Pushing the frontier

October 25th, 1960; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

“Welcome everyone”, Gene began the press briefing to the assembled reporters.

“Unfortunately there was not much to see this time around, as we had to launch last night – and although it was a rare occurrence of launching an interplanetary probe from the Kosmodrone, we didn’t have much of a choice given the busy schedule around the Satish site and the Mars window”.

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Uranus-1 launching upon a Kosmos-2 lifter.

“We simply did not have time to build the payload and rocket on time at Satish for the launch window – so the decision was taken to give it a shot here at Baikonur, despite the unfavourable launch angle”.

“To put it simple, it was a resounding success, and the brand new design for a Hydrolox engine performed superbly. The probe is now on its way towards Uranus, and with luck it may even be able to make orbit”.

“The probe is a bare-bones scientific probe as you can see from these images, where it was placed on 4 legs for final inspection before being mounted on top of the rocket”.

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“Like the Jupiter and Saturn probes, it is powered by RTGs, but has an antenna even more powerful than these – to allow us to maintain contact whether we make orbit, or the probe is boosted out of our solar system entirely”.

“The probe has an almost full scientific package, although it is eschewing certain atmospheric instruments due to weight restrictions – now any questions?”

“Andrej Kerman, Moskov Times”, a reporter began when Gene nodded at him, “you say make orbit, but the Illyrien probe for Neptune barely had fuel to get there, how can this be? Is Kerbinian design really that much better?”

“Excellent question”, Gene began answering, “the probe as you see it in the picture actually has enough fuel to just barely make it from orbit of the Earth to orbit of the Moon – all of this fuel is available, save a tiny amount for a planned course correction”.

“Still, after this course correction, the probe has enough fuel to make a fly-by of Jupiter from Earth orbit. So it actually has a lot – and our main concern is whether we can burn fast enough to achieve orbit – but we will know in 10 years time, when we’ve made our course correction how things look”, gene finishes with a smile.

“Right, way superior engineering”, Andrej mumbles while scribbling notes.

“Bob Kerman, Kerbinian Tribune”, the next reporter begins as he’s indicated to ask his question. “Is this a one-off, or are there further plans?”

“Many plans”, Gene begins answering, “without divulging too much of our future plans, I can say that we are of course developing several more probes to send on at least fly-by of every planet in the solar system – and make orbit where possible. We are even considering building a couple to send towards Jupiter and Saturn, as they have large moons that may hold interest as well – and the probes may have enough fuel to get to all these places”.

“Any more questions”, Gene asks, looking at the assembled reporters.

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Vacation needed!

September 15th, 1960; Satish Dwahan launch site.

“Welcome to the Satish launch centre”, Gene began his presentation to the press. “As you can see, the place is rather empty, and I’m also going home to rest after briefing you on the past couple of days”.

“As you can see on the screen, we’ve had quite a few launches – all in all a total of nine of them over the past 50 or so hours – putting the time between launches at less than six hours. Now you can see why everyone is tired”.

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“Now, for the launches, they were all nine for the Mars to be sent during the launch window we just passed”.

“Three were for a basic communication relay system around the red planet, followed by three updated mapping satellites to map the surface for everything, including a mining survey”.

“The last three were special. One were a new, larger lander that we have taken the lessons from the last one to heart – and we expect to land successfully – the exact spot still to be determined. The other two are small landers for the two moons”.

“Yes, landing on an airless body remotely is very tricky, but given the low gravity of the two Martian moons, we are expecting them to be able to touch down using just their RCS systems – the real trick is intercepting the moons really – but we do have a plan for this as well”.

“Lastly, Jupiter-1 reached its destination, though unfortunately a slight mechanical misalignment combined with a very low allowed gimbal range on the engine meant that it could not entirely complete the capture burn as planned”.

“Jupiter-1 is in orbit though, but instead of an apoapsis of a mere 1.6 million kilometres, it ended up at 24.6 million kilometres. The unexpected 280 day orbit does mean that we’re unfortunately not expecting that many pictures and scientific data as fast as we planned, but over the next four years, we still expect to gather all the data planned”.

“That’ll be all for now ladies and gentlemen, I will now go home to my family and take a well earned rest. Questions can be handed off at the reception, and I’ll get back to you once I’ve slept 36 hours or so”, Gene ends the conference, smiling very tiredly.

