sevenperforce

Science/history challenge: Beat Sputnick

Beat Sputnick?  

41 members have voted

  1. 1. Given all current knowledge and the assistance of the dominant world power, how early could a time traveler put a rocket in orbit?

    • 1900
      12
    • 1850-1900
      10
    • 1750-1850
      3
    • 1600-1750
      1
    • 1400-1600
      2
    • pre-1600
      3
    • pre-1000 CE
      2
    • BCE
      8


Recommended Posts

You could use an artificial horizon and manual piloting.... If that's okay.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If we're going back to ancient times using a manned pilot is probably going to be easier than making a computer that's able to pilot the rocket while also being light weight.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
47 minutes ago, Bill Phil said:

You could use an artificial horizon and manual piloting.... If that's okay.

Artificial horizon needs a gyro too, so you can just get rid of the human and use the gyro and a clock mechanism directly to control the rocket.

Yes, it would take a few decades, but with an entire nation the size of the Roman Empire, or any other major civilization backing you up, you only need to train a few individuals to oversee various technological branches.

The nation backing you up would benefit almost instantly. As soon as you introduce steel to a bronze age community, they would have a huge advantage over the neighboring nations. A steel plough is significantly superior to a wooden one that would normally be used at that time, offering much easier and faster field work. A simple steam engine to power workshops that would produce better tools and machines could be built in matter of years after the first steel is produced.

Remember, you have all the knowledge, there are no expensive trials and errors, you already have the almost best possible design. There would be virtually no unwanted competition to threaten your nation, since they would need some really extraordinary insight to improve your machines.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Your main problem going back past 1870 or something is presisjon, early steam engines had wide tolerances, this is not something you can live with on an orbital rocket. 
Going even longer back and you lack high quality steel in volumes needed. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What about clockwork guidance?

18 minutes ago, magnemoe said:

Your main problem going back past 1870 or something is presisjon, early steam engines had wide tolerances, this is not something you can live with on an orbital rocket. 
Going even longer back and you lack high quality steel in volumes needed. 

But we have our current knowledge. We can, over a decade or so, tell them about various processes and machines/tools and how to build them.

Rome had amazing iron production. If we told them about various steel producing processes then we could get the steel pretty easily.

Also, Romans had pretty highly accurate tools. At least for that era.

Edited by Bill Phil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 minutes ago, Bill Phil said:

What about clockwork guidance?

But we have our current knowledge. We can, over a decade or so, tell them about various processes and machines/tools and how to build them.

Rome had amazing iron production. If we told them about various steel producing processes then we could get the steel pretty easily.

Also, Romans had pretty highly accurate tools. At least for that era.

Romans did not have steel so first you need to build up an steel industry. You need even harder steel for the cutting steel on lates.
Not sure if you could build the rocket of steel or you need aluminium, if so you need an aluminium industry who require an electrical industry. 
You could just as well go back to the ancient Egypt and bronze age and introduce iron first. 
Technological difference between Egypt and Rome far less than from Rome and 1880.

Beating Sputnik as I see it involves building an rocket not develop entire industries or worse industry branches.
First come up with materials needed, then technologies, Electronic is probably not needed you could use mechanical computers but you need fuel and oxidizers. Do you need turbopumps or could you use pressure feeds. 
You could use separate fuel for the turbo pumps, V2 did. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rome produced 80,000 tons of iron per year. Teach how to purify it, and teach them industrialization, you could a higher purity iron and potentially double the amount of iron produced per year. Then you teach them about everything required to make what you need. We know about the propellants and materials, and with enough modern knowledge, we could bring them to current tech, or near current tech.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Shpaget said:

Remember, you have all the knowledge, there are no expensive trials and errors, you already have the almost best possible design. There would be virtually no unwanted competition to threaten your nation, since they would need some really extraordinary insight to improve your machines.

This is the key. You don't have to iterate. You don't have to experiment. You can do all the design here, in the present, and then just go back and start building.

