The Long Dark

July 26th, 1959; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

As the reporters sit in the lounge hearing the last of Wernher’s explanations of the earlier launch, while showing pictures and video from it, Gene is standing off-stage waiting for confirmation from the flight controller.

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As Wernher progressed in his speech, he touched both the re-fuelling issues* that had delayed the launch almost a week, as well as the generally successful design of the Proton-2a, although the boosters broke apart on separation and the first stage was not recovered due to coming to a too high speed. As such, it was not a rocket that would be likely to see much use, as the payload capacity was comparable to the updated Proton-3 – which was also cheaper.

As the flight controller signalled Gene, Gene in turn waved to Wernher giving a thumbs up, prompting Wernher to end his presentation.

“And now, ladies and gentlemen, I will hand you over to Gene”, Wernher said, moving away from the podium.

“Thank you Wernher”, Gene began, as he moved towards the podium, pressing a button on a remote to change the pictures being shown.

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“Commander Cericca, congratulations on arriving at KSS and beginning your mission. How are things up there?”, Gene asked into a headset.

“Thank you Gene, and everything is as it should be”, the speakers in the room reported with a female voice.

“As you can see from the pictures Flight Engineer Sanlinne took, she was able to manually extend the last panels and we have retracted the parts of the cooling system that we don’t need until phase-2 is well under way”, it continued.

“Good”, Gene commented, “How is the supply situation, all as expected as well?”.

“Indeed Gene, Maalla has made an inspection while waiting for the laboratory to finish and launch, and it’s all in good shape – so we should have enough for 2-3 years for now. Though the recyclers on phase-2 should ensure that we just require more food mostly, with the occasional top-up of water and oxygen”, the speakers finished.

“Good to hear Commander. I’ll let you all get back to work now, and we’ll also get back to getting phase-2 under way down here so you can start working in earnest up there. Gene at mission control out”, Gene ended the conversation, turning around to the assembled reporters to take questions with a smile.

 

*: When editing the transport ship to change the fairing, two of the tanks suddenly had no fuel, and re-adding it took a few days extra.

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And so it begins

July 18th, 1959; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

“Well, I hope everyone enjoyed the launch last night”, Gene began the conference, while showing images of the slide on the presenter.

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“The trusty Proton-5 rocket launched the latest addition to KSS into orbit, and overnight our flight crew have been putting the new pieces into place”.

“And yes, I say pieces in plural, as the payload was no less than 4 separate modules for the station as you can see on the schematics of the payload behind me”.

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KSS Power Module payload.

“The payload consisted of an RCS tug to be used in docking smaller modules, where each launch has several modules to be placed at different locations. The first such launch is the primary power supply, consisting of three identical modules”.

“The Power Modules each has six 1 kW solar panels and two radiators for the cooling systems, with one power node connected to the KSS Core Module, and the other two extending out from the first module to either side – with plenty of room for future expansions”.

“This completes phase 1 of the Kerbinian Space Station, making the station fully operational and ready for a crew. The parting orbital stage got in a few shots of the station as well”:

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“As you can see, a few solar panels and a single radiator has not been extended*, but when we launch the inaugural KSS crew tomorrow they will extend them manually once they arrive at the station”.

“To get a better view of the station, we also have a schematic of the station for you – both as it were assembled, as well as the final look with all power and cooling extended”.

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“As you can see, the RCS tug is not currently in its planned position, but will be moved as well by the crew once they arrive”.

“Now to give a bit more of explanation, we also have a schematic where each module is shown apart, so that I can explain to you all exactly which module are up now, as well as with we are currently building or planning”.

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KSS in separated view.

“Starting with the KSS Core Module in the middle, which has the four Cupola viewing modules, this part of the station is the living room and station operations area. Here the commander of the station makes sure everything is running smoothly, and any work without dedicated workspaces takes place here, as well as recreational activities”.

“The latest addition is the three Power Modules to the front of the KSS CM, that is the upper left, these provide power and heat control for the station. Behind the KSS CM, that is the lower right, is the Habitation Module, providing living quarters for no less than 12 Kerbals at a time for the station. The KSS HM will also be where crew will be arriving”.

“Off to the side you see another large module, which is the Supply Storage Module. Here supplies are stored, such as food, water and oxygen, as well as those extra things required to keep the life support systems running. At the end of the KSS SSM, the RCS tug have it current designated berth”.

