wanted it to be destroyed (it's a bit more complex than that, but I haven't Ciel et espace on hand while typing)

I'm reminded of Blackstar Space Review article on the Multiple Mirror Telescope, whose six original mirrors aparently come from the MOL program in the late 70's.
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1371/1

[quote author=Archibald link=topic=23864.msg1086636#msg1086636 date
This makes a great story but I tell you that the government guys wanted everything larger then a bucket of bolts accounted for. The idea of someone sneaking out the back door with a a 1.8 meter mirror stretches the limits of credibility.  :o There would indeed have to be a LOT more to the story. A 1.8 M just doesn't fit into a briefcase. BTW Mr Bill Vaughn was not in management.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 08/22/2013 01:24 AM
I'm reminded of Blackstar Space Review article on the Multiple Mirror Telescope, whose six original mirrors aparently come from the MOL program in the late 70's.
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1371/1

As Blackstar has pointed out in prior threads, all we know about these MOL blanks is they are believed have been 72" flats when handed over to MMT. They where re-figured. Now what do you use a 72" flat for, and if used as a diagonal, how small is the mirror they are used with?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Archibald on 08/22/2013 06:02 AM
Ok, I understand your skepticism, and respect it. Those NRO things are still shrouded in mystery... and classification. Are you interested by a scan of the article to try and make an opinion ?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Proponent on 08/22/2013 06:47 AM
I'm reminded of Blackstar Space Review article on the Multiple Mirror Telescope, whose six original mirrors aparently come from the MOL program in the late 70's.
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1371/1 (http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1371/1)

As Blackstar has pointed out in prior threads, all we know about these MOL blanks is they are believed have been 72" flats when handed over to MMT. They where re-figured. Now what do you use a 72" flat for, and if used as a diagonal, how small is the mirror they are used with?

I having trouble seeing how the MMT mirrors could have been intended for use as diagonals or "image reflecting mirrors", because an efficient diagonal would have to be elliptical in shape, not circular.

Since I can't think of a reason for a large, circular, flat mirror, I wonder whether  the plan might always have been to re-shape the mirrors after they had been cast flat, but MOL was cancelled before Corning got round to re-shaping them.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Melt Run on 08/22/2013 11:32 AM
Ok, I understand your skepticism, and respect it. Those NRO things are still shrouded in mystery... and classification. Are you interested by a scan of the article to try and make an opinion ?
Skeptical yes but perhaps Bill was a contact that enabled a transfer. It would be very unusual to go to an individual. There has to be more to the story. Yes I would be interested in the article. Please email.
If you are interested in other large mirror transfers consider Magdalena Ridge Observatory. BTW Magdalena Ridge Mirror had nothing to do with Hubble.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 08/22/2013 12:55 PM
Is Magdalena Ridge Observatory a light weight blank?

As in 2.4 left over from something space related, or 2.4m spun up by Dr. Roger Angel?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Melt Run on 08/22/2013 01:12 PM
Is Magdalena Ridge Observatory a light weight blank?

As in 2.4 left over from something space related, or 2.4m spun up by Dr. Roger Angel?
This mirror is a 87% light weight fused silica mirror that was completed prior Roger Angle starting the spinning process at U of A. Roger Angle's mirrors are Pyrex.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 08/22/2013 04:11 PM
Kinda of an interesting size, wink, wink, nudge, nudge...

It was pointed out in the KH-9 thread that Hubble (which has a 2.4m objective) checkout cell was next to the KH-9 and the Hubble cell was also used by the KH-11.

But I digress, ever see the flawed 200" Hale blank at the Corning Museum of Glass? It is not a solid blank, but even then, back in the 40's was a light weight blank.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Melt Run on 08/22/2013 04:42 PM
Indeed - "Kinda of an interesting size, wink, wink, nudge, nudge..."
I assume when you you refer to a checkout cell you are referring to a egg crate construction with with a top and bottom face plate.
This mirror has a totally unique mounting system consisting of 72 numaticly activated diaphragms on the bottom and two rings of titanium tangent bars on the two face plates. This is all necessated by the fact that the original mirror design assumed 0 G.
With this system it maintains a lambda/50 RMS figure in one G at all attitudes.
BTW the testing of the mounted mirror is no easy feat of engineering.
There is light weighting and there is light weighting. The Hale mirror weighs 28,000 lbs. The 2.4 M mirrors we speek of are about 1800 lbs.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Herb Schaltegger on 08/22/2013 07:37 PM
I assume when you you refer to a checkout cell you are referring to a egg crate construction with with a top and bottom face plate.

No, I think he's referring to the satellite bus checkout cell at the then-Lockheed Missiles and Space facility. The KH satellite history threads here have pictures.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 08/22/2013 08:08 PM
Correct...
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Archibald on 08/31/2013 07:39 AM
Here's a scan of the article. I'm quite confident that members with better english skills than myself could translate it. ;)

http://i68.photobucket.com/albums/i24/Archibaldlecter/ff2edcaa-0258-4b06-8ef7-fd4fb126f1bb.jpg?t=1377933338

http://i68.photobucket.com/albums/i24/Archibaldlecter/001.jpg?t=1377933798

http://i68.photobucket.com/albums/i24/Archibaldlecter/003.jpg?t=1377933531



Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Proponent on 08/31/2013 05:08 PM
Thanks for the article!  Attached is my crack at a translation into English.  Since quotes presumably originally in English are translated back into English, I imagine it would be amusing to compare the re-translations with the originals!

One French phrase that particularly stumps me is la pièce maitresse en vaut la chandelle.  Archibald, could you give me a hint as to what this means?

EDIT:  Updated the translation with Archibald's helpful suggestion (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=23864.msg1090815#msg1090815) about the above phrase and a few other spots of polishing.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Archibald on 08/31/2013 07:46 PM
It's a tortuous sentence, I needed the context.

Quote
He knew that Clements' project was not easy. But the masterpiece was worth it

It should translate as something like

"He agrees that Mike Clements project is anything but simple. But the project centerpiece -[the mirror] - is well worth the pain."

A pretty good crack at a traduction AFAIK.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Melt Run on 08/31/2013 08:17 PM
Here's a scan of the article. I'm quite confident that members with better english skills than myself could translate it. ;)

http://i68.photobucket.com/albums/i24/Archibaldlecter/ff2edcaa-0258-4b06-8ef7-fd4fb126f1bb.jpg?t=1377933338

http://i68.photobucket.com/albums/i24/Archibaldlecter/001.jpg?t=1377933798

http://i68.photobucket.com/albums/i24/Archibaldlecter/003.jpg?t=1377933531




OK now I think I have a better handle on how this mirror likely got where it is. For starters the only Itek employee named Vaughn was a Bill Vaughn who would have been an unlikely suspect. The Vaughn Parson mentioned in the article was never a Itek employee but may have known a former Itek employee who was aware of the mirrors.
At the conclusion of a program (in this case 1969) all government property is bagged, tagged, and boxed with a descriptor attached and sent off to a government wear-house. The mirrors that went to MMT would not have had indications of damage where as this mirror likely indicated fractured edge and have been deemed less desirable for MMT. The remaining mirror (this mirror) would then be bundled with other government surplus equipment and after sitting for a required period would be part of a government auction. If items don't sell they are by law destroyed. There are notices that are published weekly. Great cure for insomnia! The trick is to keep track or be aware of when a item is available before being crushed. I expects this mirror was purchased at government auction for a tiny fraction of it's potential value but likely in a manner that was on the up and up.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: carmelo on 09/15/2013 02:12 PM
Are photos of Bob Crippen in MOL space suit or in Gemini-B simulator?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: TJL on 09/16/2013 10:04 PM
Are photos of Bob Crippen in MOL space suit or in Gemini-B simulator?

Not exactly "in" a MOL suit, but...

http://i.ebayimg.com/t/ASTRONAUT-ROBERT-BOB-CRIPPEN-Signed-Photo-w-Hologram-COA-/00/s/NjAwWDc1MA==/z/TN0AAMXQztxSLzGn/$(KGrHqZ,!n4FIp1ucBrKBSLzGnDo0Q~~60_3.JPG
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 11/05/2013 11:49 AM
Sounds like a MOL mirror has found a home:

http://fox13now.com/2013/11/03/utah-mans-massive-creation-may-be-largest-amateur-telescope-ever-built/

(70" sounds very close to the known 72" mirrors of MOL)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 11/05/2013 07:43 PM
Sounds like a MOL mirror has found a home:

http://fox13now.com/2013/11/03/utah-mans-massive-creation-may-be-largest-amateur-telescope-ever-built/

(70" sounds very close to the known 72" mirrors of MOL)

I started creating a master list in table form of U.S. space reconnaissance projects. I need to find that and work on it some more. I lose track of what diameter mirror and what focal length goes with what system.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 11/05/2013 10:38 PM
You have them for KH-10 and KH-11?

I thought based on NTT 72" was MOL, but I have not seen the Fl published.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 05/12/2014 01:30 PM
Okay, tinfoil hat MOL question,

All the KH-11 discussions have me wondering:

While we know the KH-10 used a 1.8m mirror, unlike the KH-9/KH/8/KH-7, the design has not been declassified. Why?

While actions of any government never need to make sense, I am wondering if the reason is because the design was similar to a currently classified system. Like lets say the 2.4m optics in the KH-11.

A real stretch, but could that add some logic to the reason why a canceled program is still classified while other similar retired operational systems have been declassified.

 
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 05/12/2014 05:07 PM
Okay, tinfoil hat MOL question,

All the KH-11 discussions have me wondering:

While we know the KH-10 used a 1.8m mirror, unlike the KH-9/KH/8/KH-7, the design has not been declassified. Why?

 

But it has. NRO released a schematic a couple of years ago. I wrote about it.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 05/12/2014 06:29 PM
Must've missed it... I remember a fierce debate about side verses forward looking, but do not recall the debate being settled.

Article link?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 05/12/2014 08:06 PM
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2121/1

Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 06/18/2014 08:05 PM
More drawings showed up on the wiki page.  Looks like declassification has happened.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KH-10_Dorian
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Targeteer on 06/18/2014 09:58 PM
More drawings showed up on the wiki page.  Looks like declassification has happened.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KH-10_Dorian

Interestingly I can't find anything on the NRO or AF FOIA websites...
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 06/19/2014 11:32 AM
These diagrams show concepts for future MOL-derived variants, possibly part of a sales pitch to USAF or NRO. They must have been classified simply because they were related to MOL. Maybe they were "easy" to declassify after only 45 years because they were never sensitive to begin with.
Title: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 06/19/2014 12:05 PM
More drawings showed up on the wiki page.  Looks like declassification has happened.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KH-10_Dorian

Thanks. Followed the reference link but that didn't give much in way of clue about this declassification.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 06/19/2014 01:10 PM

Thanks. Followed the reference link but that didn't give much in way of clue about this declassification.

The pictures on the wiki all are "stamped" "NRO APPROVED FOR RELEASE 10 JUNE 2014"
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 06/19/2014 01:11 PM
These diagrams show concepts for future MOL-derived variants, possibly part of a sales pitch to USAF or NRO. They must have been classified simply because they were related to MOL. Maybe they were "easy" to declassify after only 45 years because they were never sensitive to begin with.

One of the diagrams is the actual configuration.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 06/19/2014 01:16 PM
Someone has edit'd the Wiki page, they are no longer up. At least what I saw last night is no longer up.

Edit:
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=KH-10_Dorian&action=history

Cached version from wiki that still has all 25 images:
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=KH-10_Dorian&oldid=613523157
Title: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 06/19/2014 01:49 PM
Someone has edit'd the Wiki page, they are no longer up. At least what I saw last night is no longer up.

Edit:
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=KH-10_Dorian&action=history

Cached version from wiki that still has all 25 images:
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=KH-10_Dorian&oldid=613523157

If you read the reason for removal it says there was too many images.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 06/19/2014 01:59 PM
Shame, some very interesting images in that image dump.

I wonder if we are allowed to post them on NSF? I think I'll ping Chris and ask.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 06/19/2014 02:30 PM
Thanks to Jim for the pointer the wiki page, and to kevin-rf for the pointer to the cache. I had only seen the 2 still at the wiki page initially. Looking at all 2 dozen of them, I still think they are from a 1966 sales pitch for future growth options, in direct competition to AAP (later Skylab), and possibly for a future USAF-NASA "National Space Station" which had been discussed. The unmanned version surface last year, and it is good to see more details. These images also reinforce a point Blackstar made previously, that the initial manned version was only capable of returning a couple of film canisters, versus the six or more film return capsules from the unmanned version. (I don't know how credible the "manned-version-plus-buckets" concept was.)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 06/19/2014 02:49 PM
It's odd that they are not to be found on the NRO site.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 06/19/2014 02:50 PM
Wait for my TSR article.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 06/19/2014 02:53 PM

Wait for my TSR article.

That's the kind of news I wanted to hear.:)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: archipeppe68 on 06/20/2014 09:55 AM
Wait for my TSR article.

As also for my updated drawings...  ;)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 06/23/2014 06:38 PM
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2539/1
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Archibald on 06/23/2014 06:52 PM
Fascinating as usual. About the Gambit 3: indeed I've long asked myself, wasn't MOL role already fitted by the KH-8 ? What value does a bigger ship with astronauts add ?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 06/23/2014 06:54 PM
Fascinating as usual. About the Gambit 3: indeed I've long asked myself, wasn't MOL role already fitted by the KH-8 ? What value does a bigger ship with astronauts add ?


And I am sure they were asking that question at the time.

Part of this was probably schedule driven, meaning that GAMBIT 3 was conceived, developed and operational relatively quickly, while MOL kept plodding along. So it was up and running and making MOL obsolete.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 06/24/2014 12:16 AM
I don't know what I found more interesting, the article (which was good) or some of the TSR comments (Which are also good).

Nice article.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Herb Schaltegger on 06/24/2014 12:24 AM
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2539/1

Fascinating article. Thanks for the write-up of one of the more mysterious aspects of American space history.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Archibald on 06/24/2014 04:24 AM
Fascinating as usual. About the Gambit 3: indeed I've long asked myself, wasn't MOL role already fitted by the KH-8 ? What value does a bigger ship with astronauts add ?


And I am sure they were asking that question at the time.

Part of this was probably schedule driven, meaning that GAMBIT 3 was conceived, developed and operational relatively quickly, while MOL kept plodding along. So it was up and running and making MOL obsolete.

KH-8 didn't really existed back in 1964 when they started MOL but it was a derivative of the KH-7 that already existed, so it was a straight development that rapidly overtook MOL. Now why was MOL continued ? either because USAF wanted its own manned space effort; or perhaps it was just a train wreck no one could stop until, well, 1969...
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 06/24/2014 05:09 AM

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2539/1

Thanks for the article, interesting stuff.

Shame the images got deleted off Wikipedia.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Archibald on 06/24/2014 06:56 AM
I don't know what I found more interesting, the article (which was good) or some of the TSR comments (Which are also good).

Nice article.

GOOD comments ? does that still exist somewhere on the Internet ? can't believe it... (btw for some time TSR actually had no comments at all, seems they have reintroduced them, perhaps according to the author will...)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Pedantic Twit on 06/24/2014 07:56 AM
Thanks for the article, interesting stuff.

Shame the images got deleted off Wikipedia.

The images were removed from the KH-10 entry (Wikipedia pages are not galleries), they're still on Wikimedia Commons here (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:KH-10_DORIAN) and here (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Manned_Orbiting_Laboratory).
Title: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 06/24/2014 10:31 AM
Thanks for the article, interesting stuff.

Shame the images got deleted off Wikipedia.

The images were removed from the KH-10 entry (Wikipedia pages are not galleries), they're still on Wikimedia Commons here (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:KH-10_DORIAN) and here (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Manned_Orbiting_Laboratory).

Thank you for those links.

How were they going to re-supply this station, one of the diagrams shows something described as the manned re-supply, so were they going to just rely on sending supplies up with the Astronauts in the Gemini capsule.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 06/24/2014 12:05 PM
Thanks for the article, interesting stuff.

Shame the images got deleted off Wikipedia.

The images were removed from the KH-10 entry (Wikipedia pages are not galleries), they're still on Wikimedia Commons here (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:KH-10_DORIAN) and here (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Manned_Orbiting_Laboratory).

Thank you for those links.

How were they going to re-supply this station, one of the diagrams shows something described as the manned re-supply, so were they going to just rely on sending supplies up with the Astronauts in the Gemini capsule.

No resupply. 30 day mission, throw everything away at the end of the mission.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 06/24/2014 12:10 PM
True. But some of the just-released declassified images depict proposed, dare I say fictional, concepts for future multi-MOL long-term stations with resupply vehicles. I'm not referring to the cross-sections of the KH-10 system, but the others. Those fanciful images cannot have been anything more than sales pitches, more wishful thinking than hard engineering.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 06/24/2014 02:02 PM

True. But some of the just-released declassified images depict proposed, dare I say fictional, concepts for future multi-MOL long-term stations with resupply vehicles. I'm not referring to the cross-sections of the KH-10 system, but the others. Those fanciful images cannot have been anything more than sales pitches, more wishful thinking than hard engineering.

It seems a better proposition than throwing everything away after thirty days.

