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DunaRocketeer

Lightweight Manned Duna Science Expedition, Mission Research, Reports, Test Flights

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Hey all,

I've been planning a science mission to Duna, and to that end I've been tinkering with spacecraft designs that have served me well over the past couple of months. I am, however getting close to maxing out the potential of a smaller lander design, so before I upgrade my mission architecture, I thought I'd plan a proper science mission.

To pull this off, I'll need to send a reconaissance probe into a polar orbit so I can choose a landing site. Send coms satellites (no mods, just decorative), test the latest iteration of my manned Duna 'Expedition Class' spacecraft as well as new launch vehicle hardware.

I will also need to create some infrastructure around Kerbin: Since the returning Duna spacecraft isn't designed for Kerbin reentry, descent and landing, I'll need to loft a Kerbin Gateway Station into orbit, where returning interplanetary craft can dock, and transfer crew to yet-to-be-perfected [ :blush: ] mini shuttles for return to Kerbin.

For now, here's the Duna Reconaissance Orbiter Report:

Duna Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission Objectives:

Conduct spacecraft checkout in Low Kerbin Orbit

Depart from Low Kerbin Orbit for Duna

Enter Duna’s SOI, and perform aerobrake manoeuvre

Establish high polar orbit, use ion engine to perform orbital adjustments

Begin planetary observation, start compiling list of landing sites

Lower orbital altitude, start shortlisting landing sites

Evaluate ion engine performance by conducting mock escape manoeuvres

Landing Site Criteria:

Hardware Limitations:

The EDL System of the Expedition Class Lander heavily relies on drogue chutes to arrest vehicle velocity. In order for the drogues to have sufficient time after deployment to slow the vehicle down, the landing site needs to be at a low altitude. The previous two Expedition missions used mare/ former sea beds. This does not rule out a landing location that is outside of roving distance of scientifically significant sites.

Geology:

Landing sites must have access to broad rock strata, so as best to analyse Duna’s geological history. Former lake/sea shores, canyons, mountainous regions and craters may be places that fulfil the geological requirements. Finding old terrain would be preferable - anywhere with a crater nearby would indicate that the land hasn't been renewed for eons.

Hydrology:

Duna was once a wetter planet. In order to understand how this water was lost, a landing site that was once host to significant bodies of water – and perhaps still does in the form of permafrost – is necessary. To have a good chance of finding permafrost, a non-equatorial landing site is required.

Atmosphere:

While not a primary criteria for landing site choice, a region with access to significant terrain elevation is desirable. This is so that a comparative climate study can be made at different altitudes.

Terrain Types:

Canyons:

Canyons that open up to low lying plains would be suitable if it could be determined that they were created using water rather than volcanic flows. There would be good science opportunities for the geology and hydrology mission objectives, although direct sampling of higher canyon strata may be difficult due to canyon wall steepness. For the same reason, fulfilling the climate mission objectives may also be difficult.

Craters:

Crater lakes can be determined by looking for water drainage channels. Significant disruption of terrain is inevitable, making analysis of Duna's geological past more difficult. Crater wall steepness presents the same issues as that of canyon walls.

Mountain Ranges:

Mountains could concievably fulfil all mission objectives if it were determined that water flowed between them in a significant way. A landing site at the foot of the mountains would be required, leading to a longer and therefore more hazardous rover sojourn. DRO would need to determine a safe path of ascent for the rover prior to landing at such a site.

Sea/Lake Shores:

These locations are safe landing sites, as proved by the previous two Expedition Class landings. It would need to be proved that the sea/lake was created using hydrological rather than volcanic processes (although the Expedition Mission 2 site featured evidence for both). A shoreline with significant elevation from the seabed would fulfile the geolgy and climate mission objectives, although, like the Mountain sites, long sojourns would be required.

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Landing Site A (The site that I eventually chose, as it turns out...)

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A canyon feature hereafter referred to as Valles Excelsior, feeding into the East Equatorial Sea from a crater lake called Splash.

