KSK

First Flight (Chapter 77 - The Skies of Minmus).

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Hey folks,

This thread has grown quite a bit since the original First Flight short story. To make things a little easier (and thank you to those who suggested this), here are the links to the various chapters for ease of reading. The whole story is also posted up on my forum blog.

Cheers,

KSK

Contents

Prologue: First Flight

Part 1: The Interplanetary Society

1: Space Program Rising (Part I)

2: Space Program Rising (Part II)

3: New Directions

4: Satellite

5: Two's Company

6: These New Engines

7: The Courage of Conviction

8: The Other Side

9: Kerbal in Space Soonest

10: Project Moho

11: The Seed

12: Poyekhali

13: All the Proof They Needed

Part 2: Secrets of the Kerm

14: Decisions

15: New Homes

16: Mun Or Bust

17: We all build them - We all fly them

18: MarkusA380 Fanart

19: Reunion

20: Beached

21: Beyond Kerbin

22: Far Side

23: The Dish

24: Dreams

25: A Journey Around the World.

26: Circles.

27: Docking - Part I.

28: Docking - Part II.

29: And Rendezvous.

30: The Cords That Bind.

31: Echoes of Time.

Part 3: Kerbal Space Program

32: Right of Conclave.

33: Project Eve.

34: Uncharted.

35: Dewdrops.

36: Preparations.

37: Pioneering Spirit.

38: With a little help...

39: Stormclouds.

40: Second Mün.

41: Training Days.

42: The Best Laid Plans.

43: A Voyage for the Ages.

44: Mün.

45: Priorities.

46: Pre-emptive.

47: Diplomacy.

48: Pilgrims.

49: Lightning.

50: Through the Eyes of a Child.

51: Under Pressure.

52: Halfway Point.

54: Craters.

55: If you cut us...

56: One Small Step.

57: The Days the World Stood Still.

58: Starseed.

Part 4:  The Age of Fire.

59: Engines and Engineers.

60: A Thin Red Line.

61: Children of Kerbin.

62: Shrinking the Ellipse.

63: Journeys.

64: Hopes.

65: And Fears.

66: Black Stripes

67: Prospecting

68: For Kerm and Kerbal.

69: A Time for Love.

70: Shaking the Pillars.

71: Crossroads.

72: A Grove for a Grove.

73: No Borders.

74: Hot and Cold.

75: Politics.

76: Blue and Grey.

77: The Skies of Minmus.

 

Artwork and Crafts

I'm absolutely thrilled (and more than a bit humbled) to be adding this section to the contents list. Here are links to various illustrations, screenshots, in-game vehicles and (unbelievably) a mod, from First Flight created by readers of this thread.

Enjoy - I know I did!

 

"Those Trashcans definitely made it happen." The Kerbal 1 blasts off on its pioneering first flight.

"It's Kerbin... just Kerbin." The Kerbal 1 crew get their first glimpse of their world from high altitude.

By Yukon0009.

"Four green hands clasped in quiet triumph as Kerbin's very first artificial satellite soared through the void." The Kerbin 1's broadcast from the KIS to kerbals around the world inspires the Speciality Fireworks Company's transformation into the Rockomax Corporation.

By minepagan.

"Moho 1 has cleared the tower!" Jebediah Kerman rockets into orbit - and history.

By Yukon0009.

"I think we've just got a very happy kerbal up there." Wilford Kerman notches up his own spaceflight firsts aboard Moho 3.

By MarkusA380.

"There's parking space to the left as you go through the gates, Ornie." Whether you need to pick up supplies for a morale raising barbecue or tow rocket stages to the VAB, Ornie is your kerbal.

By Mr. Pseudonym.

"Why don't you just do that, Jonton Kermol." Seen here in typical working garb, the kermol are the vital, rural half of kerbal society.

By Krevsin.

 

-------------------

Before the Space Program, before Mainsails and Mun rovers, before there was even such a thing as a probe core, there was just a group of friends with a shared dream who refused to let that dream go.

This is part of their story.

It was a bright sunlit afternoon as Geneney walked out to the launch pad. He could see the rocket in his minds eye. A gleaming tower of sculptured metal rising into the sky with a cluster of the latest generation engines at the base and the newest, most spacious capsule sitting proudly at the top. Ready to take him to the Mun, to Minmus or anywhere else he cared to go.

He sighed. The reality of course was rather different. A rusty launch tower constructed from old scaffolding. A bunker full of worn out monitors and other abandoned electronic gear. And a last ditch attempt at a rocket that they had built from whatever junk they could scavenge up and weld together. Wernher's original LV-1 engine had proven far far more difficult to scale up than any of them had imagined. Getting the stability augmentation system to work had eventually been an exercise in stubbornness rather than elegant engineering. And as for the decouplers.

Geneney shook his head. Best not to think about the wretched decouplers.

He reached the first of the launch clamps and inspected it carefully. The rocket loomed above him, a battered metal cylinder with a tangle of plumbing at the base, connected to the familiar ribbed shape of the LV-15 engine bell. Four RT-5 solid fuel boosters attached to the sides by explosive bolts and a simple capsule secured to the top with more explosive bolts completed this most unlikely looking spacecraft. In Geneney's opinion 'booster' was an optimistic name for a squat drum of firework propellant with a cone attached to the bottom. As for sticking them on with explosive bolts...

No - best not to think about the decouplers. Besides they had worked well enough in testing and none of them had been able to get the hydraulic pusher system to work reliably.

Geneney could hear voices far above him as Lucan helped the three cosmonauts into the capsule. An occasional mumbled comment from Bill, Bob's nervous chatter and Jeb, talking up a storm in his enthusiasm. Geneney smiled to himself. Bill was still a believer, Bob... well Bob was loyal. If his best friends were risking themselves in a home-brewed rocket, then Bob would be there alongside them. And as for Jeb, he had never given up, despite all the difficulties, frustrations and exploded prototypes. He'd kept them going, with his permanent grin and irrepressible enthusiasm, even as the other members of the Kerbin Interplanetary Society had gradually drifted away. It helped that the grin hid a surprisingly competent engineer, otherwise Geneney was fairly sure that Wernher would have stuffed Jeb headfirst into the engine bell of the LV-10 test model and probably fired it too.

His smile faded. The LV-10 test had been a definite low point and they still hadn't figured out exactly what went wrong. The LV-15 worked, although it wasn't close to being powerful enough and all their attempts to cluster multiple LV-15s together had failed. Eventually even Jeb had conceded that the multiple LV-15 design was just too prone to overheating and suggested using a set of RT-5 'Trashcan' engines instead.

All the launch clamps seemed to be in order and a loud clang from above announced that Lucan had finally closed the hatch of the Kerbal 1. Geneney waited as Lucan clambered down the launch tower and the two kerbals hurried back to the control bunker.

-------------

Geneney tapped his microphone.

"Kerbal 1, this is Control. How are you guys doing up there?"

Jeb's voice crackled from the speakers.

"Cool, calm and collected, Genie. How's that telemetry looking?"

If Geneney knew Bill and Bob, then calm was most probably a lie, let alone collected. No point in breaking the facade though.

"Wernher's just running the last tests on the decouplers now Jeb. Five minutes to launch."

