Space Simulator  1.0.9
space flight simulator

a bit of history won't hurt...

Astronautics is the theory and science of navigation beyond's earth's atmosphere. As with its related sciencie aeronautics, the restrictions of mass, temperatures, forces, etc. require of complex analysis to solve the practicalities of space-travel.

Early astronautics was purely theoretical. Althought its principles were laid down by Isaac Newton in the 17th Century, it wasn't until the beginning of the 20th Century that Konstantun Tsiolkovsky derived his most famous equation, the principle of a mass-expelling (rocket) based propulsion. With his formula, it was possible to link the rocket's mass, its total propellant, its non-propellant mass, and both the exhaust and final rocket's velocity.

It wasn't until the 1920s when American Robert Goddard first developed a serious viable way to generate the rocket exhaust velocities required to at least consider astronautics.

At the end of WWII, Goddart's design were a fundation for the first practical rocket: the German A-4 (V2).

Until then, liquid fuel rockets were more of a scientific curiosity, or some way to test exotic experiments on combustion. The German Rocket A-4 changed all that, becoming the first man-made object to exit into space. With a montruous (at the time) 25 tons of thrust, it was able to generate enough lift to lift off the ground a Panzer II, or to send an American willys Jeep to space and back 300 kms away. This engienering wonder was mostly useless to alter the outcome of the war, but its performance and capabilities were well noted for both American and USSR's engineers.

With the American success of the Manhattan project in building the first atomic bombs, it was suddenly clear that the combination of the -relative- huge destructive power of the weapon plus the ability of a A-4 (V2) to launch that device well beyond enemy lines, that would be a war-winning weapon. A race in both bands ensued to solve the tremendus difficulties of fitting nuclear weapons small enough to fit in the limited cargo available of the era's ballistic missiles.

In the 50s, most of those ballistic missiles were more or less copies of the original V-2 team design. A game changer came with the discovery by USA (and later copied in USSR) of an even new larger and more destructive weapon (the Teller-Ullam's Hydrogen Bomb). The new device didn't weigh hundreds of kilos, but tons. The first design was as heavy as buildings topping 10-20 metric tons. As with the A-Bomb both countries raced again to solve the problems of fitting the hugely heavy H-Bomb in an intercontinental ballistic missile.

A curious event happened then: due to the inability of Soviet designers to reduce the weight of their hydrogen bomb, the department of Soviet defense drafted a requirement for a rocket so huge that it could lift 5 metric tons (the lighter Soviet H-bomb at the time) to US. The requirements were so ambitious that only one rocket bureau's proposal was submitted (and aproved): Sergei Korolev's huge Semiorka R-7 ICMB. On the other side of the world, designer made efforts to miniaturize hydrogen bombs so the request for the rocket designs were substantially smaller. It was obvious that with such a large rocket as Korolev R7 it was possible to send artificial objects into quasi-permanent orbits. Even more, it was possible to send a -rather limited- 'spacecraft' into orbit with some lone cosmonaut inside. And so it happened, in 1956 the Soviet Union succeeded in being the first nation to send a man into space, but not really completing an entire orbit and not even landing with its own spacecraft.

Due to the limited cargo of the American rocket designs, it tried to save face by sending an astronaut into an even smaller capsule, for a ballistic 20 minutes 'jump' not unlike the flights that Virgin Galactic flight.

Having been matched into putting humans in space both the USA and USSR were racing against each other into another series of 'firsts'. Some meaningful as the first two-people crew, first entire day in orbit, first three people crew, etc..

By then the cargo capacities of the rockets of both countries have increased hugely, The 60s was the decade of big space exploration projects, first by LUNA series (first man-made object to escape Earth's gravity), then MARS, VENERA series, PIONEER and later VOYAGER.

Human exploration was also in both's countries top priorities. The obvious new goal of landing men on the moon was first studied in the late 50s' and later made official in the early 60s' with Kennedy historical speech. A race to the moon ensued. While the Russians never publicly admited attempting to beat the americans into landing a man on the moon, they put a proportionally larger percentage of GNP onto the -then- secret project.

Both countries quickly realizing that any lunar landing attempt would involve spacecraft-to-spacecraft docking (rendezvous) the engineering teams raced to reseach, develop, and test in-orbit dual spacecraft rendezvous.

For that series, the americans designed an interim program (Program Gemini) using the new series of Atlas ICBM boosters. The Gemini Spacecraft was america's first 'real' spacecraft with orientation and translation thrusters, and some crude form of docking. It had cramped space for two (preferably small) astronauts. Russia, on the other hand, stuck loyal to its trusted R7 booster, by then obsolete as a weapon but a very reliable space booster. A new spacecraft was designed -the Soyuz - with docking capabilities, with space for 2-3 astronauts, and rotation/translataion thrust.

Finally, at the end of the decade, another real engineering wonder: the Saturn V with its associated hardware Gruman's Moon Lander and Boeing Command and Service module performed flawessly the goal of landing a man on the moon and bringing them safely back to Earth. At the very same time, the Russians were experiencing all sorts of troubles, explosions, and disaster with their boosters, rockets, and spacecraft.

Ironically, the Russian decision of sticking to one rocket (R7) and one spacecraft (Soyuz) have eventually paid off. By far the most successful of the rockets, and reliable of spacecrafts, Soyuz capsules are even today routinely launched off modern versions of R7 on the way to the ISS. America's decision to focus on a new -unneededly reusable- Space Shuttle were finally grounded when Columbia Shuttle desintegrated upon reentry, showing a major -not really fixable- design flaw.

Today with the view more focused on profitability and reliability, a new breed of rockets are being designed. Some even by private companies (SpaceX), others by Europe (Ariane), and recently by the Chinese Space Agency.