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John F. Graham, 1995
Photos courtesy NASA

Obviously, the United States has not been the only spacefaring nation over the last 40 years. Several nations have been inspired by their cultures to leave the planet. The Russians in the spirit of Tsiolkovsky have accomplished a number of impressive space "firsts" including the following:

9. The first artificial Earth satellite.

10. The first biological space traveler, Laika.

11. The first man in space, Yuri Gagarin.

12. The first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova.

13. The first craft to orbit the Sun.

14. The first craft to flyby Venus.

15. The first craft to flyby Mars.

16. The first craft to flyby the Moon.

17. The first craft to land on the Moon.

18. The world's first space station.

19. Many other firsts.

Because of these many accomplishments most Russian space experts feel that even without international cooperation the Russians will continue to explore space and eventually place cosmonauts on the other bodies in the solar system. They feel that outer space is their destiny. Even though the country is experiencing extremely tough economic times as Russia transforms from a state-controlled society, their space program stands as a shining light toward the rest of the world.

Russian and American Methods of Space Exploration

Initially, the Soviet space program was thought to be a number of political "stunts" done to show the rest of the world the superiority of the Communist system. If one looks at the true motives of Sergei P. Korolev, the infamous Soviet "Grand Designer", he sees a man driven to explore space despite a tyrannical ruler, Stalin, and despite of receiving no credit for his world renowned accomplishments. Korolev was a true space pioneer; he wanted no acclaim; he just wanted to explore space. He wanted no Earthly rewards; he just wanted to know "what is out there." To accomplish this Korolev set up a very simple and methodical space exploration program.

Compared to the highly technical and sophisticated US space program, the Soviet program was simple. Korolev's technicians used simple materials such as stainless steel instead of aluminum and titanium to build their space ships. This increased weight meant that Glushko had to design more powerful rockets. These rockets were also simple. Rather than use highly exotic fuels, the Soviets chose to use simple kerosene and liquid oxygen (LOX). Instead of building large rocket engines, Glushko built smaller, simpler ones and Korolev used many of these simple engines in several engine pods rather than design a large complicated engine like in the American vehicles.

A major reason for the simple designs of rocket ships was the technical skill of the people who were to launch these large, complicated machines. All of the Soviet rockets were launched by the military, specifically, the Strategic Rocket Forces. Even though the personnel in this elite organization were hand-picked from the millions of recruits selected for the Red Army, they were not as technically oriented like their American counterparts. Sixteen year-old American males and many females as well try to fix at least one automobile engine during their high school years. They frequently tinker with old radios and other electronic equipment. The Soviet youth just didn't have that opportunity because of the lack of automobiles and radios to get this individual experience of working on technical equipment. For that reason the rockets had to be made with simple rugged parts, not only because of the lack of exotic materials, but also to serve as a learning mechanical experience for the Strategic Rocket Force troops who were to launch these missiles.

The Soviet rockets had to be rugged to endure the rough Russian weather of frigid winters and extremely hot summers. They had to operate near the Arctic Circle and in the sand-blown steppes of Kazahkstan. How rugged did the Russian engineers make their space ships? An American astronaut recently visited the Russian launch site at Tyuratam. While he was talking to one of the engineers, the astronaut asked whether or not the SL-4's engines gimbal. "Of course they gimbal!" asserted the engineer as he grabbed one of the engines and proceeded to move it around its entire 7 limits. The horrified astronaut, used to delicate rocket operations in pristine white rooms, looked at the engineer in disbelief thinking, "That Russian is crazy to do that!" The next day the SL-4 launched without problem. Indeed, the Russian space equipment is rugged and very reliable.

Because of their lack of technology, the Russians have relied upon large numbers of simple spacecraft to accomplish their various space missions. For example, they flew 25 years of reconnaissance missions using the same basic designs which used batteries for electrical power instead of sophisticated solar panels. This use of batteries mandated that the Soviet space reconnaissance platform only have a mission as long as the bank of batteries lasted or from ten to fourteen days. To keep continuous reconnaissance, the Soviets had to frequently launch another reconnaissance satellite every two weeks. This fact obviously meant that the Soviets used high numbers of simple spacecraft launched upon reliable rockets. Because of the high numbers of launches, the Soviets became extremely adept at putting rockets into space. Confident that they could launch in any weather, they even launched in a howling blizzard because of a very small launch window. The Soviets led the world in the numbers of launches performed for about 25 years in a row. In contrast, the US built highly sophisticated reconnaissance satellites which would last for at least a year which meant that fewer launches would be required and the American launch experience and infrastructure suffered.

In contrast to the open American Space Program, the Soviet space program was very secretive. The Soviet leaders and their press trumpeted every single "first", but the world never heard of the Russian failures. The world saw and frequently criticized every American failure including the Vanguard fiasco, but rarely did it ever see a Soviet failure. The deaths of Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov in Soyuz 1 and of Cosmonauts Dobrovolsky, Volkov, and Patsayev in Salyut 1/Soyuz 11 were publicized because the world knew that these men were in orbit; TASS News Agency had said this. When these men died upon reentry, the Soviets had to acknowledge their deaths. During the days of the "Space Spectaculars", there was one accident which set the Soviet space program back several years.

On October 24, 1960 the Soviet Premier, Nikita S. Khrushchev was boiling mad. Two launches to Mars on the 13th and 15th of October had failed while he was preparing to make a big propaganda speech at the United Nations bragging once again about the superiority of the Communist system. His appointed lackey, Field Marshal Nedelin, was told to launch a vehicle to Mars, or else. When the countdown reached zero, the huge SS-6 rocket did not ignite. Feeling the pressure from Khrushchev, Nedelin disobeyed all safety regulations concerning rocket misfires and sent the technicians out to work on the rocket. Korolev was extremely safety conscious and he argued with Nedelin about sending the engineers out to accomplish maintenance on the unstable space vehicle. In an action of bravado, Nedelin took his entire staff and some chairs to sit by the rocket as it was being inspected by the technicians. Korolev and a deputy Yangel went into a blast shelter to have a cigarette when the rocket exploded. Instantly, Nedelin, his staff, their chairs, and over 100 technicians on the rocket were incinerated in the worst accident in the history of the Soviet space program. Rather than admitting that such an event occurred, the Soviet Press claimed that Nedelin was killed in an aircraft accident. About once every month after the accident, three or four space technicians would have their obituaries in the press; it took thirty months for all the Nedelin disaster technicians to be officially recognized as dead. Such was the secrecy of the Soviet space program in the early years. At the Tyuratam Rocket Launch Facility there is now an obelisk with the names of the scientists and technicians who perished in "The Nedelin Disaster".

The Soviet space program was 95% military. Every rocket launch was conducted by the Strategic Rocket Forces and all payloads had some military significance such as reconnaissance, weather reporting, navigation, communications, and remote sensing. The US space program in the early 1960s and at the present has about 50% military applications.

The Soviet and now the Russian space program has not used great technology leaps like the US space program has done over the years. The space program rather resembles the cautious personality of Sergei Korolev who wanted definitely to explore space, but to do it safely. Because of safety, Korolev had his designs gradually evolve over time, always using a design which worked safely and building upon the success. The Vostok capsule evolved directly into the Soyuz capsule which has undergone several subsequent design changes. Only the Voskhod program which was forced upon Korolev by Khrushchev was an abnormal design taking out the ejection seat from the Vostok and putting in three seats for the cosmonauts. The US went right from Mercury to Gemini to Apollo to the Space Shuttle. Each of these were not so much evolution as giant strides in technology. The Soviet/Russian space stations gradually evolved using a basic core from the Salyut 1 program and then gradually improving it until the present MIR space station with its various modules which are all variants of the original Salyut 1 core vehicle. The US once again tried to perform a huge technological leap from the Skylab to the multi-trussed Dual Keel design, but it was too expensive.

