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About Fenisse

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  1. Hey guys, I'm finally back home and with a decent internet connection (and a keyboard, most importantly). @kewcet @The Dressian Exploder thank you very much for the kind words @Geschosskopf I've been able to hitch a ride on a weird spaceship where everyone dressed in red, yellow and blue uniforms; but at least they weren't Vogons. Also I sincerely hope the Earth doesn't catch fire at the end of this story; although I must admit that I was indeed trying to infuse Asimov's mojo into my designs, but I messed up and my notebook became sentient instead -- and now refers to himself as Isaac. Well, I'll need some time to make a couple of adjustments here and there, but in a few days we shall return to regular(-ish) posting! See y'all soon™!
  2. It is chonky indeed, but it’s supposed to be flown inside a fairing (much like the Centaur-T on the later versions of the Titan), so it is shorter than the D version, which would instead limit payload space (or require a longer fairing).
  3. Thanks for keeping this alive on my behalf, guys! I have been *ahem* stuck on a mountain for the past week and will remain here for the next days at the very least. And I don’t have a towel with me, but for now I’m not panicking. Also, thank you @Maravone for the very kind words! I’m happy to be an inspiration for you, and if you need any help with your report feel free to ask. It’s always good to see more RP-1 AARs on here, and I’m glad you’ve become part of this wonderful community. Anyway, although I don’t have my computer with me right now, I’ve been working on some Beyond Earth stuff... ...such as the above drawing of the Sirius upper stage; which is similar in scope to the Centaur (with some pretty important differences, however). I’m not that good at drawing, and the photo doesn’t make it any better, but this is something you can expect to see in the future of this “series”. Please ignore the random Nightfall (which I recommend, btw) on the left, I was using it so that the notebook wouldn’t close while I was drawing and taking the photo. See you soon! (hopefully)
  4. XXII: Meet the Team I The Aquarius 8 In between the two Connection Block I missions, an event which would shape the future of the IASRDA, and the world as a whole, took place. A press conference was scheduled for December 11 at Cape Canaveral AFB. In front of nearly two hundred journalists from a dozen different nations the first manned program of the IASRDA was announced to the public: the Aquarius program was officially born. Logo of the Aquarius program, showing an early concept of the capsule that would eventually be used. Preparations for the program had actually commenced nearly a year before. Research and Development teams had been assigned to developing systems to send men into an orbit around the Earth, others had been assigned to modify the existing launch vehicles so that it would be safe for people to fly on board, and, most importantly, a strict selection process had taken place to select who would actually be sent into orbit. Out of nearly a thousand available candidates, they were narrowed down to 120, after an interview, 32 were further selected for the required physical and fitness tests. Of these 32, only 8 would actually become what is now known as an astronaut, one who will navigate the stars (eventually). P001 Isaac R. Perry, 1943 Isaac Robert Perry, also known as “the Commander”, or simply as the “Chief” by his peers, was born in Liverpool, England, on the 2nd of December 1917. He was one of the “Original Four” pilots of the International Rocket Society. Perry had studied at the Royal Air Force College Cranwell, where he graduated in 1939, at which point he was commissioned into the Royal Air Force. He then joined the No. 41 Squadron RAF just months before the Second World War started. He subsequently saw action over Dunkirk, fought during the Battle of Britain, and then flew a wide number of combat missions over occupied Europe. At the end of the war he was credited with 21 enemy kills, and had reached the rank of Squadron Leader. He remained in service in the RAF for a further five years, and was finally commissioned as a Wing Commander. On the 19th of December 1950 he was selected to be part of the newborn IRS, and has been part of the organization through all its years, continuing to serve in the IASRDA. He at the time of writing holds the rank of Commander, the second-highest rank for an Agency pilot. He is the IASRDA’s most experienced aviator, and is widely regarded as been a sort of fatherly figure to refer to by his colleagues. He has a strong wit, but is very calm and composed under stress; even at 42 he is in top physical and mental shape. P002 Joseph F. Mitchell, 1953 Joseph Frank “Joe” Mitchell was born in Saint Louis, Missouri, on the 27th of June 1919. He was one of the Original Four. Mitchell graduated at West Point in 1941, and joined the United States Army Air Forces soon thereafter. He was assigned to the 20th Fighter Group, and fought in Europe from 1943 to 1945. He is credited with 14 kills during his combat tour. After the end of the war, he become one of the most experienced USAF test pilots, flying a large variety of jet aircraft, his favorite of which was reportedly the F-84F Thunderstreak. In 1950 he held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was selected on December 19, 1950 to be part of the IRS, and subsequently of the IASRDA. At the time of writing, he holds the rank of Senior Captain, just below the rank of Commander. His experience as a test pilot has proved to be invaluable in several occasions. He loves joking, although he is a true professional during flight, and is great friends with Commander Isaac Perry. P003 Samuel M. McDonald, 1952 Samuel Mark “Sam” McDonald was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on the 14th of August 1929. McDonald graduated at the United States Naval Academy in 1951, after which he was assigned as a naval aviator with the VFA-32 “Fighting Swordsmen”. During US Navy service he flew a large number of aircraft, namely the F2H Banshee, the F4U Corsair, the F9F Cougar, and the F8U Crusader. In 1959 he held the rank of Lieutenant. He was selected and confirmed as part of the IASRDA test pilot team on December 11, 1959, after a long and grueling selection process. Due to his USN rank, he was assigned the Agency rank of Flight Lieutenant. He is considered to be a capable pilot with thousands of hours of experience who is in prime physical and mental shape. E001 Douglas J. Cherry, 1950 Douglas James “Fixer” Cherry was born in Glasgow, Scotland on the 18th of October 1924. He was one of the Original Four