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  1. Love Shack January, 1989 Still stinging from the loss of the Fobos-Minmus probe, the USSR try a more cost-effective measure; modifying a Gorizont satellite and tossing it at the Mun to begin mapping the surface; a new Minmus mission would be planned for the future. February, 1989 Japan successfully launches a Superbird A satellite on their hybrid H-1 LDC vehicle. May, 1989 NASA prepares Magellan for its Eve mission. This mission will also test the Achilles V launch vehicle for the first time; NASA hopes to begin phasing out Titan rockets for their deep space missions. The Inertial Upper Stage is used to kick Magellan towards Eve. 18 And Life The Ride Report is finally circulated in 1988, and NASA higher ups are less than enthused by the price tag and the sheer scale. With the the USSR and China bearing down on Mun missions in the short term, and Minmus not long after, there is immense pressure from the new Administration to get a feasible program off the ground in a tremendous hurry. However, NASA was stretched thin in terms of budget; resources had been poured into both the Mariner Mark II and Planetary Observer programs, and a great deal of the budget was for crew and resupply missions to the Freedom space station. Despite their effectiveness, the Saturn MO3 and Achilles I launch vehicles were expensive, and NASA was looking to finally put their foot down on the expensive expendable launch vehicles that held them hostage; the Rocket Bidding Wars had begun. The catalyst starting this imperative was none other than Space Services, which had grown by leaps and bounds while capturing at least 20% of the satellite market in just a few short years. Space Services constantly pitched plans to NASA to resupply Freedom at a fraction of the current cost, and in 1989, began pitching a crew return vehicle that would also save vast amounts of the budget. Faced with limited options, NASA began considering turning over resupply missions to Space Services and when many of the majors protested, NASA flatly stated that they would have to begin being competitive on prices. With Administration pressure to get a Mun/Minmus plan underway within a year, Space Services again came back to NASA with a plan for an upgraded Comet rocket that could push a vehicle around the moons. The standard Comet 9 rocket had enough Delta-V to launch a capsule or resupply craft to the station, while a heavy version of the rocket would launch a capsule to the Mun and Minmus. This would allow NASA to concentrate on a reusable lander design that could stay in orbit and be refueled, with a ferry vehicle taking crews back and forth from Freedom. This plan actually gained support from other factions in NASA; the space station adherents were exciting that the station could be used as a staging point, while those that lobbied for the major rocket companies saw a chance to design and build the lander if they could do so affordably.
  2. Is This Love March, 1987 While on paper 1987 was shaping up to be a pretty uneventful year, life aboard a space station was anything but mundane. Repair crews to both the US and USSR stations spent most of their time in EVAs repairing malfunctioning systems. On Mir several EVAs were needed to install the remaining solar panels on the Core Module and Kvant-1, during which one of the main reaction wheels suffered a critical failure and remained inoperable. Despite the heavy work schedule, a new Laputa Lab Module was transported to Mir in late March, courtesy of Italy. April, 1987 Meanwhile on Freedom, astronauts were faced with a continuing power issue as one by one SkyLab's solar panels began to fail. In point of fact, much of SkyLab's systems needed either repair or maintenance, and more of her interior was regulated to storage or sleeping berths. Luckily for NASA, the ESA was able to help in the fight to keep the lights on; the newly approved Miranda Block II spacecraft allowed the ESA to bring an extra astronaut to the station. One of the launches bringing repair supplies also brought up a new module, the Z1 Segment. Soon, a P4 Truss solar panel would be attached to cure Freedom's power woes. Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car June, 1988 The first exciting launch of the new year was the maiden flight of the Ariane 4 launch vehicle, carrying two satellites to geosynchronous orbit. The satellite marketplace still remained hot. ISRO began putting everything they had into readying the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle to be ready within the next two years, and the launch schedule for the Comet 9 rocket consisted of several launches a year as Space Services began to expand operations. July, 1988 The time is finally here for the USSR's big Duna mission, consisting of two Fobos probes launched back-to-back on Proton K vehicles. Both probes had successful launches and injection burns, which was met with guarded optimism from USSR's Space Research Institute (IKI).
