Soviet ingenuity at its finest!
June 28, 2016 10:14 AM   Subscribe

 
In Soviet Russia, we have the safest, most effective and long running means of putting humans into low earth orbit! Here, have this complimentary photograph of your American flag on the Moon, while we taxi you to orbit.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:25 AM on June 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


"Hang on, Dimitry... what if the ignition source is some kind of... I don't know... large pencil?"
posted by Behemoth at 10:25 AM on June 28, 2016


This makes the Russian space program feel eerily similar to the Kerbal space program.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:28 AM on June 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


Again with the Pencil Myth.
posted by Dr. Twist at 10:41 AM on June 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


And here we see the ignition device being assembled
posted by fallingbadgers at 10:52 AM on June 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


So if they made it to the moon, where would they find Birch trees to make the giant matches with? (Just kidding. I realize that they probably planned to use something like the hypergolic Ascent Propulsion System NASA used.)

Here is a detailed description of the Apollo engine's ignition. Sounds more complicated, but there is undoubtedly a lot the Popular Mechanics article leaves out about the Russian system. The actual igniters for the Apollo sound pretty simple: a capsule containing two chemicals that combust when mixed.
posted by TedW at 11:01 AM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Everyone knows that Soviet engineers were all in the pocket of Big Birch!
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:06 AM on June 28, 2016


[One deleted; sorry, we've had Russian members mention that the "in Soviet Russia" jokes have gotten old and maybe could we lay off them.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:07 AM on June 28, 2016 [11 favorites]


Birch? Should be able to launch even when it's raining.
posted by clawsoon at 11:19 AM on June 28, 2016


Behold the principle of "don't fuck with things that are working."
posted by Bringer Tom at 11:33 AM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Again with the Pencil Myth.

The article specifically refers to it as a myth, it doesn't try to pass it off as true.
posted by Hot Pastrami! at 11:41 AM on June 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


I love the feedback of the system. No way for the system to not fire while reporting it has fired.
posted by Mitheral at 12:34 PM on June 28, 2016


Did they get this idea from Vern Estes, or did Vern Estes get this idea from them?
posted by lagomorphius at 1:30 PM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


This may be the only remaining use of wood in modern spacecraft, but the Chinese were using oak ablative nosecones as recently as 2005 in their FSW vehicles.

And of course, Bob Shaw (who i must re-read, it's been far too long) wrote The Wooden Spaceships...
posted by Devonian at 1:54 PM on June 28, 2016


Reminds me of a long-ago piece in The Onion: "Russian Scientists Announce Six-Month Delay In Carving New Space Station"

A second Onion article, for balance: "NASA Announces Bold Plan To Still Exist By 2045"
posted by mosk at 2:09 PM on June 28, 2016


"This may be the only remaining use of wood in modern spacecraft[...]."

Au contraire, here's an excellent post from screamandfly.com:

http://www.screamandfly.com/archive/index.php/t-25725.html

MTCM
01-01-2003, 04:00 PM
Concerning the strength of wood...........


A Trident II D5 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile weighs approx. 130,000 lbs. It is lifted and moved from place to place vertically when necessary. The lifting fixture is attached to a structure known as the Nose Fairing. The fairing is made from laminated Sitka Spruce less than 1/4" thick. The wood core structure of the fairing is covered with a substance similiar to gel-coat. No question about the strength of wood here. There have been nearly 100 test launches of these missiles and not one single failure. The whole structure is subjected to extreme forces during launch impulse and subsequent hydrodynamic as well as aerodynamic peturbations. Now if we could only figure out how to get the wood to not be hygroscopic we would have it all.
posted by jet_silver at 6:52 PM on June 28, 2016


OK, to be fair, a pyro charge at the top ignites the engines, not the wood. The wood is just a cheap support that burns away cleanly once the engine fires. A burnable support sounds a lot more reasonable to me than "hurf durf giant matches", but maybe I'm being pedantic.
posted by Popular Ethics at 12:19 PM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


The wood part of regular matches is also basically a "burnable support"! The actual ignition happens because of the chemicals in the head, exactly like the charges in the PZU!
posted by Small Dollar at 2:08 PM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Now if we could only figure out how to get the wood to not be hygroscopic we would have it all.

It's very interesting to compare wood and steel. Wood is about a tenth the density of steel and has about a tenth of its tensile and compressive strength, but wood and steel cost about the same per pound and so have about the same strength per weight and expense.

But for many situations steel is too strong. If you try to replace a 2x4 in standard construction with steel, you end up with something so thin it will buckle instead of supporting the load. Wood is amenable to a far more interesting array of fastening techniques, some of which are stronger than the wood itself. Thin sheets of wood are stiffer and tougher than steel sheets of the same theoretical tensile strength.

This is why wood is still the material of choice for small building and furniture construction. At small, which is to say human-sized, scale, it is superior to metal in almost every practical way. And while its affinity for water and susceptibility to termites and fire are problems, it is the affinity for water that makes it possible to create adhesive joints stronger than the original material. You can do that with steel by welding, but not if it's thin enough to have appropriate strength for small (say, single family dwelling) projects.

There is a similar problem with concrete being far stronger than it needs to be and therefore much more expensive than it should be for small projects. Steel and concrete are great materials for dams and bridges and skyscrapers but pretty much suck for things as small as homes. And if you're wondering why homes are still almost entirely made of wood in 2016 that's why.
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:35 PM on June 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


Small Dollar: "The wood part of regular matches is also basically a "burnable support"! The actual ignition happens because of the chemicals in the head, exactly like the charges in the PZU!"

Yes, but the fire you use when you use a match is generally the burning wood, not the burning chemical tip. The chemical tip ignites the wood, and then you use the burning wood to light whatever it is you're planning to light.
posted by Bugbread at 4:18 PM on July 4, 2016


« Older The unintended consequences of tenure timeouts   |   Of course, none of them compare to "Big... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments