New years eve at the space centre

December 31st, 1955, Baikonur Kosmodrone.

As the new year approached, many among the senior staff of the space centre had gathered in the lounge. Many had never had time for a family, besides the people present were the friends, and really their family in a manner of speaking.

They were all celebrating the new year in a quiet manner, even Jeb, Bill and Bob had not even talked about rockets. Everything in the space program were on schedule. The KOOL network were coming along nicely, they were well ahead of the Illyriens on the manned program (except the lunar fly-by that is, which we could have done), plans for the first half of the coming year were already drawn up, and rockets were in production.

The only hitch really were that the bank account was very low, but Mortimer Kerman had assured Gene that with the rockets under way, they should experience a level of accidents that had not even happened to the Illyriens to not get a return from their existing contracts – and with the ongoing upgrade of the Mission Control, they could soon take even more contracts – not that the production facilities could likely keep up with that.

They had all just eaten, and were now sitting with a cold mug, waiting for the glorious leaders new years speech. Werner and Gene even managed to miss the beginning of the speech, but their attention were drawn by how quiet everyone else were.

“I, John F. Kerman say that we set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all kerbals. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill(yriens) depends on Kerbinians, and only if the glorious Kerbinia occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that kerbals has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all kerbalkind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?

We choose to go to the Moon! … We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win …”

As the speech ended, and the regular news commentators started talking about what it meant, everyone present reacted in their own quiet way.

Jebediah commented that it sounded fun, with Bill and Bob looking nervously at each other.

Werner started arguing about how impossible it was, and that they were nowhere near the point when they had the technology to actually do this.

Valentina looked at her brother Gene with a worried look.

Gene just stood there, with a blank look on his face, thinking: “I’ve finally got this program on track, and they do this?”…..

 

Not the traditional “what happened and what are the plans”. But I decided that this would be the decade, and now I’m locked in since I took the contracts for it as soon as they came up later…

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Future Kommunication

November 28th, 1955, Kerbinia Kapital.

“Yes, yes, now quiet down everyone and we will begin the press conference”, the Kerbinian Minister of Information and Truth, Minister Ali Kerman, began.

“As promised in the invitation, you are here today to hear about something cool”, the minster continued – “more specifically the first launch laying the groundwork of our KOOL network, to replace our temporary measure in the form of the KFC network – a name the Illyriens incidentally stole for a restaurant chain”.

With that truth out of the way, the minister continued “here to present the details are Gene Kerman, freshly flown in from the launch site to explain it in detail”.

The journalists eagerly clap as Gene walks onto the podium, knowing that he usually tells them things as they are. When Gene gets up there, he begins “Yes, as the minister said, we launched the first of our geostationary satellites of our new Kerbinian Orbital Organization Logistics network yesterday, and it is now snugly in orbit above the Pacific, to better monitor especially our southern-bound launches when the LEO network eventually decades from orbit”.

As Gene continues, he reaches for a remote and presses a button as he continues “Now, I will show you a picture of the satellite and then answer your questions”.

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Picture of the first KOOL satellite.

Reporter: “But how did you take the picture?”.

Gene: “Oh, that was easy, we put up a black sheet behind it before mounting it on the rocket. The white dots aren’t stars either, they’re dust from the floor it was lying on”.

Reporter: “But what are all those Kameras doing on a communication satellite Gene?”.

Gene: “Uuh, they’re to….. Monitor the cloud layers, and you know, get a close look at storms – better weather prediction is key to launching rockets. Can’t have a storm tip over that rocket with Jebediah inside, now can we”, Gene said, giving his best fake smile to the reporter, that started looking slightly sceptical.

Reporter: “And all those antennas Gene? Why so many, that doesn’t make sense”.

Gene: “Well, most are obviously for communications. It has to point one at each of the two companion satellites and one at Earth of course, leaving a near-space one and one available for long range or future satellites”.

Reporter: “And the two very strange ones? Those don’t look like antennas?”.

