Moulding new minds

September 3rd, 1956; Moskow Polytechnic University.

As Wernher surveyed the grand auditorium, filled with young students of the technical sciences, he thought back to when he himself was in school, and just how lucky these young people were – not only would they see the beginning of the space age, but they had far better tools to accomplish their tasks than he had back then.

As the students all quieted down, Wernher began his lecture.

“Welcome to the first semester of your graduate courses, I am Wernher Kerman, lead designer at the Kerbinia Space Agency, and I’ve been invited by your professor to give a few words on our current series of launchers – the Proton series as you can see here”.

Proton rocket series. Proton-1 (left), trough to Proton-5 (right).

“We begin with the Proton-1, our first rocket designed from the onset to be a series produced launcher. It was developed back when we making a new custom launcher for every launch, intended for our early orbital tests, but it turned out so stable that not only did it take all our early manned missions up, it also started taking up all our small payloads to orbit – it’s simply so easy to get up there, cheap and fast to build”.

“The first stage consists of two RD-107 clusters, with the second stage being a single LR-105 – both of which burns kerosene and liquid oxygen. And that’s it, 7 minutes and 3,5 tonnes are in low Earth orbit”.

“The Proton-1 first flew around early March 1954, so it’s seen 2½ years of service by now – and we’re still using it – indeed we are launching three payloads on the Proton-1 this quarter alone”.

“Next up it the Proton-2, which came up due to the LRP-series being very complicated and having to undergo minor adjustments all the time. We concluded that we had need of a stable launcher for most of our missions – indeed the Proton-2 have carried every lunar probe since the LRP-series was discontinued, as well as out interplanetary probes, our geostationary communications satellites and all our 2-man training vessels”.

“Entering only its 10th month of operation, it has proven a mainstay in our launch fleet beyond any doubt”.

“Design-wise, is utilizes the same types of engines as the Proton-1, but in greater numbers, as well as stages. The main stage has a full four of RD-107 engine clusters, not counting the two clusters on the boosters. Indeed, it has 3 times the thrust of its predecessor. It has more stages as well, with the second stage having no less than four LR-105 engines, with the third stage having a single LR-105 engine, and it takes almost twice as long as the Proton-1 to get to its final orbit”.

As Wernher looks around he sees a raised hand, prompting a question.

“Sir, they seem very much alike, yet at the same time have a lot of differences, why is that?” the student asked.

“The answer is quite simple, they are alike because they are both based on the exact same technology, coming to life at the same time, yet they have different purposes. Proton-1 is simple and sleek, to get small things up, while the Proton-2 is designed to get the biggest payload into orbit with the available technology – only further developments allows more, as we can see from the next rocket – the Proton-3”.

“The Proton-3 came to pass with the development of a new engine, the E-1. And unlike the other rockets, this one uses the same engine throughout, for simplicity and efficiency. It takes everything up that the Proton-2 can’t take, including our manned Lunar fly-bys and our Lunar Lander probe. Quite simply it’s the biggest we can make currently, and as much as the Kosmodrone launchpad can handle at this time – though the Satish one is upgraded to handle bigger rockets, and the Kosmodrone eventually will as well – we just haven’t had the need yet for putting anything bigger that 19 tonnes into orbit”.

“The main stage boasts 3 E-1 engines, not counting the two on the boosters, with the second stage having a single E-1 engine, putting the entire stack into orbit in just around 8 minutes. R&D are looking at possibly beginning the design of a Proton-4 to possibly double the payload of the Proton-3, but we are not yet at a point where we need it yet”.

“Now, are there any last questions before I hand you back to your professors and go back to making rockets?”, Wernher asked at the end of his lecture, seeing a single hand pop up.

“Sir, I’ve read that the Illyriens claim to have a much better engine as their main one, the RD-253, is it better?” came the question.

“No, it’s a worse engine, and for several reasons. Yes, it is more efficient, but we’re working on a modified version of the E-1 that will close most of the efficiency gap. That said, the E-1 has more than 15 % additional thrust, which is something we need, so we don’t carry around more engines for no reason. That was one of the main reasons for choosing it. Further it uses Kerosene and liquid oxygen as fuel for the atmospheric stages as all the other Proton-launchers do. Using the same fuel mix is simply the most economic thing”.

