The KABOOM Kronicle: (Mis)Adventures in a 3.2x Scale GPP Modded Career - Chapter 23 - Ending on a High Note - SSTO to Tellumo

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The KABOOM Kronicle: (Mis)Adventures in a 3.2x Scale GPP Modded Career


The Plan: I'd had this idea rolling around in my head for some time for an epic career playthrough for my fictitious space agency, the Kerbal Administration for Big Overpowered Orbital Machines (KABOOM). Inspired by the likes of Shania_L's 64k space program, Eddiew's c'logs, and the Ussari space program, I'd decided to keep a diary of this career and share it in a mission report thread. I got things started up, and had played through what would have been the first eight chapters or so. Things were going well, and I was about to start posting mission reports.

Then Galileo's Planet Pack came out.

Holy moly, this thing is beautiful, and big, and new, and interesting. This... this... this is the piece I had been missing. As someone who has played KSP for years, the idea of having new places to go and explore is simply too powerful to resist. With both a heavy heart and joyful anticipation, the modded career in the Kerbol system was abandoned. After a bit of fiddling, a new career save was born using Galileo's system. Exploration will now commence from the new homeworld of Gael. The revised plan is found below.

Major features of this career are as follows:

  • 3.2x scale (for a proper sense of grandeur and to make things a bit harder – delta V requirements are multiplied by 1.8) without use of SMURFF, RealFuels, or any procedural parts
  • TAC-LS (to make things a bit harder)
  • Stage Recovery (to make mission planning and craft design more of a challenge, and save some funds)
  • Kerbal Research and Development (to make things a bit easier in 3.2x in the long run, and soak up science points so there's a reason to keep exploring)
  • Karbonite and KPBS for more self-sufficient infrastructure
  • A variety of parts mods, mainly by NecroBones and Nertea
  • Strategia and Contract Configurator for mission variety
  • Other quality of life mods and prettifying mods

Goals for this career:

  • Build lots of infrastructure – if in doubt, send satellites, a station, and a lander
  • Mid game goal is to colonize both of Gael's moons; end game is to colonize at least two other planetary bodies (one of which should be Tellumo) with fully self-sustaining infrastructure; and visit all the anomalies we can find along the way
  • Do something major and cool I've never done before, such as a big circular station with many docked ships, or a huge surface base with dozens of Kerbals
  • Build a surface base in a somewhat inaccessible place, such as a moutaintop or in a canyon
  • Use some new mods or ones I haven't used in a long time, including KPBS and TAC-LS
  • Bonus objective – put boots on every body for the first time since 0.90.

KABOOM's (brief) list of roleplaying rules:

  • Only seasoned test pilots (Jeb and Val) may be hurled upwards by a purely SRB lifter.
  • Stages should be designed for recovery to the extent possible. Any stage not intended for recovery should be minimal, ideally consisting of one engine, one tank, and one decoupler.
  • Kerbal R&D shall be limited to improving parts consistent with known or reasonably foreseeable physics, chemistry, and materials science. Improvements to LFO engines and SRBs shall be limited to stats (such as Isp and TWR) found in real-world rockets.
  • LV-N use shall be limited to vacuum environments.
  • Whenever there are more than five million funds in the bank, new impressive things must be built to bring the total back down to four million or less. The Kerbals want to feel like they're getting their money's worth.
  • Use an interesting naming system. No more of this uninspired “Mun Lander 1” or “Kerbin Station 125 km” stuff.
  • No more than three LFO cores using crossfeed may be used for any launch, similar to a Falcon Heavy. 

One final thing – I reserve the right to introduce universe-altering cataclysmic events. While the Kerbals are still shaking off the effects of being teleported to Gael, things may still change even further. Everything might suddenly inflate to 6.4x scale, or Rald may replace an existing body, or even more planets might suddenly appear.  While I'll try to save all the Kerbals I can and salvage infrastructure to the extent feasible, there will likely be some level of loss and reconstruction effort after any cataclysms which may occur.

With that, let's get to it!

Chapter 1 - Getting Started

Chapter 2 - Leaving LGO

Chapter 3 - Paying the Bills

Chapter 4 - Iota or Bust

Chapter 5 - Setting out for Ceti

Chapter 6 - Speeding Towards Destiny

Chapter 7 - Interplanetary Preparations

Chapter 8 - Turbo Time Warp

Chapter 9 - Interplanetary Arrivals and New Stations

Chapter 10 - Evacuate and Begin Anew

Chapter 11 - Back in the Saddle, and an Icarus Encounter

Chapter 12 - Hermes Space Program

Chapter 13 - The Probes Have Landed

Chapter 14 - Thalia's Curse, and Something Completely Different

Chapter 15 - Interplanetary Preparations (aka Thalia, We're Heading Your Way)

Chapter 16 - Lili Investigation, Boots on Thalia, and a Side Quest

Chapter 17 - Our Heroes Return

Chapter 18 - Niven Bound

Chapter 19 - Boots on Niven, and the Chariot Returns

Chapter 20 - Karborundum Space Program

Chapter 21 - Gael Exploration

Chapter 22 - Kerbals on Icarus, and The Beginning of The End

Chapter 23 - Ending on a High Note - SSTO to Tellumo


Edited by Norcalplanner
Chapter 23 added

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Chapter 1 - Getting Started

Because starting a career involves retreading a lot of well-worn ground, even for something in a new system, I'm going to keep this brief.

Here are the settings:



All other settings are fairly standard and/or default.


The KABOOM Kronicle begins with the launch of Argus I, a classic fleahopper design.  Although Jeb tried to make it to the ocean, the limited delta V meant that he fell short of his goal.  Seems like a good start.



With a fresh infusion of funds and technology, Val is chosen to leave Gael's atmosphere with a two stage solid-only rocket, the Argus II.  Alas, this also fell short of its goal, topping out at 54 km before falling back down.  Hopefully this won't turn into a pattern.



The Argus II is modified by adding another Hammer to the bottom, making it a three-stage rocket.  Clearly, KABOOM has lofty aspirations - however, I don't think we're going to stay on this curve of adding another stage for each new rocket.  Argus III sallies forth, and finally makes it out of the atmosphere with Jeb at the controls.


After hitting a peak altitude of 180 km, Jeb falls back to Gael.  He's fortunate that KABOOM administrators were also using this flight to test a single radial drogue chute, as he might not have slowed down in time without it.  The Argus III came down through some lovely clouds, courtesy of SVE and Scatterer, with their custom tunings for GPP.



Funds are spent upgrading the pad to allow larger and heavier rockets.  With that improvement and a fresh contract for reaching orbit, the Glorious I is sent skyward.  Jeb may have been first to space, but Val will be first to orbit, if all goes well.  This new design uses a two-stage central LFO core with the recently-unlocked Terrier engine for the upper stage, and four small SRBs courtesy of SpaceY.  Getting to orbit in 3.2x generally takes around 5.3 km/s of delta V, so this is a bit bigger than typical first orbital craft.


Looking good so far.  Staging the SRBs, which promptly came back together and exploded shortly after this image was taken.


Staging the bottom LFO stage.  A good ol' LVT-45 powered the bottom half of the central core.


Success!  Val has made orbit!  Although the planet is re-scaled in this save, the atmosphere remains untouched at 70 km in height.


Val tried raising her Apoapsis to gain additional science, but forgot that high space begins at 1,000 km in this save.  With battery power rapidly depleting and only 200 m/s left in the tank, she heads back down after only a single orbit and safely splashes down.



With orbit in the rear view mirror, the preliminaries are over.  Time to start doing more interesting things... in the next chapter.

Edited by Norcalplanner

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Chapter 2 - Leaving LGO

With the basic Glorious I design able to take a single Kerbal to LGO, it's time to see what more this general configuration can do.  A revision is ordered for the greater delta V requirements of a polar orbit, including additional science gear (including the newly-researched materials science bay), along with more batteries and some fixed solar panels.  Combined with an upgraded astronaut complex to allow EVAs, there are high hopes for a lot more science.

The Glorious II ascends to the heavens.  The new craft has more fuel in both LFO stages, along with four of the largest size 0 SpaceY SRBs.  Fins are added to the SRBs in an attempt to keep them from crashing into each other, but this is only partially successful.  


Once in a polar orbit, the Glorious II proves to be a much more capable craft.  With a probe core fitted, it is Bob's turn to get some serious science done.


After getting science from many EVAs and a brief stint to HGO, Bob comes back down after two orbits.  It's a bit more challenging coming back down in 3.2x, but it's not bad if you use some common sense - like actually retaining some ablator in your heat shield.


Many accolades are given, courtesy of Final Frontier, and 133 science points are added to KABOOM's total.  This image also shows that I have Kerbal Environmental Institute installed, which is helping the science progression of my career.  After doing KSC science rovers/rollers/wingless-jets more times than I can remember, this mod is a welcome addition.



KABOOM administration has secured an Iota flyby contract.  We'll need to be careful not to enter orbit, otherwise it will compromise the Iota Probes strategy from Strategia.  A new design using the freshly-unlocked Octo probe core is ordered, christened the Eagle I.  The lifter is a modified version of the Glorious II, this time featuring an additional center stage and four of the size 1 SpaceY SRBs.  These are a bit larger and more powerful than Thumpers, and include thrust vectoring.  We're also using a fairing for the first time.


