The KSA is going to have to renegotiate the contract with the Ministry regarding the Pluto fly-by. While we did get a bad intercept profile that will take 60 years, we estimate that the shortest possible intercept is around 20 years – far in excess of the time allotted in the contracts.
We plan to re-attempt another probe at a better launch time at the next coming Pluto launch window – but that is for science only, as we cannot accept the horribly unrealistic contracts proposed from the Ministry.
The annual new years party of the Kerbinian Space Agency has been moved one day this year, to make room for a much more momentous occasion – the 10 year anniversary of the KSA and its leading figures.
Gene, Wernher and Valentina have just come down from the podium, after Gene have given the annual speech regarding the space programme, reminding everyone that they would have to be sober again and back in a couple of days for the next launch – with a smirk-y smile on his lips.
“It’s too bad Jeb, Bill and Bob can’t be here – this looks to be one heck of a party”, Valentina told the others with a smile hinting a slight sadness.
“We know”, Wernher began looking serious as always, “but the pre-mission quarantine is more important now than ever – at least for KSS we can get people back fairly quick, even though it does cost a lot more”.
“I know”, Valentina answered, “At least I have a possible Lunar mission to look forward to with my crew next year – if you ever get around to re-designing the lander again”, she continued, looking at Wernher with a resigned look – due to his constant re-designs.
“It is important to be efficient, while still having a flexible design – our constant progr…” Wernher began explaining before Gene cut him off.
“We know and it gets better and safer each time – lets just hope the next one is more useful as a series production craft. But while the Moon is important, we can’t dwell there. The Illyriens are already sending consumables to Mars – we need to be ready for the next window – as they’re constantly ahead of us there”, Gene said, looking at both of them.
“I know”, Wernher began, “and with our current research track, and Project VD, we do believe that we have solved some of our main issues – combined with everything on the way there, we may catch a lucky break. I just wish we had sent surveyors to the moons as well, as extracting water from there for the long term planned orbital facilities would have been much easier”, he ended, looking at Gene.
“I know Wernher, but we can’t think of everything ahead of time – nor can we afford it. After January, we look at getting Valentina and her crew on the Moon, and then we start looking towards the next Mars window – we have to be ready”, Gene said, with a serious look on his face.
“For now, let’s enjoy the party and maybe go say hello to Jeb, Bill and Bob later”, Gene ended their serious conversation, lifting his glass, “to another decade of success and leaving the Illyriens in the dust”, he yelled.
End of year status:
Funds sitting at just above 1.2M – with science a whopping 5000 and techs queued for more than half a year.
Scientific progress 6.8 TB of data processed per day.
I am pleased to report to the Ministry of IT that the new geostationary kommunication satellites ordered are already in place – filling the previous gap in our global coverage that had occurred due to the existing set drifting off slightly (as became evident during the Mars launches).
Global cover is now re-established, and the new set even have a large amount of reserve fuel for either station keeping or orbital adjustments – due to being designed as a hybrid between our old satellites and our long range probes.
In short, they have the same communication capacity as the old network, mounted on the same carrier-platform as our long range probes.
This concludes the planned launches this year, but we expect to forward plans beyond January around the same time as the 10th year anniversary is celebrated.
Right after the Uranus-1 was launched, we had three launches in relation to the KSS the following days.
The first was a standard re-supply mission, but the first one of our dedicated series constructed re-supply ship – which went exactly as planned, which bodes well for our continued supply situation – although the payload may need adjustments later on in the ratios of the supplies.
Secondly we launched a new scientific payload, which we will likely have the scientists process in December or the coming year. We’re not exactly short on work for the boys in the labs at the space centres though, with at least a couple of years worth of scientific data to sift through. It was good to get up though, given the staging mishap of the first one.
Lastly, we launched an experimental probe towards the Moon – to collect data and return it to the scientists onboard KSS. The early parts were more or less routine, but the return was a delicately planned manoeuvre to utilize the Earths atmosphere to get into the correct orbit.
In the end, the return to Earth orbit took more than half the mission with no less than 17 passes through the atmosphere, before the probe reached the desired apoapsis. A slight amount of fuel was expended to keep the apoapsis on the last orbit – but in general, every aerobraking pass made conservatively, to not brake too much – as that would have been catastrophic.
In the end it worked, and after 32 days the probe docked with KSS a mere hour ago. After the data module was transferred, the probe undocked, and spent literally the last of its remaining fuel to slow its speed sufficiently to re-enter the atmosphere and burn up.
“Welcome everyone”, Gene began the press briefing to the assembled reporters.
“Unfortunately there was not much to see this time around, as we had to launch last night – and although it was a rare occurrence of launching an interplanetary probe from the Kosmodrone, we didn’t have much of a choice given the busy schedule around the Satish site and the Mars window”.
“We simply did not have time to build the payload and rocket on time at Satish for the launch window – so the decision was taken to give it a shot here at Baikonur, despite the unfavourable launch angle”.
