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From: (Henry Spencer)
Subject: Re: Apollo/Saturn vs Shuttle
Date: Mon, 28 Jun 1999 15:00:36 GMT

In article <>,
Gregory Henry Bondar  <> wrote:
><!doctype html public "-//w3c//dtd html 4.0 transitional//en">

Minor complaint:  the normal format of news is plain text, not HTML...

>should NASA have continued flying and developing Apollo instead of developing
>the shuttle?

It might have worked out better, but (a) it's hard to say and (b) it was
not obvious at the time.  Particularly unclear at the time was just what a
wrenching transition was ahead for NASA, from the days of "spend whatever
it takes" to the days of "overrun your budget too much and you're dead".
(Indeed, much of NASA didn't really make this transition until many years
later, instead clinging to the fantasy that budget restrictions were a
temporary aberration and things would soon return to "normal".  Some NASA
people, and some space enthusiasts, *still* haven't figured it out.)

NASA was gung-ho for reusable systems, as the obvious way to reduce costs
greatly, and would have tried to proceed in that direction, one way or
another.  A less disruptive route might have been chosen, though.

>...did the Apollo/Saturn system possess enough potential to be continuously
>updated and improved to the extent that it may have developed at least
>the capacity for "reuse" which was part of the raison d'etre of the
>whole STS concept?

The Apollo hardware as built had limitations in that area, but gradual
evolution in that direction would have been possible.

There was serious investigation of re-using both Apollo capsules and
Saturn first stages, but the payoff from simple approaches was limited.
The capsules would have needed substantial refurbishment unless changes
had been made to permit land touchdown, and the stages would have been
recovered in somewhat damaged condition.

On the other hand, it should have been feasible to continue low-rate
Apollo/Saturn operations while gradually replacing pieces of it with
reusable systems.  My own pet idea in this area would be to start by
developing a reusable replacement for the S-IVB/Apollo combination -- a
reusable stage-plus-spacecraft, somewhat like a shuttle orbiter but with
much smaller cargo bay and internal tanks -- which would fly as the upper
stage of a Saturn IB.  Once that's flying, then do a reusable replacement
for the first stage.  That gives you what NASA really wanted out of the
shuttle program -- a fully-reusable TSTO with modest payload, i.e. a
space-station supply vehicle -- but gradually and without disrupting space
operations meanwhile.  (You launch the station itself on Saturn Vs.)

The hard part would have been getting the major hardware production lines
re-opened after Apollo 11.  A skilled politician might have been able to
pull it off.

>Rather than starting from scratch with an entirely new
>launch vehicle, would it have been a more efficient use of funds over the
>years to have kept investing in Apollo/Saturn?

It's impossible to say.  Too much depends on the quality of the
management; unquestionably such a program could have been botched as badly
as the shuttle was, if you really tried. :-)

>Or was the Apollo spacecraft
>such a specialized/ad hoc going-to-the-moon machine that it was useful
>for little else?

No, it was originally meant as a general-purpose manned spacecraft, and
it demonstrated much of that flexibility on Skylab and ASTP.
The good old days                   |  Henry Spencer
weren't.                            |      (aka

From: (Henry Spencer)
Subject: Re: Apollo/Saturn vs Shuttle
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 1999 21:58:54 GMT

In article <>,
om <> wrote:
>> My own pet idea in this area would be to start by
>>developing a reusable replacement for the S-IVB/Apollo combination...
>....From the sound of it, Henry, your concept sounds a lot like taking
>an uprated Clipper Graham-type vehicle and popping it on top of either
>a Saturn V stack for big payloads or on at least a Saturn 1B with SRBs
>for low to medium loads.

NASA being NASA, such a vehicle done in those days would almost certainly
have had wings, so the resemblance to C.G. would not have been great.
(Mind you, Phil Bono did sketch designs for a recoverable S-IVB, which
were vertical landers.  So perhaps not, such a craft might have looked
like just, well, an Apollo on top of an S-IVB, but with no separation

I was thinking of putting it on an S-IB (Saturn IB first stage), with *no*
SRBs -- a straight replacement of the Saturn IB second stage and payload
by a single reusable stage with internal tankage and crew cabin.  The idea
is not heavy lift, but retaining *existing* payload capabilities while
moving toward reusability one step at a time -- much easier to sell to a
cost-minded Nixon administration.

There's no reason why you couldn't put the reusable stage on top of an
S-IC/S-II set, but it's not clear what such a vehicle would be good for.
Even with some Saturn V upgrades, I don't think you could push this as far
as a reusable Earth-to-lunar-orbit craft.

>....On a side note, were there any discussions of using the S-IVB as a
>sort of "crasher stage" for larger lunar payloads?

Not that I've seen... but there were serious proposals for landing an
uprated S-IVB on the Moon, or putting it into lunar orbit.

It turns out that you could get a spent S-IVB/IU, plus an airlock module
so you could get inside it (a la the Skylab "wet workshop" concept), into
lunar orbit with just a standard Apollo CSM -- the S-IVB's mass and
dynamics are comparable to a loaded LM.

For landing, you need a number of changes, including replacement of the
J-2 with a J-2S and the addition of a couple of RL10s as landing engines.
The payoff is 27klb of payload to the surface, plus possibly the spent
S-IVB as a shelter.  (Minimum-modification cargo-LM concepts carried
about 1/3 of that payload and the spent stages weren't very useful.)

There was also an early concept to put an S-IV on top of the full
three-stage Saturn V, to land the S-IV and about 25klb of payload.
The good old days                   |  Henry Spencer
weren't.                            |      (aka

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