Author Topic: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?  (Read 17430 times)

Offline Nickolai

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To mirror the thread "worst decision in US space history?" http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=31200.0

Curious as to people's thoughts on the decisions on the other side of the iron curtain.

Offline Nickolai

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #1 on: 02/25/2013 07:52 pm »
A few come to mind, Soyuz-1, not performing full up first stage testing on the N-1, Buran, and I can't say I fully understand the necessity of building a cosmodrome in the Russian far east given its expense.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #2 on: 02/25/2013 07:55 pm »
They may have been able to beat the Americans to going around the Moon if they had worked a little harder on Proton and/or LEO rendezvous. Also, N-1, as they say, should've been ground-tested if done at all.
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To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline Nickolai

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #3 on: 02/25/2013 07:57 pm »
You could even go back to before WWII and say that the decision to imprison Korolev was the worst. It's especially ironic that his death during a relatively routine operation was precipitated by injuries he suffered during his imprisonment.

Offline R7

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #4 on: 02/25/2013 08:14 pm »
You could even go back to before WWII and say that the decision to imprison Korolev was the worst.
This.
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Offline rklaehn

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #5 on: 02/25/2013 08:31 pm »
Sending Korolev to the gulag. Everything else pales in comparison.
Try the ISS 3D visualization at http://www.heavens-above.com/ISS_3D.aspx

Offline RyanC

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #6 on: 02/25/2013 08:34 pm »
Curious as to people's thoughts on the decisions on the other side of the iron curtain.

1A The Korolev/Glushko slapfight over Kerolox vs Hypergols, resulting in the incredibly complex N1 booster.

or

1B Not properly funding the N1 test and development program; a lot of the N1 failures would have been caught on the ground if there had been a capability to do hotfires of stages on the ground before the full up launches.

Offline IRobot

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #7 on: 02/25/2013 08:49 pm »
N1 was not a decision, it was a rocket. It was a bad rocket but a good decision. I would say Buran/Energia, a good vehicle but without a purpose.

Offline spectre9

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #8 on: 02/25/2013 09:18 pm »
Looking at shuttle and thinking "we want one too".  ::)

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #9 on: 02/25/2013 09:24 pm »
Looking at shuttle and thinking "we want one too".  ::)
Without it, Shuttle wouldn't have visited Mir, Mir would've suffered, and we may not have an ISS or even, necessarily, an active Russian space program. Also, we wouldn't have Zenit (or probably Antares or maybe even Falcon 9, which really looks like it takes a lot of inspiration from Zenit). Then again, Buran had a significant opportunity cost.

Best decision they made: not getting rid of Soyuz during the run-up to Buran.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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

Offline RyanC

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #10 on: 02/25/2013 09:33 pm »
N1 was not a decision, it was a rocket. It was a bad rocket but a good decision.

If N1 had worked well enough; that would have changed a lot of the later 'feel' of the space programs on both sides from the 1970s onwards, and that has 'knock on' effects on the Cold War if Soviet Cosmonauts walk on the moon at some point.

Offline Nickolai

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #11 on: 02/25/2013 09:42 pm »
Looking at shuttle and thinking "we want one too".  ::)
Without it, Shuttle wouldn't have visited Mir, Mir would've suffered, and we may not have an ISS or even, necessarily, an active Russian space program. Also, we wouldn't have Zenit (or probably Antares or maybe even Falcon 9, which really looks like it takes a lot of inspiration from Zenit). Then again, Buran had a significant opportunity cost.

Best decision they made: not getting rid of Soyuz during the run-up to Buran.

Shuttle-Mir had nothing whatsoever to do with Energiya-Buran, it could/would still have happened without it. Same for ISS and active Russian space program (actually, had they not spent so much, we might see an even more active Russian space program today).

We would not have had Zenit, true. Antares uses NK-33 engines which came from the N-1 program, not Energiya-Buran.

I share your sentiment that Falcon 9 looks a lot like an American version of Zenit, but I highly doubt that was their motivation when building it. They had their own requirements for mass to orbit and their own capabilities vis-a-vis the Merlin engines in terms of power. Remember they also planned a Falcon 5 for some time, which doesn't look much like Zenit at all, before cancelling it for Falcon 9.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #12 on: 02/25/2013 09:52 pm »
Antares' first stage is made by the same firm that made Zenit, and it's been described as a "mini-Zenit."