  3. Everybody Have Fun Tonight August, 1986 The 'Race to Minmus' marched on, with the USSR leading the pack. The launch of the Energia heavy lifter gave them a lifting capability that simply wasn't matched by any other space programs at the time, and the only hardware they required was developing a lander, which had been funded largely after syphoning funds from a silly project called ' Buran'. Minmus often divided space experts on whether it was practical or even achievable. Detractors noted that Minmus was simply too far for a manned mission - it wasn't yet definitive that there was water-ice on the moon, which was the driving force behind sending a manned mission there. One US senator noted, "This isn't some video game where you just slap gizmos together and press some buttons!" These detractors were largely shouted down by young space fans of television shows, who used words like "pwned" and "rekt." It didn't make sense to them that manned exploration would stop at the Mun when there was a perfectly good moon still out there, which perhaps would be the perfect staging point for journeys to other planets. The Minmus mission was considered so important that the Politburo ordered that the Polyus-Skif project be sidelined specifically so the next Energia could shoot a Soyuz-TM on a Munar flyby. While test flights took place, construction and testing of a new robust lander continued. Meanwhile, China largely kept to their Mun ambitions, which largely depended on developing new probes to send to the moons. Initial plans were modelled after USSR's LK-700, but these were scrapped so that a modified Shenguang spacecraft could act as the orbiter, accompanied by a much smaller lander. First, they needed a map of the Mun surface, so China launched their first Mun probe, Chang-e 1. While the launch was largely successful, the probe ran out of propellent before it could circularize an orbit. All the CNSA could do was map the area of Mun available to them and take other scientific readings. Chang-e 1 settled into an orbit between both moons. Meanwhile, the ESA continued work on the Mir space station, launching the Harmony Docking Adapter on an Ariane 3 lifter. While NASA hadn't yet taken the opportunity to prepare a manned mission to Minmus, they were certainly curious. With Mariner-derived probe architecture readily available, NASA put forth the Planetary Observer Program, which would largely concern itself with launching probes to the moons and Duna. First to launch to Minmus was Wayfinder 1, on an Atlas-Centaur. The Wayfinder 1 was largely based on the Mariner 10 platform, but was set up to orbit Minmus and map the surface as well as look for resources. Wayfinder 1 slipped into an orbit of Minmus like putting on a pair of warm slippers. It immediately began sending back a treasure of useful data that would take months to pour over. Walk Like an Egyptian September, 1986 A wise Kerbal once said, "Let's light this candle!", and with that, Energia began it's launch with an unmanned Soyuz-TM at the top of the stack. The Energia flew impressively - it left no doubt to higher ups in the Politburo that the vehicle could lift an orbiter/lander combination with ease. The Soyuz-TM was the USSR's newest iteration of the spacecraft, and this launch technically counted as a test for all hardware involved. Using a Blok-D upper stage, the Soyuz-TM was able to slingshot around the Mun without issue. As it went around the moon, the scientific instrument on board began recording data to be saved for the trip home. The Soyuz-TM was able to get a free return trajectory back to Kerbin, separating from its orbital modules as it prepared to withstand the heat of re-entry. However, the parachutes that were suppose to slow the craft for landing did not deploy, and the capsule impacted at a high rate of speed, destroying it. Much of the data that had been transmitted on the trip back was saved, so the mission was largely considered a success.
  4. Sledgehammer November, 1985 The Kerbin-Jool transfer window is open, and it is time for Galileo to begin its journey. The Centaur-G upper stage reignites for a Trans-Joolian injection burn. January, 1986 Having served it's purpose, the CNSA announces its intent to de-orbit Tiangong-1. The station had been plagued with mechanical problems of late, and China decided to put their funds toward a newer station. February, 1986 The USSR is set to expand the Mir station with the Kvant-1 module. Kvant will be used for life support, storage, and a small lab for experiments. Using an FSB tug, Kvant-1 docks to the aft port of Mir. The tug decouples and then de-orbits. March 1986 An Ace-Vee launches on an Achilles I rocket. Besides supplies, it also brings up docking port PMA-1. Halley's Armada reaches the comet in mid March, 1986. The ESA loses contact with Giotto shortly after making a course correction, and its status is unknown. However, Vega 2 has better luck, and is able to make the closest approach to the comet.
