Home » Space » Orbital to fly new rocket with old Russian engines

Orbital to fly new rocket with old Russian engines

by Brendan McGarry on March 21, 2013

Orbital’s Antares rocket rolls out to the launch pad on Oct. 1. Source: NASA

Orbital Sciences Corp. is set to fly its newest and biggest rocket for the first time next month, a spokesman said.

The Dulles, Virginia-based company plans launch the medium-class Antares rocket between April 16 and April 18 from Wallops Island, Virginia, according to spokesman Barron Beneski. A date and time will be announced closer to launch.

The two-stage booster, initially developed for the defense market, is flying its maiden flight as part of a test mission for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. After retiring its shuttle fleet in 2011, NASA has turned to the private sector and companies such as Orbital and SpaceX to resupply the International Space Station. Orbital has a $1.9 billion contract with the agency for at least eight cargo missions to the orbital outpost.

“We’re pretty much set to go,” Beneski said March 21 in a telephone interview. “The rocket itself is all assembled.”

The long-delayed test flight calls for launching a simulator of the Cygnus spacecraft into orbit. If all goes well, the company plans to attempt its first mission to the station sometime in the summer and begin regular cargo deliveries before the end of the year. Successful flights for NASA may lead to more military business for the company.

“We are continuing our business plan to market the Antares rocket to defense and intelligence customers, NASA’s civil space and science communities, and also to commercial customers,” Beneski said.

The rocket for its first stage uses two liquid-fuel AJ26 engines, made by Aerojet, part of California-based GenCorp Inc. They’re modified versions of the NK-33s built in Russia more than four decades ago for its moon program, which was later canceled. Aerojet bought about 40 NK-33 engines in the mid-1990s and, under a contract with Orbital, modified them specifically for Antares, according to Aerojet. The second-stage of the rocket uses a solid-fuel engine made by Arlington, Virginia-based Alliant Techsystems Inc.

Orbital, which also makes satellites, saw an opportunity for Antares amid the dwindling inventory of Delta IIs sold by Centennial, Colorado-based United Launch Alliance LLC, a joint venture of Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp. and Chicago-based Boeing Co.

The rocket may be a contender for such military programs as the Air Force’s Orbital/Suborbital Program-3, known as OSP-3, and Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, known as EELV.

Orbital also plans to launch two more missions from Wallops Island this year, including one for the Air Force, bringing the total number of liftoffs from the site to five, Beneski said.

“It’s going to be a very busy place this year,” he said.

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{ 110 comments… read them below or add one }

Davis March 21, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Old Russian rocket engines eh? Are they desperate or just being frugal? Either way, I'd prefer good-ole fashioned American made engines!


Wheee March 21, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Russian rockets have always been cheaper and better.


USS ENTERPRISE March 21, 2013 at 11:10 pm

I don't know about that. Cheaper, true. But just look at say the Buran space-shuttle. It looks like a mirrored copy of the US space shuttle (there are some subtle differences). Better is an arbitrary decision that really can't be made.


Stratege March 22, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Besides very similar look of their planforms, there are huge differences between American and Soviet designs in terms of launch concept and vehicles insides.
Actually, Buran's "Energia" booster ( heavy-lift and expendable launch system ) was pretty uniquie design and it was better (more powerful and better lift) than US Space shuttle SRB booster.


USS ENTERPRISE March 22, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Yeah, I was referring to the exterior details. And the Energia was definitely something. But just like the Russian answer to the Saturn V, the N1, it was barely a qualified success. Russians can't develop rockets that can counter US "heavy" rockets. The old Soyuz rockets work, but personally, I would rather take the Falcon heavy from Space X. Or, the NCC-1701.

Dfens March 22, 2013 at 1:00 am

The ex-Soviet Union designed rockets (http://i30.tinypic.com/2dcfh95.gif) aren't significantly better than ours if you look at the actual data. In fact, the data says all rockets suck. None of them do better than one nine of reliability.


Tad March 22, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I wonder if this includes any launches using these motors after they're 40+ years old.


Dfens March 26, 2013 at 8:35 am

It's 25 years of data from 1980 to 2005.

Wyatt March 23, 2013 at 2:28 am

Better? Did I miss something in history class?! The Russians might have gone to space first but I thought we won the Space Race!


blight_ March 24, 2013 at 10:40 am

America got to the moon first, and doomed the space programs of all countries which thought the Moon was Game Over, roll credits.


