1954 – a year of achievements

December 31st, 1954 – Baikonur Kosmodrone.

1954 have been a good year for the Kerbinian Space Agency. We reached quite a few milestones:

  • Impacted the Moon
  • Recovered a probe from Earth orbit
  • We sent a probe off towards Venus
  • Jebediah Kerman became the first Kerbinian, and the first kerbal, in orbit (and returned safely)
  • Our Venus probe arrived at Venus and returned pictures and readings from not only the surrounding space, but the upper atmosphere as well.

Since our Venus mission arrived, only a single launch have been undertaken (as well as a test launch for our KomSat network), where Valentina made a space-walk fromĀ  capsule. Unlike the Illyriens who had someone quickly poke their head out of a cockpit, Valentina was sitting snugly in orbit, and were able to perform an actual space-walk, collecting data on being in space, and transmitting the results back as per the ministry contract.

This morning, we also discovered that we have lost contact with some of our Lunar probes*, and while the Ministry of “Intelligence” would likely claim foul play from the Illyriens, we here at the KSA know that they don’t have the capability to do so. It is a mystery so far.

1955 looks to be an exciting year, although many things looks to be routine.

We plan to launch an LEO KomSat network, until we get a proper geostationary network up with more powerful antennas. It should keep us from having blackouts all the time or missing perfect launch windows due to lack of signal (it’s weird, once they’re off to the Moon, we have little trouble, it’s close to Earth that we have the worst coverage).

The Ministry of Information and Truth wants us to land a probe on the Moon as well, though they have stressed that is must be intact because of reasons…

Lastly, we are planning further manned missions, to see how long we can extend such trips, and certain voices have started complaining about the lack of company on such potentially long trips (I don’t get it, they have a radio?).

The R&D centre started an upgrade. We won’t exactly need it for a while yet, but we will need it eventually, and someone apparently began it because we had enough funds (nearly bankrupting the KSA – I will have to investigate who did it).

Three concrete plans for 1955 should be enough – these larger rockets take a while to build after all, but there may come other interesting things along the way, the Ministry seem to award us contracts by rolling dice sometimes it seems.

Now I’m off for the new year celebrations – although I’m a bit nervous because both Bill and Bob had a glee in their eyes when talking to Werner about fireworks that I would only expect from Jebediah when mentioning trips to space – I hope we still have a space centre tomorrow…

 

Signed,

Gene Kerman

 

*: Play note: Orbital Decay mod was added, and for some reason several Lunar probes went poof – oddly enough the one remaining was the first one, which also have the lowest periapsis of any of the orbits, and the RH-3 is also still in Earth Sub-orbital flight after almost 2 years….. Otherwise it seems to work…

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Veni, vidi, Venus

November 11th, 1954, Kerbinia Ministry of Information and Truth.

In a rare, but more frequently occurring event, Gene Kerman has been flown to the capital of Kerbinia, to stand with the IT Minster Ali Kerman, and present the latest ground-breaking mission of the Kerbinia Space Agency.

“Yes, the Venus probe has been an astounding success – and I now leave you in the capable hands of Gene Kerman, to explain the details of why we are so far ahead of the Illyriens, who’s highest achievement have been to crash a probe gently on the Moon, while we have moved on to exploring a different planet instead of the same old Moon – not to mention having made manned orbits” the Minster finishes, as he leaves the podium to Gene Kerman.

“Yes, well”, Gene begins, “the launch itself was fairly well on track, and 16 days ago our engineers spent a couple of nerve-wrecking hours performing final adjustments so that the probe would pass through the planets upper atmosphere. Sadly our instruments confirmed what we already suspected – that it will be very difficult, not to say impossible, for kerbals to live there.”.

The assembled members of the press all started asking about the manoeuvre and why it was difficult, because it seemed very simple and easy adjustments according to them.

“Well, no”, Gene again goes, “easy enough to calculate, but quite another matter to execute. The engineers spent a very long time, because every time they pushed a button it took about two minutes before the probe reacted – and by then it could have turned – so it was a very delicate process. I do have a few slides to show of the approach.”

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“As you can see, the Kamera is not far from the antenna, and the antenna is visible in all the pictures, also giving the engineers a bit of guidance for keeping the direction and anticipating course drift.”.

“We collected a good deal of science approaching, while passing the atmosphere and flying away. We estimate that our scientists will need a decade to process it all – so we are definitely looking towards the Kerbinian universities for more scientists”.

“As the approach was from the dark side, we turned the probe around to get some pictures leaving as well from the sun side.”.

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“On that note, I will turn over to questions to the Minister again, but leave with the note that the probe is still very much alive, orbiting the Sun – and we never know what it might encounter along the way – maybe even an Illyrien probe in a few decades, or perhaps a century”.

