A Sound of Thunder: The Rise of the Soviet Superbooster

Interesting development on Challenger's loss. Particularly since the spares that went into Endeavour don't exist ITTL--that'll introduce a big logistical chokepoint on the NASA program. Ariane 5 is too far-off in the future to matter, and using Soviet tech isn't an option--so NASA's in a heck of a pickle.
A new capsule design is on the way, so it can be certified for flights on Titan
 
A new capsule design is on the way, so it can be certified for flights on Titan

Don't think it's crew that's the issue, they've lost a good chunk of their satellite launch capability which I think is more the problem.
TTL it seems got going faster to converting satellite launches to the Shuttle than OTL which had several users who were slow-walking the process at first.

Randy
 
Don't think it's crew that's the issue, they've lost a good chunk of their satellite launch capability which I think is more the problem.
TTL it seems got going faster to converting satellite launches to the Shuttle than OTL which had several users who were slow-walking the process at first.

Randy

The Reagan administration/Bormann has brought in commercial launch with Atlas and Titan so there are alternatives though how much capacity and what price is another question.
 
The Reagan administration/Bormann has brought in commercial launch with Atlas and Titan so there are alternatives though how much capacity and what price is another question.

I should point out that being down an Orbiter "may" be the opening more commercial launchers need BUT the big question is if NASA will continue to fly commercial payloads. They dropped the OTL right after Challenger and in this case the US commercial launchers had been phasing out and shutting down which took them a while to ramp back up.
Now that right there was what gave Europe, Russia and China a foot in the door :)
Not so sure that will happen TTL.

Randy
 
Bormann decides to end the shuttle monopoly. So commercial Titan and Delta should appear by the end of the decade, before mass-produced Soyuzes or Vulcans come to market.
 
The OTL post Challenger gap in US commercial launch capacity certainly helped Ariane but the bigger issue was price, both Atlas and Titan were very expensive and with guaranteed DoD contracts the motive for a stripping out costs and cutting profit margins to be competitive wasn't there. Having commercial rockets ready to go when Shuttle is stood down in this TL will probably keep a few payloads in the US from inertia but sooner or later people are going to notice that Ariane is a lot cheaper and then come the nineties Russian rockets which cheaper still will be coming in.
 

Ry01tank

Banned
The OTL post Challenger gap in US commercial launch capacity certainly helped Ariane but the bigger issue was price, both Atlas and Titan were very expensive and with guaranteed DoD contracts the motive for a stripping out costs and cutting profit margins to be competitive wasn't there. Having commercial rockets ready to go when Shuttle is stood down in this TL will probably keep a few payloads in the US from inertia but sooner or later people are going to notice that Ariane is a lot cheaper and then come the nineties Russian rockets which cheaper still will be coming in.
I remember seeing the Commerical Titan program online, basically making it competitive, but due to how expensive the base Titan III or IV was it would be expensive to redevelop a Titan V for commercial use, Delta and Atlas were easier as both were used for military and commercial payloads, not to mention better suited to the varying payload sizes

Ariane's success was due to the huge backlog of Commercial Sats supposed to be launched on the Shuttle, US companies had shutdown production lines and in some cases had destroyed rockets (a bunch of Atlas cores were run over with bulldozers), it would take a few years to be able to launch a rocket (other then what they had on hand). Ariane could scale up its rocket production, and with its two satellite carrier system could launch more with less,

China and India had a chunk of the launches, the rocket that killed a few thousand civilians in China was launching an American satellite. The Chinese investigation was inconclusive, the American investigation found out the issue and gave it to China, which is why the US made it illegal to share rocket tech with China, as the tech is considered military and a weapon, as guidance for a satellite launcher can be used for missiles
 
Well, that's different.

But with all the pieces on Terra Firma, and the damage only happening on touchdown - minus the TPS Damage during the launch - it should be a little easier to piece together the precise sequence of events that led to the final outcome.

Plus, having Skylab B proving itself in a capacity I'm certain NASA didn't want it used for. That must have been a huge aid to them IMHO.

But if I'm reading it right, there's no spare parts for making a replacement Orbiter ITTL, so they're stuck with just four now. That's gonna have some serious impacts down the road.

Looking at some of the other comments, I kinda agree that the ESA/Arianespace Ariane LV should capture a good chunk of the Commercial Space Market, but I also agree that with Titan and Atlas LVs having their production facilities restarted - if I read previous updates correctly - it won't be as much. Additionally IOTL, Ariane 4 was still two years away from First Launch, I can't help but think that that will factor in...
 