Was the thirty day throwaway nature of the project and the ensuing costs one of the elements that counted against it.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: the_other_Doug on 06/24/2014 08:15 PM
I think one reason why MOL was pursued after the KH-8 went into service was simply a paradigm thing.  I think the Air Force generals were stuck on the idea that they could have an asset where a reconnaissance of any given location under the groundtrack could be ordered up on the basis of "Hey, guys, we think something odd is happening at Site Whatever, take a look and take shots of anything you find interesting."

The way the MOL paradigm worked, you didn't take pictures of everything, you had human judgment deciding what merited the high-res imagery.  When you get into a paradigm that, whatever else happens, it is always best to have a trained person selecting your imaging targets real-time, you pursue MOL even when it doesn't make sense.  (Italics meant to emphasize the vulnerable aspects of the paradigm.)

BTW, I'm pretty certain that the Soviet Almaz imaging system worked pretty much the same way -- you got a real-time view through the optics, and took pictures of what looked interesting.  I've seen a "recreation" of the Almaz' imaging system being operated and a description of how it was operated by one of the guys who flew it.  I wish I could remember which documentary it was in, but at this point I can blame the pain meds for my lack of ability to access long-term memories... ;)

-Doug (with my shield, not yet upon it)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 06/24/2014 08:21 PM
You're thinking of the documentary "Astrospies." Google it. It might even be online.

Of course, the counter to having somebody pressing the shutter button was just loading up the satellite with a lot of film and taking pictures of everything. Easier to load a thousand pounds of film than 15,000 pounds of astronauts support equipment.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: the_other_Doug on 06/24/2014 08:39 PM
You're thinking of the documentary "Astrospies." Google it. It might even be online.

Of course, the counter to having somebody pressing the shutter button was just loading up the satellite with a lot of film and taking pictures of everything. Easier to load a thousand pounds of film than 15,000 pounds of astronauts support equipment.

Yes, definitely.  That's glaringly obvious to us now, and was so to a lot of people outside of the Air Force at the time.  But, as I say, I think the USAF was somewhat blinded by their paradigm, and just couldn't believe that it was ever going to be better to image everything and reduce it later than having someone pressing the shutter button.

It's amazing how blinding a given set of paradigms can become, I think.

-Doug (with my shield, not yet upon it)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Moskit on 06/27/2014 08:27 AM
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2539/1

If HEXAGON was 2 feet / 60cm resolution, how to compare that with "softball dropped on a parking lot" resolution quoted for KH-10?

Ball sizes are anything from 4cm (pingpong, although it's a hard ball) to over 25cm (soft medical ball) :-/
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 06/27/2014 12:00 PM
Dodge Ball
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 06/27/2014 01:59 PM
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2539/1

If HEXAGON was 2 feet / 60cm resolution, how to compare that with "softball dropped on a parking lot" resolution quoted for KH-10?

KH-10 was 4 inches. I looked up the diameter of a softball. The "adult" softball is about 3.8 inches. So about 4 inches. (I also tried to come up with a better analogy and couldn't get any kind of common object that's around 4 inches and also commonly known to be white. I looked up the dimensions of a pack of cigarettes and that was too small.)

Oh, and HEXAGON was a lot better than 2 feet.

Somebody could calculate the diffraction limit for HEXAGON. I'm just sayin'...
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Moskit on 06/27/2014 02:51 PM
Ah, thanks! I did not realize "softball" is a specific kind of ball, chalk it up to cultural difference.

Technology is amazing, I wish Russians revealed as much of theirs in museums and documents as USA folks do.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 06/27/2014 06:24 PM
1-Ah, thanks! I did not realize "softball" is a specific kind of ball, chalk it up to cultural difference.

2-Technology is amazing, I wish Russians revealed as much of theirs in museums and documents as USA folks do.


1-It's essentially the game of baseball, for wusses.

2-The Russians in some ways were/are ahead of us in releasing some intelligence satellite information. I think that with the G and H declassifications, and the MOL material, the U.S. has now released a lot more. But the Russians actually released info on a number of their systems before the United States did, and they have also released some information on their RORSAT, ASAT and elint satellite programs.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Danderman on 06/27/2014 07:09 PM
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2539/1

Interesting photos of MOL hardware under construction.

So .... what happened to the hardware?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 06/28/2014 10:43 AM

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2539/1

Interesting photos of MOL hardware under construction.

So .... what happened to the hardware?

Probably put in a warehouse somewhere and forgotten about.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim Davis on 06/28/2014 04:19 PM
So .... what happened to the hardware?

I hope I'm not stealing your lines here but didn't you once opine that the MOL hardware formed the basis of the Skylab airlock module? I seem to recall you pointing out the identical 10 foot diameters.

Or maybe my memory is failing me.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: DMeader on 06/28/2014 05:12 PM
1-It's essentially the game of baseball, for wusses.
So you've obviously never been hit by a pitch in fast-pitch softball.

I hope I'm not stealing your lines here but didn't you once opine that the MOL hardware formed the basis of the Skylab airlock module? I seem to recall you pointing out the identical 10 foot diameters.

Don't know about the diameter, but the Skylab airlock module did use a Gemini hatch.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 06/28/2014 06:19 PM
So .... what happened to the hardware?

I hope I'm not stealing your lines here but didn't you once opine that the MOL hardware formed the basis of the Skylab airlock module? I seem to recall you pointing out the identical 10 foot diameters.


There is no connection between the MDA and MOL.
The MDA structure was built in-house by MSFC and given to Martin to outfit.  The MDA design task was given to MSFC in early 1967.
There is no connection between the Airlock module and MOL.
McDonnell had the airlock module long before it merged with Douglas.  McDonnell was put on contract in late 1966
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Danderman on 06/28/2014 07:16 PM
I'm just asking what happened to the hardware that clearly was built.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jparenti on 07/05/2014 10:48 PM
If this has been answered elsewhere, I apologize in advance, but I didn't see anything reading through:

- Where, if present at all, is the film return bucket(s) in the manned version of the MOL? I know it was mentioned that one of the MOL astronauts said there was only one. I don't see it in the documents that were recently released, unless I'm missing something.

- Did the vehicle have solar arrays? Someone asked early on in this thread and I wasn't sure if anyone had an answer.

(I am, BTW, the builder of the [now shown to be wildly inaccurate] downward pointed Cassegrain-type model someone posted to the thread about two years ago.)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 07/06/2014 02:37 AM
If this has been answered elsewhere, I apologize in advance, but I didn't see anything reading through:

1- Where, if present at all, is the film return bucket(s) in the manned version of the MOL? I know it was mentioned that one of the MOL astronauts said there was only one. I don't see it in the documents that were recently released, unless I'm missing something.

2- Did the vehicle have solar arrays? Someone asked early on in this thread and I wasn't sure if anyone had an answer.

3-(I am, BTW, the builder of the [now shown to be wildly inaccurate] downward pointed Cassegrain-type model someone posted to the thread about two years ago.)

1-There are not many options for it. It cannot be in the unpressurized section. It cannot be in the consumables section (behind the Gemini). The only place that it can be is in a small airlock type structure in the pressurized section. See the 2012 MOL drawing for a clue.

2-There is artwork showing proposed MOL civil variants with solar arrays. However, I have never seen the actual MOL portrayed with solar arrays. That said, where was it going to get its power for 30 days? I don't think they could have run on batteries that long. Fuel cells? That would have been pushing the state of the art pretty far.

3-Hold onto that model. A colleague, who had access to classified material, claims to have once seen an illustration of just such a version (he stumbled upon that by accident while working for the community, why which time MOL was long-canceled). He is mystified by the recently released illustrations. He now concludes that what he saw was one of a bunch of proposed variants.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 07/06/2014 03:08 PM
Fuel cells were temperamental in the early years, but worked throughout the 2-week Gemini 7 mission with only a brief hiccup near the end. They worked well enough throughout Apollo. I thought they were baselined for MOL, although DDay would remind me that MOL was frequently revised and besides we probably have not seen the definitive MOL documents yet.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 07/06/2014 05:12 PM

Fuel cells were temperamental in the early years, but worked throughout the 2-week Gemini 7 mission with only a brief hiccup near the end. They worked well enough throughout Apollo. I thought they were baselined for MOL, although DDay would remind me that MOL was frequently revised and besides we probably have not seen the definitive MOL documents yet.

You mean the program history which is the key document to be so far not declassified.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 07/06/2014 10:32 PM
I was really thinking (or fantasizing) about a stack of date-stamped system diagrams with descriptive text. But your suggestion of the official program history is probably more useful and likely.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 07/06/2014 10:59 PM
Don't assume that answers it. Official program histories often skip the interesting technical details.

Look at the Hexagon histories, for instance. They have relatively little on the development of the spacecraft vehicle.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 07/14/2014 04:53 PM
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 07/14/2014 05:08 PM
I guess our intrepid astro-spies would have had a list of primary targets to reconnoiter, and some secondaries in case a first glance indicated that the primary was unusable. Secondaries would have been assessed in real time via the spotting telescopes on the sides of the main telescope, per the diagram.  All would have required diligence and continued attention. This is not how unmanned spy sats work, iirc, but I honestly don't know if it was how airborne recon was done? Or did U2 and SR-71 pilots, and the guys flying Voodoos over Cuba in 1962, just turn on their cameras and photograph everything within the target area, and let the photo analysts sort it our? Is it odd that the MOL pilots came from the test pilot cadre and not recon pilot cadre?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 07/14/2014 05:14 PM
Is it odd that the MOL pilots came from the test pilot cadre and not recon pilot cadre?

Single seat reconn jets (Voodoos)  had no displays of what the camera sees.  U-2 had a drift sight to help maintain course, but it was not for looking for new targets.  A-12 didn't even have the drift sight, SR-71 back seater eventually had some ability to  see the  flight path (vs the film strip) but it was going to fast to correct and the take from the sensors was somewhat automated.

That is all from the top of my head.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 07/14/2014 06:45 PM
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2553/1

Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: dasmoth on 07/14/2014 07:00 PM
Thanks for another good article on this fascinating project.

I wonder how much the later MOL designs ended up contributing to KH-11?  Perhaps not directly, but with its big mirror, KH-10 seems more similar to the rumoured KH-11 configuration than any of the other film-return systems, so perhaps valuable lessons were learned when working on the KH-10 design (and prototype hardware?).  Could this be an additional factor in keeping the details of MOL secret for so long?
Title: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 07/14/2014 07:02 PM
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2553/1

Fascinating read so thanks for that.

The length of time its been kept secret is an interesting question as it raises the issue of what was it about the program that required such a lengthy period of classification.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 07/14/2014 07:08 PM
Thanks for another good article on this fascinating project.

I wonder how much the later MOL designs ended up contributing to KH-11?  Perhaps not directly, but with its big mirror, KH-10 seems more similar to the rumoured KH-11 configuration than any of the other film-return systems, so perhaps valuable lessons were learned when working on the KH-10 design (and prototype hardware?).  Could this be an additional factor in keeping the details of MOL secret for so long?

Actually, KH-10 light path is more like the KH-7/8.  Many think the KH-11 is like the Hubble Space Telescope's light path.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jparenti on 07/21/2014 05:23 AM
Well those new images really seem to answer the questions I had asked -- fuel cells instead of solar, and a pretty obvious film-return strategy. The concept for the articulated optics module is certainly something I never would have guessed at. It makes more sense than flying the entire vehicle pointed straight up.

I always look forward to the articles and I never would have guessed that such a wealth of information would all of a sudden be dropped in our laps.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 07/21/2014 07:40 PM
Another article from Dwayne Day.

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2560/1
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 07/22/2014 02:09 PM
Great article, one question. Was the folding mirror not able to roll right and left of the flight path? The article seemed to imply maybe cold gas jets may have been planned?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: IslandPlaya on 07/22/2014 02:27 PM
From these unclassified discussions is there any reason why vertical integration of the spacecraft would be necessary?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 07/22/2014 02:31 PM
You might want to integrate/align the optics in the vertical direction so they do not distort when you flip it from horizontal to vertical. Though, when shipped, it had most likely would have been shipped horizontally...
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: IslandPlaya on 07/22/2014 02:37 PM
Thanks.
The optics would have to suffer launch forces though so if you'll forgive me that is not a reason for vertical integration. And also they would be horizontal or near enough at many points in the launch trajectory.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: jg on 07/22/2014 02:56 PM
Thanks.
The optics would have to suffer launch forces though so if you'll forgive me that is not a reason for vertical integration. And also they would be horizontal or near enough at many points in the launch trajectory.

Launch forces are primarily in the same axis as the optical axis of the camera on things like KH9, so is way less likely to cause the camera to lose alignment.

If you read up on the KH9, you will note that things shift just between having 1G to 0G after launch, from flexing of the components..  Life is easier to be vertical (if cost is no object) to have less to worry about from launch forces.

These are *really* good and big cameras....
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: IslandPlaya on 07/22/2014 02:59 PM
That's an excellent answer jg.
Thank you very much.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: jg on 07/22/2014 03:17 PM
Similarly, shipping and installation shock forces stay in the same direction as the main optical axis, while handing the payload (unless you manage to swing it into a wall in the process of handling the payload).

So I understand why the vertical integration requirement remains.

I suspect that if you were designing new payloads today, most of this would no longer be a big issue; it's entirely feasible (and probably desirable to do lots of automated alignment.  But a lot of this stuff was last majorly redesigned in the early 1990s; life was a lot harder then.  And at least one generation of ambitious optical reconnaissance satellites had to be canned since then when they succeeded in winning their complexity merit badge and ended up getting cancelled due to insane cost.  Even NRO has
a finite budget.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 07/22/2014 03:45 PM
It is worth noting that until relatively recently (Shuttle/EELV), all US payloads where vertically integrated. That was the US pad flow.

For such a complicated payload, I suspect a good portion of MOL would have been stacked and integrated on the pad. Has any of the planned pad flow been declassified?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: IslandPlaya on 07/22/2014 04:14 PM
Awesome info. It answers lots of my questions on how vert-int was required.
jg hints at it, but in the opinion of the folks on this thread, Is VI needed for similar optic-based birds these days?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 07/22/2014 08:53 PM
Is VI needed for similar optic-based birds these days?


There are more types of payloads than just optics-based
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: IslandPlaya on 07/22/2014 08:55 PM
Is VI needed for similar optic-based birds these days?


There are more types of payloads than just optics-based
Thanks. Can you elaborate?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 07/23/2014 12:34 AM
Is VI needed for similar optic-based birds these days?


There are more types of payloads than just optics-based
Thanks. Can you elaborate?

Radar, sigint, etc.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 07/23/2014 11:14 AM
Yes, but IslandPlaya's question was whether optical-based recon sats are integrated vertically these days, not what other kinds there might be. I'm curious too.
Re: MOL, DDay (I think?) also published a photo of a MOL segment being moved in a verticals orientation on a truck. The few construction photos available look vertical too. But I don't know enough about such things to know if that might have been a requirement or just a convenience.
Regardless, I realized upon seeing some drawings which included "launch locks" that considerable realignment was expected in flight before useful imagery commenced. Any guesses how long the in-orbit check-out might have had to last?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 07/23/2014 02:26 PM
Regardless, I realized upon seeing some drawings which included "launch locks" that considerable realignment was expected in flight before useful imagery commenced. Any guesses how long the in-orbit check-out might have had to last?
That would be one new argument for a human in the loop. The fine tuning of optical alignment can be more easily accomplished when a human is in the loop... That said, they managed to do just fine with the KH-7/8/9.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 07/25/2014 04:02 PM
Some more.
Title: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 07/25/2014 04:18 PM
Thanks for those. Interesting to see the astronaut in the giant hamster wheel, for want of a better comparison.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 07/25/2014 04:25 PM
Yes, thanks for posting, while the primary mirror is extremely interesting, the lifting body crew option was a complete surprise.

Just shows you where the long term thinking was headed.

Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 07/25/2014 06:03 PM
The hamster wheel aka centrifuge was an early notion, from the era when MOL was a generic space laboratory. It was discarded in about 1964 iirc. As you might imagine, totally incompatible with hi-res recon imaging. Also, every new spacecraft unveiled is soon informally assessed by centrifuge groupies like me for how large a centrifuge it could accommodate. Most--like this one--would not provide much value to human conditioning due to the small available radius.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 07/25/2014 08:59 PM
MOL was conceived as a bunch of experiments. At some point it evolved to become essentially an operational reconnaissance satellite. Not clear when or how or why that happened, but it was probably early 1965. So some things that they were thinking of doing early on got tossed. Here is the list of experiments that were finalized:

P-1 Acquisition and Tracking of Ground Targets
P-2 Acquisition and Tracking of Space Targets
P-3 Acquisition of “targets of opportunity” (land/sea)
P-4 Electromagnetic Signal Detection
P-5 In-Space Maintenance
P-6 EVA using Remote Maneuvering Unit
P-7 EVA using Dual Maneuvering Unit
P-8 Autonomous Navigation and Geodesy
P-9 Post attack bomb assessment (later cancelled)
P-10 Multiband Spectral Observations
P-11 General Human Performance in Space
P-12 Biomedical and Physiological Evaluation
P-13 Ocean Surveillance
P-14 Assembly and alignment of large structures in space
P-15 High Resolution Optics System (KH-10 DORIAN camera)


I'll be discussing the elint stuff in a Monday TSR article.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 07/26/2014 12:35 PM
DDay, if the final list included items P-6 and P-7 requiring EVA (not just for contingency evacuation of the MOL back to the Gemini-B), then there is more about MOL EVA to be deduced.

