The Kerbinian Bear

December 21st, 1956; Satish Dwahan launch site.

“Welcome to the Satish Dwahan space centre everyone”, Gene told the assembled group of Kerbinian reporters standing behind the Vehicle Assembly Building. “I’m sorry for keeping you all in this area for several hours, not to mention all those rules when coming in – but it’s all to not spoil the big surprise”, Gene continued with the Ministry of IT bureaucrat next to him looking suitably uncomfortable at the whole concept of revealing stuff…

“We figured that this thing weren’t going to be possible to keep silent anyway due to the size, so we might as well reveal it right here and now to you guys, so if you’ll all follow me around the VAB it should have cleared the doors fully by now – and yes, you are allowed to take photos of it when you see it.”, Gene said, as he started off with the bureaucrat, leading the host of reporters around the VAB.

As the reporters cam around the building, none of them actually took any photos initially, the were too busy gawking with wide eyes at what was in front of them.

screenshot148
The Bear-1 being rolled out towards the launchpad.

“Gentlemen, I give you the Bear-1 prototype – a one of a kind launcher, scheduled for launch in 25 days, when the roll-out is complete. Everything here is state of the art, even though the rocket in its entirety have been under construction here at the site for more than half a year – which is incidentally why you’ve almost exclusively seen launches from the Kosmodrone this year.”, Gene told the reporters.

“That thing is huge!”, one of the reporters suddenly blurted out, with an almost wild look in his eyes. Gene recognised him as one of the more enthusiastic reporters when it came to rockets going to space.

“Indeed it is”, Gene replied, “the biggest thing ever made here, it stands an impressive 97 meters tall, measuring 26 meters at the base and coming in at an impressive 5123 tonnes. It is in fact so large, that we need a full 8 of our brand new F-1 engines on its first stage, producing an impressive 54 MN of thrust.”

“The Illyriens might be proud of being able to make a rocket not even half the size of the fabled Saturn V, from the famous Kerbinian novel.”, Gene continued, “The Bear-1 though? It is four time as large as anything the Illyriens have conceived, dwarfing even the fabled Saturn V – and proving once again the superiority of Kerbinian engineering.”

“I hear Wernher is crossing his fingers that the launchpad survives the launch unscathed”, Gene joked before looking out at the assembled reporters for more questions, spotting one from the Kerbinia Financial.

“The cost of this thing must have been massive, can you divulge the price-tag?”, the reporter asked Gene.

“In part I can”, Gene started, “The actual rocket costs about 1/8th of a million – but that’s not counting R&D costs as well as the numerous of tests and simulation one have to do with a rocket this size”.

As no one seemed to actually want to ask about what the mission was, or how big the payload put into orbit would be, Gene decided to round up the Q&A session a bit early, “I’ll be over by the VAB with some of the engineers and scientists to answer technical questions about the rocket and its mission, while any policy or political comments can be had from the Ministry of IT representative standing next to me here”, Gene informed them, hoping secretly that they’d all just swarm the bureaucrat and leave him alone for a bit.

How many now?

December 16th, 1956; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

We have expanded our force of experienced kerbonauts again early in December. Beside Jebediah’s full 3 man crew (Bill and Bob oddly volunteered for this) and Valentina’s full 3 lady crew, the first two people of a 3rd crew has now been in space – bringing us up to 8 fully qualified and proven kerbonauts. We will of course continue the training schedule, as we will need multiple crews for future exploration of our solar system, as well as the bases we may eventually establish around the same.

Our first base will likely be an orbital research station, to examinee long-term effects on space travel on our kerbonauts, and because we will easier be able to re-supply it. This is a bit further out in the future though, as Wernher has still to put forward actual designs for long-term orbital habitations.

Today another research mission was launched, revolving around cryogenic fuel and tanks (since these cryogenic fuels really looks like a potential thing in the future). The intent was to launch a number of different types of tanks, with and without external cooling, to examine the boil-off aspect in detail in space.

It worked in part, we can verify that the boil-off is indeed quite manageable either using cryogenic tanks, or external radiators – however these have rather large power requirements, something we are already struggling with, having to place a multitude of solar arrays on modules that also require life support and probe power.

To that end, the launch was successful, if short lived due to running out of power way faster that the engineers thought. Next step is to actually test a launch with cryogenic fuels, as soon as we have a viable engine for this.

