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JNSQ: Shuttle Launch System - Epilogue


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  • 2 weeks later...

The penultimate chapter of this mission report is here!

Chapter 11

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Despite regularly shuttling crews and supplies to KOS and sending explorers to the Mϋn, the mundane Shuttle flights to the station barely made the news. Instead they gave more coverage when the various KSP space probes sent to Kerbol’s various planets made an interesting discovery or two. For instance, launched back on SLS-31, the Edna Surveyor discovered that Edna had a mϋn! Scientists named it Dak. After entering Edna’s sphere of influence, the space probe settled into a 600km polar orbit for a 60-day survey. The probe had to switch between its radar altimeter and its survey camera due to the Surveyor-series’ limited power, but it managed to detect odd bands where resources could be found. Most of the planet had next to nothing except in the resource bands.

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Since the probe had delta-v remaining in its tanks, a well-timed boost moved Edna Surveyor into Dak’s orbit to survey it as well. The probe circularized its orbit around the irregularly shaped dark-colored mϋn after about a day’s travel. For the next 60 days, Edna Surveyor scanned Dak to build a detailed terrain map and a rough map of its resources. The probe found concentrations of several resources including gray water, minerite, and zeonium.

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With its primary and secondary missions completed, KSC gave the Edna Surveyor a new mission: land on Dak, and if successful, land on Edna as well. Dak was easy; it had such low gravity, the probe landed in the Midlands without any issues. It quickly took magnetometer and temperature readings before lifting off again. KSC risked a second touchdown, and Edna Surveyor stopped off at Dak’s Highlands to take more readings. After that, the probe escaped Dak orbit and headed for its namesake.

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A day later, the Edna Surveyor entered low orbit around Edna and immediately initiated its deorbit burn. Sadly, the probe didn’t fare well with Edna; in its attempts to slow down, the flight control software got confused between orbital and surface velocities, and the probe slammed into the ground at 35 m/sec, breaking up upon impact. KSC was disappointed, but still satisfied with the science return obtained during its primary and secondary missions. And it did land on Dak, something the probe wasn’t designed to do.

***

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Unfortunately, other probes had issues. The Lindor Surveyor missed its course correction burn. Then the Nara Surveyor missed its burn. And then KSC lost contact with the Hamek Surveyor. After troubleshooting the problems, KSC discovered that their MIDAS constellation lacked the range to communicate with the probes. Though the Lindor Surveyor still had an encounter with its namesake in about a year and the Hamek Surveyor had another seven years to go, the Nara Surveyor would miss its target unless something was done. The sooner that KSC could solve the problem, the better.

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To hopefully resolve the issue, KSC fast-tracked an upgrade to the MIDAS constellation and SLS-42 was re-tasked to launch the MIDAS JX2 Upgrade Kit into orbit. With Mariner and Spirit still undergoing OMDP and Opportunity developing cracks in its landing gear and needed extensive repairs after SLS-41’s rough landing, Freedom was the only available orbiter for the job.

Valentina and her crew had no issues flying Freedom into a 250km orbit. After aligning planes with the MIDAS constellation, Jofrey deployed the upgrade kit and it sped off to meet with MIDAS-A. The Upgrade Kit was propelled by the new PAM-A3 that had reaction control thrusters and additional propellant tanks. It was barely adequate to deliver the kit, which meant yet another redesign of the PAM. As the Upgrade Kit began its voyage, Freedom returned home.

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Twelve days later, the Upgrade Kit arrived at MIDAS-A and docked with the relay. After deploying the advanced relay antennas, the PAM-A3 detached and deorbited. Mission Control spent a few days verifying that the MIDAS probe core's software upgrades successfully interfaced with the Upgrade Kit before they attempted to ping the Nara Surveyor. A few hours later, the probe successfully reported its status. Elated, Mission Control immediately commanded the probe to make a new course correction burn. A short burn later, the Nara Surveyor had an encounter with its namesake in 9 years. Better late than never...

Flush with their success, SLS-43 and SLS-44 delivered Upgrade Kits to MIDAS-B and MIDAS-C, respectively. That gave the Multi-platform Interplanetary Deep-space Array System 360-degree network coverage.

***

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A year later, The Jool Surveyor finally entered Jool’s sphere of influence. The probe quickly made some scientific observations and beamed the results back to KSC just in case something went wrong. Then, over the course of two weeks, it performed a series of maneuvers that expended the L5US but also brought the probe close to the surface of Tylo. That is when KSC discovered that Tylo had a thin atmosphere!

Mission Control quickly reprogrammed the probe to fly just above Tylo’s atmosphere and make its science observations before exiting the mϋn’s SOI. An hour later, Jool Surveyor exited Tylo’s SOI, coasted for 4 hours,  and made a large correction burn that lined it up with an encounter with Vall. Jool Surveyor ended up in a highly elliptical orbit around its namesake as a bonus.

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Mission Control held their breaths as Jool’s bulk blocked their connection to the probe for several hours. But they reacquired its signal just in time for the Vall flyby. In high orbit, the Jool Surveyor found something really intriguing: a faint repeating transmission from the southern hemisphere! Scientists had no idea what the transmission was from, but without the propellant allotment to slow down, all they could do was record the signals and plan a follow-up mission.

The probe fell to low orbital space and took more measurements. Its magnetometer detected the presence of sub-surface water while its radio plasma wave sensor continued to record the strange radio patterns. But within minutes Jool Surveyor approached within 60 km of Vall’s surface and sped away towards its next maneuver burn. Six hours later, the probe made a pair of burns that put it on course for an encounter with Laythe.

But Mission Control had to wait another 66 days to reach Jool Surveyor’s destination...

***

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A week after Jool Surveyor’s transfer burn, the Dres Surveyor performed a flyby of its namesake. KSC’s scientists had a day with which to conduct their science as the probe flew past the planet. They took some initial readings as Dres Surveyor entered its namesake’s sphere of influence, but they were not impressed. Seven hours later, the probe dipped to within 14 km of the planet’s surface- at least that is what the trajectory predicted. It was hard to tell since the probe ducked behind the planet and out of contact with KSC. When Dres Surveyor emerged on the other side, it was still low enough to take additional readings and radio the results back to Mission Control. Scientists were still unimpressed. As the probe sped away from Dres and exited its SOI eight hours later, hardly anyone cared…

***

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Fifty-eight days later, the excitement at KSC began to build once more as Jool Surveyor made another course correction burn that put it over the top of Laythe. After a three-hour wait, the probe entered Laythe’s SOI. When they pointed the spacecraft’s cameras towards Jool’s innermost quarry, it confirmed something that scientists suspected- Laythe had liquid oceans of water and an atmosphere! Several Funds changed hands after that data arrived…

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The RPWS instrument detected periodic radio bursts from Laythe that many attributed to Laythe’s orbit within Jool’s magnetic field. Some scientists thought that the repeating patterns that they saw emitting from Vall were a similar natural phenomenon as well, but others argued that Vall’s patterns repeated too quickly, and they only came from the southern hemisphere while Laythe’s emissions happened globally. It was clear that they would need years of continued observations to resolve the debate.

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In the meantime, Mission Control commanded Jool Surveyor to perform its most important engine burn since entering orbit around Jool. It cost all the PAM-C’s remaining propellant and some of the probe’s maneuvering thruster fuel as well, but Jool Surveyor entered a polar orbit around Laythe. Once safely settled into polar orbit and positioned in a high inclination, Jool Surveyor began to map the mϋn’s terrain and scan for resources.

It would take months to fully scan the planet- alternating between radar and visual resource scans. In the meantime, scientists began to ask how the mϋn could have liquid water on the surface- and an atmosphere-  given how distant Jool was from Kerbol. And they asked when they could send a kermanned expedition to Laythe…

***

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Two hundred and eighty-five days after Jool Surveyor entered Laythe orbit, the Lindor Surveyor began its encounter with its namesake planet. After gathering science from high orbit, KSC commanded the probe to match orbital planes with the gas giant. Twenty-eight days later, Lindor Surveyor conducted a major burn that swung it around the ice giant to encounter Riga, the second outer-most mϋn of Lindor.

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The spacecraft made an orbital adjustment to align orbital planes and then slip behind the mϋn just above its thin atmosphere. It managed to grab science readings in low orbital space before the celestial body’s bulk blocked radio signals from KSC. After restoring contact, the probe relayed its findings. While interesting, nothing immediately stood out.