The Russians used all designs for all purposes. They used the Vostok capsules from that manned program to become their premier reconnaissance spacecraft replacing the human with a camera. This design remained the Soviet reconnaissance, ELINT, earth resources, and interplanetary spacecraft mainstay until it was replaced by a design based entirely upon the Soyuz space ship. Even the newest Earth resource satellite, the RESURS is based upon an updated Vostok capsule. The Soviets/Russians never throw anything out until it is totally used up.

These were and are the characteristics of the Soviet/Russian Space Program. It is robust, reliable, and future-oriented. It was this program which entered the Moon Race with the United States in the 1960s.

The Soviet Moon Program

Following the Voskhod Program Sergei Korolev, "The Grand Designer" continued his drive to get a Russian cosmonaut to the Moon. The Soviet Moon Program has been denied by them, but further proof has shown that in spite of what the government officials said at the time, the Russians were in the race to the Moon.

Following the initial reconnaissance of the Moon by Lunas 1, 2, and 3, Korolev set up a three independent efforts which would ultimately result in a human lunar landing. The first objective, met by Vostok and Voskhod, was to prove that human spaceflight was possible. The second objective was to develop lunar vehicles which would soft-land on the Moon's surface to insure that a cosmonaut would not sink into the dust accumulated by 4 billion years of meteorite impacts. The third objective was to develop a huge booster to provide enabling technologies allowing the cosmonauts to reach the Moon.

The most difficult of these objectives to achieve was the third one; an N-1 vehicle would be designed in the 1962 - 1965 time frame which would launch 40 - 50 metric tons(40,000 - 50,000 kg = 88,000 - 110,000 pounds) into low Earth orbit. As more experience was gained on the N-1, an N-2 vehicle would be designed and tested. This rocket could lift 60 - 80 metric tons into low Earth orbit. Neither of these efforts was linked directly to the lunar missions, but one proposal called for an N vehicle placing two cosmonauts into lunar orbit.

While Korolev was working feverishly on the N-1 vehicle, Nikita Khrushchev assigned another design chief, Vladimir N. Chelomei, the task of developing a craft to launch at least one cosmonaut on a circumlunar mission. Chelomei developed a new three-stage vehicle which burned hypergolic propellant: nitrogen tetroxide and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine. Glushko was to design the first stage consisting of an RD-253 while Kosberg developed the second and third stages with RD-468 and RD-473 engines. This vehicle became known as the Proton booster which could place 20 metric tons into orbit. This vehicle was destined to become the most reliable Soviet rocket ever. Chelomei's Proton could place one cosmonaut on a circumlunar voyage aboard the Luna Korabl, LK-1.

A feud developed between Korolev and Glushko about what type of fuel to use for the N-1 vehicle. Glushko wanted to employ hypergolic fuel while Korolev wanted either kerosene/ liquid oxygen (LOX) or liquid hydrogen (LH2) and LOX. The advantages for hypergolic fuel included lighter engines and propellant storage tanks while the main disadvantage was launch pad safety in the event of fuel leaks. Korolev demanded the LOX and hydrocarbon mixture and Glushko resigned himself from the N-1 program. This set back the N-1 and also led to the loss of powerful political support in the government for Korolev. Korolev sought help from an experienced aircraft engine designer, Nikolai D. Kuznetsov. Because of Kuznetsov's inexperience in designing rocket engines, the N-1 contained simple LOX and kerosene engines for all three stages; a second decision was made to include a number of small engines rather than two or three larger and more powerful ones in the various stages.

In 1963 Korolev began the design of the Soyuz vehicle for the human lunar mission with a target date of 1967 or 1968 for a manned Moon landing. By 1964 the N-1 needed the capability of putting 92 metric tons into low Earth orbit; this capability called for more main engines; the N-1 now had 30. The N-1's payload capability mandated that only two cosmonauts could go to the Moon and only one cosmonaut could land on the lunar surface. Because of this limitation, Korolev tasked his rocket design bureau to develop LH2 and LOX engines for all three N-1 stages. In October of 1964 Premier Khrushchev was removed from office by a coup; this cost Korolev a strong ally at the head of the government.

At this time the Soviet human lunar program was divided into two phases called L-1 and L-3. L-1 was to be the human circumlunar mission flown by a Proton launcher while L-3 would be the actual landing of cosmonauts on the Moon accomplished by an N-1. In 1965 Korolev began a new robotic exploration of the Moon, but his attempts at launching a soft lander for exploration failed as Lunas 5, 6, 7, and 8 either missed or crashed into the lunar surface. Despite the failures valuable experience was gained in spacecraft guidance.

On July 16, 1965 and again on November 2, 1965 Chelomei's Proton vehicle made two successful launches, but the Chelomei had spacecraft design difficulties and Korolev persuaded the Government to let him use his design and run the circumlunar program. Unfortunately, fate in the guise of the Soviet medical program would not let Korolev enjoy his triumph.

On January 14, 1966 Sergei P. Korolev died from a botched hemorrhoid operation. It seems that the Minister of Health insisted on performing the operation and when he found tumors in Korolev's intestines the doctor continued without help, medical supplies or blood. Korolev died from this testimony to Soviet medicine becoming another victim of the Soviet system which refused to recognize his genius. In death, Korolev received the accolades which were forbidden him in life. His identity as "The Grand Designer" was revealed and he was accorded a hero's funeral and buried in the Kremlin Wall. With him were buried the plans to take the Soviets to the Moon and beyond.

After Korolev's death Luna 9 successfully soft landed on the Moon's surface and returned the first historical pictures from the Earth's nearest neighbor. Lunas 10, 11, and 12 successfully orbited the Moon returning photographs of potential landing sites. The last probe of 1966, Luna 13, landed on the Moon, took surface photographs, and analyzed soil samples.

Following Korolev's death, Chelomei persuaded the government to use his design for the lunar missions. This capsule was tested in late 1966 and would be used for both the L-1 and L-3 programs. This launch with a Proton vehicle went very well as the craft was tested in low Earth orbit. A second test failed on April 8, 1967, but the engineers knew the problem and there was hope to launch a cosmonaut around the Moon by the end of the year. These hopes came to an abrupt halt on April 23, 1967.

On April 23, 1967 Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov launched aboard a brand new vehicle called Soyuz-1. There were rumors that Soyuz-1 would dock with Soyuz-2 and cosmonauts would accomplish a space walk, but after the first two hours of the Soyuz-1 mission, the docking would not happen. Almost immediately after launch, Komarov complained that the systems aboard the spacecraft did not operate. There may have been no deployment of his solar panels. The systems continued to degrade and all attention at the cosmodrome was centered on recovering Komarov safely. On the 16th, 17th, and 18th orbits Komarov tried to set up the capsule for proper reentry. Finally, on the 18th orbit, Komarov fired the Soyuz's retrorockets and the craft entered possibly spinning. As the Soyuz reached a lower altitude and the parachutes deployed, the spinning may have wrapped and tangled the parachutes. Komarov impacted the ground at 500 miles per hour. His cremated remains were buried in the Kremlin Wall.

The Soviet human space program came to an abrupt standstill; program engineers and military officers conducted an extensive investigation. Komarov's death raised questions about the safety of flight in the post-Korolev era. Simultaneously, two other Protons failed and the lunar program sunk deeper into despair. There were to be seven other Zond missions flown toward the Moon and only one success.

In January 1968 the cosmonauts began to train for the L-3 lunar landing program. Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, was the favorite to win an early L-3 mission. On March 22, 1968 at 10:41 A.M. Gagarin crashed the Mig-15 he was flying; there was nothing left, the soul of the Soviet human space program was killed.

