Cashen

A.S.S.E.T. Corp. Mission Logs, Part 25: Duna/Ike Probe Mission Arrives

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Posted (edited)

Hello and welcome! It's been a few years since I've been active in the KSP community. It's possible you might remember my prior mission logs thread from 0.21 Sandbox Mode, UKS MASEC, which started out with Mercury-style first step missions and got all the way to an orbital base at Laythe and surface exploration of the Jool moon system, before real life took over and I was never able to get back to it. Well, I'm going to try again, a few years later, with something completely new but also familiar. This will be a 1.7 Career Mode following ASSET Corp., a fictional, private air & space company. Unlike the UKS MASEC play-through which was heavily modded (as there were no stock resources in those days), this play-through will be lightly modded. The only mods I plan to use for this are the [X] Science! mod to assist with science gathering, Astronomer's Visual Pack and dependencies for the aesthetic/pretty visuals, (with cities and lighting disabled, as per my personal taste), and Kerbal Attachment System/Kerbal Inventory System, which is the only parts mod I plan to use. One of the issues with the previous thread from 5 years ago was the extensive list of mods made the game somewhat unstable and also just about impossible to update. So this should streamline things. Anyway, with the meta background out of the way, let's get into it:

A.S.S.E.T. Corp.

Aeronautics, Science, Space Exploration & Technology

Kerbin is a planet united. A planet at peace. And it has been this way for as long as anyone can remember. Governed by a planet spanning government, the United Kerbin States, and without the impetus of an adversarial, nationalistic space race, public space agencies are a foreign concept to the Kerbals. Nevertheless there is a desire to explore, to learn, and to visit places away from Kerbin for the first time. So it has fallen to private organizations to accomplish this, with some limited government assistance. To that end, Cashen Kerman founded ASSET Corp., dedicated to the principles in its name: Aeronautics, Science, Space Exploration, and Technology. The company's mission statement is as follows:

  • First and foremost, to further scientific knowledge through exploration, first on Kerbin, then its moons, then the rest of the Kerbol system, and to develop new knowledge and new technology to further the quality of life of all Kerbals.
  • Secondarily, as a private corporation, to operate in a financially sensible manner, and to fund operations through a combination of government contracts, collaboration with parts developers, and eventually space tourism. 

These principles mean that ASSET will strive to be successful scientifically, but also financially. This means re-investing in the company through prudent capital upgrades to its facilities and also designing missions and hardware to be safe, reliable, but also efficient. It's important to note that the science is the first point, and the financial aspect is there in order to further the science in a responsible way.

The company has raised funds through UKS Government grants and private investment, purchased a plot of coastal land on the equator with over-water launch paths east and south,  and constructed the beginnings of an airfield and space launch facility, seen below:

nMNrw6b.png?1

 

Table of Contents

ASSET Corp. Current Roster

  • ASSET Corp. Aerospace Complex
    • Jebediah Kerman (Level 2 Pilot): Test Pilot
    • Pholo Kerman (Level 1 Pilot): Space Liner Tourism Pilot
    • Karfurt Kerman (Level 0 Scientist): Kerbin Atmospheric Scientist
  • Kerbin Orbital Spaceport
    • Valentina Kerman (Level 2 Pilot): Moon Liner Tourism Pilot
    • Dumal Kerman (Level 2 Engineer): Spaceport Converter Operator
  • Mun Surface Base
    • Gregford Kerman (Level 2 Engineer): Senior Mun Engineer
    • Newfry Kerman (Level 2 Engineer): Junior Mun Engineer
    • Desbury Kerman (Level 2 Scientist): Senior Mun Scientist
    • Geofbro Kerman (Level 2 Scientist): Junior Mun Scientist
  • Minmus Surface Base
    • Bill Kerman (Level 2 Engineer): Senior Minmus Engineer
    • Newvey Kerman (Level 2 Engineer): Junior Minmus Engineer
    • Bob Kerman (Level 2 Scientist): Senior Minmus Scientist
    • Alddock Kerman (Level 2 Scientist): Junior Minmus Scientist
Edited by Cashen

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Part 1: AORCA I Initial Suborbital Test

Kerbals have had rockets for some time, in the form of solid propellants. Research continues into the promising technology of controllable, liquid fueled rockets, but for now, under pressure to launch something, ASSET is going to perform a simple suborbital test flight of a one-Kerbal capsule. The spacecraft, dubbed AORCA, for ASSET Orbital Research CApsule, it designed to fly a single Kerbal into Kerbin orbit to perform flight testing and research as a starting point in the space program. Here we see this first configuration sitting in the vehicle assembly building.

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Attached to the capsule is of course a parachute, as well as six scientific instruments for measuring the effects of flight on a material affectionately dubbed the Mystery Goo. These instruments will be used in future missions and so this flight will also serve to test them. After purchasing the land for the Space Center and building it into its simple but serviceable form, ASSET has around $25,000 of funds left over. The launch vehicle cost is $6,022. In order to incentivize space travel and research, the UKS government has awarded a pair of contracts for performing the first flight and also collecting the first scientific data from Kerbin, and those contracts include $3,360 of advance funds. There is also a system of 'bonus' awards to companies that perform World First achievements!

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AORCA sitting on the rudimentary launch pad, with ASSET's first Kerbonaut, Jebediah Kerman, climbing aboard for the test.

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Liftoff goes smoothly atop the small solid rocket motor, and science equipment testing is nominal. Jeb reports the flight controls are working as intended as the craft arcs out towards the water.

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Maximum altitude was approximately 6265 meters before the capsule and spend rocket booster descend into the ocean via parachute.

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Post-splashdown, Jeb exits the vehicle, the mission a success!

Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $25,000
Contract Advances $3,360
Hardware Costs -$6,022
Contract Completion Awards $15,840
World First Bonuses $83,200
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $5,806
Final Funds $127,184

Science Earned: 42.8

Edited by Cashen

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Part 2: AORCA I Orbital Flight

With a healthy amount of funds and plenty of research following the previous atmospheric rocket test, some significant progress has been made into developing new technologies, including atmospheric sensors like temperature and pressure, and perhaps most importantly, working liquid fueled rockets.

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The UKS government, impressed with the outcome of the initial test, offered two additional contracts. The first, to fly beyond 70,000m, above the atmosphere, and the second, to achieve orbit around Kerbin. Apparently the government thought this might be accomplished in stages, but CEO Cashen Kerman was quoted as saying, "We think we can reach orbit in one flight. We've been progressing liquid fueled rocket technology aggressively and we think it's ready."

After accepting both contracts and collecting the advance, the company went around and invested most of it in the infrastructure of the launch site. The Astronaut Complex and Mission Control both received significant upgrades ahead of the orbital mission. This will allow Kerbals to perform EVAs while in flight, and also allow the company to simultaneously handle more contracts. The unfortunate side effect was there was very little money left over to actually build the rocket. The good news is the private sector has taken notice of ASSET's success and a few science and climate companies were offering contracts to do some atmospheric surveys, so these were accepted and the advances used to pay for development of the orbital vehicle. But the company's fortunes are now tied to this launch!

While experimenting with various multi-stage liquid rockets, the eventual final design ended up being a two stage vehicle with a large solid rocket first stage, followed by a liquid fueled upper stage to reach orbit with. "We thought about all-liquid designs but ultimately we like the power and cost performance of the solid boosters for lower stages, at least for now." The final two stage vehicle and science package ended up costing $17,730. "We're a business. Obviously cost has to play a factor. But at the end of the day the vehicle still has to be able to perform."

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Jebediah Kerman returns to pilot the AORCA I orbital flight, in hopes of becoming the first Kerbal in space! Here the vehicle launches from the ASSET Aerospace Complex under first stage solid rocket power. The Thumper booster provides a significant upgrade over the Flea used on the first flight. Note the orange insulation on the upper liquid stage.

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With the solid stage spent, it's ejected and now AORCA is flying under liquid power using a LV-T45 Swivel engine.This engine and the large orange fuel tanks will carry the craft the rest of the way to orbit. "We decided to try for a polar orbit first rather than an equatorial orbit. One of the mission parameters is several Extra Vehicular Activities and observations of differet regions of Kerbin and a polar orbit would facilitate those observations much more than an equatorial orbit. One of the reasons we chose the location we did was we could launch both due east and due south over water."

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Orbit is achieved! Here Jeb cruises high over Kerbin, near the south pole. Over the span of approximately three complete orbits he would perform several EVAs for observational purposes. Launching at twilight and flying near the terminator, many Kerbals below could no doubt look up and see the spacecraft flying overhead. A prestigious achievement for ASSET Corp! The UKS government sent their congratulations upon hearing the news.

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Three orbits later and having achieved all the technical and science related mission objectives, Jeb burns retrograde for a re-entry in the southern hemisphere, and then the upper rocket stage is separated to prepare for entry.

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Flames streak across the sky as Jeb returns from orbit.

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Auroras light up the sky near the south pole ice shelf as Jeb descends under parachute. The goal had been to re-enter and actually land on the ice pack for some additional, surface based observations. "We are still very new at this and we feel like targeted landings are going to have a steep learning curve until we get a better hang of de-orbiting." 

Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $127,184
Contract Advances $50,426
Infrastructure Investments -$150,000
Hardware Costs -$17,730
Contract Completion Awards $132,000
World First Bonuses $143,200
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $8,146
Final Funds $293,226

 

Science Earned: 202.4

 

 

Edited by Cashen

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Part 3: Airplanes, Tourism & AORCA II

Last time on ASSET Mission Logs, the company had just completed its first orbital flight. After investing in upgrades to the Astronaut Complex and Mission Control facilities, finances were tight for a moment, and the orbital launch had to be paid for using advances on some rather mundane atmospheric survey contracts from other science companies. So now ASSET must follow through on those obligations, but this presents an opportunity for the company. The development of aircraft. In a recent interview, ASSET CEO Cashen Kerman was heard to remark, "I really do enjoy the things we're doing with vertically launched rockets, but I'm also very passionate about jet aircraft and atmospheric flight. We know from some high level calculations that it may be possible to build an aircraft using a combination of modern jet engines, coupled with high altitude rocket engines which could plausibly be developed in the near future, and achieve Kerbin orbit. Assuming a safe re-entry is also possible, this could mean a fully, 100% reusable orbital spacecraft." Such lofty future goals however must have humble beginnings. And so the company has unveiled the ARA 1, or ASSET Research Aircraft version 1.

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Capable of carrying three Kerbals, with one pilot and two passengers, ARA 1 is powered by a pair of rear-mounted Juno jet engines and carries the latest in science and research gear. Most notable is the Science Jr. Materials Testing unit towards the rear of the fuselage. It also comes with pressure and temperature measurement abilities for atmospheric analysis. The first task will be practice taxiing around the ASSET Aerospace Center, testing the aircraft's systems and science gear along the way. For this task, Bob Kerman, the resident scientist, is assisting Jebediah Kerman. Jeb will become familiar with the aircraft while Bob becomes adept with using the science equipment.

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Here Jeb has parked ARA on the Crawlerway between the VAB and launch pad, after driving the aircraft around the Aerospace Center for most of the morning. Everything seems to be progressing well and Bob is having good luck with using, and re-using the science instruments. Some issues in the aircraft's design come up, however. For one, getting in and out is a bit tricky at times, and also the rather flimsy landing gear don't have much promise for higher speed service.

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Just as feared. At the last stop of the Aerospace Center tour the aircraft strikes a bump a little bit too hard and destroys the rear landing gear. Here Bob has climbed out and is surveying the damage as ARA 1 lays on its belly near the Mission Control building. It will be dragged back to the Hangar for repairs, so the atmospheric testing will be put on hold until upgraded landing gear can be made available.

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Sometime later, more sturdy and retractable landing gear are fitted to ARA. This also, for the time being, solves the issues of difficulty getting back in the vehicle. There are no extendable ladders yet (something the R&D team is working on), but the aircraft can simply park and retract the gear on the ground, laying on its belly. Then, when the crew returns, they can raise the craft back up by lowering the gear. This appears to cause no adverse effects to the aircraft. In any case, there are atmospheric surveys to complete as part of the contracts accepted in the previous update!

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Takeoff goes smoothly along the dirt landing strip. Jeb reports that the flight characteristics are quite good and the aircraft is inherently stable and quite maneuverable. The twin Juno engines are not particularly powerful but for a craft of this size and weight they are more than adequate. The vehicle's initial cost was $14,100, but this rose to $15,550 with the landing gear upgrade.

eoL23Js.png?1

Here Jeb and Bill fly out over the ocean, near the islands to the southeast of the Aerospace Complex. The mission involves taking visual observations of atmospheric and oceanic conditions at three designated points and reporting them back to the client. The first two points are out over the water, the final one is in-land to the west of the complex.

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After completing the last observation, Jeb aims the craft back towards the Aerospace Center's dirt runway for a landing.

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Back on dry land, it's time to report the findings and collect payment. 

Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $293,226
Hardware Costs -$29,650
Contract Completion Awards $40,937
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $29,115
Final Funds $333,628

 

Science Earned: 378.3

 

In another ASSET developments, the Rocketry department has been hard at work since the previous two AORCA I flights. They've developed an incremental upgrade, the AORCA II capsule. Not much bigger than the initial capsule, and with not much extra in the way of functionality, it's simply just big enough to carry two Kerbals instead of one. "The one Kerbal capsule was really just a development step. We feel the ideal crew size for long duration missions is three - a pilot to fly it, an engineer to maintain it, and a scientist to do the science work. We're working on such a spacecraft for the near future but feel a two crew capsule, for a pilot and scientist, would be ideal for short duration missions near Kerbin while still accomplishing valuable science." However, reaction to ASSET's successes in space have generated interest in an entirely new and different way: Space Tourism. Yes, wealthy Kerbals are expressing interest in flying into space themselves, and apparently are willing to pay top dollar to do it! "Obviously we welcome the revenue, and obviously we inform the customers that there is significant risk that they must accept. These are still development missions. So we decided to run the first few AORCA II flights as single crew missions, to get some orbital flight practice, and essentially have a paying customer in the second seat. It's a win win win. They get the right of a lifetime, we get the mission paid for, and get some valuable flight experience for our pilots."

