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Chasing Dreams: Reimagining the Space Shuttle


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November, 1985

  The Kerbin-Jool transfer window is open, and it is time for Galileo to begin its journey. 



  The Centaur-G upper stage reignites for a Trans-Joolian injection burn. 





January, 1986

Having served it's purpose, the CNSA announces its intent to de-orbit Tiangong-1. The station had been plagued with mechanical problems of late, and China decided to put their funds toward a newer station. 



February, 1986

  The USSR is set to expand the Mir station with the Kvant-1 module. Kvant will be used for life support, storage, and a small lab for experiments. 




  Using an FSB tug, Kvant-1 docks to the aft port of Mir. The tug decouples and then de-orbits.  





March 1986

  An Ace-Vee launches on an Achilles I rocket.  Besides supplies, it also brings up docking port PMA-1.





  Halley's Armada reaches the comet in mid March, 1986.  



  The ESA loses contact with Giotto  shortly after making a course correction, and its status is unknown.  However, Vega 2 has better luck, and is able to make the closest approach to the comet.  






Edited by RandomSciFi
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Everybody Have Fun Tonight


August, 1986

  The 'Race to Minmus' marched on, with the USSR leading the pack. The launch of the Energia heavy lifter gave them a  lifting capability that simply wasn't matched by any other space programs at the time, and the only hardware they required was developing a lander, which had been funded largely after syphoning funds from a silly project called ' Buran'. 

  Minmus often divided space experts on whether it was practical or even achievable. Detractors noted that Minmus was simply too far for a manned mission - it wasn't yet definitive that there was water-ice on the moon, which was the driving force behind sending a manned mission there. One US senator noted, "This isn't some video game where you just slap gizmos together and press some buttons!"

  These detractors were largely shouted down by young space fans of television shows, who used words like "pwned" and "rekt." It didn't make sense to them that manned exploration would stop at the Mun when there was a perfectly good moon still out there, which perhaps would be the perfect staging point for journeys to other planets. 

  The Minmus mission was considered so important that the Politburo ordered that the Polyus-Skif  project be sidelined specifically so the next Energia could shoot a Soyuz-TM on a Munar flyby.  While test flights took place, construction and testing of a new robust lander continued. 



  Meanwhile, China largely kept to their Mun ambitions, which largely depended on developing new probes to send to the moons. Initial plans were modelled after USSR's LK-700, but these were scrapped so that a modified Shenguang spacecraft could act as the orbiter, accompanied by a much smaller lander. 

  First, they needed a map of the Mun surface, so China launched their first Mun probe, Chang-e 1




  While the launch was largely successful, the probe ran out of propellent before it could circularize an orbit. All the CNSA could do was map the area of Mun available to them and take other scientific readings. Chang-e 1 settled into an orbit between both moons. 

  Meanwhile, the ESA continued work on the Mir space station, launching the Harmony Docking Adapter on an Ariane 3 lifter. 




  While NASA hadn't yet taken the opportunity to prepare a manned mission to Minmus, they were certainly curious. With Mariner-derived probe architecture readily available, NASA put forth the Planetary Observer Program,  which would largely concern itself with launching probes to the moons and Duna. First to launch to Minmus was Wayfinder 1, on an Atlas-Centaur. 





  The Wayfinder 1 was largely based on the Mariner 10 platform, but was set up to orbit Minmus and map the surface as well as look for resources. 




  Wayfinder 1 slipped into an orbit of Minmus like putting on a pair of warm slippers.  It immediately began sending back a treasure of useful data that would take months to pour over. 


Walk Like an Egyptian

September, 1986

  A wise Kerbal once said, "Let's light this candle!", and with that, Energia began it's launch with an unmanned Soyuz-TM at the top of the stack. 




  The Energia flew impressively - it left no doubt to higher ups in the Politburo that the vehicle could lift an orbiter/lander combination with ease. The Soyuz-TM was the USSR's newest iteration of the spacecraft, and this launch technically counted as a test for all hardware involved. 



  Using a Blok-D upper stage, the Soyuz-TM was able to slingshot around the Mun without issue. As it went around the moon, the scientific instrument on board began recording data to be saved for the trip home. 



  The Soyuz-TM was able to get a free return trajectory back to Kerbin, separating from its orbital modules as it prepared to withstand the heat of re-entry. However, the parachutes that were suppose to slow the craft for landing did not deploy, and the capsule impacted at a high rate of speed, destroying it. Much of the data that had been transmitted on the trip back was saved, so the mission was largely considered a success. 



