Author Topic: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.  (Read 24056 times)

Offline the_other_Doug

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #40 on: 02/10/2015 06:04 PM »
I think this discussion of Air Force v NASA is well-illustrated by how the relationship started.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, CCAFS was (as the title suggests) a completely Air Force installation.  NASA was granted minor rights to integrate payloads, and somewhat greater rights to prepare and launch rockets, but all of the infrastructure was created, maintained and controlled by AF assets.  For example, when the first Mercury capsule to be launched was delivered to the Cape, the AF personnel gave NASA a corner of an existing hangar (no "white room" clean standards) to work on and prepare the capsule, because all NASA had was "a payload."  The engineers working on the capsule had to spray pure ammonia around their work area to try and kill the mosquitoes, which are a real problem at night in Florida, especially near the ocean.

By the time we get to Gemini planning, there was a huge issue with who was in control of the development of the Titan II booster for use as the Gemini launch vehicle.  The biggest issue was POGO -- the fore-and-aft movement of the rocket as it accelerated.  The Air Force had worked with the Martin company to reduce POGO to an acceptable level for their warheads, and had achieved what they felt was an acceptable level.  However, NASA determined that the acceptable level for a warhead was still far from acceptable for humans riding a Gemini capsule.

The Air Force decided that they would not spend a single dime more than they needed to to get the missile ready for deployment as an ICBM, and basically told NASA that if they didn't like the result, tough.  NASA (in the persons of Bob Gilruth and Jim Webb) appealed this all the way up to the Secretary of Defense, Bob McNamara, insisting that Gemini was critical to the lunar landing goal and that the Air Force was standing directly in the way of achieving that goal.

McNamara responded by trying to pull off a partial (in some minds, complete) Air Force takeover of the Gemini program, giving the Air Force control over not just the launch vehicle (with direction to continue development to man-rate the Titan) but also over Gemini flight operations.  Under his concept, more than half of the flights would be Gemini "blue" missions prosecuting goals of militarizing near-Earth space, and even the "civilian" Gemini flights would be controlled not by NASA but by AF flight controllers.

NASA pushed back, hard, but had a conundrum -- the extra funding from the Air Force budget could make the difference in man-rating the Titan, but they could not accept the takeover of the American manned space flight program by the Air Force and the DoD.  They tread a very fine line in convincing McNamara that the civilian space agency could not allow the AF to supplant them in their role of developing and running American manned spaceflight, but that the AF had to back off from their stance that "we only need to get this thing ready for ICBM deployment, after that NASA is on its own and is SOL if they don't like it."

This truly set the stage for the situation Jim describes, of programs being managed either entirely by the Air Force or entirely by NASA.  Neither group felt they could do their jobs if they had to cede any of the program decisions to the other, based on the various power-grabs that were attempted early on in the NASA-AF relationship.
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Offline Proponent

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #41 on: 02/10/2015 07:43 PM »
....From a purely technical standpoint, a perfectly reasonable system that could have achieved all of the principle goals of both sides was surely achievable...and such a vehicle could surely have been designed to have been more economical and safer than STS proved to be...

In hindsight there is limited credible basis this was practically achievable. In fact the core problem was the pervasive assumption that "surely a reusable winged vehicle is the way forward". This mindset was deeply ingrained from the 1950s onward. Von Braun's associate Walter Dornberger may have coined the term space shuttle, and described it as "an economical space plane capable of putting a fresh egg, every morning, on the table of every crew member of a space station circling the globe".

When you combine this compelling, seemingly plausible vision with success of the X-15 and Dyna-Soar (even thought it never flew), it's understandable how this led to a superficial, optimistic viewpoint that a large winged LV can be made with airliner-like turnaround and operating costs.

In retrospect you can almost rekindle the reasoning: X-15 was turned around in two days, there were plans for orbital versions, shuttle will be like that only bigger. Obvious problems like TPS, engines and turnaround had facile solutions. TPS would use "new technology", the J-2 engine actually has a long lifetime, how hard could the SSME be?

George Mueller's solution for turnaround was "automated checkout", which he said would make it possible for a small ground crew to carry out the preflight checks, achieving true aircraft-like simplicity. In his vision each major system would have built-in health and trend monitoring as a fundamental core element. This would facilitate targeted servicing, especially attractive in an era of clipboards and visual inspection of gauges and pen plotters.

Unfortunately the devil is in the details. IF this was achievable (which is unclear), it would have required a dogged, persistent focus on how every design decision along the way affected serviceability and turnaround goals. From the smallest access panel, to cable routing, to subcomponent selection, to overall vehicle architecture.

And, although it seems nobody was paying attention, one 1966 study of X-15 operations (attached) concluded that "the present estimates and extrapolations for future reusable boosters and orbital space vehicles appear to be overly optimistic in comparison to the actual X-15 experience, especially in the length of time required for turnaround."  Average turn-around times stubbornly remained 20-40 days through 1965 (the latest data in the study).  The paper also notes that turn-around costs were about 3% of the cost of a new vehicle.  Apply that to the fully-reusable Shuttle that was meant to cost $10 billion (1971 dollars) for a fleet of five, and NASA's projections of $6 million per flight look awfully optimistic.

