LEVIATHAN Rising: An Alternative Space Age

Pity it is absolutely impossible for Vice President Strauss to succeed to the Presidency following Ike's massive coronary in 1957...
Ike's massive coronary was in 1955, wasn't it? In 1957 he suffered a stroke, but I was under the impression it was a minor one. And who's to say that the twist is that Ike dies? Maybe it's Strauss who's going to get axed, such as by the mob in Venezuela in 1957 that almost got Nixon IOTL. (I gave serious thought to going with keeping Nixon as the Veep and having the worst-case scenario play out in Venezuela, but decided instead that Nixon-to-the-Pentagon offered a more interesting story.) And Lewis Strauss doesn't need to be president to monkey around with history as we know it anyway.

I mean, it's not like a Jewish vice president-elect who made his fortune as an investment banker might be able to exert any influence on the American response during the Suez Crisis, which was based in no small part upon the threat of liquidating of sterling-denominated bonds, right? (Lest anyone think this means Suez turns out meaningfully different from OTL as a practical matter, there's no force in the cosmos that's going to get the Eisenhower Administration to acquiesce to Operation Musketeer. There are a variety of different paths for the United States to take in its opposition, however, beyond reaching for its biggest stick and loudly threatening to use it. Those other paths could have profound ramifications for Anglo-American relations and spacedy things.)
 
Besides, what's the worst that can happen? I mean, it's not like there's going to be some kind of highly traumatic and humiliating event which could galvanize a highly ambitious man to making common cause with one or more institutionally desperate factions within the Pentagon to do profoundly unwise things in the hopes of cleansing his humiliation and restoring his good name. That'd just be silly.
So Sputnik is gonna result in Nixon and the Chairforce doing something extraordinarily stupid that is going to backfire on them? Glorious.
 
Chapter 16: I Confidentially Brief; You Leak; He/She Is Prosecuted for Disclosing State Secrets
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And Goodyear Aerospace was keenly interested in space. The roots of this interests dated back the First LEVIATHAN Report, when it had performed a study contract to investigate “potential space vehicles for the year 1977”. One of Goodyear’s in-house engineers – Darrell Romick – volunteered to head the project, which produced the Manned Earth-Satellite Terminal Evolving from Earth-to-Orbit Ferry Rockets (METEOR) for its troubles. Romick started with a three-stage ferry rocket, similar to Wernher von Braun’s, and noted that there was a problem with it for building a space station: The usage of a reusable spaceplane to ferry cargo was inefficient, as all of the spaceplane’s mass was wasted payload given that much of what was required for a space station only made a one-way trip. His solution was as elegant as it was simple. If the third-stage was made expendable, rather than reusable, and the station’s keel or “backbone” was built out of those third-stages, then throw-weight could be improved considerably in the early phases of the station’s construction. It could also provide almost all of the efficiencies of total reusability, as a reusable third-stage would be designed for the role, with a designed-for ability to be converted in orbit into structural components for the station. The expensive components from the now-expendable spaceplane would then be returned to Earth for reuse aboard the return legs of other spaceplanes’ trips to orbit.

METEOR itself took this concept to its logical (if miracle engineering-fueled) conclusion, envisioning a veritable space-city of 16,000 souls with a half-mile-wide habitat wheel generating exactly 1g at two revolutions per minute. Following the First LEVIATHAN Report, Goodyear Aerospace had continued to be actively work with Heinlein’s boffins at the Naval Research Laboratory, both on definitional studies for a “feasible” three-stage fully reusable rocket – the Meteor Junior – and constructing orbital structures from inflatable components. (Interest in the former was rapidly being lost by the Navy by mid-1956 due to the practical experience gained from ongoing design-work for Tethys, while the latter would provide far more enduring contributions to the national space program.)

Yes, METEOR makes a bit bigger splash than OTL :) And I have to wonder if there's not some suggestion and actual work done on METEOR Jr. going ON a Tethys given how the design 'matured' in OTL. It would kind of make some sense :)

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*Edit* I should clarify that while I love METEOR the Von Braun/Disney/Colliers-et-al "plan" was much more practical in most aspects given the amount of work (manual labor) that was assumed in the METEOR planning.
Von Braun's plan also used inflatable segments which were also based on some previous Goodyear work, and while the Goodyear planning used "expendable" rockets for construction they did miss that the needed differences between the "expendable" and recoverable upper stages was enough that simply having an empty 'cargo' upper stage made vastly more sense but that the METEOR LV dynamics didn't really allow that as an option. Von Braun's design did.

Randy
 
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And I'm going to have to point out that given how Ike is treating both Space Flight in general and Nixon specifically there's going to be very little 'incentive' on Nixon to team up with the Air Force on some stunt. The Air Force has missiles in development yes, but they are no where near flight ready yet and the Navy doesn't even have that atm so the "logical" way to speed up a US satellite launch is to simply Ok the Army to do it just like in OTL. More-so the aspect of Nixon being the newly appointed SoD he's got more than enough reasons to do so. And I'll point out that if you're thinking of having the Army 'fail' to get a satellite in orbit and maybe having the Navy succeed it's possible given the circumstances but in context if the Navy is even 'close' with Vanguard then there's no reason to still not provide the Army as a backup. Nixon after all was a Navy man and quite practical in nature so he's less likely to fall into the trap of trusting the Air Force's claims versus either the Army or Navies actual shown capability.

