Author Topic: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?  (Read 17435 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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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.

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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.

Offline Davd

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #20 on: 02/26/2013 03:07 am »
Worst Soviet/Russian space decisions:

*Unrealistic programs that were beyond their technical capabilities (manned lunar flights, Mars landers)
*Going ahead with Soyuz 1 even after prior unmanned tests clearly demonstrated that it was not ready or safe to fly with a human passenger
*Too much use of automated flight that left cosmonauts without sufficient experience there
*Equipping N1 with way too many engines for it to possibly work
*Continuing to operate Mir long after it was past its design lifespan and starting to turn into a safety hazard
*Pressing Proton into service before it was fully debugged or reliable enough to commit to operational space launches
*Buran (pointless)

And as someone already said, ruining Korolev's health by imprisoning him in the Gulag.

Offline savuporo

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #21 on: 02/26/2013 03:26 am »
Not building a Lunokhod-3. Stopping at Luna-24.
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Offline Archibald

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #22 on: 02/26/2013 10:53 am »
By far: Buran

some young mathematicians at Keldysh institute found that the US shuttle lifting off from Vandenberg, can drop a nuclear bomb on Moscow - sneaking between the SAMs and ABM-135 defense systems for a decapitation strike.
Keldysh tell that to Brezhnev; Breznhev answer "ok, so let's build a carbon copy of that american shuttle".
End result: Energia - Buran, billion of rubbles spend for nothing, Mir delayed, no successor to Soyuz.

Second worse: Ustinov hate against Chelomey forever precluding manned flights of the TKS.
« Last Edit: 02/26/2013 10:53 am by Archibald »
...you have been found guilty by the elders of the forum of a (imaginary) vendetta against Saint Elon - BLAAASPHEMER !

Offline SalemHanna

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #23 on: 02/26/2013 10:59 am »
Scrapping the Energia booster along with the Buran programme was the Soviet Union/Russia's biggest mistake.

They already had a manned vehicle (Soyuz), an orbital research platform (Mir) and a resupply ship (Progress). So they didn't need a large spaceplane.

But no-one else in the world had a booster of Energia's capability; it really deserved to be developed further and would have been useful in ISS construction and Mars missions. 
Apollo, Soyuz, Shuttle...SKYLON.

Offline Star One

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #24 on: 02/26/2013 01:23 pm »
Not building a Lunokhod-3. Stopping at Luna-24.

I would add not continuing on with their Venus exploration program, they should have stayed focus on Venus rather than the shift back to Mars & its satellites that occurred.

Offline Dmitry_V_home

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #25 on: 02/26/2013 02:48 pm »
If to speak shortly, that a big mistake of the USSR was lack of the correct strategy in space. From the technical point of view, the N1 and the Buran projects   were the greatest mistakes. Both programs didn't correspond to requirements and country opportunities. IMHO.

Offline Davd

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #26 on: 02/27/2013 01:23 am »
If to speak shortly, that a big mistake of the USSR was lack of the correct strategy in space. From the technical point of view, the N1 and the Buran projects   were the greatest mistakes. Both programs didn't correspond to requirements and country opportunities. IMHO.

N1 was fine from a conceptual standpoint, but the execution was anything but. Buran was totally pointless except from a Cold War d--- waving stance. "Hey Americans, look we can build a shuttle too!"

Offline Dmitry_V_home

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #27 on: 02/27/2013 03:22 pm »

N1 was fine from a conceptual standpoint, but the execution was anything but. Buran was totally pointless except from a Cold War d--- waving stance. "Hey Americans, look we can build a shuttle too!"

The H1 project was a basic mistake, irrespective of a technical plan. It withdrew resources which could be used with bigger advantage from the Soviet astronautics.

Offline Danderman

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #28 on: 02/27/2013 10:42 pm »
First off, decisions without funding aren't decisions, they are opinions, so some of the "decisions" that were pretty bad, like those made by the Powers That Were in 1966 to fly around the Moon in 1967, or in 1968 to land on the Moon the next year weren't really decisions. The reality was that lack of real decision making capability is what killed the Soviets in regards to their "Challenge to Apollo".

