Big Gemini in place of the Space Shuttle, 1971.

Archibald

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
6 June 2006
Messages
11,528
Reaction score
12,969
As said in the title.
Since 2008 I'm working on an alternative history / technothriller where the Shuttle get killed by "Cap the knife" Weinberger OMB in October 1971. Only three months short of its OTL approval by Nixon on January 5, 1972.
It is replaced by the following package
- 7 Saturn IB left by Apollo, uprated (boosters 209, 211, 212, 213, 214, 215, 216 - completed if needed)
- 2 Saturn V (Skylab B is axed as per OTL)
- The Saturn V boosters are used to launch a pair of 33 ft wide space station cores - essentially the dry workshop / Skylab treatment applied to the S-II
- the Saturn IBs launching Skylab look-alike S-IV dry workshops although much lighter.
- Titan III-M for crews
- after a ferocious bidding war, Big Gemini kicks a Block III Apollo (with Corona, X-24, HL-10 and X-37-lookalike alternatives)
- Agena in the role of a US FGB space tug to ferry and dock the modules automatically (see Mir "how to build a modular station without a Shuttle)
- Agena is also used as a cargo vehicle (ATV !) through ESA
- the Block III Apollo become the station lifeboat (also ESA)

The station core launch on November 14, 1979 then four S-IVB modules follow on the days (and names) OTL Shuttles launched (April 12, 1981: Columbia module, and on, and on).

Can't say much more without ruining the party. If anybody is interested, please drop me an e-mail in my forum box.

I'm looking for
- discussion
- proof reading because english is not my native language
- any advice to get that thing published... someday.
 
Thanks for the like, I wasn't sure if this was still even an active post from the hiatus but thought why not, seems very interesting.
 
Archibald, have look into option that Weinberger OMB kill also Apollo 16-17 ? (OTL he try that)
You would have four Saturn V to launch Skylab size space Station.

On Launch vehicle Titan IIIM is best choice for Payload and Launch cost from KSC and VAB
Special if USAF use also Big-G as alternative to MOL (manned spy sat) or refurbish Spy sat in orbit.(make more sense)
Also the NASA use derivative Titan IIIF (modified Titan IIIM with various upper stage Agena, Transtage, Centaur)
So long Martin Marietta Corporation can mass produce the Titan IIIM/F, it keep cost low.
 
I put some stress and pressure on Nixon - using Zond and Luna 15 in late spring 1969. Just enough to unlock Saturn 516 and 517. Just in case.
 
Just enough to unlock Saturn 516 and 517
That's to late, 516 and 517 were destroy under Johnson around July 1968
Nixon came to power in January 1969 and he wanted budget cuts.
First victim was MOL program in June 1969.
 
I've found some tantalizing glimpses that they "survived" a bit longer. I mean, a few sources here and there, showing that the procurement delay was growing longer and longer. From early 1969 to May 1972, when it was over - for good, with the Shuttle been definitively secured. Laser inventor and Nobel Prize Charles Townes is also a major influence on Nixon.

- Zond, I turned it into a lunar spysat by using a Zenit-2 camera: very much moving it from Gagarin's Vostok (Zenit) to a Soyuz cabin. This is done not only to get high-res imagery of future N1-L3 landing sites, but also to drive the CIA crazy, along with Soyuz-LOK.

-Luna 15: more exactly Babakin's Ye-8-5 sample scoopers. LAte 1967 they are given absolute priority, ahead of Mars M-69 and even Lunokhod. Found a document listing monthly launch windows for spring and summer 1969 - somewhat ironically, it is a Congressional Hearings of 1969 where some American trajectory wizzard did the math for Baikonur. So I have every single flight opportunity all the way to the first half of 1969. Also the M-69 that exploded with its Proton and poisoned the whole launch area - March 2, 1969 - is butterflied away.
So Ye-8-5 scoopers have a clear path to beat Apollo at the Lunar Sample Return game right off February 1969. After many miserable failures, the May 1969 launch opportunity brings success - just in time for Le Bourget Air Show, starting May 27, 1969. Somewhat interestingly, the June launch window for Ye-8-5 would have returned the samples to Moscow on June 26, 1969. Which is, in For All Mankind, the very day Leonov beats Neil Armstrong to the Moon...

And yes, this has Congress lighting a fire under Nixon ass. Plus those Zond capsules regular flybys of the Moon... aren't they Soyuz look-alike ?
 
- Zond, I turned it into a lunar spysat by using a Zenit-2 camera: very much moving it from Gagarin's Vostok (Zenit) to a Soyuz cabin. This is done not only to get high-res imagery of future N1-L3 landing sites, but also to drive the CIA crazy, along with Soyuz-LOK.

They use Vostok for Zenit, for reason, the large door is ideal for Camera optics
to build this into Soyuz will be complicated
otherwise why not launch a modified Zenit on Proton around the Moon ?