He studied and graduated at the Oxford University in 1946, obtaining a master two years later. He joined the Royal Air Force, where he was selected for pilot training. He was commissioned in the RAF in 1949. He was selected to be part of the IRS on December 19, 1950, and has been part of the IRS and IASRDA since then. He underwent a rigorous training regimen as a full-blown flight engineer; his first flight on board of an IRS aircraft was on April 3, 1954 as part of the Project Thunder 4 mission. In 1959 he held the rank of Master Engineer. His skills as an engineer earned him the nickname of “Fixer”, due to his ability to reportedly fix everything broken he put his hands upon. He had a strong Scottish accent. E002 Ivano D'Antonio, 1958 Ivano D’Antonio was born in Rome, Italy on August the 23rd, 1928. He studied at the Accademia Aeronautica in Naples, and was commissioned into the newborn Aeronautica Militare in 1950. In 1959 he rose to the rank of Capitano. He was selected by the IASRDA to be part of the Aquarius 8 on December 11, 1959, being assigned the rank of Engineer First Class. He was a calm and composed professional, performing extremely well under stress, as well as being an experienced pilot. Together with the IASRDA R&D teams he would go on to develop the Aquarius launch abort system. E003 Jean-Pierre Giraud, 1959 Jean-Pierre Giraud was born in Toulouse, France on the 8th of July, 1923. He studied at the École de l'air in Salon-de-Provence, where he graduated in 1949. After a short period of service in the Armée de l'Air Française, he became a test pilot to aid in the development of the Mirage aircraft. During this time, he developed several invaluable engineering skills. He was selected on December 11, 1959 to be an astronaut for the Aquarius Program of the IASRDA. At his request, he was trained to become a full-blown flight engineer, despite being already qualified enough to be a pilot. Upon joining, he was assigned the rank of Senior Engineer. S001 Daniel Higgins, 1953 Daniel “Danny” Higgins was born in Washington, D.C. on May the 28th, 1924. He was one of the Original Four test crewmembers of the IRS. He studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he graduated in 1946; there he obtained a Master in 1948, and was applying for a PhD, which he subsequently obtained in 1955. He was the only civilian to be part of the IRS test team. He was selected on December 19, 1950, despite being a civilian, unlike his colleagues. He was put on an intense training schedule, and finally flew for the first time on the Project Thunder 5 mission on February 27, 1955. He is widely regarded to be a genius in various fields, most notably astrophysics and mathematics, and would help the IASRDA determine the optimal flight path for the Aquarius missions. As of 1959 he held the rank of Senior Specialist. S002 Thomas Lynn, 1958 Thomas Lynn was born in Toronto, Canada on the 14th of April 1930. He studied at the Royal Military College of Canada, where he graduated in 1952. He then became a test pilot for the Royal Canadian Air Force, and was one of the few people who flew on the Avro CF-105 Arrow. He was selected for the Aquarius program on December 11, 1959. His areas of expertise included several scientific subjects, and his speed of thought made him well liked by his crewmates, and notably, by Higgins as well. When he joined he was assigned the IASRDA rank of Specialist First Class. These eight men would soon become known as the Aquarius 8, the best the West had to offer. In the following months and even years they and everyone working behind the curtains to ensure both their success and safety would face difficulties never faced by anyone before; but why choose the easy way, when to further science you often need to follow the hardest path?
  5. XXI: Connecting the World, Part 1 Testing Concepts The subject of communicating via satellites had been thoroughly discussed in most nations that had shown at least some interest in the space race. Communications on Earth in places such as oceans, mountain ranges, and remote locations in general, are often extremely difficult or outright impossible due to the curvature of the Earth, or due to land objects interfering with the signal. A satellite acting as a relay, instead, does not have this fundamental problem. Since it would be orbiting around the Earth, it would not be limited by terrain features, and would render out-of-sight communications substantially easier. Of course, a satellite has another issue by itself: orbiting around the Earth, parts of the globe would be obscured for long periods of time, but this problem would be handled at a later point in time. The Connection program was therefore born to address these issues and make satellite communications a reality, and no longer a dream. Logo of the Connection Program. Image of the Connection Block I satellite. The new satellite Block designation introduced by the IASRDA was meant to simplify spacecraft production by incorporating a base probe bus onto which would be mounted all the system required for the mission needs. The Connection Block I was a 200kg satellite based on the prototype core flown on Ethereal 4, which at the time had been regarded as too heavy for it to be useful in any realistic way. The spacecraft carried 61kg of electronics in the top compartment, which enabled it to function as a communication relay. The bottom section housed the Hydrazine tanks, holding a total of 9 liters of the chemical; mounted to it were the four four-way 24N RCS thrusters which controlled the attitude and orbit of the craft. The probe was powered by eight 0.125m2 solar cells, with a maximum output of 7.88W; communications were handled through four 400Mm, 512kbit/s antennae consuming on average 1.5W of power. The high mass of the satellite and the orbit requirements called for the most powerful Hyperion variant available to the IASRDA to be needed for the flight. Schematic of the Hyperion ELT-Vega A2 launch vehicle. The Vega A2 upper stage would be the final variant of the 2.5m Vega stage. With a fully loaded mass of 14642kg, it was also the heaviest upper stage ever developed for use by the IASRDA. The engine had been uprated to the more advanced X-405H, which had been developed from the Vanguard and Vega A1 X-405, although it now bore little resemblance to its earlier sibling. The engine produced a thrust of 156.3kN at 311.9s specific impulse, burning RP-1 Kerosene and Liquid Oxygen for 4 minutes and 5 seconds. The most important feature of the X-405H was its ability to restart up to 3 times, which allowed for the concept of a parking orbit to be explored. In the case of the Connection Block I satellites, a X-248 was used as kick stage. The first Connection Block I launched would be Connection 1, on November 14 1959. The payload would be placed in an elliptic, somewhat high orbit at 35° inclination. Image 19591114A. The Hyperion ELT-Vega A2 pictured some time before launch. The launch took place very early in the morning, at 7:20AM. The weather was relatively clear, with little overcast and wind, although it was a bit chilly outside. Image 19591114B. The launch vehicle takes off in the morning breeze. While the Hyperion ELT lower stage had been well tested by now, the Vega A2 upper stage was an almost new piece of hardware, and there was much anxiety about it, especially considered the spotty testing results of the X-405H engine. SIMULATION. The stack passing through 10km. Notice the high AoA. Indeed, something went wrong during stage separation. The Hyperion separated successfully from the Vega, but the X-405 failed to ignite. This was later traced back to a valve in the RP-1 feedline not opening correctly. SIMULATION. The Vega engine failed, and the stage drifts slightly forward from the Hyperion due to the ACS having fired to ullage the propellant. The launch vehicle and payload re-entered some time later in the atmosphere of the Earth, and were destroyed upon impact with the Atlantic Ocean. The mission had resulted in a failure. A second satellite was in construction then, but it was not expected to be able to fly until March 1960 due to a series of launches that were to occur in early 1960. Nonetheless, some serious delays in the construction of the other probes meant that there would be extra space for a launch in early January 1960; the space was allotted to the Connection program. The launch of Connection 2 would take place on January 10 1960. The orbital parameters would be the same as those of Connection 1. Image 19600110A. Aerial photograph of the Connection 2 and its LV on pad. This was the first orbital launch of 1960. Take-off occurred at 7:28AM. The low 1.10 TWR of the launch vehicle meant that the rocket accelerated rather slowly. SIMULATION. The Hyperion ELT-Vega A2 ascends through the lower atmosphere. Air pressure has already significantly decreased. At T+162 the two stages separated, and the X-405H on the Vega ignited successfully. SIMULATION. The Vega stage ignites. The extreme AoA at that altitude is needed since the payload needs to be inserted in a high orbit. After its burn was completed, the Vega kept coasting until apogee. SIMULATION. The Vega coasting to apogee. The guidance spin-stabilized the X-248, which was ignited and separated 23 seconds before apogee. SIMULATION. Ignition of the X-248, and separation from the Vega. The X-248 successfully inserted the Connection 2 satellite in a 1985x628km orbit at 34.941°. SIMULATION. Connection 2 separates from the X-248 kick motor. After insertion, and after having stabilized itself, the probe conducted a series of maneuvers, which corrected its orbit to a 1985x743km one at 34.943°, with an orbital period of 1h 52m 49.77s. SIMULATION. Connection 2 in orbit above the Earth. Despite the failure of the first launch, Connection 2 had been successfully inserted into orbit. The satellite would provide the first below-the-horizon communications just nine hours after insertion into orbit, and would keep operating for the following 5 years. Connection 2 remains in orbit to this day, and re-entry is expected around 2100. While Connection 2 had been successful, it still was only a test satellite. Relaying signals from a place to another were definitely a concrete possibility, but a probe orbiting in a low earth orbit had too limited capabilities to be of any real use. The next step in the Connection program would be a geosynchronous orbit satellite, but with the launch schedule as crowded as it already was, the mission would have to wait some time, with the worst-case scenario being a launch in early 1961; it doesn’t need saying, but the IASRDA would try everything to complete the mission before that date – even before the end of 1960 if possible.
  6. @Geschosskopf I... *ahem*... accidentally time-warped to periapsis. Which happened to be below the surface of the Moon. But don't worry, gratuitous explosions from stuff thrown at other celestial bodies will return soon (enough)! @Machinique the US Air Force has developed launch vehicles of their own, based on ICBMs (i.e. Thor-Agena, Atlas-Agena and the sorts), and so had the US Navy and Army before their efforts were joined into the IRS' Project Orbiter. The IASRDA will continue to develop both the Alcor and the Arcturus (the Vega will be dropped since the Air Force basically allowed the Agency to develop an Agena of their own for purely scientific use, and it will be more cost effective to use that motor since the USAF will have already well tested it; I'd like that this wouldn't be the case, but I'm constrained by the limits of RP-1 and the lack of more X-405H configs), as well as two completely new cryogenic stages. Regarding launch vehicles, the heavier ones being developed at IASRDA (of Titan-class and Saturn I/Ib/V-class) are completely new designs based around Kerolox and Hydrolox mixtures, since there is no real need for storables (apart in upper stages, of course) for what are essentially civilian launchers. The US will definitely create NASA at some point, but I'm unsure wheter or not they will actually develop a Centaur stage of sorts (likely yes, but that will be dictated by the USAF requirements primarily). The IASRDA will still have access to most US engines, as they have an active partnership with practically every rocket manufacturing company, but their upper stages will be accustomed to scientific, rather than miltary and scientific, needs. The Soviets are using R-7 derivatives, and will keep using them for a long time (until present day, basically), albeit developing at least the Proton in the UR family. In the BE timeline, they also manage to get their act sorted out to create a (mostly) Korolev-designed moon rocket with Glushko engines (don't ask me how), so the race to the Moon won't be so "one-sided" as it was in OTL . This is a choice I've made so that I can continue the series beyond the scope of a manned lunar landing, otherwise there would be very little reason to keep going forward after that point. In the 1980s, the USSR will definitely develop the Vulkan rocket, but that is all I've planned for that time period, if we ever get to it, at the moment. I've been posting more in the last days since I will be taking a short vacation, since I am really exhausted from RL stuff. Tomorrow I will post Update XXI, and then you probably won't see any new updates for a week or so, as I won't have my PC with me. I will, however, have access to the forums, so any questions I will gladly answer. See y'all soon, take care!
  7. XX: In the Pale Moonlight, Part 3 Chaos Remembered in Tranquility The Explorer program had been, as of mid-1959, a resounding success, with only one failure in four flights (for the time, this was quite the achievement). Despite that, the Moon still had many secrets that were yet to be uncovered. The advances in rocketry of the last year meant that now the extremely expensive, and definitely overkill, Prometheus A-Alcor A1 was not necessary anymore to launch the heavy impactors towards the Moon; the Hyperion ELT-Alcor A2 was now more than sufficient. Blueprint of the Hyperion ELT-Alcor A2 launch vehicle. The Hyperion ELT-Alcor A2 was the next evolutionary step of a launch vehicle which had been a mainstay of the IASRDA fleet almost since the start of the Space Race. The Alcor A2 was more capable than the earlier iterations of the stage. The engine had been upgraded to the AJ10-142, which burned UDMH and IWFNA to produce a thrust of 34.25kN at 270s Isp in the void of space. The stage tanks contained 540.2 liters of UDMH and 790,4 liters of IWFNA, which allowed the engine to run for a full 2 minutes and 30 seconds. The ACS had been upgraded to run on Hydrazine fuel, which allowed for the thrusters to function at a higher specific impulse; the four-way thrusters also improved the overall maneuverability. The avionics did not receive significant overhauls, and as a result the stage was still less capable than a Vega or an Antares, although the electronics section was significantly lighter on the Alcor. The standard solid kick motor for this stage was the X-248 Altair, a much more powerful engine than the earlier X-242. In the standard Hyperion ELT-Alcor A2 configuration with a X-248 kick stage and no first stage solid boosters the launch vehicle was capable of putting 60kg on a course to the Moon. Schematic of Explorer 5. Explorer 5 was almost identical to Explorer 4, being based on the same probe body. The main addition over its older sibling was a low-resolution TV camera, of the same design as of those used on previous missions. The other instruments aboard were the usual thermometer, ion mass spectrometer, micrometeorite detector, and Geiger counter; it had two 400Mm antennae to communicate with the Earth and seven solar panels producing 7.88W each were used to power the spacecraft for the duration of the flight. Fully assembled, Explorer 5 weighed 45kg. The launch of Explorer 5 was scheduled for the early morning on September 29 1959, at LC-1. Image 19590928A. Image of the assembled stack taken the evening before launch. The launch occurred at 5:00AM precisely; when the conditions for the launch were met. The weather was perfect, with essentially zero overcast and very little wind. Image 19590929A. While Explorer 5's lifts off the pad, the sky turns reddish as daybreak approaches. The first stage worked perfectly, and separation and ignition of the new Alcor went smoothly as well. SIMULATION. The sun rises as the Hyperion ascends through the atmosphere. The upper stage had no issues following the desired trajectory, and the uprated ACS allowed even finer tuning of the flight path. SIMULATION. Alcor A2 in flight. Notice the city lights of Florida. By the time the Alcor had finished its burn, the stage and payload had nearly reached orbital velocity. SIMULATION. Another image of the Alcor A2, after fairing separation SIMULATION. The Alcor has concluded its burn phase. The X-248 was spun up by the attitude jets, and was separated with no issue; ignition occurred the moment the motor separated from the Alcor stage. SIMULATION. The X-248 ignites. Nearly 50 seconds later, Explorer 5 was on an impact course to the Moon, and it separated from the X-248. SIMULATION. Separation of Explorer 5 from the X-248 successful. The TV cameras started recording as soon as the probe entered the Moon’s sphere of influence, on October 1. The images were of acceptable quality, on par with earlier photographs. Image 19591001A. Picture of the Moon taken after Explorer 5 entered its SOI. After two hours of operation, the camera feed suddenly stopped. The engineers on the ground tried to get an alternate feed from the second camera, but nothing could be received from that one as well. Unfortunately, a critical electrical failure had occurred; the cameras were not connected to the batteries anymore. This was the only, if major, failure in an otherwise very successful flight. Explorer 5 finally impacted the Moon on October 2 between Mare Tranquillitatis and Sinus Amoris. The data from the remaining experiments was successfully received. Explorer 5 had been a partial success. The main goal of the probe was to record images of up to a few seconds before impact, a task at which had failed. Nonetheless, this would be remembered as an historic mission, since Explorer 5 was the last of the first generation of space probes and satellites, which spanned 12 launches over two programs in a time frame of nearly three years. The second generation of unmanned spacecraft would bring several advantages and improvements, mainly full stabilization and control of the probes, a feature present only on Ethereal 4, 6 and 7, with the latter two requiring support from the Arcturus stage for full stabilization.
  8. XIX: This Side of Paradise, Part 3 From Above the Clouds The advancements in both liquid and solid rocketry of the last months meant that a complete renewal of the IASRDA fleet of launch vehicles was possible. Most rockets now were not only more capable than ever before, but also cheaper, which was always a good thing, especially since the funding came from politicians. Several missions that were impossible to complete before (or were doable, but at unreasonable costs) now were totally feasible by means of the newly developed launch vehicles. The first two missions that would launch were of the Ethereal program, since there was some more breathing room in the space race, as both the IASRDA and the Soviets were aiming for Venus and Mars next, but these missions would need to wait until the next year, 1960, when a launch window would be available. Blueprint of the Hyperion ELT-Arcturus A launch vehicle. The Hyperion ELT (Extended Long Body) was the newest iteration of the already venerable Hyperion stage. The main engine had been uprated to the LR79-NA-11 specification, capable of 850kN of thrust at 286.2s specific impulse in a perfect vacuum; this was a considerable increase in performance over the LR79-NA-9, capable of a “mere” 783kN at 284s Isp. The new engine required a greater amount of propellant to burn for the rated 165 seconds, to account for that the propellant tanks were extended (hence the ELT designation), which now held 48.191kg of RP-1 kerosene and Liquid Oxygen. The two vernier engines remained the same as before, as did the guidance ring mounted at the top of the stage. The Arcturus A was the latest upper stage developed by the IASRDA (while plans for such a stage existed already in 1958, they never went beyond the drawing board). The stage was 1.7m in diameter, which allowed it to carry wider payloads compared to the 1.2m Alcor stage, but not as wide as the 2.5m Vega. It was powered by a Bell XLR81-BA-5 (the same engine used on the USAF’s own Agena stage), burning a hypergolic mixture of Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) and IRFNA-III; it was capable of producing 67kN of thrust at 276s specific impulse in a vacuum; the whole stage burned for a total of 120 seconds. The greatest advantage this stage had over the Alcor was its avionics system, derived from the Vega’s: it had true three-axis stabilization, was capable of operating as a secondary or even primary satellite bus, and was also capable of somewhat complex maneuvers by using the on-board attitude thrusters. The Attitude Control System had also been uprated to use Hydrazine, which provided a significant performance advantage over High-Test Peroxide. The nature of the upper stage meant it was perfect for a high-resolution photography mission, with the Arcturus operating as the main satellite bus, with a re-entry