Going even further

March 11th, 1959; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

“Welcome all to today’s launch everyone”, Gene told the assembled reporters. “Today you’ll the sister rocket to the Jupiter-1 from January launch – although it is heading a bit further out. This time, aiming for Saturn”.

“Orbital Dynamics estimate that with the planned launches, we’ll intercept the planet closely, and be able to establish a highly eccentric polar orbit inside the planetary rings – so we’re of course hoping for some good shots – in about 8 years that is”, Gene ended with a wry smile.

“Any questions before we head out?”, he asked as a single reporter raised his hand, seemingly to the chagrin of the remaining reporters.

“Sir, no one has touched upon this, but nearly two and a half months ago, the Illyrien presses reported discovering many new planets, have you found those as well?”.

“Well, I think I’ll let Wernher answer that one, Wernher?”, Gene answered her, indicating for Wernher to provide an answer.

“Yes, we have been tracking these for nearly two months as well – though they are not planets, merely large rocks. We are currently tracking two near Earth, and are contemplating if we should try to intercept one of them once we have an available spot in our launch schedule – which we do not anticipate for a while yet”, Wernher answered the reporter.

“Only one of them, why not both?”, the reporter countered.

“Well, because the other one looks to be hitting the northern part of the planet in a few weeks, a good ways north of the Arctic Circle. Don’t worry, we are tracking it, and it is quite small. It is very likely that it will burn up in the atmosphere as a shooting star – but in any case, we are tracking it, and will of course make sure to evacuate any areas if it is large enough to land. On the other hand, if it lands, we won’t have to make a rocket to go examine the other one I guess?”, Wernher ended – with Gene quickly taking over and ushering people to the launch to take their mind off impending doom, while briefly giving Wernher a menacing brow.

Going further and faster

January 26th, 1959; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

In Gene’s office, Wernher and Gene have their monthly meeting, taking stock of the situation of the space programme.

Gene: This is good Wernher, besides the issues with reading the fuel levels on the Mars-2 probe*, this month looks great so far!

Wernher: Yes, the Mercury launch on the 9th went without a hitch, though we still don’t think we can get an orbit – even if we drop the lander payload.

Gene: The lander payload?

Wernher: Yes, the Mercury-2 is basically the back-up rocket for Venus-3 in case that launch failed – so it also have a lander payload as well, even though it’s absolutely useless there.

Gene: I see, of well, maybe someone will come up with a use for it. And Mars-2 is on course as well after the issues were resolved and the burn finally done on the 14th?

Wernher: Yes, we even managed to adjust the course to coming in low, for a good polar orbit. We still need to do a minor correction with the RCS system when closer though, to get the precision just right. But it should arrive on schedule, and be able to begin mapping the planet, as well as try the experimental lander.

Gene: Good, and today seemed to go well also, how did the final adjustments work out?

Wernher: Oh they worked great, and the astrodynamics people were right all along, this was indeed the right time to launch – the Ministry will be very happy indeed.

Gene: Oh, how happy?

Wernher: Oh, almost half a year’s worth of happy I’d say. We calculate just under 600 days until we pass below the southern pole of Jupiter and we are fairly confident that we can make at least a highly elliptical orbit.

Gene: So, we launched some 380 days after the Illyriens? And need 600 days to get there? That’s 980 compared to their 1114? So about four and a half month before them? Excellent – this should give us some goodwill with the Ministry even though we’re putting all the resources into the KSS that we are.

Wernher: Yes, both the KSS and KLS programmes are proceeding on track, and the Saturn-1 is also ready for roll-out in a month or so. We’ll see how that works out in regards to intercept time as well.

Gene: Alright, I guess next month will be a rather short meeting, given that those larger launches takes longer to prepare then?

Wernher: Yes, but we can still discuss the progress of the science team, and their goals. They’re swamped right now with a massive number of projects that all seem to be priority – we should probably get that coordinated better?

 

As the meeting ends, Gene begins on his official report to the Ministry of IT, in particular detailing the planned beating of the Illyriens to get to Jupiter.

