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First Flight (Epilogue and Last Thoughts)

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Thanks Byter and RocketTurtle!

As mentioned a few posts back, here are some screenies for the Kerbin 1, or as near as I can get it with current stock parts. Dimovski - I shall certainly have a word with camelotking and see if I can get modern versions of the old stock parts.

Kerbin 1 in the VAB.


This is actually rather overpowered for the story. Even launching at half thrust to better simulate the LV-15, this will put the Stayputnik into a roughly 198km by 195km orbit. But then current stock parts are several technology generations removed from the rockets the KIS started out with :)

Payload in orbit.


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Everybody who reads your words already has his own mental images of LV-15s and RT-5 "Trashcans".

Can't ask for more than that - thanks! The pictures do break up the thread a bit as well - maybe I'll do something separate with them.

Glad you, Scotius and Spaceminer liked the story so far and thanks again to Spleenslitta for the continued encouragement. I know I seem to be saying a lot of this kind of thing but the positive comments and general good vibes on this thread here are just amazing - thank you all. :blush:

Working on the next chapter as we speak and I've got another three or four planned out after that, depending on how long they end up being. After that, I have a loose idea for a couple more chapters, although I'm not exactly sure how to get to them yet. There is one though, that I'm just busting to write - if all else fails, that one will go in as an epilogue!

Edited by KSK
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Two's Company

“Anyway, I'm done for the night. Speak soon, Ademone."

“Speak soon, Jerdo."

Ademone put the phone down and swung back and forth in her chair trying to summon up the enthusiasm to start on the pile of paperwork stacked up neatly in front of her. The temptation to take advantage of the clear night sky and spend an hour or two adding to the Mün map decorating her study wall wasn't helping this endeavour. For that matter she thought, going out to the sandpit and trying out some of the new colour powders would be a useful way to spend the evening and she could even justify that as work.

She sighed and flicked the radio on. May as well find something decent to listen to if she had to spend the evening working. She turned the dial back and forth looking for a good station.

Snatches of music clattered out from the speaker, interspersed with what sounded like news bulletins. Ademone reluctantly picked up the first piece of paper from the pile and was skimming it half heartedly when a sudden loud beep from the radio made her jump. She scowled. Some ham's idea of a joke no doubt. Strange though - the dial was quite a way outside the normal frequency range for the local enthusiasts. It wadn't a very good transmission either, although there did appear to be a voice talking somewhere behind the static. Suddenly intrigued, she worked the fine tuning dial, trying to get a better signal.

“Bob, Geneney, Richlin... kerbals... Barkton!"

That brought her up short. Barkton was quite a way away. Not many amateur transmissions from there and whoever was sending this one definitely sounded amateur. The radio beeped again.

“This is a message from the Kerbin Interplanetary Society. Broadcasting from orbit, around the world, around the clock! We are Jebediah, Bill, Bob, Geneney, Wernher, Lucan, Ornie, Richlin and too many other kerbals to mention from the great town of Barkton!"

Ademone burst out laughing. Definitely amateurs but with a sense of humour. Kerbin Interplanetary Society indeed! Chuckling, she turned the dial back to the nearest music station and picked up her pen.

It had been a good three months for the Speciality Fireworks Company and Ademone worked her way steadily through the stack of invoices. After deciphering one particularly illegible one, she decided it was time to take a break. She stared out of the window as the coffee pot burbled away. It really was a good night for Mün gazing - surely ten minutes couldn't hurt? Then she grinned, remembering the message from Barkton. Maybe she could just ask Bill, Bob and the rest of them for a map instead. On a sudden impulse she reached out and switched the radio back to the Barkton frequency.

The radio hissed softly as Ademone drank her coffee. Then, much to her surprise, a burst of static echoed out of the grille, followed by an indistinct mumbling. Another burst of static almost drowned out another loud beep and then the recorded message played again getting clearer and clearer as it went on.

Ademone looked up at the clock on her wall. Just over an hour. She tore off a fresh piece of paper from her desk pad and wrote out some calculations, frowning as she underlined the final figure. The time between broadcasts was certainly consistent but an orbiting transmitter? Somebody just had to be playing an elaborate joke, although it was an unusual frequency to choose. Then an idea struck her. Assume this thing really was in orbit. How long for it to travel another 500-600 kilometres further east? She scribbled away on the pad. Hmm, too late this time round but maybe not the next! She picked up the phone.

Jerdo sounded sleepy and rather put out. “What is it, Ademone - it's getting late."

“I know, Jerdo but this could be interesting. Can you stay awake for another hour or so?"

“I might be able to but why?"

“It's probably nothing but I picked up this odd little broadcast tonight and I was wondering if you could check it out for me. Doesn't sound like the usual crowd either."

Jerdo's voice was guarded. “I guess so - what frequency?"

Ademone read off the frequency. “You probably won't get much but static for another hour but if you could tune in in about 55 minutes that would be perfect. Oh - and call me back as well. I want to listen to this too."

As the minutes dragged by, the pile of paperwork slowly decreased, although each invoice signed was almost invariably followed by Ademone staring out the window, fidgeting with her pen or pacing up and down the office. Finally the 55 minutes were up and she eagerly switched the radio back on and telephoned Jerdo.

“Have you got the radio on?"

“Sure but I'm not getting anything but static," Jerdo yawned. “What am I waiting for anyway?"

“Oh you'll know it when you hear it, Jerdo - you'll know it when you hear it. You are at the right frequency aren't you?"

Jerdo dutifully checked the dial and read off the frequency with another stifled yawn.