“To put it simple, it was a resounding success, and the brand new design for a Hydrolox engine performed superbly. The probe is now on its way towards Uranus, and with luck it may even be able to make orbit”.
“The probe is a bare-bones scientific probe as you can see from these images, where it was placed on 4 legs for final inspection before being mounted on top of the rocket”.
“Like the Jupiter and Saturn probes, it is powered by RTGs, but has an antenna even more powerful than these – to allow us to maintain contact whether we make orbit, or the probe is boosted out of our solar system entirely”.
“The probe has an almost full scientific package, although it is eschewing certain atmospheric instruments due to weight restrictions – now any questions?”
“Andrej Kerman, Moskov Times”, a reporter began when Gene nodded at him, “you say make orbit, but the Illyrien probe for Neptune barely had fuel to get there, how can this be? Is Kerbinian design really that much better?”
“Excellent question”, Gene began answering, “the probe as you see it in the picture actually has enough fuel to just barely make it from orbit of the Earth to orbit of the Moon – all of this fuel is available, save a tiny amount for a planned course correction”.
“Still, after this course correction, the probe has enough fuel to make a fly-by of Jupiter from Earth orbit. So it actually has a lot – and our main concern is whether we can burn fast enough to achieve orbit – but we will know in 10 years time, when we’ve made our course correction how things look”, gene finishes with a smile.
“Right, way superior engineering”, Andrej mumbles while scribbling notes.
“Bob Kerman, Kerbinian Tribune”, the next reporter begins as he’s indicated to ask his question. “Is this a one-off, or are there further plans?”
“Many plans”, Gene begins answering, “without divulging too much of our future plans, I can say that we are of course developing several more probes to send on at least fly-by of every planet in the solar system – and make orbit where possible. We are even considering building a couple to send towards Jupiter and Saturn, as they have large moons that may hold interest as well – and the probes may have enough fuel to get to all these places”.
“Any more questions”, Gene asks, looking at the assembled reporters.
“Welcome to the Satish launch centre”, Gene began his presentation to the press. “As you can see, the place is rather empty, and I’m also going home to rest after briefing you on the past couple of days”.
“As you can see on the screen, we’ve had quite a few launches – all in all a total of nine of them over the past 50 or so hours – putting the time between launches at less than six hours. Now you can see why everyone is tired”.
“Now, for the launches, they were all nine for the Mars to be sent during the launch window we just passed”.
“Three were for a basic communication relay system around the red planet, followed by three updated mapping satellites to map the surface for everything, including a mining survey”.
“The last three were special. One were a new, larger lander that we have taken the lessons from the last one to heart – and we expect to land successfully – the exact spot still to be determined. The other two are small landers for the two moons”.
“Yes, landing on an airless body remotely is very tricky, but given the low gravity of the two Martian moons, we are expecting them to be able to touch down using just their RCS systems – the real trick is intercepting the moons really – but we do have a plan for this as well”.
“Lastly, Jupiter-1 reached its destination, though unfortunately a slight mechanical misalignment combined with a very low allowed gimbal range on the engine meant that it could not entirely complete the capture burn as planned”.
“Jupiter-1 is in orbit though, but instead of an apoapsis of a mere 1.6 million kilometres, it ended up at 24.6 million kilometres. The unexpected 280 day orbit does mean that we’re unfortunately not expecting that many pictures and scientific data as fast as we planned, but over the next four years, we still expect to gather all the data planned”.
“That’ll be all for now ladies and gentlemen, I will now go home to my family and take a well earned rest. Questions can be handed off at the reception, and I’ll get back to you once I’ve slept 36 hours or so”, Gene ends the conference, smiling very tiredly.
Sitting in his office, Gene is done with the latest report to the Ministry of Science (M.Sc.) and Collaboration (a newly renamed ministry to sound more international withy the space programme and all it seemed).
Reading over the report, he notes with satisfaction the return of the first batch of experiments from the KSS late June, but frowns at the Lunar probe that failed on launch the following day – he decides that he needs to have a good talk with Wernher about those guidance issues*.
He also notes down to start a replacement of the lost rocket, as well as a new experiment package for the KSS – maybe a bigger one this time around?
The last bit of the report contains the updated high resolution map of Venus, which he supposes that KSA should put to use with another landing test – but that will have to wait until the current batch of projects finish. In the unmanned department, the Jupiter-1 has passed the point where the gravity of Jupiter is the dominating force, meaning it is now at Jupiter, technically speaking.
Unfortunately it seems that the orbital insertion burn is right in the middle of the Mars launch window in a few weeks – which will be a pain to work around. Finishing up the report, Gene turns to the time table for the many launches planned in the coming Mars launch window.
*: A new tendency among the rockets to start the SAS setting at something not “hold” has started appearing, conflicting with my tendency to take pictures of launches – as I need to keep an eye on the rocket for the first 10-20 seconds to be ready to fix any SAS issues wanting to turn the rocket upside down (or worse)…