canister that would allow for recovery of the images. Schematic of Ethereal 6. Ethereal 6 was a test satellite that would verify the feasibility of observing the Earth from space. The cameras mounted on it were cheaper and faster to manufacture, due to the experimental nature of the flight. More capable cameras would be employed on later vehicles. The payload itself weighed 225kg, complete with a camera assembly and a bio-sample included in the return canister, containing several fruit flies, some mice and a number of plants. Once in orbit, the Arcturus stage would ditch one of the fairings to expose the film camera, which would then start taking photographs of several important sites on Earth, such as the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, or parts of the Great Wall in China. After completion of the mission (in this case, two days later) the film would be transferred to the recovery canister, which would then be separated from the Arcturus stage, and proceeded to deorbit itself. It would then land by parachute and recovered by ground crews. The launch would take place on July 6 1959 at the newly constructed LC-2 launch pad. Image 19590706A. The assembled stack at LC-2, just hours before launch. The heavy weight of the satellite was above the rated payload capabilities of the Hyperion ELT-Arcturus A for a polar 185km orbit, but it was calculated that an orbit at 77° at 160km would be well within the capabilities of the launch vehicle, and the lower altitude would also help get better photographs. Launch occurred at 10:18 in the morning. Image 19590706B. Lift-off of the first Hyperion-Arcturus launch vehicle ever! In the first seconds of flight the guidance system proceeded to roll the stack in the correct direction, a capability that was critical in reducing launch pad complexity, since it wouldn’t require to rotate the launch vehicle to the correct heading before launch. Moreover, this allowed for changes in course to be performed mid-flight. SIMULATION. The guidance has rolled the rocket to the correct heading, and the rocket is functioning nominally. The high inclination launch brought the rocket’s path above inhabited parts of Florida, and almost over Miami itself, although a failure would only result in the debris landing over populated areas in a very small portion of the flight. Nevertheless, nowadays launches that require such inclinations are performed from other launch sites such as Vandenberg AFB. SIMULATION. The launch vehicle passes over parts of Florida during ascent. Luckily every concern was unfounded as the first stage performed superbly. MECO occurred at T+165, and the Arcturus stage separated at T+166 seconds. SIMULATION. Separation of the Arcturus stage. Its main engine had already started the ignition sequence before the separation occurred. On this flight the fairing would not be discarded during ascent, instead being carried all the way to orbit, as discussed before. SIMULATION. The XLR-81-BA-5 is working hard to push the spacecraft into orbit. The Arcturus stage also performed perfectly, despite some concern after the USAF warned about unreliability of the XLR81 engine. SECO occurred at T+286, and the orbit was fine tuned by means of the ACS. Final orbit was 159x160km at exactly 77°, with an orbital period of 1h 27m 32s. SIMULATION. With its propellant exhausted and the stage in orbit, the XLR81-BA-5 finally shuts down. Once in orbit, the avionics system started checking that everything was nominal, and then proceeded to disable all non-essential systems to save power. The satellite then started a stabilization program that kept it always parallel to the ground (by means of star navigation), discarded one of the fairings, and started taking a series of photographs to calibrate the camera. Ethereal 6 was ready for operation around 24 minutes after entering orbit. SIMULATION. The fairing has been discarded, and the satellite is now in operation. It will remain in orbit for two days. The satellite remained in operation around the Earth for just more than two days, at which point it had taken numerous reference images that would be used to calibrate subsequent satellite cameras. The return capsule was released over the North Pole, a few seconds after release it performed the de-orbit burn via its retro-motors. The canister experienced maximum g-forces of 8.5g during re-entry, but it survived relatively unscathed. As it reached 5000m in altitude the pilot chute was deployed, with the main chute inflating at 1000m. The probe landed in Southern California after 25 minutes from the retro-burn; it was recovered by the US National Guard and immediately returned to the IASRDA. The photographs obtained from the missions may not have been of the best quality, but two very important objectives had been met. First, it was indeed possible for a spacecraft to survive re-entry and land safely on Earth. Second, it was proved that animals and plant could survive a trip to orbit and back with not many issues. A second mission was soon scheduled, this time with a larger, better camera, to allow for better resolution images to be returned to Earth. Print of Ethereal 7. The much more advanced camera necessitated for considerably larger fairings than those of the previous launch. Despite the payload itself being slightly lighter than the older one, the delta V margin on this launch was almost non-existent due to the much heavier fairing, indeed, the assembled satellite weighed much more than Ethereal 6. No changes were made to either the return capsule or the Arcturus stage. Launch was scheduled for August 26 1959 at the LC-1 launch pad. Image 19590826A. Aerial photograph of the Hyperion ELT-Arcturus A stack before launch. Take off occurred at 11:21 AM. A morning launch was selected again to allow for the eventual recovery to happen during daylight hours. Image 19590826B. Lift-off successful! The launch went nominally, with MECO occurring at T+165 and separation of the Arcturus around one second later. The Arcturus A was around 0.5m/s from being able to circularize at 160km, but the resulting 155x160km orbit at 76.999° was deemed acceptable. The satellite would complete one revolution around the Earth in 1h 27m 30s. SIMULATION. The Hyperion stage ascends through the atmosphere of the Earth. SIMULATION. The Arcturus' XLR81-BA-5 at work. Notice the considerably longer fairing compared to Ethereal 6. SIMULATION. The Arcturus stage and its payload are in orbit. The satellite set itself up in the next minutes, started taking the usual calibration pictures, and was ready to take the high-res photographs from the second orbit onwards. SIMULATION. Once the fairing has been decoupled, the satellite is ready for operation. The satellite was deorbited on August 29, after having spent three days in orbit. The deorbit burn occurred earlier than on Ethereal 6, this way the canister landed in Missouri instead, where it was recovered by the US Army and returned to the IASRDA. SIMULATION. The return capsule faces the extreme stresses of re-entry from orbital speeds. The Ethereal 6 and 7 missions were extremely important, not only for the IASRDA, but for the entire scientific community. The animals and plants that had flown on the former satellite were the first to return alive from Earth orbit (not space, some animals and plants had flown on suborbital rockets such as the A4 BSR), and would further the understanding of biological functions in space; this was extremely significant, since sending a man into orbit was a short-time goal of the IASRDA. Moreover, the photographs that had been recovered would prove essential to archaeologists and geologists worldwide – the image of the Great Pyramids of Giza taken by Ethereal 7 was on every newspaper of the Earth. Lastly, the two flights had proved that it was possible to recover spacecraft from LEO, a critical step in the long process that eventually would lead to humans flying to Earth orbit.
  9. @Geschosskopfit can go even faster than that... with the engine on fire (and probably half of the aircraft as well).
