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Mars-Bound Hokie

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This mission may look like a simple tourist run, but the reasons below will explain why this is anything but.

  1. Jerdrin Kerman, a board member for Probodobodyne Inc., paid for us to take him to Laythe orbit. Even without getting on and off the surface, flying there and back home is no easy feat.
  2. We need to pick up three other kerbalnauts (two scientists and a pilot) who are going to Pol in a ring station.
    1. One of five of the same model, which will orbit all of Jool's moons.
      1. One in Laythe orbit
      2. Two on their way (one to Pol, one to Tylo)
      3. Two not yet launched (launch date depending on budget at transfer windows)
  3. This is only the beginning of a new series of missions.


So far, kerbalkind has set foot on all but one of Jool's moons. If you haven't guessed already, it's Tylo. Mission Control had warned us that it's the size of Kerbin without the atmosphere, so sending a plane to the surface is out of the question. Getting on and off the surface is also a challenge, but that's for later. Right now, Mission Control is focused on an orbital reconnaissance mission around Tylo - as well as rendezvousing with another vessel in that orbit. That is what this mission is for.


Below is the current crew roster for the Anubis I, a docking-capable Poseidon SSTO.





  • Taking off early in the morning from the KSC.



  • Us in Minmus orbit 11 days later. We had to stop to refuel.
  • Our monopropellant tanks are filled to a little less than half capacity, but Maurie's still complaining that we need to lose the weight. Though I myself was skeptical about the levels as well, Wernher Von Kerman told us that we needed to dock with two stations at Jool, and we won't need to make more with the ISRU.


We're now in high orbit of Kerbin, awaiting our interplanetary maneuver node. We expect to arrive at Duna's SOI for an Ike refueling in 1 year and 83 days from now. When that's over, we'll fly to Jool and refuel on Pol. By then, Pinky Finger Station - the ring station going to Pol - would already be in Pol orbit with the crew waiting for us. Our plane's head count will then increase to seven before we descend on the surface to refuel. After that, we're kind of stuck on what to do afterwards.


Should we:

  1. Pol refuel --> Tylo orbit --> Laythe orbit --> Pol refuel --> HOME
  2. Pol refuel --> Laythe orbit --> Tylo orbit --> Pol refuel --> HOME

Basically, should we orbit Laythe first or Tylo?



  • This is a 26-year-old rover named Apocalypse on the surface of Tylo.
  • Named so because Tylo is like a lifeless Kerbin; an apocalypse, if you may.
  • We're also sending a manned (but empty) rover to Tylo's surface, but that's another story.


Ultimately, our end game is a spaceplane that can refuel itself and dispatch a reusable lander down to Tylo's surface. However, that's for much, much later. For now, let's see what we're dealing with from a safe orbit. Just like with the decades-long Neptune missions to Laythe, and the Pluto saga to Eeloo before that, it will take years of research, trial and error, and persistence. Long ago, nobody had any confidence we could get an airplane to Laythe and back safely. Nowadays, spaceplanes have become the standard go-to craft for planets with larger solar orbital radii than Kerbin's. Heck, Lasel, Bill, and Val - the first crew to return from Eeloo (after Bill and Val got stuck) - are going to Duna in a Dirtblood right now. I know we can do this; it's just a matter of time.


It is said that he or she who completes the Jool-5 Challenge shall be deemed a legend for all eternity.

If they can do that AND land on Eve (even with separate missions), then they are a god.


Any and all help is welcome, and wish us luck.

Edited by Mars-Bound Hokie
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  • 2 weeks later...



You're probably wondering what I'm doing on this report thread. In case you don't know me already, my name is Anrey Kerman, and I'm (now) a Level-Four engineer. I was supposed to be the sole member of the Neptune VI mission to Laythe, where I would fly around in an S-4 Hamacker. However, my mission was recently aborted due to the following reasons:

  • Terrible mission plan
    • I went to Dres to refuel, but realized that I would have to wait twelve years until I reached Jool. I then had to fly to Ike to refuel before making the jump to Jool.
      • I should have went straight to Ike from Kerbin.
  • Spacecraft design falling out of favor
    • Crappy TWR on one NERV alone.
    • More aerodynamically efficient SSTO prototypes have been developed since the Hamacker was commissioned as the Neptune VI.
      • e.g. aerial probe, Laythe speeder
    • Recent polls have put the Hamacker on the bottom of the "Favorite Interplanetary Spaceplanes" list.
  • Unforeseen brake problem



To be honest, I'd rather fly this




... or this...




...or even this.




