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The human bird shall take his first flight, filling the world with amazement, all writings with his fame, and bringing eternal glory to the nest whence he sprang.

- Leonardo da Vinci

Table of Contents:





















For decades status quo for spaceflight has been taking the most complicated, expensive and advanced flying machines ever designed and built, then promptly dumping them in the ocean after their short careers. The result was spaceflight, and space itself, being the sole domain of organizations backed by the governments of superpowers taking the first tentative steps into the cosmic ocean. What they found inspired not only generations of astronomers and artists but also engineers and entrepreneurs ready and willing to innovate on the work of those who came before.

What this new generation found was a surprising amount of flexibility in the old axioms of rocketeering. In exchange for penalties to vehicle mass and payload to orbit the basic form of the big dumb booster could be made to not only go up, but come back down and land safely under its own power. In turn fleets of boosters would reduce the per kilo cost of space access in half, potentially more as the technologies matured. Furthermore if paired with a reusable upper stage, the full system could realize the full cost benefits of a reusable SSTO system without taking as significant a hit in payload.

Perpetually cash strapped civilian space agencies were intrigued, even excited at the prospect of doing more with the same or even less budgets their respective governments were providing them. But with ongoing concerns (and costs) making a full scale advanced booster development program unpalatable the largest of these agencies pooled their resources into the Central Space Agency Consortium (CSAC), an incubator tasked with fostering these new technologies and techniques and see them to flight.

CSAC's first order of business was determining the best method for bringing the dream of a fully reusable booster system to life. An internal development program? Full laisses-faire development by private startups? On the other side of the equation were the needs of the space agencies CSAC was supposed to represent. Commercial satellite launches, deep space exploration, communications and surveillance. All with their own specific set of mission parameters, some in direct opposition to one another. It was in the midst of these deliberations that the first firm to heed the call promised to break the impasse, and set the gears of CSAC bureaucracy into motion.



Hey y'all! After my last mission report series in RSS/RO 1.3.1 I ended up taking quite a break from KSP. But now I'm back and flying missions, taking pictures, formulating a story to go with it, and generally being up to my usual reusable rocketeering shenanigans.

This is going to be in a 1.7.3 JNSQ install this time, which I've found to be a good balance between the stock game and Realism Overhaul.

Edited by Stevphfeniey
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11 hours ago, Stevphfeniey said:

Hey y'all! After my last mission report series in RSS/RO 1.3.1 I ended up taking quite a break from KSP. But now I'm back and flying missions, taking pictures, formulating a story to go with it, and generally being up to my usual reusable rocketeering shenanigans.

Good luck with it.  It's certainly a challenging project ;)  While I don't at all buy the economic claims of reusable rocket proponents, I am immensely impressed by the technical brilliance of making it happen, and it's cool to watch.  Thus, I look forward to being wowed by your achievements.

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13 hours ago, Geschosskopf said:

Good luck with it.  It's certainly a challenging project ;)  While I don't at all buy the economic claims of reusable rocket proponents, I am immensely impressed by the technical brilliance of making it happen, and it's cool to watch.  Thus, I look forward to being wowed by your achievements.

Yeah what's super interesting is that with reusing a rocket you're essentially trying to accomplish two opposing missions at the same time. Even back in the "stock" game squaring that equation is a challenge for sure, but not one that can't be overcome.

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Space Launch Services had been at the forefront of VTVL suborbital rockets for years by the time CSAC's initial deliberations regarding architectures it wished to throw its support behind. While memos and debate filled the halls of CSAC GHQ at the KSC, nearby Space Launch had been testing out smaller scale designs for a more radical proposal. 


The Space Launch SLS Mark I verified SLS's internally designed methalox closed cycle booster engines, as well as the proposed vertical-takeoff vertical-landing recovery method. It was hoped, with a sufficient customer base to support it, that the SLS Mark I could be developed into a substantially larger fully reusable system. 