Suddenly, there was a familiar beep. Ademone waited tensely. And then at last, she heard another voice down the telephone line. It was faint but perfectly synchronised with the one spilling out from her own radio. Ademone sank back into her chair as Jerdo's suddenly excited voice filled her ear. Dear Kerm, she said quietly to herself, Dear Kerm...


“Genie! Genie!" Jeb poked his head around the door of Geneney's office. “Hey have you seen Genie anywhere?" He paused, “Hey wait a minute - have we met?" Then Jeb looked around the room. “Hang on - this is Geneney's office right?"

Roncott looked up from the drafting board. “He's just out getting another filing cabinet. Should be back in a moment. Hey Camrie - how long did Geneney say he'd be?"

Camrie slowly put down her wrench. “Roncott - you might want to try using those eyes of yours for a change. Being a little more polite to the boss wouldn't hurt either."

Roncott jumped to his feet flushing dark green in embarrassment. “Oh my. Oh goodness I'm sorry sir!"

Jeb waved dismissively, “Just call me Jeb. But seriously, who are you guys?"

Much to Roncott's relief, there was a squeaking of rubber wheels as Geneney came into the room pushing a filing cabinet on a trolley.

“Oh hi, Jeb - you've met Camrie and Roncott then?"

"In a manner of speaking," replied Jeb. “I met Roncott anyway. Good to meet you too, Camrie!" He raised his eyebrows. "Filing cabinets, Genie?"

Geneney nodded cheerfully. “Yep. Got to have somewhere to store all the plans! We're about halfway through cataloging your stock for useful parts - got some other volunteers still working on that." He looked sheepishly at Jeb. “You might have noticed that the petty cash has taken a beating lately - I figured that the gang deserved a drink or two at the end of a hard day sorting junk. Anyway, Camrie and Roncott are helping with Phase 2."

Jeb made a mental note to top up the petty cash. “Phase 2?" he asked mildly.

Geneney gestured proudly around the room. Two large drafting boards were placed by the windows. A set of well equipped workbenches were lined up against one wall. Camrie was sitting at one of them, stripping down a piece of machinery and carefully setting the various components out in order. Two large filing cabinets stood in the corner and a selection of diagrams were pinned up around the walls.

“Phase 2. We're taking the useful parts from stock, working out where they fit and then measuring them and drawing up plans so we can make more of them! We're doing the same for parts that we've already prototyped - Camrie is working on the LV15 combustion chamber right now and I forget what Roncott is doing."

“Parachute ejector rails," said Roncott happily,

“Oh yes," said Geneney enthusiastically, “we'll need to test this, Jeb but I think we've got a much lighter design for the rails - and Roncott has figured out a way of using fewer parts too! I'm working on the electrical system for the Kerbal 2. Bill had a great idea for making the electrics more modular. Not quite sure how it's going to work yet but we're hoping that the modular system will be need less cabling and be easier to build and install!"

Jeb beamed. “Not bad at all guys - it's almost starting to look like we know what we're doing!" He moved to one side as Wernher pushed past him.  

“Camrie - do you have the plans for the LV-9 propellant manifold?"

Camrie pulled open a cabinet drawer and flicked through it. “Right here, Wernher. Just leave it on the table here once you're done."

“Thanks, Camrie - Oh hi, Jeb - didn't see you there." Wernher dashed out of the door.

Jeb shook his head. “Haven't seen Wernher looking that excited for a while."

Geneney chuckled. "Me neither. I think he's quite enjoying working to proper plans for a change."

Jeb smiled. “Finally having the money to buy in some materials is helping too I think. Our little museum is bringing in some cash now and we made quite a lot from ticket sales for the Kerbin 1 launch. I have to admit that all the free advertising is helping the junkyard business too. Oh - that reminds me, Genie. There's a couple of drums outside in the yard that you may want to take a look at. Don't go too near them with a naked flame though."

Geneney's eyes lit up. 'Trashcan propellant?" he asked.

“You got it. I tell you what though - I think we should look seriously at going to an all-liquid design. I had to call in a favour to get hold of those drums and even then they were pricey. Apparently they've got a big new customer and they just can't make the stuff fast enough at the moment."

Geneney nodded. “Something to talk over with Ornie and Wernher," he said, “Wernher never really liked using solid boosters anyway so he won't mind. And now they've worked out a better turbopump for the LV-9, maybe they can squeeze a bit more power out of the LV-15 too."


It was early afternoon at the Spaceship Museum and Jeb was taking a turn at the Kerbal 1, cheerfully posing for photographs and signing hats. Lucan trotted up and tapped him on the shoulder.

“Phone call for you Jeb," he said, “I told them you'd take it in your office."

“Jeb Kerman here - who's speaking please?"

“This is Thomplin Kerman at Stratus Ltd."

“Pleased to meet you, Thomplin - what can I do for you?"

“Well it's like this, Jeb. We're in the storage business. Gases and liquids mainly and I think we've got one or two products that you might be interested in."

Jeb fished out a notepad from his desk drawer. “Go on, Thomplin - what kind of products did you have in mind?"

“Well as I said, we're in the gas storage business. Pressurised gas mainly - although we are starting to look at cold storage solutions too. Anyway, we've come up with a design for a compact spherical tank. Very light, very strong and holds about 20 kg of fuel... I mean gas."

