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  1. Fabulous. Took her up for a de-orbit test on a fresh install (without Atmosphere Autopilot and Trajectories) after buying Breaking Ground and still managed to wobble down for a splash landing off the coast of KSC. Just out of interest are the SSME's missing or are we supposed to use the stock ones? I only have one suggested improvement for IVA. 1) Would it be possible to put a radar altimeter next to the speed readout. I land shuttles in IVA view and having to look down and zoom in to see how long it is before I crash is annoying. Pity stock IVA doesn't include a HUD because it would really be handy to have. Kerbal Flight Indicators will have to suffice. I'm looking forward to flying the finished version. Great Work
  2. Your 40 degree AOA should be 40deg MINUS your prograde. So if your prograde indicator is sitting at -10 then you only have to pitch up +30 degrees...if you get what I mean. Re-entry like this is doable but needs constant adjustment, best technique I've used is to de-orbit over Crater Rim Ground Station and try to put your re-entry vector on top of KSC. (If you have the trajectories Mod or Mechjeb you can put the marker on top of the mountains behind KSC) then adjust your pitch as necessary. When you've bled off enough speed drop the nose -20 degrees, retract your body flap and aim just in front of the KSC runway. Hold your pitch (and nerve) until you hit 500m then pitch up and drop your gear...use airbrakes and chutes to stop. Using this method I can land from an equatorial orbit 9/10 times... inclined orbits are a little trickier. Hope this helps... and don't forget to take a picture of your first successful landing
  3. Yeah, so, I've got writers block...again!!! I've decided to scrap this fan fic in favour of something more hands on. I've posted in Mission Briefings a new idea for a war gaming thread (Same name: Steel Talons) and have borrowed heavily from this universe I created in my head and applied it to the new game. Hopefully see you there!
  4. CHAPTER 1 Kaedwan City Ruins 7 Days Later... Preston Kerman - senior security advisor to the Kerbal Reconstruction Authority Council - instinctively reached into his coat packet to check that his trusty sidearm was still there and tightened the grip on his briefcase. A group of raggedly dressed Kerbals lingered at the corner of the alley warming their hands over a fire in a barrel and turned to watch him walk past. The last thing he wanted right now was an altercation but at least he could defend himself if things turned ugly. Dark storm clouds hung over the ruined city and a light drizzle had began to fall as he hurriedly made his way through winding alleys and scrambled over fallen rubble. Kaedwan City had been heavily bombed during the war and was already in ruins before the nuclear bombs fell on the final day. As such - despite its state of disrepair - the city had lower levels of trace radiation and had become home to hundreds of refugees. Amidst the ruins small settlements sprang up overnight and a provisional government of Kaedwaani citizens had been formed to manage the rapidly growing community. Clambering through the remains of an old school bus Preston finally reached his destination. An old bombed out textiles factory towered several stories above him. On the third floor he could just make out the dim light of a lantern - the agreed signal that his contact was already here and waiting for him to arrive. Glancing round to make sure he was not followed he entered the dark interior of the factory and made his way towards the iron staircase leading to the upper floor. Below him, the remains of machines littered the floor and torn fabric fluttered in the breeze. It was the eeriest place that Preston had ever set foot. As he neared the doorway to what was once the foreman's office he reached down into his pocket and put a hand on his sidearm as a precautionary measure and pushed the door open. A smartly dressed Kerbal wearing a grey trilby hat leaned against the far wall turned at the sound of the squeaking hinges. Quickly glancing around the room Preston was satisfied that they were alone and closed the door behind him. 'What's with all the cloak and dagger?' Huey Kerman - former air racer, social playboy and owner of Huey's Aircraft Company straightened and walked towards Preston. Above his top lip was a neatly trimmed moustache which seemed to add to his debonair mystique - a feature very popular with the females. 'It was necessary,' Preston extended his hand. 'The council doesn't exactly know that I'm here and I'd like to keep it that way if you don't mind.' Huey took his outstretched hand and then gestured to a pair of chairs nearby. 'Would you like to tell me what's going on?' Straight to business. I like him. Preston followed him towards the chair and sat down - placing his briefcase on a nearby table and popping the latches open. From within he produced a tan folder and handed it to Huey. 'Several days ago one of our cargo airships - the Freeloader - was attacked and destroyed whilst investigating a derelict over the Gulf of Kaedwan.' 'Lucky Jack's ship,' Huey opened the folder and began scanning through the documents inside - grimacing as he reached a casualty report with a long list of names. 'Where there any survivors?' 'Just three,' Preston shifted to get comfortable in the hard chair. 'Lucky Jack's kids. One of them - Joseph; the youngest - was forced to ditch about two miles off the Kaedwan Coast but the others made it and raised the alarm.' 'Is he alright?' Huey shuddered. 'I wouldn't fancy taking a dip in the ocean. Does he glow in the dark now?' 'Aside from mild radiation poisoning and hypothermia he will be fine,' Preston assured him. 'Our doctors expect him to make a full recovery given enough time and rest.' 'Tough kid,' Huey flipped the pages. 'So, who was behind the attack? Pirates?' 'Most likely,' Preston rubbed his hands together and blew into them to keep warm. 'From the witness statements provided by Joseph and his siblings we know that there were four attacking aircraft. Based on their descriptions we are confident that they were KE-128 Fighters.' 'Banshees?!' Huey looked up in surprise. 'Where the hell did pirates get Banshees from?' 'Which brings me to the derelict that Lucky Jack was investigating,' Preston replied. 'During the attack a message was transmitted in signal code - a set of coordinates and some gibberish which I haven't made sense of yet. The coordinates are for a location in the South West Kumari Desert.' 'That's well clear of the main aviation routes,' Huey rubbed his chin. 'What's out there?' 'According to our maps, nothing,' Preston replied. 'Fortunately I was able to do some digging and found some geological and construction reports logged by an Imperial Engineering Team. They were examining the area in preparation for constructing a military airbase.' 'Did the Imperials ever finish the base?' Huey glanced up from the report. 'From what I've managed to glean from the reports, it was completed and became a forward repair and maintenance depot for the Imperial Air Force,' Preston explained. 'The Empire planned to open another front and this would have been their forward operations base for strikes against Kaedwan.' The cogs in Huey's brain began turning at lightning speed. If the base was indeed a maintenance depot then that meant there would have been tools to fabricate new aircraft parts. 'How many squadrons were based there?' 'If the commander followed standard Imperial protocols I would suspect that it had one fighter wing stationed there to protect the base,' Preston shrugged. 'Who knows what else they stored there.' 'So we're looking at between thirty to forty fighters at least,' Huey whistled. Three squadrons of Banshees could upset the delicate balance of power in the region. The swept wing fighter was the first jet aircraft produced by the Empire and though it was only operational for a short time before the war ended Banshee pilots exacted a heavy toll on the slower piston engine fighters fielded by the Independent States. The final pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fell into place as Huey realised why Preston had summoned him. 'You want the designs for the Cutlass don't you?' When the Banshee had first began appearing in combat theatres during the war the Kaedwaani Air Force was quick to act. After capturing an intact Banshee thanks to a defecting pilot Huey was allowed to examine the fighter and tasked with building and aircraft capable of competing against it. The KP-86 Cutlass prototype was flown for the first time just days before the bombs dropped and never had a chance to enter production. When the population of Kerbin emerged from the Nuclear shelters low-tech piston engine craft like the Jackdaw were favoured over jet aircraft by the airship crews and the plans were left to languish in Huey's vault. 'Technically, we want you to build a squadron of fighters to protect Kaedwaani Air Space,' Preston leaned forward. 'Do you think that you could do that?' Huey rubbed his chin as he began to crunch numbers in his head. 'Theoretically it's possible - I have the designs and the machinery to fabricate the parts. What I don't have are the raw materials to do it.' 'That's where I can help you,' Preston smiled and produced another document from his briefcase - handing it to Huey. 'This is the Baikerbanur Design Bureau were Dr. Werner worked as head of the K-1 Rocket Programme. In the final days of the war the base was evacuated - leaving behind stockpiles of sheet metal and rocket parts.' 'Surely it would have been stripped bare by now?' Huey opened the folder and glanced at the maps contained within. The design bureau was located in a remote valley North of the Kumari Desert. An airship could reach the base but that would mean...his eyes widened in shock. 'Yes...the design bureau is located in the heart of Red Kraken territory,' Preston replied grimly. The Red Krakens were a group of pirates, smugglers and slavers who controlled a large swathe of what was once the heartland of the Kerbin Empire. They were rumoured to live in the ruins of Imperial City and their enigmatic ruler - known only as Blaze - held his court in the Throne Room of the former Imperial Palace. Due to the Emperor adopting a scorched earth policy when facing defeat the region was highly irradiated and covered in a seemingly permanent radioactive mist that hung over the valleys and mountain passes. Airship captains avoided the area like the plague but the Krakens routinely raided settlements near their borders and any vessel that came too close to their territory was just asking for trouble. Those unlucky enough to survive an attack were sold into slavery - females often became breeders and males were used as manual labour until they died of exhaustion or pledged their loyalty to Blaze. 'It's a suicide mission,' Huey began ticking points off on his fingers. 'First; I'd have to find a captain crazy enough to make the trip. Second; I'd have to find a group of escort pilots crazy enough to lock horns with the Krakens,' he hissed in annoyance. 'Third; assuming they aren't killed before they reach the design bureau, the crew would be sitting ducks on the ground whilst loading any cargo.' 'Surely a Kerbal with your connections knows some people like that?' Preston smirked. 'Well...yes,' Huey admitted. 'But I can tell you now, they wouldn't do it for free.' 'We wouldn't expect them to,' Preston held up his hands. 'Both you and the crew will be well compensated for your time.' 'You've already said the council couldn't care less about this situation which begs the question...,' Huey narrowed his eyes. 'Who's signing the cheques?' 'Officially you'll be working for the Kaedwaani Government,' Preston replied quietly. 