With a large enough upper stage and some sort of lightweight reflective coating like beaten gold, everyone on earth would be able to see the new "star" that you had created. Forget pyramids, it is much more impressive to say that you turned your fallen into a new star and blasted him into the heavens on a pillar of fire.

Other than the nozzle itself, I wonder if you really need advanced metallurgy for any of a rocket components. You could even do some construction with wood.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, sevenperforce said:

Electronics isn't necessary if you can link a simple gyroscope to a mechanical computer.

How are you going to know it is in orbit? Yes you could try adding a reflector for light but it would be hard to identify that it is your satellite and not a shooting star. Radio communications are almost necessary just to tell the populace that yes, they do have a satellite now, and that flashy object in the sky is the one emitting the signal. I would also feel pretty bad about the poor serf who had to stick the burning rag under the few hundred kilonewton rocket motor to get it to ignite. As well, gyros need to spin some how and clockwork might have trouble in the high-G environment, not to mention how heavy it would be compared to even vacuum tube systems. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, sevenperforce said:

This is the key. You don't have to iterate. You don't have to experiment. You can do all the design here, in the present, and then just go back and start building.

With a large enough upper stage and some sort of lightweight reflective coating like beaten gold, everyone on earth would be able to see the new "star" that you had created. Forget pyramids, it is much more impressive to say that you turned your fallen into a new star and blasted him into the heavens on a pillar of fire.

Other than the nozzle itself, I wonder if you really need advanced metallurgy for any of a rocket components. You could even do some construction with wood.

You will have to experiment unless you manages too make an copy of the sputnik launcher. Doing stuff like using an mecanical computer will add new error sources like how vibration affects it. 

Engine is just one part, you will also has to handle high pressure tanks if pressure feed is even capable enough here? even V2 used an turbopump, Have fun making an turbopump before 1850 :)
Would rolled high quality steel even be light enough, another 19 century invention, or do you need aluminium? 
In short you need late 19 century tech to build it so first you have to reach this tech level, Should be pretty doable in an lifetime from around 1600, perhaps 1400. 

Yes in this setting you are absolute monarch and you have 50 ton gold for random running expenses but you can not build an industrial civilization yourself and you have to do this in stages like watt style steam engines and lots of nice 1800 level stuff first to kickstart an industrial revolution. Next of would be presisjon tools who enables better steam engines and more cool stuff. At the same time you want to expand other branches especially chemistry. 
Regarding controls vacuum tubes are not so hard, mid to late 19 century stuff too. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, lobe said:

I would also feel pretty bad about the poor serf who had to stick the burning rag under the few hundred kilonewton rocket motor to get it to ignite

Lol, but that's nothing that couldn't be done with a trench full of black powder and/or a flammable liquid

 

6 hours ago, Bill Phil said:

Rome produced 80,000 tons of iron per year. Teach how to purify it, and teach them industrialization, you could a higher purity iron and potentially double the amount of iron produced per year. Then you teach them about everything required to make what you need. We know about the propellants and materials, and with enough modern knowledge, we could bring them to current tech, or near current tech.

Or at least "good enough" tech.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 hours ago, sevenperforce said:

 

But would they be able to support the industrial infrastructure needed for this sort of manufacturing?

Sure, why not? A rocket to put a small payload into orbit requires a lot of man- hours, but nothing really high- tech. Von Braun could have done it prior to WWII if he'd had enough money.

Best,
-Slashy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, sevenperforce said:

This is the key. You don't have to iterate. You don't have to experiment. You can do all the design here, in the present, and then just go back and start building.

With a large enough upper stage and some sort of lightweight reflective coating like beaten gold, everyone on earth would be able to see the new "star" that you had created. Forget pyramids, it is much more impressive to say that you turned your fallen into a new star and blasted him into the heavens on a pillar of fire.

Other than the nozzle itself, I wonder if you really need advanced metallurgy for any of a rocket components. You could even do some construction with wood.