More generally on the question of the Shuttle's economics, two RAND studies (one in 1966 and another, attached, in 1970) indicated that a shuttle did not make economic sense unless the space program were going to be ramped up quite a bit.

A different Shuttle might not have been as much an economic failure as the actual STS, but it seems unlikely that manned winged reusable vehicle built with 1970s technology would have been a successful all-purpose LEO space truck.
« Last Edit: 02/10/2015 07:47 PM by Proponent »

Offline Lobo

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #42 on: 02/10/2015 11:03 PM »
Interesting.

Great info all the way around Joema, Doug, and Propent.
(It'll take some time for me to plow through the Rand study).

So, in summary, it sounds like:

1)  NASA and USAF -could- have worked together, but basically chose not to except where forced to.  Partially because of different criteria, but also because of politics and past history.
(For the purposes of this thread, we have to assume they would be able to set aside all that and work together.  Maybe if Reagan had been president in the early 70's he'd have made them like he did after STS started flying.  ;-)  )

2.  I think it's fairly clear that it was known that reusability wasn't going to return a whole lot of gain unless there was a serious ramp up in number of missions.  That knowledge was ignored by many in order to pursue reusability.  Maybe USAF understood this better than NASA as they never really wanted to pursue it apparently.  Or maybe they just had deeper pockets and didn't care.  And their launches weren't part of the public eye the way NASA launches were.

3.  That said, reusability could be used where there was a reasonable cost/benefit analysis.  The orbiter is a good candidate because for NASA, they must return their crew anyway.  (unlike the booster).  So making a reusable orbiter isn't a stretch there if you must bring that element back home safely.  So I think a reusable orbiter of some sort would have been pretty likely for NASA regardless of a joint launch system with USAF.  Just that the LV itself didn't necessarily have to have any reusability.  My recoverable engine ring concept is a possibility as it wouldn't be too expensive to develop or implement, unlike flyback boosters, soft splashdowns of whole booster stages, or propulsive landings (back then).   The Shuttle was basically an attempt to reuse the booster, the main engines, the payload fairing, and the crew spacecraft.  Quite ambitious and the result seemed to be inline with what the skeptics had expected.   Which is why I think shrinking the orbiter down to just a crew (and perhaps small cargo) reusable spaceplane could have made a much more simple, inexpensive, and safe reusable spacecraft.  (at the expense of the Shuttle's large downmass capability).

So, I think we've established there was little chance of there being a joint NASA/USAF launch system in the early 70's, but assuming the two -could- play nice, what might a joint LV have looked like?
Just seems to be that with the limited number of USAF payloads that required Titan, and the limited number of NASA launches, operating multiple separate launch systems for just a handful of launches a year seems..."inefficient".
Looking back at the list of Titan launches, looked like there was about 10/year average in the early 70's.  NASA launched the Shuttle 9 times in a year at most (1985)....and two of those were DoD payloads.  There were 2 Titan launches in 1985.
So if you assume 20 launches per year combined, seems like that's not really enough to justify multiple launchers.  But one common launcher getting some 20 launches per year...has reasonable economics of scale...and could possibly justify -some- reusable elements.



Offline Proponent

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #43 on: 02/10/2015 11:13 PM »
So, I think we've established there was little chance of there being a joint NASA/USAF launch system in the early 70's, but assuming the two -could- play nice, what might a joint LV have looked like?

It seems to me we're then looking at something like the low-cost expendables that I mentioned a few posts back.  I think we can be confident such a thing would have saved money, because, unlike the Shuttle, its development would not have entailed much technological risk.  Maybe NASA could have built a re-usable crew vehicle to ride on such a thing, as an X-vechicle for a reusable shuttle, if nothing else.
« Last Edit: 02/10/2015 11:18 PM by Proponent »

Offline Lobo

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #44 on: 02/11/2015 04:55 PM »
So, I think we've established there was little chance of there being a joint NASA/USAF launch system in the early 70's, but assuming the two -could- play nice, what might a joint LV have looked like?

It seems to me we're then looking at something like the low-cost expendables that I mentioned a few posts back.  I think we can be confident such a thing would have saved money, because, unlike the Shuttle, its development would not have entailed much technological risk.  Maybe NASA could have built a re-usable crew vehicle to ride on such a thing, as an X-vechicle for a reusable shuttle, if nothing else.

Yup, good references there.  It would have required to go with "NASA's" rockets though, and basically give control to them which seems unlikely (but maybe not any more unlikely than assuming USAF and NASA would work together to begin with).

I was thinking more of a new system that both USAF and NASA would be in on from inception.  Kinda like STS was, although NASA had control over that.  But it was a new system that was neither Saturn nor Titan.  I'm just wondering if in a world where NASA and USAF -did- work together, a new system they were both in on from the beginning with equal joint (or 3rd party) control would probably be a requirement if there was any chance they'd work together.

 

Offline RocketmanUS

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #45 on: 02/11/2015 05:25 PM »
Air Force did not need crew or to return cargo.

So what if they had a type of Shuttle Z.

