February 4th, 1957; Moskow Polytechnic University.
As Wernher looked around the grand auditorium, thinking that it felt like only yesterday he were here, giving a lecture on the first three Proton rockets, two young female Kerbinians comes up to the podium giving him and apple, and telling him how much they enjoyed the presentation of the Bear-1 rocket – all the while looking wide-eyed as though they had just met a famous celebrity.
As the students all sit down, and become quiet, Wernher begins presentation.
“Greetings young students, again for some of you I can see, and welcome to another guest lecture to update you on our continued efforts at the Kerbinian Space Agency – to explore space and learn all we can about, well, everything really”.
“Today’s lecture will be about the further development of our Proton series, namely the two newest models, and we will end with a small surprise. Here you see the new rockets, compared to the old ones”.
“As you can see, the still get progressively bigger, and indeed the Proton-4 and Proton-5 can take payloads of 30 and 50 tonnes to low Earth orbit respectively”.
“The Proton-5 was actually developed first of the two, as we have a large, and rather heavy, payload in the works. Though not nearly as heavy as the Bear-1 payload, it utilize the same configuration of four F-1 engines on its first stage producing an initial 27 MN of thrust, and indeed continues with the same single F-1 configuration of the second stage. It is consisting of smaller stages though, and no boosters”.
“At the very top, four brand new RD-0210 engines propel the payload fully into LEO. The fins are a newly added design choice, given the price of loosing such a rocket and payload, coupled with recent experiences regarding rocket stability during the early part of the first stage launch”.
As a student raises his hand and is acknowledged, he asks a question: “I’ve heard it that the Illyriens have a rocket that can lift 50 % more than the Proton-5, aren’t they ahead of us then?”.
“Of course not”, Wernher answers with a puzzled look, “that rocket is highly experimental with multiple sets of boosters – even though it has 50 % more lift capacity than our largest series-produced launcher, our experimental Bear-1 had 75 % more lifting capacity than theirs – and they use an obscene amount of main engines as well to do only a little more than half of what we can do with 8 engines and that includes the ones in our, only single set of, boosters”.
“Speaking of boosters, let’s turn to the Proton-4, a design where we consciously decided to keep it at a single F-1 engine in the first stage, necessitating a set of boosters with four E-1 engines, of the same type as used on the Proton-3. Unlike the boosters of the previous Proton-rockets, these are well designed, with rockets to ensure clean separation of the boosters after they’re expended – we’re even considering putting parachutes on them, to re-use them, or developing larger solid fuel boosters that may be cheaper in the long run”.
“The second stage of the Proton-4 obviously doesn’t need an F-1 engine, that would have been quite a waste, instead if has two LR105 engines, with the third stage putting the payload fully into orbit having a single LR105”.
As Wernher finishes the presentation of the Proton-4, another student ventures to raise his hand with a question, and after being prompted to proceed by Wernher, asks: “But why multiple stages sir? Why not just use an F-1 and all the fuel for that?”.
“Excellent question, and we could do that. It’s just not very efficient, and we would be able to launch less weight. The engine efficiency changes through the atmosphere, so we need different types of engines at launch and in space. And we could do with two stages, indeed earlier Proton-rockets still do, but once we get to the levels we are at, three is simply more efficient and flexible”.
“Remember that most of our engines can only ignite once – so it’s a matter of carefully timing the lengths of the engine burns to get into the correct orbit. Three engines like this also gives us a bit more leeway in the flight path”.
“Now, as we’re nearing the end, I believe I promised a surprise. Recent gains in technology and other developments are making us take a look at the early Proton-series rockets. Specifically we’re looking at an A-variant of Proton-1, that at least doubles the payload capacity without increasing the size – as well as an A-variant of Proton-2 and Proton-3 that replaces the boosters, while maintaining their lift capacity”.
“Your professors will all be handing you an assignment varying depending upon your classes, and will judge the technical merits on your projects along with KSA engineers. The winners will have a 3-year intern-ship at the KSA upon their graduation. And remember to look at the course-work, which includes not only our latest kerosene based rockets but also a few white papers on the initial liquid Hydrogen engines we’re currently developing. Please don’t try to use UDMH engines in the first two stages though, we prefer our employees live and healthy at the KSA”.
With that bit of news, the students completely forget about any questions they may still have had, and start talking amongst themselves eagerly about the sudden shift in their future prospects.