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Chequers Career: A Kerbal Space Program Story

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“If we are to send people, it must be for a very good reason - and with a realistic understanding that almost certainly we will lose lives. Astronauts and Cosmonauts have always understood this. Nevertheless, there has been and will be no shortage of volunteers.”
― Carl Sagan

Welcome to this mission log series. I'll be blunt - I'm pretty new to this. But despite my inexperience, and perhaps my naivety, I have bold dreams for this small group of Kerbals under my command. I've completed the tutorials, and had a brief play around in sandbox - and I'm ready to begin a career. There will be failures. There will be sacrifice. But perhaps, just maybe, we will touch the stars.

A few details:

  • Quicksaves and Reverts are switched off.
  • Kerbals do not respawn
  • Researching parts costs money
  • All other settings are as 'Normal'
  • The game contains no mods and is vanilla

Despite being a new player, I found that being unable to go back in time to fix mistakes, or even test designs without consequence, leads to a complacency I didn't enjoy. Knowing that every test carries a cost, every mistake carries a risk, and every launch is final, makes successes so much sweeter, and failures that much harder. While I might be setting myself up for a lot of frustration, I think I'd like to try throwing myself in at the deep end.

I'll continue to update as my career progresses. This first post will serve as a contents page.

Mission Logs

1. Pioneer Program: 'to send a Kerbal outside of Kerbin's atmosphere, and return them safely'
2. Wayfarer Program: 'to develop the technology and financial sustainability to support a more ambitious space program'



Edited by Chequers
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Pioneer Program
Objective: To send a Kerbal outside of Kerbin's atmosphere, and return them safely

The first program of our space agency looks at taking our first steps into - and eventually outside of - our atmosphere. The lessons learned from these first flights will help develop new techniques, methods and technologies to go higher, faster and further in our pursuit of space.

Status: Complete

Pioneer I:



Our space program begins humbly. A small craft, manned by one brave volunteer. His name is Jebediah Kermin; perhaps that name will go down in history as the first Kerbal to reach space. For now, the engineering department have commissioned our first vessel - Trebuchet I

It is a simple thing - a small RT-5 'Flea' Solid Rocket Booster, topped with a Mk1 Command Pod and a Mk16 Parachute. For this flight, the Science department have installed Mystery Goo Containment Units, to analyse the properties of this strange substance at various altitudes.

Once lit, the booster burns until all fuel is expended - there is no emergency abort system. The entire craft then returns to Kerbin via a parachute, or if vertical speed exceeds acceptable parameters, Jebediah is authorised to bail out and return to Kerbin through a personal parachute.

Craft used Trebuchet I
Objective SRB test, and science gathering
Mission Status Success





Following a crew report from the launchpad, and confirming SAS systems were working nominally, Trebuchet I lifted off, and launched the Kerbal Space Program. The flight proceeded as planned, maintaining stability with a 5 degree attitude until fuel was expended and the SRB cut out. The vessel coasted to an altitude of roughly 12,000m before the parachute was deployed and the ship returned to Kerbin, splashing down just off the coast - in sight of the Kerbal Space Centre.


Trebuchet I - A simple craft for a simple flight.


We have lift off! Pioneer I is away, launching our space program.


Engine shutoff at roughly 12,000m - Parachutes succesfully deployed moments later.


Splash down. A succesfull first flight - plenty of data gathered. The Mun in the background a reminder of greater things to come.

Pioneer II:



Following the successful flight of Pioneer I, a few observations were made - specifically to  the danger of launching a craft at such a steep ascent. At lower altitudes, this issue is not of major concern, but as we reach higher into the atmosphere, the return trajectory of such a steep ascent may result in a velocity too great to bleed off to enable safe operation of the Mk16 Parachute.

Repeat flights of the Trebuchet I have yielded various Scientific discoveries, from both crew reports and various altitudes, and from landing sites. This scientific research has allowed the development of new components that will allow us to construct more complicated craft. Of particular interest are the LV-T45 'Swivel' engine, and the TD-12 Decoupler.