The first Expedition Class mission established the presence of carbonates in the Equatorial Sea, proving that water existed when Duna was warmer and wetter. Since Valles Excelsior feeds into Equatorial Sea, it is near certain that water flowed through there as well.

The site features easy access to a vast spectrum of rocky strata up the canyon wall, with highland terrain beyond, although this involves a longer drive. The mouth of the canyon is broad, flat and at a low altitude- a safe landing site.

This fulfils the geological, climatological and historical water studies. Due to its equatorial latitude, it is not likely that permafrost is extant, but that is the only criterion that isn’t covered by this landing site.

The unselected Landing sites:

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Site B

A crater feature in a low southern latitude, hereafter referred to as Deep South Crater.

Terrain is favourable to safe landings.

It is uncertain whether there was a lake there in the past, though this seems likely. Access to rocky strata is possible, though not to the same extent as Site Alpha, and the same applies to climate studies. It is a prime site for permafrost studies though.

The main issue with Deep South is its very low latitude. A high inclination orbital insertion is possible, making landing and subsequent rendezvous efficient. However, the inclination needs to be lowered in order to perform a Trans-Kerbin Injection, and the Expedition Class mission spacecraft doesn’t have a high delta-v budget, leaving propellant margins for the return journey very tight.

Site C

A canyon feature very similar to Site A. Hereafter known as Rift Zone.

This canyon feeds into the West Equatorial Sea – where the first Expedition Class mission landing occurred. Landing at Rift Zone would therefore create a much better picture of how that region evolved.

Rift Zone possesses all the pros and cons of Valles Excelsior except a lack of highland terrain close by. This needs to be balanced by the benefits of getting a more complete picture of the West Equatorial Sea.

Site D

A low latitude volcanic plain hereafter referred to as The Snowbowl

It has all the positive features of Deep South Crater, with the additional benefit of an easier landing site and direct access to the South Polar cap without traversing difficult terrain.

Like Deep South, the main issue with The Snowbowl is its very low latitude. A high inclination orbital insertion is possible, making landing and subsequent rendezvous efficient. However, the inclination needs to be lowered in order to perform a Trans-Kerbin Injection, and the Expedition Class mission spacecraft doesn’t have a high delta-v budget, leaving propellant margins for the return journey very tight.

Site E

An extinct volcano sitting on a volcanic bulge – Volcano to be referred to as Colossus Mons.

This site is a geological goldmine, but is a highly challenging landing site. It’s high altitude so parachutes are unlikely to deploy fully prior to touchdown, requiring more landing fuel. Terrain is rough, but not to the extent of the Munar highlands. Even so, Lander Delta-V budget would be maxed. There are also no areas of extant or past water at this site.

Site F

A tectonic rift valley created by uplift from nearby Colossus Mons. It extends In a North-South direction.

Water was probably present, although it doesn’t flow into the Equatorial Sea so that isn’t confirmed.

The terrain is flat and wide, and the equatorial location means only a low inclination orbit is necessary. The site is also an easy drive north to higher latitudes.

The issues with this site relate to a lack of identifiable markers during EDL for navigating to a precise touchdown, as well as no solid evidence for this site hosting a river or lake.

LANDING SITE SELECTION DECISION:

Considering the broad spread of high value targets, Site Alpha at Valles Excelsior presents the best option for landing. We lose the link to the East Equatorial Sea and the first landing site science, as well as north latitude hydrological studies, but we fulfil every other science target.

We'll be landing in a valley delta and conducting initial substance studies at and around the touchdown point. After initial science studies at the landing site, the rover will be checked out and loaded. It will begin driving up the valley, possibly as far as Splash Crater, taking temperature, pressure, seismic and substance measurements as it travels.

It should be fantastic mission!

Edited by DunaRocketeer

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Try embedding the galleries into your posts, or use 52UTAsC.jpg

http://i.imgur.com/52UTAsC.jpg <--- The link without the %7Boption%7D tags. Just click the insert picture icon when you type out a post. :) Other than that, this looks really nice, I'll be checking back on it!