Within CSAC GHQ, the staff had coalesced into two rough groups: Orbital Infrastructure, or Surface Infrastructure. The latter arguing for the agency's focus to be on large surface bases on planetary bodies immediately, and the former advocating for networks of tugs and depots to support future surface bases. With deadlock threatening to stagnate the agency in its infancy, the CSAC Administrator ultimately sided with the orbital infrastructure coalition. The question now settled, the agency's gears began to crank out requests for proposals from the largest aerospace firms at the time. In particular, cheap booster development to carry many tons of equipment and propellant into low orbit. 

Having already demonstrated working reusable booster designs, Space Launch rapidly became the front runner with their Mark II proposal. Conceived as essentially two separate spacecraft, the Mark II would consist of a large Booster and a first of its kind Orbital Vehicle. Funding was rapidly allocated, and within months SLS unveiled the Mark II OV.


Building on aerospike research of decades past, SLS's Mark II OV utilized a J-2T-5 aerospike both as its main engine and heat shield utilizing transpiration cooling of excess hydrogen.  


The Mark II OV's testing program was rigorous. Ranging from small hundred meter hops to full suborbital reentry tests to verify the aerospike heat shield concept. 


Simultaneous testing of the Mark II Booster gradually iterated on the Mark I's design, until the full Mark II system was ready for its first all up test.


Finally, after a challenging development cycle, the first SLS Mark II was rolled out to the pad ready to usher in Kerbalkind's next chapter in space exploration...




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2 hours ago, Kerballing (Got Dunked On) said:

Looks good! BTW, is SLS NASA's SLS or SpaceX's Starship Launch System (looks like the latter, but just double checking)

It's both and neither, it's mostly a tongue in cheek name for a company I came up with, I hope this post clarifies.




Massing in at 1200 tons the Space Launch Mark II LV held tremendous promise for CSAC's future plans. Fourteen meganewtons of thrust raring to go to bring the booster up and back down, and the Orbital Vehicle into a 250 kilometer orbit. 


Liftoff! Mark II-001's seven engines lift the stack higher and faster to escape Kerbin's oppressive atmosphere and gravity well. 


At a velocity of 1.2 kilometers a second the Mark II Booster shuts down and separates the Mark II Orbital Vehicle to continue its journey on the back of its J-2T-5 aerospike. 


The Booster then deploys its airbrakes, activates its reaction control system, shuts down four of its engines, and begins the boostback burn to the launch site.


Mere seconds before touchdown it optimistically deploys its landing legs as engine bells don't much tolerate hundreds of tons of rocket being set upon them.


And touchdown! While not nearly as accurate as originally hoped, Space Launch Services representatives assure CSAC representatives that future landings will show a greater degree of accuracy.


As the Booster touched down back on Kerbin, the Orbital Vehicle completed orbit. It then deployed its midriff cargo bay doors to reveal the Crew Module for the spacecraft. Capable of transporting up to 15 kerbonauts into orbit, Space Launch Services hopes to one day offer bulk tourist flights into low orbit and beyond using the Mark II system. 


Two orbits later the OV performed its deorbit burn, and oriented itself for reentry. SLS and CSAC mission controllers at KSC nervously monitored temperature gauges and fuel flow mechanisms, the latter being the key to the OV surviving reentry. Leftover liquid hydrogen propellant is vented into the plasma stream, cooling the plug nose engine bell and whisking away any heat that threatened it.


But the engineer's fears were unfounded! The Orbital Vehicle rode through reentry with minimal damage, firing its J-2T-5 once more to bring it to a complete and vertical stop in an unpopulated desert. Not optimal, but certainly better than landing on some poor guy's house.

Within CSAC and SLS, the mood was jubilant. A massive new fully reusable booster system would enable CSAC to move onto its next planned phase: A multi-hundred ton orbital depot to support trans-orbital shipment across the Solar System. 