Trebuchet II is our first attempt at a two stage rocket. Utilising the RT-5 SRB as found in the Trebuchet I, but introducing a liquid fuelled second stage to allow direct control over attitude, throttle and rate of climb after the initial booster has decoupled. 

A final decoupler detaches the Command Pod from the second stage. This also serves as the emergency abort system if the craft becomes uncontrollable on ascent.

Craft used Trebuchet II
Objective Stage seperation test
Mission Status Success





Following pre-flight checks, SAS systems were enabled and Pioneer II launched into sunny skies. The additional weight severely impacted the TWR of the first stage, but provided a sufficient kick to propel the craft over 100 m/s as intended.

Detachment of the first stage occurred flawlessly, and the craft maintained stability as the second stage fired. The TWR of the second stage was considerably higher, and the throttle had to be set at 1/3 power for safety. Jebediah maneuvered the craft to a 15 pitch attitude, and maintained until engine shut-off. A short time later, a record height of 13,500m was reached, and the Command Pod was decoupled in tandem with the parachute deployment for a safe splash down a good distance from shore.

Evaluation and Analysis

The immense TWR of the second stage suggests significantly longer range could be achieved with additional fuel - although concern should be noted about the capacity of the RT-5 SRB as the first stage of a larger vessel. 


Trebuchet II - Experimenting with two stages to provide greater control.


Lift Off. Nominal launch, navigation holding steady at 5 degrees.


Critical moment! Stage seperation success - and flawless firing of the second stage. Gauges holding steady.


Gimbling and throttling of the second stage provides Jebediah much greater control over the craft.

Pioneer III:




Analysis of the Pioneer II flight - and subsequent repeats - suggested sufficient TWR for significantly greater weight in the second stage of the Trebuchet II craft. Pioneer III serves to test the fuel load - and consequently the range - of the second stage liquid fulled engine. Consideration needs to be made for the TWR of the first stage, and whether the RT-5 has sufficient fuel and power to provide the necessary lifting capability of a larger vessel.

Craft used Trebuchet III
Objective Engine range test
Mission Status Failure (Aborted)





Pioneer III launched sluggishly - the first stage struggling to haul the weight of significantly greater weight. Velocity increased rapidly once the initial inertia was overcome, and the craft climbed stably at 5 degrees. Fuel was fully depleted shortly after.

Stage separation caused chaos in the stability of the craft, despite SAS systems aiding Jebediah in wrestling to keep the nose of Trebuchet III pointed prograde. Throttle was increased, but increased speed, combined with significant aerodynamic forces as the craft pitched caused catastrophic control failure, and the craft could not be recovered.

Jebediah initiated the abort sequence - engine was cut at sub-10,000m, and the command module separated from the craft. Parachutes were deployed and splashdown occured without further issue.

Evaluation and Analysis

Control was lost due to instability in the craft in the lower atmosphere. Additional flights using the Trebuchet III platform need to be conducted with modified flight plan. An upgrade to the SRB first stage may be required.


Trebuchet III ready for transport to the Launchpad


Stable launch - moments prior to SRB cut off


Immediate concern following stage separation, as the craft loses stability.


Flight is unrecoverable. Abort procedure initiated.


Command Pod safely separated for splash down - a fortunate escape from a dangerous mission failure.

Pioneer IV




Lessons learned from the failed Pioneer III mission resulted in further tests and modifcations to the Trebuchet III. Ultimately, this resulted in a few minor changes to enhance aerodynamic stability of the craft during ascent. Specifically, the addition of a 1.25m service bay below the command module, and moving stability fins from the SRB first stage to the second stage.

A slight mofication to the flight plan to the Pioneer III flight dictates a slightly steeper ascent, to escape the thicker atmosphere more rapidly, and thus limit detrimental atmospheric forces on the craft.

