Kalidor

"From Kerbin To The Mun" - The Official Biography of Maj. Valentina Kerman.

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Foreword by Jebediah Kerman

 

It is no secret that Valentina and I did not always see eye-to-eye...

 

Even during the Kerbanaut Training and selection process a bitter rivalry developed between us that alienated her from the rest of the Kerbanaut Candidates. Before applying to join KSP Valentina had served as  a Major in the Imperial Air Force - commanding the Emperor's Personal Fighter Wing and flying the latest in experimental aircraft. She had grown up in Kerbin City and her family were influential members of the Imperial Court.

 

I, on the other hand, was a former resistance pilot hailing from the farming province of Korvega. In stark contrast to the advanced jet-powered fighters of the Imperial Air Force, the Independent Air Force  flew aging propeller-driven aircraft that spent more time on the ground undergoing repairs than in the air. After the war ended I survived by recycling war surplus materials and dabbled with rocketry as a hobby - stripping down several of the deadly VK-1 rockets that the Emperor loved to fire at Korvega and which my fellow resistance pilots desperately tried to intercept. By reverse engineering the VK-1 engine my engineers - all hobbyists I might add - managed to develop the LV-T30 engine and conducted a number of test flights which caught the attention of the infant KSP.

 

I think this was there the rivalry with Val really stemmed. Though I was her equal in the cockpit, she believed that I was only selected for Kerbanaut Training because my company supplied most of the components for the Apex-I rocket that would carry Stayputnik-III - the first artificial satellite - into orbit. Ultimately, as you will read in her biography, there were a number of other factors that played a major role in deciding who would become the first Kerbal in space...

 

After Project Trailblazer - the missions to put a Kerbal in orbit - had been completed the "Original Four" Kerbanauts were lauded as global heroes. Over time the bitter rivalry that had once existed between Val and I  softened into a friendly rivalry and ultimately...genuine friendship. Whilst I happily returned to my scrap yard and continue to dabble with rockets she remained with the KSP to train the next generation of Kerbanauts that would continue the mission that we had started.

 

Yet going into Kerbin orbit was not enough for Val...

 

When the KSP Administrators decided that they needed a steady hand on the tiller for the Kerpollo Mun Programme Val was the logical choice. To demonstrate how far our friendship had developed she did not hesitate to contact me for help when the new Kerbanauts struggled to land the Munar Excursion Module in simulations. Yet the one thing she was adamant about was that - after watching me become the first Kerbal to leave Kerbin's atmosphere and Bill become the first Kerbal to orbit the planet - "She" was going to be the first Kerbal to set foot on the Mun.

 

This is her story...

 

[PROLOGUE TO FOLLOW SOON]

Edited by Kalidor

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Prologue

 

Von-Kerman Design Bureau

Kerosene Island

70km Off The Coast Of Kerbin City

 

Every Kerbal remembers what they were doing when they heard that the Emperor had committed suicide and Kerbin City had fallen to the Resistance.

 

In the weeks leading up to the final attack on Kerbin City Emperor Krytos Kerman VII had grown increasingly agitated by reports of Imperial Army and Air Force units suffering heavy losses against the Resistance. Popular Support for the Emperor amongst the citizens of Kerbin City had soured after he had ordered the strategic bombing of Korvega. Whilst the bombers of the Imperial Air Force pounded the agricultural province during the night the fearsome VK-1 Rockets designed by Doctor Werner Von-Kerman were launched during the day - destroying both military and civilian targets due to their primitive targeting systems. The infrastructure of Korvega was crippled but the Korvegan Resistance survived the onslaught - launching from makeshift air strips and continuing to harass Imperial Industries.

With supply lines breaking down and morale amongst the Imperial Air Force at an all-time low, several senior officers - including myself - had approached the Emperor to discuss the possibility of surrender. We reasoned that - should the resistance continue to attack our infrastructure - the Army and Air Force would be unable to protect Kerbin City from direct attacks. By surrendering or at least calling a ceasefire it would give our forces time to regroup and rebuild. The Emperor was resistant to the notion of surrender. I was subsequently replaced as commander of the Emperor's Fighter Wing by "A Less Defeatist Officer" and reassigned to logistics transport duty- flying cargo planes carrying personnel and supplies to Kerosene Island. Surrounding himself by loyalist officers of the same mind-set the Emperor continued to wage war on the resistance.

 

At the time my cheeks burned with shame, but in hindsight I was spared the gruesome fate of my comrades as they fought a loosing battle against the Resistance. Nevertheless, my Father very publicly disowned me - many of his businesses relied on Imperial Contacts and the last thing he wanted to do was make an enemy of the Emperor. That was typical of my Father...he always chose the bottom line over his family.

 

So I found myself flying a rattling transport plane with holes in the fuselage to Dr. Von-Kerman's Design Bureau - located on the remote Kerosene Island. It was here that prototype engines and aircraft were built and tested before the designs were signed off and sent to manufacturers for large-scale production. Officially I was attached to the Imperial Airbase nearby commanded by General Granville Kerman - an ardent supporter of the Emperor. The highly decorated officer was an aging veteran of many conflicts but with his fighter squadrons and security forces reassigned to the frontline there was little he could do except read the battle reports transmitted to him - powerless to do anything to save the Empire he loved. As a result he drank heavily - leaving the day-to-day operation of the base in the hands of his subordinates.