Tiger March 24, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Tiger March 24, 2013 at 12:41 pm

D'veed Natan March 23, 2013 at 10:10 pm

These Russian engines work in a way American engineers thought was impossible. They were clearly far superior to any of the American rockets. We never heard of them because the Russian engineers were ordered to destroy them when the Russians decided to close down their moon program. They instead hid them, and when the Soviets went under brought them to the West's attention. They are a better system and are probably being copied by the other companies. Learn history!


USS ENTERPRISE March 23, 2013 at 10:22 pm

Alright, Mr. Natan, the thing you have to consider is use. Take for example the Energia. Theoretically, it was one of the most powerful rockets ever built. And yes, the few test flights concluded that it was powerful. But it was never used. And thats what makes the difference. We aren't saying Russian rockets are terrible, we are saying that the majority of "heavy" rockets that Russians like to show off hardly have a legitimate argument against US rockets as they had a slightly shoddy record in safety. As for copying, well, China hasn't really grappled with copyright yet. So were Russian rockets such as the N-1 or Energia superior to, say, the Saturn V or maybe the modern Falcon Heavy? No. They might be evenly matched, but their poor service record keeps them from being superior.


D'veed Natan March 24, 2013 at 5:30 am

What service record? They were in hiding after being proven; due to politics. Their superiority was recognized AFTER the Soviet Union fell apart. So, what service record? Oh, and all of that testing WE did on them, since, has shown their abilities. Science trumps politics in a free society.


USS ENTERPRISE March 24, 2013 at 11:12 am

What service record? Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N1_(rocket) Just scroll down if you will. That for the N-1. For the Energia :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energia About midways. And once again, it is all in use. Its like having a Ferrari, but only driving it once or twice in your life. It might be faster than you neighbor's hatchback, but overall, his car would be exceed your Ferrari as you don't use it. It is all in use, as number are theoretical. Performance counts.

BlackOwl18E March 21, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Old and Russian usually means cheap and reliable. Looks like that's what Orbital is looking for.


Ben March 21, 2013 at 2:28 pm

So you cover these guys and not the leader of the pack, SpaceX?


USS ENTERPRISE March 22, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Yeah, Defense Tech has a serious oversight on that. Space X is a pretty amazing corporation; Falcon Heavy always.


Nork March 21, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Another one is the RD-180. Russian made ""state of art" rocket engine which is being purchased by USA


So? March 23, 2013 at 5:00 am

Funny thing is that some Russian experts consider the RD-180 to be over-complex and expensive due to the insane combustion chamber pressures it operates at (a trait shared with the SSME) and propose producing a version that operates at lower pressures to reduce cost.

BTW, RD-180 engines are reportedly sold below cost to Lockmart. Also PW has full design documentation and production rights in exchange for RL10 documentation and production rights.


USS ENTERPRISE March 21, 2013 at 6:32 pm

What about the Falcon Heavy from Space X? That rocket is FAR more interesting, and powerful, then this thing. That and the Boeing Delta IV Heavy really need the attention they aren't getting. While NASA is sadly falling to tough money problems, Boeing and Space X are doing alright here. Cover them more often than these small companies using old Russian tech.


Juuso March 22, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Space X get's hundreds of millions from NASA, don't they?


USS ENTERPRISE March 22, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Thats true, but Space X can apply their money more effectively on developing spacecraft. NASA doesn't just launch rockets. It operates hundreds of satellites, rovers, observatories, etc. Space X doesn't really have so much on its plate. But still, Space X has some serious talent; they have managed to get their foot into space in relatively short time. I am not trying to say NASA is redundant; on the contrary, we need NASA more than ever. But I am saying that Space X is more free to design and build then NASA. Also, Space X doesn't have to justify its budget in front of the "people". Congress.


Tom Billings March 25, 2013 at 2:07 pm

They get contracts from NASA, just as Orbital does. So far, they do a lot more with the money. The NASA/Congressional Complex does not like this, because they aren't spreading the wealth around to enough Congressman's Districts.

Unlike Orbital, and Boeing, and LockMart, the majority of their confirmed launch orders are private, however, because they are not tied to the FARs and Congress to shape their corporate culture. This results in far lower costs to them, far lower prices to their customers, and the resulting higher number of private orders.