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The first flight of AORCA II, the second orbital flight, and the first carrying a tourist, will be flown by ASSET's female pilot, Valentina Kerman. Valentina is the more extroverted of the pilots and has expressed interest in being something of a space tour guide, and so she will feature prominently in many of the tourism missions, at least for now. The launch vehicle is extremely simple. The Thumper solid rocket first stage returns, but a new, more efficient upper stage engine, the LV-909 "Terrier", has enabled a reduction in size of the second stage from the AORCA I mission. "The first tourist flight we included a Mystery Goo to grab a quick sample, as we had accepted a contract to recover some scientific data from space and decided to do that on this mission in parallel. This vehicle cost $6,847. We omitted it from the second launch, so that one was only $6,047." Flying as the first ever Kerbal Space Tourist on this flight is Sanrim Kerman.

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The powerful Thumper booster carries the spacecraft high into the air over the Aerospace Center. Later, the upper stage and the LV-909 will carry it the rest of the way to a successful orbit.

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Orbit achieved. Valentina tries her best to explain orbital mechanics to Sanrim, but he is just too busy looking out the window at the amazing views.

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Capsule re-entry takes place over the large desert area to the far west of the Aerospace Center.

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The capsules are, of course, designed to land either on water or solid ground just fine. The first tourist mission is a success! Next up, some time later, is Gwenlo Kerman, who will be given an orbital tour this time by Jeb, as these flights took place in quick succession.

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Here Jeb and Gwenlo are ascending to orbit on the second stage. ASSET is getting more and more comfortable with liquid propellants. Solids are still cheaper, but it's hard to argue with the operational flexibility of a liquid rocket.

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Jeb and Gwenlo in orbit. Each tourist got a few orbits for their money. Well worth it, according to post-flight reviews!

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The second mission de-orbits and comes down in a grassy plain near some mountains at night. The successful flight of a pair of tourists makes headlines across Kerbin. Suddenly space is attainable to anyone with the funds to pay for it, it seems! "The whole space tourism thing is nice. But it's important to stay focused on the goal of science and technology development. This is just a way to pay the bills."

Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $333,628
Contract Advances $7,575
Hardware Costs -$12,894
Contract Completion Awards $84,440
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $3,037
Final Funds $415,786

 

Science Earned: 25

Edited by Cashen

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Part 4: AORCA III & Doubling Down on Tourism

Upgrades to the Research & Development lab are urgently needed. ASSET is on the cusp of being able to take and analyze surface samples for scientific study. Once again, some private science companies are offering some fairly simple but well-paying contracts to take surface temperature readings in locations fairly close to the ASSET Aerospace Complex. It's a rather mundane task, but it pays well, and the advance funds from the contracts paid for the R&D Upgrade to allow the lab to process surface samples. Jeb and Bob Kerman then took the ARA 1 craft out for some more taxi practice around the Aerospace Center to test the ability to collect samples, and for the lab to test their ability to analyze them.

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Afterwards, Jeb and Bob proceed on the ground to where the contracts wanted temperature and observational readings. Since ARA's future involves moving around on the surface in addition to air-based observation and science, the practice is well worth it.

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The pair get fairly far from the Aerospace Center and practice driving the plane over rougher terrain. The flat terrain close to home is fairly easy. "You just have to watch your speed. It doesn't handle bumps as well as a car, and is prone to tipping being on only three wheels. So it's important to make no sharp turning motions, and to climb and descend hills in-line with the direction of slope instead of at an angle. Overall it handles fairly well."

Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $415,786
Contract Advances $94,948
Infrastructure Investments -$451,000
Hardware Costs -$15,550
Contract Completion Awards $265,528
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $15,190
Final Funds $324,901

Science Earned: 237.3

 

In other news, unsurprisingly the announcement that the first space tourist missions went well and that visiting space is now attainable for those who can afford it, there has been a huge outpouring of interest from other wealthy kerbals in doing the same. At the same time, development has progressed enough on AORCA III, the three-kerbal capsule, to allow it to fly for the first time. "I've always said the ideal exploration crew for a longer-term mission is three. Pilot, Engineer, Scientist. So the three person capsule was our goal all along. We've also got plans for more permanent habitation in space, and we built a habitation module we call the Hitchhiker, which can seat four passengers. Given the sudden influx of tourism interest, we decided to fit these modules on the rocket behind the capsule. Since they're not intended for re-entry by design we had to add a dedicated heat shield as well. But it does give a craft with a total capacity of seven." In total, eighteen kerbals have offered to pay top dollar for rides to orbit. ASSET has agreed, and will use the test flights of AORCA III with the Hitchhiker module to accomplish this. With a crew of one and room for six passengers, this will mean three orbital flights to test the capsule and habitation module. A new, all-liquid launch vehicle was also designed, using some new engines that had been recently developed. In all the craft is much heavier than previous ones, requiring some capital upgrades to the launch pad to handle it. At the same time, the Aerospace Center's tracking station was upgraded to provide better coverage for eventually more distant missions.

vE6lrlT.png?1

Here we see the AORCA III and Hitchhiker spacecraft with a two stage, liquid fueled launch vehicle. The lower stage uses the RE-I5 "Skipper" and small upper orbital stage uses the high efficiency RE-L10 "Poodle". "We had some initial designs that used solid first stages but ultimately we think all liquid is worth the extra cost and complexity in this case." Total cost is $23,500 per launch. With only two pilots on staff, Valentina will fly the first mission, Jeb the second, and then Valentina again.

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Orbit is achieved with the upper stage. The launch vehicle performs flawlessly!

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The interior of the habitation module is much more spacious than the capsule seats, and the tourists seem to really be enjoying the experience and the views of Kerbin out the windows!

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A couple of orbits later and it's time to return home. An ablative heat shield below the habitation module is added to protect it. A capsule-only mission would be able to just use the capsule's integrated heat shield.

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Extra parachutes had to be added to handle the extra weight of the return vehicle as well. Here it descends under parachutes just off the coast of the Aerospace Center.

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Jeb launches with the second batch of tourists sometime later. Here the first stage Skipper engine is firing early in the gravity turn.

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The second mission in orbit. Flight testing of the hardware is nominal. While the four kerbals in the habitation module have more leg room, the two up front trade that in for a front row seat to actual spaceflight operations.

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A pair of tourists relax in the habitation module while watching an orbital sunset take place outside. Each flight lasted approximately two orbits.

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The second mission would land on the ground, west of the mountains near the Aerospace Center.

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Valentina returns for the last flight. The ascent to orbit is fairly easy with this launch vehicle. In fact, the first stage does most of the heavy lifting and the orbital stage mostly just has to do the apoapsis kick burn. Here the stages separate during the coast to apoapsis.

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Re-entry can be a little tense, especially for those unaccustomed to space flight as flames shoot past the porthole window!

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And the last mission splashes down in the ocean. All in all, three successful test flights of the AORCA III capsule and Hitchhiker habitation module, more orbital flight experience for both of ASSET's pilots, and eighteen very happy tourists! ASSET CEO Cashen Kerman: "The whole tourism thing is fun, but it's not really what we're here for. I'm mostly passionate about science and exploration. But we're a young company just starting out in a new business area and funding is very important. So when you're starting out, some times you have to take on the jobs that may not be all that interesting to you personally, but that pay well, in order to eventually have the means to do the things you really want to do. So that's what we're doing here. It helps that we can get some flight testing out of it, so it's not like we're not doing real work, too."

 

Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $324,901
Infrastructure Investments -$200,000
Hardware Costs -$70,500
Contract Completion Awards $482,189
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $27,680
Final Funds $564,270

Science Earned: 37

Edited by Cashen

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Part 5: Mun Free Return Flyby

A new and very ambitious government contract has been issued and ASSET has accepted it. The mission is simple. Do a flyby of Mun and gather scientific data to bring back to Kerbin. According to Cashen Kerman, "We had been initially planning to visit Minmus first and to actually land there, because of that moon's low gravity and relatively flat surface. It seems the government is more interested in Mun, and from a public relations perspective it's easy to see why it would be a good idea to go there, given Mun's greater cultural significance owing to its apparent size in the sky. But a simple flyby we could do with the technology we have no, so why not?"

Why not indeed. A relatively simple AORCA II capsule, flown by Jeb and Bob Kerman, packed with science equipment and stacked atop a new, much larger, S1 SRB KD-25k "Kickback" solid rocket booster. This should provide plenty of delta-V to do a free-return flyby of Mun, letting the moon's gravity slingshot the crew back to Kerbin. Jeb will fly and Bob will, naturally operate all of the scientific instruments.

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Liftoff atop the Kickback SRB in the mid afternoon. During the ascent to orbit, the crew would note that the ability to pitch over into a gravity turn was diminished, and this resulted in a much more gradual turn with a higher than expected apoapse. If this flight configuration is used again in the future, some steering fins at the base might be prudent! In all vehicle cost just $13,642.

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The upper stage completes the orbital insertion around Kerbin. Testing of the science equipment begins. An unrelated contract for bringing back scientific data from Kerbin orbit was accepted as well and bundled together with this mission.

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The previous upgrade to the Tracking Station has allowed the plotting of more complex maneuvers. That upgrade was essential before any missions beyond Kerbin were to take place. Here is their free return trajectory. The initial trajectory was on an impact course. A correction burn would take place part way there.

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Trans-Mun Injection burn takes place!

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The spacecraft then drifts along its course towards Mun. A historic mission, the first Kerbals to venture to another celestial body!

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Jeb looks out through the small forward-facing window in the AORCA II capsule towards Mun. No Kerbals have been this close before, but they will get much closer!

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Watching Kerbin set behind them, they disappear from radio contact with home as they drop down lower over the daylight side of Mun.

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A couple shots of Bob Kerman performing an EVA to do maintenance on the science instruments. He would work feverishly to get as much data as possible about the environment above Mun. This is around periapse, which was only 7km. After this, the crew would swing back around the other side of Mun and be flung back towards Kerbin. Another correction burn would give them a proper entry interface with Kerbin's atmosphere. All in all, the mission was fairly efficient, as there was very little fuel to spare after it was all said and done!

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Jeb and Bob return to the surface. The data and experimnts brought back to the ASSET Aerospace Center will keep the R&D lab busy for some time!

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Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $564,270
Contract Advances $94,543
Hardware Costs -$13,642
Contract Completion Awards $480,277
World First Bonuses $119,200
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $3,532
Final Funds $1,198,780

Science Earned: 597.9

Edited by Cashen

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Part 6: Landing Kerbals on Mun

After a resounding success with the first flyby mission, the UKS government has excitedly issued a bunch of new contracts for ASSET to do even more ambitious things. The highlight is a contract to land Kerbals on Mun, plant the UKS flag, and bring a surface sample back to Kerbin. Some additional minor contracts included things like performing a rendezvous and crew transfer in Kerbin orbit, and achieving Mun orbit and performing EVA there. All of these contacts were accepted with the intent of completing them in a single mission. With regard to the mission profile, Cashen Kerman was quoted as saying, "We considered, even before the contracts, how exactly to land on Mun and what the mission profile would look like. Our biggest problem right now is that we lack the very large boosters to do a Direct Ascent mission profile. And even a Mun Orbit Rendezvous, while more efficient, would still require one very large booster. Given the contracts issued about rendezvous and crew transfer, and the fact that with the technology we have today, smaller launches are a necessity, we opted to assemble the mission in Kerbin orbit using two different launches."

The spacecraft designed were still too large for the existing VAB, and so funds were spent upgrading it. The Mission Control center was also upgraded (again) as there has been a huge influx of more tourists wanting access to space. This upgrade includes hiring many more administrative staff to handle the requests as well as contracts generally, allowing ASSET to have significantly more contracts in progress than before.

Because the mission requires two piloted vehicles, both of ASSET's pilots, Jeb and Valentina, will be on this mission. Bob Kerman will be the scientist. Valentina will fly the AORCA III Command Module and Jeb and Bob will fly in the ASML or ASSET Moon Science Lander.

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The ASML with Jeb and Bob abord launches first. The lander is very un-aerodynamic, and so ASSET is using a protective fairing to improve the aerodynamics until the craft is in orbit. This flight also includes an enlarged upper stage with a Poodle engine, to perform the Mun transfer of the combined spacecraft. The core first stage is a Skipper engine paired with two large Kickback SRBs to provide the initial boost.

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The lander and transfer stage in orbit. They await the arrival of the AORCA III CSM.

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Jeb looks out the front lander window while waiting for the rendezvous. They park at around 120km.

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After waiting for the lander to be in the right position, Valentina launches in the CSM. Same core stage as before, but no upper stage (The CSM itself provides that) and two smaller Thumper SRBs. Valentina will orbit around 75km and "catch up" with the lander.

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The launch was perhaps a bit late as it took several orbits to catch up, but here we see the first rendezvous and docking in Kerbal history! This will also be the first mission to include antennae. Being a private company, ASSET only has access to the Big Dish at the tracking station, and has relied mostly on local control from the pilots when out of communication. On the previous Mun flyby mission, even with the Aerospace Center in line-of-sight, signal strength from Mun was very poor. So the CSM has been fitted with a high gain antenna to improve communications to Kerbin, and also act as a relay between the Lander and Kerbin.

In the next sequence of pictures, we see the Mun Transfer Burn and uncoupling from the transfer stage. The initial transfer trajectory was an impact course, to ensure the transfer stage is destroyed and not lost as space junk. The CSM would then provide a course correction for a proper free return trajectory.

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Bob Kerman testing and calibrating the science equipment during a deep space EVA

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The CSM provides the braking needed to get into a stable Mun orbit. Several more burns would follow to get the orbit down to just 10km and circular to prepare for the landing.

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After a communications blackout, Kerbin rises over Mun's surface as the crew prepare for undocking.

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With the lander undocked, the CSM moves away, and will raise its orbit back up to around 40km, where Valentina will await the crew's return.

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A view of Kerbin out the front window of the lander.

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Jeb begins the de-orbit and descent burn. They aim to land in the northern, equatorial part of the large East Crater on the Kerbin facing side of Mun.

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The descent trajectory post-burn. The trajectory will carry them past a small pair of craters. The intent is to fire the engine for landing so they land in flat terrain short of those two craters.

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An unexpected sight. During the coast down to the final landing burn, Jeb and Bob spot an unusual stone arch in the distance!

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The pair coast down on low throttle and make a successful landing!

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Jeb and bob disembark from the lander. Here they gaze off in the distance at the stone arch on the north slope of East Crater. Bob will run all of the science equipment, checking temperatures and pressures, and working the Mystery Goo and Science Jr. instruments, as well as taking reports and surface samples.

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Jeb plants the flag of the United Kerbin States on the surface, as stipulated in the government contract.

