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September Astronautics

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A new thread for my mission reports; a lot of time and several game versions have passed since I last played this game, so it makes sense to start anew. I cannot promise consistent updates here, but there will be updates every so often. As is usual with my mission reports, details will all be condensed within spoilers to avoid clutter.

Campaign Details:


The game is played in Science Mode; this is so that I have to unlock parts but I can set my own goals without fear of funding.

Difficulty Settings:











Mod List:

  • Buffalo - Explore In Style
  • Click Through Blocker
  • Commnet Constellation
  • Community Resource Pack
  • Cryogenic Engines
  • DMagic Orbital Science
  • Editor Extensions Redux
  • Final Frontier
  • Fuel Tank Expansion
  • GPO Speed Fuel Pump
  • Heat Control
  • Inline Ballutes
  • KEI
  • Kerbal Alarm Clock
  • Kerbal Atomics
  • Kerbal Komets
  • Kerbal Konstructs
  • Kerbalism
  • Kopernicus
  • Kronometer
  • KSC Extended
  • Making History DLC
  • Mark IV Spaceplane System
  • MechJeb2
  • MechJeb For All
  • Missing History
  • Modular Flight Integrator
  • Modular Launch Pads
  • M.O.L.E
  • Near Future Aeronautics
  • Near Future Construction
  • Near Future Electrical
  • Near Future Launch Vehicles
  • Near Future Propulsion
  • Near Future Solar
  • Near Future Spacecraft
  • NRAP Procedural Test Weights
  • Omega's Stockalike Structures
  • Outer Planets Mod
  • Pebkac
  • Precise Editor
  • RLA Reborn
  • SCANsat
  • Science Alert
  • Sigma Binary
  • Sigma Dimensions (scale factor 3.2x for planetary and orbital radii; scale factor 1.4x for atmospheres; scale factor 0.6 for landscape)
  • Simplex Tech Tree
  • Stage Recovery
  • Stockalike Station Parts Expansion Redux
  • Toolbar Control
  • TRP-Hire
  • Tundra's Space Center
  • Tweakscale
  • Universal Storage 2


Without further ado, here is...

Part 1: Initial Scientific Endeavours

We begin, of course, with simple sounding rockets to research Kerbin's atmosphere (and collecting all available data from the KSC, which is done easily using KEI).



Sounding Rocket 1 on the launch pad. Its mission is simple: collect pressure and temperature data from Kerbin's lower atmosphere. Admittedly this could be accomplished with a plane, but this is a space program, and the mission is also a technology test.


Liftoff of SR1. The rocket uses solid propellant and is spin-stabilized.


The rocket reached an apoapsis above 12.5km, and met scientific goals.


Touchdown was successful. SR1 gathered important data.


SR2 on the launch pad. This rocket has two solid-fueled stages. Its mission is to gather similar data to SR1, but from higher in Kerbin's atmosphere, to clarify the pressure gradient.


Liftoff of SR1.



First stage cutoff and separation; second stage ignition.


Due to a calculation error, the first stage of the rocket proved to be far too powerful for the intended goal (an apoapsis of around 65km). The projected apoapsis at engine cutoff is 50km above the projected limit of what can reasonably be considered the atmosphere.


Useful data can be collected from space, but this vehicle was not designed for re-entry and may not survive.



Surprisingly the probe did survive the heat of re-entry; unfortunately its descent was not able to be slowed sufficiently, and the parachute did not deploy before it hit the ocean.


SR3 on the launchpad. This rocket has the same goal as SR2, with a secondary objective of testing a liquid fueled rocket engine, and ignition of such mid-flight (which is more challenging than automatic ignition of solid rocket motors). Ideally we would like to recover the engine to study it.


Liftoff of SR3.


The vehicle develops a worrying pitch toward the southwest shortly after liftoff.



First stage cutoff and separation; second stage ignition. Unfortunately the current angle of attack means that it is impossible for the scientific payload to reach the upper atmosphere; however, we can still test the liquid thruster since it successfully ignited.


First stage cutoff, far below the target apoapsis.



The payload touched down successfully. Despite being unable to collect useful data from the upper atmosphere, the liquid-fueled engine can be studied.

Next goals are a series of orbital satellites, both for studying the space environment around Kerbin, and to serve as communication relays for future missions.

Edited by septemberWaves
Updated mod list.
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Part 2: An Artificial Satellite

Data collected from sounding rocket missions, as well as studies of solid rocket motors and liquid-fueled thrusters, have been applied to develop the first artificial orbiter (and its launch vehicle) for Kerbin. The satellite, named Observer 1, is designed to do simple surveys of the local astrotopography (which is definitely not a word which the R&D department made up just now) just beyond the limit of Kerbin's atmosphere. It is launched on the newly-developed Argos 1 rocket, which is designed to take a 125kg payload up to a 102km circular orbit.




Argos 1 is a two-stage liquid-fueled rocket, with ten solid rocket boosters on the first stage. This is its second flight; in a test flight with a simulated payload, it was discovered that the autopilot system occasionally has some difficulty managing the attitude control system on the upper stage after engine cutoff, so attitude control after this point is done with a separate computer after the ascent autopilot is shut off.




Liftoff of Observer 1 - Kerbin.



The first phase of flight procedes nominally.



Booster cutoff and separation.



The first stage engine is the largest engine we have built so far - but we estimate a need to upscale again not too far in the future.




First stage cutoff and separation; second stage ignition.



Second stage cutoff; fairing separation. The probe controller is simple, but is sufficient for this mission.


Initiating circularization burn.


Once the circularization burn was over, the payload was separated into a 102x144km orbit (a higher apoapsis than predicted, but not enough difference to interfere with the mission).



Observer 1 has successfully reached orbit of Kerbin, becoming the first object to do so. Its batteries kept it functioning for around a day (during which we were able to obtain valuable data suggesting the presence of significant radiation bands in Kerbin orbit), and its orbit will decay over the course of the next few months, at which point it will re-enter the atmosphere and be destroyed.


With the flawless success of Observer 1, there is now incentive to send more equipment to space. There are plans in motion to create a basic communication network in orbit; we also need to map Kerbin from space (because, ironically, Observer 1 lacked any form of imaging equipment), and for the sake of keeping our satellites intact we also need to study the radiation belts to determine how closely their shape applies to theoretical models, so that we can shield probes appropriately. And the R&D department wants us to develop the ability to return things from space as well; no scientist is content without samples to study, which means we either bring material back to Kerbin or send kerbals out there to study space in person.