Regards, Tom Billings


w dan March 21, 2013 at 7:09 pm

their jet engines for fighters have a BAD history for failing, why do we think these will be any better?


oblatt March 22, 2013 at 12:41 am

>Better is an arbitrary decision that really can't be made.

The decline in the rapid US space industry where we now have to beg rides from the Russians and Chinese is greatly assisted by the folks from loser-land who cant tell the difference between better and worse.


USS ENTERPRISE March 22, 2013 at 3:14 pm

As for riding on rockets with the Russians, I can only say that if Werner Van Braun saw us today, he probably would have defected to Russia. The fault of all this falls squarely on the government. NASA deserves at least 25% percent of the budget. But all that is just ideology, we need an actual plan. Given the money, NASA could make FTL flights by 2150, at the earliest. True, that is far away. But its a lot closer than it would be with this current budget.


So? March 22, 2013 at 3:41 am

I smell a SpaceX shill because, because you see, these 40-year old engines have more performance than SpaceX engines.


NavyGuy2007 March 22, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Difference is that SpaceX is out of the Testing stage and running actual cargo flights. Orbital has yet to launch. And SpaceX does it cheeper per launch then Orbital has quoted.


So? March 22, 2013 at 11:39 pm

Orbital has been in the launch business since 1990 and satellite construction since 1982. I think they know what they are doing.


USS ENTERPRISE March 23, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Hmph. My comment was flagged for an unknown reason. Anyways, the main focus here is experience. Orbital might be in the business longer, but currently, Space X is outpacing it. Classic example of a similar situation is NASA. NASA had some fine abilities in space. But now, sadly, we have no current manned launches into space. Experience is great, but actions count.


Tom Billings March 25, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Yes, …They know what they are doing, and have learned to please Congressmen above all else, in the doing. Thus, their rockets are higher priced, and their fairings are having problems that are dumping spacecraft in the ocean at a rate that is making them, and private customers, sweat.


short term cash loans April 8, 2013 at 4:53 am
A C March 22, 2013 at 7:53 am

It's good that we can reuse the old hardware.
The rocket for its first stage uses two liquid-fuel AJ26 engines, made by Aerojet, part of California-based GenCorp Inc. They’re modified versions of the NK-33s built in Russia more than four decades ago.


eagles2 March 22, 2013 at 8:57 am

So a Satern 5 booster is not as good as a N1, I think american booster technology must be better or the ruskies would been first on the moon


blight_ March 22, 2013 at 9:28 am

"The rocket for its first stage uses two liquid-fuel AJ26 engines, made by Aerojet, part of California-based GenCorp Inc. They’re modified versions of the NK-33s built in Russia more than four decades ago for its failed moon program. Aerojet bought about 40 NK-33 engines in the mid-1990s and, under a contract with Orbital, modified them specifically for Antares, according to Aerojet. "

The Russians have more NK-33's squirreled away in ready-to-use condition,whereas the Rocketdyne F-1's are out of manufacture and not enough remain to sustain a series of launches.


Dfens March 22, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Have you ever looked at an F-1? They are so simple you could probably build one in your basement. They're big, but dead simple. Now a Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) — wow, what a mass of spaghetti! It's a wonder anyone could make that engine work.


blight_ March 22, 2013 at 4:45 pm


Rocketdyne would do it for 70 million each. It's a bargain!


USS ENTERPRISE March 22, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Yeah. Call right now, and we will chuck in a second engine for free. And if you pay separate processing and handling, we will send you a spring from the actual lunar lander! Only $70,000,000.

USS ENTERPRISE March 22, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Actually, F-1's are still being used (albeit for demonstration/scientific awesomeness reasons). Link: http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/01/saturn-v-m


Stan March 22, 2013 at 11:22 pm

Do you know why they have so many? Because each N1 was supposed to use something like 30(!) of these in just the first stage. After a few disasters including one launch pad explosion which caused insane casualties the Russians gave up on their lunar program. And they didn't use those engines anywhere else. So it's silly to speak of any sort of track record for that particular engine as far as I know. F1s on the other hand big, powerful, expansive, reliable and were made in sufficient quantity for the Saturns that flew and the couple of flights that were cancelled.

With the exception of the Soyuz luncher Russians have a very spotty record in the reliability department and more so lately. Ironically just like Orbital. Now I am not for SpaceX being the only viable private launch provider but I have 0 trust in that company. They have cost the American taxpayer 100s of millions of dollars in lost satellites and their per pound prices are very high.