While my plane slid away, I was forced to wait inside Kyle Airport on Ike for my ride. It sure felt great having more legroom for a change. Several months of waiting later, I saw a fleet of planes (and a new relay) arrive at Duna's SOI. One of them was for scientific survey, one was for tourists going to Duna's surface, and the third was the Anubis I, stopping to refuel. Since the tourist plane didn't need to stop at Ike's surface, I got on board the Anubis I - and I'm now an on-board engineer.



  • Us getting ready to orbit Ike after refueling, before we ascended to high Duna orbit.


Our maneuver node to Jool should be in about two years from now. After we hit Jool's SOI, the plan is to:

  1. Hohmann transfer to Pol
  2. Pick up the Pinky Ring crew
  3. Refuel
  4. Fly to Tylo
  5. Rendezvous with Middle Finger Ring
  6. Fly to Laythe
  7. Refuel on the surface (yay)
  8. Fly to Pol
  9. Refuel
  10. Go home


I think I'm going to like having the Mk3 crew cabin to myself (aside from that tourist, Jerdrin) for a change. More legroom, I have more stuff to do, and not to mention that he's kind of cute. In the meantime, I hear that Mission Control is making slow progress with their lander prototypes. So far, all the simulated models either ended up crashing on impact or not having enough fuel for the return ascent. I hope they make that design soon, because we now have 39 years to plant a flag on Tylo.

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  • 4 weeks later...



Our original goal for a Jool-5 SSTO was to have a deployable lander (and/or an ion tug) inside a large Mk. III mining-capable spaceplane. However, after numerous failed design simulations, most of us were starting to give up hope - including Bill. I would have pulled him off that bench and locked him in the drawing room (along with enough supplies to last him months) until he came up with something, but Gene told me not to since our deadline for "serious" Anubis II plans was years away. 


However, right as we were about to give up, we found hope.


Bill and I were looking online for some ideas when I came across a plane some guy named @evader made (Bill was staring at a beach picture of Val). The craft was called the "Tylo Slayer," and it was claimed to be able to transport three kerbals and a mini-rover to Tylo after refueling on Minmus. I wanted to buy it and use it as our Anubis II, but Bill and Mortimer objected on the grounds that:

  • Planetary law mandates that we design our own spacecraft
    • LOOPHOLE: we can use other people's designs as inspiration
      • We are also allowed to use craft designed by our contractors, provided that we directly contribute to the design and testing process
    • There are also concerns that "outdated" designs are not up to KAA code.
  • It was not equipped with the standard-issue parts for interplanetary SSTOs, like:
    • Probe core
    • Antenna
    • Science
    • Control surfaces
      • Surprisingly, there were none on the wings OR canards
  • When we test-flew it to Minmus, getting the drill to work was a nightmare.
    • Bill: "Whose bright idea was it to put a small drill in the same cargo area as a rover?" I can't even tell if it's attached to the plane or the rover."
    • Me: "What's wrong with the drill?"
    • Bill: "Besides the control surfaces - which he TOTALLY FORGOT - causing the plane to bounce upon landing, the interior of the cargo bay exploded when I tried to use the drill."
  • Bill: "There's plenty of room for improvement."


Using the Tylo Slayer as inspiration, we managed to build our own prototype. Only this time, we're not carrying a rover in our cargo bay - which is DEFINITELY NOT in the rear. 



  • @evader's original design in the SPH (image from KerbalX)
    • Latest version built in 1.6.0
    • Doesn't have any control surfaces.



  • Our current design, built from scratch
  • Design differences between us and the source material include, but not limited to
    • Docking-capable
      • Once Bill installed monopropellant near the front to move the CoM, Wernher seized his chance to make it docking-capable.
    • Larger tailfins and rear stabilizers.
    • Larger wingspan
      • Who knows, we might even land this on Duna
    • Science and a large drill in the FRONT cargo bay.
    • Antenna
    • Probe core
    • Over SIX TIMES the power capacity
      • And solar panels
    • EIGHT rapiers instead of four
      • And still have enough delta-V for a Minmus stop.
    • Abort system, disconnecting the capsule from the rest of the plane in case of emergencies
      • More on that later
    • Rear parachute
    • Airbrakes
    • Wider landing gear arrangement


Bill hoped that he wouldn't need to use the skipper engines for the atmospheric ascent, but he still needed them despite doubling his rapier count. Since Mission Control had no doubts that the ISRU systems would work - not that they don't plan to test that later - they planned to perform atmospheric ascent and re-entry tests first. The ascent was fine, but it was re-entry that was another story.

  • And no, it wasn't a loss of control. On the contrary, it seemed to glide just as well - even with missing parts.



