Space News
space history and artifacts articles

Messages
space history discussion forums

Sightings
worldwide astronaut appearances

Resources
selected space history documents

Websites
related space history websites

  collectSPACE: Messages
  Space Shuttles - Space Station
  STS-1: Why was the first shuttle flight crewed?

Post New Topic  Post A Reply
profile | register | preferences | faq | search

next newest topic | next oldest topic
Author Topic:   STS-1: Why was the first shuttle flight crewed?
moorouge
Member

Posts: 1490
From: U.K.
Registered: Jul 2009

posted 06-23-2011 03:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A couple of questions which seem appropriate as the Shuttle programme is coming to an end.

What was the rationale behind making the first shuttle flight a manned mission? Though the Russian Buran made only one flight, they did follow what was then standard practice to make this an unmanned test flight.

Second, what would have been the consequences if STS-1 had ended with the loss of both shuttle and crew?

Max Q
Member

Posts: 381
From: Whyalla South Australia
Registered: Mar 2007

posted 06-23-2011 03:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Max Q   Click Here to Email Max Q     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have asked this often. It seems to me that the Buran was technically a superior craft as the shuttle wasn't equipped for unmanned flight at the beginning of the shuttle program.

I have always thought that an all up manned flight first of the shuttle showed a disregard for safety and the welfare of the crew that brought on the later disasters of what should have been a glorious program.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 06-23-2011 04:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
What was the rationale behind making the first shuttle flight a manned mission?
Unlike Russia, which had a largely unpopulated Kazakh steppe to bring an unmanned Buran to a landing, according to John Young there were concerns within NASA about what the shuttle would pass over on its way to the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base.

Young, discussing the topic, in his 2006 interview with collectSPACE:

They wanted to fly the thing unmanned. I went to many, many meetings where they wanted to fly the thing unmanned, but finally the program manager up at Headquarters, John Yardley, he said he wasn't going to come across California with nobody in the spacecraft.

So, we got to fly it manned. It's probably the safe way to do it. We looked at California and there were all kinds of places you can land out there...

Fra Mauro
Member

Posts: 1017
From: Maspeth, NY
Registered: Jul 2002

posted 06-23-2011 06:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I thought part of it also was budgetary -- one less hurdle to make the Shuttle operational.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 06-23-2011 07:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From day one the space shuttle was capable of flying unmanned, at least software-wise. The hardware changes were relatively minor (as demonstrated after the loss of Columbia when the capability was enabled by flying a cable to tie some flight deck systems to middeck control boxes).

Space Cadet Carl
Member

Posts: 77
From: Lake Orion, Michigan
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 06-23-2011 08:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Space Cadet Carl   Click Here to Email Space Cadet Carl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I remember in April 1981 how "gutsy" it seemed to put Young and Crippen on that flight, especially with two solid motors cranking that couldn't be turned off once ignited.

Fra Mauro
Member

Posts: 1017
From: Maspeth, NY
Registered: Jul 2002

posted 06-23-2011 09:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It was dangerous too. If you recall, there was an underestimation of the shock wave and Columbia was almost damaged.

Spaceguy5
Member

Posts: 400
From: Pampa, TX, US
Registered: May 2011

posted 06-23-2011 12:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spaceguy5   Click Here to Email Spaceguy5     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A few weeks ago, at KSCVC, Crippen mentioned this. He was very much against an unmanned flight. Even if there were many unknowns, he mentioned that as test pilots, it was their job to make sure everything worked right and that if a failure did happen, a test pilot would have a huge advantage over a computer.

tegwilym
Member

Posts: 2284
From: Renton, WA USA
Registered: Jan 2000

posted 06-23-2011 02:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
30 years ago, we weren't afraid of taking some risks.

MrSpace86
Member

Posts: 1379
From: Gardner, KS, USA
Registered: Feb 2003

posted 06-23-2011 05:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MrSpace86   Click Here to Email MrSpace86     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by tegwilym:
30 years ago, we weren't afraid of taking some risks.

Well said. I totally agree with you.

Blackarrow
Member

Posts: 2024
From: Belfast, United Kingdom
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 06-23-2011 05:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by tegwilym:
30 years ago, we weren't afraid of taking some risks.

Absolutely right - you've hit the nail on the head.