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The crew find moving around with their EVA RCS packs to be remarkably easy on the surface. Jeb attempts to head north towards the strone arch, and to perhaps collect samples from a different region of Mun, but finds the RCS packs don't have enough propellant quantity. This image is him returning to the lander after determining he lacks the fuel.

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Valentina remains in orbit in the meantime. In this photo, the entire Kerbin system is visible: Kerbin on the left, Mun on the right, and Minmus visible as a dot just above the capsule. The landing site in East Crater is also in view.

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After a number of hours jet-packing about and doing their science experiments, it's time to return home. Jeb is already inside, and here Bob climbs the ladder to get back in.

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The lander is a two stage vehicle. The heavy science equipment is left behind as a kind of monument to the first ever Mun landing. Here we see the Ascent Stage just after lift-off.

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Another rendezvous, this time in Mun orbit. Bob makes very sure to remember to transfer all the samples and data between craft! Wouldn't want all that hard earned science to get left behind. Once all the samples, data, and crew are aboard the AORCA III spacecraft, the lander's upper stage is un-docked, to be left in Mun orbit. All that's left is to return home!

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All of Kerbin rejoices as the crew returns home! The scientific data and samples brought back, as well as the knowledge and experienced gained, will no doubt raise ASSET's fortunes!


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Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $1,198,780
Infrastructure Investment -$507,000
Contract Advances $183,638
Hardware Costs -$69,501
Contract Completion Awards $647,109
World First Bonuses $289,120
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $4,505
Final Funds $1,743,651

Science Earned: 560.8

Edited by Cashen

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Part 7: High-Value Orbital Tourism

As mentioned in the previous update, the success of ASSET, especially after the flyby and then landing missions on Mun, has resulted in a large influx of new tourists. Some of them even wanting a Mun flyby of their own! ASSET doesn't yet have the hardware for something like that (but soon!), so for now orbital and sub-orbital tourism is the name of the game. In an effort to diversify the company's income streams, a capital investment was made in the Administration department and a new fundraising campaign initiated to capitalize on the reputation of the company. "We feel the more high profile our reputation with the public the more fundraising and investment we can attract. Eventually we will be doing missions on our own without contract assistance, spending a lot of money on space hardware without the immediate payoff we've been having lately. So adding a non-contract based income stream is helpful." 

An upgraded tourist vehicle based on the previous one, with a second Hitchhiker module to increase the passenger capacity from six to ten, is rolled out.

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Remarking on the vehicle design, one of ASSET's high ranking engineers was quoted, "Part of gaining experience with these things is knowing where you can cut to save money, and where you need to spend more to increase reliability. In the previous orbital tourist flight, we neglected to remove the mono-propellant from the capsule. You don't need that on an orbital flight without rendezvous, so we removed it to save weight and cost. We also found that almost three-quarters of the ablator in the heat shield was left over, so we reduced it two one-third of the original, to save more weight and cost, but still with a comfortable safety margin. We took those savings and spent them in improvements. In particular, when using the wide-spaced radial decoupler with Thumper SRBs, we noticed that the SRBs tended to flex a lot in flight and also came too close to the core stage when separating, so we used a more expensive but more forceful decoupler here and added some strutting to help rigidity." In General, ASSET as begun to standardize their flight hardware at this point: The big orange Skipper-powered first stage, and a black and white Poodle powered upper stage, coupled with a pair of side mounted SRBs. Total cost of the vehicle: $31,812.

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Valentina Kerman once agian flies this mission, having become something of a public face for ASSET's space tourism missions.

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A happy tourist unable to hide her feelings about the whole experience.

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"It's such an amazing experience! And the new passenger modules are so roomy, you can get out of your seat and float around effortlessly!"

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A few orbits later and it's time to come home. The reduced heat shield works fine with plenty of ablator to spare. The taller, heavier vehicle however struggles with yaw control during atmospheric flight. Perhaps keeping the monopropellant and adding some small linear thrusters near the nose would help.

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A bunch of happy space tourists waiting to be picked up. In addition to these ten Kerbals wanting an orbital flight, three others were willing to pay less for just a brief suborbital flight. "One of the technologies we've been looking into is automation. Can we control flights remotely? This has huge future implications. Imagine a distant future where we harvest materials from Mun or Minmus to produce fuel or resources. Sure, we might want skilled engineers and scientists on-site running the equipment, but imagine how boring it would be shuttling materials between Mun and Kerbin all the time. That's the sort of thing we could automate. Now, ordinarily we would never run a tourist mission without an in-person pilot, but in this case we decided to do a test of a remotely guided mission using a probe core atop the capsule, so we could fill all three seats with tourists. This would only work for a sub-orbital flight where we knew we'd have line-of-sight to them until very close to splashdown.

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In this case, a remarkably simple vehicle of an AORCA III capsule atop a Kickback SRB, and some fins for stabilization and control. A remote control probe, a Probodobodyne OTKO, will allow controllers at the Aerospace Complex to guide the mission remotely until parachute deployment. Contact will be lost below the horizon but by then the capsule will be safely gliding down on parachutes.

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The single stage booster performs as expected, launching the capsule up into a high arc suborbital trajectory with a splashdown projected in the ocean off the coast.

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More happy customers!

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"Overall I wouldn't expect any future pilot-less tourist missions. We do like to provide a good customer experience and feel having a skilled pilot there reassures them and can also educate them about space and spaceflight. But the technology demonstration in this instance is important. We will need to invest, in the near future, in space infrastructure, things like relay antenna satellites, to improve the communications network from the single Big Dish Tracking Station."

Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $1,743,651
Infrastructure Investment -$150,000
Hardware Costs -$43,776
Contract Completion Awards $313,237
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $13,866
Fundraising Income $103,951
Final Funds $1,980,929

Science Earned: 30.8

Edited by Cashen

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Part 8: Laying the Foundation

As mentioned in our last update, ASSET only has a single ground station for communications with space. As such, communications are frequently cut off if there is no line of sight to the mission. Thankfully Jeb and Valentina are excellent pilots and the company relies heavily on local, pilot control. Having said that, as things progress, establishing a solid communication network in space is an important task. In the future, remotely operated vehicles may become a thing, or it may become necessary to communicate with the far side of Mun. Certainly in the distant future, on other planets, it may be more feasible to perform scientific experimentation locally and transmit data back to Kerbin, instead of relying on bringing the data back physically. So this next mission has no contract associated with it and no bonus payments for it. Asset will launch a trio of RA-2 Relay Antennas into Kerbin orbit to provide full 360 degree coverage around the entire planet, and to relay signals around Kerbin to the Aerospace Complex. The initial placement will be done with a crewed mission. A single pilot, Jebediah Kerman.

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A purpose built vehicle for the mission, with the three antennas mounted on it. Due to the aerodynamics of the stack, the whole thing is enclosed in a shroud. The launcher is the standard Skipper Orange Tank core stage and a pair of Thumper SRBs.

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Here we see the spacecraft, a single-seat AORCA I capsule with a high-energy service module, including RCS for fine adjustments. The three satellites are all relatively simple Probodobodyne OTKO cores with an RA-2 relay antenna, a battery pack, and three solar panels, two of them 1x6 and the other a 2x3. The 2x3 panels are retracted in the stacked configuration as they interfere with the antennas. They'll be deployed as each antennas is released. The core stage is able to launch Jeb to an apoapsis of around 240km. At that point, the long orbital insertion burn takes place, and that 240km figure becomes the new periapsis, with a higher apoapsis at the target antenna altitude: 3,000km. A slight plane change adjustment to zero the inclination, and then another burn to circularize at 3,000km. This altitude was chosen more or less because it's a nice round number. It's above the synchronous orbit altitude by a short amount, so the relays will appear to move retrograde as viewed from the surface.

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The first relay is released. Jeb now turns retrograde and prepares to lower his periapsis to a pre-determined value that will bring him back to this spot 120 degrees ahead of the first relay, to space them properly.

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The second relay is released. The circularization burns are typically followed by the use of RCS to fine tune the orbital parameters. Generally the orbits are circular at 3,000km +/- 100 meters or so.

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Upon releasing the final relay, Jeb will perform one more complete orbit, in an elongated 3,000km x 80km orbit, and test that he has communications with the Aerospace Complex the entire time.

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It works! Sure, the puny antenna in his capsule has poor signal strength (the solid red line) to the nearest relay, but it is able to bounce the weak signal to another relay and down down to the Big Dish Tracking Station! Mission complete, it's time to bring Jeb home.

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While this was happening, two things were going on down on Kerbin. First, several more contracts were accepted by ASSET, involving orbital stations at Kerbin, Mun, and Minmus, as well as a Minmus flyby mission. All were accepted. The orbital station missions are being taken although plans for such things are far off. A Minmus mission however is expected soon. And then, a surprise! A rival space company, C7 Aerospace Division, has stranded a Kerbal in orbit! Lacking the resources to rescue them, they've offered to pay ASSET to bring them back to Kerbin. A simple rendezvous should do the trick. Valentina Kerman to the rescue!

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ASSET slapped together an AORCA II spacecraft from off the shelf parts, with Valentina in control and one seat empty for the lost Kerbal, Pholo Kerman.

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Pholo was in a single seat spacecraft when some sort of accident on orbit destroyed everything but the capsule, leaving them with no way to de-orbit. Thankfully they have an EVA suit with RCS thrusters, allowing them to transfer to the two seat capsule.

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A safe return to Kerbin! In a move that surprised nobody, Pholo quickly resigned from C7 Aerospace and has taken a job with ASSET as our third pilot. Welcome Pholo!

Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $1,980,929
Contract Advances $274,618
Hardware Costs -$42,307
Contract Completion Awards $87,357
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $2,863
Fundraising Income $11,005
Final Funds $2,308,842

Science Earned: 2.3

Edited by Cashen

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Part 9: To Minmus and Back

A Minmus flyby contact was mentioned in our last update. It's time to do that now. Officially the contract is to simply perform a flyby. Cashen Kerman, however, has other ideas. "The delta-V requirements are so low around Minmus a flyby doesn't make sense. We'd actually considered going straight to landing, but we're still working on an ambitious mission profile for landing in multiple hops using a single lander. The hardware for that isn't quite ready, so for now we will accept the flyby contract and actually do an orbital mission." Like the Mun Flyby, Jeb and Bob will perform the mission in an AORCA II capsule with a full suite of science gear. The launch vehicle is actually surprisingly small, costing just $23,217.

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The launch is timed when Minmus' ascending node was over the Aerospace Complex. The crew launch and attempt to insert directly into Minmus' orbital plane of six degrees inclination. The familiar Orange Tank core stage makes an appearance, but the SRBs are not needed.

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Orbit successful at 5.8 degrees inclination. A very minor plane adjustment to match Minmus takes place as the descending node half an orbit later. Communications with Kerbin to be provided by a High Gain antenna, deployed here.

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While in Kerbin orbit, waiting for the Minmus transfer, the Science Bay is opened up and the ladder extended. This will give Bob access to the instrumentation for taking observations from Minmus' orbit. A short while later, Minmus transfer takes place.

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Minmus is a lot further away than Mun is. It's a multi-day journey out there. Plenty of delta-V left to insert in orbit and still get home. Here's the entire Kerbin system in a single shot. "We're a long way from home, now."

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Jeb looks excitedly out the front windows while in low orbit of Minmus. Bob will perform several EVAs to work the science instrumentation in the back over the course of a few orbits of the moon. Minmus, as expected from ground telescope observations, is a shockingly green hue and possesses several large expanses of flat terrain. Remarkably little cratering suggests a geologically young surface, in contrast to the cratered surface of Mun.

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Another shot from orbit. The High Gain antenna maintained communications with the Aerospace Complex either directly, or through the newly created system or relays if the Complex was not visible. Communications blackout took place on the opposite side of Minmus, as one might expect. While Mun holds more cultural significant in Kerbal society, owing to it's large size, close proximity, and frequent solar and Munar eclipses, the more practically minded Cashen Kerman has a special interest in Minmus. "It's true Minmus is much smaller and much further away, but the total energy requirements are actually less than Mun. It doesn't take much more energy to get to Minmus, and it takes substantially less to orbit and land. Landing on the flat surfaces should be very easy. The strange color and young surface make it very interesting from a scientific point of view, and the low energy requirements make it a natural location to harvest resources from, should there be any useful resources to harvest. We'll be coming back here very soon, probably before we go back to Mun again."

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One last shot of the entire Kerbin system from Minmus. Having completed their mission and gathered all the data they can from orbit, it's time to return home and begin planning for the next great adventure!

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Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $2,308,842
Hardware Costs -$23,217
Contract Completion Awards $116,564
World First Bonuses $181,791
Fundraising Income $25,521
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $1,805
Final Funds $2,611,306

Science Earned: 658.1

 

Edited by Cashen

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Part 10: Munar Tourism, and Ore Scanning Tech (Oh and also Airplanes)

An ambitious expedition to Minmus is in the planning and hardware assembly phase, but ASSET has a substantial backlog of tourist requests to take care of. Specifically, a whole bunch of rich Kerbals want to experience a Mun flyby of their own. You might remember previously a large, ten-Kerbal tourist craft that was tested in Kerbin orbit. It's being re-purposed and upgraded to facilitate a Mun flyby for ten lucky Kerbals, with none other than Valentina Kerman at the helm.

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It looks very similar to the previous high-occupancy tourist mission, but to aid in getting to Mun and back, there are some upgrades. The upper stage is larger to handle the extra energy required of a Mun free return trajectory. The Orange Tank core stage is also lengthened to lift the heavier spacecraft, and two larger Kickback SRBs replace the Thumpers to give the required thrust to weight on liftoff.

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Our excited tourist Kerbals prepare for the long coast to a Mun flyby! Meanwhile, ASSET has other things going on at the same time:

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"We've developed through our research a scanning dish that can detect bulk concentrations of Ore beneath the surface. Now, we know with high precision the mapping of Ore on Kerbin, since we extract it as a resource important to the economy. As a test of this technology we are going to launch this wide-beam scanner into a polar orbit and scan the planet, and cross-reference the findings with the data we already have, just to validate that the technology works. We theorize Ore may exist on one or both of Kerbin's moons, perhaps elsewhere in the solar system, and if it does, it raises the possibility of extracting it and processing it into propellants in-situ. Imagine the implications of something like this. So much of our launch costs are just to put tons and tons of fuel into orbit. Imagine refining it in space, bringing it back here to refuel missions headed to places further out. Exciting possibilities."