Gene: “Well, they’re there to, uhm, measure the earth’s magnetic field and solar winds – it’s very scientific with them being able to adversely affect communications, especially long range ones”, Gene said, feeling confident that he’d dodged another one.

Reporter: “But above the pacific, is that not to watch the Illyriens?”.

“Finally”, Gene thought “one I can answer honestly”.

Gene: “No, it’s because we usually loose contact somewhere between India and Australia – this position catches that and can keep tabs on it all the way to South America. If you look at this next picture, you can see that it’s much closer to Australia, and you can’t even see Illyrien – but there’s a nice weather system above the Pacific though”.

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Picture of Earth from the first KOOL satellite.

“As you can see in the lower left, it’s night”, Gene continued “but you can see the light from the various cities along the Australian coast. The storm in the top right looks to be heading towards Northern Illyrien though, so they’ll likely get some winds and rain in about a week” Gene ended, feeling that he had made his case for weather kamera even better.

“Now if there are no more technical questions, I have to catch another plane, the next one is launching in only two and a half weeks, so I have a rockets to oversee final preparations of”, Gene ended with a smile to the assembled reporters as he left the podium, and the minister again took over, giving political answers on the future plans of the Kerbinian space program.

Records and lessons

Mid-October 1955, Baikonur Kosmodrone.

“Yes, we know and have all seen them Jeb!” Gene insisted, as Jebediah once again were showing the pictures he took outside the capsule on his recent 14-day orbital flight.

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Picture of the Endurance-2, taken by Jebediah while on EVA.

“But we’re not here talk about that Jeb, you have to understand that we need to discuss the Lunar lander 1, so we can fix whatever went wrong!”, Gene insisted. “And no, we’re not discussing possible changes to the design either”, Gene continued while pushing the engineering drawings with scribbles away.

“Werner”, Gene stated, while looking at him – doing everything to ignore Jebediah.

“The design might be a few hundred m/s short of a soft landing – records indicated that it would have hit the ground at around three times its rated impact tolerance” Werner began, only to be interrupted by a suspicious Gene asking: “Would have? What do you mean Werner?”.

“Well, you see”, Werner began “everything was right on the money, so to say, but at the end, the entire thing somehow lost all steering”.

“What do you mean all steering” Gene asked, but as Werner was about to reply, Bill piped in explaining “It could steer fine, but the rocket engine keep pulling it off course for some reason”.

Before Gene could inquire further, a usually silent Valentina had to clear something up “What was the TWR when you started having control issues?”.

“Uhm, well” Werner began as he looked through his papers “around 15 or 16-ish?” he answered, as Valentina’s question suddenly dawned upon him before he was interrupted by a triumphant Jebediah “HA! There’s no way you can make any sort of control by then” after all, even he knew that was folly.

“You didn’t think to include any pilots in your plans did you Werner? We could have told you that not gonna work” Valentina told him.

“Well”, Werner began again “We have that other smaller re-ignitable engine that we never used because it was weaker than the current one, don’t we Bill?”. “Yeah”, Bill began with Bob continuing “it’s actually better as an engine even, so it might give us tose last 200 m/s as well for free”.

As discussion continued, the new Lunar Lander slowly started to take shape – and would definitely work this time….

front_endurance-1_1
Original Engineering drawing of the Endurance-2.

I’m bored!

August 20th, 1955 – a few hundred kilometres up and going fast to the right-ish.

Gene says I have to write these things twice a day, but they’re boring!

There’s nothing to write here, because I’m bored!

I’ve been zipping along for 7 days now, and I’m bored!

I can’t even go play outside, because those big solar panels are blocking the hatch. Note to Werner: DON’T BLOCK THE HATCH!

Gene says I have to stay for another 5 days to set some sort of record. What sort of record? Being bored for the longest time? It’s all fun and games the first day, but I have to strap in to the seat to sleep – and it’s not a comfortable seat to sleep in! Another note to Werner: SPACEBEDS!

