Re: MOL == Agena? Re: Solutions to the Zero-G problem

From: Michael S. Lorrey (
Date: Thu Oct 26 2000 - 23:50:37 MDT

"Michael M. Butler" wrote:
> Woops, I stand corrected, and I should have remembered that MOL was (at
> least officially) USAF. Gemini and the whole D-ring escape system,
> coupled with the X-20 cancellation timeline. Maybe I heard a distorted
> rumor about "Blue Gemini", I dunno.
> wrote:
> > spaceflight trivia. MOL was an AIR FORCE project;
> OK, Tex. No need to shout.

Actually, reading the archives at those two great sites Greg provided links for,
ONE MOL mission was supposed to be a NAVY only mission. They didn't want any
USAF staff in the air or on the ground involved in that one. BTW: Its not
shouting when you capitalize a military branch, thats a command voice being
implied, not a shrieking civilian. ;-)

Now, the code word 'BLUE' does not necessarily imply navy involvement, since we
have the HAVE BLUE, TACIT BLUE, and other stealth projects that were exclusively
USAF territory. As the Deep Cold site says, the USAF was planning to use the
Gemini capsule system into the 70's for many missions, the MOL being just a part
of that goal. They were envisioning space based anti-missile systems maintained
by BLUE GEMINI missions as far back as 1967 apparently.

Now that it is after midnight, whew, I can post again... ;)

Now, that November 3, 1966 Gemini B mission is extremely curious. Not only did
they launch it with a 'mock-up' MOL, but they launched an OV1 observation
vehicle as well, which had its own propulsion system, and THREE OV4 vehicles as
well. The OV series of vehicles were autonomous satellites WITH reentry
capabilities for a 35 kg cargo (presumably film). Now, its curious that there
were FOUR other spacecraft other than the Gemini B capsule and the proto-MOL,
since the MOL was supposed to carry FOUR film return capsules. Interesting, huh?
If the MOL was such a 'mock up', why was it equipped with these spacecraft that
seemed to wind up in their own orbits before reentering?

Now, early November of '66 was a busy time. On the 6th, Lunar Orbiter 2
launched, to survey possible landing sites for the Apollo program. On the 8th,
the USAF launched its KH-4A surveillance satellite, and that week the Soviets
were assembling the first N1 heavy launcher for their own lunar program, but
were having problems. On the 11th, the Gemini 12 mission went up (which
conducted tethering experiments) with an Agena logistics ship as well. The
database online does not say when the mockup MOL re-entered, and the two were in
very close orbits, with only a three degree inclination difference at the same
altitude of 290 km, so even if the prototype Gemini B capsule ejected on ascent
to re-enter to test the new hatch that went through the heat shield, the MOL
mockup was likely still in orbit when Gemini 12 went up on the 11th. Gemini 12
was in orbit for almost four days, and Aldrin performed some EVA work as well.

Here's some other events in the Cold War during this period:
January: ICBM, Minuteman II, with improved accuracy, enters service.
February: Vietnam: Senate hearings on the Vietnam War chaired by Senator
Fulbright begin.
March 16: 10,000 Buddhists march in Saigon protesting U.S. support for corrupt
Ky regime.
March 25: Anti-Vietnam War rallies staged in seven United States and European
April 30: Chinese Cultural Revolution begins with Chou En-lai's call for
anti-bourgeois struggle.
June 2: Surveyor I makes perfect soft landing on moon.
December: Vietnam: U.S. forces number 362,000 in Vietnam.

January 27: Outer Space Treaty limits military uses of space, signed by the
United States,
U.S.S.R. and 60 other nations.
February 14: Treaty of Tlatelolco, signed in Mexico by all Latin American states
except Cuba, prohibits the introduction or manufacture of nuclear weapons.
June 5: Six-Day, Arab-Israeli War begins.
June 17: China explodes its first hydrogen bomb.
October 18: Soviet Venus IV probe lands on Venus.
December: Vietnam: U.S. forces number 485,000 in Vietnam.

I'm betting this was a little more than a 'mock-up'.

What I am wondering is how far along they got, if they actually built anything
or not. I'm also wondering where the plans to Skylab and MOL went off to, and
wondering why some private group isn't getting aholt of the engineering database
for Skylab to build a private space station on the cheap. I mean, it ought to be
easy to build a space station on 1970's technology levels, with Moore's Law and
everything. Hey Doug, what do you think?

A Titan III or IV ought to be able to put it in orbit, especially after you
replace all the old electronics with modern processors, cut the solar panels in
half and replace them with GAs/GAn panels at twice the efficiency, and use newer
alloys on the pressure hull.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 09:50:18 MDT