  10. XVIII: Rising Thunderstorm, Part 2 Highway to the Danger Zone Just over two months of work were necessary to upgrade the IASRDA Thunderstorm fleet. The J75 had its turbines overhauled with more heat-resistant alloys, and the pre-cooler was also significantly improved; while the engine was expected to resist to speeds of up to Mach 2.4 at first, now it was projected to be able to survive even at Mach 2.6 with no issue, but any speeds above that would definitely put a serious strain on both airframe and engine. These improvements were carefully designed to not increase the weight of the aircraft in any way. The first test mission of the revamped Thunderstorm was expected for April 6 1959. There was much interest in the design, and the flight would be attended by many experts and top brass from the many countries of NATO, who hoped the design would become the basis for a standardized interceptor/air-superiority fighter. The interest was so high that the US dispatched the newly commissioned USS Ranger super-carrier to the waters east of Cape Canaveral, with the flight path adjusted to fly over the ship. Preparations for the mission started at 6:20 in the morning, with the sun already quite high in the sky. Commander Isaac Perry and Master Engineer Douglas Cherry were on the runway by 6:38, and boarded the aircraft at 6:41. Image 19590406A. 6:42AM. Perry and Cherry have just boarded their aircraft, and are preparing for take-off. The final checks were swiftly conducted and at 6:45 the aircraft was allowed to take-off, at which point Perry spooled up the engine. He commented via radio about the acceleration he was being subjected to. Image 19590406B. Visual from Perry's helmet. The Thunderstorm has just begun accelerating, yet it already reached 192km/h. The aircraft took up to the sky a few moments later. Instead of the steady climb that Mitchell used on the last flight, allowing him to repeatedly break the sound barrier, Perry was directed to do a zoom climb, in which he used the thrust of the engine to very quickly rise in altitude despite the low lift provided by the wings. This would mean that the aircraft would very quickly rise through the air, at the cost of a lower overall airspeed at altitude. Image 19590406C. "40 degress AoA and velocity is still rising" -Isaac Perry, 1959 By doing so, Perry reached 1000m in 17 seconds, 3000m in 53 seconds, and 10000m in 178 seconds, with an average climb rate around 60 m/s, even at high altitudes. After the zoom climb, Perry stabilized the aircraft at the usual 12900m, and allowed the F-104 chase planes to catch up to him. Image 19590406D. The F-104s have just catched up with Perry and Cherry. Image 19590406E. "Damn, isn't she beautiful!" -USAF Chase Pilot, 1959 After the photoshoot, the crew was instructed to reach the maximum speed possible. Perry engaged the afterburner, which made the Thunderstorm accelerate very rapidly, eventually leaving the chase planes behind at Mach 2. Image 19590406F. "Throttling to maximum power... we're full afterburner now" -Isaac Perry, 1959 Image 19590406G. "We'll see you again when we come around mates!" -Douglas Cherry, 1959 The Thunderstorm reached the incredible speed of 2790km/h, equaling Mach 2.621 at the altitude of 12.9km, completely shattering the previous record of 2333km/h held by Janusz Żurakowski since September of the previous year. Image 19590406H. "Ground speed reading is 2790km/h, [REDACTED]" -Isaac Perry, 1959 After the record speed was maintained for three minutes, at which point Cherry recorded very dangerous temperatures inside the J75, Perry started to slow the aircraft down to descend to an altitude suitable for the pass over the USS Ranger. At this point, the F-104s were able to follow the Thunderstorm with little problem. Image 19590406I. "Welcome back, Thunderstorm 2. Hope you two had a nice time" -USAF Chase Pilot, 1959 The Ranger was around 450km downrange from Cape Canaveral, and since the Thunderstorm had reached up to 620km, the carrier would be flown over on the way back. Perry and Cherry decided this would not be the fly-by the top brass was expecting. As they were nearing the carrier, Perry went on full afterburner, and the Thunderstorm passed right over the Ranger flying at over Mach 1 at 200m from the sea, and even less from the carrier’s deck. This procedure was forbidden in theory, but almost everyone aboard the Ranger seemed to enjoy the show. Image 19590406J. The Thunderstorm passes at Mach 1.3 at just 100 meters from the Ranger's deck. The remainder of the flight was very demanding on Perry and Cherry’s side. The aircraft was very low on fuel, and maneuvers were to be executed with extreme care to avoid any waste of kerosene. Any mistake and the two would not be able to make it back home, and would likely have to ditch in the Atlantic Ocean; not the best publicity for the “most advanced aircraft in the world”. Luckily the crew was the best the IASRDA had to offer, and through careful management of thrust and altitude they safely landed after one hour and seventeen minutes in the air with only 93 liters of kerosene left in the tanks! Image 19590406K. "Note to self: don't fly at Mach 1.3 with limited fuel, no matter how glorious it is" -Isaac Perry, 1959 While the majority of the world would not know about the near failure of the test flight for many years, Isaac Perry and Douglas Cherry were unofficially commended for their skillful flying, despite their ‘questionable’ decision to waste fuel by going full afterburner above the USS Ranger. Both Joe Mitchell and Danny Higgins had come to the landing strip at Cape Canaveral, and even volunteered to help in any way possible, as soon as they came to know the Perry and Cherry were in dire straits aboard the Thunderstorm, a proof of the extreme camaraderie between the IASRDA flying crews. Mitchell later recalled that he was sure his two colleagues were going to be alright because Perry was at the controls. The spectators of the test flight were extremely satisfied by the results the IASRDA had achieved. Although they knew the Agency would never sell the design for military purposes, they nonetheless obtained much data that would be used to perfect the design of several interceptors such as the F-106. The IASRDA, however, still had another test in mind for the Thunderstorm, but that would have to wait, as doing it in the very near future would likely result fatal to the occupants of the aircraft.
  11. @Machinique Yes! The IASRDA is not a military organization, nor a governmental space agency. Of course, it has military roots: the IRS was founded and directed by military officials, all of the crewmembers at this point in time are military aviators (more on them soon), and of course technology derived from military applications. Despite that, the Agency is a (purely) scientific institution; it definitely will become more so in the future. @Geschosskopf Thank you! You guys are making me blush @Spacenerd Kerman Thanks! The grainy pictures are a result of my messing around with the Camera Raw filters and the Noise filters; lately I've also been adding some very slight blurring (in the order of 0.3-0.6px generally). Just mess around with the filters until you get what you seek, with time you'll get experience and it will become much easier. Once again, thank you guys a lot!
