Travelling in green

August 19th, 1958, Baikonur Kosmodrone.

“Greetings everyone, and welcome to Baikonur. I know it’s been a while since you have all been here to see a launch, due to the focus on LEO from this site – so you often observe exciting new launches from Satish”.

“But today that is in for a change. As you can see, today I am not alone on the podium, with me to usher in yet another groundbreaking era in space launches in Greene Kerman, the director of the International Kerbinian Environmental Agency, Greene?”.

“Thank you Gene. Yes, today we are launching the rocket you can see on the pad in the background”.

Earth MapSat-2 on the Baikonur launchpad.

“This rocket represents several steps forward. Firstly, the increased resolution of the mapping satellite will give us better knowledge of the Earth, but it is so precise that we can use it to track ships and pollution at sea – in order to find and catch those opportunistic kapitalists who would pollute our dear planet, Gene?”.

“Thank you Greene. Now to launch this fine project we could have taken any existing launcher, but given the nature of the launch, it will debut our new environmentally friendly Proton-1a. You, you heard me right, an environmentally friendly launch vehicle. To explain how we managed that, I’ll turn you over to Wernher”.

“Thank you Gene, well the process is rather simple. Firstly both the first and second stages are Hydrolox engines – so the only fuel they’re burning is Hydrogen and Oxygen – essentially it’s spewing water out. We do sadly not have Hydrolox separatrons, but are looking into that – so it does unfortunately pollute very slightly”.

“As always, we’re also recovering, and re-using, the first stage – and are looking into the possibility of doing so with the second stage as well – both for the environment as well as limiting the amount of orbital debris, that especially the Illyriens seems to leave a lot of”.

“The upper stage do have a non-Hydrolox fuel, but that is only used in space. All in all, IKEA are quite impressed with our concept, and we’re planning to see how much of our regular launches can be moved to this new concept, Gene?”.

“Thank you Wernher. In other news, Valentina Kerman have transmitted a picture of her ship set down in the Lunar Seas. She is already on her way back, and while the lower section of the lander unfortunately tipped over when she launched, it is still intact with enough power generation and communications capacity that we can gather data from it in the long term”.

Lunar-2 lander, landed in the Lunar Seas (no water here).

“Well ladies and gentlemen, I that was it for today. Now we will all answer some questions, before the launch in 42 minutes”.


Later, in Gene’s office, after the launch, Gene and Wernher is meeting with a couple of officials from the Ministry of Information and Truth.

“And you’re sure no one suspects Director Kerman?”

“Yes, as both Wernher and I have explained, not even the Director of IKEA knows that the mapping satellite also has a system to gather further signals intelligence on the Illyriens. I still think we should have used the cover of it being to triangulate ship transmissions though – would have worked better”.

“Yes, well, the Ministry does not think so”, the men clad in black suits said knowingly, as they left Gene’s office”.

Return to the Moon

August 12th, 1958; Satish Dwahan.

Outside the Satish Dwahan launch site, Gene Kerman is standing on a podium, talking to the assembled reporters.

“Welcome everyone, for a special occasion here at the KSA. For the past year you’ve heard almost nothing beyond us building and sending up shorter missions around the Earth. Well, today I’m proud to announce that with the Kosmodrone finally being able to take over all things related to LEO, Satish have gone back to a more outward orientation”.

“You all reported the Mars launch earlier this month, but at that time, the rocket we’re launching today was already well under way. And no, this is not some probe to an exotic new location – though it is more back to exploration, it is also something we’ve done before. Today, Valentina Kerman is launching upon a new rocket, setting course for the Moon”.

While not a standardised rocket at this point, the Lunar-2 is much more thought through than the original Bear-1, and will likely see several launches towards the Moon before retirement – although the launcher capable of putting an impressive 150 tonnes into orbit may be continued”.

“Without further comment, I suggest we go see the launch, because they’re not waiting for us – so if you’re not all in place to take pictures, you’ll all miss it” Gene said, smiling.

At that comment, any questions that the reporters may have had were immediately quelled, to go see the launch.

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As the launch were over, several of Wernhers engineers were forced to answer technical questions from the reporters – including the revolutionary use of massive solid rocket boosters to help the massive vessel get off the ground, as opposed to doubling the engine numbers. As the reporters explained, only four F-1 engines were needed in the first stage, with the 8 boosters, providing the majority of the initial thrust actually.

No borders in space

August 8th, 1958; Baikonur Kosmodrone, Genes office.

Gene: “So Wernher, I hear the Ministry gave your people a hard time when you got back from the conference?”

Wernher: “Yes, the Ministry are a strange bunch. They didn’t mind the ideas for automated launches that we got from the Illyriens, but that we pointed out how our interstages have always been done, it is wrong?”

Gene: “I don’t get it either, we know the Illyriens have our designs anyway – so they’ve had access to the solution to their problem for years – apparently no one bothered checking.”

Wernher: “True, we also have some automation, but haven’t done much in that area lately. I suppose we should start looking into it? At least for our most common launches?”

Gene: “Possibly, though we may end up tailoring it to the newer series of rockets – little sense in doing it for things we’re not planning to use much anyway.”

Wernher: “True, but it won’t be in August – we’re looking at a handful of launches at least so for, so it’ll be a busy month. We may want to do the automation soon for the Proton-3 though – we’re sending up a lot of those.”

Gene: “True, but that one’s complicated due to the workings of the boosters, is it not?”

Wernher: “Yes, but if the Proton-1a is a mark of things to go, we may evolve a Proton-3a as well, that is more easily automated – or a Proton-2a may be enough, given the capacity increase of the Proton-1a over the Proton-1?”