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The launch didn't go quite as smoothly as hoped. It ended up in an orbit with an inclination of around 82 degrees, and also not perfectly circular at 90km by 70km approximately. But it's within the tolerances of the scanner to function.

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"This is just the first step. This is a very low resolution, wide-beam scan, so it's very approximate. We're working on a much more sophisticated, narrow-beam scanner in the near future that we hope to pair with this before actually sending them away from Kerbin."

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"But the data we obtained does match very closely with the known Ore deposits on Kerbin. I consider this mission a success. We will probably de-orbit this unit in the future and replace it once the narrow-beam scanner is ready."

Meanwhile:

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Our ten tourists and Valentina Kerman complete their Munar flyby. Spectacular views for everyday (well, okay, very rich) Kerbals. Now, the long trip home.

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A safe trip home! And quite the payday for ASSET Corp! But that's not the only thing going on...

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This is ARA 2. An upgraded version of ARA 1. The two Juno engines have been replaced by a single J-33 "Wheesley" Turbofan. Much higher thrust, coupled with thrust-reverse capability, and extremely high fuel efficiency. The layout of the craft has changed, with a cockpit for the pilot at the front and a seat in the middle for the scientist, separated by a service bay housing the science instruments. There are some new additions, including the seismic instrument in the science bay, and an atmospheric analyzer mounted underneath. A contract was accepted some time ago to take some pressure readings in the atmosphere, and ASSET's newest pilot, Pholo, will take it out for a test.

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Liftoff from the dirt runway is a little bumpy but goes well enough. Right away the new turbofan shows what it can do. For such a light craft, that single engine is very powerful!

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The craft is also remarkably nimble even at fairly high speeds. This is no supersonic jet yet, but clearly it's close. Pholo heads out over the water to the point designated in the contract and takes her measurements.

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The plane is almost too fast, and Pholo struggles to bleed off speed on the way in for a landing. This will turn out to be problematic...

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Disaster! Coming in a little too fast, the plane bounces on the rough landing strip. After a particularly high bounce, the tail strikes the ground and the engine is destroyed, and control is lost. The wreckage veers off the runway to the north and comes to rest. Fortunately, Pholo survives with only minor injuries! The atmospheric analyzer is lost but the science bay remains intact. A costly accident nonetheless, but the most important part is Pholo is okay. "In retrospect, trying to land jet aircraft on a dirt runway is probably not a good idea. This part of the Aerospace Complex has been somewhat neglected and if we're going to get serious about aircraft I think some money needs to be spend on upgrades."

As ASSET expected, the UKS Govenment has issued new contracts related to space exploration. Planting the UKS flag on Minmus and returning with some science data is chief among them, and ASSET is gearing up for a very big, very ambitious mission to the little green moon in the next update!

Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $2,611,306
Contract Advances $143,542
Hardware Costs -$78,842
Contract Completion Awards $911,155
Fundraising Income $67,467
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $25,901
Final Funds $3,680,529

Science Earned: 14

 

Edited by Cashen

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Really nice clean rocketry and mission reporting going on here.  Pity about the ARA 2 disaster, but by the looks of your balance sheet you will bounce back!  I haven't read your previous playthough, but by the sounds of it, this will turn out to be an exciting report thread.

Looking forward to reading more as I begin to plan my own career report :)

SM

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Part 11: The Great Minmus Expedition

It's a historic time for ASSET Corp. Long in the planning stages, it's time for the great expedition to land on and explore Minmus. In anticipation of the great amount of data, science and samples that will come back, a significant upgrade and renovation has been undertaken on the Research & Development Complex at the Aerospace Center (in addition to finally getting around to paving the runway, like was mentioned last update). This mission will use very similar hardware to the previous Mun landing, but with some optimizations for Minmus. It will again be a Kerbin orbit rendezvous mission, with a lander and transfer stage, and the AORCA CSM in a separate launch. The crew is also a return from the Mun landing, but Valentina and Jeb have switched places. This time Valentina will get to walk on the surface while Jeb remains in orbit. GIven the length of time Valentina and Bob will spend on the surface, some important work has been planned to keep Jeb busy. Let's get to it.

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As before, the lander and transfer stage launch first, and into a direct Minmus inclination.

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The lander is a little different. No longer a two stage vehicle, it's been simplified into a single stage. It's a little taller, as there's a container module inserted for some deployable science experiments, which are a new development in ASSET's technological progression. The larger descent engine has been removed, and instead the smaller, lighter ascent engine from the Mun lander has been used in its place, as with Minmus' lower gravity it will have plenty of thrust to lift the entire vehicle.

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Later that night, Jeb blasts off to catch up to Valentina and Bob in orbit. This is more or less the same launcher from the Mun landing. You might be wondering why the payload fairing is so wide though. Well, it has to do with the extra work Jeb has been tasked with on this mission.

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Attached radially to the CSM are three RA-2 Relay Satellites. While Valentina and Bob explore the surface of Minmus, Jeb will deploy a trio of relays around the moon in a constellation analagous to the one he deployed around Kerbin. "We intent to get pretty serious about setting up a surface base and possible resource extraction on Minmus, and since the moon is not tidally locked to Kerbin, any surface installation will spend half the time facing away from us. So these relays will be vital. This is in contrast to Mun where we'd likely set up on the Kerbin-facing side and have line of sight all the time."

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Jeb completes the rendezvous and docking in Kerbin orbit, and here we see the Minmus transfer burn. While an impact course is plotted, the transfer stage won't be detached until the final approach to Minmus. Any remaining fuel will be used as part of the initial deceleration. This mission will squeeze every last bit out of its hardware.

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As in previous missions, Bob inspects and calibrates the instrumentation during an EVA. The journey to Minmus takes a long longer than the one to Mun.

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Once in the moon's sphere of influence, the transfer stage burns to depletion and is discarded on an impact course. The CSM then corrects into a proper approach for orbital insertion.

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Moments before the insertion burn. Minmus' Greater Flats are just experiencing sunrise below.

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The hardware, mostly designed for Mun operations, is overbuilt for Minmus, but rather than custom design equipment for Minmus, they've made tweaks, like with the lander discussed earlier, and are going to use it for a very ambitious mission profile. Essentially the lander will make multiple hops, from one region of geologic interest to another. The CSM, which also has an abundance of fuel, will re-fuel the lander in-orbit to facilitate further exploration.

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Undocking is complete and Valentina begins to prepare for landing. Jeb meanwhile will begin to deploy the relays.

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The de-orbit and descent initiation burn over the Greater Flats region.

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As the name suggests, the area is extremely flat and desolate. Valentina backs down the throttle for a touchdown under 5 m/s.

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Touchdown! As stipulated in the contract, Valentina plants the flag of the United Kerbin States on the surface of Minmus, while Bob scouts a location to deploy his instruments.

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The complete suite of surface instruments. A seismometer, a mystery goo observation instrument, coupled with a control station and a communication antenna, all powered with solar arrays. Another contract stipulation is that they come back with a sample of rock from Minmus.

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Bob journeys off in search of a rock sample. The Greater Flats is very smooth, almost as if it were formerly liquid and froze in place, so there are very few rocks. Bob takes off in a triangle pattern. He has 5 units of RCS in his jetpack. He moves southeast using one unit, then turns northeast and burns another, before heading straight west back to the lander, the idea being to cover new ground the entire way (instead of going straight out and straight back). It's only on the return leg that he finally finds something.

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An outcrop of what appears to be a sandstone like formation! Bob pulls out his hammer and chips off a sample to take back to Kerbin.

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Understandably on Minmus, the RCS packs can get Bob going quite fast and quite high. "It really is the best way to get around. Walking is so slow in such low gravity."

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The first landing complete, the crew get ready to take off and hop to another location. They'll do this as long as they have a comfortable reserve to get back to orbit with.

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Leaving the science instruments and the flag behind, they hop southeast towards a lowlands "peninsula" that juts out into Greater Flats.

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The soil here in the lowlands is a more dull green in contrast to the bright hue of the flats. Having collected their samples and run their experiments, Bob climbs back in for another hop.

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The next stop is a sloped region. This area is quite narrow, so Bob has gotten out to help direct Valentina from outside. Along the way he finds this very large and bright green rock outcrop.

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Bob acts as a marker to help guide Valentina to a landing in a more sloped area. They would make two more hops after this, working their way east to higher elevations, taking samples from the midlands and highlands of Minmus, before having to return to orbit to refuel. Meanwile...

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Jeb is finishing up the relay deployment. The three relays are deployed 120 degrees apart in a 300km circular, equatorial orbit. This will provide constant radio communication between almost anywhere on Minmus back to the Aerospace Complex on Kerbin, regardless of the orientation of the planet or the moon.

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Valentina and Bob return to orbit and dock with Jeb, who transfers propellant to re-fill the tanks in the lander. Having visited Greater Flags, as well as the gradual ascent of slope from lowlands to highlands, it's time to head back down and visit the other flats.

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A landing course is plotted for one of the smaller flats.

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Another landing, another set of samples and measurements. Then...

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A suborbital hop westwards to Lesser Flats, which is just experiencing sunrise.

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A view of Kerbin from Lesser Flats. The pair would linger here a while and wait for sunrise in Great Flats, before hopping westward there next. In Greater Flats, they decided there was enough fuel left to make one last hop, straight north into Minmus' polar regions.

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The long suborbital hop north to the polar region of the moon.

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The north slope of Great Flats is very tall and steep, and the lander barely clears the ridge. Elevations in the far north are generally quite high.

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The descent down to landing. The lander touched down very close to Minmus' north pole.

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Even in high latitude, direct communication back to Kerbin is possible. Here we see the communication route between the Lander and Kerbin bouncing between two relays, first at Minmus and then at Kerbin.

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Having completd their ground mission and again low on fuel, Valentina and Bob climb up into a polar orbit. Jeb, who has plenty of fuel left still, plots some burns. He will raise his apoapsis along the relative line of nodes, do a plane change, then lower back down  into a circular orbit to capture the lander.

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The hard work having been completed, Valentina and Bob transfer all their samples and data over to the CSM and prepare for the trip home. They intentionally de-orbit the lander to crash into Greater Flats. Note here one of the solar panels on the lander is gone. They were poorly placed (and also I didn't realize they couldn't be retracted anymore) and that one got destroyed during docking. A design error!

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The lander impacts Greater Flats at just over 200 m/s, but being as light as it is, the seismometer barely registered anything.

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After a long and very successful mission, it's time to return home and begin processing all that data!

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Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $3,680,529
Contract Advances $130,374
Infrastructure Investment -$1,765,000
Hardware Costs -$95,955
Contract Completion Awards $512,466
World First Bonuses $215,655
Fundraising Income $52,976
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $3,230
Final Funds $2,734,285

Science Earned: 5,600.1

Edited by Cashen

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Posted (edited)

Part 12: Return to Mun

This time on ASSET Corp Mission Logs, we have two very important missions. The short-to-medium term strategic plan for ASSET Corp is to establish a permanent presence at both moons, using reusable hardware. This will allow for continued science, and also tourism, in a much more cost effective manner to both Mun and Minmus. The longer term goal, of course, is exploration beyond the Kerbin system entirely, but we're a long way from that. In any case, several technological developments coupled with several important missions need to take place before that can happen:

  • The development of a 'Space Liner', a single-stage to orbit aircraft with a high passenger capacity to handle both the initial leg (moving tourists into orbit) and final leg (returning them home) of each passenger's journey in the Kerbin system. This craft would take off and land like an aircraft, reducing the costs associated with getting Kerbals to orbit to basically just propellant. The technology for this doesn't quite exist yet but is being developed.
  • An orbital transfer and refueling station in Kerbin Orbit. This would contain habitation space for a large number of tourists passing through, either on their way up to visit one or both moons, or their way down after completing their itinerary.
  • A 'Moon Liner' spacecraft, using high efficiency nuclear propulsion, that would handle the journey from the orbital station to the the moons. Most likely this craft would be designed to land on the moons directly and be able to return to the orbital station to refuel and exchange passengers without the need for additional infrastructure at the moons (ie: No orbital transfer stations at the moons and no dedicated, separate landing craft). Nuclear rocket propulsion has recently been developed by ASSET Corp. but has yet to be put into practical use in space.
  • A Minmus-based ore mining and fuel processing operation to provide for the whole operation. This is considered foundational, and needs to be the first element in place. It is, however, the least fleshed out component, as the design depends on several factors, including the exact distribution and concentration of ore on Minmus, and a study on the best way to set up a refueling system. Options include a) Ore transport to the Kerbin station for processing into the right blend of fuels on an as-needed basis, or b) refueling the Moon Liners in Minmus orbit or even directly on the surface, which would reduce operational flexibility but be far cheaper (no dedicated fuel transport).

ASSET Corp continues to spend capital where it feels is prudent. As part of the development of Space Liner, the first of two planned upgrades/renovations to the Spaceplane Hangar was undertaken. it's likely a third upgrade to both the hangar and runway will be needed before flight testing can begin. The second is a third upgrade to the Rocket Launch Pad, to accomodate heavier launch vehicles.

For today's update, incremental progress. We have two missions to cover. The first is rather simple and related to the Minmus Ore Mining project. The Narrow-Band scanner technology is ready, and rather than a Kerbin based test, ASSET is opting to launch a combined wide and narrow band scanning probe direct to Minmus.

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A simple Orange Tank lower stage coupled with a payload fairing to get things started. This also shows the third and final iteration of the launch pad, capable of providing for launch vehicles of any foreseeable size.

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And here we see the spacecraft. Both the wide beam and narrow beam scanners are on board, as well as a large solar panel and plenty of on-board batteries for power purposes. In this case, the satellite has been equipped with its own engine and fuel tanks to provide propulsion. It completes the orbital insertion, and shown here, Minmus transfer burns. Then, it's the long coast to Minmus.

Then, the second mission. The upgraded launch pad is needed here. Pholo, Bob, and Bill Kerman are launching for a science and exploration mission to Mun. This mission is different in that it will use a Mun Orbit Rendezvous profile, so the entire vehicle is launched as one unit. Noteable is this is the first spaceflight for engineer Bill Kerman. Bill has been working hard behind the scenes on R&D and spacecraft design, but it's been decided that he needs to get some actual spaceflight experience himself.

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The debut of the powerful RE-M3 "Mainsail" engine in the core Orange Tank stage. There are several technological firsts here. This is, to date, the largest single launch undertaken by ASSET Corp. The Orange Tank Skipper stage, a typical core stage on previous missions, has been used as two side-mounted liquid propellant boosters, utilizing propellant cross-feed to keep the core Mainsail stage full.