Calm before the storm

September 1st, 1960; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

Sitting in his office, Gene is done with the latest report to the Ministry of Science (M.Sc.) and Collaboration (a newly renamed ministry to sound more international withy the space programme and all it seemed).

Reading over the report, he notes with satisfaction the return of the first batch of experiments from the KSS late June, but frowns at the Lunar probe that failed on launch the following day – he decides that he needs to have a good talk with Wernher about those guidance issues*.

He also notes down to start a replacement of the lost rocket, as well as a new experiment package for the KSS – maybe a bigger one this time around?

The last bit of the report contains the updated high resolution map of Venus, which he supposes that KSA should put to use with another landing test – but that will have to wait until the current batch of projects finish. In the unmanned department, the Jupiter-1 has passed the point where the gravity of Jupiter is the dominating force, meaning it is now at Jupiter, technically speaking.

Unfortunately it seems that the orbital insertion burn is right in the middle of the Mars launch window in a few weeks – which will be a pain to work around. Finishing up the report, Gene turns to the time table for the many launches planned in the coming Mars launch window.

 

 

*: A new tendency among the rockets to start the SAS setting at something not “hold” has started appearing, conflicting with my tendency to take pictures of launches – as I need to keep an eye on the rocket for the first 10-20 seconds to be ready to fix any SAS issues wanting to turn the rocket upside down (or worse)…

Back to normal (we thought)

March 31st, 1960; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

The first quarter have progressed on schedule, and as expected – although we were slightly disturbed about the news early in the quarter regarding the mad Illyrien schemes to send off their kerbonauts to Mars to apparently die – or that the Foreign Ministry have misjudged their space program that badly.

In any case, this quarter we returned to a leisurely one launch per month, beginning in January with the launch of the second crew to KSS, putting them at 6 crew in total.

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The launch of the 2nd part of the KSS crew on our by now well-tested Proton-2a launcher.

The launch went as expected, and given the presence of six kerbonauts, soon to be expanded to 9 when the last of the scientific crew launches in the next quarter – March saw the launch of another KSS crew transport, although this one was empty and serves as a safety measure, providing redundancy in case of an evacuation combined with a pod-failure.

In between these two launches we launched the main KSS Laboratory Utility Module. The KSS LUM provides the current and future scientists on the station expanded capability in conducting zero-g experiments.

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KSS seen with the lights on, as it passes into the night. Picture taken during EVA after the LUM was added, but before the Emergency Evacuation Pod.

We currently finishing up the preparations for the coming Mars launch window, as well as finishing up the last minor modules for KSS, as well as a line of continued re-supply vessels and crew transports.

Wernher had begun working on ideas for a fully re-usable vessel for both crew transport and re-supply, but given the mad Illyrien plans, I understand that the Ministry wish us to focus on other avenues.

 

Signed,

Gene Kerman

The end of a decade

January 31st, 1959; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

As the new years party at the Kerbinian Space Agency comes to its official part, Gene Kerman takes the stage to deliver his annual speech to the assembled employees.

“What a year – the busiest year ever in the annals of Kerbinian space travel as far as I can tell – with a record number of launches that we may just beat next year”.

“But not only that – we have launched probes to make flyby’s and possibly orbit a full three planets this year: Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn all! And we even managed to intercept the first asteroid ever on top of that”.

“And does it end there? No, not at all. KSS became stage-1 complete, and everything for stage-2 you’re already all working on building. The first crew went there – and are still there – with more to follow early next year, as stage-2 completes. Here is by the way the new year greeting from the KSS – taken with a brand new, fully experimental kamera. Can you all spot the change?”.

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KSS as of January 31st, 1959. Picture taken with a brand new, experimental, colour kamera.

“But does it end here? No it doesn’t. Because you all launched yet another station, placing the first ever space station in permanent orbit around the Moon – and the first crew already went there to spend a month studying the Moon – allowing us to learn many new things”.

“And speaking of new things? How is everyone finding the new R&D facilities? I hope you like them – they are the most advanced in the world. Don’t be too busy to enjoy this, even though I know you have much work ahead of you already, and are looking forward to much more from both Mars, Jupiter and Mercury soon”.

“The production facilities aren’t all new, but we did get you guys a few upgrades as well over the past year – but that should make everything ready for the coming deadlines. After that, well I expect we will speed down a bit on the work, with fewer launches – but you never know – those guys in astrodynamics always seems to come up with interesting trajectories”.

