Path to the Stars - An alternate spaceflight TL

Post 1
  • What would have happened if some major events from the Space Race had gone differently? That's what I want to explore with this series, from all the way from the start. In this TL, my first that ive ever attempted, i will aim to change the timeline as much as possible, and aim to have all of the major launches and missions to have different outcomes.

    Path to the Stars
    Part 1
    10/4/57. As people all around the world went through their daily routine, the news no-one wants to hear arrives. A metal ball, 58cm in diameter and weighing 84kg, is whirling around the earth at 27500km/h.
    This ball, named Sputnik 1, is a satellite launched on a Soviet R-7 ICBM. In the US this causes panic as it was believed that the US was in the lead when it came to ICBM technology and research. Pressure was now on the US to launch a satellite of their own. The US had multiple choices when it came to launch vehicles. They had the Thor, which up to this point had had 4/4 flights end in failure, yet only a week after Sputnik 1 it had a successful flight, minus a turbopump issue. There was also Redstone, a small SRBM that was capable of putting a light payload suborbital, and in theory the Jupiter C, a Redstone with solid upper stages could make it to orbit if it was aimed in the right direction. Jupiter and Atlas were also options although up to this point they were both still in development.
    This left Vanguard, a project operated by the navy. Consisting of a liquid first and second stage and a solid third, the Vanguard seemed like a good choice. Sputnik 2 launched on 11/3/57, carrying a dog, Laika.
    Sputnik 2 also launched on a R-7 ICBM but this time it weighed significantly more, at 508kg. This came as a blow to the Americans as Vanguard could only launch 1.5kg, 338% less than the Soviets. Nonetheless the launch of Vanguard TV-3 was attempted, first on the 12/6/57 but was scrubbed due to an issue that would have caused failure just meters off the pad. With the issue fixed 14 days later on 12/20/57, launch went ahead. Initially, the launch went fine until T+28s into flight when one of the side gimbals locked, putting the vehicle in an irreversible spin. 6s later the sloshing fuel in the tanks from the spin caused loss of thrust, and then flameout of the engine, with the vehicle impacting downrange.
    After the failure of TV 3 the public was at awe; How did the Soviet union get 2 successes in a row whilst they had failed on there attempt? Either way it was time for America's next attempt, Juno 1. 2/1/58 - Explorer 1 ignites its redstone first stage, proceeding normally. Then 2nd and 3rd stage. At the end of the 3rd stage burn a sudden yaw motion occurred, and as the 4th stage separated from the 3rd it was knocked by the dead stage and sent off course. With the failure of Explorer 1 and, 4 days later, the Vanguard TV-3 backup, the American public was disappointed by their governments rocket programs.
    But then, at the start of March 1958, Explorer 2 and Vanguard 1, 12 days apart, both had successful flights. The Soviet Union stayed quiet when it came to rockets until the middle of may 58', when Sputnik 3 launched. By this point there had been 2 more American launches, a failed Vanguard and the successful Explorer 3. 7/19/58, the first Atlas B launches. Atlas was a missle that the airforce had had in development for years before this launch and, although this launch ended in failure, it was a big step forward in the American spacecraft.
    By august America was going for a new goal, the Moon. Pioneer 0, launched on 8/10/58, but due to a turbopump issue exploded 200m of the ground. After Pioneer 0 America launched another 2 Pioneer missions, Both of which ended in failure. On the other side of the world however, in the Soviet Union the odds were in their favour, with Luna 1 flying by the moon on the 1/4/59, after a string of failures.
     