'Unofficially, the whole mission is being underwritten by the Kerbal Space Agency.' Huey sat back in his seat. 'Why would Dr. Werner do that?' 'Quite frankly, he's had concerns about the council and its practices for a while,' Preston admitted. 'For too long they've been allowed to sit in the lavish confines of White Forest Bunker and use their monopoly on algae production to exert control over people.' 'It's like the bloody war all over again,' Huey buried his face in his hands and rubbed it vigorously. He had been quick to support the former government of Kaedwan when they ceded from the Kerbin Empire. As a result his bank accounts had been frozen and his name blacklisted to serve as an example to others. Fortunately the loss of his fortune did not affect his ability to build exceptional aircraft and throughout the war he supplied the Independent States with fighters and bombers. Now he was being asked to put his business and reputation on the line again. 'I know it's a lot to ask,' Preston sighed. 'Do you think?!' Huey let his hands fall to his lap. 'Why haven't you approached C7 Aerospace about this?' 'The board of directors has too many ties to the council,' Preston replied. 'It wouldn't take long for them to get wind of what we were up to and put a stop to it.' 'So my company and I are expendable,' Huey made a face. 'It's nice to be appreciated.' 'If there was a way to do this peacefully I would take it,' Preston stood and walked to the window - gazing out over the ruined cityscape below. 'For too long the KRA has rested on its laurels. When the Red Krakens began raiding the outer settlements; they did nothing. When Air Pirates began raiding our airships; they did nothing,' he turned back to face Huey. 'Now we learn of another threat - perhaps the most dangerous one we've faced since the war....' '...and they've done nothing!' Huey finished with a firm nod. 'This is Kaedwaani Soil,' Preston turned to the window again. 'When we first emerged from the shelters people were content to make concessions and let the eggheads run the show. It's become apparent now that the council don't have the best interests of the people at heart, so it's time for change!' 'It sounds like you've been thinking about this for a while,' Huey called softly. 'I was born here,' Preston gestured to the window. 'Seeing the city like this - the starving people in the streets - it makes me angry. The council have may have failed us, but I'm not going to,' he turned back to Huey. 'Once this threat has been dealt with we're going to evict the KRA from White Forest. Then, we'll build more algae farms and export food and medicine all over the planet.' 'What about the Space Agency?' Huey pointed out. 'It's a KRA funded project.' 'Dr. Werner has already pledged his support to any future Kaedwaani Government,' Preston replied confidently. 'Between the Space Agency and increased output from the Algae Farms we can really start making a difference - first in Kaedwan and then...well...who knows what the future holds.' 'You're also painting a very big target on Kaedwan,' Huey warned. 'There'll be a lot of folks who won't think twice about killing to get their hands on all that algae.' 'That's where you come in,' Preston nodded in his direction. 'The aircraft we've asked you to build will be used to equip a squadron - the first of what we hope will eventually become a new Kaedwaani Air Force. If the Red Krakens or any pirates come calling, we'll be ready for them.' 'Well, I admire you for thinking big,' Huey chuckled as he climbed to his feet. 'Does that mean that you'll help us?' Preston visibly held his breath. 'Hold on...,' Huey held up his hand. 'Assuming that I agree to this madness and manage to liberate those raw materials and rocket parts I'll need some way to turn them into usable components.' 'Jeb's Junkyard,' Preston smiled. 'He has a problem with authority at the best of times. Any opportunity to stick it to the suits is one Jeb seizes with both hands. Bring him those materials and he'll make the parts you need!' 'Hmm,' Huey rocked back and forth on his heels mulling it over. 'This could actually work.' 'So...,' Preston smiled. 'Are you in?' 'This is either going to make my career or ruin me,' Huey offered his hand and Preston took it. 'You made a good argument though. I'll do my part.' 'Excellent,' Preston couldn't keep the smile of his face. 'Well then...,' Huey gestured over his shoulder with his thumb. 'If you'll excuse me I have to look for a merry band of misfits to pull off an suicide mission.' 'Yes about that...,' Preston smirked. 'I know at least three volunteers who are just itching to get even!'
  5. Airship Freeloader Somewhere over the Gulf of Kaedwan Year 1, Day 165 'Still no response from the airship, Captain!' Captain "Lucky" Jack Kerman hissed through his clenched teeth in vexation. It was not the radio operator's fault that they could not establish communications with the derelict airship drifting about three kilometres ahead of them. 'Keep trying, lad!' Leaving the radio operator to adjust the dials on the wireless Jack opened a hatch near the rear of the command deck and slid down the ladder into the forward observation cupola. From this vantage point beneath the airship he was rewarded with a commanding view of the Gulf of Kaedwan - shimmering in the early morning sunlight. On the horizon he could just make out the distant shores of Kaedwaani Peninsular and friendly airspace. Like most of the private airship captains Jack worked for the Kerbin Reconstruction Authority - transporting cargo and supplies between colonies and settlements all over Kerbin. In the aftermath of the Great War which had engulfed the planet thirty years previously huge swathes of the planet were still heavily irradiated from the nuclear fallout. Airships became the most efficient way of transporting cargo between the surviving settlements - soaring gracefully over the ruined landscape above the worst of the radiation. Jack could still remember emerging from the White Forest fallout shelter on Kaedwan with other survivors ten years after the bombs gad fallen to find the lush green planet they had left behind a distant memory. Instead they found a poisoned world barely fit for habitation. Despite the challenges ahead the survivors had founded the Kerbin Reconstruction Authority (KRA) and brought together some of the finest scientific minds to begin the mammoth task of rebuilding their ruined home world. Securing a supply of fresh water was the priority and fortunately the underground streams and rivers flowing through the mountains remained uncontaminated. Whilst having enough supplies in the fallout shelters to last for ten years the KRA made securing a new food source a high priority. The solution was algae. Grown in subterranean farms in the caves beneath the Kaedwan Mountains algae came in a number of different forms which proved useful to the surviving population. Green algae had a high nutritional value and was used to make food in the form of a yucky green paste which smelled awful but did not taste too bad. Blue algae was used as a antibiotic to fight infections and potent red algae - though highly addictive - was an effective painkiller. Jack had been an aeronautical engineer before the war and he had volunteered to spend the next five years of his life in the darkness building the vital algae farms that would provide food and medicine for the survivors - putting his skills to good use. When the KRA ordered the construction of Freeloader and her sisters ships to look for survivors and transport supplies he had offered his services and swiftly rose up through the ranks to become the overseer of Freeloader's construction and was awarded the captaincy for his hard work and dedication. For twenty years he had captained the airship and travelled the length and breadth of Kerbin - delivering supplies to far-flung colonies and fighting off attacks by pirates and red algae smugglers. He even had time to raise a family on board with his chief mechanic. His wife had died several years earlier and raising his children alone had been hard, but extremely rewarding. Both his sons and daughter were vital members of his faithful crew and having them aboard made the long journeys bearable. Only six months earlier Jack and Freeloader had been reassigned from cargo duty to the costly and quite frankly ambitious project of Dr. Werner Von-Kerman. The Kerbin Space Agency was tasked with restoring global communications and locating resources from orbit which could be used in other building projects. Despite a few teething issues the agency had been successful in launching their first satellite - Stayputnik 1 - only a few months before. This was swiftly followed by the launch of the Kerballed spaceflight of Trailblazer 1. Piloted by adventure seeker and industrialist Jebediah Kerman the space capsule had spent three hours orbiting Kerbin before returning to the surface. Following the success of the mission the goals and ambitions of Dr. Werner and the Space Agency grew exponentially - ranging from orbital facilities to the mining of raw materials from the Mun and asteroids. As it turned out Jack found himself working directly for Jebediah's Junk Yard on occasion - delivering scrap metal and components located during scavenging missions which were smelted and used to build fuel tanks and rocket engines for the space agency. Despite his devil may care personality he found Jebediah to be a quietly dedicated individual - taking great pride in his accomplishments and that of his company. At the front of the viewing cupola was an antique wooden ships wheel. The object was purely decorative and Jack had traded some engine components for it on Korvega a few years back. This decoration was shortly joined by a battered but still usable ship's compass which sat behind the wheel and an antique globe of Kerbin as it was before the Great War. They were small touches but their addition made the cupola seem more homely to Jack and he spent much of his free time here. He was not here to relax now. Reaching into his pocket he produced his well used battered spyglass and slid it open. Placing it to his eye he scanned the derelict airship in the distance - searching for any sign of life on board. There were several gaping holes and scorch marks on the airship structure whilst the cupola had been torn completely away. She's not one of ours! Jack knew the design of Freeloader and her sister ships intimately and this particular vessel belonged to a design that he was unfamiliar with. He guessed it was probably from one of the frontier colonies from up north near the poles. 'Why is she this far South?' he muttered under his breath. Lowering his spyglass he reached over to the panel beside him and picked up the receiver. 'Wes? Are you seeing what I'm seeing?' The voice of Wesley Kerman - his longsuffering quartermaster - came back strong over the speaker. 'There'll be a lot of good salvage over there, skipper!' 'Too good an opportunity to miss,' Jack agreed. If they towed the derelict into port they would get a handsome reward from the KRA - maybe enough to replace some of the overworked engines aboard Freeloader. 'Let's send a recovery crew over there and find out what happened.' Switching off the radio Jack climbed up the ladder back to the command deck - calling out to Wes as he poked his head through the hatch. 'Set course for the derelict...,' he closed the hatch behind him. '...and sound battle stations!' Wes arched a questioning eyebrow in his direction - prompting Jack to grin. 