  • Picture of a test run from OUR first prototype. A lot of parts exploded, like a couple of airbrakes and most of the RCS thrusters. The worst part was when we lost the docking port and the probe core. Though nobody was inside at the time, we couldn't perform a controlled landing. It managed to overshoot the KSC and glide to the ocean.


For our second test (sorry, no pictures here), we forgot to program the "Switch mode" control to ALL the rapiers. Regardless, we still managed to turn it 90 degrees to the north just fine after re-entry. It was during landing on the grass that was the issue - one of our canards was MISSING. When I couldn't pitch up in time, I jumped out of the cockpit. We didn't know how exactly that happened, so we did the same thing again a third time.


That was when we saw the canard snap off during re-entry. I don't know why the other one didn't though, but that was unacceptable.


Wernher anticipated a failure, so he seized the opportunity to test the abort system. Unfortunately, when I hit the button, the capsule was still riding on the rest of the plane. If I didn't move it soon, I would die. I then bounced around inside the capsule, causing it to get away from the front of the crashing plane. 



  • I was seconds from impact when I managed to break free, so I deployed the chutes immediately. Unfortunately, they weren't enough. I lost the heat shield and the battery as a result.


Overall, not a bad design. My official complaints are that they need to:

  • Fix the abort system
    • Pushing the capsule AWAY from the plane
    • Better chutes
  • Make sure canards don't snap off during re-entry


If we can get this plane to work on Kerbin, we'll test it on Minmus next - and, later, use it as our Anubis II. If we do this right, the Jool-5 trophy is ours.


While the SPH engineers are working on fixing the errors, we at least got an ore scanner in position of Tylo. Despite the fact that our current prototype has a large drill rather than a small one, the guys at R&D wanted to get orbital readings of the surface before we send any landing crews. Plus, Mission Control anticipated us needing to use a small drill for future craft.


  • Tylo with ore concentrations laid out.
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For the past few months, we've been devoted to testing our new Anubis spaceplane. The last entry of this thread mentioned a problem with the abort system as well as a canard snapping off, so the SPH guys decided to add more struts to the wings. As a precautionary measure, we added some to the rear stabilizers. For the abort system, Bill suggested bigger parachutes as well as small rocket boosters for the crew capsule so that not only can we separate from a crashing body, but we can have a softer landing.


A day after that design change was implemented, Jeb and Bill were airborne again. Only this time, their instructions were:

  1. Make at least a 90-degree turn in any direction (preferably toward land)
  2. Land anywhere with daylight
    1. Too risky to land in the dark
  3. Refuel
  4. Take off
  5. Turn around and go in a random heading
  6. Activate the abort system while in a downward trajectory


Jeb and Bill soon landed in some random field over 100 km away from the space center, sending us this picture.


  • It's a bit of a jump, but Bill was able to climb the rear ladder to repack the rear parachute.
    • We may need to switch it.


A few days of refueling later, and it was time to test the abort system. Much to everyone's surprise, the SRBs made no difference when trying to separate the capsule from the plane. Jeb and Bill had to wiggle themselves away from the front before the plane fell into the ocean. They had managed to do so in the nick of time before their parachutes would make no difference.


  • The panels on the side are for power in case the capsule needs to wait for a long time.


The third test we did for this plane was even more interesting, yet also boring at the same time. Lasel Kerman - the scientist who saved Bill and Val from Eeloo, a rookie engineer named Aldgee, and myself flew it to Minmus for the refueling test. We ran out of oxidizer before touchdown, but we had enough delta-V and thrust to land (and far more than enough monopropellant to straighten ourselves out). We landed in the lesser flats and got some good science points before beginning to refuel. That was when the boredom hit:

It took us ~130 days to fill up all our tanks

Though it was agonizing to wait for months for our tanks to fill up, we learned some interesting facts about our plane during and afterwards:

  • When our Lf tanks were completely full AND our Ox supply was below 1% capacity (and monoprop at ~85%), our delta-V was above 6,000 m/s on NERVs alone
    • Of course, that came at a cost of having a Minmus TWR of less than 1 on the NERVs
    • We could fill up the oxidizer tanks enough for the Skipper engines to get us off the planet, but Gene ordered us to fill them completely so that we could see our delta-V count on the higher-thrust engines.
      • We could do a straight shot to Jool (or even Eeloo) from there if we wanted to.
  • Pay close attention to the Lf/Ox levels.
  • After we used:
    • Skippers and NERVs to get to 60 km Minmus orbit
    • NERVs to achieve a 250 km-periapsis inclined orbit above Kerbin
    • Skippers and NERVs to circularize at periapsis

2576 km/s on rapiers and skippers alone (TWR 1.31)

I don't know what this means regarding the plan to get to Tylo from one of the smaller Jool moons, but I hope the plane can safely land on Tylo with that much delta-V and thrust.