For most (if not all) upcoming payloads, we cannot be confined to orbits that are only a few kilometers at most from the atmosphere's edge, which means the Argos 1 rocket needs an upgrade. For this, we have developed Argos 1B; its first two stages are identical, but Argos 1B has a smaller third stage inside the payload fairing; the second stage is no longer capable of achieving orbit with the extended payload, but the addition of the third stage allows for small payloads to be transported to much higher orbits. Test flight (with a 150kg simulated payload) is detailed below:



The flight profile of Argos 1B is the same as the original Argos 1 rocket up until the vehicle is in the higher parts of the atmosphere.


Second stage cutoff while still in atmosphere.



Fairing separation and second stage separation.


Third stage ignition.


After circularization, the vehicle is in a 115km circular parking orbit (this orbit was chosen as a standard for the planned satellite missions) with at least 1700m/s of delta-v remaining (potentially more with smaller payloads, potentially less for inclined orbits); this is sufficient for most current purposes with small satellites.

It is worth noting that the third stage of the Argos 1B has no integrated attitude control system, so it relies on the payload for that. Payloads must be designed accordingly.


Now that we are capable of launching payloads into higher orbits, it is time to launch several satellites to Kerbin orbit. Details are below (launch sequences are identical, so are skipped):




First launched is Magneto 1. It was placed in a 70° inclined parking orbit (after having been launched from Woomerang, since it is more efficient to launch to an inclined orbit from there than from the equatorial KSC) before transferring to its eccentric mission orbit of 115km x 11.5Mm. Notably, Magneto 1 is the first use of solar panels on a spacecraft; this was required because the satellite is intended to conduct long-duration surveys of Kerbin's magnetic field environment so that a detailed model of the radiation belts can be compiled. It is suspected that the magnetopause extends beyond the orbit of the Mun, so that will not be able to be mapped out in full, but the data collected from Magneto 1 will provide good insight into the shape of the magnetosphere so that mathematical models can be applied for future predictions.




Next is Oculus 1, an imaging satellite. Its mission orbit, 120km x 1Mm at an 85° incline, allows it to survey all of Kerbin's varied biomes from a good range of altitudes.



Another of the new satellites launched on an Argos 1B rocket is Observer 2. This is a somewhat-upgraded version of Observer 1 designed to perform the same experiments significantly closer to Kerbin's inner radiation belt, which may produce different results. It will also provide telemetry data which will be important in determining how spacecraft perform when exposed to high levels of radiation.

All of the recent satellites can relay data between each other (and potentially other spacecraft), but that is a secondary purpose. In future there will be a need to establish a network of dedicated communication satellites, but that will require a more powerful launch vehicle as a 150kg payload capacity is insufficient for most purposes.

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Part 3: More Satellites

After some development, another upgrade to our launch capabilities is introduced: Argos 2. In theory, Argos 2 should be able to send a 500kg payload to a 125km parking orbit; in practice it can launch slightly more massive payloads so long as they have integrated propulsion systems. The main limiting factor right now is the thrust of our available liquid-fueled first stage engines, but we can get past that issue with the use of small SRBs. In any case, Argos 2 allows us to launch some larger satellites, which is important because 150kg is a tiny amount of mass for any mission.

The first of the new satellites is Avaritia 1. This is a sample return mission, because the R&D department have been craving something to study aside from their computer screens. Avaritia 1 will expose several canisters of assorted goo to Kerbin's astrometeological (R&D assures us that this is definitely a real word) environment in the hopes that the goo will do something interesting; it will then (if all goes to plan) become the first object to safely return to the surface of Kerbin from space.

Avaritia 1




The latest Argos rocket shares a first and second stage with Argos 1, but replaces eight of the ten SRBs with two liquid rocket boosters, which are derived from the first stage but use an engine which is more powerful at the cost of lacking the ability to vector thrust. This first launch will actually use an unconventional launch profile, boosting the payload to a 1000km apoapsis rather than the standard 125km parking orbit for this launch vehicle.




Liftoff of Avaritia 1 - Kerbin.



SRB cutoff and separation.



One issue with current liquid-fueled engines is their inability to be throttled. Argos 2 surpasses 5.5g of acceleration before LRB cutoff.


LRB cutoff and separation.


First stage cutoff and separation, second stage ignition.


Fairing separation at the edge of the atmosphere. The second stage will keep burning until all fuel is exhausted, at which point the propulsion system of the payload will take over.



Second stage cutoff; payload deployment.


Avaritia 1 main engine ignition.


An integrated solar panel keeps the probe powered, so long as it always faces the sun. The mission was timed such that this is the case.


The probe is given a 2000km apoapsis, well within Kerbin's inner radiation belt. The head scientist assures us that the goo is not magnetic, but they winked after that statement so we are unsure what to think. Regardless, hopefully having some goo to poke with a stick will keep the R&D department occupied for a while.



With the goo exposure completed, the probe's periapsis is reduced to 20km. This is a steep re-entry profile, but will thoroughly test the capability of the ablative heat shielding; we hope to be able to return payloads from the moons (and beyond) so an effective heat shield is important.



Plasma generated from re-entry heating obscures our communication link shortly after the probe enters the atmosphere. Luckily this was anticipated, and the landing process is fully automated.



Unfortunately the engine and fuel tank exploded on impact with the ground, but the important scientific payload survived.


Observer 3

Thanks to our recently-increased maximum payload capacity, two new goals have become attainable: Kerbin's moons. The next spacecraft in the Observer line will be sent to Mun and Minmus, in that order.




Observer 3 is the most massive payload we have designed so far, at 501kg. A significant proportion of this is the propellant; Observer 3 has a monopropellant engine (essentially an upgraded RCS thruster) which will propel the probe from a 125km Kerbin orbit all the way to orbit the Mun. Its scientific equipment has the same purposes as previous Observer probes.


The transfer burn requires most of the propellant.


Observer 3 approaches the Mun.


A maneuver is conducted at periapsis to enter a 100km x 4000km orbit; a second maneuver is conducted the next time the probe reaches periapsis to take it down to the mission orbit of 100km x 400km.



Now the probe will spend months in Munar orbit, collecting valuable data (mostly about the radiological environment near the Mun).


Observer 3 was successful and returned lots of valuable data. Next, its twin will visit Minmus.


Observer 4

Observer 4 is identical to Observer 3, except for its destination. Minmus requires slightly more delta-v to encounter, but less to achieve orbit, so the propulsion system used by Observer 3 required no modifications.




After an uneventful launch and transfer to Minmus, Observer 4 burns to enter orbit. It is being placed into a polar orbit of Minmus, so that it can easily scan more of the moon's surface.



The working orbit of Observer 4 is 30km x 200km at a near-polar inclination. Its periapsis also makes it the closest artificial object to another celestial body, an achievement which was previously attained by Observer 3. Another of Observer 3's records that Observer 4 subsequently broke is the furthest artificial object from Kerbin.



Observer 4 will send back useful data about Minmus over the course of several months.



With satellites in orbit of both moons, and the ability to return equipment and samples from space, this space program is really starting to get off the ground. The data from these missions will hopefully give the R&D department some encouragement to develop more space exploration vehicles and better equipment so that we can go even further.

Edited by septemberWaves
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Part 4: Alnitak, and some Mun missions

Alnitak-1 Tests

This space program is not just intended to send robotic explorers to destinations beyond Kerbin; we want to send kerbals out there as well. The Alnitak program is the first venture into crewed space flight.

We currently lack a launch vehicle capable of putting the Alnitak-1 crew transport into Kerbin orbit; however, there are still tests which can be performed on the vehicle.



The Alnitak-1 crew capsule on the launch pad. This is an uncrewed test of the launch escape system.


LES ignition.



The LES performs as expected.



The landing system also functioned as expected.

Another test, this time a sub-orbital space flight and re-entry test, was also conducted, but unfortunately the footage from this was lost.

A launch vehicle with sufficient payload capacity to carry the Alnitak-1 spacecraft is being developed.


Mun Probes

Just as with Kerbin, it makes sense to study the Mun in detail from space. Observer 2 and Magneto 2 have been developed for this purpose, with the same mission parameters as the previous probes in their respective programs, except focused on the Mun rather than Kerbin. Mision details for both probes are below:



Observer 2 is placed into a 40° parking orbit, to allow it to reach a polar Munar orbit without significant wasted delta-v. It is worth noting that Oculus 2 has upgraded antennae, which will be important for a communication link to future relay satellites.


A standard transfer is performed at the equatorial descending node, for no more delta-v than a transfer from an equatorial orbit.



The Munar transfer stage is jettisoned on a trajectory that will impact the Mun; the probe then makes a correction burn to raise its Munar periapsis to a safe altitude.


Oculus 2 approaches the Mun.


After orbital insertion and a few correction burns to position the probe in a highly-inclined 150km orbit, Oculus 2 begins its mission to image the Mun.



Magneto 2 was launched into a similar parking orbit to that of Oculus 2, and used the same transfer method to reach an inclined Munar orbit.


The Munar transfer stage of Magneto 2 is also used for Munar orbital insertion, as Magneto 2 lacks an integrated propulsion system.


Once positioned in its 90km x 5Mm working orbit, Magneto 2 begins observation of the magnetic field environment in Munar orbit.


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14 hours ago, obney kerman said:

Interesting probe design!

Thank you; I try to make them look interesting; what's a little extra mass if it results in something with a better appearance? Granted, this design philosophy has caused me issues with places like Eve and Tylo, but for the most part I much prefer having spacecraft with less functionality and better aesthetics than the common "fuel tank with 20 science experiments glued to the sides" design. It also means that I have an excuse to use smaller rockets (which I like to use sometimes), and that I can launch more probes in general because I need a new one for every few experiments.

I am also going to try to keep most probe series consistent in design and purpose: Observer probes will always use the Stayputnik core and have geiger counter, thermometer, and barometer experiments; Magneto probes will always be magnetometer + RPWS on a QBE core; and so on. This may change with future probes for exploring the gas planets and Plock though (when OPM updates of course, but I am sure it will before I have any reason to go that far out), because it is impractical to send five or more science probes to each planet and moon.

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Part 5: First Kerbal In Space

The Argos 3 rocket has been developed, and with it we can enter a new era of space exploration by sending kerbals to space. Argos 3 is designed to launch the Alnitak-1 CT1-S (wherein Alnitak-1 is the series of crewed space vehicles, CT1 refers to a crew transport with a crew capacity of 1, and S denotes the short service module, as there is also a longer variant). Valentina Kerman is the pilot of this first launch.







Liftoff of Alnitak EM1 (Exploration Mission 1).


The Argos 3 rocket uses the same LRBs as on the Argos 2, and the same final stage as all other Argos rockets. Its other attributes are very different however. The first stage uses two of a new type of liquid-fueled engine, which has high thrust while also being capable of thrust vectoring.


LRB cutoff and separation.


First stage cutoff and separation, second stage ignition. The second stage uses the same lifting engine as the core stage of the Argos 1 and 2 rockets; the high thrust is necessary for the large payload.


LES jettison.


Second stage cutoff, third stage ignition. The third stage in this case lacks its usual attitude control thrusters, and relies on the ACS of the Alnitak spacecraft. However, Argos 3 variants for other payloads will retain the attitude control thrusters.


The third stage completes the circularization burn.


Alnitak 3 has reached orbit; Valentina Kerman is the first kerbal in space, and the first to orbit Kerbin. The upper stage is part of the spacecraft and is intended to be used for orbital maneuvers, but it is not the final stage; the spacecraft has its own engine with fuel stored in the service module, allowing for a good range of movement in orbit.


After an orbit and a half, the vehicle conducts a de-orbit burn on the night side of Kerbin. It is given a 30km periapsis and targeted to touch down in the desert just north of the desert launch facilities.


Re-entry goes as expected. The heat shield is sufficient to keep the craft safe. However, the ablative layer will have to be made thicker for returns from high orbits, if the Alnitak spacecraft ever goes beyond LKO.




Landing is successful.

The first crewed spaceflight mission was a success. This variant of the Alnitak-1 CT1-S had its mission duration limited to only a few hours because of the limitations of battery power, but the service module is highly configurable. Most future missions will include a hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell (and storage for its fuel); there is also space in the service module for scientific equipment, additional life support supplies, and anything else which may be useful - and if the short service module is insufficient, the spacecraft can instead use a service module with twice the length (the Argos 3 rocket is fully capable of supporting all potential payloads that an Alnitak-1 CT1 spacecraft might carry).

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Naming Scheme Update

I am going to retroactively apply some name changes to my space probes, as well as setting standards for future missions. Probe missions will be named after Neptunian moons for landers (and for probes which will drop into the atmospheres of gas giants to transmit as much data as possible before destruction), and Saturnian moons for everything else. Crewed missions and vehicles will mostly be named after Jovian moons, though I am thinking of using Uranian moons as the nomenclature for surface bases specifically. The current naming scheme for crewed vehicle classes (Alnilam-class for 1.25m and 1.875m, Alnitak-class for 2.5m, and Mintaka-class for 3.75m and larger) will remain, and will be the only nomenclature for vehicles which are not important enough (or which are too standardized) to warrant unique names (i.e. a Mintaka-class station service module, for example, will have a Mintaka-class designation, but only stations which it is used in will be named after a Jovian moon).

I will be posting a regular update soon; you can expect some new probe missions and perhaps something else...

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Part 6: Minmus Probes & Adrastea 1

Methone 3 and Pallene 3

The recent successful Munar probes have prompted a desire to achieve similar goals at Minmus. Methone 3 and Pallene 3 are identical to Methone 2 (previously Magneto 2) and Pallene 2 (previously Oculus 2) respectively, aside from the fact that they will be sent to Minmus rather than the Mun. Both will be placed in polar Minmus orbits similar to the Munar orbits of their predecessors. They are launched and sent to Minmus almost a day apart from each other. Neither probe is launched perfectly into the plane of Minmus, but the delta-v requirement for a plane change is low in both cases because of the high ascending node late in the transfer. Aside from the important science data the probes will collect from Minmus, this nearly-simultaneous transfer will test the ability of the tracking and observation department to pay attention to multiple things at once.




Methone 3 is launched first.



It is followed the next morning by Pallene 3.





After a travel time of several days, each probe reached their target mission orbit. Both will make observations of Minmus, and we will gather valuable data about the small moon.


Adrastea 1

Sending kerbals to the farthest reaches of the Kerbol system will require a good understanding of how life in space works. To begin our research on this topic, the space station Adrastea 1 was designed. It is a modular space station, intended to be constructed from three components in low Kerbin orbit; the modules will be launched separately and will rendezvous in a 150km circular orbit. Adrastea 1 will support two kerbals at once, living and interacting in space for up to 40 days before resupply (with an uncrewed cargo variant of the Alnitak-1 CT1) and crew rotation. It is intended to have three different crews (six kerbals total) before critical systems are likely to fail. Despite never having tested orbital rendezvous before, or the docking ports which will allow the station modules to connect rather than floating uselessly next to each other, the engineering and design department assures us that the station construction will proceed flawlessly. Considering the fact that it will require three launches of our largest (and most expensive) rocket just to assemble, and another eight (six crew, two resupply) during operation, we certainly hope that they are right.

The first launch is Adrastea 1 AM1 (Assembly Mission 1), which consists of an Alnitak-1 SM-Core (wherein "SM" means "station module").




The core module is well within the payload mass limit of the launch vehicle, so it reaches orbit easily. The core module includes basic power generation and storage (though only enough to keep itself running before the solar module arrives), docking connectors for the other two modules as well as the crew's spacecraft, backup life support systems. and a small amount of supplies. It is also part of the habitation area for the station, though most of the crew's living requirements will only be met when the habitation module is connected.


The next launch is Adrastea 1 AM2, consisting of an Alnitak-1 SM-Solar, to provide the primary power generation for the station. It has several new solar arrays, each formed of six solar panels which are folded up during launch, and are mounted with single-axis rotation so that they will attempt to face the nearest source of light (which will usually be Kerbol). It also stores some monopropellant for attitude control.


Here you can see the new solar arrays deployed. The module also includes antennae - not that this station will be distant enough from Kerbin to need the extra communication range, but they provide redundancy for internal short-range transmitters, and the module has potential use on other vehicles.


This module was placed into the usual 125km parking orbit; it will make several maneuvers to rendezvous with the core module of Adrastea 1.


Orbital maneuvers completed, the solar module approaches the core module.



After approaching to a close enough distance (less than 200 meters) the module undocks from the Argos 3 upper stage.


The solar module has integrated RCS thrusters, which it will use to dock with the core module.




You may notice the square docking connector; it was designed for these struts, as an alternative to the round docking ports that can allow kerbals to move through. [OOC: The docking port is actually not designed for these struts; it is one of Nertea's docking ports from Near Future Construction but tweakscaled down to 0.625m. I had no idea if it would work, but I am glad it does because it will make truss structures look a lot nicer than if I had to use the usual 0.625m docking ports.]


The first ever orbital rendezvous and docking procedure was as successful as the E&D department told us it would be, which paves the way for many future missions using similar procedures.


Adrastea 1 awaits in orbit for its final module, after which it will be given its first crew. However, this will happen at a later date; the habitation module is ready, but the Alnitak-1 CT1 needs some final tweaks before it can be sent to the station. It already has integrated docking capabilities (the docking equipment and complex ACS were simply not installed on the first flight as they were not needed), but the service module arrangement needs some work - specifically, it is still undecided which service module components and in what configuration will be best suited as a standard for station missions; additionally, the uncrewed supply transport variant is not yet ready for flight at all, and it is not certain that it will be finished by the time the station's first crew are due to leave, if they were to be launched once the final station module is attached. There is also talk of Mun and Minmus landers (uncrewed, of course; we are not yet nearly capable of landing kerbals on another celestial body), and the potential of using this year's Duna transfer window for a flyby mission, so the engineering and development team have their hands full.

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Part 7: Completion of Adrastea 1; Naiad 1

Adrastea 1 AM3

Before it can support crew for more than a few days, Adrastea 1 needs a habitation module. The Alnitak-1 SM-Hab is the largest and most massive payload we have launched thus far.




This module is approaching the mass limit of the Argos 3 launch vehicle. It includes habitation space for two kerbals, as well as life support systems and supplies. It also includes an airlock; among the experiments due to be tested on board Adrastea 1 is the ability for kerbals to conduct extra-vehicular activities.


After a few hours and some similar orbital rendezvous maneuvers to those that were conducted by the solar module, the habitat module approached the station.



Docking procedure successful. Adrastea 1 is complete.



Our first space station, Adrastea 1, is complete. It will not be crewed immediately, however; the two Alnitak-1 CT1-S spacecraft that are needed are still being configured.


Naiad 1

Naiad 1 is the first space probe to attempt a soft landing on another celestial body: Minmus. Minmus was chosen for this purpose rather than the Mun because, despite the greater distance from Kerbin, Minmus is much less massive and so it takes less total delta-v to land on it - which allows for a smaller lander, as well as plenty of room for error with the lander fuel.




The probe has a transfer stage to take it to Minmus, but the landing fuel is contained within the probe's triangular chassis. The lander engine uses monopropellant, as it is simpler than bipropellant, allowing for a cheaper and less complex design just in case anything goes wrong. That, and the fact that there is no need for a particularly powerful engine on Minmus.




After several days in transit, the probe reaches Minmus orbit.


Once in orbit, it waits another 8 Kerbin days so that it can land in the sunlight, which is important because the probe is solar powered.



The transfer stage de-orbits the probe, and is then jettisoned. It will impact the surface of Minmus several kilometers away from the probe's landing site.




Landing sequence successful. Naiad 1 has become the first artificial object to make a soft landing on another celestial body. This landing gave some important insight into how to accomplish landings on airless bodies, and the lander is also equipped with scientific devices which will transmit important data back home.


The landing site is the Northern lowlands, just north of some of the moon's ice flats.


In the time it took for Naiad 1 to accomplish its landing mission, the spacecraft that will give Adrastea 1 its first crew have been prepared. They will be launched soon.

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8 hours ago, denyasis said:

If you don't mind, what part did you use for the side panels of your lander? I really like the design. I've been trying to come up with a good mono prop only lander and have been looking for inspiration.



Structural panels, with textures switched to gold foil. They are either stock, or from Making History; I cannot remember which.

Additionally, it is probably worth noting that the engine on that lander has a higher Isp than most monopropellant engines; this was not strictly necessary for Minmus even at this scale, but I felt that it looked better, which is important for me.

Edited by septemberWaves
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Part 8: First crew to Adrastea 1; Daphnis 1

The time has come to send Adrastea 1 its first crew.


Jengard Kerman awaits on the pad in an Alnitak-1 CT1-S, configured for this kind of crew transfer mission.


If you are observant, you may notice that the launch pad is different.


This is because we have had some new infrastructure installed at the KSC. Everything is prefabricated before being transported and quickly assembled on-site, which is how the space station has been upgraded so swiftly. We have several new launch pads along with additional vehicle assembly and storage facilities, which will allow us to progress much quicker in future. As Adrastea-1 CTM-1 (Crew Transfer Mission 1) launches, Adrastea-1 CTM-2 is being prepared to roll out to the twin of this pad from the new large VAB; both will launch on the same day.


Liftoff of Adrastea-1 CTM-1.


As you can see, the recent modifications to the space center are rather extensive.


After an uneventful launch, Adrastea-1 CTM-1 reaches orbit, making Jengard Kerman the second kerbal in space. Here you can see the standard docking equipment - a docking connector and extended RCS thrusters.



Adrastea-1 CTM-1 approaches the station.




Docking procedures successful. Jengard prepares the station for further operation.


Meanwhile, back on Kerbin, Adrastea-1 CTM-2 is ready for launch. Tamdin Kerman is the crew of this launch; the mission scientist who will conduct the first spacewalk.


Launch and rendezvous were uneventful.



With another successful docking procedure, Adrastea 1 has its first crew. Jengard and Tamdin will spend 40 days in space. This excursion will study the effects of space on kerbal bodies (which are known for their resilience, so R&D assures us that everything will be fine), as well as testing our equipment to ensure that it functions well enough to keep crews safe in space for longer. The first spacewalk will also be conducted during the mission.




A few more views of Adrastea 1.



Daphnis 1

Daphnis 1 is a communication relay satellite that will be positioned at the Mun's L5 point for use as a communication relay to the far side of the Mun. It will have a counterpart at the Mun's L4 point, and together they should give full communication coverage to the Mun, provided the spacecraft they are serving as a relay for have good enough antennae.





Daphnis 1 reaches Kerbin orbit.


And subsequently transfers to a high Kerbin orbit.


Precise control of the spacecraft using small monopropellant thrusters allowed us to position it in the right orbit with very little error.


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Part 9: First Spacewalk, EVA Issues, and Daphnis 2

We return to Adrastea 1 eight days into its first crew's 40-day mission. Everything is prepared for Tamdin Kerman to conduct the first spacewalk.




The space station is re-oriented so that the airlock is in sunlight, to ensure that Tamdin can see everything without issue.

The main purpose of this EVA is to test the functionality of the airlock and of our kerbonauts' space suits in a real mission setting (both have of course been extensively tested in vacuum chambers back on Kerbin).


Tamdin Kerman initiates EVA, becoming the first kerbal to do so.



She conducts various observations of Kerbin, and also inspects the exterior of the station.


Following the successful EVA, Tamdin returns to the safety of Adrastea 1's interior.

Unfortunately, a critical flaw with the pressurization sequencing system resulted in nitrogen leaking from the station during the EVA. We know what the issue is, but Adrastea 1 can no longer safely support crew.

Mission Abort Initiated



Tamdin Kerman leaves the station first. Jengard remains for another orbit to finalize the shutdown of the station.




Tamdin's landing and recovery are successful.


After the station was properly configured for jettison, Jengard evacuated.



Re-entry was as standard, but there was a failure with the parachute deployment system.




This is why kerbals have personal parachutes. Jengard was recovered successfully, though the capsule was destroyed.


Finally, Adrastea 1 is de-orbited.



The station was not designed for re-entry, and was safely destroyed in Kerbin's atmosphere.

The failure of Adrastea 1 means we will need another space station for future operations - however, we were still able to gather some good data from the eight days it spent with a crew.

Daphnis 2

To complete Kerbin's first communication network, Daphnis 2 is sent to the Mun's L4 point. With it in place, we will be able to have full coverage for satellites in Munar orbit, and nearly full coverage for the Mun's surface as well. A similar system will not work at Minmus because of limitations of current antenna ranges; it will have to have a relay network in its own orbit. But the two Daphnis satellites will suffice for Munar orbit operations.





Launch and orbital maneuvers were successful, leaving Daphnis 2 in position at the Mun's L4 point.


With Daphnis 1 and 2 in position, we can control our existing satellites when they have no direct link to Kerbin. We can also ensure that future satellites in Munar orbit will have a constant connection.

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Technical Report 1: Argos 4, Argos 5, & new Alnitak-2 infrastructure

This is not the standard kind of update. There are no missions in this report aside from test flights. Instead, this post will detail information about some new space exploration technology that is in-development, and which will be in-use soon. Specifically, this technical report will cover the new Argos 4 and 5 launch vehicles, and the new Alnitak-2 line of spacecraft.

Argos 4

Argos 4 is a rocket with two variants. Argos 4A is the smallest variant; it has a payload capacity of 7.5 tonnes to a standard 125km equatorial parking orbit.






Liftoff of Argos 4A TF1.


The first notable point in the ascent profile is the roll maneuver. Not strictly necessary, but it does help to ensure that the boosters separate flawlessly from the central rocket.


Both of Kerbin's moons are visible today.


The first stage utilizes five Fulcrum engines with a total burn time of 133.9 seconds. It also has two 7U Sledgehammer solid rocket boosters, each with a burn time of 66.9 seconds.


Ascent is nominal. Sound barrier is passed without issue.


SRB cutoff.




SRB separation. The separation motors worked flawlessly.


Ascent continues with just the five liquid rocket engines of the first stage.




First stage engine cutoff.


First stage separation.


Second stage ignition. The second stage is equipped with solid separation motors to settle the fuel for engine ignition.


The second stage of this rocket is the final stage. It uses a single Fulcrum engine. It may be unconventional to use launch stage engines on a vacuum-optimized stage, but the high thrust is necessary. The Fulcrum engine is not only our most powerful engine currently available; it is also our most efficient launch stage engine, and its vacuum efficiency thus makes it an acceptable choice for an upper stage. Using it here also means that the rocket requires six Fulcrum engines and no other liquid-fueled engines, reducing manufacturing costs.


The upper stage includes integrated avionics and attitude control systems, as well as good power storage.



Engine cutoff as target apoapsis is reached.


Fairing separation.



It takes very little delta-v to circularize.


With a successful circularization burn, the test payload is positioned safely in an approximately 125km circular equatorial parking orbit, as intended. The upper stage has 400m/s of delta-v remaining, which should prove useful.


Argos 4B has twice as many boosters, allowing it to carry 10 tonnes to a 125km parking orbit.









The launch profile is very similar to that of Argos 4A except for the different acceleration curve, meaning that the vehicle has a much higher apoapsis by the time of first stage engine cutoff.


Argos 5

Argos 5 is the limit of what is possible with current rocket technology. It is designed to carry a 15 tonne payload to a 125km parking orbit - or, to carry an Alnitak-2 CT2 and 7 tonnes of payload to the same orbit.




Ignition. The first stage of Argos 5 has eleven Fulcrum engines with a burn time of 119.8 seconds. It is boosted by a pair of the same 7U Sledgehammer SRBs that are used on both variants of Argos 4; these have a burn time of 66.9 seconds.


Liftoff of Argos 5 TF1.


A roll maneuver, as is standard.


A close look at the first-stage engines.


SRB cutoff and separation.



Ascent continues nominally.


A clearer view of the engine configuration.



First stage cutoff and separation.


Second stage ignition.



The second stage has five Fulcrum engines, with a burn time of 50.2 seconds.



Second stage cutoff and separation. Note that the second stage itself does not have separation motors.


Third stage ignition. This final stage is identical to the final stage of both Argos 4 variants.


Fairing separation.




A standard circularization burn deploys the payload into its parking orbit.


Alnitak-2 CT2

Future crewed missions will necessitate more crew, and it is impractical to send kerbals to space individually. The Alnitak-1 CT1 has served us well in its three space missions, but with the failure of Adrastea 1, the Alnitak-1 spacecraft will no longer see service.



Alnitak-2 CT2 is a two-kerbal crew transport that will replace our existing crew transport. It has more delta-v in orbit, and can stay in space for up to 30 hours (2.5 days) before running out of supplies.


It is propelled by a spark engine; there is no need for higher thrust than that.



The service module contains fuel, monopropellant (both for orbital maneuvers and for the monopropellant fuel cell), power storage, and equipment storage which can hold a variety of things depending on what the mission needs. The heat shield is rated for re-entry from Mun or Minmus, and of course the spacecraft is designed to be able to rendezvous and dock with other spacecraft, provided the docking ports are compatible.



There are two launch configurations; one includes only the spacecraft on an Argos 4A rocket, and the other includes the spacecraft and space for a 7 tonne payload when launched on an Argos 5 rocket (delta-v stats shown are with a simulated 7 tonne payload).


Alnitak-2 SV1

Alnitak-2 SV1 (Supply Vehicle 1) is an automated cargo and resupply spacecraft. Designed to carry a large payload of up to 2.5 tonnes, as well as several hundred kilograms of smaller payload. It is designed to be launched on an Argos 4A rocket.




Like most other Alnitak spacecraft, this one is propelled by a Spark engine.



Cargo bays open. There is a simulated primary payload (to show correct delta-v stats) and an example secondary payload of various supplies that may be needed by a space station. The upper payload bay can re-enter, and land several hundred kilograms of cargo (the limit here is volume moreso than mass).


The spacecraft fits nicely in a fairing.


Alnitak-2 Station Modules

All of these modules are designed to be launched by an Argos 4A rocket. They are not all of the potentially-useful space station modules that could be created with current technology, but together they already provide a good range of operational capacity.






The core module would be the first station module to be launched. It is technically a fully-operational station in itself, with similar capabilities to the entirety of Adrastea 1.




The node module includes docking connectors for other modules, as well as for three spacecraft. It also includes the station's primary power systems, and an airlock.