'Nothing is ever this easy, Wes!' Quite unfairly the klaxons above Joseph Kerman's bunk went off as he was in the middle of a pleasant dream. Rolling off the top bunk he landed in a crouch on the floor and began fumbling to put his boots on. His older brother, Todd, grunted as he sat bolt upright in bed - hitting his head on the mattress of the upper bunk and staring around in confusion. Joe tossed his brother's shoes onto his chest - knocking the air out of Todd's and they landed on him with a thump. 'Come on...,' he called urgently. '...there'll be hell to pay if the old man finds out we were late.' The door to their shared cabin was flung open and Rosie - Joe's older sister - hammered on the bulkhead with her fist. 'Wake up lazy bones. Dad's called everybody to battle stations!' 'I'm coming...,' Todd grunted as he pulled his shoes on. Together the three siblings hurried through the cavernous superstructure of the Freeloader towards the ladder which led towards the flight deck secured beneath the airship. There they would each board one of the five Jackdaw bi-planes that Jack kept aboard for security duties and assume a patrol formation around the airship. Sliding down the ladder they emerged from the hatch into the cool breeze of the exposed flight deck to find a scene of organised chaos as mechanics and armourers hurried to ready the aircraft for launch. Todd flagged down the chief mechanic. 'What's going on Chief?' 'The skipper spotted a derelict,' the Kerbal replied impatiently. 'We're sending a team over to check it out! You're going to fly cover for them!' Joe zipped up his flight jacket and thumped his brother in the shoulder blade. 'Let's get moving before Dad gives us a hard time for being late!' 'Too late!' Rosie muttered. Joe looked guilty as he turned to see his father stride onto the deck in his flight gear wearing a disapproving expression. His children were supposed to be on alert and it had taken them far too long to reach the flight deck. Heck, they were not even in their fighters yet. 'It's a good job we aren't under attack,' Jack snapped. 'The battle would have been over by now before we even got a shot off.' Todd made a face. 'Maybe if we had quarters closer to the flight deck instead of towards the rear of the ship we might get here a little quicker!' Joe braced himself for the scolding that his brother was likely to receive. His elder brother had inherited their mother's fiery temperament and often brought him into conflict with his father. To his surprise though, Jack let the matter slide and gestured to the nearby fighters. 'We can discuss room assignments later,' he called. 'Right now we have to get these fighters in the air.' Joe playfully accepted a good luck punch in the upper arm from Todd and hurried towards his red fighter - decorated with a black and gold chequerboard pattern along the fuselage. Scrambling up onto the lower wing he crawled along it and clambered into the cramped confines of the open cockpit. 'Did you manage to fix that oil leak?' he called to his mechanic. 'What do you think?' the burly sleep-deprived Kerbal grunted as he tossed Joe's leather flight cap to him. 'Gee, somebody got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning!' Joe chuckled as he switched on the fuel pumps and batteries before holding down the starter button. After a brief hesitation the powerful radial engine in front of the cockpit roared into life - sending the familiar vibrations through the fuselage. Reaching to his right he switched on the radio and heard his father's voice almost immediately. 'Once we're clear of the flight deck I want Joe and Rosie to fly cover for Freeloader whilst Todd and I fly out to the derelict to check it out,' Jack barked. 'Keep your eyes on swivels. I've got a bad feeling about this one!' Joe's skin began to crawl as he subconsciously patted the ammunition box near his left leg. They did not call his father Lucky Jack for nothing - his hunches often proved to be right. Reaching down he pulled the charging handle for the twin .50 calibre cannons in the nose of his fighter. The Jackdaw was a common sight aboard airships. The small bi-plane was incredibly light yet durable enough to withstand the stresses of being launched and captured by the trapeze - essentially a metal bar hanging below the airship that the bi-plane hooked on to before being brought aboard. In the technological drought following the aftermath of the Great War and escort aircraft not having the range to keep the airships safe the Jackdaw was the only thing standing between an airship's crew and an air pirate attack. There was no single factory producing the Jackdaw design - rather the design schematics were purchased and the aircraft were assembled from whatever materials were available, powered by reconditioned engines and armed with whatever was available. No two Jackdaw's were alike and escort pilots became very attached to their aircraft. The radial engine powering Joe's aircraft for example had once powered an airship and was scrapped after breaking down one-too-many times. It took six weeks to beg, borrow and steal the parts to recondition the engine for installation aboard his Jackdaw but the end result was worth it. Turning to his right Joe gave his mechanic a thumbs-up sign. The Kerbal reached for the control panel beside the aircraft and hauled down a lever. With a lurch the Jackdaw was lifted off the flight deck and rocked to-and-fro as a telescopic piston extended - suspending the plane in mid-air parallel to the flight deck. Throttling up slightly Joe reached up with his left and an pulled a lever - releasing the Jackdaw from the trapeze and cutting him loose from the airship. Pushing the throttle to full-power Joe built up his airspeed in a gentle dive towards the ocean below before gaining altitude and looping back towards Freeloader to assume his escort position. Todd's green and gold aircraft followed the sky blue Jackdaw belonging to his father - his older brother waggling his wings as he passed by. Aboard Freeloader the anti-aircraft gunners clambered into the gun pits dotted along the superstructure - ready to fend off any unfriendly aircraft that got too close. Pushing his anxiety to one side Joe kept his eyes peeled for any sign of trouble as he circled the airship and waited to receive the all clear from his father. Todd whistled over the radio as Jack led him towards the derelict airship. 'Whoever attacked this thing sure had access to some powerful weapons.' Glancing to his left Jack scanned the remains of the cupola as he flew past. It looked as though somebody had let a swarm of mutated termites loose - the structure was peppered with holes bigger than his fist. 'Wait a minute...,' Todd called excitedly. 'I'm picking up a faint radio signal, Dad. It must be coming over a short range transmitter because I've only just picked it up.' 'What's it saying?' Jack called urgently. 'Are there any survivors? Do they need medical aid?' 'Hang on...,' Todd called irritably. 'It's an automated Signal Code. I'm a bit rusty so I'm writing it down to decode it.' Jack's shoulder's sagged as his hopes of finding survivors were dashed. Somebody must have recorded the signal code - transmitted as a series of dots and dashes - and set it to transmit on an endless loop. Circling the airship he waited patiently for Todd to decode the message. 'It's something about the attack...,' Jack called. 'It sounds like they were stationed at Blizzard Bay and were rerouted down here to deliver a message to the KRA.' 'What was the message?' Jack inquired. 'It doesn't say...,' Todd replied distractedly. 'Just a set of co-ordinates and the word 'Kondor' before the message repeats.' Jack's skin began to crawl as something on the horizon caught his eye - the sun glinting off several metallic objects in the distance. They were still some distance away but his gut instinct told him that they were not friendly. Gunning his engine he looped around the back of the derelict and back towards Freeloader. 'We're going to have company!' he called urgently over the open frequency. 'Todd and I are moving to intercept. Joe, Rosie; pick up any that make it through,' he glanced over his shoulder to make sure Todd was on his wing. 'Wes; get Freeloader out of here before she ends up like that derelict. Tell the gunners to shoot anything that isn't us!' 'Dad?!' Rosie yelled over the radio 'What's going on?' 'There's no time to explain!' Jack snapped. 'Just do as I say!' Jack's heart pounded in his chest and he forced himself to breathe deeply. Reaching up he hauled back the lever to charge the cannons located on the upper wing of his Jackdaw. The distant shapes quickly closed on the derelict - revealing themselves to be aircraft of a design that Jack had not seen since the war. With a loud screech from their twin jet engines they flashed either side of his cockpit and headed towards the derelict. 'Banshees!' Jack hissed. 'Four of them!' 'As in Imperial fighters?' Todd gasped. 'I thought they were all destroyed during the war!' 'Apparently not!' Jack snapped as he looped around to pursue the enemy fighters... very slowly! 'They might have faster planes than us but we have the edge in manoeuvrability. Don't let them get on your tail or they'll tear you to shreds with their cannons.' The enemy fighters opened fire on the derelict with a salvo of unguided rockets mounted next to the engines beneath their wings. The warheads hit the damaged airship and penetrated the superstructure - igniting the remaining gasbags in a blinding explosion. 'Holy hell!' Todd yelped! The remains of the airship began a slow descent towards the ocean below - the wreckage feeding the fires that raged along its flammable surface. Two of the enemy fighters had turned to engage Freeloader and Jack cursed helplessly as he bounced back and forward in his seat in a vain attempt to get the plane to go faster. Joe saw the derelict go up like a giant firework and figured that Freeloader would be next. Whoever attacked the airship did not want to leave behind any survivors to reveal their existence. Pushing forward his throttle he led Rosie towards a pair of enemy fighters closing rapidly on the bow of Freeloader. 'Oh no you don't!' he grunted. Dropping the crude targeting reticule mounted to the front of his cockpit over the lead fighter he pulled the trigger on his yoke - feeling the vibrations rock his plane as the twin .50 calibre guns opened fire. The pilot of the lead fighter broke of his attack run with his wingman following in his wake. As the aircraft flashed past Joe caught a glimpse of a Kerbal wearing a leather flying cap. 'They're coming around!' Rosie called urgently. 'Stay on my wing and we'll catch them on the other side of Freeloader.' At once the gunners aboard Freeloader opened fire on the enemy fighters - throwing up a wall of flak between the airship and the attackers that would make it difficult for them to get close. The gunnery crews had been through this drill dozens of times against pirates and they knew what was expected of them. Jack followed Rosie's purple Jackdaw as she led them over the manoeuvring fins at the back of the airship. Due to their high speed the enemy fighters needed a much larger radius to turn around and by the time they had lined up for another attack on Freeloader both Joe and Rosie were closing in to attack. 'Don't spare any bullets,' Rosie yelled - suiting words to action by opening fire. Jack levelled his crosshairs on the second fighter and opened fire - watching the tracers flash past the wings of the enemy aircraft as they flashed past. He was certain that he had landed a few shots and glanced over his shoulder - feeling a surge of elation as he caught sight of one of the aircraft streaming black smoke from her engine. 