If you think that the first of anything won't undergo significant design iterations during construction, you're insane. Even if you designed everything uptime, once that hits downtime you're in a new situation. Maybe the refined metal doesn't have the tolerances needed for the casing, or that deposit of that chemical turns out to be too deep to reach.

And I'm curious what part of a 270 ton rocket you're planning on building out of wood.

And how you're going to bootstrap the capability to generate 120 tons of high-grade kerosene and LOX. Or store it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
32 minutes ago, Stargate525 said:

If you think that the first of anything won't undergo significant design iterations during construction, you're insane. Even if you designed everything uptime, once that hits downtime you're in a new situation. Maybe the refined metal doesn't have the tolerances needed for the casing, or that deposit of that chemical turns out to be too deep to reach.

And I'm curious what part of a 270 ton rocket you're planning on building out of wood.

And how you're going to bootstrap the capability to generate 120 tons of high-grade kerosene and LOX. Or store it.

Yes, read some of the 1642 series from Flint to get an idea of the problems uplifting from 1640, yes in this setting you are the king of France or England and have an easier time but still. 
For an ancient start read the Nantucket series from Stirling, main downside with an ancient start is not only lower tech level on start but less population an tiny literate population and less capital. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With perfect knowledge? No earlier than the 1890s I think, and 1920s more likely.

I'd opt for something along the lines of the Explorer: a liquid rocket that goes to a high apoapsis, then a (series of) solid stage(s) to make orbit.

The rocket could be pretty low-tech, and possibly be uncontrolled. Burn time on the order of 90-120 seconds... if you can get the initial pitch right, aerodynamics will take care of the rest (we don't have to make it on the first try, do we?). The solids have to be pointed in the right direction, though. After a coast. In a vacuum and microgravity.

If the goal is just to make orbit, any orbit no matter how lopsided, you don't need insane precision in the controls. A Great War torpedo could hold it's heading to within a degree or two over five minutes -- that kind of precision would do. I don't have the slightest how you put that on top of a rocket, but I'm sure it could be done. The first stage rocket probably will be of limited size, but as long as it can provide 3500m/s over a 2-Minute burn, we can bundle as many as needed to lift the payload, and repeat until successful.

Though before radio, you should probably launch something large and shiny or how else will you know that you were successful?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1940, National-Socialist* Germany. Expecting it to be feasible any earlier is a fantasy. You'd need a lifetime just to build up an infrastructure to produce the necessary materials, and that's presuming you have an established industrial society. Go even further back and it's completely hopeless.

* The word should not be censored.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, lobe said:

How are you going to know it is in orbit? Yes you could try adding a reflector for light but it would be hard to identify that it is your satellite and not a shooting star. Radio communications are almost necessary just to tell the populace that yes, they do have a satellite now, and that flashy object in the sky is the one emitting the signal.

Shooting stars and orbiting satellites do not look at all alike. Also you can predict when and where our "new star" appears, which I think should be convincing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, K^2 said:

1940, National-Socialist* Germany. Expecting it to be feasible any earlier is a fantasy. You'd need a lifetime just to build up an infrastructure to produce the necessary materials, and that's presuming you have an established industrial society. Go even further back and it's completely hopeless.

* The word Nazi should not be censored.

But you have a time machine. You can spend that lifetime over only a decade of your life. Or, if possible, bring back a bunch of extra stuff.

The problem with the German rocket designs was that they couldn't really get a decent engine. 

The Middle Ages probably wouldn't work, but Rome was already proto-industrial. Teach them about penicillin, show them how to make it, do similar things for al the stuff you need, and it's not really a problem.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Bill Phil That wasn't the question being asked. Sure, if you could manipulate an arbitrary span of time at will, get support from generations of rulers, and bring back as much academic material as you need to educate said generations, you could go back at least a few hundred thousand years. Even if selection for larger cranium wasn't complete, you have a time machine, so what stops you from enforcing selection for certain traits over a few millennia?