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Yes, please imbed the images, makes for a much smoother reading, and I look forward to more.

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Thanks, I've worked out how to embed albums into the thread. You're right it makes the whole thing read easier, especially since there's a fair amount of text too, although some threads on here have even more documentation - and I thought I was obsessive!

Duna Communications Network:

In order to provide near constant communication link between the lander and Kerbin, a three satellite constellation will be required when the lander does not have line of sight to Kerbin.

Mision Profile:

- Three low mass ComSats will be stacked together on a Light Class launcher.

- After orbital checkout, the satellites and their transfer stage will depart for Duna.

- On arrival, each satellite will be deployed in seperate orbits.

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Edited by DunaRocketeer

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Expedition Class Qualification Mission

Ascertain the capability of the Medium Class Launcher to loft a complete Expedition Class Spacecraft

Conduct orbital manoeuvres with the nuclear outbound transfer stage.

Separate the spacecraft and conduct manoeuvres with the ion return stage.

Re-enter Kerbin’s atmosphere and achieve a powered land touchdown.

Deploy and test the rover.

Flight Conclusions:

The stretched version of the Medium Class Launch Vehicle has centre of mass issues towards the end of first stage burn, upgrade to Heavy Class required.

Reconfigure nuclear transfer stage with a standard docking port so it can be reused.

General flight characteristics are as expected. Launch vehicle requires throttling towards end of first stage burn.

Manoeuvres with both nuclear and ion stages both satisfactory, vessel piloted to an encounter and flyby of the Mun before return to Kerbin.

Rover driving characteristics are excellent under Kerbin gravity.

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Edited by DunaRocketeer

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Mission Objectives for Expedition Class Spacecraft ‘Discovery’.

Outbound Duna Mission.

Launch on HCLV#6

Fly vehicle through pitchover and CCB jettison

Use upper stage to reach a 80-90km circular equatorial LKO

Deploy solar panels. Do an EVA inspection to ensure spacecraft is fit for interplanetary flight

Conduct TDI burn to initiate Hohmann transfer to Duna

Conduct materials experiments in the interplanetary medium

Perform a course correction burn to gain a more precise Duna Encounter

Upon Duna Encounter, adjust periapsis to 13,250 meters

Prepare spacecraft for aerobrake, stow solar panels

Complete aerobrake manoeuvre, redeploy panels, circularize into 53km equatorial orbit

Conduct overflight of landing site and make final decision on touchdown point

Separate Lander from transfer stage, carry out a vehicle checkout

Plot re-entry trajectory and initiate de-orbit burn

Upon initial drogue chute deployment begin landing gear extension, deactivate SAS

Upon full chute deployment, activate descent spotlight, activate SAS once vertical attitude achieved

At 300m altitude, use descent engines to slow Lander from 40m/s to 6m/s

Upon Duna surface contact, cut engines, SAS and spotlight

Make crew report , deploy solar panels, comms array, undock rover from vehicle, extend EVA ladder

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This report documents Jebediah Kerman’s epic voyage to Duna, the exploration of Valles Excelsior and his return - a feat he accomplished singlehandedly in a spacecraft weighing less than 25 tons.

Preparation and Launch Phase:

The constituent modules of the Expedition Class interplanetary vehicle Discovery were shipped to KSC between two years and seven months prior to launch. It featured a number of improvements over the design used for the two testing and qualification missions. The outbound transfer stage now included a docking port and a probe core for refuelling and remote piloting. This enabled it to be used as an orbital tug in future missions.

Outbound and return transfer stages were mated and tested a year prior to launch and stored in VAB Low Bay 2 whilst the lander was being constructed. Due to the intricate nature of its construction, a number of production setbacks affected Discovery’s manufacture. This meant that complete vehicle integration was completed with very little contingency time left in the schedule.