Jebediah first kerbal in orbit

September 15th, 1954, Baikonur Kosmodrone.

Today was mostly a good day. We achieved everything we set out to do, but not as well as I had hoped. At least the Ministry photographer was happy that our first launch of the Proton-1 was during the day-time – there is no reason for secrecy any more anyway.

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Proton-1 launch vehicle, with the Recovery C-2 payload on top.

As the design shows on the pad, we’ve departed from the multiple boosters of the Lunar launch vehicle for now, opting for more simple stages, given that they are manned launches. The take-off is no less spectacular though.

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Proton-1 take-off, being propelled by 2 clusters of 4 nozzles each.

The purpose of the mission was for Jebediah to achieve orbit around our fair planet, which he indeed did. He even brought along his own personal Kamera to take a picture out the small hatch.

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Jebediah showing off his photography skills in space.

The mission only orbited for around 9 hours, as the capsule battery were draining quite a lot faster than predicted – Jebediah had snacks for a full 3 days, but without power to operate the air recycler, it didn’t seem to be a good idea to leave him there. It was still perfectly adequate for Jebediah to also perform a small space walk, outside the capsule.

We also learned that whomever designed the capsule did not design our other RCS systems, as they’re using different types of fuel it seems. Werner has added this item to his check-list (which is getting quite long by now).

We are planning another launch already. Partly because we would like to have an extended duration, to see how something more than a few hours affect our astronauts, and partly because Valentina won’t shut up about her also wanting to go.

 

Signed,

Gene Kerman

 

Let’s take the shot Gene

Staff Meeting, July 10th, 1954, Baikonur Kosmodrone.

As Gene entered the meeting, both Bill, Bob and Werner were sitting together with a bunch of papers – immediately making him wary of what was going on. Jebediah and Valentina’s unusual silence didn’t help the matter either.

Gene: OK guys, what do we have on today’s meeting?

Werner: Well, I’ve been talking a bit with Bill and Bob about our upcoming LRP launch…

The first sentence brought Gene uncomfortable memories of the first manned flights, where Bill and Bob had also been “talking” with Werner.

Werner: … And we want to change it.

Gene: To what? A different lunar orbit?

Werner: No, the mission and the payload.

Gene: I…. OK, I’m starting to accept these things way too easily. Just please tell me this isn’t some wild, far fetched idea?

Werner: Well, it is a long shot Gene, but it’s a glorious one.

Bob: We’ve got at least a 90 % chance to make it work.

Bill: 80.

Werner: More like 70, tops.

With Werner having the lowest estimate, Bill and Bob simply shrugs with a “yeah, if we’re lucky”-motion.

Gene: You do know that I don’t like numbers getting lower and lower, right Werner? OK, lay it all out.

Bob: Well, I were doing a bunch of orbital dynamics calculations for fun…

With mention of Bob’s idea of fun, Jebediah and Valentina snicker together as they always do.

Bob: … And we’ve got a Venus launch window coming up a week after the scheduled launch.

Gene: But we don’t have anything capable of getting to Venus, it’s beyond our capabilities – we haven’t even landed on the Moon yet!

Bill: Well, I’ve been prototyping a payload that’s only 1,5 tonnes heavier than the final LRP stage. It’s pretty much ready, just needs to go into orbit. I even brought a picture, see.

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Bill’s proposed Venus probe.

Gene: That’s all well and fine, but we don’t have a launch vessel that can do that.

Werner: Well, the LRP launcher should be able to take the extra payload and actually still have a fuel margin, although a very small one.

Gene: Wait, what are you saying?

Valentina: Jeez Gene, get with the program. We just put it on the planned LRP-5 launch. It’ll even look almost like a regular LRP, so the Illyriens probably won’t even notice. Heck, the bureaucrats probably won’t either, and no one pays attention to the result of the 5th Lunar probe.

Gene: So we can do this?

Werner: Just a fly-by, nothing fancy. But it’ll be one for the record books, and likely a bunch of interesting readings too.

Gene: I know I’m going to regret this, but have at it.

Jebediah: Wait, how does this affect the manned launches?

Werner: Don’t worry Jeb, those are on a different track at Baikonur, there won’t be any effect unless we run out of money.

Gene: Speaking of money, let’s move on. Next item is…..

As the meeting progresses, neither Bill nor Bob can keep their mind on matters at hand – even Werner has a slightly blank look to his eyes, as he contemplates everything they’re about to set out to do…

Engineering meeting

Early July 1954, Baikonur Kosmodrone.

Gene, Werner, Bill, Bob, Jebediah, Valentina and a number of engineers and rocket scientists are all in a big staff meeting.

Gene: Look people, we’ve had quite a few mistakes lately – some meant that missions were abject failures and one put Jebediah at risk of becoming a pool of green jelly!