An attempt is made to save the SRBs by attaching radial parachutes to them for the first time.  The effort is only partially successful, as two of the SRBs come back together and explode shortly after staging.  On a totally unrelated topic, I'm really liking the volcano.  I think I need to turn up my terrain height a bit - right now terrain is 1.28x normal height, and the volcano loses some of its panache with the flatter profile.


North of 50 km and the fairing is staged.  This shot shows a lot of craft info for you data hounds out there.  Let me know in the comments if you like me to include these every now and then.


With orbit achieved, it's time to deploy the dish antennas and head for Iota.  You can see a bit in this shot that most of the small probey bits are hiding behind a 1.25m heat shield.  Oh yes - we're going to recover this thing.


Eagle I makes its approach to Iota.  Definitely not the Mun.


After furiously taking as many science readings as possible during the low orbit flyby, Eagle I emerges from Iota's shadow and continues its trip back home to Gael.  A small burn is made to lower the Gael Pe to 30 km.


Reentry is flamey, but uneventful.  Everything behind the heat shield remains unscathed - even the DMagic magnetometer boom which is sticking out a bit.


If it were sentient, the Eagle I probe would have been proud of how much data it retrieved and it would have received a medal.  (It might also have been upset at the heat and G's experienced during re-entry.) Although a few readings were transmitted en route, recovery of the probe with the full value versions of the goo and science bay experiments added 341 science to KABOOM's pool of knowledge.



So it's possible to go to another body, and make it back to Gael intact.  But before we head to Iota again, we need to earn some scratch to upgrade some facilities and unlock some more parts... in the next chapter.

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Chapter 3 - Paying the Bills

So there's good news and bad news.  The good news is that I'm gathering a lot of science, helped by the Kerbal Environmental Institute mod.  The bad news is that funds aren't keeping up, so I'm lagging behind in building upgrades and parts I want to unlock.  It's time to embrace the commercial aspects of the KABOOM space program and earn some dough.

A contract is obtained to place a small satellite with no special characteristics into a 10,000 by 12,000 km equatorial orbit.  The Glorious II lifter is altered and a new small satellite placed on it instead, under a fairing. Dubbed the Unicorn I, the design is wheeled out to the launch pad.


Not many points for style or originality, but the payload with half of the upper stage fuel still intact makes it to orbit.  Final transfer to HGO is uneventful and undocumented.



Following this uneventful but lucrative launch, an even more lucrative contract is secured for the first tourists in space.  Since there are four wanting to go up, KABOOM decides to try and recreate one of their favorite designs, the Bluebird.  However, because not all the standard parts for the design are unlocked yet, it's decided to call it the Bluebird 0 so nobody will confuse it with a real Bluebird.  Looks OK, but not great lifting off.


In all honesty, KABOOM's designers like the Bluebird way more than they should.  It's just designed to be a simple space taxi to get four untrained Kerbals to orbit.  In the fully developed version, however, every single part is either picked up with Stage Recovery or recovered after landing.  We'll get back to this design later when we have better parts, but for the moment, the four hapless tourists enjoy the ride back down to gaela firma after an uneventful deorbit and reentry.  


I'm still waiting to see these awesome tourist clothes on a real Kerbal walking around the KSC.



With new parts unlocked and a fresh level 2 Admin building, it's time to grab another strategy and choose the next goal for the KABOOM program.


Iota probes it is.  We're heading Iota's way, and this time we're going to land in multiple biomes to collect as much science as we can... in the next chapter. 

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Chapter 4 - Iota or Bust

After the lackluster showing in the previous chapter, KABOOM's public relations department has decreed that future chapters should have more interesting pictures.  And more excitement!  And more exclamation points!

With the Iota Probes strategy in hand, the existing Eagle I probe is further developed.  The new Eagle II emerges as a do-it-all scanning satellite and biome hopping lander.  However, no return capabilities are fitted.  This one is going to Iota to stay, and it has a lot of delta V for biome hopping.


Heading up.  This is the part of a career game where things really start to feel alive and interesting for me. With the Skipper and Kickbacks in hand, a lot more possibilities open up.


In orbit atop the remains of the Poodle-powered orbital insertion stage, plus the Terrier-powered transfer stage.  I'm liking the look of the top of the probe - kinds of reminds me of the Sears Tower (or whatever it's called these days) in Chicago.


After arriving at Iota, the Eagle II is put into a polar orbit, and the ScanSat gear is deployed for terrain and biome scanning.  It's always a bit awkward with the solar panels and batteries at this point in a career - hopefully I'll have enough juice to keep all the scanning equipment going.


Scanning complete and transfer stage discarded, it's time to head down.


Contact!  The Eagle II has landed.  It visits a total of four biomes during its trip, then remains on the surface to take advantage of the occasional "science from the surface of Iota" contract.  You can also see from the MET clock that it spent over a month doing its scanning.



The trip to Iota with Eagle II was a rousing success.  So rousing, in fact, that KABOOM administrators (in consultation with public relations) decided to ride the wave of enthusiasm and conduct a manned landing on Iota next.  The Glorious III is developed and Bob Kerman is tapped as the lucky explorer.


Heading to orbit and staging the SRBs.  This design, while functional, is squarely in the adolescence of KABOOM's space program.  We have the knowledge and some of the parts to pull this off, but the Skipper is still the biggest LFO engine we have.  With the higher delta V requirements of 3.2x, things look a little awkward - still, we've better balanced the SpaceY decouplers with the Kickbacks and the parachutes, so nothing is crashing into each other any more after staging.


Staging the side stacks.  One of the rules I have (which really should be added to the OP) is that any fuel crossfeed is limited to two side stacks feeding a central core.  Asparagus is right out.  Once we have bigger parts this won't be necessary, but for now it is.


Enjoying the Engine Lighting effects after fairing jettison.  Engine Lighting is one of those mods, like Scatterer or SVE, which just kicks things up a notch.  And now that I finally built a new rig earlier this year, I can finally run all the eye candy.


Burning for Iota.  I've come to the conclusion that a Poodle and a Rockomax 16 is effectively KABOOM's Centaur.  It tends to be the default upper stage for a wide variety of loads, sometimes a bit too big, sometimes a bit too small, but nearly always effective.  And easy to slap together in the VAB. :-)


Heading in to Iota.  A bit better lighting on the lander on this one.  I'm honestly not sure why I used the conical tank, since the whole thing ended up being inside a fairing.  Weird.


Parts of Iota look a bit pixelated at certain altitudes, typically above 20 km or so.  Not sure if this is a GPP thing, a Sigma Dimensions thing, or a Kopernicus thing.  Doesn't bother me too much, though.


Action shot!  Almost down!


Shot for the front page of the New Gael Times confirming that yes, Virginia, there is a Santa... strike that, I mean, yes, it is possible to land a Kerbal on another world.


After hitting just two biomes, Bob heads for home.  After going EVA to transfer all the science to the capsule, the rest of the lander is ejected, destined for fiery destruction.


Bob splashes down uneventfully, and is awarded many more accolades thanks to Final Frontier.



The public is clamoring for more moon missions.  To keep pushing the boundaries of exploration while giving the public what it wants, the eye of KABOOM focuses on Ceti.  Exploration of Gael's outermost moon awaits... in the next chapter.

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Chapter 5 - Setting Out for Ceti

With fresh science to be had and a new contract for a Ceti flyby, the by-now venerable Eagle probe design is updated yet again.  The Eagle IV emerges from the VAB, and heads to the pad. (Eagle III was a polar surveyor for Gael, which managed to avoid the camera's prying eye.)


Eagle IV in orbit with the trusty Centaur-ish upper stage.  Need to come up with an actual name for that thing since I use it so much.


Making a minor correction burn near Ceti.  As before, it's important for this initial probe not to go into orbit so it won't compromise the Ceti Probes strategy in Strategia.


We're definitely not in Kansas anymore, Toto.


Heading back to Gael and coming in over the southern hemisphere.  Because we had some fuel left (KABOOM engineers are still getting familiar with the 3.2x Gaelic delta V requirements) it's put to use scrubbing off some speed from the returning probe before it hits the atmosphere.


Reentry.  Thankfully the magnetometer and telescope remain unscathed, even though it looks like they should be getting some heat.


And this is why you choose the appropriate strategy for the body you're heading toward.  World milestone rewards get very lucrative.



Eagle IV is followed up by Eagle V, a slighly updated version of the Eagle II probe.  It does the same thing as Eagle II did, only for Ceti - scan the body first, then head down as a lander.


Eagle V after the SRBs being staged (which are the first of the 1.875m SpaceY motors).  


This probe did a great job, visiting three biomes and fulfilling the Ceti probes contract.  Sadly, no photos were taken after this one when it was preparing to leave LGO.



Following Eagle V was Pegasus I. This was the first use of the orbital telescope and giant eavesdropping dish, needed to complete a contract.  This also marked the first launch after a minor universe-altering cataclysm - all the terrain became higher (now 0.4375 on Sigma Dimensions, for a final height of 1.4x standard) and the sun became a little brighter.  Hopefully this and future screenshots will be a bit easier on the eyes.



Ummm... NO.  (I think contracts need a bit of work with GPP, since I haven't gotten any station contracts yet, even though I have Bases and Stations installed.  I'll fiddle around with this offline.)



Now that we've gotten some science from Ceti, it's time to start having some fun with the Impact! mod. We'll start landing seismometers and smashing things into the moons... in the next chapter.

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Chapter 6 - Speeding Towards Destiny

[Editorial mode on] It's become increasingly clear that my aptitude and desire to play my 3.2x GPP career far outstrips my aptitude and desire to post about it.  I'm really missing the embedded imgur album thing that the forums used to allow, as things are now a bit more tedious.  The KABOOM Kronicle is now almost two weeks behind where my career is currently at, so things are not as fresh in my mind when I'm writing about them.  With this in mind, I'm going to try and do fewer pics to move things along more quickly.  For those of you following this, please let me know if there's any aspect of what I've done so far that you'd like to see more or less of.  Ship design and discussion?  Operational action shots (docking, staging, landing, etc.)?  Beauty shots of Galileo's Planet Pack system?  Let me know. [Editorial mode off]

With the seismometer and spectrograph unlocked from the Impact! mod, it's time to place some sensors around Ceti and Iota.  First off the pad with this new effort is the Vulcan I, lifting off on a brand new lifter featuring the newly-unlocked Mainsail and four Kickbacks.  Now things are starting to get fun.


Vulcan I approaches Ceti, using a slightly modified version of what is now known as the Ajax upper stage (Poodle plus Rockomax 32).


Before landing for good, the Vulcan surface probe with the seismometer does a bit of biome hopping to grab some more science.  Since there's still fuel left in the upper transfer stage (Terrier and FLT-800 - hmmm, maybe that needs a name too...) the first few hops are spent perched precariously on the Terrier engine bell.  Eventually the Terrier is discarded and the probe lands for real.


The Vulcan I orbital satellite logs the first biome-specific impact on the poles.



The next launch is Pioneer Station, an early-ish LGO science station.  There was no contract for this yet (still hadn't figured out problems with Contract Configurator and Bases and Stations at this point) but I wanted to start cranking away on some science.  Here it is heading skyward, featuring dozens of Z-1K batteries to power experiments and life support during the dark side transit of Gael.


On the way to final orbit, and enjoying the Engine Lighting mod.  The newer version models glow coming off of hot engines.  Me like.



The Martlet I heads skyward to deliver a crew to Pioneer Station.  Pretty basic design, but it has some nice 5-way RCS ports from one of the many mods I'm using - not quite sure which one, though.


In orbit and docked with Pioneer Station, Martlet I's crew transfers to the station to begin the science grind.  There's Jeb to pilot the Martlet (since there's no probe core fitted) along with Hadzon and Seested to churn out the science.



The Vulcan I design is refined into the Vulcan II, taking both a satellite and a lander to Iota for further Impact! experiments.


Stacked lander and probe showing what was hiding under the Vulcan II's fairing.


A nice shot of the Vulcan II lander almost down on Iota's surface.



Time for a dedicated impact probe to reach Iota.  The few experiments done so far have generally been empty stages, but the Sisyphus I has no job other than to smash into Gael's inner moon.


That's more like it.  Almost a ton of spacecraft headed straight towards a specific biome on Iota at over 5 km/s.


It worked even better than expected.  With that one impact measuring over 23 GJ of energy, all of the science to be had from the seismograph is gathered on the first impact attempt. [Disclaimer - this is not my first time using the Impact! mod, but I didn't expect things to go quite so well.]


An identical craft, the Sisyphus Ia is launched at Ceti with similar results, but without any photo documentation.  Wow, that went pretty quick.

Some transfer windows to other planets are coming up, including Tellumo.  We have some contracts to do orbital surveys using specific instruments, so we'll need to launch some larger, interplanetary probes so they're ready to go when the time is right... in the next chapter..


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Chapter 7 - Interplanetary Preparations

Even though the Tellumo transfer window is a few months out, it's decided to launch a large interplanetary probe anyway.  It'll hang out for a few months in LGO before heading out.

The craft which finally emerges from the VAB is christened Hermes I.  With a slightly improved Mainsail beneath three orange tanks of LFO and four of the medium 1.875m SpaceY SRBs, KABOOM is finally making highly capable craft that are consistent with their overarching Cheap & Cheerful design philosophy.  We'll see this craft more in detail later.


With Stage Recovery enabled and the large radial parachutes from Lithobrake Exploration Technologies unlocked, staging boosters for recovery is now an easy and reliable exercise.



KABOOM finally obtains a few contracts which require a Kerbal presence on Ceti.  In a feat of dazzling uninspired bureaucracy, the Glorious III is tweaked only slightly and renamed the Glorious IV.  Even though the parts are no longer cutting edge, it's still a reliable way to get a Kerbal to a moon and back.


Siuna Kerman is tapped as the lucky scientist to go all the way to Ceti.  After landing and mugging for the camera, she does a lot of science, visiting three biomes.


Many kudos are given upon Siuna's safe return, with over 1,000 science points in tow.



A new probe is rolled out of the VAB to fix a problem.  Dubbed Samwise I, the probe is designed to bring some science to Pioneer station in LGO.  The station, which was launched with fairly early technology, has never had a full tank of science data to convert into science points.  Now that some new parts are unlocked, including the gravioli detector, the plan is to gather a lot of science, then transfer it to the station.  The launcher is a single SRB with a Terrier-powered upper stage.


After gathering a lot of science in both LGO and HGO, Samwise I heads in to dock with Pioneer Station.


The probe didn't quite fill up the science data tank, but it's a lot better.  The station should be able to churn out science for several months with this data.



After a careful reading of the requirements for the Tellumo Probes strategy in Strategia, it's discovered that it's OK to enter orbit and won't prevent the full use of the strategy.  With this in mind, the Hermes design is retrofitted with orbit-friendly scanners, including those for resources, terrain, and biomes.  Named the Hermes Ia, the probe is sent aloft.


A somewhat better view of what the probe looks like.  With a partially fueled Ajax upper stage, the probe has around 7 km/s of delta v while waiting in LGO.  The original Hermes probe, without the orbital scanning gear, is retargeted towards Thalia, which appears to be within its capabilities (and also has the next open transfer window).



With some time to kill before the probes go interplanetary, it's decided to finally build a plane and do a little bit of exploring on Gael.  The optimistically named Galileo I (to honor the creator of the planet pack) looks good as it makes a close pass by the volcano.


Alas, the Galileo one turns out to be a piece of garbage.  Although it has a cargo bay full of instruments and a scientist on board to reset them, insufficient air intakes result in a starved engine which is low on power. To top it off, a field landing results in the engine smashing into the ground, putting an abrupt halt to further exploration.  The powerless craft is recovered, and KABOOM administration agrees to strip the Galileo I moniker from the craft - it's just not worthy of the name.



Since no station contracts have been offered yet, it's decided to remove the Bases and Stations contract pack and reenable stock station contracts.  Hopefully some will come up... in the next chapter.

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[Editorial mode on]

So the mismatch between time spent playing KSP and posting about it continues to grow.  Today I launched Vanguard Station, a 200-Kerbal outpost, into a 250 km equatorial Gael orbit.  It's intended to be a replacement for Pioneer Station, which has been in LGO for over a year at this point and is growing a bit long in the tooth.  I won't give any details about the other stations and craft around Iota and Ceti (as well as some other planets), but this picture gives you an idea of where the KABOOM program is at in terms of capability:


So, dear readers, what is your preference?  Keep slogging away the way I've been doing? Doing an epic one-photo-per-craft post to bring things up to the present?  Or just briefly describe what happened with only the occasional photo to illustrate the absolute most noteworthy achievements?  Just check in every now and then when something cool happens, and abandon any sort of a comprehensive record?

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Post what you want to. Certainly don't turn playing/posting into an unwelcome chore.  Maybe just whatever seems epic or noteworthy to you at the time.

One thing I would like to ask is what Sigma Dimensions settings did you settle on for x3.2?



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I like the comprehensive logs and a little less than one-photo-per-craft. But ease back or skip along as much as you may if you feel loss of inclination or increase of burden, such as just now when you say you've gotten far ahead in your game.

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18 hours ago, AVaughan said:

One thing I would like to ask is what Sigma Dimensions settings did you settle on for x3.2?

Here are my settings.  I'd note that I'm still running KSP 1.2.1 because everything is fairly stable and working at the moment:

// Base Settings

    Resize = 3.2
    Rescale = 3.2
    Atmosphere = 1
    dayLengthMultiplier = 2

// Advanced Settings

    geeASLmultiplier = 1
    landscape = 0.4375
    atmoVisualEffect = 1
    resizeScatter = 1
    CustomSoISize = 0
    CustomRingSize = 0
    atmoASL = 1
    tempASL = 1
    scanAltitude = 1

Please note that I kept the atmosphere height unchanged, which isn't for everyone.  With Kerbal R&D, I'll usually upgrade the heat tolerance of all my heat shields by one level, so this isn't an issue.  If you're not playing with Kerbal R&D, I'd recommend increasing the atmosphere height to at least 1.1 or 1.2.  Also, I haven't yet landed a Kerbal on Tellumo.  My probes were pulling over 15 Gs, while entering Tellumo's atmosphere, so I may need to tweak the atmosphere settings to avoid killing my intrepid explorers.

Thanks both of you for your input.  I've decided to do a quick catch up post hitting the highlights, then be a bit more selective moving forward rather than trying to capture the entire breadth of KABOOM's space program.  The new guideline is: no more than 3 photos per launch/mission, with duplicates only being described in the text, and lesser missions only getting one or two photos.

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Chapter 8 - Turbo Time Warp

As indicated in some of the posts above, I'm having much more fun and spending much more time actually playing through this career than posting about it.  Everything above occurred no later than December 9th, and as I write this it's the 22nd.  Something needs to be done... something drastic.

This chapter is going to be an experiment in minimalist storytelling in an attempt to bring the KABOOM Kronicle closer to the current state of the playthrough.  The goal is to average one picture and two sentences per mission.  Let's see how this goes.

All Contract Configurator packs were removed, and stock base and station contracts reenabled so we can get some funds for launching stations.



A three-Kerbal Mission using the Martlet II landed on Iota with a bunch of SEP experiments in KIS containers, but I suck at KIS and neglected to bring a scientist.  All the experimental parts were left in a heap on the surface of Iota, while the craft did a bit of biome-hopping then safely came back to Kerbin.



The tiny Pisa I lander probe, launched aboard a single SpaceY SRB lifter stage similar to the Samwise I, finally landed on Iota and completed a contract to test a size 0 decoupler while landed there.  The contract had been one of the first accepted, but somehow it was never completed until now.



Samwise I was undocked from Pioneer station and sent to Ceti orbit to pick up some more science and bring it back to the station.  Before heading back to LGO, it docked with Samwise II, a slightly larger probe, to fulfill a contract to dock in orbit around Ceti.



Hermes I departed LGO for Thalia, and returned the first science data from interplanetary space while making the journey.



The Cornelius I scanning satellite was lofted aboard a "poor man's asparagus" three-stage SRB lifter, combined with the newly named Achilles upper stage (an FLT-800 plus a Terrier).  The satellite went on to scan both Ceti and Iota for resources, biomes, and high-resolution terrain data.



The Courageous I probe mothership was launched to accompany the Hermes Ia to Tellumo and complete the Tellumo probes strategy.  Six lightweight probes were carried to make sure that at least three different biomes would be explored.



Communications were upgraded by launching the Inquisitor satellites, each with three of the largest relay antennas mounted on an Achilles upper stage.  


These large comm sats were placed in synchronized highly elliptical polar orbits to minimize blackouts due to LOS blockages from other planets.



Smaller commsats were launched as part of the Monarch program, which launched two craft each carrying three commsats.  At the conclusion of the program, both Iota and Ceti had three equidistant commsats in 2000 km equatorial orbits to pave the way for future exploration and colonization efforts.



Two identical orbital stations, dubbed Conqueror Station and Thunderer Station, were launched using a triple-core 3.75m launcher with an assist by SpaceY SRBs.


The stations were sent to low Iota orbit and low Ceti orbit, respectively, to aid further exploration and pave the way for more scientific research.  Val managed to stow away aboard Thunderer station; thankfully it launched with a full complement of TAC-LS gear and provisions.



Hermes I arrives at Thalia, and thankfully has enough delta V left to enter orbit.  With a little fiddling, the elliptical orbit it enters is just a stone's throw away from Eta's orbit, making for an easy future transfer to Thalia's moon.




The Bluebird II, an extra-long range version of the Bluebird orbital shuttle, is launched attached to an Illustrious I one-man lander, bound for Conqueror Station around Iota with a station crew on board.


The craft docks with Conqueror station, delivering the lander and the station crew of two scientists, one engineer, and one pilot.  An identical craft is launched to go to Thunderer Station, except that no pilot is a part of the crew (since Val already stowed away when Thunderer Station launched).

Closing notes and observations for this chapter:

1. Some of the Kerbal R&D investments are starting to pay off.  Each of those landers is highly capable, with over 4,000 m/s of delta V on tap.  Improved vacuum Isp of engines seems to be the favorite upgrade so far.  

2. Some of my habits gained from playing with USI-LS are showing.  Both Conqueror and Thunderer Stations with the Bluebird attached have room for 24 Kerbals and two cupolas, even though TAC-LS doesn't model habitation.

3. We've now chronicled missions flown up through December 17th.  Hopefully with the shorter style and the upcoming time off around the holidays, I'll be able to get caught up.  We'll find out... in the next chapter.

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Chapter 9 - Interplanetary Arrivals and New Stations

With all three orbital stations now manned, and three separate labs chewing on science data, it's time to shift focus outside of the Gael system.  The new focus - Tellumo, the gorgeous super-Kerbin type planet.  The planet is a tease, having a breathable atmosphere and liquid water, but with 1.8x normal gravity and 10x normal atmosphere density ASL.  Sounds a bit like the Hotel California - you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.  I'm liking it a lot.


Hermes Ia is the first to arrive at Tellumo.  This is my new favorite planet and a big part of the appeal of the GPP for me.  Hermes Ia goes into a highly elliptical polar orbit and takes specific science readings to fulfill an orbital survey contract.  Hermes Ia must stay in this orbit for over three months to fulfill the contract.


Courageous I arrives a day later, passing through Tellumo's striking rings.  The craft goes into orbit and then goes into a waiting mode, as the landing probes are dependent on the biome survey data to be provided by Hermes Ia, which won't be able to complete the survey until its contract is complete.


The Hermes Ia eventually completes its contract, then gets into a proper circular polar orbit.  Now it's time to get down to the serious business of finding out all we can about Tellumo's terrain, biomes, and resources.


With the orbital scans largely complete, the Courageous I is placed into LTO in preparation for launching the probes.


The first probe heads toward the southern ice cap with a fiery fanfare.  The G-meter was pegged at 15G for at least ten seconds, and I have no idea how high the G load actually got.  Landing Kerbals here and keeping them alive during reentry is going to be a challenge.


Success!  The first probe is down, and transmits the first science data from Tellumo.  Funds are just rolling in at this point due to the combination of Strategia's "To Boldly Go III" and "Tellumo Probes" strategies, which are both active at the moment.


The second probe landed in the Gulf of Pood.  It started to capsize, so the heat shield was jettisoned... which promptly made the whole probe turn turtle, snapping off the solar panels.  Oops.  A bit of science was transmitted using the remaining battery power.


The third probe came down in the Ranges biome on one of the southern continents.  Absolutely gorgeous visuals.  Well done, Galileo and team.




With the bonanza of science coming back from Tellumo, along with the steady output of the orbital science labs, a certain 1,500 point node is unlocked containing the advanced Karbonite detector.  Based on some comments dropped by the development team, Cornelius III is launched to go sniffing around Gael, Iota, and Ceti in search of the elusive resource.



Based on the readings obtained from Cornelius III, the new Sustainer Station is launched.  This station features four of the large exospheric Karbonite intakes, and a converter to turn it into LFO and/or monoprop.


The station makes its way to Ceti, where it enters into a 1,200 km orbit which is co-planar with Thunderer station.  Why is it here?  Because the exospheric Karbonite concentration here is 2.52%, the highest figure anywhere in Gael's environs.  The station is manned solely by Isane Kerman, our only two-star engineer, to make sure the Karbonite harvesting and conversion process goes as quickly as possible.



A somewhat random interjection - a Nero transfer window was rapidly approaching, so the Hermes Ia was further refined into the Hermes Ib.  With better comms and some RTGs to supplement the solar panels, it becomes the first craft slated to visit one of the system's gas giants.



Back to Karbonite goodness.  The Papago I, a nuclear-powered orbital tug, is launched with a mostly-empty fuel module in tow.  This craft features many upgraded parts to increase its efficiency, and is lofted by a multi-stage SRB-only lifter.


Papago I reaching orbit, ready to start ferrying fuel from Sustainer Station to wherever it's needed.  The LV-Ns are each putting out over 90 kN of thrust at a vacuum Isp of 960.  Nearly all parts in the craft have been lightened multiple times using R&D.


Over the next few months, Papago I ferries full loads of fuel from Sustainer Station to each of the three other orbital stations.  It's not a quick process, as efficient transfers from Ceti to Iota can take a while, but each station's fuel load is increased significantly.



With fresh loads of fuel, the biome-hopping science harvesting can begin in earnest on both moons. Although it's a bit gamey, each experiment in each biome is first transmitted back to Gael for an immediate reward, and then additional copies are placed into the science container.


These extra copies are then brought back to each moon's orbital station for further analysis and science churning.  As an aside, I'm really enjoying the current version of KAC, which now enables alarms to be set for when a science lab is going to hit the 500-point cap.  


Science and funds are really starting to roll in - to balance it out, further upgrades to parts are starting to get really expensive.



To start spending some funds and science, the Papago II is launched with parts which are upgraded even further than the Papago I.



A new probe design, the Hermes IIIa is wheeled out to the pad.  (The Hermes II was an intermediate prototype which didn't see production).  Utilizing many upgraded parts,this is the most advanced probe built to date.  Destination?  Icarus.  Delta V on the pad? Almost 28,000 m/s.


The Hermes IIIa makes it to orbit, and waits for the transfer window.  This probe (which is 200 tons in orbit) combines the orbital science and scanning capabilities of the Hermes Ia, the lander mothership ability and relay comms of the Courageous I, and the upgraded LV-Ns and fuel tanks of the Papago II.  If I've done my math right, it should be able to complete the Icarus probes strategy all by itself.



With over 8 million funds in the bank, my self-imposed role-playing rule says that KABOOM has to launch something impressive for fear of losing support from the general public.  Vanguard Station is the result -  a 200-Kerbal station sitting atop three 5m rocket cores with no particular purpose other than to look awesome.


The gravity turn wasn't quite as aggressive as normal, but still healthy (45 deg @ 20 km), and the station didn't have any control problems.  I attribute this partly to a somewhat lower TWR, 12 delta wings acting as fins, and an obsession with making sure that every docking port and exposed node anywhere on the station was covered by a nosecone.  


All of the nosecones covering up the docking ports and exposed nodes were staged while the station was still on a suborbital trajectory.  All the struts were attached to these nosecones, so the final station has a much lower part count.


The final result - Vanguard station in a 250 km orbit.  Ironically, this has no comms or science gear, so we'll need to launch a module with experiments and antennas if we actually want to do anything with this.

Whew!  We're now finally caught up!  Time to start playing again!

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Chapter 10 - Evacuate and Begin Anew

KABOOM's scientists discover a monstrous space storm approaching Gael.  Dubbed the "KSP 1.2.2 / GPP 1.1 Vortex", indications are that the storm could be no big deal, or it could have catastrophic consequences to all missions currently underway.  With an arrival time one month in the future, the word is swiftly sent out - evacuate all Kerbals from spacecraft and stations and return them to Gael.  Unmanned probes will have to simply hope for the best.  


First to evacuate is the crew of Pioneer Station in LGO.  Here we see the Martlet I craft pushing back.


One crew down, two to go.  You can see in this shot that funds are not currently a problem.


Next to push back is the crew of Thunderer station in a Bluebird.  In 3.2x, it can take almost a month to transfer to or from Ceti, so the crew burns a little extra fuel to speed the trip home.


Many more medals are given out, courtesy of Final Frontier.  Valentina is the current record holder for duration, having spent over 300 days in space in a single mission.


The crew of Conqueror Station is the last to depart for Gael.  A glitch made the clouds disappear for awhile.


A shot of the last Bluebird heading through the atmosphere for all you data hounds.  The heat tolerance on the heat shield has been improved with Kerbal R&D by one level.  Makes a huge difference when reentering in an upscaled system, since all heat is still at 100%.


All the Kerbals are now safe back home, albeit with heavier left lapels on their dress uniforms.  Everyone heads for the shelter beneath the astronaut complex as the storm approaches...


In a sudden burst of static, a lone cryptic image is received by the comms array, labeled "Dakar 2017 entry".  Everyone scratches their heads.  The comms array is trained at Tellumo to see if the probes there still exist.  Happily, the Courageous I answers that all is at the ready.


To test things out and test the atmosphere (which seems to have changed a bit), one of the atmospheric probes is detached and sent to the surface.  Pretty.


And we're down in a previously unsampled biome - the Midlands.


With KAC indicating that a Thalia transfer window is fast approaching, KABOOM's engineers modify the Hermes III probe again, this time adding some radiators.  (One of the KABOOM scientists swore up and down that Thalia seemed to be hotter now.)


With an unmanned launch working fine, a real Bluebird in classic configuration is wheeled out to the pad.  It's time to put personnel back in those stations and keep churning out the science.


Yep.  We're back, and better than ever.  The crew transfers uneventfully to Conqueror station and resumes the work of their predecessors.  More launches, and the Hermes IIIa probe's arrival at Icarus... in the next chapter.

[editorial mode on]

So I tried to migrate my GPP career save to KSP 1.2.2 a few weeks ago, but it rapidly devolved into a glitchy mess.  Ragequitting and playing Fallout 4 for a few weeks, I was inspired to pick my GPP career up again when GPP 1.1 dropped.  This time, things went much better - the only thing I had trouble with the included 3.2x scale settings for Sigma Dimensions (many errors), so I simply manually recreated most of my previous 3.2x settings, although I increased the atmosphere height slightly and used the new top atmosphere variable (which worked with no errors).  I don't know if the evacuation was strictly needed, but it certainly gave me more piece of mind knowing that every single craft could disappear and I'd be OK.  I've invested a lot of time in this save, particularly with all the R&D upgrades, so that was the most important thing to me.  Thankfully, everything seems to have come through just fine, and the solar system now looks even better.  I look forward to exploring the new mysteries which await.  Much thanks to Galileo and Co. for their fantastic work.

[editorial mode off]

Edited by Norcalplanner
Added a bit

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Chapter 11 - Back in the Saddle, and an Icarus Encounter

With the upgrade storm in the rear view mirror, it's time to resume KABOOM's exploration of the system.


Another Bluebird XLR is launched to take a new crew to Thunderer station in orbit around Ceti.  We're mixing up the crews a bit, trying to make sure everyone gets as much experience as possible from LGO, Iota, and Ceti.



Docked to Conqueror station around Iota.  Everything appears to still be in working order. Another Bluebird XLR takes a crew to Thunderer station around Ceti.



To grab a bit more science and make sure everyone is getting as much experience as possible, select Kerbals are sent down to Iota to grab those science experiments which were previously missed, and earn some more XP.



Speaking of XP, the decision is made to undertake a specific training program.  Four Kerbals in need of additional experience are launched aboard a Bluebird XLR II, with two more SRBs and large food canisters for extended space operations.  



First stop for our training craft is Sustainer station, in high Ceti orbit.  Isane Kerman was the lone Kerbal to remain aboard a station during the storm, and she seems none the worse for wear.  Our training crew drops off some of the food to resupply Sustainer station, tops off their tanks, then sets off to be the first Kerballed ship to briefly depart from Gael's SOI.



Another Bluebird variant is wheeled to the pad.  This one carries a crew destined for Vanguard Station, our massive 200-Kerbal capacity station which is intended to replace Pioneer station.



Although a bit difficult to make out in this image, a small science/comms module is carried on the front of this Bluebird.  By adding science experiments and antennas to Vanguard Station (in the background), it finally becomes fully operational.  This is also one of the first times I docked to a large station without rotating the station - Vanguard stayed oriented to the normal vector the whole time, with all maneuvering being done by the smaller craft.



KABOOM's engineers decide it's finally time to start working on aircraft again, in part with an eye towards exploring Tellumo when we finally get there with some Kerbals.  Impressed with the UHB turbofan supplied by the Karbonite mod, a few overpowered planes are built.  This one worked fairly well, but had far too much control authority.  Pilot blackouts were commonplace, and Val actually received a commendation from Final Frontier for enduring 14 Gs for more than 3 seconds.



This plane was faster than blazes, but had insufficient control authority.  Landing was a bit of a challenge...



Hmmm.  Back to the drawing board on that one.



At long last, the Hermes III probe arrives at Icarus.  The orbital insertion burn is just over 12 km/s.  It's a good thing the probe has upgraded liquid fuel tanks and LV-Ns.



Success!  We're in an elliptical suborbital trajectory, but it still counts.  A small burn at Ap raises the Pe above the surface and changes inclination to a polar orbit.  



The satellite portion of the Hermes III casts off, and enters an orbit suitable for scanning terrain, biomes, and resources.  A few weeks pass while it completes its scans, as Icarus rotates very slowly.



With biome and terrain data in hand, the lander mothership portion of the probe enters into a low polar orbit, and the lander casts off.  A location near the intersection of three biomes is chosen, and hopes are running high.



As the lander approaches the surface, a plethora of temperature bars suddenly appear. Vague recollections about the GPP 1.1 storm changing the heat characteristics of certain planets suddenly come flooding back.



Temperatures critical!  Abort!  Abort!  Full power is applied to the engines.  Downward velocity is arrested, and the lander starts heading back up.  Maybe, just maybe we can pull out of this...



Nope.  Crap.  The lander is already dead, it just doesn't know it yet.  The probe core was one of the first parts to go.  However, just like a chicken with its head cut off, the engines are stuck on full throttle and keep burning.  The induced gravity keeps the formerly-connected portions of the lander together as it enters a slow somersault.  



The fuel tank finally goes, and the remnants of the lander all head back down to the surface of Icarus for the final time.



Small consolation is taken in that some parts of the lander did actually touch Icarus.  Sigh.  Time to do this again, only with radiators... in a future chapter.

Edited by Norcalplanner
Typos, removed a redundant photo

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Chapter 12 - Hermes Space Program

Shaking off the setback of the Hermes III lander failure at Icarus, new plans are drawn up for the further exploration of Gael's neighbors.  The Hermes III probe is modified a number of times, eventually yielding the Hermes IIIf, IIIg, IIIi, and IIIh.  Some versions have less delta V, some have radiators, and all get retrofitted with RTGs for power.  There's definitely a nuclear slant to the space program now with the copious RTGs and LV-Ns.


Another Icarus transfer window is approaching, and the Hermes IIIf is sent aloft.  This revised version of the probe is retrofitted with radiators, RTGs, and Karbonite / Karborundum scanning equipment.  Since there's already an orbital scanning/science satellite around Icarus, that portion is omitted from the design.



The Illustrious I lander attached to Thunderer Station is dispatched to Ceti's north pole to grab some additional science which hadn't been retrieved to that point.  It also allows one of the new crew members to gain some additional experience by planting a flag.



Pilot Caranne Kerman plants his flag and makes his mark near the pole.  His ascent and rendezvous with Thunderer Station is uneventful and undocumented.



The Bluebird XLR craft returns from its expedition outside of Gael's SOI, and docks to Thunderer station to drop off additional copies of their crew reports and EVA reports for further processing.  KABOOM's PR department likes this shot - with three different craft docked to Thunderer Station, it looks like the program actually knows what it's doing.  This also makes Thunderer Station into the largest Kerballed craft outside of LGO with the most Kerbals on board (eight aboard and capacity for 29), albeit briefly.



The Bluebird XLR then casts off and heads for Iota, where they complete a landing in one of Iota's canyon-ey parts (still classified as the Midlands).  A flag is planted to mark what could be an interesting surface base location.



After Iota, the four trainees make an uneventful return and reentry back to Gael.  However, we now have four Kerbals, including two veterans, which are now three stars.  We'll have to transfer them to a station later where the more experienced scientists can make a difference.



The Hermes IIIc arrives at Thalia and begins its orbital insertion burn.  This intermediate design has only one radiator on the lander, as it was launched after the GPP1.1 storm but before the Icarus lander disaster.  Subsequent versions intended for inner planets have two radiators on the lander.  Hopefully it will be enough.  The burn is completed, and a highly elliptical orbit results in an efficient transfer to Eta.  The decision is made to fully scan Eta and explore it before tackling Thalia proper and risk losing the lander.



The Hermes IIIg is launched to take advantage of a transfer window to Otho.  The fairing looks tall and goofy (that's a technical term) because this new version of the Hermes probe mounts the lander and scanning satellite in line with each other.  This results in fewer control problems compared to the side-mounted lander design of earlier Hermes probes, and allows a a narrower (but taller) fairing.  Overall size and cost of the Hermes is reduced by simplifying the launcher and reducing some redundant expensive science gear on the craft (such as the Dmagic compact versions of the materials bay and goo cannister). 



KABOOM's efforts to find more Karbonite and Karborundum result in the Cornelius V sensor probe, sent aloft aboard a relatively simple 2.5m Mainsail-powered launcher.  Kerbal R&D is really helping out now - the upper stage LV-N now has an Isp of 1040, and a weight of 1.5 tons.  The liquid fuel tanks have had their capacity increased and weight lowered several times.  The plan is to hit Niven for a gravity assist, then try to get into low Ciro orbit and/or Icarus to see what's what.



The Icarus transfer window arrives, and the Hermes IIIf with its double-radiator lander is sent on its way.  The improved engines are really helping out now, as shown in the delta V figures and the Isp of the Penguin vacuum engine.



The Hermes IIIh is sent to Niven aboard a new SRB-only lifter.  The lower delta V requirements of a Niven trip, combined with the improved capability of the LV-N powered upper stage, make this possible.



Because of the possibilities of long-term Kerballed exploration and colonization of Niven, the decision is made to send some comm satellites for constant communications.  The Monarch III, an upgraded variant of the Monarch class which previously put commsats around Iota and Ceti, is tapped for the job.  We have the beginnings of a flotilla heading to Niven.



A decision is made to add another ship to the Niven flotilla in the form of the Courageous II. An upgraded version of the craft which dropped unpowered microprobes on Tellumo, this should ensure that we hit at least three different biomes at Niven.  A different SRB-only lifter configuration is tried - KABOOM's engineers are clearly experimenting a bit with these uncrewed launches.



The incredibly tall and slender Pegasus III reconnaissance satellite joins the Niven flotilla.  Close review of our orbital survey contracts indicated that the parts for the two recon science experiments were accidentally omitted from the standard scanning satellite, so this one is sent up as well.  Hopefully we'll still be able to complete the contracts.



The Pegasus III with large dish antenna deployed and heading to Niven.  Since this version is fitted with RTGs, it's no longer critical to keep the craft oriented so that the dish doesn't block the solar panels.



With all the craft heading to various planets, KABOOM's comm planners decide to launch the Inquisitor III satellite, to be parked somewhere below Thalia in the Ciro system.  Hopefully it will help provide an alternative communications path for all the craft zipping around to various destinations.



The Inquisitor III, with dishes deployed, is heading out.  Using only chemical rockets, its range is much smaller than some other recent designs.  Future variants will have LV-Ns for greater range.



All the attention given to the inner planets is temporarily interrupted by the launch of the Hermes IIIi, which heads to Gauss.  We're really getting a lot of mileage out of this Hermes III craft design, although no two are quite the same.  Maybe we'll come up with a different design for the upcoming Gratian transfer window... in the next chapter.

[editorial mode on]

I was able to finally hit KSP hard for both days over the weekend, resulting in many craft heading in many different directions.  Because of the large number of craft on their way, including four(!) heading to Niven, I've decided that, apart from a probe heading to Gauss, no new craft are going to be launched until we've finished with at least some of what is currently in transit.  The master plan at this point is to do as much unmanned scanning and exploration as possible, then send Kerbals interplanetary in two or three years once some of these unmanned missions are done.

[editorial mode off]  

Edited by Norcalplanner

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Chapter 13 - The Probes Have Landed

KABOOM's space program is now in full swing, with many different craft heading to many different planets, all still unmanned at this point.  As soon as we're done with with mapping and gathering info from Gael's nearest neighbors, it will be time to put the "Kerbal" back in the space program with some manned interplanetary craft.  For the moment, however, it's time to celebrate the recent accomplishments of the unmanned portion of KABOOM's program.


The Hermes IIIj is launched to take advantage of a transfer window to Gratian.  Similar to some other recent probes, this uses a lower cost SRB-only lifting stage.  A combination of lower delta V requirements and a more capable nuclear transfer stage make this possible.



Because Gratian has an atmosphere, the Courageous II craft is updated and launched again as the Courageous III to complement the Hermes IIIj.  As with the Courageous II, much of the ablator is removed from the heat shields to reduce the total weight of each probe.



The Hermes IIIf, carrying an upgraded lander with deployable radiator panels, arrives at Icarus.  Because Icarus is in a lower part of its orbit, the insertion burn is only (!) 10 km/s compared to the previous 12 km/s.  Circularization into low Icarus orbit was routine and undocumented.



The lander casts off and heads down.  The radiators are doing their job admirably so far.  Some striking colors and landforms exist on Icarus.



Touchdown!  The Hermes IIIf lander comes to rest on Icarus' Calciferous Layers.  An oversight by KABOOM engineers presents itself - most parts in this probe were upgraded using R&D to increase heat resistance.  Looks like we forgot to improve the RTGs, which have their stock heat tolerance of 1200K.  At least the temperature stabilizes short of actually exploding.  



After a brief stop at Icarus' Obsidians biome, a final hop is taken to the Coelom.  I have no idea who or what a Coelom is, but it sounds vaguely naughty.  It has a very interesting green color, and lots of mineral resources.  May be a good spot to land a miner/refinery at some point in the future.



Heading back up and showing all the info for you data hounds.  We're doing the "put your AP at a DN or AN with your target in orbit so you can combine your plane change burn with your circularization burn" thing.



Docked back to the mothership safe and sound.  The "Icarus Probes" strategy from Strategia is complete.  We have enough spare fuel in the probe mothership to refuel the lander at least four more times, but we'll hold off on additional Icarus exploration for the moment.  There are some other craft we need to pay attention to.



The Hermes IIIc has finished its orbital scans of Eta (terrain, slopes, and biomes) so the lander casts off and heads down.  Really interesting terrain on this part of Thalia's moon.



Touchdown!  The crowd goes wild! No, wait, that's the Super Bowl...

Anyway, the probe lands and does a bunch of science.  As is standard operating procedure for KABOOM's probes, one copy of each experiment is transmitted home to Kerbin, and a second copy is loaded into the science container for further analysis at some point in the future.



The lander hops to three more biomes and collects additional science, eventually visiting the Tenderlands, Midlands, Lowlands, and Valleys.  One of KABOOM's younger engineers notes that Eta appears to be a good place to test wheeled vehicle dynamics.  Or to quote him verbatim, "Dude! This looks like a killer place for dune buggies! We should totally have the next Dakar challenge here!"



The lander comes back up and docks with the Hermes IIIc mothership without incident.  With enough of Eta explored for the moment, it's time to send the craft to Thalia.



The Hermes IIIc makes its burn, and transfers into a 400 km polar orbit to scan Thalia.  Once everything is mapped, the lander will head down and see if that lone radiator panel is enough.



The Cornelius VI is launched to rectify a problem.  The Cornelius V had been launched investigate the exact locations and concentrations of Karbonite and Karborundum near Icarus, then around Ciro itself.  Unfortunately, KABOOM's operators accidentally warped through the Cornelius V's Icarus encounter (which only lasts 20 minutes or so because of the huge difference in relative velocity).  Therefore, a replacement is needed.  We're getting better and more capable craft all the time - check out the delta V this one has on the pad.



The Cornelius VI arrives in orbit and starts its burn for Icarus.



A brief moment to appreciate the beauty of Gael as the probe heads out of the system.  Well done, Galileo and team.



A brief check-in at mission control shows that we've completed a number of contracts and strategies recently.  Lots of science, and also lots of funds - we're now at 7.7 million.  We'll have to spend that on something soon.



The flotilla of craft begins to arrive at Niven.  The Courageous II is the first to complete its insertion burn.  It stays in a highly inclined orbit (about 70 degrees) for access to a wide number of biomes.



The Hermes IIIh is the next to arrive.  Pretty.



After dropping off the scanning satellite portion of the craft in a high polar orbit, the remainder of the craft inserts into a lower orbit to await the results of the scanning.  This particular lander has some chutes on it, but the overall efficacy of this design is in doubt... which is why the Courageous II was sent along with its unpowered probes.



KABOOM's cameras are trained briefly on the Cornelius V Karbonite/Karborundum scanning probe.  Although it missed Icarus, it burned all its remaining fuel to lower its Ciro Pe to less than 2.5 Gm.  Things are bright and hot at this distance, but the three radiators are enough to handle the heat.



Although the Cornelius V probe didn't get low enough to find any Karborundum, it did get low enough to be considered "low" above Ciro.  Should have put more science gear on this thing...



Switching back to Niven, the Monarch III arrives.  Because Niven is fairly close to Gael, it will likely be a target of manned exploration, and therefore will need a good commnet.



After getting into an equatorial orbit with an Ap of 5,000 km, the satellites are released and sent into their final configuration.  Here's the Beta commsat casting off.  The mothership has to rotate out of the way quickly to provide clearance before the solar panels can be deployed.



After some fiddling, including dropping the carrier stage into the planet's atmosphere, we get what we came for - a functional three-satellite commnet in a 5,000 km orbit.  All of Niven is ready to be explored.



With the excellent comm situation, the first of the Courageous II atmospheric probes is launched.



Almost down.  There was an episode of operator error, in that none of the probes had photos captured while they were making their historic landings.  Utilizing the landing prediction function of MechJeb (which is similar to Trajectories) we were able to land probes in the Poles, Midlands, and Lowlands biomes.  The "Niven Probes" strategy from Strategia is now complete.


Phew!  That was a lot.  We've now landed probes on all inner system bodies except for Thalia, which should be happening soon.  With just a little bit more unmanned exploration, it will finally be time to pay some attention to the Kerbals again.  We have contracts to put surface bases on Iota and Ceti, along with contracts for orbital stations around Niven and Lili, and Thalia 4 and Eta 3 rallies, and a contract to do a spacewalk around Eta.  We'll get there soon enough, after we confirm the best way to handle refueling and life support for such long journeys... in a future chapter.  

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Deleted - somehow I had two copies of Chapter 13 in the thread

Edited by Norcalplanner
Removed duplicate chapter

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Chapter 14 - Thalia's Curse, and Something Completely Different

With the work at Niven done for the moment, it's time to focus KABOOM's attention back on Thalia.  The old Hermes IIIc probe, which contains minimal radiators, is ready to cast off its lander.


As soon as the lander detaches, something explodes on the probe mothership.  Knowing that we're likely fighting the clock with regard to heating, the explosion is ignored for the time being, and the lander heads down.



This earlier version of the lander only has a single radiator.  Will it be enough?  This question prevented KABOOM mission planners from selecting the Thalia Probes strategy.  We'll just forgo the extra funds and rep, just in case we can't do it.



Yes, that single radiator will be enough.  Although parts of the craft are hot, and the radiator is running at 95%+, we're down on Thalia.  Science is quickly gathered and transmitted back to Gael.  As per standard practice, a second set of experiments is performed and saved to the science container for later analysis.



KABOOM mission controllers then made their fatal mistake.  A real life distraction resulted in the game being paused for a few minutes.  This is the screen that showed when the mission controller sat down at his console again.  Uh oh....



Poof.  The probe, along with all that extra science data, is snuffed out in an instant.



A quick check shows evidence of the heating bug being the culprit, but mission control vows to continue on.  We'll just have to send a new probe to Thalia, with more and better radiators - and make sure we don't go anywhere near the "Esc" key.



Refocusing on the Hermes IIIc mothership, it turns out that it was the RTGs which exploded.  With no power beyond what's in her batteries, it's decided to send the craft down to Thalia for a Viking funeral.



After a series of explosions, the last part of the craft succumbs to Thalia's radiation while still 65 km above the surface.  We'll definitely need to put more and bigger radiators on the next craft to visit Thalia.


[Static hash]


[Needle scratch, followed by a whip pan to...]


Jeb is sitting in Conqueror Station, bored out of his mind.  As the nominal "pilot" of the station, he hasn't had occasion to crack open the throttles in months.  Babysitting industrious scientists in orbit of Iota is not why he joined the space program.  There's talk of selecting the crew for the first interplanetary voyage, and despite all of his accomplishments, he still has only a single star on his collar.  And nobody seems to have remembered that it's his birthday.  With nothing to do, he starts daydreaming of the old days, trying new craft, going Mach 2 with his hair on fire. Good times...

His reverie is interrupted by the blaring klaxon and flashing red light of the station's collision alarm.  A quick check of the monitors reveals a single craft on an intercept course with the station, travelling at over 300 m/s, even though it's only 5 km away.


After a brief second admiring the sporty lines of the ship, he opens a comm channel to warn the craft off and berate the pilot for such careless operation... only to hear the opening guitar riff of AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" come blaring through the speaker.



As the drums kick in and the song starts in earnest, Jeb watchs agape as the craft gracefully pirouettes to face retrograde, burns the main engines to bleed off speed, then expertly docks while maintaining a forward velocity of over 4 m/s until the last moment.  The hatch opens, and Bill sticks his head out.  He's remembered Jeb's birthday, and has brought him two presents - a cold six pack, and the ship.  It's called "The Deuce".

As the two catch up over cold brews, Jeb learns the whole story.  KABOOM administrators, aware of the PR value attached to the name "Jebediah Kerman" agreed to look the other way while Bill built The Deuce and then "borrowed" it.  He's got a month to get Jeb as much experience as possible, then has to bring him back to Gael so Jeb can be considered for the upcoming interplanetary journeys.  Bill needs an hour to refuel The Deuce and make a few adjustments... plenty of time for Jeb to hop in the lander and head down to the surface of Iota.



With an ear-to-ear grin, Jeb hops in the station's Illustrious I lander, dogs the hatch, and casts off.  If he does it quickly enough, nobody will even notice the lander is missing from the station.



He lands on a slope, but it doesn't matter.  He hops out and plants a flag, ignoring all the expensive experiments.  Science schmience - this is about getting experience.



With a high-energy trajectory back to the station, his whole trip clocks in at under 37 minutes.



The two friends cast off and commence a high energy transfer to Thunderer Station around Ceti.  As they approach the station, Bill explains a bit more about the ship - the colored lights were an attempt at looking like a flame paint job, and the rear fuel "fastback" conical tank is outfitted as a "wet lounge workshop" to increase the internal volume of the craft.  The cockpit is fitted with an optional autopilot named after Jeb.  Although it has seating for six, it's really designed to accommodate two in long-term comfort.  And it has over 11 km/s of delta V on tap, without any staging.



As he did on Iota, Jeb hops in the station's lander for a quick trip to the surface so he can plant a flag.



Because Ceti is larger than Iota, it takes him a whole 45 minutes to get back to the station.



The two veterans cast off again, heading for Sustainer Station in high Ceti orbit to refuel before heading out of Gael's SOI briefly.  The docking with the refueling station was undocumented. The only noteworthy thing is that Bill volunteered to take Isane Kerman's spot at the helm of the station for a few days so that she could accompany Jeb and also grab a bit more experience.



Jeb and Isane return from their brief visit to interplanetary space, and gather their rewards. Everyone on the station is now three stars.



Mindful of their time constraints, Jeb and Bill open the throttles and head back to LGO as quick as they can, docking with Vanguard station.  The Deuce has to stay in orbit, as it has no provision for landing.



The two hop into an older Bluebird docked to the station, and head back down to Gael.  They make it back to the surface with two days to spare before the one month deadline expires.  Once back at KSC, Jeb shares some ideas he has with Bill about how to improve The Deuce...



...resulting in the launch of "The Trey" two weeks later.  With three engines, three radiators, and more fuel, this should make a good first interplanetary spacecraft, capable of completing the rallies that KABOOM currently has contracts for.



Once in orbit, a separate module (the Bacchus Packus) is sent up with several years worth of drinks and snacks, along with a bit more fuel.  The Trey will hang out in orbit for a few months until the transfer window opens up.  KABOOM mission planners are still weighing whether it's worthwhile to use higher energy transfers when going interplanetary, as the Kerbals may still have to wait around for a bit for a return window.  We'll see what they decide... in a future chapter.

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Chapter 15 - Interplanetary Preparations (aka Thalia, We're Heading Your Way)

[Editorial mode on]

I got in several good play sessions in the last week, culminating in some big milestones and major developments.  Because of the sheer volume of events, this post and the next are going to be a bit lighter on details than some others, and lean more heavily on pictures.  Feel free to chime in if you want to know more about a particular mission or craft design.

[Editorial mode off]

In a choice that surprised nobody, KABOOM administration tapped Bill and Jeb to be the first Kerbals to head to another planet in the Trey.  But first, it's time to resupply some stations.


Three greenhorns head up with a bunch of supplies to top off Conqueror and Thunderer Stations.  They'll also relieve one of the crews.



Docking with Conqueror, transferring supplies and rotating crew.



The former crew of Conqueror Station heads out to Thunderer, and relieves them.  KABOOM HR is trying to get everyone more experience.



Thunderer's crew comes in hot back to Gael.  Hitting the top of the atmosphere at 6 km/s, they used nearly all the ablator and endured some serious G's.  A lesser crew would have passed out, but these are all experienced hands and stayed conscious.



Accolades are given by Final Frontier.  Funds are now up over 10 million, even though funds and science were both previously dialed back to 50% levels.  The hard and fast "keep it under 5 million" rule isn't holding up very well.  We'll still launch big impressive things on a regular basis to chew through funds, though.



Another Hermes probe is sent aloft to support the upcoming Kerballed Thalia mission.  Tired of keeping track of all the Hermes III variants, this new iteration is christened the Hermes IV.  This variant has more and larger radiators, as well as upgraded parts.



Because of the surplus of funds, and to stack the deck in favor of success for the upcoming Thalia mission, Tortuga Station is launched aboard a new 5m lifter design.  Although relatively small compared to other stations, it still has six seats, a science lab, and the ability to turn Karbonite into not only fuel, but also water and oxygen.  It's going to head for a high Thalia orbit.



Bill and Jeb head up to the Trey in a Bluebird and transfer to the mission craft about 50 days before the transfer window.  In order to complete the Thalia 4 and Eta 3 rally missions, they'll need to go to Iota and Ceti first.



After a quick dip into Iota's SOI, the intrepid crew heads to Sustainer Station above Thalia to top off the tanks.



Docked with Sustainer, and a good view of the Bacchus Packus fuel and supplies module.  Some experiments are clinging to the outside of the TAC-LS container, since the Trey was primarily designed to be fast, not studious.



Bill and Jeb leave Ceti and head for Leviathan Station, both to top off again and wait for the departure window.  This station was launched a while ago, but not featured until now.  It's a fuel-making station in a 7,700 km orbit of Gael with a single engineer on board.  However, the Karbonite concentration is very low, so it's slow work. Leviathan Station also has more LF tankage than Sustainer.



Oops.  Tortuga Station was launched with a Karbonite distiller, but no converter.  A quick and cheap rocket brings up the mission part and docks it to the rear.  KABOOM's practice of throwing an extra docking port or two onto most craft pays off yet again.



With extra funds burning a hole in KABOOM's proverbial pocket, it's decided to send some commsats to Thalia as well.  The Monarch IV is a new design using a 5m LFO core and no SRBs.



Dangit.  Old habits are hard to break.  The 5m lifter was outfitted with enough parachutes to allow a successful Stage Recovery event.  My tightwad nature and my agency's need to spend funds are in direct conflict.



With a bit of time to kill before the Thalia window, the powered lander on the Hermes probe around Niven is sent down.



The unaerodynamic design isn't a good fit for Niven.  Only two biomes are reached before the lander runs out of fuel.



Nothing to see here.  Move along.



The big moment has finally arrived.  Bill and Jeb lower their peri to 205 km at the right point in their orbit so that they get a proper Oberth-optimized ejection burn.  So long, Gael - we'll see you in a year or so.



The Hermes IV departs for Thalia shortly thereafter.



Monarch IV, with six commsats and an improved nuclear upper stage, brings up the rear.



What's this?  One final probe, the Cornelius VII, is also launched towards the inner part of the solar system.  But it's not heading to Thalia.  We'll find out where it's going... in the next chapter.

Edited by Norcalplanner

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On 2/18/2017 at 1:37 AM, Norcalplanner said:

to Sustainer Station above Thalia

:o Lies!

Wonderful posts, as ever. :) 

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8 minutes ago, JadeOfMaar said:

:o Lies!

Wonderful posts, as ever. :) 

Ummm... errr... that was, of course, supposed to be " Sustainer Station above Ceti to top off the tanks before heading to Thalia to top off the tanks".

They'll get to Thalia soon enough. :cool:

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Eager as heck to see. I've thought of evil pirate stations in Thalia orbit but not any mellow ones with LS and science.

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Chapter 16 - Lili Investigation, Boots on Thalia, and a Side Quest

KABOOM administration is beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed.  There are a lot of balls in the air, so to speak, with missions at or heading to nearly every body in the solar system.  Things are getting a bit disjointed.  The decision is made that only one manned interplanetary mission will be run at a time, to minimize possible loss of Kerbal life and keep everyone's blood pressure at reasonable levels.



Jumping to the outer planets briefly, one of the Hermes III probes reaches Tellumo, then intercepts Lili.  Orbiting Lily is a uniquely disorienting experience - Lili spins fast for its size, the orbital velocity around Lili is extremely low, but Lili orbits around Tellumo at a breakneck pace.



Landing on Lili anywhere other than the poles is a tricky challenge, as Lili's surface velocity is greater than its orbital velocity.  Eventually a method is found to keep the lander planted solidly on the surface near the equator so that science readings can take place.  Interestingly enough, there's only [REDACTED], but the moonlet has [REDACTED].  Might make an interesting spot for a base.  Near the poles, of course.


After a speedy high-energy transit, Jeb and Bill arrive at Thalia.  The planet definitely doesn't look friendly.  


Tortuga Station, Hermes IV, and Monarch IV arrive shortly thereafter.  Here's Monarch IV, carrying six commsats to establish comm networks around Eta and Thalia.



The last commsat going into place around Thalia, at a 5,000 km circular orbit.  The little ant engines are great for this sort of work - you can thrust limit them on the fly down to 0.5%, then get your orbital periods within a few hundredths of a second of each other.



Tortuga Station arrives at Thalia, and heads to an orbit of [REDACTED] km, coplanar with Eta.  Why that altitude?  Because that's where a workable concentration of Karbonite can be found.  The Trey heads in to dock.  Bill and Jeb look forward to getting a chance to stretch their legs and get away from the other's BO for a little while.



Refreshed and refueled, Jeb and Bill head over to Eta first.  As soon as they do, the two rally contracts are completed.  Over 2.5 million funds is deposited into KABOOM's account... which is already way too big per my RP rule.  Dangit.



Bill and Jeb head down.  Mindful of some of the more "enthusiastic" terrain previously mapped out by the earlier Hermes III probe, a flat landing site is chosen.



Jeb and Bill's arrival on the surface of Eta make the front page of the New Kerbal Times.  Although it was very challenging to get here, the two can't help but think that parts of Eta are very similar to Iota.  They visit three more biomes, gathering surface samples and taking reports from each, before heading back up to Tortuga Station for a quick breather.  Next up - Thalia.



While Jeb and Bill rest up, the Cornelius VII arrives at its destination - low Ciro orbit.  Cornelius V had previously traveled within 2.5 million km of Ciro, but Cornelius VII is going a lot lower.  With upgraded heat resistance on all parts of the probe and three medium deployable radiators, it's hoping to find the near-mythical element known as Karborundum.  Rumored to be the best fuel available, and commanding exorbitant prices, its acquisition in useable amounts will shift KABOOM's manned exploration efforts into high gear.    



Cornelius VII was successful.  The monstrous-yet-assembled-in-secret Apollo I craft is wheeled out to the pad, and launched with little fanfare.  Chances of failure with this craft are high, because it's heading to an altitude of only [REDACTED] km above Ciro, where Corenlius VII found a [REDACTED] concentration of Karborundum.



Apollo I wastes no time, and conducts a massive ejection burn to get into the proper solar orbit.  Not shown is the 5m Dual-Penguin powered upper stage, which conducted the first 3 km/s of the ejection burn.  A small reactor and some solar panels provide power for the craft.



Back to Thalia.  Jeb and Bill have cast off from Tortuga Station, and are heading down to Thalia's surface.  All parts have had their heat resistance increased with Kerbal R&D, and three of the medium radiators have been fitted.  Hopefully this will work.



Alas, things didn't work.  Although the craft successfully set down on Thalia briefly, the camera malfunctioned and didn't capture the event.  It turns out that one key part, the radial attachment points which connect the main fuselage to the nacelles, were not upgraded.  With the radiators attached to the nacelles, certain incineration awaits our crew if those radial attachment points fail.  Therefore, after touching the surface of Thalia for only 20 seconds or so, the craft heads skyward once more.  A new design will be needed for future expeditions.



The Trey makes it back to Tortuga Station, where they left the auxiliary fuel tank module before heading down to Thalia.  Although Jeb and Bill are shaken, it's nothing some medicinal brandy and rest can't cure.  It's decided that they'll pass the time cataloging their Eta samples and playing Parcheesi until the return window opens up.



The Cornelius VII probe swings by Ciro again, but this time in a polar orbit - it changed its inclination at apoapsis so that it could grab some science from something other than Ciro's equatorial regions.  This final stage uses one of the most powerful Argon-powered thrusters from NFP, and packed over 50 km/s of delta V with a full tank.  Long burn times, though.



Apollo I arrives at its target altitude around Ciro, then begins harvesting Karborundum using three of the largest collectors.  The apoapsis of the orbit is lowered inside of Icarus's orbit to prevent any unintended gravity assists.  This burn is completed using some of the freshly-harvested Karborundum being pumped through a 2.5m fusion rocket motor.  Much shorter burn times than the NFP engine on Cornelius VII. 



After a few more orbits, Apollo I's task is complete.  With a full tank of Karborundum, it's time to head back to Gael... in the next chapter.

Edited by Norcalplanner

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