Wernher pressed a button on his console and grunted in satisfaction as a set of indicator lights winked out. He flicked a switch and all five lights flickered briefly then lit up with a reassuring green glow.

"All rocket systems check out. Guidance control and launch sequencing transferred to booster. Ready when you are, Gene."

"OK then. We all know what we're doing. LV-15 engine start on my mark, 3 second hold down at full power as a last check, then we release the clamps and light up the Trashcans. That last bit is probably going to be a bit bouncy guys, so as soon as the LV-15 lights you'll probably want to hold on to something."

"Gotcha, Genie."

Geneney took a deep breath. "LV-15 ignition in five...four...three...two...one.. Mark!"

Lucan and Geneney turned towards the main monitor screen. Behind them they could hear Wernher rattling through the ignition checklist.

"Firing gas generator, turbopumps powering up and IGNITION!"

Fire erupted from the base of the Kerbal 1, rapidly focusing into a single hard bright flame. A steadily increasing rumble could be heard outside as the LV-15 throttled up to full power.

"Holding for three...two...one..."

The bunker shook to a thunderous roar as all four RT-5s ignited, sending sheets of flame washing across the launch pad. The image on the monitor flared brightly. Spots danced in front of Geneney's eyes as he stared at the screen trying desperately to spot the Kerbal 1 amongst all the static. As the image came back into focus, all Geneney could see was a badly scorched launch pad. The noise in his headphones suggested that this was due to a successful launch rather than a catastrophic explosion but the faint screams didn't sound at all good. The static on monitor 2 didn't look promising either.

"Wernher - talk to me!"

"LV-15 performing well, all four RT-5s are running. All decouplers intact," came the calm response. "Capsule telemetry and sensors offline."

Geneney gripped the arms of his chair tightly. "Which means?"

"We have no way of telling how high the capsule is travelling, how fast or at what angle."

Lucan interrupted him "If the decouplers haven't fired...I can still hear the engines in my headset, so the rocket should still be in one piece." He snapped his fingers. "The main data cable - it probably just came loose during the launch. Wernher, try SCE to Aux."

Geneney's knuckles turned white as Wernher searched for the switch on his console. Then, with a click, monitor 2 lit up, as telemetry suddenly flooded in from the Kerbal 1. A slow smile spread across Geneney's face as he got to his feet and slapped Lucan on the back. Above his head, the numbers for altitude and velocity of the Kerbal 1 were both steadily increasing.

------------

"10 seconds till burnout."

Geneney kept his fingers firmly crossed as he waited for the Trashcans to shut down. Five seconds to go, two, one... and nothing. The roar of the engines still filled his headphones. Five more seconds, ten more seconds. He was just turning towards Wernher, when everything went quiet. There was a series of muffled explosions and four lights on Wernher's console winked out. He grabbed the microphone.

"Kerbal 1, this is Control. Come in Kerbal 1! Jeb, Bill, Bob - can you hear me!"

Jeb chuckled. "Hearing you loud and clear, Genie if you'd let us get a word in edgewise!"

"Jeb - thank the Kerm! Are you guys OK up there?"

"The Bobcat here is looking a bit blue but we're all good. Nothing but Class A Badasses on this rocket ship!" Jeb paused to savour the moment. "Yeah, this rocket ship...", his voice trailed away. "Dammit guys we did it! Faster than any kerbal has ever travelled, higher than any kerbal has ever travelled and way way noisier than any kerbal has ever travelled! I told you those Trashcans would do the trick!"

"Well we've still got a couple of things left to do, Jeb but yeah - those Trashcans definitely made it happen. Thirty seconds of fuel left for the LV-15."

Lucan was keeping a close eye on the telemetry. The Kerbal 1 was actually accelerating slightly now as the last litres of fuel drained away, until at last the engines shut down. The last light flickered out on Wernher's console accompanied by a final muffled bang from the speakers.

"Shutdown and booster separation confirmed, Jeb. We figure you should top out at around thirty to thirty five thousand metres."

"Thanks, Luco. Not bad for a first flight, not bad at all! Looks like I won that bet with the Bobcat too - he reckoned we'd get to twenty five thousand at best!"

Bob laughed nervously. "Are you sure they were just the standard Trashcans, Jeb? If we get down from here in one piece, I'm not sure I'll be able to get out of this seat, I got mashed into it so hard."

"Didn't touch them, Bobcat. They sure did make for one heck of a ride though. What did you think, Bill? Hey - are you OK there, Bill? That window isn't coming loose is it?"

"Oh... Oh wow... Guys you need to see this." Bill silently reached out a hand and Jeb wordlessly passed him the camera.

Geneney blinked. He'd never heard Jeb sound like that before. Almost awestruck.

"What is it, Jeb?"

"It's Kerbin... just Kerbin. Only not quite and all of it at once. And the sky - it's full of more stars than you can believe. Greens and blues and brilliant white clouds and then black and stars."

"You're not making any sense, Jeb."

"No, no I don't think I am. You're gonna have to see this for yourself, Genie."

Geneney sighed. "You know we're never going to get another shot at this. The Kerbal 1 was all we had left," he said sadly.

"Actually, Genie, if even half of Bill's photos come out, I think you're going to get to see this quicker than you can imagine and in a bigger and better rocket than you can imagine too. Hey, Bill, if you're done with that camera, pass it over here. Genie, I'm taking off my helmet, sticking the camera into it and wedging it under the control panel for safekeeping."

Geneney's jaw dropped. "What, why, what are you doing? What happens if you get an air leak?!"

Jeb's voice was uncharacteristically serious. "I'll just have to hold my breath, Genie. Whatever happens to Bill, Bob and me, you need this camera. It's all the proof that the Kerbin Interplanetary Society needs and it's going to change everything."

---------

Two small green figures stood on the roof of a makeshift concrete bunker, anxiously peering out to sea. Geneney glanced at his watch and then scanned the horizon again, too nervous to look away for more than a moment. He knew that he probably wouldn't see the capsule from this distance but the parachute should be visible. And it should be visible any moment now. Beside him, Wernher suddenly stiffened and pointed at the sky. An orange streamer popped into view, plunged towards the ground and then fluttered skywards. Geneney's heart was in his mouth. If that was the drogue chute then...

YES! Two orange discs burst into the sky and then unfurled into the welcome, welcome sight of two fully opened parachutes. Geneney and Wernher looked at each other, grinned in triumph and then threw themselves down the stairs as fast as they could.

"Lucan, Wernher - boat. Now! We've got three kerbonauts to pick up!

Epilogue - two days later

Four members of the Kerbin Interplanetary Society were lounging about at the Jebediah Kerman Junkyard and Spare Parts Company. Bill was in Jeb's office working on his camera, whilst Jeb was out with a pair of customers, helping them rummage through a pile of old engine parts. As the three of them strolled back towards the office, Geneney overhead snatches of conversation.

"Were you boys anything to do with a mighty lot of noise out by that old rusty tower the other day?"

Jeb nodded, "Yup, that was us, sir. Testing some bits and pieces from the junkyard."

The older of the two customers chuckled. "People back in town reckon they saw one of those rockets flying into the sky." He snorted. "Load of nonsense if you ask me, never mind what those crazy interplanetary characters keep talking about. Although I have to admit, they do make some mighty fine explosions."