And yes, isolating a real decision means that the decision to fly Soyuz-1 was pretty bad, pretty much a Challenger-level screw-up.

The decision to kill Mir in 2001 was pretty bad, although defensible.

The decision not to put a large cryogenic second stage on Zenit as a pathfinder to Energia had long term and short term consequences. If that stage were on hand today, Roskosmos would not be chasing its tail right now.


« Last Edit: 02/27/2013 10:42 pm by Danderman »

Offline Davd

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #29 on: 02/28/2013 04:12 am »
First off, decisions without funding aren't decisions, they are opinions, so some of the "decisions" that were pretty bad, like those made by the Powers That Were in 1966 to fly around the Moon in 1967, or in 1968 to land on the Moon the next year weren't really decisions. The reality was that lack of real decision making capability is what killed the Soviets in regards to their "Challenge to Apollo".

Without Korolev, the Soviet program was a chicken running around with its head cut off.

Quote
And yes, isolating a real decision means that the decision to fly Soyuz-1 was pretty bad, pretty much a Challenger-level screw-up.

I mean, really. The flights of Kosmos 133 and 140 should have been an instant red flag that Soyuz was not safe for a manned flight yet.

Quote
The decision to kill Mir in 2001 was pretty bad, although defensible.

Mir needed to go. It was way past its expiration date and turning into a safety hazard (not to mention the butt of jokes on late-night TV). In a way, the later career of Mir was symbolic of the whole disaster that was Yeltsin-era Russia.

Offline RocketmanUS

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #30 on: 02/28/2013 04:25 am »
Trying to follow America and not doing their own thing.

Soyuz was one of their right things they did on a positive note.

Offline Dmitry_V_home

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #31 on: 02/28/2013 02:27 pm »
Without Korolev, the Soviet program was a chicken running around with its head cut off.

It and at the Korolyov was same. The Korolyov's program was logical and internally consistent. But it didn't lean on real resources of the USSR.

Offline SalemHanna

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #32 on: 03/01/2013 10:43 pm »
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.

I'll mirror the same post I used for the American version of this thread:

Not joining forces fully with the United States and other spacefaring nations immediately after the Apollo-Soyuz flight in 1975.

Think about it:

- It could have helped end the Cold War sooner
- We could have had an international space station 20 years earlier. No duplication of efforts with Mir, Skylab, the latter Salyuts etc.
- The Soviets wouldn't have wasted billions of roubles on a giant spaceplane that they didn't need if they had access to American hardware
- The money saved by both nations could have easily been ploughed into an international mission to Mars by now.
Apollo, Soyuz, Shuttle...SKYLON.

Offline Nickolai

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #33 on: 03/02/2013 03:22 am »
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.

I'll mirror the same post I used for the American version of this thread:

Not joining forces fully with the United States and other spacefaring nations immediately after the Apollo-Soyuz flight in 1975.

Think about it:

- It could have helped end the Cold War sooner
- We could have had an international space station 20 years earlier. No duplication of efforts with Mir, Skylab, the latter Salyuts etc.
- The Soviets wouldn't have wasted billions of roubles on a giant spaceplane that they didn't need if they had access to American hardware
- The money saved by both nations could have easily been ploughed into an international mission to Mars by now.

Not sure if non-decision counts as worst decision. I imagine there were scientists and engineers on both sides who would have loved to work together, but at the same time I think politicians on both sides decidedly didn't want to work together, so that "decision" can be attributed to both sides.

Also not sure how Skylab, Salyut, and Mir represent a duplication of effort.

Offline SalemHanna

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #34 on: 03/02/2013 09:03 am »
Also not sure how Skylab, Salyut, and Mir represent a duplication of effort.

===========

If I'm not mistaken, Skylab and some of the Salyut stations overlapped time-wise. Skylab fell to Earth because the shuttle wasn't ready in time to continue the programme. A Soviet visit could have corrected that.