Jeb drew a circle around '20 kg' on his pad. “How about pressure regulation?" he asked, “and how big is this thing?" He listened intently as Thomplin rattled off details. “Hmm. I think we could certainly use that. I hate to ask but how much do you sell these for?" He winced. “Uh - I presume you offer discounts if we buy them in bulk? Oh that is with the discount... OK"

Jeb sat back in his chair. “I'm sorry but we can't afford that," he said, disappointment leaking into his voice. “It's a real pity - I've got some ideas already about how we could use those tanks and I bet the team here will have even more. But we could get an awful lot of much needed material for that price."

“Although... hmm. Maybe we could work something else out. What would Stratus say to a sponsorship deal?"

Thomplin's voice was cautious. “What kind of sponsorship are we talking about Jeb?"

Jeb thought rapidly. “We got a couple of thousand people watching our last launch and we've got some pretty big plans for the next few launches, so we expect that number to go up. No reason why we couldn't set some billboards up for you. Maybe even set aside some space where you can set up a display for your latest bits and pieces. There's a fair bit of room on the side of a rocket too - what would you say to painting a Stratus company logo on there?"

“And in return for that, we supply you with the tanks at a reduced price?"

“I'm thinking free, Thomplin. Lots of exposure for you - and we make sure that everyone knows that Stratus tanks are helping get us to orbit. That sort of endorsement has got to be worth a couple of free tanks I reckon."

Thomplin sounded thoughtful. “We might be able to work on that, Jeb. Tell you what - how about if we come over next week with some samples? Your team get to have a look at them and we get to see the launch site and talk things over."

“Looking forward to it. Would Münday afternoon at 2:00pm suit you?"

“That would be perfect, Jeb. See you then."


That evening, Jeb called a meeting. The Kerbin Interplanetary Society was growing rapidly and the original eight names had now grown to a respectable crowd of some twenty members, all sitting out in the back yard in time honoured fashion. Jeb got to his feet and waited patiently for the chatter to die down.

“OK folks. I've called this meeting after a very interesting phone call today with one Thomplin Kerman from Stratus Ltd. Apparently they sell some hardware that we could use - and I think we can do business with them. The question is - do we actually need their stuff?"

Malmy raised his hand. “Depends what they're selling, Jeb," he said, “although I'm guessing it's not complete junk if you bothered to give this Thomplin the time of day."

“Oh it's far from junk, Malmy, said Jeb, "if I'm understanding things right, it could be a nice compact propellant tank. Spherical, pressure controlled, holds 20 kg of whatever gas we put in there. Supposed to be lightweight too but I don't know how light."

“It won't be cheap though," said Ornie, “Me and Richlin know Stratus pretty well. They do nice tanks but they charge a nice price too."

Jeb coughed. “I think we can work around that," he said. “I'm kinda hoping that some billboard space at Kerbin's first Space Centre, plus maybe their name on the side of a couple of rockets, will persuade them to part with a few little propellant tanks. But, as I said, the question is - what would we do with them?"

Camrie got to her feet. “Could we use one to power a small rocket? Something we could put on the back of a satellite and actually fly it around a bit once it gets to orbit?"

Roncott jumped up excitedly, “Yeah - we could fly it to the Mün!"

Lucan laughed. “Don't think we could get it to the Mün, Roncott. It would be great for moving a heavier satellite around in orbit though. Sounds perfect for the kind of rocket control system that me and Geneney were talking about too."

There was a clamour of voices. “Rocket control system? What are you talking about?"

Lucan raised his arms for silence. “Well we're not going to need it any time soon - the Kerbal 2 won't be going that high. But one day we will be going a lot higher and we were just figuring out how we'd set about steering a capsule at that height. We thought a set of small rockets around the capsule would do the trick but we couldn't quite work out how the fuel supply would work. A small pressurised tank sounds like just the thing, especially if it really does hold 20 kg of gas."

“Yep - 20 kg of gas would let us do quite a bit of maneuvering," said Geneney. He snapped his fingers. “Actually - forget the rockets. A lightweight gas tank would be just the thing for taking some extra air along for longer flights!"

Jeb listened happily as the ideas flew back and forth. Then he heard Bob's voice over the noise.

“Jeb - do they make a bigger tank than 20 kg?"

“I expect so, Bob - I'll certainly ask them when they drop by next week. They'll be bringing a couple of tanks along too, so everyone can get a look at them, maybe try them out. Why do you ask?"

Bob looked thoughtful. “It was what you said about pressure control that got me thinking," he said, “I was wondering if we could fill one with something non flammable and then stick it in the top of a fuel tank. Use the pressure of the escaping gas to push the fuel out of the other end of the tank. It probably wouldn't work so well for a big engine but something smaller like the LV-9s, we might be able to do away with the turbopump altogether."

Wernher walked over to Bob and shook him by the hand. “That might just be the best idea that you've come up with yet," he said. “No reason at all why that wouldn't work and it should make the LV-9 series into a really simple and versatile engine for all kinds of things!" He looked Roncott in the eye.

“Nothing big you understand. Just little routine things like landing on the Mün."


<< Chapter 4    ::     Chapter 6>>

Edited by KSK
Punctuation fail.
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Oh boy...We all know Jeb The Pilot. Now we've seen second side of the coin - Jeb The Shrewd Businesskerbal. I love it! :D And you've got some girls into the story, which is good too, because every space adventure needs girls in it :cool:

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Oh boy...We all know Jeb The Pilot. Now we've seen second side of the coin - Jeb The Shrewd Businesskerbal. I love it! :D And you've got some girls into the story, which is good too, because every space adventure needs girls in it :cool:

:) Just as long as you're not looking for this kind of space adventure. No "Jeb, Jeb I love you - but we only have fourteen hours to save Kerbin!" here I'm afraid!

More seriously (and apologies if this is way more detail than needed), female kerbals have a tendancy to derail forum threads of all kinds, so I just want to add a quick note before that happens here.

As I understand it, canon at the moment is that kerbals are genderless. Which is fine but isn't necessarily easy when it comes to writing because at some point I need to use pronouns dammit! Some writers (for example Greg Egan) use genderless pronouns very well (viz, ver, ve) but I certainly aint no Greg Egan and didn't really fancy writing a whole story with them. Also I have a feeling they would turn anything Wernher says into bad comedy German. :) However, as the story developed and the cast of characters started expanding, I was getting uncomfortable using 'he, his, him' as generic pronouns. Personal preference - I know this is OK according to some style guides but I didn't want to do it.

Ergo - female characters in the story too. I can't give any guarantees about strictly equal numbers of 'male' and 'female' characters but I can guarantee that both will get the same kind of roles in the story and that both will play a significant part in the story. Ademone for example - you certainly havn't seen the last of her :)

Happy for folks to comment on this but would prefer to move any detailed debate to another thread or private messages if possible rather than risk having this thread locked.

And Scotius - thanks for giving me the opportunity to get this out of way sooner rather than later. This post is not at all meant to be aimed at you personally!



Edited by KSK
clarifying use of he, his, him as generic pronouns
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Oh, i absolutely don't mind. I dabble in fan-writing a bit too, so i know the pains of writing a story including both genders without straying into brass bikini wearing damsel-in-distress territory, or even worse - Mary-Sueishness. Anyway, you're right - enough about this. Will there be a competition for Interplanetary Society? KSP 2 perhaps? It would complicate the story, but also add depth and dynamics.

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Why certainly good sir :)

As originally planned, this chapter ended up being rather long, so I decided to break it into two. Second half is a little more fast paced and should be coming up shortly!

These New Engines

There was a stunned silence and even Jeb seemed a little taken aback. “I admire the ambition, Wernher," he said, “but we havn't even flown a crewed flight to orbit yet. Or flown anything to the Mün for that matter."

Wernher looked at him impatiently. “Of course not," he said, “and believe me, I know exactly how much we need to do before we can even think about it. Pressure fed engines are still going to be a major step forward though, especially if we use hypergolic propellants. Just open two valves and whoosh - propellants mix and engine fires. Believe me, I'd much rather be depending on something like that to get me back to Kerbin rather than a collection of igniters and pumps!"

Jeb made a placating gesture. "OK, OK. I see what you mean - I just hope the people at Stratus can come up with what we need. In the meantime, we need something a little smaller but something that will still be a useful test of the Stratus tanks."

Bob cleared his throat. “We could launch another satellite," he suggested, “Except this time we make it more like a mini capsule. We use the same LV-902 second stage that we used for the Kerbin 1 but we upgrade the LV-15 with the new turbopump. That should boost its performance enough that we can launch a heavier payload than last time."

Everyone's attention was fixed on Bob as he continued. “We build a propulsion module with one of those Stratus tanks - assuming they are all that Jeb seems to think they'll be. Then we have the satellite itself but this time it's a little bit more than a radio transmitter in a ball. It has a heat shield at one end, a parachute at the other and a couple of cameras in the middle. We lift both modules to orbit, fly them around a bit, take some pictures and then use the propulsion module to de-orbit. Satellite detaches from the propulsion module, re-enters the atmosphere and lands by parachute."

Jeb's jaw dropped. “Good grief, Bob. I'm not sure who's worse, you or Wernher."

Wernher spoke up. “Actually that sounds doable, Jeb but I suggest we keep it simple. We use the propulsion module as a very small third stage if we need a bit more speed to get to orbit. Then we use it to put the satellite into a slow spin. We do a couple of orbits, fire the propulsion module again to stop the spin and then one last time to drop out of orbit."

Lucan raised a hand. “I presume that we time things so that we do the de-orbit maneuver after an exact number of orbits?"

“Exactly," said Wernher. “Fitting any sort of guidance system into something that small is going to be difficult. I'm not saying that we can't do it but I don't think it should be a priority. So we don't bother. It does mean that we'll get a pretty odd collection of pictures though, since the satellite will be pointing in the same direction all the time, rather than tracking the horizon."

“Hmm, calculating the re-entry path is going to be fun. Might not be a bad idea to fire a couple of test flights out over the sea first to give us more idea about how much drag we'll get. Not with a full flight article though of course, just something the same size and mass..."

“I've got an idea," said Richlin, “Ornie and I have got a couple of friends out by the Eastern Wakira coast. If we did put a radio in this thing, I'm sure Sigbin and Doodlie would let us know as it passes overhead. That should give Lucan time to tweak the re-entry a bit."

“Hang on - where are we putting the heat shield and when do we lose the propulsion module?"

“Will we have room for a radio and the cameras?"

Jeb had to raise his voice as nineteen excited kerbals started discussing Bob's plan and arguing over the technical details.

“OK, OK folks! I think that's a big yes for Bob's satellite plan! But at the risk of bringing everyone back down to Kerbal for a moment, we've got another ship to launch first!"


The propulsion team surveyed their work with satisfaction. Four RT-5 boosters, complete with decoupler mounts, rested in the assembly jig, neatly arrayed around a mockup of the Kerbal 2 lower stage. Malmy's back made a popping noise as he stretched. “I think that's got it, lads. We can finish the paintwork this afternoon and then take em out to the Tent tomorrow."