I suspect the MOL was not vacuum rated, not just because of the airlock for dispatching the photo capsule, but also because a 1968 fire safety assessment of the MOL mentioned every option except depressurizing to vacuum in case of fire. It seems not to have been a viable option.

But the Gemini-B obviously was vacuum-rated, so maybe it would have been the ad hoc airlock. All suit-up preps would be done in the MOL, and then the crew would have moved through the narrow tunnel into the Gemini-B, sealed the aft hatch and used one or both of the large doors, as per mainline Gemini. Maybe any maneuvering units and other experimental hardware were stowed somewhere externally, or left in the airlock for easy access.

However, there are no handholds or other translation aids visible in any of the available diagrams and photos. They could have been attached temporarily, as on Gemini 12, but I haven't seen the evidence.

Anyway, more fodder for speculation.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 07/26/2014 12:51 PM
Was it even possible to move through the tunnel in a full pressure suit? I thought that the tunnel was quite restrictive.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 07/26/2014 02:10 PM
Not easily. If they needed to evacuate a depressurized MOL while in "hard suits" (the short hand reference to pressurized suit) it could be done but very difficult. The tunnel was only 24 inches diameter. I couldn't squeeze through it even unsuited. That's why I imagine any EVA would have been out of the Gemini-B and the suits only pressurized once inside it.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 07/26/2014 05:22 PM
The EVA maneuvering unit got transferred to Gemini. Not sure when that happened.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 07/26/2014 10:14 PM
Apparently sometime in late 1963 or early 1964, judging from "Project Gemini: A Chronology":
- In January 1964, Gemini-9 was scheduled for evaluating an "astronaut maneuvering unit." 
- In August 1964, the systems displays of the so-called "Modular Maneuvering Unit" planned for Gemini-9 as part of DOD experiment D-12 were to be integrated with the chest-worn EVA Life Support System.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 07/27/2014 02:51 AM
The weekly MOL reports for 1964 might also mention transferring the maneuvering unit to NASA.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 07/29/2014 02:44 AM
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2566/1
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 07/29/2014 06:29 AM

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2566/1

Another great article, thanks.

I suppose the likelihood is even when we finally see a program history for MOL that this area will still be shrouded in relative mystery.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 07/29/2014 01:59 PM

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2566/1

Another great article, thanks.

I suppose the likelihood is even when we finally see a program history for MOL that this area will still be shrouded in relative mystery.

There are other ways to get at the story, but it will require some work.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: rguser on 09/02/2014 09:52 AM
The NRO has posted 42 new documents on their "Frequently Requested Records" page with the title "Manned Orbiting Laboratory/DORIAN illustrations" link.  I have only reviewed a few files and they show detailed optical diagrams, test facility photos, antenna diagrams, "typical satellite inspection test layout" diagram, etc.  Unfortunately, some items are still redacted including the radar equipment in one possible MOL option.  The release date was 10 June 2014.  This is the largest amount of released official information that I have seen involving the MOL program.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 09/02/2014 11:33 AM

The NRO has posted 42 new documents on their "Frequently Requested Records" page with the title "Manned Orbiting Laboratory/DORIAN illustrations" link.  I have only reviewed a few files and they show detailed optical diagrams, test facility photos, antenna diagrams, "typical satellite inspection test layout" diagram, etc.  Unfortunately, some items are still redacted including the radar equipment in one possible MOL option.  The release date was 10 June 2014.  This is the largest amount of released official information that I have seen involving the MOL program.

I assume you're referring too the ones on this page.

http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/DORIAN.html
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: rguser on 09/03/2014 08:24 AM

The NRO has posted 42 new documents on their "Frequently Requested Records" page with the title "Manned Orbiting Laboratory/DORIAN illustrations" link.  I have only reviewed a few files and they show detailed optical diagrams, test facility photos, antenna diagrams, "typical satellite inspection test layout" diagram, etc.  Unfortunately, some items are still redacted including the radar equipment in one possible MOL option.  The release date was 10 June 2014.  This is the largest amount of released official information that I have seen involving the MOL program.

I assume you're referring too the ones on this page.

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

You are correct.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 09/04/2014 04:06 PM
Here they are wrapped into three pdf files.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Danderman on 09/04/2014 04:18 PM
There is a mention of redocking of subsequent Gemini ferries with MOL. Since these documents seem to show all possible growth modes for MOL, it is not clear whether redocking would be a baseline operation, or simply some future possibility.

Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 09/04/2014 04:38 PM
You are correct. The documents are not date-stamped or organized, but other documents have shown a very small production run for Gemini-B vehicles, no capabilities for such dockings, etc. In the absence of a definitive history or program plan, I consider plans for dockings, resupplies, and synchronous-orbit command posts to be sales pitches with few prospects of implementation.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 09/04/2014 05:12 PM
Agreed. I believe (I think I've mentioned it here earlier) that four Gemini B spacecraft were on order, and I think that the plan was for six MOLs. So presumably they expected to order two more Gemini Bs. But beyond that I think everything was simply paper.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 09/04/2014 06:06 PM
You are correct. The documents are not date-stamped or organized, but other documents have shown a very small production run for Gemini-B vehicles, no capabilities for such dockings, etc. In the absence of a definitive history or program plan, I consider plans for dockings, resupplies, and synchronous-orbit command posts to be sales pitches with few prospects of implementation.

And docking is one thing, crew transfer is another.  The Gemini capsule design could not support IVA crew transfer through the front of the vehicle.  Either elaborate schemes with air locks enveloping the existing crew hatches or a docking airlock and control station added to the rear of the capsule would be required.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 09/04/2014 08:44 PM
And I don't see how an airlock connected to the hatch ever could have worked. It was a very large area to connect to and try and hold a pressure seal on. It would have been a nightmare. Circular hatches are that way for a reason.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 09/05/2014 12:20 AM
Do you mean the heat shield (circular) hatch and tunnel? There was no airlock involved. Just an airtight tunnel pressed by a compressed spring against a special surface surrounding the hatch on the heat shield. Mechanically it made sense, according to those diagrams you unearthed a few years ago. But I wonder if it was ever prototyped and demonstrated?
Title: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 09/05/2014 12:22 AM
On re-reading, I think you meant the external tunnel connecting the Gemini side hatch? But a Goodyear study of the concept seemed to involved a circular hatch someplace on the Gemini, possibly as part of the side hatch. That would have been problematic, surely.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: mike robel on 09/05/2014 01:22 AM
f you were to order Spacecraft Films you would see tests of astronauts in jump suits, unpressurized and pressurized suits, dragging an incapacitatedastronauts into the test spacecraft and heat shield.  I was pretty surprised...
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 09/05/2014 01:25 AM
I was responding to Jim's comment about "elaborate schemes with air locks enveloping the existing crew hatches." You can find these in many documents about Gemini advanced missions.

I have many chips on my shoulders. One of them is annoyance with Gemini cultists who think that it was the greatest spaceship ever. (This opinion was usually formed when they were 10 years old and watching a Gemini launch on the television in the living room of their parents' house. Thus, it is an opinion usually held by 58-year-old males.) Gemini was a good interim spacecraft that accomplished a lot of things. But it was very limited in its capabilities. This was inherent in the design. It would have to be completely redesigned to be useful. And instead Apollo was right there, with a lot more capabilities.

Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 09/05/2014 10:59 AM
You are right, and MOL's Gemini-B was NASA's Gemini on whatever the opposite of steroids is (metaphorically-speaking): stripped down and shortened with only a 14-hour independent lifetime.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 09/08/2014 05:31 PM
The latest article from Mr Day.

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2595/1
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 09/08/2014 06:26 PM
I'm trying not to bounce the rubble on this subject, but am hoping that by continuing to write articles about different aspects of it that will cause people to come forward with additional information. I happen to have a TON of MOL material, including a lot of stuff that nobody has ever written about before (some of which was obtained from sources that were not exactly public). However, I still have some big holes in my understanding of the program and what was happening, which is why I keep going back to it.

I have something lined up in the next few weeks that could be very interesting and might result in another article.
Title: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 09/08/2014 06:54 PM
I wonder, and perhaps it's an unanswerable question at this time, how much of the technology developed for this program made its way into other programs once MOL was cancelled?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: DMeader on 09/08/2014 07:03 PM
Does that MOL assembly building in the article still exist and if so, what is it used for now?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 09/08/2014 10:02 PM
Does that MOL assembly building in the article still exist and if so, what is it used for now?

http://goo.gl/maps/lG2uf

I think it was used for assembling Titan fairings
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 01/02/2015 03:56 AM
There will be a lot of MOL stuff happening in 2015. Trust me.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 01/02/2015 07:41 AM

There will be a lot of MOL stuff happening in 2015. Trust me.

Hopefully a official program history, which I don't think we've seen yet.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 01/02/2015 01:31 PM
More than that.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 01/02/2015 04:18 PM

More than that.

Hoping some surviving hardware has come to light.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Danderman on 01/02/2015 04:25 PM
Does that MOL assembly building in the article still exist and if so, what is it used for now?

There was a building at the old MacDac plant in Huntington Beach used for assembly of MOL that was subsequently used for assembly of DC-X. It was allegedly next door to a building used for assembly of major Skylab systems.

Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Danderman on 01/02/2015 04:26 PM
I wonder, and perhaps it's an unanswerable question at this time, how much of the technology developed for this program made its way into other programs once MOL was cancelled?

Well, now that you ask, the fact that the Skylab airlock contained a Gemini hatch may be significant.

{groans from everyone}
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 01/03/2015 01:34 AM
There will be a lot of MOL stuff happening in 2015. Trust me.
You can't mean the FIA-O mess resulted in them having to dust off MOL hardware and finally use it? Can you? Can you?  8)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Danderman on 01/03/2015 05:08 AM
There will be a lot of MOL stuff happening in 2015. Trust me.
You can't mean the FIA-O mess resulted in them having to dust off MOL hardware and finally use it? Can you? Can you?  8)

I suspect that most of it was used, one way or another (some as components of spysats).

Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 01/03/2015 11:18 AM

There will be a lot of MOL stuff happening in 2015. Trust me.
You can't mean the FIA-O mess resulted in them having to dust off MOL hardware and finally use it? Can you? Can you?  8)

I suspect that most of it was used, one way or another (some as components of spysats).

That's what I was wondering with my question you quoted above.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 01/03/2015 04:23 PM
I wonder, and perhaps it's an unanswerable question at this time, how much of the technology developed for this program made its way into other programs once MOL was cancelled?

Well, now that you ask, the fact that the Skylab airlock contained a Gemini hatch may be significant.

{groans from everyone}


Wrong, that was independent of MOL.   Again, the Skylab airlock was build by McDonnell St Louis (contracted in 1966) and not Douglas Huntington Beach (the MOL manufacturer).

How many times does it have to be repeated that here is no linkage between Skylab and MOL hardware?  It has been proven to you many times.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 01/03/2015 04:25 PM
There will be a lot of MOL stuff happening in 2015. Trust me.
You can't mean the FIA-O mess resulted in them having to dust off MOL hardware and finally use it? Can you? Can you?  8)

That was other programs vs MOL.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 01/03/2015 04:29 PM

I suspect that most of it was used, one way or another (some as components of spysats).


 Other than the optics, which found there way into ground based system, there would be little use of the other hardware for other space systems.   The overall structure would be useless, since there were no other similar manned systems.   The other reconn systems do not show a block change that would be indicative of incorporating MOL optics or camera systems.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 01/03/2015 05:33 PM
There will be a lot of MOL stuff happening in 2015. Trust me.
You can't mean the FIA-O mess resulted in them having to dust off MOL hardware and finally use it? Can you? Can you?  8)

That was other programs vs MOL.

I see I need to start inserting [humor] tags again ;)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Patchouli on 01/04/2015 01:05 AM


I suspect that most of it was used, one way or another (some as components of spysats).




I was thinking the same thing that some of the hardware could have been used but as Jim said some of it such as the main structure would be unique.
But I wonder how much hardware still survives in a warehouse somewhere.


Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: the_other_Doug on 01/04/2015 02:10 AM
The problem is that hardware designed for a specific mission is usually not easily re-purposed.  When you try, it rapidly becomes obvious that it's actually cheaper, better and more successful to design and develop new hardware for different missions that support those missions more appropriately.

Yes, there are the exceptions that prove the rule, like a production Gemini hatch being fitted into the Skylab airlock module.  But for the most part, spacecraft tend to be designed and built tightly to very specific mission requirements and aren't easily and cheaply re-purposed to significantly different requirements.

Also, technology tends to advance so quickly that materials, power system designs, fluid systems designs, electronics designs and especially system control designs proceed from older to newer paradigms so fast that older designs, which (as all designs do) include interlocking requirements and capabilities from all above-mentioned systems and more, need such thoroughgoing redesign to take advantage of new technological advances that it's just easier to design and build new.

I will proffer one example, though of a more recent vintage than MOL.  When the Mars Polar Lander (MPL) failed in 1999, NASA went forward with the MERs as its next Mars surface mission.  The computer system on the MERs was more advanced than the one that would have been used on MPL, with a more modern processing structure and more flexible operating system.  As you would expect from a spacecraft designed five to six years later.

After we had become used to how quickly the MERs returned data products, and how well organized they were and easy to work with, we then had the Phoenix lander, which was a clone of (and I believe the backup for) the MPL spacecraft (albeit with a different science package).  It had originally been proposed to fly in 2001, but was grounded after the MPL crash.  To save time and avoid hardware creep, Phoenix used the same computer system that MPL was to have used -- which was, for want of a better word, a lot clunkier and more difficult to deal with than that of the MERs, especially for those of us following the raw data products as they came in.

This was an example of flying a lander designed in 1995/6 *after* flying a set of rovers designed in 2001/2.  It was just very obvious that, while it controlled the planned mission just fine, the Phoenix computer system was simply inferior to that of the MERs.

While InSIGHT (I think I have the acronym correct) is based on the MPL/Phoenix lander design, it's not the backup lander for either of the prior missions, it's being redesigned and built from scratch for the new mission, so I'm assuming it will have a new computer system that will be able to handle the challenges of remotely emplacing seismometers and heat flow sensors and also managing the data return.  What's being copied is the gross design, with, I'm sure, a lot of places where engineering refinements are making the design better and less prone to failure.  I'm as certain as I can be that NASA is not planning on launching a Mars lander in 2016 that will use a computer system designed 20 years ago.

My point is that most hardware left over from old missions and programs tend to end up on warehouse shelves or in museums, but rarely gets re-purposed.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: DMeader on 01/04/2015 02:47 AM
Does that MOL assembly building in the article still exist and if so, what is it used for now?
There was a building at the old MacDac plant in Huntington Beach used for assembly of MOL that was subsequently used for assembly of DC-X. It was allegedly next door to a building used for assembly of major Skylab systems.
And that has what to do with my question?

The organization I work for is currently moving into a building once occupied by the Army Reserve. That doesn't mean that I am now in the Army. The fact that a building once used for MOL activities is/was next door to a building used for Skylab production doesn't mean that there was any connection between MOL and Skylab.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Danderman on 01/04/2015 04:49 PM
Does that MOL assembly building in the article still exist and if so, what is it used for now?
There was a building at the old MacDac plant in Huntington Beach used for assembly of MOL that was subsequently used for assembly of DC-X. It was allegedly next door to a building used for assembly of major Skylab systems.
And that has what to do with my question?

The organization I work for is currently moving into a building once occupied by the Army Reserve. That doesn't mean that I am now in the Army. The fact that a building once used for MOL activities is/was next door to a building used for Skylab production doesn't mean that there was any connection between MOL and Skylab.

You missed my point - MOL and Skylab assembly were contemporaneous and next to each other.  Saturn SIV-B stages were produced by Douglas Aircraft at Huntington Beach, so the Skylab main structure was also developed there, next to the MOL assembly building.

In mid 1969, MOL was canceled.

Within a month or two, there was a redesign of Skylab.



Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: DMeader on 01/04/2015 05:03 PM
In mid 1969, MOL was canceled.
Within a month or two, there was a redesign of Skylab.

You're insisting on a connection that didn't exist.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 01/04/2015 05:08 PM


You missed my point - MOL and Skylab assembly were contemporaneous and next to each other.  Saturn SIV-B stages were produced by Douglas Aircraft at Huntington Beach, so the Skylab main structure was also developed there, next to the MOL assembly building.

In mid 1969, MOL was canceled.

Within a month or two, there was a redesign of Skylab.


Those two events are unrelated and had nothing to do with the location of the hardware. 
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Proponent on 01/04/2015 05:52 PM
In mid 1969, MOL was canceled.

Within a month or two, there was a redesign of Skylab.

The key meeting at which the switch to a dry workshop was put in motion took place on 21 May 1969 (http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4011/part2c.htm), before the cancellation of MOL.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: the_other_Doug on 01/04/2015 06:23 PM
And to a great extent, the decision to switch from the wet to the dry workshop concept for Skylab was determined when von Braun, and later George Mueller, donned spacesuits, got into Marshall's water immersion facility, and tried to unbolt the proposed hydrogen dome hatch cover through which the Skylab crew was supposed to enter the workshop.  (It had to be securely bolted and specially insulated so the tank could serve to hold LH2 during launch.)  Neither von Braun nor Mueller could even begin to get the bolts off, highlighting the true difficulties in making the wet workshop concept work.