I really hope y'all can forgive the broken plumes, I'm working (slowly but surely) on fixing them!

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19 hours ago, StarStreak2109 said:

Well done. Just one question, did you fly this manually, or did you use KOS?

Flying by hand. After a few months of hand landing boosters in RSS/RO, landing them in "stock" KSP feels almost too easy :P

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On 8/20/2019 at 5:55 AM, Railgunner2160 said:

Very nice, looking good. Got a question though. What mod are the landing legs from?

Kerbal Reusability Expansion




With the first Mark II Booster and Orbiter undergoing post flight refurbishment, with subsequent lessons being applied to other boosters and orbiters on the production line, CSAC could now implement the next step of their vision: Space infrastructure. Specifically a series of depots, possibly supplied by in-situ resources, in orbit at strategic locations. Near term this meant construction of depots in low Kerbin orbit, as well as a polar Mun orbit to support exploration of the Mun and Minmus. Obviously first the Kerbin depot and a fleet of tugs to support it was to be constructed. 


The contract to design and construct this depot went to Shelby-Hatch Integrated Technologies, a renowned firm famous for their experimentation in null gee propellant storage. The proposed design would actually be relatively simple: A command module supplying power, cooling and control, a long truss to which fuel tanks and tugs would dock to, and docking ports on the end which tankers and crew vehicles would dock to delivering propellant and performing maintenance. Due to the scale of the components (and the current lack of a small to medium lift launcher in CSAC's arsenal), it would be carried to orbit by a series of Mark II launches. 


The first launch carried up the command module for what was now dubbed Orbital Complex 1, more commonly referred to the OK Corral.



The next was the first crewed launch of the Mark II, carrying a team of four engineers up to the station to oversee construction and checkout of the tug fleet.





Further Mark II flights carried up the first truss segment and empty propellant tanks. All flights fully reused with the Mark II system demonstrating incredible reliability, with smaller and smaller crowds at KSC a sign of the newfound routine nature of spaceflight.


Next steps were a series of flights in the Mark II's tanker configuration, carrying up to 40 tons of liquid hydrogen and oxygen up to the OK Corral giving the station's boiloff mitigation techniques their first big in space workout. They passed with flying colors, eliminating the vast majority of boiloff and thereby increasing the economy of the station.





The final launches of this series carried up four tugs which would push multitude payloads up to higher energy orbits and different planetary bodies. Design of the tugs was contracted out to Cryodyne Corporation, already the global leaders in high energy upper stages. Modifications to their existing Pegasus and Centaur lines yielded fully reusable tugs at a minimum of mass cost. Upon delivery, each tug underwent a checkout process determining the functionality of everything from zero boiloff tech, to engine bell extensions, to the solar panels.


All passed with flying colors, and within months of the beginning of construction, Orbital Complex 1 was declared operational and ready for payloads!


CSAC and its commercial partners have accomplished a great deal in a short time! Now the agency can start to contemplate next moves, pushing men and material higher, faster and further. Stay tuned!

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On 8/22/2019 at 10:28 AM, Angel-125 said:

Looks like the propellant depot is taking shape? When you reuse your launchers, are they recovered? Or do you stack them in “flight” ?

Indeed it is. I do recover OVs and boosters, don't want to clutter my save with unnecessary crafts.




As the successes of the Central Space Agency Consortium and its partners at establishing relatively cheap and reliable access to space, it was decided that a manned presence capable of maintaining the new infrastructure was necessary. Hydrogen leaks, engine failures, and station maintenance were among the reasons for the decision to recruit a dedicated corps of maintainers in addition to pilots and scientists. Trained engineers, EVA specialists, and even those hailing from fields such as underwater welding were brought into CSAC's team of astronauts. They would form the backbone of the astronaut corps going forward. 

