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One Giant Leap | An Alternate History of Space Exploration


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Wheel Stop

The Space Shuttle is a one-of-a-kind spacecraft, a truly revolutionary vehicle which will hopefully change spaceflight forever. NASA has set lofty goals for the Space Shuttle and its overall Space Transportation System (STS) program, but the agency's confidence is at an all time high. This stream of confidence has its roots in Apollo 11, but it has been tested with events like Apollo 13 and Skylab's C02 Incident. Nevertheless the agency remains confident in the Space Shuttle, and the new vehicle has been a PR bonanza for NASA. This new revolutionary vehicle, far larger and more exciting than the old Apollo capsules which it is intended to replace, has caught the public's attention. Capable of transporting 7-8 crew at maximum capacity, and carry 30+ tons of cargo to orbit. With some even saying it is the key to a human mission to Mars in the future. While those may seem like very lofty goals and promises before the vehicle has even flown on its own wings, NASA hopes that with the upcoming Approach and Landing Tests, this confidence will be proven well-founded.

The Approach and Landing Tests will last for about 3 to 4 months, and prove the Space Shuttle's entire landing profile, being released from the top of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, and then gliding down to Edwards Air Force Base for a smooth landing on the dry lakebed. Later flights will attempt to land on the actual runways at the base, but the Shuttle itself will also utilize the lakebed when returning from orbit. The Shuttle will be crewed by 2 astronauts during these tests, who will be piloting the vehicle down to a soft landing. The crew of ALT 1 would be Fred Haise and Gordon Fullerton.

June 15th, 1976: Enterprise spreads her wings for the very first time

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"We are airborne!"

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The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft climbs above the desert skies, bringing Enterprise to the altitude for release. There is no room for mistakes, no more simulator time, no more boring briefings, just the pilots, and the Shuttle, several kilometers above the California desert.

"Standing by for release."

"Go for release!"

"Away she goes!"

"The Shuttle Enterprise has separated from the carrier aircraft!"

The Shuttle Takes Flight

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5 and a half years ago, the Space Shuttle was born. In concept it would be the most advanced, and most capable spacecraft ever built, revolutionizing not only manned spaceflight, but the way we conduct operations in space as a whole. In our hand is the key to the future, the key to what this agency has dreamed of since its beginnings, the key to the rest of the Solar System. The Space Shuttle is that key, that final piece of the puzzle. We are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, with a ship like no other, with a new generation of astronauts, with a new generation of people, and a new generation of space exploration. NASA will continue to lead the charge, as it has before, alongside our new partners in Europe and across the globe, we will show what humanity is truly capable of. The Space Shuttle is all of our hopes, all of our dreams, in one bold spacecraft. We've dreamed of vehicles like the Shuttle for decades. Launch like a rocket, land like a plane. Well we're sure as heck going to be doing that, for many years to come.

Oh right we still have to land this thing.

The Shuttle does exactly as it was intended to, glides across the California skies with ease, although it had been jokingly referred to as a "flying brick" there was some sort of majestic beauty to its rather steep glide. May not fly like much, but that's only a small part of the mission, right?

"Gear down."

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"Coming over Runway 23 on the Edwards Lakebed."

"Shuttle just moments from touchdown..."

"Just a bit more..."

"There we go! Main Gear touchdown!"

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"Crew rotating the nose of Enterprise down now..."

"And there we go, nose gear touchdown!"

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"Shuttle will now come to a stop using its powerful wheel brakes."

...

"There we go!"

"Wheel Stop, Great Flight Enterprise!"

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A momentous occasion for NASA, and the nation as a whole. Tens of thousands turned up to Edwards to watch Enterprise fly solo for the very first time, and they did not leave disappointed. Before even going to space once, the Shuttle has captured the imagination of the American public, posters of Enterprise sell like crazy, NASA begins making more official merchandise, including collaborating with Mattel to create a small Shuttle toy, it even has deployable landing gear and speedbrakes! (Astronaut figurines sold separately)

Believe it or not however, in the midst of all this Shuttle hype, Apollo still exists! After a long hiatus, the winding down Apollo Phase 2 rolls out Apollo 23, a mission which will hopefully land at Tycho Crater this time.

This is the first Apollo crew to have members of Astronaut Group 7, which were transferred from the cancelled Air Force MOL project in 1969. All of them have been to Skylab for long duration expeditions.

MISSION OVERVIEW: APOLLO 23 |

Commander | Ken Mattingly

Command Module Pilot | Gordon Fullerton

Lunar Module Pilot | Robert Crippen

CSM: Liberty LM: Scout

Landing Site: Tycho Crater

July 18th, 1976

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"All systems are go at this time, I repeat all systems are go at this time."

"T-15 seconds and counting, Guidance internal."

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"T-12, 11, 10, 9, ignition sequence start!"

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"7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, ZERO, ALL ENGINES UP AND RUNNING AND WE HAVE A LIFTOFF, ON-TIME LIFTOFF OF APOLLO 23!"

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"Trajectory is nominal, engine parameters looking good."

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"Standing by for MECO."

"And there's MECO!"

"Staging..."

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"Nominal S-IC sep."

"MS-II ignition confirmed!"

"Interstage skirt has been released."

"Now followed by the launch abort tower."

"Engine parameters on the MS-II look good."

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The mission is overall a great success, landing at Tycho Crater as intended, and even testing out new systems and hardware for Advanced Apollo. One such thing is a little miniature robotic rover that can scout ahead of the crew, allowing them to plan more in depth geologic expeditions for maximum return. The crew safely splash down in the Pacific Ocean on July 30th.

In other news, Europa successfully performed its first operational mission, carrying 3 German research satellites to MEO. Valkyrie also conducted 3 launches of this summer, 2 of which were commercial, and one was a DoD payload. The Soviet Union has officially decided as well to give the N1 one last chance. Luna 8 will be launched sometime late next year, and be the rocket's last chance at redemption before retirement.

The world of spaceflight keeps on moving, new rockets come, old rockets go.

But STS-1 will sure be a sight to see.

 

Edited by track
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  • 3 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Failure to Launch

Apollo 24 is the second to last Phase 2 Apollo Mission, it is a mission that started out like any other ordinary Apollo mission, but the looming sense of the end of an era weighed heavy on those preparing it for launch. This Saturn V, the one for Apollo 25, and the one which would launch --- ----- ------- ------- ---- -------, are all that remained. The rollout to 39A occurred on the morning of July 9th, 1976. To a large crowd of spectators, with the rocket reaching the pad that afternoon. Preparations for the launch, scheduled for early August, began a few days later. The large Saturn MSS rolled up to the rocket 2 days later on the 11th. The dry rehearsal with the crew occurred on the 20th, and the wet rehearsal, involving fueling of the rocket with no crew, occurred on the 25th.

Let's go over the Apollo 24 mission:

MISSION OVERVIEW: APOLLO 24 |

Commander | Richard Truly

Lunar Module Pilot | Henry Hartsfield Jr.

Command Module Pilot | Karol Bobko

CSM "Unity" and LM "Harmony"

Landing Site: Tsiolkovsky Crater, Lunar Far Side

This will be the first ever attempt at a crewed landing on the Far Side of the Moon. A far side landing had been in planning since the earliest stages of Phase 2 development. In order to accomplish this, NASA needed a lunar communication satellite which maintained contact with the Lunar Module on the surface and had constant line of sight with the Earth. NASA eventually settled on a series of 4 satellites called LunaComm. They would be launched by Atlas-Centaur Heavy, and delivered into their intended orbits by a solid rocket kick motor. All 4 satellites were successfully launched between June 1975 and February 1976. This was just in time for them to become fully active for Apollo 24.

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After a few delays due to heavy rain, Apollo 24 is set for launch.

August 6th, 1976: Apollo 24 is GO

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"T-15, Guidance is internal."

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"T-12, 11, 10, 9, Ignition sequence start."

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"7,6..."

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For the first time ever, a Saturn V has had an engine shutdown during startup. This is incredibly unexpected, after 19 other Saturn V launches, suddenly it happens now. Everyone in mission control is stunned but nevertheless continues forward, the vehicle is safed, detanked, and the crew are recovered by the closeout team about an hour and a half after the liftoff was planned to occur.