The decision, again, had nothing to do with the status of MOL or any MOL design considerations.  Skylab decision-making and design were completely separate from MOL.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 01/05/2015 01:25 AM
And to a great extent, the decision to switch from the wet to the dry workshop concept for Skylab was determined when von Braun, and later George Mueller, donned spacesuits, got into Marshall's water immersion facility, and tried to unbolt the proposed hydrogen dome hatch cover through which the Skylab crew was supposed to enter the workshop.  (It had to be securely bolted and specially insulated so the tank could serve to hold LH2 during launch.)  Neither von Braun nor Mueller could even begin to get the bolts off, highlighting the true difficulties in making the wet workshop concept work.

The decision, again, had nothing to do with the status of MOL or any MOL design considerations.  Skylab decision-making and design were completely separate from MOL.

Thanks for that bit of trivia, I always wondered what drove the switch. I just assumed it was budget, or lack of budget to execute the full program.

Though to be fair, based on the above, if they tried to push von Braun through the MOL tunnel I am sure the program would have come to a crashing halt much sooner.

I wonder if Backstar's hint actually means some hardware that has been collecting dust since Nixon will end up on display Dayton.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: RanulfC on 01/05/2015 04:24 PM
And to a great extent, the decision to switch from the wet to the dry workshop concept for Skylab was determined when von Braun, and later George Mueller, donned spacesuits, got into Marshall's water immersion facility, and tried to unbolt the proposed hydrogen dome hatch cover through which the Skylab crew was supposed to enter the workshop.  (It had to be securely bolted and specially insulated so the tank could serve to hold LH2 during launch.)  Neither von Braun nor Mueller could even begin to get the bolts off, highlighting the true difficulties in making the wet workshop concept work.

The decision, again, had nothing to do with the status of MOL or any MOL design considerations.  Skylab decision-making and design were completely separate from MOL.

Thanks for that bit of trivia, I always wondered what drove the switch. I just assumed it was budget, or lack of budget to execute the full program.

Though to be fair, based on the above, if they tried to push von Braun through the MOL tunnel I am sure the program would have come to a crashing halt much sooner.

I wonder if Backstar's hint actually means some hardware that has been collecting dust since Nixon will end up on display Dayton.

Got a cite for that? According to the offical history of Skylab VonBraun's only 'comment' after the tests was that there needed to be a few more staps and cable attachments included in the tank design AND nothing regarding "difficulties" in getting into the tank.

Randy
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 01/05/2015 04:59 PM
You know, if you scroll back through this thread, you'll see that this whole (dumb) issue has been hashed out here at least once before. It really seems silly to do it here again, in the MOL thread.

I don't know anything about MOL hardware that still survives. That's not what I was indicating. Think in terms of paper and people.

Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: truth is life on 01/05/2015 05:31 PM

Got a cite for that? According to the offical history of Skylab VonBraun's only 'comment' after the tests was that there needed to be a few more staps and cable attachments included in the tank design AND nothing regarding "difficulties" in getting into the tank.

Randy
It's mentioned in Homesteading Space, which (according to Amazon) had Garriott, Kerwin, and Bean participating in writing. I'd check myself, but my own copy is half an hour's drive away from where I am now, so I can't exactly run over and look at the cover, or give an exact page number. In any case, if anyone would know, it would surely be the astronauts involved, no?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 01/05/2015 07:02 PM

You know, if you scroll back through this thread, you'll see that this whole (dumb) issue has been hashed out here at least once before. It really seems silly to do it here again, in the MOL thread.

I don't know anything about MOL hardware that still survives. That's not what I was indicating. Think in terms of paper and people.

Development blueprints including the evolution of the design and a large cache of photos of the hardware that was developed would be nice starting point.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: RanulfC on 01/05/2015 07:21 PM

Got a cite for that? According to the offical history of Skylab VonBraun's only 'comment' after the tests was that there needed to be a few more staps and cable attachments included in the tank design AND nothing regarding "difficulties" in getting into the tank.
It's mentioned in Homesteading Space, which (according to Amazon) had Garriott, Kerwin, and Bean participating in writing. I'd check myself, but my own copy is half an hour's drive away from where I am now, so I can't exactly run over and look at the cover, or give an exact page number. In any case, if anyone would know, it would surely be the astronauts involved, no?

You'd think :) Then again the quote I'm looking at was FROM VonBraun after his time in the tank which makes me wonder...

Randy
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: apollolanding on 01/05/2015 08:24 PM
Got a cite for that? According to the offical history of Skylab VonBraun's only 'comment' after the tests was that there needed to be a few more staps and cable attachments included in the tank design AND nothing regarding "difficulties" in getting into the tank.

Randy

Source: Homesteading Space - The Skylab Story by Hitt, Garriott and Kerwin, Pages 1&2

http://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/Supplements/Excerpts/Fall%2008/9780803224346_excerpt.pdf

"The task of turning a spent rocket stage into a livable space station was proving more difficult than anticipated. The man in the spacesuit was attempting to carry out the tasks that would convert the used, empty fuel tank into an orbital workshop. It was a daunting challenge. If the series of steps could be carried out, it would provide an expedient path to homesteading space. If not the station as designed would be worthless, an unusable husk. For the plan to work, when it came to these tasks, one of the agency’s great truisms definitely applied—failure was not an option.
Almost immediately, he ran into problems.
Loosening the bolts before him was a simple enough task on the ground. Here though it was substantially more difficult. When he turned his wrench, instead of the bolts rotating, he did. The bolts were held in place, and since he was floating, there was nothing to keep him still. The gloves he had to wear only made things worse. Their bulkiness made it difficult to perform precise tasks. The fact that his suit was pressurized meant that it took effort to move the fingers of the glove. After a while, his hands would become sore from the effort. It was too much to ask, he realized. It couldn’t be done. Reluctantly, he signaled to the safety divers to bring him to the surface.
That revelation was to be a turning point in the development of Skylab, America’s first space station, and may well have saved the program. The man in the spacesuit was Dr. George Mueller, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (nasa’s) associate administrator of Manned Space Flight, and the event took place in a water tank at nasa’s Marshall Space Flight Center (msfc) in Huntsville, Alabama. Mueller had been trying to find the best solution to the latest in a string of difficult decisions involving the orbital workshop. His quest for answers had led him to get hands-on experience himself with a simulated space station."


Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Danderman on 01/06/2015 12:32 AM
In mid 1969, MOL was canceled.
Within a month or two, there was a redesign of Skylab.

You're insisting on a connection that didn't exist.

Actually, I am just writing down actual facts.

Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: the_other_Doug on 01/08/2015 02:25 AM
And to a great extent, the decision to switch from the wet to the dry workshop concept for Skylab was determined when von Braun, and later George Mueller, donned spacesuits, got into Marshall's water immersion facility, and tried to unbolt the proposed hydrogen dome hatch cover through which the Skylab crew was supposed to enter the workshop.  (It had to be securely bolted and specially insulated so the tank could serve to hold LH2 during launch.)  Neither von Braun nor Mueller could even begin to get the bolts off, highlighting the true difficulties in making the wet workshop concept work.

The decision, again, had nothing to do with the status of MOL or any MOL design considerations.  Skylab decision-making and design were completely separate from MOL.

Thanks for that bit of trivia, I always wondered what drove the switch. I just assumed it was budget, or lack of budget to execute the full program.

Though to be fair, based on the above, if they tried to push von Braun through the MOL tunnel I am sure the program would have come to a crashing halt much sooner.

I wonder if Backstar's hint actually means some hardware that has been collecting dust since Nixon will end up on display Dayton.

Got a cite for that? According to the offical history of Skylab VonBraun's only 'comment' after the tests was that there needed to be a few more staps and cable attachments included in the tank design AND nothing regarding "difficulties" in getting into the tank.

Randy

Yes, I have a cite, but I'm currently 500 miles from my home, visiting family for a couple of weeks.  Once I get home I'll go through my library and get it to you, if someone else doesn't provide it first.  If I had to try and recall off the top of my head, I'd say it was a book called Homesteading Space, but I could be wrong, so let me check my library when I get home before holding my feet to the fire on it, okay?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: the_other_Doug on 01/08/2015 02:29 AM
And that's what I get for replying to a challenge for a cite without reading the rest of the thread.  Good to know I remembered the right book, though.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: RanulfC on 01/12/2015 01:12 PM
Truth is Life, apollolanding, the_other-Doug;

The reason I asked for a cite was because the official history of Skylab differs from the cited history. VonBraun's experiance seemed convincing enough that his ONLY comment was to include some more cable attachment points inside the tanks and he apparently didn't have all that much trouble getting the hatch off. I'll also point out that tools were developed to avoid the issues discussed in the quote.

In the end it was easier to build it on the ground and launch a fully functional station instead of a "wet-lab" but the basic concept is still viable should someone ever decide to go that route. (Which I will admit would take a lot of commitment since none of our current capability or hardware is really capable of such effort)

Randy
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: zubenelgenubi on 01/13/2015 01:53 AM
Regarding "cross-pollination" between MOL and Orbital Workshop/Skylab:

And, noting that astronaut autobiographies depend much on the author's PERCEPTIONS of what happened--"I was there."  (That person may know less than they think about events that happened to other astronauts, engineers, etc.)

"Skylab at one time had been my baby."

Walter Cunningham reports in Chapter 14 of his book, The All American Boys that Deke Slayton assigned him as the Astronaut Office's representative to the program after his flight on Apollo 7 (late 1968).  This was after tenures by Alan Bean, Gordon Cooper, and Owen Garriott.

Cunningham also reports that he prodded management to switch from the Saturn IB "wet workshop" to the Skylab configuration that actually flew.

When MOL was cancelled in 1969, seven of that program's astronauts went to work for NASA.  All of these were pilots.  Cunningham reports that he assigned them to make decisions about operational hardware.

Cunningham also says that "those two years at the helm of Skylab became my real contribution to manned spaceflight."

Spaceflight history experts:  Was Walt Cunningham as crucial to the success of Skylab as he represents in his book?  I believe this part of his book is credible--do you?

Therefore:
Might the key not be transfer of hardware or explicit design, but one of knowledge and experience?  I assume there was were many specific, classified facts that the ex-MOL astronauts could not speak about.  But, they had been working on a space station program for several years before coming to NASA.  Did that experience, without divulging specific classified information, help change OWS into the Skylab-as-flown?

Curious,
Zubenelgenubi
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Danderman on 01/13/2015 02:06 AM
This may have been posted earlier in the thread, but apropros of the prior post, I believe that the open literature states that food supplies from MOL were transferred to Skylab.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 01/13/2015 02:35 AM
This may have been posted earlier in the thread, but apropros of the prior post, I believe that the open literature states that food supplies from MOL were transferred to Skylab.


No, that is not true either. Skylab thought they could leverage MOL crew systems and found that it was an area that there was little work done on it.  Skylab food was just a continuation of Apollo food and some Skylab food was tested on Apollo.

http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4208/ch7.htm#t5
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Danderman on 01/13/2015 02:58 AM
This may have been posted earlier in the thread, but apropros of the prior post, I believe that the open literature states that food supplies from MOL were transferred to Skylab.


No, that is not true either. Skylab thought they could leverage MOL crew systems and found that it was an area that there was little work done on it.  Skylab food was just a continuation of Apollo food and some Skylab food was tested on Apollo.

http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4208/ch7.htm#t5

In other words, there was an attempt to use MOL food system research but it was found to be too non-existent to use.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: the_other_Doug on 01/13/2015 04:53 AM
Regarding "cross-pollination" between MOL and Orbital Workshop/Skylab:

And, noting that astronaut autobiographies depend much on the author's PERCEPTIONS of what happened--"I was there."  (That person may know less than they think about events that happened to other astronauts, engineers, etc.)

"Skylab at one time had been my baby."

Walter Cunningham reports in Chapter 14 of his book, The All American Boys that Deke Slayton assigned him as the Astronaut Office's representative to the program after his flight on Apollo 7 (late 1968).  This was after tenures by Alan Bean, Gordon Cooper, and Owen Garriott.

Cunningham also reports that he prodded management to switch from the Saturn IB "wet workshop" to the Skylab configuration that actually flew.

When MOL was cancelled in 1969, seven of that program's astronauts went to work for NASA.  All of these were pilots.  Cunningham reports that he assigned them to make decisions about operational hardware.

Cunningham also says that "those two years at the helm of Skylab became my real contribution to manned spaceflight."

Spaceflight history experts:  Was Walt Cunningham as crucial to the success of Skylab as he represents in his book?  I believe this part of his book is credible--do you?

Therefore:
Might the key not be transfer of hardware or explicit design, but one of knowledge and experience?  I assume there was were many specific, classified facts that the ex-MOL astronauts could not speak about.  But, they had been working on a space station program for several years before coming to NASA.  Did that experience, without divulging specific classified information, help change OWS into the Skylab-as-flown?

Curious,
Zubenelgenubi

My own take on Cunningham's book is that it is poorly researched and fact-checked (for example, he places some Gemini flights as being flown in 1967), and the tone is both defensive and self-aggrandizing.  While it can be an enjoyable read, I wouldn't take what Walt says with more than a small grain of salt, especially when it comes to the contributions he may have personally made.  For instance, he claims that he told management that the Skylab micrometeoroid shield would fail, but that they never paid attention.  I seriously doubt this part of his story, since he claims that he was so much smarter and on top of the engineering than Pete Conrad that if Conrad hadn't bumped him off of Skylab it wouldn't have failed, and that sounds like nothing but sour grapes to me.

However, this is all quite off-topic, so let's just get back to MOL, shall we?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: RanulfC on 01/13/2015 01:17 PM
"Wet-Lab" discussion has come up again in the "Skylab-II" thread here:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=30609.msg1315317#msg1315317

Randy
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: zubenelgenubi on 01/13/2015 11:11 PM
Thank you, Doug.
If Cunningham's recollection/representation about his tenure on Skylab is suspect, then we really can't use his book's content as reliable evidence towards a hypothesis for or against ex-MOL astronauts influencing the design or operational planning for Skylab.

The hypothesis is still viable and interesting--I'm curious about the ex-MOL astronaut's influence on the development of Skylab.

>>>
However, this is all quite off-topic, so let's just get back to MOL, shall we?
<<<

Ok!  I do look forward to some new MOL declassification!  It's a story overdue to be told!
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: zubenelgenubi on 01/14/2015 03:24 AM
Re: MOL food

If one takes the virtual tour of the National Museum of the United States Air Force,

http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/virtualtour/index.asp
 (http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/virtualtour/index.asp)
and goes to the Missile and Space Gallery to examine the Gemini B spacecraft at location 082, and then turns around approximately 180 degrees, then you'll see the following item and label.

"Prototype Food Dispenser for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory
One of the very few full scale objects to survive the MOL project, this device was intended to hold containers of food and release them to crew members on demand."

It's not the most exciting item of prototype space hardware.

(When I visited this museum as a lad, there was very little or no explanation of WHY this capsule had a rear hatch through the heat shield!  I figured there was a pretty cool reason for this, but it took some research years later to learn (a little) more.  This museum has vastly improved since the 1970s.)

Sincerely,
Zubenelgenubi
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 03/18/2015 04:07 PM
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 03/19/2015 02:11 PM
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Kansan52 on 03/19/2015 10:44 PM
In the early days of the Cosmosphere, there was a Gemini capsule that was missing a hatch. It was a 'junkyard' capsule that had lost the hatch cover during a storm. The exposure to weather required restoration before being displayed.

The reason that the hatch was missing was it was removed so the latching mechanism could be used in Skylab.

If memory serves, it went to St. Loius, it's capsule went to OKC, and the Cos received the Gemini X.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 03/20/2015 03:12 AM
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Antilope7724 on 03/29/2015 02:19 AM
Here are some documents I found on the DTIC website that have info about the Gemini-MOL / Titan IIIC Heat Shield Qualification test flight of Nov 3, 1966; that sent the Gemini 2 re-entry module on its second sub-orbital flight.

PROGRAM PLAN MANNED ORBITING LABORATORY - HEAT SHIELD QUALIFICATION (MOL-HSQ)
http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/472858.pdf

PROGRAM SUPPORT REQUEST MOL - HSQ
http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/474362.pdf

A PRELIMINARY STUDY OF THE MOL HSQ RECOVERY PROBLEM
http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/821328.pdf

MOL-EFT PROGRAM. MODEL SPECIFICATION AIRBORNE VEHICLE EQUIPMENT
http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/472438.pdf

SSLV-5 NO. 9 POST FIRING FLIGHT TEST REPORT (FINAL EVALUATION REPORT) AND MOL-EFT FINAL FLIGHT TEST REPORT
http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/378020.pdf


DEFENSE TECHNICAL INFORMATION CENTER - DTIC website link
http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/search/advanced_search.html
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jester on 04/17/2015 04:22 PM
Gemini B Mockup video

https://vimeo.com/102422452
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 04/17/2015 06:22 PM
I have some photos of that mockup, but the video is better than my photos in terms of sharpness and color. I have a lot of MOL photos, but much of it is lower quality than I would like.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Rifleman on 04/18/2015 01:33 AM
I am actually going to the NMUSAF tomorrow, I will try to snap a picture of the food dispenser for everyone to see.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 04/18/2015 04:12 AM
It's a dull piece of hardware. I hope that there's something much more exciting buried somewhere.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Nascent Ascent on 04/18/2015 05:36 AM
A good friend and former teacher of mine worked at General Electric in Valley Forge, PA on MOL.  I remember in the early 1970s he related how he had worked on the "toilet" systems.  In retrospect, what he described was very similar to what eventually wound up on the Skylab.