 

Signed,

Gene Kerman

Doc(k) Jebediah

November 5th, 1956, Baikonur Kosmodrone.

After launching the new Docking target a couple of days ago, Jebediah today launched in the “Dockee”-rocket, on top of another Proton-1 rocket to intercept it.

The launch was timed to hit orbit close to the target, but still required a handful of orbits before the two orbits had been perfectly aligned, and Jebediah had caught entirely up with the docking target.

The approach was photographed by the docking kamera and a selection of these can be seen below – Starting from far away, where the guide-lights on the docking target is hardly visible – until contact with the extended docking ring.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To commemorate the occasion, Jebediah went outside and took a picture with his own kamera. After being done taking photos, Jebediah made sure to utilize the back-up snacks as much as he could, while in orbit.

screenshot143
Jebediahs picture of the two vessels docked.

After the 14-hour long mission had completed (just Jebediah’s, not including launching the docking target and waiting for a suitable launch time), Jebediah slowed his command pod down for de-orbit, holding on to the docking target until he had competed the braking manoeuvre in order to ensure that it also de-orbited quickly.

After releasing the docking target, Jebediah manoeuvred his pod slowly away, to gain some distance before his successful re-entry.

 

Signed,

Gene Kerman

Challenges? Sabotage!

November 2nd, 1956; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

“Alright”, Gene began the meeting, “we need to figure out what went wrong, and how exactly we’re not only fighting reckless piloting of low-cost hardware, but apparently also both our own lawyers* and Illyrien sabotage – if our Ministry of IT is correct”.

Valentina was quick to defend her crew: “You can’t blame my crew Gene, they launched right on the money early October. If anything it’s because Bill and Bob tried to be clever and do the contract orbits at the same time”.

“But the orbits they asked for were overlapping”, Bob immediately argued, “it was a perfectly valid thing to do – it made sense in theory, and Bill even agreed that we could actually do it in practice – you can’t blame us for the lawyers not knowing basic mathematics”, he continued, with Bill nodding in agreement.

“This isn’t about blame guys, it’s about shining a light on something that went wrong, and making sure that everyone knows, so it won’t happen again. Just nobody ever trust that the lawyers will listen to reason again, ok?”, Gene closed the argument before moving on to other matters.

“What exactly went on with the Venus-2 probe Wernher?”, Gene ventured.

“We honestly don’t understand it Gene”, Wernher began before elaborating: “it was an exact copy of our earlier Venus probe, but somehow we just couldn’t get a signal to it this time. We’re trying to calculate if we were just lucky with the first one and the alignment of the planets or if something else is wrong – but as of yesterday, we have officially declared it a lost cause.” Wernher concluded.

“And the Mars-1 Jebediah? You had a report from the Ministry of Intelligence and Truth about that one”, Gene asked.

“Yes, I do.”, Jebediah began, suddenly realising that he was supposed to explain everything. “As you all know, when we lost contact with the Venus-2, we checked in on Mars-1, just in case. Unlike the Venus probe, we could still communicate with the Mars one – but the orbit was way off”** Jebediah continued.

“For some reason, the orbit looked to have been reduced markedly from the radar telemetry post-insertion burn, and it can’t just happen. Fuel is a bit low, so the Ministry of IT suspects Illyrien sabotage – that they have simply hi-jacked the probe and send a brake-command in order to sabotage us getting to Mars before them.”, Jebediah finished as a conclusion, mostly accepting the reasons.

“Alright, at least Bear-1 is running on schedule, right Wernher?”, Gene asked.

“Yes indeed, quite as it should.”, Wernher replied as the meeting slowly came to an end.

 

 

*: -365k funds and -150 rep, because apparently two overlapping orbits in the same contract can not be done at the same time.

**: Probe went from being on course for Mars to having an apoapsis roughly halfway between Earth and Mars orbits – Orbital Decay mod have ruined orbits before, and is suspected – thus is removed from play by the end of 1956.

Training and drawing

Quarterly report of the Kerbinian Space Agency, third quarter, 1956.

The third quarter of the year has progressed somewhat routinely, although a temporary setback did crop up during the end of the quarter.Our space program is continuing on track though, and we’ve even managed to give the Ministry of Intelligence a bit of help along the way.