From phrasing, it's clear that it's not what OP meant. You go back in time once, to a specific period, and you can bring with you as much knowledge as you can prepare and be able to decode at your destination. The only nation that was sufficiently close to be able to use information a time traveler would provide prior to 1957 was German Reich right before or during early WWII. And you'd still need to arrive at least a decade early. Anywhere further back in history there is just too much you'd have to set up.

Even with Germans, it's not as easy as giving them blueprints for R-7 and saying, "Go for it." We have the blueprints for F-1 rocket engines, and we still couldn't build them today without investing years of research and development. And that's technology from the past. That we have built.

Want another example? When Soviets captured German engineers and threw a substantial chunk of post-war industry to duplicate V-2 rocket, the tests or R-1 would only begin in the fall of '48. That's three years required by a super power to build a much simpler rocket having not only the schematics, but the men who actually built V-2s, using very similar level of equipment and identical materials.

To expect that you can go to any time before 1930s, even with access to all of the knowledge in the world, and be able to get them to rocket-building stage in any sane amount of time is naive in the extreme.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, Stargate525 said:

If you think that the first of anything won't undergo significant design iterations during construction, you're insane. Even if you designed everything uptime, once that hits downtime you're in a new situation. Maybe the refined metal doesn't have the tolerances needed for the casing, or that deposit of that chemical turns out to be too deep to reach.

And I'm curious what part of a 270 ton rocket you're planning on building out of wood.

And how you're going to bootstrap the capability to generate 120 tons of high-grade kerosene and LOX. Or store it.

I'm not saying you won't conduct ANY testing or iteration, but the slow, laborious testing that accompanied the development of the first orbital-class rockets won't be necessary. If nothing else, you'll have significantly less testing than Von Braun and Goddard.

The more wood you can use for interstages, support struts, and even perhaps structural elements of intermediate stages, the less metallurgical advancement you need.

Unless you pick something 19th-century or later, you're probably going to be limited to hybrid or solid-fueled rockets.

13 hours ago, Laie said:

The rocket could be pretty low-tech, and possibly be uncontrolled. Burn time on the order of 90-120 seconds... if you can get the initial pitch right, aerodynamics will take care of the rest (we don't have to make it on the first try, do we?). The solids have to be pointed in the right direction, though. After a coast. In a vacuum and microgravity.

If the goal is just to make orbit, any orbit no matter how lopsided, you don't need insane precision in the controls. A Great War torpedo could hold it's heading to within a degree or two over five minutes -- that kind of precision would do. I don't have the slightest how you put that on top of a rocket, but I'm sure it could be done. The first stage rocket probably will be of limited size, but as long as it can provide 3500m/s over a 2-Minute burn, we can bundle as many as needed to lift the payload, and repeat until successful.

Though before radio, you should probably launch something large and shiny or how else will you know that you were successful?

Indeed, the orbit doesn't have to be perfect; it just has to be relatively stable. Gyroscopes could be rigged to be kept spinning due to air pressure, with some sort of magnetic linkage to control a reaction system (probably a cold gas thruster, as this is easier than trying to gimbal an entire rocket nozzle). The gyroscopes on each stage could be tilted to set up for the progressive turns. Some kind of launch tower for liftoff guidance would probably be important.

The upper stage should definitely be shiny, but it can be seen even if it's not terribly large.

2 hours ago, Bill Phil said:

The Middle Ages probably wouldn't work, but Rome was already proto-industrial. Teach them about penicillin, show them how to make it, do similar things for al the stuff you need, and it's not really a problem.

We've got at least one vote for Rome, then.

What design would you aim for, if you were going to try and get them to put Caesar's ashes into orbit?

1 hour ago, K^2 said:

You go back in time once, to a specific period, and you can bring with you as much knowledge as you can prepare and be able to decode at your destination. The only nation that was sufficiently close to be able to use information a time traveler would provide prior to 1957 was German Reich right before or during early WWII. And you'd still need to arrive at least a decade early. Anywhere further back in history there is just too much you'd have to set up.

