We must keep pushing

December 6th, 1951, Baikonur Kosmodrone.

We must keep pushing.

Apparently the insidious Illyriens have a spy in our space program, and after Valentinas first mishap, they managed to get a kerbal into space before us. The Glorious Leader is not happy.

To counter this, the intelligence people have started looking at how we can spy on them – although no one wants to go over there, so it is probably going to be done in other manners.

In the mean time we’ve kept pressing our advantage, and we had a modified Boomer 2 launch recently, carrying a brand new scientific payload to measure radiation and micrometeorite impacts in space – at least we are keeping the scientific lead.

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Modified Boomer 2, taking a scientific payload to 350 km and then returning.

The scientific data collected is interesting, but our scientists are swamped with data – it will take them years to progress our understanding and create better rocket parts.

In the mean time, we must keep our records. One thing the Illyriens have not been able to do is get as high as us. While Boomer 3 with its nearly 1200 km is far above the nearly 400 km that the Illyriens have accomplished, Werner thought that we could do better – and he did.

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Boomer 4 standing tall in the VAB, just prior to being rolled out. The launch happened at night, to discourage curious Illyriens.

The Boomer 4 is the longest and heaviest rocket we’ve ever made, and it started hurtling back towards the surface as I began my report.

The rocket weigh in at an impressive 39.999 tonnes, and made the launchpad produce worrying noises before it launched. The rocket was a resounding success though, getting a full 3000 km up, and reaching speeds so far unheard of, passing 6000 m/s on its way down.

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Boomer 4 Ascent and return data. The data connection got a bit wonky on the way down, due to limited signal reception.

I don’t think our new height record stands to be broken any time soon, and even if it did, Werner says that he can probably squeeze a few hundred kilometres extra out of the Boomer 4 design – although he’s also promising that they will soon have new more powerful rockets, that will eclipse our current capabilities – there’s even talk of actually being able to make something stay up in space!

–Gene Kerman

I can’t believe it….

September 16th, 1951, Baikonur Kosmodrone.

I can’t believe it, it actually worked, Valentina got to space – although only for a brief time.

Sure, Jebediah’s first attempt some time ago didn’t quite make it to space, although it did pass the Kerman line. I’ve enclosed a picture of it, standing at the launch site – nothing holding it, since, and I’m quoting Jebediah here, “They’ll just be in the way, and I’ll launch before it tips over anyway”.

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It looks tiny and it is. A cockpit and two solid boosters is basically what it is. It didn’t quite go as planned though, for the first 15 or so seconds, it was just standing there, firing into the ground before it took off. Jebediah blamed not reaching actual space on this.

After Bill and Bob got in on the project though, it didn’t take them long to solve it – not that Werner likes their way of doing things, but they get results. Today, Valentina launched in the second ship of version two of the rocket, and it feels odd actually calling it that.

What Bill and Bob did was quite simple, as they said “we just need to boost it up a bit, so the initial burn also progresses towards space, instead of being wasted”, and that they did.

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Their solution? Attach a number of smaller boosters to the bottom booster to get it off the ground. Is is genius or madness? I’m not sure I can tell, the longer I work with those four?

In any case, the first launch didn’t go so well, as the whole thing started to tip over and went completely uncontrolled – Valentina survived though, by jamming the stage-button hard and turning, to let the lit boosters pass by her, the launch photographer even caught a picture of her almost at the altitude she reached (and he survived the many actively hurtling boosters, as did everyone else and the space centre).

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Valentina insisted that she could steer through the launch issues (Bill and Bob seems to think it might have to do with the 8 smaller boosters not firing at exactly the same time) – and a second version was built.

Today that launched, and while I’m still having a hard time believing it, it got into actual space! Werner’s tracking program worked perfectly again (sometimes it seems to be the only purposeful and sane thing that works around here), measuring Valentina only just scraping above 200 km – in actual space.

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Werner don’t think we should push things fully on to more than 6 g’s with kerbals on board, and even Valentina and Jebediah seems to think that it shouldn’t get much higher; although their main argument is that they don’t want to do more weight lifting to be able to just hold onto the flight stick.

