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Terran(ism) Space Program

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Right out of the gate, a few more KCT points and an upgrade to the Tracking Station used up most of my remaining funds:


That upgrade was possibly the quickest one yet, taking just a few days. 

A one-off mission called Green Albatross- a modified Green Condor with a biome scanner on it- went up into a fairly high polar orbit of Earth for a contract, which due to the wide FOV on the scanner and the 2500km circular orbit covered the required 80% of the Earth's surface in only a few days.


Big fairing covering the second stage because MLI will definitely catch fire and explode otherwise.  It was also the first time I've used a hydrolox engine in a real launch; it performed exactly as expected and still had a generous fuel margin left when it had reached its final orbit.

Now let's play a game: name that speck!


Is it a) Ceres, b) Vesta, c) the Moon, d) Venus or e) just part of the skybox?



It's Ceres!

As the flyby continued, I checked just how much delta-V was needed to capture into an orbit- a little over 10km/s it turns out.


Another flyby contract completed, more science data gathered, now the contracts system wants an orbiter, lander and rover on Ceres, which will go in the 'never gonna happen' bin with the same contracts for Mercury. There are better places to go which are also easier to get to, like...


Venus! I had a crewed mission on the launchpad when a notification came up about science coming back from space high over Venus and had to switch to Orange Saucer 1 and do its mission instead. The design was flawed, as the failed launch of Orange Saucer 2 revealed, with the thrust from the SRB braking stage misaligned with the probe's COM resulting in an uncontrolled spin and the loss of most of the braking delta-V; however the probe's own thrusters were enough to capture into a very elliptical orbit and some fine-tuning allowed the lander to be dropped.



This is November 1959, a decade ahead of the first real landing on Venus by Venera 7. The heat warnings are nothing to do with residual heat from re-entry and entirely due to ambient heat from the near 700K temperatures on the surface, even at night near the poles. With the orbiter, atmospheric probe and lander contracts combined this mission pulled in almost 3 million funds!

Unfortunately, the orbit I ended up with meant that the lander touched down in a position which limited the communications back to Earth- it needed the orbiter probe overhead to relay the signal, but for part of the time the orbiter was in position Venus was between the orbiter and Earth plus the elliptical orbit meant that the orbiter was racing past at considerable speed so the window to transmit was short. Most of the science got transmitted before the batteries ran out, I think...


Close to 900 science so far, with more still trickling in as the orbiter continues to gather data long after the lander died.

Now we come to one of the weirdest contract completions yet:


So apparently just leaving this thing parked on the launchpad for a week completed that one? But the two previous missions that spent over a week in space each did not?

Liftoff went as planned, but something wasn't right with the ascent trajectory almost from the start of the gravity turn- it was going far too low far too soon- then a booster failed, then this happened:


With no other option available the crew bailed out, but things kept going wrong- Arkady simply didn't have the option to deploy his parachute, even though he clearly had one in his inventory, while Alexei's parachute did open only for him to be snatched by the Kraken and smashed into the ocean at a significant percentage of light speed. I was prepared to accept the launch failure with the crew parachuting down into the ocean, but two separate game fails after bailing out is just not on. I don't like to do this, but... REVERT!


Everything worked fine the second time round. It's possible that Arkady's Making History-spec Vintage suit is to blame for the parachute weirdness, however neither of them had a functioning jetpack despite my best efforts to patch that so their EVAs were spent clinging on to the doors for fear of floating away like Ann Horton in the previous flight. Once their crew science experiments and orbital flight contract were completed, they headed back down with an exploding heatshield as the only concern; my own fault for not putting enough ablator on it and something I'll fix for future missions.



And then I did it again...


I'm sorry, but when someone dangles nearly 5 million funds in front of me for something that seems fundamentally easy (build a "station" and crew it for a month) I just can't resist...


That screenshot is after I started building an unlimited class launchpad with no mass limit at a cost of 2 million funds. Six million will buy A LOT of KCT points especially with 50 freebies for returning a thousand science:


The R&D upgrade completed at some point too so I blew all the science I had saved up on a wide selection of new nodes including station parts, two blue-sky nodes, better rockets of all varieties and some probe-related parts too.

Next up is Blue Nougat 2, another sample return mission to the Moon:



Another dicey landing running on fumes, but this time in a brand new biome- Mare Orientalis. This is good news as the lander part of the mission can stay behind and gather more data while the return part brings back the sample, but unfortunately the landing was near the beginning of the Lunar night so it'll be almost 2 weeks before it gets any power.

As with the previous mission, returning wasn't too difficult with a decent fuel reserve (even though I forgot to decouple the drop tanks for quite a while after they were empty :blush:) but the invisible ocean and burning avionics happened again; maybe focussing on the same mission when it goes that far from Earth is tripping something up somewhere?



Sample returned, contract completed and the science gained was immediately spent on two more nodes- improved scrubbers and improved nuclear engines including the first NERVA rockets: 60 ignitions, almost 900s ISP and 250kN of thrust, but it weighs about 12 tons and liquid hydrogen has terrible fuel density and boils off ridiculously fast. I don't know if nuclear engines are actually any good in RP-1 or if high efficiency hydrolox is the way to go- will be interesting to find out.


Ending like I started- not a lot of funds or science but lots going on in the background including several hundred more KCT points spent. The upgrade to the Astronaut Complex kicked in just in time to have one of my veteran pilots trained and ready for the next Gemini flight along with a newbie engineer, who would otherwise have to repeat the Gemini mission training as it expires in only a few days. It's December 1959 and I feel fairly confident that a crewed Moon landing will happen, if not in 1960, then in 1961- all the necessary elements have been designed, tested and are in the build queue, now all I have to do is sort out the crew training and decide who gets to make those famous first small steps. I also have until then to fix those pesky jetpacks!

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/adaEAsW

Coming up next time: I don't actually know. Between spending a slightly scary amount of time playing Factorio at the weekend (wow, that game sucks you in and time passes at a terrifying rate) and spending most of this evening testing out various visual mods for RSS (EVO is like RSSVE but much more detailed and prettier, but has a couple of issues around city lights that I don't like and will probably disable those; Katniss' Cape Canaveral looks good especially with the extension mod that adds more buildings and such, but I didn't like how the stock space centre was just stuck down in the middle of the Kennedy Space Centre's car park so I dropped that one) I haven't actually done all that much KSPing since these screenshots were uploaded on Saturday afternoon. More Gemini flights, another sample return and another rover on the Moon will most likely feature, plus I'll be culling a load of old probes whose missions are completed in an attempt to resolve load time and performance issues by cutting down on the size of the save file a bit.

EDIT: I just realised that I accidentally deleted all the screenshots from the first ~38 or so of these posts along with the old 1.8.1 instance of KSP that I was using before updating to 1.11.1, and of course I realised this after emptying the recycle bin too  ;.;. At least they're still on Imgur, but not all of the screenshots I take end up on those albums...

Edited by jimmymcgoochie
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The fourth Yellow Biscuit is the last crewed flight not just of this year, but the entire decade! It's December 1959 and in a few short weeks it'll tick over to 1960. Strange that veteran Diana looks terrified but newbie Viktorija is thrilled, it's usually the rookie that's screaming.


Good news- I fixed the EVA packs to not use nitrogen! Bad news- they use hydrazine now!?



The heat shield exploded on impact with the ground, but other than that the mission went according to plan. Well, at least until...


I tried to plant a flag, but the flag immediately exploded (due to excessive G-forces, apparently); the game was waiting for the flag plaque dialog box to be closed, but the flag was gone so there was no dialog box- all I got was a dead-eyed, mouthless stare from Diana here and no controls would work so I had to recover her and the pod separately.


A good haul of science and Viktorija is staying for another three years, pushing her retirement date back to the first day of 1969. The orbital flight contract for this mission also paid out its 400k or so funds. As usual, I spent most of that on KCT points; not as usual, I put them into the VAB this time to get the rockets building a bit quicker:


That science was then spent on nodes for even more science experiments and upgraded communications, including X-band communications which are much more powerful than S-band (higher gain = longer range), but have very narrow beamwidth so are completely useless at short range, possibly even as far out as the Moon. A problem to worry about in a couple of years' time at the rate nodes are getting unlocked...


Now a bit of simulating- there's a nice planetary alignment coming up that will let me lob a probe at Saturn, with a tiny gravity assist from Jupiter that conveniently sends its trajectory right between Saturn's atmosphere and its rings:


This does come at a cost of almost 8km/s of delta-V, however thanks to the power of hydrolox it's feasible with a 350 ton launch and will reach Saturn in around 4 years. That Saturn flyby contract is starting to look rather interesting, what with its 15 year deadline and all.

A second probe that was originally meant for Saturn, but launching with a 150 ton rocket, was woefully short on delta-V; instead I sent it to Mercury, which was a bit of a  waste as its comms are overpowered and it uses RTGs instead of solar panels, but that was the only transfer window that I had available and this probe has all the latest science on it so I might as well throw it at something.


From one probe to another- at last Orange Bowl 4 arrives at Mars nearly a year after its sibling, snapping some nice pictures of the new and improved Mars textures thanks to EVO, a new visual mod for RSS that I only just discovered but already really like:


All four inner planets are in that picture, though Mars is quite hard to see at this range.


Science gathered and transmitting (slowly, due to degraded solar panels), this probe's long mission has at last paid off.

The launchpads are getting a bit busy at this point with three separate rockets either on a pad or rolling out, though the latest crewed mission is waiting for its crew to be trained up and will have to launch next year.