Hi, just a quick note to say I’m not able to respond to the comments right now, as I’m travelling today. But there is still time to post a new part…
 
Part 2 Post 7: Eurospace

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Post 7: Eurospace​


“La vision de Jules Verne est enfin une réalité.”

- Jean-Jacques Dordain, Zvezda 10, 26th February 1985.

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The announcement in early 1983 that a French spationaut was to be included in an upcoming Soviet lunar landing caused an international sensation, and marked a low-point in space cooperation between the US and Europe. While the agreement between France and the USSR had been negotiated bilaterally, outside the framework of the European Space Agency, it was a reaction to a wider feeling on the eastern side of the Atlantic that Europe was not being given the respect they were due in space matters.

In the 1970s, the situation had appeared quite different. The new European Space Agency had negotiated a number of partnerships with NASA in both crewed and uncrewed spaceflight. The most high profile of these was Spacelab, a pressurised module built and owned by ESA that would turn the Shuttle into a mini space station. NASA would gain mission capabilities that the Shuttle would otherwise lack, while Europe would gain experience in human spaceflight technologies and have regular opportunities to fly their astronauts on the American spacecraft.

Unfortunately, this initially warm relationship soon cooled. From the beginning, ESA felt that they were being treated less as a partner, and more like a junior subcontractor. Major decisions on the direction of the Shuttle programme were regularly taken without ESA being consulted, sometimes resulting in costly changes to Spacelab. The decision by the US to launch Skylab-B only made things worse, as the station gave American researchers a home-grown alternative to Spacelab for hosting experiments. ESA officials complained of NASA downgrading their space module from a first-class orbiting laboratory to little more than a glorified shipping container for experiments and supplies bound for Skylab.

The arrival of Reagan and his programme of reigning in government spending only made things worse. Despite an increase in funding for crewed spaceflight, a number of internationally agreed scientific missions were axed from the NASA budget, including solar probe and Halley comet interceptor missions that involved ESA participation. This left Europeans feeling abused, showing NASA as an unreliable partner. Later, tentative contacts by the Reagan administration to involve Europe in the Freedom lunar programme were therefore viewed warily, with many suspecting (not unjustifiably) that the involvement the US was seeking was mostly of a financial nature. Some agreements were reached on flying European instruments on US lunar missions, but ESA members were shut out of any developments on Freedom’s critical path. In other words, all the lucrative and technologically challenging tasks that would most benefit European industry were instead reserved for Americans.

A further source of tension were the heavy subsidies initially offered for commercial satellite operators to launch on Shuttle, directly competing with Europe’s (also subsidised) Ariane vehicles. Similar subsidies were also to be provided for the first few years of operation of the US’ newly commercialised expendable fleet, supposedly to cover the costs of conversion and encourage competition. As things turned out, the lower than expected number of commercial slots available on Shuttle launches, combined with a lag in ramping up commercial Atlas and Titan missions, meant that Ariane was able to find sufficient customers for a brisk production rate in the early/mid-80s. Although Arianespace was by no means dominating the commercial launch market, there were a number of negative news stories in the US, and even questions raised in Congress, about the increasing number of American companies using foreign rockets. This only reinforced the perception that Europe and America were competitors in space, not partners.

The reaction in Europe was twofold, manifested in a search for other partners who might support European ambitions, and a determination to develop home-grown capabilities in all aspects of spaceflight. In both of these areas, it was France that took a lead.

France already had a chequered history with the US, the most high-profile example of which was the 1966 decision by French President Charles de Gualle to withdraw from NATO’s integrated military command structures. This development was, naturally, well received in Moscow, and although Franco-Soviet relations never approached that of allies, they did include a mutual respect and pragmatism often lacking in Soviet relations with other Western powers. With the Americans apparently losing interest in partnering with Europe in space, the other Superpower was an obvious alternative.

French diplomats began exploring the possibility of a joint spaceflight in 1982, with initial talks proposing having a Frenchman visit the Zarya 3 space station (acting as a pointed riposte to the planned visit of a German to Skylab-B as part of the Spacelab programme). However, while the Soviets had plans to fly cosmonauts from a number of Warsaw Pact allies to the station, Zarya’s military nature made them reluctant to do the same for a national of a country that was still officially part of the Atlantic Alliance. Their surprising counter-offer was far more ambitious: the flight of the first non-US, non-Soviet citizen to set foot upon the Moon.