    Last edited:
    Post 2
  • On the 6/18/59 Luna 2 launched, the first Ye E1-A spacecraft, successfully impacted the moon. Having already built a backup, Luna E-1A no. 2 was launched later in September, but due to a manufacturing fault one of the strap on boosters was sheared off during max-q, blowing up shortly after. Whilst the USSR was focusing on the moon the USA had formed NASA, a government organisation aimed to further the USA’s presence in space.
    Unlike the Soviet Union, NASA’s focus was not the moon. NASA had its sights set on another program, Hercules. Hercules was a crewed spacecraft that was supposed to put America’s first man; The world’s first man, in space. America continued their Lunar programme though, with Pioneer 3 and 4. Pioneer 3 was launched on 12/6/58, but the Juno II’s guidance system failed mid flight, sending the rocket off course and terminated. Pioneer 4 however was launched on the 3rd of March 59’, flying by the moon and becoming the second flyby of the moon.
    The USSR, meanwhile, was working on another luna mission. 3 spacecraft were built, with the first 2 failing due to launch failures, the 3rd attempt, Luna 3, flew by the moon on 4/16/60. At the end of 1959 project Hercules had its first launch, Little Joe 1 on 8/21/59. Just as ignition occurred the LES fired, pulling the capsule away and smashing into the ground 23s later. Next was Hercules-Thor 0, a test of the capsule on Thor, as the Titan I that the spacecraft was due to launch on was not yet ready. There were also numerous other Little Joe launches that year and the next, concluding with Little Joe 6A on November 17 1960. This continued NASAs phasing out of Atlas in favour of Titan.
    Meanwhile in the Soviet Union the Korabl-Sputnik 1 mission was launched. The spacecraft made it to orbit successfully, but whilst in orbit the attitude control system failed leaving the spacecraft uncontrolled. The Korabl-Sputnik 1 spacecraft was not the full Vostok spacecraft, with the LES and capsule heat shield removed. Korabl-Sputnik 2 launched two and a half months later, carrying 2 dogs to orbit, although they burnt up upon re-entry. Half a month later Korabl-Sputnik 3 survived all the way to parachute deployment, where the parachute failed and the capsule crashed. Finally in December 1960 Korabl-Sputnik 4 carried 2 dogs to orbit and back, landing safely in the plains of Kazakhstan.
    Korabl-Sputnik 5 was launched to orbit in March 61’, landing successfully but due to an issue tracking the capsule throughout descent it was terminated before touchdown. Then on the 3/25/61 Korabl-Sputnik 6, a full test of the Vostok spacecraft, Successfully completed all tests and landed safely. The Americans had been rushing development of the Titan I missile, with 9 ordered for the Hercules program. There was also Thor, of which 12 were ordered for Hercules. The Hercules Thor flights 0-7 were to be unmanned tests, with 8-11 to be manned.
    Hercules Thor 1 launched on 11/2/59, although 17 seconds into flight the rocket suddenly exploded, with the abort tower pulling the capsule clear, although the main parachute tore upon deployment, leaving the capsule to impact the sea, destroying the capsule. This error was corrected and one month later the Hercules Thor 2 mission succeeded in all goals and was successfully recovered. On the 2/14/60 Hercules Thor 3 lost control, with the abort tower saving the capsule.
    Hercules Thor 4 had a parachute failure that led it to smash into the ocean, and Hercules Thor 5 was aborted after the engine shut down mere meters off the pad. This led to severe damage to the pad, which would take half a year to complete.
    During this time the Hercules Thor was thoroughly tested, with any issues fixed ready for Hercules Thor 6. Hercules Thor 6 launched 2/18/61, having a fully successful mission and, 3 months later, Hercules Thor 7 was the final uncrewed test and fully succeeded, leading the way for Hercules Thor 8. Hercules Titan 1-4 were the intended uncrewed Titan I flights. The first 2 Hercules Titan flights went well, on the 4/1/60 and the 10/5/60 respectively. Hercules Titan 3, however, had one side of the LR-87 fail, leading to a failure 78s into flight. Hercules Titan 4 remedies this though, with a full success on 10/17/61.
     
    Last edited:
    Post 3
  • Path to the Stars
    Part 3
    Whilst the Soviet lunar program had been postponed until Vostok had been completed, the American Ranger program had begun. Ranger 1 and 2 were LEO tests of the spacecraft bus. Ranger 1 launched late August 1961 and successfully made it to LEO, although the spacecraft failed only seconds after separation from its Agena stage. Ranger 2 launched in November that year, but the booster skirt clipped the center engine of the Atlas upon separation, resulting in loss of thrust and loss of the vehicle. Ranger 3 was next, with this one actually going to the moon. Launched in January 62’ on a Titan 2B (Titan 2 with an Agena upper stage), Ranger 3 had a successful launch, but failed to complete a course correction, leading to it missing the moon by 35844 km.
    3 months later Ranger 4’s LR-91 second stage engine exploded upon ignition, losing both the spacecraft and rocket. Ranger 5, the last block II ranger spacecraft successfully launched to the moon on the 10/21/62, but a comms issue meant the spacecraft was lost. Also around 1962 were the first two interplanetary launches for NASA, Mariner 1 and 2. The Mariner program had started in 1960, with a plan for 24 interplanetary launches between 1962 and 1975, ending with a double rover mission to Mars.
    The program was estimated to cost $3B over its lifespan of 13 years, which was within NASA’s budget but still extremely high.Mariner 1 and 2 were destined for Venus on a Titan 2B, hoping to beat the Soviets there. Whilst Mariner 1’s launch went off without a hitch, sending the probe straight at Venus, Mariner 2’s Agena failed to reignite in orbit, leaving the probe stranded in orbit.
    The Soviets had launched Mars 1 and 2 by that point, in 1960 and 62 respectively. Mars 1 lost contact mid coast phase, but Mars 2 made a successful flyby, although the atmospheric probe lost connection immediately upon release. They had also launched Venera 1, 2 and 3, Venera 1 had a solar panel deployment issue after launch, leading to loss of electricity, Venera 2 was launched one year later in 1962 along with Venera 3, although both failed during the coast phase to Venus.
    Vostok 1 was launched 4/12/61, putting Yuri Gagarin into low orbit of the earth on a Vostok K rocket.
    Around 60 minutes later the retro rockets fired bringing Vostok 1 back through the atmosphere and down to earth. Only 2 weeks later Hercules Thor 8 launched, putting Alan Shepard into space, although only for ~20m. Then there was Hercules Thor 9 with Gus Grissom and Hercules Thor 10 with Gordon Cooper in late 1961, and Vostok 2 with Gherman Titov in August 61’.
    The last Hercules Thor flight, Hercules Thor 11 with Wally Schirra in February 1962. Then in August 1962 the Soviets got another first - First multi crewed space flight. Vostok 3 and 4, with Andriyan Nikolayev and Pavel Popovich. Vostok 3 orbited for 4 days and Vostok 4 for 3. Hercules Titan 5 was launched in September with John Glenn, Hercules Titan 6 in December with Scott Carpenter and in March Hercules Titan 7, with Alan Shepard, the first time someone had completed 2 spaceflights. Then another multi spacecraft flight in June, with Vostok 5 and 6 orbiting at the same time, with Vostok 6 having the world’s first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova and Vostok 5 having Valery Bykovsky. Vostok 5 orbited for 5 days, setting a record for the time.
    Then, Hercules Titan 8, the first with an upgraded service module, planned to fly Gordon Cooper, was readied for launch. On the 7/4/63 it launched, and only meters off the pad one of the 2 LR-87 engines failed, triggering the abort tower, pulling the capsule clear before deploying the parachutes and landing 700m away. Immediately after this the Hercules program was grounded, with the next mission, Hercules Titan 9 being postponed by 6 months, to 2/16/64. In that time Vostok 7 launched with Viktor Gorbatko for a 8 day mission, and Vostok 8 and 9, which used heavily modified Vostok spacecraft, letting the two spacecraft attempt a rendezvous in December 1963, but the rendezvous failed. Vostok 8 with Vladimir Komarov lasted 9 days and Vostok 9 had Alexei Leonov and lasted 12 days, a record that would last for many years. With the first lot of crewed spaceflight completed, It was time for the development of a second era of crewed spaceflight.
     
