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MOL

OM

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...From Dwayne's article:

The narration for the documentary implied that the MOL story was previously unknown, and that the astronauts selected to operate the MOL had never before been revealed. Although MOL has not really been discussed in detail on television before, it has been explored in print.
...Although he lists various articles in the 1990's, both he and Nova should have also raised the fact that the existence of the program was in no way secret. I recall reading books and magazine articles on the then-current status of the US Space Race, and the Air Farce's MOL was mentioned quite frequently, with one particular illustration accompanying the majority of the articles:



...An image that, even to a then-6-year-old first generation Astrobuff, left me scratching my head as to how that Gemini command module was going to accomplish reentry with no retro module.
 

Orionblamblam

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RyanCrierie said:
Found at NARA II:
Huh. The second on is the same as here:
http://up-ship.com/blog/?p=4920

And the third here:
http://up-ship.com/blog/?p=870

But yours look to be in better shape. Probably much closer to the actual print, as opposed to beign multi-generational copies.
 

blackstar

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Nice resource. I've got a great collection of MOL hardware shots, and a huge collection of declassified documents, but have not gotten around to writing an actual article on it yet.

I posted one of the hardware shots earlier in the thread. I've got a lot more (and some better ones) that will go into an eventual article:

http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,4024.30.html

Unfortunately the key aspects of the program (the reconnaissance mission) remain classified. I have also gotten contradictory information on how the laboratory actually flew in space. One source that I have, who I trust, claims to have seen a classified illustration of MOL in orbit, with the Gemini pointed up and the tail end pointed down--operating like Hubble with a Gemini at one end. (I posted that earlier in this threat, back in fall 2008.) But another source who contacted me in 2009 claims to know a person who worked on the camera system who said that it flew horizontally (as commonly depicted) and that the camera tube could rotate to spot targets off the ground track, and also to conceal the camera aperture when rotated 180 degrees from Earth. I'll admit that I don't know which source to believe. Unfortunately, efforts to follow up with that new source all failed despite multiple attempts.
 

XP67_Moonbat

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Ryan, Scott. I think you oughtta get together and publish a book on the subject.. Or at least a monograph. With help from Dwayne Day and, best for last, Archipeppe's bad-ass artwork. Is that a slice of fried gold or what?
 

blackstar

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Interesting. Note the "automatic camera" pointing downward, toward the Earth.

Of course, concept art doesn't necessarily reflect what is actually being designed and developed. This also could have been a proposal for NASA.
 

OM

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blackstar said:
Of course, concept art doesn't necessarily reflect what is actually being designed and developed. This also could have been a proposal for NASA.
...Based on what you, I, Scott and others have come across over the past 40 years regarding MOL, in your opinion what are the odds that the Air Farce could have been developing both versions of the camera/mirror mount? And was there really that much of an advantage one would have had over the other?
 

starviking

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OM said:
blackstar said:
Of course, concept art doesn't necessarily reflect what is actually being designed and developed. This also could have been a proposal for NASA.
...Based on what you, I, Scott and others have come across over the past 40 years regarding MOL, in your opinion what are the odds that the Air Farce could have been developing both versions of the camera/mirror mount? And was there really that much of an advantage one would have had over the other?
Well the gravity gradient will cause the MOL/Gemini assembly to point towards the Earth on its long axis, so with with the telescope pointing out the end that means there's less need for orientation maneuvers with the spacecraft. That would also feed across into image stability.
 

Michel Van

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this french text explane dat is
Lockheed missile and Space co. proposal for MOL
and the battle for get the contract gets hot
1. Gemini capsule for return of crew
2. resever of Hydrogene and Oxygen (for Fuel Cells??)
3. Crew living space
4. Airlock connecting 3. and 5.
5. Labor
6. Automatic Camera
note there 3 Cameras one big and 2 with mirrors on the side
mission time is 30 day in orbit

and here the picture only bigger
 

Byeman

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OM said:
blackstar said:
Of course, concept art doesn't necessarily reflect what is actually being designed and developed. This also could have been a proposal for NASA.
...Based on what you, I, Scott and others have come across over the past 40 years regarding MOL, in your opinion what are the odds that the Air Farce could have been developing both versions of the camera/mirror mount? And was there really that much of an advantage one would have had over the other?
Yes, there are more advantages to the "vertical" configuration.
1. less complex
2. less weight
 

Byeman

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archipeppe said:
....