Zenit_space_vehicle.jpg
 
It wasn't really viable.
There were two studies I believe McDonnell Douglas in August 1969 studied a Big "G" and got to physical concept stages, while a form of a Big Apollo was called "BALLOS" (BALlistic LOgistic Spacecraft) was studied by several corporations such as Lockheed and McDonnell-Douglas, it never left paper. I do agree in some forms it was not viable but the way Archibald showed us it, it seems quite plausible it could have been done by 1973 - 1975 at earliest and 1980 at latest if something goes very wrong.
 
I never understood the fascination with Big Gemini. It wasn't really viable.

Not fascination. I'm drawing heavily from Logsdon "After Apollo" (a better source than Heppenheimer The Space Shuttle decision) and both mention the fact that Big Gemini was an option by October 1971. It was considered by Caspar Weinberger OMB at a time when they made NASA life a misery, in the fall of 1971. Also Ed David PSAC.

October 1971 options (and point of views)
-Dale Myers: fully reusable Shuttle (was DOA, but most of NASA was still in denial)
-Fletcher & Low: flyback S-IC / Mark 1 Mark 2 approach (proposed in 09/1971)
-Mathematica: TAOS Shuttle "perhaps with SRBs" ------ the shuttle that carried the day (but noone listened to them before November)
-OMB & PSAC meetings October / November 1971
Option 1: a DynaSoar like 100 000 pound glider on Titan III-L
Option 2: Big Gemini
Option 3: a Block III Apollo.

It took a lot of lobbying by Fletcher and Low, over the months of november and december, to persuade Weinberger, his OMB and their PSAC science advisors, to endorse the Mathematica Shuttle - TAOS.

TAOS was the bare minimum orbiter that could support USAF (= NRO) 15x60 ft payload bay requirements (the 60 ft length being dictated by the KH-9 and its hypothetical successors).

One thing is sure: by October 1971 Nixon's advisors (OMB and PSAC, budget and engineering) had the upper hand in the (shuttle or not) decision making process. And they really, really were unconvinced by the "full scale orbiter" shuttle designs, whatever trick and ploy NASA and Mathematica tried (TAOS, Mark 1/ Mark 2). Eugene Fubini at PSAC pushed for a 100 000 pound glider on Titan III-L.
 
I never understood the fascination with Big Gemini. It wasn't really viable.
In case the Shuttle died in Capitol Hill
Next best proposal to it, was Big Gemini.
Launch with Saturn IB or Titan IIIM
able to bring entire personel & cargo to space station and back
land under paraglider like aircraft on land and option to reuse return capsule.
 
Could the Big Gemini Descent Module in the front be launched separately, and fly with crew individually like VA? And could the logistic module part keep operating after separation like TKS-FGB or Block-1-Shenzhou?
 
Could the Big Gemini Descent Module in the front be launched separately, and fly with crew individually like VA? And could the logistic module part keep operating after separation like TKS-FGB or Block-1-Shenzhou?
For Descent Module NO
it can run only battery power for several hours and Its RCS is for Descent not docking

The Logistic Module, theoretic YES
Modified it could operating after DM detach.
 
Not fascination. I'm drawing heavily from Logsdon "After Apollo" (a better source than Heppenheimer The Space Shuttle decision) and both mention the fact that Big Gemini was an option by October 1971. It was considered by Caspar Weinberger OMB at a time when they made NASA life a misery, in the fall of 1971. Also Ed David PSAC.

October 1971 options (and point of views)
-Dale Myers: fully reusable Shuttle (was DOA, but most of NASA was still in denial)
-Fletcher & Low: flyback S-IC / Mark 1 Mark 2 approach (proposed in 09/1971)
-Mathematica: TAOS Shuttle "perhaps with SRBs" ------ the shuttle that carried the day (but noone listened to them before November)
-OMB & PSAC meetings October / November 1971
Option 1: a DynaSoar like 100 000 pound glider on Titan III-L
Option 2: Big Gemini
Option 3: a Block III Apollo.

It took a lot of lobbying by Fletcher and Low, over the months of november and december, to persuade Weinberger, his OMB and their PSAC science advisors, to endorse the Mathematica Shuttle - TAOS.

TAOS was the bare minimum orbiter that could support USAF (= NRO) 15x60 ft payload bay requirements (the 60 ft length being dictated by the KH-9 and its hypothetical successors).

One thing is sure: by October 1971 Nixon's advisors (OMB and PSAC, budget and engineering) had the upper hand in the (shuttle or not) decision making process. And they really, really were unconvinced by the "full scale orbiter" shuttle designs, whatever trick and ploy NASA and Mathematica tried (TAOS, Mark 1/ Mark 2). Eugene Fubini at PSAC pushed for a 100 000 pound glider on Titan III-L.

