CHAPTER 20: THE RUSSIAN SPACE PROGRAMS
© 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
CHAPTER 21: SPACE ORGANIZATIONS
© 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
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
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
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
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
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.
CHAPTER 22: SPACE ORGANIZATIONS : THE EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY
© 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
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
5°N 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
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
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
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
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
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.
INTERNATIONAL ULTRAVIOLET EXPLORER (IUE)
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 596±2km 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
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.
CHAPTER 23: OTHER SPACE PROGRAMS
© 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
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
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
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
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.
CHINA GREAT WALL INDUSTRIES
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 40°N and 100°E 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.
INDIAN SPACE PROGRAM
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.