Use J-2 ( designed for sea level ground start ) instead of the RS-25 on the Shuttle Z ( similar to the concept )?

Use Shuttle Z for all west coast launches ( no crew needed and low flight rate ).

Could the shuttle Z have used the same SBR's as the east coast launches did ( from what I've read the east coast shuttle launches were to use different solid boosters )? If so with a low flight rate use a used pair but don't recover them for possible cost saving with what was needed to recover the boosters?

East coast to add a third pad to LC-39 for Shuttle Z launches. This might have also given NASA at the time the option for heavier and or larger payloads for BLEO. Also for non crew launches. Flights for cargo might have been able to continued after the Challenger accident with Shuttle Z ( lack of crew for less risk , just payload ).

Offline Lobo

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #46 on: 02/11/2015 10:44 PM »
Shuttle Z, which was reincarnated in the side mounted SDHLV evaluated prior to SLS being selected, I don't think would be any sort of cost savings. 
Even with both NASA and USAF using it, I don't know that the SRB's would fly enough to make their reusability economical.  The modifications to SLC-6 at VAFB for STS would be pretty similar to what needed for Shuttle Z, which where fairly expensive.  And those SRB's would have to be towed back there and disassembled and sent back to Utah for refueling.  As you say, they could perhaps just be expended for VAFB launches, but they still were expensive either wa.
J2S could have been used and saved money from developing the RS-25.

And then there's the size mount MPS and paylaod carrier.  That assembly would basically be it's own separate LV in it's own right.  Jim made this point prior to inline SDHLV being selected for SLS when many thought a side mount would be cheaper.  That whole side mounted assembly is like it's own rocket, with it's tank side mounted to it. 

The idea of this joint concept would be to save money and standardize vs. STS and Titan IV. 

Without a big orbiter which carried the payload, a sidemounted configuration really had no necessity.  And if you -do- have that big orbiter that necessitated a sidemounted configuration, then Shuttle Z competes with STS for missions, which is why it and several other STS cousins like HL-20 and [origininal] inline SDHLV never got off the drawing board.

On a side note, it really would have been amazing to see how history would have unfolded if they'd scrubbed the Challenger launch that cold January morning to wait for warmer temps.  Had just that one simple decision been made, it wouldn't have had the O-ring problem and had a successful mission.  That summer Discovery would have had it's maiden launch from SCL-6 taking the first crew ever to a polor orbit.  That would have been something.  Without the Challenger accident, USAF would have continued to use STS and Titan IV would not have been developed (most likely).  The flight rate of STS never would have been near what they'd originally hoped, but with USAF/DoD using it regularly, it's flight rate would have been better.   Maybe up to 15 a year between all 3 pads?  Might USAF have started training their own astronauts to fly with NASA astroanuts if they'd had their "own" shuttle at VAFB, so to speak?

Interesting to wonder how all of that might have unfolded.

Offline RocketmanUS

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #47 on: 02/12/2015 03:29 AM »
OK then something both could use.

Atlas V like-

Core plus US able to lift ~30,000 lb to LEO. ( No SRB's for crew safety, add bells and whistles for crew launch )

US most likely Centaur V1 or V2.

New crew capsule. Three minimum seating or more if NASA wanted more crew within the mass limit of the two stage lifter.
( Land-landed reusable capsule )

Add Atlas V like SRB's for added lift. ( That would be 70's tech )

NASA has it's own launch pad and USAF has it's own pad.

Manufacture takes orders from both NASA and USAF.

Latter if greater payload mass was needed they could add in the tri-core option with cross feed.

Offline Lobo

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #48 on: 02/12/2015 05:01 PM »
OK then something both could use.

Atlas V like-

Core plus US able to lift ~30,000 lb to LEO. ( No SRB's for crew safety, add bells and whistles for crew launch )

US most likely Centaur V1 or V2.

New crew capsule. Three minimum seating or more if NASA wanted more crew within the mass limit of the two stage lifter.
( Land-landed reusable capsule )

Add Atlas V like SRB's for added lift. ( That would be 70's tech )

NASA has it's own launch pad and USAF has it's own pad.

Manufacture takes orders from both NASA and USAF.

Latter if greater payload mass was needed they could add in the tri-core option with cross feed.

On the right track now.
In early 70's there were no Atlas like SRB's.  There were Titan III segmented SRB's, and Minuteman ICBM small monolithic SRB's.  (as I understand).
New motors could be made for a new launch system.  Basically an EELV 20 years early.  It'd be a new development but probably wouldn't have been overly expensive. 
What core and engines would you use.  would this be just two stage?  or multi stage?  GG kerolox engines and hypergolic engines with relatively low ISP typically had two stages to LEO.  Titan III was 2.5 stages to LEO.  Atlas and Atlas II used the MA-5 which dropped 2 of it's three nozzles partway up to help performance.  Saturn 1 and 1B were two stage to LEO LV's.  I believe Proton's first two stages are to get it to LEO.  And Saturn V/Skylab LV was basically a 2 stage to LEO LV.