Ornie opened his lunch bag. “Sounds good to me, Malmy. The lower stage is about done apart from the arming circuits for the decouplers and Gene's people are out there working on this today. Hey, Wernher - put the radio on would you? It should be about time for the news."

Familiar music drifted through the air.

“This is KBS News at 1:00pm. In our main story this lunchtime, space fever heats up in Foxham as the Rockomax Corporation announces a successful test of their new BA-A rocket booster. Our space correspondent Leland Kerman was there to watch the launch."

Ornie dropped his bag. “Rockomax Corporation?"

“Good afternoon. I am Leland Kerman and I'm standing outside the main control room at the Rockomax test site. With me today is Ademone Kerman, owner and company manager of Rockomax, who has kindly agreed to speak to KBS before this important test flight."

“Ademone, perhaps you could tell the listeners a little about this flight. Why is this such an important test?"

“Good afternoon, Leland and welcome to this test of our new BA-A booster. This is the first in what we hope will be a series of our next generation solid fuel rockets, so it's a pretty big day for us."

“I can imagine, Ademone. So what height are you expecting the BA-A to reach? Will you be aiming for orbit?"

Ademone laughed. “I'm afraid not. The BA-A is really a test bed for a number of new technologies, which we will be building into our planned orbital launcher in the coming months. It should still be quite a spectacular flight though - the rocket will reach a top speed of just over 1 kilometre per second and a height of just under 17 thousand metres."

“That's quite a way up - I hope it's not going to drop back on our heads!"

“Oh no - by the time it falls safely into the sea, the BA-A will be over 25 kilometres away."

“That's extremely impressive, Ademone. But tell me - why Rockomax? What made you decide to become a rocket builder?"

“Well as you know, Leland, Rockomax used to be the Speciality Firework Company, so we've always been a rocket company really - we're just building bigger ones now. But really, it was the Barkton Satellite that made the decision for me. The idea of launching a rocket all the way around Kerbin was just inspired!"

“So you're convinced about the Barkton Satellite? Many people have dismissed it as a hoax or a joke."

“Oh I thought so too at first, Leland. But it quickly became obvious that it was quite real. I do a little amateur radio myself and let me put it this way - it would have been easier to put a satellite into orbit than it would have been to coordinate a network of fake radio broadcasts so accurately across the whole of Kerbin."

“Well that sounds pretty conclusive to me and I hope our listeners will feel the same way. Ademone Kerman - thank you very much."

“It's now just under five minutes to launch. In the distance I can just make out the last of the Rockomax engineers making their way back from the booster..."

Ornie clicked the radio off. “Sounds like we have a little competition," he said quietly.

Wernher was still looking indignant. “A hoax - why would we bother with a hoax?"

Malmy was looking a little wide eyed. “One thousand metres a second - I wouldn't fancy sitting on top of that."

“Well you need to be going a lot faster than that to get to orbit," said Wernher, “But I don't expect they're putting much on top of their booster if those altitude and range figures are at all accurate. A solid fuel motor with a very light payload will get very fast very quickly but there's no real way of controlling the thrust. I think they're being rather optimistic with their talk of an orbital launcher."

“Even so," said Ornie, “they managed to get it off the ground without exploding - and they did it on a live news broadcast too. They might be optimistic but they're not exactly lacking in confidence either. We should tell Jeb about this."


Thomplin was feeling somewhat dubious as he pulled up outside the old warehouse. This had to be the right place with a sign like that but it all looked a little bit run down. It was busy enough, although it wasn't really what he'd expected from an organisation that had apparently launched a rocket into outer space. Someone had obviously noticed their arrival and passed a message inside, since a couple of minutes later a cheerful looking kerbal wearing a bright red hat popped his head around the warehouse door and bounded towards them.

"You must be Thomplin! Welcome to the Junkyard and Spaceship Parts Company. I'm Jeb by the way". Jeb peered into the cab. "Pleased to meet you um...

"Halnie. Is there anywhere we can put the van?"

"Absolutely, Halnie", said Jeb enthusiastically, "There's a couple of spaces in the yard, I'll just go and get them to open the gates for you! He rubbed his hands together. "I tell you - you're going to love the test we've got set up for your tanks!"

Jeb bounced away and disappeared back inside the warehouse. Moments later the main gates opened with a squeal of rusty hinges. Halnie glanced over at Thomplin, shrugged and started the van.

Both kerbals looked around the yard with interest. This looked a bit more promising and if nothing else there certainly seemed to be a lot more going on. One kerbal was crawling out of a strange squat looking pod, which appeared to be surrounded by makeshift scaffolding. Another was perched on top of the scaffolding, carefully attaching what looked like a conical lid to the roof of the pod. In the centre of the yard a group of kerbals were gathered round some kind of metal framework peering intently at something.

Jeb ran over to them. "This way!" he called, gesturing towards the framework. Their curiosity piqued, Halnie and Thomplin followed him.

The device mounted on the framework was like nothing they'd ever seen before. It appeared to consist of a small cube of metal struts stuffed with a dense tangle of plumbing. Four nozzles were attached to the outside of the cube, each one pointing in a different direction. A tube led out of the back and into a large cylindrical tank standing next to the main frame.

Jeb pointed at the tank. “You see the problem?" he said. “We can make the control thrusters pretty small but that's no good if we still need a big heavy tank for the propellant."

Halnie and Thomplin stared at him blankly. Jeb looked momentarily puzzled. "You did know that we build spacecraft right? Well this is a steering system for a spacecraft. You can't use wings in space - no air - so we use sets of small rocket thrusters to steer instead."