Before he died in 1968 Yuri Gagarin wrote the following words in preparation for a speech he was to give at the United Nations in November 1968:

Mankind has to pay dearly for the many achievements that promote progress, frequently with the lives of its finest sons. But the advance along the path of progress in inexorable. The banner of scientific achievement is picked up by others and, true to the memory of their comrades, they march onward. For there is no greater happiness than to serve others.

On September 14, 1968 the Soviets launched Zond-5, the fifth unmanned launch in the L-1 circumlunar program. Aboard were small animals, insects, and a tape recorder which transmitted a cosmonaut's voice to test radio reception from the distance of the Moon. The craft flew around the Moon and then, due to a human error, landed in the Indian Ocean.

On October 26, 1968 the Soviet human spaceflight began again with the launch of Soyuz 3 with Cosmonaut Georgiy Beregovoy at the controls. The mission went well with Soyuz 3 rendezvousing with an unmanned Soyuz 2. There was no attempt to dock the vehicles. Beregovoy gave viewers a television tour around the new Soyuz spacecraft. After a week's mission Beregovoy returned to Earth. The Soviets regained confidence in their program and talk of a December circumlunar flight emerged from the Cosmonaut training quarters. But this flight was never to happen.

On November 6, 1968 a Proton rocket launched Zond 6 to within 2420 km of the Moon's surface. Cameras aboard photographed the Earth rising over the bleak lunar terrain; however, on the way back a gasket failed which would have killed any cosmonauts on board. Zond 6 performed a complex skip maneuver, decelerating to 7.6 km/sec over India then skipping back into space and landing in the Soviet Union. The parachute failed during landing and, once again, any human occupants would have perished. After this disaster, any thoughts of sending a cosmonaut to the Moon before January 1969 faded as Apollo 8 accomplished its historic lunar mission. There were three more Zond flights after Zond 6; a potential Zond failed on the 20th of January 1969 when its Proton booster failed. On August 8, 1969 after the successful Apollo 11, Zond 7 successfully orbited the Moon and returned. The last flight, Zond 8, was flown a little more than a year later successfully around the Moon, but landed in the Indian Ocean rather than back in Russia.

In spite of the disappointment of the Apollo 8 circumlunar mission, the Soviets continued to pursue the Moon landing, L-3 program throughout 1968 with the development of the lunar lander (LK), the Lunar orbiter (LOK), and the N-1 rocket. The cosmonauts would spacewalk from the LOK vehicle to the LK vehicle and perform their landing. After the mission was complete and rendezvous was accomplished, the cosmonauts would perform an EVA with the Moon samples from the LK to the LOK and head back to Earth. The key to this operation was transferring cosmonauts from one vehicle to the other; the only space walk experience the Soviets had up to this time was Leonov's 10 minutes on Voskhod 2.

On January 14, 1969 Cosmonaut Vladimir Shatalov launched aboard Soyuz 4 followed the next day by the launch of Yevgeni Khrunov, Aleksei Yeliseyev, and Boris Volynov in Soyuz 5. On January 16 the two spacecraft docked; Khrunov and Yeliseyev donned special lunar space suits, depressurized the orbital module on Soyuz 5, and transferred, one at a time to Soyuz 4. The new three cosmonaut crew landed on January 17 followed by Soyuz 5 on January 18; the LOK to LK and back transfer had been successfully tested. The next, most important step was to test the N-1 rocket itself.

Like any bureaucratic monster the N-1 had grown into a true behemoth. Its base had a diameter of 56 feet, a height of 340 feet, and weighed about 6 million pounds. The vehicle had two main sections: the 200 foot three stage booster rocket and the 140 foot faring which contained the L-3 lunar complex.

The N-1's 92 foot first stage had a lower diameter of 56 feet and an upper diameter of 33 feet. It contained 30 NK-33 engines developed by Kuznetsov. Twenty-four of the engines were located around the periphery of the first stage's base while six engines remained in the middle of the craft. Each engine developed 340,000 pounds of thrust and with all thirty engines operating, the monster developed over 10 million pounds of thrust. The kerosene and LOX propellant had a specific impulse (Isp) of 331 seconds compared to Korolev's R-7 (SL-4) which had 316 seconds. It had a burn time of 110 seconds.

The second stage had a base of 33 feet, an upper diameter of 25 feet, and a height of 66 feet. It had eight engines with a total of 3 million pounds of thrust derived from kerosene and LOX. For the second stage Kuznetsov designed the NK-43 engine which had larger nozzles to take advantage of the higher altitude operating environment. It had a burn time of 130 seconds.

The third stage had a height of 42 feet, a lower diameter of 25 feet, and an upper diameter of 20 feet. Its four NK-39 engines burned kerosene and LOX with a thrust of 360,000 pounds for a burn time of 300 seconds; this stage would put the entire L-3 complex into a 220 km low Earth orbit.

When Korolev first dreamed of the design of the N-1 he had to consider what would happen if a single engine out of the 30 first-stage engines failed. There would still be enough thrust to attain orbit with one failed engine, but the instability caused by unsymmetrical thrust would doom the craft to destruction. For this reason he developed an engine operation control system (KORD). If one engine failed the KORD would immediately reduce the thrust on the engine diametrically opposed to the failed one; KORD would then increase the burn time to make up for the lost thrust and to use up fuel. The L-3 complex was programmed to reach low Earth orbit if two first-stage engines failed or if one second stage engine failed. If a third stage engine failed the three remaining engines could be gimbaled to compensate for the unsymmetrical thrust. The KORD was a great idea, but it did not react quickly enough to engine failures to make its inclusion worthwhile.

On top of the huge N-1 stage sat the L-3 stage which consisted of four separate parts: two rocket stages, the lunar orbiter and the lunar lander. The first rocket stage, a Kuznetsov NK-31 liquid kerosene and LOX engine, performed the translunar injection while the other rocket performed midcourse corrections and the lunar injection orbit.

Once the L-3 was in a 16km lunar orbit, the cosmonaut would don his space suit and perform an EVA to enter the lunar lander or LK vehicle. With its legs retracted, the LK was located on the top of the second engine. If all systems check out correctly, the lander separated from the orbiter, the LK's legs extended, and the main engine fired the craft toward the lunar surface. At 1.5 km above the Moon's surface the main engine would separate and crash into the surface. Hopefully, the LK would gently land upon the Moon. The LK had a single hypergolic UDMH and nitrous tetroxide engine used for both landing and launch. A backup engine was used for emergencies. There were also four small reaction jets to control attitude. The cosmonaut remained standing in a pressurized sphere with a control stick which controlled attitude and rate of descent.

After landing, the cosmonaut would perform photography, soil sampling, collect rock samples, and plant the Soviet flag. The lander was rated for 72 hours of independent operations of which 48 hours could be spent on the Moon.

After liftoff from the Moon, the LK would dock with the LOK. Once the docking had occurred, the cosmonaut with his bag of samples would perform an EVA back to the orbiter. Following the EVA the cosmonauts would cast off the lunar lander and proceed back to Earth. The LOK was similar to the Soyuz and the L-1 vehicles except that it used fuel cells very similar to the Apollo missions. It also had two engines: one for orbital maneuvers and one for trans-Earth and reentry. The reentry procedure would use the skip method; as the ship entered the Earth's atmosphere and its speed slowed from 11.1 km/sec to 7.8 km/sec near India, the vehicle would "skip" in the atmosphere to its landing in the Soviet Union.

On February 21, 1969 the first test of the N-1/L-3 vehicle took place at Tyuratam. At 12:18 P.M. Moscow time, the spacecraft launched; within seconds the KORD system shut down engines 12 and 24. At 66 seconds an oxidizer line leading into one of the engines erupted due to acoustic vibrations and a fire developed. At 70 seconds into flight the KORD system shut everything down and the escape tower jettisoned its precious payload. Why did this happen? In a great rush to get the program underway, Korolev and his successor Mishin decided not to test the 30 engines in a test stand due to expense and program delays. Only single engine tests were performed and the KORD system never went through any test at all! This was a bad decision not to test the large components of the engine.