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It's also the first time ASSET Corp is using propulsive booster separation, using small solid rocket motors to push the large boosters aside.

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Propulsive separation is also used to draw the core stage back from the spacecraft. The transfer stage was only required to burn briefly for orbit insertion.

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This mission had a significant Kerbin orbit component as well. Recently a Gravity Sensor was developed as part of the standard Science Instrumentation loadout, and the mission would perform both a low Kerbin orbit and a high Kerbin orbit taking gravity readings around the planet in various locations. Therefore, Mun Transfer took place from a higher orbit than is typical.

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Part of the new mission profile involves separation of the CSM from the stack and some RCS maneuvering to dock with the Mun Lander. Here Pholo pilots the CSM around the stack separation ring to get re-docked. As in the past Mun landing, the transfer stage is then discarded on an impact course.

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The rest of the mission proceeds as normal. This is a re-desigined, single-stage lander, very similar to the one used previously at Minmus. It contains a more powerful engine and additional propellant for Mun. The solar panels were re-designed after the prior mission and this lander also incorporates Probodobodyne HECS acting as a guidance computer, allowing Bob and Bill to fly the lander without the need for a specialized pilot. Like the prior Minmus mission, this is intended to be a multiple-landing mission. However, given the propellant load of the lander and Mun's higher gravity, re-fueling from the CSM will be needed after each landing, and there's enough fuel for just two landings.

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The first landing will be in the Mun's highlands to the east of East Crater, approximately 30 kilometers east of the first Mun landing which was in East Crater.

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Note the upgraded, heavy-duty landing legs.

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Bob and Bill land in a gently sloping region of Mun's highlands.

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The two disembark and Bill plants the UKS flag on the surface.

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Just like at Minmus, the pair deploy science equipment on the surface. This package includes an Ionograph, something recently developed and hence was not available for Minmus. Bill assists with deploying the solar arrays before the two begin exploring the nearby area.

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The RCS "jetpacks" work wonders to get around quickly. Mobility is still limited to the amount of propellant a single Kerbal can carry, however. Something ASSET is developing for the future is a reusable wheeled exploration vehicle for the crews to use to enhance mobility further.

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One of the private contracts accepted before the mission was to bring back a sample of Mun Rocks. So here, Bob chips a piece off of a larger boulder to bring back with him.

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This appears to be a relatively fresh, small crater the two are investigating.

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After spending some time on the surface, the pair re-ignite the engine and return to orbit to prepare for the second landing.

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A rendezvous and docking on Mun's night side. Here Pholo uses lamps to illuminate the lander to ease docking and propellant transfer. Then, Bob and Bill are off again.

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Approaching for the second landing. This time, Bob and Bill are targeting the Mun Midlands to the west of East Crater.

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Bill looks out the window of the lander, post-landing in the Midlands, before the EVA begins.

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Having accomplished the goals of deploying the science gear and collecting Mun rocks for the private contract, the second landing is limited to the standard scientific observations and gathering of surface samples to bring back to the R&D lab.

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The return to orbit from the second landing. There is only enough propellant to facilitate two landings.

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Another night-side docking. This time Bill and Bob transfer themselves and their experiments and samples over to the CSM. The lander, was was done previously, is intentionally crashed into Mun afterwards.

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A correction burn on the way home to get a targeted periapsis of around 30km.

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A normal re-entry over Kerbin's expansive grasslands region.

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Bill's view up at the parachutes, post-deployment. Another successful mission!

Meanwhile!

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The survey scanner arrives at Minmus. Firsty, the wide beam scanner performs a high-level survey of Minmus. Then, the narrow beam scanner begins, well, narrowing down Ore concentrations to specific regions of Minmus.

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A map of 'hot spots' is developed. In general, Minmus contains around 7.1% Ore, but it is not distributed evenly. The Lowlands, which dominate Minmus, are around average at 7.6% or so. The polar regions are more concentrated, in the 8% range. The Sloped regions seem to be the most rich at just under 10%, but mining from a high incline would be difficult. This map will form the basis of a future, more detailed, ground-based survey to pinpoint an optimum location for an ore extraction operation. Interestingly, a private contract was issued to extract and return to Kerbin with a 1,100L sample of extracted Minmus ore. "Ordinarily we would never plan to bring significant quantities of ore back to the surface of Kerbin, but the contract is lucrative enough that we're planning a purpose-built mission around it. It anything it will serve as a test of the technology before a permanent extraction facility is landed."

 

Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $2,734,285
Contract Advances $301,.374
Infrastructure Investment -$507,000
Hardware Costs $154,371
Contract Completion Awards $110,962
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $2,708
Final Funds $2,485,250

Science Earned: 3,112

Edited by Cashen

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Part 13: All About Mun (Again)

This update begins with a lesson on reading the fine print of a contract. "We'd been issued a contract that basically said, Return to Kerbin from the surface of Mun, which, if you've been following us, we'd done a few times already. But the contract refused to pay out. Apparently they meant return from the surface of Mun to the surface of Kerbin in the same vehicle. We'd been using separate landing and return vehicles, because of the obvious benefits, but apparently that didn't count to them for whatever reason." So, without any plans to drastically alter the scientific exploration program to use a Direct Ascent profile, ASSET Corp. decides to put together a one-off flight using custom parts and take care of a few different things all at once. Valentina Kerman will fly a modified Space Tourism vehicle to land on Mun and return, and it just so happens there are six Kerbals who have signed up to land on Mun anyway. The flight will also pack a bunch of science gear for Valentina to run once landed. There is another key development that will be tested on this flight as well:

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In yet another instance of the largest thing ASSET Corp. has launched, rather than a multi-stage expendable Orange Tank launch vehicle, this is the first flight of the Mammoth Engine and enlarged core stage. This single stage will put the entire vehicle in orbit, and then contains avionics that will allow the booster to re-enter the atmosphere and hopefully land to be re-used.

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The booster puts the tourist vehicle into orbit and then prepares to turn around and return, targeting a landing close to the Aerospace Complex.

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A plot showing the targeted landing site. Also obviously I've installed the Trajectories mod to make this easier!

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The booster failed to include an antenna of its own and communications was lost briefly in the upper atmosphere. Without the ground controllers in control, the booster drifted slightly off attitude and the extra drag moved the predicted landing point further west. Here the booster clears the mountains west of the Aerospace Complex. Mammoth engine temperatures also registered as quite high.

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A combination of parachutes and engine burn slow the booster down.

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A safe touchdown! Of a total launch cost of $118,094, the recovered booster returns $61,806, more than 50% of the total cost! The economics of booster recovery may make large, single launches more appealing. Otherwise these Mammoth engines are very expensive to just discard, relative to the smaller engines ASSET has been using to this point.

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As for Valentina and the six lucky tourists, they proceed with Mun Injection and the coast out to their destination.

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The trip is timed to allow the tourists to witness an eclipse of Mun by Kerbin's shadow, close up.

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To maximize the collection of new scientific data, the landing is taking place within Northwest Crater, far from the previous landing sites in and around East Crater.

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The vehicle is very tall and landing is tricky, but the ground here is fortunately very flat. This will probably be the only tourist mission using this kind of a landing vehicle. Work continues on Moon Liner, which will set down horizontally, more akin to an aircraft.

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Valentina disembarks to collect some surface samples and admire the view.

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The tourists, however, are not allowed to disembark. They do however get to enjoy the view out the windows, and the reduced gravity on Mun's surface.

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Before the group depart, Valentina collects some rock samples.

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A short whole later, the vehicle blasts off again, to make the journey back to Kerbin.

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In all, the mission employed a high degree of re-usability and recoverability. Only the upper transfer and landing stage was not recovered.

Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $2,485,250
Hardware Costs -$118,094
Contract Completion Awards $586,078
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $85,824
Fundraising Income $17,295
Final Funds $3,056,353

Science Earned: 582.0

But we aren't quite done with Mun yet.

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An unmanned mission, Mun Science Package, takes off powered by a smaller Mammoth first stage.

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Here we see the science package itself. The upper portion is an Ore Scanner. ASSET doesn't have plans for Ore extraction from Mun, but a private contract was accepted to perform a scan of it anyway. Behind that is an automated transfer vehicle to deploy three relay satellites around Mun in a similar manner to Minmus. "In the future we would like to land exploration missions on Mun's far side, and so this is the only reliable way to establish communications there."

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This time the booster included an antenna so communications were rock solid until the deep part of re-entry, at which point the aerodynamic forces held the booster in the correct attitude even without direct control. But there was another problem. Even with a much more gentle re-entry trajectory to help with the overheating seen on the previous flight...

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The Mammoth engine explodes due to overheating. ASSET engineers theorize that perhaps it has to do with the booster being smaller, and there being less thermal mass to absorb heat. Without the stabilizing effect of the engine, the booster then spins out of control and the extra drag moves the landing site west towards the mountains.

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Without the engine to slow down, the large fuel tank at the bottom would also be lost on impact. But the upper part with the avionics bay would survive. A disappointing outcome, but booster recovery is also new and cutting edge, and there is much to learn.

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On the way to Mun, the science package breaks up into its three components: An ore scanner, a communications relay probe, and the transfer stage, which will be crashed into Mun.

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The Ore Scanner assumes the polar orbit stipulated in the contract.

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The relay probe begins placing comm satellites in 1000km, circular equatorial orbits spaced 120 degrees apart.

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A low resolution Ore scan is completed of Mun. The probe has a narrow band scanner equipped, should ASSET ever become interested in Ore on Mun, but for now the focus is Minmus with the lower gravity and easier landings.

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Its job complete, the probe that deployed the relays then crashed into Mun at high speed near the instruments placed on the surface by a prior mission. In fact, that landing site and the science gear can be seen as a dark spot in the image to the right of the probe.

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The seismometer placed on the surface registers the impact!

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Meanwhile a complete set of relays now covers all of Mun's surface.

Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $3,056,353
Contract Advances $88,460
Hardware Costs -$102,940
Contract Completion Awards $94,717
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $12,682
Fundraising Income $7,394
Final Funds $3,156,666

 

Edited by Cashen

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Part 14: Minmus Ore Prospecting

Having done an orbital survey of Minmus to determine rough/bulk ore concentrations, it's time to put boots on the ground and find an optimum spot to set up a drilling and extraction operation. To facilitate this, a brand new piece of hardware will be employed: A two-person roving vehicle, the Minmus Prospector, equipped with science instrumentation as well as both the narrow-band scanner, and precision surface scanner to get exact ore values. The rover is large and spacious enough, and well equipped enough, to support an extended surface stay. We'll get into more of the technical details of the rover later. Also, as per the contract with FLOOYD Dynamics, 1,100 units of ore need to be extracted from Minmus and brought back to Kerbin. So a special vehicle, AMOTA, the ASSET Minmus Ore Test Article, has been designed and built to accomplish this task. A much larger, permanent ore extraction kit is in the design stages, but requires knowledge of the precise ore concentrations to finalize the design. The mission profile is that both the rover and extraction vehicles will fly to Minmus together as part of a single launch. The rover will land, crewed by both Jebediah and Bill Kerman, prospect for a good site, and then AMOTA will land using remote guidance. This will test precise landings, as the rover will act as a landing target. Once landed, Bill will use the lander to extract the required quantity of ore, take off, and return to Kerbin with it. Jebediah will, for the moment, be left behind on the surface of Minmus with the rover, awaiting the arrival of the next mission to the tiny moon. Let's get started.

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It seems every launch is a new first for ASSET Corp. This launch out-does the one from the previous update as a new 'Heaviest Launch'. A double height Mammoth core stage is flanked by a whopping eight Kickback SRBs. The SRBs are expendable, while the core stage is intended to return from orbit.

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The core booster and payload separate in orbit. Here we get our first good look at the rover and mining package.

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One of the theories of the previous booster return failure was that the booster was too small to absorb the heat effectively which resulted in the overheating and failure of the Mammoth engines. This stage is plenty large. Note the 2.5m payload bay at the top. This is becoming a somewhat standardized way of containing the avionics package in the reusable boosters. Inside are three things conforming to the 1.25m stack form factor. A pair of batteries for power, a single set of reaction wheels for attitude control, and a single RC-001S Remote Guidance Unit controlling the booster's flight. Communication with the Aerospace Complex is provided by a Communotron 16-S.

However, the theory about booster physical size proves to be misleading:

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The Mammoch engine overheats and is destroyed, again. Without the engine providing for a heavy base and aerodynamic stability the booster tumbles and the lower fuel tank rapidly overheats and explodes as well. But it gets worse. While the drogue parachutes deploy, the mains refuse to (In-game, they said they were stowed, but the fairing was gone. Maybe they were too close to the service bay?)

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This was all of the booster that survived: The avionics bay and the eight, un-deployed chutes. ASSET engineers have a new theory about re-entry heat and survivability of the Mammoth engines. It may have more to do with the propellants acting as a heat sink than the physical booster tanks themselves. So, on the next booster return test, provisions will be made to have a little more extra fuel left, and most importantly, the ability to pump all remaining propellant into the lower-most fuel tank to act as a better heat sink. Getting the booster recovery part right is important. The Mammoth engine is basically four S3 KS-25 "Vector" engines in a single package, and ASSET is developing an even larger, 5-meter form factor that will be powered by five of these powerful (and expensive) engines. Recovery of the future 5 meter boosters will be critical for the economics of ultra-heavy launches. But that's for the future...

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The drilling vehicle supplies the delta-V required for the Minmus transfer, with Jeb and Bill in the rover up top.

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Some time later, they get to Minmus and get into orbit. Once ready, they decouple from the miner and prepare to land. The rover is equipped with a small LV-909 de-orbit and descent stage that will do most of the work. The rover also has three LV-1 "Ant" engines mounted underneath it for the final touchdown.

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Here we see the 909 performing the de-orbit. A promising, high-grade site is being targeted in a hilly area of Minmus. Technically it's within the Slopes biome but Jeb and Bill are hopeful the area rich in ore extends up to a flat spot at the top of the slope. Average ore density for Minmus as a whole was a little over 7% but the Slopes regions averaged just under 10%.

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The 909 has done it's work and is jettisoned and the three Ants begin controlling. The forward Ant has a thrust limiter set lower than the middle and rear engines to compensate for the fact that the rover's center of mass is slightly to the rear.