 

 

*: The switch to KSP 1.2.2 have introduced weird bugs in regards to evaporation of cryogenic fuels during time warp, requiring editing of the save-file to get the fuel back shortly before burns – as everything evaporates in days all of a sudden. The alternative solution of just not time-warping does not seem appealing.

End of an era

December 10th, 1958; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

“Greetings everyone, and welcome to the space centre for our end of the year conference. We’ll be covering a few things, and I’ll take questions at the end”, Gene began the conference.

“First off, 11 days ago, we launched a new rocket to take three of our brave kerbonauts around the moon – this was part of an innovative program on our coming improved life support systems, as well as a new rocket design, where the interstages were angled instead of the stages themselves – providing better air resistance upon cutting a stage”.

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The new rocket, launching the 100T payload into LEO.

“The rocket placed the payload into a nice LEO orbit, from which it began its intercept burn towards the Moon. Just prior to this, the ships engineer performed an EVA to look the new over one final time while in orbit, documenting the looks of it”.

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The Lunar Command Module and the Lunar Service Module (including the service module tank and engines) as well as the Lunar Intercept stage in orbit.

“As the crew were orbiting the Moon, Kommander Calney Kerman went outside and got a really nice image of the Command and Service sections above the Moon, with the Earth in the background”.

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The LLO-1 orbiting the Moon, with the Earth in the background.

“Just as they completed their engine burn to return three days ago, Bob said goodbye to Bill on-board the station and departed in the Kerlab Transport. As Bob left the station, he got a few pictures of Kerlab as Bill were performing the shut-down procedures”.

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“As Bob left the station, he began his descent taking him down into the Indian Ocean south of the Satish Dwahan launch site. An orbit later, Bill fired up the engines on the Kerlab Emergency Pod, beginning a descent towards the same spot. As the burn completed, he separated from the station, flying almost parallel with it towards the ground. Without protection, Kerlab disintegrated above Africa and the Indian ocean, while Bill landed safely in the water”.

“Three days later, the LLO-1 mission landed safely back on Earth as well. After that, a brief excursion to LEO – since we have a spare rocket – is all that’s left of this year. By December 20th, we’re planning an extended two week holiday for everyone at the space centre, before the new year begins”.

As Gene’s speech came to an end, a few reporters indicated that they had a question, and Gene indicated for the representative from the Kerbinian Star to proceed.

“Why scuttle the station? Doesn’t it still work?”, the reporter wanted to know.

“Yes, it still worked, but the scientific equipment was worn down, the power system insufficient and we frankly have much better systems, not to mention much more advanced life support systems. We are planning to build a Kerbinian Space Station with all we have learned from Kerlab, and instead of leaving it defunct in orbit, we wanted to it was taken down safely, instead of leaving it up there as a potential navigation hazard”, Gene answered.

With the question answered, Gene indicated for the next question.

“With all the plans about the KSS, and interplanetary probes, and maybe more returns to the Moon, how are you handling all that? It seems like a lot?”, the reporter from the Kerbinian Workers Journal asked.

“Well, there are really two answers required for that”, Gene began.

“As you know, the Illyriens have spent the year on several long distance missions. We’re also planning those in the coming year, but it was quickly evident a year ago, that we were starting to have severe issues with our infrastructure because we were working consecutively from two sites – we simply needed to focus on that. So that’s what been happening this past year, we’ve been focussing on shorter duration mission for various government agencies and private contractors to get our facilities and number of employees expanded”.

“And we’ve done exactly that – we now employ more than 1400 people in total, our Baikonur site has three assembly lines and a launchpad capable of launching all components for the coming KSS. This allows our Satish site to focus on more exploratory missions only, and while it only has two production lines, they are slightly larger. Lastly, we have invested in hiring more graduates to our scientific and engineering staff, to keep our advanced technology incoming and have built up a cash reserve to implement the construction of the KSS. The KSS will, after all be a purely scientific project, that receives no government funding”.

With that, the conference slowly came to a close, with Gene answering a few more questions about upcoming launches and the schedule for these.