Halnie bent down to inspect the fuel line coupling. “Looks like we'll need a 3c adaptor," she called over her shoulder. “The tank looks standard enough, so the filler pump ought to handle it. Then she noticed the warning signs painted on the side of the cylinder. “Best bring the protective gear too I think - whatever this stuff is it looks pretty nasty."

“In that case," Thomplin said dryly, “why don't we just see if we've brought the right sized tanks first."

Everyone gathered round eagerly and craned forward trying to see as Halnie opened the equipment cart and with some effort, lifted a white metal object onto the test stand. As promised, it was basically spherical, it's smooth walls broken only by a hose coupling on the top and a set of metal flanges which it was currently resting on. Malmy was skeptical.

“Well it's small enough. Doesn't look like it hold 20 kilos of anything though."

Thomplin gestured. “I assure you it's heavier than it looks. Go ahead and pick it up if you like. Actually if you could put it on the ground that would be helpful."

Malmy slipped his hands casually under the tank and lifted. His eyebrows shot up as he took a rather better grip on it and tlifted it carefully down off the stand. He looked at Thomplin with new respect. Thomplin nodded slightly and rather theatrically, took a heavy looking sledgehammer off the equipment cart. He raised the hammer over his head and before the horrified crowd of kerbals around him could do anything, let it drop squarely onto the tank.

Malmy stared in disbelief as the hammer bounced off.

“Pressurised," said Halnie casually, "I wouldn't try that with an empty one but they're pretty sturdy once you fill them up. I would stand back for this part though."

Everyone moved a respectful distance from the test stand as Halnie donned her protective clothing and lifted a second tank off the cart and hooked it up to the propellant cylinder with practised ease. There was a collective drawing in of breath as the filler pump started up with a loud clatter and monpropellant flooded into the tank.

The pump shut off automatically and Halnie carefully closed the cylinder valve and disconnected the tank. Working briskly she lifted it onto the test stand and attached it to the thruster block.

“OK, Jeb - what was that test you wanted to show us?"


<< Chapter 5    ::     Chapter 7>>

Edited by KSK
fixing brackets and typs and adding italics.
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More more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more.

This is so awesome! I love it!

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The Courage of Conviction.

Jeb regained his composure with a visible effort, although he was still looking a little wild eyed.

“Uh - if you'd care to step over here." He led Thomplin and Halnie over to the nearby control panel. A stubby handgrip protruded from the panel mounted on a complicated looking articulated arm. "This is just for testing now of course," he said, "but eventually, we're hoping to develop this into a control system for the pilots."

Jeb cupped his hands round his mouth. "Clear the stand!" he shouted, "RCS test about to start!" He waved towards the handgrip. "Go ahead."

Halnie stepped forward eagerly. "OK what do I do."

“Just take hold of the handgrip and try moving it around", said Jeb. "You'll soon get the hang of it."

Halnie pushed the controller tentatively forward and jumped as a burst of flame shot out of the top of the thruster block. She hurriedly pulled it back, only to trigger a second jet of flame from the nozzle underneath. Frowning slightly she pushed the handgrip slowly forward, until the upper nozzle just fired and then drew it back again, triggering the a brief puff of flame from the lower nozzle.

"Forward and back control pitch," said Jeb, waggling his hand to demonstrate. "Side to side will control roll eventually, although you won't see any difference now. Proper pitch and roll control will need a pair of thruster blocks." Halnie pushed the controller to one side experimentally and sure enough the upper thruster fired again.

"Twisting the handle gives you yaw control," Jeb continued "but again, proper control needs a pair of blocks". Moving more confidently now, Halnie twisted the handgrip back and forth and grinned with delight as first one and then the other of the side nozzles burst into life.

Jeb grinned too. "We're running a calibration test on the controller later today, he said. "You're welcome to help if you like - we need to test it with as many people as possible to get an idea of where best to put the trigger points. You'd be welcome to have a go too, Thomplin!"

Thomplin was still mulling over Jeb's first comment. “You mentioned something about pilots, Jeb. What exactly will they be piloting?"

“Easier to see than describe, Thomplin. Come and have a look at the Kerbal 2!"

Halnie gazed at the squat pod with delight but now it was Thomplin's turn to look a little wild eyed. “You're going to put a kerbal in that?" he asked incredulously.

“Kerbal-s actually," Jeb corrected him. “The capsule is a bit cosy but it does seat three."

Halnie was walking around, inspecting the Kerbal 2 from all angles. “I don't know much about spaceships," she commented, “but this one looks almost finished. I don't see where your thruster blocks are going to go, let alone our propellant tank."

Jeb nodded. “The Kerbal 2 won't really need them," he said. “It's only designed for sub-orbital flight. You get a nice view from 35 kilometres up but you're not high enough to need RCS control. We're thinking that the orbital capsule will be a bit smaller actually and it'll probably only have room for one pilot by the time the other systems are in place."

“A nice view," said Halnie lightly, “Sounds like you've already been there, Jeb!"

“I have," Jeb said simply. “The Kerbal 1 is inside if you want to take a look at it later but I thought you'd want to see the launch site first. We'll be mating the Kerbal 2 with its launch vehicle too, so you can have a good look at the whole ship."


Ornie's truck bumped over the grass as he drove out to the launch pad. Beside him, Thomplin's head was swivelling back and forth as he took everything in. Plenty of room to put up a Stratus billboard or two, just like Jeb had promised. Lots of people to look at them too, if the number of seats was anything to go by.