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Jeb and Bill land successfully, even on an incline. While there is a small 3x2 retractable solar array, primary power is actually provided by an array of six fuel cells mounted at the back of the rover. It was desired to have a rover that could function day and night equally well. It was also thought that the heavy fuel and oxidizer tanks, which only expended a small fraction of their quantity in landing, would provide extra weight down low and add to the vehicle's traction, while providing enough reactant for the fuel cells to power them for a long time. This turned out to be true, as even in the low gravity of Minmus, the heavy rover handles exceptionally well. The solar array is there to provide base-load trickle power and also as an emergency power source should the rover ever run out of fuel. Future mining operations on Minmus should provide an essentially endless supply of fuel for this thing. According to ASSET CEO Cashen Kerman, "For electrical power we're a big believer in the use of fuel cells. This will be especially true in the future when we venture into the outer solar system. Solar definitely has a place. Our current design for an orbital spaceport around Kerbin uses large solar arrays and batteries for instance. But for rovers, and even our big, permanent ore extraction rig, we're focused on fuel cells for their reliability no matter the conditions."

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While doing their ore survey, the pair also test our some other new technology the rover employs. Here this scanning arm examines and samples a specimen of Green Sandstone.

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Later, they fine a large Olivine formation. Here's the view from inside the cab as the rover arm drills a sample for analysis. The analytical results are then transmitted back to the Aerospace Complex through the Relay Network. No need to wait to bring the results home by hand!

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Another look at the rover. Entry and egress is from the top, and an angled latter provides ease of access.

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The pair continue on their way. The cab is quite large and roomy, intended for long-term occupation on extended trips. Surface scans are very promising. It seems this particular region sports an ore density of upwards of 14%! Far higher than even missions planners had expected. But they need to find a spot suitable for landing a heavy mining rig on. All that ore won't mean anything on a steep incline like this (note, the Navball is wrong, I hadn't switched to forward control from upward control, but you can see the retrograde marker at the top of the ball, the slope is around 25 degrees here, climbing up).

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At last, a suitable spot. After climbing the ridge they find a relatively flat region that is large enough to make landing reliable. And the views are pretty nice! A final check reveals this location has an ore concentration of 14.55%.

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The sun is getting low, but they call in the mining test rig. They plant a flag to mark the exact spot. This will be a test of precision landing.

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As the sun sets, the miner begins its approach. The north-facing slope leading up to the site is still lit by the sun, while the plateau above, where Bill and Jeb await, is in darkness.

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Not the best precision landing. Touchdown will be a couple hundred meters from the rover. This will take some practice. But, it may be worthwhile to have a wheeled tanker vehicle to transport fluids between a future miner and transport vehicle. A little added expense for the flexibly of not requiring precise landings.

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While the future miner is planned to use fuel cells, this one is simple and cheap and uses solar arrays. Hence, mining is impossible right now. So instead, Bill and Jeb settle in to sleep through the long Minmus night, and be ready to mine the following morning.

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The two get up early the next morning and Bill heads over to the miner to begin working. They start early. Unfortunately, one of the solar arrays was blocked by the vehicle itself, and so it wasn't until around solar noon that all four arrays, and hence all four of the small drills, could be used. Nevertheless, by mid afternoon they've extracted 1,102 units of ore, which is enough for the 1,100 contract from FLOOYD Dynamics.

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Loaded down with ore, Bill begins his ascent from Minmus to return to Kerbin. Jeb will stay behind and live in the rover until the next Minmus mision. Don't worry, the rover is stocked with plenty of snacks, and plenty of things to do.

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The heavy lower part of the miner, containing the drills, engines, landing legs, solar arrays and radiators is discarded and the Lander unit and ore tanks, protected by a heat shield, are all that returns to Kerbin.

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Bill glides down to the ocean on parachutes, ready to be collected. In private conversation, Cashen Kerman remarked, "FLOOYD Dynamics basically paid us almost a million for a sample of ore from Minmus that, as far as we can tell, is functionally no different from ore you can get on Kerbin. Whatever, I hope they're happy. More than paid for the whole mission." As an aside, the water landing is not where Bill eventually ended up. See, sometimes KSP contracts are stupidly, frustratingly specific. The contract said "Land your Ore on Kerbin" but I guess I didn't consider that it wouldn't count of you splashed down. No, it has to be on land, specifically. Frustrated, I re-loaded a save and had Bill come down on land instead. I wasn't re-doing the whole mission because of something silly like that.

Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $3,156,666
Contract Advances $50,371
Hardware Costs -$210,454
Contract Completion Awards $903,372
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $19,806
Fundraising Income $60,886
Final Funds $3,980,727

Science Earned: 1,533

Edited by Cashen

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Part 15: Kerbin Orbital Spaceport

Yes I know Jeb is still on Minmus. No Jeb isn't appearing in this update. In fact, no Kerbals are appearing in this update. Nevertheless, this is a big step for ASSET Corp's progression to a more permanent presence in space.

Sometimes you pick up a contract for something you were going to do anyway. I didn't mention it, but that contract advance at the end of the last update was for putting up an orbital station that has an antenna, can generate power, and house at least ten Kerbals. ASSET Corp. has been planning a space station to act as an orbital spaceport for streamlining the space tourism industry (among other uses, like as an orbital refueling depot). This will go hand in hand with the future mining operation on Minmus. The design of the station has gone through multiple iterations, generally revolving around two major segments: A habitation module with space for between 16 and 20 Kerbals, this number having been chosen as a standard passenger load fixed by the design of the Space Liner spaceplane (which will be appearing soon). And an orbital propellant depot and ore conversion unit to process ore brought back from Minmus. ASSET has decided that the flexibility of having propellant in Kerbin orbit outweighs the energy savings of refueling at Minmus, especially as designs of the future Moon Liner spacecraft have evolved. We'll see Moon Liner soon as well, but basically the design is intentionally simple and doesn't come with a lot of excess fuel. A tourist mission to Mun might not leave enough fuel to get to Minmus and back, at least not without some risk. So Moon Liner will probably refuel after each journey. Extensive use of aerobraking in Kerbin's atmosphere also means most of the propellant will be used for outbound trips. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

The actual design of the station layout and how to assemble it went through multiple iterations, as mentioned. The initial plans were for a station that could support 27 Kerbals in 3x9 habitation "modules", coupled with the propellant depot, all launched separately in four launches. As the comfort level with very large boosters grew, the central habitation module and propellant depot modules were merged into a single, heavy launch, with two side mounted habitation modules launched separately. Then, some thought was put into how many Kerbals the station actually needs to support. In theory, Kerbals will only be passing through. Space Liner and Moon Liner will spend time docked to the station, passengers can move through, and the only passengers who stay for any length of time will be ones who's itinerary involves stops at both moons, necessitating they be on two trips. Finally, a streamlined design with a capacity of 19 Kerbals was drawn up, replacing the two side-mounted habitation modules with just a pair of viewing cupolas, and the entire station could be put in orbit in monolithic style, with one single, huge launch.

The final station design costs $124,842 and weighs 43.64 tons. Launching it, however, is a different story. The total cost, station and launcher, is $339,121 and lift-off mass is 629.6 tons.

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It goes without saying this is the largest vehicle and largest payload ever attempted from ASSET's Aerospace Complex. A single massive 5-meter core stage, powered by five Vector engines, has enough delta-V to put the entire payload in orbit, but lacks the initial thrust-to-weight, so it's been fitted with eight Kickback SRBs. The SRBs are cheap and expendable, the expensive Vector core stage is intended to be recovered.

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The payload fairing on this thing is truly huge, and we'll see the space station within soon enough. In spite of the huge size and complexity, the launch goes extremely well. The target is a circular, zero inclination, 250x250km orbit. The higher altitude will give fantastic views of Kerbin and aid in easy rendezvous from lower orbiting vehicles.

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A tense moment as the eight Kickback SRBs are discarded over the ocean. Since the target orbit is so high, the gravity turn is much gentler. We're aiming for a direct burn to a 250km apoapsis.

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Once in space the payload fairing is jettisoned. The four outboard Vector engines are shut down, and orbital maneuvering is provided by just the single center engine. Here, it performs orbital circulariszation at 250km. A few smaller burns to correct inclination and eccentricity would follow over the course of the first orbit.

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Once the desired orbit was achieved, and while facing prograde, the booster separates and backs away using four small Sepratrons. The station will then use its reaction wheels to orient its long axis normal (north/south), while the booster prepares to de-orbit. Perhaps the most interesting detail of the space station are the angled trusses. Those trusses house the solar arrays which have not been deployed yet. They're mounted on hinges, and are tucked in alongside the core of the station right now to fit inside the payload fairing. We will see later how they extend outwards perpendicular before deploying the panels.

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Following procdures developed after the last booster return failure, all the propellant left over is routed to the lower-most fuel tanks, to act as a heat sink for the engines and also to lower the center of mass to make the booster more stable on landing. Here the center Vector engine performs a direct de-orbit from 250km. Some at ASSET wanted to drop down to a lower orbit, say 75km, before attempting re-entry, but a decision was made to drop down from 250km directly.

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Re-entry begins and all looks well. "From telemetry data we found that the bottom engine, the one closest to Kerbin, would heat up more than the others. So when this happened we commanded the reaction wheels to induce a roll in the booster. That way, each engine would rotate through that hot spot and then cool off again, and no single engine was exposed to it for long."

Let's just watch this booster sail home to the Aerospace Complex (or close enough) in the next sequence of pictures.

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The central Vector engine slowed the descent from a stable 12 m/s to less than 5. The dust is still settling from the propulsive landing in that last picture. Recovered value of the booster was $133,970. Considering the launch vehicle cost (total cost minus the cost of the space station) was $214,279, that means the actual expended cost for the flight was only $80,309. In the mean time, let's get a look at the fully deployed and properly oriented Kerbin Orbital Spaceport:

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With room for 19 Kerbals, and a propellant depot capable of holding 12,850L of liquid fuel, 3,250L or oxidizer, and 750L of monopropellant (the tanks were obviously launched empty), this will be the hub through which almost all future space travel will pass. As part of the design simplification, any on-board Ore storage was deleted. Instead, the Ore Transport Vehicle, still being developed, will act as ore storage. When docked to the large clamp at the bottom, Ore will be offloaded directly to the large converter housed there to be refined into propellants on demand, and routed to the various storage tanks. 

In the next update, ASSET Corp. will establish that Ore extraction and transportation system.

Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $3,980,727
Hardware Costs -$339,121
Contract Completion Awards $145,314
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $133,970
Fundraising Income $19,.270
Final Funds $3,940,160

 

Edited by Cashen

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Part 16: Minmus Ore Mining

As they say, you have to spend money to make money. ASSET's space tourism business is booming in terms of interest, but there is a significant backlog of interested tourists waiting for their flights. When I say significant, it's more than 20 total Kerbals. This delay is because ASSET is first spending the funds and time to set up the proper space infrastructure to facilitate the tourism business. This, in turn, should increase revenue generating ability which will then allow more robust funding for future space exploration and science missions, especially interplanetary ones that are coming eventually. Related to that, the first interplanetary contract has been accepted: A simply flyby of Duna and the collection of some science data from there. More on that in a future update. To start, a big and expensive renovation to the Vehicle Assembly Building, enabling it to assemble the most complex vehicles for launch. Then, three successive launches of heavy payloads bound for Minmus:

  • An Ore Extraction rig to land in the location previously spotted on Minmus.
  • A 16-wheeled tanker vehicle to move extracted ore from the drilling rig to a landed Ore Transporter.
  • The Ore Transporter to ferry Ore back to the Kerbin Orbital Spaceport for processing into liquid fuels.

All of these will be heavy launches using the big 5-meter Vector booster we saw last time. So let's get to it!

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The first launch is the miner itself. The largest, heaviest of the payloads, it flies atop an extended Vector stage with eight Kickback SRBs. All three launches are timed to match the orbit of Minmus, and all three are intended to return the booster to the Aerospace Complex for recovery and reuse. Bill Kerman is flying with the miner to return to Minmus to run the operation. Total launch cost: $375,115.

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With the miner safely into orbit, the booster prepares to de-orbit. The re-entry burns are set up to compensate for the fact that they're not starting form an equatorial orbit and the Aerospace Complex won't be beneath the original orbit.

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The first booster return is more or less right on target.

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In short order, ASSET Corp. crews will be out to bring the booster back for refurbishment and re-use. Recovered value: $141,294. Now let's see the miner itself.

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Containing a single 2.5m Converter and six large drills, the miner is powered by nine sets of 3x3 fuel cell arrays, 1000kw of cooling radiators, and enough internal storage for 13,500 units of Ore in nine large holding tanks. This will be the standard Ore load. Economics of scale says: Go big or go home. The miner design was finalized after the previous mission and is optimized for the conditions at the target location. Here it's mated on an Orange Tank core stage, previously a first stage booster for smaller launches, in this instance a transfer stage to get to Minmus.

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The next heavy duty launch happens during the day, and is the surface tanker vehicle. Lighter than the previous launch, it still requires eight Kickback SRBs but only a standard length Vector stage.

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Booster separation. A pair of Kickbacks happened to collide with each other post-separation.

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Payload fairing jettison during the coast to the orbital insertion burn. Each launch followed the same pattern. Direct injection into an orbit matching that of Minmus, followed by booster separation and booster de-orbit approximately 1/4 of the way through the first orbit, at a point where an inclination correction for the return flight would be most effective.

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Booster separation using sepratrons. The tanker is powered by three fuel cell arrays and contains the same standard nine Ore tanks, plus dedicated tanks for liquid fuel to refuel the transporter. A transfer stage is attached to the back of the vehicle.

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This booster return isn't quite as close as the last one. It started out on target but drifted to the west, away from the Aerospace Complex.

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Nevertheless, the booster touches down safely and is recovered. Total launch cost was $284,282, and the booster's recovered value was $133,702. The economics of booster return are obvious.

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A look at the tanker in orbit during Minmus transfer burn. It's being flown remotely, but on the surface can be driven from the front command seat. Also note the retractable fuel hose mounted on the front for ease of transfer.

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The third and final launch occurs at night. The lightest of the three launches, this one only needs four Kickback SRBs. This is the Ore Transporter that will make automated runs between Kerbin orbit and the surface of Minmus.

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A look at the last booster de-orbit burn. The burns had a significant normal or anti-normal component to them. Being launched into a 6 degree inclination meant that the Aerospace Complex would rotate away from the orbital track after the first orbit, so de-orbit includes an inclination change to place the booster on a path that intersects the launch site again.