Not as interesting as the optics - but I was surprised to learn that a toilet was included instead of the baggies.

I chuckled when he told me how the engineers were actually testing the prototype with their own live loads.  Heh.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: gwiz on 07/31/2015 04:29 PM
Date for your diaries, Oct 22:
http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Upcoming/Lectures.aspx

"The National Reconnaissance Office will also reveal, for the first time, information about the classified elements of the program."
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: zubenelgenubi on 07/31/2015 04:46 PM
Date for your diaries, Oct 22:
http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Upcoming/Lectures.aspx

"The National Reconnaissance Office will also reveal, for the first time, information about the classified elements of the program."
Wow!
The Manned Orbiting Laboratory Crew Member's Secret Mission in Space
MOL astronauts panel members:
James Abrahamson
Karol Bobko
Bob Crippen
Lachlan Macleay
Richard Truly

I wonder if the lecture date has been chosen to match one declassification date of a large amount of content in October, OR if there will be an initial set of information declassified after today, but earlier than October, and then more in October?

Does the above compound question make sense?

EDIT--clarification of my question's "timeline"
EDIT 2--that will teach me not to blindly copy+paste astronaut names from an aerospace museum web site!  Corrected.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 07/31/2015 05:00 PM
Just saw all that on twitter and went, wow!
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 07/31/2015 05:31 PM
After all this time something of a missing link in the optical reconnaissance program history is coming into the light.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 07/31/2015 05:43 PM
Scroll back a bit in the thread...
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 07/31/2015 05:48 PM
Odd how the NMUSAF misspelled the name of one of their speakers, Lachlan Macleay (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lachlan_Macleay). But it is a unique name. He probably became accustomed to many variations over the years.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 07/31/2015 05:51 PM
Here's the NRO link.

http://nro.gov/foia/declass/MOL.html
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Skyrocket on 07/31/2015 06:24 PM
Nice artist impression from NRO's tweet: https://twitter.com/NatReconOfc/status/627138592062595073
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 07/31/2015 07:07 PM
Love that sixties space art.:)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 07/31/2015 07:18 PM
Yes, it is a nice artist's concept, but probably only a sales pitch. It shows an alternative, future MOL configuration: really two MOLs docked end to end, both with their Gemini-B capsules at their opposite ends. The near one has a bay full of earth observation sensors; the far one has an astronomical telescope on an extendable arm. Douglas was trying to sell this as a space station to NASA in the late 1960s. I wonder why it was ever classified. It is consistent with much of the content in the last large release a year ago: a hodgepodge of approved, planned and even wished-for capabilities, without much organization. The approved program when MOL was cancelled in 1969 was more or less the same as in LBJ's announcement in 1965, with only five manned labs intended to fly, one by one.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 07/31/2015 07:26 PM
Isn't it stuff like the optical telescope & ELINT gear that's kept it classified so long.
Title: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 07/31/2015 08:59 PM
Isn't it stuff like the optical telescope & ELINT gear that's kept it classified so long.

The elint mission was removed from consideration by 1967.

So that begs the question why the long classification for a canned project, surely not just the optical gear?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 07/31/2015 09:00 PM
Okay, not declassified but ithe image does have "NRO approved for release July 2015" stamped on it. Isn't that almost the same?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: zubenelgenubi on 07/31/2015 10:10 PM
Here's the NRO link.

http://nro.gov/foia/declass/MOL.html
>>>
A MOL declassification event, The DORIAN Files Revealed, will take place at the National Museum of the US Air Force on 22 October 2015.
<<<
The above answers my question about the timing of the event vs. declassification.

So, no declassification between now and October 22?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Kansan52 on 07/31/2015 10:19 PM
Yes, it is a nice artist's concept, but probably only a sales pitch. It shows an alternative, future MOL configuration: really two MOLs docked end to end, both with their Gemini-B capsules at their opposite ends. The near one has a bay full of earth observation sensors; the far one has an astronomical telescope on an extendable arm. Douglas was trying to sell this as a space station to NASA in the late 1960s. I wonder why it was ever classified. It is consistent with much of the content in the last large release a year ago: a hodgepodge of approved, planned and even wished-for capabilities, without much organization. The approved program when MOL was cancelled in 1969 was more or less the same as in LBJ's announcement in 1965, with only five manned labs intended to fly, one by one.

I hadn't noticed that. Yep, sure looks like "Look what we could build with your money!"
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 07/31/2015 10:29 PM

Isn't it stuff like the optical telescope & ELINT gear that's kept it classified so long.

The elint mission was removed from consideration by 1967.

So that begs the question why the long classification for a canned project, surely not just the optical gear?

It's a long dull story, but in the end it just boils down to inertia. Things remain classified until somebody makes a concerted effort to get them declassified. And if it is sitting in a safe somewhere with a classification stamp on it, it is a pain in the neck and costs money for somebody to declassify it.

What in particular got them moving on this now then?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: the_other_Doug on 08/01/2015 12:40 AM

Isn't it stuff like the optical telescope & ELINT gear that's kept it classified so long.

The elint mission was removed from consideration by 1967.

So that begs the question why the long classification for a canned project, surely not just the optical gear?

It's a long dull story, but in the end it just boils down to inertia. Things remain classified until somebody makes a concerted effort to get them declassified. And if it is sitting in a safe somewhere with a classification stamp on it, it is a pain in the neck and costs money for somebody to declassify it.

What in particular got them moving on this now then?

Maybe they realized that the original MOL astronauts are beginning to die off (they're getting into their seventies and eighties, now), and they wanted to give the guys who are still with us a chance to talk about their 'til-now classified experiences.  I'd love to hear some of their training stories.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 08/01/2015 08:26 AM


Isn't it stuff like the optical telescope & ELINT gear that's kept it classified so long.

The elint mission was removed from consideration by 1967.

So that begs the question why the long classification for a canned project, surely not just the optical gear?

It's a long dull story, but in the end it just boils down to inertia. Things remain classified until somebody makes a concerted effort to get them declassified. And if it is sitting in a safe somewhere with a classification stamp on it, it is a pain in the neck and costs money for somebody to declassify it.

What in particular got them moving on this now then?

Maybe they realized that the original MOL astronauts are beginning to die off (they're getting into their seventies and eighties, now), and they wanted to give the guys who are still with us a chance to talk about their 'til-now classified experiences.  I'd love to hear some of their training stories.

I hope that was the reason as it is definitely a missing part in the U.S. human spaceflight history.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Archibald on 08/01/2015 11:39 AM
never realized that the MOL had solar arrays. I thought they used fuel cells...
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 08/01/2015 01:24 PM
You're right. The baselined, approved program of five manned flights would have used Allis Chalmers fuel cells, iirc. The solar arrays were added to the proposed NASA variant for longer duration missions.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 08/01/2015 01:53 PM
I bet the "crew members" will be only able to talk about the capsule and station portions.  They probably were aware but not deeply briefed on the payload/camera. We (the members of the forum) probably know more about the payload/camera now, then the "crew members" did back in the day.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: John Charles on 08/01/2015 03:03 PM
Jim, I agree with your guess.

In 1969, the first launch was still planned for 1972. Certainly no mission-specific training had taken place yet, probably only generic training, mostly general spacecraft systems development consultations (including space suits), and general pilot maintenance training.

There was a MOL mockup at Douglas and a Gemini-B mockup at McDonnell, but documents reviewed by Dwayne Day don't give evidence that actual spacecraft construction had commenced.

I wonder if MOL had received any hand-me-down Gemini simulators from NASA yet, or were they re-purposed for Apollo?

Maybe the pilots are coming to the October event to hear what MOL was all about, too.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Antilope7724 on 08/01/2015 03:25 PM
How would an Apollo command / service module equipped with the SIM bay camera system measure up to the MOL in earth orbit? Wonder if the DOD or NRO ever looked at flying the Apollo with the SIM bay camera system on classified earth orbit missions? It had proved itself in lunar orbit on three missions.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 08/01/2015 03:33 PM
I bet the "crew members" will be only able to talk about the capsule and station portions.  They probably were aware but not deeply briefed on the payload/camera. We (the members of the forum) probably know more about the payload/camera now, then the "crew members" did back in the day.

No, they knew everything. I've interviewed a few of them, just haven't finished my article. They were fully cleared at the time and even had access to the existing robotic systems and their products--i.e. they not only knew about the other recon systems then in use, but they saw the photos. One of them even told me that when the GAMBIT-3 entered service he saw a photo it took and the resolution was so good he knew that MOL was going to be canceled. After all, why launch a big expensive MOL with a couple of astronauts when you could get the same photos with an existing robotic system? Now how much they remember today is a different issue. Keep in mind that for most of them once the program was canceled they left the classified world. Some of them kept their clearances when they went on to other things, but many of them were just out of it entirely.

They'll undoubtedly get a security briefing before they talk in public and I suspect that they'll be told that they cannot discuss the system's resolution and probably a couple of other minor things. But for the most part, they can discuss the program, hardware, etc.

Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 08/01/2015 03:37 PM
How would an Apollo command / service module equipped with the SIM bay camera system measure up to the MOL in earth orbit? Wonder if the DOD or NRO ever looked at flying the Apollo with the SIM bay camera system on classified earth orbit missions? It had proved itself in lunar orbit on three missions.

You can do the math fairly easily. The late Apollo missions had the Apollo Panoramic Camera (PanCam) system. That was derived from an aerial camera developed for the U-2 and SR-71, built by ITEK. From what I have been able to determine, that camera system used similar lenses to those developed for Corona. Same focal length as Corona. Essentially it would have had similar resolution in Earth orbit, figure about 6-12 feet ground resolution. MOL was 4 inches.

Re the PanCam: I've never been able to find out exactly what changed in the evolution up to this system. The overall basics appear to be the same, although the film mounting system was altered. I haven't paid attention to that in a few years. But the PanCam was a nice design.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 08/01/2015 05:38 PM
How would an Apollo command / service module equipped with the SIM bay camera system measure up to the MOL in earth orbit? Wonder if the DOD or NRO ever looked at flying the Apollo with the SIM bay camera system on classified earth orbit missions? It had proved itself in lunar orbit on three missions.

No.  It would have nowhere near the resolution of MOL.  "It" had proved itself long before Apollo.  The cameras for Apollo were related to U-2 and SR-71 cameras.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 08/13/2015 08:30 PM
In response to my FOIA request many years ago, NRO has now declassified the official MOL history:

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

Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Bob Shaw on 08/13/2015 08:38 PM
How did the Metric Camera flown aboard Shuttle compare in terms of resolution?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: apollolanding on 08/13/2015 08:48 PM
In response to my FOIA request many years ago, NRO has now declassified the official MOL history:

http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/MOL.html
Thank you for your tireless effort on bringing this part of spaceflight history to light!  I have my weekend reading now.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 08/13/2015 08:57 PM
How did the Metric Camera flown aboard Shuttle compare in terms of resolution?


Not even close. That was a mapping camera. MOL's goal resolution was four inches. I don't remember what the shuttle camera resolution was, but probably over 30 feet.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 08/14/2015 12:55 AM
I wrote this awhile back:

MOL was conceived as a bunch of experiments. At some point it evolved to become essentially an operational reconnaissance satellite. Not clear when or how or why that happened, but it was probably early 1965. So some things that they were thinking of doing early on got tossed. Here is the list of experiments that were finalized:

P-1 Acquisition and Tracking of Ground Targets
P-2 Acquisition and Tracking of Space Targets
P-3 Acquisition of “targets of opportunity” (land/sea)
P-4 Electromagnetic Signal Detection
P-5 In-Space Maintenance
P-6 EVA using Remote Maneuvering Unit
P-7 EVA using Dual Maneuvering Unit
P-8 Autonomous Navigation and Geodesy
P-9 Post attack bomb assessment (later cancelled)
P-10 Multiband Spectral Observations
P-11 General Human Performance in Space
P-12 Biomedical and Physiological Evaluation
P-13 Ocean Surveillance
P-14 Assembly and alignment of large structures in space
P-15 High Resolution Optics System (KH-10 DORIAN camera)


Note that in the official history mention of P-2 is deleted. Late in the program a new mission was added. I'm pretty sure that was space-to-space photography, which was later added to G-3 and used to image Skylab (see one of my articles about this).
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 08/14/2015 06:27 AM

In response to my FOIA request many years ago, NRO has now declassified the official MOL history:

http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/MOL.html
Thank you for your tireless effort on bringing this part of spaceflight history to light!  I have my weekend reading now.

I would like to second that thanks.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Targeteer on 08/14/2015 10:29 PM
From NRO Facebook page

The second of three newly declassified Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program documents, the History of the MOL Program has been released. The MOL program was developed by the United States Air Force in the early 1960s and acknowledged publicly by President Lyndon Johnson on August 25, 1965. The MOL program’s original purpose was to assess man’s utility in space, and as the program matured, its main mission was to photograph objects on the ground, referred to as the Dorian mission.

Click on the link below to read the first two declassified documents and stay tuned for a third document to be released later this fall leading up to a special event to be held at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on October 22, 2015. The event, “The Dorian Files Revealed: The Manned Orbiting Laboratory Crew Members’ Secret Mission in Space” will include a panel discussion of five MOL crew members who trained for the program, and the release of additional MOL documents.

Click here to read the History of the MOL Program and President Johnson’s press statement: http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/MOL.html

Click here to read more about the event on October 22, 2015 at the National Museum of the US Air Force: http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Upcoming/Lectures.aspx
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Bob Shaw on 08/15/2015 12:12 AM
How did the Metric Camera flown aboard Shuttle compare in terms of resolution?


Not even close. That was a mapping camera. MOL's goal resolution was four inches. I don't remember what the shuttle camera resolution was, but probably over 30 feet.

Thanks!

Were the 'Stubby Hubble' mirrors - the ones passed to NASA - built as part of that effort? I presume they were faster than Hubble, but similarly good at light gathering.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 08/15/2015 02:21 AM
How did the Metric Camera flown aboard Shuttle compare in terms of resolution?


Not even close. That was a mapping camera. MOL's goal resolution was four inches. I don't remember what the shuttle camera resolution was, but probably over 30 feet.

Thanks!

Were the 'Stubby Hubble' mirrors - the ones passed to NASA - built as part of that effort? I presume they were faster than Hubble, but similarly good at light gathering.


Nope. Those are from FIA. And they have not been passed to NASA. They have been made available to NASA. If NASA does not want them, they'll go into a smelter.

The MOL mirrors ended up in the MMT telescope. They were eventually removed and are now in storage at the base of the MMT telescope's mountain.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: vapour_nudge on 08/15/2015 02:37 AM
How did the Metric Camera flown aboard Shuttle compare in terms of resolution?


Not even close. That was a mapping camera. MOL's goal resolution was four inches. I don't remember what the shuttle camera resolution was, but probably over 30 feet.
If it was a 'metric' camera shouldn't the resolution be 9 metres instead of 30 feet? :-)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 08/15/2015 05:56 PM
How did the Metric Camera flown aboard Shuttle compare in terms of resolution?


Not even close. That was a mapping camera. MOL's goal resolution was four inches. I don't remember what the shuttle camera resolution was, but probably over 30 feet.
If it was a 'metric' camera shouldn't the resolution be 9 metres instead of 30 feet? :-)

We don't use the dumb metric system.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: vapour_nudge on 08/16/2015 11:40 AM
Now there's an off topic issue there. I was brought up knowing both and couldn't care less which one I use. My country changed over in the 60s and we no longer use the British system that the USA uses. But I still think of my height in feet & inches & fuel economy in MPG yet I think in kilometres per hour. I really don't think it matters what anyone uses so long as they understand what it means. My previous post was a joke. Night.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: gwiz on 08/16/2015 12:05 PM
We don't use the dumb metric system.
One US engineering project, the McAir (now Boeing) T-45A Goshawk aircraft, uses metric units because it was originally designed and partially manufactured in the UK.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: gwiz on 08/16/2015 12:11 PM
Now there's an off topic issue there. I was brought up knowing both and couldn't care less which one I use. My country changed over in the 60s and we no longer use the British system that the USA uses. But I still think of my height in feet & inches & fuel economy in MPG yet I think in kilometres per hour. I really don't think it matters what anyone uses so long as they understand what it means. My previous post was a joke. Night.
I was using both systems throughout my engineering career.  All new projects were in SI units, but we were still supporting old projects in Imperial units right into the present decade.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: QuantumG on 08/16/2015 12:12 PM
I was using both systems throughout my engineering career.  All new projects were in SI units, but we were still supporting old projects in Imperial units right into the present decade.

Future generations will be having the same discussion about Python 2 vs 3.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: pippin on 08/16/2015 01:29 PM
I'm disappointed. I thought my trolling would catch more fish.

OK, I'll bite. The French Revolution had it all wrong.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6xJfP7-HCc
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 08/16/2015 01:33 PM
Blackstar, you know there are two types of countries in this world. Those that use metric and those that have been to Pluto ;)

Still digging through the MOL history. A bit dry, but very, very interesting...
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: pippin on 08/16/2015 01:44 PM

Blackstar, you know there are two types of countries in this world. Those that use metric and those that have been to Pluto ;)

And then those who have been to Pluto but have used the metric system to go there...
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: RonM on 08/16/2015 03:50 PM
Blackstar, you know there are two types of countries in this world. Those that use metric and those that have been to Pluto ;)

Wow, Liberia and Myanmar have been to Pluto too! :)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 08/16/2015 04:19 PM
And if MOL had been flown, we would have spotted those clandestine missions.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 08/21/2015 02:08 AM
Blackstar, you know there are two types of countries in this world. Those that use metric and those that have been to Pluto ;)

Still digging through the MOL history. A bit dry, but very, very interesting...