Halnie's eyes were fixed firmly on the approaching launch tower, although at the moment, it looked like nothing so much as a very large shower booth. She commented on this to Ornie, who chuckled. “It does a bit now that you mention it. We call it The Tent with all those drapes hanging around it. They do a decent enough job of keeping the vweather off during assembly although I'm looking forward to the day that we can put up a proper building for the job!"

As the truck came closer, pairs of kerbals emerged from behind the drapes and started rolling them out of the way, exposing the tall central tank and stubby side boosters of the rocket. Both Thomplin and Halnie's eyes widened. Halnie was practically bouncing up and down in her seat in her eagerness to get out and inspect the Kerbal 2 at close quarters. For his part Thomplin wasn't any more convinced by the rocket than he had been by the capsule.

The truck rolled to a stop. A shadow fell over the cab as high up on the launch tower, the assembly crane swung around and lowered a cable down towards the waiting spacecraft. Halnie hopped out the cab and watched as the capsule was hoisted into the air and set delicately down on top of the rocket. Two kerbals, both securely tethered to the launch tower, set about attaching a set of what looked like clamps to the capsule, although Halnie couldn't help noticing that they were being handled rather gingerly.

Ornie followed her gaze. “Decouplers," he said briefly. “Basically, small explosive bolts that we use to detach the booster once it's out of fuel."

Even Halnie looked slightly taken aback at that and beside her, Thomplin just rolled his eyes.

“I know," Ornie acknowledged, “they do work though. On a different note, we were wondering - do Stratus make larger versions of those spherical tanks?"

“Depends what you mean by larger but yes we do another tank that has about twice the volume of the demo model we showed you."Halnie cocked her head. “Difficult to say how heavy that would be - depends what you put in it and at what pressure."

“Hmmm," said Ornie, “I'm not sure what Bob and Wernher had in mind but that sounds like it should work." He pointed at the side boosters. “At the moment, those things are solid fueled but we're really hoping to stop using solids. We were thinking about a pressure fed liquid design but that would need us to store quite a lot of high pressure gas in a small space. Your larger tank sounds worth a try."

He looked at Thomplin. “You'd be more than welcome to talk things over with them tonight and come and watch the launch tomorrow."

Thomplin didn't need to see Halnie's face. “That would be most generous," he said.


Geneney waited by the capsule, clutching the gantry rail and trying to ignore the beads of sweat running down the back of his neck. Lucan stood beside him, his bright orange pressure suit highlighted against the grey sky, one hand swinging his flight helmet casually back and forth. There was a knock from inside the Kerbal 2 and then Bob clambered carefully back out through the hatch. Geneney steeled himself and climbed inside, squeezing in past the control panel and settling himself into the centre seat.

Bob passed his helmet through the hatch and then climbed in himself. He set to work connecting Geneney's suit to the capsule systems whilst Geneneny shuffled around trying to make himself comfortable in the confines of his seat. Finally, Bob placed the helmet over his head and locked it carefully into place on the neck ring of his suit. He rapped on the transparent visor and gave Geneney a cheerful thumbs up before crawling back out of the capsule to let Lucan take his place in the third seat.

Geneney stared around the inside of the capsule listening to Lucan chattering away as Bob plugged him in. Then Lucan too got a good luck rap on the visor and a thumbs up. With a final “Good Luck," Bob climbed out onto the gantry, slamming the hatch shut behind him. Lucan reached over his head and twisted the locking wheel closed. A detached part of Geneney's mind nodded in satisfaction as the hatch bolts slid smoothly into place with a reassuring clunk.

Geneney flicked a toggle switch on the control panel. “Control, this is Kerbal 2."

Ornie's voice came back over his headset. “Reading you loud and clear, Gene. Running final checks on the booster."

“Understood Control."

Geneney flicked off the external comms link. “You know guys, this capsule looks a lot more sturdy from the outside."

Lucan turned his head awkwardly towards him. “Just as long as you remembered to stick the parachute on top. Besides you built this thing."

“I know - that's what's worrying me."

Wernher cleared his throat. “How do you think I feel then," he said wryly, “given that I built the engines. Better switch the external loop back on Gene - they shouldn't be too much longer with those checks."

Bob's voice filled their ears. “All rocket systems check out. Guidance control and launch sequencing transferred to booster. Ready when you are, Ornie."

“OK then. We all know what we're doing. LV-15 engine start on my mark, 3 second hold down at full power as a last check, then we release the clamps and light up the Trashcans. That last bit is probably...

Geneney smiled and found himself relaxing at last. Going to be a bit bouncy, he murmured to himself.

"... so you might want to hold on something. Ignition in five...four...three...two...one.. Mark!"

Geneney braced himself, as the Kerbal 2 came to life around him. The capsule shook with the steadily increasing rumble from the LV-15 far below his back.

"Holding for three...two...one..."

The RT-5s ignited right on schedule with a deafening roar, ramming Geneney back into his seat as the Kerbal 2 hurtled skywards.

Halnie and Thomplin held their breath with the rest of the crowd as the Kerbal 2 soared out over the sea trailing a thick plume of roiling grey smoke behind it. Despite his earlier misgivings, the sheer spectacle and controlled fury of a live rocket launch had touched even Thomplin's cautious soul and he had cheered himself hoarse with everyone else as the Kerbal 2 lifted off. Halnie was simply starstruck as she watched the fiery dot disappear into the sky.


It was noisy beyond belief, the shaking was terrifying and it was the most exhilarating thing he had ever done in his life! Geneney's face was pulled back into a broad grin as the acceleration built up to painful levels. How long had the Trashcans been burning? Lifting his head was out of the question, so there was no way to check the fuel gauge on the control panel. No way of checking the altimeter either. No matter Geneney, he told himself, just enjoy it while it lasts. Outside, the sky was gradually fading into a deep midnight blue as the capsule rose higher and higher.