The lab module provides a place for kerbals to do detailed science experiments while in space. It also includes a solar telescope.




The science module hosts a wide variety of science equipment.




The habitation module includes somewhat-cramped accommodation space for several kerbals (four at most, two ideally), and a cupola for observation. The docking connector is offset because of how this module is intended to connect to the node module; the offset allows plenty of clearance for docked spacecraft.


Edited by septemberWaves
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Part 10: Adrastea 2 and Dione 5

With our recently-improved launch capabilities (as outlined in the previous technical report) we can replace Adrastea 1 with improved technology. Adrastea 2 will also be a modular station, but it will be larger and more capable than Adrastea 1.


The first module of Adrastea 2 is a standard Alnitak-2 SM-Core, launched on the new Argos 4A rocket. This module is actually capable of supporting two kerbals in orbit for ten days on its own, and will do so before additional modules are added.





After a successful launch, the station module was boosted into a 300km circular orbit.


The autonomous upper stage de-orbited itself automatically after detaching from the station.



Adrastea-2 CTM-1

Several days after the launch of the first module of Adrastea 2, the first crew are ready to be sent to the station.


This will be the first crewed launch of the Alnitak-2 CT2 spacecraft. Though multiple kerbals have been together in space before, this is our first spacecraft designed to launch more than one kerbal to space simultaneously. The crew of this launch are Kimwig Kerman (mission pilot, station commander) and Svetlana Kerman (space engineer). They were intended to be the second crew of Adrastea 1, but since that station failed they will instead become the first crew of its successor. The objective of this mission is to test the functionality of the station's first module before we launch any additional modules, so that any serious malfunction will not cost us the expense of the completed station.






Following a successful launch, the spacecraft separates from the launch vehicle's upper stage, which de-orbits itself as standard.


After rendezvous maneuvers which are becoming increasingly ordinary for the space program, the crew approach Adrastea 2.




Docking procedure successful.



The first task of the mission, conducted mere minutes after the docking, is for Svetlana to test the EVA system while Kimwig monitors the station in case of any flaws. We are relatively certain that the airlock issues of Adrastea 1 have been resolved with the new station modules, but we cannot be sure until the airlock has been tested in space.


While outside of the station, Svetlana also scans the exterior for any issues, and finds none.


It appears that the pressurization issues have been resolved; we can be sure now that it is safe to conduct extravehicular activity in space.


After spending 10 days in space, the crew prepare to return to Kerbin.




Re-entry and landing were successful (there is no footage of the landing because it took place in darkness).


With a successful first crewed excursion, Adrastea 2 is confirmed to be safe for extended kerbal habitation; more modules will be launched in future.


Dione 5

All of the recent space station activity has brought us to a Duna transfer window. Our technology is developed sufficiently for us to launch our first interplanetary space probe.


Dione 5 is launched on an Argos 4A rocket. At 2.1 tonnes, it is far below the rocket's 7.5 tonne payload capacity; this is because the upper stage of the rocket will also be used as the Duna transfer stage. The probe is equipped with temperature, pressure, and radiation sensors (as is standard for Dione probes [for clarification, Dione is what the Observer series of probes have been renamed to]), as well as large solar arrays, new antennae, and a simple camera to return images of Duna. It is intended to be positioned in an eccentric polar orbit of Duna.





The launch was a success.



Transfer to Duna is planned. The idea transfer window is in 13 days.


After waiting 13 days in Kerbin orbit, the probe begins its transfer to Duna. The transfer stage will be jettisoned once the maneuver is complete.



With the maneuver complete, the probe is on its way to Duna.



Assuming nothing goes wrong, Dione 5 will reach Duna in 215 Kerbin days, and will reach Duna orbit two days after that. In the process, it will become the most distant artificial object from Kerbin, as well as the first to visit another planet. We currently know very little about Duna, aside from the fact that it is very red, has some kind of atmosphere, and possesses at least one moon. The data gathered by Dione 5 will hopefully provide us with a lot of valuable information about the planet.

But the space program has other tasks to perform while Dione 5 travels to Duna. Before the probe's on-board camera can even see its destination, we hope to land a kerbal on the Mun.

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Thank you, I am glad my content is appreciated.

I realize now that I do not have any particularly good images of Dione 5; that will change when it reaches Duna (which will probably occur in Part 13 or 14, after the first Mun landing(s)). I am rather pleased with the design of that spacecraft.

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This is on KSP 1.6.1, right? I love the new delta-v indicator! You can also install EVE and SVE/SVT to make the terrain prettier, or you can use Sci-Fi Visual Enhancements. Those new spacecraft look epic! I wish I had gone with your choice of probe design instead of the standard "slap instruments and a solar panel to the probe core" which I seem to use too much. Keep up the great work @septemberWaves!

(EVE, SVE/SVT have not yet been updated since 1.4.2 - however, you can still install EVE and the SVT configs. It will work and it will beautify Kerbin by a LOT)

Edited by RocketMan-Explorer
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21 hours ago, RocketMan-Explorer said:

I love the new delta-v indicator!

Just in case you are not aware: if you are referring to the extremely useful transparent window which shows each stage's delta-v and other related details, that is not the new stock delta-v indicator; it is one of the many data displays added by a mod called MechJeb. The stock delta-v indicators are the blue bars in the staging column, which, unlike MechJeb, have a tendency to be wildly inaccurate for anything but the simplest of rockets.


21 hours ago, RocketMan-Explorer said:

You can also install EVE and SVE/SVT to make the terrain prettier

It is important to consider the fact that I have to run the game at a framerate that I can tolerate. My only computer is a laptop, and while it is a reasonably good laptop it is certainly no gaming PC; I cannot afford a gaming PC, so visual enhancement mods are typically beyond the ability of my computer to run without slowing the game speed to an insufferable pace (I am using EVE with my upcoming GPP playthrough, but I am only willing to sacrifice framerate in that case because of the gas planet Nero, which (along with its ring system) is tilted 10 degrees from the ecliptic plane, but only with EVE installed).


21 hours ago, RocketMan-Explorer said:

Those new spacecraft look epic! I wish I had gone with your choice of probe design instead of the standard "slap instruments and a solar panel to the probe core" which I seem to use too much.