Jay Chladek
Member

Posts: 2211
From: Bellevue, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 06-23-2011 10:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Fra Mauro:
It was dangerous too. If you recall, there was an underestimation of the shock wave and Columbia was almost damaged.

The shock wave did put a pressure load on the body flap as I recall, but thankfully it didn't fail. If it had, forget reentry as Columbia wouldn't have been able to orient itself properly during the early part. The shock wave also popped some tiles off on top of the orbiter (which we saw missing from the OMS pods).

The main bit of hidden damage Columbia sustained though was caused by an ever so slight mis-timing of when the SRBs fired put a slight side load on the shuttle. After the SSMEs ignite, the shuttle twangs like a door spring as it moves back and fourth. The firing of the SRBs is timed to take place when the shuttle is pure vertical.

When the SRBs on STS-1 fired slightly off vertical, it caused a flange on the foreward RCS module to get stretched from the side load, which in turn stretched a fuel line but it didn't break. Think of what happens to an Olympic power lifter doing a clean and jerk while not being pure vertical and you get the idea (he usually ends up dropping the weight due to the side load because he didn't lift properly and ends up injured).

An inspection prior to STS-2 caught the problem. Worst case scenario if the problem hadn't been detected is the line would have failed on STS-2's launch and the crew would have been forced to eject as the foreward RCS module burned due to leaking hypergolic fuel on ascent.

Concerning the question of putting men on rockets for the first launch, Shuttle was certainly something that likely won't be done again as NASA was pretty bold. The culture was they could do anything. It has taken two losses of shuttles to show them just how close to the ragged edge things could be and there were so many unknowns on STS-1. Granted there comes a time when you do have to fly the vehicle to collect the data and every good test pilot knows that. But it isn't just two pilots who had their lives on the line with shuttle, it was the livelyhood of thousands of Americans who designed and built it and a country who paid for it.

At the same time though, I don't necessarily think STS-1 would have been as successful if it had flown unmanned. The autoland software glitch on STS-3 I consider a hint in that regard. If a pilot (Lousma) hadn't been there to save the approach, Columbia probably would have ended up splattered on the Northrup strip in New Mexico. If it had the same problem on STS-1 with an automated landing and John Young wasn't there to fly her manual, well the first shuttle would have made a nice splatter in the Edwards dry lakebed I believe.

The Russians by comparison had tended to take a bit more measured approach to their first flights. Vostok, Soyuz and the N-1 booster (and the Proton lunar flyby launch) all had unmanned tests. And due to failures, they continued to test unmanned until they were confident with the design to try a manned flight. The one time they tried to rush with Soyuz 1, it costed the life of a cosmonaut. As such, I am not surprised they went with an unmanned test of Buran considering they had a lot of failures in the first tests of their rockets. Of course, I also believe the reason they flew Buran unmanned when they did was because the manned shuttle wasn't ready and it would have been probably another year delay to get it ready to fly. As such, I think the Soviets wanted to trump the US just one more time by flying their space plane at a time when the US program was grounded after Challenger and do it before STS-26 flew. The cosmonauts in the Buran program were in favor of a manned launch as I understand it, but were overruled by the engineers and the hardware wasn't quite ready.

The main thing about Buran's automatic landing is the Soviets had shot a lot more approaches in their Buran analog than Enterprise did. Since the Analog had jet engines, it could go up to altitude and continue to fly approaches in much the same fashion as the shuttle trainer aircraft, but with something that more closely approximated the weight and flight characteristics of a real orbiter. A lot of those flights were spent tweaking the automatic flight control software. But a pilot was onboard as a backup for those test flights and to provide his own input into the data collection process.

moorouge
Member

Posts: 1490
From: U.K.
Registered: Jul 2009

posted 06-24-2011 02:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for answers folks.

Is it an 'urban myth' that Columbia lost a large number of tiles on this first flight because of the good luck messages stuck on under the heat protection tiles?

This said, I find it incredible that the decision to man this first flight if, according to Young, it was just because California was populated. There must have been other considerations surely other than this and budget savings.

Nobody has yet ventured an answer to my second query. I may be well off the mark here, but I wonder if the loss of the vehicle and crew besides the delay to the programme might have caused a rethink of the whole idea. Might it have hastened the development of something like Constellation? Perhaps, in the long term, the US might now have a lunar capacity.

Your views welcome - even if it is just to set me right.