'Good shooting, little brother!' Rosie called gleefully. The damaged aircraft broke off her attack and headed away from the engagement - too fast for either of them to pursue. At least they had narrowed the odds a little. The remaining fighter flashed towards Freeloader and Joe clenched his fists around the yoke in desperation - powerless to do anything about it. He need not have worried as a huge piece of flak from the airships gunners clipped the starboard wing of the enemy fighter - snapping it clean off and sending the fighter into a death spiral towards the ocean. 'You hotshots can't have all the glory!' Wesley called smugly over the radio. 'We'll never get your swollen heads back on the flight deck!' Joe laughed nervously - the apprehension he had felt moments before quickly evaporating. If the attackers had learned one thing during the attack it was that Freeloader and her crew were not to be underestimated. Watch it Dad there's one on your tail! Joe's blood ran cold at the sound of Todd's urgent call. He glanced over towards the flaming derelict as it plunged towards the ocean - desperate to catch sight of his father's plane. Jack grinned as Wesley delivered his stinging rebuke. He would find some way to get even with his quartermaster once they were safely back aboard Freeloader. He triggered a burst of fire at as an enemy fighter flashed past and hissed in vexation when it continued on without any problems. 'Watch it Dad there's one on your tail!' Instinctively Jack flipped his Jackdaw up on its left wing and banked has hard as he could to avoid being hit. Cannon fire flashed either side of his cockpit - smashing the windshield in front of him before the Banshee flashed past. He peered up to see a gaping hole in his upper wing and gulped - patting himself down to see if there were any holes in him. Aside from his flight controls feeling a bit sluggish there did not seem to be any major damage. 'He's coming around for another pass,' Todd called urgently. 'Hang tight, I'm coming!' Jack was about to make a wiseass comment when he noticed that his attacker's wingman had broken off and was headed towards Freeloader. 'Negative, one of them is lining up for another attack on Freeloader! Todd, can you see him?' 'I see him...,' Rosie interrupted. 'Go and help Dad, Todd. He's mine!' Jack glanced up to see Todd's Jackdaw open fire on his attacker as the Banshee finished its loop. The enemy aircraft banked sharply to the right to avoid the worst of the incoming fire - throwing off his attack run. Jack's shoulders sagged in relief as he forced himself to exhale. 'My guns are jammed!' Jack's relief quickly became concern as Todd broke off his attack. Even at this distance he could make out his eldest son leaning out of his cockpit - hammering the jammed weapon to unblock the jam with the hammer he kept by his side for just such an occasion. Taking advantage of Todd's distraction the enemy pilot turned to engage Jack again and opened fire. Throwing his aircraft to the left in a barrel roll Jack felt the vibrations of several hits. Oil burst from the cowling around the engine and splashed over his goggles. Quickly pulling them off he glanced over his shoulder to see the enemy fighter on his tail - the pilot deploying his landing flaps to slow down. 'I'm not making this easy for you!' Jack growled - pushing his stick forward and diving towards the flaming airship wreckage. He felt the heat from the flames brush his face as he passed the structure. The enemy pilot followed him down - firing constantly and scoring more hits on Jack's plane. Jack broke hard left - swooping towards the empty space between the bottom of the airship and cupola secured below in a last ditch effort to shake off his attacker. He let out a whoop as he passed through the gap - only for it to turn into a scream as a large girder fell from the superstructure directly into the path of his plane. Throwing up his hands in front of his eyes he barely had time to gasp... Todd helplessly watched the enemy fighter hammer away at his father's plane with its cannons and tossed the useless hammer towards it in frustration. Jack's plane suddenly banked left and flew through the remains of the flaming airship in a last ditch effort to escape his attacker - prompting Todd to shake his head in wonderment. That was a gutsy move, pop! He waited for Jack's plane to emerge from the other side of the wreckage as the enemy fighter broke of his attack and broke contact - most likely trying to regain altitude and rejoin the battle against Freeloader. It would be up to Joe and Rosie to protect the airship now. His weapons were useless and he doubted that his father's Jackdaw would be in any fit shape to fly after weathering the attack. When Jack's fighter did not emerge from the wreckage after several moments Todd's heat sank. His voice cracked as he called over the radio - receiving nothing but static in return. 'Dad?!' The flaming wreckage plummeted to the ocean below and hit the water - sending up clouds of steam as the fires raging over the surface were extinguished. Todd cruised low over the debris - desperately searching for any sign of his father's aircraft or sign of life. Dad!! Joe whistled as he saw Rosie's jackdaw pepper the enemy fighter with machinegun fire - shattering the glass cockpit as the fighter flew past. Instead of breaking apart the banshee dipped its nose forward in an uncontrolled dive towards the ocean - ploughing into the waves. 'Remind me never to get on your bad side!' he quipped as Rosie executed a victory roll and turned back towards him. 'I'm sorry to interrupt the celebrations...,' Wes barked. '...but we've still got a fighter making an attack run against us!' Joe glanced around to find the fighter as Rosie re-joined his wing. 'I thought Dad said there were only four fighters! 'One of them must have given Dad and Todd the slip,' Joe grimaced. 'We won't make it in time!' Freeloader's gunners opened fire on the rapidly approaching fighter as it sped towards them at breakneck speed. Joe narrowed his eyes as the enemy pilot showed no sign of breaking off his attack - making a suicidal run directly towards the airship with no regard for his safety. 'Wait...!' Rosie gasped. '...he's going to!' The banshee ploughed into the side of Freeloader's superstructure and disappeared in a huge fireball. 'We're hit...!' Wesley called urgently over the radio. 'All hands abandon ship! Repeat; all hands abandon-' In a blinding flash that shone like a second sun in the early morning sky Freeloader was consumed in a fiery explosion that obliterated the airship from stem to stern. The radio channel was still open and Joe winced as the sound of screams pierced the airwaves. 'Oh god...!' Rosie cried. Joe watched helplessly as the remains of his family home rained down on the water below. His eyes stung as he flew through the black smoke from the fire raging on the surface and dabbed his face to find tears flooding down his cheeks. He followed Rosie in silence for several moments - his mind trying to process what had just happened as his sister sobbed down the radio - not even trying to hide the turmoil she was going through. All those people...our friends. Gone! 'Rosie? Joe? Are you still out there?' His heart leapt at the sound of his brother's voice. Swiping the sleeve of his flight suit across his nose he reached for the transmit button on his pilot yoke. 'Todd...Freeloader...she's gone!' 'I know!' Todd replied bitterly. 'There's nothing we can do about that now. How much fuel do you both have?' Joe checked his gauge. 'I've got about quarter of a tank!' 'Rosie?' Joe glanced over and saw his sister gazing down towards the flaming wreckage on the surface - seemingly oblivious to her brother's radio call. 'ROSIE!' Todd snapped. 'Sorry...,' Rosie sniffed, her voice sounding hoarse. 'I've got about half a tank left.' 'We're going to head for the Kaedwan coast,' Todd stated firmly. 'Cut your throttles and try and try to conserve fuel. The closer we get to Kaedwan the better chance we have of being rescued if we have to ditch.' For the first time since building his Jackdaw Joe wished that he had opted for a less thirsty engine as he feathered the throttle and joined his brother's wing. 'Where's Dad?' she demanded. 'Todd, why isn't Dad with you?' Joe's world was shattered for the second time that day as his brother's hoarse reply came over his headset. 'He's not coming!'
  6. Yup, I'm getting this problem too. Running 1.4.3. All dependencies up-to-date
  7. Senor @Beale, I've only just gotten round to testing Project Manager...works perfectly again. Thanks for looking into it. Kal
  8. @Shadowmage Having a few problems with the LR81 engine. No sounds and seems to be ignited throughout the flight (see pic) Running SSTU and Jimbodiah's Patches. https://i.imgur.com/hVP5S06.png Edit: Reinstalled RealPlume again and everything seems fine. Very strange. Love the mod
  9. @CobaltWolf Reminds me of a certain parts mod that started off small and grew into one of the best damn mods I've ever played with. Looking forward to see how this develops. @Knarkle
  10. Chapter 6 The end of Project Trailblazer marked the dawn of a new era for the Kerbal Space Agency. Several corporate technology partners immediately signed on with the programme - providing the Agency with access to modern technology and components. Rockomax Conglomerate unashamedly abused their former relationship with Werner to curry favour with the Programme Lead and - effectively - edge Jeb's Junkyard out of the picture. Jebediah surprised a lot of people - myself included - with his shrewd business acumen. Using the money had had been paid for providing the rocket engines and fuel tanks for the programme and conservatively investing income from television appearances and sponsorship deals he was able to expand his operation. When Apex-IIB was selected to serve as the primary launch vehicle for the Unmanned Programmes Jebediah secured his company's future as a major technology partner. Kerbin's Geo-Political landscape had changed significantly in the preceding years. Foremost was the inauguration of the first President of Korvega, George Kerman. The new president quickly sent an envoy to Kerbin City with an ultimatum for the Imperial Ruling Council. Unless Korvega's Independence was ratified by the Ruling Council he would impose a trade embargo - forbidding all trade with Kerbin City. With the multi-million credit deal with Rockomax at risk the Ruling Council agreed on the provision that Korvega would export food to Kerbin City. With a healthy import-export economy President George Kerman strengthened the Korvegan Air Force and Navy to defend the new nation's borders. He was no fool. The alliance with the Ruling Council was a temporary one at best. Once they had rebuilt their shattered infrastructure and military there would be a reckoning...and he fully intended to be ready for that eventuality. Closer to home I was offered the position of Chief of the Kerbanaut Office by Werner - tasked with overseeing the recruitment and training of the next batch of Kerbanauts. Though it meant sacrificing my pension with the Imperial Military I resigned my commission with the Imperial Air Force Reserve and took Werner up on his offer. Needless to say the Ruling Council took a dim view of a former war hero - recently decorated as Hero of the Empire - serving Korvega in any capacity. Though they actively tried to discourage me from leaving the Reserves, thanks to my newfound celebrity there was nothing they could do to stop me. Being famous had some benefits. After a lavish party thrown by my father to congratulate me I handed control of Val's Defence Weekly to my Mother and moved to the Kerbanaut Complex at the Space Centre. After upgrading the facility I was allocated a budget by Mortimer and put out the word that the Kerbin Space Agency were looking for a group of pilots, engineers and scientists to be the next generation of Kerbals that