Even with Germans, it's not as easy as giving them blueprints for R-7 and saying, "Go for it." We have the blueprints for F-1 rocket engines, and we still couldn't build them today without investing years of research and development. And that's technology from the past. That we have built.

Want another example? When Soviets captured German engineers and threw a substantial chunk of post-war industry to duplicate V-2 rocket, the tests or R-1 would only begin in the fall of '48. That's three years required by a super power to build a much simpler rocket having not only the schematics, but the men who actually built V-2s, using very similar level of equipment and identical materials.

To expect that you can go to any time before 1930s, even with access to all of the knowledge in the world, and be able to get them to rocket-building stage in any sane amount of time is naive in the extreme.

We do have a distinct advantage: we know what won't work. The majority of testing is eliminating what doesn't work to find out what does. Our intrepid time traveler could plan ahead for what tolerances and industrial access he'd have...figure out what's realistic to expect, and so forth. So the elimination testing is, well, eliminated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, K^2 said:

@Bill Phil That wasn't the question being asked. Sure, if you could manipulate an arbitrary span of time at will, get support from generations of rulers, and bring back as much academic material as you need to educate said generations, you could go back at least a few hundred thousand years. Even if selection for larger cranium wasn't complete, you have a time machine, so what stops you from enforcing selection for certain traits over a few millennia?

From phrasing, it's clear that it's not what OP meant. You go back in time once, to a specific period, and you can bring with you as much knowledge as you can prepare and be able to decode at your destination. The only nation that was sufficiently close to be able to use information a time traveler would provide prior to 1957 was German Reich right before or during early WWII. And you'd still need to arrive at least a decade early. Anywhere further back in history there is just too much you'd have to set up.

Even with Germans, it's not as easy as giving them blueprints for R-7 and saying, "Go for it." We have the blueprints for F-1 rocket engines, and we still couldn't build them today without investing years of research and development. And that's technology from the past. That we have built.

Want another example? When Soviets captured German engineers and threw a substantial chunk of post-war industry to duplicate V-2 rocket, the tests or R-1 would only begin in the fall of '48. That's three years required by a super power to build a much simpler rocket having not only the schematics, but the men who actually built V-2s, using very similar level of equipment and identical materials.

To expect that you can go to any time before 1930s, even with access to all of the knowledge in the world, and be able to get them to rocket-building stage in any sane amount of time is naive in the extreme.

Most of that is due to inefficiencies in the engineering process. Usually due to beauracracy. It makes things take forever.

But the Romans already had a society that had large outputs. Go to a guild and teach them about making steel. Or you could just build a factory.

Most of the required tech already existed. It just took time to put it all together. Knowledge of chemical processes was limited, but we ca easily bring it to them. I think that no other civ other than the Romans, at the height of their power, could've accomplished it. It wouldn't be easy, no. But it could be done. It might take a lifetime, but who cares? You've advanced civilization by 2000 years!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This challenge is informed by a more specific question, to wit: what are the poorest, highest-tolerance material properties with which the components of an orbital-class rocket can be achieved?

Using this question, it might be possible to define precisely what is going to limit you.

It could be something like being able to manufacture a gyroscope with sufficiently precise tolerances to enable guidance...that is, unless you can figure out a means of guidance that doesn't require a gyroscope.

Or perhaps it could be something like building a rocket nozzle that won't melt.

Maybe it's the ability to get fuel with a sufficient ISP, or maybe it's the need for steel that can be beaten thin enough to contain combustion gasses without rupturing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Let's face it, you're not going to build a liquid fuelled rocket in Roman times. You just aren't. It would take tens of thousands of trained people. Industries that wouldn't yet exist. Probably centuries of development.