I can see why they made me do this thing – no way Jeb would have been as patient.

I’m gonna go count my snacks for the 723rd time and then eat one, so I can count them again – I’m not doing those silly puzzles Werner and Gene wants me to, they can do those themselves. Note to self: Bring a book next time.

 

Signed,

Valentina Kerman – The most bored kerbonaut.

 

 

Play note: While trying to set a record in space with Val, I accidentally forgot about the Hab-limit, so she went grumpy. Luckily I could still remote-manoeuvre the pod back down.

Another Engineering Meeting

July 26th, 1955, Satish Dhawan Launch centre, Kerbinia.

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Proton-3 launcher taking off with the Lunar payload.

“Ok people”, Gene started out, “just what exactly happened with the lunar launch yesterday?”.

“Well, our old problem with interstage fairings seems to have returned” Werner provided as an answer. “But on the positive side, aside from this, the new Proton-3 heavy lifter performed superbly.”.

“But I thought we fixed that long ago?”

“No Gene”, Werner replied with an apologetic gesture. “We fixed it by switching to decouplers whenever a failure came up, but our newer rockets have worked fine with interstages so far”.

“It kinda also worked with the first one” Bill unhelpfully supplied.

“It was still stuck to the rocket and only worked because the rocket literally melted it off”, Werner almost shouted looking at Bill.

“It still worked by proxy”, Bill insisted. “Anyway, the really weird thing was the second one not melting off – although it was only an LR105 – so could be because of the less powerful engine”.

“So, we’ve fixed it for the next launch, and can actually launch our Lunar lander then” Gene asked Werner.

“Yes Gene, though Bill was sorta right, we only fixed the worst one, takes less time that way”.

“And the lander will definitely not crash”, Gene asked.

“We can’t guarantee it absolutely Gene”, Werner replied, “but it survived fine when Jeb pushed it off the roof of the VAB to test it”.

As Gene was simply staring at a proud Jebediah, who rightly felt that he had contributed immensely to the engineering of the probe with his rigorous testing regime, the meeting slowly came to an end. Still when they were leaving and Valentina asked why he had not just dropped it from a plane instead, Jebediah’s smile faded slightly as he replied “they wouldn’t let me”.

Play note: Lunar burn stage was stuck to interstage fairing, and didn’t budge an inch in orbit, while burning off nearly 3500 m/s :-/

Big rockets take time

June 30th, 1955, Baikonur Kosmodrone.

Monthly reports are overkill when working with large rockets it seems – we may need to invest more in faster construction soon. Even quarterly reports makes little sense, as the first quarter brought a whopping one launch – but if we include the two in the third quarter, we can ma e a report on a few routine missions.

Early March, Valentina got her second orbital mission, which we managed to extend to a full 30 hours. Nothing ground-breaking, but a few solar panels and some tweaking to loose the last probe core with the last orbital stage really.

To think that we now consider such things routine – only a few years ago, the idea of putting a kerbal into orbit was far in the future, yet here we are?

Early May we had the second launch of the year – our LEO KomSat network, which someone from the Ministry insisted should be named the “Kerbinian Framework for Communication”, is now up.

The first launch went quite well, except whomever had designed the satellites had included everything except a control computer – so they were doing everything, except relaying signals that is.

Werner designed the second one with an active core, and two antennas for good measure. Our new Proton-2 launch vehicle took the entire platform to orbit without a hitch. The coverage is quite good.

screenshot111
Computer generated map of orbiting KFC network.

Generally the network is a dozen satellites orbiting asynchronously between 3000 and 3500 km, which we expect to use as an interim measure until we have time to spare to launch some geostationary ones. We put the launch platform a bit higher (but it still has everything to act as a relay), and also placed it on the exact same inclination as the Moon – that way we don’t have to aim for the moon when launching, but can just aim for the satellite.

Last mission of the first half year was Jebediah doing a contracted 9 hour orbital experiment and returning – pure routine, not even with more than two lines.

 

Signed,

Gene Kerman