would travel into space. The response was overwhelming - 237 applicants replied and so began the difficult task of weeding out the right stuff from the wrong stuff. Whilst I was reviewing service records and psych evaluations Werner and the design team were developing the KSA's latest spacecraft. The design called for a command module capable of carrying a crew of three Kerbanauts into orbit, dock with a station or other spacecraft before finally recovering the crew to the surface. Two companies submitted proposals and - after much consideration, blackmail and outright bribery - Kerlington Labs were chosen to build the new craft. Whilst Kerlington Labs worked on the new pod Rockomax developed the launch system which would carry it into orbit. Dubbed KerbalX the core stage of the launched was powered by a single Rockomax Mainsail Engine with six LV-T45 booster engines to aid lift. The T45's were forced on Rockomax by Werner - who wanted to use their own "Thumper" Solid Rocket Boosters - so as to provide greater control of the launch vehicle during the ascent phase. The upper stage command and service module was powered by a single Rockomax Poodle Service Engine which was ideal for orbital manoeuvres. Werner called a press conference to launch the Orbital Development Initiative - his vision for Space Exploration over the next five years - under the project name Equinox. Phase One of the project was to be the development of the new KerbalX Launch System - returning Kerbalkind to space. Phase Two would see the first orbital rendezvous and docking with an unmanned drone ship in additional to extravehicular activity. However the most ambitious of all the Initiative's goals would be the construction of the first Orbital Laboratory in Kerbin's orbit to study prolonged exposure to zero-gravity by the Kerbal body. Running alongside Project Equinox was an unmanned programme that would send research probes beyond the Van-Kerman radiation field to the Mun - ultimately culminating with the landing of a probe on the Mun's surface. About the time Kerlington Labs had sent the MK 1-3 Simulator to the Kerbanaut Complex I had selected the second batch of Kerbanauts for the upcoming programme - three pilots, three engineers and two scientists. The first manned flights of the Equinox Programme would be undertaken by the veterans of Kerbanaut Group One. I would command the Equinox-5 mission and conduct the first manned spaceflight of the MK 1-3 capsule with Bill. Jebediah and Dr. Bob would push the envelope further aboard Equinox-6 to test the radiation shielding on the new pod by passing through the Van-Kerman Belt. If all went to plan I would return to space aboard Equinox-7 not as pilot, but Mission Commander. Two members from Kerbanaut Group Two - a pilot and engineer - would be aboard the flight to undertake the first orbital rendezvous and docking procedure and conduct the first EVA above Kerbin - testing how various tools and equipment would cope in a vacuum. If the planned construction of the first orbital station was to proceed then this mission had to go off without a hitch! My flight aboard Equinox-5 - in contrast to that of Trailblazer-8 - was an absolute pleasure. Not only did I have a panoramic view of the star field but I had space to move around the interior of the pod. Though most of the instruments were still analogue in nature the crew now had access to a multi-function display on which spacecraft data could be viewed with the press of a button. Further improvements were the advent of the Stability Assist System - a simple autopilot that would kill spacecraft rotation after a manoeuvre - and more precise RCS thruster blocks. After spending two days in orbit - eating snacks and making observations - we splashed down in the ocean safely. Jebediah's Equinox-6 mission - however - suffered a near-fatal setback. The launch and orbital phases of the mission went off without a hitch. It was not until Jebediah and Dr. Bob passed through the Van-Kerman Belt that things took a turn for the worse. The pod shielding did not adequately protect the crew and - resultantly - Dr. Bob and Jebediah received near-fatal doses of stellar radiation. Despite suffering from severe radiation sickness Jebediah managed to perform and emergency de-orbit burn and return to the surface quickly. At near-suicidal re-entry velocity the heat shielding on the pod was tested to its absolute limit. After a rough landing on solid terrain it took a clean-up team several hours to decontaminate the pod and rescue the crew. Somehow both Jebediah and Dr. Bob survived the ordeal but the flight aboard Equinox-6 would turn out to be their last. Medical examinations on both Bill and I revealed that we had been subjected to lower levels of radiation during our previous flights. At Dr. Bob's suggestion it became KSA Policy that all future Kerbanauts would be limited to five orbital missions. Jebediah took the news pretty badly and resigned from the Kerbanaut Corps immediately whilst Dr. Bob remained with the programme and headed the investigation team charged with investigating what went wrong during the ill-fated mission. What he found was deeply disturbing. Despite having data from probes that had passed through the Van-Kerman Belt it seemed that the designers of the MK 1-3 pod had installed inadequate shielding for reasons that nobody could fathom. Reviewing the schematics and development files Bob noted that the design team were well aware of the level of shielding required to protect the spacecraft. However, upon closer inspection and comparing the plans sent to Kerlington Labs, it appeared the plans had been altered. In other words the design of the pod had been deliberately sabotaged! It did not take Bob long to find the technician responsible but - upon arriving to his house with a security team - the perpetrator was found to have hung himself. The suicide story quickly fell apart after CCTV footage from the opposite side of his apartment complex gave a clear view into his apartment...showing a masked figure throttling the technician to death and staging the scene for the security services. Exactly who the attacker was and the technicians motive for sabotaging the pod remained a mystery, but there was one solid theory. Jebediah had made no secret of the fact that he was looking to branch out into spacecraft design. The media - along with the rest of us - assumed that it was simply a flippant remark from an impatient Kerbanaut who was eager to get back into space. When Jebediah unveiled the MK-1 Lander it was a surprise to everybody. In truth the MK-1 Lander was simply a way for Jebediah to keep busy during the five-year hiatus - designing what he hoped would be the first Mun Lander. Bob discovered that the saboteur had strong links to a member of the Rockomax Board of Directors. He suspected that the Rockomax Board were fearful of loosing the KerbalX contract to him. Allying themselves with a rogue element of the Imperial Security Service they conspired to do away with Jebediah - even though it meant setting back the Equinox Programme. Bob was never able to find evidence to support his theory and so the incident was categorised as a Design Flaw and Kerlington Labs took steps to rectify it. The Bloc-II MK 1-3 Pod was equipped with stronger radiation shielding and proved more than capable of protecting her crew from the fate suffered by Jebediah and Bob. Still a major technology partner for the programme Jebediah began to lobby for intensive background checks when dealing with Imperial Corporations - ensuring the safety of future Kerbanauts and ensuring that Rockomax could not pull the same stunt twice. Returning to space as Mission Commander of Equinox-7 I sat back as my pilot - Slick Kerman - completed the first orbital rendezvous and docking procedure without my assistance. A few hours later Bella Kerman became the first Kerbal to perform an EVA. As I watched the young girl float around the capsule it dawned on me that Kerbanaut Group One were effectively handing the torch to the new generation. By Dr. Bob's new guidelines I still had two missions left before I retired from orbital operations. I figured that there would be a lot of EVA work constructing the Orbital Station and decided that I would command that particular mission. That left one mission...just in case something interesting came up in the future. Ironically it would be the same MK-1 Lander designed by Jebediah that would serve as the core of the Orbital Station - dubbed Kerbal One. The components for the station had been placed in orbit a few weeks before and awaited the final stages of construction. As Mission Commander of Equinox-10 I was tasked with assembling those components and powering up the station. Once the facility was stable Dr. Aki Kerman would remain in orbit for the next two weeks - conducting experiments - until Equinox-11 arrived to take her back to Kerbin. In preparation for the mission my crew and I spent three weeks assembling and disassembling the station - both in a hanger and simulated zero-gee using a water tank. As I strapped on my thruster pack and secured my helmet I could barely contain my excitement. Giving me the thumbs-up Corey Kerman - my pilot - depressurised the pod and opened the hatch. He would remain with the spacecraft and - once the station was powered-up - dock Equinox-10 with it. I poked my head through the hatch and felt my heart soar at the view of the now familiar star field that waited to greet me. Pushing away from the pod I reached back to grab the control yokes for the thruster pack and slowed my ascent from the pod. Beneath my feet - just beyond the pod- Kerbin rotated majestically and I suddenly felt very small. Seeing Aki emerge from the pod I activated the lamps on my helmet and drifted towards the payload stage that held the components for Kerbal One. The fairing had been jettisoned prior to our arrival and the parts were easily accessible. Reaching for my tools I set to work extending the solar panels, antennae and science instruments which had been secured beneath removable panels. After an hours work I gestured for Aki to get clear and drifted towards the payload adapter beneath the station core - fumbling for the manual release. I felt rather than heard the clunk and saw the station drift away from the rocket. Putting my shoulder behind it I used my thruster back to put some distance between them. Upon returning to the spacecraft Corey skilfully completed the docking procedure and I climbed inside the now pressurised station core to complete the start-up procedures. The systems came on line with a reassuring thrum and the status lights flicked to green. I glanced around the tight confines of the station. It would be a snug fit but Aki would at least have room to move around a little to conduct her experiments and sleep. Very carefully Corey moved both craft into a higher orbit to clear the debris as I helped Aki transfer supplies and experiments from the pod. Finally it was time to seal the airlock and undock from the station - leaving Aki alone for the next two weeks. As the small station shrunk in the view port I did not envy her in the slightest. If the tight confines of the station didn't drive me crazy then the boredom would have killed me. I have never been the academic type. With the Equinox Programme over - following the flight of Equinox-12 - Werner revealed his plans for the Mun Exploration Programme. Rockomax and Kerlington were already hard at work developing the KerbalX and MK 1-3 Pod for the upcoming missions and recruitment of Kerbanaut Group 3 was already underway. It wasn't until I stood behind Werner in front of the world's press - arrayed before us like a firing squad - that the enormity of the situation hit me. We were going to the Mun!!