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Is This Love


March, 1987

  While on paper 1987 was shaping up to be a pretty uneventful year, life aboard a space station was anything but mundane. Repair crews to both the US and USSR stations spent most of their time in EVAs repairing malfunctioning systems. On Mir several EVAs were needed to install the remaining solar panels on the Core Module and Kvant-1, during which one of the main reaction wheels suffered a critical failure and remained inoperable. 



  Despite the heavy work schedule, a new Laputa Lab Module was transported to Mir in late March, courtesy of Italy. 




April, 1987

  Meanwhile on Freedom, astronauts were faced with a continuing power issue as one by one SkyLab's solar panels began to fail.  In point of fact, much of SkyLab's systems needed either repair or maintenance, and more of her interior was regulated to storage or sleeping berths. 



  Luckily for NASA, the ESA was able to help in the fight to keep the lights on; the newly approved Miranda Block II spacecraft allowed the ESA to bring an extra astronaut to the station.



  One of the launches bringing repair supplies also brought up a new module, the Z1 Segment.  Soon, a P4 Truss solar panel would be attached to cure Freedom's power woes. 



  Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car


June, 1988

  The first exciting launch of the new year was the maiden flight of the Ariane 4 launch vehicle, carrying two satellites to geosynchronous orbit. 





  The satellite marketplace still remained hot. ISRO began putting everything they had into readying the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle to be ready within the next two years, and the launch schedule for the Comet 9 rocket consisted of several launches a year as Space Services began to expand operations. 



July, 1988

  The time is finally here for the USSR's big Duna mission, consisting of two Fobos probes launched back-to-back on Proton K vehicles. 





  Both probes had successful launches and injection burns, which was met with guarded optimism from USSR's Space Research Institute (IKI).  



Edited by RandomSciFi
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Love Shack


January, 1989

  Still stinging from the loss of the Fobos-Minmus probe, the USSR try a more cost-effective measure; modifying a Gorizont satellite  and tossing it at the Mun to begin mapping the surface; a new Minmus mission would be planned for the future. 



February, 1989

  Japan successfully launches a Superbird A satellite on their hybrid H-1 LDC vehicle.  



May, 1989

  NASA prepares Magellan for its Eve mission. This mission will also test the Achilles V launch vehicle for the first time; NASA hopes to begin phasing out Titan rockets for their deep space missions. The Inertial Upper Stage is used to kick Magellan towards Eve. 






18 And Life


  The Ride Report is finally circulated in 1988, and NASA higher ups are less than enthused by the price tag and the sheer scale.  With the the USSR and China bearing down on Mun missions in the short term, and Minmus not long after, there is immense pressure from the new Administration to get a feasible program off the ground in a tremendous hurry. However, NASA was stretched thin in terms of budget; resources had been poured into both the Mariner Mark II and Planetary Observer programs,  and a great deal of the budget was for crew and resupply missions to the Freedom space station.  Despite their effectiveness, the Saturn MO3 and Achilles I launch vehicles were expensive, and NASA was looking to finally put their foot down on the expensive expendable launch vehicles that held them hostage; the Rocket Bidding Wars had begun. 

  The catalyst starting this imperative was none other than Space Services,  which had grown by leaps and bounds while capturing at least 20% of the satellite market in just a few short years. Space Services constantly pitched plans to NASA to resupply Freedom at a fraction of the current cost, and in 1989, began pitching a crew return vehicle that would also save vast amounts of the budget. Faced with limited options, NASA began considering turning over resupply missions to Space Services and when many of the majors protested, NASA flatly stated that they would have to begin being competitive on prices. With Administration pressure to get a Mun/Minmus plan underway within a year, Space Services again came back to NASA with a plan for an upgraded Comet rocket that could push a vehicle  around the moons. 



  The standard Comet 9 rocket had enough Delta-V to launch a capsule or resupply craft to the station, while a heavy version of the rocket would launch a capsule to the Mun and Minmus. This would allow NASA to concentrate on a reusable lander design that could stay in orbit and be refueled, with a ferry vehicle taking crews back and forth from Freedom. This plan actually gained support from other factions in NASA; the space station adherents were exciting that the station could be used as a staging point, while those that lobbied for the major rocket companies saw a chance to design and build the lander if they could do so affordably. 


Edited by RandomSciFi
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