Also, it'd have to have good performance to LEO specifically as that's what NASA's needs were.  As to where current EELV are more optimized for BLEO than LEO because that was USAF/DoD's primary need.    Falcon has better LEO performance compared to it's BLEO performance.  If Falcon had a hydrolox 3rd stage on it, it'd have fantastic BLEO performance.  Which is why I was thinking something like a large Falcon, with an optional Centaur-D 3rd stage (could be later upgraded to Centaur-T size) for those BLEO payloads for USAF.  It'd have great LEO performance for NASA and other LEO payloads.  And solids could be omitted entirely and the focus on economics of scale of the liquid engines, with the possibility to have a reusable engine ring.

An alternative would be to have a hydrolox core powered by J2S, with Titan III SRB's as sort of a 70's version of Ariane 5.  That would satisfy NASA's excitement over hydrolox as the miracle propellant and the core could possibly get all the way to disposal without the need for a whole 2nd stage.  But unmanned LEO paylaods would still need a kick stage as there's no big orbiter to do it.   But, I think that would be more expensive...and obviously hydrolox is temperamental.
If going that route, probably better to make the core kerolox with like 4 or 5 H-1's, and Titan III SRB's, and make it essentially a kerolox version Titan III.  Could launch with or without the boosters.  Without booster it'd cover the Titan II/III and Atlas-Centaur payloads with more capacity than those.  With Titan III SRB's it'd be Titan IV/STS performance.  The Titan IIIM UA1207 man rated SRB's would probably need to be developed for this configuration as NASA would need to launch with those SRB's for it's missions.  (Could be made reusable if desired).
But I still like that SRB-less “Large 1970’s Falcon 9” the best so far.  :-)







Offline RocketmanUS

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #49 on: 02/12/2015 06:04 PM »
OK then something both could use.

Atlas V like-

Core plus US able to lift ~30,000 lb to LEO. ( No SRB's for crew safety, add bells and whistles for crew launch )

US most likely Centaur V1 or V2.

New crew capsule. Three minimum seating or more if NASA wanted more crew within the mass limit of the two stage lifter.
( Land-landed reusable capsule )

Add Atlas V like SRB's for added lift. ( That would be 70's tech )

NASA has it's own launch pad and USAF has it's own pad.

Manufacture takes orders from both NASA and USAF.

Latter if greater payload mass was needed they could add in the tri-core option with cross feed.

On the right track now.
In early 70's there were no Atlas like SRB's.  There were Titan III segmented SRB's, and Minuteman ICBM small monolithic SRB's.  (as I understand).
New motors could be made for a new launch system.  Basically an EELV 20 years early.  It'd be a new development but probably wouldn't have been overly expensive. 
What core and engines would you use.  would this be just two stage?  or multi stage?  GG kerolox engines and hypergolic engines with relatively low ISP typically had two stages to LEO.  Titan III was 2.5 stages to LEO.  Atlas and Atlas II used the MA-5 which dropped 2 of it's three nozzles partway up to help performance.  Saturn 1 and 1B were two stage to LEO LV's.  I believe Proton's first two stages are to get it to LEO.  And Saturn V/Skylab LV was basically a 2 stage to LEO LV.

Also, it'd have to have good performance to LEO specifically as that's what NASA's needs were.  As to where current EELV are more optimized for BLEO than LEO because that was USAF/DoD's primary need.    Falcon has better LEO performance compared to it's BLEO performance.  If Falcon had a hydrolox 3rd stage on it, it'd have fantastic BLEO performance.  Which is why I was thinking something like a large Falcon, with an optional Centaur-D 3rd stage (could be later upgraded to Centaur-T size) for those BLEO payloads for USAF.  It'd have great LEO performance for NASA and other LEO payloads.  And solids could be omitted entirely and the focus on economics of scale of the liquid engines, with the possibility to have a reusable engine ring.

An alternative would be to have a hydrolox core powered by J2S, with Titan III SRB's as sort of a 70's version of Ariane 5.  That would satisfy NASA's excitement over hydrolox as the miracle propellant and the core could possibly get all the way to disposal without the need for a whole 2nd stage.  But unmanned LEO paylaods would still need a kick stage as there's no big orbiter to do it.   But, I think that would be more expensive...and obviously hydrolox is temperamental.
If going that route, probably better to make the core kerolox with like 4 or 5 H-1's, and Titan III SRB's, and make it essentially a kerolox version Titan III.  Could launch with or without the boosters.  Without booster it'd cover the Titan II/III and Atlas-Centaur payloads with more capacity than those.  With Titan III SRB's it'd be Titan IV/STS performance.  The Titan IIIM UA1207 man rated SRB's would probably need to be developed for this configuration as NASA would need to launch with those SRB's for it's missions.  (Could be made reusable if desired).
But I still like that SRB-less “Large 1970’s Falcon 9” the best so far.  :-)
1st stage RP-1 engine(s). What engines did we have back in 1969 to 1971 with sea level thrust 200,000 lb to 2 Mlb?

So 1st stage with sea level ISP back then would have some were around 1.4 to 2 Mlb thrust.
Stage would be wider than an Atlas V 1st stage do to the lower ISP of then engines of the time. So it would most likely need water transport to the launch site.