So? March 23, 2013 at 12:02 am

The engine was fine. The rocket was not. The N1 flew without computer control, but with electromechanical sequential timers like in old washing machines.

Anyway, even if the SU had F-1 engines, without liquid hydrogen stages, super-lightweight construction, digital flight control, the N1 would have had marginal performance at best.

F-1 engines were big, powerful, but expensive and have not been used re-used since either.


Stan March 23, 2013 at 10:31 am

They are being considered for the SLS if that ever gets built. They are American and I have more trust in an American-made product. And with modern manufacturing techniques they could be probably be made better and cheaper than in the 60s with lighter materials.

Also, SpaceX is going to have a veritable shitton of engines in the Heavy rocket 1st stage. I know, 50 years later with all the knowledge and automatic process controls but finger's crossed at them showing those exhausted beaten down Russians how it's done.

Stratege March 23, 2013 at 12:33 pm

"After a few disasters including one launch pad explosion which caused insane casualties the Russians gave up on their lunar program."

AFAIR, Soviet lunar program had not history of incidents with human casualties.


So? March 24, 2013 at 4:52 am

That's because they gave up before they could get casualties. Anyway, the Soyuz spaceship was built ostensibly for the Moon, but got reused for the Salyut space station program. Soyuz-1 killed its cosmonaut.

USS ENTERPRISE March 23, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Well, yeah, there is the reason for the numerous NK33's. And while you may not trust Space X one bit, it is what we have got. And you are also focusing on the failures. Every single space program has had its fair share of failures, explosions, and communication losses, yet will still fund each and celebrate their individual accomplishments. Why should Space X be condemned because of its ability to launch rockets?


Stan March 25, 2013 at 10:41 am

0 trust in Orbital

cash until payday April 8, 2013 at 4:53 am
Bob Wilbur March 22, 2013 at 5:47 pm

You make so much sense to me,I had to reply.Nobody understands you because your smart.So be prepared sir.


Kodai March 22, 2013 at 1:10 pm

According to Wiki, the NK-33 engine was built originally for the N-1 rocket, which had zero successful flights. These might be modified engines, but I won't be suprised to see fireworks.


NavyGuy2007 March 22, 2013 at 1:27 pm

The problem with the N1 wasnt with the engines them selvs as much as the fact that the first stage of the rocket had 30 of them. The problems all came about before first stage seperation due to the complex plumbing of the fuel beteween 30 rocket engines caused fuel leaks, pogo osilations ect… The NK33s actually performed very well indavidually.


MCQknight March 22, 2013 at 5:35 pm

The NK-33's never actually flew on the N1 they were designed for. They would have been ready for the 5th launch, but the 5th launch was cancelled.


MCQknight March 22, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Russian engines are generally more efficient than American engines, while American engines are generally larger and more powerful. The reason is simple. Russia lacked the infrastructure and metallurgy to build engines large enough to launch very heavy payloads. This meant that they needed to compensate by having more engines in their first stages on large rockets. Since more engines (besides adding a greater chance of failure) equals a higher weight penalty, Russian designers squeezed every bit of performance they could out their smaller engines.


Stan March 22, 2013 at 11:28 pm

What are you talking about. SSMEs had the highest ISP of any rocket engine. Musk now claims that Merlin-1D engines have the highest thrust/weight of any torch in use today.


Bob Wilbur March 22, 2013 at 5:43 pm

This article is another example of our country going to hell in a handbasket…as it has been for years now.


Belesari March 22, 2013 at 6:39 pm

SpaceX just tested their new Merlin 1D engine which has better thrust than the older one meaning 25% more mass to orbit for less money. They also have the Falcon 9 Heavy which lifts even more mass-to-orbit and does it cheaper (efficency goes up the larger the launcher).

AND they produce all of their engines in the US. Oh yea, and they have had a engine explode and the rocket get to orbit unfazed.

Oh and they are already working on making their Falcon 9 series fully reusable and capable of landing vertically on a launch pad.

So yea me I'd go for the American Launchers.


USS ENTERPRISE March 22, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Space X, all the way. And NASA. And Boeing. Actually, lets just say America.


Belesari March 22, 2013 at 9:04 pm

SpaceX just tested their new Merlin 1D engine which has better thrust than the older one meaning 25% more mass to orbit for less money. They also have the Falcon 9 Heavy which lifts even more mass-to-orbit and does it cheaper (efficency goes up the larger the launcher).