    Last edited:
    Post 4
  • Thanks for the advice for my last post, in this post i've included more paragraph breaks like recommended.
    Path to the Stars
    Part 4
    “We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon...We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”
    —John F. Kennedy 9/12/1962

    Starting in 1962 NASA had a new goal - Man on the moon. But before that could happen the USA needed a new spacecraft,which was dependent on the mission mode. There were three main proposals - Direct ascent, Lunar orbit Rendezvous and Earth orbit Rendezvous, Both the Direct ascent and LOR would require a new launch vehicle family, whilst EOR could be achieved with a heavily modified Titan.

    Direct assent was going to be a massive task, requiring a gigantic rocket, something that would take more than the 8 years that had been allocated by JFK, so it was quickly silenced by NASA due to its massive cost.

    LOR was also considered, but the rocket required would also be great and require the creation of multiple engines that would only be ready by 1968, much too late for a landing in 1969.

    Eventually it was decided to go with EOR, with 3 launches per mission, one for the lander, one for the crew/transfer stage and one for a fuel reserve that would be used by the transfer stage for TLI. After a detailed study, a final design was chosen. The crew/transfer vehicle would consist of a 4m diameter 2.4m long capsule, dubbed Zeus, and its service module, which combined would weigh 7T dry and 13.4T wet, and had 2 km/s of Delta V. Along with the Zeus CSM there was the transfer stage, Centaur X. Centaur X is a 4m diameter Centaur stage, weighing 49.6T wet and 63T combined with the Zeus. Due to this high mass a large rocket would be needed.

    This was how the Titan large body, an 8m diameter Titan that used 4 large hypergolic engines on the first stage, dubbed CSPS (Core Stage Propulsion System) that would be developed throughout 1964-1966 that would fly along with 12 RL-10’s on the second stage, creating the Centaur XL-1, and 2-8 UA 1207 SRM’s mounted to the first stage, which all combined can put 55-80T in LEO and a first launch slated for 1967, with 16 being ordered from Lockheed Martin, totaling $160M per launch.

    The next segment of the EOR mission was the fuel reserve, which contained extra LH2 and LOX for the Centaur, as well as a pressurised cargo section, crew tunnel, solar panels and an airlock for EVA’s, totaling 9.5T dry and 46T wet, requiring a Titan large body with 2 SRM’s. The crew would stay in the fuel reserve during the trip due to its ~90m3 of space.

    The third launch, the lunar lander, was a small lander that can put 2 men on the surface of the moon, weighing 14.3T. It was impractical to launch the lander on a Titan large body, so a smaller launch vehicle was needed. This would also be a titan derivative, Called the Titan 3 Core. The name was pretty self evident, it was a cluster of 3 Titan II cores as well as a high energy second stage, using 4 RL-10-A-3 engines. The 3rd stage was a Centaur X, and could just put 15T in orbit, enough for both the lander or a Zeus. Due to a lack of new components other than the second stage, meaning a first orbital launch by 1965.

    The plan for the Zeus program was as follows:

    August 1963 - March 1965 - 3 suborbital launches of the Titan 3 Core first stage with dummy second stage’s.

    January 1964 - September 1966 - 5 Zeus capsule abort tests, 3 with boilerplate capsules and 2 with full capsules.

    June 1565 - November 1966 - 4 orbital uncrewed Zeus spacecraft tests.