“What’s next? Well, the Mars lander of course – not to mention the Mars Basic Access Relay being constructed and a re-visit of the Moon. Beyond that? Well, only time will tell”.

“For now, everyone enjoy the dinner and celebrate the end of a decade which have put Kerbinia clearly on the map of not just the world, but indeed the entire solar system as the pre-eminent explorers of space, as well as the most advanced – both in terms of scientific and engineering progress – people in the known universe!”.

As his speech comes to a close, Gene leaves the stage smiling to a thunderous applause – going to the second party, with Wernher, Bill, Bob, Jebediah, Valentina and all the other top people.

 

End of year status:

  • Around 2M funds.
  • R&D jumped to a massive 5.4 when the upgrade finished, queued with tech for 1½ years to come (but scarcely any science points left).
  • Slight upgrade of secondary production lines to meet deadlines, resulting in:
    • Satish: 25/17/17
    • Baikonur: 16/15/8
  • So able to build almost 100 BP/s if constructing 6 simultaneous rockets.

The making of KSS

October 27th, 1959; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

“Welcome to today’s technical briefing everyone. I will begin simply by announcing the 3 month mark of KSS being live and manned, and then I will hand you over to Wernher to explain our long term plans for KSS, while you see the newly added Laboratory Module docking to the station”, Gene announced.

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View from the Laboratory section docking kamera during docking.

“Thank you Gene”, Wernher began, “now as far as the plans for the station, those are permanent plans – we don’t intend to de-orbit the station any time soon, and we expect it to be manned constantly. As to the future plans, we now have all our plans finalized and in various stages of construction – but the final station should look like this”.

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Blueprint of KSS as the end of phase-2 is planned.

“Besides additional power and cooling, you can also see the recyclers attached on the top and bottom of the Supply Module, along with the tool-kit on the side”.

“Opposite the SM, you see the newly added Laboratory Module, with two advanced laboratories to be staffed. Extending out from the LM is the Laboratory utilities, including a particle accelerator. Off the side of the LM, the Computer Core Module is attached”.

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Split view of the modules of the KSS phase-2.

“What you don’t see here is the return transports, where the first one is attached off the Habitation Module”.

“We are of course considering various additions later, such as a medical bay, more laboratories, more crew space and so forth – possibly even a workshop with limited prototyping capacity – but all those things are off in the future at this point – they are still possible though, as you can see numerous available docking ports for additional modules”.

With the technical explanation out of the way, Wernher indicates that he is ready to take questions. The first reporter immediately puts up his hand.

“How many kerbonauts are you planning to have on the station?”

Smiling, Wernher begins his reply, “the permanent crew will be 9 in total. The station commander and her right hand man, Two engineers to maintain the station and five scientists working in the labs. The living quarters for now support a total of 12, allowing room for crew exchanges without it having to feel rushed – but the space and life support can in theory support as many as 30 kerbonauts at the same time”.

“But what if something goes wrong?”, another reporter asks.

“Then the engineers are there to fix it, under the diligent watch of the station commander or her deputy”, Wernher begins, “there is a reason why there are at least two in any position – both allowing 24/7 running of the station, but also to always have someone who knows what to do if things go wrong”.

“Of course, if worst comes to worst, they can evacuate the station. And even here, we have additional safety measure, as the 9 kerbonauts have a total of 4 pods, each holding 3 – so even if a pod malfunctions, there is enough to evacuate everyone safely”.

“Any other questions?”.

Moonbase Alpha

September 1st, 1959; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

Here follows the monthly report of the Kerbinian Space Programme, by Director Gene Kerman.

August was a quiet month, even though it started out with the launch of the KLS-Transport, taking Jebediah, Bill and Bob to our newly established Kerbinian Lunar Station (KLS) for a one month stay.

The launch itself didn’t garner much media attention though, and neither did the other two major events of the month.

Firstly we made a slight course correction on the Saturn-1, putting it into an almost perfect angle of entry for the probe. The remaining adjustment we are planning to do in orbit.

Secondly, the Mars-2 entered orbit around Mars, or rather the radar-tracking confirms that the pre-programmed manoeuvre executed roughly on schedule – but we do not have contact with the probe due to the alignment of the planets. Our Mars-3, awaiting a good launch window, do have more powerful antennae, and will be able to serve as a relay for Mars-2 as well. Until then, we can only wait for better positioning before we regain control and can try the lander.

 

Signed,

Gene Kerman