“Recycling Modules are being constructed and planned, and will be docked at the side-ports of the KSS SSM, along with a large toolbox with various useful tools for the station crew to work on the station outside. With the recycling modules, further Power Modules are also planned”.

“Lastly, opposite the KSS SSM, a number of laboratories and scientific facilities are currently being constructed – to allow us to better learn more about space itself, but also about living in space for extended periods. All in all, we believe we are entering an exciting age, where we will be advancing the scientific knowledge of all of Kerbalkind”.

“That is it for today ladies and gentlemen, I hope you’ve enjoyed this press conference, and have plenty of material for your various endeavours”, Gene ended the conference.

 

*: The age old bug of not being able to extend them due to being “shielded” in the payload still had to be corrected manually in the save file.

The Moon beckons

June 13th, 1959; Satish Dwahan launch site.

“Welcome back to Satish ladies and gentlemen – it fells like you just left here”, Gene began the conference with the best smile he could muster.

“Today we’re launching a big one. One that was actually ready a week ago, but which we’ve had on hold because we didn’t want its mission to possibly interfere with the Venus window, forcing us to run two missions actively at the same time”.

“This one has been held unannounced so far, only appearing very briefly in some papers as the ‘KLS’. Well today I am proud to unveil the Kerbinian Lunar Station. Ok, I admit, I won’t actually be unveiling the station – just the rocket we’re about to launch it on top of – though I promise to forward  you the picture of the station once it’s been placed into orbit”.

“So, without further words, shall we go watch the launch, and then come back for questions later?”, Gene ended his speech, indicating that they really had to go see the launch now, or they’d miss it.

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“I hope you all enjoyed the launch, and I know that a couple of you have a few questions”, Gene began after the successful launch, noting the reporter from the Kerbinian Technical Journal being the most eager.

“What were those engines Gene? And also, what didn’t we see of engines?”, the reporter asked, clearly with a technical mindset.

“Well, the 4 main engines are a new, more powerful variant of the F-1 engines, and the boosters you of course know. But from there on up, it’s pure Hydrolox for efficiency. The second stage takes a page out of the, generally crude, Illyrien design manual of pure numbers as it consists of a full 16 of our LR-87 engines”.

“The third stage has 4 of our new J-2 engines, which is re-startable, and allows us to make a much more circular orbit as well as de-orbit the third stage after orbital insertion of the payload. The last stage pushing the station to the Moon and inserting it into a low orbit has two of the same J-2 engines – although here we were required to modify the decouplers, and basically add a second one* due to the engine shape – again the re-start ability allowed us to make the intercept burn, circularize and de-orbit the booster stage onto the Moon”.

At the wealth of technical details, the reporter becomes very busy noting it all down, while another indicates a question.

“Were there people on the station? You didn’t mention that, but it seems like there ought to be on a station?”, the reporter from the Kerbinian Gazette asked.

“No, the station is unmanned, but in about 1½ months, we are sending up the first crew, to study the Moon from orbit for about a month. Later the station may be expanded to a midway point for landing missions, but that will require a lot more infrastructure and expansions for the station”.

As no more questions were forthcoming, Gene simply promised to send them all a picture of the station taken by the de-orbiting booster stage as it lesf the station to crash into the Moon.

 

A week later, Gene sends the photo to the reporters, noting the nice and nearly equatorial 66 by 72 km orbit.

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*: 90 % of the time it seems the J-2 stick to the fairing/interstage base no matter what. Only solution seems to be a regular decoupler on the J-2/above tank and then the base onto that – because the decouplers seem to decouple just fine *shrug*.

Continuous firing

June 10th, 1959; Satish Dwahan launch site.

Finishing up the press releases for the latest two launches. The first launch three weeks ago being the KSS Supply module receiving a bunch of photos of the launch.

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Nothing else mentioned, as the docking went just fine, and the only hitch being the airbrakes put on the orbital stage to attempt to maintain a good trajectory to enable recovery failed. But they were probably going to stop trying to recover the orbital stage, Gene though,

The launch the day just received a single picture of the launch, being another routine Venus mission. This one, Venus-4 being tasked with a high resolution map of the planet, and being launched on the same system that had previously delivered orbital probes to Venus.