Genneny stifled a grin as Jeb tried his best to keep a straight face. Just then Bill popped his head around the office door.

"Hey guys - photo's came out nicely. You want to take a look?"

Jeb smiled. "Love to, Bill." He turned towards his customers politely, "and would you good kerbals care to join us?"

Geneney stared at Jeb's office wall. Most of Bill's photographs were blurry views of not very much, taken out of what was obviously a very small window. Several more showed what looked like maps. But none of the eight kerbals crammed into the room had eyes for anything other than the largest picture in the middle. This too was clearly a view through a window but beautifully sharp. A very obviously curved line down the middle separated inky blackness from brilliant blue, dusky brown and lush green. Far away in the distance, the familiar battered grey ball of the Mün rose over Kerbin.

Geneney blinked back tears. Jeb was right. They had really done it. They could do it again. And there would be a Space Program.

Edited by KSK
Adding navigation links
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Brilliant! I loved reading this KSK!

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Thanks - to both! I've got some ideas for a follow up and for the promised follow ups from my last thread. Seem to be spending more time writing than flying at the moment but it's fun either way :)

Edited by KSK
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Rather than spamming the forum with loosely connected threads, I figured I'd just add the follow up here. The tale continues a few days after the events of 'First Flight'.

Space Program Rising.

Ornie whistled cheerfully to himself as he drove along. The soft electric purr of the truck's motors and the rattling of the trailer provided quite a tuneful accompaniment, apart from the occasional loud clanking as the truck bounced over a bump in the road. To his left, well tended green fields stretched out to the coast, interspersed with the usual copses of Kerm trees. On the horizon, sunlight sparkled off the waves of the Great Tranquil Sea. To the right the fields gradually petered out into rougher grassland and woods whilst straight ahead, the road wound down towards the Dasqu bridge, which arched over the river in a graceful series of steel cobwebs. Over the bridge, the road continued south as far as Ornie could see.

A motley collection of brightly coloured boats drifted past underneath him, as Ornie cautiously steered his unwieldy vehicle over the bridge. The trailer was rocking noticeably as it bumped over the expansion joints in the roadway and he had no desire to dump hundreds of kilograms of metal onto a passing barge, or worse still a yacht. He doubted that the swimmers using the bridge piers as impromptu diving boards would be very impressed either. At last he rolled over the final section of roadway and off the bridge. After a brief stop at the side of the road to cinch up the chains holding everything in place on his trailer, he drove onwards looking for a signpost to the small town of Barkton.

As he reached the outskirts of town, Ornie was rather surprised to find complete strangers waving at him or pointing to the back of his truck and talking excitedly to their friends standing next to them. It was strangely pleasant to be treated as some kind of minor celebrity though and he soon found himself smiling and cheerfully waving back. Surprise turned to outright astonishment as he drove up outside Jeb's junkyard. A sea of people were milling around the gates, pointing at a figure on the roof and chattering amongst themselves. Ornie decided that there was no way that he was going to be able to push through the crowd, so he rolled to a stop. wound down the truck window and leaned out to see what was going on.

The kerbal on the roof turned around and spotted Ornie leaning out of the window. "Ornie, my friend", Jeb shouted, "you're just in time!" He waved at the crowd below and raised his arms for silence.

"Good Kerbals. Today marks a new start for my humble business empire!" He paused, "An empire so humble in fact that most of you were probably blissfully unaware of it." Polite laughter rippled through the crowd as Jeb continued. "But today, I think that is going to change. From today this building will no longer be called 'The Jebediah Kerman Junkyard Company'. He picked up a large pair of shears and with a flourish, cut a rope holding a large canvas sheet in place.

"From today, this building will be known as 'Jebediah Kerman's Junkyard and Spaceship Part Company!"

Jeb whisked away the sheet and the crowd cheered as he revealed a freshly painted signboard. A stylised rocket pointed jauntily into the sky, trailing a horizontal line of flames out behind it. Above the flames, the words 'Jebediah Kerman's Junkyard were written in a bold script, leaning towards the rocket as if dragged along behind it. Below the line, the words 'and Spaceship Part Company' were also leaning towards the rocket.

Jeb slid down a nearby drainpipe and bounded through the crowd towards Ornie. He hopped up onto the running boards of the truck and thumped on the hood for attention. "Make way," he cried, "make way! Important spacecraft parts coming through!" He leaned through the cab window. "There's parking space to the left as you go through the gates, Ornie. We'll unload her later."

Ornie started up the motors and slowly edged his truck forward towards the gates.

---------------------

Ornie climbed out of the cab, stretched and looked around in bemusement. The old junkyard was buzzing with activity - everywhere he turned somebody was building something, carrying material to the builders or watching things being built. A brand new outbuilding had been put up in one corner of the yard. Just three walls, a roof and a workbench inside but already, a kerbal was sitting at the bench hard at work with a soldering iron and a pile of electronic parts. Another two kerbals were watching in fascination. Beside them, more kerbals were busily laying bricks on the half completed walls of a second outbuilding with a gang of volunteers ferrying a constant supply of new bricks and buckets of cement to them. Another gang of volunteers were digging the foundations of a third workshop.

Jeb jumped down off the running board and came to join him. "Things have changed quite a bit since you were here last haven't they?" he said with a grin. Ornie shook his head. "Has the whole town gone rocket crazy?" he asked. "I've only been away for a couple of days and I come back to find crowds outside the gate, a building site in here..."

Jeb laughed. "You can blame Richlin for that," he said, "I'm not sure what he's been saying to the good people of Barkton but its certainly had an effect! And you haven't even seen the best bits yet. Let me show you around!"

They strolled over to the out buildings. Ornie wasn't particularly surprised to see that the kerbal at the workbench, soldering iron in hand was Bill, working away on a circuit board and apparently oblivious to the noise of all the construction work going on around him. Jeb waited patiently until Bill put the soldering iron down and then tapped him on the shoulder.

"Hey, Bill - look who made it back here."

Bill looked up startled. "Oh - hi, Ornie", he said, "did you manage to find some tanks then?"

Ornie nodded. "Right over there on the truck, Bill. Along with a couple of crates of spare parts and odds and ends that I think you're going to find useful."

Bill gazed past him distractedly. "Good... that's great Ornie... thanks." he said before picking up his soldering iron again.

Jeb gestured to Ornie and they quietly left Bill to his tinkering. As they walked past the half finished outbuilding, Jeb greeted the builders enthusiastically. "Great work, guys! That wall is gonna be solid enough to hang a booster off. Have any of you guys seen Wernher or Richlin anywhere?"

One of the volunteers pointed across the yard. "Over there Jeb. They dug out some dirty great piece of machinery from the back room. Not sure what it was but Richlin seemed pretty excited about it."

Ornie looked over to where the volunteer was pointing. The dirty great piece of machinery looked very much like an old model automatic lathe to him and sure enough, Wernher and Richlin were both hard at work stripping it down and cleaning it.

In the far corner of the yard past Wernher and Richlin, another smaller group of kerbals stood around a framework of metal girders. A fountain of sparks shot into the air as one masked kerbal carefully welded a cross beam into place. Jeb spotted where Ornie was looking. "Ahh yes," he said happily as they walked over, "the new test stand. Looks like it's all going well. Hey, Malmy - did you find that spare fuel valve?"