Randy
 
Ike's massive coronary was in 1955, wasn't it? In 1957 he suffered a stroke, but I was under the impression it was a minor one.

It was but it might not have been as it was he was out for three critical days and needed weeks to recover. A salient point though is by this point and time he and Nixon, while really not 'liking' each other had come to an arrangement which in Eisenhower's case included a letter and agreement on how and under what circumstances Nixon was to "take over" which was, along with Eisenhower's more open 'utilization' of Nixon AS VP was(something a lot more unusual in power sharing than any past President/Veep. I doubt he'd have the same confidence in a "place holder" replacement.

Randy
 
My point about Ike's "coronary" was more along the lines that the future is an unknown territory, and that Ike would have no guarantees that the arrangements he makes in 1956 will be operable in 1957. Strauss may start with no political ambitions, but who knows how that might evolve if he takes the reins after succeeding to the job? Would Dick Nixon be fussed? Very likely!
 
Yes, METEOR makes a bit bigger splash than OTL :) And I have to wonder if there's not some suggestion and actual work done on METEOR Jr. going ON a Tethys given how the design 'matured' in OTL. It would kind of make some sense :)
It's worth noting that's basically what happens, as what the Navy loses interest in is the whole three-stage Meteor Junior system. METEOR Junior the Spaceplane continues to get noodled about as ORDER evolves into Short ORDER, Tall ORDER, and a series of studies on spaceplanes and reusable second- and third-stages. Which we'll get to at some point.

*Edit* I should clarify that while I love METEOR the Von Braun/Disney/Colliers-et-al "plan" was much more practical in most aspects given the amount of work (manual labor) that was assumed in the METEOR planning.
Von Braun's plan also used inflatable segments which were also based on some previous Goodyear work, and while the Goodyear planning used "expendable" rockets for construction they did miss that the needed differences between the "expendable" and recoverable upper stages was enough that simply having an empty 'cargo' upper stage made vastly more sense but that the METEOR LV dynamics didn't really allow that as an option. Von Braun's design did.
Part of the reason why I reached for METEOR in this context is because the First LEVIATHAN Report is supposed to be about insanity. Or, at the very least, not hung-up on practicality. It's just perfect for the role it's cast and why Goodyear follows it up with work on the exact sorts of things it did OTL, because while glorious, it was just a wee bit overly ambitious. Also financially utterly and totally ruinous. But ignore that and focus on the awesome megastructure.

And I'm going to have to point out that given how Ike is treating both Space Flight in general and Nixon specifically there's going to be very little 'incentive' on Nixon to team up with the Air Force on some stunt. The Air Force has missiles in development yes, but they are no where near flight ready yet and the Navy doesn't even have that atm so the "logical" way to speed up a US satellite launch is to simply Ok the Army to do it just like in OTL. More-so the aspect of Nixon being the newly appointed SoD he's got more than enough reasons to do so. And I'll point out that if you're thinking of having the Army 'fail' to get a satellite in orbit and maybe having the Navy succeed it's possible given the circumstances but in context if the Navy is even 'close' with Vanguard then there's no reason to still not provide the Army as a backup. Nixon after all was a Navy man and quite practical in nature so he's less likely to fall into the trap of trusting the Air Force's claims versus either the Army or Navies actual shown capability.
Most of this is quite correct. And there's not a whole lot that can be done to "accelerate" an American response to Sputnik in any event: OTL Vanguard (attempted) to launch within eight weeks of Sputnik and, even if the Army or Air Force could will a working launcher and payload into existence sooner, Nixon's practical enough to know that launching a few weeks sooner won't mean anything in the grand scheme of things. And that something like, well, OTL Vanguard happening would be catastrophic and it was much more likely to happen with a hastily thrown-together launch than with Vanguard's two-year long development process.

But Richard Nixon is, as you say, a quite practical man. He intends to win the 1960 election and he just found himself at the helm of a major participant in the Space Race. The laurels the Pentagon wins will be his. (At least if he has anything to say about it.) Every effort will require bending to beat the Commies and, hey, if that helps Nixon's electoral efforts, all the better. And if you can achieve some kind of really big milestone -- one of the remaining Big Five Firsts, maybe! -- that'd be even better, because it shows that only Dick Nixon can be trusted to rout the Communist menace both on Earth and in the stars above. And while Nixon's not the sort who's going to spend his scarce personal resources pursuing that, if one of the services happens into seriously pushing for such, there might be a useful aligning of interests there...

It was but it might not have been as it was he was out for three critical days and needed weeks to recover. A salient point though is by this point and time he and Nixon, while really not 'liking' each other had come to an arrangement which in Eisenhower's case included a letter and agreement on how and under what circumstances Nixon was to "take over" which was, along with Eisenhower's more open 'utilization' of Nixon AS VP was(something a lot more unusual in power sharing than any past President/Veep. I doubt he'd have the same confidence in a "place holder" replacement.
I meditated on this for a long while, as Nixon was in many ways the first "modern" VP, as he behaved far more like how contemporary VPs do -- as hand-picked individuals who are a sort of Presidential consigliere -- than earlier Twentieth Century VPs. It's part of why I settled on Strauss, as the man really did have Ike's confidence: Prior to being nominated to be Secretary of Commerce in 1958, Ike (purportedly) offered Strauss the positions of chief of staff and Secretary of State, respectively, which were rejected for reasons which had nothing to do with the Strauss's abilities. (And Ike would've almost certainly renominated Strauss as chair of the AEC, which was itself an important appointment given the centrality of nuclear weaponry to American defense policy, if Strauss would have had any hope of being confirmed.) I suspect you won't see a huge gap between what Ike would've trusted Nixon with and what he would've trusted a Vice President Strauss with. And, for that matter, ending the Nixonian experiment is almost certainly one of the reasons Strauss is able to get on the ballot in the first place, as there were factions within the RNC which were not fans of Nixon's unusual use of his office or his transparent laying the foundations for a future push for the White House.