The 2nd stage could be a Centaur. V1 for GSO/escape missions and the V2 for crew or heavy LEO payloads. ( engines RL-10 , could upgrade them later if needed ).

Two stage with no SRB's would need close to 30,000 lb to LEO for crew missions ( reusable capsule with land-landing ).

For cargo only with greater mass payloads add in new SRB's ( Atlas V like ).
Even greater mass then use tri-core with cross feed.

Manufacture to take orders from NASA and USAF. I think only the crew version would be different ( bells and whistles ) but the cargo version should be the same.

J-2's were not needed unless they needed heavy lift like Saturn V.

If the 1st stage uses more than one engine then they could make a smaller 1st stage ( for less mass payloads, say under 10,000 lb ) with less engines with same us

Offline joema

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #50 on: 02/12/2015 11:34 PM »
Quote from: Proponent
...although it seems nobody was paying attention, one 1966 study of X-15 operations (attached) concluded that "the present estimates and extrapolations for future reusable boosters and orbital space vehicles appear to be overly optimistic in comparison to the actual X-15 experience, especially in the length of time required for turnaround."...The paper also notes that turn-around costs were about 3% of the cost of a new vehicle.  Apply that to the fully-reusable Shuttle that was meant to cost $10 billion (1971 dollars) for a fleet of five, and NASA's projections of $6 million per flight look awfully optimistic.

Thanks for those great links. As you stated the X-15 which allegedly bolstered support for a reusable LV in fact did the opposite. But the results were interpreted selectively.

Quote from: Proponent
...More generally on the question of the Shuttle's economics, two RAND studies...indicated that a shuttle did not make economic sense unless the space program were going to be ramped up quite a bit.
Yes, the RAND study was very clear about questionable shuttle economics. Incredibly, this was *despite* assuming a $10 billion fully-reusable two-stage design with a 10 (!!!) orbiter fleet, 100-flight lifetime, automated checkout, and was done before finalized shuttle design, hence did not incorporate adverse maintenance factors associated with the final design choices.

Even with all those optimistic assumptions it was known in 1970 timeframe the shuttle would be hard-pressed to cost justify, and would possibly not deliver on the "airliner-like" turnaround time and operational costs. This was further corroborated by the 1972 GAO report: http://archive.gao.gov/f0302/096542.pdf

What about a smaller shuttle? The RAND study said "While primary emphasis has been placed on a shuttle with a 50,000-lb payload capability, preliminary cost estimates indicate that there is little difference in total space transportation costs...for design payload weights as low as 25,000 lb". IOW making it half as big wouldn't have saved much.

What about the Mathematica study which spoke of 50 flights per year? That was a synthetic study to examine economics assuming that flight rate was possible. It did not promise or commit or evaluate whether that flight rate was achievable. It was just assumed. Of *course* the more often it flies the cheaper per flight. It doesn't take an expensive study to know that.

Even that simplistic Mathematica study showed shuttle would not break even on costs vs ELVs unless it flew > 30 times per year. It was essentially commissioned by NASA to support the shuttle, but if read carefully raised danger flags about operating costs. That is very different from the now-common view.

Once again this is an area space historians have mostly failed to pursue. This failure distorts an accurate historical assessment of what actually happened, hence risks poorly-informed future choices. In historical scholarship it's easier to portray the popular view than do the necessary research to obtain the true facts. E.g, Columbus was afraid of sailing off a flat earth, or the Egyptian pyramids were built by slave labor. The problem is it's not accurate.

A rare exception to the herd mentality pervading shuttle historians is a 1993 study reevaluating how the shuttle got approved given the above facts: "A Reappraisal of the Space Shuttle Program" by Roger Pielke. It explained that the RAND and GAO studies were widely known in the early 1970s and the shuttle's appoval can best be understood by political and institutional factors: http://tinyurl.com/pnq38v2

However even that study could not resist reiterating the same old lines blaming "compromised design choices" -- despite the very same study clearly stating: "There is little reason to believe that a more complicated, eg, fully reusable design would have performed better with respect to promises than the current one, and even less reason to believe that it would have been approved."

The Pielke study ultimately concluded: ...it seems unlikely that a manned winged reusable vehicle built with 1970s technology would have been a successful all-purpose LEO space truck. IOW the poor operating economics weren't due to a design compromise, whether intrinsically or between NASA and the USAF -- it just wasn't possible.

NASA and the shuttle contractors did a generally good technical job of designing the shuttle, given the existing constraints. Viewing it as a failure presupposes that overall program success was possible using the mission, money, and technology granted in 1970. A more informed historical view indicates otherwise.

Offline truth is life

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #51 on: 02/13/2015 04:34 PM »
In hindsight there is limited credible basis this was practically achievable. In fact the core problem was the pervasive assumption that "surely a reusable winged vehicle is the way forward". This mindset was deeply ingrained from the 1950s onward. Von Braun's associate Walter Dornberger may have coined the term space shuttle, and described it as "an economical space plane capable of putting a fresh egg, every morning, on the table of every crew member of a space station circling the globe".

