“So, after we ran our diagnostics tests about a dozen times, we still can’t identify it,” Scott said between bites. He was enjoying his lunches with Adsii. He always had great conversation topics. “There are literally tons of the stuff in that asteroid, and we don’t know what it is. It glitters, like gold, even on the nightside. It glows in the dark.”
“It sounds like it is phosphorescent,” Adsii responded. “Are you sure your scanner isn’t defective?”
“Positive. We have its twin on the ground with the same software update and same calibration. Both can recognize the ore, metal ore, xenon, argon, zeonium, and hexagen, so we know they’re working properly. Whatever it is- 27.56 percent of the asteroid no less- it’s something new.”
“If I had to guess,” Adsii said, “I’d say that the scanner- oh- are you by chance using an SSM-2?”
“Yeah,” Scott confirmed.
“Yeah, the Experimental Engineering Group makes those. It’s not their best work. Under the right conditions the SSM-2 can give false readings. Anyway, I’d guess that the scanner is picking up a bunch of resources mixed together with, oh, maybe strontium aluminate for the phosphorescence, and that is confusing the scanner. If you can bring back a sample, I can analyze it for you and tell you what it’s made of.”
“You can analyze it,” Scott asked. “I thought your specialty is astronomy.”
“It is,” Adsii confirmed, “but I double-majored in astronomy and geology. I wanted to be a planetary geologist back in the day, but the available positions at KSP were taken so I switched to astronomy.”
“Wait, I thought you studied ancient history along with astronomy,” Scott said, “or at least minored in it.”
“Oh no, ancient history and languages are just hobbies,” Adsii admitted, “though I probably know enough to teach college courses at this point... But yeah, if you can get me a sample, I can analyze it. Discretely, if needed. I have a geology lab in my garage…”
Bringing back a sample of VDP-762’s mystery substance would be a major undertaking. The Beagle used up all its propellant just trying to reach the asteroid. To return a sample, they would need a bigger probe. The company also wanted to use the asteroid as part of their casino, but it was in a cost-prohibitive orbit. Then Frolie suggested that they alter the orbit. “You’d only need around 415 meters per second of delta vee,” he pointed out.
“How,” Scott asked.
“Easy. Land an ISRU rig on the surface- we could buy one from the vonKermans- mine the ore, convert it to rocket fuel, and then nudge the asteroid.”
It was a brilliant idea, but one that would take time to develop, and the company’s cash reserves were running low. So, Skyranger launched into orbit with Scott (CDR), Maxpond (PLT), Steve (ENG, a freshly trained rookie), and the two tourists aboard. More than just a sightseeing trip, Skyranger carried up Node 1 for the Homestead Hotel along with the Mk-33’s airlock. After attaining orbit, Steve deployed Node 1 and docked it to Skyranger’s airlock. A day later, the spacecraft caught up with Homestead 1 and docked to the module via Node 1. The move officially kicked off the construction of Homestead Hotel- given the company’s current financial constraints, the Board decided to repurpose Homestead 1 to become part of the hotel.
Skyranger and her crew enjoyed another day in orbit setting up Homestead 1 before deorbiting and landing.
When they returned home, ground crews were already waiting with the next Homestead module- this one was modified specifically for hotel use. A quick turnaround later, Skyranger launched again, this time with Mabo (CDR), Johnsted (PLT), and Frolie (ENG). Both Maxpond and Johnstead were veterans of KSP’s Shuttle Launch System program and first flew on SLS-8. They had flown together many times throughout their career. Maxpond even commanded a few expeditions to KOS. It took until their third flight together, on SLS-24, for the KSP astronaut corps to finally realize that they were married! Given their long history, each only needed a single qualification flight on the Mk-33 before they were allowed to command a Skyranger flight.
The flight crew deployed the new hotel module, rendezvoused with Homestead Hotel, and added the new addition. A day later, they returned home.
“I understand that you made your first flight on KS-14,” Karbal Kerman, senior reporter for GNN, said.