  11. Chapter 5 Every Kerbal remembers to this day where they were and what they were doing on the day that Jebediah made his historic flight aboard Trailblazer-3. By the time I was introduced to the press as the pilot of Trailblazer-8 the attitude among the press was that travelling into space had become business as usual. As a result there were fewer news networks that picked up the coverage. The Imperial News Network was the exception as course. By their narrative I was the first Imperial citizen that would fly in space after being unfairly sidelined by a space administration dominated by former rebels. For several weeks leading up to the historic flight I did endless interviews for Imperial television, newspapers and magazines - always trying to point out that the Trailblazer Project was a team effort - but never managing to get my point across. Eager to leave the media circus behind I was recalled to the Kerbin Space Centre one week before launch to undergo final medical examinations and mission briefings. In terms of objectives, the Trailblazer-8 mission called for a number of scientific experiments to be conducted once the pod had achieved orbit. These ranged from temperature and radiation readings to regular observation reports to be taken as the spacecraft orbited Kerbin and given my smaller frame I would have a much easier time conducting these experiments in the tight confines of the MK 1-1 pod. After completing five orbits - roughly one and a half hours of spaceflight - the retro rockets would fire and Trailblazer-8 would splashdown just off the coast of Korvega. The next few days would be a total blur as I attended meetings, visited the medical examiners and spent all my spare time in the simulator. On the morning of the launch I was fitted into my orange pressure suit by the launch technicians and travelled to the launch pad along the crawler way with Dr. Bob - who was serving as the reserve Kerbanaut. He quipped that he was fighting the urge to trip me up so he could fly the mission instead. I still wonder whether he was joking about that! On the launch pad Jebediah and Bill waited to wish me luck. I became very aware that I was about to join a small cadre of Kerbals to travel beyond our atmosphere...and that is when the excitement truly began to build. I remember seeing Dr. Bob's shoulders sag as the mission was given the all clear and he shook my hand briefly before stalking back towards the nearest vehicle. I couldn't blame him - in his shoes I would have felt the same way. Stepping into the crude lift I was whisked to the top of the launch tower where the pod were two technicians stood - ready to help me into the pod. I reached out to pat the mission patch next to the hatch for luck. The patch depicted a grinning Kerbal at the reins of a rocket powered wagon soaring into the sky with the word TRAILBLAZER embroidered at the top of the roundel and numeral VIII at the bottom. After posing for a picture I squeezed through the hatch the technicians strapped me into the command chair and sealed the hatch behind me. What followed were two hours of sheer boredom! Mission Control had a long checklist which I had to go through line-by-line - verifying the readings on the simple analogue gauges in the cockpit and reporting the status of indicator lights. Bill was serving on the Capsule Communication Station and he did his best to buoy my spirits...he knew how boring the wait could be. As a pilot I was already familiar with most of the dials and gauges on the instrument panel of the spacecraft and sped through the checklists like any seasoned pilot would. The most high-tech device on the spacecraft was probably the sole visual display unit that was linked to the Autopilot System. Essentially I would be a passenger until the spacecraft reached a stable orbit - only then would I be authorised to activate the manual controls. Trailblazer Eight, this is Mission Control. We are go for launch! Checking that my helmet and air supply was secure I acknowledged the transmission and blew out a deep breath in a vain attempt to rid myself of the anxiety I was suddenly feeling. I gripped the command chair tightly until my knuckles cracked as I waited for the final countdown. T-Minus Twelve...Eleven...Ten...Ignition Sequence Start! I half closed my eyes as I waited for something...anything to happen. Aside from a slight vibration in my command chair the only evidence that the T-45 had ignited was the staging light on the console in front of me turning green. Seven...Six...All Engines Running...Two...One...Lift Off!! I heard a faint clunk from outside the capsule as the launch support fell away before my stomach dropped in a similar fashion that one experiences driving too quickly over a steep bridge. Roger, we have lift off of Trailblazer Eight...and the clock is running! I reached forward to start the mission clock and reported it back to Mission Control before settling back into the command chair to enjoy the ride whilst giving the ground team a running commentary on the readings displayed on my gauges. Flight Computer Executing Roll Programme in three...two...one...Mark! I squinted as the sun shone through the small observation window located above my head as the spacecraft rotated to a heading of ninety degrees and pitched forward ten degrees. The sight of the throttle lever - controlled by the flight computer - moving on its own was a little unnerving at first. The sky had grown dark outside the view port and the only illumination I had were the backlights from the instrument panel. Max-Q! As Trailblazer-8 passed through the area of maximum dynamic pressure the flight computer throttle back slightly to avoid putting too much stress on the spacecraft. The G-Metre rose slightly for a handful of heartbeats before falling back into the green. The flight computer gradually increased the throttle to compensate. BECO! Acknowledged, now reading Booster Engine Cut-Off. I lurched forward as the twin Hammer SRB's either side of the core stage ran out of fuel. The staging light flashed momentarily as they were jettisoned away from the spacecraft. The T-45 would continue to fire for another minute or so before its fuel was expanded. MECO! Acknowledged, Main Engine Cut-Off. Standing-By for First Stage Jettison in Three...Two...One...Mark! Another lurch and Trailblazer-8 was separated from the core stage. The LV-909 was ignited a few seconds later which would...if all had gone to plan...complete the circularisation burn. Now reading Terrier Ignition! The Board is Green! I checked the analogue altimeter which read somewhere between 55-60km. The reason that I can't be certain of the exact figure was I was distracted by the view. The inky blackness that had surrounded my craft for most of the flight dissolved into a star field that stretched as far as the eye could see...leaving me utterly breathless. SECO! Acknowledged, Second Stage Engine Cut-Off! The voice over the radio snapped me back to the real world and I resumed my running commentary of the flight as the flight computer orientated the pod for the upcoming circularisation burn. Having no gauge to provide the information I radioed Mission Control for an update on my current Apoapsis. Acknowledged, Apoapsis reading 187km. Three minutes later the LV-909 ignited for the second time. Now reading Second Stage Ignition! Circularisation burn complete in three...two...one...Mark! SECO! Acknowledged, reading Second Stage Engine Cut-Off. I held my breath as I waited for the confirmation I was desperate to hear. Flight Computer Disengaged. Telemetry reports Periapsis at 86km. I grinned so hard that my face ached as Gene's distinctive voice called over the radio. Trailblazer Eight, this is Mission Control. You are cleared for five orbits! Acknowledging the message I reached forward to flip the staging switch down...jettisoning the second stage away. Now reading Second Stage Jettison! Following protocol I flipped up the safety cover and activated the Staging Lock switch - preventing an accidental firing of the retro rockets. Activating the RCS thrusters I experimented manoeuvring the pod and was pleased by how responsive she was. Orientating the view port towards Kerbin's horizon I gasped at the view. Trailblazer Eight, this is CAPCOM! I bet that is quite a view! There was no mistaking the smile in Bill's voice as he spoke. I readily agreed with him and spent a few moments just gazing out of the view port...before remembering that I was up here to do a job. I radioed in that I was taking my first readings and got to work. **** Ironically two hours in space passes in a heartbeat and it was soon time to prepare for my return to Kerbin's surface. Almost reluctantly I deactivated the Staging Lock and manoeuvred the pod to the heading provided by Mission Control. Trailblazer Eight, fire retro in three...two...one...Mark!" I flipped the staging switch and felt a slight nudge and heard a gentle thrum as the LV-1 situated behind the pod fired - lowering my orbit towards Kerbin's atmosphere. Telemetry Looks Good! Retro Engine Shutdown in three...two...one...Mark! I hauled back on the throttle and the thrumming ceased. Three minutes to atmospheric re-entry! You are cleared to jettison retro stage. Another flip of the staging switch sent the LV-1 and Oscar-B fuel tank spinning away from the spacecraft to harmlessly burn up in the atmosphere. Reaching forward I armed the Main and Reserve Parachutes before settling back into the command chair to wait for the re-entry. There wasn't anything else I could do now...I was at gravity's mercy. Trailblazer Eight, we will see you on the other side! Signal loss was to be expected as a spacecraft passed through Kerbin's atmosphere. As the pod accelerated and the heat shield burned white hot I gripped the sides of my command chair for dear life and closed my eyes tightly. In all my years as a fighter pilot my body had never experienced forces like it was currently being subjected to. As the airspeed indicator reached 1,000km the buffeting gradually began to die down to be replaced by the whooshing of the air outside my capsule. Opening my eyes I gripped the manual release for the main chute and watched the altimeter like a hawk...waiting for the tell-tale green light to illuminate and indicate that it was safe to pop the chute. Sure enough, at two thousand five hundred metres the bulb lit up and instinctively I pulled the release. Quickly I glanced up through the view port and let out a sigh of relief as the chute unfurled - slowing my descent considerably. At five hundred metres above the sea it deployed fully...resulting in a sudden decrease in acceleration before settling into a gentle descent and radioing my status to Mission Control. Welcome back Trailblazer Eight. Stand-By. Rescue Assets are en-route to your location! I braced for impact with the water and with a large jolt and splash that covered the view port with water, my flight was over. My hands flew over the switches and controls to shutdown the craft as the rescue team arrived by boat and made their way to the pod. Giving them the thumbs-up signal I made my final transmission to Mission Control. "This is Trailblazer Eight, the ship is secure. Valentina Kerman, signing off!" **** After several days quarantine and debriefing I emerged into yet another media circus - the Imperial Press swarming all over me for days afterward. I quickly learned that an anonymous donor purchased Trailblazer-8 to put on permanent display in the Imperial Air and Space Museum to celebrate what had become an Imperial Success. The Ruling Council awarded me the coveted Hero of the Empire Medal, a statue was erected near my childhood home and I even had a High School named after me. In the weeks that followed both Dr. Bob and Jebediah completed orbital flights aboard Trailblazer's Nine and Ten respectively but - with interest in the programme waning - the remaining flights were cancelled and Project Trailblazer was hailed a complete success. Following the lead of the Imperial Museum the Trailblazer Capsules become highly sought after by private collectors and historic institutions all over Kerbin. The venerable Apex-IIB Rockets that carried Team Trailblazer into space were relegated to the role of Payload Delivery System - launching communication satellites and sending probes to the furthest reaches of the Kerbol System. When the Kerbal Race finally returned to space five years later it would be aboard a new spacecraft powered by a new launch system. The Rockomax era had begun!!
  12. @KSK Hehe, no...I'm pretty confident it was a fusion of tea and brylcream. :-) God save the Kueen.
