“Fifteen seconds,” Diller Kerman, KSC’s commentator announced, “10…9…8…go for main engine start…main engine start…4…3…2…1…we have booster ignition…and liftoff of the Space Shuttle Freedom carrying the first element of the Kerbin Orbital Station!”
“Main engines nominal, boosters nominal,” Valentina Kerman, SLS-10’s mission commander radioed. “Tower cleared, initiating roll program…”
As it had done several times before, Freedom worked through its launch routine and ended up in a 235.6km by 275.2km orbit and ready to go to work. The only difference was that the Shuttle used the ET deorbit kit to help circularize its orbit before dropping the tank and letting it burn up while Freedom’s OMS engines finished the job.
After Valentina and Samny completed their checklists for orbital operations, Bill maneuvered the KerboArm and latched onto the Starlab core module. Once he knew that he had a solid hold, he carefully maneuvered it out of the bay and docked it to Freedom’s docking port and stowed the arm. Next, he took a walk outside to install the Buckboard supply containers and flew the modified KMU to its docking port on the station. Unlike previous KMUs, this one had a latching end effector in addition to its docking ports. It provided a backup in case there were issues moving payloads around with the robot arms. Lastly, Bill verified that Starlab’s connections were sound and then extended its solar arrays. Starlab was open for business.
Santrey and Danwig were delighted to enter the new space lab and try it out. They wasted no time unpacking various equipment and setting things up. With Freedom’s extra supplies, they had several days on orbit to work out any issues and perform test experiments.
With their mission complete, Freedom undocked from Starlab and headed home- no jets needed.
A few days later, across the solar system, the Duna Surveyor entered the rusty planet’s sphere of influence. KSC celebrated the event and immediately commanded the probe to execute a “right turn” to head towards the planet. The maneuver set the probe up on an aerobraking trajectory, but its solar arrays would not survive the event, so seven hours later, the probe executed another maneuver that arced over the north pole. Then a day later, Duna Surveyor executed a circularization burn that left it in a 1346.8km by 1354.1km orbit. It was the first time in history that a spacecraft from Kerbin had done so. Unfortunately the orbit was too high for the SCANSat sensors, so KSC commanded the probe to dip down to 210km. There was just enough propellant in the PAM-B and Duna Surveyor’s own kick motor to circularize the probe in low-Duna orbit. After reporting its status, the probe took several readings with its experiments and relayed the results back to KSC. With that complete, Duna Surveyor settled in for its lone vigil over the planet and started its detailed scans...
Eleven days after Duna Surveyor arrived in low Duna orbit, L5US-3 dropped off MIDAS-C. A few minutes later, MIDAS-C circularized its orbit and deployed its relay arrays.
For the first time, a Shutle lifted off at night. Spirit carried Jeb (CDR), Malbo (PLT), Frolie (ENG), Munlorf (SCI), and Malus (SCI) into orbit and began their mission. They carried what they thought would be a light payload: a pair of Buckboard 2000 cargo boxes full of life support resources, some extra liquid fuel and oxidizer propellant, and Starlab’s station arm. As it turned out, the payload proved to be heavier than expected. Spirit had enough delta-v to reach Starlab but it couldn’t deorbit properly from its current altitude.
As KSC worked the problem, Frolie got to work unpacking the Shuttle’s payload bay. First, the engineer unstowed the station arm and grabbed one of the PDGF ports on Starlab. After undocking its opposite end and retracting it, the arm successfully deployed from Spirit’s payload bay. With the free end, Frolie grabbed the docking spacer stowed at the front of the payload bay and docked it to Starlab’s nadir port. To say the least, KSC was delighted that the arm worked so well. Finally, the engineer unlatched the buckboards and attached them to the station’s available External Station Payload Racks (ESPRs).
Starlab had a good 65 days of fresh air and snacks to wait for a solution to their problem, but they didn’t have to wait that long. As it turned out, KSP had an unused Arrow Transfer Vehicle leftover from Project Munflight that somebody forgot he launched was full of propellant. Within a day, Mission Control directed it to Starlab.
Frolie took the time to rewire some internal plumbing aboard Starlab. The port used to dock and refuel the station’s KMU could now transfer liquid fuel and oxidizer. After repositioning the KMU and latching it onto a Power Data Grapple Fixture, ATV Mun 1 docked with Starlab. And with their fuel problems solved, SLS-11 enjoyed a 20-day stay at the station before returning home.
Jeb nearly overshot the reentry corridor, so he performed an "unusual pitch maneuver" to slow the orbiter down. It worked, and Spirit landed back at KSC. Once more, an orbiter didn't need its landing jets.
To help restore lost payload capacity, Drax Aerospace Corporation introduced a new lightweight external tank for SLS-12. The LWT was about 5.5 metric tons lighter than the standard-weight tank flown for the previous 11 missions. Unfortunately, it also cost a bit more. Tesen (CDR), Hensen (PLT), Jofrey (ENG), Bob (SCI), and Sammal (SCI) launched aboard Mariner and brought with them the Pier module, the Ministry of Space’s first KOS element. As expected, the lightweight external tank gave Mariner enough delta-v to reach orbit without using her OMS engines.
Pier was equipped with both the older Clamp-O-Tron Jr ports used since Project Munflight and the newer Mk2 standard ports used on vonKerman spacecraft. Once berthed to Starlab’s aft port, Pier allowed the Ministry of Space to begin sending resupply flights via Arrow Transfer Vehicle. Until then though, Jofrey transferred fresh Buckboards full of research kits to the core module after attaching Pier and moving the spacer module to its permanent home.
Mariner enjoyed another 20 days of on-orbit experiments before returning home, during which time MIDAS-B deployed to its operational orbit. With so many pilots hitting the reentry corridor and gliding to a landing, KSC began making plans to remove the jets during a shuttle's schedule Orbiter Maintenance Down Period.
Finally, SLS-13 was another milestone mission. The maiden flight of Opportunity carried KRV-2 on its maiden flight. Unlike its predecessor, KRV-2 intended to stay in orbit. Opportunity brought Shersey (CDR), Jeslong (PLT), Gerrim (ENG), Santrey (SCI) and Seanner McKerman (SCI) to visit KOS as well.
After docking with Starlab, Santrey and Seanner entered the lab and got to work while Gerrim maneuvered the station arm and moved KRV-2 to its temporary docking spot.
With their work completed, Gerrim, Santrey, and Seanner stayed aboard KOS while Shersey and Jeslong departed in Opportunity. The Pier module slept 2, so the crew of three would need to hot bunk or someone would need to camp out in the KRV, but at last the Kerbin Orbital Station could be permanently occupied...
... And after Tesen missed the reentry corridor by 140km and had to fly home, KSP quietly shelved their plans to remove the landing jets.