NASA’s Abandoned Plan To Carry Soviet Spacecraft In The Space Shuttle

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In 1991 NASA was still designing its Freedom space station, and with the recent opening up of the Soviet Union NASA began to investigate using the Soyuz as a return vehicle for the station. Due to complications resulting from Orbital mechanics this would require flying the Soyuz spacecraft *inside* the Space Shuttle payload bay.

I have to give a lot of credit to David Portree who researched this in the past and made it easy for me to find the sources I needed. This is his original article from 2015:
He also has a Patreon which is supporting him while he’s between jobs, I’m a supporter because he’s one of the best space historians out there :

Here’s a few other references for those who are interested:

Comments: 100
  1. Aaron Cawsey

    Weird thought. I found two conjoined Cadbury Mini Eggs and the first thing I thought of was Scott and 486958 Arrokoth (Ultimate Thule)

  2. HauntedPancake

    Gov: “We need a simple & cheap lifeboat”. NASA: “No Problem. Your Luna-orbiter should be ready in a few billion Dollars time”.

  3. Helium Road

    1:17 Penn State?

  4. Craig Rotay

    Congrats on 1M subs.

  5. aJamDonut

    1mil legend

  6. 5Andysalive

    Was this was planned – or thought about – before it became clear how expensive the shuttle was?

  7. Андрей Самодуров

    Вообще-то такой захват был бы актом оккупации иностранной территории.

  8. TheArklyte

    It’s official, NASA runs on James Bond plots…

  9. Jack Swanson

    “…the Russian #MirToo project…”

  10. Braden LeVois

    Congrats for reaching 1M subscribers!

  11. Rich Waight

    Super interesting bit of space history there! :) thanks

  12. GravitationalAssist

    During my first few stock Space Shuttle i wondered if Soyuz can fit in a Space Shuttle… Now there is a video about it!

  13. Grigalius

    heloo its me, the viewer here

  14. D1agram

    7:08 hue hue hue

  15. Buford ButtFish

    Isn’t this where Space Cowboys comes in?

  16. TheCobramsFief

    I’m Watching you Mr. Manley.

  17. Born Again Maker

    I never heard why they did not try using a Proton to lift the Soyuz into the lower inclination. Any info on that?

  18. Justin Walker

    Damn, I just learned that I’m too tall to be an astronaut.

  19. Al T

    Ok, so how long until we see a Союз intro? We have Space shuttle and starship, why not Soyuz?

  20. Craig L. Young

    Congratulations on 1M!

  21. March_Of_The_Titans Book

    Congrats on 1M!

  22. Green Axis Space Agency

    Congrats on 1 mil!!!!

  23. Perpetual SciFi

    Scott you videos are so interesting I have to skip the ads, cause I dont want to wait. Afterwards, I refresh and let the ads run. Thanks for the great content.

  24. Jack Dog

    These intros will slowly devolve to

  25. Stephen Irwin

    Once again Scott nailed it!

  26. Tom Gidden

    “They studied a lot of different options for this…” Figure 13 @ 1:50 so, they started up MacDraw one lunchtime? I think my 7yo does better sketches.

  27. Veronika, Questioning Things

    Congrats for the first M! ☺️

  28. Bruno Kunda

    It is like putting the apple charger into the android phone

  29. Ladco77

    That X-38 reminds me of the Dyna Soar.

  30. Adri 615

    1.000.000 subs congratulations :)

  31. Erlich Bachman

    Thank you for making this great content!

  32. Nathan L.

    @7:08 Rare sighting of giant Soviet space jellyfish

  33. 1147cc

    I still have a poster of the Space Station Freedom

  34. itsasin1969

    When in Los Angles come see the Space Shuttle Endeavour. It’s free.

  35. Cameron Bartlett

    Thank you Scott for sharing this fascinating bit of history! Cheers

  36. jwb 281

    Now that would’ve been cool.

  37. GrayKS

    Had all of these station plans fallen through, would space exploration have stalled, or would we have returned to the moon sooner?

  38. The Darth Knight

    Awesome video Scott! I really enjoy hearing more little known stories like this one. 🚀

  39. Air Command Rockets

    Congratulations on the 1 Million Subs! :)

  40. spacewater7

    You can’t hit the ‘like’ button when you’re p full screen. :D

  41. not sure

    you are my favorite bald guy from the internet…

  42. Dark Knighte Apologeticz

    I like science. That was cool. Yay rockets.

  43. 0imax

    We all know: NASA wanted to steal Salyut-7 :)

  44. Dyas Dark

    In soviet Russia project Alpha merged into Mir-2)

  45. Darren Marsh

    1:49 It’s a hitchhiker module with a heat shield.

  46. Eggbert08

    I can’t wait till we stop dicking around in low earth orbit and get to mars or the moon

  47. moosemaimer

    1:49 if you look closely you can see Bill & Bob screaming

  48. Nowhereman10

    Major oversight on your part, Scott. NASA had been looking at extending the Shuttle’s ability to stay on-orbit while docked to Freedom during that time period with vehicles like ARCV and HL-20 to supplement it. The two long poles in the tent were how far down the fuel cells could be throttled to without shutting them down completely to conserve reactants and how long the nitrogen-filled tires could remain properly inflated for. The studies indicated a Shuttle could last about three months on-orbit while docked to ISS and later in 1991, Endeavour was delivered with the equipment needed to for Extended Duration Orbiter (EDO) capability of up to one full month (sadly never used) and the heavier, older Columbia was modified in 1992 to be capable of 18 day EDO missions.
    The other, but somewhat easier to deal with issue was automating the orbiters so that they could land completely on their own (fire the drogue chute, lower landing gear) since pilots might be too debilitated after spending 90 days in freefall to land it safely.

