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”.
“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.