A routine satellite launch is made much more interesting by the new and improved appearance of Earth:


However at some point between installing and uninstalling various mods I've accidentally moved the KSC to an island a few miles off the Florida coast, but I don't know how I did it or how to put it back at Cape Canaveral, or indeed if it's still at Cape Canveral and the surrounding terrain has been changed instead.


Blue Nougat 3 heads up to land on the Moon and bring some samples back. Due to various timings overlapping I'll be bringing this one back in the next post, half way through a crewed orbital flight.

With some extra cash lying around I bought even more KCT points, which this time went into R&D to get that huge backlog shifting a bit faster. And then it was 1960!


What a decade it's been! Just ten years ago I was bumbling around Florida in a little plane while shooting military surplus anti-ship rockets into the sky, but since then those teeny little rockets have grown bigger, fatter, heavier and more powerful-er than ever; back then just getting above the Karman line was a challenge, let alone reaching orbit, but now there's a satellite in orbit of another planet, ten separate soft landings on the Moon's surface (including Blue Nougat 3 I think, spoilers :wink:) and crewed flights have gone from poking above the sound barrier to poking above the atmosphere to spending a week in space at a time, with more soon to come on that front as that Moon landing gets closer and closer.

I do have a bit of a quandary though: I could push ahead with the Moon landing at full speed, but at the cost of ignoring every available transfer window for the next year or so, or I could put more effort into interplanetary exploration which will yield huge quantities of science and fulfil many contracts but take up some of the build time that could otherwise be used making crewed vessels for the Moon landing and quite possibly delaying that until 1961. Do the opportunities offered by exploring other planets and the long-term benefits, mostly the huge quantities of science and free KCT points, outweigh the chance for a 1960 Moon landing and the gigantic contract payouts that would ensue? Vote now!

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/k1nEieh

Coming up next time: The sixties kick off with a major breakthrough- I fixed the EVA packs so they use stock EVA propellant and actually work! Sure, it's "not realistic" but I'll take fake but working over real but useless.


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Another design gets put through its paces, this time a double double mission: an orbiter and lander for both Phobos and Deimos all launched on a single rocket and transfer stage. New level 2 solar panels, the best science and communications technology unlocked so far and the huge efficiency of hydrolox make for a potent combination:



The node delta-V bar lies- there's more than enough fuel in the transfer stage to make this burn and enough in both probes to capture into orbit of Mars, make their way to their target moons and capture there too. Orbital velocities around those tiny Martian moons are stupidly low- as in single digit metres per second low- so the landers are powered solely by RCS thrusters to avoid accidentally hitting escape velocity with a single fat-fingered press of the Z key.

Now back to the Blue Nougat 3, which successfully landed on the Moon but once again used up all its propellant trying to not fall over; I really need to fix the landing leg suspension configurations to stop that happening, and put the antenna back on the lander stage since that went missing from this one so the data it gathers can't be sent back...


After launching the return stage back to Earth there was enough time to launch Yellow Biscuit 5 and complete the first part of its orbital flight contract before Blue Nougat 3 came down and re-entered:





And then back to Yellow Biscuit 5 to complete the second half of its contract:




Another combo mission now- two probes heading to the Moon: a scanner and science probe to sit in a polar orbit and map its biomes and get space high science, and a docking target probe which will go into a low retrograde orbit to get some space low science as well as allowing some rendezvous and docking practice before I do it for real with the Moon lander.


I'm running out of names at this point- a ramekin is a ceramic bowl used for cooking. I may need to resort to crockery if I make too many more 350t missions.

A couple of unremarkable contract sats went up, made some money, no need to bother with them. Much more important than that: I fixed the EVA packs!


OK, the screenshot is very dark, but they use EVA propellant again and Diana here was jetting all over the place making sure it all worked. I could have done this for Yellow Biscuit 5 but I forgot.


Another contract sat, a second Moon rover and that Saturn probe are all waiting for their turn to launch; a very large quantity of KCT points have been spent on R&D to get that research shifting, and the first month of 1960 has been a resounding success. Bring on the other 119 months of the sixties!

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/JKIvCbd

Coming up next time: Maybe I'll get on with sending a Gemini pod into orbit of the Moon? Or maybe I'll get distracted by something else instead, as usual :rolleyes:.

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Getting low on funds, so first up is another contract sat:


Then I accepted the Saturn flyby contract; with the window rapidly approaching, the probe ready to launch and the transit time of just 4 years when the contract allows 15, it makes perfect sense.


Next to launch is Orange Mug 2, another rover on the Moon:



A pretty precise landing less than 2km from the first waypoint. Spot the mistake...


The forward-facing probe core is upside down! I tried bodging the save file to rotate it the right way round but couldn't figure out what the four(?) different rotation numbers were for; in the end I fixed it like this:


These rover contracts all seem to put the waypoints right on the borders between biomes, in this case between Highlands and Midlands. This means more science!


More contracts accepted:



After spending most of the advance money on KCT points, then spending all of those on R&D, I noticed that the latest orbital rocketry node had finished researching and bought this:


High efficiency (for hypergolics at least), decent thrust, unlimited ignitions- this could easily replace a cluster of generic thrusters in the future. Probably not on the Moon lander though, as the engine bell is too big.

Orange Ramekin's combo mission was next to launch, sending a scanning and science probe into a high polar orbit of the Moon and a docking target and science probe into a low retrograde orbit of the Moon:



Retrograde because free return trajectories are retrograde and I plan to send all the crewed missions to the Moon on free return trajectories in case an engine fails or something similar. The difference in delta-V required for a prograde vs retrograde landing is negligible since the Moon rotates so slowly.

Oh look, another contract sat...


The RD-107 and -108 engines just got config upgrades too, though the -107's seems completely pointless since the stats are virtually identical but reliability is worse (a shocking 0.07% failure rate! The current config has a few thousand data units and has 0.01%); the -108 gets more thrust and slightly better ISP though which will be useful for these contract sats and indeed most of my current launch rockets which are now all using these engines.

After discovering that the design for Orange Saucer 1 had disappeared from the craft list I had to rebuild it from scratch for Orange Saucer 2, heading to Mars this time. Testing showed that it could make it to a low orbit of Mars with fuel to spare:


4km/s for the transfer burn, ~2.3km/s to capture means there's plenty of fuel to spare for the inevitable course corrections, shifting orbits to drop the lander and so on.

One last contract sat:


I then went and accepted two different commercial communications satellites- tundra and molniya orbits- without realising that only one can be accepted at once, so the molniya orbit contract immediately failed and wasted most of the advance money. Oops...

One last launch for today, in the form of Orange Tureen 1 which is heading to Saturn:



Dodging the rings nicely (it doesn't actually matter as they're not solid, but still), the transfer will take just over 4 years. I might drop the extra moons from this game for a while, they're not actually useful right now.

Final scores for today after more KCT points go into R&D:


That one contract failing tanked my reputation by about 25%, but I have no idea if reputation even counts for anything in RP-1 so it probably doesn't matter.

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/B1T9LQu

Coming up next time: It's getting close to the first crewed Moon mission, all I need to do is get the crew training sorted. I've chosen two pilots to do the necessary training for the lander can in order to land on the Moon- Diana Zonova and Alexei Ogorodnikov- so they'll be busy doing that for the first half of this year. Two Mars missions are on the build list too with the transfer window about 6 months away, more contract sats are waiting to be outfitted with their payloads and I've thrown every available node onto the research queue, even the pointless plane-related nodes which at this point can be researched in as little as 2.5 days.

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In a bid to scrape up every last bit of science available, Green Capercaillie (just a Green Condor with a pair of tiny science probes on top) was launched. The probes have no attitude control, but are powered by RTGs so it doesn't matter. One probe was dropped in a low orbit while the other was hurled as high as possible to stay in space high above Earth for as much of each orbit as possible; not easy when space high is nearly geostationary altitude!



Next to launch is Orange Mug 3, the third Moon rover so far:


Between the TLI burn and arriving at the Moon there was time for a quick contract sat launch, which revealed something rather interesting despite what I thought earlier, the KSC hasn't actually moved (or if it has it's by a couple of miles at most), but instead most of Cape Canaveral's terrain has vanished as you can see here:



That launch completed 2 contracts again, with two more accepted in their place.

Back to Orange Mug 3, where I learnt 2 things- first, the Orange Mug rovers can act as signal relays:


And second:


An apparently minor tweak to the design made it catastrophically unstable when the SRBs fired and there was no way to recover it. RIP Orange Mug 3...

And now for the main event! Yellow Crumpet 1 heads to the Moon to orbit, dock to the Orange Ramekin target and do some contracts. There were two ignition failures on the RL-10s for this flight, but neither were critical in any way- there are three engines, two can keep it pointing the right way if the third isn't working and they have 10 ignitions each.



A carefully tweaked orbit meant that rendezvous could occur in a single orbit after capturing, so Tim decided to head out for an EVA in space high over the Moon:


A delicate bit of docking later...


And it was time for Terri to do an EVA of her own:


Shortly after this image was taken I realised that the vessel was drifting away and spinning slowly, because the Yellow Crumpet had run out of RCS propellant. With that in mind, I called time on the mission and brought it back as soon as possible instead of waiting the 20 hours for the Lunar orbit contract to complete.