Max Q
Member

Posts: 381
From: Whyalla South Australia
Registered: Mar 2007

posted 06-24-2011 03:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Max Q   Click Here to Email Max Q     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by tegwilym:
30 years ago, we weren't afraid of taking some risks.
However avoidable they might have been. Just my opinion.

Spaceguy5
Member

Posts: 400
From: Pampa, TX, US
Registered: May 2011

posted 06-24-2011 04:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spaceguy5   Click Here to Email Spaceguy5     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
Is it an 'urban myth' that Columbia lost a large number of tiles on this first flight because of the good luck messages stuck on under the heat protection tiles?
Another thing Crippen commented on was that as soon as the payload bay doors were opened, he noticed a lot of tiles missing from the OMS pods. However, he said that they had "pull-tested" the most critical tiles on the bottom of the vehicle to make sure they wouldn't fall off.

BNorton
Member

Posts: 143
From:
Registered: Oct 2005

posted 06-24-2011 11:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for BNorton   Click Here to Email BNorton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Max Q:
It seems to me that the Buran was technically a superior craft as the shuttle wasn't equipped for unmanned flight at the beginning of the shuttle program.

As has been pointed out indirectly by many great replies in this thread, the US Space Shuttle was/is a far superior vehicle that the Buran. After all, the Buran was just a poor copy of the Shuttle by the Soviet government. Their lack of comparable technology did not allow them to copy it all. The most obvious physical difference is the lack of “main engines” on the Buran. This difference was because the Soviets could not build the engine. In fact, they first thought the engines were just US propaganda, because they did not believe anyone was capable of building engines with the near theoretically perfect performance of the SSMEs.

By the way, while the shuttle program did have two disasters, do you recall that two Soyuz crews were lost during re-entry…and most recently several Soyuz vehicles – and hence their crews- were nearly lost due to incorrect (ballistic) re-entries? …and there was the Soyuz abort on the pad and…

ilbasso
Member

Posts: 1494
From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 06-24-2011 01:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Regarding the taking of risks, any astronaut will tell you that s/he would not fly a vehicle unless they were assured that the major risks were known and appropriately mitigated.

Nonetheless, there are still known situations with many space vehicles where it seems that you had to cross your fingers and hold your breath and trust that the engineers and manufacturers got it right and that the commander has the skill to get you through the few moments "on the edge."

One that comes to mind is the final few seconds of the LM's descent to the lunar surface. There was a known dead-man's zone where an abort was impossible if anything went wrong.

More familiar to us is the first two minutes of the Shuttle's flight. Even well before Challenger, I remember the admonition that "once the solids are lit, there's nothing you can do until they burn out, so you'd better hope nothing goes wrong." Young and Crippen knew that, but so does the crew of STS-135, and that situation hasn't fundamentally changed throughout the life of the Shuttle. I also understand that it's a rare CDR who can fly the Shuttle sim back to KSC in an RTLS abort. You have to trust that the SSMEs will get you to orbit, or at least far enough to do one of the trans-Atlantic aborts.

I wonder: would Young and Crippen have flown STS-1 without ejection seats?

And I've always wondered if the crews really think that bailing out of the Shuttle during landing approach would be possible.

GoesTo11
Member

Posts: 1026
From: Denver, CO USA
Registered: Jun 2004

posted 06-24-2011 10:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GoesTo11   Click Here to Email GoesTo11     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ilbasso:
Regarding the taking of risks, any astronaut will tell you that s/he would not fly a vehicle unless they were assured that the major risks were known and appropriately mitigated.
Interesting discussion.

I'd like to see it broadened, either here or in a new thread, to an exploration of what (to an astronaut) constitutes "acceptable" risk... and perhaps more specifically to the fact that the oft-discussed concept of "human-rating" launch vehicles is farcical and always has been.

Young and Crippen are rightly lauded for their courage in riding a system untested in flight, but the first 26 American space voyagers went aloft atop ballistic missiles that were intended to carry inert payloads or nuclear warheads, not crewed spacecraft.. .and their reliability records at the time were far from stellar.

What engineering alchemy was performed on the Redstone, Atlas, and Titan II boosters that made NASA's leadership confident that they were less likely to immolate themselves with the All-American Boys aboard than at any other time? None. We used them because that's what we had.

The most powerful launch vehicle ever built was entrusted with human cargo on just its third "all-up" flight... and tasked not just with getting them into orbit but with sending them to the Moon. And this even after a far from flawless second launch!