I didn't mean that they would build a space shuttle, though, or even try for an RLV (though admittedly NASA was overly fixated on that at the time). What I meant by "principle goals" was achieving the actual missions they had and which Shuttle was assigned, such as "launch people into orbit," "launch space station modules," "launch space probes," "launch spy satellites," and so on and so forth, while being agnostic about how they achieved this. Thus, the "alternative system" could very well have been an expendable, and given that such a vehicle would probably have lower development costs than Shuttle and certainly could have had lower operational costs (given that many expendables during the 1980s and 1990s did have lower operational costs), then it seems reasonable to say that this hypothetical alternative program could have been more economical and safer than Shuttle proved to be.

What I had in mind, in fact, was a new-design expendable LV or adaptation of an existing LV like Saturn IB or Titan to achieve payload targets in the 10-20 metric ton (to LEO) range, similar to the range of payloads that Titan III/Titan IV or Shuttle could carry in reality, with an eye towards lower operational costs than existing LVs based on applying current experience and achieving economies of scale rather than a leap to a full-scale RLV. In other words, something like the vehicles Lobo has been describing in the thread. Perhaps the principal NASA payload would be a small glider orbiter similar to the HL-20/42 to replace Apollo and serve as a prototype for a larger future vehicle, while the Air Force payloads would presumably be similar to those launched in reality.
« Last Edit: 02/13/2015 04:38 PM by truth is life »

Offline Archibald

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #52 on: 02/13/2015 07:07 PM »
Quote
It implies there was a better alternate design available with the money, knowledge and technology in 1971 which would have achieved the goals. This is by no means clear.

Spot on !
I read this website for the first time 12 years ago http://www.pmview.com/spaceodysseytwo/spacelvs/sld001.htm - scroll down to The Space Shuttle (1968-72)

Since then I'm very convinced that the true morale of the shuttle story is that, well, there was no good concept to be chosen. Only compromised designs.
There was more or less four majors eras in the shuttle pre-history (1968 - 72)
1968
Triamese, Starclipper
1969 - 70
Fully reusable winged TSTOs
1971, first half
Fully reusable booster, external fuel tank orbiter
1971, second half
Smaller booster (SRB or press-fed), SSME from lift-off, fat expendable tank
 
None of these period brings an "ideal" design...

... that ackward moment when you realize that Jeff Bezos personal fortune is far above NASA annual budget... 115 billion to 18 billion...

Offline Archibald

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #53 on: 02/13/2015 07:13 PM »
Another strong possibility for a very cheap, "new" LV might have been a cluster of Titan SRMs topped with a J-2S S-IVB. I've found a Bellcomm memo that mention costs as low as $200 a pound to orbit. Somewhat ironically this is pretty close from NASA shuttle numbers.
As a bonus, the S-IVB can be orbited as a fuel depot; and once refuelled and fired again it returns to its original role of  Earth-Moon tug.
« Last Edit: 02/13/2015 07:14 PM by Archibald »
... that ackward moment when you realize that Jeff Bezos personal fortune is far above NASA annual budget... 115 billion to 18 billion...

Offline Lobo

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #54 on: 02/19/2018 11:41 PM »
Dusting this off for fun.   :)

With a few more years of Falcon operations under way, I tend to still think a 1970's version of Falcon 9 is my favorite.

A new mono core booster, perhaps more skinny than S-1B...or perhaps not.  8 or 9 RS-27's (the evolved H-1) on it, that would continue to evolve.  The Vacuum version of it on a new 2nd stage of the same diameter.  That stack with an HL20/Dreamchaser or X-37B type small orbiter would be NASA's workhorse for building a space station and LEO operations that were NASA's new focus post Apollo.  So the supporters of a reusable space plane would have gotten it (just not a delivery truck the shuttle was), but it a more manageable and less "ambitious" size.  And mostly likely gotten a modular space station then too.  Something more like Mir than the ISS, but still.

For USAF, add an encapsulated Centaur to the top to make a 3-stage for the sats going BLEO.  That should be a pretty capable BLEO LV.   Should exceed the existing Titan IIIC and match or exceed the later Titan IV they'd come to want, I'd think.   Overpowered for some of their smaller Delta II/Atlas class payloads, but with the economics of scale it should still be more economical than operating several different LV's.  SpaceX seems to make it work, even if they weren't reusing anything.

Since there'd be no reusability other than NASA's small orbiter, just keeping it nice a simple with the kerolox GG type engines, etc.  And build a bunch of exactly the same thing.    I think SpaceX has been demonstrating the "KISS" method (aside from their reusability) and that it works.  The government would probably do it in the most complicated and expensive way possible, but I think we've seen that it'd be "possible" any way.

Problems/Issues with that?  Assuming USAF and NASA could have cooperated and collaborated effectively on some joint system?

« Last Edit: 02/19/2018 11:46 PM by Lobo »

Offline Archibald

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #55 on: 02/21/2018 01:58 PM »
Abour first stage reuse: well, at least we can say with confidence "it works ! We can do it"  ;D  That's the reason why I started that other thread.

By contrast, we know that the second stage is, well, harder.

When you think about it, Elon Musk cheated with us fanboys !

I mean, in that infamous "Muse video" of 2011, the second stage WAS reused.

