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Spiral / "50/50" TSTO


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Jun 6, 2006
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The overall story is quite complicated. Pour yourself 1 gallon of strong black coffee.

It all started with Korolev winged alternative to Vostok, in 1958 (PKA).

This was passed to Tsybin and Myasischchev (goddam name) aircraft bureaus. The design bureaus were taken over by Chelomei in 1961 and the PKA followed
- and then in 1965 the project moved again, it went to MiG.

By this point it had taken the following shape
- Mach 6 turboramjet carrier aircraft
- expendable rocket stage
- a small lifting body (see the above post).
From 1968 BOR-1, BOR-2, BOR-3 and avion 105 were flown for ten years, using a Tu-95 and Tsyklon rockets (civilian R-36 Satan). The BORs were small lifting bodies send into orbit without a pilot. Avion 105 was a piloted, subsonic demonstrator carried by a Tu-95 and flew circa 1977.

According to Asif Siddiqi, the project survived that long because of a Dementyev connection. The father, Piotr Dementyev, was MAP czar - supreme ruler of military aviation industry in the Soviet Union. His son worked on the Spiral project but what's more, the father used Spiral as a ploy to keep his worse ennemy at arm length - the ennemy being MOM ICBM ministry led by Serguey "the big hammer" Afanaysev. The two hated each others. What had happened in the past, was that by 1961 MAP and its 3M / 4M / M50 / M52 bombers had been crushed by MOM ballistic missiles, a strategic move by Nikita Krushschev.
This was a trauma for Dementyev and he feared it would happen again if MAP had to collaborate with MOM to create... the Buran space shuttle. So he used Spiral as a way to keep the rocket industry away from his aircraft.
And this explain why, despite Nixon endorsing the Shuttle in January 1972, Buran did not started before February 1976. Basically the rocket and aviation ministries hated each others yet a Shuttle was half aircraft and half rocket. Plus the Soviets hated the very concept of the Space Shuttle and it took a very, very weird turn of events and a lot of absurd reasoning to convince them.

By 1976 Buran was a go, to Dementyev great dismay. He died in 1977.

What happened was that despite Buran and Piotr dementyev death, BOR survived and BOR-4 went into orbit in the early 80's.

Meanwhile the overall concept evolved again.

The very unrealistic Mach 6 carrier aircraft went away, replaced by An-124 and An-225 larger and larger derivatives.

The "upper component" morphed into System 49, then 49M, then Bizan, and finally into MAKS. The expendable booster, the lifting body, and their respective hydrolox and kerolox engines were all merged into the tripropellant MAKS with a fat drop tank and the revolutionary RD-701 engines. This was pushed as a more flexible alternative to big Buran but went nowhere because of the 1989-92 USSR collapse.

The USA were unaware of the above evolution but in 1982 a RAN P-3 Orion buzzed a Soviet recovery ship near the Coco Islands and unmasked BOR-4. This led to NASA Langley HL-20, then HL-42 (1984-1992) and from there - Jim Benson (1996-2008), then Sierra Nevada present Dreamchaser.
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Oct 29, 2007
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Thanks for the complex history of the Spiral Archibald, I did not know that it had three design bureaus designing it, weird.


I really should change my personal text
Jun 25, 2017
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CLEARANCE: Restricted
Sep 20, 2009
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Is that an over the wing landing gear? :oops:
I guess they didn't like the complication and risks of putting doors in the heat shield