“But all the engines on the upper stages use the same UDMH and NTO as the 253 uses, so why not use it for the entire rocket”, the student couldn’t help but argue. Clearly he had been enamoured by the Illyrien propaganda.

“Very simply, because we care about your health. UDMH can be burned fine in space with little risk, but we don’t like burning it in the atmosphere because it’s toxic and extremely unhealthy to kerbals. The Illyriens may not care about the health and safety of kerbals in general, but we actually do”.

With the presentation over, and the misguided youth told the truth of the world, Wernher bid the professors goodbye and started heading back toward the space centre, considering what the future held, and how in the world those young pups he just spoke to would ever be able to continue the space programme.


12 thoughts on “Moulding new minds

  1. 2½ years in service is quite impressive. Do you really still use that one?

    Why not replace the RD-107’s with H-1/RS-27s? They are the same tech as the E-1s and a bit better.. On paper anyways.

    Funny how you are using US engines, while I prefer the Soviet ones 🙂

    Nothing wrong with carrying multiple engines.. though 12 seems the limit that I can add to the mainstage of a single rocket 🙂

    Very nice post, but that insult.. oh I am going to have to throw that right back 😉


    • Yep, still use it – there are posts coming with launches carried by it. Anything less than 3,5T to LEO I just slap it on – it’s fast to build and cheap as ….. And why replace the engine? It works for what I use it for? And that would make it no longer a Proton-1 anyway?

      Even shorter: Why mess with success?


        • Yeah, I guess starting a Proton-1a series might be an idea to be able to carry that little extra to orbit – I just hadn’t planned on using it for this long! The Proton-series was just supposed to be the initial one, and I should have swapped to my Kosmos-series by now (yes, the first 4 series are all named).

          I’m starting to worry that I’m stuck in all the “little” missions, and that you’re way too far ahead of me on the bigger scale actually :-/

          But yeah, Soyuz is doing 5,5T to LEO still, so me being stuck at the Proton-1 and its 3,5T isn’t all that unrealistic 😛


        • lol, yeah we are a wee bit ahead on the tech curve 🙂

          The bigger scale? It would seem that I invested more heavily in upgrades early, giving a tech lead. Not sure how much though. At this time in the game, have a heavylifter, other than that, arent we about equal in what we have done? I think you are ahead in crewed flight, since I have not done that since the Moon flyby.


        • Which is a bit odd, because I really felt like I were using too much money upgrading :-/

          I have been scraping the bottom of the barrel a few times almost. After my 1957-planning, I’m down low again…. This thing is wreaking havoc with the Kerbinian economy! I need to discover gold somewhere easily mine-able 0:-)


  2. I have been looking into it more. Aerozine/NTO has a density of 1.189, which is better than UDMH/NTO (1.189) and Kerosene/Ox (1.027).

    Furthermore, especially at the main stage, you can use a very light structure type to limit weight. I usually use ballon there, it weighs only about 1/8ths and at upper stages, I use ServiceModule

    Finally, there does not see to be any reason to have less than 100% utilization of all tanks.

    You should be able to cut on structural mass, a fair deal

    I think I will comment on all of this in my Ze Wunder post.


    • Well what density is that? Mass per volume? Or is it energy density? Does it take into account variable efficiency at various altitudes as well as nozzle types? (basically ISP and fuel consumption rate as it is in KSP).

      Another reason I’m still using the engines/fuel I am is that I can use the light tanks 🙂 But my next time in KSP will likely look at -A variants of my Proton-series (then we’ll see if I get more letters than the Enterprise).

      And there is one reason to not go for full utilization of tanks. If I stick a 6T payload on my 14T lifter, I can reduce the utilization of the main stage down to the appropriate total dV – and thus save a bunch of fuel. So it’s a useful feature if you, like me, have switched to only using standardized lifters.


      • I actually did the opposite in a test vehicle. I added more fuel to weight the rocket down to allow for a safe launch 🙂 IMHO, the only way to fully test my Mars lander code was to try to land on Earth, so I will be doing that later. 🙂

        Densite as, mass per volume. I am not entirely sure how to calculate the energy density. The efficiency of engines, though, I think is a seperate issues from this.

        I have found, that when the engine ISP increases, the rockets can be smaller, which then require even less fuel. A bit back, the introduction of a higher ISP engine cause my rocket to shrink by 40+% pretty nice 🙂 … or you can add more dV 😉


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