  • Us flying over Minmus' lesser flats after refueling (finally)


Since we had plenty of Lf+Ox to spare, we decided to use ALL the engines to make a de-orbit burn to the KSC - probably with more than what's necessary. However, we overshot the runway and had to turn around after 30 km. We also had another problem; it was dark, and we were close to overshooting again after correcting our heading. That was when Wernher took the opportunity to test the new abort system, which was more than just SRB separators. It included the main body:

  • Extending airbrakes
  • Deploying the rear chute
  • Shutting down all engines (no matter what)


Indeed, the new program paid off well.




  • We didn't land the way we hoped, but at least we got near the KSP runway - and the science and battery (and panels) are safe.



  • What remains of the plane's body.


We can't keep using the abort system when landing on other planets, let alone Laythe. My personal recommendation is to not land at night, add more structural support to the tanks, and watch our downward velocity. Besides, we don't really need that much monopropellant.

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  • 3 weeks later...



I still remember when Lodock and I flew to Duna to refuel during the Neptune III mission, though I never would have guessed I would be landing on Duna itself in an experimental spaceplane. Even if I did, I wouldn't have imagined going on a space mission with a kerbalnaut from another Neptune mission.

  • Specifically, Johnfrid Kerman --> sole scientist of the Neptune II flight.


Although our new SSTO prototype was called the Anubis II for testing purposes, the main manufacturing firm behind it decided to rename it the T-6 Cannonball. Wernher von Kerman had no objections, as the Anubis II was supposed to be a mission name - and the T-6 Cannonball is a model name, should we decide to use it later (e.g. for rescue/tourist missions). And no, it's still no good for Eve.


While Mission Control and the design team were debating on the model name, we uploaded the Cannonball's design into a simulator program and had three kerbalnaut rejects do the Jool-5 challenge. Though it took multiple quicksaves and a lot of frustration, they eventually managed to pull it off. After the Anubis I returns, all we need to do is do it for real.


For more information on how they did, click on the link below and follow their photo-heavy album.



The three men involved in the simulated flight - Tancan Kerman, Fermal Kerman, and Kenby Kerman - were rejected from kerbalnaut training due to medical reasons. 


After careful review of the (patched) successful simulated Jool-5 run, Mission Control realized that we still need to improve on our plane's design and piloting techniques. These alterations include, but are not limited to:

  • Removing one of the landing struts per side so that the plane could lean forward and land on its wheels upon touchdown
  • For Kerbin takeoff, we need to:
    • Pitch up at ~20 degrees upon liftoff
    • Pitch downward until ~5 degrees when your velocity reaches 335 m/s
    • Switch off rapiers before they flame out and switch to rocket mode.
      • NERVs and skippers still have a TWR of over 1 by then
    • Aim pitch at prograde until desired apoapsis reached.
  • For long-distance Hohmann transfers, you don't need to fill up the oxidizer tanks completely - just enough for the plane to get off the surface and achieve the desired apoapsis
  • Laythe takeoff and Bop refueling is going to get tricky.


Back to our test run, Johnfrid and I are taking a Cannonball to Minmus to refuel before flying to Duna. Since the plane boasts A LOT of delta-V on rapiers and skippers alone (you need that kind of thrust to get off Tylo), we filled the Lf+Ox tanks ALL THE WAY this time so that, when we hit Duna's atmosphere, we'll have sufficient thrust to fly around. Some of the engineers think that we're good in terms of Duna aerodynamics due to the large wingspan and rear stabilizers, while others disagree on the grounds that the Cannonball - unlike the Dirtblood - was not designed to fly in a thin atmosphere with a Duna TWR of more than 1 on Lf+Ox engines alone. Gene Kerman put their argument to rest after saying this:

"There's only one way to find out."



  • Not even 100 m above the surface, and we were dumb enough to leave our engines running until we had a 513-km apoapsis.


For now, we'll use the NERV engines so we can burn off some of the excess Lf. Since the plane now has 18,994 units of Ox, we'll use the NERVs until our Lf tanks are at 15,541 units total. When that happens, we'll switch to one or more types of Lf+Ox tanks so that we can use up both Lf+Ox at equal rates.


EDIT: We originally planned to remove only two struts per side (four total), but then realized that we need to add another strut so that the bottom rapiers don't hit the ground when the plane tilts. At least the Cannonball has monopropellant to help tip it over; sure, it's docking-capable, but we shouldn't need to use it if we can do the Jool-5.