  13. Chapter Four Over the coming months two additional Stayputnik Satellites were launched into Low Kerbin Orbit by the newly dubbed Kerbin Space Agency. Despite Werner's open invitation very few nation states expressed an interest in joining the agency immediately - most adopting a Wait and See attitude. Kerbin was still recovering from the war and very few nations had the resources available to waste building rockets. The Imperial Effort was codenamed Project K-ORB and administered by the Imperial Air Force and operated on a shoestring budget. Utilising the VK-ID Rocket - the modern incarnation of Werner's design - the Air Force successfully launched over a dozen sub-orbital flights but never managed to achieve orbit. The project was doomed to fail at the beginning and - less than eight months after it began - Project K-ORB was disbanded by the Ruling Council. Jebediah and his engineers - however - did not rest on their laurels. Armed with the flight data and telemetry from the Stayputnik flights Jebediah's engineers worked to develop the LV-T45 and LV-909 engines. Slightly heavier and less powerful than the older LV-T30 the LV-T45 was equipped with a gimbal which allowed its thrust to be directed to effectively steer its parent launch vehicle - thus reducing the need for large aerodynamic surfaces. In contrast the LV-909 Upper Stage Engine was optimised for vacuum flight and tasked with delivering the payload to orbit. Both engines were subsequently incorporated into the new APEX-II Launch Vehicle design. Despite the improvements in technology the launch success rate for the KSA within the first twelve months was 88% - a statistic that did not inspire confidence for potential customers. A thorough investigation was conducted and the fault found to lay with the gyroscopic guidance system - which simply could not cope with the demands being placed on it. Enter Dr. Bob Kerman of the Kalbion Flying Corps. As the leading scientist for Kalbion's effort to reach space Bob designed a crude flight computer which could be pre-programmed with a flight plan and store emergency procedures which were triggered if the launch vehicle deviated from said flight plan. Operating on a tight budget the KFC purchased four LV-T45 and LV-909 engines from Jebediah and constructed a small launch vehicle dubbed White Knight. At less than half the size - and two thirds cost - of the larger APEX-II the small launch vehicle managed to successfully deliver the first solar powered satellite to orbit - codenamed KOSPERO. However, as with the Imperial Programme, Kalbion could not justify the cost of the project and cancelled it a few days before the launch of KOSPERO-II. Thanks to Gene's contacts in the Kalbion military the KSA was able to swoop in to sign a cooperation agreement with the Kalbion Government in return for transferring the development team to work with the agency. White Knight - at time of writing in its second incarnation - became the cheapest and most effective way of delivering small payloads of less that a tonne to obit. Incorporating Bob's guidance system into the APEX-IIB the launch success rate for the agency quickly reached the high ninety percent mark - which in turn had a number of positive repercussions for the KSA. Watching from the side-lines and fearful of being left behind in the space race Rockomax Conglomerate - despite their Imperial affiliation - wanted a slice of the Orbital Pie. They approached Werner directly and presented designs for what would ultimately become the Mainsail, Skipper and Poodle engines. Though he knew that it would take years of development Werner agreed and Rockomax Conglomerate became the first major technology partner to the KSA - much to the annoyance of the Imperial Ruling Council who were powerless to stop them. The deal generated hundreds of jobs and brought money into the fledging Imperial economy...how could they refuse? Fast forward eighteen months and word reached me that the Kerbal Space Agency were looking to recruit test pilots for High Altitude Test Flights. Reading between the lines I knew that this was the first step in sending a Kerbal into space and called Werner to arrange an interview - which thanks to my connections I was instantly granted. What followed were months of physical and psychological evaluations, simulations and test flights to test the candidates suitability for the programme. My presence generated a lot of attention in the Imperial Press which in turn caused the public to really root for me. Being the only former Imperial Pilot did cause some friction amongst the other trainees. Most of them had flown against and lost friends to the IKAF during the war which led to a number of heated discussions and outright arguments in the cafeteria. As the weeks rolled by the pool of candidates dwindled until only four remained - Jebediah, Bill Kerman, Dr. Bob Kerman and Me. Though I topped the list of candidates I was openly suspicious of Jebediah's presence in those who made the final cut. This is by large due to a conversation I overheard in the cafeteria between two psychologists who openly discussed Jebediah failing his psych exams - both agreeing that he had a death wish. It seemed that Gene had stepped in and overruled their decision which I assumed was due to the fact Jebediah would be supplying the technology that would carry us into space. I openly challenged Jebediah about this and he just shrugged it off - insisting that I was being paranoid. After lots of media hype the "Original Four" were unveiled in a press conference as Team Trailblazer where the goals of the project were explained. First and foremost the primary goal was to put a Kerbal in space - travelling beyond the atmosphere - and safely bring them home again. Second would be putting a Kerbal in a stable orbit for a limited amount of time. Subsequent missions would increase the duration of time spent in orbit and the effect it had on the body. Werner had secured enough funding to construct four Trailblazer Capsules (officially designated the Mk 1-1 Pod) which - after being refurbished - had an operational lifespan of around four missions. Taking into account that one of these missions would be an unmanned flight to test heat shield and recovery systems of each capsule, Project Trailblazer had to accomplish all of its specified goals within twelve missions. Team Trailblazer were split into two teams - me being paired off with Dr. Bob - of primary and backup Kerbanaut. Over the coming weeks we continuously pushed the flight envelope of the small complement of P-99 fighters assigned to the KSA - desperately trying to beat each others altitude records whilst waiting for construction of the Mk 1-1 pods to be completed. When we finally got to inspect the finished products all of us were shocked at how cramped the capsules were. Werner explained that it was necessary to keep the weight down if we wanted the Apex-IIB launch vehicle to ultimately achieve orbital velocity. After training extensively in a mock-up simulator word finally reached us that the first batch of missions had been approved - dubbed Trailblazer's One through Four. If the first two test flights went without a hitch then Trailblazer Three would be the first manned capsule. Naturally all four of us wanted to be the pilot that would become the first Kerbal in space. To my crushing disappointment...Jebediah was selected. I did not even try to hide my disappointment. On paper I was the best pilot in the KSA Kerbanaut Corps and had proven myself just as capable of handling the MK 1-1. When Gene broke the news in his office I was livid. My first instinct was to suggest it was because I was a former Imperial Pilot and the Press Corps would have a field day. Then I decided it was because Jebediah was supplying the Launch Vehicles for the mission and he used that influence to secure the seat. Gene waited patiently until I had stopped ranting before he spoke. As he explained it all eyes were on the KSA. There had been a lot of rumblings that the programme was too expensive and the resources could be put to better use elsewhere. Whilst I was the best pilot Werner had selected Jebediah for the mission because he knew that he would do whatever was necessary to be the first in space - even if the capsule was burning up and warning lights were flashing all around him. I had to admit that I would abort the mission at the first sign of trouble and Gene pointed out that the critics would use this failure to cut funding to the programme. Naturally...I felt like an idiot! Swallowing my pride I sought out Jebediah after leaving Gene's office and offered my congratulations through gritted teeth. The prospect of being first Kerbal in Space had slipped through my fingers but there were plenty more goals that I could achieve. Nevertheless, when Jebediah clambered aboard Trailblazer-3 a few weeks later I felt a prang of envy as I watched on the monitors in Mission Control. I feigned enthusiasm as the Launch Vehicle carried Jebediah off the launch pad towards the heavens and clapped with the rest of the technicians - a false smile firmly etched on my face. The jealousy did not evaporate until Jebediah had passed through the atmosphere - letting out a whoop that was echoed around the control room. Seeing the grainy video feed from Jebediah's pod on the monitor in front of me - showing Kerbin's horizon - made me realise just how significant a moment this truly was for Kerbalkind. A few moments later Trailblazer-3 passed safely through the atmosphere and popped her chutes about thirty miles away from the Kerbin Space Centre where a recovery vessel was waiting. From take-off to landing the mission had taken just fifteen minutes. I fully expected that Bill would be the pilot of Trailblazer-4 - he had been Jebediah's backup pilot after all. However, during Jebediah's debriefing he expressed his concerns that the reaction wheel system in the command pod would not be powerful enough to manoeuvre the upper stage into position for the orbital burn - a fact supported by his telemetry data. Due to his engineering background Bill was bumped back to a later flight and tasked with retrofitting a Reaction Control System onto the MK 1-1 pods for the upcoming orbital missions. Werner insisted that Trailblazer-4 would go ahead as planned to prove the first flight was not a fluke and Dr. Bob was selected as pilot for the mission. to my surprise I did not mind so much. I was holding out for the first orbital flight around Kerbin and even volunteered to man the Capsule Communicator Station in mission control for Bob's flight. Bill and Werner worked tirelessly to reconfigure the remaining pods for the upcoming orbital flights - fitting a small Oscar-B fuel tank to the rear of the pod mated to one of Jebediah's LV-1 engines. Though the unmanned Trailblazer-5 test flight was successful the decoupler had failed to detach properly which resulted in the Oscar-B re-entering the atmosphere along with the pod. Though the flaw was corrected and the subsequent test flight was a success Bill insisted that he was going to fly the Trailblazer-7 mission. Though Gene argued that I was slated to command the mission Bill had the support of Werner and the engineering team. The prospect of being the first Kerbal to orbit the planet slipped through my fingers and - just like before - I was forced to watch from the control room as Bill Kerman earned his place in the history books. I knew that Dr. Bob was pushing Werner for command of Trailblazer-8 as he had a number of medical experiments he wished to carry out in orbit. To my surprise I had both Gene and Jebediah fighting my corner - arguing that only five allocated missions remained and I was the only member of the team without orbital flight experience at this point. The KSA would soon start recruiting and training the next batch of Kerbanaut recruits and Jebediah insisted that I was the logical choice to lead the department due to my military background. He was just a farm boy who loved to fly and had no intention of getting lumbered with all that paperwork. Unless I had a few missions under my belt the KSA Technology Partners would not accept my appointment. Fortunately Werner agreed with Gene and Jebediah's assessment and Bob's request was denied. Trailblazer-8 was mine!