"Couldn't find one anywhere, Jeb," replied Malmy. "Got the old one working again though. Nothing that a replacement seal, a new handle and a bit of cleaning and greasing couldn't fix."

"Excellent. I tell you, guys, Wernher's gonna love having a new stand to get some decent data for his smaller engines! The big stand out the back is OK for an LV-15 or a Trashcan but we could never get it calibrated for anything much smaller than that."

One of the kerbals looked up from the girder he was holding. "Sounds interesting. What were you using to measure your structural load?"

Jeb looked momentarily nonplussed. "Not really sure to be honest - you'd need to speak to Bill or Wernher. Feel free to have a look at the old stand too but please let Wernher know before you start playing around with it. Hey Ornie, I could do with a drink - you coming?"

Edited by KSK
Minor tweaking and edits.
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Best. Story. Made.

My mind is blown

Keep it up KSK, sounds like it could be an official KSP novel!

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This is the best ksp story bar AAR to jool and back(R.I.P i think) keep it up!:3

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OMG ITS AWESOME.

I think this pretty much describes what I think about it...

This really makes me think those AARs should, once finished, if the writer approves, be printed and made a "fan-article" of KSP, the writer would get some money from it aswell.

I really like this...A LOT.

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Very. Very. Very good piece of fanfic :) I could almost smell the exhaust, ozone from the welders and excitement...Oh, the excitement :) Earth haven't seen something like that since Mercury days. Please, keep it coming. And subbed (^_^)b

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I'm a wannabe author and i must say....this kick major ass.

I'm actually serious when i say that you should ask squad if they want a novel for their game.

Then you just need somebody who's halfdecent at drawing to draw some pics of those junky rockets and stuff.

Something to look at every few chapters you know.

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And then you must force Nova to read it, so we get those LV-10 and LV-15s...and the RT-5

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dimovski said:
And then you must force Nova to read it, so we get those LV-10 and LV-15s...and the RT-5

Heh - I wouldn't bother with the LV-10 unless you really like explosions :) As you've probably guessed already, the LV-15 and RT-5 were intended to be lower tech 'we're just starting out' versions of the LV-T30 and RT-10 boosters. There will be a switch to the LV-T series at some point - I have some ideas for the difference between LV and LV-T engines.

But anyway - thank you all for your kind comments! DarthVader - I'm glad someone liked "SCE to AUX" - I just had to put that in somewhere :) I don't think Lucan is a steely eyed missile man just yet but he'll be working on it! Botse - that means a lot. 'Voyage to Jool" is epic - I'm more than happy to be in that sort of company. Spleenslitta - where possible the KIS will be using rockets that would actually work in-game and I'll be posting screenshots and parts lists so that folks can fly the missions too if they feel so moved. But yeah - proper illustrations would be way better!

Next section coming up. Hope you enjoy it.

Space Program Rising - Part II

Jeb pulled the door of his office shut and started rummaging around in the fridge under his desk. Ornie looked around. For a self proclaimed spaceship parts manufacturer, Jeb had a rather ordinary office; desk, filing cabinet, a pile of paperwork on a chair. Not even one of Bill's photo's left on the wall. Then Ornie reminded himself that until a couple of hours ago, this had just been the office of a small scale junkyard owner.

Jeb fished two cans of sapwood juice out of the fridge and tossed one to Ornie. "It's only sapwood," he said apologetically, "but it's a bit early for anything stronger. Besides, I'm thinking that beer and spaceship engineering probably shouldn't be mixed. It's good and cold though." He noticed Ornie looking around the office. "I know," he said, "I'd love to get one of Bill's photos put back on the wall to make this place look more the part. We don't really have any spares at the moment though."

Ornie frowned, "I thought..."

Jeb nodded, "Yes - Bill took lots of shots but... well see for yourself." He led the way through into the main warehouse.

Ornie stared. The yard outside was one thing but the atmosphere and sheer noise in here was unbelievable. A large open space had been cleared near the front of the warehouse. All of Bill's pictures were on display on boards around the outside and in the centre, in pride of place, the Kerbal 1 capsule rested in a wooden cradle, with steps leading up to the hatch. Near the warehouse doors, Geneney stood behind a makeshift table, handing out tickets and collecting coins from the visitors who were patiently waiting in a queue that stretched out of the doors and far back down the street. If Ornie was any judge, there were over three hundred kerbals waiting in line just to get in and at least another hundred wandering around, gaping at the photographs of Kerbin from space and chattering to themselves as they inspected the Kerbal 1. A few daring souls were actually reaching out and touching it, wherever they could get close enough.

Away to one side, outside the impromptu museum, Lucan was sorting through boxes of junk and patiently answering questions from the small group of enthusiastic onlookers that had apparently volunteered to help. As far as Ornie could see, Lucan was taking an inventory, picking out anything that might still be useful as a rocket part and marking it off on a clipboard. Meanwhile, the volunteers were packing the rest of the junk away into various boxes and bins.

Ornie shook his head in disbelief. People volunteering to sort through dusty, oily old junk, just because it might become part of a rocket.

Another queue was forming as a large number of kerbals waited to actually climb inside the Kerbal 1. Bob was standing at top of the steps by the hatch, checking tickets and letting pairs of kerbals through the hatch. There was a continuous popping of camera flashes as other kerbals poked their heads through the empty spaces in the capsule (windows now removed) to photograph their friends inside. Occasionally Bob would climb in too, much to the excitement of the crowd, whereupon the brilliance of the camera flashes would become almost painful.

Jeb chuckled. "I think Bob is quite enjoying being the heroic kerbonaut," he commented.

Ornie raised an eyebrow, "Are you trying to tell me that you haven't taken a shift or two by the capsule yourself, Jeb," he asked dryly.

Jeb had the grace to look a little bit sheepish. "Well maybe one or two," he confessed.

Ornie sipped at his drink and let his thoughts drift back to that first meeting.

------------------

The younger customer's jaw dropped open at the magnificent sight of Kerbin seen from space. Even the older customer looked startled for a moment. "Well now," he said quietly, "looks like the folks in town weren't just spinning a tale. I'd say you interplanetary boys did send a rocket up - and sent it up a good long way too." He stuck out his hand. "I'm Ornie and this here is Richlin. Pleased to meet you all."

Jeb shook him by the hand. "Likewise," he said, " I take it you like our holiday pictures then?"

"They're not bad," said Ornie, "not bad at all." He tried his best to hide his excitement behind a nonchalant look but had to give up as his face cracked into a broad grin. "In fact a long way past 'Not Bad' I'd say!" He looked over at Richlin who nodded eagerly. " Say - how do you join this here Interplanetary Society anyway?"

Jeb grabbed a sheet of paper from his desk and scribbled six names on it; Jeb, Bill, Bob, Wernher, Geneney, Lucan..., he paused for effect, ...Ornie and Richlin.

"You already know me but this is Bill, Bob, Wernher, Geneney and Lucan. Bill is our avionics and remote sensing guy, Wernher does engines, Geneney and Lucan do launch prep, fuelling and mission control and Bob and I do whatever else needs to be done. More or less anyway - mostly we just all pitch in and build stuff. Anyway - welcome aboard!"