Heavy Class Launch Vehicle #6 components were delivered to KSC 121 days prior to launch. The two outboard Common Core Boosters were attached to the core stage with little difficulty, as was the well proven upper stage, which was a design brought over from the Medium Class Launcher program.

Discovery was then lifted out of Low Bay 2 and mated to HCL6. Rollout occurred two weeks prior to launch. Vehicle hotfire tests were satisfactory.

HCLV6 began tanking operations on the eve of launch day. Up to this point, no major issues were encountered during the count, with the exception of weather constraints. These were much tighter on HCLV vehicles due to a much greater sail area.

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On the morning of launch, Jebediah Kerman boarded Discovery at 7:36am, and was sealed in 96 minutes later. A crowd of almost one million spectators came to view his launch.

At T-00H56M, a stuck propellant vent valve required a hold in the count, whilst engineers replaced the faulty unit. This took nearly an hour to accomplish, but because there were still nearly 70 minutes left in the launch window, the launch attempt continued. At T-00H34M, the weather constraint had been removed. Launch was a go.

At launch, the two outboard CCB’s ignited and lifted the vehicle quickly off the pad. At 4km altitude, higher than expected wind shear was encountered, but this was within vehicle tolerances. The vehicle then began to throttle down to lessen acceleration stresses on the booster – a problem that plagued early test flights of the HCLV. Separation and core stage ignition was completed at 8km, and the vehicle began to pitch over for orbital flight. Core stage burnout occurred at 86km, and the upper stage promptly circularized the orbit. Discovery was in space.

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Interplanetary Transfer

Once orbit was achieved, Discovery was given a thorough check over to establish that she was fit for interplanetary flight. Everything was in excellent condition, so Jeb was given a go for an Orbit 2 Trans-Duna Insertion manoeuvre. Less than an hour after launch, the outbound transfer stage’s single nuclear thermal rocket ignited for a 7 minute burn, which accelerated Discovery to escape velocity. Over the next 24 hours, Jeb watched the planet Kerbin recede from view, until it was just a bright star, barely distinguishable from any other.

During interplanetary coast a coolant module failed, requiring an EVA and permanent shutting down of solar panel number 4 on the outbound transfer stage. A workaround was implemented, and this was the only major issue encountered during this phase of the mission. A mid-course correction burn occurred 31 days after leaving Kerbin, which put Discovery on a more precise encounter with Duna. At this point, it was becoming more obvious that propellant usage was going to be far less than anticipated, and a smaller outbound stage could be used next time, leaving more mass for new science canisters currently in R&D.

Jeb kept himself physically and mentally fit by using a deployable exercise bike, extensive reading, and keeping in regular contact with friends and family at home. He also continued to research his landing site at Valles Excelsior, and how best to mount EVA expeditions to the more remote areas of interest. Materials study experiments were carried out in the interplanetary medium.

A few months into the voyage, Jeb reported that the steadily brightening red star resolved itself into a disk, and that he could see larger features such as the Equatorial Sea...

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Duna approach, and Entry, Descent and Landing Operations:

As Duna neared, Discovery lowered her apoapsis to below 14km, and stowed her solar arrays. With Jeb reporting that everything was functioning well on the spacecraft, mission controllers waited tensely for word of how the aerobraking manoeuvre went.

Just prior to atmosheric encounter, Jeb made an overflight of his landing site. He could discern the features identified in the reconnaissance imagery, including the plain that would be his projected landing point.

Entry Interface occurred at just over 40km altitude, and mission controllers lost Discovery's tracking beacon at 22km. The spacecraft emerged from communications blackout in a 12.8 by 133.2km equatorial orbit, which was trimmed to 53x53km orbit in the subsequent hours.

Jeb made a final check of the descent activation sequence that determined the order of engine firings and parachute deployments during entry decent and landing. After everything checked out, he undocked Discovery from the transfer stage and aligned it to the de-orbit attitude. After plotting his descent vector, Jeb commanded Discovery's descent engines to execute a 20 second retrograde burn that would hopefully bring the spacecraft down onto the plains of Valles Excelsior.