I've been going through it too. It is dry. There's less hardware and technical detail than I expected, or want. I would like to know much more about the technical issues and camera design. Note that the astronauts are not mentioned at all. Look up some of their names in the index. They're not there.

I hope we get more on the camera system and the relevant subsystems. I've interviewed a few of the astronauts and I should probably go and try and interview more of them.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 08/21/2015 06:24 AM

Blackstar, you know there are two types of countries in this world. Those that use metric and those that have been to Pluto ;)

Still digging through the MOL history. A bit dry, but very, very interesting...

I've been going through it too. It is dry. There's less hardware and technical detail than I expected, or want. I would like to know much more about the technical issues and camera design. Note that the astronauts are not mentioned at all. Look up some of their names in the index. They're not there.

I hope we get more on the camera system and the relevant subsystems. I've interviewed a few of the astronauts and I should probably go and try and interview more of them.

I wonder if the lack of technical detail was a deliberate choice by the author or just how it worked out.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 08/21/2015 12:22 PM
I wonder if the lack of technical detail was a deliberate choice by the author or just how it worked out.

That's the kind of stuff that Berger wrote. He did institutional histories. I think he is the guy who did a bunch of documents called "The Air Force in Space" that were essentially annual reports. It might have been a case of they asked him to do it and he focused on what he knew.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: zubenelgenubi on 08/21/2015 11:06 PM
I wonder if the lack of technical detail was a deliberate choice by the author or just how it worked out.

That's the kind of stuff that Berger wrote. He did institutional histories. I think he is the guy who did a bunch of documents called "The Air Force in Space" that were essentially annual reports. It might have been a case of they asked him to do it and he focused on what he knew.

There is some explanation from the author for the scope, or lack thereof, of this history in the Foreword:
Quote
This history was originally conceived as a multi-volume series which would cover planning, policies, hardware development, and flight operations of the Manned Orbiting Laboratory.
...the work would be done on a part-time basis.

The author began his research in May 1966 on a two-day-a-week basis, a schedule frequently disrupted, however, by the requirements of his own office.  He was working on 1967 MOL plans and policies when the project was terminated in June 1969.  Subsequently, he prepared three additional chapters covering the important events leading to the President’s decision to terminate the program, all consolidated into this single volume.

The original plan sounds like a full-time job, perhaps for several historians, working for months or years?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 10/19/2015 05:51 PM
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2849/1

Blue suits in polar orbits: the MOL astronauts (part 1)

by Dwayne Day
Monday, October 19, 2015

Richard Truly still remembers the day when the Air Force publicly announced that he was selected to be an astronaut for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, which had been formally announced by Lyndon Johnson in summer 1965. The eight candidates were introduced to the press at a ceremony on a Friday in November 1965, but there were no questions from reporters. After the event ended, Truly was told by his boss that it would be their last press conference. “And he was right,” Truly said during an interview in Washington, DC last fall. They were momentarily famous, but would never talk to the press again.

But what happened the next day was even more memorable. Saturday morning, the MOL astronaut candidates reported to the Space and Missile Systems Office at Los Angeles Air Force Base, only a few miles from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). That’s when the briefings began.

The eight men were told that the public story about MOL—that it was intended to evaluate what military missions astronauts could perform in space—was a cover story. What MOL was really supposed to do was to take high-resolution reconnaissance photographs of the Soviet Union. And that’s when Truly and his fellow MOL astronauts were briefed on America’s top secret reconnaissance satellite programs. They were told about CORONA, which took broad area photographs of large amounts of territory in order to find new targets and keep track of existing ones. And they were told about GAMBIT, which could take high-resolution images of targets such as ICBM sites and submarine bases. Truly was amazed. He hadn’t known that all of this stuff existed. And now he was going to be part of a program that did it.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Archibald on 10/19/2015 06:34 PM
Albert H. Crews - the most unfortunate wannabee astronaut ever. One of the very few veteran of both DynaSoar and MOL, both canned without flying. He went to NASA afterwards, but was considered too old to fly.  :-\
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: zubenelgenubi on 10/19/2015 06:50 PM
It appears that the MOL astronaut duties somewhat paralleled those of NASA astronauts not assigned to a mission (not a surprise).

It also appears that the MOL astronauts didn't have the cool T-38 rides that the NASA astronauts did.  I wonder if (true/false?) not having high-performance jets at hand made the travel, of which I assume was extensive, more difficult?

Was there a selection process similar to that for NASA astronauts?

Also, did the MOL astronauts have cover stories for use when on travel, etc.?

Some quick thoughts/questions after reading the above-mentioned article...
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: zubenelgenubi on 10/19/2015 07:03 PM
We're just a few days away: October 22, 7:30 pm!

Date for your diaries, Oct 22:
http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Upcoming/Lectures.aspx (http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Upcoming/Lectures.aspx)

"The National Reconnaissance Office will also reveal, for the first time, information about the classified elements of the program."
Wow!
The Manned Orbiting Laboratory Crew Member's Secret Mission in Space
MOL astronauts panel members:
James Abrahamson
Karol Bobko
Albert Crews (added after initial announcement?)
Bob Crippen
Lachlan Macleay
Richard Truly

UPDATE Quote
Quote
UPDATE: James Abrahamson and Lachlan MacLeay are unable to participate in the event.

I hope these two gentlemen are ok.

There is also mention of this gentleman as a speaker with the four astronauts:
Quote
Dr. Michael Yarymovych held several prominent leadership positions in the government, including assistant administrator of the U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration, chief scientist of the U.S. Air Force, director of NATO AGARD in Paris, France, deputy assistant secretary of the USAF for R&D, and technical director of the USAF Manned Orbital Laboratory. Before that, Yarymovych had several responsible positions with the NASA Headquarters Manned Space Flight Program involved with the Apollo lunar landing effort and initial definition studies of the Space Station and the Space Shuttle.

Also, will there be a web cast?  I only see mention of audio podcasts available post-lectures:
http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/TourPodcasts/Lecture.aspx (http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/TourPodcasts/Lecture.aspx)

Are any forum members attending this lecture?

Zubenelgenubi
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 10/19/2015 08:04 PM
I wonder if (true/false?) not having high-performance jets at hand made the travel, of which I assume was extensive, more difficult?

Apparently the jets available to the MOL astronauts were rather poor quality. I believe they had T-33s, which were slow compared to T-38s.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 10/19/2015 08:05 PM

1-Was there a selection process similar to that for NASA astronauts?

2-Also, did the MOL astronauts have cover stories for use when on travel, etc.?


1-No. In fact, at least one of the MOL astronauts was told he had been selected and he had not even applied. Didn't mind that, but it was not like the NASA process--a number of the MOL guys were simply told that they were it.

2-Yes, according to an interview that Peterson did they had cover stories.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 10/19/2015 08:08 PM
Dr. Michael Yarymovych held several prominent leadership positions in the government, including assistant administrator of the U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration, chief scientist of the U.S. Air Force, director of NATO AGARD in Paris, France, deputy assistant secretary of the USAF for R&D, and technical director of the USAF Manned Orbital Laboratory. Before that, Yarymovych had several responsible positions with the NASA Headquarters Manned Space Flight Program involved with the Apollo lunar landing effort and initial definition studies of the Space Station and the Space Shuttle.

I interviewed Yarymovych many years ago. He was giving a closed-door briefing about MOL on Capitol Hill when he was handed a note that the program had been canceled. He told the members of Congress, who were very annoyed. He'll probably tell that story again.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: zubenelgenubi on 10/19/2015 09:03 PM
I interviewed Yarymovych many years ago. He was giving a closed-door briefing about MOL on Capitol Hill when he was handed a note that the program had been canceled. He told the members of Congress, who were very annoyed. He'll probably tell that story again.

A constitutional question:
Can Congress, via the power of the purse--to tax and spend, override an executive decision on whether and how much to spend on a classified or "black" program?

Or, to somewhat restate for a particular: How did the legislative branch make its collective will known on a national security issue as the funding or cancellation of MOL?

I assume closed hearings are one such method.

I know there are no budget line-items to make amendments to, because they are black programs.

Or is the answer that Congress is a rubber-stamp on these matters, annoyed or not?

Blackstar, thank you for answering my previous questions.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 10/19/2015 10:13 PM
A constitutional question:
Can Congress, via the power of the purse--to tax and spend, override an executive decision on whether and how much to spend on a classified or "black" program?

Or, to somewhat restate for a particular: How did the legislative branch make its collective will known on a national security issue as the funding or cancellation of MOL?

I assume closed hearings are one such method.

I know there are no budget line-items to make amendments to, because they are black programs.

Or is the answer that Congress is a rubber-stamp on these matters, annoyed or not?

Congress has kept alive defense programs that the executive branch has sought to kill. The V-22 is a great example. There are a number of others.

But as for classified programs, I suspect that it doesn't happen. First, not as many people are going to know about the program, so the constituency will not really be there. Second, Congress defers to the executive branch on classified matters. They assume that the president knows this stuff better.

MOL is an odd case. There was at least one member of Congress (I forget who) from Florida who was really annoyed that it was not launching out of Florida. Why was California getting the launch site when they had perfectly good infrastructure in his state? He held hearings and was a real pain about it. What I don't understand is why nobody was able to shut him down on the issue. Apparently nobody wanted to say "We need to fly in polar orbit to look down on the Soviet Union," although that seemed to be really obvious. Perhaps the guy understood exactly what was going on, but he was using the issue to extract concessions or engage in some kind of power play or something. I dunno. But it was a weird situation.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Michael Cassutt on 10/19/2015 10:53 PM

1-Was there a selection process similar to that for NASA astronauts?

2-Also, did the MOL astronauts have cover stories for use when on travel, etc.?


1-No. In fact, at least one of the MOL astronauts was told he had been selected and he had not even applied. Didn't mind that, but it was not like the NASA process--a number of the MOL guys were simply told that they were it.

2-Yes, according to an interview that Peterson did they had cover stories.

To the first, this is actually a no and yes.  In the fall of 1964, Chuck Yeager and Robert Buchanan, commandant and deputy commandant of the Aerospace Research Pilot School, were authorized (by AF Systems Command) to identify pilots for MOL.  They limited the pool to graduates or those about to graduate from ARPS, which gave them about fifty potential candidates.  They narrowed the list to 15 who were qualified, not too tall, available, and these fifteen were sent to Brooks AFB in late October 1964 for medicals.  A smaller number, on the order of ten, then faced a selection board at Andrews AFB.

Nine were assigned to the MOL program on a contingency basis, since the program had yet to receive formal approval.  The nine were the eight pilots eventually announced in November 1965, plus at least one other I have yet to identify with certainty.  (The candidates include Alexander Rupp, killed in a plane crash in the summer of 1965, Robert Beale, and Pete Knight, who was assigned to X-15 in early 1965.)

In August 1965, however, NASA began searching for more astronauts at the same time the Air Force was ramping up MOL.  (The program office wanted at least a dozen crew members.)  A joint solicitation was issued for pilots who had the option of applying for A) NASA or B) MOL or C) both.

Air Force and Navy test pilots who checked B and C wound up on the MOL path; 25 of them went through medical tests at Brooks in February 1966.  (According to their oral histories, Mattingly and Mitchell were in this group but were advised by a colleague at ARPS to shift there applications to the NASA track.)  In June the Systems Command board interviewed the finalists and selected 12 -- five ARPS graduates for immediate selection (MOL Group 2: Bobko, Crippen, Fullerton, Harstfield, Overmyer) and seven "contingency selects" who would attend ARPS beginning fall 1966.  This was MOL Group 3 and eventually produced Abrahamson, Herres, Lawrence, and Peterson.

Michael Cassutt
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Archibald on 10/20/2015 06:19 AM
About the T-38: one of the MOL astronaut, James Taylor, was killed in a T-38 crash in 1970. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_M._Taylor
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Proponent on 10/20/2015 10:08 AM
Really great article -- thanks!

Among other things, it is very interesting to read that astronauts' job was principally to look ahead along the ground track and ascertain which targets were free of cloud cover.  Presumably robotic spysats of the era lacked that capability and wasted much film on clouds.  Did film-return spysats develop the capability to avoid clouds at some point?  If so, was this a factor in MOL's cancelation?  Or were MOL's critics arguing that even if the robots snapped a lot of clouds, their much lower cost meant that, cloud-free image for cloud-free image, they were still cheaper than MOL?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Dalhousie on 10/20/2015 10:26 AM
I wonder if (true/false?) not having high-performance jets at hand made the travel, of which I assume was extensive, more difficult?

Apparently the jets available to the MOL astronauts were rather poor quality. I believe they had T-33s, which were slow compared to T-38s.

Why was this the case?  The T-38 was a standard air force trainer at this time, presumably in some numbers, and the T-33 was getting rather long in the tooth by the standards of the day.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 10/20/2015 01:21 PM

Why was this the case?  The T-38 was a standard air force trainer at this time, presumably in some numbers, and the T-33 was getting rather long in the tooth by the standards of the day.


Availability and cost would be the likely reasons.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Dalhousie on 10/21/2015 05:18 AM

Why was this the case?  The T-38 was a standard air force trainer at this time, presumably in some numbers, and the T-33 was getting rather long in the tooth by the standards of the day.


Availability and cost would be the likely reasons.

So NASA could afford T-38 trainers for its astronauts and the USAF could not, even though the T-38 was the standard advanced trainer at the time?  How many would they have needed? 
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 10/21/2015 12:33 PM
I think the Ai
So NASA could afford T-38 trainers for its astronauts and the USAF could not, even though the T-38 was the standard advanced trainer at the time?  How many would they have needed? 


I think the Air Force had other priorities. Remember they started buying them in 1961 as a much needed advanced trainer. Add in the needs of training new pilots for Vietnam and I think you have your answer. By the late 1960s Vietnam was chewing up pilots. To give you a personal example, my Grandfather flew in Korea and WWII was asked to reenlist. Sadly the physical flagged something that turned out to be cancer, but for that he would have gone.

T-38 production did not end until 1972, meaning the US Air Force had more demand than T-38s. NASA didn't have similar demands and had the budget to buy them.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 10/21/2015 03:13 PM
I think the Ai
So NASA could afford T-38 trainers for its astronauts and the USAF could not, even though the T-38 was the standard advanced trainer at the time?  How many would they have needed? 


I think the Air Force had other priorities. Remember they started buying them in 1961 as a much needed advanced trainer. Add in the needs of training new pilots for Vietnam and I think you have your answer. By the late 1960s Vietnam was chewing up pilots. To give you a personal example, my Grandfather flew in Korea and WWII was asked to reenlist. Sadly the physical flagged something that turned out to be cancer, but for that he would have gone.

T-38 production did not end until 1972, meaning the US Air Force had more demand than T-38s. NASA didn't have similar demands and had the budget to buy them.

Yeah. It's not a case of affording them, but of prioritizing them for MOL, which they didn't do. Remember that there was a war on.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 10/21/2015 03:14 PM
1-Also, will there be a web cast?  I only see mention of audio podcasts available post-lectures:
http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/TourPodcasts/Lecture.aspx (http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/TourPodcasts/Lecture.aspx)

2-Are any forum members attending this lecture?


1-No.

2-Yes.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Dalhousie on 10/21/2015 10:57 PM
I think the Ai
So NASA could afford T-38 trainers for its astronauts and the USAF could not, even though the T-38 was the standard advanced trainer at the time?  How many would they have needed? 


I think the Air Force had other priorities. Remember they started buying them in 1961 as a much needed advanced trainer. Add in the needs of training new pilots for Vietnam and I think you have your answer. By the late 1960s Vietnam was chewing up pilots. To give you a personal example, my Grandfather flew in Korea and WWII was asked to reenlist. Sadly the physical flagged something that turned out to be cancer, but for that he would have gone.

T-38 production did not end until 1972, meaning the US Air Force had more demand than T-38s. NASA didn't have similar demands and had the budget to buy them.

Thanks.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 10/22/2015 12:44 PM
Lots of new MOL documents are up:

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

And photos too:

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


Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 10/22/2015 01:30 PM
As proven before but confirmed by these documents, no MOL structural hardware was used on Skylab and that may be expanded to include all hardware upon further reading.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 10/22/2015 02:16 PM
As proven before but confirmed by these documents, no MOL structural hardware was used on Skylab and that may be expanded to include all hardware upon further reading.

I assume you mean documents like these. Looks like NASA got an IBM 360 out of it... Seems like many of the ground computers where in demand within both the Air Force and NASA

http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/mol/807.pdf
http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/mol/809.pdf
http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/mol/810.pdf
http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/mol/811.pdf
http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/mol/813.pdf
http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/mol/814.pdf
http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/mol/820.pdf
http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/mol/822.pdf


This one seems to list everything transferred to NASA. Notice included is waste management hardware and technology.
http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/mol/823.pdf
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 10/22/2015 04:52 PM
As proven before but confirmed by these documents, no MOL structural hardware was used on Skylab and that may be expanded to include all hardware upon further reading.