    January 1967 - June 1968 - 7 Crewed orbital launches of the Zeus capsules to test the skills required for orbital rendezvous and docking, as well as long duration spaceflight and spacewalking.

    October 1967 - February 1968 - 2 test launches of the Titan large body.

    March 1968 - Test launch of lander.

    August 1968 - Crewed lunar flyby

    September 1968 - Crewed lunar orbit

    December 1968 - Crewed test of the whole system, Lander to come within 8 km from the surface.

    May 1969 - March 1971 - 5 Crewed landings.
     
    Last edited:
    Post 5
  • Path to the Stars
    Part 5
    The Soviets had always had a plan to land a crew on the moon, but by the mid 70’s or early 80’s, rushing to a landing by 1969 was going to require the rush of the soviets moon program. The Prodvigat program had been in the works since 1964, with a first crewed launch slated for 1967. But due to the rush of the American's program the Soviet Union rushed the Prodvigat program and got rid of things like the orbital module and the 3rd crew member, reducing the weight to ~6T and allowing it to be launched on a Soyuz Rocket.
    Prodvigat.png

    The Soviets had already long settled for the LOR approach, with the LA (Lunnyy Avantyurist) lander being able to carry one crew member to the surface and weighing 6T. From this they needed a launch vehicle - the N1 rocket - a large, fully new rocket created by Sergei Korolev, who had barely survived a botched surgery in 1966.
    Unmanned exploration had been progressing since 1962, with the 1964 Venus window having 6 missions launched, 2 flybys by the US and 3 atmospheric probes by the USSR.
    Of the US probes Mariner 3 successfully flew by Venus, coming within 400km of the planet. Mariner 4 failed to deploy its solar panels, with contact lost once the batteries ran out. The soviet atmospheric probes had all but one survive launch, being named Venera 4,5 and 6. Whilst Venera 4 and 5 were lost during transfer, Venera 6 successfully reached Venus, entering the atmosphere but burning up early, recording atmospheric pressures much larger than expected.
    Later that year there was a transfer window to Mars. During this transfer window 4 missions were launched, Mariner 5/6 and Mars 3/4. Of those launches only 3 had successful launches, Mariner 6 had a successful flyby, as well as Mars 4, but Mars 3 lost contact during the coast phase.
    In 1965 the decision was made to scale back the Mariner Program, from 24 missions to 16, to save cost. The new program plan was:
    Mariner 7/8 - Venus Orbiters/Landers in 1967
    Mariner 9 - Mars Orbiter/Lander in 1969
    Mariner 10/11 - Mars Orbiter/Landers in 1971
    Mariner 12 - Venus Orbiter/Lander/Balloon in 1972
    Mariner 13 - Jupiter Flyby in 1972
    Mariner 14 - Mercury/Venus Flyby in 1973
    Mariner 15 - Jupiter/Saturn Flyby in 1973
    Mariner 16 - Mars Rover in 1975
    Due to this, as well as the increasing cost of Prodvigat, the Soviet Union culled significant parts of its interplanetary programs, going from 63 total planned missions down to only 48, with more cuts more than likely.
    Also in 1965 Venera 7 launched, Flying by Venus in March 1966, Dropping a lander during the flyby which successfully survived atmospheric entry, only to die after running out of battery during descent.
    5/18/66 - After 2 uncrewed test flights of the Prodvigat spacecraft, Prodvigat 1 launched, carrying a crew of 2, Alexi Leonov and Georgy Dobrovski. Upon reaching orbit they immediately had issues, with one of the solar panels getting jammed during launch. However the second one managed to deploy, providing power to the spacecraft. Due to this solar panel issue the spacecraft could only last 28h in orbit, so the planned rendezvous with Prodvigat 2 was cancelled, Although the secondary objective of the mission was still achievable. 10 and a half orbits into the mission the Prodvigat spacecraft was depressurised, the cabin door was opened and Alexi Leonov became the first man to walk in space. Leonov was only able to stay outside the spacecraft for 16 minutes before returning to the spacecraft, where they would remain for 4h until the retro burn.
    During the first attempt at a retroburn the automated system pointed the spacecraft the wrong direction, and during the second attempt the spacecraft again aimed the wrong direction. 24.5h into the mission, on the 16th orbit, whilst being manually oriented by Georgy Dobrovsky, Prodvigat 1 fired its main engine, deorbiting the spacecraft for a landing in the steppes of Kazakhstan. 8 minutes later the service module was given the command to separate where it then failed to do so, leaving it connected during reentry into Earth's atmosphere. The service module burnt off during reentry, disintegrating the connections at 70km in altitude.
    Minutes after the drogue parachute, then the main parachute, then touchdown. Due to the issue with the service module the spacecraft overshot the predicted landing site by a significant amount, being recovered 4h after initially landing.
    In August Prodvigat 2 launched, having most of the issues of the first mission being resolved. This mission, crewed by Boris Volynov and Yuri Artyukhin, was launched with the goal of rendezvousing with Prodvigat 3. Prodvigat 2 successfully made it to orbit, with both panels and the antennas all deploying.
    Next was Prodvigat 3, with Aleksei Gubarev and Vasily Lazarev, launching to orbit 3 hours after 2, also having a fully successful launch. Although one of the rendezvous lights mounted on the outside of the capsule to assist with location refused to turn on, the rendezvous was approved nonetheless. The spacecraft came only 14m apart, before separating and returning to earth. The Prodvigat 2 mission lasted 32h and the Prodvigat 3 mission lasted 25h.
     