I realize that the sense of urgency and purpose that compelled those risks is unlikely to be repeated. But the next astronauts to ride a US-built launch vehicle into space--regardless of its origins, design, or manufacturer--will accept essentially the same bargain that Young, Crippen, and everyone who came before and after them does: "Tested in flight" and "human-rated" are, respectively, impractical and meaningless. All they can do is trust in the engineering expertise, diligence, and professional judgement of those responsible for conceiving, designing, and building the hardware. There won't be any meaningful failure rate or statistical yardstick anytime soon for any rocket that will supplant that faith.

(Regarding ilbasso's question about the utility of the Shuttle's sliding-pole bailout system... Mike Mullane wrote in Riding Rockets that when the astronauts were introduced to the mechanism via test video footage, the reaction -- at least from the veterans -- was just grim laughter. He intimated that the thing was regarded as only slightly more practical than any contraption Wile E. Coyote might have mail-ordered from the ACME Company.)

Jay Chladek
Member

Posts: 2211
From: Bellevue, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 06-25-2011 12:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by BNorton:
After all, the Buran was just a poor copy of the Shuttle by the Soviet government.
I wouldn't exactly say Buran was a poor "copy" of shuttle. Yes, the orbital vehicle is very much a copy of the shuttle's basic configuration, even in spots where it didn't need to be. But underneath, they are very different animals as the removal of the SSMEs from the design meant that a whole lot of other things had to be tested to make sure the weight, balance and other tolerances were right. There was more to designing the thing than getting a set of drawings of the shuttle and saying "Hey, lets build this!" in Russian.

Why do you have to bring Soyuz into the mix? That is like saying shuttle was destined to fail since the orbiters were built by NAA Rockwell and NAA developed the capsule that killed the Apollo 1 crew. Of course, we all know that the orbiters by themselves did not fail in both missions that had fatalities. One got shredded by aeroloads at altitude during the breakup and the other got a hole punched in its heatshield by a foam block.

The arguments about Soyuz are invalid as the ballistic reentries aren't "incorrect". They have always been a backup to the normal more controlled reentry and the g forces of one, while higher than a normal reentry are not so high as to kill the occupants. It has been a part of that design from day one as the Soviets did just as much centrifuge testing with their human subjects as NASA did with American ones to know what forces that human bodies can tolerate. If anything, the Soviets put more work into backups than primary stuff, which is one reason why each Soyuz has a nice set of survival gear, clothing and a gun in case the crew does land off course.

The possibility of a ballistic reentry is the primary reason why flight crews are measured for exact dimensions to fit into their custom designed seat liners since a better fit means the body can tolerate higher gee loads with less likelihood of injury. The only real injuries to come from Soyuz landings have been due to something happening with the impact, either due to a retro rocket problem or something else.

The two fatal mishaps on Soyuz flights were unrelated to one another except that in a sense both were due to careless workmanship in different spots. They had nothing to do with any problems on reentry. Soyuz 1 was mainly due to workers spraying the ablative heatshied coating on the capsule in areas where the parachutes were supposed to be packed instead of just the covers. So the fit of the chutes was too tight when they were installed. Soyuz 11's fatalities were caused by a check ball in a valve popping out of place and opening the valve to space when the pyros for the orbital module fired due to it being improperly torqued to the right specs. Of course, it didn't help matters that the Soyuz didn't have a backup tank of oxygen in the descent module after it was cut loose from the other modules (so the crew would have been unable to re-pressurize the craft even if they had stopped the leak) and the crew weren't wearing pressure suits. But, the designers corrected both oversights before the next manned launch. As with anything else in the space business, you have to learn from your mistakes and the Russians know that as well as Americans do.

Concerning how Buran compares with shuttle and which one was "poor" we will ultimately never know as one unmanned flight can not be compared fairly with over 100 manned ones (or two failures). Buran never really had the chance to show what it was capable (or incapable) of doing.

Jay Chladek
Member

Posts: 2211
From: Bellevue, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 06-25-2011 12:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
Nobody has yet ventured an answer to my second query.
To me, where the US would have gone from there if STS-1 had failed would have likely depended on the failure itself. If it had occurred at launch and the ejection seats had worked, likely NASA would have tried to figure out what went wrong and put those refinements into Challenger. Young and Crippen would have chalked up their bad experience to new vehicles sometimes not working right. The next vehicle to fly more than likely would have been unmanned and maybe a boilerplate orbiter would have flown to at least test the SRBs, ET and SSME systems, not so much the recovery of the orbiter.

