June 13th, 1959; Satish Dwahan launch site.
“Welcome back to Satish ladies and gentlemen – it fells like you just left here”, Gene began the conference with the best smile he could muster.
“Today we’re launching a big one. One that was actually ready a week ago, but which we’ve had on hold because we didn’t want its mission to possibly interfere with the Venus window, forcing us to run two missions actively at the same time”.
“This one has been held unannounced so far, only appearing very briefly in some papers as the ‘KLS’. Well today I am proud to unveil the Kerbinian Lunar Station. Ok, I admit, I won’t actually be unveiling the station – just the rocket we’re about to launch it on top of – though I promise to forward you the picture of the station once it’s been placed into orbit”.
“So, without further words, shall we go watch the launch, and then come back for questions later?”, Gene ended his speech, indicating that they really had to go see the launch now, or they’d miss it.
“I hope you all enjoyed the launch, and I know that a couple of you have a few questions”, Gene began after the successful launch, noting the reporter from the Kerbinian Technical Journal being the most eager.
“What were those engines Gene? And also, what didn’t we see of engines?”, the reporter asked, clearly with a technical mindset.
“Well, the 4 main engines are a new, more powerful variant of the F-1 engines, and the boosters you of course know. But from there on up, it’s pure Hydrolox for efficiency. The second stage takes a page out of the, generally crude, Illyrien design manual of pure numbers as it consists of a full 16 of our LR-87 engines”.
“The third stage has 4 of our new J-2 engines, which is re-startable, and allows us to make a much more circular orbit as well as de-orbit the third stage after orbital insertion of the payload. The last stage pushing the station to the Moon and inserting it into a low orbit has two of the same J-2 engines – although here we were required to modify the decouplers, and basically add a second one* due to the engine shape – again the re-start ability allowed us to make the intercept burn, circularize and de-orbit the booster stage onto the Moon”.
At the wealth of technical details, the reporter becomes very busy noting it all down, while another indicates a question.
“Were there people on the station? You didn’t mention that, but it seems like there ought to be on a station?”, the reporter from the Kerbinian Gazette asked.
“No, the station is unmanned, but in about 1½ months, we are sending up the first crew, to study the Moon from orbit for about a month. Later the station may be expanded to a midway point for landing missions, but that will require a lot more infrastructure and expansions for the station”.
As no more questions were forthcoming, Gene simply promised to send them all a picture of the station taken by the de-orbiting booster stage as it lesf the station to crash into the Moon.
A week later, Gene sends the photo to the reporters, noting the nice and nearly equatorial 66 by 72 km orbit.
*: 90 % of the time it seems the J-2 stick to the fairing/interstage base no matter what. Only solution seems to be a regular decoupler on the J-2/above tank and then the base onto that – because the decouplers seem to decouple just fine *shrug*.