The RT-5s stuttered briefly, once, twice, before finally falling silent. All three kerbalnauts were flung forward in their straps as the thrust abruptly died away. Four loud bangs announced the departure of the Trashcans as the LV-15 pushed them gently onwards.

“Kerbal 2 this is Control. Come in Kerbal 2!"

Geneney forced himself to speak. “This is the Kerbal 2," he whispered.

“Say again Kerbal 2."

Wernher spoke up. “We're all good, Control. Clean separation on RT-5s. Gene got a little squashed but he's OK."

Lucan's voice sounded a little strained. “There has got to be a better way of doing this," he said, “I mean - I didn't think Bob was exaggerating when he was talking about getting mashed but sheesh - he really really wasn't joking either!"

Ornie laughed. “Bob's just wondering if you're all going to join him in persuading Jeb to fit some extra padding to those seats. Thirty seconds to staging, guys!"

After the crushing acceleration of the Trashcans, the last moments of powered flight were almost soothing. Geneney leaned forward and watched the reading on the fuel gauge drop lazily downwards. There was a brief moment of quiet as the engine shut down, followed by a familiar bang as the booster dropped away, leaving the capsule to coast upwards under its own momentum. Geneney was delighted to find himself feeling unexpectedly light, so light in fact that he was floating off his seat and bobbing gently against his harness.

“Look guys - I'm floating!"

Next to him, Lucan was looking happier than he had all flight. “This is awesome! Hey, Control - how come nobody told us about this?"

“No response from here," said Ornie, “I'm guessing they were just wedged a bit more tightly into their seats. Looks like you're all getting a first on your flight too!"

“Hey that's a thought," said Geneney, “Move your head, Lucan - I want to see out of the window!"

Absolute silence filled the capsule.

“Are you guys OK up there?"

“Oh yes," said Geneney softly, “Oh we really are. I don't how to describe this, Ornie. I know how Jeb felt now - there just aren't good words for this. Bill did a great job with his photos but... I guess it's like trying to photograph a sunset. Even the best pictures just don't compare."


Shadows slowly drifted over the capsule walls as it coasted onwards, lit from beneath by the bright glow of Kerbin's atmosphere. It rocked slightly as it reached the top of its arc and started the long descent. The kerbalnauts could hear a gradually increasing thrumming noise from outside the capsule as it dropped back into thicker air.

Geneney kept one eye on the altimeter as the Kerbal 2 plummeted back towards the ground, acutely aware that his life and Lucan and Wernher's too were entirely dependent on the folded pieces of fabric mounted on the capsule roof. He glanced at the control panel uneasily as the capsule continued to accelerate.

CRACK! Geneney jerked against his harness as the drogue chute deployed. The queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach told him that the Kerbal 2 was finally slowing down. Moments later, there was another sharp crack as the drogue departed, followed by a deeply reassuring thump as the main chute shot off its rails. The capsule was slowing down rapidly now as the parachute bit into the surrounding air.

Geneneny watched the altimeter unwind. Three thousand metres, two thousand... one thousand.

The main parachute unfurled, lines going briefly slack as the Kerbal 2 slowed to a virtual standstill and then floated sedately down towards the waiting sea.


Halnie let out her breath in an explosive gasp as the orange disc unfurled and turned to Thomplin with shining eyes.

“We have got to be part of this, Tom! This is the future and Stratus needs to be there with it. You've seen what these people are planning - you know this is just the start!"

Thomplin embraced her wordlessly. In his heart of hearts he agreed. Selling the idea to Stratus management wasn't going to be hard either. If that fellow Ornie was correct, each rocket alone would need four of their large tanks each and then goodness knows what else the capsule would need to store. He gently let Halnie go and turned to Jeb with a wry smile.

“I think that last test just convinced us, Jeb. I can give you six of each type of tank in exchange for that sponsorship deal you mentioned. After that you'll need to start paying but I have a sneaking feeling that you'll be qualifying for a bulk discount!"

Jeb clasped his hand with gratitude. “Thank you," he said softly.

Halnie watched the Kerbal 2 as it dropped towards the horizon. “I do have one question," she said. “How do I learn to fly one of those ships?"


<< Chapter 6   ::     Chapter 8>>

Edited by KSK
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Up, up and away! :D Interplanetary Society is growing nicely. I admire the way you've described launch from inside the capsule - i could almost feel the g's.

I totally agree. It was like I was being slammed into my bed! Amazing writing and detail my friend!

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Reading your entries makes me feel like I'm dining at a fancy restaurant: You are the chef who spends hours meticulously crafting your recipe, adding a pinch of salt here or a little cumin there, finally plating your creation and sending it out into the world... And I am the patron who gobbles it down it five minutes and wonders aloud when dessert will be served.

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Hey AustralianFries - thanks and glad you liked them!

Scotius and RocketTurtle - I enjoyed writing the launch from a different POV as well, good to hear it worked for you too!

Sabastian - man what can I say. Hope you enjoy the next course too, although we're not quite at dessert yet :D

Although if you'll permit me to continue the culinary metaphor, I can give no finer recommendation than Deadweasel's Sushi, if you havn't already visited. Don't let the unassuming title mislead, the decor alone makes this restaurant worth visiting. The food is a little different, beautifully presented and truly something to be savoured. I'm not sure how often the menu changes (the chef tends to alter the decor to complement the new menu) but rest assured, its worth waiting for!

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