And then Elon skipped it, and said "oh well, reusing Falcon 9 second stage is too hard, but I don't care because this rocket is no longer SpaceX long term workhorse" and surely enough, he went with BFR /BFS / ITS.

And then the second stage got manned spacecraft and tanker and lunar lander and Mars lander piled on top of it.

Oh well...

In my thread I did not mentionned second stage reusability because, well, God... pardon, Saint Elon, did not achieved it with Falcon 9  ;D

By the way, it dawned on me like a bolt of thunder the other day. Watching the impeccable landings of these two boosters, I thought "THIS IS GENERAL DYNAMICS TRIAMESE COME TRUE"

I have a very nice Triamese pdf somewhere on my HD. I think a comparison with the Falcon 9 Heavy would be very interesting.

« Last Edit: 02/21/2018 03:58 PM by Archibald »
... that ackward moment when you realize that Jeff Bezos personal fortune is far above NASA annual budget... 115 billion to 18 billion...

Offline Lobo

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #56 on: 02/21/2018 04:06 PM »
Archibald,

This is thread I was more assuming standard convention of the time, which wasn't any sort of propulsive reuse.  At least not right away.  USAF didn't seem to really care about it, reuse was more something NASA was thinking about.

A small HL20 or larger X37B type shuttle would accomplish a level of reusability for NASA, and be much more cost effective and practical at that time.  Eventually there might have been booster upgrades that would have allowed for reuse, but really with the economics of scale of a joint shared system between USAF and NASA, I don't think there'd have been much real economic incentive to do it.  Right now I like the idea of a Falcon 9 type booster, but with perhaps RS-27 engines, and no booster reuse.  Rely on the economics of scale instead to keep costs down.  And that's what I mean by saying now that we have some more years watching SpaceX and Falcon 9, we can see this.  Even taking reusability completely out of it, the F9 stack is a cost effective stack just with economics of scale and using propellants and engine types that are cheaper and easier, etc.

Such a system should have allowed enough NASA budget for them to do a Mir-like Space station in the late 70's/early 80's.   With the booster launching 20mt-ish modules that would then dock themselves in LEO, and/or used the HL20-type shuttle for additional maneuvering and space walk work as necessary.  the two 39A and B launchpads would have allowed for a module and a manned mission to launch together for such purposes.  That's also how the Russian section of the ISS started after all.  So it's a workable way to have gone.

NASA would have operated this joint LV out of Pads 39A and 39B for their missions, and the USAF would have operated it out of Pads 40 and 41 at the Cape, and SLC-3 or 4 at VAFB, for their payloads.  There wouldn't have really been need then to have manned missions out of VAFB like there was with the NASA/USAF forced consolidation on the Shuttle, as USAF could continue to launch it's polar missions unmanned on this joint LV.
So the two government agencies would have had their independence to operate their own missions on their own schedules from their own pads.  Just with a common LV.  I think that'd have been much preferred for both than when they tried to do it all on the Shuttle out of Pads 39A and B and had to build a new Shuttle launch facility out of SLC-6 at VAFB in the early 80's.  The very large expense of that 3rd shuttle pad could have been avoided all together.
Additionally, much of the cost of modifying pads 39A and B to handle The shuttle and it's on-pad payloads change outs could have been avoided.  Since there was no longer the big Saturn V to launch, they could have cut down the MLP's to accommodate the joint LV as the baseline, instead of needing the Saturn 1B milk stool.  And changed the platforms in the VAB as well.  But with no USAF/DoD payloads, pad payload integration and change out would be a requirement like it was for Shuttle.  So no RSS and no FSS.  The tower could stay on the MLP's and the pads remained clean pads, as Complex 39 was originally designed to do. 

Really, there'd have been an amazing amount of cost savings in all of that vs. what needed done for STS.  For Complex 39, it's like they spent a huge amount of money setting up this really clever launch complex with whole stacks rolling in and out, and where several MLP's could be being processed in the VAB at the same time with minimal actual required time on pad.  And then just after that had been in service for a few years, they tore it all up and rebuilt completely differently.  And then a few years later a tragedy with the Shuttle illustrated why USAF/DoD can't have their unmanned payload lift needs serviced by an LV which must be launched manned.  So then they had to invest a whole other huge amount of money into upgrading Titan IIIC for their growing capacity needs into Titan IV anyway. (Which as quite expensive as I understand, because while it was based on Titan IIIC, it used a new purpose-built core and new SRB's...if I recall correctly.  And maybe a new 2nd stage?)

So this really seems like it would have made both agencies happy, and served them both well and cost effectively in the 70's and 80's and perhaps beyond. 
« Last Edit: 02/21/2018 04:11 PM by Lobo »

Offline Arch Admiral

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #57 on: 02/21/2018 07:53 PM »
Most of the STS alternatives discussed in this thread have a fatal defect: they LOOK old-fashioned by the standards of the average person in 1969-71. We had all been conditioned by SF artists, Von Braun/Disney animations, and corporate PR departments to expect that ICBM technology would eventually be replaced by sleek winged spaceships. Anything that LOOKED conventional

-- couldn't have been sold as advanced technology

-- couldn't have been sold as more spectacular than anything the USSR might do

-- couldn't have been sold as cheaper than pressing on with Titans and/or Saturns.