My point about Ike's "coronary" was more along the lines that the future is an unknown territory, and that Ike would have no guarantees that the arrangements he makes in 1956 will be operable in 1957. Strauss may start with no political ambitions, but who knows how that might evolve if he takes the reins after succeeding to the job? Would Dick Nixon be fussed? Very likely!
This is Tricky Dick Nixon we're talking about here. If the sitting Vice President starts getting ideas beyond his station, there are ways to deal with it. I mean, the Pentagon's already demonstrated its excellence in the leaking game. Just imagine how much could be done if those talents were trained on a target outside the military rather than within it.
 
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It's worth noting that's basically what happens, as what the Navy loses interest in is the whole three-stage Meteor Junior system. METEOR Junior the Spaceplane continues to get noodled about as ORDER evolves into Short ORDER, Tall ORDER, and a series of studies on spaceplanes and reusable second- and third-stages. Which we'll get to at some point.

However, there's a bit of institutional 'bias' here that's going to be hard to overcome in that at that point in time everyone "knew" that fully reusable launch vehicles were the "only" way to get to orbit for people but the 'bias' was that expendable launch vehicles (based on on-going missile work) were the 'fastest' way and Ike's decision to go with the Navy's (OTL) untried, unbuilt and untested LV proposal surprised everyone The fact that the effort was under-funded and under-supported didn't help either but in any event it was based on an expendable vehicle.

Von Braun's Redstone, Jupiter and eventually Saturn launchers however were proposed to incorporate recovery at least. if not reuse at some point, in order to assess the feasibility of such efforts. The upfront costs made every suggestion of such too much for TPTB so was never implemented. OTL the post-Sputnik "rush" meant the idea had even less support but arguably the main idea behind "Tethys" would actually benefit from applying recoverability from the start in TTL. But you have to have that push from the start or it is far to easy to go and stick with the expendable route.

Part of the reason why I reached for METEOR in this context is because the First LEVIATHAN Report is supposed to be about insanity. Or, at the very least, not hung-up on practicality. It's just perfect for the role it's cast and why Goodyear follows it up with work on the exact sorts of things it did OTL, because while glorious, it was just a wee bit overly ambitious. Also financially utterly and totally ruinous. But ignore that and focus on the awesome megastructure.

Well it's all part of the "Not knowing what you don't know" issue but in this case the Navy has a LOT of experience with underwater construction and repair and that experience would lead them to NOT make a lot of the same underestimations that "others" would (and did) normally make.

Most of this is quite correct. And there's not a whole lot that can be done to "accelerate" an American response to Sputnik in any event: OTL Vanguard (attempted) to launch within eight weeks of Sputnik and, even if the Army or Air Force could will a working launcher and payload into existence sooner, Nixon's practical enough to know that launching a few weeks sooner won't mean anything in the grand scheme of things. And that something like, well, OTL Vanguard happening would be catastrophic and it was much more likely to happen with a hastily thrown-together launch than with Vanguard's two-year long development process.

Actually? See I should point out that the suggested:
Besides, what's the worst that can happen? I mean, it's not like there's going to be some kind of highly traumatic and humiliating event which could galvanize a highly ambitious man to making common cause with one or more institutionally desperate factions within the Pentagon to do profoundly unwise things in the hopes of cleansing his humiliation and restoring his good name. That'd just be silly.

Could be Nixon simply leaning into the 'actions' that Eisenhower is requesting which in OTL caused the release of a very quickly buried memo that was given out on October 3rd, 1957 which threatened great and dire penalties for any high-ranking DoD personnel that even MENTIONED "space, space flight or any space foolishness" in any public way after this memo... Oh, well we all know what happened the next day now don't we?

Still that's literally enforcing Eisenhower's directives NOT something Nixon directly controls, especially as Secretary of Defense. The thing is OTL the SecDef had scheduled the day AFTER the release of that memo to be talking directly with one of branches OTL that was more than a bit vocal about "space" and one that had already had been turned down in 1954, and again in 1956 and which would (if all things go to plan) could actually launch a satellite "by accident" with an upcoming test flight in September of 1956. (Jupiter C launch "Round 27" ) It was no accident that the SecDef was in Huntsville to "speak" directly to the Army ABMA heads and Werner Von Braun specifically about public advocacy on the subject of "space flight" and it was there he ended up getting informed of the launch of Sputnik... And as they say the rest is history.

The main point is both Eisenhower and SecDef Johnson were well aware that broadcasting and making public statements AGAINST space flight wasn't a smart thing to do and Nixon is probably MORE connected to public opinion than Eisenhower is. He's not likely to make Ike's mistakes from his position, especially when Ike's "plan" was to cut the military out of space entirely in the first place.

However in 1956 this is less of an issue since Nixon is there to reign in the DoD on space related matters then yes THAT could be the 'mess' he inherits but I'd question him going for that as it's again going to be quite clear that's not something the public is interested in and they frankly EXPECT the US military to carry the ball.