Re-entry was a bit dicey as the Gemini's avionics can only handle 3.5 tons but in this configuration it weighs almost 5 tons at re-entry; fortunately I had the pod roughly aligned before jettisoning the equipment section (which has its own avionics) and descent mode kept it pointing the right way. There was a big payout waiting for them when they got back:


Tim and Terri both levelled up to level 2 after this flight and both decided to stay for several more years:


Then I held the wrong key when buying KCT points and instead of buying just 5, I ended up buying about 90 in one click and spending virtually all the available funds in one go. A couple of contract sats made up for it though, so in the end it wasn't too disastrous:


Full album: https://imgur.com/a/CrOWFDZ

Coming up next time: Two words-


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We interrupt the Moon-related shenanigans for a brief flyby of Vesta by one of those probes I threw at it a few weeks ago and keep forgetting the names of...



Free KCT points from transmitted science plus bought KCT points from that contract money were split between VAB and lab:


Now, where was I?


...oh yes, I remember- MOON LANDING!



Had a failure on one of the RD-107 boosters and one of the RD-108 core engines on the first stage. They have failure rates of 0.06%... TestLite hates me, but due to the number of engines and the fact that both failures were fairly late in their respective burns it didn't make any difference.

After throwing the Yellow Scone 1 lander at the Moon, it was time for the Yellow Crumpet 2 to take the crew of 2- Diana Zonova and Alexei Ogorodnikov, two of my original four pilots- into space after it:



13MN of Soviet engines and two dozen SRBs are apparently a bit scary for even these two veteran pilots!


With the launches and TLI burns completed, I ran out of time to finish the mission so had to come back to it the next day, so there are two Imgur albums for this report.

A bit of orbital tweakery and no fewer than three incidents where the fuel cells glitched and stopped working so the two craft ran out of power, Gemini and lander came together over the Moon's surface and Diana EVA-ed over to the lander, saving RCS propellant for the post-landing rendezvous instead.



The braking burn was long and tedious, trying to reduce horizontal velocity without gaining too much vertical velocity or wasting too much fuel. The lander was overbuilt and had close to 2500m/s of delta-V in both the descent and ascent stages so there was some margin for error, unlike the sample return missions which have all been right on the fuel limits.


No throttle made for a pretty jolty landing as the engines had to reduce the velocity without stopping and going up again, but this also meant there was time to cancel out all remaining horizontal velocity before touching down to prevent the lander falling over.


TOUCHDOWN! Half way through 1960!


Earth looks so small from here...

After a couple of false starts caused by catastrophic CO2 buildup (because the scrubber in the lander was turned off, probably after the battery died, and I forgot to turn it on, so Diana's EVA suit ended up with close to 50% CO2 so she had to get back into the lander pretty quickly), Diana Zonova descended the ladder and took her- and my- first steps on the surface of the Moon!


Shoutout to Alexei who had to sit in the Gemini pod and watch. You'll get your chance, don't worry. Thanks to KAC translating 1960-185 into a usable date, I now know that this is 03-07-1960, the third of July. By the time Diana's EVA experiments were done, which took over two hours for the recently unlocked deep surface sample, the calendar had ticked over. Cue some half-hearted American propaganda, rather undermined by the fact that most of the rocket engines that sent both the lander and the Gemini out to the Moon are Soviet designs...

One good thing about 1.11 that is still relevant in RP-1 is the shiny gold helmet visor, which makes dramatic screenshots even better:


Experiments over, flag planted, photos taken, Diana had some time to "experiment with Lunar surface locomotion" or something like that. At least, that's the excuse she used to start jumping around the place grinning like a small child who ate too much sugar:


Alas, she couldn't stay long- the landing site was moving out of alignment with the orbiting Gemini above so once all the objectives had been ticked off it was time to go, much to Diana's dismay:



"Noooooooooo ;.;"- Diana

I launched quite a bit too early, must be my stock KSP instincts kicking in, but that meant there was plenty of time to sort out the intercept and make it as accurate as possible:



The lander did all the docking as it had plenty of propellant left. Once docked, Diana and the samples could be transferred over to the Gemini pod, the 20 hour Lunar orbit contract could be completed and Alexei finally got his Lunar EVA:


(He wasn't supposed to be wearing the future suit though, I should probably go through the entire list and make sure everyone uses the stock suit instead as all the EVA science works for that one)

Contract completed, the lander was undocked and deorbited before the Yellow Crumpet 2 headed for home:


It turns out that this particular setup with the Gemini can barely outrun the upper stage's RCS thrusters, I had a surreal moment when the return burn had completed for the Gemini and then the stage came flying past, still accelerating because its avionics still worked and it still had propellant for the RCS system. I'm sure it'll just disintegrate when it hits the atmosphere, right?

The return was pretty routine, but upon decoupling the service module I discovered a problem- due to the extra weight of the surface samples, the pod was slightly over the avionics limit even with an extra avionics unit added to augment its total avionics limit to 5 tons. Fortunately enough the UHF antenna burnt off pretty early, dropping the mass below the limit and allowing the pod to be stabilised to prevent any more damage. The ocean went weird again, totally invisible yet bouncing the pod with enough force to break the RCS pack off the nose- and nearly break the pod itself, now that would have been awkward!- before I fixed it (with a little bit of gravity hacking :wink:) and recovered the vessel.






Time to spend some of that money! R&D upgrade for 3 million, admin building for 57k (pointless, but it's so cheap it doesn't really matter) and a lot of part unlocks including the mighty F-1 engine, all the engines from the Proton rocket and all the space station parts, which were by some margin the most expensive overall at close to a million funds for the set; even the F-1's 460k seems reasonable in comparison.


And then I fat-fingered the buttons when buying KCT points and spent all my remaining funds by accident, leaving barely a thousand in the account; cue some hurried contract accepting!


And to finish the report, the first of ten Grey Hotdog visible imaging satellites was launched; the low-thrust second stage had some real difficulty making it to even a low Earth orbit and after decoupling I realised that a) the second stage had no avionics to deorbit and b) the satellite itself had no RCS propellant to control its attitude. These issues will be fixed on subsequent models.



Time to wrap this report up:


Full album 1: https://imgur.com/a/5awL3pN

Full album 2: https://imgur.com/a/n8N8ZRM

Coming up next time: Boots on Mars by the end of the decade? :0.0: Or maybe I'll just stick to something more sensible like sending that flotilla of probes and landers to Mars, some LEO contract and imaging sats and so on. Or maybe even another Moon landing!


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A short update this time, I've been working on Audacity instead (see my forum signature for the link :wink:).

A few contract sats:



A successful rover mission to the Moon to replace the failed Orange Mug 3:


The fuel ran out about 10m above the surface; fortunately those wheels could take the force without breaking and it was only 4km to the first waypoint from the landing site.

And following its construction, I decided to do a simulator run for Blue Nougat 1, the completely misnamed mission to send lander/orbiter pairs to Phobos and Deimos, to find the optimal transfer window; instead, this happened:



It happened a bit like this video, only a lot lower and a whole lot slower!

Turns out the avionics were upside down; flipping them the right way up fixed that issue and the ideal transfer time is in about 50 days. Now all I have to do is fix the name, since Blue-class rockets are 700 tons but this thing is under 350; after running out of plate-related names I've decided to rename the 4 booster, RD-107/108 powered 350t rockets differently to the older models with American engines and 6 boosters, so future Moon rovers won't be Orange Mugs any more.

Final scores:


Full album: https://imgur.com/a/PueKdhE

Coming up next time: A minor overhaul of vessel names is due, plus planning a second Moon landing and launching more Grey Hotdog imaging satellites. R&D will finish upgrading soon too so I can spend some of that science on shiny new nodes to sit on the end of the research queue for a couple of years.

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The commercial side of this space program continues with multiple contract satellite launches:



In between launches I took a run at making a space station, of sorts, and came up with this:


While it technically counts as a station, there's still some work to be done to make it usable for the contract and possibly beyond.

A second Moon lander, now with upgraded tech level 3 RCS and thrusters, joins the build queue; more importantly, the R&D upgrade has completed meaning it now has the level 3 buildings:


This upgrade unlocks tech nodes of up to 150 science, all of which are immediately added to the list with some science to spare:


New engines, new science tech, new capsules (including some which aren't actually real) and improved balloon tanks are just some of the new parts contained in the latest set of nodes, but it will be a while before they get researched even with the speed boost from the upgrade.

The Mars transfer window has opened so two missions are launched, both with new names to reflect the different booster configuration (which I should have done a while ago) compared to the old Orange Dinnerware series.

Orange Valley 1, a Mars orbiter and lander duo:


Orange Canyon 1, carrying an orbiter/lander pair each for Phobos and Deimos:


After completing the transfer burns and minor course corrections, everything crashed. Not just KSP but my entire PC froze and had to be turned off and back on, then it happened again as soon as I loaded the save and went to the tracking station. A lengthy discussion on Discord later and I've pulled a few mods out that aren't really needed, pulled parts out of some other mods, disabled SCANsat's visual maps (not the biome and altimetry maps, just visible light mapping) and downgraded the EVO textures from 64k to 32k and so far the RAM use has gone down a lot. I'm keeping an eye on it now to see if I can go back to the highest resolution for EVO without breaking anything again or if something else is to blame.

Another contract sat launch, which like all the Green Condor launches I'm doing nowadays completes two contracts in one go:


And now for a PSA:

Don't automatically assume that tooling tanks is a good idea and must be done every time. In some cases the cost of tooling just isn't worth it:



100k funds in tooling costs, for a 2k funds saving and just over 2 days saved on build time? Not worth it! I'm only going to use this tank once so it makes perfect sense to leave it untooled and take the minor build time/cost penalties.