Edited by Mars-Bound Hokie
Wrote "Mars" when I meant to write "Duna."
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  • 1 month later...



The good news is that we made it to Jool orbit safe and sound - and years before I would have, if I had stayed in that old Hamacker.

  • It's still drifting on Ike's surface, by the way.


The bad news is that, while we were waiting for our node for a Pol refuel, our trajectory calculator found out we would get a gravity assist at our Jool periapsis from Laythe. If we didn't do anything about it soon, we would get sling-shot out of Jool orbit. Even worse, with only 1,755 m/s of delta-V in our tanks, chances are we would be stuck drifting forever if that happened.


Fortunately, our tourist had an idea: "Just freaking land there." 


It was understandable why he would make such a statement: he did pay for an orbit of Laythe. I seconded that idea, since my original mission plan was to get there as well. Once the other crewmembers found out they could just reset their target to Laythe, they agreed with us and decided to set the approach periapsis to 40 km ASL.




The plan is to aerobrake at 40 km over Laythe, saving us hundreds of meters of delta-V for the circularization burn. After that, we'll land on the sunny side of the moon to refuel and do my exploration - although, thanks to the other Neptune missions, I probably won't be able to do much. I hope we don't burn to a crisp during the re-entry, or that we don't end up on the dark side at first (since they're a pain to land in). When the Laythe part of the tour is done, we'll refuel on Pol and pick up those other kerbalnauts at Pinky Finger Station before orbiting Tylo as originally planned. 

  • The "Laythe" part of the tour was inevitable, so we might as well get it done now instead of put it off.
  • We still have another contract to take crew reports over Jool itself, but we want to get everything else done first - aside from the final pre-Kerbin refueling.


Though I was impressed by how the T-6 Cannonball performed in the Kerbin test runs, it's a shame that it didn't do so well on Duna. Even worse, that failure took the lives of Johnfrid Kerman and Enmal Kerman. Now we know to only use the Dirtblood for Duna landings; it is debatable on whether we should use the Lazybird, though. Either way, I'm confident that the Cannonball can complete the Jool-5, strengthening the bond between the Anubis and the Neptune missions. 

  • Isn't it ironic that Johnfrid avoided death in one doomed spacecraft, only to end up dying in another one years later?


If all goes well, it may end up being the default tourist transport for anything involving Vall or Tylo. I don't know how (or if) we can establish permanent surface bases on Tylo, but I'm sure someone will find a way. 

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  • 1 month later...



Two days ago, we have received confirmation from the Anubis I crew that they have established a stable orbit over Tylo. You may be asking what happened between when they made their last entry and now, and so the details on how they got to Tylo orbit from Laythe's surface are in the following spoiler.



  • After several aerobraking attempts, the crew managed to make a final re-entry trajectory towards Crater Island during the day.
    • Who wants to land on unlit terrain at night?



  • The Anubis I, descending on the surface.



  • Engineer Anrey Kerman planting a flag.
  • Had things gone as originally planned, she would have done that in her own SSTO alone.



  • After a few days of refueling the plane, it was ready for liftoff.


When the plane had established orbit over Laythe, the Anubis I set off to Pol to not only refuel, but to pick up three more kerbalnauts that had been stuck on Pinky Finger Station for years. Plus, that was the perfect opportunity for the tourists to see the plane's docking capabilities in action.




A bouncy landing and few refueling (Kerbin) days later, the kerbalnauts were on their way to Tylo.





To not overheat the nuclear engines, and so the tourists can get various views of the moon, the plane started with a 200 x 500 elliptical orbit after making its capture burn at orbital periapsis.




A day of sightseeing later, we had one last item to fulfill from our "World's First Milestones" contract; to perform an orbital rendezvous over Tylo. Luckily, since Middle Finger Station was already in orbit, we decided to send the plane there to let the tourist - and our kerbalnauts - rest. 



  • The Anubis I after it completes its rendezvous with Middle Finger Station.
  • Nice view of the sunrise, isn't it?



  • Docking successful.


We have three rings already in Jool's sphere of influence, and one more on the way for Bop. All that's left is to launch one more for Vall, and the set is complete. I can't wait for the scientific data they're bringing back home, but I've heard that Tylo looks like "a dead Kerbin." Now we're starting to wonder if it's really worth setting up a colony there, since that place looks impossible to take off from and/or land safely on. Heck, even if we could, would we be basically going to a "kraken-ravaged version of our planet?" While that debate goes on, our personnel on Kerbin will work towards making our Anubis II idea a reality.


Wernher Von Kerman

Year 65, Day 116


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