    Last edited:
    Post 6
  • Path to the Stars
    Part 6
    The USSR had been trying to land on the moon since 1963, but had had numerous failures. Luna 4 was launched in 1963 but failed to successfully brake before it impacted the moon. Luna 5 had a similar issue in 1965, Luna 6 lost contact during its coast phase and failed to complete its course correction. Luna 7 lost comms just as its braking burn was intended to begin, and Luna 8 ignited its landing engine too late and impacted the surface. Luna 9, 10 and 11 all had issues with the braking burn, leading to their loss. Finally in November 1966 Luna 12 softly landed on the moon, but it wasn't the first
    In June of 1966 Surveyor 1 was launched, and it successfully landed hours later. 7 Surveyor missions were launched between 1966 and 1968, with Surveyor 1, 2, 4, 6, and 7 succeeding, Surveyor 3 had an issue with its solar panel, leading to a significantly shortened mission. Surveyor 5 lost contact as soon as the landing engines ignited, when it is believed to have exploded.
    Around this time NASA released the plan for the Zeus program:
    Suborbital Titan 3 Core tests
    • August 1963 - Titan Zeus 1 - Test for the first stage’s structure.
    • July 1964 - Titan Zeus 2 - Test for the first stage’s structure and aerodynamic properties.
    • March 1965 - Titan Zeus 3 - Test of first stage engine out capability and aerodynamic properties.
    Zeus Capsule abort tests
    • January 1964 - Little Joe Zeus 1 - Test of Little Joe 2 rocket with boilerplate capsule.
    • November 1964 - Little Joe Zeus 2 - Test of Zeus abort system with boilerplate capsule.
    • July 1965 - Little Joe Zeus 3 - Test of Zeus abort system with boilerplate capsule.
    • December 1965 - Little Joe Zeus 4 - Test of Zeus abort system with full capsule.
    • September 1966 - Little Joe Zeus 5 - Test of Zeus abort system with full capsule and monkey passengers.
    Uncrewed Zeus orbital tests
    • June 1965 - Zeus 1 - Uncrewed test of Titan 3 core rocket with boilerplate Zeus capsule.
    • November 1965 - Zeus 2 - Uncrewed test of Titan 3 core rocket with boilerplate Zeus capsule.
    • May 1966 - Zeus 3 - Uncrewed test of Titan 3 core rocket and Zeus Spacecraft.
    • November 1966 - Zeus 4 - Uncrewed test of Titan 3 core rocket and Zeus Spacecraft.
    Crewed Zeus orbital tests
    • January 1967 - Zeus 5 - Gus Grissom, Jim Lovell, Donn Eisele - Test of the Zeus capsule.
    • March 1967 - Zeus 6 - Niel Armstrong, Russell Schweickart, Gerald Carr - Orbital maneuvering tests, first American EVA
    • June 1967 - Zeus 7 - Michael Collins, Jim Mcdivot, Bill Anders - Long duration flight, lasts 14 days.
    • October 1967 - Zeus 8 - Buzz Aldrin, Pete Conrad, Jack Lousma - Orbital rendezvous and docking with Zeus 9
    • October 1967 - Zeus 9 - Deke Slayton, Gene Cernan, John Young - Orbital rendezvous and docking with Zeus 8
    • February 1968 - Zeus 12 - Alan Bean, Walter Cuningham, Gordon Cooper - Long duration flight, lasts 16 days.
    • June 1968 - Zeus 14 - Frank Borman, Tom Stafford, Ed White - Long duration flight, lasts 16 days, Working in space tests.
    Uncrewed Large body Titan launched
    • October 1967 - Zeus 10 - Test of Large body Titan with 2 UA-1207’s carrying a striped down fuel reserve.
    • February 1968 - Zeus 11 - Test of Large body Titan with 4 UA-1207’s carrying a boilerplate Zeus capsule.
    Uncrewed Lander test
    • March 1968 - Zeus 13 - Uncrewed test of Zeus lander
    Crewed Large body Titan flights
    • August 1968 - Zeus 15 - Wally Schirra, Owen Garriot, Roger Chaffee - 1 Large body Titan launch carrying a crewed Zeus transfer vehicle and Centaur X to a lunar flyby.
    • September 1968 - Zeus 16 - Pete Conrad, Bill Anders, Curt Michael - 2 Large body Titan launch carrying crewed Zeus/Centaur X and Fuel reserve module to Lunar orbit.
    • December 1968 - Zeus 17 - Jim Lovell, Jim Mcdivitt, David Scott - All up crewed test of the Zeus system, Crew to pilot the lander throughout descent to 8km where separation would occur and the ascent stage would return the crew to Zeus
    • May 1969 - Zeus 18 - Gus Grissom, Gene Cernan, Richard Gordon - Crewed landing on the lunar surface.
    • November 1969 - Zeus 19 - Deke Slayton, John Young, Harrison Schmitt - Crewed landing on the lunar surface.
    • April 1970 - Zeus 20 - Neil Armstrong, Tom Stafford, Walter Cuningham - Crewed landing on the lunar surface with rover.
    • September 1970 - Zeus 21 - Alan Shepard, Buzz Aldrin, Joseph Kirwin - Crewed landing on the lunar surface with rover.
    • March 1971 - Zeus 22 - Ed White, Roger Chaffee, Vance Brand - Crewed landing on the lunar surface with rover.
    After Zeus 22 there was no clear goal, if more Large body Titans could be constructed more lunar missions could be attempted, or large space stations. If no Large body Titans could be built then LEO missions to stations that would be modularly constructed by Titan 3 cores.
    By the end of 1966 the Titan 3 core and Zeus Capsule had been thoroughly tested, With a January launch of Zeus 5 going off nicely. During ascent the mission was nearly aborted due to strong oscillations, but luckily the oscillations had stopped by stage separation, and Gus Grissom, Jim Lovell and Donn Eisele made it to LEO. They would stay there for 2 days before returning to earth safely, landing in the pacific.
    Zeus Titan 3 Core.png