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Ten days later, Lindor Surveyor made another correction burn to avoid escaping the planet’s SOI. Then it waited another 72 days to make a small burn that put it on course with Huygen. Another 120 days later, the spacecraft finally entered Huygen’s SOI. It took readings from both high and low orbital space before exiting its SOI a couple of hours later. Its brief pass detected some strange readings such as raptium and hydrokerbon seas!

With the probe running low on propellant though, KSC had to decide whether to take a low pass at Lindor and fly by Talos and Krel- the outermost and innermost mϋns of Lindor, respectively, or rendezvous with Huygen again and enter polar orbit to map it. Then Adsii Kerman, one of the senior planetary scientists, came up with a brilliant plan.

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A pair of small burns placed Lindor Surveyor on course to encounter Aden, the second mϋn of Lindor. 15 days later, it made a high-altitude pass and gathered data. Then after waiting a week, KSC commanded a large engine burn that enabled the probe to swing relatively close by Lindor before again encountering Huygen 6 days after its slingshot around the gas giant. They sacrificed passes at Talos and Krel, but studying the atmosphere of Huygen and mapping its surface was just too good to pass up.

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Lindor Surveyor did indeed find an ocean made of hydrokerbons and raptium along with a thick atmosphere. The planetary geologists went nuts- they wanted to know more!

***

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With one exception, all the Surveyor series of space probes were launched via the Shuttle Launch System. They would have cost over a million Funds to launch on expendable rockets. Instead, the Shuttle did the job for a fraction of the cost. Despite showing increasing signs of wear and tear, and barely getting mentions in the media, the workhorses still contributed to KSP’s space exploration efforts by providing cheap access to space.

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Epilogue

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“Main engine start…4…3…2…1…we have booster ignition…and liftoff. The final liftoff of the Space Shuttle Freedom, on the shoulders of the Shuttle Launch System.” Diller Kerman, KSC’s commentator, tried to hold back tears and focus on his job. As he had done many times before, he ran through the script from booster and external tank separation to orbit circularization via the Shuttle’s orbital maneuvering engines. The crew had a day-long wait while their orbit lined up with KOS before they could rendezvous with the space station.

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Created out of a need to replace the K-20 KerbalSoar, reduce launch costs incurred from expendable launch vehicles, and provide routine access to space, the Shuttle Launch System design went through several design iterations before KSP settled upon a design consisting of a winged orbiter mounted to an enormous external tank that also sported two huge solid rocket boosters. The design minimized expendable components and advanced propulsion technologies in the form of cryogenically fueled, reusable KS-25B main engines. Under contract from KSP, Drax Aerospace built four orbiters: Freedom (OV-201), Mariner (OV-202), Spirit (OV-203), and Opportunity (OV-204). A fifth, OV-205, was cancelled for budgetary reasons before it could  be completed. The Shuttle lived up to its promise of reducing launch costs, albeit at a lower flight rate than expected.

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For the past four years, after completing KOS, assembling Magellan, adding additions to Billstown, and launching and upgrading the MIDAS constellation, the Shuttle Launch System averaged 10 flights a year while the Surveyor probes explored the solar system. Most of those flights resupplied and performed crew rotations to the Kerbin Orbiting Station and sent training crews to Billstown. But a few flew one-off science missions and delivered an occasional clandestine government payload into orbit.

The mainstream media stopped covering Shuttle Launch System flights after SLS-50, but today’s flight made the headlines. Today’s Shuttle flight, SLS-85, launched nearly ten years to the day that SLS-1 launched, marked the final time that a KSP-owned Space Shuttle would leap into the skies. While Kerbal Space Center would remain an active space port and the hub of the Kerman States’ space exploration efforts, KSP was soon to become a paying customer for rides into orbit on commercial spacecraft instead of owning and operating their own. While bittersweet, their move freed their resources for the push to Duna and beyond.

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Freedom docked with KOS and offloaded the Permanent Logistics Module- formerly the Multipurpose Logistics Module. The PMM gave Starlab additional storage space for its resources. The Shuttle also swapped out the station crew. With its objectives completed, the last operational orbiter deorbited for the final time and landed back at KSC. From that point forward, KSP would be buying seats to reach orbit- and leasing facilities to commercial companies.