Also, Freedom was proposed by Reagan in 1984, two years before Mir was launched. Shame relations were frosty at the time, because astronauts could have had access to a station in the mid-late 80s in spite of the Challenger disaster grounding US launches.
« Last Edit: 03/02/2013 09:04 am by SalemHanna »
Apollo, Soyuz, Shuttle...SKYLON.

Offline gospacex

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #35 on: 03/02/2013 09:13 am »
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.

I'll mirror the same post I used for the American version of this thread:

Not joining forces fully with the United States and other spacefaring nations immediately after the Apollo-Soyuz flight in 1975.

Think about it:

- It could have helped end the Cold War sooner

Cold War could only end with the end of incompatible ideologies.

Offline truth is life

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #36 on: 03/02/2013 02:25 pm »
Not building a Lunokhod-3. Stopping at Luna-24.

I would add not continuing on with their Venus exploration program, they should have stayed focus on Venus rather than the shift back to Mars & its satellites that occurred.

I would phrase this a little differently based on my reading. Yes, the Soviets should have continued their successful lunar program. They probably should have done more with Venus (although I have to point out they launched Venus missions at virtually every opportunity up through 1985; there really wasn't all that much more that they could actually do)

Their real mistake with Mars was wasting most of the 1970s working on unrealistic Mars sample return missions (when not a single one of their missions had succeeded!) and only really looking at realistic missions starting the 1980s, when it was getting late for them to successfully execute a mission before the whole edifice collapsed. If they had been more realistic and reasonable, then they probably could have had some missions in the early to mid 1980s, which would have had a decent chance of succeeding. However, the Soviet/Russian record for failure on Mars remains unblemished, alas.

My nomination would actually be a somewhat counter intuitive one, namely aiming to get firsts, especially first satellite and first human into orbit. Doing so kicked off the space race and led to a number of the other problems people here have pointed out, like sloppy, rushed development of, well, everything. I find it hard to believe that the US doing those things first would have triggered the Soviets to play catch-up quite nearly as much as the other way around, in which case both the Soviet and American programs could take a slower, more sustainable development route which would perhaps have ended up in a better place in the long term.

Offline Davd

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #37 on: 03/02/2013 11:40 pm »
Their real mistake with Mars was wasting most of the 1970s working on unrealistic Mars sample return missions (when not a single one of their missions had succeeded!) and only really looking at realistic missions starting the 1980s, when it was getting late for them to successfully execute a mission before the whole edifice collapsed.

As I'd said earlier, the 60s-70s Mars program was too ambitious and beyond the capabilities of their technology. However, the failure of the Phobos probes is pretty inexplicable given that it happened in the late 80s when they should have been up to it. There was also the failed launch in the 90s, but as it was the Yeltsin era, there was no money for a backup probe.

Quote
My nomination would actually be a somewhat counter intuitive one, namely aiming to get firsts, especially first satellite and first human into orbit. Doing so kicked off the space race and led to a number of the other problems people here have pointed out, like sloppy, rushed development of, well, everything. I find it hard to believe that the US doing those things first would have triggered the Soviets to play catch-up quite nearly as much as the other way around, in which case both the Soviet and American programs could take a slower, more sustainable development route which would perhaps have ended up in a better place in the long term.

One could partially blame that on Khrushchev and his desire to have as many stunt flights as possible to upstage the US.

Offline bad_astra

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #38 on: 03/06/2013 03:44 pm »
Mir needed to go. It was way past its expiration date and turning into a safety hazard (not to mention the butt of jokes on late-night TV). In a way, the later career of Mir was symbolic of the whole disaster that was Yeltsin-era Russia.


It's value was not predicated on late night talk show jokes. There were disasters but none were fatal, and a lot was learned. Mir could have had a productive geriatric commercial life, but it was a threat to the ISS program, and it had to go.


To chime in on the original question, I would have to agree that the decision to build Energya/Buran shuttle fleet was the greatest mistake their program made. Other "bad" decisions like N1 construction were simply end results from poor operational environments, and so forth. The ideas were good, but the execution was flawed.