  5. Don't You (Forget About Me) Semptember, 1985 As 'Minmus Fever' began to take hold of the space programs of Kerbin, newer probes are proposed to send to the wayward moon. Proposals include a probe made from spare parts that can be rolled into JPL's new Planetary Observer Program; essentially a Ranger lander made from parts. Meanwhile, the USSR will send a prototype of their new Fobos probe design, called Minmus 1. Minmus 1 launches first on a Soyuz-U rocket. After a minute into flight time, a radial decoupler attached to a side booster fails, and the rocket cannot hold course. Both the probe and vehicle are lost. October, 1985 Hoping for better luck, NASA launches Ranger 10 on a Delta launch vehicle. Ranger 10 lands easily in the south polar region, and the search for water-ice on the moon starts in earnest. Head Over Heels By the beginning of 1986 the satellite market began to heat up at a breakneck pace, forcing many rocket manufacturers to adapt to competition and improving their fleet of vehicles. Nations with growing rocket programs, like ISRO, began to make themselves noticed, while commercial rocketry burst onto the scene in the early 80's with a grab of the headlines. Possibly the company reacting the least to this changing landscape was Martin Marietta. With a full schedule of USAF deployments and NASA work lifting station modules, Martin concerned itself with also taking the largest share of JPL deep space probe launches. While the idea of stripped-down Titan III vehicles with smaller, more modular solid rocket motors was kicked around the office, there was very little hurry to put a plan into motion when times were good. On the other end of the spectrum, Boeing seemed determined to trot out their workhorse rocket, the Delta. Engineers seemed happier to tinker with produced better cryogenic upper stages rather than commit to designing an entire new system from scratch, even though such a plan may get them more of the heavier launches that NASA and the USAF had planned. It did not go unnoticed to many in the company, however, that they faced aggressive competition from new players besides just ISRO and China. Aggressively expanding their market share was Japan, beginning with their Delta/Thor derived N-I and building steam with the H-I, with improvements featuring their own technology. Instead of resting on this achievement, the ISAS began designing other vehicles and probes, possibly getting a larger customer base for both launch vehicles and satellite buses that they can produce. To improve their capability rapidly, Japan began testing an H-I hybrid called H-I LDC, which featured a first stage planned for use with their future H-II rocket. Stuck in the middle of the pack was General Dynamics, who found that the aging Atlas rocket couldn't keep up with the rising success of the Centaur upper stage it used. While they enjoyed a successful share of the satellite market battlespace, the first stage that had been derived from a ballistic missile from the 50's had reached an evolutionary dead-end. While significant improvements to the Aerojet engines and avionics had kept this aging dinosaur in the fight, its light-skinned construction, revolutionary for its time, meant that the system wasn't modular and adding capability with strap-on boosters wasn't possible. With these problems in mind, engineers set about designing a completely new first stage that could better handle the effectiveness of the Centaur, was modular, and could possibly net future slots pushing probes to the outer planets. The wildcard that no one predicted was commercial rocketry, in the form of Space Services. Space Services rise to star upstart began around the design for the Percheron engine, which ran on kerosene/oxidizer and could drastically reduce the cost of launches. The engine was test-fired in 1981, and despite all logic (and history), the engine was a resounding success. Space Services began designing an entire vehicle centered around this new engine, and hired former astronaut Deke Kerman to make it happen. The first test launch of the Conestoga I was set for Semptember 1982; the Percheron engine powered the first stage, aided by Castor strap-on boosters. A Castor 30 solid rocket motor and a Star 48 kick motor rounded out the second and third stages. This launch, despite all odds, was a resounding success. Space Services found themselves swimming in investors in no short order, and began in earnest of designing a new vehicle that would put them at the front of the satellite market for the coming decades. Engineers decided that for an expanded tank first stage, the Percheron engine could be placed in a cluster of 7, aided by 2 vernier Aerojet engines. While a vacuum version of Percheron was being developed, Space Services bought Aerojet upper stage engines. Thus, the Comet-9 was born. Its first test launch began in early 1985.