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Another booster touchdown within sight of the Aerospace Complex. This launch was the cheapest at $277,385, and the recovered value of the hardware was $135,927.

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The first good look at the Ore Transporter making the burn for Minmus under it's own power. It's powered by three Nuclear Thermal Rockets, and has been given a partial load of propellant to make the trip to Minmus, where it will be refueled and loaded with Ore. The design is very short and squat, to make landing easier and to keep it dynamically stable with aerobraking under the inflatable 10 meter heat shield. Now, all three vehicles coast to Minmus...

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Bill is the first to arrive aboard the miner, which uses the last of the fuel in its transfer stage to slow down before orbit insertion and landing.

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The transfer stage crashed into Greater Flats and the impact is recorded by the seismometer left behind.

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Bill performs orbit insertion using the small radial engines provided on the miner. Jeb is waiting at the landing site, using the rover as a target for Bill.

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Pretty close! Bill's going to touch down somewhere between the rover and the flag he and Jeb planted earlier. Note the improvised landing struts using motorized hinges and hydraulic rams.

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A safe touchdown. Bill deploys the drills and radiators and gets to work almost right away.

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The fuel cell arrays will provide power no matter where the sun is, and it doesn't take long for Bill to fill up the ore tanks as well as re-fill his own liquid fuel, oxidizer, and monopropellant tanks.

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In spite of being the third to launch, the Ore Ferry is the second vehicle to arrive. It uses similar landing struts for extra stability with heavy loads. The heat shield is deployed at this point. The vehicle is just a mass of tanks strapped together under the heat shield with really no consideration for aesthetics. Purely functional!

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Landing is pretty close, though not quite close enough for a direct coupling to the miner. This is where the rover/tanker comes in.

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Speaking of the tanker, here it is. The transfer stage in this case performs the orbit insertion and then the initial de-orbit burn for landing. Then, it's ejected to crash elsewhere on Minmus as the tanker orients itself wheels down for a vertical drop.

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Coming right down atop the base of operations.

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A safe touchdown on Minmus! All the hardware has arrived! The tanker's center of mass was expected to shift along its long axis as propellant was consumed for landing. Front and rear mounted RCS blocks has to be added to help keep attitude control during the landing to compensate for this.

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Bill climbs aboard the command seat and begins driving the tanker over towards the miner to transfer the first Ore load.

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At this point Jeb has driven over and is out helping Bill with the Ore transfer. They also fill up the side-mounted liquid fuel tanks, and the rear monopropellant tank.

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The guys work through the Minmus night. Here Jeb is loading ore, liquid fuel and monoprop into the Ore Transporter.

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The next day, the Ore Transporter lifts off into Minmus orbit, where it will hibernate for a little while. The Transporter has 835 m/s of delta-V when completely full, which is enough to return to Kerbin with assistance of aerobraking, but to make the return efficient, it will only take place during either an ascending or descending node with respect to Kerbin's equator, to minimize the inclination adjustment needed on the way back to link up with the Orbital Spaceport. Minmus is about one third of the way between descending and ascending nodes, so it will be a bit of a wait. The huge quantities of ore being transported mean these trips should be somewhat infrequent, so we can afford to wait and be patient for the right opportunity.

 

On the next update, ASSET will begin to use its new space infrastructure to clear the tourist backlog, take the very first steps in laiyng the foundation for future interplanetary travel, and debut two more new vehicles!
 

Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $3,940,160
Contract Advances $112,000
Infrastructure Investment -$845,000
Hardware Costs -$936,782
World First Bonuses $47,360
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $410,968
Fundraising Income $4,151
Final Funds $2,732,857

 

Edited by Cashen

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Part 17: Space Tourism with Reusable Spacecraft

ASSET Corp. is in the planning phase for many science based missions, and hardware development is underway. In particular, the following initiatives are geared towards ease of scientific exploration and we'll be seeing more of this in the near future:

  • The establishment of a permanent surface base on Mun, with small scale ore extraction and processing to supply the energy needed for the operation of the base and exploration equipment. In addition to ore refining facilities to be self-sustaining, it will contain a Mobile Processing Laboratory to allow scientists to perform their research in-situ instead of having to ferry data back to Kerbin.
  • A re-usable lander/transporter that can carry a rover from the surface base, to any point on Mun's surface, land, and then return to the vicinity of the base again, where it can be re-fueled for the next flight.
  • A modified Science Rover, similar to the one deployed at Minmus, with the hardware to attach and detach from the lander/transporter and explore the area around the lander.
  • Upgrades to the Relay Network. Unrelated to the Mun base, but eventually interplanetary missions will happen and the existing Relay Network will be insufficient. Communication at interplanetary distances will require an upgrade to the Tracking Station, but when the Tracking Station isn't facing towards the planet in question, the Relay Network will need to assist. To that end, a pair of high-power RA-100 relays are being prepared to launch into extremely elliptical polar orbits, with apoapsis near the edge of Kerbin's spear of influence and periapsis near the atmosphere, allowing them to see over Kerbin and Mun and relay back down to the surface.

But before we can do any of that, there's a significant backlog of space tourists. The infrastructure has been laid down to do this in a more economical way. The first aspect of this is a reusable single-stage-to-orbit space-plane, called the Space Liner. Like similarly named Air LIners, it will ferry tourists between the Aerospace Complex on the surface, and the Orbital Spaceport.

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Space Liner in the Spaceplane Hangar being prepared. It has a total capacity of 20 Kerbals. On this flight, Pholo Kerman will be acting as pilot and will be flying with 19 tourist passengers. Space Liner is powered by seven brand new RAPIER hybrid Jet/Rocket engines for the ascent and a pair of LV-909 high efficiency engines for finer orbital maneuvers. Prior to the first flight, a significant amount of capital was invested in upgrades to the Spaceplane Hangar and also the Runway.

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Space Liner takes off from the upgraded runway under air-breathing power. The Aerospace Complex in the background looks very different than its humble beginnings. It's now the proper spaceport it was intended to be.

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A look at the seven RAPIER engines powering the Space Liner. There is also a set of small RCS thrusters for docking to the station, and a single fuel cell mounted in the tail to provide electrical power.

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It's a full house aboard the Space Liner for its maiden voyage up to orbit!

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The flight profile takes the Space Liner to about 20km altitude and 1,250 m/s speed on air-breathing power, before the switch over to closed cycle rocket thrust does the rest of the lifting up to orbit.

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Once in orbit at around 80km, the small Terrier engines provide the higher-efficiency thrust for orbital circulatization and also the intercept burn to reach the station up at 250km.

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The shielded docking adapter in the nose provides the connection to the station, and the passengers transfer over.

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Of the 19 passengers, 11 have Minmus as their only destination, another 6 have both Minmus and Mun, and another 2 are just Kerbin orbital tourists. Those last 2 will remain on the station while the other 17 head to Minmus. Fuel permitting, Mun flyby and/or orbit might be on the itinerary as well. But we need the Moon Liner spacecraft for that part.

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Speaking of the Moon Liner, here it comes. Being launched by Valentina Kerman, the spacecraft is fully loaded with propellant for the trip, since the first batch of Ore from Minmus hasn't arrived yet. In the future, that ore will provide orbital refueling capability for Moon Liner.

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"Early iterations of Moon Liner had it looking more aircraft-like, in an attempt to mimic the feel of simply passenger aircraft to emphasize how 'routine' space travel should be. But there were design issues. First of all, flights using aircraft generally only last a number of hours. Round trips to the moons will take days, and nobody wants to be crammed in an airliner seat for that long. Also aerobraking would be tricky flying forwards like an aircraft, especially with exposed landing legs since these craft are intended to land on the moons. In the end we opted for a short, wide spacecraft similar in design to the Ore Transporter, with everything tucked behind an inflatable 10m heat shield, and using four Hitchhiker cans to provide ample room for passengers to move around in without feeling claustrophobic during the long trip. So think of it more like a deep space hotel or ocean liner, rather than a deep space aircraft."

At the same time, the booster that launched the Moon Liner is set to be recovered. This one lands a little bit long and splashes down in the ocean off of the Aerospace Complex, but is recovered just the same.

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Meanwhile, the Moon Liner docks with the station and does the passenger transfer.

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Departing the station with Valentina in control and 17 passengers, they prepare to perform a plane change. With the station in a zero inclination orbit, there's no benefit of launching directly into a Minmus trajectory, so the craft is designed to have plenty of delta-V for a plane change in addition to the injection burn.

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Yes, much more roomy than a simple air liner. The passengers enjoy the multi-day coast out to Minmus.

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Arrival at Minmus on schedule. Note the heavy duty landing legs with motorized hinges and hydraulic ram struts.

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Valentina looks pretty pleased to be on the surface of Minmus!

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Like before, tourists can't go EVA, but Valentina goes out to stretch her legs a little bit.

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The passengers get to enjoy the low gravity of Minmus and the views of the flats and mountains out the large porthole windows.

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After staying on Minmus for a while, it's time to head back.

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The Moon Liner burns up to Minmus orbit, and then plots a trajectory that will fly past Mun, since a few passengers have that on their itinerary.

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Some time later, during the coast in towards Mun, Minmus passes its ascending node, and the opportunity arises for the Ore Transporter to return to Kerbin with minimal delta-V expendature. In fact, the ejection burn is such that it leaves Minmus on a trajectory almost perfectly aligned with Kerbin's equator. We'll get back to the Transporter in a little while.

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It turns out there is enough fuel to briefly orbit Mun. Not enough to land, though. This completes the itinerary for 15 of the 17 passengers (the other 2 have Mun Landing on their list). After this, it's back to Kerbin, where the atmosphere will do most of the slowing down.

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Aerobraking over Kerbin. The short, wide design of the Moon Liner allows it to stay fairly stable behind the larger heat shield. A single pass through the atmosphere brings the apoapsis down to 120km where it will circularize and wait for an opportunity to transfer up to the station.

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A successful return to the station. The 15 passengers who have completed their itinerary transfer back over to the Space Liner to join the two orbital tourists and Pholo who have spend the interveining time here on the station. Valentina and the Moon LIner will stay here and wait for the nest set of tourists. Now the important and perhaps most difficult part of the mission. Flying the Space Liner back to the Aerospace Complex.

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Space Liner de-orbits from 250km using the Terrier engines, on a trajectory that will carry it into the vicinity of the Aerosapce Complex. 

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The initial atmospheric entry is done pitched up 90 degrees with wings facing into the direction of travel. This high-drag attitude will bleed off as much energy in the higher, thin atmosphere, making the lower part of the entry a little easier.

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The real entry begins and the Space Liner levels off with only a slight nose-up attitude. Airbrakes deployed to help slow down further.

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The approach is intentionally short. Space Liner has plenty of fuel left and would rather avoid overshooting and having to turn around. Here speed and altitude are low enough that the middle three RAPIER engines, in jet mode, will be used to return to the Aerospace Complex via powered flight.

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Lining up the final approach....

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The instant before a successful runway touchdown! Everyone's home safe, and ASSET can collect payment from the passengers. Do you think all this infrastructure investment and hardware development cost was worth it? Let's find out!

Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $2,732,857
Infrastructure Investment -$1,127,000
Hardware Costs -$372,844
Contract Completion Awards $2,352,191
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $274,946
Fundraising Income $80,094
Final Funds $3,940,244

 

And as a quick little addendum, the Ore Transporter arrives.

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It performs a deep aerobrake down to 33km altitude and then docks with the station.

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Ore from Minmus begins to flow into the converter at the bottom of the station, and is slowlyt converted into propellants. The final step in a truly cost effective, reusable space program.

 

 

Edited by Cashen

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Part 18: Mun Rescue!

An urgent request has come in from Rokea Incorporated! They've had an accident while in Mun orbit that has resulted in their engineer, Newvey Kerman, becoming stranded in Mun orbit in his Hitchhiker module. Rokea is offering to pay for his rescue and the return to Kerbin of the habitation module as well. ASSET Corp. has agreed to take on the challenge, but with so few Kerbonauts of their own and a busy schedule, and given the time pressure, this mission will be done using probe cores. This will also keep the weight down on the vehicle that has to be able to re-enter Kerbin's atmosphere with a Hitchhiker module.

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No time for fancy reusable launchers here. ASSET Corp. returns to its roots with a very simple Orange Tank core stage and a pair of Thumper SRBs.

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The Skipper-powered Orange Tank stage gets the improvised spacecraft most of the way to orbit.

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Here we see the spacecraft that will perform the mission. Very simple Remote Guidance Unit with a Claw module to grab the target and bring it back with.

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Upon arrival at Mun, the vehicle gets into orbit and performs a rendezvous with Newvey's stranded habitation module in Mun orbit.

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Captured! Now we just have to hope re-entry goes smoothly given the size, shape and weight of the habitation module behind the heat shield.

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Mun casts its shadow on Kerbin during the return journey.

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Having discarded everything else, the spacecraft re-enters the atmosphere and flight is stable, with the habitation module nicely protected by the larger heat shield.

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Landing under parachute happens in a mountainous region of Kerbin at night.

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Newvey is safely back on Kerbin! And in a move that surprised nobody, he quickly resigned from Rokea Incorporated and took a job as ASSET Corp's second Engineer! Welcome, Newvey!

Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $3,940,244
Contract Advances $81,853
Hardware Costs -$30,654
Contract Completion Awards $242,402
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $8,016
Fundraising Income $17,605
Final Funds $4,259,466

 

As an aside, after this mission I realized I really disliked the dynamic created by rescue missions coupled with the exponentially rising cost of hiring Kerbals, so I decided to add the TRP Hire mod to provide a more realistic way to grow the number of Kerbals ASSET Corp. employs.