On the plane front, things went as last flight. The plane was swerving madly on the runway, but Valentina managed to get it airborne, although she used the chutes to get down. Simulations and trials with an actual jet plane, in order to break the sound barrier in an aircraft, had the same problems. No solution presented itself until Werner went and demanded to know what “the four” were talking about in hushed voices.

To my surprise, Werner actually liked their idea, and they immediately started to implement it.

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Two launch clamps holding the plane pointing slightly upwards, and 4 of the boosters from their space attempt to “help it go”, as Bill put it.

And it worked. The runway even survived the 4 boosters crashing into it, although next time they’re launching the other way to spare it. But it got airborne, Jebediah broke the sound barrier (although we’ll need more powerful engines to get better altitude) and landed safely with the parachutes.

 

— Gene Kerman

You did WHAT?!?

Baikonur Kosmodrone, unknown date.

“It’s really simple Gene, while the Kosmodrone is awesome, it would be better to move the rocket launch site further south, closer to the equator – it’ll be easier getting into space there”, argued Werner for, perhaps, the 7th time.

But Jebediah continued to insist on knowing just exactly how much more easy. The argument was old, with both Bill and Bob trying to explain how much it was, with Valentina and Jebediah shaking their heads at just how little.

“In any case, we’re moving the future rocket launches there, although we might keep R&D and some planes at the Kosmodrone”, interrupted Gene – and not for the first time. “Why are you so much against it? It’ll get you guys into space faster!” he nearly shouted.

Valentina and Jebediah glanced nervously at each other, then turned towards Gene and Werner, “we’ve kinda been building a small rocket in the shed next to the VAB, and we’re totally confident that it’ll get us to space – it’ll be ready to launch in a few days” Jebediah proclaimed, beaming with pride.

“You’ve be……” was all that came out of Gene as he dropped his koffee mug on the floor, him and Werner both looking profoundly dumbfounded at the pair.

 

In the end, after long arguments, it was decided that Valentina and Jebediah could keep their little pet projects at the Kosmodrone VAB, under the condition that they did them as regular launches, allowed Bill and Bob to help with the rockets, as well as not getting themselves killed.

How hard can it be?

Kerbonauts Bar, Baikonur Kosmodrone, April 20th, 1951.

Valentina and Jebediah are sitting alone in the bar with a big glass of Keer each, discussing how hard it can really be to get either of them to space, and the conclusion is clear: Not that hard.

“Those silly things Werner designs are stupidly complicated, we just need one of those new fancy pointy cockpits, probably a chute and a big booster!” comes the inevitable comment from Jebediah.

Valentina can’t agree completely though “One booster would never be enough, Werner don’t have any big enough!”.

Not to be taken down so lightly, Jebediah simply ups his hand “Well, then we’ll use two? One on top of the other and a spring in between that we can release by pulling a piece of string?”.

Looking contemplative, Valentina starts to see a plan forming “Yeah, and then a few wings, maybe 3 because it’ll look awesome and we will have a space rocket!”.

“You know Val, I bet Werner have all the parts just lying around, and I think I saw a dark corner over there with a small cart to make the thing on?” Jebediah says, a big smile slowly forming.

With that comment, Valentina picks up her Keer, and together she and Jebediah starts heading towards the VAB. As they pass the flagpole, Jebediah looks at Valentina with a serious look “Dibs on flying it. It was my idea, and you’re already flying the planes”.

“WHAT?” immediately comes out of a shocked Valentina, who nearly drops her Keer “That’s totally not fair, the damn thing couldn’t even get off the ground”.

“Well it is fair, the next one will, Werner says so” replies Jebediah, while keeping back a bad joke about Valentina and weight.

“Fine, but I get the next rocket after that” Valentina says, with a clear determination.

“Sure”, Jebediah says, his mood vastly improved now that he’s firmly believing that he’s going to space soon. “Maybe Werner has 4 boosters after all?”.

With that, Valentina and Jeb wanders into the VAB, which is mostly empty as all the engineers are busy in the hangar making a plane…

Seco… Uhm, fourth? flight…

Baikonur Kosmodrone, April 20th, 1951.

Boomer 3 is ready, although the photographer was a bit late at the launchpad (or someone launched too early?), in any case, they only snagged a shot of Boomer 3, just after it had launched.

