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”.

Visiting Venus

May 9th, 1958, Baikonur Kosmodrone.

Today we finally adjusted our Venus probe into a decent polar orbit to conduct mapping of the planet. It was always in a polar orbit, since that was how the intercept was planned – but after braking to get into a highly elliptical orbit, our flight engineers proclaimed that we would need an amount of fuel equal to what the rocket started out with to get a proper orbit.

Instead, they planned a new time for launching the lander. As the probe neared, it spun up in order to ensure the landers stability by spin-stabilization. At the proper time, it ejected as planned, although the separator did explode due to the solid boosters exhaust.

The probe aimed for the dark side of the planet, to mitigate the temperature of the planet – however not even 10 kilometres into the atmosphere, everything including the massive heat-shield exploded – without any alarms from the temperature gauges though – the cause is thus unknown (we had considered heat, but none of the alarms went off).

We thus consider the contracts for landing and gathering science there to be null and void, although the lawyers are still fighting over this*.

After talking to Wernher, Bill and Bob this morning though, they went to the controllers, and suddenly we could just barely get it into orbit – using the entire 50 % reserve, as well as all the manoeuvring thrusters.

We thus expect our mapping of the planet to be completed on time, at least, and have a stable satellite in orbit (with spare antennae).

In other news, April saw both another Orbiter-3 mission, followed up upon its return by our second crew rotating into Kerlab. We still have to bring fuel for the fuel cells, but we are looking into more permanent replacements as our science division progresses. These will likely not be incorporated into the Kerlab, but will have to wait for its replacement. The second Kerlab crew is expected to return by the end of May.

The Orbiter-3 and Kerlab missions are becoming routine, and we are currently making plans to have these moved entirely here to Baikonur, and allow the Satish site to focus on things beyond LEO.

 

Signed,

Gene Kerman

 

*: Cost a bundle extra to cancel the contracts, lesson learned that not all contracts given are possible. It was a tiny probe (depicted in the launch) with a massive lunar-rated heat-shield. Everything went boom at the same time, less than 10 km into the atmosphere (this is aero-braking altitude as well, so the boom was rather unexpected – if anything, it was expected that the chutes would go, or a slow heating up until exloding happened). Either it’s not possible, or the entire thing was bugged (it did require me around 20k dV to circularize initially, but the day after the numbers were more manageable).

Back to specs

March 20th, 1958; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

Valentina launched yesterday, it’s been a while since she’s been in space, given our training of a full 20 crew complement, in a rocket to bring the emergency crew pod to the Kerlab station. The launch was as usual as success, although a first from Baikonur on a Proton-3.

A slight update have been made though, as as Wernher found some shape-able cones for the boosters, as well as some chutes to attempt to recover them (he did by the way, as well as the whole first stage).

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The launch and intercept went perfectly – we’re quite getting the hang of this thing by now. It also helps that the Baikonur site is almost perfectly situated below the Kerlab orbit (46 degrees vs. 45 degrees).

As Valentina docked the mission engineer on Kerlab was out on an EVA to inspect the procedure.

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As can be seen, the emergency pod has larger engines that regular pods – as it is also planned to be able to push Kerlab out of its stable orbit when we decommission the station – so we do not leave too much space junk.

We are also considering retro-rockets on our future circulation stages, to limit the amount of debris – or use re-ignitable engines on these. Eventually we may have to start actively cleaning up in space, especially from those blasted littering Illyriens. Good thing the Kerlab has an RCS system to make minor adjustments to avoid debris carelessly left in orbit by certain people.

All in all a success. We are currently preparing the second Kerlab mission – which will also bring a large toolbox with various useful spare parts and additions – as well as fuel to re-fuel the fuel cell system, of course. Also, contracts requiring our trusty Orbiter-3 for a few weeks in space are continuing to pour in.

We’re even contemplating a return to the Moon, as we’ve been asked to go and take a look at another part of it. This mission is in the planning stages, as we’re going to need something slightly less risky than the Bear-1 this time.

Safety first, after all.

Signed,

Gene Kerman

Really staying in space

February 3rd, 1958; Satish Dwahan launch site.

Our test a month ago with a fuel cell that was aborted due to the original fuel cells not working in space have now been corrected, and besides a mission to re-do this contract in the works, we have both a new rescue pod under way, as well as launching the first official Kerlab mission yesterday, on the modified Proton-4 launcher.

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Kerlab Transport 1, on top of the new Proton-4 launcher at the launch site.

The first Kerlab mission brings with it a solution to the power issues – two tanks with liquid Hydrogen and Oxygen, as well as 4 fuel cells. The tanks are designed to interface with the existing cooling systems on Kerlab, and has enough for just over a full month of running. We expect to integrate refuelling tanks into a future standardized crew transport.

The launch went well, although there do still seem to be a few kinks to work out in the Proton-4 launcher – although the pilots will likely have to cope until we get the A-variant made. that one will likely also use Hydrolox engines on the upper stages, further integrating the refuelling of the stations fuel cells.

Arriving today at the Kerlab station, the crew consisting of a scientist and an engineer attached the power-module and then proceeded to dock the crew transport.

While the scientist began setting up the planned orbital experiments for later return, the engineer went on a brief EVA to make sure everything looked good from the outside. While there, he snapped a pictures that we’ll be releasing to the press later today.

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The mission have been a success so far, although the recycler will mostly be running automated when the station is not manned due to the massive power requirements.

Asides from the crew transport and recycled – the station has a roomy 4-kerbal habitation module as well as a full suite of experiments – including a new orbital experiment that will be running continuously over several missions.