The problem here is Ike is actually trying to push something the US public isn't seeing and OTL his later efforts to down-play the disappointment and depression the US public felt at the 'failures' of the US space effort backfired. Nixon actually got more of a 'boost' when Ike didn't really support him than a downturn because it was generally seen as him NOT being tied totally to Eisenhower's policies and tactics. So Nixon is going to be cautious over going against public feelings for some near-term policy points with the President.

Worse he's got about zero incentive to back anything the Air Force might propose and he KNOWS what the Army is capable of so that option right there is still the most likely path. And it's very unlikely the Army will fail.

But Richard Nixon is, as you say, a quite practical man. He intends to win the 1960 election and he just found himself at the helm of a major participant in the Space Race. The laurels the Pentagon wins will be his. (At least if he has anything to say about it.) Every effort will require bending to beat the Commies and, hey, if that helps Nixon's electoral efforts, all the better. And if you can achieve some kind of really big milestone -- one of the remaining Big Five Firsts, maybe! -- that'd be even better, because it shows that only Dick Nixon can be trusted to rout the Communist menace both on Earth and in the stars above. And while Nixon's not the sort who's going to spend his scarce personal resources pursuing that, if one of the services happens into seriously pushing for such, there might be a useful aligning of interests there...

All true but again the Air Force is literally in 'last place' with no real options here that can come back to haunt Nixon, he'd go with the Army despite the traditional Army/Navy rivalry. (Keep in mind at this point the Air Force has proven to be very much the mutual enemy of both) He might back a Navy proposal but not to put to find a point on it the Army is still going to be the better 'short-term' bet and as they've been preparing for this 'backup' plan...

Now as you've noted the "Big Five Firsts" I can make a guess that you're looking at something OTHER than satellites which could include a manned sub-orbital flight but no matter who proposes such the main fact was no one was ready for that step and any one who suggests they are would need a LOT more than "just" a suggestion that they can do it. (And again the Air Force at this point can't even launch a test article without issues which won't get Nixon's support) Again there's no incentive in it for Nixon at this point.

This is Tricky Dick Nixon we're talking about here. If the sitting Vice President starts getting ideas beyond his station, there are ways to deal with it. I mean, the Pentagon's already demonstrated its excellence in the leaking game. Just imagine how much could be done if those talents were trained on a target outside the military rather than within it.

Eh the military was a political entity with a great deal of apolitical leanings outside it's own interests. If Nixon tried to use them against 'civilian' interests there would be leaks and it would not go well for Nixon and he's probably aware of this having dealt with them while in the Administration. The military doesn't like being 'used' even though we get it done to us a lot and that translates into regularly screwing over political appointees who try and use us as a springboard to higher political office.

Randy
 
However, there's a bit of institutional 'bias' here that's going to be hard to overcome in that at that point in time everyone "knew" that fully reusable launch vehicles were the "only" way to get to orbit for people but the 'bias' was that expendable launch vehicles (based on on-going missile work) were the 'fastest' way and Ike's decision to go with the Navy's (OTL) untried, unbuilt and untested LV proposal surprised everyone The fact that the effort was under-funded and under-supported didn't help either but in any event it was based on an expendable vehicle.
Was Vanguard under-funded and under-supported or was it just that massively overbudget? The world may never know.

Ironically, the first couple of paragraphs of the next chapter actually address exactly this issue, with Vanguard "coming home" as NACA is absorbed into ASTRO and divested of launching authority. And the Navy's rocketeers cursing the thing's existence, as it really is a weird critter. (Cool, in hindsight, but weird.) But lemons will be made into lemonade, I'm sure. And hopefully nothing explodes on the pad this time. ...hopefully.

Well it's all part of the "Not knowing what you don't know" issue but in this case the Navy has a LOT of experience with underwater construction and repair and that experience would lead them to NOT make a lot of the same underestimations that "others" would (and did) normally make.
Absolutely correct. The Navy's got a ton of interesting competencies that will provide for contrasts compared to those of OTL launching agencies and lead to interesting decisions. Even before Robert Truax starts cackling maniacally about building everything out of eighth-inch marine steel.

Von Braun's Redstone, Jupiter and eventually Saturn launchers however were proposed to incorporate recovery at least. if not reuse at some point, in order to assess the feasibility of such efforts. The upfront costs made every suggestion of such too much for TPTB so was never implemented. OTL the post-Sputnik "rush" meant the idea had even less support but arguably the main idea behind "Tethys" would actually benefit from applying recoverability from the start in TTL. But you have to have that push from the start or it is far to easy to go and stick with the expendable route.
Lets just say you will enjoy when we finally get to Tethys's early development. Because this issue crops up and is addressed in a way that, I suspect, you will find quite satisfying.

However in 1956 this is less of an issue since Nixon is there to reign in the DoD on space related matters then yes THAT could be the 'mess' he inherits but I'd question him going for that as it's again going to be quite clear that's not something the public is interested in and they frankly EXPECT the US military to carry the ball.
The "mess" which Ike and Nixon want cleaned up, it should be stressed, is not that the military is interested in space. Ike would certainly prefer if they'd shut up about it and get back to the grim work of preparing to fight and win World War III, but TTL's version of the National Air and Space Act is on the books, so it's the law of the land that the United States operate a national space program and there's nothing Ike can do about it. What they're really concerned with is that they just witnessed the services do an end-run around the White House on a major programming initiative and then spend six weeks fighting each other, by whisper and leak, in a public pissing match to shape ongoing legislation, where the Administration being repeatedly embarrassed by its inability to meaningfully curtail what was occurring. Fixing that means directly confronting the services' autonomy, which promises to be as pleasant as wrestling with a very angry porcupine.