Belesari March 22, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Apparently it decided to double post half my coment……..im confused now.


USS ENTERPRISE March 22, 2013 at 9:53 pm

Odd. Eh, just gets your point across twice, which isn't half bad.


Belesari March 23, 2013 at 12:33 am

LOL good point.


rudyh60 March 23, 2013 at 12:29 am

Yep gents, another oops……Houston…..we gots lots of engine probs……….oi vey…..


Stratege March 23, 2013 at 4:58 am

"What are you talking about. SSMEs had the highest ISP of any rocket engine. Musk now claims that Merlin-1D engines have the highest thrust/weight of any torch in use today."

SSME was brilliant design. But the Soviets designed RD-0120 rocket engine (Energia-Buran's second stage engine fueled by LH2/LOX) which had not only a very comparable ISP/thrust, but also it was considerably cheaper and more cost-efficient compared to the SSME.
SpaceX's claims about Merlin-1D as an engine with highest thrust/weight in history is more likely wrong. RD-701 (Russian tripropellant rocket engine) have significantly better thrust/weight ( 212:1) than Merlin-1D (>150:1).
Even 40-years old NK-33 with its 137:1 is pretty comparable to a modern Merlin-D.


So? March 23, 2013 at 9:35 am

The RD-0120 was not reusable. There may have been plans to make it reusable, but the fact is that the SSME is the only reusable rocket engine to date.


Dfens March 26, 2013 at 8:28 am

Yeah, just replace the turbine pump and it's ready to go. Oh wait, just replace every part on the engine and it's ready to go. There, completely reusable.


XYZ March 23, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Thrust to Weight Ratio: 111.22


Tristan April 8, 2013 at 11:07 pm
Алекс September 19, 2013 at 4:44 am

1 – x NC -33 (14D15) even after 40 years, is a revolutionary and reliable. Even with foreign particles in the fuel and oxidizer works without problems . It has high performance and high percentage of fuel flammability .2 in regard reusable systems . Shatll was not the first shuttle. The USSR had developed such a system as the needle and spiral. The prototype you start using today . Developments that have hit the United States since the collapse of the Soviet Union. under Yeltsin.3 As for the exterior Space Shatlla – who first demonstrated this project was Gagarin , who made at the end of the Institute. If you do not believe there is a photo .4 Energy Buran was not a cheap version of Space Shatlla . Buran was more advanced technologically . And Energy has more power than Shatll .5 BR Start from the Baikonur Baykanur requires 19 percent more power . Than starting from Cape Canaveral due to its geographical origin.6 x Energy is also reusable , but note that baykanur is in the Barrens. Canaveral near water.7 th engine used on American rockets NK33 does not change, as you say. Its just renamed . Technically it does not change.


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John Deere March 22, 2013 at 7:22 am

Very true Dfens. We must put the ideological "free market" bullsh*t to one side and get back to '50s and '60 design and production. It's a fact, if you want a job done get a Government agency to design and produce it 'in house'; do not tender it out to private contractors.


Dfens March 22, 2013 at 8:26 am

The "free market" works great when there actually is a "free market" solution to be had. In the case of heavy lift rockets, no company, not even SpaceX, can afford to design one and fail. Without failure there is no "free market" as our banking system has made clear to all of us. So we pretend that paying a company $1.10 for every $1.00 they spend on developing the next new rocket is a "free market" solution when in reality it is impossible to get a contract like that in the real "free market" because only the US government is able to f away money like that.

That said, there's no doubt we had a much better space program when the government designed our rockets than we do now. The same is true of our Navy, we had a hell of a lot better Navy when the government designed our ships. Do what works!


blight_ March 22, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Shh, we'll call that Obamarockets and Obamaaerospace.


USS ENTERPRISE March 22, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Going back to 50's and 60's isn't the answer. The Saturn V was a tremendous achievement, and one that hasn't really been topped. But those rockets are one shot deal. Use it once, and cart the remains to a museum. As for defense contractors ruining everything, may I remind you that Boeing and Lockheed had instrumental parts in the lunar lander, as well as the space shuttle. So claiming that a rocket designed by defense contractors is bad isn't representative of the truth. I think that we should start building larger, more versatile "colony" ships in space. Also, we need to develop quick-to-deploy spaceplanes. Coupled together we have a space empire. The US is the only country with the technical expertise and, well, money to get this done. The only thing we need to do is convince the elephant in the corner, Congress.