On July 3, 1969 the second attempt was made to launch the N-1/L-3 mission. A metal object fell into the number 8 oxidizer pump which caused its engine to explode. The rest of the engines in the first stage, already on fire, were shut down. The rocket, very briefly airborne, fell back onto the launching pad and exploded; the emergency escape system functioned perfectly as the L-1 vehicle once again escaped a conflagration.

Neither the Soviet Union nor the US intelligence agencies released the information about these failures occurring two weeks before the Apollo 11 because this information would have been extremely embarrassing to the Russian people.

On July 13, 1969 a four-stage Proton vehicle launched Luna 15 to the Moon with the purpose of soft landing on the lunar surface, gathering a soil sample, and returning to Earth before Apollo 11. On July 21 the spacecraft tried to land on the Moon, but smashed into the Sea of Crisis at about 480 km/hr. The Soviets finally met with success for this mission on September 12, 1970 when Luna 16 landed on the Moon's equator, gathered a 101 gram soil sample and returned it to Earth on September 24, 1970. On November 10, 1970 Luna 17 landed in the Moon's northern hemisphere about 2500 km from the Luna 16 site. Two ramps went down from the vehicle and out came the first Lunar rover Lunokhod 1. Earth-bound drivers operated the eight-wheeled vehicle for 11 months over a course of 10 km during which they recorded more than 25,000 photographs and conducted lunar soil tests at 500 separate sites. The experience from this machine gave the Soviet engineers much insight into the problems of operating a remote controlled vehicle from another celestial body.

While the Soviets continued to test successfully their lunar landers and orbiters through November of 1972 the massive N-1 seemed never able to fly. On June 27, 1971 immediately after launch the N-1 began to experience severe roll control problems and by 51 seconds the vehicle was totally out of control. The KORD system shut down the engines which had been functioning beautifully and the vehicle was destroyed.

In 1972 when the Americans announced the termination of Apollo the Soviets planned to set up a modest base on the Moon and carry out much more extensive explorations. All of these plans depended on the operation of the N-1 with its next flight occurring on November 23, 1972. The liftoff was without incident and all systems worked until 90 seconds after launch when the six central core engines shut down as planned. The abrupt shut down of fuel flow caused pressure which ruptured the fuel lines and caused a fire which exploded the first stage 107 seconds into the launch. Since the N-1 was within 3 seconds of stage separation when it was destroyed, engineers developed a plan to continue the separation and continuation of the rocket launch even with such a malfunction, but the government would not let these hard workers continue with their program.

On January 8, 1973 Lunokhod 2 landed inside the crater LeMonnier. For the next five months operators drove the car three times farther than its predecessor, and personnel continued to obtain invaluable experience in remote operator techniques. Despite these successes, the lunar failures led to the demise of the new "Grand Designer", Vasily P. Mishin.

Already under considerable scrutiny for the Soyuz 10 failure and the Soyuz 11 fatal accident, Mishin received other blows due to the failure of two Salyut launches and the continuing saga of the N-1. In May 1974 Mishin was dismissed and Valentin Glushko took over the post. Glushko's first act was to cancel the N-1 program and destroy the components. The human mission to the Moon was put on indefinite hold as Glushko concentrated on the new Soviet heavy lifter the Energia and the new space shuttle the Buran.

The Buran and Energia

In 1924 Fredrick Tsander suggested in a book that a small rocket plane with fins and a tail could return to Earth much easier than a capsule with parachutes. The Buran transportation system grew out of the Russian need to return various spaceloads back to Earth from space such as photos, research materials, satellites, and samples of products manufactured in space.

Also prevalent in Soviet thinking was to build reusable vehicles to save money. Engines, tanks, and structures were becoming so sophisticated that the wasteful loss of these components after each separate flight could not be tolerated economically. A reusable rocket plane craft could serve to accelerate and lift a rocket via hypersonic flight. The first stage would push the plane from the ground to a speed of 1500 - 2000 m/sec and a second manned stage would push the 10 meter winged craft into orbit.

Even though the Buran looks very much like the US Space Shuttle there are many subtle differences. The Energia uses all liquid propellant boosters whereas the shuttle uses the solid rocket boosters to obtain the necessary thrust. The Buran does not have main engines within its fuselage, thus allowing a greater payload mass to be lifted into orbit. Both the Energia and the Buran have their own autonomous guidance systems.

The research and development for the Energia Buran began in the mid-1970s. The prime organization for this was NPO Energia headed by Valetin Glushko fresh from his triumph over the N-1 Moon Rocket. His Designer-in-Chief was Boris Gubanov who directly headed the program.

The Energia consists of a first stage which contains has four modules surrounding the second stage. Each module contains a 4 meter in diameter engine which uses liquid oxygen and kerosene. Each engine has a thrust at sea level of about 1.7 million pounds (7.4 million Newtons) and served as the design for a new launcher in its own right. This launcher, called the Zenit or SL-16, was touted as a new commercial launch vehicle.

The Energia's second stage, 8 meters in diameter, has four engines which use liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. Each of these engines has a thrust of 333,000 pounds(1,48 million Newtons). The entire vehicle has a total height of 60 meters (200feet) and has a total thrust of 8.1 million pounds (36 million Newtons).

The Energia first flew on May 15, 1987; it flew as predicted with its only flaw being a bad circuit in the mockup payload which prevented the last stage from reaching orbital velocity. This was also a test of the Energia's highly automated prelaunch ground control system. Computers control everything at the complex including fueling of the spacecraft.

The second flight of the Energia included the Buran vehicle developed by NPO Energia under the control of Yuri Semenov. The Buran was launched aboard the Energia on November 15, 1988. The craft has a wide range of capabilities including the capability of carrying the MIR or any one of its payload modules. This allows the modules to be returned to Earth for refurbishment or updating. This also allows engineers to note what effect the space environment has on their equipment

The Buran has a low delta wing like the space shuttle which gives it about 1200 nautical mile (2000 km) cross range capability. In other words it can land after one orbit at its launch site in spite of the Earth's rotation. It has elevons for pitch and roll control and a rudder for directional control. The Buran is 119.4 feet (36.4 m) long, 54.1 feet (16.5 m) tall on its landing gear, and has a wing span of 78.4 feet (23.9 m). For launch it is attached on three points on the Energia's second stage. It is composed of three compartments, the nose, payload compartment and tail. The crew compartment is in the nose and houses room for two pilots and three work stations for flight engineer, docking, and manipulator arm control. The lower deck is for living areas with pantry, recreation and hygienic facilities. The control equipment and the airlock are located in this area as well. Reaction jets, radio antennas and pneumatic equipment is also located in the spacecraft's nose.

In the Buran's mid section is the payload bay with the dimensions of 15.5 ft (4.7m) in diameter and 60 ft (18.3m) long. The bay can accommodate payloads of up to 30 metric tons (66,000 pounds). The payload bay is covered by two large doors which are opened once orbit has been achieved. A remote manipulator arm is used by the crew to handle payloads.

In the Buran's tail compartment is the orbital maneuvering system which uses liquid oxygen and kerosene for fuel. Three auxiliary power units (APUs) operate the craft's aerodynamic surfaces and a drag chute is also stored in the tail section.

For thermal control the craft is covered with 38,000 individually shaped thermal tiles. Also, the craft makes significant use of carbon-carbon coating for the nose and leading edges of the wings.

The Buran contains a microwave landing system which allowed the spacecraft to touchdown 12 feet (3.5m) off centerline and 260 feet (80m) from the halfway point of the runway. Despite the success the program had in its initial flight, when Valentin Glushko died in 1989 the support for the program melted until it was totally cancelled in 1994. Now, one of the Buran models is used in a Moscow playground.