This is why the program stuck with the "fully reusable" flyback booster until the Phase B sudies showed it to be unbuildable, and why people even today criticise the final STS design as "old-fashioned" or "inferior".

Most of these designs also ignore the real unstated goal of the program: preserving the Apollo industrial base during a period of strong anti-technology, anti-space public sentiment. That's why the program was originally intended to last a maximum of 10 years, by which time space would be back in public favor again and the Space Task Group program would finally be funded.








Offline Kansan52

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #58 on: 02/21/2018 08:13 PM »
I have only one data point, "After Apollo" by John Logsdon, but the take away was budget cuts that eliminated the Saturn V, NERVA, Mars, a Space Station and the rest left NASA with a 'shuttle' as the only project that could be funded. NASA wanted something that could loft space station modules sometime in the future. Technology and budget eliminated the fully reusable plane like booster with orbiter on top. Pressure was on for a smaller orbiter or no Manned Space Program at all. Politics couldn't accept no Manned Space and NASA wanted the large cargo bay. There was some in NASA that felt the length of the cargo bay was needed for spy satellites.

So, the result was the STS.

Offline Lobo

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Re: Alternate Joint NASA/USAF "STS" System.
« Reply #59 on: 02/21/2018 11:29 PM »
Most of the STS alternatives discussed in this thread have a fatal defect: they LOOK old-fashioned by the standards of the average person in 1969-71. We had all been conditioned by SF artists, Von Braun/Disney animations, and corporate PR departments to expect that ICBM technology would eventually be replaced by sleek winged spaceships. Anything that LOOKED conventional

-- couldn't have been sold as advanced technology

-- couldn't have been sold as more spectacular than anything the USSR might do

-- couldn't have been sold as cheaper than pressing on with Titans and/or Saturns.

This is why the program stuck with the "fully reusable" flyback booster until the Phase B sudies showed it to be unbuildable, and why people even today criticise the final STS design as "old-fashioned" or "inferior".

Most of these designs also ignore the real unstated goal of the program: preserving the Apollo industrial base during a period of strong anti-technology, anti-space public sentiment. That's why the program was originally intended to last a maximum of 10 years, by which time space would be back in public favor again and the Space Task Group program would finally be funded.

I don't discount your points here.  But we have to assume for any "alternate history" thread that something somewhere along the line changed.  Otherwise history would always unfold exactly as it did, right?

However, some alternate concepts are more "Plausible" of a divergence from actual history than others.  They check more historical climate boxes, so to speak.  And that was the point of this thread, to explore options that might have had a chance to have been reality, with the smallest amount of tweaking of actual history.

You make good points here, But...

I think a small reusable HL-20 type space plane would have been seen as a) Advanced technology...much more advanced seeming than the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo expendable capsules, b)  More spectacular than what the Soviets were doing or likely to do in the near term....they were plodding along with Soyuz without any real successor in the 70's, advanced or not.
And the new joint booster would be a fully joint LV shared between NASA and USAF as a single common mass produced LV, could have been sold as cheaper than either the Titans or Saturns.   The Saturns were expensive as they shared nothing with anything else (except the tanks on the S-1B I suppose) and although Titan IIIC wasn't overly expensive, I don't think, as it shared a lot of parts and infrastructure with Titan ICBM's, but the USAF was looking for more capacity than it could do in the 70's.  That extra capacity was designed into STS, making it really big, with a lot of pad modifications for on-pad payload change out, etc.  After Challenger, USAF proceeded with a larger version of Titan IIIC, the Titan IV, which in post respects was a completely new purpose build LV, and shared little with the Titan II and III series of ICBM's and LV's.  So Titan IV became very expensive.

So this common LV would have Titan IV capability...or more, plus be adequate to put this smaller Shuttle into LEO, and launch Mir and ISS like space station modules.  They'd just do their own propulsion rather than be delivered by a big Space truck like the Shuttle.

As far as reusability, that could be a feature "to be added later".  Start with a Space plane that could be fully reused (and would have much more likely achieved the STS goals of a fast turn around), and then as the technology advanced later, a Falcon 9 style boost back and landing could have been played with.  Some cool art showing that down the road could have been presented.  Or perhaps the ballute style parachute water landing like Boeing proposed for the S-1D.  But get the LV operational first.  Likely, those never would have happened, but there'd just need to be enough concept art and "plausibility" to get it through the evaluation process.

I think USAF would have been much more on board with this than the Shuttle, as they could have retained their own launch facilities and operations, and it wouldn't be "NASA's rocket" like the Saturns.  Yet it would have given them that extra capability they wanted from STS and later Titan IV.  And it could have used existing (and fairly simple and inexpensive) engines in the H-1 and derivatives like the RS-27, along with kerolox propellants. (except for a hydrolox Centaur optional 3rd stage for USAF payloads)

So, to me anyway, this seems like it could perhaps have really been an alternate to STS, that would only have required a minimal amount of "history changes" to have come to be.
But perhaps there's better concepts others may have that would have required even fewer "changes" than this?







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