“That’s right,” Malus Kerman answered. “Kerbal Soar 14, on Ranger. We got to test the first MOLE station prototype.”
“And then you went to the Mϋn,” Karbal prompted.
“Minmus, actually. That was on Mϋnflight 4, with Pioneer. I walked on Minmus with Tesen. We set up some long-term science…”
“And after that you were part of the Skybase 1 mission?”
“Uh, right, Tesen, Jofrey, and I were the first crew aboard Skybase, and the last to fly Pioneer…”
“It says here that you then made four flights on the Shuttle,” Karbal interrupted for a second time.
“Right,” Malus responded, slightly annoyed.
“And you recently concluded a six-month tour aboard Starlab,” Karbal stated. “You’ve had quite a storied career!”
“Yes,” Malus smiled politely, “I’ve been around…”
“So, with you teaching these Space Kampers,” Karbal interrupted. Again. “Does that mean you’re retiring from KSP and going commercial?”
Malus blanched. He looked at his orange suit to hide his disgust. It had seen almost as much as him… “Uh, no I’m not,” he said defiantly. Although the thought had crossed his mind… “I’m on loan from KSP to teach these twelve, uh, citizen astronauts, what it’s like to be a professional astronaut. Space Kamp started with 50 candidates- uh, I’m allowed to say that, right?”
Allock Kerman, the show’s host sitting to Malus’ left, nodded.
“Ok, good,” Malus continued. “Anyway, we started with 50 candidates that went through our training program, and through a process of elimination, we ended up with these twelve…”
“You’ll get to see that when Space Kamp airs later this year,” Allock quickly added. She was beaming. Space Kamp was her idea. The corporate media pirates tried to take it from her, but she outmaneuvered them.
“Right,” Malus sighed and responded. “These guys will get to experience living and working in space…”
“And the top candidates get a chance to join Kerbal Space Program,” Allock interrupted. “The show started with fifty hopeful candidates yearning to reach the stars. Now, only a lucky dozen remain to ride the rocket. Do they have what it takes to be a professional astronaut? Who will make the cut? Find out next fall on: Space Kamp!” Allock looked a bit embarrassed. “Shameless plug, sorry…”
Malus, nodded, clearly annoyed. He was about to say something when Karbal interjected. “Commander Maxpond, will any of the top candidates get to join Orbital Dynamics?”
“That’s not up to me,” Maxpond, the mission commander sitting to Malus’ right, answered.
“I understand that you and your husband, both veterans of the Shuttle Launch System, will be in charge of Space Kamp,” Karbal said quickly.
“I’m responsible for the overall mission and crew safety,” Maxpond corrected. She subconsciously tilted her head to her right. “Johnsted is my second in command. We mind the store while Malus and Allock, who are Mission Specialists, run Space Kamp.”
“Oh, so while you two are ‘minding the store,’ are you planning anything-”
"Orbital maneuvers," Steve, the flight engineer, mumbled and then covered his mouth and coughed to contain his laughter.
“We are professional astronauts,” Maxpond said tersely, briefly giving Steve an icy stare and quickly cutting the reporter off. “Our first priority is to the safety of the crew.”
“Uh, ok,” Karbal said, a bit flustered by the rebuke, “So, Allock, can you give us some more background on Space Kamp…”
I’m looking forward to being done with this interview and getting into space, Malus thought to himself.
Two hours later, after ground crews prepped Skyranger for flight, a record seventeen kerbals boarded the Mk-33 for their trip into orbit. The SSTO launched into space and docked to Homestead Hotel after three hours of matching orbits. They had another forty days on orbit before Space Kamp wrapped up filming and they all returned home…
At Drakken Palast, the station crew packed up the Drakken Kargo with trash before it undocked and conducted its deorbit burn. As it arced to a fiery doom, ground crews prepared Kallisto for its next flight into space. The little space plane launched into orbit without issues and rendezvoused and docked with Drakken Palast a day later. After transferring command of the station to their replacements, the returning crew boarded their Drakken capsule for the trip home.