USS ENTERPRISE March 22, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Oh, and on the subject of the Navy. I would consider the USS Zumwalt not half bad. Or the USS Enterprise. Or the Nimitz Class. Or the Arleigh-Burke. And these ships make up the main fighting force of the navy. The US government issues out requirements, and companies fill them in. The government isn't that good in some cases in deciding the future of the US. I frankly feel safer with Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics in charge, even if they get money from the government.


blight_ March 22, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Grumman and Rockwell did the LEM and the CM, if I recall correctly.

And where are they now…

Edit: For the LEM:

"Grumman was awarded the contract two months later. The contract cost was expected to be around $350 million. There were initially four major subcontractors—Bell Aerosystems (ascent engine), Hamilton Standard (environmental control systems), Marquardt (reaction control system) and Rocketdyne (descent engine).
The Primary Guidance, Navigation and Control System (PGNCS) was developed by the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory; the Apollo Guidance Computer was manufactured by Raytheon (a similar guidance system was used in the Command Module). A backup navigation tool, the Abort Guidance System (AGS), was developed by TRW."


USS ENTERPRISE March 22, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Actually, Boeing constructed the first stage, or S-1C. That was the first stage that held five F-1 rocket engines. So Boeing did contribute to the rocket, in the form of the largest section of the rocket.


USS ENTERPRISE March 22, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Also, Boeing and Rockwell were responsible for the orbiter on the Space Shuttle assembly. Basically, the bit where astronauts sat, Boeing and Rockwell built. Also, Lockheed and Martin Marietta (who would later merge) were responsible for the External tanks.


So? March 23, 2013 at 3:35 am

There were recent plans to re-engine Soyuz launchers with NK-33, but I'm not sure if they got anywhere.


Dfens March 24, 2013 at 9:00 am

Yeah, and a LCS costs more to design and build than an Iowa class battleship. Thank you sir, may I have another?


USS ENTERPRISE March 24, 2013 at 11:15 am

The Iowa class didn't have the sophisticated computer systems that modern naval ships have at launch. When the Tomahawks were added, then yes, there were computers. But modern ships come with the installed when they are delivered. Also, as great as the Iowa-class was, the age of the battleship is gone. LCS can transport troops and equipment, in bulk, ashore, which is something that is needed in the modern battlefield.


USS ENTERPRISE March 24, 2013 at 11:18 am

I doubt it. The engines were designed for a different rocket system. Any case, I say stop using rockets entirely. Make more space planes. Better cargo space anyways.


USS ENTERPRISE March 24, 2013 at 11:21 am

Well if you disregard the launch pad explosion of the N-1 (which, by the way, is one of the largest non-nuclear explosions made by man in history) then you could disregard Apollo 1, as it wasn't a launch, but a test. The explosion killed a lot of Russian engineers. It isn't something you can ignore. Those were causalities, and they were brought about by a rocket which was designed and built by the Russian Space Agency.


Stratege March 24, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Seems that you've confused the N-1's explosion over the launch pad with the fatal incident(known as Nedelin disaster) – the explosion of the Soviet "R-12" military ICBM . N-1's failures had no human losses.


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USS ENTERPRISE March 24, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Perhaps. But either way, the N-1's explosion was massive. Had it been carrying astronauts, they really would have been out. Even if the escape capsule managed to leave the rocket.


tiger March 25, 2013 at 1:28 am

Point of order. The Iowa's mechanical computer may be dated. But it will put shots on target 30 miles away. THe LCS has not proven to do any mission at all. The Iowa's are still designed to take multiple hits & fight. There is a place for Naval gunfire support. The problem of the BB's is manpower & support for old engines & equipment. Not computers….


So? March 25, 2013 at 2:15 am

Actually the escape system worked perfectly and the dummy payload was completely unharmed. Anyway, according to Chertok, Soviet Lunar program engineers were much more impressed by Apollo-13 than Apollo-11, because it demonstrated such robustness, redundancy and safety margins of the Apollo program that the Soviet equivalent simply did not possess. I think it was decided that coming second with only a single cosmonaut on the moon at a time, and with a high chance of a fatal accident was simply not worth it. Better to pretend to have never tried.