Due to the shallow entry angle and thin atmosphere, entry heating was minimal. Both drogue chutes had a nominal deployment at 4km with full inflation occurring at 1km, after which Discovery's descent rate slowed to 40m/s and in a more vertical manner. Gear deployment and landing spotlight occurred shortly after main chute inflation, and Jeb observed ground illumination from the light at 400m altitude. Just prior to touchdown, the descent engines were fired one final time, to slow the descent rate to a more leisurely 5 m/s. Discovery then made a perfect touchdown on the plains of Valles Excelsior. Jeb radioed the news to mission control: “That was one heck of a ride!â€Â

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Duna Surface Operations and EVA 1

Post landing activities involved shutting down the SAS, deactivating the landing spotlight and descent engines.

Once the vehicle was safed, the solar arrays, crew ladder and comms dish could be extended. The rover was undocked from the base of the vehicle.

Jeb decompressed the cabin and set foot on Duna less than an hour after touchdown. EVA 1 was very short and would involve very little science, except for testing that the apparatus was functioning properly. Instead, the focus was on vehicle inspections and rover testing.

The rover, that Jeb had dubbed 'Wanderer' traveled less than 1km from the lander whilst its abilities were tested. Subsequent soujerns would be more ambitious.

Once everything was determined to be statisfactory for a longer duration surface stay, Jeb returned to the lander and repressurized the cabin. After a very eventful day, he watched the sun go down on Sol 1 of the expedition.

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Duna Surface Operations and EVA 2

On the morning of Sol 2, Jeb was given a go for an extended drive into the canyon. This would involve crossing an extensive network of dunes in order to search for an ancient river bed.

The rover continued to demonstrate excellent stability over a variety of terrain, and before long Jeb had travelled 7km from the lander, at which point he came across an area of carbonate deposits, indicating that water once flowed here.

After working his way through the rover's science suite and taking surface samples, Jeb turned his attention to the skies, where he observed the transfer stage flying overhead. Also observed was a solar eclipse by Ike which he took images of. Before heading back, he drove some way towards the canyon wall to take photos of the area - This would be useful for the Canyon wall ascent on EVA 3. Once this was accomplished, he started back for the lander. Watching the lander come into view, Jeb remarked that it was 'a most welcome sight' after a hard days work. He spent the last couple of hours of the EVA making night time observations and experiments, before returning to the cabin to rest.

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I'll probably not have much free time over the next few days, so I'll have to leave documenting the remainder of the mission until next week. There's still the station and shuttle to launch, I'll be putting up pics of the shuttle's test flight. And of course, jeb has to get home too!

Duna Surface Operations, EVA 3

This was the longest sojourn of the mission, at over 25km from the landing site. The objective of the EVA was to drive the rover to the canyon wall, and attempt an ascent.

Jeb began his journey shortly after sunrise, and made quick progress over the now familiar canyon floor. The terrain started to rise as he approached the canyon wall, making driving trickier. He began taking measurements as he went, and stopping when an interesting surface sample could be obtained.

He found that the gradient became to steep for the rover to make a direct ascent, so he resorted to tacking back and forth up the incline. He did this for over a kilometer of climbing, but eventually the rover simply lacked the power and traction to continue. Jeb made some final measurements from the rover science suite, and continued on foot, as well as jet-packing the steeper sections.

Eventually Jeb got suffiently high that he remarked that the sky was noticeably darker. Some of the steeper scarps exposed a lighter material that turned out to be rich in silica.

Hours of hiking later, he reached the top, and could see the small hills beyond. He radioed his observations back to KSC and planted a flag. The view was magnificent, since the canyon floor was literally kilometers below him, but that highlighted a problem: Getting back down was going to be more trecherous than anticipated.