Moving forward, the Kallisto and her sister ships would take over crewed spaceflights to Drakken Palast, so the departing craft was the last to fly to the station. To commemorate the historic mission, the flight crew left the capsule’s orbital module at the station as a souvenir when it departed. The orbital module also gave the station additional living space and served as an alternative docking port for a Kallisto space plane.
After making a plane change, the capsule initiated a deorbit burn and landed in the Inland Water a few dozen kilometers away from the Darude Launch Complex.
With more than enough time before the transfer window opened, the Ministry of Space began launching their new Duna Science Probe into orbit. Primarily designed to test components for Project Laythe, the DSP was created to fulfill the mcKerman Kingdom’s dream of reaching the rusty planet. The probe’s mission was to conduct a detailed survey of Duna, gather the science, and return it back to Kerbin safely. To accomplish its mission, the DSP needed enough propellant to reach Duna and back. So, after launching the science probe’s core module- complete with a prototype Cherenkov atomic rocket- the Ministry of Space launched a pair of propellium tanks that joined the probe in orbit. All three launches used the new Arrow 5 heavy lift launch vehicle.
With the core components lofted, the Arrow Space Corporation launched an Arrow 4 into orbit. It had a heavily modified Arrow Transfer Vehicle that replaced the cargo cannister with a pair of atmospheric probes. After rendezvousing with the DSP, the atmospheric probes detached and docked with the Duna-bound probe. All they had to do now is wait for the transfer window- which also gave them an opportunity to test the thermal insulation properties of the propellium tanks.
Since Jool lacked a MIDAS constellation, the Ministry of Space developed the Jool Relay Satellite System to provide the needed capability. Built around the MIDAS antenna created by KSP, the JRSS added a propellium tank, thermal radiators, and a pair of Neptune atomic rockets for orbital maneuvers. Duna needed its own MIDAS constellation, but atomic motors were deemed overkill for the rusty planet, so the mcKermans swapped solar arrays for the heat radiators and conventional engines for the atomic rockets.
Dubbed the Duna Relay Satellite System, Drax Aerospace launched DRSS via their modified Shuttle-C.1 booster- the most powerful rocket available. It was an interim solution designed to use up Drax Aerospace's remaining Shuttle-C hardware before they fielded an even more powerful booster. Shuttle-C.1 had a unique addition; back in the Shuttle Launch System days, engineers proposed adding an aft cargo carrier into the space between the boosters to carry oversized payloads. The proposal was rejected, but Drax Aerospace revised the concept by adding additional propellant capacity via an aft carrier-derived tank extension.
Even with the additional propellant, Shuttle-C.1 struggled to attain orbit. It fell into an 89.1 km by 169.6 km orbit after burning nearly all of its propellant. After DRSS deployed its mission antennas and a sustainer solar array, Shuttle-C.1 jettisoned the payload and burned its remaining propellant to push the vehicle into the atmosphere. The propulsion module was technically recoverable, but it landed in a remote and uninhabited area of Kerbin, so recovery was impractical.
Not long after Drax delivered the DRSS into orbit, the Ministry of Space lofted a large inline propellium tank that docked with the DRSS assembly. The inline tank, part of their new Modular Interplanetary Transportation System (MITS), was slated for use on the Nautilus, so flying to Duna provided an opportunity to test it in deep space.
As another test, the MoS fielded the MITS’ propulsion section that, unlike the Duna Science Probe, had a prototype Poseidon atomic motor instead of the DSP’s Cherenkov prototype. Though both the Cherenkov and the Poseidon were rejected for Project Laythe, the Ministry of Space hoped to evaluate each one and decide which to bring into production for other interplanetary missions.
The Arrow 5 launcher struggled to place the propulsion module into a 100km orbit, but it made it. A day later, the propulsion module reached the DRSS and docked to the growing vessel. A couple of radial tank flights later, the DRSS was ready for its flight to Duna…