Space Rocket History #147 – Saturn: S-II Stage Part 2: Trials and Tribulations

September 6, 2019 @ 11:15 am

“The S-II stage was a nightmare the minute it was conceived, and it only got worse from there. During the course of its creation, it would grind up people and careers the way the transcontinental railway devoured laborers.  Though the methods and materials used to build the S-II were reasonably well known, nobody had ever tried to apply them on such a titanic scale.  Originally, it was to be somewhere around 8 stores tall with a diameter of 22 feet, but the width ballooned from there to 27 feet before the contract was  even signed, then to 30, and finally to 33 feet.  And all the while as the size of thing increased, NASA was trimming the allowable weight.”  Harrison Storms of NAA.


Space Rocket History #146 – Saturn: S-II Stage Part 1: Common Bulkheads, Gores, & Honeycomb Sandwiches

September 6, 2019 @ 11:06 am

The structural efficiency of the S-II stage, in terms of the weight and pressures taken by its extra-thin walls, was comparable only to the capacity of one of nature’s most refined examples of structural efficiency, the egg.



Space Rocket History #145 – Surveyors 2 – 7 with a Little Apollo 12

September 6, 2019 @ 10:47 am

The primary objectives of the Surveyor program, were to support the Apollo landings by: (1) developing and validating the technology for landing softly on the Moon; (2) providing data on the compatibility of the Apollo design with conditions encountered on the lunar surface; and (3) adding to the scientific knowledge of the Moon.


Space Rocket History #144 – Lunar Orbiter 2 – 5 and Wresat

August 1, 2019 @ 9:37 am

A total of five Lunar Orbiter missions were launched by the US in 1966 through 1967.  The purpose of the lunar orbiter series was to photograph the moon’s surface for selection and verification of safe landing sites for the Surveyor and Apollo missions.


Space Rocket History #143 – The First Soyuz Automatic Docking and the Secret Plan

August 1, 2019 @ 9:23 am

After 1957, the Soviets became accustomed to achieving “world firsts” in space accomplishments. Nevertheless, 10 years later they were not confident that they could pull off the world’s first fully automatic rendezvous and docking of two un-piloted Soyuz spacecraft.  At the time the chance for success was estimated at only 50/50.


Space Rocket History #142 – Venera 4

August 1, 2019 @ 9:05 am

“It seemed that the nearby and mysterious planet was resorting to tricks to hide the secrets kept beneath its cover of clouds. As the probe drew nearer, Venus’ gravitational field increased its speed. The Doppler effect altered the wavelength of the signals received on Earth. The radio operators needed to be particularly vigilant so that the information sent from the station consistently landed in the narrow “throat” of the ground-based receivers.”  Boris Chertok


Space Rocket History #141 – Soyuz 1: The Crash

August 1, 2019 @ 8:26 am

“It’s a terrible scene. Komarov burned up. All the instruments burned. We must quickly find out what prevented the main parachute from unlatching.” Chief Designer Mishin after he arrived at the Soyuz 1 crash site.


Space Rocket History #140 – Soyuz 1: The Flight

July 6, 2019 @ 8:49 am

“I was the last one to see him alive and I told him ‘See you soon!’” Yuri Gagarin, recalls bidding farewell to his friend Kamarov in Soyuz 1.


Space Rocket History #139 – Soyuz 1: Preparation

July 6, 2019 @ 8:12 am

With the success of Kosmos 146 and in spite of the failures of the first three 7K-Ok’s it was now time to plan for a Soyuz manned mission. The planned involved the launch and docking of two piloted Soyuzes. Soyuz 7K-OK production model number 4 was assigned the role of the active vehicle. The active vehicle was supposed to carry one cosmonaut into earth orbit. Twenty-four hours later, vehicle No. 5 (the passive vehicle) carrying three cosmonauts would be inserted in orbit. After rendezvouing, two cosmonauts from vehicle No. 5 would transfer through open space to vehicle No. 4.


Space Rocket History #138 – Soyuz Test Flight No. 3 – Kosmos 140

July 4, 2019 @ 9:22 am

Chief Designer Mishin proposed a two-launch “stopover” scenario for the piloted flight to the moon. This was similar to one of NASA’s earth orbit rendezvous modes to reach the moon. The gist of the plan was, the UR-500K would insert the 7K-L1 into orbit with no crew. Then the R7 derivative Semyorka would launch the 7K-OK carrying two cosmonauts. If everything went well on the two vehicles, they would dock, and the cosmonauts would transfer from the 7K-OK to the 7K-L1 via spacewalk. Then they would set out for the Moon, and, after flying around it, they would return to Earth.

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