John F. Graham, 1995
Photos courtesy NASA


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has long had its roots in aviation and space technology. Although founded fairly recently, in 1958, NASA can trace its genealogy back to 1915 with the founding of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA).

At the beginning of the aviation age in December 1903, the United States took the lead in aviation, but an apathetic disinterest in this infant field in America soon led to progress being accomplished only in Europe. When World War I erupted in Europe in August 1914, shocked Americans soon discovered that the very small lead they had during the birth and infancy of aviation had quickly evaporated in favor of the Europeans. To alleviate this problem of backwardness in aviation a rider was attached to the Naval appropriations bill in 1915 establishing NACA. NACA was an advisory committee only because President Wilson did not want to send any signal to the warring parties in Europe that America was about to become bellicose by pursuing advancements in aviation. With an annual budget of $5000 the committee soon began to accomplish their mission, "to supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight, with a view to their practical solutions."

The next years saw an increase in the facilities of the small organization including an airfield and aeronautics research facilities at Langley, Virginia. This small group of 426 people conducted enormous amounts of research on every subject from propeller efficiency to boundary layer theory. During World War II this number increased to 3000 as once again, aviation became a very American enterprise. Just before the war, NACA added laboratories in Moffett Field, California and Cleveland, Ohio.

Following the war, NACA worked with Bell Labs and the brand new United States Air Force to break the sound barrier; this job being accomplished by the legendary USAF test pilot, Captain Chuck Yeager on October 14, 1947. After this feat a number of X-plane tests were accomplished at the Mecca of flight test, Edwards Air Force Base, California.

On October 4, 1957, Sputnik changed NACA and the rest of the world forever. President Eisenhower did not seem to grasp the significance of the launch of this Russian spacecraft until after another Russian success and the American Vanguard failure forced his hand. Everyone around the President urged him to do something. The competition to run the American space program was keen. The competitors included the Department of Defense, the Atomic Energy Commission, and NACA. Under the aegis of James Killian, President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the results of the Senate Preparedness Investigation subcommittee of Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson, and a brilliant proposal submitted by NACA led the way to NACA's selection to head the American space program. President Eisenhower wanted a civilian program to serve as a counter to the space program which DOD was going to build for national security.

On April 1958 the Eisenhower Administration's bill for establishing a national aeronautics and space agency was presented to Congress. After the usual amount of debate and refinement the bill passed both houses and on July 29, 1958, President Eisenhower signed P.L. 85-568 into law. This became known as the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958.

Between the time of the creation of the law and the establishment of NASA on October 1, 1958 , several different activities took place. T. Keith Glennan became the first Administrator in August 1958. He quickly identified programs that were purely military and those which could be transferred to the new agency. Examples of these programs were the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California which was transferred to NASA from the Army on December 31, 1958 and the Army Ballistic missile Agency located in Huntsville, Alabama. After much negotiation ABMA with 4000 employees was transferred to NASA along with the Saturn Project.

A new space science center was built near Beltsville, Maryland. Dedicated in 1961, the facility was christened the Robert H. Goddard Space Flight Center. Project Vanguard was immediately transferred to NASA as were the lunar and planetary probe projects. Within a week of its founding, NASA found itself in charge of Project Mercury, the first American program to place a human into space.

Close coordination was necessary between the DoD and NASA since most of the programs came from the military. This was very evident in satellite communications and the manned spaceflight.

After Gagarin beat the American astronauts into space, President Kennedy appointed James Webb to be the next NASA Administrator. Webb carefully guided the agency through the turbulent years of the Apollo Program and safely accomplished President Kennedy's goal of landing a man on the Moon within a decade and returning him safely to Earth. With this goal safely underway in 1968, Webb resigned as NASA administrator and in his place was appointed Thomas O. Paine.

In his short tenure as NASA administrator Thomas Paine requested several space initiatives which were to affect the space program for the next years. One goal was to increase the cooperation among the space-faring nations. From this goal came the Apollo-Soyuz Program of 1975, due largely to the Russians' great interest in space rescue. As a member of President Nixon's Space Task Group, Paine pushed for a Space Shuttle that launched horizontally from an airport runway, a space station around the Earth and a space station around the Moon. Paine left the agency for private industry in 1970.

James Fletcher became the next NASA Administrator in 1971 and he immediately pared down the space shuttle transportation system to its present day form. After canceling the space stations, the further Moon exploration, and the flight to Mars by 1986, the Nixon Administration started the United States on a road away from Space and James Fletcher seemed to be the Drum Major for the parade. After trying to get Europe and Canada interested in the space shuttle Fletcher showed he had no real political skill as Webb had during his years of accomplishing the Apollo Program. Fletcher went along with the Congressional and bureaucratic feeding frenzy on the various NASA projects while problems with the space shuttle mounted.

By 1980, NASA was living off its seed corn planted in the Apollo years. Many space science triumphs had occurred during Fletcher's and his successor in the Carter Administration, Robert A. Frosch, tenures including the successful Viking missions to Mars and the fantastically successful Voyager missions to the outer planets, but these missions had been planned during the Apollo heyday.

By the 1980s when the Reagan Administration came into power NASA had fully changed from a technical rogue organization into the epitome of a bureaucracy, with professional managers vying for promotions by measuring the number of people they supervise rather than the mission of the organization. This attitude increased throughout the decade of the 1980s until rules, laws, lawsuits and lawyers began to drown the agency in governmental red tape.

Into this mess came James Beggs as the new NASA Administrator. Inheriting the space shuttle as well as a severely entrenched bureaucracy, Beggs tried to get the old organization moving again, but he was being constantly overrun by the Reagan beancounters such as David Stockman, head of the OMB, who wanted to privatize every government agency and turn it into a private company. Reflecting this attitude, NASA began to contract out more and more of its duties which meant that more and more professional administrators rather than rocket scientists ran an agency which by rights should have been run by rocket scientists. This was reflected by the 1984 selection of Lockheed to run the shuttle operations.

The typical bureaucratic sniping and politicization came to a head in 1986 when NASA was temporarily headed by a political appointee who knew nothing about space flight. James Beggs was indicted for contract fraud so he had to temporarily leave NASA. President Reagan put William Graham in charge. The Challenger Accident came largely after arguments of several NASA bureaucrats ignored horrifically cold weather and launched the doomed spacecraft. The Rogers Commission blamed the joint on the Solid Rocket Booster, but also placed blame upon the NASA management which allowed the launch to occur. The outcry following the Challenger accident forced President Reagan to fire both Beggs, who was declared innocent of his indictments, and Graham. James Fletcher replaced both men. His job was to get the agency back into working order and to get the space shuttle flying again. He succeeded admirably with both tasks.

James Fletcher resigned from the agency because of ill health and he was replaced by Richard Truly, the first astronaut to become the NASA Administrator. Truly started a number of new programs, but he soon became embroiled in the game of Washington, D.C. "Beltway" politics and was forced to resign. President Bush appointed Daniel C. Goldin as the present NASA Administrator.

Daniel Goldin is a huge proponent of the space shuttle, the space station, and of doing things smaller, faster, and cheaper. Because of this a number of NASA bureaucrats have resigned and are not being replaced. As a vice president for TRW, Mr. Goldin gained the experience in private industry required to make the tough decisions to make NASA a lean, but effective organization. His policies will take the organization into the 21st Century.


The current NASA organization is spread across the southern tier of the US from the Wallops Test Center in Virginia to the Ames Research Center in California. NASA Headquarters is located down the street from the National Air Museum at the Smithsonian and it is here that bureaucrats run the organization in various centers across the country.