  49. Space Activist Archive

    Did NASA ever go back and look at the concept of inflatable life boats that were being designed for the MOL program in the 1960s?

  50. Philip Kudrna

    As always, a very interesting video with surprising background information! Please keep doing the stuff you do!

  51. James Driscoll

    1M subscribers
    : Congratulations!

  52. Conall

    6:58, Look at that parachute wobble! I don’t know why it does that but it looks cool!

  53. ShelburneCountry

    1:29 why must the Shuttle return every 30 days? Is it due to the fuel it used, power requirements, or ????

  54. Widget

    America in the 1970s: *GIB MOAR FREEDOM*

  55. ламинат 09

    6:15 actually Soyuz can land on water in case of emergency

  56. purpleloco1

    Damn Scott. That was a really spectacular run down.

  57. Jonathan Alcaide

    Congrats on 1 million subs!

  58. FandersonUfo

    Absolutely fascinating as always sir. Thank you.

  59. BlueFrostedGlass

    Where’s the X-38?
    Scott Manley should cover this story :-)

  60. ME262MKI

    9:45 Chubby americans!, require a lot of space in the capsule

  61. Sir Billy Ritchie

    An American Soyuz wow you learn something new everyday thanks Scott

  62. Deep_Dive

    Switch on the auto captions, pure comedy!

  63. Krommandant

    Scott, I cannot stress enough how great and how essential a role you play in space journalism. You are doing an awesome job, keep at it! From Canada with love!

  64. jull1234

    Soyuz, Land Safe!

  65. Pelagic Siren

    From the title I thought this was going to be another story of light-fingered US spies making off with soviet hardware.

  66. Cyphi

    2:01 The were even thinking where can cosmonauts store hats!
    Save the Hats!

  67. stardolphin2

    I’ve sometimes wondered if it could, I never knew it had been seriously considered…

  68. V 14

    Loved that “50mm longer seat improvement” on Soyuz. A bit less torture for those fortunate enough to be small enough to fit in that original 2-seater. Thanks, Scot.

  69. cl4ster17

    Kerbal for size comparison

  70. Eric Smith

    5:20 in… Kerbals seem happy about this!

  71. Mark Henderson

    I miss the days when Russia and America space cooperation was at its highest, almost anything was possible.

  72. ICEMAN3rdID

    Finally went into the real reason for the space shuttle.

  73. Edwin Robert

    Jellyfish in spongebob: 7:08

  74. Sir Billy Ritchie

    What ever happen to the X-38 prototype where’s it at now if anyone knows tell me

  75. Sean McDonough

    7:10 – Is the parachute supposed to be jellyfishing like that?

  76. problemat1que

    1:23 – “Ima spread over here so I look bigger – wait, my arm is suddenly super heavy” XD

  77. steve1978ger

    1:52 – very space. so capsule. wow.

  78. paradigm respawn

    aaannnddd, Russia just happened to have an extra “Zvezda” module sitting around, which forms the Central Module of the ISS

  79. pentagramprime

    5:18 Scott measures everything relative to Kerbals.

  80. Hanz Cedric

    Effectively the plot in the Russian Film Salyut 7.

  81. manofsan

    “Carry Soviet spacecraft in the Space Shuttle” – wasn’t this part of the plot of Salyut-7?

  82. Jackalovski

    Soyuz TMA: Too Many Astronauts


    ..George h.w “BEWSCH” :)

  84. Daryl Good

    The ACRV is the most anti-Kerbal ship ever

  85. Anonymous Coward Insensitive Clod

    7:15 — Not sure if Soyuz or Jellyfish.

  86. NoName

    9:34 g in “ener *G* ia” is same as in word ” *G* ravity”

  87. Dark Guardian

    I remember some this in OMNI magazine…
    “By the Year 2000…”
    I hoped.
    I believed.
    I’ll be lucky to make a Vomit Comet trip. 🙁

  88. Mical

    I imagined this as the US just taking all of the Soviet’s spacecrafts back to Earth. Just like “you can’t win the space race if we don’t let you stay in space” lol

  89. Dandyslacs

    “8 seconds ago”
    okay *click*

  90. MrVipitis

    I thought this was about how the airforce used a Shuttle to bring some Soviet satellites to US Soil and investigate it

  91. talkpls

    Congrats on 1 million subs!

  92. Avida Dollards

    1 M subs !!!!!
    Let’s do a big party on the mun !

  93. Michael Denney

    Seriously, a life boat. This seems to put the nail in the coffin that Space Shuttle program was flawed.

  94. Zoltán Pósfai

    Project Matryoshka: Put somebody in a Soyuz, in a Shuttle and wrap it with the ISS.

  95. CYN3RGY

    Is anyone else getting bombarded by Neil Degras Tyson’s Masterclass ad anytime you watch a space video?

  96. PsychoLucario

    “And canada would provide a robotic arm.” and what a fine robotic arm its been

  97. The_Puzzle

    I love the logic behind “Titan 3C would be very expensive so let’s use the shuttle.”

  98. Theophrastus Bombastus

    3:20 I initially interpreted “95% of astronauts could fit” like they could fit most of the three astronauts but one had to stick his arm out the window.

  99. wallyhall

    Auto-subtitles: hallo, it’s skull manly here…

  100. Praveen neevarP

    1991: “hey, let’s use a Soyuz as an emergency return ship”
    2011 onwards: Soyuz is the only ship available to send humans to space itself.

Comments are closed.