With new tech nodes unlocked since the original Red Sunflower rocket was designed, and radically different mission parameters to the original's role of launching the Moon lander and Gemini into space, a new version (as yet unnamed) was made which ditches the many SRBs and RD-107s in favour of RD-253 engines as seen on the Proton, which are much more powerful. The second stage was also upgraded to use Proton engines to allow the "space station" on top to be put into a 250x250km orbit:



The finished design uses the Agena docking port to make docking a Gemini pod easier, comes with fuel cells for backup power and the Gemini on the top can deorbit itself from this altitude with no difficulty at all to act as an escape pod if necessary. I even put lights on it, just because I could.

The combined cost of adding this Yellow Eclair station to the build queue, as well as a Yellow Shortbread Gemini pod to try and do an orbital flight contract before docking to the station for that contract, meant I was once again critically low on funds with no guarantee that there would be enough left to even roll out a contract sat, so I took the contract for a Mars rover which had a generous advance and a ~6 year deadline:


Most of that advance then went into KCT points for R&D but there's enough left to keep operating until the contract sats go up. The current Mars window is closing so I have a couple of years to figure out a Mars rover before I need to launch it.


Things are currently looking good- the next Moon landing vessels are going to be built soon and a plethora of contracts have vessels being built to fulfil them as well.

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/AJKunMJ

Coming up next time: Moon landing number 2?



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It's update number fifty! Have I really been doing this for that long already?

The Mars flotilla now have reasonably precise capture burns plotted for their respective missions, as well as KAC alarms for when they hit Mars' SOI and for the nodes too.


Another Grey Hotdog photography satellite was launched, this time with all the necessary parts and propellants on the right stages so the second stage will deorbit itself and the satellite can point at the sun:



And now, due to the huge success of Moon Landing 1, here's Moon Landing 2- the sequel!




Despite some challenges relating to KCT time warping six hours past the circularisation burn for the lander and requiring some judicious use of the set orbit cheat to put it in a proper, but higher than intended, orbit, the mission went fine:



Now that's going to be an issue... The contract wants a landing in Mare Fecunditatis, but that's completely out of the plane of this orbit and also currently in the dark, and I can't wait for nearly 2 weeks for it to line up properly. The landing will instead aim for Mare Orientale on the far side of the Moon, which has already been visited by a sample return mission at some point but which will still yield some substantial science rewards- plus it's in daylight. The terrain was a bit scary looking but I found a nice flat bit to land on* and despite having to waste some fuel to aim at the flat bit still landed with over 200m/s of fuel to spare. Cue the Moontage!






* second time around- the first attempt landed on a slope and the lander fell over onto the hatch :blush:

It turns out that with all the extra weight in the suit- batteries, scrubber, oxygen, water, food- the EVA pack doesn't provide enough thrust to fly on the Moon, seriously curtailing exploration around the landing site. There was an interesting looking hill nearby but it was just too far to walk all the way over there and back for a single photo.

With nothing else to do on the surface once the science was gathered, it was soon time for Ann to rejoin Viktoriya and the Gemini in orbit, which involved quite a lot of ham-fisted control inputs to try and intercept the pod as it hurtled overhead.



There was even time for Viktoriya to do a lunar EVA before they headed back to Earth, completely forgetting about the crewed Moon orbit contract that I was supposed to be doing in this mission too.



This mission grabbed a few hundred science including transmitted crew and EVA reports, but failed at both contracts so another Moon landing will be needed for those. Ann and Viktoriya clearly enjoyed their flight, electing to stick around for several more years upon their return.



And now on to the mildly cursed Green Albatross 2, launching to do a SAR altimetry scan of Earth- first there was no antenna, then I fixed that but forgot to put the fairing back on, then I fixed that but the fairing wouldn't deploy and the payload was stuck inside, then eventually I fixed that too and everything worked as intended.



The SAR scanner has a relatively small field of view of 1.7 degrees, but at 7500km that covers a pretty big swathe of the Earth's surface. There are some brand new experiments on this probe too- the latest RPWS and magnetometer parts plus more new science in the avionics core. The contract to scan 80% of the Earth's surface only took a few days to complete and I expect full coverage fairly soon too.


A lot of free points from the Moon landing plus a good chunk of contract sat money went into KCT points for R&D.

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/yphq5fw

Coming up next time: The space station is next on the build queue with a Gemini pod set to be launched at around the same time. There will also be a third Moon landing, in the right place this time, in the near future but for that I require more funds to build the craft to actually do the mission. Oh, and the first probe to reach Jupiter will be arriving in its SOI soon, but that SOI is so huge that it'll be there for several hundred days!

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Today's first launch sent the Orange Canyon V on its way to Venus; a two-part orbiter and lander, it should complete two contracts and net a healthy reward in both funds and science data.



With a few more contract sats launched to keep farming funds, I turned my attention to improving the booster used for the Moon lander and Gemini- with new engines available it was time for an overhaul. The first stage boosters were changed from RD-107s plus many SRBs to the newly unlocked RD-253 (used by the Proton first stage) which produces a bit less thrust than an RD-107 and 2 or 3 Algol 2 SRBs, but the second stage was swapped to a single J-2 engine which made the whole thing substantially lighter and so the TWR was OK off the launchpad. Using the J-2 also means the second stage can be reused for part of the TLI burn, saving fuel in the upper stage for doing the rendezvous around the Moon and other such things. Despite getting the wrong fuel mix in the second stage, the simulations showed that the new design was substantially better than the old Red Sunflower and, best of all, would be cheaper and faster to build too- once the new fuel tank had been tooled at least.




Tooling costs for the new second stage tank were about 20k funds, which is quite a lot for tooling but the cost was reduced a lot by using an existing tank diameter- 5 metres, like the first stage. The new Red Orchid booster was named and new versions of both Yellow Scone and Yellow Crumpet were made to use the new hardware and added to the KCT "plans" list.

I've just figured out that KCT plans are essentially what I've been doing with all those *clone this* rockets on the bottom of the build queue, so have added some commonly used designs: Green Condor and Grey Torus, both with full payloads to save faffing around with them each time; Yellow Scone and Yellow Crumpet, for future Moon landings which will continue as long as there's science to be gained and contracts to be done; Yellow Shortbread, to farm orbital flight contracts and possibly space station related contracts too once the Yellow Eclair launches; and the Grey Hotdog imaging satellite.


Say goodbye to those clonable rockets, they've been replaced and a surprising amount of funds recovered by scrapping them.

But then I noticed that I'd unlocked a brand new orbital imaging part which didn't need samples to be returned, so set about modifying the Grey Hotdog to use this new part instead. It's twice as expensive, a ton heavier, but...


ten thousand science...

I'm sorry, what?













is it working again?



Am I on mute? No, I'm back-

Sorry about that, technical difficulties.

Well, would you look at that- Cape Canaveral is back!


Remember that probe I threw at Jupiter aaaages ago? Well, it finally got there. Jupiter's SOI is absolutely ENORMOUS! The probe is several days in, travelling at several kilometres per second almost straight down, but it's nearly 50 million kilometres high over Jupiter and will take most of a year to get thrown out again. Science is being gathered flat out, with data being sent back as fast as the limited power supply allows; all the experiments can be run while still recharging the batteries, but the antenna will drain all the power in a couple of hours so has to be used sparingly.


That tiny speck to the top left of the probe is Jupiter...

A course correction for Orange Canyon V proved particularly troublesome as it had some kind of phantom force throwing the trajectory off, resulting in a lot of wasted fuel; not enough to jeopardise the mission, but enough to be annoying.


And then it was 1961!


It's been an interesting year- two Moon landings, interplanetary orbiters and landers dispatched to Venus and Mars, a flyby probe hurled at Saturn, two rovers on the Moon's far side (plus a third that crashed) and more contract sats than I care to mention.


The new Grey Burger, the replacement for the Grey Hotdog using that mega orbital imaging part, has been added to the build queue with several satellites planned to get that science data faster, preferably before the solar panels get worn out and fail. The next launches will be the Yellow Eclair space station and a Yellow Shortbread Gemini mission to complete an orbital flight contract then attempt to dock to the station and stay there for a month. Yellow Crumpet 4's name has been corrected too, I was previously calling it Yellow Crumpet 3 but that one flew on the last Moon landing.

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/jxu6tma

Coming up next time: space station shenanigans. The third Moon landing will be happening soon, but I don't know if it'll make the next update or not; probably not.

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Grey Tet X has arrived at the Moon, capturing into a 7500km circular polar orbit to do SAR scans and gather science:


The next notable launch is the Yellow Bagel space station. While the station itself isn't much to look at and won't actually do anything, it'll bring in substantial revenue from the contract to launch it and further contracts to send a crew to it for a while.



The station launched empty, but the next launch- a Yellow Shortbread- will rectify that after it completes its own orbital flight contract:


It's the first flight for Elvira  and Elvira, and yes, I did put them together just because they had the same name... They do an EVA together before heading to the station for a 30 day stay, smashing the crewed duration record in the process.



Apologies for the horribly shiny ocean in these next images, I think the scatterer settings need fixed.




A profitable mission indeed, making 2 million funds in total and giving both Elviras a taste of orbital flight- they're both eager to stay for more and will be sticking around for about another 3 years.

Continued science transmissions from the Moon and Jupiter meant there were loads of free KCT points to spend, plus 2 million funds to buy more; as usual, they went into R&D to keep that backlog of research moving.