All the illustration of MOL represented it w/o any stage, but only huge RCS placed in the forward part (closer to Gemini B).
The most famouse image of MOL represent the re-entry module of Gemini B just after jettison, this mean (litterally) that MOL is about to reenter in the atmosphere.
So where is the engine for the de-orbit burn??

....

On the other side there were some MOL-KH10 Dorian missions that needing a lot of orbital changes (in height and plane) and this imply the necessity to exploit a restartable upper stage.
Actually, it is in your post. The "huge" RCS is all that is needed for orbital changes. With the other spacecraft, the Agena main engine wasn't used for orbital changes, just insertion and sometimes deorbit.
 

Michel Van

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one of the bizarre story about MOL
is the Hamilton SPCA Suits

USAF wanted use Chimp for experiments on MOL and pre manned flight Tests.
USAF used Chimpanzees for G-force centrifuge and rocket sled.
and other potentially dangerous space activities prior manned flight


1968 Hamilton proposed Chimp suit called SPCA for MOL
but they had concern about treatment of Chimps so they build a Human version of Suit !
and put under verification by "the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals"
they consider the (human) SPCA Suit acceptably conferable ans safe for Chimpanzees

Human test Suits for Chimps, who test Spacecraft for humans ;D

although there one thing
on Return to Earth the Gemini B capsule is full with 2 Astronaut, Filmcanister and result of Experiment
were to hell they put the Chimp ?

Source:
US Spacesuits
Kenneth S. Thomas and Harold J. McMann
ISBN 978-0-387-27919-0
Page 195-200
 

HeavyG

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One question - how do the astronauts get in and out of the Gemini capsule? If I remember the general configuration of the Gemini capsule, heat shields and retrorockets were on the bottom; the docking ring was on top. In the picture, the capsule is attached to the rest of the "station" by its bottom; astronauts would have to do EVA to get back to the Gemini capsule.
 

blackstar

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HeavyG said:
One question - how do the astronauts get in and out of the Gemini capsule?
There's a hatch through the heatshield. Go back in the thread and there are some pictures.
 

Michel Van

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HeavyG said:
One question - how do the astronauts get in and out of the Gemini capsule?
there were several proposals
EVA the crew shot down Gemini B after launch
leave capsule true the hatch , close it and move into MOL air lock.

but that had allot of disadvantages
Its not easy closing the hatch move on Gemini B to Mol air Lock in zero-G in inflated spacesuit.
and then go back with Filmcanister and result of Experiment and a noncooperative Chimp in a spacesuit

Docking after Launch the crew detaches Gemini B from MOL turn it 180° and dock sideways
the Gemini hatch on MOL air lock (reuse of MORL Gemini ferry study)
on the Gemini hatch is another hatch of 19 in (49 cmø !)

true this the Crew had to squeeze there self and later Filmcanister and result of Experiment
and a noncooperative Chimp in spacesuit


then came idea of a inflatable tunnel from Gemini hatch
but his disadvantages: rip off during launch, hit by space debris, closing it after use.


so in end this was the winner
wat is another reuse of MORL Gemini ferry study


the tunnel was also downfall for Litton RX-3 Hardsuit in MOL program
during mock test the crew try in RX-3 suit to get from the seats in the tunnel,
but suits were not flexibly for that
Source on RX-3
US Spacesuits
Kenneth S. Thomas and Harold J. McMann
ISBN 978-0-387-27919-0
 

XP67_Moonbat

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Some stuff from Ninfinger:

http://www.ninfinger.org/models/vault/MOL/index.html
 

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Saw some discussion on another board, and thought someone here might be able to answer.