Gene: “We’ll see. How about the Illyrien using Hydrolox engines now?”

Wernher: “Well, we’ve been using them for a while – ever since the Venus-3. And we do also have the J-2 plans, and have had them for a while – we’ve just not bothered prototyping it yet. But if you can spare the cash, it might be worth it to get a powerful engine capable of re-starting?”

Gene: “I’ll see about finding them Wernher. See you later.”

Who designed this?

December 25th, 1957; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

Gene was sitting at his desk, with Wernher and Bill in front of him, holding a smaller than usual engineering meeting.

“How could you make a mistake like this? The mistakes that are usually made are excusable, but this?”, Gene told them in a voice as calm as he could muster.

“Planned burn times that in total are nearly twice the time it usually takes to get a rocket into orbit – how could that even pass the initial design specs?”, Gene continued.

“If this continues we might as well close the program and leave space to the blasted Illyriens! We’re lucky that once again, our emergency procedures worked – it sometimes seems the only thing that works on a consistent basis – perhaps we should leave them out and have the engineers focus on the rockets instead?”, Gene went on, not allowing neither Bill, nor Wernher, to say anything.

“It’s almost fitting the scientist on Kerlab panicked, because he’d have had to take the emergency pod back now anyway. You are both dismissed, as I assume you have to go re-design the Proton-4 completely.”, Gene ended the conversation, making it clear that the two were to leave the office.

As they left, Gene leaned back, and began pondering the coming year. Perhaps after the station was operational and working, they should look at some more probes? There had to be some launch windows coming up soon.

Or perhaps a return to the Moon? That might lift spirits as well?



Year-end status:

About 1000 science still left, to be spent soon – making 2.289/day – all things costing less than 160 has been researched by now, I think I’ll be taking most nodes in part because.

Two operational VABs, with 14 and 9 BP/s respectively, but only about 47k funds to spend.

StageRecovery added (DR 3000 +500 per year until 5000) and Hab multiplier set to 4.

Moulding newer minds

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”.

Proton series of rockets, starting with Proton-1 on the left going up to Proton-5 on the right.

“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.

Science Bear fruit

End of January, 1957; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

As Gene Kerman leaves the podium after explaining that the press conference was called due to the unfounded Illyrien claims that the recent landing on the Moon was a completely premature thing, that was not tested at all, and needlessly endangered Jebediah – he hands things over to Wernher von Kerman to explain the technical details of the mission.

“As you can see from this initial image, the Bear-1 was truly a massive rocket. Here it is compared to a Proton-1, which we still use this day to put small payloads, and single kerbonaut pods, into low earth orbit.”

Bear-1 scale
Proton-1 launcher next to the full Bear-1 rocket.

“As you can see, the Proton-1 is smaller than just the boosters of Bear-1, but moving beyond this, I will now go through the mission to explain why every aspect was well known and tested already. To make things more simple, I will be going through the mission backwards.”

“The last step is the return from the Moon, something that Valentina had accomplished on a previous mission. Knowing how much fuel it takes to make orbit, also lets us know how much fuel we needed to get back – so the return was already tested. Incidentally the command module turned out to have way too much fuel, as the return burn was planned taking the weight of the entire lander into account, when in fact it was left on the surface and in orbit respectively.”

“Before that, the challenge was to take off from the Moon and re-dock with the command module. Jebediah tested our intercept and docking procedures prior to launch. We know from previous landings on the Moon how much fuel it takes to get down – and with no atmosphere it’s the same to get up. We of course added a 10 % buffer of fuel here, just in case. As backup, we even had a RCS system that could technically manage the entire intercept and docking procedure.”

“But before intercepting and docking, we had to land – this had been done before with probes, and have both succeeded and failed on different occasions. To ensure our success here, we had built a brand new descent engine, one that could radically throttle down – all the way to 23 % thrust. While the lander still had a thrust to weight ration above one, firing the reaction control system retrograde put this below one. This way, we could aim the braking burn for completion a bit above the surface, and coast down to the surface using low thrust and the RCS system to maintain an exact descent speed.”

“This landing procedure allowed us to land at a mere 1.2 m/s, touching down so softly Jebediah could hardly feel it. Like the ascent stage, the landing stage had 10 % more fuel than we expected it to utilize. Both the descent and the ascent engine further made use of the same fuel mix, for increased flexibility. As Jebediah docked back in orbit, just below 5 % of the fuel were left – and the landing had even drawn a bit from the ascent stage, but not overly much, and we didn’t expect to utilize much of our ascent reserves.”

“The landing and the getting back to the command module were the most tricky parts of the mission, before that we had the Lunar orbit circularisation stage, which we’ve tried many times before, and was handled as a routine matter by the command module and its advanced AJ10 engine. The Trans Lunar Injection burn was also a routine, although the Bear-1 design had a separate LR-105 engine and fuel mix for this – which again had a 10 % reserve of fuel that weren’t utilized.”

“This merely left the orbital insertion from Earth, another operation that we have done many times, although never before have we placed a 130 tonnes payload into orbit. The first stage and boosters had a total of 8 F-1 engines combined, while the second stage doing the final orbital insertion had a single F-1 engine.”

“We are currently looking into a way to design future Lunar missions better, but that is going to require two things: Firstly we need more efficient engines for the upper stages of the rocket, and secondly we need it to be capable of at least limited restarts. That way we can use the same engines for circularisation around earth and the TLI burn and save the weight of lugging an entire extra engine into orbit. All in all, we expect that our next Lunar rocket will not be until we have developed these engines, and will be substantially lighter overall.”

With the presentation ended, Wernher left the podium to allow Gene to answer the various questions from the assembled reporters – most of which weren’t really of a technical nature either.


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.