If the loss had happened during reentry, again it would have depended on the type of loss (and one figures the crew would not have survived). Most of the debris would have ended up in the ocean, unable to be recovered. NASA and the Air Force did have plenty of air assets up for data gathering (such as the ARIA aircraft), so a picture of what happened likely would have been formed. Again NASA likely would press ahead to try and learn from the mistakes and so would the companies that built the vehicles. Again, the next orbiter would be built and it would likely test the system, unmanned, to make sure it worked before a crew was flown the next time.

Sure there would have been the debates in Congress about risking human life on such endeavors. But I think the program still would have resumed for two reasons, one is the cold war with the Soviets and two is Ronald Reagan as president:

The Cold War meant that space was still considered to be an extension of the Earth in terms of being a possible battleground, even after the ASTP mission of 1975. Relations had cooled by 1981 due to the more hardline Soviet stance and the invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviets had flown one Almaz military Salyut after ASTP and were working on their own unmanned intelligence gathering assets. The DoD was also still heavily invested in shuttle and wanted to see a return on its investment at that time as the shuttle was to be the ONLY launcher of both civilian AND military payloads. In 1986 it was different because the USAF had 24 missions of shuttle experience to look back on and their own investment had been partially paid for already, so those in charge felt it was more prudent to cut their losses and develop Titan IV rather than continue.

As for Reagan, he made it something of a mission to out spend the Soviets in the Cold War, to bankrupt them because his advisors said they couldn't sustain their building pace. Shuttle was a key part of that strategy, even if it wasn't apparent at the time. But even if you don't take that angle, consider as well that in 1981 the US was still climbing out of deep recession from the late 1970s. Things reflected poorly on the early Reagan administration from the jobs and inflation standpoint even if he inherited a bit of the mess. I don't believe he would have cut the shuttle program since although many powerful Senators (such as William Proxmire) in Congress would have argued for cancellation after the loss of a shuttle, cutting it still would have put a lot of skilled labor out of work in key states. Reagan was governor of California before he was president and the aerospace industry's back yard practically is California. As such, a lot of those constituents (and those in Texas, Utah and Florida) helped to get him elected.

moorouge
Member

Posts: 1490
From: U.K.
Registered: Jul 2009

posted 06-25-2011 01:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks Jay for your reasoned response. I'm broadly in agreement with it.

Yes - the shuttle programme would have been delayed. However, I wonder if a loss of STS-1 would have started alarm bells ringing and that a more cautious approach would have resulted. Might it have prevented the Challenger loss as more notice was taken of the O-ring problem. Another possible result might have been no 'Teacher in Space' programme, crews being selected totally from the astronaut corps.

I was interested too in your mention of the economic value in the shuttle placed by the Reagan administration. I have maintained that Apollo, to some extent, served the same end for Kennedy. A high tech programme funded by government is one way of getting an economy moving. One wonders if Obama has missed this!

BNorton
Member

Posts: 143
From:
Registered: Oct 2005

posted 06-25-2011 04:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for BNorton   Click Here to Email BNorton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jay Chladek:
I wouldn't exactly say Buran was a poor "copy" of shuttle.

Obviously it was not an exact copy, but it is/was a copy. It was not an exact copy because the Soviet Union did not have the capabilities of the US. (Like the shuttle, the Soviet’s stole technical information and tried to copy the Concorde, but not exactly because they could not. In the case of the plane, they got the engines wrong for one thing, which is why its flight history was so short. It had no range.) It has been successfully argued that the Soviets built their copy because they feared the military applications of the US Space Shuttle. The Buran was/is in no way the technical superior or even equal to the US vehicle. It is what it is, a poor copy.

Soyuz is mentioned because of comments in this thread (and elsewhere on this site), that imply the Soviets/Russians have higher safety standards than the US. They are not without fault resulting in vehicle lose, which others seem to forget. Their past and recent safety problems clearly show that they have no superiority claim when it comes to safety. Furthermore, their record shows that blunt body vehicles are not inherently safer than lifting body vehicles. Soyuz, by the way, also was operated with much ground control.