The station also have ample supplies to keep the recycler running as well as snacks for our hard working kerbonauts. Lights for docking (and taking pictures), as well as RCS thrusters to keep the orbit, or make slight changes are also on hand. Future missions will be planned with a slightly larger margin on fuel reserves, to keep the station topped up.

We expect the new emergency life pod to be ready in about a month – at which time a pilot will take it up, and return with the station crew in their regular crew transport.

 

Signed,

Gene Kerman

Who designed this?

December 25th, 1957; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

Gene was sitting at his desk, with Wernher and Bill in front of him, holding a smaller than usual engineering meeting.

“How could you make a mistake like this? The mistakes that are usually made are excusable, but this?”, Gene told them in a voice as calm as he could muster.

“Planned burn times that in total are nearly twice the time it usually takes to get a rocket into orbit – how could that even pass the initial design specs?”, Gene continued.

“If this continues we might as well close the program and leave space to the blasted Illyriens! We’re lucky that once again, our emergency procedures worked – it sometimes seems the only thing that works on a consistent basis – perhaps we should leave them out and have the engineers focus on the rockets instead?”, Gene went on, not allowing neither Bill, nor Wernher, to say anything.

“It’s almost fitting the scientist on Kerlab panicked, because he’d have had to take the emergency pod back now anyway. You are both dismissed, as I assume you have to go re-design the Proton-4 completely.”, Gene ended the conversation, making it clear that the two were to leave the office.

As they left, Gene leaned back, and began pondering the coming year. Perhaps after the station was operational and working, they should look at some more probes? There had to be some launch windows coming up soon.

Or perhaps a return to the Moon? That might lift spirits as well?

 

 

Year-end status:

About 1000 science still left, to be spent soon – making 2.289/day – all things costing less than 160 has been researched by now, I think I’ll be taking most nodes in part because.

Two operational VABs, with 14 and 9 BP/s respectively, but only about 47k funds to spend.

StageRecovery added (DR 3000 +500 per year until 5000) and Hab multiplier set to 4.

Orbits and panics

December 4th, 1957; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

Today’s report include two launches – the second which went flawlessly as always, and the first which went fine, until the scientist on the mission panicked and used the lifeboat.

In either case, the launch of Kerlab-1 into a 45 degree 500×500 km orbit went off without a hitch. This was of course also our second launch of the Proton-5 type rocket, so we fully expected it to work.

The launch was, as always documented by the photographer from the Ministry, although he seems to have gotten himself a new kamera that can take pictures faster than before.

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After setting it into the correct orbit, and performing initial experiments for return, the scientist on the rocket panicked over the falling power levels, and decided to return home in the emergency capsule. He has since been reprimanded severely, as he was supposed to have deactivated said capsule, to save power, until the follow-up mission later this month.

As a result, the Kerlab-1 station is now floating empty in space – although we did confirm that our emergency escape system works fine.

Due to this same issue, no pictures of the station in orbit have been taken yet – we will make sure to do so, once the follow-up mission is done, and the station crewed.

The other mission launched today was another Orbiter-3, although this time up for a few days less than previous missions – we expect it to be a success as usual. After this mission, a full 18 of our current kerbonauts have been in orbit – giving us a fine foundation for future missions.

Signed,

Gene Kerman

Repeatability

November 27th, 1957; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

Today, our bi-monthly report have nothing but success to report – although we’ve only had two launches.

Early October we had another orbital mission to increase our sum of knowledge about living in space – another two-week long mission for an Orbiter-3 craft, although modified to try and recover more of the expensive parts.

While everything went well – we’re going back to the original design. The additional cost is compensated by less medical staff to treat the mission controllers.

While still fully stable, the gap between the main pod and the heat shield introduced oscillatory heating of the main capsule when the entire thing was moving just slightly – which is what caused so many engineers and mission controllers to nearly have a heart attack.

We didn’t tell the crew why each side of the pod kept getting hot – I believe mission control told them something about the electrical wiring or something.

Anyway, the big success today was the launch of our first ever Proton-5.

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Proton-5 launching from the Satish Dhawan launchpad.

There were one issue though, the rocket seemed to be too close to the pad, so it got broken by the launch and had to be re-built – which cost us most our our remaining funds. We should still complete several contracts soon, to replenish our coffers though.

The mission? Our new Venus probe, seen below in a computerized rendition of what it should look like in orbit of the Earth, after shedding its Venus Intercept stage.

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Venus-3 probe as it should have looked, if a kerbonaut had been there to take a picture.

The Venus Intercept stage was a brand new, very powerful, Hydrolox engine. The engine on the main probe is also a Hydrolox engine, though less powerful it is able to re-ignite nearly a dozen times.

Due to the engines, the probe has cryogenic fuel tanks with active cooling as can be seen on the probe – which is incidentally also why it has more solar panels than usual.

On top can be seen our Venus lander. A passively guided probe that is simply launched from the target orbit. The solid fuel booster on it then puts it on a course through the upper atmosphere, and the self-stabilizing design of the probe should keep it with its heat-shield facing forward. Once it reaches low altitude, two sets of chutes unfold at pre-determined altitudes to ensure a safe landing.

Once landed, it will unfold its solar panels, and conduct numerous experiments.

The orbiting probe is on course for a polar orbit allowing us to completely map the surface of Venus, as well as keep regular communication with the landed probe. The number of communications antennae on the orbiting probe it also, so that it can attempt to establish contact with other probes we have previously lost communication with that may pass nearby.

Signed,

Gene Kerman