Delta-V calculations suggest enough fuel and power to reach over 70,000m - and thus escape the atmosphere of Kerbin. Jebediah, having been approved for duty after the failed Pioneer III mission, has requested he be given the opportunity to pilot the first craft into space. His request has been granted. Go for sub-orbital flight!

Craft used Trebuchet III
Objective Sub-orbital flight
Mission Status Success





Modifications to the Trebuchet III craft did not affect the TWR or range of the first stage to any noticeable amount, and Pioneer IV launched in a similar manner to the much maligned Pioneer III flight. The flight maintained a 5 degree inclination during stage separation. 

Control was maintained, and the craft accelerated smoothly, pushing the Apoapsis through 70,000m. Final separation discarded the now empty fuel tank. The command pod coasted through 70,000m - succesfully leaving the atmosphere of Kerbin. A momentous moment as Pioneer IV was the first kerbal-made craft to reach space.

Science was conducted as the craft passed 80,000m - reaching a final altitude of 83,000m shortly after. The craft was configured for re-entry.

SAS was disabled to allow the natural aerodynamic shape of the Command Module to absorb the intense heat as the craft thumped back into the dense atmosphere. With no ablator, there was concern over the heat effects engulfing the pod, and the addition of a Service Bay caused some stability issues, but no permanent damage was done to either craft or crew - the angle of attack was shallow enough to allow for air resistance to sufficiently slow the craft, despite not holding retrograde for the full descent.

Parachutes deployed, bringing the craft to a safe landing speed, to much fanfare from Mission Control as the Pioneer Program successfully concluded.

Evaluation and Analysis

While the flight was a success, lessons can always be learned. Further flights into space will require a heat shield, and consideration should be made as to effects of additional modules, such as a Service Bay, on the stability of the Command Pod on re-entry. 


Modified Trebuchet III to enhance stability on ascent.


Lift off of Pioneer IV, en route to space!


Moment of truth: Second stage holding steady ascent after stage separation!


Separation of second stage successful - the stars look amazing as Jebediah punches on through 50,000m


In space! Apoapsis reached at 83,000m - just enough time to conduct a few science experiments, before gravity takes over.


Coming in hot! A fiery finale to a successful Pioneer Program, paving the way for ambitious new programs.



Edited by Chequers
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Thanks @Kerbalstar, I've been working on building something with a little more 'oomph' to carry Jeb into the upper atmosphere. At the moment, the tension is between balancing TWR of the first SRB stage, with stacking enough fuel in the upper stage.

Going to look at the RT-10 'Hammer' as a first stage - but don't want to create something with too much power that's going to flip out and pancake into the KSC. Update soon!

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Alright - I was trying to keep each program tidy and self contained, but if it makes it easier to follow, I can make a new post for each mission.

Alternatively, is it against forum rules to create a post as a notification of an update?

I've just updated the Pioneer Program post with Pioneer IV.

Edited by Chequers
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15 hours ago, Chequers said:

Alright - I was trying to keep each program tidy and self contained, but if it makes it easier to follow, I can make a new post for each mission.

Alternatively, is it against forum rules to create a post as a notification of an update?

I've just updated the Pioneer Program post with Pioneer IV.

I have no idea, actually. That'd be a question for the mods: @Gargamel, @Vanamonde, @adsii1970?

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Wayfarer Program
Objective: To develop the technology and financial sustainability to support a more ambitious space program

The success of the Pioneer program resulted in a great deal of interest from private companies seeking to utilise our space program. From the scientific community wanting to understand more about Kerbin, to tourists keen to experience a space flight. It is imperative to secure these private contracts, in order to finance our more ambitious programs, and develop new technologies that will propel our space program.

Status: Ongoing

Wayfarer I:




We have been contracted to conduct a number of local atmospheric surveys of the local Kerbin regions. To this end, it is imperative to develop a scientific survey plane that can conduct short range explorations and surveys at low altitudes. Using research from the Pioneer program, we have developed the ability to construct aircraft. The first is a short range survey plane, commissioned the Peregrine S1.

