May 9th, 1958, Baikonur Kosmodrone.
Today we finally adjusted our Venus probe into a decent polar orbit to conduct mapping of the planet. It was always in a polar orbit, since that was how the intercept was planned – but after braking to get into a highly elliptical orbit, our flight engineers proclaimed that we would need an amount of fuel equal to what the rocket started out with to get a proper orbit.
Instead, they planned a new time for launching the lander. As the probe neared, it spun up in order to ensure the landers stability by spin-stabilization. At the proper time, it ejected as planned, although the separator did explode due to the solid boosters exhaust.
The probe aimed for the dark side of the planet, to mitigate the temperature of the planet – however not even 10 kilometres into the atmosphere, everything including the massive heat-shield exploded – without any alarms from the temperature gauges though – the cause is thus unknown (we had considered heat, but none of the alarms went off).
We thus consider the contracts for landing and gathering science there to be null and void, although the lawyers are still fighting over this*.
After talking to Wernher, Bill and Bob this morning though, they went to the controllers, and suddenly we could just barely get it into orbit – using the entire 50 % reserve, as well as all the manoeuvring thrusters.
We thus expect our mapping of the planet to be completed on time, at least, and have a stable satellite in orbit (with spare antennae).
In other news, April saw both another Orbiter-3 mission, followed up upon its return by our second crew rotating into Kerlab. We still have to bring fuel for the fuel cells, but we are looking into more permanent replacements as our science division progresses. These will likely not be incorporated into the Kerlab, but will have to wait for its replacement. The second Kerlab crew is expected to return by the end of May.
The Orbiter-3 and Kerlab missions are becoming routine, and we are currently making plans to have these moved entirely here to Baikonur, and allow the Satish site to focus on things beyond LEO.
*: Cost a bundle extra to cancel the contracts, lesson learned that not all contracts given are possible. It was a tiny probe (depicted in the launch) with a massive lunar-rated heat-shield. Everything went boom at the same time, less than 10 km into the atmosphere (this is aero-braking altitude as well, so the boom was rather unexpected – if anything, it was expected that the chutes would go, or a slow heating up until exloding happened). Either it’s not possible, or the entire thing was bugged (it did require me around 20k dV to circularize initially, but the day after the numbers were more manageable).