    Zeus 6 and 7 went off without a hitch, safely making it to orbit and with Zeus 6 making Neil Armstrong the first american spacewalker without issue. Then in October Zeus 8 and 9 launched into orbit, rendezvousing and attempting to dock, initially failing on the first attempt but the second attempt succeeding.
    Also in October 1967 was the first flight of the Large body Titan, Zeus 10 in a 2 UA 1207 srm configuration. Shortly after liftoff one of the 4 CSPS engines had an anomaly, losing thrust and reducing the thrust of the vehicle, however with an extension of the first stage burn the vehicle still made it to stage separation where the 12 RL-10 engines activated, soon after 2 shut off due to piping ruptures and another small explosion shut off 4 more engines, however the spacecraft still made it to orbit.

    Zeus Titan LB.png
     
    Last edited:
    Post 7
  • Path to the Stars
    Part 7
    Only 2 weeks after the first flight of the Large body Titan the Soviet Union launched the N1 on its first flight, which made it to stage separation where the second stage gimbal control was lost and the vehicle entered an uncontrollable roll until the 2nd-3rd stage interstage truss failed leading to loss of the rocket.
    The 2nd N1 flight was ready only 6 months after the first and was a complete success, putting the Prodvigat spacecraft on a lunar flyby to test the lunar heat shield, which was a complete success. This was the first N1 launch announcement made, and was the first view NASA got at how close the Soviet Union was to their own program, and was what prompted them to contract 10 more Large body Titans from Martin.
    N1.png
    Fuel Reserve.png

    Zeus 11, the second Large body Titan flight occurred, losing 3 engines on the second stage but still making it to orbit nonetheless, sending a boilerplate Zeus capsule out to test the heat shield for lunar Re-entry, which it survived but was lost when the one of the parachutes failed to deploy and another ripped, leaving only one chute which was incapable of slowing down the capsule.
    When it comes to interplanetary exploration the USSR launched Mars 5 and 6 in 1966, of which Mars 5 successfully landed and transmitted for 1 hour, making it the first soft landing on Mars, however Mars 6 failed to land. Venera 8 made it to Venus in 1967 and landed on the surface and transmitted for 10 minutes before being crushed, making it the first landing on Venus. Venera 8 also had an orbiter that successfully entered venutian orbit. US had launched Mariner 7 and 8, flying by Venus in 1967, dropping landers which Mariner 7’s failed during descent and Mariner 8’s made it to the surface before failing just after landing, although both had successful flybys. For the Moon the US had launched 5 orbiters to the Moon between 1966-1967 and the USSR launched 3, Luna 13, 14 and 15. All of these missions were to look for sites for a crewed landing.
    Prodvigat 4 and Prodvigat 5 launched together in November 1966 with Dimitry Zaikin, Pyotr Kolodin and Boris Yegorov in Prodvigat 4 and Yevgeny Krunov in Prodvigat 5, where they rendezvoused and docked together. After that Pyotr Kolodin and Boris Yegorov transferred over to Prodvigat 5 and returned with Yevgeny Krunov.
    The Soviet Union needed a medium lift vehicle for spacecraft that are too heavy for Soyuz and too light to warrant a whole N1. There was competition between Vladimir Chalomey’s UR-500 and K’s Soyuz 2, with the Soyuz 2 coming out on top, being a scaled up Soyuz rocket, with a 5m core diameter and a payload to orbit of ~27T. This would be used to launch early space stations and larger interplanetary probes.
    The first orbital launch of the Soyuz 2 was Salyut 1 and was launched in early 1967 having ~140m3 of space and weighing 25T. The vehicle performed perfectly, however once in orbit Salyut 1 lost pressure and was unusable. Shortly after a backup was launched, Salyut 2, was launched. This station successfully reached orbit and was visited by Vladimir Komarov, Lev Dyomin and Leonid Kizim with Prodvigat 6 in March 1967.
    Initaly Prodvigat 6 successfully rendezvoused with Salyut 2, however the docking system failed only meters out. Next Valdimir Komarov attempted a manual docking, however the docking was aborted. Finally the vehicle was pulled away, waiting another orbit until docking was reattempted, where finally the two spacecraft docked, where the crew would stay for 20 days.
    The crew would return without issue, and was followed by Prodvigat 7 and 8, which both attempted to dock to the station, However Prodvigat 7 with Pavel Belyayev, Georgy Shonin and Vladimir Shatalov failed to dock. Prodvigat 8 with Andriyan NIkolayev, Valery Kubasov and Vladislav Volkov successfuly docked for a long duration stay. Near the end of the mission however the station had to be abandoned due to a fire that quickly spread throughout the station and the crew had to flee to their Prodvigat spacecraft, in which they returned safely.
    Salyut 1.png
    Salyut 1 w. Prodvigat.png
     