Full album: https://imgur.com/a/5Qus6wE

Coming up next time: A lot of simulator runs as I build a new launch rocket powered by the mighty F-1, upgrade the Yellow Scone lander to a two-seater configuration and start working on a possible Moon base; if two pods stapled together can really be considered a "base" that is...


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A bonanza of simulator runs in this update as I try to expand my catalogue of launch rockets to include something a bit, well, BIGGER! Even my biggest rocket so far can't manage 50 tons to LEO, but that's going to have to change.

But first, an important lesson- make sure you put your launch clamps on the stage AFTER your engines, or this happens:


Dropping 1500 tons of rocket on the launchpad understandably didn't do the launchpad any favours.


This is a 1500 ton rocket using three F-1 engines on the first stage and two J-2s on the second. Total payload capacity is 65 tons, or 75 tons but that pushes it over the 1500t limit so would only be able to use an unlimited class launchpad.



Tooling costs on this thing are pretty steep though- a brand new and very large 7.5m balloon tank will cost 300k funds on its own plus the interstage and fairings in that size and the avionics to handle the weight.



The Red Orchid, my current largest launcher, will be quite a bit cheaper to launch but can only handle 45 tons of payload. This new rocket, named Red Cottage (Red because it's in the 1500 ton bracket and Cottage to start a new series which is different to the Red Flower series I already have), could become a workhorse launcher for larger payloads.

All that tooling, plus buying up all the Apollo-related parts that just unlocked (and pretty much every other part I didn't already own) has eaten into the financial reserves quite substantially:


But I have a plan to get more, and it involves a Moon base:


Fine, it's a Mercury-era capsule stuck to an Apollo-era capsule, but it ticks all the boxes for being a 'base' and can conceivably land on the Moon if I can get it there. Not on this simulator run though- it's still going at 600m/s in that picture!

Why a Moon base, you say? Well...


5.4 million funds, that's why!

Next up, a load of simulations for a probe that can reach orbit of Vesta and Ceres; the delta-V requirements are pretty similar for both as Ceres is a bit further away but has a slightly higher orbital velocity so less braking is required to capture into orbit.


Those delta-V requirements are still pretty huge though- a 6.3km/s capture burn at Vesta is well above what I can do with the solid motor and generic thruster combo I'm testing here, which is itself a distant descendant of the probes I sent to the Moon.

New plan, and it involves liquid fluorine :0.0:


Ripping the LR87s off the Blue Chocolate rocket and swapping a single F-1 and some Algol 2 solid boosters in their place, then using one huge J-2 powered second stage and a H2/F2 Agena configuration for the final capture burn gives me a staggering 20km/s of vacuum delta-V on the launchpad, which should be enough to make orbit of either Ceres or Vesta and possibly to land on either of them too.

The only issue is that the best transfers for both Ceres and Vesta are in nearly 2 years' time:



Now back to my quest for a better launch rocket. The Red Cottage was good, but how about if I add Moar Boosters!TM?



125 tons to LEO, not bad at all.

So, how about if I add even moar Moar Boosters!TM? Swap all the F-1 engines to M-1 hydrolox engines, with some semi-asparagus staged drop tanks using dinky little LR87-LH2 engines to offset their weight.


This technically works, but the price is getting ridiculous. One long conversation on the RP-1 discord later and I've discovered that I'm going about this backwards- the M-1 is a sustainer engine best suited to the core stage, while the boosters should use F-1s for their greater thrust and better fuel density.


Two test runs followed- one with 140 tons of payload, the other with just about every fuel tank tweaked as far as it could go within the existing toolings and with a payload of 155t:



OK, 155t is pushing it a bit, but the new White Cumulus A (140t) and B (155t) will be my heavy lifter rockets from now on. All I have to do is tool the avionics needed to handle their mass- the B variant weighs over 2600t on the launch pad but I'm setting the avionics up to handle 3000t so they can be reused in the future if necessary.

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/k6C6Qdw

Coming up next time: A real launch, perhaps? I've launched one real rocket since Thursday and that was just a boring contract sat. The next major mission will be the third Moon landing with a slightly improved lander; either that or it always had that science core with some extra experiments on it and I just wasted it by not turning any of them on...


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Yet again, lots of simulations in this report and not that many "real" launches.

First up, a test run with that Moon base and my latest heavy lift rocket:


Launch successful, but the game decided to close itself before I got all the way to the Moon; there was enough fuel in it though.

With close to 2 million funds lying around, it was time to spend most of it. As usual, on KCT points for R&D:


A simulated landing on Ceres didn't quite go to plan, but not just because of poor piloting...


Now for an illustration of the tyranny of the rocket equation:


A tiny probe, weighing about half a ton in total, requires nearly 700 tons of rocket underneath it to get to Jupiter and stay there.

qv2CDwG.pngGetting into an orbit is more than feasible, but getting into an orbit that might eventually meet up with one of those moons will take a bit more work; there's also the danger of Jupiter's mighty radiation belts which could fry the probe's electronics, though I don't know yet how RO and Kerbalism work in that respect... 

Now for a real launch- Yellow Scone 3 heads up to make its way to the Moon, where it will be joined in due course by Yellow Crumpet 4.



Before the Earth rotated back around to allow Yellow Crumpet 4 to launch after it, there was just enough time to launch the first Grey Burger satellites with the ludicrous planetary photography experiment on it:



More about these later...

Now it's time for the crew of two to head out to the Moon. There are two contracts (still) waiting out there for them to complete so this mission could be very profitable indeed if I actually complete them this time.



It was only after the second Grey Burger sat launched that I realised the fatal flaw in the design...


Data is generated at 30kB/s, but transmitted to the regular ground stations at a paltry 500B/s meaning the ~19 terabytes of data will take literally centuries to get sent back... Clearly this design is non-viable, so I have two options- use a sample return capsule to physically return the data in a science core's hard drive, or launch with two S-band dishes to a near-geostationary orbit and transmit the data  back at full speed that way. Right now I'm looking at sending three of these sats up on one single, very large, launch rocket and then deploying them with a relatively even spacing to try and ensure they all have a signal all of the time. There's some kind of trickery that can be done with omni antennas using X-band communications, but that would require a proper geostationary communications network first which I'm not particularly interested in making.

Orange Canyon V arrived at Venus, but like its predecessor the positioning of the planets is completely wrong to deploy the lander- it would land in the dark and with Venus blocking the orbiter's signal back to Earth for most of the time it was overhead and able to relay- so it'll hang onto it for a while until the situation improves. In the meantime, the orbit covers space high and space low so there's plenty of science to be gained.


And the Venus orbital probe contract completes too:


Now here's where things get a bit technical, as I delve into the wonderful world of fuel tanks...


Here's the Red Cottage launch rocket I made a couple of days ago, complete with 75t reference payload:


And here's the same rocket, but with the balloon tanks swapped to integral structures:


The delta-V goes down a bit due to the higher dry mass and reduced fuel capacity that integral tanks have, but the cost also comes down a bit and the build time drops by a third; the  change in total mass is irrelevant at this point as tweaking the utilisation of the balloon tanks would wipe that out.

Integral structure tanks are a bit cheaper and a lot faster to build, but they hold less fuel and are heavier which reduces delta-V. For this particular rocket it's unlikely to make a huge difference to its capacity but will make a big difference to its utility by shortening the build times noticeably.

Now for something even bigger- the brand new White Stratus B, my biggest launcher to date!

The original, with reference payload of 155t on the top:


And three variations with the (red and white) balloon tanks gradually swapped out for (black and white) integral tanks:




Swapping all the tanks, the price reduction is small but noticeable, but the build time reduction is pretty dramatic- from 109 days to just under 63. Unfortunately the delta-V also drops by 400m/s meaning the pure integral tank version wouldn't make it to orbit with this payload. Solutions include using a balloon tank for the second stage only (makes a small difference to delta-V and cost but a bigger difference to build time), stretching the stages to maximise burn time (but this reduces TWR and so increases gravity losses), using the newly researched J-2S configuration for the second stage engines (no down sides to that, it's cheaper and has better performance in all respects than the current config) or reducing the payload mass. This last point is particularly interesting, as while 155t for 87k funds and 109 days is good, launching, say, 145 tons for 74k funds and 62 days is much better in terms of cost per ton and build time per ton.

I have ample funds available to tool any combination of tanks I like for these rockets, so will do some additional work to see what's the best combination and move forward with that in future. It might also be worth reworking some existing rockets to reduce their build cost and times, especially the Green Condor and Grey Torus which get launched regularly.

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/rl9dYAn

Coming up next time: I need to finish that Moon mission! It's half way through (the crew are orbiting the Moon and so is the lander) and I got distracted by fuel tanks and data transmission rates elsewhere...


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I suppose I should finish that Moon mission, Arkady and Gloria have been out there for a while now...


The first rendezvous wasn't spectacularly accurate, but 600 metres is still perfectly doable with the EVA jetpack and the relative velocity was pretty low. Unfortunately, all that waiting around hadn't helped with the whole "land in Mare Fecunditatis" thing:


The dark area with the marker in the middle is Mare Fecunditatis, where I'm supposed to be landing, but it's considerably out of plane right now. The good news is there's still a good amount of fuel in the transfer stage...

One plane change and deorbit burn later and the lander was hurtling at terrifying speed just over the surface. I spent a very large proportion of the braking burn actually gaining height in order to avoid hitting the terrain at lethal velocity, and to manage the landing site too.