Jebediah: It was fun though, until the G-meter hit the top of the meter and stayed there, then it becomes a bit of a…

Gene: Jeb!

Being chastised by Gene once again for his enthusiasm causes Jebediah to look sheepishly at the floor, while Valentina looks at him with a mix of envy and what appears to be a serious case of the giggles.

Gene: Anyway people, we can’t afford these kind of mistakes – we need to find out what exactly went wrong in these instances, so we don’t repeat it. Especially for the next launch!

Werner: Well, Bill have been looking into the Lunar-3 probe with Bobs help, but as for Jebediah’s attempted orbit, it would appear that someone had mistakenly placed a regular fuel tank on the third stage with the AJ-10, instead of the requisite pressurized one. It was ostensibly to save weight, but we’re updating our check-lists to make sure that we get the right kind of tanks for the right kind of engines from now on.

Gene: OK, fine. I don’t understand why we didn’t have those procedures already in place? I mean we’ve gotten it right so far?

With Gene’s comment every engineer in the room becomes very busy, studying the high ceiling, looking for “something”.

Gene: OK, Bill, please explain to me why the impactor of Lunar-3 blew up 15 km above the moon – and why a few hours later, the Lunar-3 probe itself blew up or no good reason.

Bill: Well, the impactor must have hit something, but we’re not sure what. It could have been one of the Illyrien probes, since they’re so tiny anyway we might have missed it. Or some other debris around the Moon – it was kind of low when it happened.

Gene: But if they’re so small, surely our impactor should have exploded completely?

Bob: Well, it’s the velocities, it’s basically like a bullet hitting a bigger bullet straight on – it’ll all go smush and nothing will be left.

Gene: OK, we’ll have to send another, but the probe was much higher, and was actively manoeuvring – we would surely have seen any debris here?

Bill: Well, yeah. Uhm, we’ve concluded that it was probably the guy controlling the probe that blew it up.

Gene: WHAT?

Bill: No no, it was totally by accident. You see he was having the probe send back telemetry, and he accidentally pushed the button right next to the one he was aiming at, and accidentally hit the one labelled “Range Safety”.

Gene: “Range Safety”, what does that mean?

Bill: Well, apparently one of the engineers found a government mandate that we have to be able to destroy a probe so it doesn’t fall down on a Kerbinian, or in case the Illyriens try to snatch one – so we, uhm, kinda have a bomb built into all our probes, and apparently the “Range Safety” is what triggers it.

As Gene is staring blankly at Bill while getting the explanation, other engineers slowly take on an equally puzzled look, as they realize what is going on.

Werner: But, that makes no sense – we have to be really really careful not to make things blow up in the first place, why would we deliberately do it? It has taken us years to get a probe back down to Earth without it blowing up – this makes no sense!

Gene: Can we at least put a lid on top of the explode-button, so no one hits it by accident again?

Bill: Well, not really, because that government paper says it must be available to press at a moments notice – we have, however, placed several notes next to it, saying never, ever, to push it.

As Gene sits down staring emptily at the wall, his will slowly seeping from his body, the rest of the participants start leaving the conference room – having concluded that with everything apparently solved, they might as well get back to work.

As people leave, the low voice of Valentina can be heard asking Bill if they also have that explodium-thing in the manned capsules…

 

Play notes:

Kraken seemed to hit the impactor, and a freeze in the game made me hit “Range safety” instead of “analyse telemetry”, before stupidly putting a third stage non-pressurized fuel tank on that was supposed to be pressurized causing a near-fatal Jeb-incident…

Impact and recovery

February 28th, 1954, Baikonur Kosmodrone, Kerbinia.

Gene Kerman providing mission update to the Ministry and press.

February has been a busy month for us here at the Kerbinian Space Agency – no less than two firsts have been accomplished. First, earlier this month we indeed confirmed that the Moon is indeed solid! This was accomplished by impacting it with the Lunar Transfer Stage of our second Lunar Probe.

Th is second probe is the same model as the first one, almost, and is likewise in a polar orbit, although 90 degrees off, allowing the probes to circle in perpendicular orbits – as a titbit of information, the Lunar 3 probe is planned for an equatorial orbit, placing all three probes perpendicular to each other.

Aside from the recorded impact, the Lunar 2 also shot some very nice low orbit pictures that were transmitted.

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Kamera facing Kerbin and Kerbol.
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Kamera facing the opposite direction of Kerbin and Kerbol.

The second achievement is the first orbital probe recovered. The Recovery-1 were placed into orbit with a high-resolution Kamera that were able to take some pictures of the Illyrien “space” centre. As these are high resolution, we don’t have them yet, but we are currently in the process of recovering the probe from the ocean.