    Last edited:
    Post 8
  • Sorry todays one is slightly shorter, ive been kinda busy this week.

    Path to the Stars
    Part 8
    NASA needed a new launch vehicle. The Large body Titan was expensive, with only 16 being built (and 10 yet to have secured funding). The Titan 3 Core wasn't a very capable vehicle for its cost, as well as taking away Titan II’s that were required by the USAF. Because of that the Medium Launch Vehicle 1 contract was devised.
    Martin proposed an upgraded Titan, with an improved first stage and 2 UA-1206 SRM’s , as well as a stretched second stage and an optional centaur, with an impressive 17T LEO payload and ~4.5T to the Moon or Mars
    Convair proposed repurposing old atlas hardware, a 4m stainless steel core and second stage with an optional Centaur D stage and Algol II or Castor II SRB’s. This was coined ‘Atlas Derived Launch Vehicle’, and had 7-16T to LEO and ~5.5T to the Moon/Mars.
    McDonald Douglas proposed the Delta 1000 series, a powerful Thor derivative that could put ~3-8T into LEO.
    Eventually Delta 1000 and the Titan IIIF were chosen, the Delta 1000 for smaller NASA satellites, whilst the Titan IIIF was to be used for interplanetary probes and posible station modules and Space telescopes. These two rockets' first launches were slated for the early 70’s, the Titan with Mariner 10/11 and the Delta with the start of a communication network.
    MLV contract 1.png

    NASA’s next launch was a small one, however it was extremely important for the Zeus program. The first launch was on a Titan II, carrying a small ~2t tank to orbit, as well as a docking system and fuel transfer arm. The second launch would be on a Titan IIIC, carrying a small hydrolox reserve as well as the system to dock with the other spacecraft.
    This mission had two main goals - to test cryogenic fuel transfer in space, as well as testing automated rendezvous and docking systems. Both systems worked well, however the docking system had a slight issue before it was fixed.
    Zeus 12 and 14 launched in 1968, both breaking American records for long duration flight. However the Soviet Union was hot on their heels, with Viktor Gorbatko, Pavel Popavich and Anatoly Philipchenko on Prodvigat 9.
    Prodvigat 9 docked with a LA lander, where it would stay and test its engines, before Pavel Popavich went on a EVA (The second achieved by a Cosmonaut) and entered the LA before undocking, maneuvering the vehicle and separating from the Prodvigat by multiple kilometers, before separating the legs, batteries and extra tanks. He then got within 500m of the Prodvigat before the Prodvigat was used for the final docking.
    Prodvigat LA.png

    After the extremely successful mission no one was expecting what would happen next. During re-entry a slight uncontrollable yaw was noticed, which persisted until suddenly all communication was lost with the spacecraft. This wasn't too much of an issue, communications blackouts normally occurred during re-entry. What was an issue was the lack of reconnection after the planned landing.
    After nearly 2 hours the capsule; or what was left of it, was spotted by a helicopter and was confirmed as the Prodvigat 9 spacecraft. What had happened was the spacecraft had flipped nose first, melting a small hole in the spacecraft and depressurising the spacecraft.
    However, the crew did have pressure suits and after the initial depressurisation the vehicle managed to reorient heat shield first, however the immense G’s during descent caused the crew to lose consciousness. The larger issue was the melted parachute cover, leading to no parachute coming out and a hard impact, killing all inside.
     