I assume you mean documents like these. Looks like NASA got an IBM 360 out of it... Seems like many of the ground computers where in demand within both the Air Force and NASA

http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/mol/807.pdf
http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/mol/809.pdf
http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/mol/810.pdf
http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/mol/811.pdf
http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/mol/813.pdf
http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/mol/814.pdf
http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/mol/820.pdf
http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/mol/822.pdf


This one seems to list everything transferred to NASA. Notice included is waste management hardware and technology.
http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/mol/823.pdf

Should have added flight hardware
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Ronpur50 on 10/23/2015 12:49 AM
Lots of new MOL documents are up:

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

And photos too:

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

20,681 pages.  Wow.  I have some light reading to do.

The photos are easier to digest.  Are most of the shots of the test vehicle that flew, or do we know?
I really love this photo.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Ronpur50 on 10/23/2015 01:16 AM
Is this artwork of a later design?

And the wind tunnel model has a lot of "bumps"!
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 10/23/2015 02:57 AM
I thought that second photo was the rocket assisted plumger used to get stuck astronauts through the tunnel ;)

Gawd, I wish I had time to really dig through this data dump, really, really wish.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 10/23/2015 02:59 AM
btw. That first photo looks like the "telescope" is pointed up. Maybe a proposed astronomy derivative?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 10/23/2015 03:09 AM
Is this artwork of a later design?


No. That is for a civilian proposal. The contractor really tried to pitch a MOL derivative to NASA. NASA was already working on the Apollo Applications Program, so I don't know why the contractor thought they might be interested.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 10/23/2015 03:13 AM
Apparently over 200 of the photos came from the Aerospace Corp.

Are there any good images of the camera system or the schematics released over a year ago? I have not had a chance to go through the material.

Re the Dayton discussion: Lots of people in attendance. Audio was lousy for the first half, improved for the second half. Abrahamson showed up, was not expected to make it here. Some good discussion. They gave out a MOL document collection book at the end. That is supposed to be available by pdf on the NRO website Friday in the morning.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kking on 10/23/2015 05:36 AM
I hope somebody recorded video. But I did find this news report

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PL7tKEe50q4

Kyle
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Proponent on 10/23/2015 08:54 AM
Do people in the know say "em-oh-ell" or "mol"?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 10/23/2015 10:07 AM
Do people in the know say "em-oh-ell" or "mol"?

They said "mole."
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: DatUser14 on 10/23/2015 12:44 PM
I went to the lecture. It was fascinating, but it seemed that the panelists Didn't answer much in the way of questions. Dr Yarymovych seemed to be the best speaker of the group. I think I saw a few NSFer's in the audience.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Ronpur50 on 10/23/2015 12:50 PM
Do people in the know say "em-oh-ell" or "mol"?

They said "mole."

Oh, OK, so I have been doing it wrong.....lol

This is a serious amount of documents to browse through.  I will be glad when I have some time off to read a few.  I am very excited. 
 
Was there any word on Gemini Spacecraft that may have been started before the cancellation?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Ronpur50 on 10/23/2015 12:59 PM

Are there any good images of the camera system or the schematics released over a year ago? I have not had a chance to go through the material.



I did not see any at that link.  They are mainly construction photos, crew cabin mockups, some training in a pool, and spacesuits.  There are some really great photos of old computers to enjoy as well.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: the_other_Doug on 10/23/2015 06:47 PM
Do people in the know say "em-oh-ell" or "mol"?

They said "mole."

Oh, OK, so I have been doing it wrong.....lol

Me, too.  I've always pronounced it "moll," as in a "gun moll."  Pronounced roughly the same as "mall," maybe a little rounder sound to the "o"...
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: catdlr on 10/23/2015 11:58 PM
1960s Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory Development | Declassified Video

Published on Oct 23, 2015
In this silent films from the records of the United States Air Force, parts of the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) spacecraft are showcased by men in white coats. According to the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the mission was "to place military personnel in orbit to conduct scientific experiments to determine the 'military usefulness' of placing man into space."

Source:
http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/MOL/molm.wmv (http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/MOL/molm.wmv)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yy-PtX6HxFU
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 10/25/2015 11:27 AM
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: simonbp on 10/25/2015 02:41 PM
Slightly cleaned up versions of the geosync command post from document #794, "General Electric Company Briefing Charts, Advanced MOL Planning; Missions and Systems". Note the use of laser comms!
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 10/25/2015 04:09 PM
Note that the advanced MOL planning document was actually completed after the program had already been canceled.

I've done a preliminary pass through the documents and when you do that you get a sense of how the program evolved. When it started out, the reconnaissance mission was more along the lines of "see what astronauts can do for reconnaissance." It then evolved into an operational mission in clear support of strategic reconnaissance requirements. But the number of qualification, manned, and unmanned flights was always shifting. It was not until around 1968 that they decided to go straight for manned flights with no qualification flights (I cannot remember if they also did away with the unmanned option, I'd have to check my notes). That delayed the program even more. In remarks on Thursday night, Abrahamson said that it immediately added a year onto their schedule (probably because they could not have all the operational equipment ready until later).

A number of things have impressed me from the documents. The document collection is quite comprehensive and covers a lot of material. What really comes through is just how complex MOL was. It was human spaceflight, SIGINT, radar, and high-performance optics, plus a near-real-time option. They seem to have bitten off more than they could chew, and they started eliminating some of those missions. The radar and SIGINT missions were eliminated. But the unmanned mission option in some ways added complexity to the overall program, because they now had to design for two different spacecraft, and consider retaining operability between the two (in other words, the ability to fly either manned or unmanned).

Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: simonbp on 10/25/2015 04:09 PM
As proven before but confirmed by these documents, no MOL structural hardware was used on Skylab and that may be expanded to include all hardware upon further reading.

I'm kind of surprised they didn't use the MOL airlock; that would have seemed to a logical transplant.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 10/25/2015 04:34 PM
The panel discussion. From left, Abrahamson, Bobko, Crews, NASA official Michael Yarymovych, Truly, Crippen. The two men on the right are from NRO.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 10/25/2015 04:55 PM
Note that the advanced MOL planning document was actually completed after the program had already been canceled.

Often things are left dangling like this to allow ambiguity and "plausible deniability" adaption. Once you know which way the script's doing to go, then you can articulate and fix for all time.

Quote
I've done a preliminary pass through the documents and when you do that you get a sense of how the program evolved. When it started out, the reconnaissance mission was more along the lines of "see what astronauts can do for reconnaissance." It then evolved into an operational mission in clear support of strategic reconnaissance requirements.

Not the way I read the documents.  Suggest "mission/scope creep" to an always operational program, where too many things might be changing in different related areas (technology, capability, need, means to address).

Quote
A number of things have impressed me from the documents. The document collection is quite comprehensive and covers a lot of material. What really comes through is just how complex MOL was. It was human spaceflight, SIGINT, radar, and high-performance optics, plus a near-real-time option. They seem to have bitten off more than they could chew, and they started eliminating some of those missions. The radar and SIGINT missions were eliminated.

Suggest that early in the program, all of this seemed to be of whole cloth, building upon the same platform with minor variation. But perhaps as the above mentioned creep occured, the cost and execution necessary to close the combined mission exploded on them. Complexity grew too fast. Like with following, overly ambitious programs as well?

Quote
But the unmanned mission option in some ways added complexity to the overall program, because they now had to design for two different spacecraft, and consider retaining operability between the two (in other words, the ability to fly either manned or unmanned).

Agree with this. Suggest once the two programs intersected, the manned program was on a short leash/life. Because the unmanned then need only mature and establish a believable timeline for improvement, with the manned program only serving to act as a budgetary reserve for the unmanned program to consume following cancellation.

Perhaps the better choice for AF was to fly the same hardware as a unmanned, docked with Gemini, much much earlier in the program, as a means of advancing systems check out, intelligence quality and assessment, with the longer term goal operations. However McNamara was skeptical of AF getting returns off of "non operational assets" like this might suggest. Also, the unmanned and manned sides, not to mention NASA, would likely still have fought the turf through not agreeing on scope/mission details, even though the needed experience might have advanced all programs equally for minimal near term investment in actual missions, instead of the bloated studies and erratic overdevelopment that did apparently occur - out too far in front of the headlights.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 10/26/2015 04:25 PM
Note that the document compendium that I mentioned earlier is here:

http://www.nro.gov/history/csnr/programs/docs/MOL_Compendium_August_2015.pdf

This is a 36-megabyte file, so be forewarned.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Michael Cassutt on 10/26/2015 06:00 PM
I think the Ai
So NASA could afford T-38 trainers for its astronauts and the USAF could not, even though the T-38 was the standard advanced trainer at the time?  How many would they have needed? 


I think the Air Force had other priorities. Remember they started buying them in 1961 as a much needed advanced trainer. Add in the needs of training new pilots for Vietnam and I think you have your answer. By the late 1960s Vietnam was chewing up pilots. To give you a personal example, my Grandfather flew in Korea and WWII was asked to reenlist. Sadly the physical flagged something that turned out to be cancer, but for that he would have gone.

T-38 production did not end until 1972, meaning the US Air Force had more demand than T-38s. NASA didn't have similar demands and had the budget to buy them.

Thanks.

The fascinating document dump from NRO on MOL turns up a few pages that address this question, Monthly Status Reports for 10/66, 11/66 and 01/67.  The MOL office originally wanted two F-104s and two T-38s based at Edwards, two T-39s at LAX, and five T-38s at NAS Los Alamitos.

HQ USAF and, based on a handwritten note, NRO Director Flax, thought this excessive or premature.  (At this time there were only seven MOL aerospace research pilots on station in Los Angeles, with five more then at Edwards.)

When finally approved, aircraft support for MOL was two T-38s at Edwards, one T-39 at LAX, and three T-33s eventually to be based at LAX.

Michael Cassutt
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 10/27/2015 02:28 AM
When finally approved, aircraft support for MOL was two T-38s at Edwards, one T-39 at LAX, and three T-33s eventually to be based at LAX.


It would not surprise me if the LAX-based planes were already at LAX. Los Angeles Air Force Base didn't/doesn't have a runway. Many major airports, even if they lack an Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard facility, often have a government hangar to support government planes. I would not be surprised if there was an LAAFB hangar at LAX that had a few planes for use by the generals and senior officers. The T-33s might have already been there and were simply given to the astronauts.

I think Truly told me that he thought the T-33s were crappy. Surely going from test pilot school to a slow T-33 must have seemed like a demotion.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Michael Cassutt on 10/28/2015 02:03 PM
Digging through last week's NRO releases I found this statement regarding MOL astronauts and their possible return to earth in hostile territory:

"MOL astronauts will be provided with no instructions, devices or equipments for purposes of bringing about their personal destruction in the event of incident. Any equipments provided to astronauts for purposes of survival, will undergo careful screening against a standard of practical application, to insure that the purpose of such equipments can logically be defended as not intended to bring about the death or injury of other-individuals, or to induce such individuals to act in a manner contrary to their allegiance."

So, no "suicide pill" for MOL astronauts -- and no "survival pistol".  (Use of plural is sic, btw.)

The statement (and entire policy) originated in the office of Alexander Flax, DNRO, on 28 December 1966, and was reproduced in an official AF policy statement dated January 1967.

http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/mol/321.pdf

Michael Cassutt
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 10/30/2015 02:51 AM
Audio of the panel discussion is now up:
 
http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Portals/7/av/mol_panel.mp3?ver=2015-10-28-121530-427
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 11/01/2015 06:12 PM
I'll have another MOL article in TSR on Monday. This is not part 2 of my MOL astronauts article (I still need to write that). Instead, this article looks at the program goals, costs, and schedule over its four-year duration. How much was it estimated to cost when it started? What was it estimated to cost when it ended? And how many manned MOL flights were planned at the start and by the cancellation?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Danderman on 11/02/2015 08:20 PM
I certainly can't find any support for the structures being transferred next door to Skylab, and the photography shows structural components very different from known Skylab hardware. However, those very same photos of hardware beg the question of what happened to them? So far, there is no mention of disposition of partially complete modules in any of the PDFs that I have read.

I wouldn't be surprised if they were absorbed by an unmanned program.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 11/02/2015 09:40 PM

I wouldn't be surprised if they were absorbed by an unmanned program.

No again.  There is no need for pressurized volumes  (especially 10' diameter) for unmanned programs.  There is nothing similar on Hexagon and the only other 10' diameter program, KH-11, would be more likely have hardware from it.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 11/03/2015 12:36 AM
Looking at the diagram of the telescope, can I ask a question?

Without numbers, it looks like the folding mirror is a much smaller diameter than the primary (which we know was 72"). Anyone know the size?

Also, f5/f6?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 11/03/2015 12:39 AM

I wouldn't be surprised if they were absorbed by an unmanned program.

No again.  There is no need for pressurized volumes  (especially 10' diameter) for unmanned programs.  There is nothing similar on Hexagon and the only other 10' diameter program, KH-11, would be more likely have hardware from it.

Ascension mini series on SciFi? Or would Capricorn One be more of Jim's time period ;)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: the_other_Doug on 11/03/2015 12:42 AM
I certainly can't find any support for the structures being transferred next door to Skylab, and the photography shows structural components very different from known Skylab hardware. However, those very same photos of hardware beg the question of what happened to them? So far, there is no mention of disposition of partially complete modules in any of the PDFs that I have read.

I wouldn't be surprised if they were absorbed by an unmanned program.

Let's be honest, guys -- once the program was canceled, the workshop hardware that was under construction was almost definitely scrapped.  Optics may have been recycled into other surveillance satellites, and installed electronic components and wiring may have been salvaged, but the pressure vessels, structural members, etc., probably went the same way as the LMs for Apollos 19 and 20 that had been started and not completed, i.e., into the scrap bins.

I know that a heck of a lot of the razor blades sold in the U.S. in the late 1940s were made from the recycled steel hulls of scrapped WWII naval destroyers; who knows, if you purchased lawn furniture in the 1970s, maybe it had a bit of the aluminum from the MOL structures in it... ;)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 11/03/2015 12:42 AM
New article is up:

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2858/1

Blue suits and red ink
Budget overruns and schedule slips of the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program

by Dwayne Day
Monday, November 2, 2015


In the late 1960s, Dr. John McLucas served as undersecretary of the Air Force and wore a dual hat as Director of the super-secret National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). McLucas had been involved in numerous air and space programs over many years, and he headed the NRO when the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) had run into major funding and schedule problems, resulting in Richard Nixon canceling it in summer 1969. MOL had been a big project officially approved by Lyndon Johnson in 1965. According to his 2006 memoir Reflections of a Technocrat (written with Kenneth J. Alnwick and Lawrence R. Benson), McLucas was not in favor of MOL and did not fight its cancellation. In the mid-1990s, in response to a question, McLucas remarked that his problem with MOL was that “It was always one year and one billion dollars from being ready.”
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 11/03/2015 01:00 AM
Let's be honest, guys -- once the program was canceled, the workshop hardware that was under construction was almost definitely scrapped.  Optics may have been recycled into other surveillance satellites, and installed electronic components and wiring may have been salvaged, but the pressure vessels, structural members, etc., probably went the same way as the LMs for Apollos 19 and 20 that had been started and not completed, i.e., into the scrap bins.

We do know the 72" primary mirrors where donated to NSF(?) and used for the MMT on Mount Hopkins in Arizona. They where removed in 1998 when a 6.5 meter spin cast mirror was made available by Roger Angel's team at UofA.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 11/03/2015 01:58 AM
We do know the 72" primary mirrors where donated to NSF(?) and used for the MMT on Mount Hopkins in Arizona. They where removed in 1998 when a 6.5 meter spin cast mirror was made available by Roger Angel's team at UofA.

Last I had heard the mirrors were still in storage at the base of the mountain. I asked somebody to photograph them for me (they're in crates, so not much to see), but they never came through.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Ronpur50 on 11/03/2015 04:33 AM
New article is up:

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2858/1

I don't know what you wrote in this article, but for some reason, I can't get it to open.  I hope you didn't put something still classified!  LOL.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kch on 11/03/2015 05:50 AM
New article is up:

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2858/1

I don't know what you wrote in this article, but for some reason, I can't get it to open.  I hope you didn't put something still classified!  LOL.

I'm having the same trouble ...

EDIT:  just tried going to the main page via search engine -- still won't open.  Wonder if the site's down?  Anybody else tried the article link?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Star One on 11/03/2015 06:34 AM

New article is up:

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2858/1

I don't know what you wrote in this article, but for some reason, I can't get it to open.  I hope you didn't put something still classified!  LOL.

I'm having the same trouble ...

EDIT:  just tried going to the main page via search engine -- still won't open.  Wonder if the site's down?  Anybody else tried the article link?

Same here can't get the link to open.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 11/03/2015 10:00 AM
Working for me... wonder if it was a temporary glitch.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Archibald on 11/03/2015 02:56 PM
Let's be honest, guys -- once the program was canceled, the workshop hardware that was under construction was almost definitely scrapped.  Optics may have been recycled into other surveillance satellites, and installed electronic components and wiring may have been salvaged, but the pressure vessels, structural members, etc., probably went the same way as the LMs for Apollos 19 and 20 that had been started and not completed, i.e., into the scrap bins.

We do know the 72" primary mirrors where donated to NSF(?) and used for the MMT on Mount Hopkins in Arizona. They where removed in 1998 when a 6.5 meter spin cast mirror was made available by Roger Angel's team at UofA.
Let's be honest, guys -- once the program was canceled, the workshop hardware that was under construction was almost definitely scrapped.  Optics may have been recycled into other surveillance satellites, and installed electronic components and wiring may have been salvaged, but the pressure vessels, structural members, etc., probably went the same way as the LMs for Apollos 19 and 20 that had been started and not completed, i.e., into the scrap bins.