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It seems like 1976 just isn't NASA's year, after the Skylab C02 incident, and now the "Apollo 24 Abort" the agency has seen 2 major setbacks this year. But as said before, what defines this agency is its willingness to persevere. The launch vehicle is rolled back to the VAB, and put in High Bay 2 for engine removal and replacement. The launch of Apollo 24 will now likely slip into next year, depending on how long repairs take. Work beings to sort through data and telemetry to figure out what exactly went wrong.

Meanwhile, the Soviets are reportedly beginning assembly of another N1 rocket, as the final planned N1 moon mission begins preparations. Glushko's leverage is now unbeatable, Sokol is now flying, and even slowly replacing Proton in many cases. He is also pushing for an upgraded Soyuz spacecraft, assuming the [REDACTED] does not go according to plan.

Space Shuttle Enterprise is now back at the KSC preparing for STS-1, Martin Marietta recently delivered the first Space Shuttle External Tank, and the S-IC is nearly complete and ready for delivery. Enterprise has encountered a few hiccups but nevertheless remains on schedule.

How the abort of Apollo 24 will effect the future is uncertain, NASA has been increasingly stubborn recently with the first Shuttle launch now less than a year away. This is causing a growing tension within the agency. The Soviets are also dealing with this. How each side will handle it is to be seen. But it adds yet another layer to the final years of the Space Race.

Edited by track
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22 hours ago, track said:

Failure to Launch

Apollo 24 is the second to last Phase 2 Apollo Mission, it is a mission that started out like any other ordinary Apollo mission, but the looming sense of the end of an era weighed heavy on those preparing it for launch. This Saturn V, the one for Apollo 25, and the one which would launch --- ----- ------- ------- ---- -------, are all that remained. The rollout to 39A occurred on the morning of July 9th, 1976. To a large crowd of spectators, with the rocket reaching the pad that afternoon. Preparations for the launch, scheduled for early August, began a few days later. The large Saturn MSS rolled up to the rocket 2 days later on the 11th. The dry rehearsal with the crew occurred on the 20th, and the wet rehearsal, involving fueling of the rocket with no crew, occurred on the 25th.

Let's go over the Apollo 24 mission:

MISSION OVERVIEW: APOLLO 24 |

Commander | Richard Truly

Lunar Module Pilot | Henry Hartsfield Jr.

Command Module Pilot | Karol Bobko

CSM "Unity" and LM "Harmony"

Landing Site: Tsiolkovsky Crater, Lunar Far Side

This will be the first ever attempt at a crewed landing on the Far Side of the Moon. A far side landing had been in planning since the earliest stages of Phase 2 development. In order to accomplish this, NASA needed a lunar communication satellite which maintained contact with the Lunar Module on the surface and had constant line of sight with the Earth. NASA eventually settled on a series of 4 satellites called LunaComm. They would be launched by Atlas-Centaur Heavy, and delivered into their intended orbits by a solid rocket kick motor. All 4 satellites were successfully launched between June 1975 and February 1976. This was just in time for them to become fully active for Apollo 24.

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After a few delays due to heavy rain, Apollo 24 is set for launch.

August 6th, 1976: Apollo 24 is GO

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"T-15, Guidance is internal."

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"T-12, 11, 10, 9, Ignition sequence start."

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"7,6..."

screenshot1339.png'

For the first time ever, a Saturn V has had an engine shutdown during startup. This is incredibly unexpected, after 19 other Saturn V launches, suddenly it happens now. Everyone in mission control is stunned but nevertheless continues forward, the vehicle is safed, detanked, and the crew are recovered by the closeout team about an hour and a half after the liftoff was planned to occur.

screenshot1348.png

It seems like 1976 just isn't NASA's year, after the Skylab C02 incident, and now the "Apollo 24 Abort" the agency has seen 2 major setbacks this year. But as said before, what defines this agency is its willingness to persevere. The launch vehicle is rolled back to the VAB, and put in High Bay 2 for engine removal and replacement. The launch of Apollo 24 will now likely slip into next year, depending on how long repairs take. Work beings to sort through data and telemetry to figure out what exactly went wrong.

Meanwhile, the Soviets are reportedly beginning assembly of another N1 rocket, as the final planned N1 moon mission begins preparations. Glushko's leverage is now unbeatable, Sokol is now flying, and even slowly replacing Proton in many cases. He is also pushing for an upgraded Soyuz spacecraft, assuming the [REDACTED] does not go according to plan.

Space Shuttle Enterprise is now back at the KSC preparing for STS-1, Martin Marietta recently delivered the first Space Shuttle External Tank, and the S-IC is nearly complete and ready for delivery. Enterprise has encountered a few hiccups but nevertheless remains on schedule.

How the abort of Apollo 24 will effect the future is uncertain, NASA has been increasingly stubborn recently with the first Shuttle launch now less than a year away. This is causing a growing tension within the agency. The Soviets are also dealing with this. How each side will handle it is to be seen. But it adds yet another layer to the final years of the Space Race.

HOW

 

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4 hours ago, KSPMaster89 said:

how happened that saturn v failed. very unlucky man

I should've elaborated on this in the post. But what I ultimately made the canonical reason was the failure of one of the engine's starting cartridges, resulting in a shutdown of all the other engines, and a launch abort.

 

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Here We Go... Again!

Apollo 24 returns to the launchpad on December 29th, 1976, with an engine replaced, the others repaired, the the rocket ready to try this whole thing one more time in hopes of taking 3 astronauts to the Moon in the penultimate Phase 2 Apollo mission. Despite the minor press debacle over the failed launch in August NASA has mostly kept the situation in check, and the public has learned a thing or two about how hard rocket science is!

Some delays incurred by Truly's spacesuit not fitting right pushed the launch to February 10th, 1977. This caused... issues as a certain Space Shuttle Enterprise was preparing to roll out to the launchpad for its inaugural flight, so Apollo 24 had to be moved to 39B for launch, to give Enterprise a vacant 39A to arrive at, with LC-39C still in construction in the distance, this would be the situation NASA would deal with until the new launch facility was up and running. After all of these shenanigans Apollo 24 was finally ready for launch, again, on February 15th, 1977.

February 15th, 1977: The Launch of Apollo 24

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The launch was slightly delayed due to rain showers around the KSC, the weather is closely monitored, and thankfully it stays green through the countdown.

"T-1 minute, we are now in the final phase of the countdown, the Crew Access Arm has retracted to its Launch Position, and the Saturn V's onboard computers are now in control of the countdown."

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"T-15, Guidance is internal."

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"T-12, 11, 10, 9, ignition sequence start, 7, 6, 5..."

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"4, 3, 2, 1... and Liftoff! We have a Liftoff of Apollo 24, 45 minutes past the hour, the Saturn V moving up now!"

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"Trajectory is nominal, Saturn V on the proper flight path, Stage 1 chamber pressures look good!"

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A flawless launch from the legendary Saturn V. The mission goes off well, completing the first ever crewed lunar Far Side landing, learning much about Tsiolkovsky Crater and the surrounding area, future missions to the Lunar Far Side will now be considered as potential options in Advanced Apollo.

The Saturn V only has 2 launches left, Apollo 25, and...

Let's talk about that last one.

For Advanced Apollo, NASA is developing Nuclear Thermal propulsion engines to power the Lunar Transfer Vehicle (LTV), the ongoing NERVA program was redirected to help develop this motor. At this point in time, the program is now building a functioning space-capable NTR for testing purposes. Thus the Saturn V's final flight will carry the NERVA Orbital Testbed, or NERVA-OT. This is in essence a scaled down version of the LTV, to test its operations, and life cycle. The Saturn V will launch in a 2 stage cargo configuration carrying the craft to Low Earth Orbit. The craft will then perform a preliminary checkout, a small maneuver with the motor, and then a lunar free return mission before returning to Earth and entering the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. This mission will demonstrate nuclear rockets as capable, reliable, and effective. This will push the boundaries of spaceflight technology, and give the United States another advantage against the Soviet Union.