  14. Chapter Three (Stayputnik III) P-99 "Phantom-7" The Great Plains, Korvega Altitude: 3,500m "The Imperial Air Force is in Big Trouble!" As I put the agile Korvegan Fighter through her paces it quickly became clear that it eclipsed the Vulture Mk3. Within a few moments of taking off from the Korvegan Space Centre Runway I was pulling manoeuvres that no Imperial Fighter could hope to match. Despite my previous bias towards all things Imperial even I had to admit...the designers of the Ocelot had outdone themselves. The did have one unique quirk that took some getting used to - namely the configuration of the landing gear. Most Imperial aircraft are equipped with a tricycle landing gear - that is, two wheels beneath either wing and a nose wheel just beneath the cockpit. When landing on a runway a pilot would pitch the nose forward to bring all three wheels in contact with the ground. In stark contrast the P-99 was equipped with a tail wheel - meaning that the aircraft took off and landed with its nose pointed in the air. During orientation my instructor - Charles "Chuck" Kerman; an unsung hero of the Programme I might add - related an incident which occurred during the development of the P-99. A zealous test pilot had applied the wheel brakes too hard on landing...resulting in the fighter flipping onto her nose. To combat this problem the P-99 test pilots had developed a novel way of bringing the fighter to a standstill after landing. After the main landing gear and tail wheel had made contact with the ground they would use the rudder and tail wheel to whip the tail of the fighter around...resulting in a dramatic tail slide which killed momentum quickly. After being cleared for the test flight by Chuck I clambered aboard the waiting P-99 Demonstrator Aircraft which was waiting for me at the start of the runway. I use the term runway lightly...it was a long, narrow strip of dirt stretching out towards the coast of Korvega. Take off - therefore - was rather eventful as I bounced along the dirt strip...pushing the nose forward to lift the tail wheel off the ground...before gently pulling back on the stick and lifting off in the most ungraceful way imaginable. Checking the mission clock and fuel levels I reluctantly brought the fighter about to return to the runway and land. Dropping to around fifteen hundred metres I streaked along the coast of Korvega...using the Vehicle Assembly Building as a visual reference to guide me home. Towering above the launch pad, surrounded by fuel lines and inspection platforms, was the launch vehicle that would carry the first artificial satellite into orbit - officially designated APEX-I. In the weeks leading up to tomorrows mission two sub-orbital test flights had taken place - the first ending spectacularly when the rocket lost control and the second proceeding as planned. In the payload fairings at the tip of the rocket sat the small spherical satellite - dubbed Stayputnik-III. The satellite and its predecessors had been constructed by Probodobodyne Inc. - a small start-up company specialising in high altitude research equipment. To achieve orbital velocity and deliver the payload an additional stage had been added to the base of the APEX-I stack - a Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) dubbed "The Hammer" by the engineers. When ignited the SRB would propel the rocket to an altitude of five thousand metres...whereupon the first stage would be separated and the LV T-30 would ignite and power the launch vehicle for the duration of the flight. This was a era before automated launch systems, reaction wheels and RCS thrusters. A simple gyroscopic flight control system would handle the ascent whilst barometric pressure switches would trigger the flight sequences in order. Once in orbit crude thrusters would fire and orientate the launch vehicle for its circularisation burn - hopefully keeping it on course. Finally a small separation motor would launch Stayputnik-III away from the Launch Vehicle - inducing a slight stabilising spin that would keep the satellite orientated in the right direction. In short...anything could go wrong! Given clearance for landing I had just lined up on the runway when I received a panicked broadcast telling me to wave off - another aircraft had entered the flight path. Glancing around I recognised the distinctive shape of Jeb-A-Flyer III instantly and growled over the radio for Jebediah to clear out of the way so I could land. Ignoring my request Jebediah brought his plane around in a tight arc and lowered his landing gear. Seeing red I increased throttle and deliberately moved into his flight path...forcing him to veer off. The radio lit up with colourful insults...which prompted me to grin and raise my landing gear as I gained altitude and prepared to re-enter the landing pattern. I heard the sound of an aero engine and glanced over my shoulder to see Jeb-A-Flyer III mimic my manoeuvre. "If we were still at war...you would be dead by now!" Snapping at Jebediah to try and keep up with me I put the Ocelot in a steep dive and headed towards the ground at breakneck speed - jinking and side slipping to avoid giving Jebediah what would be a clean shot. "Not Bad!" came the reply - before he made a wisecrack about it being a pity the IAF never had P-99's during the war. Flipping the Ocelot on her left wing I throttled back and brought her around in a tight loop - desperately trying to get on Jeb-A-Flyer III's tail. With lightning fast reflexes Jebediah pointed his nose skywards and ascended at a rate which I could not possibly hope to replicate - damn race planes! Determined to get him on the way back down I throttled up and turned to follow him as he completed his loop and raced back towards the ground towards the Vehicle Assembly Building. I dropped in behind him as he skimmed along the crawler way...just a few hundred feet off the ground. My eyes widened as Jebediah flipped his plane on its right wing and raced into the cavernous doorway of the VAB. Loosing my nerve I cut throttle and pulled up and right sharply...rolling to see Jeb-A-Flyer III emerge from the other side and skim along the rooftops of the temporary buildings housing Werner's Research and Development Team. Letting out a whoop that pulsated with adrenaline Jebediah performed a quick barrel roll before dropping into formation beside me. Glancing over my shoulder I tried to ignore the insufferable grin aimed at me and shook my head in disgust. Did the scrap merchant have a death wish...or was he just plain crazy? "BOTH OF YOU...ON THE GROUND...RIGHT NOW!!!" The venom in Gene Kerman's voice as he barked over the radio was unmistakable and I winced involuntarily...memories of my first flight instructor surfacing from the depths of my mind. I glanced over at Jebediah to see the grin had been wiped off his face. Gesturing with his hand for me to go ahead he cut throttle and slipped in behind my fighter as I circled over the Space Centre and lined up on the runway for the second time. Both of us had some explaining to do. **** Launch Pad 1 Korvegan Space Centre T Minus Five Minutes to Launch... Fortunately we both got off with a stern warning from Gene. As Flight Director safety was his primary concern and the last thing he wanted was for the launch of Stayputnik-III to be marred by him having to scrape the remains of a hotshot off his launch pad. Unlike the rest of the visiting dignitaries and reporters...seated on a grandstand near the tracking station...I was allowed to sit beside Werner in the Mission Control Centre for the launch. The Control Room was a hive of activity and in the centre...a picture of self control...was Gene. Barking orders to all within earshot he listened intently as the launch stations called off in sequence and reported their readiness. In contrast to later launches there were less than a dozen technicians present in the control room. Once the booster had ignited there was very little anybody could do except monitor flight telemetry and pray that the internal guidance system would not fail. Essentially the APEX-I Launch Vehicle could be likened to a giant firework with a fancy timepiece in its nosecone. Werner paced back and forth nervously...his assistant Linus following in his wake like a second shadow. Even Jebediah had lost his customary swagger as he thrummed his hands on a nearby desk...anxiously checking the clock. Sat beside me...clipboard under his arm and chewing the end of his pen nervously...was Mortimer Kerman - Head of Finance. With budgets as tight as they were, if anything went wrong it could spell the end of the programme. "We are Go for Launch!" I glanced over at Gene as he leaned back against his desk and adjusted the microphone on his headset. The launch clock reached the thirty second mark and I felt a rush of excitement...feeling my hand shaking as I prepared to take notes for the article I was going to write. Video feeds were broadcast on the screens beside me but...once the spacecraft had launched...I would have to use my imagination as to what was happening. T-Minus 12...11...10...Ignition Sequence Start! I felt the ground rumble beneath my feet as the Hammer SRB ignited - sending a plume of exhaust gasses rushing away from the launch pad in all directions. 6...5...4...3...2...1...Lift Off I...probably along with everybody else in the room...held my breath. Roger; we have Lift Off and the clock is running! I glanced at the monitor to see the APEX-I soar into the sky on a column of flame. The covered windows in the Control Room shook violently and a mug fell off somebody's desk and smashed on the tiled floor. Nobody dared move. Speed: One Hundred Metres per Second...Roll Programme Execute in 3...2...1...MARK! Using her manoeuvring surfaces the APEX-I rotated to a Heading of 90 degrees and pitched over five degrees. Any further than that and...as was discovered during the Stayputnik-I Test Flight...the aerodynamic forces around 30km would snap the rocket around and end the mission spectacularly. Altitude: 4,000m. Speed: 320 metres per second. Standing-by for Booster Cut-Off! A loud sonic boom could be heard as the rocket broke the sound barrier...mere seconds before the solid fuel in the booster was exhausted. Booster Cut-Off. Booster Separation...Successful. Standing-by for Reliant Ignition! Glancing over to Jebediah I saw him cross his fingers. Reliant was the Space Agency designation for his LV-T30 Engine. Main-Engine Ignition! Throttle to 30 percent! Jebediah leaned heavily on the table and I suppressed a smile. The naughty side of me hoped that the engine failed...just to see the look on his face. Max-Q. Linus grasped Werner on the shoulder but the elder scientist shook his head. There was still plenty of things that could go wrong. Speed: 730 metres per second. Altitude: 20,000m. Gene glanced at the tracking screen overhead and frowned. He checked with his Launch Team and learned that the APEX-I had pitched over an additional two degrees. Linus ran calculations in his head whilst Werner jotted them down on paper...both nodded and gave Gene a thumbs-up. I learned much later that the orbit of Stayputnik three would be so close to the atmosphere that even a deviation of a few degrees could result in the rocket not attaining orbit. Altitude: 58,000m. Trajectory looks Good! At this point the APEX-I Flight Control would be feathering the throttle of Jebediah's Engine to about one percent thrust. Until Werner had run more tests nobody could be sure that the engine could be ignited again if it was shut down. Altitude: 68km...69km...70km!!! Altitude Thrusters...Firing! Fairing Separation...Complete! Werner put his head in his hands and did not dare look. The APEX-I reached the Apoapsis of its trajectory. Linus clenched his fist...willing the engine to throttle up and begin the circularisation burn that would carry Stayputnik into orbit. Throttle at 100 percent! Begin Circularisation Burn! Burn Complete In...35 seconds. 30 seconds. Though I was not sure exactly what was going on at the time I could feel the tension in the room. Unless the Periapsis reached at least 70km then the Satellite was not officially in orbit and Werner had one last chance to get it right. Fuel at 3 percent! Periapsis: 1,000m...4,000m... Like an avid sports fan watching their favourite team and unable to contain themselves any longer one of the technicians yelled at the top of his voice. "Come On!" Main Engine Cut-Off. Fuel Exhausted! Periapsis...68km! Gene's shoulders sagged and he turned to face Werner. Before he could open his mouth Werner held up his hand and shook his head...glancing at the clock, his eyes sparkling. Payload Separation in 5...4...3...2...1. Ignition! I...probably like Gene...had forgotten about the payload separation motor. Right now the small booster was propelling the satellite away from the launch vehicle. Payload Separation: Complete. Periapsis: Seventy... The technician's voice was drowned out by a series of cheers and whoops. Jebediah leapt onto the table and gave an impromptu farm boy dance of joy. Werner sagged into the nearest chair as those nearest to him clapped him on the back. SILENCE!!! Gene's voice cut through the din and order was restored. Jebediah cleared his throat and clambered down from the table...probably hoping that nobody had saw him. Altitude: 70,183m. Deploying Antenna. Transmitting signal! Gene reached forward and turned up the volume on the speaker next to his desk that was tuned into the Stayputnik-III. What followed was a series of metallic beeps...a binary signal transmitted towards the surface of Kerbin that would loop until the batteries aboard the satellite were depleted. There was a loud commotion outside the control room door and it was flung open violently. A dozen reporters rushed in with cameras and tape recorders...thrusting them in Werner's face. How does it feel to have succeeded, Doctor? Is this just the start for the Korvegan Space Programme? What does the signal say? Gene marched forward to shoo them out of his control room but Werner waved him back...clearing his throat he turned to face the reporters and raised his hand for silence. "This is not a Korvegan achievement...,' he explained eagerly. " Going forward I hope that our efforts to explore space will continue as a global effort. It is my hope that...with the launch of our first satellite...today marks the beginning of the Kerbal Space Programme!" As the reporters began asking more questions all at once Gene, with the help of some technicians, pushed them towards the door and closed it behind them. I leaned down next to the speaker to listen to the strange signal...imagining the small sphere floating around Kerbin with the light from the Sun reflecting of its surface. Over the coming days Stayputnik-III would loop its simple binary signal over-and-over again...directing the transmission not just at the surface of Kerbin but towards the outer reaches of the Kerbol System. 01001000 01100101 01101100 01101100 01101111 00100000 01001111 01110101 01110100 00100000 01010100 01101000 01100101 01110010 01100101 If...like me...you do not speak binary, allow me to translate. "HELLO OUT THERE"
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