Goddard Space Flight Center

Located on 500 acres in the town of Greenbelt, Maryland, the Goddard Spaceflight Center is mainly responsible for gathering the satellite data from the main US satellites. These include the Hubble Space Telescope, the various NOAA Polar Orbiting satellites, the GOES weather satellites, and the Landsat spacecraft. From this station the scientists and technicians not only observe the satellites to insure proper operation, but also collect, process, and distribute the data.

Wallops Flight Test Center is located on the seashore in Virginia. Its main mission was to launch the Scout launch vehicle for orbital and vertical tests. Now that the Scout is no longer used, Wallops is concentrating on launching other, smaller vehicles. In 1993, as a cost cutting measure, Mr. Goldin tried to close Wallops, but gained the wrath of Barbara Mikulski the Democrat Senator from Maryland who heads the Committee overseeing NASA funding in the Senate. Many of her constituents work at Wallops in Virginia and live in Maryland.

The Langley Research Center in Virginia is a major NASA facility concentrating on aeronautical research. To conduct this it has several wind tunnels for testing aircraft models. The Long Duration Exposure Facility for determining the effects of the space environment on various materials and tomato seeds was developed here.

The Lewis Research Center located in Cleveland, Ohio researches space propulsion and power. The initial research for the space shuttle main engines occurred at Lewis. It is here that the solar arrays are developed and tested for such vehicles as the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Kennedy Space Center is located near Cape Canaveral, Florida. This center is the main launch and recovery site for the space shuttle. At this location the shuttle is processed in the orbiter processing facility, the vehicle assembly building, and then sent to the launch pad 39-A on a crawler transporter. The launch control center is located at Kennedy along with a number of other support buildings to ensure the shuttle is launched and recovered safely.

The Marshall Spaceflight Center is located at Huntsville, Alabama. It was at Marshall that Wernher von Braun developed the Saturn V for the Apollo missions. Marshall has the responsibility for the space shuttle's propulsion hardware such as the SRBs, the SSMEs, and the external tank. Major shuttle payloads such as the spacelab are processed at the center. Since Marshall has a very extensive neutral buoyancy (water tank) training facility, astronaut training is conducted for various space flight hardware. Marshall also manages the Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans for the building of the huge external tank. Additionally, Marshall operates the Slidell Computer Complex also near New Orleans.

The Johnson Space Center has been located in Houston, Texas since 1961 as America's Manned Spaceflight Center. As soon as the space shuttle clears the tower at the Kennedy Space Center it is under Houston mission control. Johnson is the place where astronauts are selected and trained in various simulators. Johnson will also be a lead agency in the Space Station.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is located in Pasadena, California. This facility is operated for NASA by the California Institute of Technology. The main mission of JPL is to design, test and operate deep space satellites such as the Voyager, Magellan, Galileo, and Ulysses space probes. JPL's control room also runs the deep space network for tracking the space probes with huge radar dishes located at Goldstone, California; Madrid, Spain; and Canberra, Australia.

The Ames Research Center is located at Moffett Field near San Francisco, California. Most of the research at Ames is aeronautical, but one big exception is Pioneer 10 which was the first spacecraft to explore Jupiter, Saturn, and then leave the Solar System. Since 1981 Ames has been consolidated with the Dryden Flight Research Facility located at Edwards AFB, California. At Edwards a great amount of aeronautical research is occurring. Dryden is responsible for recovering the Space Shuttle's orbiter when it cannot land at the Kennedy Spaceflight Center due to weather or when the Spacelab is aboard. Because of the dry Rogers Lakebed there is plenty of room to compensate for overshoots from a heavier than normal orbiter. After landing, the shuttle is processed at Dryden and put aboard a 747 aircraft for transportation to KSC.

NASA also has launch facilities at Vandenberg AFB, California for launching satellites into polar orbit. Satellites such as the NOAA weather satellite series and Landsat are launched from this facility. The range has space launch complexes for the Atlas, the Delta, Titan II, and Titan IV vehicles. Also located at Vandenberg is the Space Launch Complex 6 which was to launch the shuttle into polar orbit. After the Challenger accident, SLC-6 was mothballed and eventually turned over to Lockheed for commercial operations.


John F. Graham, 1995
Photos courtesy NASA

For the first decade of the Space Age the Americans and the Soviets were the international leaders, but there were a number of other nations unwilling to be left behind in the dust. Because of the American and Russian successes in space the European nations felt they could contribute to the space program, but in a very European way; they would find a niche which the Americans and the Soviets neglected and fit their space program to totally encompass that area. In 1964 the European Nations designed two programs to fit the European model for a space program; they included ELDO and ESRO.

The European Launch Development Organization (ELDO) was created by seven nations on February 29, 1964. This initiative was largely driven by the United Kingdom's desire to develop an independent European Launch system. Member countries included the UK, Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Australia. Even though Australia seems as far removed from Europe as one could get, the Aussies were included because they offered the use of their rocket range in Woomera, South Australia for the ELDO rocket development.

The rocket which ELDO developed was a hodgepodge of different nations' technologies. The Brits offered the first stage of their Blue Streak ICBM as the first stage of the new space vehicle. France provided the second stage from their Coralie rocket and the Germans contributed their Astris third stage. Italy provided the satellite test vehicle while Belgium presented ELDO with the gift of their ground station. The Netherlands presented their offering of telemetry links and other equipment for the project. All of this material was amalgamated at Woomera and the scientists proceeded to test their new space equipment.

By June 12, 1970 ten test firings had occurred at the Woomera Rocket Range. Flight 9 was to be the spacecraft to place the Europa 1 spacecraft into orbit, but the third stage lost its thrust and the satellite's faring failed to separate. Shortly afterwards, the British quit ELDO, but the organization continued to develop Europa 2 which incorporated a fourth stage French rocket which would place the craft into a geosynchronous orbit.

After the British departed the organization, France prevailed upon the remaining ELDO members to move the launch site to Kourou, French Guiana at the 5N latitude in South America. Since ELDO wanted to get into the lucrative geosynchronous commercial communications satellite enterprise the site at Kourou was in an easier position to reach this orbit than was Woomera.

From Kourou the French attempted to launch two French and German communications satellites. The first launch attempt on November 5, 1971 ended in a failure after 2 1/2 minutes when the rocket blew up. The next launcher was on board a French ship bound for Kourou when the launch was halted because of the creation of the European Space Agency. The European countries in ELDO spent $745 million on launchers with nothing to show for their hard work except experience; they used this experience to mold a highly successful commercial venture in Kourou.

Also established in 1964 was the European Space research Organization (ESRO) to promote European research in space exploration and technology. The ten members of this organization were Belgium, Denmark, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.

ESRO had a headquarters in Paris with a staff of 1100 and a budget of $127.5 million. ESRO launched seven successful satellites between 1968 and 1972. All of these launches successfully occurred on US launchers, but the Europeans yearned for their own launcher capability. The niche which their scientist had chosen was to study the Sun. The major theme of this study included Earth-Sun relationships.

Because of these favorable experiences of working together, the need for a new launcher, and the need to pool resources, in April 1975 the Europeans formed the European Space Agency (ESA)


The eleven founding states of ESA are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, and the UK. Other nations who have recently joined are Austria, Norway and Finland bringing the total of nations in ESA to 14. Canada remains as a cooperating state.

ESA's member states contribute to a mandatory general and science fund. The contributions are based upon a percentage of each member state's gross national product. Each state has an opportunity to receive contracts based upon the amount of their contribution. The total budget for ESA from 1993 - 2000 is 23.8 billion European Currency Units. France, Germany, and Italy are the three largest contributors to ESA with 27.5, 21 and 16 % of the total budget. Germany has been faced with a large budget reduction because of money needed for reunification of the East and West.

ESA is divided into several organizations to accomplish the day-to-day operations of the organization. The ESA permanent staff totals 2049 with 413 at the Paris headquarters. The rest of the ESA staff is divided among the various work centers.