Speaking of the Soviet Union, they are beginning final preparations for the final flight of the N1, for Luna 8. Glushko is attempting to get the mission cancelled but has made no progress on that front. The final flight of the N1 will go ahead, with whatever result that may occur. Glushko has had his way with the development of Sokol and Energiya, and the [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] going alongside.

Speaking of [REDACTED], Space Shuttle Enterprise is now fully stacked in the VAB, and ready for her inaugural flight, STS-1.

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The new era begins.

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A Ship Like No Other

As the doors of High Bay 3 open, and Enterprise rolls out, the crowd is in awe. The Space Shuttle, on the side of a mighty Saturn V first stage and its massive External Tank. It's unlike anything seen before. Arriving at 39A on February 2nd, 1977, ground crews begin the work to prepare her for flight. Some issues encountered with an umbilical interface were resolved, but they threatened to cause a rollback to the VAB. And issues during the Wet Dress Rehearsal with the ET hydrogen umbilicals proved problematic but were ultimately solved.

All of this, and we're still a few weeks from launch. On February 25th, 1977, the payloads for STS-1 were integrated via the MSS. This proved to be an absolute pain, and NASA was glad that they wouldn't have to deal with this forever. But nevertheless they were integrated. On March 3rd, 1977. The first ever Shuttle Pre-launch press conference was held, so with that, let's meet the crew!

MISSION OVERVIEW: STS-1 |

Commander | John Young

Pilot 1 | Story Musgrave

Pilot 2 | Bob Crippen

OV-101 "Enterprise"

The crew perform a final dress rehearsal on March 4th, and get a few days of rest before the big day.

March 7th, 1977: The Launch of STS-1

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"This is Shuttle Launch Control at T-30 minutes and counting, fueling is proceeding as planned, Weather and Range remain go for the launch of Shuttle Enterprise this morning."

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Many were concerned about how the Shuttle would handle the stresses of launch, but at this point there was nothing to do but find out. NASA themselves were confident and not concerned. Enterprise was tailored to being launched off the side of the Saturn-Shuttle stack, something only one other Orbiter, OV-102, is planned to do. The new President Jimmy Carter was in attendance at the site, alongside many other members of the US Government. Many of the NASA executives, and astronauts were also present. Over 300,000 people gathered at the Cape to spectate the launch as well.

"Shuttle Launch Control at T-10 minutes and counting, the 3 man crew of Shuttle Enterprise are reporting in good health, and the Shuttle's onboard computers are coming online as expected."

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"Enterprise, this is Shuttle Launch Control, its been a long time coming, and we're unbelievably grateful to have been apart of this amazing process, getting Enterprise ready to head to space for the first time, Godspeed, we wish you all the best, and we'll see you back here in a few days."

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"Copy, Shuttle Launch Control, we thank you for your efforts in getting this amazing spacecraft ready for flight, we are Go For Launch!"

"T-1 minute, we are go for launch!"

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"GLS is go for auto-sequence start."

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"T-15, Guidance is internal."

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"12, 11, 10, 9, ignition sequence start, 7..."

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"6..."

"5..."

"4..."

"3..."

"2..."

"1..."

"ZERO."

"ALL ENGINES RUNNING, LIFTOFF! WE HAVE A LIFTOFF!

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"LIFTOFF OF SHUTTLE ENTERPRISE, BEGINNING A NEW ERA OF AMERICAN SPACE EXPLORATION!"

"TOWER CLEAR!"

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"Roll program."

"Roger Roll, Enterprise!"

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"Enterprise now lifting into the skies for her very first journey into Low Earth Orbit. The S-IC boost stage is performing nominally, and the SSMEs are primed for startup."

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"Standing by for SSME startup, following right after by MECO, and then S-IC separation."

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"We have good staging, and nominal SSME startup."

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The most concerning part of the flight is over, and Enterprise appears to have handled the launch loads extraordinarily well. The 3 crew members are in good condition, and Enterprise now begins the climb the rest of the way to orbit.

"Enterprise continues on with the External Tank, the SSMEs will bring Enterprise nearly to orbit, and then the Orbital Maneuvering System engines will perform orbital insertion."

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"SSME performance is nominal."

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"Enterprise confirmed good External Tank separation, welcome to orbit."

(Well, not quite actually.)

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An OMS maneuver brings Enterprise fully into orbit, the crowd cheers as the payload bay doors open, and the crew begin a live broadcast about an hour after launch from the Shuttle Flight Deck. The public haven't been so engaged and interested in the space program since Apollo 11. The Shuttle has represented a revival in not only NASA, but in its relationship with the American people, a new beginning.

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The Shuttle's mission is only just beginning however, Enterprise will spend 2 days in orbit before returning home.

The Soviet Union congratulates the US on the successful first flight of the Space Shuttle, and even some Soviet diplomats attended the launch! Is this a sign of warming relations? Or do they have different motives? Who knows! Whatever the reasoning, the Shuttle may finally be the thing that can bring bitter rivals together.

Truly a Ship Like No Other.

(hey that's the name of this part!)
 

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Glide Slope

In orbit above the Earth, the crew of Space Shuttle Enterprise got to work. Their 2 days on orbit would be mostly testing the Shuttle and its systems, assuring that it performs as intended in the environment of space. Some science would also be done, with experiments brought up and the external science platform in the payload bay. This platform rotated vertical on a hydraulic hinge, and carried a few external experiments, including 2 experimental concentrated solar arrays to test this new form of highly powerful solar collection. These were intended to be the first step into creating what is envisioned as a mission extension kit for the Shuttle, with a large solar array providing power for longer missions, up to maybe even 30 days.

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Back on the ground, NASA held a post-launch press conference, with absurd attendance levels. The conference had to be ended as it had ran far longer than expected due to the amount of questions and engagement from the press. A good sign to see such engagement by the press and the American public. The crew held another live broadcast from orbit on Day 2, answering questions from students about the Shuttle and how it worked.

The crew spent a lot of time on Day 2 photographing the Earth, and iconic landforms. But they are then instructed to begin a major planned test of the Reaction Control System.

The Space Shuttle's Reaction Control System (RCS) contains sets of thrusters on the Orbiter's nose, and OMS pods. These thrusters are fueled by the same hypergolic propellants as the OMS thrusters are, and will be used for orientation control on-orbit, small maneuvers, docking procedures, and initial control on re-entry until the aero surfaces become effective at lower altitudes. The crew guide Enterprise through a series of maneuvers, which also help a secondary test of thermal conditions in different orientations.

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A successful test of the RCS system where all objectives were met. The final day on orbit is winding down, as the SEEP is lowered back into the payload bay, and the final press conference on-orbit is held a few hours before de-orbit. Enterprise will now face the toughest part of the mission, blasting through Earth's atmosphere and over 20 times the speed of sound. The Shuttle was built for descent, and it is time to show the capabilities of it. Due to flooding at Edwards, the Shuttle will be landing on a lakebed in West Texas set up as an emergency landing site. The backup site was originally intended to be White Sands, but a problematic valve in the OMS thrusters cause a delay with de-orbit, and quite the scare on-orbit. Both OMS thrusters eventually fire up successfully, and Enterprise heads home.

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Slowly but surely, plasma builds up around the Shuttle, initially as mentioned before, the RCS thrusters keep Enterprise aligned, but lower in the atmosphere, the aero surfaces can take over, the Shuttle's re-entry profile is a masterclass, complex and precise to bring the flying brick exactly where it needs to be. Banking turns help shed velocity and steer towards the landing site. Once the Shuttle gets below Mach 1, the Commander takes control, manually flying Enterprise down to the ground.

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"Enterprise coming over the landing area now."

"Awaiting gear deployment."

"And there it is, the gear are deployed!"

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"Shuttle pitching up for a gentle touchdown."

"Main Gear are down!"

"The nose now pivoting downwards."

"Nose gear down! The Space Shuttle has returned from orbit!"

"Wow! What an incredible landing!"

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The Space Shuttle's first mission, although a bit chaotic, is a massive success. It has demonstrated the potential in the vehicle, and NASA's wild PR bonanza is only getting started. The Shuttle is something so fresh and new compared to Apollo, and it has captured the imaginations of not only the American people, but the world. It's even caught the attention of the Soviets. The new era of American spaceflight has truly begun, this revolutionary and incredible vehicle has limitless potential, and the promise to be cheaper than the system its intended to replace, the Saturn IG and the Block III CSM. Although the costs are certainly not there yet, and won't be for Saturn-Shuttle.