 

End of year status:

  • About 3 million saved up for KSS unlocks and launches.
  • 300 science (+700 in MapSats that are bugged, but fixed in 1.2.2).
  • 4 science/day (5 techs queued).
  • Satish VAB: 23/15, SPH: 5.
  • Baikonur VAB: 15/8/7, SPH: 5.
  • Total BP/s at 78 – but only when building 5 rockets and 2 planes at the same time.

Swap USI LS with TAC LS, updating to KSP 1.2.2 and increase terminal velocity for StageRecovery to 3500.

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”.

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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”.

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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.”

Mars again

August 5th, 1958; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

In a rare event, we have today a formally announced press conference held by the KSA. We now go live to the KSA, where Gene Kerman will be giving us an update on the space program.

“Greetings everyone. Last night we launched our second probe towards Mars, now with mapping hardware as well. I have no pictures of the launch to show you, because it was a night-time launch unfortunately. The design is identical to the recently arrived Venus-3 probe though”.

“Now some of you may have wondered why there have been no news for three months? Have we been doing nothing? No. We’ve had 5 successful launches – 3 two-week orbital missions, and two crews for the Kerlab launched – the latest not only a week ago, so they’re still up there”.

“We have also seen a number of successes in recovering our rockets, or at least part of them. No longer are we just recovering the final pod when it returns – we are now recovering around 40 % of the rockets, value-wise, and can re-use them for later launches”.

“This re-use also allows us to construct subsequent rockets faster, especially when it comes to our Orbiter-3 and Kerlab programmes, as they’re both using the Proton-3, of which we recover the boosters, first stage and crew pods – leaving only the second stage and orbital manoeuvring systems to be replaced each time. Combined with our added production lines here at the Kosmodrone we are really ramping things up”.

“Any questions?”, Gene ended his statement, turning to the assembled reporters.

Reporter: “Joel Kerman, Kerbinian Times. Isn’t re-using the parts risky? I mean, they’re used, and they might break then?”.

Gene Kerman: “Excellent question. Re-use is good because it’s cheap, and as an added bonus, we know the parts work, because we’ve used them before. Now of course, there are limits to how much stress things can take and we of course consider this. Today, the recovery team recovering the first stage of the Mars-2 first stage have discarded 5 of the chutes, declaring them no longer safe for use. We, of course, examine everything closely before re-using it, to make sure it will function adequately”.

Reporter: “Maria Kerman, Kerbinian Journal of Engineering. You mentioned added construction lines – are you making several rocket at the same time? And not just one here and one at Satish?”.

Gene Kerman: “Yes, we have multiple production lines. In total we have 5 production lines – not all of them of course as fast. Satish still has the biggest main line, but also has a substantial second line, and generally is focussing on larger things that need to go beyond Earth orbit. The Kosmodrone do not have as advanced lines, but have a full three parallel lines feeding our LEO missions of various types”.

Gene Kerman: “Right now, we have no less than 10 rockets queued up for various missions, working on 5 at a time. Now some of these are 6-12 months away queued so we’re certain they’re ready in time for the launch windows. Others, are for very soon – another launch in our Orbiter program and a return to the Moon in a few weeks”.

Reporter: “Cecil Kerman, The Kerbinian. Return to the Moon you say? You’ve kept that particular news quiet? Is it a resurgence of the Kerbinian Bear?”.

Gene Kerman: “No, the Bear isn’t returning, this is a more modern launcher, although many of the systems are similar. It’s still the F-1 engines on the first stage, but with new solid rocket boosters. And the variable thrust Lunar Descent engine is similarly the same, but with other improvements to the lander”.

Reporter: “Mortimer Kerman, Kerbinian Space News. Why go back to the Moon? We’ve been there already?”.

Gene Kerman: “Well, we’ve been to one part. In particular, this time we’re going to the area known as the Lunar Seas – and getting some samples. Ever since the astronomers of old named the areas for looking like a sea, people have been talking about water on the Moon. So part of the mission is to get samples for analysis. The other part is testing new technologies and showing that we still have what it takes”.

“I believe that’s all we have time for today. I will of course make sure to invite you all back when we launch for the Moon – if the launch window is during daytime, of course”.