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As they had done before with the K-20’s final mission, active duty astronauts drove out to the runway to greet Freedom’s final crew and to say goodbye to the aging orbiter. Once the crowd cleared, ground crews towed Freedom back over to the OPF and prepped the orbiter for its retirement flight. Then the pilot astronauts held a lottery to see who got to fly Freedom to the Boneyard. Dudmon and Tesen won.

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Cleared for one last flight-albeit an atmospheric one- Freedom taxied into takeoff position, revved its engines, and jetted down the runway for takeoff. Out of respect for the retiring orbiter, KSC rolled the Sea Goat out of its hangar.

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As Freedom lifted off, Dudmon banked right to get a good view of the space center and made a loop before heading for the Boneyard. A few minutes later, the shuttle landed at the airstrip, taxied, and parked next to Opportunity, Spirit, and Mariner. He and Tesen took their time safing the orbiter and flipping the switches that enabled ground crews to drain it of its resources. After that, they exited OV-201- the first Block 1 shuttle ever built and the last to retire- one final time.

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But Dudmon looked up and smiled as the first of the next-generation orbiters passed overhead. The Shuttle Era was not over, it was just changing hands- and getting new competition...

---

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this JNSQ: Shuttle Launch System mission report as much as I did flying the missions and writing about them. This mission report sprung from a desire to recreate my old KSOS Mission Chronicles thread. This time, I kept the images. Anyway, my career game mission report will continue in JNSQ: Commercial Space Ventures.

List of Shuttle flights

Spoiler

SLS-1, Mariner; Jeb (CDR), Dudmon (PLT): initial test flight

SLS-2, Mariner; Tesen (CDR), Hensen (PLT): Test of the Kerboarm & SkyBase rendezvous and resupply.

SLS-3, Mariner; Valentina (CDR), Samny (PLT): Final test flight. Val flies to keep her flight certification.

SLS-4, Mariner; Shersey (CDR), Jeslong (PLT), Bill (ENG), Bob (SCI), Malus (SCI): MunSCAN 2; Skybase research. First 5-kerbal crew.

SLS-5, Freedom; Dudmon (CDR), Samger (PLT), Gerrim (ENG), Jofrey (ENG), Santrey (SCI), Danwig (SCI): MIDAS-A docked to a refueled L5US. Fueling flights done by Arrow 4, Skybase research. First space flight by Freedom.

SLS-6, Mariner; Jeb (CDR), Phildas (PLT), Frolie (ENG), Jebman (ENG), Sammal Mckerman (SCI), Seanner McKerman (SCI): MIDAS-B; first McKerman astronauts; mission cut short due to limited supplies

SLS-7, Spirit; Hensen (CDR), Mabo (PLT), Jofrey (ENG), Sammal Mckerman (SCI), Seanner McKerman (SCI): Maiden flight of Spirit; MIDAS-C; last Skybase research mission

SLS-8 Freedom; Maxpond (CDR), Johnsted (PLT), Richny (ENG): SCANSat launched to Minmus; first all-rookie crew

SLS-9 Mariner; Dudmon (CDR), Samger (PLT), Gerrim (ENG): K-24 KRV test flight

SLS-10 Freedom; Valentina (CDR), Samny (PLT), Bill (ENG), Santrey (SCI), Danwig (SCI): Starlab & KMU launched.

SLS-11 Spirit; Jeb (CDR), Mabo (PLT), Frolie (ENG), Munlorf (SCI), Malus (SCI): Starlab station arm & spacer module launched.

SLS-12 Mariner; Tesen (CDR), Hensen (PLT), Jofrey (ENG), Bob (SCI), Sammal (SCI): Pier launched.

SLS-13 Opportunity; Shersey (CDR), Jeslong (PLT), Gerrim (ENG), Santrey (SCI), Seanner McKerman (SCI): Maiden flight of Opportunity; K-24 KRV launched; KOS permanent occupation begins; ENG and both SCI remain aboard.

SLS-14 Spirit; Maxpond (CDR), Johnsted (PLT), Richny (ENG): Truss 1P & Truss 1S launched.