The Shuttle is not loved by everyone one, it has its fair share of doubters and critics and has since its development began in 1972. Many believe it is unsafe, too costly, and promising too much in its current design. While some of those may be fair criticisms, only time will tell how the Shuttle's career turns out. The Air Force has already begun planning for a Shuttle launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base on the cost of southern California. Which will be used for super cool super secret Department of Defense missions, and maybe a few payloads that need to go to polar orbits, which is the primary purpose of the launch site.

While so much is still unknown, the future is bright for NASA and its fledgling Space Shuttle program.

But the Shuttle might not be alone. 

Edited by track
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  • 2 weeks later...

Another One

Enterprise returned to OPF 1 on March 15th, 1977. The Shuttle was received back at the Cape to a fanfare from the people who built her, and prepared her for the maiden Shuttle mission. Despite only flying just once so far, the Space Shuttle is on its way to becoming an American icon. Preparations for STS-2, slated for the summer, are now underway, but there is much more to be covered before we reach that point. Although the Shuttle is a focal point of spaceflight right now, there is much more going on around it.

On March 23rd, Skylab 6 lifts off aboard the reliable Saturn IG. This mission will coincide STS-2, especially because STS-2 will be the Shuttle's first visit to Skylab. But more on that later.

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Another picture perfect launch, and a successful orbital insertion. It takes the CSM and its mission module in tow roughly 24 hours to rendezvous with Skylab, the crew then slowly maneuver towards the station, and successfully dock 26 hours after liftoff. Skylab is now a routine part of America's space program, the station is pushing the boundaries of humanity's scientific knowledge with every single new mission. This mission has a focus on space-based agriculture, which has been a heavy focus for NASA as it begins thinking about lunar bases, and human missions to Mars.

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With the Shuttle expected to arrive in mid-summer, the Station needs a final component to be able to actually receive visits from Space Shuttles. This is the Destiny module, which has a pressurized docking adapter which will permit docking the Shuttle to Skylab, and crew to enter the station from the Orbiter. This module is different from the other modules, which are special tin cans in their own right. Destiny is shorter, and has of course the docking adapter, which will face towards the Earth, on Skylab's nadir (Earth-facing) side. The Shuttle will then maneuver under the station, and dock. The finalized Skylab design calls for a second docking location, at the aft of the station, this will be one of (if not the) last modules. Why 2 docking adapters? It's not because 2 Shuttles would be at the station, it's for what will be at the station when the Shuttle isn't, but of course, that will be elaborated on later. On to the launch of the Destiny module.

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The module is successfully launch, and the Apollo SM tug delivers it to the space station 2 days after launch.

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On April 30th, an ARV resupply vehicle launches aboard yet another Saturn IG, to bring up supplies for the new Skylab 6 crew, this also carries external equipment that will be installed in joint spacewalks during STS-2. The Saturn IG pulls off another perfect launch, and an impressive 16 day turnaround between launches. (Shuttle who?) 

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The ARV arrives ~29 hours after launch. The Saturn IG is truly the workhorse of the Skylab program, 3 launches in a month span dedicated to America's orbiting laboratory.

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The early season Skylab rush following STS-1 comes to a close, as NASA now is in full swing preparing for STS-2, the second flight of the Space Shuttle.

Later in the spring, an Atlas-Centaur heavy launches on May 19th, carrying the TARS-B satellite, which is a military communications satellite for the TARS network. This system has gotten the attention of NASA, and they have been looking into their own version for LEO communications with spacecraft. However... things don't go as planned.

"RSO?"

"Vehicle terminated."

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Atlas-Centaur Heavy has failed for the first time. This is a concerning development, as they had already been testing the patience of the DoD and Air Force with continuous delays and schedule changes. This Frankenstein rocket, which exists solely as a DoD rocket, might have just seen its final launch attempt. The DoD, Air Force, and the rocket's operators, Lockheed and Convair, initiate an investigation into the incident, with conclusive results expected later in the year. This has given Martin Marietta even more leverage, as their highly successful Hercules rocket launches a highly classified payload just a few weeks later with no issues. This battle between aerospace giants is a continuing one, and something that isn't expected to end anytime soon.

For the rest of the world's space agencies, early 1977 has been rather quiet. The Soviets were working on plans for a large station called "SOL" (Soviet Orbiting Laboratory), but they were ultimately canned and re-focused into a new project... ESA has begun negotiating with NASA on collaboration aboard Skylab, but it will take time to see what that develops into. Back in February, Japan's N-I (not to be confused with the Soviet N-1) completed its 3rd flight, which was also it's third success! The N-I is a modified version of the American Thor rocket, with a Japanese engine on the second stage, the LE-3.

As Enterprise is re-stacked in High Bay 1, NASA looks forward to proving the reflight capabilities of the Space Shuttle. But NASA also looks towards a new generation, as preparations are underway to bring in a fresh batch of astronauts.

Astronaut Group 8.

 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

All The Way Up There

The crawler makes its first motion at 8:07PM, the STS-2 launch vehicle, and Space Shuttle Enterprise, are heading to 39A in the dark of night. But not exactly dark, massive lights illuminate the Shuttle as the stack slowly rolls out of the VAB, casting an immense shadow on High Bay 1's door. It takes the stack nearly 7 hours to reach 39A, but they arrive at 3AM, and the Mobile Launcher is hard down at 39A by 6AM.

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Pre-launch preparations at the launchpad are now in full swing, payload integration begins 3 days later, on June 10th. The payloads for the mission are the Space Shuttle Logistics Module, or SSLM. This is the first of 3 planned to be built, designated SSLM-01 "Washington" in honor of America's first President. A crew dress rehearsal is performed on the 14th, and an uncrewed fueling test the next day on the 15th. There are no issues with the Saturn launch vehicle during these tests, but the Shuttle acts unusual.

For the entirety of the crewed rehearsal, Enterprise was giving false alarm signals through it's Caution/Warning system. This caused issues as the crew had a much harder time going through their checklists and operations. Constant warnings, checking for problems, and there being nothing was clearly frustrating the crew by the end. Speaking of the crew, mission overview time!

MISSION OVERVIEW: STS-2 |

Commander | Richard Truly

Pilot | Robert Overmeyer

OV-101 "Enterprise"

Objectives: Deliver supplies and hardware to Skylab, test Shuttle-Skylab operations.

This will be the first Shuttle mission to fly with 2 crew, which is the technical minimum needed to perform a Shuttle flight. The Commander and Pilot must work together to safely return the Orbiter to Earth.

Now as I was saying, these "false alarms" were causing quite the ruckus, and after a short evaluation following both rehearsals, an electrical fault was found where the C/W system was being tripped by an improper electrical connection. This was easily fixed by technicians, but the cause would lead to a miniature investigation within the Shuttle program. Enterprise is by no means easy to work on, she is the most complex and most advanced spacecraft ever built and flown. A marvel of engineering, but that has its price. Doubling that with her rushed construction, there have been some... issues here and there. It is a downright miracle she was able to be rolled over to the VAB in time for STS-2 after the first mission in March. For a while it looked like the second flight would have to be delayed by at least several weeks. But they got the Shuttle into proper flight condition again thanks to the incredible skills and hard work of Rockwell and NASA engineers.

The news, however, received some leaks from "anonymous sources" which spilled the stories of issues with Shuttle maintenance. The New York Times read "Shuttle Trouble!" on the front page of the May 25th, 1977 edition. This coincided with the release of a little known film "Star Wars", a space opera directed by George Lucas. Movies aside, this caused a bit of a stir in NASA and the public. The information hadn't been publicly released but it was going to likely be mentioned at an upcoming press conference. So how did it get out? There had always been an "Anti-Shuttle" faction in NASA, ever since the program was started in 1972. Could someone have done this intentionally? Was it just some sneaky journalism? It raised questions about the Shuttle, and also NASA's transparency with public relations.