Slight correction, NASA wanted the big cargo bay as a hard requirement, (they also wanted a hard requirement of a crew on every flight) they then asked the Air Force if they could use such a cargo bay and the Air Force said, "Sure...Whatever we're not actually planning on using the Shuttle anyway" (same with the delta wings) to which the head of the NRO went to NASA and said, "What the Air Force said isn't really true and as some "random" (as far as you know) Undersecretary of the Air Force I'm saying that they don't need a cargo bay that big"

To which NASA said: "Thanks but what we wanted to hear was what the Air Force said and we're just going to ignore you because your some random (as far as we know) Undersecretary of the Air Force and not some boss of some super-secret NRO type thing"

Of the other options the only ones that fit the NASA requirements was the fully reusable TSTO Shuttle which is as we know what NASA really wanted, or later the TAOS Shuttle which was the last choice but the only one that met (most) everyone's requirements.

Now being alt-history I'm sure we can 'tweak' the outcome but it ends up coming down to "Big Gemini" being everyone who "counted" last choice.
(OMB technically would have loved it I'm sure, Nixon is less of a slam dunk because he really wanted to give the "west coast" some money to offset Vietnam ending and not sure that Big G would provide that money. Point of fact Rocketdyne, and other engine makers were claiming they'd go bankrupt without a "new" engine contract. Heck Boeing and Lockheed both were complaining they might have to shut down if NASA didn't get a "big" program that could be spread around)

We need to keep in mind that no matter what Nixon and OMB decided it was going to be Congress who made the final (and financial) decision and at this point they MIGHT be more than willing to cut NASA back to Big G if it's pitched right.

Randy
 
Just wanted to say that in the "new" TL Big Gemini has merely become a footnote in a much broader story - of spysats and lunar spysats.
 
For Descent Module NO
it can run only battery power for several hours and Its RCS is for Descent not docking

The Logistic Module, theoretic YES
Modified it could operating after DM detach.

Fun thing with Big G logistic module: it has dimensions similar to both Salyut and Spacelab, and all the related modules thereafters (SpaceHab, Mir, ISS)
Could the Big Gemini Descent Module in the front be launched separately, and fly with crew individually like VA?

I have much better missions for it. After the first dozen of flights the unavoidable question will be asked: what to do with those crew modules ?
For a start, they land at Edwards using parafoils, on a skid or wheel undercarriage. So they are not ruined by oceanic salt water.

First proposal by McDonnell Douglas: salvage them.

Second proposal: refurbish them, refly them. But NASA won't allow manned flights, so - MDD will propose a few alternatives.

Third proposal: fly them unmanned to the space station... as crew lifeboats.

Fourth proposal: if after a few weeks they have no been used as lifeboats, use them for payload return - even unmanned, Edwards AFB / Dryden Roger dry lake is wide enough, nobody cares if the capsule miss the (painted) runways and crashes in the bushes or outback.
 
Last edited:
I can see the spent and burned Big Gemini crew modules piling up in a corner of NASA Dryden or Edwards AFB. After some time they use the Super Guppy to dump them at MDD Long Beach, where they are stored - and salvaged, at least at the beginning.

Then imagine: if Big Gemini flies 5 missions a year from 1976 to, say, 1996, that's 20 years... and a hundred capsules ! Quite inevitably at some point or another, the cost of storing a couple or a trio dozen of the spent crew modules will bother MDD accountants. Some thing has to be done, end result: the few proposals in the above post.
One smartass MDD engineer will eye the modules and wonder whether something useful can be done with them. Now, if NASA don't want to fly them manned, second time: maybe they could be used as CRVs.
 
Then imagine: if Big Gemini flies 5 missions a year from 1976 to, say, 1996, that's 20 years... and a hundred capsules !
Already during Gemini program McDonnell proposed to refurbish Gemini capsules for last three mission (Gemini 13 to 15)
Those would be first reflow Capsules in History - Gemini 2 became first reflow hardware under MOL program.
i would not be surprised if MDD also proposed this for Gemini B capsule for MOL.
 
Normal Gemini rode AF Titan

Big Gemini needed Saturn IB…an Army rocket-so…naturally…it was killed.
 
Big Gemini needed Saturn IB
Big Gemini could launch on (Depending on the mission) -
1 - Titan IIIM (From MOL Program - USAF)
2 - Saturn IB (Eliminated as a possibility in late August 1969)
3 -Saturn INT-11 (Saturn IB with 4 UA1205 Solids)
4 - Saturn INT-20 (Saturn V - No S-II)
5 -Saturn INT-5A (Saturn IB With AJ-260X)
-
All were viable solutions to a launcher, and I feel that all could have been done, So no Big "G" did not need Saturn IB.
Thanks to Archipeppe for the slide, pulled from https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/threads/big-gemini.4229/.
 

Attachments

  • Big Gemini C.jpg
    Big Gemini C.jpg
    57.5 KB · Views: 43
  • Slide6.JPG
    Slide6.JPG
    24.3 KB · Views: 44
Honestly, forgot about the increased payload to LEO, yeah a stripped down station core would work (under 44400 kg).
 
Last edited:
Back
Top Bottom