A nation stuck in Afghanistan with a bloated, nearly-aimless heavy-lift based program that it cannot afford does stand a risk of losing it all, in terms of their manned spaceflight capability.


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Offline Scoopdiehl

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #39 on: 08/19/2013 01:59 am »
My contention is their worst decision was to mess with the timeline, using their myriad publicity shots and reproducing film clips after the fact.  This has given the conspiracists all kinds of ammunition. Had they been straight-forward, we'd know a lot more!

Offline malenfant

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #40 on: 09/02/2013 01:39 pm »
I would say that the worst decision was to go forward with both proton and n1; splitting their resources between two entirely different booster families and robbing n1 of the chance to test its upper stages in isolation.  With proton out of the picture all resources could be thrown behind n1 related technology.  NK15 is hopefully available earlier and can be flight tested earlier.  N1 can start launching with it's upper stages already proven.

The soviets can go to the moon in maybe '73/'74 and they can launch a skylab beater.  Saturn production is resumed. The world is a better place.  Perhaps....

Offline baldusi

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #41 on: 09/14/2013 10:31 pm »
The worst mistake of the N-1 program was first setting the LEO payload target and only then trying to cram a lunar mission in just one flight. After that, the project was doomed. Besides the fact that they were asked to do the project on 75% of the time and 50% of the budget of their own optimistic estimations.
Second ridiculous mistake was going with ORSC RG-1/LOX because Mishin had delirous of grandeour about propulsion. Cherkov stated plainly that the war between Korolev and Glushko started because Mishin asked an "impossible" engine for the N-1. I do share the idea that an RD-270 based rocket (UR-700) would have meant the loss of Baiknour when the inevitable accident happened. But if Mishin had gone with a proposal of a "big" GG RG-1, even if just at 4MN, I'm pretty sure Glushko wouldn't have reacted so bad.

Offline Patchouli

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #42 on: 09/15/2013 05:45 am »
By far the worst was skipping on building a test stand for the N1.

No ground testing of the first stage meant every test had to be a flight test.
For a low cost rocket like the Soyuz this was acceptable but the N1 was just too complex and expensive.

Second ignoring EOR and LEO assembly as a plan B.

Proton still could have done a moon mission using four launches plus one Souyz launch for the crew.

Trying to follow America and not doing their own thing.

Soyuz was one of their right things they did on a positive note.

Soyuz got a lot of things right that Apollo got wrong.
« Last Edit: 09/15/2013 05:47 am by Patchouli »

Offline savuporo

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #43 on: 09/15/2013 12:06 pm »
I would say that the worst decision was to go forward with both proton and n1; ..  With proton out of the picture all resources could be thrown behind n1 related technology

A version of Proton remains the workhorse launcher to this date, and even brings in commercial revenue. I dont think building it can be considered a mistake.
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Offline Proponent

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #44 on: 09/15/2013 12:10 pm »
Proton still could have done a moon mission using four launches plus one Souyz launch for the crew.

Just four Protons?  That would be only about 140,000 lb in LEO, whereas Apollo was about twice that.  And although Soviets envisioned a crew of just two, they weren't using hydrogen as a fuel and their systems were generally heavier.

Offline Prober

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #45 on: 09/15/2013 02:15 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.
Your real close....
Allowing Past Soviet corruption to invade future Russian programs.
Allowing Russian Nationalism, or Old Soviet hard liners define relations with friendly countries.  We are talking about Ukraine and  Kazakhstan.
 
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Offline malenfant

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #46 on: 09/16/2013 06:14 pm »
I would say that the worst decision was to go forward with both proton and n1; ..  With proton out of the picture all resources could be thrown behind n1 related technology

A version of Proton remains the workhorse launcher to this date, and even brings in commercial revenue. I dont think building it can be considered a mistake.

STS flew with segmented solids for 30 years and I consider that a mistake too.  Also I would suggest that the fact that proton earns money is more to do with the low cost of the workforce than any intrinsic strengths of the design: how many launchers have a hypergolic first stage today and how many use kerelox?