In many ways, Nixon as SECDEF in 1956 has echoes McNamara in 1961. God knows it's not going to be nearly as big of a cluster, as Nixon's management style is that of a fairly traditional politician and he's a savvy enough politico to know that you have to play The Game with the services. But a secondary goal is a lot of McNamara's initiatives were forcing the services to work better with the Pentagon's civilian bureaucracy and each other. So it's entirely possible that there will be some convergent evolution in terms of programming. Space-related efforts almost certainly end up being disproportionately targeted, because that's where the services have been the most out of control. And why they shall all come to fear the Combined Competencies and Capabilities Committee. (Another thing that will be gotten to eventually.)

All true but again the Air Force is literally in 'last place' with no real options here that can come back to haunt Nixon, he'd go with the Army despite the traditional Army/Navy rivalry. (Keep in mind at this point the Air Force has proven to be very much the mutual enemy of both) He might back a Navy proposal but not to put to find a point on it the Army is still going to be the better 'short-term' bet and as they've been preparing for this 'backup' plan...
Congratulations on identifying why the Rocket Wars are still years away from resolving themselves. "Play the services off one another so as to divide-and-conquer them" is an integral component to his mandate of "make sure nothing like the Battle of the Madeira Schoolhouse ever happens again". And patronage for their own pet projects is an important tool to further that goal. The added wrinkle is that the Navy's relatively insulated from threats to its space funding, as much of what was proposed in PRISM has been already earmarked for appropriation by Congress irrespective of what the White House might want. (At least so long as Carl Vinson's chair of the House Armed Services Committee.)

Now as you've noted the "Big Five Firsts" I can make a guess that you're looking at something OTHER than satellites which could include a manned sub-orbital flight but no matter who proposes such the main fact was no one was ready for that step and any one who suggests they are would need a LOT more than "just" a suggestion that they can do it. (And again the Air Force at this point can't even launch a test article without issues which won't get Nixon's support) Again there's no incentive in it for Nixon at this point.
That's just slanderous to the Air Force, you know. They've got a bunch of convincing evidence to support MISS and its 1959 launch date! For instance, they've got a napkin with some math on it that they swear means LF2 as an oxidizer is perfectly sane, a study contract from Lockheed that demonstrates they can fire a man into orbit with an acceptable probability of him surviving long enough to plant the USAF's banner there, and a legal opinion from an entirely reputable New Mexico attorney named Saul that says under the International Law of Finders-Keepers whoever planting a flag in space first means all of space is that person's forever.

But more seriously, your point is well taken. It's my job to show why I think the course of events which I am depicting are plausible and logical within the confines of the fictional universe I am creating. If I've not done anything else this TL, I hope it's that I've shown my work for how things are breaking the way they are.

Eh the military was a political entity with a great deal of apolitical leanings outside it's own interests. If Nixon tried to use them against 'civilian' interests there would be leaks and it would not go well for Nixon and he's probably aware of this having dealt with them while in the Administration. The military doesn't like being 'used' even though we get it done to us a lot and that translates into regularly screwing over political appointees who try and use us as a springboard to higher political office.
I never said it would be a good idea to try to use the Pentagon to fight your rivals inside the executive branch. Merely that, if it could be pulled off, it would be a fearsome thing. I think I made a reference upthread to wishing upon a monkey's paw? That applies equally here.
 
So, it's been about six weeks since Chapter 16 went live and I wanted to provide a brief update on where things are. They are, unfortunately, not much further along than they were six weeks ago! As it turns out that building an alternative space program is hard. (Who'd've guessed?) It's taken considerably longer than anticipated to do the back-end world-building to the point where I'm happy with the context and then even longer to figure out a plan for attacking actually writing it. The good news is that elephant has finally be eaten and I've got sorted out how to get back underway exists. So, with a long weekend looming, progress on Chapter 17 should come sooner rather than later.

The even better news is that Chapter 17 should have a fair bit greater temporal scope than previous entries, as we finally are back into technical development. Starting with TTL's Vanguard, a vehicle that will play a rather important -- if dreary and unappreciated-- role for both the Navy and TTL's evolving space program. Other than exploding on the launchpad, of course. As a small teaser (and proof of why I dare not do anything more visually dynamic Excel):

Vanguard Family Spoilers.png

By the end of Chapter 17, most of that should make sense.

Probably.

Hopefully.

Maybe?

The continuing patience and interest of my readers remains appreciated, as always.
 
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Great to hear and I already have a firm mental image of Vanguard TRIPLE. Also I know this is the early stages of the space race but to go through 11 different versions of the same rocket family in a mere 3 years and 4 months is... aggressive.
 
Very nice TL. Congratulations on a deviously cleaver idea. Fingers crossed you keep having time to keep going.

Outside of now starting administrative changes, there are no magical technology changes. Just people sitting down and thinking seriously about space before Sputnik Shock causes a blind dash. Main idea doesn't even depend on Heinlein himself. Just having a right person at the right time.

Someone in '50es figuring out that storing fuel on orbit and refueling is key to having real space access. Big jump from OTL thinking but logical. Now, thinking of ISRU in mid '50es is a bit more of a stretch... But both things are just someone having a good idea on how to realize something, while knowing that practical technology to do so is maybe 20+ years in the future.