    Last edited:
    Post 9
  • Path to the Stars
    Part 9
    This event severely slowed progress on the N-1 and Soviet lunar program, giving NASA an opportunity to catch up. Another launch occurred, Zeus 13, a test of the Lunar lander. It had been delayed by many months to July 1968, where it launched on a Titan 3 Core. It thoroughly tested the spacecraft and ensured all systems were operational, of which the only issue was with the ascent stage antennae, which at certain times had difficulty connecting with ground stations.
    Around this time the 3rd N1 launched, carrying a Prodvigat and biological samples to lunar orbit, before successfully returning to the earth.this mission tested the skipping maneuver required to lower G loads on the crew during their return. This flight had a miscalculation that led to the spacecraft completely missing the Soviet Union and needing to be terminated, however there were 2 back to back flights of just the Prodvigat capsule on the Soyuz 2 to test the flight profile, the latter of which performed perfectly.
    8/12/68, 23:20 - Wally Schirra, Owen Garriot and Roger Chaffee suit up prior to launch. At around 2h to launch they arrive at the launch site and enter the Zeus vehicle. 8/13/68, 01:32 - The Large body Titan ignites its 4 CSPS engines, followed 4 seconds after by its UA1207 boosters. The vehicle roared upward into orbit, not losing any RL-10’s during the second stage burn. This launch put a Zeus and its Centaur X into LEO, from which the Centaur X then accelerated the craft, putting it on a free return lunar trajectory. The mission went off flawlessly, and the crew of Zeus 15 became the first people to view the earth from the moon, even if it was only a flyby.
    This put the Americans ahead of the Soviets, and allowed them to cancel Zeus 16’s original plan, changing it from a lunar orbital mission to a LEO crewed test of the Lander and Zeus, sparing a Large body Titan for later use.
    The USSR reacted by launching the first Prodvigat M, an upgraded Prodvigat that would launch as Prodvigat 1M uncrewed in September and Prodvigat 2M crewed with Vitaly Zholobov, Yaroslav Golovanov and Gennady Sarafanov. They would test the spacecraft and rendezvous (not dock) with the derelict Salyut 2 station, then return to earth, all of which occurred safely.
    Prodvigat M.png

    The final uncrewed N1 launched on September 23 1968, putting the Prodvigat M spacecraft in lunar orbit as well as testing the lander and then returning to earth, performing the skipping re entry and landing safely in the Soviet Union. This led the way for the next N1 launch, Prodvigat 3M, in mid October with famed cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky, as well as Boris Volynov and Georgy Beregovoy. The mission went to an elliptical Earth orbit, testing the LA lander and the Blok D.
    Zeus 16 launched later than planned in December, putting the crew in to LEO and docking with the Lander, where they would do tests, proving the spacecraft as capable.
     
    Post 10
  • Path to the Stars
    Part 10
    Now everything was nearly in place, but before any further progress could be made on the Zeus program the 1969 Mars window opened up, allowing Mariner 8 and 9 to be launched, as well as Mars 7 for the USSR. Mariner 8 and 9 were initially intended to have landers but that idea was scrapped due to the costs of Zeus. Mars 7 did have a lander however, as well as a small rover.
    Mariner 8 and 9 both successfully launched, however Mariner 9 lost contact as soon as orbital insertion occurred, presumed to have exploded. Mariner 8 orbited for nearly a year and a half, flying by Phobos multiple times and making the first in depth observations of Phobos. Mars 7 successfully dropped its lander and entered orbit, orbiting for around five of months before losing contact. The lander successfully entered the atmosphere and landed, however deployment of the rover failed, due to a jammed system.
    Zeus 17 was launched in April 69’, nearly being aborted due to a clamp that refused to release until being ripped clear by the UA-1207 ignition. The mission went to low lunar orbit, where Jim Lovell and David Scott de-orbited the spacecraft and did everything planned for a landing, minus the actual landing. Flight went as planned, although some of the thrusters on the ascent stage jammed shut and meant the craft had to return to the Zues with limited control, where the Zeus would dock with the lunar module.
    NASA was starting to look to the future. After the Lunar landings, unless the Soviets did something drastic, NASA knew it was going to lose most of its funding. They still had one built LBT and 10 planned, however after that they would be out. Due to this NASA made some changes to the LBT design so that in the future they would still have a heavy lift capability.
    First Stage Changes
    • CSPS engines converted to RP-1/LOX
    • CSPS engines converted to be reusable with little refurbishment
    • Parafoil added to compartment near base of LBT engine section
    • Engine section increased in diameter
    • Separation system added to engine section
    • Heat shield added to engine section
    • Tank walls thinned
    • Tanks converted from hypergolic to RP-1/LOX
    • Thinned Bulkheads
    The boosters were almost identical, however mounting points were changed.
    Second Stage Changes
    • 12 RL-10’s changed to 4 new J-2 engines.
    • Foam added to tank walls to slow burnoff
    • Tanks stretched 20%
    These changes would allow the cost of a LBT to be significantly decreased, reusing the CSPS engines by parachuting them down where they would be caught by a C-5 Galaxy, where the expensive engines could be reused. The SRB’s were considered to be reused, however the costs of a fleet to recover them as well as the costs to take them apart, before refueling them and re-stacking.
    LBT Re-Useable.png

    This all together was the Titan Large Body II, and despite the added dry mass of recovery systems the LBT II could put 85t to LEO, mainly due to the added ring on the Centaur XL. The 10 new expendable LBT were reduced to only 2, allowing another crewed moon mission. The remaining 8 Large body Titans were to be converted to the first LBT II’s, with first flights occuring in 1973-1974
    The Zeus capsule was on track to stay in service till at least 1980, where it was to be replaced with a reusable winged vehicle. Very few changes would be made to Zeus in that time, with land landings to reduce fleet costs considered.
     
    Top