Putting this past them, NASA worked hastily towards the launch of STS-2, now scheduled for June 21st after a nitrogen line had to be replaced on the Mobile Launcher. The pre-launch press conference was held on June 20th, and agency officials did finally address the leaks, in the most government of ways. Stating they they "did not know" how it happened, and that there would be "work done" to figure out what happened, and also "do better" at providing information to the public sooner. It doesn't get much better than that now does it? On to the launch!

June 21st, 1977: The Launch of STS-2

"And we have liftoff! Liftoff of the Space Shuttle once again, carrying fresh cargo to America's Space Station!"

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Enterprise lifts slowly off the launchpad, climbing above the massive exhaust plume from the S-IC boost stage, as the roll program begins the whole stack rolls over, the "Roger Roll!" callout is given as the Shuttle climbs higher and higher into the skies.

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Punching through the clouds above Kennedy, the amazing roar of the 5 F-1A engines has truly hit spectators on the ground, you can feel the vibration, and the awesome power of it. Nearly 100,000 spectators are at the KSC for this launch. Although not as hyped up as STS-1 was, STS-2 is still a historic moment, as the first reflight of an orbital spacecraft.

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The rumble for the 2 astronauts aboard comes to a halt, as the SSMEs ignite, and Enterprise is free of the S-IC boost stage. Smooth as ever, Enterprise continues the climb to orbit.

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Cutoff, and a jolt. The Shuttle has separated from the External Tank. Enterprise uses her RCS thrusters to move away, and prepare for the beginning of on-orbit operations. The crew will need to make 2 maneuvers to circularize, and then rendezvous with Skylab.

On Flight Day 3, Enterprise is in sight of Skylab. Docking operations begin.

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Slowly approaching the docking port, the Shuttle moves under the station, and then upwards towards the docking location. It is a dance in space, between 2 objects going over 17,000 miles per hour.

"Standby for capture."

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The Shuttle has docked to Skylab. Together, they now form the largest man-made object ever put in space. That record will continue to be broken, until Skylab is completed. This is the start of a new era, the era of Shuttle-Skylab.

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The crews meet in the Destiny module, and a press conference is held with questions asked by the media and answered by the astronauts. These festivities last a few hours, before both crews get to work on their planned joint-operations in the few days the Shuttle will be here. The Canadarm, the Shuttle's robotic arm, is tested for the very first time in space. This robotic arm was provided by the Canadian Space Agency, and thus the name "Canadarm." 

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After several days in orbit together, the final planned objective is for the Shuttle crew to assist in Spacewalk 8, which will install nav lights on the S3 truss.

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The next day, Enterprise departs the station, and prepares to return home.

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De-orbiting to now land at Edwards, no flooding this time around.

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The Shuttle, in all of its flying brick majesty, descends towards the surface of the California desert, after a highly successful mission.

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"Gear down and locked."

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"Touchdown, the Shuttle Enterprise is back home!"

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A night-ish landing as the Sun is just starting to rise when Enterprise comes to a stop.

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The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft will bring Enterprise back to the KSC, to prepare for her next flight, STS-3. This will be the final Shuttle mission of the year. 

In just 2 flights, the Space Shuttle has already had a profound impact on the world, something for the American public to be proud of, something new and exciting. The future is bright, and the Shuttle is the key to endless capabilities in space. From science fiction to reality, spaceplanes have become real. Despite the bumps along the way, it is still an incredible achievement. Something for NASA to rally behind for many decades to come. As the world continues to look to the stars, we can't help but dream, and wonder where we'll be in the future.

 

VKK

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Intermission

As Enterprise returns after STS-2, there will be several months before the final mission of the year for the Shuttle, STS-3. In this time, NASA will be plenty busy. Especially as preparations for the final Direct Apollo mission get into full swing. Apollo 25 is the end of an era in essence, the last crewed launch of the Saturn V. Although not the last launch of the rocket itself. The primary objective of Apollo 25 is to simply test a long duration mission, and procedures that will be used in Advanced Apollo, on top of your standard Apollo moon mission. The launch is slated for December 1977, so there's a ways to go before that.

To kick things off, Thiokol performs a first-test of the S-IC Boost Stage replacement, the RSRM, or "Reusable Solid Rocket Motor." This large solid rocket booster will replace the Saturn-Shuttle system, and returning to a much smaller, and easier to work with (sort of) Space Shuttle launch stack. The costs of the Saturn-Shuttle are immense, and wholly unable to fulfill the goals of low-cost and short turnaround. These new boosters will also arrive with the changes to LC-39A and B, bringing in a new set of structures to accommodate the changed Space Shuttle. The test had no footage, but it did happen.

On August 2nd, a major delivery to the Kennedy Space Center occurs...

A New Shuttle Has Arrived...

OV-102: Space Shuttle Columbia

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Named after the Columbia, the first American ship to circumnavigate the globe. She is a bit different from Enterprise, having a much less rushed construction, as well as some notable visual differences. 

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The main visual difference is the black wing strakes, or chines. This is due to them having added thermal tiles as it was a point of concern for Enterprise, and has been rectified on Columbia, although it is doubtful that it is actually necessary. Columbia also lacks the higher temperature-resistant thermal tiles around the windows, which give Enterprise her iconic "black mask" look. These were considered unnecessary additions, and were removed. Columbia, in terms of construction, was far less rushed and smoother in the construction phase, with Rockwell and NASA having learned lessons from Enterprise. Therefore, the second Shuttle should be far less trouble to process in between flights than her predecessor. 

Not one to be outdone by such fanfare, the Soviets were ready for the N1's last glorious attempt at reaching the Moon. The aging, decaying, and let's be honest, subpar moon rocket was unable to bring about the Red Moon, but it did at least leave a few Soviet flags on the Moon, and bring back a few moon rocks to be displayed in museums. It will forever be the glorious achievement, and bitter failure of the Soviet space program. One last hurrah, for a spaceflight icon.

It did not go well.

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Just as quickly as it went up, the N1 falls back into the Kazakh desert. Although thankfully the 2 cosmonauts were pulled away by the abort tower on Soyuz, and safely recovered. They had no major injuries. A later investigation would read as follows: 

"At ~20km altitude, the fuel delivery lines to three of the outer fuel lines rupture, due to an over-pressurization in the fuel system, this explosion spreads to the engines, and shuts them down, the shock then triggers the Soyuz abort system, as the N1 begins to veer off course due to the asymmetrical thrust, the 2 Cosmonauts are pulled away from the failing N1 rocket, and the launch vehicle spirals downward."

This would be the final nail in the coffin of the N1. It was already headed for retirement, and it was lucky to be given this final flight, as Glushko wanted it gone as fast as humanly possible, to make way for his brand new Sokol and Energiya rockets. The N1 will forever have a complicated legacy, but it will have one no doubt. The push remains for a continued Soviet manned lunar program, with concepts in development for a rather straight-forward and simple Sokol-launched system using a tug and the "LK-100" lander, which can seat three people. This is in fact more than the LM, but it is smaller than the 4-5 (possibly even 7) of the ALSM. Most of the effort in the Soviet Union is going towards V...K and Earth-orbit projects.

For ESA, they are launching their first collaborative spacecraft with NASA, named Sirius. Sirius is a pathfinder spacecraft intended to prepare for the upcoming Joint Ultraviolet Observatory (JUO), which will be launched on Columbia's inaugural flight, STS-5. The launch occurs on October 19th, 1977.

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The spacecraft is partially successful, it does demonstrate the planned hardware, and that hardware works, but due to some faulty computer systems (which aren't related to anything on JUO), the spacecraft fails in late November. It is unfortunate, but the mission is still a technical success. The JUO spacecraft is currently in processing at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. It will be shipped to the KSC early next year to prepare for launch.

On November 3rd, the doors of High Bay 2 open, and an unusual sight emerges from the VAB. It's a Saturn V, with a fairing. What's in the fairing? Well, it's very important. The stack reaches 39B later in the day, and it gets the attention of the press, because why not? It's a Saturn V, but there's a cone on top, not an Apollo spacecraft.

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It is, in fact, the Saturn V launch vehicle planned to carry the NERVA Orbital Testbed into space. Yes, we have finally entered the nuclear age in spaceflight. This is one of the most important launches ever, and it is in the good hands of the mighty Saturn V for launch. Launch is scheduled for early December, but much preparation is necessary for this special payload.

