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"You Are Go For TLI" | Space Shuttle to the Moon Alternate History - The Aquarius Program


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The Aquarius Program - Space Shuttle to the Moon

This is a project I am doing in KSP that I'm currently posting in Space Shuttle Adventures, but I thought it might deserve its own thread, so I'll put the posts here.

This Alternate History of the Space Shuttle is where I try to send a Shuttle to the Moon in 2.5x KSRSS. The main goal of this timeline is to set up some sort of crewed station in Low Lunar Orbit, and potentially find water on the poles of the Moon. The rest will be explained in later posts in this thread. I hope you enjoy this Alt-Space Shuttle History, and make sure to nitpick this timeline if you want to, so I can improve it in the future.





I already made the first post of this timeline in the Space Shuttle Adventures thread, so I'll just repost it here.

STS-200 - A New Beginning - January 14, 1985

The Aquarius Program: Part 1

In the late 1970's, NASA officials realize the Space Shuttle's potential to return humans to the Moon after the Apollo Program, and devise a program to do so, the Aquarius Program. The main goals of this program are to return people to the Moon permanently, and second and most important, to discover ice at the Lunar Poles, to possibly use for drinking water at a Lunar Base, or to make rocket fuel for refueling depots in orbit.

The way that NASA has planned to send a shuttle to the Moon is to launch a External Tank Refueler on one of the last remaining Saturn V's, and to slowly fill up the empty tank with modified Centaur-G's launched by Shuttles or Titan III launch vehicles, then dock with a Space Shuttle's ET that the shuttle carries with it to orbit. The shuttle will then ignite its modified Block III RS-25's and burn for the Moon. 

Workers immediately begin on modifying an unused External Tank for use a refueler, and paired it up to the two stages of the SA-514 Saturn V, slated for launch in the beginning of 1985. The External Tank Refueler will be reusable, so hopefully the last remaining Saturn V will not have to be sacrificed for the sake of human exploration.

With the beginning of the explanation of the Aquarius Program out of the way, let's fast forward to the launch of the modified External Tank on the Saturn V.


January 14, 1985, Launch Day of STS-200

The Saturn V with the ET Refueler sits out on Pad 39A, waiting to launch to a 28.5 degree inclination orbit.

We have F-1 Main Engine Start.
Liftoff! We have a Liftoff!
We have cleared the tower!
Beginning to pitch downrange of the launch site.
We have confirmed shutdown of the 5 F-1 engines; S-II Stage Separation.
J-2 Engine Ignition.
We have confirmation that the S-II Skirt has been jettisoned.
The S-II Stage continues to orbit with the empty External Tank Refueler.
Beautiful views of Florida and the Atlantic Ocean.
Pitching down to insert into Low Earth Orbit in only one continuous burn.
Nominal Insertion into orbit; shutdown of the J-2 engines.
The Refueler has been deployed into orbit! The mission is looking good so far.
The Solar Panels under the ET are beginning to hinge outwards for deployment.
The hinge outward maneuver has been completed.
The Solar Panels have successfully deployed!
The ET Refueler will now wait in LEO for Centaur-G's to refill it so it can refuel the Shuttle's External Tank for the Moon.

Edited by Austin_Kerman
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ET Refueling Mission 1 - Return of the Toxic King - January 28, 1985


The Aquarius Program: Part 2

After the launch of the External Tank Refueler on a Saturn V, NASA prepares for the first launch of the modified Centaur G refuelers, called the Centaur R, to dock with the modified ET on a Titan IIIE, which was last launched in 1977, but is brought from the dead for these series of missions.

Two weeks later, a Titan IIIE is rolled out to Launch Complex 41's pad for ETRM-1, one of the many missions required to get the ET Refueler enough to refuel a Shuttle's External Tank.

January 28, 1985, Launch Day of ETRM-1

The Titan IIIE with the Centaur R sits on the pad at Launch Complex 41.
We have a liftoff of the first ET refueling mission of many!
We have confirmation of Roll Program.
Surpassing the speed of sound; Max-Q.
Pitching over to get into Earth Orbit.
Booster Separation.
Fairing Separation.
First Stage Separation; continuing to orbit.
Orbit Achieved of Earth; Payload Deployed.
Solar Panel Deployment.
Correction Burn to reach the ET Refueler. 
The sunlight shines on the Centaur R as it draws closer to the modified ET.
The target has been spotted; the docking attempt of the Centaur R begins.
We have soft capture of the Centaur R.
Hard dock achieved.
The sun sets on the ET Refueler-Centaur R combination; refueling process starts.|
The refueling process is finished; Centaur R gets ready to undock.
The Centaur undocks, and leaves the ET behind.
Deorbit Burn of the Centaur R on RCS.
Death of the first Centaur R from reentry.  (o7)

With this first mission done, the rest of the first set of Centaur R's and their Titan IIIE's are prepared for launch to the ET Refueler, which will be in the next few posts of this alternate history series.