July started off with Bill and Bob taking another flight in the orbital trainer, remembering the lesson learned last time, the final engine was fired far earlier – allowing them to achieve actual orbit this time. We now have the first full 3-kerbal crew that have been in space. This is an important step, not just towards the Moon, but also towards our future presence in space in general – as crews of people who’s skills complement each other is a necessity in the long term, and having been in orbit to practice a bit before going on extended missions seems like a good idea.

By the end of July, our Lunar Mapper had completed its mission, and have measured and transmitted a complete elevation map of the Moon. This map will be a great boon to us, as it allows us to better choose suitable landing sites for future landing missions, be they unmanned or manned. Given the importance of the data, the map is of course classified – there is, of course, no reason to deliver such crucial information to other nations.

The day after receiving the final Lunar telemetry, a clone of the Lunar Mapper was launched on a basic Proton-1 launcher, into a polar Earth orbit. We expect it to have completed its task of mapping the elevation of the entire Earth within 2-3 weeks.

Mid-August our the last telemetry from the Earth Mapper is received. As the shape of the planet is generally somewhat known this map has not been classified completely, and a lower resolution map of the world has been published.

earth_elevation_1440x720
Measured elevation map of the Earth, with a rough outline of Kerbinia.

The same day, our next rocket were ready for launch – a Proton-1 carrying a “Docking target”-payload, intended for Jebediah to launch in a separate rocket and guide it to a successful docking.

The launch itself went perfectly well, and the docking target was placed into a good target orbit. Unfortunately it had no engines for maintaining orbit, and the next rocket was not ready. As a result, it re-entered the atmosphere before the “Dockee”-rocket was ready. This caused a delay in the test until the 4th quarter, as a new docking target had to be built.

We hope that by having both rockets ready at the same time, the docking targets orbit will only decay a little between the launches – and we will be able to complete the test.

 

Signed,

Gene Kerman

Moulding new minds

September 3rd, 1956; Moskow Polytechnic University.

As Wernher surveyed the grand auditorium, filled with young students of the technical sciences, he thought back to when he himself was in school, and just how lucky these young people were – not only would they see the beginning of the space age, but they had far better tools to accomplish their tasks than he had back then.

As the students all quieted down, Wernher began his lecture.

“Welcome to the first semester of your graduate courses, I am Wernher Kerman, lead designer at the Kerbinia Space Agency, and I’ve been invited by your professor to give a few words on our current series of launchers – the Proton series as you can see here”.

Proton-series
Proton rocket series. Proton-1 (left), trough to Proton-5 (right).

“We begin with the Proton-1, our first rocket designed from the onset to be a series produced launcher. It was developed back when we making a new custom launcher for every launch, intended for our early orbital tests, but it turned out so stable that not only did it take all our early manned missions up, it also started taking up all our small payloads to orbit – it’s simply so easy to get up there, cheap and fast to build”.

“The first stage consists of two RD-107 clusters, with the second stage being a single LR-105 – both of which burns kerosene and liquid oxygen. And that’s it, 7 minutes and 3,5 tonnes are in low Earth orbit”.

“The Proton-1 first flew around early March 1954, so it’s seen 2½ years of service by now – and we’re still using it – indeed we are launching three payloads on the Proton-1 this quarter alone”.

“Next up it the Proton-2, which came up due to the LRP-series being very complicated and having to undergo minor adjustments all the time. We concluded that we had need of a stable launcher for most of our missions – indeed the Proton-2 have carried every lunar probe since the LRP-series was discontinued, as well as out interplanetary probes, our geostationary communications satellites and all our 2-man training vessels”.

“Entering only its 10th month of operation, it has proven a mainstay in our launch fleet beyond any doubt”.

“Design-wise, is utilizes the same types of engines as the Proton-1, but in greater numbers, as well as stages. The main stage has a full four of RD-107 engine clusters, not counting the two clusters on the boosters. Indeed, it has 3 times the thrust of its predecessor. It has more stages as well, with the second stage having no less than four LR-105 engines, with the third stage having a single LR-105 engine, and it takes almost twice as long as the Proton-1 to get to its final orbit”.

As Wernher looks around he sees a raised hand, prompting a question.

“Sir, they seem very much alike, yet at the same time have a lot of differences, why is that?” the student asked.