From the inland submarine chapter we got confirmation that Sputnik will still fly first. What will be interesting on longer run is that since USA is taking space seriously as a matter of national policy and national security, maybe Korolev and other designers will convince Soviet leadership to fund space itself seriously and not just for propaganda "firsts".

From the "almost Sea Dragon" chapter we know there was a "Red Bicentennial" proposal. Though we can't know does it involve just getting to Mars or that already happened and they are considering colonization already. Now this one is tricky to guess. While getting to Mars before 1976 would be crazy fast, since they have LEO fuel depots and tugs from the start, I don't think they would need a Sea Dragon for simply getting there... Or maybe they just want to launch really big aeroshells...

On other hand, we know they actually threw money at Zubrin in '80es and maybe even tested NSWR engine. So late '80es and early '90es Navy is seriously funding rockets that enable brachistochrone flight? They want a Triton Naval Station? Navy on Neptune and all the puns?
 
From the inland submarine chapter we got confirmation that Sputnik will still fly first. What will be interesting on longer run is that since USA is taking space seriously as a matter of national policy and national security, maybe Korolev and other designers will convince Soviet leadership to fund space itself seriously and not just for propaganda "firsts".
I think we might see the space race starting off more slowly, with the two superpowers exploring cislunar operations for a good while
 
Very nice TL. Congratulations on a deviously cleaver idea. Fingers crossed you keep having time to keep going.
Thank you for the kind words. Your post finally motivated me to update the introductory post to provide an update about the TL's present status. Long-story short: LEVIATHAN Rising is very much alive, but I am currently working on foundation-building to ensure that going forward I've got all my ducks in a row, so it's going to be a while before there's truly new content. (Though the rewritten first-half has significant amounts of virgin material.)

Outside of now starting administrative changes, there are no magical technology changes. Just people sitting down and thinking seriously about space before Sputnik Shock causes a blind dash. Main idea doesn't even depend on Heinlein himself. Just having a right person at the right time.
One of my design goals with LEVIATHAN Rising is that it be a "low-delta" TL, with the barest minimum of changes resulting from the PoD. This still produces fairly yawning divergences eventually -- Donald Duck, Atomic Midshipman and Vice President Lewis Strauss, for example -- but that particular chain events of is built-up over the narrative to provide a basis for why the change occurs in context.

How successful it is remains to be seen, but it's my hope it cannot be argued that I haven't shown my work.

Someone in '50es figuring out that storing fuel on orbit and refueling is key to having real space access. Big jump from OTL thinking but logical. Now, thinking of ISRU in mid '50es is a bit more of a stretch... But both things are just someone having a good idea on how to realize something, while knowing that practical technology to do so is maybe 20+ years in the future.
The Propulsive Fluid Accumulator was first proposed conceptually in 1956 and seriously worked up by Convair by 1960. So ISRU, at least of Earth's upper atmosphere, was proposed in the mid-Fifties. But yes: Ultimately ideas matter more than anything, especially when you're operating from what is essentially the OTL von Braunian perspective that building your orbital infrastructure is going to be a decades-long program in which you have the luxury of envisioning how things should be, even if it's all theoretical with today's knowledge and based on pure deductive reasoning.

From the inland submarine chapter we got confirmation that Sputnik will still fly first. What will be interesting on longer run is that since USA is taking space seriously as a matter of national policy and national security, maybe Korolev and other designers will convince Soviet leadership to fund space itself seriously and not just for propaganda "firsts".
To argue the Soviets didn't seriously fund their space endeavors is, I think, incorrect. As you don't build a rocket the size of the N1 if you're not seriously funding space efforts. The Soviets' problem, beyond not having the resources to just solve every problem by throwing money at it like NASA did with Apollo, was that the space program was always subordinate to the military's needs and the ballistic missile program in particular. And the situation that's developing -- a civilian space agency that's building payloads but the actual rocketry being done by the Navy, with the Air Force daydreaming about bombing little green men on the Moon into the Stone Age -- is most likely to be viewed by the Soviets as confirmation that the Americans are doing the same thing they are. When it's really not, the Naval Astronautical Service takes most of its organizational cues from the Naval Research Laboratory, which is basically a civilian institution that just happens to be run by a cadre of uniformed officers.

So it's highly unlikely that there's anything that's produced a butterfly significant enough to materially alter the fate of Sputnik. Why Sputnik is the first satellite to reach orbit despite the significant acceleration of resources pouring into American space efforts is a different question, but I can tell you it isn't because of an exploding Vanguard. (This TL's favorite culprits -- bureaucratic politics and interservice rivalry -- will, in due time, be reprising their roles on that front.)

All of that said, with the United States pouring significant amounts of money into building-up its EOR infrastructure, with the Navy as the principal operator, it means that things like Korolev's Orbital Belt concept are probably going to get a very different reception...

From the "almost Sea Dragon" chapter we know there was a "Red Bicentennial" proposal. Though we can't know does it involve just getting to Mars or that already happened and they are considering colonization already. Now this one is tricky to guess. While getting to Mars before 1976 would be crazy fast, since they have LEO fuel depots and tugs from the start, I don't think they would need a Sea Dragon for simply getting there... Or maybe they just want to launch really big aeroshells...
Remember that Visions of Futures Past is specifically modeled after the Atomic Rockets site, which -- among its many functions -- provides a repository of real proposals that were never built but which might be useful for the aspiring science fiction writer. The Red Bicentennial proposal should be thought of, contextually, as akin to the various Lunar Gemini programs. It's an idea that had some practical mission design work done and some very nice concept art on a study contract, but was never flown and it's a question of how seriously it was ever taken. (And given it's referred to as being "infamous", perhaps it should be thought of with the same connotations as the Apollo Applications manned Venus flyby.)