We do know the 72" primary mirrors where donated to NSF(?) and used for the MMT on Mount Hopkins in Arizona. They where removed in 1998 when a 6.5 meter spin cast mirror was made available by Roger Angel's team at UofA.

Not only on the MMT: looks like someone else was given one of the MOL mirrors and build his own private telescope around it
https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=23864.msg1090815#msg1090815
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Ronpur50 on 11/04/2015 09:47 PM
Working for me... wonder if it was a temporary glitch.

It is working here now.

Edit: and a great article as well!
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Danderman on 11/04/2015 10:36 PM
My point concerning the remaining hardware is really just to note that so far, I have not found a document describing the disposition of the completed primary structures, although there are many that concern various computers.

I also saw in the photos that a large machine that produced a corregated  material for primary structures was being used - I think such material was used on later Titan flights for interstages, so perhaps the machinery lived on.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Jim on 11/05/2015 01:03 AM

I also saw in the photos that a large machine that produced a corregated  material for primary structures was being used - I think such material was used on later Titan flights for interstages, so perhaps the machinery lived on.

Titan was made by Martin, so no.  Additionally, there is no corrugated material on Titan.  And further more, it would not be able to be used in the role as an interstage.  The loads are completely different.

Just because the hardware existed at one time, doesn't mean it was reused or saved.  It all could have been scrapped
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 11/05/2015 01:07 AM
The building that McDonnell built for MOL assembly later got used for (I think) Delta II. So the facilities lived on.

If you look at the comments in my article, one anonymous poster who may know some stuff says that the contract termination costs were pretty high, so a lot of money went to that.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Danderman on 11/05/2015 02:03 PM
MOL was constructed in Huntington Beach in a building with at least 2 bays, one was used for MOL, the other for Skylab. The MOL bay was later used for DC-X.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: simonbp on 11/05/2015 02:31 PM
Let's be honest, guys -- once the program was canceled, the workshop hardware that was under construction was almost definitely scrapped.  Optics may have been recycled into other surveillance satellites, and installed electronic components and wiring may have been salvaged, but the pressure vessels, structural members, etc., probably went the same way as the LMs for Apollos 19 and 20 that had been started and not completed, i.e., into the scrap bins.

We do know the 72" primary mirrors where donated to NSF(?) and used for the MMT on Mount Hopkins in Arizona. They where removed in 1998 when a 6.5 meter spin cast mirror was made available by Roger Angel's team at UofA.

No, they were donated to the Smithsonian, which transferred them to the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO). SAO had already been looking at multi-mirror telescopes, and so when the MOL optics became available in 1970, they started discussions with the University of Arizona about building what became the original MMT.

https://www.mmto.org/node/288
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kevin-rf on 11/05/2015 02:53 PM
Thanks for the correction.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Archibald on 11/05/2015 04:10 PM
So only four Gemini-B ? The last NASA Gemini mission was late 1966, so the four ships must have followed them closely in order not to interrupt McDonnell Gemini production line. Perhaps those four Gemini-B were build in 1967, then placed into storage, waiting for the other half of MOL that was never build
(first flight was planned for 1971, so that would be four years spent in storage ? is that reasonnable ?)

The unmanned MOL is somewhat bizarre - better to spent the money on KH-8s that are already operational since 1966 and provide equal resolution of some inches.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 11/05/2015 05:51 PM
So only four Gemini-B ? The last NASA Gemini mission was late 1966, so the four ships must have followed them closely in order not to interrupt McDonnell Gemini production line. Perhaps those four Gemini-B were build in 1967, then placed into storage, waiting for the other half of MOL that was never build
(first flight was planned for 1971, so that would be four years spent in storage ? is that reasonnable ?)


There is no indication of any flight Gemini Bs built other than the mockups.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: jcm on 11/05/2015 06:25 PM
Let's be honest, guys -- once the program was canceled, the workshop hardware that was under construction was almost definitely scrapped.  Optics may have been recycled into other surveillance satellites, and installed electronic components and wiring may have been salvaged, but the pressure vessels, structural members, etc., probably went the same way as the LMs for Apollos 19 and 20 that had been started and not completed, i.e., into the scrap bins.

We do know the 72" primary mirrors where donated to NSF(?) and used for the MMT on Mount Hopkins in Arizona. They where removed in 1998 when a 6.5 meter spin cast mirror was made available by Roger Angel's team at UofA.

No, they were donated to the Smithsonian, which transferred them to the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO). SAO had already been looking at multi-mirror telescopes, and so when the MOL optics became available in 1970, they started discussions with the University of Arizona about building what became the original MMT.

https://www.mmto.org/node/288


I used the6-MOL-mirror MMT several times in the 1990s for spectroscopic observations of quasars. It was very
cool to watch the telescope operator sync up the mirrors every hour or so - on the video screen the six superimposed images
would whiz away from each other into a ring, then reconverge to a single point.

 We heard the scuttlebutt that the mirrors were from a USAF space program, but no-one here now seems to have been aware that it was MOL.
Probably Fred Whipple (director at the time) knew, he had connections with the DoD space folks dating back to his involvement
in the White Sands V-2 program. And Baker (of the Baker-Nunn) had CORONA connections so it's possiblehe was involved.

Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: kking on 11/05/2015 11:32 PM
I am wondering about something. I just watched Astrospies again, I wonder how come we didn't training films on the NRO site along with the 3 minute film that is there. Plus I would love to see film or video of the November 1966 launch. If the NRO has it, I hope they put it online someday. The films would have to be declassified or it wouldn't be in Astrospies.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 11/06/2015 03:00 AM
I am wondering about something. I just watched Astrospies again, I wonder how come we didn't training films on the NRO site along with the 3 minute film that is there. Plus I would love to see film or video of the November 1966 launch. If the NRO has it, I hope they put it online someday. The films would have to be declassified or it wouldn't be in Astrospies.

There's more material available than what the NRO put out. But what they released is primarily new stuff, not things that were previously available.

I've got a ton of stuff that they didn't access and release. For instance, I've got several thousand pages of early documentation on the program that does not mention the optical system. Also a lot of photos of underwater stuff. And I don't think they released photos of the astronaut class. Los Angeles AFB should have some of that stuff and I don't think it made it into the NRO release.

What they released is great stuff. It's a really good and extensive collection. But there's other stuff that is out there to find. (Personally, I think one area deserving more attention is the work that went into the construction of SLC-6, including the land seizures. There's a story to be told there.)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Archibald on 11/06/2015 01:41 PM
From the MOL compendium document

Quote
Subsequently, at Hubbard’s suggestion, NASA awarded a study contract to Eastman Kodak (20 January 1970) to undertake a rigorous analysis of what astronomical use could be made of MOL hardware.
The equipment, meanwhile, was stored at the Eastman facility pending NASA’s review of the study and its decision about a future approach.11

The mind wonder... what influence did the MOL (for example, the 72 inch mirrors) had on the Large Space Telescope (not Hubble yet) ?
Early on Hubble mirror was to be 120 inch (3 m) in diameter. Then it was downsized to 94 inch (2. 4 m)

Perhaps NASA briefly considered a "Hubble demonstrator" with a 72 inch mirror borrowed from the MOL ? (this echoes the 2012 FIA satellites to be turned into WFIRST)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Hoonte on 11/09/2015 10:11 AM
Where there any experiments done on one of the Gemini flights concerning MOL?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 11/09/2015 11:53 AM
Where there any experiments done on one of the Gemini flights concerning MOL?

At least some of the experiments that were originally planned for MOL, such as the maneuvering unit, were transferred over to Gemini. I don't know when or why all that happened, but it may be in the documents that were released.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Hoonte on 11/09/2015 01:40 PM
Where there any experiments done on one of the Gemini flights concerning MOL?

At least some of the experiments that were originally planned for MOL, such as the maneuvering unit, were transferred over to Gemini. I don't know when or why all that happened, but it may be in the documents that were released.

Aah. I had always wondered why the AMU flew on 9a. Was this already a long known fact that it was linked to MOL or did this just came public on the recent release of MOL documents?
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 11/09/2015 01:45 PM
Where there any experiments done on one of the Gemini flights concerning MOL?

At least some of the experiments that were originally planned for MOL, such as the maneuvering unit, were transferred over to Gemini. I don't know when or why all that happened, but it may be in the documents that were released.

Aah. I had always wondered why the AMU flew on 9a. Was this already a long known fact that it was linked to MOL or did this just came public on the recent release of MOL documents?

Known for a long time. I have a list of original MOL experiments that I think I posted up-thread. It was one of the original ones on there.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: the_other_Doug on 11/10/2015 05:45 AM
Well... I will just add that the AMU, as the major Air Force engineering experiment planned as part of mainline Gemini, was also a legacy of a pre-MOL attempt by DoD to engineer Gemini into a half-NASA, half-Air Force program.  With alternating flights being manned by NASA and Air Force crews, no less.  This trial balloon was quickly shot down pretty thoroughly, but it left as a legacy a joint NASA/Air Force Experiments Planning Board (downgraded from the original board that was supposed to jointly manage the entire program), which primarily worked on getting AMU and a few more minor Air Force/DoD experiments onto the Gemini flight program.

So, even had MOL never been approved and funded as a program, I'm thinking that AMU would have been included in the Gemini program anyway.  Hard to say, though, how hard the Air Force would have pushed for it had they known that MOL would never fly.

Other DoD experiments during Gemini likely were in direct support of MOL development and planning, though.  I recall one experiment, that was flown on at least two flights, in which one of the crew would try and locate ground features by naked eye, and the other would try to locate the same features through a video camera/monitor system.  That sounds like a pretty well-directed experiment to determine whether or not a planned MOL video monitoring (or perhaps sighting) system would give fine enough resolution for the MOL crews to find it useful, as opposed to needing to develop some kind of purely optical sighting system.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Proponent on 11/10/2015 09:47 AM
I believe the Titan 34D was based on components developed for MOL's Titan 3M.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Antilope7724 on 12/09/2015 12:01 AM
McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co (MDAC) was a major contractor for
the Manned Orbiting Laboratory and also for the Apollo Applications Program (AAP)
which became Skylab.

On November 5, 1969 there were Congressional hearings where MDAC was questioned
about the cancellation of MOL and the transfer of MOL hardware to the AAP program.

Here's a link to a printed copy of those congressional hearings. I have also
included a a graphic slide and testimony text concerning the transfer of
MOL hardware to the AAP program (pages 330 and 331).

Google scanned the document and it is available at the Hathi Trust website.
This may only be viewable from within the U.S. due to copyright issues.

Link to congressional hearing testimony about MDAC transfer of MOL hardware to AAP - page 325 to 331
http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112104054538;view=1up;seq=335
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Archibald on 12/09/2015 07:26 AM
Quote
Hathi Trust website

Looks like a treasure trove, I have to do some extended research through it
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Antilope7724 on 12/11/2015 12:37 AM
Manned Orbiting Laboratory Launch facilities...

Hearing, Eighty-ninth Congress, second session, February 24, 1966,

"Launch facilities for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program." 81 pages

http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b642824;view=1up;seq=5 (http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b642824;view=1up;seq=5)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 05/11/2016 07:44 PM
Does anybody remember seeing any mention of the "DONKEY" payload in the MOL documents? D ONKEY was a comint payload that was started as part of MOL, but then removed from MOL and flown on an Agena signals intelligence satellite instead. I have some material on it, but I'm trying to remember if any of the 800-plus MOL documents refer to DONKEY. Any tips?


Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Antilope7724 on 05/12/2016 02:31 AM
Does anybody remember seeing any mention of the "D ONKEY" payload in the MOL documents? D ONKEY was a comint payload that was started as part of MOL, but then removed from MOL and flown on an Agena signals intelligence satellite instead. I have some material on it, but I'm trying to remember if any of the 800-plus MOL documents refer to D ONKEY. Any tips?



A Google search brought up this PDF document that mentions DONKEY AND DORIAN  on the same page of an intelligence report, but in this document, they appear to be separate projects.

http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/aftrack/51.pdf (http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/aftrack/51.pdf)

Here is a PDF document that mentions DONKEY and MOL.

http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/aftrack/49.pdf (http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/aftrack/49.pdf)

Mention of DONKEY and MOL on PDF page 18 (document page 136):

http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/aftrack/56.pdf (http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/aftrack/56.pdf)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 05/12/2016 03:52 AM
Thanks. I've got those. They are from the AFTRACK collection. I'm wondering if there is something in the MOL document collection that I've missed.

DONKEY is a bit confusing based upon those sources. The history indicates that it started as a MOL program and was then spun off. But document 49 above implies that it may have been parallel or augmenting the MOL sigint program. I think it was the former, and that the document is simply badly worded.

Note that DONKEY had a 6-foot parabolic dish and the SQUARE TWENTY comint payload had a 10-foot parabolic dish.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Ronpur50 on 07/22/2016 10:02 PM
Mike Jenne, author of the Blue Gemini novels took a trip to Huntsville and photographed the adapter for the Gemini-B mockup.  It is sitting in the grass with a bunch of weeds growing inside of it.  He is hoping to organize a restoration, and perhaps it can be reunited with it's capsule mockup in Dayton. 

http://mikejennebooks.com/gemini_b_pics.htm
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 08/23/2016 09:09 PM
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/3049/1

Through the looking glass
by Dwayne Day
Monday, August 22, 2016

The Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) was expensive, especially for a military space program that was already expanding rapidly in the 1960s while the Vietnam War was ramping up. Although nowhere near as pricey as Apollo, MOL was still a substantial expenditure, involving the procurement of a major optical system, human spaceflight systems—including Gemini spacecraft—and new large rockets to boost MOL into orbit. By the time it was canceled in summer 1969, MOL’s price tag had doubled to more than $3 billion, and its schedule had repeatedly slipped.

When it was canceled, program officials sought out potential customers of the MOL hardware that had already been built. MOL officials within the secret National Reconnaissance Office that was responsible for it made inquiries to NASA offering their hardware and large optics technology, trying to make lemonade out of the lemons of the cancellation decision. Among the most expensive and unique pieces of MOL hardware were more than half a dozen large mirrors that were a key component in MOL’s large KH-10 DORIAN camera system.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 08/23/2016 09:58 PM
I should add that a little bird gave me the idea to write that article. I wrote an article about MOL and the MMT back in 2009:

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1371/1

That was long before the October 2015 MOL declassification. When the NRO declassified a bunch of MOL documents, among them were a bunch about what to do with MOL hardware. There was also a document about Project COLT, which was the proposal to use the MOL mirrors in a ground-based telescope. I saw those documents at the time and thought they were interesting, but somebody reminded me of them and so I decided to write an article.

The connection between reconnaissance programs and astronomy is worth further attention.
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Archibald on 08/24/2016 11:20 AM
The key person that connected MOL to MMT was Aden Meinel. I wonder how he handled all that highly classified secrecy surrounding the NRO, an agency which was known to exist since the 70's but was only revealed by the U.S government in 1992.

It would be interesting to known what legal punishment would have happened to someone revealing the NRO existence and details to the outside world (I don't mean a Soviet spy, rather a poor shmo telling too much to his family or friends by mistake)
National trahison ?

(by the way, was disclosure of the NRO allowed by the end of Cold War ? I mean, had Cold War not stopped, would the NRO very existence remained classified ?)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Blackstar on 08/24/2016 12:20 PM
It would be interesting to known what legal punishment would have happened to someone revealing the NRO existence and details to the outside world (I don't mean a Soviet spy, rather a poor shmo telling too much to his family or friends by mistake)
National trahison ?

(by the way, was disclosure of the NRO allowed by the end of Cold War ? I mean, had Cold War not stopped, would the NRO very existence remained classified ?)

Several things:

-If a contractor who had access to the NRO revealed the existence of the NRO publicly during the Cold War, the most likely punishment would have been revoking security clearances and firing the employee. Only if they revealed a lot of information would they have been arrested. There is always the desire of the government to minimize how much information gets revealed and how public everything is. Usually they wanted to bury the issue, not draw attention to it. With rare exceptions.

-Like many of these issues (Area 51 is a great case) people don't realize that with declassification it is rarely like night and day, off and on--it is almost never the case that nothing is known or public, and then suddenly the government declassifies something. So in the case of the NRO, the existence of satellite reconnaissance had been publicly revealed by the U.S. government in the later 1970s. I think that the name of the organization was also publicly revealed then as well. So there was government confirmation of this stuff (not just leaks) long before 1992. Same was true of the KH-11, which was mentioned in publicly released documents long before it started showing up in NRO brochures. (Area 51 is the same way--there were actually press releases about the Groom Lake base in the 1950s. It was not a complete dark secret.)

Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: gosnold on 08/24/2016 06:12 PM
Interesting, as said in the article the NRO may have been using this as a proof of concept for segmented apertures, as a precursor to the segmented mirror space telescope demonstrator:
http://www.nps.edu/About/News/NPS-New-Home-for-Giant-Segmented-Mirror-Space-Telescope-.html (http://www.nps.edu/About/News/NPS-New-Home-for-Giant-Segmented-Mirror-Space-Telescope-.html)
Title: Re: MOL discussion
Post by: Hoonte on 10/14/2016 10:11 AM
Maybe a bit side tracking but is this a mol suit? From a 1991 documentary at 27:40



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcVUXhefYvc