Recommended Posts

New Career Game!

Given the ominous glimpses of asteroids in telescopes, and the potential habitability of Laythe compared to every other extrakerbinal body in the system, the kerbals have decided to start a space programme.  The eventual goal is to get a viable off-Kerbin colony, but that's a long way ahead.


Extracts from Wernher von Kerman’s notes…


“Success! - even though the space programme has had approval for months, it wasn’t until our staff started populating the space centre that we could be sure anything would come of it.  The facilities are basic, but adequate, and planning for our first mission has already commenced…”


“...initial work has been productive - so far, design and development of (what we believe to be) a space-capable capsule, a basic solid fuel engine, and descent parachutes is sufficiently advanced that flight tests should be imminent.”


“Gene introduced me to the kerbonauts today - the engineer is an idiot, the pilots are possibly competent but don’t act like it, and the scientist may actually be of some use.  More research into unkerballed control systems is obviously required.”


Edited by S4qFBxkFFg

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hopper 1


Our primary goal for the first mission is merely to achieve a successful launch and recovery of the vehicle - i.e. to go up and then back down again; the extremely simple construction (solid fuel rocket engine, capsule, parachute) should ensure a minimum of variables and failure modes.


Based on extensive simulation, we have discovered:

  • Varying the engine’s thrust significantly influences the vehicle’s stability and maximum altitude (see graphs).  25% thrust appears to be the optimum, allowing the vehicle to reach altitudes of over 8km.

  • Thrust levels above 50% result in the vehicle losing stability; adding three fins to the vehicle’s base prevented this effect, but also reduced maximum altitude.

  • The capsule’s reaction wheels provide sufficient control authority for the purposes of the mission (avoiding land/buildings).

  • The parachute does not produce a low enough descent speed to consistently protect the engine from damage/destruction on landing.


Based on the above, the engine was set to 25% thrust, with a mission profile to ascend vertically to burnout, maintain that attitude while coasting to maximum altitude, manoeuvre into a controlled descent to splash down in the sea, deploying parachutes at approximately 2.5km.









Crew: Jebediah Kerman


Result: Success


Status: Recovered




A complete success for the space programme’s inaugural mission!  The vehicle ascended above an altitude of 8km within seconds and basic scientific observations were made (albeit only from the launch pad).  As expected, basic attitude control was possible, and was used during descent to direct the vehicle to a safe splashdown.


Also, two contracts have been completed - the astronaut complex has been upgraded with some of the proceeds, and our crews have now received training which should allow them to bale out in case of emergencies - we should probably have thought of this sooner...

Finally, Jeb’s picture of the space centre from above has been blown up and now adorns the mission control lobby.


All Systems Go for Take-Off






Just after burnout



KSC from several kilometres up, glimpsed through the capsule window.



about to splash down



A Safe Splashdown





Edited by S4qFBxkFFg

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


Hopper 1a


With the basic vehicle design completed and tested, we can now turn our attention to gathering some useful scientific information - the 1a version is equipped with 4 thermometers allowing us to log atmospheric temperatures at various altitudes.


The mission profile remains unchanged apart from requiring a slightly higher parachute deployment - this is to satisfy the parachute test contract.  Also being tested (after splashdown) is the decoupler between booster and capsule - the decoupler force has been reduced to 5% to limit its effect on the capsule/pilot.


Valentina will be logging her first mission with this flight.










Crew: Valentina Kerman

Result: Success

Status: Recovered



Nothing but good news to report - the addition of instruments and the decoupler had no significant effect on the vehicle’s performance, and the flight proceeded as planned.  We now have the option of discarding non-essential parts of the vehicle if there are concerns about the possibility of safely landing the capsule while still attached to other parts (e.g. boosters, fuel tanks).


It is also encouraging to note the spacesuits function as well in the water as on land.


In other news, the VAB has been upgraded - while the extra space wasn’t really necessary, the improved facilities inside are very welcome.






Valentina tries swimming





Edited by S4qFBxkFFg

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hopper 1b


Our “kerballed sounding rocket” has been slightly changed - scientific equipment now consists of 3 barometers and 3 thermometers, and the parachute has been swapped for the RealChute model, which is being tested on this flight.  As the decoupler is no longer required, this vehicle returns to the previous 1-piece design.


This is the first time we’re letting a scientist at the controls - Val and Jeb have been briefing Bob on the flight characteristics, and we think he can handle it.


The mission profile is slightly changed in that the ascent will not be purely vertical - pulling up just after launch will cause the trajectory to shift eastwards earlier, and ensure a water landing.






Crew: Bob Kerman

Result: Partial Success

Status: Recovered



Disregard “we think he can handle it”.  Bob was unable to use the SAS to keep the vehicle pointed in a straight line, but luckily managed to avoid flying into the ground under power.  Note for future missions - either make the vehicle a lot more stable (e.g. add fins) or make flights pilot-only.


We do however have confirmation the basic RealChute cone works effectively, and useful barometric data were retrieved from an intact vehicle - both of which would be improved if a higher altitude had been achieved.


Jeb’s turn next - Bob is on lab duty only for at least the next few missions.


Heading west...



...and south...



At least these work.



Nearing the end of a short, but exciting, trip.


Edited by S4qFBxkFFg

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hopper 2


Several new parts are being used for the first time on the upcoming flight - the larger RT-10 “Hammer” booster, stabilising fins, drogue parachutes (to ensure the main parachute deploys under the right conditions), and the “Mystery Goo”, two containers of which fit conveniently into a service bay under the capsule.  In case of emergencies, a decoupler has been added to separate the capsule.


Simulations suggest this vehicle could reach altitudes of over 30km - we expect valuable scientific data to be available in this part of the atmosphere so two of each instrument are carried.


Two testing contracts, the previously attempted RealChute test, and using the booster itself, will be successfully completed if all goes to plan.


The mission profile is a simple vertical ascent - any reasonably flat surface should allow for a safe landing, so heading seawards is not required.







Crew: Jebediah Kerman

Result: Success

Status: Recovered



This vehicle is both more powerful and more stable than any previously flown - a record altitude was achieved, and Jeb stated the handling was far less “twitchy” than the previous designs.  The addition of drogue chutes worked perfectly in stabilising the vehicle in a particular descent configuration - a technique that may prove useful in future.

Initial data recovered from Kerbin’s upper atmosphere is unsurprising, but nevertheless valuable; at least one other flight of this type is indicated to wring more scientific data out of this region.


Perfect weather for a launch.



Burnout at >22km.



Drogues keeping the descent in check.



Walking would have probably been quicker.



Jeb says this was intentional.


Edited by S4qFBxkFFg

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hopper 2a

Although no major changes have been made to the previous design; the drogue chutes have been removed as they are unnecessary for this mission’s profile.  The intention here is to maximise horizontal range and the vehicle will pitch just after launch to head over the ocean, gathering scientific data as the opportunities present.  Val is pleased - she says swimming in the suits is actually easier than walking in them.






Crew: Valentina Kerman

Result: Success

Status: Recovered


As intended, a respectable horizontal distance of nearly 50km was achieved, but there was nothing else of great note discovered here.  Val reported the removal of the drogue chutes should perhaps be reconsidered as the shock when the main chute opened was significant - we think this can also be addressed by increasing its opening time instead of adding more components.

More destinations beckon - probably west towards the mountains next.








This could be a quicker way to get to the island airfield.



Val decided not to go for a swim after all.




Edited by S4qFBxkFFg

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hopper 2b

Identical to the previous design, and unless something unexpected occurs, this will probably be the last time we launch such a simple vehicle.  For future missions, multi-stage and liquid-fuelled rockets will make their appearance.

Simulations suggest Jeb will be unable to clear the mountains, instead landing short; this is ideal - the tail-sitting design is only suitable for touching down in the sea or flat ground.




Crew: Jebediah Kerman

Result: Success

Status: Recovered



Some more scientific data were recovered from the highlands to the west, but the flight was mostly uneventful.  As predicted, to gain significantly more experience and research data, we will need to make use of new technologies - sketches of a more advanced liquid-fuelled rocket vehicle have already been completed.


another high-altitude flight









Time for breakfast at the mountain foothills.


Edited by S4qFBxkFFg

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)


Hopper 3a/3b

The solid fuelled boosters are cheap and simple, but the controllability and efficiency that liquid fuel engines offer are an obvious design innovation.  For this series of flights, we will be using the LV-T45 - combined with four small fuel tanks we expect it to be capable of lifting the previously used science packages (plus a small mobile laboratory) out of the atmosphere (or achieving significant range in a lower ballistic trajectory).  Larger fins have been used as simulation data suggest this vehicle may be unstable at high speed otherwise.  Largely for pilot reassurance, a small forward/downward facing ventral camera is fitted


3a (piloted by Valentina) will launch eastwards as usual - the turn will not be significant so as to ensure the vehicle exits atmosphere.  After fuel exhaustion, the tanks and engine will be detached (although not while there is still enough airflow to require the stabilising effect of the fins).  Once in space, there should be sufficient time to run a few experiments, conduct observations and a brief EVA, and manoeuvre for reentry and splashdown.  For 3a only, a heat shield will be carried for testing purposes - it is not expected to be necessary for the low energy reentry.

3b (Jeb) will launch then turn west, we’re not in doubt that this vehicle can clear the mountains and then reach the ocean.




Crew: Valentina Kerman (3a), Jebediah Kerman (3b)
Result: Success
Status: Recovered

On both occasions, the Hopper 3 vehicles exited and reentered the atmosphere without giving us any surprises - we now have our first space-tested hardware and pilots and can seriously think about launching orbital missions.



Smooth ride (compared to the solid boosters)



It's a shame to be throwing these away.



The suits work in vacuum as well as water.






This looks worse than it is.



Val said seeing the parachute deploy made the camera worth it.






Edited by S4qFBxkFFg

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Swift 1a

There are many reasons for not relying exclusively on vertically launched rocket vehicles - recovery to the launch site is difficult, and lots of expensive hardware ends up being discarded.  Also, rockets are virtually useless for extended atmospheric missions.  Therefore, after some hangar upgrades, the spaceplane team has commenced work on a light survey/research aircraft - designated Swift 1.


Simulations suggest its handling is generally docile, although shedding speed on approach is annoyingly difficult.  A brake chute is virtually mandatory if we want to avoid runway overruns.  Another issue is the engine placement - on top, out of a lack of other suitable positions (one of the reasons a v-tail configuration was chosen).

Scientific equipment carried includes the SC-9001 mini lab, two mystery goo canisters, thermometers, and barometers.


Other than testing the general handling of this aircraft, the objectives are to survey three locations near the space centre, and test the Mk1 cockpit in flight.


New recruit Megrys Kerman will be piloting the Swift on its first flight.





Crew: Megrys Kerman
Result: Success
Status: Recovered

“A pleasure to fly”, said Meg after climbing out of the aircraft.  The Swift 1 was perfectly suited to the survey mission, managing to fly the route planned, visiting all three survey areas, without causing any problems.  As expected, the landing speed is still higher than ideal, but Megrys was up to the task (she stated during the debriefing that the SAS was more of an irritation than assistance - the aircraft’s aerodynamic balancing was sufficient to ensure stable flight).  One other finding was that roll authority could be usefully increased - e.g. by moving the ailerons outboard; this would allow adding flaps to their current location, which should improve take off and landing performance.


Pre-flight checks are nearly complete.



Meg turns towards waypoint 2.



KSC is barely visible above the port wing.



This is OK, as long as you know where the mountains are.



After gaining altitude over land, Meg turns to head for home.



KSC is visible again (in the left side of the HUD).



Straightening up for final approach.



Meg actually popped the chute while still airborne - it worked, this time.



After a successful landing, it's time to vacate the runway.



Mission complete! - the ground crew are on their way.


Edited by S4qFBxkFFg

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Orbiter 1 - Abort Test

There was never much of a plan about what to do if something disastrous happened during a rocket ascent - other than “decouple capsule, deploy parachutes, and hope for the best”.  Now that a spacecraft suitable for orbiting Kerbin has been designed, attention has also been paid to an abort system that will pull the crewed section away from tumbling/exploding/diving rockets.


This test will consist of a full abort from the launch pad - simulations indicate that as long as the SAS remains operative, the launch escape rockets will be able to pull the capsule to a sufficient height/distance for the parachutes to safely deploy.  The abort command also activates all decouplers, shuts down all engines, and arms the parachute - the less a pilot has to remember, the better.


We have an active contract to test a decoupler at the pad, which fits well with this test - it will merely be jettisoned from the rocket’s base before the abort test is conducted.







Crew: Valentina Kerman
Result: Success
Status: Recovered

Short and sweet - the launch escape system performed effectively, propelling the capsule and science package several hundred metres up and in the direction of the runway; the parachutes then took over to deliver the vehicle safely to ground.  The decoupler test also went without any problems.


The next flight will be historic - our first attempt to reach a stable orbit around Kerbin.



Looking closely, the detached decoupler/shroud can be seen under the rocket's base.HPMnCK3.png


Val isn't fazed by 5G.




This is just before jettisoning the launch escape rocket.




The tranquil part of the descent.




This is another one of those missions where recovery is easy.



Edited by S4qFBxkFFg

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, S4qFBxkFFg said:

There was never much of a plan about what to do if something disastrous happened during a rocket ascent - other than “decouple capsule, deploy parachutes, and hope for the best”

Works for me.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Circlet 1a

In many respects, this may be the most significant mission we ever fly - the single greatest challenge in our space program is delivering payloads to Kerbin orbit - if we master this, we can place personnel and hardware anywhere in the system, with enough launches.


While the previous vehicle design (used for the abort test) was considered suitable for an orbital mission, some changes have been made to enable tests to be carried out on some newly available vehicle components.  We have tried to incorporate this testing into the recovery of the first booster stage - throwing away so much hardware is to be avoided, if at all possible.