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On September 30th, just a few days prior. Enterprise rolled out to 39A for the launch of STS-3, bringing the intermission to a close. There was some more activity however, which I will feature below.

On September 3rd, Skylab 7 launches to the station to replace the crew of Skylab 6 which departed on August 25th, after 155 days in orbit. It is a beautiful early morning launch from 39B as the Saturn IG continues to be a mighty workhorse for America's Space Station.

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On July 31st, 1977, China launches a Long March 2A rocket, carrying a uhh... checks notes "satellite of no particular military importance..." yeah I buy that.

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It actually wasn't of military importance! The payload was a demo mission for a rapidly restartable hypergolic engine, with intentions to be used on a Chinese robotic lunar lander. Unfortunately the spacecraft doesn't reach orbit due to a pressure loss at the end of the orbital insertion from the second stage. But there will be future attempts to demonstrate the engine in space!

Thus concludes the intermission between STS-2 and 3. It is seemingly more apparent that the Shuttle is getting all of the attention from NASA, while other programs need restructuring or support. This is causing more and more tension within the agency, as while the Shuttle is great and all, it isn't everything to the agency. But to the higher ups, in terms of public relations, the Shuttle is everything. It has re-invigorated the public and a profound interest in NASA and space exploration, it is essential to continued support and funding. Although this might not be an ideal scenario, it is the scenario NASA is in, and they can't do much about it... for now.

Исследования показывают, что он может быть готов к 1985 году.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Top Secret

STS-3, the third launch of NASA's Space Shuttle, is an interesting mission. From the get-go it was at the center of dozens upon dozens of theories, and conspiracies about what it was going to actually be doing up in orbit. Why you may ask? Well, that's because it is the first Shuttle mission for the Department of Defense. The DoD has had their eye on the Space Shuttle ever since it began development. Especially the Air Force, who some believe played a big part in the final Shuttle design (although they didn't really) and its capabilities. This is the first of many planned mission for the DoD, and it will be carrying 2 AORS (Advanced Orbital Reconnaissance System) satellites, AORS-G and AORS-H respectively. Although they aren't the most interesting, or "cool" reconnaissance satellites ever.

This mission also sees some change to the Shuttle stack, as the External Tank is no longer painted white, this is being done as a weight saving measure, and it ends up saving 600lbs by not painting it. The tank's bare spray-on foam insulation is now fully visible, in it's orangish brown color.

The payloads were integrated, rather suspiciously, in the middle of the night, with Air Force engineers replacing the normal NASA and contractor engineers. The crew is also entirely made up of astronauts with a military background, it is also the first 5-person crew of a Space Shuttle mission. Let's go over the mission before launch:

MISSION OVERVIEW: STS-3 |

Commander | Karol Bobko

Pilot | Henry Hartsfield Jr.

Mission Specialist 1 | Donald Peterson

Mission Specialist 2 | William Thornton

Mission Specialist | Karl Henize

OV-101 "Enterprise"

Objective: Deploy AORS-G and AORS-H for the United States Air Force.

Launch is pushed back 5 days to replace several systems in the Mobile Launcher, but following this, Enterprise prepares for launch on November 15th, 1977.

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"GLS is go for Auto Sequence start."

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"T-15, Guidance is internal."

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"T-12, 11, 10, 9, Ignition Sequence Start, 7..."

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"And Liftoff of Space Shuttle Enterprise, on a mission in collaboration with the Department of Defense!"

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"Roger Roll, Enterprise!"

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"And we have confirmed SSME startup."

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Now in space, there would be minimal information provided to the public on the mission, besides that Enterprise successfully reached orbit, and the crew were in good shape. The crew were only allowed an audio only 10 minute talk with their families in Mission Control, it was total lockdown. The DoD was taking no chances, and no risks. The crew eventually did most of the talking with an Air Force mission control, who worked in tandem with the NASA mission control.

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And here they are, the little spysats themselves. AORS-G and AORS-H.

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The mission will last 4 days, launch day will mostly be spent focusing on Earth photography, while day 2 will be spent Deploying AORS-G, Day 3 AORS-H, and then Day 4 will wrap up the mission with 1 EVA to deploy some long-term science experiments into orbit, and followed by the beginning of Return to Earth operations.

Enterprise maneuvers into a nose-down position to allow the crew opportunities to photograph Earth.

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AORS-G is deployed on Day 2, as planned.

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Day 3, AORS-H.

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The EVA on Day 4 deploys its intended experiments, and also inspects the Shuttle's TPS system for damage, there is none, although there is some damage to the Canadarm. Later in the day, Enterprise heads home.

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Entry interface begins as expected, with Enterprise zooming through the high atmosphere of Earth, as the temperatures rise, and plasma builds around the Orbiter.

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The plasma blackout does its thing, but comms is regained on time, and tracking cameras acquire a very vague and hazy view of the Space Shuttle high up in the air, heading for the Shuttle Landing Facility at the Cape.

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Gear down and locked.

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Touchdown and wheel stop, welcome home Enterprise!

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STS-3 is concluded, and so is the Shuttle's first year of operation. STS-4 is slated for early 1978, and it will be the final mission for Enterprise until STS-8, as Columbia will perform a triple header of missions to begin her career. But NASA's year, however, is far from over. There are 2 majorly important missions left on the calendar, that cannot be overlooked. Both on the most legendary rocket ever..

Внутренние отчеты содержат серьезные основания полагать, что ВКК и Энергия будут готовы к совместной работе к 1985 году.

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The Last Dance

The legacy of the Saturn V is insurmountable, it is a legendary rocket. It is America's rocket, which brought the nation its greatest triumphs in spaceflight. Now, after 11 years of reliable service to NASA, it is down to its last 2 flights. These 2 flights are a proper send off to such an iconic symbol of American spaceflight. This is also the first time the Saturn V occupies both 39A and 39B at the same time. Both of these flights would take place in December 1977, with the first kicking off from 39B, carrying a payload essential to the future of spaceflight.

Protestors had run all up and down Cape Canaveral for months. They went around NASA headquarters in D.C. and around the Capitol Building, all over this payload. But what is it? It's something that is linked to a tainted concept, and idea tarnished by its devastating power put on display to the world 32 years ago. It is a nuclear powered spacecraft, the NERVA Orbital Testbed. Despite NASA's many assurances to the public that the small reactor used to power the small testbed engine on the NERVA-OT is nowhere near as dangerous as even a power plant reactor, that didn't stop the anti-nuclear movement from finding its way to Cocoa Beach. Just as officials were trying to close the beach for the launch early in the morning, a group of 30 anti-nuclear protestors refused to leave. As it would later turn out, they had camped on the beach all night just specifically to cause a ruckus and prevent the launch. Eventually with some police help they would be removed from the area, as the Saturn V began fueling for launch.

Their efforts thwarted, the hippies could only watch on the TV screen in the police station as the mighty Saturn V was fueled for launch.

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"This is Saturn Launch Control at T-8 minutes, Engine Chill of the first stage F-1A engines has begun, Range and Weather are Go For Launch this morning, T-8 minutes and counting, Saturn Launch Control."

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"T-1 minute, all systems are go for launch this time."

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"T-15, guidance is internal."

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"T-12, 11, 10, 9, Ignition Sequence Start, 7..."

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"7, 6, 5..."

"4, 3, 2, 1..."

"ALL ENGINES RUNNING!"

'LIFTOFF OF THE SATURN V, PAVING THE WAY FOR NUCLEAR POWERED SPACECRAFT!"

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"TOWER CLEAR!"

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"Standby for MECO."

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"Good staging and nominal MS-II startup."

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"Good indication of nominal fairing separation."

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"Payload separation! The OT is in orbit!"

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Mission control in Houston erupts in applause, they have officially placed the first nuclear-powered spacecraft into orbit. But there is still a day of operations and preparation before the NTR motor is actually ignited for the first time. The spacecraft is going to be monitored, and several flow tests and spin-ups are going to be conducted prior to the first maneuver. The flight plan calls for the initial first maneuver, which will boost the apogee slightly. The second maneuver will be an injection onto a cislunar free return trajectory, which will sling the OT past the Moon, and back to Earth where it will re-enter the atmosphere safely above the Pacific Ocean.