Dfens March 25, 2013 at 9:49 am

Yeah, what they really needed was 2 million lines of code at 8 engineering hours per line to write. That would have made the Iowa class a lot more costly and made some blood sucking contractor rich, but not put rounds on target any better.


USS ENTERPRISE March 25, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Looking, I am not putting down the Battle Ship. I find battleships as important, strategic ships in shelling land. But the Iowa class is a massive target. Thats what makes the difference. As for power projection of a LCS, an Abrams tank on enemy shores equals a lot of damage. Times it by 10, and you have got some up close and personal land battleships. Mechanical computers and current computers share the same amount of commonalities as an Abacus and a Ti-84.


USS ENTERPRISE March 25, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Okay. Soviet engineers might have been impressed with Apollo 13, which was, by the way, pretty jaw dropping. But Apollo 11 also had its own minor squabbles, like Armstrong having to take manual control to land on the moon, as well having the engine start up button break (but a ball point pen did the trick). Either way, Saturn V rockets were robust and successful, and both the N-1 and Energia looked good. On paper. And on the FEW launches either conducted. The escape system might have worked, but was it tested with a real cosmonaut in those specific circumstances?


So? March 25, 2013 at 11:31 pm

Not sure if it was the same launch escape system:
http://youtu.be/UyFF4cpMVag http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soyuz_T-10-1

Energia was much better than the N-1. Twenty years later it had to be. Unlike the primitive flight control systems on the N-1, supposedly the ones on Energia-Buran were even more sophisticated than the ones on the Space Shuttle (even higher levels of automation, more parameters tracked). But, AFAIK, it was also even more expensive than the Space Shuttle.


Dfens March 26, 2013 at 8:32 am

Yeah, a massive target with 13 inches of steel armor all around. What is going to sink it, an ICBM? Hell, you can sink an LCS with .50 cal machine gun. I hope none of our enemies have one of those.


blight_ March 26, 2013 at 9:31 am

Do we even know if an LCS can land a tank? Might be a stretch to go that far so soon.


USS ENTERPRISE March 26, 2013 at 11:00 am

Okay. 13 inches of steel is serious armor. But I am talking about Anti-ship missiles. They were DESIGNED to punch through armor. Once again, I repeat, I AM NOT AGAINST THE IOWA CLASS. I am just saying that comparing an LCS and battleship can't be done accurately, as you have to consider technological advances, as well as usage. When the Iowa was used in the Gulf, its PRIMARILY launched cruise missiles, rather than shells. The 16 inch guns are very powerful, but now, you have Tomahawks. If all you are going to do is fire off missiles, then build more Ticonderoga-class ships. Maybe more Arleigh-Burke class ships (though its seems that we are building more than enough, so). The Iowa is great. I personally think it is a legendary ship, and even wish it was back in service (Navy recruitment ads would be SO much better than just an overhead shot of a carrier) but if you do that, keep the main guns, and put missiles everywhere.


USS ENTERPRISE March 26, 2013 at 11:06 am

And in the end, the Shuttle went to space with a crew. Two were lost, and that is quite tragic, but at least it was used. Heavy use, as it lifted a lot to the ISS. And frankly, I think the next spacecraft should be a more advanced space plane. The Space Shuttle was the first practical, reusable spacecraft. The Buran really is left in the shadow of the NASA shuttle, as most people take a quick look and say that the Buran was a cheap copy. It might have been good, but like I said, we need ACTIONS to define a spacecraft. The shuttle (US) has that. Buran has a automated space flight, and, more importantly, just one of those. Shuttle, overall, better, as it worked. Buran was a lost cause; USSR was out of ideas, and the Buran, no matter how good it was, was to expensive, yet had no justifiable way of being defended. It was based on US tech, and this was during the Cold War. Enough say.


Dfens March 26, 2013 at 3:28 pm

What you recommend was already done to the Missouri (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Eevs2IL7y8). As I am fond of recalling, the captain of the Mighty Mo was interviewed on TV regarding his concerns that Iran might launch Exocet missiles at his ship as he navigated the Persian Gulf. His reply was to the effect that he was mostly concerned about the potential damage to the ship's paint job, as those missiles would be completely ineffective against over a foot of steel armor.


So? March 27, 2013 at 1:42 am

I mostly agree with you. STS may not have lived up to its lofty promises, but at least it flew 135 freaking times! That's a 100 tons in space a pop! (OK, most of it had to come back, but very impressive nonetheless.)