There were plans to use the Gemini-2/-B as a ferry, with a docking ring and a docking station on/in the Equipment Module. How would an air-tight seal have been accomplished, though? Some sort of flexible extension on the MOL itself would probably have been required. Any info would be appreciated!

Edit: as illustrated here in figure 5.1-5
http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19750069218_1975069218.pdf
 

Triton

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Douglas USAF Manned Orbiting Laboratory "MOL" contractor model found on eBay.

URL:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Douglas-USAF-Manned-Orbiting-Laboratory-MOL-Contractor-Model-/180739955798?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2a14f0dc56

Measuring in at 10" long is the USAF MOL contractor model from Douglas. This an interesting remnant of a project that was so close to being carried through, the models were made and distributed before it was abruptly cancelled in 1969(?). Most of the early shuttle astronauts were USAF astronauts from the MOL program that NASA brought on board as a favor to the USAF when MOL went the way of the DYNAsoar. (Pardon the pun!). This model has got normal shelf wear, see the pix. I resisted the urge to touch up the nose. I dont do touch ups, and the slight paint loss at the nose of the capsule does not detract. The capsule/lab model is NOT plastic. It feels like a heavier resin with possibly some wood parts. The base is in great shape, but the name tag has a couple slight dings near its lower right area. VERY NICE. ....
 

Triton

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Yet another, Douglas USAF Manned Orbiting Laboratory "MOL" contractor model found on eBay.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Rare-Douglas-Manned-Orbiting-Laboratory-Model-/300643045225?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item45ffb8cf69

This a rare contractor desk model of the Douglas Manned Orbiting Laboratory. It appears to be made by the Walter J. Hyatt company according to the sticker under the stand. The model and the stand are in good condition with some wear which can be seen in the photos. On one side the decals are in great shape and on the other they are worn. It is in the condition I found it in storage.
 

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blackstar

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Barrington Bond said:
Well, that's neat.

It doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense, however. Why would you want a dish that big in a low orbit? Seems like it would be overkill. Also, I suspect that being that low, you don't get much capability out of a large dish because you're always moving too fast. Big dishes make sense at GEO.

I did recently acquire some info about relatively smaller dishes being deployed at LEO orbits for signals intelligence applications in the mid-1960s. Nowhere near this size.
 

Orionblamblam

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blackstar said:
Why would you want a dish that big in a low orbit?
As the writeup says... "experiment." While a dish like this might make more sense to be operational at higher orbit, at one time long long ago space planners thought it might be a good idea to try some things out before going straight to developing full-up systems.
 

Byeman

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Orionblamblam said:
blackstar said:
Why would you want a dish that big in a low orbit?
As the writeup says... "experiment." While a dish like this might make more sense to be operational at higher orbit, at one time long long ago space planners thought it might be a good idea to try some things out before going straight to developing full-up systems.
Still it would need to be in a higher orbit to validate the concept. LEO for commint is like trying to listen to a conversation on opposing escalators.
 

Orionblamblam

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Byeman said:
Still it would need to be in a higher orbit to validate the concept.
Depends on what you mean by "validate." "Can we even properly erect a structure like this?" is a question answerable just as easily in LEO as in GEO. And once erected and checked out in LEO... hell, strap a low-thrust booster to it and sail it on up to GEO or wherever.
 

Byeman

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Orionblamblam said:
Byeman said:
Still it would need to be in a higher orbit to validate the concept.
Depends on what you mean by "validate." "Can we even properly erect a structure like this?" is a question answerable just as easily in LEO as in GEO. And once erected and checked out in LEO... hell, strap a low-thrust booster to it and sail it on up to GEO or wherever.
MOL wouldn't be needed for that.
The point trying to be put across is that MOL with a large dish is a iffy idea
 

blackstar

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Byeman said:
Still it would need to be in a higher orbit to validate the concept. LEO for commint is like trying to listen to a conversation on opposing escalators.
There is some indication that LEO was tried for comint by the early 1960s with the USAF heavy ferrets. It might have also been tried with the P-11 satellites. However, because a LEO satellite is going to be overhead of a transmitter for less than 15 minutes, and probably no more than 5 minutes, the ability to gather any useful comint at LEO is really low. The CANYON system fielded in the later 1960s was intended to intercept comint between Soviet microwave towers, which tended to bleed out into space. CANYON would slowly move through the beam and if it did not have continuous coverage, it had nearly continuous coverage.