With the SCANsat biome overlay switched on, the target biome is the yellow bit. Landing is a balancing act- slow down too much and you descend more rapidly, but burn upwards to reduce your descent rate and you're losing delta-V to gravity. This design has excess fuel for landing though so I can afford to waste a bit in order to land in the right place at a safe speed.


Landed with ample fuel to spare. The ground around here is nice and flat with a slope angle of less than one degree for much of it, so there was no danger of the lander tipping over this time. It's the 18th of May, 1961, so there's a bit of a gap since the last Moon landing as I had to focus on other missions instead (and they're pretty expensive!).

The usual Moon landing activities followed- plant flag, salute flag, get picture of Earth, get science and stuff... But this time I had to stay on the surface for 36 hours in total for the contract.



And once the contract had ticked off its required time, it was time to head back into orbit and attempt a rather tricky out of plane rendezvous with a vessel going at one mile per second.


The trajectory I ended up with was far from ideal- very sub-orbital, coming in at a relative speed of over 600 metres per second and with barely enough fuel to make it work:


But I made it work. More or less...


It was at this point that the lander's fuel ran out completely, making actually docking the two vessels together rather challenging, but I got there in the end through just ramming them together until they stuck. With no fuel left, the lander will continue to orbit the Moon; this is fine though as there's a TV camera on board which can continue to gather science until the fuel cells run out of fuel to keep the batteries charged.

The return trip was uneventful, right up until I separated the service module too late and ended up with it stuck to the back of the pod:


Once that had exploded away, everything went fine; well, except for the whole "landing in the middle of the Sahara desert" thing, but I'm sure we can scramble some helicopters to pick up the pod and its crew.





A very successful mission indeed- huge contract payouts, plenty of science and some substantial retirement delays; over 2000 days for Arkady, a new record!

So of course, I accepted the same contracts again, but this time they're worth even more than before. This has led to a rather unusually large surplus of funds:


And now back to the simulator (sorry...) for a fully integral tanked version of Red Cottage, named Red Bungalow:


75 ton payload to LEO confirmed. The tooling costs for this are a bit steep, but I can reuse the same parts for an integral tanked version of White Cumulus to put double the payload into orbit so it's money well spent.


After testing out the newly named White Stratus with a payload of lead ballast, it was time to test it with something more realistic- a trio of imaging sats, which in this case were built to deploy into near geostationary orbits. I have since discovered that you can actually aim a dish antenna at a specific target rather than just at Earth, so I won't actually be doing this in reality, but the test is still valid.


At close to 100 metres high, this thing is taller than the VAB!


Final scores for today. More contract sats are rolling out; these will be some of the last Green Condors and Grey Toruses (Torii?) because I decided to make fully integral structure versions of them to reduce the build cost and time; they had more than enough delta-V as it was so it makes no difference to their performance. More on that in the next update.

Yellow Doughnut is my Moon "base", currently at the end of the build queue but liable to be moved up since the interplanetary probes won't be going anywhere for a year or so.

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/12d3Ka1

Coming up next time: More rocket redesigns, more simulations and some waterfalls.

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As promised, waterfalls! That plus a near-dawn launch made for a very pretty picture indeed:



I tried adding this earlier but forgot to actually add Waterfall itself, so I only had the configs; if you're wondering why the last launch of the previous update looked a bit weird with the lack of engine plumes from those F-1s, that's why.

After doing all this design work for a next generation duo of contract sat rockets, I realised that I could easily add moar more boosters, lengthen the second stage a bit and add a much bigger payload. The result is Orange Cliff- it carries 2800 units of payload (Grey Torus is 'only' 1000) and has more than enough delta-V to get to a tundra orbit with it:



Clever re-use of existing toolings means that I only had to tool the extended service module tank on the top, making this a very cheap addition to my fleet of rockets. It's also pretty cheap to build and will complete in under 11 days, only marginally slower than the old all balloon tank Grey Torus.

And now for something a bit, well...



The name, Yellow Cupcake, doesn't really do it justice- this is a 103 metre high, 2600 ton behemoth which carries both a Gemini pod and a Moon lander in one, with a chunky hydrolox stage to throw both out to the Moon, capture into orbit and then bring the pod back home again. Launching in one go eliminates the problem of trying to rendezvous in orbit and offers a significant cost and time saving over doing two separate launches, but at 120k funds and 110 days it's neither cheap nor fast to make.

With all that tooling over and done with, it was time to splash the cash on some upgrades!


Besides the improved range, this upgrade also allows unowned objects (ie asteroids, and maybe comets too?) to be spotted and gives the three DSN stations X-band receivers which are substantially more powerful than S-band, at the cost of having much narrower beamwidth on any dish that uses it; it's no use for geostationary relaying, but will be excellent for long range communications from distant worlds.


Two queues good, three queues better!

Here's the first Green Condor Mk2 launch, using the much cheaper integral tanks all round and complete with a subtly different paint scheme too:


It also uses an RL10 hydrolox upper stage engine instead of the RD58 being used previously as the RL10 is being used in many other places and can only benefit from extra data units.


And that's it for now. I'm saving up to add KCT points into the new third build queue once that upgrade is done, but will soon have to think about saving up the six million(!) required for the next R&D upgrade. All that science is just sitting there, unable to be used.

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/Bgz8moG

Coming up next time: Back to Venus to deploy that lander. Spoiler alert- it didn't go entirely according to plan...

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With the discovery that you can point a dish antenna at another craft or even a planet, rather than just at Earth, it was time to launch some stupidly overpowered relays into a fairly high orbit of Earth to provide enough data bandwidth for those pesky imaging satellites. I forgot to give these proper rainbow code names, so they're just called Super Relay 1, 2 and 3 :rolleyes:



Is having 8 dishes overkill? I don't think it is- two will point at the other relays leaving six to communicate with other craft; there's an omni antenna inside the probe core to send the data down to the DSN stations too.


A pleasingly symmetrical pattern of communications. I didn't make them exactly match their orbits, but they should stay put for a good long while as they take about 30 hours per orbit.

Now that I have that up and running, it's time to put the Grey Kebab imaging sats into orbit to start gathering that immense quantity of science. Here's a test flight just to check that everything works as intended:


And now, back to Venus to deploy the lander part of that mission. Things didn't go entirely to plan as decoupling the lander also bumped its periapsis up from ~50km to ~120km, meaning it took a second attempt before it eventually re-entered. The Venusian atmosphere is absolutely brutal- peak deceleration was immense as the little capsule slammed into the soupy air and scrubbed off its velocity at a frightening rate.


50.1 gees? Ouch...

The rest of the descent was pretty nominal (except for the drogue chute breaking, but that's because I had physics warp on and that tends to cause weird things to happen with parachutes) and the lander touched down safely in the... Midlands? But that's where the last lander landed too! Less science = bad, but it's probably for the best as I barely managed to transmit the data for the reduced number of working experiments as it is and even then I turned off the magnetometer to save power for transmitting everything else.


At last, the VAB finished upgrading to level 3 (and with a little bit of save file hacking, so did the SPH) meaning I can now build three rockets at a time and at a faster rate than before. KCT points were immediately added to this new production line to get it moving at a useful rate; it's a lot slower than the other two, but will do nicely for contract sats and the like.



The first Grey Kebab was launched shortly after. It's essentially identical to the old Grey Burger but the solar panels have been upgraded and there are now three X-band dishes on top instead of a hexagonal solar panel:


With the dishes pointed at the relays and vice versa, this thing will continue to transmit at full speed for the duration of its operation.

The astronaut corps are getting restless. They haven't been to space for a while and instead have been stuck in the classroom recently doing mission training. Time to rectify that situation with the first launch of the new Yellow Shortbread Mk3, a fairly simple Gemini setup with plenty of delta-V to do orbital flight contracts and to dock with the Yellow Eclair "space station" for a while as well.

But not this time...


Less than five seconds off the pad and an engine failed. While the other engine alone can still accelerate the rocket upwards (it has a TWR over 2 with both engines on) it has no real hope of making it to orbit. I let it pitch over towards the sea a bit before triggering the abort sequence- and discovering that the fairing around the pod wasn't set to deploy when abort was triggered so the pod got stuck inside! Fortunately for Elvira and Elvira, the second stage avionics were able to trigger the fairing to deploy and they landed safely mere minutes after departing.


That wasn't what I had in mind, but at least the crew are safe and cleanup teams are out picking up the debris.

Weirdly, Elvira and Elvira seemed to enjoy that flight judging by their six month retirement extensions:


Sadly this did count as "a mission" for them so they've lost their mission training. It'll be up to someone else to fly the next flight, now with corrected abort procedure, and it'll need to be pretty soon to fulfil the contract deadlines in just four months' time.


Another Yellow Shortbread Mk3 is on the build queue now and with mission training completing soon there will be plenty of options for the crew. The Yellow Doughnut Moon base is nearing completion and will be sent out to the Moon in due course to await its first crew.

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/3q4698r

Coming up next time: The reckless contract acceptance spree to end all reckless contract acceptance sprees!

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Project "Ten Thousand Science" continues with the launch of the second Grey Kebab satellite. Two more are planned, but the relays have the capacity for a fifth if I want to speed things up a bit.