At first his descent was manageable, but a patch of loose ground caused him to loose footing, and he slid for hundreds of meters without any control. Terrified that his suit would be breached on a rock or through simple abrasion, there was nothing he could do. Luckily, there was a small hollow that helped arrest his momentum, and he managed to get back to his feet. (I'm still kicking myself that I forgot to screenshot this...)

Upon reaching the rover, he began to drive down the slope, never exceding 6 m/s. There was no way he could reach the lander before sundown, so he found an area of relatively flat terrain, and camped out under the stars. At sunrise he completed his return journey, grateful that the rest of the EVA was uneventful.

With his resources on the surface exhausted, it was time to begin thinking of returning to orbit. He inspected his vehicle one final time and entered his spacecraft once more. The rest of the day was spent transmitting his data back to Kerbin, and performing general housekeeping tasks to ready the lander for flight.

Jeb looked forward to tomorrow with feelings of nervousness and excitement. He had made it to the surface. Would he be able to make it back to space?

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The shuttle album is a composite of screenshots during vehicle development

A lot of testing has had to take place with reagrd to flying side mounted payloads. Full reusabilty hasn't been achieved at this time due to inabilty to return the core booster intact, longer tanks and more powerful (and therefore fewer) engines may be necessary in order to gain sufficient structural stiffness.

Orbiter demonstrates good controllability in all flight regimes as well as high reliability, and is therefore qualified for crew return.

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The space programs first space station was a comparatively simple affair. Able to be launched on a medium class booster, it initially consists of a small module with habitation, docking, refueling and manoevering capability.

This will be sufficient for its role as a return station for interplanetary craft.

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Ok, starting to get there!

As the sun rose on Jebediah’s last day on Duna, he had some time to think about his stay there. Valles Excelsior had become his home, and he had become used to the solitude there. Looking out of the window, he considered this mission to represent exploration at its most distilled. Soon, larger spacecraft, and then full bases would be coming to Duna, and the planet would become less of the wilderness that drew Jeb to it in the first place. Where next would he go? What would he find out there, in deep space?

These were questions that would need to be answered another day. After a quick breakfast, he began a last set of procedures and system checks:

The main antenna had to be stowed, as did the solar arrays, making the vehicle dependent on battery power until it had reached space. Surface samples needed to be sealed in containers for their voyage. Other tasks needing completion were the arming of the ascent engines, reviewing fuel management strategy, testing the decoupler circuits, activating the SAS and RCS systems. After that, there was nothing to do but wait until the beginning of the launch window.

As the clock ticked down to zero, Jeb activated the ascent engines and the craft started to climb rapidly. As soon as it was ascertained that the vehicle was on a good trajectory, the landing legs were decoupled, making the vehicle lighter and more streamlined. One final materials science and crew report were taken during this phase of the launch.

Pitchover began at 5km, and the vehicle continued its climb up to an apoapsis of 50km, where the vehicle jettisoned its drop tanks. After the circularization burn was complete, the solar arrays were deployed once more, and the chase to the transfer stage began. Further burns brought the two spacecraft into encounter. Jebediah matched their velocities and vectors, until the transfer stage was at a distance of 1700 meters at a closing speed of 14m/s. Final approach and docking was completed on rcs thruster power at 0.1m/s.

Once hard docking was achieved and the crew cabin interfaced with the transfer stage’s systems, one final science transmission was completed. With the last of the data from the lander transmitted, the module that consisted of the auxiliary propellant tank, material science bay, communications antenna, and aerodynamic fairing was jettisoned.

The lander’s propellant and rcs tanks were then refuelled from reserves from the outbound transfer stage, before it too was cut loose. This left the core module of the lander and the ion propulsion return stage for the flight back to Kerbin. After a rest period, Jeb made ready for departure from Duna, and began the series of burns that would send him on the long fall sunwards, back home to Kerbin.

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After several burns to raise the spacecrafts apoapsis, the spacecraft reached the necessary escape velocity, and with that, Jeb was on his way home. As he saw Duna recede in his window, he felt a tinge of sadness contrasting with the knowledge that every second would bring him closer to Kerbin.