 

 As fuel supplies began to run low I was stranded on Kerosene Isle during the latter days of the war and became closely acquainted with Dr. Werner Von-Kerman. Along with the senior members of the VK Design Bureau I used to listen to the radio broadcasts from Kerbin City to see how the war was going. The Imperial Ministry of Information - responsible for propaganda - fell into disarray and as a result the broadcasters did not even attempt to hide the truth. The Independent Kerbal States - the name that the Resistance had adopted - had launched a full-scale assault on Kerbin City and were currently battling the Imperial Air Force for control of the skies over the capital.

 

After the broadcast had ended Werner switched off the radio and turned to address all those present in the laboratory. Producing a telegram from his pocket he explained that Emperor Krytos had ordered him to prepare seven nuclear-tipped VK-1's for immediate launch which would be used to destroy Kerbin City in the event that it fell to the Resistance.

He gravely announced his intent to ignore the order - he would not massacre thousands of innocent Imperial Civilians. I knew that the Emperor would issue an order to General Granville to arrest Werner and assume control of the operation, but with only a handful of guards at his disposal he would be powerless to enforce the order if Werner and the rest of his Design Team chose to resist attempts to take him into custody. He went on to explain that he had secretly made contact with the Independent Kerbal States to arrange a defection for himself and any of the design team that wished to join him. To avoid prosecution for crimes against the Independent Kerbal States his bargaining chip had been the VK-1 Research and Prototypes housed on the island.

 

What surprised me most of all was my indifference to his intention to defect. A few years before - perhaps even a few months - I would have drawn my pistol and arrested him on the spot. The war was over and the Emperor had lost - everybody but Krytos could see that. Indeed, it was heavy taxation of the frontier provinces and the Imperial Doctrine of Ruling With An Iron Fist that was the catalyst which fanned the flames of rebellion in the first place. Emperor Krytos had rattled the sabre one-to-many times and Imperial Citizens had paid the price in blood.

 

Werner explained that a Resistance Agent would be arriving in the next few days to make the necessary arrangements when the door to the lab burst open and General Granville hurried into the room - gesturing for his bodyguard to wait at the door. His green complexion had turned a pale grey as he rushed towards the radio - fumbling with the dial as his hands shook uncontrollably. The broadcast began with a series of beeps before the report was delivered by a quivering reporter...

 

"This is a Newsflash! Our beloved Emperor Krytos...is dead. To save his people from further aggression by the rebel dogs he took his own life. By Executive Order issued by the Emperor in absentia all Imperial Forces are to cease hostilities and await further instructions. To honour our Emperor's  sacrifice there will be a traditional period of mourning - all Imperial Citizens are expected to wear a black armband in his memory...

 

There was a stony silence in the room as the occupants glanced at each other. Whilst I felt a huge sense of relief that the war was over this was only the beginning. In the power vacuum left behind following Krytos' death various political factions within the Imperial Court - formerly kept in line through fear of the Emperor's Retribution - would turn on each other in what was certain to be a bitter power struggle to claim the throne.

 

General Granville whimpered like a scolded child and began pacing backwards and forwards - muttering unintelligibly under his breath. He had served the Empire since he was a young boy and without it...he was a mere shell. I knew from the look in his eye what was about to happen as he drew his sidearm, straightened his uniform and marched towards a vacant office. Werner started after him but I touched gently restrained him by touching his shoulder and shook my head. The single shot rang out and Granville's bodyguard burst into the room with his weapon drawn. When I explained what had happened and he quickly holstered his weapon and reported that - with General Granville's death - I was the senior ranking officer on the Island. As a result it would fall to me to oversee the surrender to the Resistance when they finally decided to come calling.

 

****

 

Thanks to Werner's earlier negations we did not have to wait long. I awoke on the couch in General Granville's former office to the sound of planes flying overhead. Pulling on my officers cap and uniform jacket I emerged in the early morning sun to see three transport planes bearing Resistance markings circling the airfield. Whilst the two larger planes remained in a holding pattern the smaller of the three circled around to land - coming to a stop near where I stood. As the pilot shut down the engines Werner hurried over from the lab to stand beside me and grimaced. Neither of us knew how this was going to turn out.

 

A hatch opened at the rear of the plane and a blonde-haired Kerbal dropped down to the ground  and loped towards us in typical Korvegan style - one might call it a swagger. Owing to the vast expanses of grassland between the Korvegan farms the only way to travel anywhere quickly is to fly. Korvegan children learn to fly from a very young age - resulting in exceptional piloting skill that academy trained Imperial Pilots lacked. Indeed, we found out the hard way just how good Korvegan bush pilots where pretty quickly during the war - regrettably so in most cases. This confidence - not to mentioned downright stubbornness - and fearsome independence was reflected in the way most Korvegans walked and their general demeanour. Yet as I watched this particular Kerbal approach I noticed that he walked with a slight limp - an injury sustained during the early stages of the rebellion I discovered after reading the Imperial Dossier on the new arrival.

 

The Kerbal extended his hand to Werner and introduced himself as Gene Kerman who - in turn - introduced him to me. Gene made polite conversation but even back then I surmised that he knew more about me than he was willing to reveal. Once Werner had officially requested asylum with Korvega Gene radioed the circling transport planes which quickly landed. It came as no surprise that the asylum extended to Werner and his team did not extend to me. As an Imperial Officer I would be court-martialled if I attempted to defect. Nevertheless, Gene chatted openly about the current state of events as preparations were hastily made to transport Werner and his team.

 

As I feared civil war had erupted in Kerbin City - several factions fighting for control of the tattered remains of the Empire. Civilians living within the confines of the city were forced to live with no power and heat and looting had become rife. Gene explained that the situation was just as bad within the factions that made up the Independent Kerbal States. A number of rebel provinces had ceded from the coalition and began to fight over the scraps of Imperial Industry - now that the Empire was in no position to stop them - like vultures picking over a carcass. It was not surprising really - fighting the Empire had been the one thing that unified the rogue states and now that it had been defeated there was nothing left to maintain cohesion.

 

Nevertheless, the Independent Kerbal States survived. In addition to Korvega the small island nation of Kalbion - a long-time opponent and thorn in the Emperor's side - pledged its support to the cause and began to help the Korvegans try and rebuild their shattered infrastructure. As Gene explained it, the damage inflicted to both combatants during the war were great and the resources required to rebuild were scarce. The Korvegans and Kalbions were a hardy people that had proven capable of adapting to survive. In stark contrast the average Imperial Citizen took their hot water and electricity for granted and financial institutions holding their savings were temporarily unavailable.

 

Despite the bleak picture that Gene painted he offered a glimmer of hope. The IKS Provisional Government placed great emphasis on rebuilding and expanding  the agricultural infrastructure. Kerbin City was a sprawling metropolis of commercial and financial institutions - farms were few and far between and those that did exist could not cope with the demand of a whole city. To that end the IKS had began to stockpile food to airdrop wherever it was required. The algae farms in Kalbion and Korvega could shoulder the burden for a time, but ultimately the other nations would have to learn to fend for themselves. Perhaps this explained why the IKS approved Werner's request for asylum. Food was going to become a precious commodity in the coming weeks and months and protecting the food supplies from attack was doubtless the IKS Provisional Government's highest priority.

 

With the research team and prototypes loaded onto the transport planes Werner came to bid me farewell. He expressed hope that this would not be the last time we would meet before joining the rest of his team on the lead plane. I watched the planes disappear over the horizon for a while before heading back into General Granville's office to make an official report. It was no lie that I was powerless to stop Werner and his team from leaving - they outnumbered the official base personnel three to one. Submitting the report I awaited the backlash that would no doubt spell the end of my military career. It would be tough to explain how could I let such a valuable asset simply walk away.

 

****

 

The response to my report would have been comical under normal circumstances. Three days later radar picked up several aircraft heading towards Kerosene Island - their transponders identifying them as belonging to the Imperial Air Force. Landing at the far end of the runway a large formation of soldiers began to sweep the base. I - along with the rest of the base personnel - were herded into one of the hangers and kept under armed guard whilst a number of civilian scientists proceeded to strip the base of every vital piece of research pertaining to the VK-1. The officer in charge - I never learned his name - routinely ignored my questions whilst the clean-up team left no stone unturned - though I knew that they would return to Kerbin City empty-handed. Werner's team had been thorough in destroying all the documents that they could not take with them.

 

As the planes began to lift off again for a handful of heartbeats I feared that they would leave us behind - and with our supplies dwindling that was no laughing matter. Fortunately the last plane taxied over to us and the pilot waved us forward. As it turned out his younger brother worked as an intern for my Mother's law firm and she had gotten wind of the impending operation. Though the pilot had orders to leave us behind my Mother had pulled some strings to ensure the base personnel were airlifted back to Kerbin City. Indeed, as I boarded the plane the pilot twisted in his seat and smirked - "I have a message from your Mother. DON'T TELL YOUR FATHER!"

 

Unsurprisingly, my career in the Air Force was over. The senior officers for whom I had at least a modicum of respect had been killed during the latter days of the war - replaced by politically appointed inept officers who served whichever side courted their favour at the time. Upon my return to Kerbin City I was granted an honourable discharge and returned to civilian life. I thought the most exciting chapter of my life was over but, as it turned out, I could not have been more wrong.

 

[CHAPTER ONE TO FOLLOW. Is there something that you would like to know or feel is lacking? Please comment and I will explain in a later chapter.]

Edited by Kalidor

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This is great! I think we've seen the setup somewhere before :) but it's extremely well written, I like the way it's presented from the POV of a military officer on the losing side and I really like the detailed backstory, reasons for the war and the immediate ramifications of the war ending.

Very much looking forward to seeing how this develops - from Jeb's prologue it looks like we've got much to look forward to!

Edit: Followed.

Edited by KSK

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Just found this, followed.

An interesting world here, while I can see some parallels to real events it isn't the typical "Kerbal WWII scenario", looking forward to how it turns out.

Oh, I should mention that reading the title makes me think of the Apollo astronaut biographies/autobiographies that I loved reading.

Edited by AkuAerospace
something else to say

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Chapter One

 

Val's Defence Weekly Offices

Kerbin City

 

Four years passed since that fateful day on the runway at Kerosene Island...and a lot had happened in that time. My Mother very kindly offered me a job as an intern at her law firm until I decided what I wanted to do with my life outside the military which I gratefully accepted.

 

The first few months following the end of the rebellion were hardest for the inhabitants of Kerbin City. I was used to surviving on rations due to my Air Force Training but the bulk of the population struggled to cope. The Korvegans dropped supplies when they could but these were quickly snatched up by the various factions and sold for extortionate prices on the Black Market. Eventually a Ruling Council was formed and the remnants of the Imperial Security Forces were able to regain control; but not before hundreds of civilians had died of starvation or rioting that became commonplace after the fall.

 

To say that the war had a profound effect on my father would be an understatement! A dozen of his businesses were liquidated as the economy cooled and for a time it seemed that he would be declared bankrupt. Calling in old favours and abusing his connections he was able to secure enough assets to ride out the recession and start again once the financial crisis was over. Instead of heavy industry and construction my Father founded an import/export business - striking trade agreements to export vast quantities of food and medical supplies to Kerbin City. His gruff demeanour was softened after he found two orphans living in the bombed-out remains of one of his factories. Though the security guards tried to shoo them away my Father took the starving children in and tried in vain to find their relatives. He asked my Mother to help him find a new family for the orphans and - by strange coincidence - I was assigned to the case.

 

Despite an icy reception my Father and I soon began to chat about non-specific subjects as we vetted a list of candidates who had expressed interest in adopting the children. After chaperoning the children - named Mia and Ralph - on their first meetings with their new family the day finally came when my Father had to say goodbye. He had grown quite attached to the children and admitted that he had toyed with the idea of adopting them himself - but wryly added that he had his hands full with me. Before I could jump on the defensive he turned to me and admitted that I was right to oppose the Emperor. Perhaps if he and others had been braver and followed my example the war might have ended sooner and those children would still have their parents. For the first time in my life I was rendered speechless and all I could think to do was throw my arms around him. I am not usually the emotional sort, but more than a few tears fell that day.

 

It was one of my Father's associates that tipped me off about a job that was going to be advertised by the Kerbin City Times. They were looking for a correspondent to report on the latest developments in Aerospace Technology. Given my former military career and coming from an influential family the KCT snatched me up. For the next three years I wrote a regular column about the state of the Imperial Military. On one notable occasion I was given permission to fly the latest Imperial Fighter - the Vulture Mk3 - and wrote an extensive review about the aircraft that was published in full.

 

Powered by the same C7 Aerospace J-20 engines that were utilised on the earlier Vulture Mk2 the new aircraft did nothing to address the poor operational range and performance at higher altitudes from which its predecessor suffered. Calling in some favours I managed to get my hands on some engineering reports and discovered that the Mk3's spent more time undergoing maintenance than they did in the air. Like the earlier incarnations the landing gear was notoriously fragile and it was almost impossible to take-off on anything but an level surface - a problem the Resistance pilots in their resilient propeller-driven aircraft never experienced during the war.

 

In publishing the review I opened a can-of-worms for the Imperial Air Force. They had been granted a budget of five hundred million credits to extend the life of the Vulture by the Ruling Council - the political entity which now governed the Empire. Only a fraction of that budget had been used to develop the fighter - most of the money going into the pockets of the Air Force top brass. Needless to say the whole affair resulted in a highly publicised legal case in which I was a key witness. My Mother acted on behalf of the Ruling Council and when the Air Force Legal Team tried to pick my testimony apart - questioning my lack of engineering credentials - she was quick to remind the court that I was a former Air Force Officer who had seen several hundred hours of operational service and commanded the Emperor's Fighter Wing. As the case began to unravel there were a number of high profile arrests. Though I celebrated at the time in hindsight nobody won the case. Not only was the Imperial Air Force lumbered with a substandard fighter but inexperienced officers were hastily promoted to command positions. I shudder to think what would have happened if an airborne attack was launched on Kerbin City at the time. The IAF would have been powerless to stop it!

 

The new Commandant of the Air Force offered to reactivate my commission and oversee the development of a new fighter. For a time I was sorely tempted but I came to the conclusion that, after flying in combat during the war, pushing papers round a desk and managing budgets did not appeal to me. Likewise I turned down an offer from the Ruling Council to serve on the appropriations committee - overseeing military budgets and investigating discrepancies. Though I politely declined one of the council members suggested that I should go freelance and start my own publication - he would be an avid reader. I took his suggestion to heart. After all, there was only so much information I could fit in a column and if I had full editorial control then the cat-and-mouse game I had to play with my editor would be a thing of the past. So, I quit my job at the Kerbin City Times and borrowed some money from my Father to found Val's Defence Weekly.

 

After a glitzy launch party arranged by my Father the magazine went on sale to the general public at the reasonable price of three credits. I was not out to make mega money - being content with using the knowledge I had amassed over the years to highlight weaknesses in the military and offer viable solutions. Within several weeks VDW had become required reading by the Imperial Air Force with the Army and Navy soon to follow. I was given a guided tour of the C7 Aerospace Research Facility in return for writing an article on their latest engine designs and before long I was inundated with requests from other contractors in the Aerospace Industry.

 

It was mostly thanks to my contacts within C7 Aerospace I learned about the existence of the P-99 "Ocelot" Fighter. Being jointly developed between the Korvegan Air Force (KAF) and the Kalbion Flying Corps (KFC) the single-seat fighter was powered by a C7 Aerospace J-20  engine. Though initially sceptical about the performance of the aircraft on paper, at least, the design seemed to be pretty sound and though not as powerful as the Vulture Mk3 the Ocelot had much greater range and manoeuvrability. Though it was the first jet-powered aircraft fielded by the Independent Kerbal States the designers had done a good job of building a viable aircraft that put the Vulture Mk3 to shame. As usual I wrote up my review and published it in Issue Eighteen of VDW without a second thought.

 

****

 

In the days following the publication I received several calls from the Imperial Air Force requesting more information on the P-99 Fighter. I advised my secretary to field the calls with the response - "Everything we know is in the article!" It seemed that VDW were one step ahead of Air Force Intelligence as nobody knew the fighter existed until now.

 

The day in question started like any other day for me. I arrived at the VDW Offices, made myself a coffee and sat down at my desk to check my emails. There was a knock and I looked up to see my secretary standing in the doorway looking flustered. She explained that there was a caller on the line who wanted to speak with me about the P-99. Though she had tried to get rid of him with the usual response he was insistent that I would want to speak to him. Bemused I asked her what his name was...only to discover that he has not actually given it. All the caller had stated was that we had a mutual friend and had met once before at Kerosene Island.

 

My interest was piqued and I gestured for her to put the caller through. Spinning in my chair I waited for the phone to ring...and waited a little longer. My secretary appeared in the doorway again looking confused and gestured to the phone. The caller was waiting for me in the coffee shop over the road and suggested that I meet him there. This was all very mysterious but if the person in question had gone to this much trouble then it must have been important. Grabbing my jacket off the back of the chair I caught the lift down to the street and headed into the coffee shop.

 

Coffee was still a luxury that few people could afford due to high import taxes. The majority of the shops clientele were stockbrokers or accountants who happily paid the extortionate prices that the owner charged as they conducted business meetings or tried to woo influential investors. At this early hour only had a handful of customers were sitting down and I glanced around to see which one of them was my mystery caller. Glancing back over my shoulder I caught sight of the blonde-haired Kerbal and failed to hide my surprise. Desperately trying to regain my composure I sat down opposite him and remarked that he was a long way from home.

 

Gene Kerman took a sip of his coffee and made an appreciative face. He quipped that fresh coffee tasted better than the processed sludge he was used to. With a wry smile he correctly assumed that I wanted to know why he was there. I suggested that he had been sent to find out how I had learned about the P-99 but Gene knew exactly which C7 employee had let the information slip - much to my annoyance. Pulling out a copy of my magazine Gene insisted that the development of the P-99 was not exactly classified information and the Korvegan Air Force were not overly concerned about it appearing in my magazine.

 

I asked him why he wanted to meet with me if it was not about the article and Gene became gravely serious - pushing the magazine to one side and lowering his voice. He explained that he had been sent to Kerbin City with a proposition for me. I snorted and pointed out that - though I was a civilian now - the Imperial Air Force and Ruling Council would not take too kindly to me working with the Korvegan Air Force. Gene glanced around to make sure none of the other customers were listening and leaned forward until his face was almost touching mine.

 

Even before the war ended the IKS Science Division calculated Kerbin's natural resources would be exhausted with the next seven to ten years. Whilst renewable energies such as wind, hydro and solar power were readily available they would be unable to cope with the demand placed upon them and an alternative form of energy generation was needed. The IKS was about to go public with the information and begin energy conservation measures when a field research team exploring the asteroid impact crater off the coast of Kerbin's Southern Continent made a startling discovery. Some of the minerals in the crater were found to contain an unknown element which the science team dubbed Element-K. After two years of research the Science Division found a way to manipulate Element-K to provide an inexhaustible power supply - similar to a nuclear reaction but without the resulting radiation. The problem was that Element-K was unavailable in sufficient quantities to prove a viable form of energy generation.

 

It was suggested that as Element-K was located in the asteroid crater it was logical to assume that other asteroids may contain the mineral. As it was impossible to study asteroids from the surface of Kerbin funding was made available to begin research into the possibility of building a rocket that could deploy a probe in orbit around Kerbin...which in turn could travel to a nearby asteroid and conduct an extensive scan. As the foremost expert on rocket propulsion Werner was the obvious choice to lead the Experimental Propulsion Department attached to the Korvegan Air Force. Werner had been developing the GUARDIAN Missile Defence System - a lightweight missile capable of targeting incoming ballistic missiles - jumped at the chance and brought Gene on board.

 

For the past eighteen months the EPD had conducted extensive research using high-altitude balloons and Sounding Rockets - a small rocket-powered projectile dubbed SKYLANCE which carried scientific instrumentation beyond the atmosphere and transmitted the data back to the receiver station. Werner had began to design a new rocket engine when the funding to EPD was cut in favour of Project Helios - the construction of a large-scale solar power plant. Early tests had proven promising and unlike Werner's rocket the technology was readily available, resulting in the Provisional Government authorising the construction. The EPD was disbanded and the remaining funds were transferred to the development of the P-99 by the KAF.

 

Never one to back down Werner had sought out private funding from civilian investors and founded the Korvegan Space Agency. Numbering less than one hundred personnel and operating on a shoestring budget the civilian agency continued its research whilst searching for a way to build its first launch vehicle. The Korvegan Space Centre - which Gene assured me sounded grander than it actually was - was capable of constructing small prototypes such as SKYLANCE but larger rocket components would need to be sourced elsewhere. Using his former connections with Rockomax Conglomerate - the builders of the VK-1 Engine - Werner tried to convince the Board of Directors to supply a dozen engines to the KSA. Rockomax ultimately refused - arguing that it could be seen as supplying weapons to the Independent Kerbal States by the Imperial Ruling Council.

 

Through his connections Gene had gotten wind of a former Resistance pilot named Jebediah Kerman who was seemingly an amateur rocketry enthusiast. Running a successful scrap business the pilot was a regular competitor in the annual Korvegan Air Race and had developed a simple rocket booster which could provide a short burst of speed to his aircraft. Gene had managed to get hold of the design and Werner recognised the engine as a crude copy of his VK-1. Further investigation into Jebediah's background revealed that he was a self-taught engineer which only piqued Werner's interest further. After contacting Jebediah directly - and learning that he was a big fan - Werner had convinced him to allow Gene to visit his workshop and inspect the latest designs he was working on.

 

After reading my article and in light of my experience in reviewing aerospace technology Werner had requested that I help Gene inspect the engines and offer my professional opinion as to whether they were viable. All of the components were labelled as being "Constructed From 100% Recycled Materials". The last thing that Werner wanted to do was send an expensive satellite into orbit on a launch vehicle made from scrap cars and refrigerators if it was going to blow up on the launch pad. In return for my help he would grant me an exclusive interview about the Korvegan Space Agency and use his contacts in the Korvegan Air Force to arrange flight time in one of the prototype P-99 Fighters. Gene sat back in his seat and downed the last of his coffee...a knowing smile spreading across his face as he waited for my reply.

 

He knew that it was a no-brainer.

 

"When do we leave?"

 

 

RF91ddU.jpg

"Val's Defence Weekly - Issue #18"

 

Edited by Kalidor

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And so it begins....

And this made me laugh - nicely done!

4 hours ago, Kalidor said:

All of the components were labelled as being "Constructed From 100% Recycled Materials". The last thing that Werner wanted to do was send an expensive satellite into orbit on a launch vehicle made from scrap cars and refrigerators if it was going to blow up on the launch pad.

 

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2 hours ago, KSK said:

And so it begins....

And this made me laugh - nicely done!

 

Thanks for mention in your thread @KSK

Glad you liked it :) I'm not too good writing humour but it got at least one laugh so it's all good.

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On Friday, October 28, 2016 at 11:32 PM, Kalidor said:

Thanks for mention in your thread @KSK

Glad you liked it :) I'm not too good writing humour but it got at least one laugh so it's all good.

Make that 2. In fact the mention on the First Flight thread is how I found this.

Loving the originality of the whole thing too.

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On 28 October 2016 at 11:32 AM, Kalidor said:

Thanks for mention in your thread @KSK

Glad you liked it :) I'm not too good writing humour but it got at least one laugh so it's all good.

You're more than welcome!

2 hours ago, AkuAerospace said:

Make that 2. In fact the mention on the First Flight thread is how I found this.

Loving the originality of the whole thing too.

And my job is done! Although I certainly hope that a few more folks follow Aku's lead.

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Chapter Two

 

Transport Aircraft "Rumrunner"

Balao Pass, Korvega

Altitude: 500m!!!

 

It was the third day of my journey to Jebediah Kerman's Scrap Yard. After being cooped up in the back of an All-Terrain vehicle somehow Gene had conned me into boarding a transport plane that looked like it was built at the turn of the century.  It reminded me somewhat of the transport I had flown during the latter days of the rebellion. Those wishing to visit the former rebel province had only two choices; travel first by boat and then spend days trekking across Korvega in a ATV, or hire a bush pilot and fly direct through the Frostback Mountains.

 

I wearily watched the sheer rock faces towering over our plane as we flew through the narrow canyon and clenched my fists as the aircraft was buffeted by a gust of wind. The Balao Pass follows the winding route of the Balao River and threads its way through the Frostback Mountains. At altitudes over three thousand metres aircraft are subject to powerful wind shears and weather fronts that can catch even the most experienced pilots off guard. Even if you were lucky enough to survive a crash the chances of rescue in the remote location were slim-to-none. During the rebellion the pass was a hotbed of resistance activity and prior to that - during the prohibition era - smugglers used to transport contraband under the noses of Imperial Custom Officials. By flying at perilously low altitudes the smugglers avoided the worst of the treacherous conditions and could reach Kerbin City in half the time it would take circumventing the mountain range.

 

The face of a young girl poked through the curtain separating the cockpit from the passenger compartment and cupped her hands to her mouth - yelling that we were two minutes away from landing and we should strap in before disappearing again. I glanced over at Gene who put down his magazine and casually clicked his seatbelt into place and then glanced at my belt which had remained fastened and tightened for the duration of the trip - giving it a reassuring tug.  As a former combat pilot it was not the airworthiness of the plane, nor the perilous terrain through which we were flying that concerned me. Through a gap in the curtain I watched the young girl - barely a teenager I might add - settle back into the pilot seat and wipe her nose on the back of her flight suit before lining up for the final approach.

 

During the flight Gene explained that Xuli - our pilot - lost her father during the rebellion. To put food on the table for her mother and younger sisters she took a job flying cargo through the pass. In the aftermath of the rebellion hers was not an uncommon story. Within the Agricultural Combines - the large farming communities spread across Korvega - children of all ages stepped up to provide for their families while their parents and older brothers fought for the resistance. Should one or both of the parents die, then it was expected that the eldest male child would become head of the family - regardless of what age they where.  Coming from a spoilt Imperial upbringing it was my first lesson in humility that Korvega had to teach me...and it would not be the last!

 

Despite my concerns the flight through the pass was relatively smooth and as we touched down on the grass airstrip I tried in vain to suppress a sigh of relief. Gene unbuckled his belt and clambered into the back of the compartment to retrieve our luggage whilst I poked my head through the curtains to thank Xuli. The young girl was busy scrawling on a clipboard and glanced over her shoulder - smiling sweetly. I thanked her for a smooth ride...a little white lie...and asked if she was going home. To my shock she nudged a musty mattress jammed where the co-pilot's seat would usually be and explained the plane was her home. The more flights she did, the more money she could send back to her family. After refuelling and getting some food, she would be flying out again until it got too dark. Then...same again tomorrow! Everything the young girl owned was in this plane. The contents of my kitchen probably cost more than all of it put together. At a loss of what else to say I thanked her again and hurriedly joined Gene on the airfield as he arranged transportation.

 

I thought the Empire had it bad!

 

The same recurring thought rebounded in my head as I waited for Gene - threatening to drive me insane! What I thought were the hardships I suffered during the aftermath of the rebellion had paled in comparison to what the Korvegans had suffered. A group of children ran past the plane wearing rough homespun clothing whilst a young mother - heavily pregnant - scrubbed her laundry in a barrel of dirty water outside her shack. As I clambered into the back of yet another ATV I could not have been more relieved. At least once the door was closed I could block out the images of the impoverished people from my mind...for a time at least.

 

****

 

As we pulled into Jebediah Kerman's Junkyard I doubted that we would find anything but disappointment here. Wrecks of old military vehicles, planes and patrol boats were stacked on top of each other as they waited to be smelted - almost like a mausoleum for military hardware. Threading our way through the maze of wrecks we came to a stop at what seemed to be the heart of the operation - a collection of warehouses containing smelters and crushers to process the scrap. Clambering out of the ATV I stretched my aching muscles as Gene called to a nearby worker to find out were Jebediah was. The worker grunted something in reply and waved a hand over his shoulder before continuing about his business.

 

Charming.

 

I followed Gene towards a building reminiscent of a hanger on an airfield at the far end of the junkyard and found the elusive scrap merchant working inside...headphones over his ears and singing badly out of tune as he tinkered with his pride and joy - a stubby, custom built racing plane that I desperately wanted to fly as soon as I saw her. The aircraft had a bare metal finish - polished like a mirror - and sported the logo for the Junkyard behind the cockpit and on the wings. Beneath the engine cowling - stencilled in bright red paint - was the lettering Jeb-A-Flyer III. As if the aircraft was not impressive enough dozens of trophies and medals lined the wall at the back of the hanger along with a poster for the upcoming Korvegan Air Race.

 

Very carefully, Gene tapped Jebediah on the shoulder to get his attention. The scrap merchant jumped out of his skin and banged his head on the engine cowling - grumbling under his breath. Upon seeing Gene he switched off the radio attached to his belt and extended his hand warmly - a grin blossoming on his face. Pleasantries were exchanged but I did not fail to notice his smile falter when he was introduced to me. Like most resistance pilots I assumed that Jebediah had at least heard of me. To my surprise he explained that we had actually flown against each other in combat - a brief clash between the Emperor's Fighter Wing and Jebediah's Squadron as they attacked shipping off the coast of Kerbin City. I politely explained that I had flown a lot of sorties during the war and could not remember every engagement. Jebediah shrugged and explained to Gene that his squadron shot up a number of Vultures during the battle despite being outnumbered six-to-one.

 

Which was an exaggeration of course. 

 

Whilst the Emperor's Fighter Wing did indeed have a total of six squadrons they were separated into two fighter groups - each totalling thirty six aircraft. In practice only one fighter group was deployed while the other was held in reserve, meaning Jebediah could not have flown against the full wing. Also, though I did not admit it to Jebediah at the time, I remembered the engagement to which he referred very well. It was the day that I...along with the rest of the Emperor's Fighter Wing...realised that Resistance pilots were not to be underestimated. In addition to loosing several pilots to enemy fire, I had to limp back to Kerbin City in a Vulture that looked like it had been attacked by termites. Thus, there would be no love lost between Jebediah and I. The war was still fresh in our minds and both of us had lost friends and comrades to the other side.

 

Gene asked Jebediah about his rocket engines and we followed him upstairs to his study. Miniatures of rockets and aircraft dotted the shelves whilst engine components littered the desks. Producing an engine about the size of his forearm mounted on a wooden display stand Jebediah explained that he had acquired a VK-1 Rocket Engine from an unexploded bomb and set about reverse engineering it to suit his own needs. Gesturing to a schematic on the wall of his study he explained that the LV-0...his first copy of Werner's design...would be mounted beneath Jeb-A-Flyer III to provide a six second speed boost during Air Races. The organisers were happy to let him use it...provided that the booster was made available to the other competitors too.

 

I mused aloud that there was little practical use for such a small engine in Werner's plans - particularly one made from scrap metal. Gene glared at me warningly but he need not have worried about upsetting Jebediah. Smiling insufferably he waved us to a door at the back of his study and onto a balcony that circled another hanger. Here engineers were hard at work on an engine ten times the size of LV-0. Jebediah proudly explained that we were looking at the first production LV-T30 Reliant Rocket Engine. The design had been test fired and successfully powered a sounding rocket to a height of 68km through the use of a spin stabilised aerodynamic setup. As he explained it more than one test launches were aborted mid-flight when the sounding rocket toppled end-over-end after encountering air resistance. Spinning the rocket like a bullet proved to be the most effective way of ensuring that it remained on-course, though Jebediah secretly hoped that Werner could come up with a better solution.

 

Alongside the engine were fuel tanks in several different sizes - built from metal salvaged from the scrap yard Jebediah explained. Gene nodded approvingly - his eyes sparkling at the prospect of providing Werner with the components he needed to successfully Launch the Space Programme. He asked Jebediah how many LV-T30 engines his engineers could construct and was told in no uncertain terms that the scrap yard had enough surplus scrap metal to build four engines and a number of fuel tanks at zero cost - but if Werner required additional engines or fuel tanks then he would have to pay for them. It was a blatant publicity stunt. If Werner succeeded, history would recall that the first Kerbal Satellite rode into orbit aboard one of Jebediah Kerman's Rockets.

 

Regardless how I felt about Jebediah, I was there to do a job. Requesting all the technical documents and research data from the LV T-30 I retreated to a small café outside the scrap yard and began ploughing through the figures. On paper the design seemed workable, but knowing nothing about rockets I would have to leave the final decision to Werner. What I could tell was that Jebediah had not fudged the results - recording every success and failure without bias. I concluded that - provided Werner could find a way to stabilise the rocket during atmospheric flight - then the LV T-30 could be the answer to all his problems. Gene was happy with my assessment and submitted the report to Werner for his consideration.

 

Meeting with Jebediah again - and after promising to bite my tongue - Gene signed a contract securing four T30 engines and an assortment of fuel tanks to be delivered to the Korvegan Space Centre by the end of the month. As promised Werner had held up his part of the bargain and managed to pull some strings with C7 Aerospace and KAF so that a single Ocelot Fighter would be transferred to the Korvegan Space Centre to conduct High Altitude Test Flights prior to the launch. Not only would I get to fly the new P-99 but I would also have a front row seat and backstage pass to the launch itself.

 

The following morning Gene escorted me back to the airstrip where we had landed the day before and arranged for a livestock transport to take me back to Kerbin City. Though I was not entirely thrilled at the prospect of flying with live animals I was relieved to see that the plane in question was at least a design with which I was familiar and flown by a mature pilot. Gene promised that - if everything went to plan and the parts were delivered - he would see me at the Space Centre at the end of the month. Taking a deep breath - literally - I boarded the transport and settled down amongst the animals for the uncomfortable ride back to Kerbin City. Despite seeing the hardships the Korvegan people suffered everyday all I wanted at that particular moment was to drop into a hot bath and fall asleep in a soft bed.

Edited by Kalidor

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48 minutes ago, Kalidor said:

the LV-0...his first copy of the Werner's design...would be mounted beneath Jeb-A-Flyer III to provide a six second speed boost during Air Races. The organisers were happy to let him use it...provided that the booster was made available to the other competitors too.

My favourite line so far in this chapter.

I'm loving the picture of Kerbin that's emerging, an original but at the same time realistic feeling world that's really pulling me in.

Keep it up

Aku

(Addition)

I just finished the chapter, I like this origin story of the early parts, also this image of Jebediah, looking forward to seeing more of his personality.

Edited by AkuAerospace
Finished reading the chapter and more to say

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34 minutes ago, AkuAerospace said:

I'm loving the picture of Kerbin that's emerging, an original but at the same time realistic feeling world that's really pulling me in.

*snip*

I just finished the chapter, I like this origin story of the early parts, also this image of Jebediah, looking forward to seeing more of his personality.

Agreed on both counts. I liked the description of the junkyard too with all its heavy machinery - it sounded like the kind of place you could actually make something in! And yeah - more of this Jeb please!

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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"

Edited by Kalidor

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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!

Edited by Kalidor

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The players are all here, the pieces are on the board...

The game is afoot!

An excellent chapter as always and bonus points for KOSPERO! I don't suppose the Kalbion engineers were using high test peroxide as propellant by any chance? :) 

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On Friday, October 28, 2016 at 8:57 AM, KSK said:

 

@KSK Hehe, no...I'm pretty confident it was a fusion of tea and brylcream.

:-)

God save the Kueen.

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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!!

Edited by Kalidor

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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!!

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