Shuttle used Buran's actual docking unit, taken out of the Orbiter. The APAS docking adapter is Russian. Sure, it could've still happened, but less likely to have happened. Same with ISS.

And the initial concept of operations for Falcon 9 were modeled somewhat after the highly automated Zenit roll-out, horizontal integration, etc.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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

Offline Patchouli

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #13 on: 02/25/2013 09:52 pm »
Sending Korolev to the gulag. Everything else pales in comparison.

It was partly responsible for his early death.

Without Korolev the Soviet space program lost it's leadership.

Looking at shuttle and thinking "we want one too".  ::)


 Buran and Energia were not failures themselves and the program simply ended because of the breakup of the USSR.

It really is a miracle anything survived.



« Last Edit: 02/25/2013 09:55 pm by Patchouli »

Offline Patchouli

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #14 on: 02/25/2013 09:57 pm »
Antares' first stage is made by the same firm that made Zenit, and it's been described as a "mini-Zenit."

Shuttle used Buran's actual docking unit, taken out of the Orbiter. The APAS docking adapter is Russian. Sure, it could've still happened, but less likely to have happened. Same with ISS.

And the initial concept of operations for Falcon 9 were modeled somewhat after the highly automated Zenit roll-out, horizontal integration, etc.

Much of Falcon 9 was inspired by Zenit.

Some of it also was inspired by the Saturn IB.

Offline Hyperion5

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #15 on: 02/25/2013 10:27 pm »
They may have been able to beat the Americans to going around the Moon if they had worked a little harder on Proton and/or LEO rendezvous. Also, N-1, as they say, should've been ground-tested if done at all.

The Soviets had neither the infrastructure nor the time to build it.  If you watch the documentary "The Engines that came in from the Cold", they talk about how Russian engineers in those times tested their hardware by actually flying it.  To beat the US to the moon, they literally had to fly their designs first.  On that topic, was it a huge mistake on Korolev's part not to follow Glushko's advice and build the UR-700?  That was a 10 million lb hypergolic monster with the equivalent of nine F-1 class engines firing at liftoff.  I've always wondered if the Soviets had gone the "easy route", would they have been successful?

The UR-700 would have actually been barely more capable to the moon than the Saturn V (50 mt vs 45-47 mt). The question is, could Glushko have delivered? 

Looking at shuttle and thinking "we want one too".  ::)

Not necessarily if you look at all the hardware they got out of that.  They got a new launcher (Zenit) along with valuable hydrolox engine tech (that leads to the new RD-0146 family for Angaras) and the ever-growing RD-170 family.  Just the RD-170 family alone has given them a significant payoff, as there's are quad-chamber versions (RD-170/171/171M), a dual-chamber version (RD-180), and now single-chamber versions (RD-151/191), and more variants seem to be appearing every day (RD-193/RD-175/possible methalox RD-191M).  This engine family alone may soon be powering Soyuz rockets (RD-193), it will be powering Angaras (RD-191), and the Naro (RD-151), Atlas V (RD-180), and Zenit-3 (RD-171M) rockets all rely upon the family for thrust.  It's a family that's earned them a lot of repeat business and performed very well and very reliably.  Look no further than the Atlas V for proof of both. 

« Last Edit: 02/25/2013 10:29 pm by Hyperion5 »

Offline Patchouli

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #16 on: 02/25/2013 10:33 pm »
They may have been able to beat the Americans to going around the Moon if they had worked a little harder on Proton and/or LEO rendezvous. Also, N-1, as they say, should've been ground-tested if done at all.

The Soviets had neither the infrastructure nor the time to build it.  If you watch the documentary "The Engines that came in from the Cold", they talk about how Russian engineers in those times tested their hardware by actually flying it.  To beat the US to the moon, they literally had to fly their designs first.  On that topic, was it a huge mistake on Korolev's part not to follow Glushko's advice and build the UR-700?  That was a 10 million lb hypergolic monster with the equivalent of nine F-1 class engines firing at liftoff.  I've always wondered if the Soviets had gone the "easy route", would they have been successful?

The UR-700 would have actually been barely more capable to the moon than the Saturn V (50 mt vs 45-47 mt). The question is, could Glushko have delivered? 