The proposal to fly a Frenchman to the Moon came from the Minister of Heavy and Transport Machinery, Sergei Afanasiev. With General Secretary Yuri Andropov in poor health, and his deputy Konstantine Chernenko overwhelmed, the highest levels of the Soviet leadership were preoccupied with jostling for power, ensuring their position for the inevitable succession struggle. Afanasiev believed that flying a cosmonaut from a nominally US-allied nation to the Moon would be a propaganda coup, undermining the Western alliance and bringing plaudits to the Ministry that proposed it. Afanasiev managed to win backing for the proposal from Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, who had effectively unconstrained control of Soviet foreign policy at this time. Mishin was against the proposal, reluctant to bump one of his own cosmonauts for a foreigner who would be little more than ballast, but he was not given a choice. An agreement was signed by Gromyko and the French Minister of External Relations Claude Cheysson in March 1983, closely followed by a Council of Ministers decree ordering NPO Groza to fly the mission.

Three candidate “spationauts” were dispatched to Moscow for training in the summer of 1983. Due to the nature of the bilateral agreement, all three were employees of the French space agency CNES, not ESA. Almost two years later, in February 1985, N1-32L lifted the Zvezda 10 mission from Baikonur with Jean-Jacques Dordain in the GB2 Flight Engineer’s couch[1]. The raising of the tricolor on the lunar surface alongside the hammer-and-sickle was a moment of intense pride in France, while in the US it was seen as confirmation that the French - and Europeans more generally - were not fully reliable as allies.

The second initiative being pushed by the French was perhaps even more ambitious: an independent crewed spacecraft for Europe. CNES had been studying concepts for a crewed space vehicle since the mid-1970s, along with a series of crew-tended orbital platforms to support scientific and industrial needs. By 1982, these studies had crystalised into the SOLARIS space lab (Station Orbitale Laboratoire Automatique de Rendezvous et d’Interventions Spatiales) serviced by the Hermes spaceplane, a 10 tonne winged space shuttle that would be launched by an uprated Ariane rocket. However, CNES recognised that the French government alone would never be able to fund the whole programme, and so they made moves to “Europeanise” the programme.

With the Americans seemingly uninterested in partnering with Europe, the French initiative was well received within ESA. The Germans in particular were eager to leverage their experience with Spacelab to take a leading role in the SOLARIS platform, but had some reservations over the price tag associated with the Hermes spaceplane. Unlike SOLARIS, and having been shut out of the Shuttle’s development by NASA, there was very little existing experience with space planes within European industry. This was in fact a prime reason for French interest in the project, to further develop their high-tech industrial base, but other ESA members were concerned that going directly to a reusable space plane as their first crewed spacecraft could be a step too far. Additionally, by focussing their efforts on a winged vehicle, Europe would be limiting itself to Earth orbit at a time when the Superpowers were expanding outwards to the moon. A capsule - perhaps reusable, like the Soviet Slava - would be quicker and cheaper to develop, and could be upgraded to support missions to lunar space. On the other hand, both of the Superpowers had or were developing reusable shuttles for access to Earth orbit, while realistically ESA was not going to be in a position to launch its own lunar missions for a long time to come.

These debates came to a conclusion at the ESA ministerial meeting in Rome in January 1985. This meeting confirmed the development of a next generation carrier rocket, the Ariane 5, and, after late-night discussions at the highest level, the Hermes spaceplane to carry Europeans to space. Development of both the Ariane 5 and Hermes would be led by France. As part of the compromises to ‘Europeanise’ Hermes, the French agreed to Germany leading development of the space platform that would serve as the shuttle’s primary destination, now re-named Columbus. [2]

Hermes would prove to be the problem child of the three Rome programmes, with knock-on effects for Ariane 5 and Columbus. Right from the start, there was confusion over who was in charge of the programme, CNES or ESA. Officially, it was an ESA programme, with CNES delegated as project owners of both the space and ground segments. In practice, this led to unclear lines of authority, with ESA and CNES sometimes issuing contradictory instructions to the subcontractors.