  6. Take On Me August, 1985 Node 1 arrives at space station Freedom after being launched from a Titan IIIC. Demeter undocks along with the ERM to clear the way. Once Node 1 is secure, Demeter maneuvers to the front port of Node 1. The shuttle must dock at the front port, detach the Common Berth Adapter, and then move to the starboard side of the module. September, 1985 Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Solar System Exploration Committee devise a concept of using cheap, modular spacecraft to explore the outer planets and numerous comets and asteroids. These craft would be based on systems used for the Mariner program, along with parts and subsystems left over from the Pioneer and Voyager programs. To offset costs further, JPL pitches the program, known as Mariner Mark II, to international partners, who could supply various scientific experiments for the probes - specifically the ESA, ISAS, and the Indian Space Research Organization. Four probes in all were proposed in 1983; the Jool Orbiter/Laythe Probe (JOLP), a probe for Dres, a Comet Rendezvous And Flyby spacecraft (CRAF), and an EVE orbiter. Rolled into this program was an earlier proposed spacecraft that would drop a probe into Jool before orbiting the system; Galileo had been scheduled to launch in 1982 but the mission had been pushed back due to heatshield issues for the lander and to allow international partners to supply their own experiments. Galileo was ready in 1985, and it was decided that instead of using a gravity assist from Eve, JPL could 'brute force' an insertion to Jool with a Titan IIIE vehicle and a Centaur-G upper stage. Next on the schedule would be Magellan, another spacecraft that could be assembled quickly and sent to Eve at a relatively low cost, and Piazza/Nakamura, which would be sent to map the surface of Dres.
  7. We Don't Need Another Hero June, 1985 For the crew of the Soyuz T-13 mission, their stay aboard Mir was fairly routine. The Salyut 7 station had made orbital changes in February in order to rendezvous with the Mir Core Module, and had been occupied continuously in the months since. In that time, Salyut 7 had not been struck by meteorites, and its sun tracker mechanism continued to function as normal as T-13 arrived to dock with Mir's forward port. However, it's always best to check. July, 1985 The event of the decade is finally here; the arrival of Halley's Comet sometime next year. Anticipating this event, several space agencies have agreed to launch Halley's Armada, which will cooperate together to gather the most science from a nearby encounter with the comet. First to launch on the 2nd is ESA's Giotto. On the 15th the USSR launches Vega 2 on a Proton-K rocket. Originally scheduled to go to Eve for a gravity assist along with Vega 1, it was later designed with a more direct approach in mind, negating the need to carry a detachable lander. Also joining the armada were two Japan probes, Suisei and Sakigake. NASA largely decides to use probes it already has in heliocentric orbit as well as observations from space station Freedom. To prepare for the arrival of Node 1, the Ace-Vee resupply vessel is de-orbited. A few days later, Demeter arrives with a fresh crew. The rest of the month is dedicated to several EVAs to repair systems aboard SkyLab 2.
  8. 1. Thank you! 2. Glushko Kerman could not be reached for comment, comrade. Honestly the only head that needs to roll is my own; I've made the same mistake with docking ports about 3 times already. 3. I use Kronal Vessel Viewer for in-game screenshots, then use GIMP to put the blueprints together. Pretty rough at first, but I think I'm getting a little better.