However, CSAC administrators and mission planners bumped into a problem: Where these astronauts would live. It was quickly determined through a quick poll of the corps that living next to hundreds of tons of hydrogen and oxygen for months at a time was undesirable. So despite the protestations of the bean counters, it was quickly decided to construct a manned orbital station to be placed in a lagging orbit a thousand kilometers behind the OK Corral. 






Once again the burden of launching the modules and crew to this new station fell on the Space Launch Services Mark II. With one lifting the core module of what was christened McDivitt Station.





The next launch took a crew of four consisting of Ellen Kerman, Banzor Kerman, Elon Kerman and Jose Kerman up to McDivitt in a Mark II Crew. Over the next six months their job would be to oversee the launch of additional living and working space aboard McDivitt, as well as periodic trips to the OK Corral to perform maintenance on the tugs and station itself. 


Short one today, been all over, you know how it is. 


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Okay proper update this time with actual interesting things happening



With the necessary infrastructure in place to begin depot and tug operations, there were only two pieces left to fully construct to fully exercise the OK Corral's capabilities. A light lifter for satellites, and the satellites themselves

The light lifter would come easily. Space Launch Services, already flying Mark II LVs, handily won the contract for their Mark III. In essence it is a scaled down Mark II incorporating closed cycle hydrocarbon engines and a lob retro recovery mode for the booster. The OV Mark III would consist of a scaled down version of SLS's aerospike heat shield, coupled with a metallic heat shield covering the rest of the OV's bottom. 

The satellite contract was more competitive, with companies proposing everything from massive manned orbital relays at GEO to fleets of thousands of microsats at the same altitude. In the end, Musk Space Junk Inc. won out with their StarComm design. Relatively conservative in nature, it would consist of an array of four GEO satellites providing tracking and communications relay, three on station and one backup. Owing to the Mark III's relatively small payload bay they would go up one at a time aboard Mark III launches, meet up with the transorbital depot network, and transfer up to GTO before circularizing at the proper altitude. 

Within months the pieces were in place for the initial launches of StarComm, hopefully proving the design and tugs for destinations further afield. 




Liftoff on a bright and early morning! All nominal through stage separation. 



Proving the design of SLS series boosters, the Mark III Booster demonstrated a landing and recovery capability unmatched by previous expendable boosters.





Similarly the Mark III OV drew on its Mark II heritage by releasing its payload to meet its tug before deorbiting and landing in a desert for "safety reasons" (definitely not bad piloting).




Fully fueled and with engines checked out the Centaur Tug-1 undocked from the OK Corral and met up with StarComm GEO 1. It then oriented itself to the proper vector, and fired its engine pushing the payload and itself up to GTO.



Undocking from the Centaur Tug, StarComm GEO 1 made the loop up to the proper altitude before firing its engines to circularize. It was a success, establishing the first CSAC presence beyond LKO.





Meanwhile Centaur 1 made the full loop, hurtling back towards low orbit before firing its engines to cancel out its velocity it worked so hard to gain. Engineers at CSAC, Shelby-Hatch and CryoDyne watched nervously as the tug autonomously plotted out its rendezvous, made the corrections, and successfully docked at the OK Corral. Thus proving the capability to make orbit-to-orbit transfers reusable, a capability that would allow CSAC and its partners to accomplish great things in the near future!



Finally we're doing something other than construction! Honestly, despite the pain in the ass it makes mission planning, this is a really fun way to do missions! There's more to come as Kerbalkind expands into the solar system on the back of a fully reusable space program! Stay tuned!

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Been a few days, life is life.



With regular tanker flights and the StarComm network construction in full swing, CSAC planners and engineers began to turn their eyes further afield. Cheap access to low Kerbin orbit, a steady supply of tanker launches on which launch providers could rely, and vastly reduced costs for space based telecommunications were admirable. But the end goal for CSAC was always for this architecture to be used to support exploration. However, CSAC's best and brightest realized they forgot one thing: We don't actually know all that much about our nearest neighbors: Minmus and the Mun. Or more specifically, how exploration of those destinations and worlds further beyond could be done with the architecture they worked so hard to design. 