  12. @Machinique thank you very much! The designs are not completely novel (I had created the Prometheus some while back in a 1.0.5 install of RP-0, for example) and they can definitely be improved upon (and they will). They aren't as efficient as they could be, but I decided that it would give a sense of "we're at the early stages of space exploration, we don't really know what we're doing". Hopefully the series will go very far; for now the main goal is getting a man on the Moon (I'm 2-3 chapters ahead of the thread, they will be released shortly), but of course I'd love to continue up to the present day, or even near future.
  13. XVII: In the Pale Moonlight, Part 2 Chasing the Moonlight The IASRDA wished to capitalize on the successes of the Explorer Program thus far by sending a further two probes to the Moon: one would fly-by it, Explorer 3, and one would impact it, Explorer 4. Blueprint of Explorer 3. Explorer 3 was a 33kg probe, based on the successful design of Explorer 2, albeit with several overhauls. The solar cells had been upgraded to be larger and more powerful, also there were now seven of them, and the velocity adjustment thrusters and propellant had been removed in favor of more scientific instruments. This meant that the spacecraft had no means to correct the flight path if the launch vehicle failed to follow the correct course even for a second, but the margin of error was quite large anyways. The probe was equipped with a low-resolution TV camera (the same as the Explorer 2 one), a temperature measurement unit, an ion mass spectrometer, and a micrometeorite detector. The advancements in rocketry meant that the heavy and expensive Hyperion-Vega was no longer necessary to send a probe to the Moon; a simple Hyperion LT-Alcor A1 with an X-242 kick stage would suffice. The launch was scheduled for February 20 1959 at around 19:34 in the evening, when conditions for the launch were met. Image 19590220A. The Hyperion stack on the launch pad a few hours before flight. The rocket took off at the nominal time. As you can see, it is night; this would be a first for the IASRDA. Direct ascents to the Moon with no parking orbit often result in such night launches, with the Moon below the eastern horizon. Image 19590220B. Lift-off at 9PM! The exhaust is clearly visible in the near-darkness of a moonless night, the only source of light being the rocket plume itself. The Hyperion ignited with a loud roar, and started following its predetermined ascent path, illuminating the night sky over Florida in the process. SIMULATION. The Hyperion stage flying through the atmosphere. Notice the towns and cities around the Cape Canaveral AFB. The Alcor second stage ignited after a small coast of two seconds. It was very faintly visible from the ground, but probably just a few people managed to follow it through its burn. SIMULATION. Although difficult to see in this shot, the Alcor stage keeps propelling the payload one step closer to the Moon. The Alcor started its spin program to stabilize the X-242 just as the Sun started to come back from below the horizon. SIMULATION. The Alcor spins to stabilize the unguided third stage and payload. The X-242 finally fired to send Explorer 3 to the Moon. SIMULATION. The X-242 gives the last push to a trans-lunar injection. Due to a very slight error in the Alcor phase of the flight, which made it finish its burn half a second later, the probe was projected to come very close to the Moon, probably it might had even ended up impacting it. Projected perilune was in the range of 0-300km. SIMULATION. Explorer 3 on its way to the Moon. Explorer 3 arrived at the Moon on February 24, after 3.5 days of flight. It took a series of photographs, of which one will be shown below: Image 19590224A. The Moon as seen during the approach of Explorer 3. While the probe did not impact the Moon in the end, it passed at a really low altitude of 143km from the surface. It then proceeded to escape into interplanetary space as it was slingshot by the Moon’s gravity, and communications were therefore lost. The next mission, Explorer 4, would, as stated before, be the first lunar impactor of the IASRDA. Blueprint of Explorer 4. The probe weighed 44kg and was very similar in design to Explorer 3. The increased weight was a result of a requirement set by both the R&D Department, and the top brass of the IASRDA. To fulfill this request, a large number of instruments was mounted on the spacecraft, namely a thermometer unit, an ion mass spectrometer, a micrometeorite detector and a Geiger-Muller counter. The weight of the probe was prohibitive for almost all IASRDA launch vehicles however. Even the Hyperion-Vega could only carry at most 41kg to a trans-lunar injection. Only one rocket could haul the desired payload at this stage in time: a Prometheus A with an Alcor A1 upper stage. A Prometheus that was almost finished and due for testing was hastily repurposed to carry the Alcor upper stage. Such configuration would weigh around 122 tons, and could carry 130kg to the Moon without even requiring a kick stage. The Prometheus was so powerful that it couldn’t orbit the whole Alcor upper stage all by itself just because it lacked 160m/s of delta V. While the rocket was definitely a bit overkill for the job, it was nonetheless the only one that could do it at the time. The launch was scheduled for March 18 1959, a month after Explorer 3’s. It would be another early evening launch. Image 19590318A. The Prometheus stack photographed just before sunset at the Cape. The rocket took off at 18:10 in the evening, just after sunset. The Prometheus launch vehicle lit up the area around Launch Complex 1. Image 19590318B. Lift-off of the Prometheus A - Alcor A1 rocket carrying the Explorer 4 lunar impactor. The stack was the brightest light in the night sky above Florida. Image 19590318C. The exhaust plume is the only visible part of the rocket from the ground. Unfortunately, one of the two LR79 on the first stage suffered a performance failure in the last two seconds of burn, but the rocket had enough margin (and the failure occurring late enough in the flight) for it not to matter much. SIMULATION. The sun has risen once again as the stack passes 12km altitude. The second stage burn was nominal instead. Only 360 m/s (due to the first stage failure) separated the rocket from orbit. SIMULATION. Notice plume expansion of the LR105 in the vacuum of space. The Alcor stage worked perfectly and 3 minutes later Explorer 4 was on an impact course with the Moon. The probe was left in a slight spin to stabilize it SIMULATION. The Alcor stage finishes the burn and sends Explorer 4 to an impact with the Moon. SIMULATION. Explorer 4 is on a direct course to the Moon. The probe impacted the Moon on the northern side of Oceanus Procellarum on March 25, after a week of travel. A lot of data was recorded from the minutes before impact and the impact itself. Unfortunately, the low transmission capability of the probe precluded the possibility of any images to be returned, and therefore no camera had been mounted on the spacecraft. In the days following the successful launch, the R&D department announced substantial progress in rocket engine designs, and assured that important upgrades to existing rockets, as well as completely new launch vehicles, would be available shortly for use by the IASRDA.