I have a long listing of the experiments planned for MOL. I believe that one of them was a Navy ocean surveillance antenna, but I need to look at that again. I doubt that they had comint. But MOL was a weird beast, because any intelligence gathering equipment should have fallen under the authority of the NRO and would still be classified.
 

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...I am reminded of the old There I Was...strip where the AWACS training flight buzzed a West Texas hick town, sending the denizens in a panic as they saw "UFOs attackin' their airplanes!!" I can honestly see some amateur astronomer snapping a shot of this from ground level and some tabloid getting ahold of it, claiming "Astronauts conduct secret meeting with UFO!" :eek:
 

blackstar

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Archibald said:
I have a long listing of the experiments planned for MOL
I really, really would like to see it.
I'll post a list. The whole document's pretty fascinating. Got it quite awhile ago but have not published anything based upon it. I suspect that it was actually declassified by mistake. However, I am not sure that the payloads that were discussed were the final ones planned. It is possible that they were planned for different missions--a few on Flight 1, a few different ones on Flight 2, etc.

One of the problems with MOL is that it was a moving target as a program, with things being added and subtracted. The program was mostly classified by the time that it was canceled, so we don't know what was planned for the flights. I do know that quite a bit of flight hardware was constructed, but I don't know how far they got to integrating it all.
 

blackstar

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Unfortunately, my MOL experiments document does not have a cover page. That means that I cannot figure out the date of the doc. It was probably late 1964, but could have been a few years later.

Anyway, here's the MOL experiments list:

P-1 Pointing and Tracking Scope
P-2 Acquisition and Tracking of Space Targets
P-3 Direct Viewing for Ground Targets
P-4 Electromagnetic Signal Detection (this was supposed to be an up to 6 foot dish)
P-5 In-Space Maintenance
P-6 Extravehicular Activity
P-7 Remote Maneuvering Unit
P-8 Autonomous Navigation and Geodesy
P-9 Experiment deleted
P-10 Multiband Spectral Observations
P-11 General Human Performance in Space
P-12 Biomedical and Physiological Evaluation
P-13 Ocean Surveillance
P-14 (I cannot find the name for this, but it was apparently the high-resolution optics system. It was only mentioned in a footnote in the document and there was no dedicated chapter for it. The document essentially said that it was classified and not described.)

On-Orbit Experiments Information System (this apparently was the data collection system and so it did not have a P number)
 

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Archibald

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thank you. Do you think each experiment need its own sperate flight ?
 

blackstar

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Archibald said:
thank you. Do you think each experiment need its own separate flight ?
No, because a lot of them were small, or actually groups of experiments. For instance, they could test the maneuvering unit outside the MOL, and also conduct "general human performance" experiments inside (these included things like eating, bathing, eliminating wastes, etc.).

I did stumble across a December 1964 memo where a general was concerned that not enough attention had been paid to combining equipment and tasks. He noted, for instance, that the same antenna used for ocean surveillance experiments might also be used for electronic intelligence (elint) gathering, and the elint system could be used to point the optics, etc.

However, it does seem like 13 experiments (note that one was deleted/canceled) was a lot of stuff to do on a single mission. And some of those experiments took up a lot of space. So I suspect that these 13 represented the total that were under consideration, and that they would have been divided among several missions.

From what I have been able to tell, MOL became less of an experiments platform and more of an operational reconnaissance system in 1965. It is possible that some of these experiments might have been abandoned when that happened. After all, if the astronauts were supposed to spend most of their time spying on the Soviet Union, they would not have had time to do these other things.
 

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New info

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2121/1
 
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