  9. Money for Nothing February, 1985 USSR's plans for space station Mir get underway with the launch of the Mir Core Module. Extra effort and funding was put forth to get the module in orbit as soon as possible, with help from the ESA. It is hoped that by doing so they can extend the functionality of Salyut 7 another 5 or 7 years. April, 1985 Hera launches on April 12th, 1985 in order to save satellite Westar 6, which suffered a kick motor malfunction after being launched on a Atlas rocket late last year. The crew will retrieve the satellite with the shuttle's Canadarm, and bring it back to Kerbin. Retrieval was a success, and Hera returns home with the satellite in tow. The loss of the Multiadapter Node means that NASA will move up its plans to launch the next module of the space station, Node 1. A final agreement is in place with both the European Space Agency and Japan's National Space Development Agency for both additional funding for modules and station time for their astronauts. Japan specifically has benefitted drastically from the increase in the satellite market in the last few years, and have increased funding for their ISAS/NSDA departments for a native rocket design and possibly a vehicle that can resupply the station. The first phase will see the additions of Node 1, and second node module (Node 2), and the 'Atlantis' Lab Module supplied by NASA. A large solar array to power the new additions to the station is being developed, and will be needed before the station can be used to its full potential.
  10. When Doves Cry August, 1984 The maiden flight of the Ariane 3 rocket will take two satellites to geosynchronous orbit; Eutelsat 1F2 and Telecom 1A. Both are successfully deployed, although the kick motor fails to jettison from Telecom 1A, which may hinder functions in the future. October, 1984 Athena is set to return to Skylab 2 with the Multiadapter Node, which will add berths for both NASA and ESA spacecraft. Approximately 30 seconds into flight, the F1 engine suffers an catastrophic failure, and is aborted to prevent an explosion. Athena abort procedure is to simply drop her cargo, release the fairing, and use her engines to escape the launch vehicle and glide for a landing. While the Athena is able to make a safe landing, the Saturn launch vehicle and the Multiadapter Node are lost. This will leave SkyLab 2 with a skeleton crew of 2 ESA scientists and delay much-needed repairs; mechanical failures to a solar array and two reaction wheels plague the station. Occurring just ten days later is the maiden launch of the Achilles I launch vehicle and an Ace-Vee resupply vessel. The rocket has seen extensive testing for the past year, mainly due to working out problems associated with the solid rocket booster. It was finally decided that a Titan booster would be used as the first stage. December, 1984 USA-6 was launched on December 4th on a Titan 34D. When asked for further specifics the DoD representative replied, "no comment."
  11. Total Eclipse of the Heart May, 1983 CTS-8 kicks off with Aphrodite launching the TDRS-1 sat in a short mission. June, 1983 The maiden voyage of Demeter carries a crew of six to SkyLab 2. Thirteen days later, an Ariane 1 lifts the first Europa cargo vehicle into orbit for a station resupply. August, 1983 China launches a Shenguang-2 to with a station crew while also carrying an airlock adapter to mate with Tiangong-1 January, 1984 A Titan 34D lifts off with a classified DoD payload called Vortex. No other information is available at this time. April, 1984 It is time for flight CTS-41-C, with the primary mission being to repair the SolarMax probe. This will be the first shuttle flight without a designated pilot; Bob and Barbo Kerman will be the two crew members. The Hera is carefully maneuvered to the tumbling satellite; this is the first attempt to grapple a satellite in space with the Canadarm. Bob Kerman spends several hours repairing the probe while also replacing a few of its scientific experiments. It may look like Bob is just tumbling around in a cargo bay, but he's actually performing very delicate work. With her mission complete, Hera de-orbits and returns to Kerbin to... land in a field.