If I had to do it, the best way would be and OTRAG sort of affair. Solid rocket motors using Saltpetre as an oxidiser, mixed with something like coal dust as your fuel. Make a nozzle out of clay. Your ISp would be lousy so you'd have to have a big, multistaged design, set up with clockwork to separate the stages. Set it up so it reached orbit passively. Try lots of times, fail lots of times, hopefully eventually get a payload to orbit, but I wouldn't fancy my chances.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, peadar1987 said:

Let's face it, you're not going to build a liquid fuelled rocket in Roman times. You just aren't. It would take tens of thousands of trained people. Industries that wouldn't yet exist. Probably centuries of development.

If I had to do it, the best way would be and OTRAG sort of affair. Solid rocket motors using Saltpetre as an oxidiser, mixed with something like coal dust as your fuel. Make a nozzle out of clay. Your ISp would be lousy so you'd have to have a big, multistaged design, set up with clockwork to separate the stages. Set it up so it reached orbit passively. Try lots of times, fail lots of times, hopefully eventually get a payload to orbit, but I wouldn't fancy my chances.

Yeah, that's basically what I was thinking as well.

You might be able to get liquid N2O or high-test hydrogen peroxide as a liquid oxidizer to help your ISP a bit. Coal dust is one potential fuel; you could also mix in a variety of metals to increase energy. Clockwork-separated staging isn't necessary if you can rig an explosive charge to fire and separate stages once the lower stage burns out (e.g., by having one of the lower stages burn through its own upper cap and ignite the charge).

Definitely a lot of stages.

In this design, I'm guessing that the limiting factor would either be the temperature/ablation resistance of the nozzle, or the pressure-bearing capacity of your body.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, K^2 said:

@Bill Phil That wasn't the question being asked. Sure, if you could manipulate an arbitrary span of time at will, get support from generations of rulers, and bring back as much academic material as you need to educate said generations, you could go back at least a few hundred thousand years. Even if selection for larger cranium wasn't complete, you have a time machine, so what stops you from enforcing selection for certain traits over a few millennia?

From phrasing, it's clear that it's not what OP meant. You go back in time once, to a specific period, and you can bring with you as much knowledge as you can prepare and be able to decode at your destination. The only nation that was sufficiently close to be able to use information a time traveler would provide prior to 1957 was German Reich right before or during early WWII. And you'd still need to arrive at least a decade early. Anywhere further back in history there is just too much you'd have to set up.

Even with Germans, it's not as easy as giving them blueprints for R-7 and saying, "Go for it." We have the blueprints for F-1 rocket engines, and we still couldn't build them today without investing years of research and development. And that's technology from the past. That we have built.

Want another example? When Soviets captured German engineers and threw a substantial chunk of post-war industry to duplicate V-2 rocket, the tests or R-1 would only begin in the fall of '48. That's three years required by a super power to build a much simpler rocket having not only the schematics, but the men who actually built V-2s, using very similar level of equipment and identical materials.

To expect that you can go to any time before 1930s, even with access to all of the knowledge in the world, and be able to get them to rocket-building stage in any sane amount of time is naive in the extreme.

I agree with you that building up new industries is outside of scope, not to talk about creating an industrial revolution.
On the other hand no experience in building rockets should be required, its very helpful but not really required as you have the knowledge and that you will build is very far from that the Germans was working with before WW2, main benefit is probably that you get an team who understand how rockets work and is enthusiastic about them rater than an lot of airplane engineers who belive that rocket will not work in vacuum. 

Two ways of doing this one, no new industries/ technological breakthroughs outside of rocket science. if you have an aluminium industry or you can buy it you can use it. If you have radio tubes you can use them, not else.
If they was discovered in real life during the rocket development you can use them then they are produced. You are allowed to ramp up production of stuff like RP1 if you can make it. 
Second is an time limit, 12 years was the time from Soviet got the V2 to Sputnik. If you are nice say 15 or 20. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This thread is quite old. Please consider starting a new thread rather than reviving this one.

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.