On other hand, we know they actually threw money at Zubrin in '80es and maybe even tested NSWR engine. So late '80es and early '90es Navy is seriously funding rockets that enable brachistochrone flight? They want a Triton Naval Station? Navy on Neptune and all the puns?
No, no. The mission is to obviously land a Tethys rocket on Tethys, the moon of Saturn, as a tribute to the awesome might of the U.S. Navy and as proof that the United States makes the best planetary puns.

More seriously, one of the major divergences that will turn up repeatedly is that the Naval Astronautical Service basically never stops funding rocket engine development. (As opposed to OTL, where between 1980 and 2010 there was basically no new liquid-fueled rocket engine designs, the few that were created didn't ever fly, and the bulk of flying American engines today are either derived from the half-century-old SSME or the even older RL10.) The reasons for this require a lot of context that is neither here nor there, but this leads to some very interesting results -- smashing successes and rather embarrassing failures -- both in terms of the Apollo Era and further downtime. One of them is the performance of the NSWR being taken seriously enough to warrant doing practical engineering on it, as the thrust and specific impulse it promises are intoxicating.

But to refer to context again, this should be treated as an American RD-600, an engine which titillates space cadets atomic midshipman due to just how crazy and awesome it is, but which is shrouded in mystery to the point where it's hard to tell how much of it is real, how much of it is myth, and how much of it is deliberate disinformation. It's also worth noting that it's heavily implied that, while there's a conspiracy theory that the Navy actually did get a NSWR to fire on the test-stand, the Navy never actually got one flying. Because it's rather hard to hide something generating the kind of high-intensity thrust plume a weapons-grade uranium-powered NSWR would have. (Because of course the Navy would want the NSWR with the 90% enriched fuel.)

I think we might see the space race starting off more slowly, with the two superpowers exploring cislunar operations for a good while
It just means the destination of the Space Race is different. We can't very well not have a geyser of money post-Sputnik that is sustained by a desire to beat the Reds. We have mad rocket science that needs indulging in, after all.
 
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But to refer to context again, this should be treated as an American UR-600, an engine which titillates space cadets atomic midshipman due to just how crazy and awesome it is, but which is shrouded in mystery to the point where it's hard to tell how much of it is real, how much of it is myth, and how much of it is deliberate disinformation. It's also worth noting that it's heavily implied that, while there's a conspiracy theory that the Navy actually did get a NSWR to fire on the test-stand, the Navy never actually got one flying. Because it's rather hard to hide something generating the kind of high-intensity thrust plume a weapons-grade uranium-powered NSWR would have. (Because of course the Navy would want the NSWR with the 90% enriched fuel.)
I'm crazy for space, but the NSWR is really a leap too far. The Lithium Salt Water Rocket, on the other hand, is an idea I'd love to see developed. It bears a curious resemblance to the nuclear catalyst propellant in the late-50's novel "Contraband Rocket" by G. Harry Stine (pseudonym Lee Corey).
 
Thank you for the kind words. Your post finally motivated me to update the introductory post to provide an update about the TL's present status. Long-story short: LEVIATHAN Rising is very much alive, but I am currently working on foundation-building to ensure that going forward I've got all my ducks in a row, so it's going to be a while before there's truly new content. (Though the rewritten first-half has significant amounts of virgin material.)

Both your normal and "Atomic Midshipmen" ones we'll assume :)

The Propulsive Fluid Accumulator was first proposed conceptually in 1956 and seriously worked up by Convair by 1960. So ISRU, at least of Earth's upper atmosphere, was proposed in the mid-Fifties. But yes: Ultimately ideas matter more than anything, especially when you're operating from what is essentially the OTL von Braunian perspective that building your orbital infrastructure is going to be a decades-long program in which you have the luxury of envisioning how things should be, even if it's all theoretical with today's knowledge and based on pure deductive reasoning.

Pretty much all the early work assumed on-orbit refueling and other "nautical/aviation" type infrastructure because it was clear that known technology would be hard pressed to get to orbit let alone anywhere else. IIRC the first studies and papers or ISRU was around the mid-to-late '50s, again because even with atomic power it was unlikely you could afford to go straight from the surface of the Earth to another world and that's still true today.

To argue the Soviets didn't seriously fund their space endeavors is, I think, incorrect. As you don't build a rocket the size of the N1 if you're not seriously funding space efforts. The Soviets' problem, beyond not having the resources to just solve every problem by throwing money at it like NASA did with Apollo, was that the space program was always subordinate to the military's needs and the ballistic missile program in particular. And the situation that's developing -- a civilian space agency that's building payloads but the actual rocketry being done by the Navy, with the Air Force daydreaming about bombing little green men on the Moon into the Stone Age -- is most likely to be viewed by the Soviets as confirmation that the Americans are doing the same thing they are. When it's really not, the Naval Astronautical Service takes most of its organizational cues from the Naval Research Laboratory, which is basically a civilian institution that just happens to be run by a cadre of uniformed officers.