  12. Photograph With 1983 shaping up to be a year where not much happens, space agencies around the world kick around various ideas. NASA bigwigs have begun to kick around the idea of expanding SkyLab 2 into a true international station with support from the ESA and possible participants such as Japan and India. With this expansion they find that they will need a true dedicated autonomous resupply spacecraft. The Autonomous Cargo Vehicle (also lovingly referred to as "Ace-Vee") can bring both pressurized and unpressurized cargo blocks up to the station, both filling the need for EVA repairs and ensuring long-term crew habitation without the need to swap out shuttles. Along with Ace-Vee, NASA decides to design a launch vehicle specifically for it, one that is low-cost and the utilizes existing infrastructure. Achilles I would utilize an Aerojet solid rocket motor as the first stage, and a Rockwell liquid-fuel second stage or a Centaur upper stage can be used to bring the ACV to orbit. This plan was readily approved while NASA and their partners considered designs for the future space station. Thanks to a modest shuttle budget, NASA was able to re-visit older proposals that had been cancelled in previous years. Possible future plans that could use a space station for refueling were heavily considered, such as an Eve flyby or possibly sending astronauts to Minmus. NASA began taking submissions for a cost-effective heavy lifter that could be used for these missions, and also to begin retiring older launch vehicles. The first idea was to add more rocket boosters to a Titan rocket with a large diameter core. Another idea was to design a newer vehicle that still used F1 engines and solid rocket boosters. Meanwhile, the ESA found themselves at a crossroads. They were quite happy with the inexpensive Miranda spacecraft giving them quick access to space, but it can only carry two astronauts at a time. With member nations all wanting hours to use the ERM, they found themselves backlogged with experiments, and developing a larger vehicle would take years. They were already behind schedule in developing a resupply vehicle that could transport food to SkyLab 2. The ESA then approached the USSR about an agreement to pair a similar European Research Module with Salyut 7. Russia was quite happy with this idea; the idea of a large, modular space station appealed to them and they had already begun plans to add modules to Salyut 7. With this arrangement, the ESA insured access for their large contingent of scientists. With the ESA taking some of the pressure off to man a larger space station, Russia could continue plans to build a new heavy-lift vehicle called Energia, which could possibly jump-start the USSR's mission to land cosmonauts on the Mun and Minmus. The Chinese National Space Administration continued plans to upgrade their rocket and improve their orbital capabilities. Plans to lengthen the Long March first stage began development, as well as configurations that would use several first stages and liquid fuel boosters. These new launch vehicles could then be used in multiple launches to configure a vehicle that would get them to the Mun.
  13. Abracadabra December, 1982 China proceeds with the maiden flight of their Shenguang-2 spacecraft, set to rendezvous with Tiangong-1. Unfortunately, a malfunction in the docking adapter prevents the Shenguang-2 from achieving soft dock. The crew have no choice but to practice docking maneuvers for a few hours and then de-orbit. February, 1983 The first crewed launch of the year comes from the European Space Agency, with a second test flight of the Miranda. The Miranda orbits for 3 days before returning. The next upcoming flight should be bringing ESA specialists to SkyLab 2. Later that same month, Athena departs from SkyLab 2 and returns to Kerbin. Again, the craft misses headquarters completely and ends up in the ocean. Athena is badly damaged, but the crew are unharmed. It may be some time before she is ready to return to active duty. April, 1983 NASA and ESA are finally ready to launch the Airlock/Docking Adapter Module. Joining in this joint venture is the USAF, who agree to use a Titan IIIC to transport the segment. An Orbital Assist Module is used to remotely to dock the segment.
  14. Heat of the Moment September, 1982 Japan's push to enter the satellite marketplace gets a strong showing with the launch of their N-1 rocket. The satellite, Kiku-4, cannot make it to geosynchronous orbit. Later in the month, Europe launches an Ariane 1 with the MARECS B satellite. The launch is one of their most successful to date and optimism is high for the launch of their next Miranda spacecraft. October, 1982 Athena transports a crew to Skylab 2. Meanwhile, China makes it's big push into the frontier of space stations with the launch of Tiangong-1. November, 1982 NASA's last big launch for the year is the maiden flight of their newest shuttle, the 'Mighty' Aphrodite. While preparing to boost SBS-3 into a geo orbit, one of the engines on the OAM fails, and Gary Kerman has to EVA to make repairs. SBS-3 is then released from the cargo bay, using it's solid rocket motor to kick it into geosynchronous orbit. Aphrodite then returns to Kerbin within a few days. She misses the runway at NASA completely, but the landing otherwise has no issues.
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