What was clear was that missions to Duna and beyond could be done a lot more effectively if staged from high up in Kerbin's gravity well. Missions launched from say Munar orbit could cut the energy required for a Duna injection burn by three quarters. But the problem was lugging all the fuel necessary to do so up that far, a workable solution to be sure but not necessarily an efficient one. Othe camps within CSAC were eager to begin interplanetary missions as soon as possible, whatever it takes. Gridlock once again brought CSAC to a halt. 

The compromise came from the obscure probe builders of CSAC's Turbine Propulsion Laboratory: Send a pair of probes to Minmus and the Mun to determine if there were sufficient resources to make staging from those locations even viable. If results were promising, probes and manned landings could be dispatched to pin down resource locations. Funding was allocated and work started on the first in a series of orbiters called "Polaris", owing to their planned polar orbits to map out their destinations.


With the rapidity of a bureaucratic organization, Polaris Mun and Polaris Minmus were sent up on separate SLS Mark III launches to link up with the Centaurs that would take them to their destinations.


Their designs were fairly straight forward. A probe body, fuel for circularization and corrections, a side-aperture radar array to get topographic data, and a sensor array to look for ices that could be mined for propellant. 







Demonstrating again the reliability of the tug and depot network, each orbiter was dispatched to Kerbin's nearest neighbors before settling into their close orbits for observation. However the original designers of the network made a critical mistake. 



In relying on existing upper stage designs for their tugs, the designers assumed they would be adequate for a whole range of probe missions. While fine for GTO, the more demanding Mun and Minmus missions pushed the Centaurs to their limits. Both returned to the OK Corral on fumes, prompting new calls to upgrade the Centaurs to be used on future interplanetary missions.


The business of exploration is afoot! In the future, I hope to dispatch more Polaris missions to map and catalog all the usable bodies in the solar system! But that's a problem for another day. Don't change the dial and stay tuned in for more What Goes Up! 

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  • 1 month later...

Lord almighty it's been like a month! I promise I haven't forgotten about this entirely, but life's gotten a little busy the past month and I don't expect that to change. Making changes in my life rn that should let me focus on what's important to me tho, and this project is important to me.


On 9/2/2019 at 9:26 AM, Geschosskopf said:

Very impressive program ;)  But yeah, I can see mission planning being a pain with all the mid-mission rendezvous.

It is, but in all honesty it's just good practice for rendezvous and docking. It's only really a pain when I'm going to the Mun, but that's a story for another time.



For now take this as a little gift and apology for my absence.

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With the OK Corral up and running and shipping small satellites around the Kerbin system, it was decided by CSAC leadership to begin the push to put boots on the Mun! The architecture built around Kerbin would be replicated (albeit on a smaller scale) around the Mun to support manned and unmanned exploration operations all across the surface.

With contracts distributed to Shelby-Hatch and some minor partner companies, metal bent and hardware tested, a series of Mark IIs were prepared and the payloads for the Mun Polar Depot Station (MPDS).





The first module launched and shipped to the Mun was the Power and Control module, providing electrical power, command and control to the station.






The second was the Docking Adapter and Propellant Storage Module. It provides docking adapters to facilitate housing landers, crew vehicles and tugs making the stopover at the MPDS.







The final launch sent up a pair of Universal Landing Modules. Designed and built by MunaCo Inc., they are designed to ferry up to 15 tons of crew, cargo and supplies down to any point on the Munar surface. Afterwards they would then return to the station, refuel, and repeat the process with another payload. 

With the MPDS in place, CSAC can now begin contemplating sending kerbonauts to the Munar surface to look for water ice. The gamble? Munar ice deposits could be exploited to leverage even larger payloads to Duna, Eve and the Outer Planets.

But that's a story for another day.


Stay tuned for the next installment of What Goes Up!


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