Now... The next level of R&D costs 6 million and I have about 350k. This calls for-







Some of these are pretty easy- a space station around the Moon and a Moon landing with a bit of rover exploration (I later discovered that the rover exploration waypoints are in the Moon's lowlands, which is where the other Moon landing contract I have wants me to land too, and I also have a contract for a 30 day stay in a Moon base...); but others are going to be tricky- a Mercury orbit will require a huge delta-V budget and with no atmosphere to aerobrake and parachute with the landing will require even more fuel.

I also took radar, biome and SAR scanning contracts for both Venus and Mars, requiring a little bit of design work to convert an existing long range probe into a scanning satellite:



Both Venus and Mars are well within range of this thing (it's actually overbuilt for both), but when I tried to send it to Mercury...


The 10km/s capture burn shows just how difficult it will be to get to Mercury, maybe this is why real missions use one or more gravity assists from Earth or Venus instead of just going straight there.

All this contract accepting means I can now afford that upgrade:


Grey Kebab 3 launched a little while later. Everything went fine, until:


With a failure rate of just 0.3% and nowhere near its rated burn limit this wasn't expected at all, but the other engines kept working, controlled the decidedly lopsided thrust with their gimbals and managed to reach the desired orbit.

The very next launch- the Yellow Doughnut Moon base- also suffered an engine failure, this time in its M-1 first stage core engine; fortunately this engine has two ignitions so could be restarted, otherwise that would have been a very expensive failure.


(Sorry the picture is so dark, the UI wasn't co-operating and I couldn't turn up the ambient lighting as I usually do for night stuff)


This launch was doubly troublesome as the fairings repeatedly caused massive explosions when they decoupled.


A little bit of save file editing to reduce the fairing separation force later...


It's parked in orbit for now as by this point it was too late in the day to send it out to the Moon.



Spoiler alert- I forgot about it :blush:

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/PYApmuw

Coming up next time: A terrifying encounter with an asteroid...

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After the botched launch of the last Yellow Shortbread mission, the replacement had quite a lot riding on it- two contracts and the possible future of the entire launch vehicle. Fortunately for all concerned, it went without a hitch,


Right up until I realised that a) I had insufficient fuel to rendezvous with the Yellow Eclair space station, and b) even if I could have done it, there's no docking port on this Gemini pod. Oops... With that, it was time for newbies Vicky and Dave to come back down; I even forgot to give them their first EVAs, but they didn't seem to mind.



Was there something I was meant to be doing right now?






Oh yeah, that Moon base parked in LEO.

Right. Better get that out to the Moon.


And with mere fumes left in the tanks, it's down. The reason for the excessive fuel use is simple- with a bit of orbital finagling, I managed to land this base about 10km from the waypoints for the lunar landing and rover exploration contract, and conveniently it's also in the Lowlands biome where the other lunar landing contract wants me to go. TL;DR version, I can send a crew (and a rover) here and do three very valuable contracts in one go.

Speaking of rovers, I figured that actually designing one would help; interestingly, but perhaps not particularly usefully, the design I came up with can actually fly on the Moon using its RCS:


And now to the main event: probe vs asteroid.


This is Blue Castle, the first of the Blue Chess series of high delta-V probes. Initially I planned to chase after an asteroid in solar orbit, but it turns out that there are asteroids spawning inside Earth's SOI on a regular basis (but I ignored them) and plenty more spawning quite close by on trajectories that conveniently send them blundering into Earth's gravity well. One such space potato was nicely positioned on its way into the system, with a reasonably low periapsis of 2500km or so, so I targeted that. It's class E, but I'm not trying to push it around anywhere so it doesn't matter if it's a bit big.


See, I was expecting an asteroid like the stock KSP asteroids- fairly chunky, but still sub-20 metre diameters.

I was wrong...



Very, very, VERY wrong...


As soon as I got into physics range-



That thing is at least 3km wide!

Look very carefully at the following image; open it in a new tab if you have to. Can you see a tiny white speck in the middle of the picture?


That's the probe...

Magic trick time!


Abracadabra, and...


BAM! Gigantic space potato appears out of nowhere. Seeing that thing suddenly spawn in the first time I approached it was genuinely terrifying...

Apparently RSS asteroids are just a tiny bit bigger than stock ones! And heavier too:


68.5 GIGATONNES of rock, just casually bombing through Earth's sphere of influence.


Contract completed. See you later, gargantuan space pebble, now sporting a tiny probe somewhere on its surface. I couldn't actually find the probe after it had docked to the asteroid, it was so small.

Final scores:


Plenty of funds lying around just waiting to be spent. Some of it will go towards the next asteroid-related contract- a sample return mission, Hayabusa-style!

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/9ADTyDz

Coming up next time: MARS!

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Grey Kebab 4 launched, suffered an engine ignition failure on one RL-10, but reignited it and made it to orbit with no issues:



At last, Orange Canyon 1 arrives at Mars after about a year of flight time. Mars plus EVO looks niiiiiice...



One contract down after capturing into orbit. Now for the tricky part- deploying the lander on the dark side of Mars, both in terms of sunlight and signal back to Earth. Point probe retrograde, drop to suborbital trajectory, point prograde, decouple lander, point prograde again, restore orbit; sounds simple, but it's a lot harder with no proper controls! 

The lander dropped into the atmosphere and picked up the atmospheric probe contract, before parachuting to the surface and landing safely (with a bit of rolling downhill at first), completing the lander contract too:



Landing on Mars with just a parachute, you need a pretty big chute to catch what little atmosphere is available and slow to a survivable speed.


Landing complete, science gathering, solar panels trying their best to keep the batteries charged during the day, all that's left is to transmit the science back via the orbiting probe above. This is problematic though, as due to the landing site there's a significant part of the Martian day where the orbit doesn't go over the lander, and a significant part of the Martian day where the orbit does go over the lander but Mars itself gets in the way of the signal.


The batteries on this thing should be enough to last for weeks, especially with the solar panels topping them up a bit each day when there's no data transmission to drain it. It might take a while, but hopefully all the data will be sent back eventually.

Next up, a one-off launch using a modified Grey Torus rocket to send an advanced biological sample capsule into space high over Earth, then bring it back down safely. 


The mission went without a hitch, except for some low battery related issues right at the end, but when the sample return pod splashed down I got this:


Eh? Asteroid sample return?

I have no idea how that happened, but it's a glitch in my favour so I'm not going to worry about it too much.

While I was focussed on Mars, the R&D upgrade completed! This meant that I could immediately stick every possible node on the research queue, but I've still got nearly a thousand science left over and the next upgrade is 9 million funds...


Well, I have over 7 million funds right now, so I could just save up a bit more and upgrade R&D again?

Nah... It's time for the biggest KCT points spree I've ever done!


Over 6 million funds' worth of points added to the freebies I got from the Mars mission (so far) makes 350 KCT points. 250 went into R&D but a hundred went into the VAB, primarily to boost the third queue.

The final launch of today's update is the first Yellow Shortbread v4, using a single NK15 engine with small SRBs to help it off the launchpad and equipped with a docking port on the nose to dock with the waiting Yellow Eclair space station. Newbies Brian and Daniel got their first taste of orbital flight this time.



They're still there now. I was looking for more contracts related to the station, but there don't seem to be any. It's not clear what exactly they're supposed to be doing up on that station but with plenty of supplies left over they should be fine to stay put for a while.

Final scores:


Full album: https://imgur.com/a/rDTmmyY

Coming up next time: It's getting close to the super Moon landing combo mission with a targeted landing, a landing and rover exploration and a surface base stay all riding on this one launch. It'll also be the first use of the Yellow Cupcake, launching the Gemini and the lander in one go, and the first use of the upgraded 2-crew lander; though thinking about it now, I could probably do with sticking some solar panels on that lander so it doesn't use up all the fuel cell fuel during the 30 day stay on the Moon's surface and leave the crew stranded with no power.

KSP 1.11.2 just got released, but after reading the patch notes I don't see anything that this save would benefit from and trying to update this heavily modded copy of KSP is something I don't plan to do again any time soon, least of all for a minor patch.

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Five days after its launch, the Yellow Pastry rover arrives at the Moon. There's a small problem with the alignment of its orbit (it's nowhere near the target landing site) but that's where the Bon Voyage autopilot should kick in.


Firing all five SRBs at once was a recipe for catastrophic spinning (probably due to misaligned thrust) but firing them sequentially in a 2-2-1 pattern mitigated that issue and the rover landed safely on the Moon's surface; safely, but nearly 1500km from its destination...


With a top speed of a blistering 1.3m/s in autopilot mode it might take a while to get there, especially since it's about to enter the two week long lunar night, but I'm not in a hurry- all the astronauts' mission training just expired so I need to wait a few months for that to be ready again anyway.

After the success of the Phobos mission, its twin arrived at Deimos and braked into orbit. Orbital velocity here is about 3m/s and "space high" is a mere 5km, so there's plenty of opportunities for science gathering.



I'm holding off on the landing part of this mission as I might try landing the whole thing instead which should allow a lot of biome hopping and increased science gathering.

Two contracts came up for flybys of Uranus and Neptune; a quick check showed that there was a window to Uranus in just three weeks, leading to the hurried construction of a new Blue Bishop probe and its swift departure.



The transfer was neither efficient nor accurate, but it'll get to its destination in less than 20 years and should have enough fuel to capture into some kind of orbit; I don't expect any encounters with the Uranic moons though, since they orbit with the planet's rotation at an inclination of over 90 degrees. I tried to correct this probe's course twice, but on both occasions the game crashed so I've just left it alone and will come back to it in about 1980...