What gets me the most are the ignoramuses who compare Soyuz to the Shuttle and how cheap and reliable the former is compared to the latter. It's like comparing a family sedan to a 20 ton truck.

Soyuz-Salyut-Mir was a PR program run on a shoestring budget. Something to keep flying, while Vulkan/Energia-Buran were being developed on much bigger budgets. But at least it yielded some great engines and advanced the Soviet industry in general.

BTW, originally Buran was a much more advanced blended-wing design. It was dropped because it needed more time for development. It was actually quite common in the SU for the winning design to be a political decision – "make it like the American one (because we know it works)". Not a bad approach for a much poorer nation, especially after the N-1 fiasco.
http://www.f-16.net/attachments/ura_111_187.jpg http://www.f-16.net/attachments/ura_110_158.jpg


Dfens March 27, 2013 at 8:11 am

The space shuttle would lift 40,000 lbs of useful payload, not 200,000 lbs as you spin it. Certainly not the 150,000 lbs Rockwell told us it would lift. That's why our space program was stuck in low earth orbit for 30 years with shuttle. It wouldn't lift enough payload to low earth orbit and it had such a low launch rate that piecing together a mission beyond low earth orbit was a practical impossibility. And our space program has been a big FAIL ever since. You can thank a defense contractor for that.


USS ENTERPRISE March 27, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Absolutely. Space shuttle is not even in the same league as the Soyuz, in the sense it is better. In the end, you still have an orbiter. At the end of a Soyuz, you get to tired cosmonauts and burnt steel cone.


USS ENTERPRISE March 27, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Eh. You can't knock Rockwell TO much. Yeah, it didn't make the load estimate, but really, so? Attacking defense contractors is a sad, overdone tactic. It wasn't Rockwell or NASA's fault. It was the almighty budget. And realistically, the Space Shuttle was the only extremely effective "space truck". The modified Saturn's weren't bad, but when it comes to take load up, I would have a space shuttle.


So? March 28, 2013 at 3:29 am

Where is the spin? I did say most of it had to come back.

I think it was 28,000 kg originally, downgraded to 24,000 kg post-Challenger. Though I think the heaviest payload that actually flew was around 22,000 kg.

Anyway, the payload was not the problem. The low flight frequency certainly was. Had the fleet (not each shuttle!) flown once every couple of weeks as planned, it would have been a success.


USS ENTERPRISE March 27, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Ha. You want to argue if the N-1 had the largest non-nuclear explosion? Link: http://www.astronautix.com/details/n15h5170.htm and here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_largest_


USS ENTERPRISE March 27, 2013 at 1:55 pm

As for causalities, I was referring to another Russian explosion.


Dfens March 28, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Both the payload and frequency together were the problem. If they'd met the 150,000 lbs to low earth orbit requirement, then 2 launches would put a good bit of hardware and some people on the moon. With 3 vehicles, they could have got 2 flights off close together.

It's really sad they never built Shuttle-C. That would have put 190,000 lbs into low earth orbit. Hell, a few of those launches, and landing 3-4 shuttle external tanks on the Moon, and we'd have a viable lunar colony going right now.


Dfens March 28, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Shuttle was crap. More expensive to launch than an expendable Saturn V, didn't meet any major requirements, put the reusable part on orbit, needed too much heat insulation, and all for what, so the asstronauts could swagger down the runway instead of getting fished out of the water? BFD.


USS ENTERPRISE March 28, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Well, I think its in launch. The shuttle could have very much been the lunar pick-up truck. But funding was left for the handful that were built. I personally would like to see a shuttle with the F-1 engines. That would be a sight. And a huge payload. I say we give this idea to NASA pronto.


USS ENTERPRISE March 28, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Those are some pretty strong words. The Shuttle carried more astronauts to space. Saturn V took 3 to the moon, which is great. But the shuttle took 7-8 in low-mid orbit. And it took up the major components to the ISS. Also, it had a robotic arm. Saturn V was good for its era, and may not be bad with modern tech. But the shuttle was equally good.


USS ENTERPRISE March 28, 2013 at 4:43 pm

I know that there were missiles on the "Might Mo" . I was saying mid-range intercept missiles, like some of the newer tech being developed. Now the Exocet really is hardly a challenge to take (AEGIS) but I am more concerned about the still-to-be proven Chinese "carrier killers".


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