Bill smiled shyly at the newcomers, Wernher nodded politely and Bob, Geneney and Lucan waved happily. Ornie grinned. "Well you know me and Richlin now. We do airplanes mostly but I figure we could probably help build a rocket or two. Richlin knows his way around a workshop and I'm a fair hand with a pipe bender."

"Sounds like you're going to fit in just fine," said Jeb cheerfully, "you couldn't be much worse at pipes than Bob here anyway."

Bob coughed. "Says the kerbal who accidentally drilled a hole through the main fuel tank when he tried to fit the bracing struts."

Jeb waved airily. "That tank needed patching up anyway. One more hole wasn't going to make much of a difference. Anyway, this office isn't really built for eight. How about you lot go and find a seat outside in the yard and I'll see what I can dig out of the fridge."

The sun was setting over the distant hills as the now expanded Kerbin Interplanetary Society arranged itself on a set of spare tyres. After a respectful pause for each kerbal to pop open his beer and take a swig, Ornie asked the question that was on everybody's mind.

"So what happens next?"

Geneney looked glum. "Nothing much for a while, until we find enough parts for the Kerbal 2. We've got enough spares to build another engine and we might just manage half a capsule." He shrugged. "As for everything else, we're open to suggestions."

Richlin looked thoughtful. "We could probably find a spare fuel tank. I think we've got some old avionics and tail fins lying around somewhere too. Ornie could head back with the truck and bring them over in a couple of days."

Geneney brightened up but then his face fell as he remembered."That'll help but we've still only got enough spare fuel for one, maybe two Trashcans"

Ornie looked puzzled, "Trashcans?"

Wernher took another pull of beer and wiped his mouth. "Solid rocket motors. The LV-15 isn't quite powerful enough on it's own, so we... augment it slightly with solid boosters. Gene is right - we could probably build a couple of new ones with what we have left over from the Kerbal 1 but that won't be enough."

Then Bob spoke up hesitantly. "You know guys, I think we may be looking at this the wrong way. Instead of flying another capsule, how about we try for something smaller. Say about 100-200 kilos. We could easily launch that - heck we could probably get it into orbit!"

Geneney looked confused. "200 kilos isn't much. You'd barely be able to lift a seat, a passenger and a parachute for that. Even if you made a capsule out of tinfoil it wouldn't work."

Jeb grinned. "So we don't bother with a capsule. Nothing between you, your rocket and the wide open skies." He looked thoughtful. "Actually that sounds pretty sweet... Mind you, we'd need a big comfy chair, so the poor old passenger doesn't get mashed into it - right, Bob?"

Bob rolled his eyes. "We're putting a paying customer on top of a pile of rockets held together with explosives." he said dryly, "Us type A badasses can handle a little acceleration but I think everyone else might feel entitled to a properly padded seat. But anyway, I was thinking more of a camera or maybe a big radio rather than a passenger."

Geneney frowned. "What's the point in that. We're supposed to be the Interplanetary Society not the hobbyist high altitude camera club."

Bill looked rather put out at this and opened his mouth to speak, only to be interrupted by Jeb.

"Actually, Genie, I think Bob might be on to something. Bill's pictures in the office - everyone is going to want to see them!" Bill looked mollified by this show of support as Jeb continued. "Now imagine what they'll do if we manage to get some pictures from actual orbit. Sunrise from space. The Mün from close up - we may even get a snap of Minmus! Or if we launch a radio transmitter. Just think of it - a message from space, broadcast by the Interplanetary Society to every radio station and amateur radio enthusiast across Kerbin!" His eyes shone. "Besides we're going to need to build some unmanned probes eventually to scout for landing sites."

"What do you mean?" asked Geneney, "we've already got good maps of Kerbin - no need to do any scouting."

There was a collective intake of breath as everyone realised what Jeb was about to say.

"True, Genie, very true. But as far as I know, we don't have any maps of the Mün!"

-----------------

Ornie shook himself awake from his reverie, Right now, he thought that Jeb's crazy plans weren't so crazy after all. In fact the only major problem that he could see would be dealing with the hordes of kerbals eagerly waiting for a seat in whatever contraptions the Kerbin Interplanetary Society could put together.

Edited by KSK
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Umm, if youre going to augment this with pics (no, I wont bother commenting on your update, Ive got better stuff to do then dig thru the dictionary for all possible positive wordings), I STRONGLY suggest you to contact camelotking (dunno if he posted here), why?Well he updated the pre-0.18 parts to work with the current version of KSP, I dont know since when youre playing KSP but a look at the mod should make everything clear.The pod could easily be used for the Kerbal one, and the old tanks, engines and SRBs could be, via part .cfg edit (Im volunteering to edit it) modified to acctually have the performance of those LV-15 and R-5 boosters.I hope youre gonna think about this.

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Keep going KSK. Now i'm already impatient for the next chapter.

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This qualifies as the BEST storytelling I've seen on this forum (even without pictures).

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Hey folks,

First of all, a big thank you to everyone for the ongoing kind words and encouragement!

I've roughed out a good chunk of the next chapter and I have a sketch of the story and a bunch of notes for a good few chapters after that. So there should be plenty more to come.

But (there's always a 'but' :) )

For various reasons I'll not be spending a lot of time within reach of a keyboard for the next week or so. Tablets are wonderful inventions but I've never tried to bang out any decent amount of text on one before so I'm not sure how well that will go. All in all, there'll probably be a bit of a break before the next installment gets posted.

Just to let you know that a quiet thread doesn't mean a forgotten story!

Edited by KSK

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Thanks for leting us know KSK. But the part about drawings i mentioned earlier was about when this becomes a novel...not that i demanded it here...

But some pics most certainly can't hurt. Oh well...good luck with whatever is distracting you from entertaining us spoiled forumbrats.

We'll be here awaiting your return.

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Turns out you can knock out the words quite handily on a tablet :) Editing is a bit of a pain though, as touchscreens are not exactly precision instruments for selecting pieces of text or spaces between words. Anyhow, this is what I managed to get done...

New Directions

Jeb stood at the window and watched the queues build up outside the doors of his warehouse. It looked like today was going to be busier than yesterday but he was worried. Ever since the meeting the night before, Geneney had been rather quiet and withdrawn. At first Jeb had put that down to a hangover, certainly the Genie had managed to pack away a good bottle or two that evening. As the day went on though, even the excitement of setting up Bill's pictures and posing for photos outside the Kerbal 1 with the first few visitors had failed to lift his mood.

Jeb thought that he knew what the problem was but he wasn't at all sure what to do about it. He sighed, turned away from the window and walked back into the warehouse. On a sudden whim, he wandered out into the back yard and found Ornie packing his truck for the journey home

Ornie slammed the truck door shut and noticed Jeb staring pensively around the yard. "Morning, Jeb," he called, "that's me about to head home. I'll be back in a couple of days with the parts."

Jeb didn't answer at first and when he did he was strangely hesitant. "Before you go, Ornie, could I ask you something?"

"Sure, Jeb - what's troubling you? I wouldn't say you've got a face like a mile of bad road but it sure looks like you can spot that road coming."

"It's Genie. He's normally about the most cheery kerbal you could wish to meet but yesterday..."

Ornie interrupted, "Yeh. Looked like he could see that bad road as well at times." He looked shrewdly at Jeb. "Reckon you know as well as I do why that would be."