But the time finally comes, December 8th. A lot of the team members in Mission Control had been here since 4 AM preparing for this very moment. The reactor is started, and operating in good condition. The spacecraft is in its prograde pointing position, and is ready to make history.

"Command Prime Motor."

"Motor is primed for start."

"10 second count on my mark... 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, mark..."

"10 seconds to ignition."

"T-5."

"COMMAND MOTOR SPIN-UP."

"Motor spinning up."

"COMMAND MOTOR FULL START."

"..."

"...."

Dead silence...

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"Nominal motor startup."

History is made.

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There is no containing the joy of Mission Control. They had done it. All of the team members from NERVA were in the room as well, it was an electric atmosphere. Politically, it was another bragging point for America. But to everyone in that room, to everyone at NASA, and to everyone who looked to the future of space exploration, it was a moment to remember. This would be the foundation upon which humanity could go to Mars, the asteroid belt, Venus, and beyond.

The motor would shut down as expected, and continue its mission for the next 3 weeks, successfully re-entering over the Pacific Ocean on December 28th, 1977.

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The next day, the Saturn V on 39A would be primed for the rocket's final journey into space, and to the Moon. It was time for the launch of Apollo 25, and the final act in Apollo Phase 2.

MISSION OVERVIEW: APOLLO 25 |

Commander | Story Musgrave

Lunar Module Pilot | Joseph Allen IV

Command Module Pilot | Philip Chapman

CSM "Santa Maria" LM "Mayflower

Objectives: Perform long-duration surface mission, test equipment and hardware for Advanced Apollo.

Landing Site: Grimaldi Crater

Chapman will be the first Australian around the Moon, piloting the CSM while experienced veteran Story Musgrave and seasoned astronaut Joseph Allen IV conduct surface operations. The scientific objectives of the mission are centered around Grimaldi crater on the near-side of the Moon. With a mass concentration (or masscon) near its center, it has been considered several times as a landing site, but not until now will it be the focus of a mission.

It's time for the the final flight of America's Moon Rocket. 

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"T-1 minute, all systems go for launch."

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"T-15, Guidance is Internal."

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"T-12, 11, 10, 9, Ignition Sequence Start, 7..."

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"7, 6, 5..."

"4, 3, 2, 1..."

"ALL ENGINES RUNNING!

"AND LIFTOFF OF APOLLO 25, ON A MISSION TO PREPARE AMERICA'S SPACE PROGRAM FOR THE NEXT PHASE OF LUNAR EXPLORATION!"

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"Tower Clear!"

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"Staging."

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A successful orbital insertion, now coasting to TLI.

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"25, you are go for TLI."

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"Good S-IVC startup, 25, go for the full TLI maneuver."

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Reaching the Moon on New Year's Day, the crew held a news broadcast shortly before parting ways as Musgrave and Allen entered the LM and began their descent to the surface. A soft touchdown and their 5 day mission began. With 4 EVAs performed, and a 5th being cancelled due to an eventual issue popping up with Allen's EVA suit. However, during their stay on the surface, NASA made a bold announcement, with President Jimmy Carter delivering an address at Johnson Space Center.

"My fellow Americans, we gather here today as 2 Americans trot along the lunar surface. For 8 years NASA has been exploring the Moon under the Apollo program, and they have no intention of stopping. The Moon is Earth's closest neighbor, and it has given us incredible insights into the cosmos. But the Moon has, and always will be, just the first step to further human exploration. For thousands of years humans have looked to a reddish orange dot in the sky. The Romans called this dot: Mars. It has fascinated us for as long as we have historical records. In the past few decades the real possibility of exploring it has arisen, and it is time we take the opportunity to explore it. This is why I am directing NASA to begin the Aris program, with the goal of landing human beings on Mars by 1985, and using the Advanced Apollo program as a direct stepping stone to manned exploration of the Red Planet. This is our next giant leap, our next great endeavor in spaceflight. America has proven itself as the world leader in space exploration, but we cannot forever do this ourselves. Also as we speak, an Australian man sits aboard the Apollo spacecraft in orbit of the Moon, our European allies collaborate with us aboard Skylab, and our allies in Japan are furthering their capabilities in space. America will be first to Mars, just as it was to the Moon. But we will bring with us the united democracies of the world. The last bastions of freedom on this planet."

Let's go to Mars.

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But How?

Реструктуризация лунной программы займет не менее 5 лет с предполагаемой «датой возвращения Луны» в 1983 году.

Edited by track
Forgot to include Apollo 25's Landing Site
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Greetings

I have been thoroughly enjoying your story for the last few months. (Despite a late start) I especially like how you gave the N1 a chance at success.

I do have a couple of questions for you though, they are very minor, and should not be rushed.

1st: (This is the most minor) In your most recent post, where on the Moon did Apollo XXV land? You did not say.

2nd and finally: Some of your screenshots from previous entries appear to have gone MIA, would it be possible for you to retrieve and re-post them? If you have already tried and failed to do so, then don't bother.

Again, no need to rush. I very much enjoy your entries, and I encourage you to continue.

Regards
-Gplong300

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6 hours ago, Gplong300 said:

Greetings

I have been thoroughly enjoying your story for the last few months. (Despite a late start) I especially like how you gave the N1 a chance at success.

I do have a couple of questions for you though, they are very minor, and should not be rushed.

1st: (This is the most minor) In your most recent post, where on the Moon did Apollo XXV land? You did not say.

2nd and finally: Some of your screenshots from previous entries appear to have gone MIA, would it be possible for you to retrieve and re-post them? If you have already tried and failed to do so, then don't bother.

Again, no need to rush. I very much enjoy your entries, and I encourage you to continue.

Regards
-Gplong300

1: It landed near Grimaldi Crater on the near-side, I'll probably add that in.

2: This is something I've been dealing with for months, I don't know what it is but it seems to be a continuous problem, going in to edit the post and saving it with no changes appears to fix it so I'll try and go through all of them to fix it.

Thanks for the kind words and I'm glad you've been enjoying the story!

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  • 2 weeks later...

But How?

It's easy to stand in front of a crowd of your politician buddies, and make a speech saying "we're going to do x by x!" and receive a round of applause. For the poor souls you just laid that task on however, it means years of hard work. Years of blood, sweat, and tears to realize this goal. JFK's speech at Rice Stadium lit a fire under a nation, to beat its greatest enemy at the height of the Space Race. Jimmy Carter, however, is presenting this goal under far different circumstances. The Soviets are down and out of spaceflight beyond Low Earth Orbit, the nation can no longer blow over 10 billion dollars a year on the space program (that's 50 billion today), and NASA is already sinking a massive chunk of its funds into Advanced Apollo. There was no possible way to land humans on Mars by 1985, just no way. NASA's most optimistic date for a Mars landing was 1989. That "optimistic" timeline was with a clean run of Advanced Apollo and increased funding every year through 1992 at rates Congress simply would never allow for.

So why did this happen? Surely there is some sense in it, and there was. It's just that this "sense" made no sense to anyone within NASA itself. In order to accomplish a 1985 landing, NASA would have to ditch Advanced Apollo, and pour nearly 65% of its funds every year until 1985 WITH a funding curve peaking at 13 and a half BILLION dollars (65 billion today) in 1982. There was simply no way that would happen, especially with the nation struggling to pull itself out of an economic slump that had been occurring since the early 70s. After this was brought to the attention of Congress, Aris was practically dead before it even started. Jimmy Carter wanted his JFK at Rice moment, and all he got was an embarrassing failure. It was ammunition for his political opponents in Congress, with the mid-term elections of 1978 coming up. 

There needed to be some effort to save face. NASA, always looking for a clear opportunity, took it. Suggesting that Aris be turned into the technological development program for an eventual true Mars program. This would be far cheaper and be an actual proper step towards landing humans on Mars. Aris would be a solidly funded program that would then provide money for programs and projects that will contribute hardware and technology for human missions to Mars. 