A simple design, powered by two J-20 "Juno" turbojet engines. WinterOwl Aircraft Emporium designed the fuselage and wings, while C7 Aerospace Division were selected to design the Mk1 Crew Cabin and Cockpit. The plane has a crew capacity of three.

The first flight will seek to establish the performance of this new aircraft and its scientific and survey capabilities. It will be piloted by Valentina Kerman. Bob Kerman will be aboard to evaluate the scientific equipment and operate the experiments.

Craft used Peregrine S1
Objective Flight and scientific equipment test
Mission status Success


After a test of the flight control surfaces, the Peregrine S1 spooled up engines, and all gauges held steady before Valentina released the brakes. The aircraft proceeded smoothly along the runway, accelerating strongly. Rotation occurred with a little backwards pressure on the flight stick at 70m/s. 

The plane climbed steadily to 5,000m, though as Valentina ran through flight maneuvers around the airspace of the KSC. Performance was acceptable, though ailerons were a little sensitive. Maneuvers complete, the plane proceeded to the next waypoint - the collection of Islands to the east of the KSC, where an airfield was observed.

With light fading, Valentina piloted the Peregrine S1 back towards the runway at the KSC, guiding the plane to a safe, if slightly unsteady landing. Wheel brakes were applied on touchdown, and the plane came to a stop with ample runway remaining.

Evaluation and Analysis

The flight was successful, and with a few minor tweaks to the design of the aircraft, the Peregrine S1 will be a valuable tool in gathering scientific data from Kerbin. Additional exploration of the island airfield to the East of the KSC may be warranted.


The Peregrine S1 - the first flight of the Wayfarer Program, ready to roll out of the hangar.


Peregrine S1 on the airstrip. Another sub-orbital flight from the Pioneer program launches in the distance.


Good takeoff, and steady rate of climb - control surfaces a little finicky, but stability maintained by SAS.


Running through maneuvers and testing performance around the KSC.


Airfield observed on one of the islands to the east of the KSC - may warrant further exploration!


Safe return and landing to the KSC airstrip, completing the test flight of the Peregrine S1.



Wayfarer II




The Peregrine S1 has established itself as a reliable workhorse for localised survey and science missions around the KSC, bringing in much needed funds and assisting with our science experiments. But with the development of new scientific equipment, including the SC-9001 Science Jr Materials Bay, the need to expand our range is paramount.

We have developed a longer range upgrade to the Peregrine S1, with significantly increased fuel capacity and science capability, while retaining the three-person crew. This new aircraft, the Peregrine S2-LR, should enable us to expand our range into new, and as yet unexplored, biomes on Kerbin.

Valentina will pilot the Peregrine S2-LR, with Bob Kerman - our top scientist - onboard to operate the scientific equipment. After takeoff, the flight plan directs the aircraft to follow the coast south west to the tip of the continent. Following a fuel level evaluation, Valentina will be given authorisation to attempt to cross the ocean to the west, and on into the desert.

A suitable landing site will be located and, assuming a satisfactory location is identified, a landing will be made to allow Bob to utilise the science experiments onboard - including the new SC-9001 Science Jr. 

The flight will then return on the most direct route to the KSC.

Craft Used Peregrine S2-LR
Objective Long range flight and scientific discovery
Mission Status Success


The flight took off without issue and proceeded to follow the coast as planned to the south-west. Fuel consumption was better than expected, due to the efficient Juno engines. The Peregrine S2-LR reached a cruising altitude of 5,000m as it reached the tip of the continent, where Valentina was given authorisation to make the crossing of the ocean to the west. 

For some time, there was nothing but blue above and below from horizon to horizon. Valentina evaluated the performance of the aircraft, reaching a ceiling of just over 8,000m. 

