mcdouble

an alternate alternate history (ETS-inspired)

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I've been reading the Eyes Turned Skywards alternate history that I'm sure a lot of people are familiar with, and been enjoying recreating some of the missions so I thought I'd document some of it here.

In April 1978 the final Saturn V in NASA's inventory is used to launch Spacelab, a follow up to the Skylab station that was deorbited in 1976. Although it uses the same S-IVB dry workshop design as Skylab, it is built for a much longer mission duration, and is planned to receive future modular additions.

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After problems with the fairings used when launching Skylab, which resulted in severe damage to the solar panels and micrometeorite shield, the entirety of the Spacelab station is protected by a giant fairing for this launch.

 

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The S-II stage inserts the station into a low 225km orbit at a 51.5 degree inclination. This orbit was chosen to allow access by Soviet Soyuz vehicles for an anticipated Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission. 

 

Soon afterwards, an Apollo block III CSM launches atop a newly-developed Saturn IC rocket, carrying astronauts Vance Brand, Richard Truly and F. Story Musgrave to a rendezvous with Spacelab.

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The Apollo CSM separates from it's S-IVB. The new Block III version of Apollo is specialised for LEO operations, with reduced fuel mass, batteries replacing the fuel cells, and the engine replaced with a modified Lunar Module descent engine.

 

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Successful docking.

 

Later the same year, the third manned mission to the station performs the first modular assembly in space by NASA. An airlock module is launched by a Saturn IC with an AARDV (Autonomous Automated Rendezvous and Docking Vehicle) in it's tug configuration: essentially a block III Apollo Service Module which can carry cargo instead of the Command Module. The module is then guided in to dock remotely from Spacelab.

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After increased tension and an escalation of the Soviet Almaz project causes the cancellation of the ASTP-II, an AARDV logistics module visits the station and boosts it into a 385x315km orbit over the course of two engine burns.

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Modular assembly would be demonstrated again in 1979, with the addition of the European Research Module (ERM).

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ESA Astronaut Ulf Merbold conducts an EVA, tending to experiments on the outside of the newly installed ERM.

 

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Spacelab configuration as of 1980.

 

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Spacelab launch vehicle comparison. 

Edited by mcdouble

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You have to host images through a website like imgur, then link it here

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7 minutes ago, Bev7787 said:

You have to host images through a website like imgur, then link it here

Thanks, I just figured out what I'd done wrong (I put the image link given by imgur rather than the direct link)

Edited by mcdouble

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Going to continue this timeline here, only things might happen a bit differently this time, just for fun (also because I don't know how to make new engine parts etc to match the fictional ones in ETS :P)

In early 1979, Voyager 1 makes its flyby of Jupiter, capturing stunning new images of the giant planet and its moons.

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Meanwhile that same year, in Baikonur the Soviet Union is making the first test flight of its Vulkan-Atlas rocket, with a LEO capacity of more than 60 tons. Consisting of a central Vulkan core and 4 Vulkan boosters each providing around 8,000 kN of thrust through their RD-170 engines, with a Proton-derived upper stage using 2 RD-0210s, it eclipses any American launch vehicle of the time's capability.zmoxr6k.png

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All engines are ignited at lift off, the central core then throttling back to 40% until booster separation.

 

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Korolev would not be impressed, but the boosters separate somewhat cleanly and the test is a complete success, placing a 60 ton experimental military payload into orbit.

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US intelligence indicates that the main purpose of this vehicle is to expand the already extensive Soviet space station program, and allow deployment of a newer, heavier generation of their Almaz and Salyut modules. But maybe they have something else up their sleeve...

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Early 1980, and a Vulkan rocket is launching a DOS space station module to orbit in what appears to be a continuation of the Salyut program.

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Two months later, however, it would turn out that this station was not intended to stay in low earth orbit, as a Vulkan-Atlas launches a hefty 70 ton payload to rendezvous with it. That payload is the Venus Transfer Stage, a custom-built module that carries 60 tons of LH2/LOX and two RD-57 engines which were developed out of the failed N1 project and boast an impressive 456s of ISP. Also integrated into the structure is an RCS and auxiliary propulsion system using UDMH/NTO that guides the VTS during orbital rendezvous and does final precision burns for a Trans Venus Injection.