The European Space Research and Technology Center (ESTEC) is located in The Netherlands where 1175 personnel are employed. At this center the staff designs, develops, and tests spacecraft and payloads.

In Darmstadt, Germany is located the European Space Operations Center (ESOC) with a staff of 321. At this location the personnel are responsible for actually running all of the operational European spacecraft. When the Spacelab is airborne with a European crew, the Darmstadt staff is responsible for experiments and data reception.

The European Space Research Institute (ESRIN) is located in Frascati, Italy near Rome. Here a staff of 140 operate the system for collecting, processing, and distributing data from all European remote sensing satellites. Also located at ESRIN is the ESA Information Retrieval Service.

Cologne, Germany is the home of the European Astronaut Center (EAC). EAC is the base for all European astronauts whether they travel on the Space Shuttle or in a Soyuz to the MIR. EAC is the nerve center for all European manned space activities.

One of ESA's major projects is the Columbus Space Station Program. It includes four separate programs such as the attached laboratory primarily for materials sciences, fluid physics, and life science missions. The module will have a mass of about 17 metric tons, a length of about 12 meters and a diameter of about 4.5 meters. An external viewing platform can be attached and retrieved as needed by the space shuttle. A second part of the Columbus mission is the Polar Orbit Earth Observation Mission (POEM). It will be two satellites launched over the poles with a wide spectra of Earth missions. The third part of the Columbus mission is the precursor mission to the MIR. Ulf Merbold completed the first phase of this mission in October 1994. These flights are to prepare procedures and practice for using the Columbus module when it is put into orbit. The fourth phase is the International Space Station which will use the Columbus module and possibly the free flying payload experiments.


The Ariane launcher is the most successful European program. Since the first Ariane launch on December 24, 1979, this family of launch vehicles has grown from one model up to five separate families of space launchers. From the Ariane 1 to the proposed Ariane 5 scheduled to be launched in 1995, the Ariane Program has been a huge success.

The Ariane 1 was first launched in 1979 and flew 11 times afterwards. This three stage liquid launcher was able to place 1850 kg into Geo Transfer orbit. The Ariane 2 and 3 were derived from the Ariane 1 and placed 2175/2700 kg payloads into GTO respectively. These vehicles were identical except that the Ariane 3 had two strap on boosters. The Ariane 2 and 3 boosters were interspersed throughout the 80s with the last Ariane 2 launch occurring on April 2, 1989 and the last Ariane 3 launch happened on July 11th of the same year. Since that time the powerful derivatives of the Ariane 4 have launched more than 40 rockets into orbit.

The Ariane 4 is to be the standard ESA launch vehicle throughout the 1990s until the Ariane 5 is introduced in earnest in the 1998 timeframe. More than 71 Ariane 4 vehicles have been proposed, designed, and manufactured. There are six variants of the Ariane 4 created by mixing various strap-on configurations:

  • Ariane 40 no strap-ons
  • Ariane 42P 2 solid strap-ons
  • Ariane 44P 4 solids
  • Ariane 42L 2 liquid strap-ons
  • Ariane 44LP 2 solids/2 liquids
  • Ariane 44L 4 liquids

Launched from Kourou pad ELA-2 the Ariane 4 can deliver payloads to GTO ranging from 1900kg to 4460 kg. The cost of each launch ranges from $40 - 50 million for the Ariane 40 to $90 - 110 million for any payload above 3000 kg. In the event of failure a reflight of the satellite is guaranteed within 9 months of request. If a customer's satellite fails, Arianespace will make room for another launch for the customer within 9 to 12 months of request for launch services. The Ariane 4 has a launch availability of approximately 8 launches per year.

Arianespace began launching commercially in 1984 and now controls about 55% of the entire launch market. The U.S. Atlas and Delta rockets have about 30% and the Russians along with the Chinese control the other 20% of the launch market.

The future for the Ariane vehicle is vested in the Ariane 5. The Ariane 5 differs from the Ariane 4 in that the 5 has one large liquid engine to boost the first stage and two powerful solid strap on boosters. It has the current capability to place two 3 ton spacecraft into GEO, but since some communications satellites will be much larger than this, the Ariane 5 has already been upgraded to place 8 tons into GEO by the year 2000.

Besides the highly successful Ariane launcher program, the Spacelab and several satellite programs have demonstrated ESA's high rate of scientific success. Typical of these programs are the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE), Giotto, and Ulysses.


The International Ultraviolet Explorer was launched on January 26, 1978 from Cape Canaveral into a geosynchronous orbit. Since that time the spacecraft has continuously provided astronomical data in the ultraviolet section of the electromagnetic spectrum. IUE has made the first ultraviolet observation of a supernova, has observed several comets, and noted a possible planetary dust cloud forming around the star Beta Pictoris. Additionally, over 1000 research papers have been developed from IUE observations. Because of its 24 hour availability in GEO a number of professors and graduate students have been able to collect data from this spacecraft. The craft has been an engineering triumph as well. When the

spacecraft's stability was threatened by the loss of three of its gyroscopes, spacecraft engineers developed a software method for maintaining stability with 2 gyroscopes. When another gyroscope appeared to be failing, the same engineers developed procedures for one gyroscope stability and no gyroscope stability. As a result the spacecraft IUE may be churning out observational data until the turn of the century.


Giotto was a spacecraft sent to observe Halley's Comet in 1986 after a launch from an Ariane 1 on July 2, 1985. On March 12, 1986, Giotto accomplished a close approach of 5962km to the nucleus of Halley. During the cometary encounter, Giotto sent back 2112 images which revealed Halley's Comet to be a lumpy, irregular body about 15 km long and 7-10km wide with two large jets of dust being ejected from the nucleus on its sunward side. Because of the large dust content and short circuiting due to the high plasma content around Halley, a number of Giotto's sensors failed. After the encounter with Halley the spacecraft was placed into hibernation for another possible cometary encounter.

Giotto's second opportunity for a cometary rendezvous occurred on July 10, 1992 when it flew within 200 km of Comet Grigg-Skjellerup. The camera had been made inoperative by the Halley encounter, but the rest of Giotto's equipment showed surprising differences between the comets. The craft was again placed in hibernation on July 23, 1992 with hopes of waking it up again when it flies by the Earth on July 1, 1999.


On October 6, 1990 the space shuttle, Discovery, launched the ESA spacecraft Ulysses on a voyage to investigate the polar regions of the Sun. The spacecraft was launched toward Jupiter to gain velocity and to conduct a plain change out of the ecliptic into a solar polar orbit. This maneuver was successfully completed in early 1992 and from June to September 1994, Ulysses explored the Sun's south polar region. The most significant discovery was that the solar wind is much greater at the south pole than at the ecliptic. From June to September 1995, Ulysses will explore the northern Solar polar regions. Once again, ESA has shown great expertise in accomplishing a very demanding mission.


Spacelab represents the European initial manned spaceflight capability. The laboratory is not an independent spacecraft, but is a laboratory connected to the orbiter portion of the U.S. Space Shuttle. The highly successful program presents mainly research in microgravity and life sciences using the following facilities: Biorack, Advanced Fluid Physics Module, Bubble, Drop & Particle Unit, Critical Point Facility, Anthrorack and Advanced Gradient Heating Facility. To date there have been 16 Spacelab missions using the above equipment and covering all aspects of space flight. The average Spacelab mission runs from 10 - 14 days and employs two 12 hour shifts so that the lab is in constant use.


ESA's future is tied to many different projects. The spaceplane, Hermes, which was to be developed jointly by the French and Germans, fell by the wayside as the German contribution was not to be forthcoming because of their financial difficulties arising from the reunification of Germany. Because of this fact and the uncertainty of the U.S. Space Station, Freedom, ESA cancelled the Hermes project.