To much relief of both crew and ground control, land was sighted. A flat expanse of desert stretching out to the horizon, where the jagged peaks of a mountain range reached towards the sky. Crossing the shoreline, Valentina quickly identified a suitable landing site. Due to the flat expanse of desert, this was a fairly easy processes, and a smooth landing was made.

After engine shutdown, science experiments were run. Valentina and Bob exited the aircraft to spend a brief amount of time walking on the sandy surface, before a course was set near due east back to the KSC. As the flight crossed the mountain range to the west of the KSC, fuel was near depleted, and entirely expended shortly after. The aircraft was able to glide back to the KSC runway and touched down safely.

Evaluation and Analysis

A good flight, with plenty of new data to fuel new technologies - though we have reached the limits of our range with current technology. 


Peregrine S2 'Long Range' aircraft, with enhanced science capability


Successful takeoff - following the coast to the South West


Reaching the tip of the continent, authorisation granted to attempt an ocean crossing to the West


Nothing but blue!


Relief! Land sighted - a great expanse of desert. Locating a suitable landing site.


Bringing the Peregrine S2 in for a landing.


Science experiments run, there is just enough time for Valentina and Bob to grab a quick snap.


Location of the landing site, with the KSC for reference.


Wayfarer III




Our range is severely limited by our current technology - but the need to continue our exploration of Kerbin's biomes continues. To this end, an experimental design has been created for a small space plane - There Peregrine X3 - mounted on a powerful lifting stage - the Trebuchet IV - that will launch the craft above Kerbin's atmosphere. The ascent must be near vertical, due to the aerodynamic forces that will act upon the craft. Two radial mounted BACC 'Thumper' SRBs will provide the necessary acceleration, while a 'Swivel' class liquid fuel engine will provide gimbling and control.

Once in space, our newly developed LV-909 'Terrier' engine is well adapted for vacuum operation, and will then propel the craft on a suborbital flight to terminate at Kerbin's northern ice shelf. Finally, the Peregrine X3 will re-enter Kerbin's atmosphere in a retrograde  orientation, utilising a heat shield to absorb the intense heat. 

Once within the atmosphere, two Juno engines will be engaged, allowing atmospheric flight. Once sufficient control has been established, a landing site will be located. Drogue chutes, followed by radial mounted parachutes will be deployed, and the aircraft will land vertically on landing struts.

This mission is extremely dangerous, but must be manned - we do not have a sufficient unmanned control module capable of performing the precise controls. Valentina and Jebediah volunteered for this mission - but Val has been selected. Her expertise in the Wayfarer program thus far will prove invaluable on this flight.

Craft Used Trebuchet IV / Peregrine X3
Objective  Suborbital flight to Kerbin's pole
Mission Status Catastrophic failure


The launch was flawless - the SRBs propelling the aircraft sufficiently above the surface, while the liquid fuel engine, operating at half thrust, provided sufficient gimbling to hold a steady course. Fuel was expended in the SRBs - and combined with a throttling up of the Swivel engine, the SRBs were detached successfully.

Once above 45,000m, Val performed the roll manouvere to initate a sharp gravity turn towards the north. She held a 30 degree inclination through 70,000m, and became the first female Kerbal in space, joining Jebediah as one of only two to see Kerbin from above the atmosphere.

Fuel was expended from the liquid fueled stage and separated, and the X3 coasted towards an apoapsis of 160,000m.

Shortly after, the LV-909 'Terrier' engine was fired, extending the range of the suborbital flight to terminate on Kerbin's northern pole. This stage was then separated, and the X3 configured for reentry, by orientating retrograde to align the heat shield.

As the X3 re-entered the atmosphere, the heat shield successfully took the brunt of the intense heat. Unfortunately, the two Juno engines were exposed and began to critically overheat. The port side engine could not maintain structural integrity and exploded, causing the craft to tumble. The second Juno engine soon followed, the explosion breaking apart the X3 entirely. Sadly, there was no way for Valentina to escape, and the entire craft disintegrated within Kerbin's atmosphere.