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It was a nice picture though, Gene thought. And the probe was way overpowered, having nearly twice the required fuel for the intercept burn – but that was just more margin for the damn fuel evaporating out of the tanks along the way.

As Gene handed off the briefings to an aide to copy for the reporters, he couldn’t help but think about the schedule. This was supposed to be a year of large launches, with plenty of time in between. Instead they were still launching launching rockets less than a month apart.

Perhaps once KSS is done, they could finally get a break Gene wondered.

The innermost place

May 1st, 1959; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

“Welcome to the Kosmodrone everyone, we’ve all invited you today, not to witness a launch as we often do, but to share our latest scientific collections”.

“Today, Mercury-2 passed by the intended planet, at a rather low altitude, and sent back not only enough data to keep our science division busy for a year, but given that we had placed 4 kameras on the probe, we have a bunch of pictures to show you”.

“And yes, they were taken by the probe, and no those metal rods, girders and other things are not because it was shot in a studio – those are antennae, solar panels and scientific instruments”.

With that bit of anti-conspiracy talk out of the way, Gene began to show all the pictures.

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“As you can see, we had numerous Kameras, including one that allowed us to gain pictures of the dark side of the planet. Unfortunately it was not designed for orbit, although unlike the Illyrien probe earlier this year, our probe carried a full suite of scientific sensors – the only thing we did not do was map the planet, which we’re not certain we’re going to do anyway, as we have no immediate plans to attempt a landing there”.

“That is all for today ladies and gentlemen, although Wernher and I will stick around for another ten minutes if you have any questions, thank you”.

In the beginning

April 4th, 1959; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

Today we successfully launched the second module for the KSS. The KSS Core module was launched two days ago and inserted into a roughly 500/500 km orbit at 46 degrees inclination.

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The launch occurred at night, as this was when the rocket was rolled out – the second module, the KSS Habitation Module was already being rolled out, and there was little point in waiting. Suffice to say, our new Proton-5a launcher was a smashing success.

Today, we just finished a very long docking procedure, due to engineering not having quite enough RCS systems on the KSS Habitation Module – but in the end, it all worked out. The launch of the KSS Habitation Module was on top of another first, this time the Proton-4a rocket.

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The KSS Habitation Module were somewhat lighter, and while the Proton-4a do have two solid rocket boosters, it otherwise has only two regular stages, like the proton-5a has.

With the KSS Habitation Module, we made our first attempt to recover the orbital stage, but it unfortunately lost control in the atmosphere and burned up. It is still our goal to be able to recover as much as possible of our launches.

With that, KSS is now halfway to completion of phase-1, which we are expecting to reach around mid-year.

 

Signed,

Gene Kerman

Going even further

March 11th, 1959; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

“Welcome all to today’s launch everyone”, Gene told the assembled reporters. “Today you’ll the sister rocket to the Jupiter-1 from January launch – although it is heading a bit further out. This time, aiming for Saturn”.

“Orbital Dynamics estimate that with the planned launches, we’ll intercept the planet closely, and be able to establish a highly eccentric polar orbit inside the planetary rings – so we’re of course hoping for some good shots – in about 8 years that is”, Gene ended with a wry smile.

“Any questions before we head out?”, he asked as a single reporter raised his hand, seemingly to the chagrin of the remaining reporters.

“Sir, no one has touched upon this, but nearly two and a half months ago, the Illyrien presses reported discovering many new planets, have you found those as well?”.

“Well, I think I’ll let Wernher answer that one, Wernher?”, Gene answered her, indicating for Wernher to provide an answer.

“Yes, we have been tracking these for nearly two months as well – though they are not planets, merely large rocks. We are currently tracking two near Earth, and are contemplating if we should try to intercept one of them once we have an available spot in our launch schedule – which we do not anticipate for a while yet”, Wernher answered the reporter.

“Only one of them, why not both?”, the reporter countered.

“Well, because the other one looks to be hitting the northern part of the planet in a few weeks, a good ways north of the Arctic Circle. Don’t worry, we are tracking it, and it is quite small. It is very likely that it will burn up in the atmosphere as a shooting star – but in any case, we are tracking it, and will of course make sure to evacuate any areas if it is large enough to land. On the other hand, if it lands, we won’t have to make a rocket to go examine the other one I guess?”, Wernher ended – with Gene quickly taking over and ushering people to the launch to take their mind off impending doom, while briefly giving Wernher a menacing brow.