SLS-15 Mariner; Dudmon (CDR), Samger (PLT), Jebman (ENG), Bob (SCI), Ferwin (SCI): Truss 2P launched; station crew rotation

SLS-16 Freedom; Tesen (CDR), Hensen (PLT), Frolie (ENG): Truss 2R launched.

SLS-17 Opportunity; Shersey (CDR), Jeslong (PLT), Bill (ENG): Truss 3P launched.

SLS-18 Spirit; Jeb (CDR), Mabo (PLT), Malus (SCI), Sammal (SCI): Truss 3R launched; station crew rotation.

SLS-19 Mariner; Valentina (CDR), Samny (PLT), Jofrey (ENG): Suprano launched; Jofrey stays at KOS.

SLS-20 Freedom; Dudmon (CDR), Samger (PLT), Richny (ENG): Quantum Leap launched, moved to top of Suprano.

SLS-21 Opportunity; Jeb (CDR), Mabo (PLT), Gerrim (ENG), Santrey (SCI), Munlorf (SCI), Seanner (SCI): Tranquility launched; crew rotation; station fully occupied.

SLS-22 Spirit; Tesen (CDR), Hensen (PLT), Bill (ENG): Midlands launched.

SLS-23 Mariner; Shersey (CDR), Jeslong (PLT), Frolie (ENG): Eve Surveyor launched.

SLS-24 Freedom; Maxpond (CDR), Johnsted (PLT), Richny (ENG): Jool Surveyor launched; L5US-3 expended.

SLS-25 Opportunity; Valentina (CDR), Samny (PLT), Samger (PLT), Jebman (ENG), Ferwin (SCI), Danwig (SCI), Sammal (SCI): Vista launched; station crew rotation; KSOS complete

SLS-26 Spirit; Dudmon (CDR), Mabo (PLT), Bill (ENG): Beagle & Faraday launched.

SLS-27 Mariner; Jeb (CDR), Mabo (PLT), Gerrim, (ENG): Station resupply

SLS-28 Freedom; Tesen (CDR), Hensen (PLT), Frolie (ENG): Lindor Surveyor launched, expends L5US-4.

SLS-29 Opportunity; Shersey (CDR), Jeslong (PLT), Richny (ENG): Kerbin Surveyor launched

SLS-30 Spirit; Maxpond (CDR), Johnsted (PLT), Gerrim (ENG), Santrey (SCI), Bob (SCI): Newton launched; Crew rotation (3/5); Arrow Crew Vehicle debut; 2 McKermans take up station residence, assembly complete.

SLS-31 Freedom; Jeb (CDR), Mabo (PLT), Bill (ENG): Edna Surveyor launched. Expends L5US-5.

SLS-32 Mariner; Dudmon (CDR), Samger (PLT), Jebman (ENG): Ike Surveyor/Duna Horizon launched.

SLS-33 Spirit; Tesen (CDR), Hensen (PLT), Frolie (ENG): Magellan (Munar Shuttle Module) launched; Shuttle retired

SLS-34 Opportunity; Maxpond (CDR), Johnstead (PLT), Valentina (PLT), Bill (ENG), Danwig (SCI), Munlorf (SCI): Sea Duck (Munar Surface Access Module) delivered; station crew rotation; Val, Bill, Bob head to the Mϋn.

SLS-35 Freedom; Jeb (CDR), Mabo (PLT), Jofrey (ENG): Moho Surveyor launched.

SLS-36 Opportunity; Shersey (CDR), Jeslong (PLT), Richny (ENG): Banana Hamek Surveyor launched and fitted to L5US-6

SLS-37 Freedom; Dudmon (CDR), Samger (PLT), Jebman (ENG): Nara Surveyor launched and fitted to D1B Minmus Tanker.

SLS-38 Opportunity; Tesen (CDR), Hensen (PLT), Frolie (ENG): MGM Rover “Miss Piggy II” launched and sent to Mϋn.

SLS-39 Freedom; Jeb (CDR), Mabo (PLT), Ribler (PLT), Gerrim (ENG), Santrey (SCI), Ferwin (SCI), Malus (SCI): MGM ISRU launched.

SLS-40 Opportunity; Maxpond (CDR), Johnstead (PLT), Diltrey (ENG): PAM-D launched.