  14. XVI: Rising Thunderstorm, Part 1 Faster than the Sun Seldom was the Aeronautics Department up to anything big, but when they were, they made sure everyone in a range of 30 kilometers knew about it. They had worked closely with Pratt&Whitney in the past five years to develop a turbojet engine capable of flying above Mach 2 without suffering catastrophic failure; at the same time, they had been working with the RAF on the Fairey Delta aircraft, a collaboration which resulted in the development of a new cockpit design. The Thunder aircraft had been a great success early in the 50s, but by now the design had become outdated, and the flight airspeed record was now held by the Canadian test pilot Janusz Żurakowski, flying a CF-105 Avro Arrow. A newer, faster and more capable version of the Thunder was deemed necessary to further research high-speed flight. The Thunder was by itself a very good design, more than excellent for its time. The fundamental issues that limited its capabilities were the cockpit and air intakes design, the airflow near the main landing gears, and, most importantly, the engine. The J57 was a true workhorse, but it wasn’t up to late ‘50s standards. The IASRDA worked hard with P&W to develop a successor to this remarkable engine, and by late 1958 their work had paid off. The J75 was essentially a larger J57, with updated construction techniques. It produced a static thrust of 76.50kN dry and 109kN at full afterburner, with a compression ratio of 12.2:1. The engine had a mass of 2.7 tons, a diameter of 1.25 meters and a length of nearly three meters. The version developed for IASRDA was a variant of the J75-P-17, which had an engine pre-cooler (as did the IRS J57-P-21) to allow for even higher speeds to be reached. The cockpit had also been greatly improved, and now it encompassed the two air intakes in its structure, saving weight and greatly improving the aerodynamics of the aircraft. The interior had also been thoroughly overhauled, and it now had much more advanced instrumentations. Apart from the noticeably different forward assembly, the new vehicle was mostly identical to its predecessor, save for the modifications made to allow for the fitting of the J75, and a slightly larger wingspan to cope with the increased weight of the aircraft, which now rose up to 15696kg fully loaded and 10213kg empty, an increase over the Thunder of about a ton. This new aircraft, designed to shatter every airspeed record up to that day, was named Thunderstorm, official designation IASRDA-XA-4. Blueprint of the Thunderstorm research aircraft. The first test of the complete aircraft, with the full-power J75 as its powerplant, was unleashed upon Florida on January 20 1959 at 06:25 in the morning, with Senior Captain Joe Mitchell and Senior Specialist Danny Higgins at the controls. Image 19590120A. Mitchell and Higgins are making the final checks before taking off in the pink morning sky. The aircraft was ready for take off at 06:30, after last minute checks had found that everything was fine. Image 19590120B. "You are go for take off, Thunderstorm 1" -Cape Canaveral AFB Control Tower, 1959 Mitchell spooled up the engine, then engaged the afterburner. Reportedly the noise was so high and so unexpected some of the workers at the then-in-construction LC-3 thought something was exploding in their vicinity. Image 19590120C. "[REDACTED], does this [REDACTED] thing go fast!" -Joseph Frank "Joe" Mitchell, 1959 The aircraft kept climbing at a steady rate of 100m/s, the extreme power of the J75 engine allowed for the Thunderstorm to repeatedly break the sound barrier as it did so. The chase planes assigned to the mission had a very difficult time keeping up with their target. Image 19590120D. The Thunderstorm is now at 5000m, still climbing at above Mach 1. As the aircraft approached 11000m, Mitchell stabilized it while keeping the speed down to allow for a quick photoshoot. Image 19590120E. The chase aircrafts come in close for some photographs. After the photos were taken, Mitchell unleashed the J75, as he did so, he started a climb to reach 12900 meters, the optimal altitude to get the most out of the aircraft. Image 19590120F. "Ground speed is 2000km/h and rising!" -Joe Mitchell, 1959 After a couple of minutes of steady acceleration at 12.9km altitude, the aircraft exceeded Mach 2, getting as fast as Mach 2.10. As they approached that velocity, both mission control and Higgins on the back seat of the aircraft advised against exceeding it, as some overheating was being recorded in the engine and they wouldn’t want to take any unnecessary risks. Image 19590120G."Control, I'm recording severe overheating of the J75 engine; speed 2235km/h; altitude 12.9km" -Daniel "Danny" Higgins, 1959 Despite Mitchell’s disappointment, he nonetheless complied with the sound advice he received. He started decelerating by using the airbrakes located on top of the airframe, and entered a slow turn to initiate the return to base. Image 19590120H. "Alright, fine, we're turning around" -Joe Mitchell, 1959 As the aircraft returned to base, Mitchell set the throttle so that they would fly at a steady Mach 1.2 at 12000m altitude. The chase planes were able to catch up to the Thunderstorm, and take a few other good pictures. Image 19590120I. The chase aircraft are back in view of the Thunderstorm. Mitchell initiated final descent when they were about 50km away from the Cape. The aircraft required very precise maneuvering as it was extremely easy to accelerate it to speeds unsuited for landing (i.e. 800km/h) even at very low throttle settings. Mitchell made a few go arounds to slow the aircraft enough to allow for a soft landing. 47 minutes after take off the Thunderstorm had landed safely, despite the drogue parachute failing to deploy. Image 19590120J. "You're coming in quite fast, Thunderstorm 1. Go around and lose some more speed" -Cape Canaveral AFB Control Tower, 1959 Image 19590120K. The Thunderstorm is safely back on the ground. While the full power of the Thunderstorm had not been unleashed (yet), the aircraft still managed to break a number of records, although the current Flight Airspeed Record yet remained unbeaten. Still, the decision to limit the aircraft’s airspeed had been the right one, as post-flight analysis showed that had the aircraft flown any faster, the engine would have catastrophically failed, a scenario which would have likely ended in loss of both airframe and crew, especially at those speeds. A series of adjustments were made to the J75 to allow for higher velocities to be reached, unfortunately this had the side effect of delaying further testing until the necessary upgrades had been installed. Nevertheless, despite its limitations at this stage, it was already clear the Thunderstorm would very likely become the world’s fastest aircraft, faster than the Sun itself.
  15. Love the unique comic approach you've taken. Keep this up!