Honestly I think the problems with the N1 were more subtle than people give credit.  The guys that built it were not idiots.  I remember back when details of n1 were first emerging it was common to blame things on the glushko  feud and the resulting 'bad' engines ...then gradually it turned out that nk33 was actually pretty impressive and criticism switched to the inherent risks of using 30 engines  ...until spacex propose a vehicle with 27 engines and suddenly everyone thinks its a great idea.

It's fair comment to bring up the lack of a test stand but I wonder how many test stands you could build if you don't develop proton.

Offline baldusi

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #47 on: 09/16/2013 07:07 pm »
N-1 engines where the NK-15 family. Not only was it worse performing than the NK-33, but they were built under military procurement rules. Thus, they couldn't be acceptance tested. They built batches of 8, tested 3, and if all three worked fine, the other five were sent for integration. The marvelous NK-33 was an attempt to solve the inherent unreliability and lack of performance of the original design, which was made simply too week for the mission (originally just 75tonnes to LEO).
Their mission was to beat the Americans to the Moon. You don't go making the most astounding advance in engine technology when you are short on time and budget. Even with infinite budget, Von Braun went with the simplest and gentlest cycle he could get away with, and with an engine that had lots of margin (F-1A gave 20% extra performance just changing the turbopump). When asked about the margin for the LM, he told the module designers they had 25% of margin, but asked the LV designers to put 50%. That's how you finish a mission, starting from the mission payload and going backwards putting more margin than what the engineers tell you. Exactly opposite of what Mishin did. Yes, Korolev did made the mistake, but a lot of those mistakes were done holding Mishin's hand.

Offline Patchouli

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #48 on: 09/18/2013 06:43 am »
N-1 engines where the NK-15 family. Not only was it worse performing than the NK-33, but they were built under military procurement rules. Thus, they couldn't be acceptance tested. They built batches of 8, tested 3, and if all three worked fine, the other five were sent for integration. The marvelous NK-33 was an attempt to solve the inherent unreliability and lack of performance of the original design, which was made simply too week for the mission (originally just 75tonnes to LEO).
Their mission was to beat the Americans to the Moon. You don't go making the most astounding advance in engine technology when you are short on time and budget. Even with infinite budget, Von Braun went with the simplest and gentlest cycle he could get away with, and with an engine that had lots of margin (F-1A gave 20% extra performance just changing the turbopump). When asked about the margin for the LM, he told the module designers they had 25% of margin, but asked the LV designers to put 50%. That's how you finish a mission, starting from the mission payload and going backwards putting more margin than what the engineers tell you. Exactly opposite of what Mishin did. Yes, Korolev did made the mistake, but a lot of those mistakes were done holding Mishin's hand.

He also set aside 27 tons for the Apollo CSM even though they said they only needed 18 to 22 tons, they ended up needing almost all of the reserve.

« Last Edit: 09/18/2013 06:58 am by Patchouli »

Offline luke strawwalker

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #49 on: 12/11/2013 07:41 am »
(snip)

A nation stuck in Afghanistan with a bloated, nearly-aimless heavy-lift based program that it cannot afford does stand a risk of losing it all, in terms of their manned spaceflight capability.

Gee, this sounds awfully familiar...

Oh, I know-- sorta like the situation we're in now...

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Offline Danderman

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #50 on: 12/11/2013 02:56 pm »
This isn't the worst decision ever made, but the decision to build and fly TKS but never use it for crew transport was not too great.

Offline truth is life

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Re: Worst decision made in Russian/Soviet space history?
« Reply #51 on: 12/11/2013 05:24 pm »
This isn't the worst decision ever made, but the decision to build and fly TKS but never use it for crew transport was not too great.

In general, the large number of competing programs was a problem. By dividing limited space rubles and creating fiefdoms and feuds, they made it harder for any of their efforts to get anywhere. Not to say that the United States was by any means immune to this. But the Soviets seem to have had it worse.

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