9 thoughts on “SERV”

  1. How about a smaller space shuttle? Instead of launching 30 tons to LEO, it would launch 3 tons to LEO. Instead of taking off on a rocket, it would take off from a large plane. Say about the size of a 747. Would it been possible to build something like that, back then? What would the flight rate be? I think instead of Apollo, we should have built something like that first.

    Then build MOL. After that, build some more space stations. Then build a much larger space station. With a crew of about 24 astronauts. Then start building lunar landers, and fuel depots. Also build a fleet of fuel tankers. If they can take off once a week, then build a fleet of 20. Then you can carry 60 tons of fuel to LEO every week.

  2. I’ve wondered if NASA should have attempted to reuse Saturn stages. Maybe the tech just didn’t exist in the 70s, but if cheap space access was the goal developing gradual improvements to a proven platform would have been a much less risky plan. Or keep the Saturn rockets in operation as expendables and develop the shuttle as a side “x-plane” type project solely to work out various reusability methods.

  3. I always assumed that the V on the Saturn V was based on a judgement that five or so engines was as many as the existing technology could control. In the early 70s, I worked for an engineer that had been involved in the F1 manufacture. He described a program that spent most of its time right at the edge of what was possible just from the physical size of the components. I figured that there had to be a good reason to accept that much risk.

    If the intervening history shows anything, it’s that these sorts of design reviews aren’t much more use than a random guess. SERV might have worked if the same effort had been expended as the Shuttle. No one expected the Shuttle to die from O rings and foam. Of course, none of the predictions about the Shuttle panned out.

  4. I wish someone could successfully drive a stake through the “too many engines” fantasy. N-1 failed because the Soviets had inadequate ground testing infrastructure, not because it had too many engines.

    Until the advent of Falcon 9, the largest number of engines on an operational LV was 8 on the Saturn 1, flying in the early 1960s. The F-1 engine was sized for the Saturn C-8 and Nova, with some advanced Nova designs prescribing 30 F-1 engines. And with the successful flight of Falcon Heavy, with 27 engines, the battle of Cluster’s Last Stand is over. Cluster won.

    Btw, look up the proposed S-1D stage that was proposed as an alternative to the Shuttle. It was an S-1C that could drop the four outboard engines for mid-air recovery, the center engine and tanks continuing on to orbit with a 50,000lb payload. As it turned out, that would have been more economical thatg STS as built, but no one knew that in 1968. We could have had a cheap LEO cargo LV and kept our giant moon rocket besides.

    1. Yes, I think it’s questionable whether the Saturn V would have worked if it had been launched all-up without testing the stages on the ground beforehand.

      Von Braun’s Saturn I was cobbled together in the early days of the space race from existing parts and tooling for the Redstone and Jupiter missiles. There were people at the time who were skeptical that clustering eight engines on a rocket would work.

      With the N-1, besides the lack of ground testing, getting all those engines to play nice together was a headache. I believe on one flight, the computer tasked with shutting down engines that were failing mistakenly shut them all down. Oops.

      That was a problem for SpaceX as well. In early launches of Falcon 9, there were several instances where the flight computer commanded an abort after ignition because an engine was “out of family”. It was designed to do that, of course, but it led to much speculation on how many attempts it would take to launch Falcon Heavy getting three times as many engines to work as a team.

      And SpaceX never did test 27 M1D engines on the ground, so there was quite a bit of concern before last February’s launch. That it worked perfectly on the very first try was one of the most thrilling moments of the entire Space Age for me.

        1. You’re right, I forgot about the static fire. I was thinking that they never did a full-duration ground test of all three cores, which they have done with individual cores.

  5. A Chrysler space shuttle?

    What about the panel gaps?

    If it was planned for 99 flights, would it start to develop rust after only 30?

    Would the rocket stumble and sputter if started in cold weather?

    And finally, when the air out of the vents in the crew compartment started to smell like a dead mouse, how many hours of labor would NASA be charged to take the whole instrument panel apart just to get at the blower?

    On the other hand, I am sure it would have lifted off the pad quicker than any other rocket!

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