“The answer is quite simple, they are alike because they are both based on the exact same technology, coming to life at the same time, yet they have different purposes. Proton-1 is simple and sleek, to get small things up, while the Proton-2 is designed to get the biggest payload into orbit with the available technology – only further developments allows more, as we can see from the next rocket – the Proton-3”.

“The Proton-3 came to pass with the development of a new engine, the E-1. And unlike the other rockets, this one uses the same engine throughout, for simplicity and efficiency. It takes everything up that the Proton-2 can’t take, including our manned Lunar fly-bys and our Lunar Lander probe. Quite simply it’s the biggest we can make currently, and as much as the Kosmodrone launchpad can handle at this time – though the Satish one is upgraded to handle bigger rockets, and the Kosmodrone eventually will as well – we just haven’t had the need yet for putting anything bigger that 19 tonnes into orbit”.

“The main stage boasts 3 E-1 engines, not counting the two on the boosters, with the second stage having a single E-1 engine, putting the entire stack into orbit in just around 8 minutes. R&D are looking at possibly beginning the design of a Proton-4 to possibly double the payload of the Proton-3, but we are not yet at a point where we need it yet”.

“Now, are there any last questions before I hand you back to your professors and go back to making rockets?”, Wernher asked at the end of his lecture, seeing a single hand pop up.

“Sir, I’ve read that the Illyriens claim to have a much better engine as their main one, the RD-253, is it better?” came the question.

“No, it’s a worse engine, and for several reasons. Yes, it is more efficient, but we’re working on a modified version of the E-1 that will close most of the efficiency gap. That said, the E-1 has more than 15 % additional thrust, which is something we need, so we don’t carry around more engines for no reason. That was one of the main reasons for choosing it. Further it uses Kerosene and liquid oxygen as fuel for the atmospheric stages as all the other Proton-launchers do. Using the same fuel mix is simply the most economic thing”.

“But all the engines on the upper stages use the same UDMH and NTO as the 253 uses, so why not use it for the entire rocket”, the student couldn’t help but argue. Clearly he had been enamoured by the Illyrien propaganda.

“Very simply, because we care about your health. UDMH can be burned fine in space with little risk, but we don’t like burning it in the atmosphere because it’s toxic and extremely unhealthy to kerbals. The Illyriens may not care about the health and safety of kerbals in general, but we actually do”.

With the presentation over, and the misguided youth told the truth of the world, Wernher bid the professors goodbye and started heading back toward the space centre, considering what the future held, and how in the world those young pups he just spoke to would ever be able to continue the space programme.

The challenges of a space program

Quarterly report of the Kerbinian Space Agency, 2nd quarter, 1956.

Since the completion of our KOOL network, we have had 5 other launches. The first launch were our Venus 2 probe, which was an abject failure. A staging mishap* shortly after launch meant that it is now partly disintegrated and partly lying on the bottom of the ocean – on the other hand, Werner have been talking about doing submersibles as a way of testing spacecraft and simulating living in space.

Fortunately the Mars 1 probe were already complete, and identical, so it was changed to Venus 2, and a new Mars 1 was put into production as that should be done by the Mars launch window. The second launch went fine, although the slightly less optimal launch window has resulted in the engineers being doubtful whether we can place it into a permanent orbit there – a third probe may be required later.

After our second success, we launched Bill and Bob in a new 2-kerbal rocket, however due to the lack of a pilot, no one considered the burn time required for our final stage. As a result, they not only failed to achieve orbit, but were subjected to a very steep descent. The heat shield held, but the G-forces were so severe that mission control were worrying for their safe return.

Next up were the Mars windows, and the launch of the Mars 1 probe. Not only did the launch go well, our orbital plane and launch window were so well aligned, that the guys at mission planning is hoping to be able to put the probe into a permanent orbit around Mars.

Last up were a launch to put a surface mapping satellite into orbit of the Moon. The launch went fine, and an orbital reconnaissance satellite even caught a glimpse of it, as it passed above the cloud layers.

screenshot133
LEO rekon sat image of the Lunar Mapper launch

The satellite was later placed into a polar orbit of the Moon, and we expect to have a complete surface map of the Moon in about a month.

The Ministry of Intelligence, upon seeing the initial data from the probe enquired why we haven’t done this on Earth, so now we have a contract for that as well.

 

Signed,

Gene Kerman

*: A holding of space for half a second and another stage going off…..