In all, we have contracts to test three different systems - launch clamps, booster, and drogue chute.


The flight profile will be:


1. Launch using solid boosters (adjusted to have approximately equal burn durations), after clearing pad, pull back approximately 10° to begin turn eastwards.

2. Jettison first stage, with its parachutes armed - the drogue should deploy immediately, slowing the empty stage, before the main chutes deploy once a descent has commenced, hoped to be to a safe splashdown.

3. Start main engine in stage 2 - continue pulling back into the turn while gaining speed, throttling down to maintain a net acceleration of approximately 1.5G.

4. Jettison escape tower in upper atmosphere.

5. Cut throttle when apoapsis is comfortably out of atmosphere.

6. Exit atmosphere.

7. Begin circularisation by exhausting stage 2’s fuel.

8. Jettison stage 2, continue circularisation using stage 3 engine.

9. Once stable orbit has been achieved, perform observations and experiments.

10. Monitor life-support and electric charge depletion to determine a safe mission duration.

11. Deorbit, targeting the sea off KSC

12. Jettison stage 3.

13. Using reaction wheels, maintain a retrograde attitude during descent.

14. Arm parachute once in lower atmosphere and subsonic.

15. Jettison heat shield after parachute deployment.

16. Splash down and await recovery.


Jeb and Val agreed to a coin toss for this mission - Jeb being the victor.





Crew: Jebediah Kerman
Result: Success
Status: Recovered


This really could not have gone any better - Jeb and the vehicle performed excellently during the entire flight, all mission objectives were achieved, and we can now get “halfway to anywhere” (i.e. LKO) with our rockets.


From Jeb’s point of view, everything was routine up until the circularisation burn and with the long burn using the vacuum-optimised stage 3 engine, “routine” became “relaxing”.  Without the urgency of a sub-orbital flight, there was plenty of time to devote to scientific experiments and reports - several EVA reports were made during the mission.


At an approximate altitude of 85km and just over half an hour into the mission, Jeb overflew KSC and used the opportunity to transmit data using the communication equipment installed in the capsule - while useful, this was expensive in terms of electric charge, which would have been the limiting factor determining mission duration - we need to think about installing solar cells in future vehicles.


It was decided to end the mission before another overflight of KSC, and a deorbit burn was made targeting the ocean off our coast.  While the energies involved were greater than previous missions, the heat shield again was more than adequate, and a safe splashdown was achieved.  Jeb was particularly proud of getting so close to KSC, although the trajectory prediction software has to take most of the credit.  The capsule and scientific equipment did float rather lower in the water than we would like, so flotation devices can expect to make an appearance in future missions where a water landing is planned.


While most of the team were concentrating on Jeb getting to orbit, the recovery contractors got some practice by retrieving stage 1 - the parachutes worked well, and it only needs some drying out before we can refill the boosters and light them again - more money saved!.


For our next mission, tentative plans have been made to fly a two kerbal (scientist and pilot) capsule, equipped with solar panels, radar, and extended stores.  We may attempt a launch into a significantly inclined orbit - something not yet attempted either.



Launch will be just before sunrise - this should ensure Jeb can land during the day if we need to end the mission in its early stages.



Ascending smoothly on the stage 2 liquid-fuelled engine.



Coasting, escape tower jettisoned and firing.



Circularisation, just after stage 2 burnout.



Instruments deployed - in a stable orbit!



At this point, Jeb is just sitting back and enjoying the view.



KSC through the capsule camera.



Burning for deorbit.



All propulsive stages gone, preparing for re-entry.



Trajectory looking good.



This is one of the trickiest parts - keeping the heatshield oriented correctly.



Within 5km !



That's not good - some sort of buoyancy aid should be added to our capsules.



This is what happened to stage 1.



Nice and slow...



We can certainly use these again.



Edited by S4qFBxkFFg

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

You’ve put a lot of work into this series and it shows. Well done!  Very enjoyable read so far. Hope you keep it going. 

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hopper 4a

There are still some scientific objectives we can meet without using our higher performing vehicles (mainly gathering data close to KSC) and our crew could always use more flight time - therefore, with inspiration from some older designs, we are again planning suborbital flights.


This rocket will be filling in some of the blanks in our materials investigations - in this case, in the upper (above ~18000m) atmosphere.

With thrust and fuel reduced to about 60% of maximum, Val will be taking the rocket almost straight up and down - this is about as routine as it gets.





Crew: Valentina Kerman
Result: Success
Status: Recovered

Uneventful - but that’s what we expected, the materials samples have been safely recovered to the lab, and the rocket is being refuelled.

These are starting to look too small for the pad.



Target altitude achieved.



Not too close, not too far.






Edited by S4qFBxkFFg

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now