SLS-41 Freedom; Valentina (CDR), Samny (PLT), Jofrey (ENG): Eeloo Surveyor launched.

SLS-42 Freedom; Dudmon (CDR), Samger (PLT), Jebman (ENG): MIDAS-A-JX2 Upgrade Kit launched.

SLS-43 Freedom; Tesen (CDR), Hensen (PLT), Frolie (ENG): MIDAS-B-JX2 Upgrade Kit launched.

SLS-44 Freedom; Shersey (CDR), Jeslong (PLT), Richny (ENG): MIDAS-C-JX2 Upgrade Kit launched.

. . .

SLS-85*: Freedom; Dudmon (CDR), Tesen (PLT), Maxpond (PLT), Jebman (ENG), Bob (SCI), Danwig (SCI), Munlorf (SCI): Station resupply flight; station crew rotation; Freedom, last of the operational Block 1 shuttles, is retired

*Technically SLS-45, but story-wise Shuttle has been flying for years…

 

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12 hours ago, JakGamingKSP said:

do constellation or riot

Not quite Constellation...

Shuttle-C:

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Shuttle-C Inline Payload (similar to Ares from Mars Direct):

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Jool Heavy (WIP, it's what Shuttle-C evolves into):

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Shuttle Block 2:

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..And the competition...

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I like the crew arm on Skyranger-C, but the Shuttle Block 2 looks cooler. Try merging the Skyranger-C launch tower and the Space Shuttle Block 2 spacecraft, maybe?

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4 hours ago, KerballingSmasher said:

THE BLOCK 2 LOOKS SO COOOOOOOL! (Also, when Shuttle Viking? I couldn't help but notice we had Mariner, Pioneer, Spirit, and Opportunity...)

@Invaderchaos Made the Moonraker textures and @DylanSemrau made the SRBs. One of my K-20 KerbalSoars was named Viking, actually. I had Pathfinder, Pioneer Mariner (destroyed on maiden flight), Ranger, Viking, and Sojourner, all names of probes. I continued the trend with the shuttle orbiters; Mariner was named after the K-20. Similarly, the munar shuttle is named Magellan, and at some point in my save, you might see Voyager...

4 hours ago, NH04 said:

I like the crew arm on Skyranger-C, but the Shuttle Block 2 looks cooler. Try merging the Skyranger-C launch tower and the Space Shuttle Block 2 spacecraft, maybe?

The Mk-33 launch tower parts are specifically designed for the Mk-33...

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9 minutes ago, Angel-125 said:

The Mk-33 launch tower parts are specifically designed for the Mk-33...

Oh. I don't use mods (unless you count DLCs as mods), so I wouldn't have known that. Great series, by the way! 

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  • 3 weeks later...

@Angel-125 As always, great storytelling.  This was a very nice read in easing back into KSP after a good hiatus.  I do have a question though....

I looked through your mods listed in the OP.  Can you tell me what you did to solve the "KerboArm has a mind of it's own" issue - (wobbling and exploding)?  You seem to have solved the issue whist others (including me) haven't (yet).

I have tried to lock all 11 parts of the SOCK arm, using different variations of the autostrut feature, etc.  I also noticed a lack of KJR in your modlist I believe.  What, pray tell is your secret? 

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34 minutes ago, smotheredrun said:

@Angel-125 As always, great storytelling.  This was a very nice read in easing back into KSP after a good hiatus.  I do have a question though....

I looked through your mods listed in the OP.  Can you tell me what you did to solve the "KerboArm has a mind of it's own" issue - (wobbling and exploding)?  You seem to have solved the issue whist others (including me) haven't (yet).

I have tried to lock all 11 parts of the SOCK arm, using different variations of the autostrut feature, etc.  I also noticed a lack of KJR in your modlist I believe.  What, pray tell is your secret? 

I have a secret weapon:

I lock all the joints and auto-strut everything on the arm that isn't a servo joint. Then I use my Servo Controller plugin to auto-lock and unlock.

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  • 1 month later...
3 hours ago, Misguided Kerbal said:

Since the Mk-33 is done now, will there be any continuation of this? or will there also be warp drive now

Though busy with Blueshift, I'm actually working on the first few chapters of my next JNSQ mission report. :)

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