Presenting the Scalpel, a high performance SSTO that's terrifying, yet surprisingly practical.
While designed to ferry rock hoppers and probes into the orbit the craft can also be kitted out with a detachable fuel cell for trips to the Jool system. The Ion hopper used in the video has been included as an example.
With the payload safely delivered there's nothing to stop you having a good hoon at treetop height.
2 - Toggle Engines
3 - Switch Modes
4 - Toggle Detachment Engines
0 - Toggle Cargo Bay Doors
ABORT - Undock Cargo Port
SUGGESTED ASCENT PROFILE:
For ascending I'd recommend disabling the main pitch (located behind the cargo bay) and roll (outermost control surfaces) surfaces.
Activate SAS and set full throttle.
Ensure the crafts heading is 90°.
Once the craft leaves the runway, fold the landing gear and build up speed while keeping your altitude low.
At 1500m/s bring the nose up to a 20° pitch.
Once your apoapsis hits 40k set the craft to point prograde.
The rapiers rocket engines will soon ignite. Leave them burning until the craft hits an apoapsis of 80k then cut the engines and coast out the atmosphere.
A joystick is highly recommended and SAS should be kept on at all times.
When adding cargo try and position the payload as close to the centre of mass as possible (RCS Build AID Recommended). I'd suggest draining the fuel from both pre-coolers when doing this.
The craft is extremely agile but can be very unforgiving at low speeds when there's not enough air moving over the control surfaces. In short treat her with respect and you'll be fine!
The detachment engines are designed to help ease the craft away from the payload once it has been deployed.
Quicksaving/loading with a Kerbal in a command seat can mangle the landing gear. To fix this, have the Kerbal leave the seat then quicksave/load.