The Soviet system had about as much infighting and counter-currents but never really had the centralized or supported as the US effort. On the converse side, the US method wasn't sustainable in a large part because it was so focused. It just wasn't as 'popular' as most people think. I can't wait to see where a timeline where there's a broader basis of support to draw from :)

So it's highly unlikely that there's anything that's produced a butterfly significant enough to materially alter the fate of Sputnik. Why Sputnik is the first satellite to reach orbit despite the significant acceleration of resources pouring into American space efforts is a different question, but I can tell you it isn't because of an exploding Vanguard. (This TL's favorite culprits -- bureaucratic politics and interservice rivalry -- will, in due time, be reprising their roles on that front.)

The US might not be first due to hubris and internal conflict? That could never happen :)

Randy
 
I'm crazy for space, but the NSWR is really a leap too far. The Lithium Salt Water Rocket, on the other hand, is an idea I'd love to see developed. It bears a curious resemblance to the nuclear catalyst propellant in the late-50's novel "Contraband Rocket" by G. Harry Stine (pseudonym Lee Corey).
NSWRs are pants-on-head crazy. You'll get no disagreement from me on that front. But most pseudo-torchship proposals tend to be. While a throttlable continuous nuclear explosion is nuttier than surfing along a stream of atomic shaped charges, we're talking about differences of degree, not kind. (To say nothing of beamed power systems and the number of death-rays worthy of a Bond villain involved in those.) And I think you have to deal with NSWRs to get to LSWRs, as the LSWR was conceived of -- at least in part -- to harness the upsides of the NSWR and cure its defects. You could probably bypass NSWRs if you just had so much lithium deuteride production sitting around you were actively trying to find new uses for industrial quantities of the stuff, but what on God's green Earth would you be doing where you've got the capacity to make lithium deuteride on that scale?

Well, I can think of at least one thing. But being in the Doomsday Orion business comes with its own challenges...

Pretty much all the early work assumed on-orbit refueling and other "nautical/aviation" type infrastructure because it was clear that known technology would be hard pressed to get to orbit let alone anywhere else. IIRC the first studies and papers or ISRU was around the mid-to-late '50s, again because even with atomic power it was unlikely you could afford to go straight from the surface of the Earth to another world and that's still true today.
That's my general recollection. (And the "nautical infrastructure" framework is going to dominate thinking in this TL for decades, because the Navy is going to Navy.) I know the first reference I could find specific speculation about Lunar ice at Shackleton dated from 1961, and if my memory serves, the same paper postulated potential uses for it for Lunar exploration. ISRU certainly didn't get popular among mission planners until much later, but making use of whatever you can find beyond Earth's gravity well has been thought about since people started thinking about seriously putting objects into space.

The Soviet system had about as much infighting and counter-currents but never really had the centralized or supported as the US effort. On the converse side, the US method wasn't sustainable in a large part because it was so focused. It just wasn't as 'popular' as most people think. I can't wait to see where a timeline where there's a broader basis of support to draw from :)
I think the American space program, no matter the TL, will always have a significant element of feast-or-famine budgeting to it: It readily devours more funding that's made available to it when politically convenient and is incredibly easy to scale-back due to apparent frivolity and a lack of tangible progress when the winds of fiscal restraint are blowing. You see that with the passage of the Space Policy Act of 1956, riding a swell of public support (engineered in no small part by two of the biggest atomic midshipmen of them all) and carried across the finish-line in an election year by each party seeking to parlay that swell into partisan advantage. That tide will inevitably ebb, but the intervention of our little Russian friend broadcasting at twenty megacycles means it's not going to be for a long while yet.

The US might not be first due to hubris and internal conflict? That could never happen :)
Some things can never change. If Ike had just listened to Redstone and NRL, a whole chain of events that result in the military firmly establishing itself in space could have been avoided. "The most damn-fooled things I did were appoint Earl Warren and not approve of Orbiter," is a quote ITTL that, if not in fact said, certainly felt by Ike in his post-presidential years.
 
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I'm crazy for space, but the NSWR is really a leap too far. The Lithium Salt Water Rocket, on the other hand, is an idea I'd love to see developed. It bears a curious resemblance to the nuclear catalyst propellant in the late-50's novel "Contraband Rocket" by G. Harry Stine (pseudonym Lee Corey).
Unfortunately, the LSWR doesn't actually work. Here is a post from one of the Discord servers I'm in about that (and I can vouch for the credibility of the source):

Gerrit The Fusion Agnostic02/09/2021

@Rocket So that Li6 NSWR concept is missing a bunch of physics understanding. First and foremost, ramming a bunch of neutron absorber down the throat of an operating reactor will promptly shut it down. That is what we do to shut down reactors right now (called a SCRAM). So the moment you pump a bunch of Li6 into this reactor that is supposed to make a Li6 NSWR it will turn off and nothing will happen.

Second, the author completely misses an important point of the Jetter cycle and fusion in general. Just because you have tritium and deuterium in one place doesn't mean you will get a fusion chain reaction! You have to actually get it hot and dense enough to go off, and just being in the core of a running reactor is no where near good enough for that. The third issue is just one of heat. The author wants to try and use neutrons from a reactor to get this thing to work, but forgets that the VAST majority of the energy of fission comes out as kinetic energy of fission fragments (i.e. heat). Even if you somehow got one lithium-tritium breeding and then fusion reaction per neutron from the reactor, you would still get more heat in the damn reactor then you had in the lithium fuel!
 
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