I have a cluster of KAC alarms set for various transfer windows which is informing the build priority of the various missions. With no windows looming, there's time to build some crewed vessels, contract sats and another Blue Castle to chase after an asteroid; the Mk2 version is designed solely for use in Earth's SOI, ditching the more expensive parts of its predecessor (like the RTG and H2/F2 engine) to make it cheaper, but also carrying a thermometer and barometer to try and get some science out of whatever space rock it happens to "land" on.

With all the waiting around for rockets to build, Yellow Pastry eventually arrived at the target co-ordinates:


I trimmed the co-ordinates to a single decimal point to avoid having the rover and the base trying to occupy the same space at the same time (which usually causes many explosions), but forgot how much bigger RSS is even compared to JNSQ and the rover stopped just outside physics range of the base. Adding a further decimal point should move it to within a few hundred metres, close enough to be useful without posing a hazard to the crewed lander that will eventually show up.


The next R&D upgrade costs 9 million funds but will unlock everything, so that's the current top priority. I've maxed out on 2-star contracts so can't accept any more (like flyby/orbit/land on Jupiter's moons, for example) but can still accept 1-star contracts like those weather and comms satellite contracts and 3-star contracts like a crewed Mars mission. (Not yet...)

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/kUOk401

Coming up next time: More crewed stuff, hopefully, including a long duration stay on the Moon!


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A big set of mod upgrades has happened, with new releases of several key mods including RO and RP-1 as well as ROE-Waterfall, so now engines are bright in the middle when burning, which looks even better:



I thought about it for a while, but eventually I decided to land the little lander on the surface of Deimos:



Science data will take a while to send back at just 17B/s, but with the contract complete I have a chance to get a sample return contract to go with the one for Phobos.

I took a run at designing a lunar space station, which ended up being a Big Gemini stack plus service module with some solar panels and docking ports stuck on it. Testing using a White Stratus stack went well enough to show that it can get into the required orbit of the Moon, and also showed off some really nice new plumes for the F-1 and M-1 engines:


Another design got put through its paces- this time, a Mars rover! The first attempt crashed due to failed parachutes, the second attempt failed due to firing the engines far too late, but the third attempt worked nicely with the chutes slowing it down just enough for the skycrane-style landing thrusters to do the rest:


Bon Voyage still doesn't recognise RO's RTGs, so I would have to turn the motors down to 10% total power to make this thing work using BV, but that means the RTG can power the science instead.

With that out of the way, I tried to bring Elvira and Elvira back from the Moon. Annoyingly, they couldn't take the surface samples out of the base's command pod so had to go and get new ones before leaving, but when they did things went really weird...


Almost from the moment of liftoff the craft became increasingly unstable; every part was vibrating strangely, I couldn't save the game and when I tried to cheat it into orbit beside the waiting Gemini then switched craft, I ended up controlling the base on the surface instead of the Gemini craft right next to it. The situation was unsalvageable and it was late at night anyway, so I decided to fix it the next day.


Look at those fuel tanks with their badly warped textures- do they look OK to you?

After reloading the game the next day and reloading a slightly older save file, suddenly the issues were all gone- saving was possible again, the samples could be retrieved from the base and there wasn't a wobbly part in sight. Returning to orbit was easy, but docking was a tense affair as the fuel tanks were all but empty and I was down to 4m/s of propellant.


With a lot of very gentle control inputs and fine controls mode firmly switched on, Elvira and Elvira eventually got docked to their waiting Gemini pod and could move over with their precious samples to head for home. Small problem- the orbit they're in is completely out of plane with the Moon's orbit around the Earth making returning difficult, but they do have almost 3km/s of delta-V left so a plane change burn is a viable option, right?


I forgot something critical- those J-2 engines only have 3 ignitions each, and at this point they only have one left; I only remembered this after turning them both on... Cue a frantic turn to prograde to try and scrape up a return trajectory (fortunately enough the plane change was happening in a place which allowed a return to happen) and after finishing the burn with the Gemini's own thrusters, it was a relatively short 3 day trip back to Earth.


And cue the contracts!



I had to force complete the base contract as it simply refused to recognise the Yellow Doughnut as a base even though it ticked all the boxes; there were also those two Moon landing contracts that completed when the last LEO flight returned, so this mission was worth about 10 million funds overall!


Over 2000 days each for Elvira and Elvira is a new record; both level up to level 2 and another ~400 science is added to the total, waiting for that final R&D upgrade to complete.

Speaking of upgrades- with so much money lying around there's plenty to spare on a huge pile of KCT upgrade points. Most went into R&D, however a significant number went into the VAB to level up the third build queue; it's now almost as fast as the first two.


One last contract sat launch later and the final scores are in:


The fleet of Blue Chess-class probes continue to be built, ready for their respective transfer windows; most are simple first flyby/orbit probes but the Venus mission carries all three SCANsat scanners- biome, radar and SAR- and has contracts waiting for it when it gets there.

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/IHU5xrD

Coming up next time: A Mars sample return mission sounds like a good idea, maybe I'll design the necessary craft for that since the interplanetary windows are still some time away.

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Posted (edited)

I was scrolling through the list of active vessels and spotted a pair of Grey Hotdog satellites in low Earth orbit. For those of you who don't remember (including me!) those are third generation planetary photography satellites, so are completely redundant now that the Grey Kebabs are up and running, but they've finished their films so it's time to bring them back down.



Oops... Note to self- deorbit the whole satellite next time to try and absorb some of the heat, otherwise the pod will get cooked long before it reaches the surface.



Now that's more like it!

And now for something completely different:



Apollo block 3 pod, custom service module, lightly modified Orange Cliff booster rocket. It's relatively cheap to make, can carry 5 crew and keep them alive in space for nearly 10 days (maybe more with a bit of supply tweaking) and will serve well as a LEO space bus to a future space station or just to transport crews up to a waiting ship in orbit to head further afield; like, say... MARS.

Ascent test complete, re-entry test was next; no issues there.


But what about the abort system?


As you might expect, it works exactly as intended. However, there's a problem- that LES tower is big, heavy and expensive, adding 4000 funds to the cost per mission and knocking nearly 1km/s off the total delta-V. Surely a much smaller, lighter and simpler system would work using the generic separation motors attached to that front cover?

As it turns out, yes, yes it will.


This is after the new abort system has successfully pulled the pod away from its booster. At this point, said booster is crashing into the ground and causing no end of problems- the game freezes for ~5 seconds between each frame as individual parts explode on the ground and there's obviously some aggressive calculating going on- but with the concept proven three of these new Yellow Croissants are added to the build queue. There are some new crew experiments exclusive to Apollo-era capsules that they'll be doing, with the exception of the space TV broadcast that requires space high.

And that's all for now. I'm filling the time between interplanetary windows with some design work, which should at some point culminate in a long-range crewed vessel for travelling out to Mars. I'm aiming for boots on the ground by the end of the decade, and boots on its moons while I'm there; though trying to stand on a body with a few mm/s gravity could prove difficult... 

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/DJSEZs1

Coming up next time: No idea, I haven't done it yet :rolleyes:

Edited by jimmymcgoochie
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Three things to report today:

  1. R&D is now maxed out, meaning I completely scrapped and re-added every tech tree node several times while I tried to figure out my priorities; in the end I decided to push hard for ISRU tech in order to launch a demonstration mission to Mars and/or its moons. If I can make fuel there instead of hauling it all the way from Earth, it'll be much easier to do an eventual crewed mission out there, and it'll be much better to try it small-scale first than send out a big, expensive mining setup only to discover that it's completely unworkable.
  2. I tried a variety of different designs to take the White Galileo Mercury orbiter and turn it into a lander for the next mission. Serious payload optimisation (aka ditching much of the science and downgrading what was left to save weight) and extensive engine and fuel tank comparisons eventually ended up with something that looks like this:
    Although the initial costs are quite high, that's just because they're brand new and highly advanced balloon tanks and I'll re-use them in future. This is a three-stage setup since two-stage designs had less delta-V and were more expensive to tool too. 32km/s seems like a stupidly large amount, but getting to Mercury directly is really difficult (probably why most real missions did Venus slingshots, but that's even harder to plan for) and my calculations estimate that this should be just enough to attempt a landing.
  3. Blue Bishop Jupiter was renamed and repurposed to go to Saturn instead, since the window came up a lot sooner than the Jupiter window and the original Blue Bishop Saturn was still some way off being completed. The launch wasn't particularly interesting, but I did notice some nice details in the Waterfall plume for the F-1 (you can see the dark brown of unburnt kerosene if you look close enough) and the fluorine Agena has a red plume now instead of blue:

    In other Saturn-related news, a small course correction for the Orange Tureen 1 will send it past Enceladus for an incredibly brief flyby encounter.
    It'll probably last for mere minutes, if not seconds,  so probably not enough to get an experiment finished and grab the flyby contract, but that would be the first flyby of a gas giant's moon and should generate some very nice pictures as it flies past.

And just for fun, I made a Black Arrow replica, sticking as closely as possible to the real thing's dimensions, burn times and staging pattern as possible:



Full album: https://imgur.com/a/a3WWFcE

Coming up next time: Hopefully a bit less simulating of many variations of the same design and a bit more time passed to research those ISRU nodes. I might build a rover with some Breaking Ground deployable science gear stuck on it and send that out to the Moon ahead of the next (and possibly last) Moon landing, using a home-made RP-1 configuration for the BG stuff. I don't yet know if they'll actually work properly, but I guess I'll find out!

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