The departure burn was sufficiently accurate that only a very minor course correction after exiting Duna SOI was required.

The journey back was not nearly as active as the outbound trip. The science and exploration aspect of the mission was over, and Jeb's routine consisted of spacecraft maintainence and preparing for the Kerbin aerobrake manoeuvre.

As Kerbin neared, Discovery dived into its gravity well at 3km/s. He prepared the spacecraft for the dip into the upper atmosphere, the last critical phase of the mission. The deceleration caused by atmospheric drag captured the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit. After the ion engines raised the periapsis out of the atmosphere, its work was done, and was jettisoned. All that was left of the Expedition Spacecraft was the tiny capsule with limited propellant and battery capacity, but that was all that was needed to perform a rendezvous with The new Kerbin Gateway Station.

Docking with the station was nearly trouble free, aside from a slight deviation from the approach path near the end of the docking run. This was quickly corrected. With that, the Expedition Spacecraft had completed its mission. No spacecraft in the history of the space program had accomplished so much, and it was with mixed feelings that Jeb closed the hatch to Discovery's habitation capsule after entering the station.

Within hours a shuttle would be launched into a fast rendezvous trajectory, and if all went to plan, Jeb would see the first Kerbal in years. Hopefully soon after, he would pilot the shuttle back down to a runway at the same spaceport that he launched from, all that time ago.

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Edited by DunaRocketeer

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MISSION SUCCESS!!!

Bill Kerman launched from KSC in a Crew Transfer Shuttle on a fast rendezvous trajectory with Kerbin Gateway Station, where Jeb was waiting for his ticket home. After two hours, the shuttle was docked. Jeb, who hadn't seen a fellow Kerbal for the entire duration of his mission, was overjoyed to see his old friend Bill, who had specially requested to fly this shuttle mission.

On arrival at the station, Jeb had conducted simulations of shuttle landings to make sure that his flying skills were sharp. He also stepped up his excercise regimen, so that he could cope better with the full Kerbin gravity he was about to experience.

Soon though, it was time for Jeb to depart, and with a few thruster firings the shuttle backed away from the station. After taking an orbit to ready the shuttle for re-entry, Jeb flipped the spacecraft around and performed a 1 minute 9 second de-orbit burn. He was now irrevocably on course for a return to Kerbin. As the superheated air glowed around his spacecraft, he performed a series of long s-curves to scrub off speed, and as the spaceraft descended through 10km altitude he fired up the turbofans to stabilize his descent rate. He kept the shuttle fairly level until he cleared the mountain range near KSC, after which, he started throttling down the engines and aligning the shuttle to KSC Runway 01. At the runway threshold, he flared the shuttle, and smoothly touched down. Jeb was home, he would later recall; 'it didn't feel real, I had been in space so long, it was surreal to be back on Kerbin again...'. Taxiing the spacecraft to the spaceplane hanger, he found a group of fellow astronauts who welcomed him home.

It was the longest, most ambitious mission to date, and the science return was phenominal. But for now, Jeb would savour the moment, and then begin to dream of the next mission, and the adventures it held.

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Ok so that's about it for this expedition, it took a fair amount of planning out and writing up so I'm going to do some little missions and vehicle development for a bit whilst I mull over other mission concepts. What do people think of an Apollo Applications Program inspired Eve mission as a possible next step out into the solar system?

The last album I want to put on this thread is a brief one showing my various launchers and their uses up to this point. I love designing rockets!

Light Class Launch Vehicle:

Uses:

Lightweight manned Minmus and Mun landers.

Surface Probes to Duna and Dres and Eve

Probe launcher for Duna Mission Comms and Recon mission.

Medium Class Launch Vehicle

Uses:

Space Sation Module Launcher

Jool System Probe

Heavy Class Launch Vehicle

Uses:

Duna Expedition Spacecraft

Shuttle:

Space Station resuplly and crew rotation

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