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Within hours of the VTS docking and confirming that all systems are operating correctly, a TKS spacecraft carrying cosmonauts Boris Savasin and Alexei Varennikov follows and docks to the forward port of the DOS module, completing the full stack which then performs a 6 minute, 3800 m/s burn (by chance occurring off the eastern coast of the US) putting it on a trajectory towards Venus. This mission, having been conducted in complete secrecy until its official announcement by the USSR as it leaves Earth, shocks the world and causes quite a stir in the American space program, who seem to have fallen behind the Soviets once again.

Officially named only "VPK" or Venusian Piloted Complex, the mission is soon dubbed "Ikar" or Icarus to mark its daring voyage towards the Sun.

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Once TVI is confirmed, the VTS is discarded and left to drift in heliocentric orbit. High precision is required for this burn to ensure the craft returns to Earth on a near-to-free return trajectory, as the TKS engines (four are used rather than the usual two to increase thrust and redundancy) can provide only around 450 m/s of delta V for course corrections.

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Icarus passes beyond 400,000 km from the Earth, making the crew the furthest humans from home in history.

 

6 days later, a 58 m/s course correction is performed, putting the craft onto its optimal trajectory, passing within 3000 km of the Venusian surface 105 days later and returning to Earth 256 days after that, for an almost exactly one year round trip.

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August 7, 1980. Icarus approaches Venus for a close approach of around 3000 km. With the vehicle travelling at such high speeds, mere hours would be spent in close vicinity of the planet.

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Near pericytherion, Boris Savasin performs an EVA, getting a view no one has come close to seeing before. While as much scientific work as possible is done in the time available, in truth the mission's value would lie more in the field of national pride, and stand as a statement by the Soviet Union that it was not yet willing to concede the space race in this new decade.

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Before long though, the encounter would be over and Venus would quickly begin shrinking into the distance, as the crew prepares for the long voyage home.

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A picture beamed around the world taken from video coverage of Savasin's spacewalk. Faintly visible as a dot behind the communications dish is the Earth.

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Quite an ambitious mission.  Nice job :)

 

11 hours ago, mcdouble said:

While as much scientific work as possible is done in the time available, in truth the mission's value would lie more in the field of national pride

The same could be said of pretty much all human space travel in the, past or for the foreseeable future.  Exploration accomplishes nothing unless followed by commercially viable exploitation.

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On 18/07/2016 at 4:57 AM, mcdouble said:

Meanwhile that same year, in Baikonur the Soviet Union is making the first test flight of its Vulkan-Atlas rocket, with a LEO capacity of more than 60 tons. Consisting of a central Vulkan core and 4 Vulkan boosters each providing around 8,000 kN of thrust through their RD-170 engines, with a Proton-derived upper stage using 2 RD-0210s, it eclipses any American launch vehicle of the time's capability.zmoxr6k.png

 

 

If I recall reading the timeline correctly, the Soviets never actually launched the 5-core Atlas variant of the Vulkan, only up to the three-core Herakles.

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That's why it's an alternate alternate history

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On 7/23/2016 at 0:32 AM, Geschosskopf said:

The same could be said of pretty much all human space travel in the, past or for the foreseeable future.  Exploration accomplishes nothing unless followed by commercially viable exploitation.

Yep that's true. Basically this mission is an excuse to give NASA a kick in the pants and maybe get back to the Moon and beyond a bit quicker. :P

15 hours ago, TaintedLion said:

If I recall reading the timeline correctly, the Soviets never actually launched the 5-core Atlas variant of the Vulkan, only up to the three-core Herakles.

In the actual ETS timeline, the Vulkan is a fair bit more powerful since it uses fictional RD-150 and RD-160 engines which nobody has made in KSP as far as I know. I basically used what was available, so the Vulkan core and boosters are pretty much just Zenit boosters like on the real-life Energia, and then the upper stage is kinda like an expanded Proton third stage.

I definitely don't want to try and re-write anything about ETS, I think its attention to detail and realism is amazing, but I thought it would be interesting to do some alternate things in the same kind of world that they created. And I wanted an excuse to do extra stuff like eventually getting to Mars.

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Before the Icarus crew have even returned to Earth, new developments are taking place around the Earth, with NASA launching the first Apollo Block III+ CSM on a next-generation Saturn IC. This setup includes a Mission Module which is extracted from the spent S-IVB stage and allows greater living space for an expanded crew of 5.

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After docking with Spacelab, an AARDV logistics vehicle arrives and boosts the station into a  405 x 375 km orbit, which would ensure its continued operation for at least the next few years. However, it would remain to be seen what the Americans' true response would be to the Soviets' bold recent moves.

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Do you have a list of the mods you use? Also, can your Block III+ Apollo CM really hold 5 kerbs?