Looking at shuttle and thinking "we want one too".  ::)

Not necessarily if you look at all the hardware they got out of that.  They got a new launcher (Zenit) along with valuable hydrolox engine tech (that leads to the new RD-0146 family for Angaras) and the ever-growing RD-170 family.  Just the RD-170 family alone has given them a significant payoff, as there's are quad-chamber versions (RD-170/171/171M), a dual-chamber version (RD-180), and now single-chamber versions (RD-151/191), and more variants seem to be appearing every day (RD-193/RD-175/possible methalox RD-191M).  This engine family alone may soon be powering Soyuz rockets (RD-193), it will be powering Angaras (RD-191), and the Naro (RD-151), Atlas V (RD-180), and Zenit-3 (RD-171M) rockets all rely upon the family for thrust.  It's a family that's earned them a lot of repeat business and performed very well and very reliably.  Look no further than the Atlas V for proof of both. 



The UR-700 likely would have had many of the same issues the of the N-1.
Though it would have eliminated one of them the need to build the stages on site in what were fairly primitive conditions.

A more recent mistake of the Russian space program was not finishing Soyuz-K and Klipper.

They could have been at the orbital test flight stage by now if they stuck with a design vs try and follow the ADD of US space policy.

« Last Edit: 02/25/2013 10:43 pm by Patchouli »

Offline Quindar Beep

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #17 on: 02/25/2013 11:21 pm »
Buran (and that specifically in contrast to Energia/Buran). It ate up a large part of the Soviet space budget and had no purpose as they were also continuing to use expendable launchers. Those were cheaper to use than the US Shuttle and so probably would have been cheaper than the Soviet one.

Energia was an inspired bit of following the letter of the law while breaking the spirit on the part of Glushko, but if it hadn't had to lift an orbiter the USSR would have had a super-heavy launcher several years before they did.

Offline Patchouli

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #18 on: 02/25/2013 11:40 pm »
Buran (and that specifically in contrast to Energia/Buran). It ate up a large part of the Soviet space budget and had no purpose as they were also continuing to use expendable launchers. Those were cheaper to use than the US Shuttle and so probably would have been cheaper than the Soviet one.

Energia was an inspired bit of following the letter of the law while breaking the spirit on the part of Glushko, but if it hadn't had to lift an orbiter the USSR would have had a super-heavy launcher several years before they did.

Energia was a super heavy lifter who's capacity was similar to the Saturn INT-21.
The fully developed inline version would have been the most powerful LV to fly.

Without Buran Energia may have never been built as a payload is needed to create the need for the LV.

The program did not die of natural causes but instead was killed by larger economic and political events ie the breakup of the Soviet Union.
The cost of the space program was a minor contributor in light of other issues the cost of the arms race agianst the US, a loosing war in Afghanistan,the cost of maintaining puppet governments inside the iron curtain, and general corruption within the Soviet government.
The Soviet Afghan war was esp costly for them and is often referred to as the Soviet's Vietnam or the Bear Trap.
« Last Edit: 02/25/2013 11:49 pm by Patchouli »

Offline Davd

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #19 on: 02/26/2013 02:46 am »
They may have been able to beat the Americans to going around the Moon if they had worked a little harder on Proton and/or LEO rendezvous. Also, N-1, as they say, should've been ground-tested if done at all.

Quote
The Soviets had neither the infrastructure nor the time to build it.  If you watch the documentary "The Engines that came in from the Cold", they talk about how Russian engineers in those times tested their hardware by actually flying it.  To beat the US to the moon, they literally had to fly their designs first.

They had a way smaller budget than the US program, but I think at the end of the day Soviet technology just wasn't up to the enormous challenge of a manned lunar landing (as you pointed out, a circumlunar mission on the 7K-L1 may have been feasible if Proton had worked reliably). The engineers complained how their US counterparts each had their own computer console in the blockhouse and numerous other technical advantages. It was not only an unrealistic goal, but a severely rushed, half-arsed one at that.

Quote
On that topic, was it a huge mistake on Korolev's part not to follow Glushko's advice and build the UR-700?  That was a 10 million lb hypergolic monster with the equivalent of nine F-1 class engines firing at liftoff.  I've always wondered if the Soviets had gone the "easy route", would they have been successful?

UR-700 seems like a better design than the N-1, although the overall Soviet technological deficiencies still probably would have gotten in the way. Remember: it takes a lot more than just the launch vehicle to get to the moon and back. The spacecraft itself has to work and there's no guarantee that the Soyuz LOK and lunar module were safe to fly in either. They could have gotten to the moon and the cosmonauts get stuck there due to an engine failing to fire or numerous other maladies.

Also a low-altitude UR-700 failure would not have been a particularly nice situation with its huge load of toxic propellants.

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