Jeb grimaced. "I think so. Putting the Kerbal 2 on hold hit him pretty hard. But dammit, Ornie - he knows that we don't have the parts yet and we can't afford to wait around until we do. We got a few folks in here yesterday but not that many. We need something quick, something to show everyone that the Kerbal 1 was just the beginning."

"Oh he knows," Ornie said quietly, " but knowing and accepting are two different things." He held up a hand. "And before you ask, you need to do two things too. Give him something important to do now and let him know that you have a plan. Doesn't much matter how big the plan is but Geneney needs to know that you've thought about how to get from where we are now to where he wants to be. Sitting in the Kerbal 2 waiting for launch. Telling him that him, Wernher and Lucan are still next in line wouldn't hurt either."

Jeb opened his mouth and then shut it as an idea started to take shape in his mind. "Thanks, Ornie... Yeah, thanks!" Jeb straightened up and jogged back towards the warehouse with a new spring in his step.

Inside, the rest of the Interplanetary Society had arrived. Bob had brewed up a large pot of coffee and everyone was standing around, sipping the brew, chatting idly and waiting for Jeb to open up the warehouse for the day. Geneney was already standing behind the reception desk they had hastily put together the day before. Jeb wandered over to him casually.

"Hey, Genie, I've been thinking about the Kerbal 2".

Geneney's face was expressionless.

"Not the stand in machine we were talking about the other night, I'm talking about a proper rocket with a capsule on top and you, Lucan and Wernher sitting in that capsule". Geneney straightened up imperceptibly and Jeb could sense that he was beginning to get some attention. "Mainly I'm thinking that we're going to have to be a lot more organised about the whole thing. Don't get me wrong, I think we've done wonders given what we had to work with but it's time to stop working with what we've got and start thinking about what we need. And that means designing our own parts. If we can find some useful stuff lying around still, then all the better but we can't keep on relying on just finding stuff."

Jeb paused. "We still can't afford anything custom but that's not a problem. We can afford the bare metal and we've got the talent - and we're getting the tools - to turn bare metal into spaceships! That's where I need your help, Genie. We need to sort through all the junk out there, pick out the useful bits and make an inventory. Then we need to draw up some proper plans for all the various rocket systems, match what we've got to those plans and figure out what we need to buy to make the rest ourselves."

Jeb's voice trailed away as he glanced over at Geneney's stony face. "I know it doesn't sound very exciting", he said "but right now I think it's about the most important thing we can be doing. When I said that the next rocket is a stand in machine, I wasn't joking. Once we launch it, we're nearly out of parts - if we're going to launch anything else at all, we need a change of direction."

Geneney's voice was mildly curious. "Why me?" he asked.

"Because you're our best systems guy," Jeb said frankly. "Bill is great with electronics; you can't beat Wernher when it comes to engines but there's only one kerbal in this team that I trust to keep everything in one piece once that rocket leaves the ground."

Geneney was silent for a moment. "Sorting through all that junk," he waved a hand towards the back of the warehouse, "is going to be a big job."

Jeb nodded in agreement, "It will be but everyone can help out with the first sorting. The detailed inventory, planning and matching though... that's another job altogether. Anyway, have a think, Genie. I'll need to talk everyone else through the plan as well but I wanted to run it past you first. For now, I should probably open this place up for the day."

-------------

A loud explosion rocked the back yard of Jebediah Kerman's Junkyard and Spaceship Parts Company, followed by a tirade of equally explosive swearing. Ornie switched off the lathe and went out to investigate.

An oily cloud of smoke hung over the test stand and the acrid tang of scorched metal and burnt rocket fuel tickled the back of his throat. Some enterprising, not to mention prescient, kerbal had erected sturdy corrugated iron sheets around the stand to serve as a crude blast shield. Judging by the scattering of twisted metal fragments that had blown over the top of them, this had turned out to be a good decision. Wernher stood next to one of the sheets scowling sullenly into the distance.

Ornie bent down to inspect one of the fragments. "That's why we test them, Wernher," he said. "Better that they blow up now than on the launch pad. Lets have a look at the test data and..."

Wernher's voice was ominously quiet. "Stop trying to give me solutions, Ornie because at the moment I really couldn't care less about solutions. Ranting - yes, swearing - yes. Rational analysis - screw it. Or explode it. Which seems particularly appropriate at the moment." Wernher aimed a surly kick at the blast shield but missed and stubbed his toe on the corner.

Ornie kept a carefully expressionless face as Wernher vented his feelings in no uncertain tones. Eventually the flow of imprecations came to a halt and Wernher rubbed his eyes wearily. "I'm sorry, Ornie," he said, "but this was supposed to be the easy part of the whole machine. The LV-9 was working - that's why we chose this design in the first place remember? We even had a prototype all ready to go. I put it on the test stand just to check it out and..."

"Blam?" suggested Ornie.

"A little more than 'blam' but yes - no more LV-9 prototype. So I built a new one. I even made some improvements along the way. Nothing too far from the original design but they should have fixed some problems that we noticed before and made the whole engine a bit more robust. Instead..." Wernher jerked a thumb behind him wordlessly. "And we don't exactly have an endless supply of spare parts to keep doing this."

Ornie nodded. "Gotcha. Tell you what we'll do, Wernher. We're going to take a walk, we're going to grab a bite to eat and then we're going to come back, check over those strip charts and figure out what went wrong." Wernher's face darkened but he forced out a terse laugh as his stomach rumbled audibly. "Alright, alright. Maybe this smoke will have cleared away too by the time we get back.

-----------------

Wernher and Ornie strolled back towards the junkyard chewing on the last of their sandwiches. Finally Ornie decided to break the silence. "So what happens if we don't get the LV-9 working, Wernher? Could we go for an RT-5 upper stage instead?"

Wernher swallowed his mouthful of sandwich. "We could," he said " but I'd prefer not to. The RT-5's don't have a lot of control at ignition, so I'm not really happy with the idea of trying to light them in mid-air. And once they're lit, they stay lit until they burn out, which doesn't give us many options if the rocket does go off course. I think solids have their place but they're going to need some work before I'm convinced by them."

Ornie frowned thoughtfully. "I bet that the Kerbal 1 launch was a fun moment for you then," he commented. "Which makes me think - why not just go for a Kerbal 1 design but with two RT-5's instead of four?"

"That might work," said Wernher "and if we can't get the LV-9 to work, it's probably what we'll have to do. I'm not sure it would get us to orbit but it would be better than nothing. We would launch with the Trashcans only, or with the LV-15 running at minimum thrust and then just see how far we get with a single stage once we drop the solids."

"It does sound like an LV-15 lower stage lifting an LV-9 second stage is the best plan then," said Ornie. "One decoupler for simplicity, better control for the second stage."

"And a symmetric mass distribution as well," said Wernher. "Which will make guidance and control a lot easier. Also a single point of thrust, rather than having to worry balancing thrust from the Trashcans."

They walked back through the side gate into the back yard and made their way over to the test stand. Wernher tore off a strip of paper from one of the chart recorders behind the main stand and unrolled it on a nearby workbench. "This is the recording for the fuel supply pressure," he said. Ornie bent over to examine it as Wernher continued. "Engine start is here, pressure builds up to maximum, keeps steady for a minute, begins to oscillate here," he jabbed a finger at the chart, "goes out of control here and then settles at a lower pressure until we turn it off."