Evaluation and Analysis

We lament the loss of Valentina Kerman - a brave Kerbal who was instrumental in two pioneering missions as part of the Wayfarer Program. She perished doing what she loved most - and the lessons learned from the Wayfarer III flight will ensure the safety of future Kerbals. 


The Peregrine X3, mounted above the Trebuchet IV lifting stage.


Wayfarer III clears the tower! 


SRB separation and throttling up of liquid fueled 'Swivel' stage.


Val rolls the craft on a north heading to begin a sharp gravity turn.


Separation of the lifting stage. The X1 coasts towards an apopsis of 160,000m


Enough time for Valentina to enjoy the views from space - as only the second Kerbal in history to experience it.


Back to work, Valentina fires the LV-909 'Terrier' engine to extend the suborbital flight path to terminate on Kerbin's northern ice shelf.


Flight path to Kerbin's pole.


Terrier stage discarded, the X3 re-orientates prograde for re-entry.


Initially successful, the exposed 'Juno' engines begin to overheat, causing catastrophic structural failure.


Explosions tear the craft apart, and it disintegrates. Valentina is sadly lost.



Edited by Chequers
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Hi - I'm considering these forums part of my R&D Dept for my career - so any advice would be appreciated!

Part of the current Wayfarer Program seeks to unlock more technology and complete contracts to build both funds and science. Having just unlocked the SC-9001 Science Jr, I can see potential to gain a good amount of Science from various biomes on Kerbin - if I can get it there.

At present, my aircraft is limited to a short range survey plane, the Peregrine S1. But to reach some of the more distant biomes - perhaps even the poles - I'd like to construct an unmanned science probe that can transmit data back to KSC.

My only unmanned command module options are limited to the Probodobodyne Stayputnik - which lacks SAS - which could be a challenge to keep steady.

I'm stood infront of the drawing board with a few ideas:

  • A manned rocket launches to roughly 80,000m with a sub-orbital return trajectory into the required biome. Probe detaches, re-enters, parachutes slow the craft and it lands safely and transmits data.
  • Unmanned rocket flies on a straight trajectory into the required biome, detaching a probe that lands with parachutes - could be tricky without SAS.
  • Develop a manned aircraft that is launched above the atmosphere, re-enters above the required Biome, and then flies down to a safe landing.

Any thoughts, suggestions or ideas would be appreciated before I start building and testing a design!

Edited by Chequers
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Thanks for the advice - I've not achieved orbit yet - perhaps that will be a prerequisite to this type of mission. I think I'll try an entirely unmanned probe first for some of the more local Biomes, and then look at 'Option 1' once I've been able to achieve orbit. 

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Alternatively, you could add a load of fuel tanks to a light, manned aircraft like the one you've already built. Junos are surprisingly efficient for very long range flight. If you have fuel lines unlocked, you can do drop-tanks. Or an electric DLC drone if you have it (edit: you don't).

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Thanks - I wasn't sure whether to get the DLCs - perhaps when I've advanced in my career a ways. Are they worth it?

I'll take a look at making a long range version of the Peregrine S1. No fuel lines yet, but perhaps I can simply add more fuel to the Juno engines.


Edited by Chequers
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22 hours ago, Chequers said:

Thanks - I wasn't sure whether to get the DLCs - perhaps when I've advanced in my career a ways. Are they worth it?

The robotics are quite useful, mainly for flying on Eve and Duna, where jets don't work (and rockets are horribly inefficient). The Making History DLC has the 1.875m rockets which are extremely useful for launching your first Mun landers; much easier than a 1.25m stack, while the 5m series is great for very heavy rockets.

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2 hours ago, fulgur said:

You can use rotation (Q/E) to alleviate heat. It Breaks The Laws Of Physics But It Works™.

Good to know! Though I'm not sure how well it would have worked. The latest flight was a little too ambitious I think. But lessons learned!

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