The total ground control operation of Soviet/Russian vehicles (in Soyuz and Buran) is a result of the different cultural ideas: the Soviet system of state control where it is taken that the individual cannot do anything without the state, versus the ideas of freedom and individuality in the west/free countries. This is not an original opinion on my part, as this difference in operation has been successfully argued by many analysts.

dom
Member

Posts: 439
From:
Registered: Aug 2001

posted 06-25-2011 04:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Comments that the Buran system was not even an equal to the US Shuttle are just plain wrong. They only decided to create a copy of the US design because they couldn't figure out why the Americans had designed such an odd vehicle.

The Soviet establishment was highly suspicious that the US Shuttle had some hidden military use and thus created an exact copy just in case. No matter what anyone thinks their decision to use liquids on the main and strap-on boosters made it the superior design.

Buran was quickly cancelled after its first mission when the Soviets realised a huge shuttle made no sense financially...

alcyone
Member

Posts: 33
From: Ontario, Canada
Registered: Sep 2010

posted 06-26-2011 08:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for alcyone     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by dom:
They only decided to create a copy of the US design because they couldn't figure out why the Americans had designed such an odd vehicle.
The only conclusion I can draw from your post about the "Buran" is that the Soviets were totally flummoxed by the shuttle: they blew a lot of rubles on building an "exact copy" that nevertheless was "the superior design" which once built proved to be of no use as a weapons system. Ooops!

dom
Member

Posts: 439
From:
Registered: Aug 2001

posted 06-27-2011 12:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm afraid that just about sums up the sad story that was Buran

In my opinion it was what the US Shuttle should have been with a little bit more thought - and money!

I admit that the Russians "copied" the brilliant US orbiter design (for an imagined future military use) and matched it with their own excellent Energia booster to create a design that was safer and superior in many ways.

It was just bad luck that it was ready just in time to be cancelled when funds dried up after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Who knows, maybe it could have been used to complete the ISS after the Columbia accident and NASA could have focussed on something more interesting...

JohnPaul56
Member

Posts: 36
From: Montclair, NJ, USA
Registered: Apr 2010

posted 06-27-2011 12:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for JohnPaul56     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm curious whether or not the Buran was a superior spacecraft. I'm no rocket scientist, but I'm wondering if the fact the it was launched with liquid fuel engines automatically made it safer. Was the flight profile of Buran significantly different from Shuttle? Of course from a safety perspective, the fact that the SRB's could not be turned off after they've fired does seem to indicate that Buran would be safer. But if its flight profile was similar to Shuttle, I'm not sure it could survive an RTLS abort anymore than our Shuttle.

Rusty B
Member

Posts: 239
From: Sacramento, CA
Registered: Oct 2004

posted 06-27-2011 01:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rusty B   Click Here to Email Rusty B     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It seems to me that major failures can trigger the end of programs.

After Apollo 1, the Administration and Congress had the attitude that they didn't want to quit before the moon landing goal was accomplished, so they pressed on.

After Apollo 13, we had already accomplished two moon landings, so why continue open ended risk for a few more rocks? That was probably the attitude of the Administration and many in Congress at the time. The Apollo 13 accident probably contributed to the cuts to the number of moon landings and the ultimate end of the Apollo program.

Thankfully, after Challenger NASA, the Administration and Congress decided to press on. But after Columbia, that was the end of the shuttle program. The Administration and many in Congress lost faith in the Shuttle program.

BNorton
Member

Posts: 143
From:
Registered: Oct 2005

posted 06-27-2011 08:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for BNorton   Click Here to Email BNorton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by dom:
Buran was quickly cancelled after its first mission when the Soviets realised a huge shuttle made no sense financially...
The cancellation of Buran had to do with the fact that the Soviet Union was broke. Had the US not started paying the Soviet/Russian government for Mir and other services, as well as for the construction of Russian portion of the Space Station, the Russian people would probably have no space program.

Jay Chladek
Member

Posts: 2211
From: Bellevue, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 06-28-2011 03:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by JohnPaul56:
I'm curious whether or not the Buran was a superior spacecraft. I'm no rocket scientist, but I'm wondering if the fact the it was launched with liquid fuel engines automatically made it safer.
Well, both types of engines have their own sets of pros and cons. The Soviets to my knowledge never developed the ability to make the large scale solid rocket boosters used in shuttle. They were about 10 years behind the curve in even making solid fuel ICBMs compared to our own stuff. Energia still had a bit of a challenge though as Glushko did use the Energia design to develop an LOX/LHX powered booster as opposed to LOX/Kerosene power (the strap ons were still kerosene power as I recall).