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  • 2 weeks later...

ET Refueling Missions 2-4 - More of Them Bite the Crust - February 1985

Nothing much in this small update, just a progress report on the status of the missions to the ET Refueler.

The Aquarius Program: Part 3

After the first launch of the Centaur R, the rest of them and their Titan IIIE counterparts are prepared to head to space and visit the modified External Tank.



February 5, 1985, ETRM-2
Launch of ETRM-2
Payload Deploy
Disposal of Centaur R through Reentry.



February 11, 1985, ETRM-3
Launch of ETRM-3
Payload Deploy
Disposal of another Centaur Refueler through reentry.



February 18, 1985, ETRM-4

Launch of ETRM-4
Payload Deploy
Docked; refueling process begins.


Death of the fourth Centaur R to Earth's atmosphere.


Edited by Austin_Kerman
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  • 4 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

ET Refueling Mission 5 - Under Nuclear Power - March 1985

This update is a bit late because I have been busy with other things outside and inside KSP, but I hope this post makes up for it.

The Aquarius Program: Part 4

After realizing the current method of using solar power was not enough to prevent boiloff of the Hydrogen Fuel, NASA prepares a small nuclear reactor to tag along for the next refueling mission, ETRM-5, to provide power, as a Plan B in case of this situation. The nuclear reactor and the Centaur R combined is going to use the upper limit of the Titan IIIE's payload capacity.

March 2, 1985, Launch Day of ETRM-5

The Titan IIIE sits on the pad at Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral, waiting for launch.
ETRM-5 lifts off from the pad to space!
The Titan executes a 90 degree roll program.
Pitching over to achieve orbit of the Earth.
Booster Separation
The first stage of the rocket continues the climb to orbit.
Fairing Separation, revealing the Centaur R and nuclear reactor payloads.
Stage Separation
The second stage finishes the journey to orbit.
Orbital Insertion completed with 11m/s left in the second stage.
Payloads Deploy
Correction Burn of the Centaur R and the nuclear reactor to arrive at the ET Refueler.
The Centaur R reaches the ET Refueler with the reactor in tow.
The Centaur aligns with the secondary docking port on the External Tank.
Undocking from the Nuclear Reactor to dock to the primary docking port.
Docked to the refueling port.
The Centaur R begins to refuel the ET.
After the refueling is finished, the Centaur is discarded via destructive reentry through the atmosphere.
After the deorbit of the the Centaur, the nuclear reactor is powered up to provide power to the Refueler during the dark portions of its Earth orbit.

Edited by Austin_Kerman
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  • 4 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

The next post of 'Go For TLI' should be coming on Tuesday at the earliest. In the meantime, I will be starting a smaller project in stock about a space program to return back to the Mun, inspired by the Constellation Program, so watch out for that.

By the way, sorry for my absence with this for a month, I have been busy with schoolwork and the ACT's being actually tomorrow, so I haven't had the most time to work on this project, so that's why I'm starting the smaller project to take up less time during the rest of the school year. 'Go For TLI' posts will start to ramp up when the school year ends at the beginning of June. Thank you for understanding, if anyone actually reads this.

Edited by Austin_Kerman
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I read it!    I think this is a good idea.  I remember seeing a Scott Manley video awhile back about what it would take to get shuttle to the Mun, I mean Moon!   

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Posted (edited)

ET Refueling Missions 6-8 - The Last Few - March 1985

After this post, as stated in my status update, this series will go on a hiatus until summer, when I will be free from schoolwork and stress. I will be starting a smaller series that will take up less of my time, so I can still upload something to here. Thank you for understanding.

The Aquarius Program: Post 4




March 12, 1985, ETRM-6

I don't even need to put captions often anymore, you get what's happening now.






March 21, 1985, ETRM-7







March 28, 1985, ETRM-8

(This mission was streamed to the r/KerbalSpaceProgram Discord Server, so a few people got to see one of these launches live)





The ET Refueler has unfortunately suffered a kraken attack, making it lose a solar panel, but I can fix that on the next shuttle mission I send to it.



With this post done, I will see you guys back here in the summer, see ya.

Edited by Autochrome
No one ever told me that the year was wrong on this post, how did I miss this?
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  • 5 months later...
1 hour ago, JustDark said:

A summer comes and goes but alas, no updates :sad:

Yeah, unfortunately this series has been cancelled for the time being (most likely forever) because it's unrealistic, I have a lack of time, and a lack of interest in KSP at the moment.

I'm having to squeeze all my little remaining focus into Hyperion Program, so sorry about that.

Edited by Autochrome
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