Ornie tapped the chart absently, thinking it through. "Sounds like a turbopump problem," he said at last. "The engine runs fine to begin with, then we get a problem with the fuel flow here, failure here and then fuel just sprays out of the busted engine at whatever pressure you're feeding it in from the tank. Do you have any pump data?"

Wernher went over to the recorders and tore off a second strip. "Impeller rpm," he said, unrolling the paper onto the bench below the first strip. "A pump failure was my first thought too and the data seems to fit. Normal spin-up, runs for a minute and then we start getting variations in speed - which matches the pressure changes in the fuel line. Failure here and then the rpm goes off the scale as the shaft is running freely without any blades attached."

Ornie looked closely at the chart. "Looks like we're getting some secondary oscillations on the edge of the larger ones," he said thoughtfully, "They're not very regular though, almost random."

Wernher shrugged. "Noisy data. I really need to move the recorders back from the stand."

Ornie shook his head. "There's background noise in the whole trace but these secondary wiggles are still quite distinct." His eyes suddenly widened. "Of course! How could I forget!"

Wernher raised his eyebrows.

"The bearings! Richlin and I had the same problem with our early jet engines. The bearings weren't holding the impeller shaft steady enough and the blades were knocking against another part of the compressor. Just tiny knocks at first - the bearings weren't that bad - but they were enough to set the impeller shaft wobbling. The wobbles build up quickly until the impeller blades start rubbing against the pump casing." Ornie looked up wryly. "At which point it doesn't take long at all until you get a blade failure cascade. These secondary wiggles are the blades 'ringing' after each of those initial small knocks."

Wernher's eyes lit up hopefully. "So we just need better bearings? We can easily do that with the parts and tools we have on site!"

Ornie nodded enthusiastically. "Better yet, I can still remember how we redesigned our bearings. Can't guarantee that they'll work for a rocket engine but it has to be worth a try!"

--------------

The yard went silent as everyone stopped to watch Wernher and Ornie carry the LV-902 out to the test stand. Ornie plugged in the fuel and oxidiser lines as Wernher checked over the test program. They pulled the blast shields into place and retreated back to the control console. More than one pair of fingers were crossed as Wernher scanned the console settings one last time, before flipping back the cage over the master start button and depressing it with an audible clunk.

A billow of smoke marked the ignition, followed by a familiar high pitched roar as the LV-902 throttled up. Blazing light poured out of the gaps between the blast shields and the whole test stand shook under the thrust. Wernher watched the timer tensely as it climbed past the one minute mark.

One minute thirty seconds...two minutes....

Wernher held his breath, alert to any slight change in the engine noise.

Two minutes thirty....three minutes.... three minutes thirty.

The light dimmed and the roar of the engine died away and went out. A great cheer went up as Ornie pulled back the blast shields to find the LV-902 still intact on the stand. Wernher let out his breath in a great sigh of relief. His voice shook slightly as he called out to Ornie.

"Test 1 complete. Let's review the data, check over the engine and then set up for a full mission duration burn."

Edited by KSK

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Satellite.

A cloud of dust trailed behind the car as it wound slowly up the steep hillside. From the passenger seat Lucan could see out over the plains, down to the twinkling river and beyond. In the far distance, he could just make out a sparse scattering of buildings marking the outskirts of Barkton. Jeb sat at the wheel, jaw clenched in concentration as he drove up the narrow series of switchback curves that masqueraded as a road. Behind him, Bill sat silently next to a large conical object. Four equally spaced bulges around the rim were the only features to break it's smooth surface which tapered upwards to a gently curved tip.

Loose gravel crunched under his wheels as Jeb swung into the car park and came to a halt. Lucan pulled a collapsed metal trolley out of the back of the car and began unfolding it. Jeb and Bill grunted with effort as they heaved the cone out through the trunk of Jeb's car and set it carefully down onto the trolley. Sweating in the warm afternoon sun, the three kerbals set about wheeling the cumbersome vehicle up the nearest hill. Fortunately the ground was dry and the trolley wheels hissed as they trundled through the short scrubby grass.

They reached the top of the hill and Lucan locked the brakes on the trolley. Bill fussed around it, double checking the brakes and carefully rolling the cone until it rested point downwards on its cradle. Satisfied at last he stepped back and pulled a portable radio from his pocket.

"Control, this is Bill. We're ready to go."

There was a long pause as the three friends waited expectantly. Then abruptly four green lights lit up around the base of the cone and a long antenna extended out from each bulge. Richlin's voice crackled from the radio. "Control here. Confirming payload activation and incoming test signal. Let me see if I can..."

Richlin's voice faded out into static and then a muffled but unmistakeable tone echoed out of the speaker.

"beep... beep... beep..."

------------

The last few weeks had seen a buzz of activity at Jebediah Kerman's Junkyard and Spacecraft Parts Company, much to the fascination of the steady stream of kerbals queuing up outside the doors. Quite apart from the wondrous pictures of their planet from space and a chance to sit in the very spacecraft that the pictures were taken from, hundreds of visitors had watched in mounting excitement as the two sections of the Kerbin 1 rocket were slowly assembled in the yard. Others had watched in awe as the two test stands shook to the fire and fury of rocket engines at full power. Still others had lined the streets as Ornie's truck took the completed rocket stages out to the launch pad for assembly.

Hundreds had watched from behind the ropes as the lower stage of the rocket was carefully lowered into place on the launch pad and secured to the four restraining pylons. They had held their breath as two kerbals climbed out onto an arm of the launch tower and the second stage of the rocket, complete with conical tip, was hoisted into the air. Some of them swore that they had only started breathing again once the two sections had been gingerly brought together and made secure.

On the whole, Jeb thought, it was probably just as well that none of the onlookers realised the significance of the dozen slender looking bolts that held the two rockets together. He unrolled the tube of paper that he was carrying and pasted it firmly to the warehouse door.

Quote
CLOSED

Jebediah Kerman's Junkyard and Spacecraft Parts Company will be closed today.

All visitors are cordially invited to join us for the opening of our new out of town facilities.

Launch at 1.37pm. Final countdown begins at 12.00 noon.

We look forward to seeing you!

- The Kerbin Interplanetary Society -

Jeb turned out the lights and went inside.

----------

The weather the next day was bright and clear, with only a whisper of a breeze to take the heat off the noon sun. Jeb stood in the doorway of the control bunker and looked out over the launch site. Far to his right, the freshly painted Kerbin 1 stood gleaming in the sunlight. Wernher had muttered something about 'white paint keeping the sun off' and 'keeping the fuel tanks cooler' but Jeb suspected that, like everyone else, he just wanted to launch a smartly painted rocket for a change. Next time, Jeb thought, they would make sure that the launch tower was cleaned and painted too. If nothing else, the rusty old scaffolding could hardly inspire confidence in anyone outside of the Kerbal Interplanetary Society.

Over at the far end of the field, at what they hoped was a safe distance, a grandstand of tiered wooden benches had been built. Jeb could already see a line of small green figures queuing to get in. Bob had been down to the grandstand earlier that morning to check that the countdown clock was running and that the broadcast link to the launch bunker was working properly. Out at the launch tower he knew that Geneney, Lucan and Richlin were busy fueling the Kerbin 1 and running final checks on the launch clamps and decoupler systems.

