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Started another career and since I think rockets are kinda dull, I've been trying to solve problems with planes as soon as it's feasible. It's fun to try to come up with a space plane that's good for something with Tier 1 tech. Obviously at this point it means rocket planes as there are no airbreathers powerful enough to be useful. So far, the best I've come up with is this -- the Jetstream, all stock. With those boosters it has enough legs to get to Minmus and back, which means it's good for tourists and search/recovery missions. This is in fact one thing tier 1 planes can do better than rockets -- it's tricky to build a re-entry module that seats three and behaves well. Only non-recoverable parts are the SRBs. I did manage to build a Tier 1 single-engine SSTO (uses the Swivel) but once up there, there was barely any fuel for manoeuvring so it's not really practical for anything.
After all the advanced technology usage decided to take my knowledge down deep to the days of the beginning. This is space shuttle for small payloads, pretty small and pretty cheap. As this science stage has no proper wheels it lands in water. Everything but the boosters is recoverable. Price without the probe pictured is 14,506 credits (cargo is at the tail, since there is no cargo bay and drag in front would mess things up). I suppose an mk1 crew cabin would serve just fine there for crew transport as well. Struts are necessary since the command pod tended to fall off at landing ... and the front of the plane is normally not expected to fall off. Parachute is for reducing drag only, not used really. Takeoff is designed upside down due toe drag from the rudders, no point to fight it: Somehow forgot to take the screenshot from releasing the probe (had to go out to eva with the pilot and nudge it since it is so tight there). After detaching the probe pictured and doing the deorbit burn - i even had some fuel left (Jebediah knows he is in for a bonus). One must be very conservative with electricity though. Just remember one thing - there are no wheels, you have to land in water (at 50m/s horizontal speed it survives, or use the parachute (which i added to reduce drag only) and rocket engines to land on tail): Quite a scenic landing site. Full gallery from 2 flights can be found at http://imgur.com/a/naD3O