Edited by Cashen

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Part 19: Minmus Surface Base

As mentioned in a previous update, work has been progressing in the development of a permanent surface base for Mun. As it turns out, it actually makes more sense for work to focus on Minmus first, and today's update has several key points of introduction:

  • Two new Kerbals have been hired! ASSET Corp. has been relatively under-staffed of late. The ideal team for each moon is one engineer and one scientist, plus an engineer on the Orbital Spaceport. Being short one of each, ASSET Corp. has hired Gregford Kerman, an Engineer, and Desbury Kerman, a Scientist. These two will eventually inhabit the Mun base, but to give them some experience, they will be passengers on another tourist flight to Minmus in this update.
  • Jebediah Kerman is still on Minmus. So we'll be bringing him back, and in his place, dropping off the scientist, Bob Kerman, to work alongside Bill Kerman as the Minmus Team. This will also be done using the Moon Liner tourist vehicle. While intended for tourism, the Moon Liner also makes a great crew transfer/shuttle vehicle by having ASSET employees ride on it.
  • A design has been finalized on a Lander/Transporter vehicle that can carry the Science Rover underneath it. Given the size and weight of the Rover, this was no small task. ASSET Engineers initially thought it might not be possible, which is why the Minmus Rover was sent up by itself. A combined Lander/Rover package is being assembled for Mun. A similar lander exists for Minmus, but the Minmus Rover was never designed for the Lander/Transporter, so this mission will see the tools and parts shipped up to Minmus for Bill to make the modifications in-situ - the lander vehicle will arrive in a future update.
  • A proper surface base will be deployed to Minmus to act as liivng space for Bill and Bob, something a little more roomy and practical than the rover or miner vehicles. It will also be the first use of the Mobile Processing Lab.
  • The tourist flight that will accompany all of this will be the first to make landings on both moons as part of the same flight. To accomplish this, the guys at Minmus will refuel the Moon Liner on the surface.

Let's get started!

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We begin with the launching of the Minmus Surface Base atop a reusable Vector stage. Like all Minmus direct launches, this one launched directly into a 6 degree inclination orbit when the Aerospace Complex passed through one of Minmus' nodes.

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The launcher places the surface base and transfer stage in orbit. This base will use solar power and a lot of batteries for power, and contains two cupola modules, the lab, and a hitchhiker module for living space.

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A more or less standard booster recovery follows.

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This ended up being one of the closest booster recoveries performed to date!

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After checkout in orbit, including deploying landing legs and solar panels, the surface base is sent on a course for Minmus. We'll catch back up with it shortly. Meanwhile...

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It's time for another tourist mission, although this is more than just a tourist flight. Pholo Kerman flies the Space Liner and with him are Gregford and Desbury Kerman, the two new hires, who are along to gain some experience before they are deployed to Mun in the future. Bob Kerman is along for the ride to swap places with Jebediah Kerman at Minmus. Newvey Kerman, recently joined from the rescue mission in the last update, is also on-board and he will be sent to the Orbital Spaceport to help improve the operation of the Ore Converter there. Filling the remaining seats are 15 tourists, 14 of which have Minmus and/or Mun items on their itinerary and 1 who just wants an orbital flight around Kerbin.

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The ascent of Space Liner is normal. It reaches 1250 m/s and 20,000m altitude under air-breathing power before switching to closed cycle mode for the rest of the trip to orbit.

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Aerodynamic heating effects visible out the windows on the way up. While built for tourism, it's clear that the infrastructure is also very well suited to just moving ASSET astronauts around using spare seats.

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Sometime later, Space Liner docks to the station, and a bunch of shuffling of Kerbals takes place, as well as movement of propellants between tanks to configure the Moon Liner for flight. Ore conversion has been very slow, so Newvey Kerman should help out with that. Nevertheless there is enough liquid fuel to give Moon Liner a full load.

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Once everything is set, Val takes Moon Liner away from the station and on a course for Minmus!

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Back at Minmus, the base has arrived. Having discarded the transfer stage, it begins its descent. Notice the container strapped to the side. That contains the tools and parts mentioned earlier for Bill to get to work with.

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The initial landing is extremely good and very close to the mining vehicle. Extra fuel left over allowed the base to be moved post-touchdown to a more ideal spot.

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That ideal spot is right at the edge of the ridge, giving a nice view of the valley below. Now, time to get to work!

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Jeb and Bill first drive over and park the rover next to the base. Bill has to make modifications to the rover to allow it to couple with the future Lander/Transporter vehicle.

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Jeb checks out the view from the base, looking down the slope into the valley beyond.

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In the first set of modifications, Bill removes the two front batteries from the rover and replaces it with a bracket that can be used to carry a storage container. This will be the standard design of future rovers to give them the ability to carry parts, tools and items around if needed. For example, the container attached to the side of the base, visible in the background, could be mounted here and carried.

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The second and more important set of modifications is on the roof. The ladder is removed - the crew have remarked that moving around with the RCS packs is so easy on Mun and Minmus that the ladder is rather redundant, and it's in the way of the two socket joints mounted on either side of the hatch that will be the mounting points where the rover attaches to the lander in the future.

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No point in putting those batteries to waste, Bill just attaches them to the surface base.

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More parts were brought along. Since the crew size is two, a second chair was flown up to be attached to the Tanker vehicle, shown here.

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Around this time, Moon Liner arrives. It enters orbit but only very briefly. It turns out it arrived at just the right time and place to land immediately so a pair of burns were executed to place it in a brief orbit and then moments later the landing descent started.

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They land a short distance away from the mining base.

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All the ASSET team members. Bob and Jeb converse and get ready to trade places while Val and Gregford watch. Bill is underneath the spacecraft doing some more work while Desbury watches. What's Bill doing?

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In a bit of an oversight, Moon Liner was never fitted with an antenna. This meant it relied on local, pilot control, which is fine, but having antennas for constant communication is basically standard ASSET doctrine at this point. So along with all of the other parts flown up for Bill to work on, an antenna was included, and here he's attached it to the bottom of the vehicle. In the background, the tanker is also re-fueling Moon Liner with propellant to give it the energy needed to execute a Mun landing.

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The tanker is visible out the window as the tourists enjoy the view and watch the ASSET team work outside.

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Their work completed, Bill and Bob drive the tanker away.

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Kerbin visible in the background as Desbury climbs back inside one of the habitation modules and everyone prepares to leave.

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Bob climbs up and into the surface base, while in the background, Bill is recovering any left-over liquid propellant from the base's tanks.

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Val takes off in Moon Liner with her tourist passengers, and also Jeb who is returning home after having been on Minmus since the rover landing several updates ago.

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Fully re-fueled, a course is plotted for Mun to perform the second landing of the flight.

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Sometime later they arrive and enter Mun orbit and prepare to land.

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Seconds before touchdown. They land right at the edge of a large crater.

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The initial landing trajectory had to be modified. Val piloted the lander further downrange to avoid landing on the steep slope. This is how close they ended up.

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The tourists get to experience both moons in a sight flight.

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Val goes for a walk to the edge of the crater and has a look inside.

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After a short stay, it's time to return to Kerbin and close out the mission.

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The standard aerobraking procedure to slow down in Kerbin's atmosphere, followed by rendezvous and docking with the Orbital Spaceport.

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Pholo Kerman takes over to bring the passengers back to the ground. Shown here is the de-orbit burn. Space Liner's entry is very shallow, with a periapsis around 61km.

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Such a high periapsis works because of the wings-flat attitude taken in the upper atmosphere. So much drag is created against the thin atmosphere as to bring the spacecraft down. It also makes the deeper re-entry phase a little less intense.

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Space Liner on final approach, using just the three central RAPIER engines in air-breathing mode.

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The craft is so light at this point in the mission and has so much wing area that landing is remarkably gentle and easy. This is where the craft came to a stop, only requiring a fraction of the runway. Welcome home!

Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $4,259,466
Hiring Costs -$90,000
Contract Advances $161,122
Hardware Costs -$363,314
Contract Completion Awards $2,466,408
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $274,805
Fundraising Income $89,463
Final Funds $6,797,950

After the mission, ASSET CEO Cashen Kerman announced the cessation of the Fundraising Initiative: "We feel we've hit upon something very lucrative with the tourism flights, especially after we created the infrastructure - the orbital spaceport, the various reusable vehicles, the Minmus ore mining - to do these revenue-rich missions for very low cost. As such we don''t feel it's prudent from a reputation standpoint to continue the fundraising campaign. People are going to see the balance sheet and wonder why they're giving us money. So, we're bringing that to an end."

Edited by Cashen

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21 hours ago, Cashen said:

After the mission, ASSET CEO Cashen Kerman announced the cessation of the Fundraising Initiative: "We feel we've hit upon something very lucrative with the tourism flights, especially after we created the infrastructure - the orbital spaceport, the various reusable vehicles, the Minmus ore mining - to do these revenue-rich missions for very low cost. As such we don''t feel it's prudent from a reputation standpoint to continue the fundraising campaign. People are going to see the balance sheet and wonder why they're giving us money. So, we're bringing that to an end."

Smart move!

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1 hour ago, Kerballing (Got Dunked On) said:

Smart move!

Yeah, it seemed smart to exchange reputation for funds when funds were tighter but now I'm kind of swimming in them. Incidentally I'm only 2 nodes from finishing the tech tree so pretty soon the science points will be exchanged for funds as well. So seems prudent to start banking the reputation again.

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Part 20: First Interplanetary Mission

A transfer window has opened to Duna. A while back, ASSET Corp. took on a contract to fly by and gain science data from Duna, in anticipation of this. And given the experience gained in spaceflight so far, the company feels confident in attempting this next step in space exploration. But before we jump into the nuts and bolts of the mission itself, there's some housekeeping to take care of. Firstly, after the haul of funds from the last update, the company has but some of that to good use doing upgrades to the Aerospace Complex and construction crews have been busy. Three areas received attention.

  • The Astronaut Complex was upgraded. As we prepare to go interplanetary, we'll need to staff up to crew these longer duration missions. This upgrade allows that.
  • The Administration Complex has been expanded. While the fundraising campaign is over, plans are on the drawing board for a patents licensing strategy that will share the science gained with the wider scientific community (for a fee, of course).
  • Last and most important, the Tracking Station was upgraded to 250G power, to enable good communication at interplanetary distances.

Taken as a whole, this "completes" the Aerospace Complex as originally envisioned and allows ASSET Corp. to do more or less whatever it likes without being limited by the infrastructure on the ground. However, communication at interplanetary distances remains a concern. The Kerbin system has been populated with nine RA-2 relay satellites to provide constant communication from anywhere, even on the surfaces of moons facing away from Kerbin and even when Kerbin is rotated so the Aerospace Complex is out of line of sight. These relays work very well in the local system but will not be strong enough to work at great distances from Kerbin, and the problem of line of sight to other planets remains. So an upgrade to the relay network is required to facilitate communication at distance, even when line of sight from the Aerospace Complex is blocked by being on the opposite side of Kerbin from the planet in question, or perhaps even more annoying, when line of sight is blocked by a moon (particularly Mun). To that end, a pair of much more powerful RA-100 dishes will be used, and to avoid interference from the moons, they'll be placed into extremely eccentric polar orbits, such that they spend almost all of their time above or below the local equatorial and ecliptic planes. One will have apoapsis above the north pole and the other over the south pole, arranged in such a manner that when one is at periapsis the other is at apoapsis, so one always has a clear line of sight to anywhere.

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So the first part of the mission is launching the larger, RA-100 polar relays that will be used to communicate at interplanetary distances. For these small launches, we go back to expendable launch vehicles.

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The lower stage gets the relay almost to orbit, leaving its integrated propulsion to do the rest. Unlike the smaller RA-2 relays that have no onboard propulsion, these larger ones do, and they'll use them to lift to an extremely high apoapsis.

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The first relay reaches apoapsis. The orbit is 75km by 25,725km approximately (a little over half the distance to Minmus), or an eccentricity of around 0.95. It will spend days out near apoapsis and only minutes swinging quickly through periapsis.

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Just before the first relay reaches apoapsis over the north pole, the second is launched into a similar polar orbit, this one burning above the north pole to have an opposite apoapsis over the south pole.

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The completed relay network. Finally, we're ready for interplanetary travel!

In a recent interview, ASSET CEO Cashen Kerman elaborated on ASSET's plans for interplanetary travel: "More or less the plan is to send robotic missions to each planet before sending crewed missions. We've seen how successful things like communication relay satellites and ore scanning probes are in the Kerbin system, and we know that when we go to other planets with a crew, we want to be able to communicate with them all the time no matter where they are, and we want them to have advance knowledge of the planet or moon and where the good ore sites are before we set up bases like we have on Mun and Minmus. So basically this first mission to Duna will act like a template for future missions to the other planets, especially Eve and Jool, blazing the trail and setting up the infrastructure to make us successful when we do send explorers."

With those comments in mind, the Duna Science Package as it's called is a single, big launch, but contains numerous individual parts that will all have their own jobs to do at Duna.

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This also marks the debut of the larger Mastadon engine under the big 5 meter stage. Previously Vector engines were used and if there was not enough thrust, expendable SRBs added. Using five Mastadons in this launch replaced what would otherwise have been five Vectors and four Kickback SRBs. Not only does this make the whole flight stage reusable, but Mastadon engines are actually cheaper than Vectors in spite of the larger size (and it somehow took me this long to figure out how to modify the Mastadon to the bare configuration to make it fit. Silly me).

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Once out of the atmosphere the payload fairing is jettisoned revealing the science package. A Poodle engine paired with an Orange Tank acts as a transfer stage, and above that are two distinct spacecraft with their own sub-components. Right above the Orange Tank is the Duna Equatorial package, with an inflatable heat shield for aerobraking (here tucked into a fairing), some structural tubes and a small upward facing Terrier engine. Strapped to the side are a pair of probes, each holding three RA-2 relays. These will deploy the triplet relays to both Duna and Ike. At the front of the craft is the Duna Polar package, which contains four side-mounted satellites, two RA-100 interplanetary relays that will be placed in elliptical polar orbits at Duna, much like the ones now at Kerbin, and two Ore Scanning satellites, one for Duna and one for Ike. The core of this package also has a Terrier engine, this one facing down, coupled to the upward facing engine of the Equatorial Package by a stack separator and dual fairings. It also has an upward facing inflatable heat shield, again for aerobraking. The entire mission will arrive at Duna in one piece before discarding the transfer stage, and then breaking up into the two large components, before then finally breaking up into the individual satellites. By the time the mission is over, the entire Duna system will have complete communications coverage and full orbital Ore scans! This will pave the way for a future, crewed mission.

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Being one large monolithic launch means the big ascent stage can be recovered, something ASSET is getting fairly good at doing.

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Seeing big first stage boosters fly back to the Aerospace Complex is getting to be routine at this point.

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A better look at the Duna Science Package as it leaves the sphere of Kerbin's influence. For now, though, life goes on, and work within the Kerbin system continues, until the probes arrive at Duna.

Financial Statement
Item Amount
Starting Funds $6,797,950
Infrastructure Investment -$1,408,000
Hardware Costs -$238,945
Contract Completion Awards $162,500
Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $83,605
World First Bonuses $74,480
Final Funds $5,473,192

 

Edited by Cashen

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To Duna! *Rep/like/whatever*

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