In his State of the Union Address on January 19th, 1978, Carter would present this revision. He stated that Aris would be a "true pioneering effort to develop the necessary technologies for human missions to Mars" and that "this would be the foundation upon which the eventual Mars program would be built." Congress would approve funding for Aris when the budget for Fiscal Year 1979 was set in stone. Under this revised form, Aris would cover funding of the following:

  • Space-Based Nuclear Power
  • Nuclear Thermal Rocket Research
  • Deep Space Habitation
  • Deep Space Radiation Characterization, Protection Development
  • Long-Term Cryogenic Fuel Management
  • Martian System Characterization and Study
  • Nuclear Safety Research
  • Planetary Surface Habitation Systems
  • Planetary Surface Operation Systems
  • Extraplanetary Mineral Extraction Study
  • Martian Mission Profile Study
  • Development Path Study

That's quite a few things, and this list is subject to potential expansion and reduction as each fiscal year passes. 

In retrospect, Aris is a bad idea (a very bad idea) that became an incredibly good idea. It will provide so much necessary development that may have otherwise lagged behind for years and years. It is an actual proper step to landing humans on Mars. It can be done within NASA's current budget without tanking any other exploration efforts, manned or unmanned. There is so much to learn from this program. It will truly lay the foundation for humans setting foot on Mars. NASA will get to Mars, it'll just take more time than might be expected.

As 1977 turns to 1978, NASA is getting ready for big changes. LC-39C is finishing construction, and will be ready for Advanced Apollo on time. As LC-39D is just about 10 months behind it and should be completed by the early spring of 1979.  Meanwhile LC-39A has been officially de-activated since late summer to begin putting the new Shuttle infrastructure in place. So that means LC-39B will host the now 5 remaining Saturn-Shuttle launches.

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1978 is bound to be quite a wild year, as a new era of lunar exploration begins, hopes for Mars are building, and the Space Shuttle enters its 2nd year of operation. But meanwhile, the Soviet Union has no intention of giving up now, because they've got an ace up their sleeve.

Первоначальные испытания опытного образца двигателя РД-170 показали многообещающие результаты, проблемы нестабильности горения решены за счет конструкции с несколькими камерами сгорания.

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5 hours ago, KerballingSmasher said:

I AM SO PUMPED FOR THIS! This is so well done, that’s a follow from me!

Thank you for the kind words! The community support means a lot to me!

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1978!

The year is, uhh, hold on let me check my notes... 1978! In this new 365 day cycle, NASA has much planned!

January was a slow month, in which NASA mainly wrestled with the press over the whole Aris program debacle. This was a point of controversy as it showed a split between the Carter administration, Congress, and NASA. For once though Congress and NASA were actually on the same side, but for different reasons. Congress for the financial reasons primarily, while NASA was focused on both the financial and technological aspects of this impossible endeavor. The media only complicated matters further, as it felt like they kept talking over what NASA itself was saying, and twisting the facts behind the situation. As politics became entangled in the mess, it got even more out of control. Republicans felt like Carter and the Democrats were sending NASA on a fool's errand that would cost the country money it didn't have. Democrats themselves were confused by Carter's move but it felt almost necessary to exercise some sort of defensive move for their presidential incumbent. NASA kept its nose out of the political aspects, and mainly sent people to interview the major media outlets, and get its own words into newspapers. It took time to get the situation under control. NASA held a press conference on January 30th to discuss the matter, and placed its full confidence behind the reshaped Aris program. This managed to cut-off a lot of the back-and-forth in this debacle. Then as February rolled around everything seemed to cool down, and NASA began preparing for its first missions of the new year.

To kick the new year of flights off, a new module was ready to be sent to Skylab! This mission, SAF-6, would carry the Tranquility module to Skylab. This lil fella had been quite the troublemaker during its design and assembly. The idea of this module is a laboratory module with an external platform where experiments could be exposed to the vacuum of space. In initial concepts it was similar to the Serenity module, but it ended up being too heavy and had to be cut down into an unusual form. The module has a unique look, making it distinct from the other "tin can" modules of Skylab. It looks like 2 short cans stuck together with the external platform on the end. Additionally, the module also carries a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) dish for an Earth mapping science initiative. The module is planned to be docked to the Union module's starboard port. After Tranquility, only one more module remains on what has been dubbed the "Forward Module Block" on Skylab. 

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The launch goes off flawlessly, and 28 hours later Tranquility becomes the newest addition to America's space station.

As this goes on, NASA is doing something truly remarkable inside the VAB. In High Bay 1 and 3, two Shuttle missions are being prepared at the same time. Columbia's stack for her inaugural flight, STS-5, is in assembly inside HB1, while Enterprise prepares to roll out for her 4th flight, STS-4. Columbia herself remains in the OPF, having a few issues worked out before rollover to the VAB. OV-102 has been much less problematic to maintain and process for flight than her predecessor. Enterprise now notorious as a difficult spacecraft to work with. There is hope for these lessons learned and improvements from Columbia and future Shuttles to be eventually worked into Enterprise during OMDPs (Orbiter Maintenance Down Periods) which will hopefully extend her service life.

Nevertheless, STS-4 rolls out on February 12th, 1978. This mission is carrying the first "ShuttleLab" inside the payload bay. This is essentially a combining of both of ESA's Spacelab Modules into one unit for a big time research mission. But wait, what is Spacelab? Well, it goes back to 1974, when ESA and NASA made an agreement to collaborate on a research module for the Space Shuttle. ESA would provide these modules and in exchange NASA would give ESA crew slots on missions which carried Spacelab modules. There were 2 built, the "Big Spacelab" and the "Mini Spacelab" modules.  These 2 could be combined together to form the basis for what NASA called a "ShuttleLab" mission. This serves as a convenient way to test both modules in one mission.

As Columbia prepares to roll over to the VAB, STS-4 is go for launch on February 28th, 1978.

MISSION OVERVIEW: STS-4/ShuttleLab-1 |

Commander | Story Musgrave

Pilot | John Llewellyn

Mission Specialist 1 | Robert Parker

Mission Specialist 2 | Donald Holmquest

OV-101 "Enterprise"

Objectives: Perform Scientific Research with the Spacelab Modules

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"Liftoff! Liftoff of the Shuttle Enterprise on a mission of scientific research in orbit of the Earth!"

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After a rest, the crew open the hatch into ShuttleLab, and begin setting up for their first scheduled experiment time, the main focus of this section is studying plant life and how it reacts to being grown in a zero gravity environment, the plants will be studied throughout the 6 day mission, and compared to plant life currently growing on Skylab, and on the ground. 3 astronauts will be focused on using the IR telescope and a spectrometer to observe objects in space and study their composition. The plant growth experiment is especially relevant to the Aris program, as it has a vested interest in space agriculture. It will be an essential component of long-term Mars habitation. Due to optimal transfer windows between the Earth and Mars only available every 26 months, it would be near impossible to provide 26 months of supplies in a month's span of flights. Thus Mars bases must be able to grow their own food to a certain extent.

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The second research phase is dedicated to the study of micro-organisms and their activity in zero gravity. This may help better understand micro-organisms such as bacteria and their behaviors. Another focus is medical research, and how the crew themselves adapt when under certain conditions in zero gravity. This is yet another point of research being done for the Aris program.

In a small point of controversy, Enterprise passed over Cuba during several orbits, and no mission logs were taken at these times. The plot thickened when several concealed containers were removed from Enterprise by very serious looking people upon the Shuttle's return. Once the press picked up the story, it spread fast. Theories began to arise, linking what may be in these containers to the lack of reports during passes over Cuba. For now though, nobody knows what was in those containers, or what Enterprise was doing over Cuba on STS-4.

Eventually though, it was time for Enterprise to come home. On March 6th, Enterprise de-orbited, and headed home for a landing at Cape Canaveral.

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Enterprise comes to a stop on the Shuttle Landing Facility after another picture-perfect mission. The Shuttle has captured the hearts and minds of the world, and also everyone at NASA. Even its most harsh critics are starting to give it some credit for performing so well initially. But under this happy exterior, there is growing friction within NASA.

В отчетах указывается, что двигатель модели 0120 может превзойти американскую конструкцию по некоторым показателям. Смета расходов остается незавершенной, но должна быть опубликована к июню.

 

 

 

Edited by track
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