I am quite pleased with my space probes, and I am glad that my design work is appreciated. If you have the Making History expansion, you can do something similar; all of those panels are added by the DLC (which is well worth the money for any serious spacecraft designer in my opinion; the design versatility afforded by the new parts is excellent even if you use no third-party mods). Editor Extensions Redux will also be an extremely helpful mod for any spacecraft design.

Essentially, the design philosophy I use for my space probes is a combination of "what might be an interesting shape to use for a space probe?" with "what shape will give me enough room inside for the required probe equipment with minimal clipping?", with the former question being the primary consideration. Start with a probe core (it can be any in theory, but you will probably want to use the one with the most advanced features that you have available; unless you are using the mod MechJeb For All (which I use), in which case control with MechJeb is typically the best way to fly). Then design a casing shape from structural panels; thus far I have used simple prisms (a triangular prism for Naiad 1, a square prism (or cuboid) for the Daphnis relays, and an irregular hexagonal prism for Dione 5) and I advise starting with those as well, but as you become accustomed to the building technique you can easily expand to more complex shapes; the most important factor is fitting in enough fuel (which is best kept inside the structure, but sometimes fuel tanks attached to the outside can look okay, as is the case with my Daphnis relays), as equipment can typically be strapped to the outside (sometimes on the end of a cubic octagonal strut, or other struts if you have them available from various mods). Look at real space probes for shape inspiration. Also, forum user Raptor9 has an excellent array of space probes which make good use of the structural panels from Making History; the forum thread is here, and the space probes are in the VAB section of the first post. You can also keep up with my thread(s) if you want inspiration, since I like making special space probe designs; the structural panels are my favourite addition from Making History largely because they allow for such creativity.

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17 minutes ago, septemberWaves said:

not the new stock delta-v indicator, it is one of the many data displays added by a mod called MechJeb. The stock delta-v indicators are the blue bars in the staging column, which, unlike MechJeb, have a tendency to be wildly inaccurate for anything but the simplest of rockets.

Ah. Well, I have MechJeb, and I know what you mean by the delta-v indicator (the one in the VAB?).  Still a shame that it's inaccurate, though. 

21 minutes ago, septemberWaves said:

If you have the Making History expansion, you can do something similar

Yeah, I've been wanting to get MH ever since it came out, but I haven't had the time to do so. Maybe one day - although I definitely agree with you on the basis that MH can make for some sweet rockets, probes, and rovers. 

24 minutes ago, septemberWaves said:

Look at real space probes for shape inspiration

Good point. I used the Mariner probes for all of my previous career saves. (Creativity, what's that? I've never heard of it! :blush:) Although I have tried to be a little more creative in the save I'm starting now.

25 minutes ago, septemberWaves said:

visual enhancement mods are typically beyond the ability of my computer to run

Try Sci-Fi Visual Enhancements by @panzer1b, it's designed to run on medium-end computers, despite the fact that it's bundled with EVE.

Excited for more!


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  • 3 weeks later...

I will be cutting off this series at this point, and I will be restarting with a different modlist. The reason for this is that I am assembling a modpack, and I need a testing ground to help me figure out where I want to put certain parts in the tech tree, and how I want to balance various mods. I also need to test out a number of difficulty-increasing mods, and the best way to do that is by playing through a game with those mods installed.

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Starting Anew

With the release of the much-awaited Restock, I have compiled a new mod list and am beginning a new game. Life support is now provided by the USI mods, part failures courtesy of BARIS (which looks more interesting than Kerbalism's similar functionality), and communication is modified by Remote Tech (for the new Restock+ antennae I will write RemoteTech configs, unless RemoteTech updates with official Restock+ support before I use these antennae).

Mod List:


to be added


Part 1: Building A Rocket Isn't Simple

All space programs have to start somewhere, and typically that somewhere is a small launchpad just sufficient for some sounding rockets. The first designs, the Type A sounding rockets, had a less than successful start.




Four identical Type A rockets had to be launched before a successful mission; each consisted of a simple solid rocket motor, spin-stabilized by a pair of fins, with a few pieces of scientific equipment on top, and a parachute hidden in the nosecone to recover said payload. Type A-1 suffered an explosive engine failure. Type A-2 also experienced an engine failure but the payload survived - only for the parachute to fail. The engine of Type A-3 actually worked flawlessly, but the parachute failed a second time. Type A-4 was finally successful in achieving the desired scientific goals.


The first Type B sounding rocket launched only a few days later, with an identical payload intended to reach Kerbin's upper atmosphere. The new, wider first stage actually worked perfectly the first time - not that solid rocket motors are complicated - but the upper stage (essentially just a Type A rocket without the fins) exploded.

Another Type B was due to be launched, but we then received a contract to test out the new Torch engine - a liquid-fueled rocket engine. Thus, the Type C rocket was built.



Surprisingly, in spite of the complexity of the Torch engine, the rocket performed flawlessly and the payload reached a 77km apoapsis.



The vehicle was actually recovered intact, allowing us to retrieve not only the scientific payload, but also the valuable engine. We will not be able to reuse it, but studying it will be helpful for future rocket engine development.



Building on the success of the liquid-fueled Type C, the larger Type D rocket was designed.


The Type D boasts an increased fuel capacity and a larger payload space, as well as a (slightly) more advanced flight computer. It is designed to be capable of passing a 98km altitude - the edge of space - and returning to the surface intact.






Type D-1 was a flawless success. The first scientific data and the first artificial object were successfuly returned from space on the first flight of a Type D sounding rocket.



Type D-2 was launched soon after; unlike Type D-1, this rocket is not spin-stabilized; instead, it uses the limited thrust-vectoring of the Torch engine for stabilization; it lacks roll control, but the fins help to counteract that. Type D-2 also carries a new payload: some mysterious goo which scientists hope will teach them the secrets of the universe (presumably).


The launch was successful and the engine performed flawlessly, but the re-entry trajectory was too steep so the parachute could not deploy, resulting in a loss of the vehicle and payload. 



In preparation for more advanced rocketry, we also conducted a static fire of several Torch engines. This test ensured that they can perform at full throttle (previously-used Torch engines were pre-limited to 70% of maximum thrust) with a burn duration exceeding 4 minutes - both of which are vital capabilities for our next goal: a launch vehicle capable of sending small payloads into Kerbin orbit.

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