This confusion was compounded by disagreements over even the most basic requirements of the system. To support Hermes’ primary mission of servicing the Columbus space platform, ESA needed a crew of at least 2, preferably 3, with space to deliver 1-2 tonnes of scientific payload and consumables to low Earth orbit. Meanwhile, the team developing Columbus, led by Germany’s DLR space agency, added requirements for a robotic servicing arm, unpressurised cargo, and an EVA capability. The range of possible configurations this led to meant that Ariane 5 might be required to lift anywhere between 12 tonnes or something closer to 20, with massive implications for the design of the rocket.

It was not until the 1987 Ministerial Meeting in The Hague that these issues were clarified. Management of the Hermes programme was consolidated under ESA, and the basic configuration of the spacecraft was settled. In particular, many of the systems needed on orbit were moved to a disposable Resources Module, reducing the mass that would need to be supported for re-entry and landing. EVAs could be supported by depressurising the whole Resources Module, using it as an airlock, which removed the need to include this capability as part of the Columbus facility.

There were concerns that the lack of room in Hermes for cargo would limit its usefulness in moving experiments to the Columbus module, but by 1987 another possibility had emerged. Japan’s National Space Development Agency (NASDA) had expressed an interest in joining the Columbus project, and had offered to develop an autonomous cargo ship as part of a joint programme. In exchange, ESA was to provide a second Columbus service module, which would be launched with a Japanese lab module flying co-orbital with Columbus. Hermes would be used for crew launches to both platforms, with the Japanese cargo ship performing re-supply and re-boost functions. NASDA also proposed joint development of an advanced internal robotic arm, which would support station operations even without a crew on board.

The Hague meeting approved this approach, with a formal exchange of letters between ESA and NASDA taking place in early 1988. With the basic requirements of the Hermes and Columbus programmes now clarified, and Ariane 5 development also progressing well, there seemed nothing to prevent Europe becoming the third entity to launch humans into space by the middle of the next decade.

++++++++++++++++++++​

[1] IOTL Jean-Jacques Dordain was a CNES candidate to fly Spacelab, Soyuz and Salyut missions in the late 1970s, but was passed over in favour of military candidates. He later went on to become the ESA Director-General 2003-2015.

[2] This agreement to Europeanise Hermes is coming two years earlier than IOTL.
 
So that's what the "foreign policy coup" was! I'll admit the thought had crossed my mind, but I thought surely the Europeans would already be involved in Freedom. Always trust Raygun to needle his own allies into hating him.

Is Britain taking much of a role in the development of the new Eurospace program or has Thatcher's gutting of heavy industry basically precluded any of that in the short term?
 
Is the quote Dordain talking to the Z10 crew or are you implying that he was on the Z10 crew?
He was on it.
Three candidate “spationauts” were dispatched to Moscow for training in the summer of 1983. Due to the nature of the bilateral agreement, all three were employees of the French space agency CNES, not ESA. Almost two years later, in February 1985, N1-32L lifted the Zvezda 10 mission from Baikonur with Jean-Jacques Dordain in the GB2 Flight Engineer’s couch. The raising of the tricolor on the lunar surface alongside the hammer-and-sickle was a moment of intense pride in France, while in the US it was seen as confirmation that the French - and Europeans more generally - were not fully reliable as allies.
 
Ooh, I hope Hermes can make it.
The original program had allot problem
The french made form X-20 type glider, a french Space Shuttle.
While increase mass and and getting technical complicated
Special after OTL Challenger's loss in 1986, it needed crew escape system...
it delay the program serious until 1990s
Then happen die German unification and the Government needed money for it
first victims were german Sänger II shuttle, french Hermes and ESA Columbus as free flying lab.
 
Good luck to the Columbus and Hermes projects. Be good to read about more competitors in the space domain.

Nice bit of international cooperation there. Wonder if India, Australia, Canada and other players interested in space might join in later?
 

Ry01tank

Banned
Good luck to the Columbus and Hermes projects. Be good to read about more competitors in the space domain.

Nice bit of international cooperation there. Wonder if India, Australia, Canada and other players interested in space might join in later?
Wait till i finally decide on how to restart my Canadian Shuttle timeline

Can't decide if Canada should by one, or one and spare parts for a second (and when to build this second one)
 

Garrison

Donor
I am enjoying this, but we are reaching that point in the 1980s where the cracks were beginning to show in the OTL USSR. Unless the economy is doing spectacularly better things are still going to start getting rough and spaceflight is an expensive proposition. Of course I suppose its possible that instead of a reformer Like Gorbachev Chernenko is succeeded by a hardliner determined to keep showing the USSR is the equal of the USA?
 
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