The Columbus space station module continues under development in Germany as the designers await the latest space station design changes. The new International Space Station could possibly be successful with the inclusion of the Russian expertise in space station construction. The Columbus space station module will have the missions of microgravity experimentation, materials processing, and medical experimentation. It will be launched about 2000 and operational in 2001.

Building on their expertise in solar and cometary exploration the Europeans plan to launch the Rosetta mission to a nearby comet in order to softland and return a cometary sample to Earth for experimentation. The Rosetta Program is to be the cornerstone of the European Space Exploration Program 2000.

The Solar Heliospheric Observatory (Soho) and the Cluster missions also represent cornerstones for ESA's Horizon 2000 space science program. Soho will make continuous observations of the Sun's surface, corona, and solar wind to investigate the Sun's interior. Eleven instruments will be placed in the L-1 Libration point to provide constant solar monitoring. The Cluster mission will determine how solar particles react with the Earth's plasma environment by using four separate spacecraft.


John F. Graham, 1995
Photos courtesy NASA

Besides the U.S., Russia, and ESA there are a number of other countries with space programs. In addition to Canada, Japan, and China a few third world countries have advanced their status by launching their own rockets and in some cases their own satellites. This section will discuss other space programs to gain appreciation of the fact that space exploration is a world adventure for all members of the human species. The major expensive space explorations of the future may very well be truly the movement, not of specific countries, but humankind as a whole reaching beyond our planet into space.


The Canadian Space Program is extensive for a country with such a small population base. The Canadian Space Agency was created in March 1989 to manage Canada's civil space program. The Federal Government spends about $500 million annually and employs 3500 people permanently.

The International Space Station represents Canada's most SPAR Aerospace Ltd. Canada has also had a very successful remote sensing program with their Radarsat 1 program the world's first operational civil radar satellite. A Radarsat 2 is in future plans. Canada has a special partnership with ESA contributing about $6 million annually to ESA's general fund.

There have been several Canadian astronauts who have flown aboard the space shuttle. Marc Garneau first flew aboard the shuttle in 1984 followed by Roberta Bondar in January 1992 and Steve MacLean in October 1992. Four more astronauts have been selected for future flights. They include an Air Force Pilot, Major Chris Hadfield; an Air Force Electrical Engineer, Captain Michael McKay; computer engineer Julie Payette; and Dr. Dafydd Williams, MD. These Canadian Astronauts will train with NASA as required for future missions.

Recently efforts have been made to build a Canadian Launch Facility on Hudson Bay near Churchill, Manitoba. Sounding rockets, vertical launches, and suborbital payloads seem to be the current planned missions for the new spaceport.


The National Aeronautics and Space Development Agency (NASDA) is the Japanese Space Agency. NASDA has been extremely busy the last few years with a number of successful space programs. NASDA is hampered in its launching activities from its two major launch sites of Kagoshima and Tanegashima because of the Japanese Fishing Industry. A compromise was worked a number of years ago when NASDA agreed not to launch during the height of the fishing season. This means that Japan only launches from its launch sites at the end of January, the entire month of February and the first of March. Another launch window opens at the end of August, through the month of September, and at the very beginning of October. The rest of the time the Japanese space program plans very carefully how to use their time.

The latest Japanese triumph is the H2 space launcher. This cryogenic vehicle has successfully launched several LEO payloads and will be able eventually to support manned space plane operations and the international space station. The H2 has the capability of placing a 2 ton payload into GEO, a 10 ton payload into LEO, and launching deep space probes as well. The liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fueled space launcher has a number of different available options for space flight. Using six boosters, the H2 will be able to place 15 tons into a 300 km orbit. Replacing the two solid strap-ons with liquid strap-ons will raise this capacity to 24 tons. Four methane engines could boost 27 tons into a similar orbit.

The Japanese are currently developing a space plane called Hope. Hope is to be unmanned and is to provide servicing missions to the Japanese Experiment module aboard the International Space Station. Using the H2 for a launcher the vehicle would take two days to automatically rendezvous and dock with the space station. The 10 ton version of Hope would then dispatch one tone of cargo. The vehicle would undock and return to Earth for more cargo. Hope has a maximum on-orbit time of 100 hours and a cross range capability of 1500 km. Hope would also serve as a technology demonstrator for future spacecraft. A 20 ton Hope is being designed concurrently with the 10 ton version. NASDA hopes this will eventually lead to a manned version of the vehicle or even lead to a single stage to orbit craft.


The Chinese Space Program began with the launch of the satellite Mao1 on April 24, 1970. As the small satellite circled the globe it kept playing the Chinese national anthem "The East is Red" until the spacecraft's power supply quit in June of 1971. Learning lessons from both the Russians and the Americans the Chinese have created a credible space enterprise.

The major Chinese launch vehicle is called the Long March in commemoration of Mao Tze Tung's historic march in 1934 to escape the armies of Chaing Kai Shek. The first Chinese space launchers was named the Chang Zheng (Long March) 2, and every follow-on vehicle retained this name. The current Chinese launchers are the CZ-3 and the CZ-4. The original CZ vehicles used hypergolic fuels, but the follow-on launchers upper stages used liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for propellant. Until 1984 only the Americans and the Europeans had used cryogenic fuel for upper stages; the Chinese have successfully used these upper stages in all of their launch vehicles since that time.

The Chinese have three launch sites which they use depending upon the mission required for the particular satellite. The major development launch site is located in the Gobi Desert at about 40N and 100E near the town of Jiuquan. It was here that the first Chinese satellites were launched and the first Chinese ICBMs were developed. Around 1980 a site was developed in southern China for GEO launches. This area is in the mountains near the village of Xichang. With the advent of a mature reconnaissance program came the need for a sun synchronous capable site. Launching to the southwest, China could have dropped a number of first stages on some unfriendly neighbors such as Vietnam and India. Rather than have a international incident develop after each launch, the Chinese developed a new retrograde launch site at Taiyuan in September 1988.

The Chinese have parlayed their launch capability into a successful commercial enterprise by lowering the prices substantially to cut into ESA and the American market. To accomplish this commercial market, the Chinese have established the Great Wall Industry Corporation. Several different countries have used the Chinese launchers successfully including the US (Hughes Corporation), Australia (AUSSAT), and Hong Kong (Asiasat). During the first months of 1995 the Chinese launch capabilities were hampered by two disasters which destroyed two Hughes Corporation communications satellites. One of the failures at Xichang rained debris upon a village and killed 6 Chinese civilians. To become competitive again the Chinese will have to obviously fix their problem and establish better quality control standards.


India has a great need for the capabilities which space can give it. With almost 1 billion people within its borders, India relies heavily on agriculture which means remote sensing and meteorological data are a necessity. Combine these with a communications system for a country with a vast north-to-south distance and you have the natural need for a vigorous space program.

India has wasted no time in trying to establish an independent space capability. This country was formerly dependent on the US and the Soviet Union for their space vehicles and now India has developed its own indigenous remote sensing satellite. As Landsat 4 and 5 get older and less capable, the United States will have to rely upon India for the continuation of its remote sensing data base. The Indian Space Program has signed a contract with the American remote sensing company EOSAT to provide thermal mapping data in similar bands to Landsat. After the American failure of Landsat 6 and the possible demise of Landsat 7, the Indian remote sensing satellites remain the only way for the U.S. to collect data. Even though the French SPOT has four bands for remote sensing, none of them are as extensive as the Indian satellite. The pupil has now surpassed the teacher in the area of remote sensing as the U.S. will use the EOSAT station in Norman, Oklahoma for collecting Indian remote sensing data.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) runs the program from Bangalore in the southern part of the country. At Sriharikota the Indians have established a mature launch site which has launched the SLV and ASLV rockets with orbital payloads. The Rohini 1 satellite was successfully launched from Sriharikota on July 18, 1980. The Indian Space Program will continue with more advanced payloads being launched aboard more sophisticated launch vehicles.