People always tend to cite a problem with an SRB as being it can't be turned off. When at the same time though, if a liquid engine is turned off prematurely, the vehicle is going to drop like a rock after a question mark pops over its head like Will E. Coyote falling off a cliff (remember the second N-1 booster launch?). With a solid, given there are much less moving parts, provided there is no defect in the casing, the thing is going to keep burning and burning until it is out of fuel. Any loss of a first stage motor though, be it solid or liquid is going to be tough to survive in a winged vehicle like shuttle or Buran. A shuttle failure would likely mean a fireball. Buran Energia's failure would be a smoking hole in the ground.

The flight profile for Buran on ascent indeed looked very close as many manned launches do in order to hit a target LEO orbit track. As for an RTLS, the main reason why shuttle has to do it is the craft is flying out over the ocean and the ditching characteristics are what one might term as "lousy" at best. So while at RTLS is considered a longshot, it still has better odds than a crash landing on the ocean. Buran by comparison didn't have that problem as it was launching from land locked Kazakhstan and would be flying over a featureless desert low in the profile and over additional Soviet territory high in the profile. As such, an abort would likely mean the craft would probably be recovered at an airfield somewhere downrange rather than attempting to pull a flip manuever to bring it back to the launch site.

kr4mula
Member

Posts: 599
From: Cinci, OH
Registered: Mar 2006

posted 06-28-2011 12:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for kr4mula   Click Here to Email kr4mula     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm a little late to this party, but I thought I'd add my 2 cents to the original question.

In speaking with a number of the 1970s shuttle program guys (Engineering and Ops), there was at least an impression that there was a contingent of astronauts and managers that fought hard to keep an overtly unmanned flight option off the shuttle, despite how simple it would be to build in. This was supposedly done to ensure that pilot astronauts would not be regarded as superfluous later on - if we don't need them to fly it now, why have them fly it later? This would therefore reduce the importance of the pilots relative to the mission specialists. I've seen some documentation in the JSC archives (it may have even been among the "Young-grams" lending some credence to at least the existence of such a faction, if not their reasoning.

dom
Member

Posts: 439
From:
Registered: Aug 2001

posted 06-28-2011 12:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Firstly, Jay that's an excellent summary of the chances of surviving a launch accident in either system!

The book 'Energiya-Buran' by Bart Hendrickx & Bert Vis - definitely the "bible" on the subject - makes a mention of four small solid rocket motors in Buran's nose that were designed to get the orbiter off Energia in a hurry. I don't think they were installed in the end.

And secondly to BNorton. Yes, obviously the heroic Americans came to the rescue when the Russians were down but even if they hadn't I'm pretty sure Mir would have limped along for a few more years until Putin's oil-rich Russia put a "Mir 2" into orbit.

I'm not so sure I can say with confidence that the USA would have a similar space station in orbit if the ISS didn't exist...

p51
Member

Posts: 771
From: Olympia, WA, USA
Registered: Sep 2011

posted 09-21-2011 09:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I remember being in the audience in a panel discussion in the late 80s on space exploration where Young was there and he talked about how gutsy "test flying" a shuttle for the first time really was.

He talked about the damage to the main flaps by the SRBs in launch and how they later found out it could have led to a condition that would have made the shuttle incapable of re-entry or landing. He said had he even know that was happening, he wouldn't have taken the chance on continuing the mission.

I can't recall his description of how he'd have handled that, but I clearly remember him saying he would have "seen how good those Blackbird ejection seats really worked," I assume after he'd detached the orbiter from the engines. I remember him talking of flying it down to a safe altitude, then punching out and letting the Columbia become a lawn dart.

We can speculate as to how NASA would have spun that and how far it would have set back the program.

All times are CT (US)

next newest topic | next oldest topic

Administrative Options: Close Topic | Archive/Move | Delete Topic
Post New Topic  Post A Reply
Hop to:

Contact Us | The Source for Space History & Artifacts

Copyright 1999-2012 collectSPACE.com All rights reserved.


Ultimate Bulletin Board 5.47a





advertisement