By noon, the grandstand and the grassy area around it were full to bursting with enthusiastic kerbals. Some, more entrepreneurial types were meandering between the benches selling a variety of cold drinks, snacks and clothing and several hats with the jaunty tilted rocket logo of the Junkyard and Spacecraft Parts Company could be seen bobbing through the crowds. Elsewhere small knots of kerbals were standing around the radio speakers listening avidly to the launch preparations. Everyone was keeping at least half an eye on the countdown clock as it slowly marked off the minutes.

"T minus thirty minutes. Weather is holding and lower stage fueling is complete. Bringing telemetry and guidance systems online."

"T minus twenty minutes. Upper stage fuelled and ready. Launch vehicle on internal power. All tower systems to launch positions."

Geneney and Lucan clambered over the gantries, disconnecting fuel lines and other umbilical connections. Satisfied, they scrambled to the ground and joined Richlin at the winch. With a great creaking and squealing of rusty joints, the tower rotated out of the way, leaving the Kerbin 1 standing alone, tethered to the ground only by its four launch clamps.

"T minus five minutes. Launch site is clear, weather is good."

"T minus three minutes and counting. Tank pressures nominal. Decoupler systems are Go, guidance is green."

"T minus two minutes and counting. We are Go for engine start."

Gradually the grandstand grew quiet as everyone watched the last few seconds tick away.

"T minus 12, 11, 10..." All eyes turned to the slim pencil of metal on the launch pad.

"7, 6, 5..."

Fire blossomed from the base of the Kerbin 1 and thunder rolled across the field towards them. For a brief moment the watching crowds feared the worst as the rocket remained stubbornly anchored to the ground.

"2, 1 and LIFTOFF!"

The launch clamps fell away and the Kerbin 1 rose from the launch pad on a great billow of smoke and flame. A thousand small green faces watched in awe as it accelerated smoothly away, soaring gracefully into the sky and climbing out over the sea until only the bright flame of it's exhaust could be seen against the blue.

Down in the launch bunker, Geneney sat in his chair watching the main screen. Altitude, velocity and projected apoapsis were all racing upwards. "Lucan, Wernher - systems report."

"Trajectory is good, stability augmentation systems within operational parameters."

"First stage propulsion performing well. One minute to staging."

Outside on the grandstand, even over the radio link, the crowd could sense the tension in Wernher's voice. Very few of them knew what 'staging' was but it was clearly something important.

"3...2...1... First stage shut down. Decouplers firing...separation and second stage ignition confirmed!"

The kerbals standing closest to the speaker could just make out Wernher's voice over the cheering in the background.

"KIS - we are go for orbit!"

--------

Lucan watched the telemetry with trepidation as the fuel drained steadily out of the Kerbin 1 upper stage and the ship velocity climbed higher and higher. As far as he knew the projected apoapsis was now well above Kerbin's atmosphere but they still weren't quite fast enough for a stable orbit. Behind him, Wernher was calling out the remaining fuel levels in an unworried voice.

"30 seconds... 25 seconds..."

And then the final display on the telemetry screen lit up. Lucan forced himself to be calm. "Projected periapsis 10 km and rising. Eighteen seconds of fuel remaining. Estimated six seconds till loss of signal."

Then the numbers on the telemetry display flickered into noise and random characters and went out.

Jeb broke the sudden silence that settled over the bunker. "Good job with those trajectory calculations, Luco. What's your best guess on time to reacquisition?"

"67 minutes, assuming a clean shutdown and separation," Lucan replied, "Separation should trigger payload activation, so we'll soon know if everything is working."

"In that case I think I'm going to take a walk down to the grandstand and let everyone know what's going on. Genie - could you reset the countdown clock to display time to signal acquisition and patch the satellite receiver into the broadcast system please?"

"Will do, Jeb. Lucan - could you talk me through the numbers for acquisition?"

Bob stifled a yawn. "I could do with a walk too," he said, "anyone else coming?" Richlin got to his feet. "Think I'll join you," he said, " this bunker is getting a little stuffy."

"Not me," replied Lucan quietly, "you all launched using my calculations - I want to see whether they were any good."

Wernher nodded, "I'll wait here too," he said, "I want to see if the LV-902 did it's job. Lucan can run me through the calculations too."

Ornie stayed in his seat. "Reckon I'll want to get the news straight from Mission Control," he said, "rather than watching the clock from the far end of the field."

To everyone's surprise, Bill got to his feet. "Think I'll take a walk too." he said, "Either the satellite works or it doesn't - there's not much more I can do down here."

-----------

The crowd jostled around them, voices clamouring to know what had happened to the rocket. Jeb did his best to answer their questions as he made his erratic way towards the grandstand, Bill and Richlin following closely behind. Bob took everything in with rather more aplomb, even stopping to buy a fistful of crispy djan chips from a passing vendor. Jeb cupped his hands around his mouth.

"Make way! Make way, folks - the quicker I get to a microphone, the quicker you'll all get to hear what's happening."

As the crowd parted before them, Jeb led the others over to one of the radio speakers. Seizing the microphone hooked to the side of the speaker stand he vaulted up onto a nearby table.

"Good Kerbals - I have some good news and some bad news!"

Jeb slowly scanned the crowd waiting for them to quieten down, when his eye was caught by a cheerful array of brightly coloured hats, set out on a bench beneath him. They all seemed to be printed with a rather familiar stylised rocket. The hat seller looked more than a little nervous as Jeb jumped down to inspect his wares but Jeb just grinned at him and hopped back up onto the table cheerfully waving his new purchase.

"As I was saying - we have some good news and some bad news. The good news is - we made it to space! The bad news is - we don't know how far."

The crowd laughed as Jeb continued.

"We do know that we're going to make it at least half way around Kerbin but we're not sure if we're going to make it all the way back. What we have done is to put a radio transmitter on top of the rocket, so if everything goes to plan we should have a little surprise for you in about..." Jeb glanced at the countdown clock, "in about forty minutes."

"Now I'm not sure what you good people planned to do but we're going to be right here waiting by this radio. You're all welcome to join us - and if one of you could show me where Bob got those djans you'd be a lot more than welcome!"

As the minutes went by, more and more eyes turned to the clock. As it ticked down past the five minute mark, the four members of the Interplanetary Society, looked at each other and silently crossed their fingers. A brief crackle from the speaker was followed by a burst of static. Bill looked up at the clock, which was still showing two minutes to go. Another burst of static, a pause and then, out of the electronic noise, a voice.

"..nie, Richlin and too many other kerbals to mention from the great town of Barkton!"

Bill's heart leapt as the speaker gave a loud beep and the recorded message started again. It was tinny, it was difficult to hear in places but it was unmistakably Jeb's voice, reading the message that they'd recorded all those weeks ago.

"This is the Kerbin Interplanetary Society. Broadcasting from orbit, around the world, around the clock! We are Jebediah, Bill, Bob..."

Four green hands clasped in quiet triumph as Kerbin's very first artificial satellite soared through the blackness of space playing its message over and over again to the jubilant crowd around them.

Edited by KSK
formatting and minor tweaks
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KSK, awesome!

It was fun reading your two new posts.

I wish you could bring them out more often :P

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