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As seen, it didn’t even have a protective fairing for the second stage and the few instruments – although given the heating while in flight it would probably have been a good idea…

In any case, since we need to learn as much as we can about about shooting up rockets, we had Werner make a small program to send back a few bits of information during every second of the flight. Werner is all too pleased about the result though.

Boomer 3 plots

All in all, we are all happy that we were able to accurately predict the final outcome of the launch: Boomer 3 did indeed not survive hitting the atmosphere on the way back.

It went surprisingly high though, twice as high as planned, just passing 1000 km above the surface – an impressive feat. We do need to have a look at the spinny-thing we do to stabilize the unguided rockets though; since once the air gets thinner, it does not seem to work much more – it just ends up just spinning and spinning, around the going-up direction.

Werner showed a simulation of a controlled rocket, but there doesn’t seem to be much point, as it barely got halfway of what Boomer 3 did. Perhaps we need to start considering multiple engines for the first stage, although that will make the rockets rather big – I don’t even dare think what it’ll take to get a kerbal into space.

I haven’t seen Valentina around for the rocket launches, nor Jebediah. I’m slightly nervous not having seen them around for some reason though.

–Gene Kerman

First flight

February 14th 1951, early morning.

After nearly 1½ months, both bureaucracy have been solved, so the space centre can accept contracts, and the first test-rocket is ready. A simple unguided rocket containing scientific instruments that is aimed at space (that is, up) sits ready for launch.
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A successful test to 12 km, with the small “Boomer 1” (which oddly did not go boom?).

The engineers did seem to place some of the stabilizing fins quite oddly, although the concept of using slightly off fins for spin stabilization did seem to work – mostly. Bill is still proud of the idea, which he claims came to him after his toy rocket crashed and flew much better after the crash (Boomer 1 was not crashed though).

Expensive simulations are conducted afterwards, to perfect the design of Boomer 2, which might just reach space – because apparently it’s higher than 12 km.

9 days later, “Vals Spirit” is ready for Valentina to take flight – or so everyone thought.

The craft wobbles from side to side on the runway, and never reach take-off speed. Valentina promptly redesigns the thing, swapping the engine with one 7 times as powerful, although the steering issue is not examined in detail – as Valentina put it herself “why bother? I’m gonna be flying, not driving?”.

Early March, the researchers presents their findings regarding supersonic flight, moving on to figuring out early avionics, expecting results within the year, maybe a bit earlier.

On 24/3 Boomer 2 is ready and roll-out begins – a 14 hour undertaking. Early morning 25/3, it is ready on the launchpad.

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Simulations showed that it really ought to get well into space, but now comes the real test.

And the results are in! More than 200 km above the surface, faster than 2000 m/s (waay faster than a speeding bullet!), passing the Kerman line, and science – from space!

Aside from the fairing mishap, that prompted the flight crew to have most of the scientific data transmitted before re-entering the atmosphere – because, as Gene Kerman put it “we really should”, the flight went unexpectedly well (except the tumbling a bit in the early launch before the stabilization kicked in fully).

By the end of March, the programme have gained additional funding, with more than 100.000 specos in the bank account, and enough scientific data to keep the researchers working for years!

The plans for the second quarter of 1951 are already taking form, “Vals spirit”, in its updated version, needs to reach 4 km altitude, and possibly break the sound barrier? Although a new fancy jet-engine may be required for that! And we have that, but the second version of the plane is already under construction – and according to Jebediah “we should probably also solve that skirting thing on the runway”.

The third sounding rocket is planned for even greater heights, and must reach a full 500 km, just over twice that of Boomer 2 – Boomer 3 has great challenges indeed.
Different from Boomers 1 and 2, Boomer 3 will not be expected to return safely to the ground – if successful it really, really, should burn up upon re-entry according to the design engineers.

— Gene Kerman

Mission update 1

Mission update, January 1st, 1951.

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Valentina is mad at me, because we plans to send up an unmanned probe instead of her. I tried explaining that’s what the first contracts from the government said, but it’s no use.

Instead she went around inspecting the facilities, waiting for other contracts, so she’ll get to fly.

I haven’t the heart to tell her that our glorious governments bureaucratic procedures have presented me with contracts, but will not actually allow us to fulfil them. I have submitted additional paperwork, and hope that this will be rectified shortly.

In the mean time, I’ve got to make sure no one tells Valentina.

Signed,

Gene Kerman