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18 hours ago, TaintedLion said:

Do you have a list of the mods you use? Also, can your Block III+ Apollo CM really hold 5 kerbs?

Mods list is pretty bloated, but the relevant ones would be:

  • RSS/RO
  • RVE
  • Scatterer
  • Planetshine
  • Windowshine
  • TextureReplacer
  • DistantObject
  • EngineLight
  • CoolRockets

And for parts: SSTU, Procedural Parts (with FreedomTex and MainSailor texture packs), FASA, Tantares and some of RaiderNick's parts. Also the Nebula decals mod that hasn't been updated in a long time but seems to work ok in 1.1.3.

As for the Apollo Block III+, it actually can only carry 3 kerbals cos the pod is just the FASA Apollo CM, but I guess it wouldn't be too hard to edit it to take 5. I guess that might break the IVA or something, but it's already kinda wonky as it is.

 

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Great work on this and a lot of beautifully build rockets and vessels. 

Hope it's not too old to ask but I've been looking for that small box kerbal Ulf Merbold is floating to on the outside of the ERM. Where is that part from? 

 

Greetings! 

Edited by Jeb Jawkins

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On 09/02/2017 at 3:28 AM, Jeb Jawkins said:

Great work on this and a lot of beautifully build rockets and vessels. 

Hope it's not too old to ask but I've been looking for that small box kerbal Ulf Merbold is floating to on the outside of the ERM. Where is that part from? 

Hi there, sorry for the lateness... the part is a radial Materials Bay from the SSTU mod, not sure which version though... things might have changed by now.

I kinda forgot about this thread as I stopped playing Kerbal for a while but I will continue it soon

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After a year in deep space, two cosmonauts prepare for the most critical phase of their mission: safely getting home. With speeds relative to Earth greater even than the 11 km/s that the Apollo missions re-entered Earth's atmosphere from, there was an understandably tense atmosphere at Soviet mission control. In truth, while the mission had been planned as well as possible, many factors were uncertain, particularly the effect of high G-loads on the human body after a year spent in weightlessness.

Preparation for re-entry went smoothly, however, as final trajectory was confirmed and the hab module discarded, left to drift in heliocentric orbit.

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A final braking burn is performed by the TKS, and the descent module decouples and is further braked by its launch tower/deorbiting engine. Unfortunately for mission planners, the incoming trajectory to Earth made a landing in Kazakhstan impossible, so instead a splashdown would be made in the Atlantic.

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The capsule would handle re-entry perfectly, with the strengthened heat shield doing its job without any problems. The crew, on the other hand, would not fare so well. G forces would peak at 7g, somewhat beyond projected estimates and causing Alexei Varennikov to lose consciousness. Both crew would be physically affected and in need of medical attention on landing, which thankfully came quickly as recovery vessels were close by.  

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While the mission would seem like a triumph for the USSR, internal records which would not come to light until the end of the Cold War showed a conflicted reaction, some considering it overly reckless. Both cosmonauts were severely weakened by their ordeal and took several months to recover, leading to a shift in Soviet space doctrine towards greater safety and research into the effects of long term stays in space.

For the Americans, however, there was something of an opposite effect. No longer holding the crown of the most recent outstanding achievement in space, their ambitions would soon step up a notch.

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Time for Project Ares, then?

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In early 1981, newly elected President Ronald Reagan gives a televised speech declaring America's plan to claim pre-eminence in space. The ambitious directive involves two main goals: first, the construction of a new and much larger space station to be named Freedom, and second, a return to the Moon by the 1990s culminating with a permanently manned base. From there, Mars and beyond would be the next phase, as the United States would lead humanity's first true steps beyond our world.

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By 1982, preparations were already coming to fruition, with the US Air Force making the first test launch of a Titan IIIL (Large Diameter Core), featuring an expanded core stage, and two LR-87 engines boosted by upgraded UA1207 SRBs. As larger payloads are required to meet the needs of the Freedom program and ever expanding military satellites, new developments in launch vehicle technology were necessary.

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Unfortunately in this case, soon after an impressive launch, disaster would strike. 54 seconds into the flight, a critical failure in the core stage fuel pump systems led to an explosion which destroyed the vehicle in spectacular fashion. In the aftermath of the fireball, toxic hypergolic fuels would rain down over a large area of the Florida coastline, requiring weeks of clean up work and creating a public relations disaster as debate raged about the use of such dangerous propellants. This would throw the entire Titan program into doubt, and be a huge problem for the Martin Company, who would need to go back to the drawing board.

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