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  • About me
    Mentor to Pete Conrad
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    In a blockhouse at KSC, waiting for the future to arrive.

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  1. APOLLO A So, below is my Apollo A Lab mission. It was flown on an unmodified Saturn I to a 35 degree, 120km circular orbit on KSRSS using MechJeb PVG. It required quite a bit of part manipulation, and quite a few test flights with reverts back to launch to test flight parameters. One item that I will change for the "operational" flights is the retro pack. On this flight they were the Star 20 Altairs. They did the job but lacked a little authority for this application. It took me several tests to determine the optimal altitude. It seems to be 120 km. Anything lower than that and MechJeb PVG wants to excessively pitch down on 1st stage flight, and the initial phase of 2nd stage flight experiences some excessive pitch up. Higher than 120 km and the S-IV just doesn't have enough oomph to get to orbital altitude and velocity. I guess you could call this Apollo CSM the Block 0. One lesson I learned was that the decoupler has to stay with the SM and not the lab. If it stays with the lab it uses the node for the docking adaptor. Rookie mistake. You can't actually dock with it configured that way. Flipping the decoupler upside down restores the node after it decouples. Power for the stack was six Coatl CA-300I batteries (two on the lab and four in the SM). It gave plenty of power for at least six orbits. Monoprop was supplied by eight Coatl CAE-MT12 tanks. It was a fun but challenging build. It was like threading a needle to get it to orbit, but it works. If you use a Saturn IB weight first stage or upgraded RL-10's it would be fairly easy. My next Apollo variation involves the Saturn C-2!
  2. Further research has turned up this site: Apollo Preliminary Drawings This site is devoted to a very early (1961-ish) Apollo lunar version, probably the direct ascent lander. But it incorporates drawings that better define the "space laboratory" shown in the drawing above. It turns out that a transposition and docking maneuver would be needed to use the lab. That solves one problem of how to access the lab. I am still fiddling with my design and will let you know how it turns out. Scott Manley kitbashed the lander shown on this site using stock parts. It seems to have worked okay. It would look a lot better with BDB parts.
  3. So... it has been pretty quiet here lately, so I thought I would issue a challenge. I have been playing around with Apollo concepts lately. The original Apollo A concept from 1961 has intrigued me. I decided to try to kitbash it, but have been... unsuccessful, frustratingly so. So here is the challenge... recreate the Apollo A spacecraft as closely as possible and launch it on an unmodified Saturn I Block II to a minimum of a 100km circular orbit. NASA documents from June of 1961 have indicated quite firmly that this configuration was intended to be launched on a Saturn C-1 (Saturn I), and this is where I ran into problems. From the Instrument unit up I struggled to get the weight under 10 t and the Saturn I really struggled to get this to orbit, even a low one like 100km. I could only do it by cheating, i.e. reducing the weight of the S-I stage or upgrading the engines on the S-IV. The other issue is the rather poorly defined nature of the "space laboratory" on top of the IU. I took this to mean a manned lab, and the Block IV mission module from BDB worked very well for this, but it was still too heavy. There doesn't seem to be a transfer tunnel, so I assumed that EVA was necessary to enter the lab using an airlock (I used the lightweight inflatable one). In this drawing note the very short, open bottom service module with solid retro motors. The SM equipment (RCS fuel, electrical) was arranged along the periphery of the SM with the retro motors in the center. So, have at it. I will be interested to see what you come up with and how it compares with my creation.
  4. Does anyone know how many cubic feet of useable space this would have had in this configuration versus an LM-based lab?
  5. SAMOS PROGRAM PART 2 When the limitations of the Samos E-1 readout camera system became obvious, the program quickly pivoted to returning the film to Earth for study. Unlike the parallel Corona Program, Samos pursued returning not only the film, but the camera as well. This would require a large pressurized capsule, which was also intended to provide the basis for a DoD/ USAF manned spaceflight program. In many ways, the concept was similar in nature to the Soviet Zenit program. The E-5 camera system and film was contained entirely within the reentry vehicle, although there was an additional camera/reflector that was jettisoned prior to reentry. The program also shifted to the more powerful and restartable Agena B for these flights. Below is a recreation of the Samos 6 mission on March 7, 1962. Launch was from Point Arguello LC 1-2. Atlas 112D with Agena B A2204 provided the ride to orbit. It was one of the first completely secret flights from the U.S. Launch, BECO and skirt jettison, staging, and final climb to orbit went as planned. A 200 km x 90.89 deg orbit was obtained. Solar panel activation, nose cone jettison, antenna extension, and payload activation went as planned. The recon mission was concluded successfully. What was obtained remains highly classified. Let's just say the Krussian's secrets aren't so secret anymore, and leave it at that. The Agena did its work for the last time by performing the deorbit maneuver over the Arctic. Spacecraft separation was successful, followed by the jettison of the upper reflector/camera assembly. The spacecraft survived reentry and was picked up north of Hawaii. In the real world, the Samos E-5 flights were almost total failures. This flight ran out of RCS propellent before it deorbited and the spacecraft could not be recovered. In the end the E-5 camera system did not do what was wanted, so the program pivoted once more to the follow-on E-6. The capsule is a slightly Tweakscaled down Stock Mk1 pod. I really wanted to use the BDB Mercury, but it can't be Tweakscaled and I thought it looked just a little too big when compared to real photos of the E-5 capsule. It was a bit of a trick to get the parachute attached correctly. It required a lot of fiddling with the Move tool. I placed the main camera right over the window on the Mk 1 pod.
  6. Sure! But you have to drop a few bucks on it. While it isn't the top of the line, it isn't the $400 Costco special either. I use it for a variety of purposes and I haven't had a desktop for quite a few years now. My previous Asus laptop was a good setup too, but it struggled with KSP so I upgraded last year. It was a good choice. The cooling mat helps a lot and I would suggest using one for a laptop running KSP.
  7. I use an Asus Predator Triton 300 laptop with an i7-11800H @4.6GHz and 64GB RAM. For video it has a RTX 3070 GPU with 8 GB RAM. It works very well for KSP, but it gets hot, even with its larger internal fan. I use a cooling mat to help keep the temps down.
  8. SAMOS PROGRAM PART 1 The Samos Program started off as the USAF's WS-117L reconnaissance and protection program. It would later split into the Samos-E optical reconnaissance and the Samos-F electronic surveillance programs. Samos-F became the Heavy Ferret spacecraft (see my earlier post). Eventually the Samos-E morphed into a running mate for the Corona/Discoverer program, distinguishing itself from Corona by using at first a film-readout and scan system where the film was developed onboard the spacecraft and then scanned electronically for image transmission to the ground. In order to test elements of both the E and the F programs, the first Samos flights would have the F-1 eavesdropping package installed on top of the E-1 optical camera. Once the F-1 mission was completed, the package would be jettisoned so that the E-1 camera could run its course. Below is my recreation of the Samos 2 mission. Atlas 70 D and Agena A A2102 boosted the spacecraft into a fairly high 400km x 97.4 degree orbit from Point Arguello (later Vandenberg) LC 1-1 on January 31, 1961. Liftoff, climb out, and staging were all nominal and the spacecraft was successfully inserted into orbit. Once stabilized on orbit, The spacecraft extended antennas and powered up. The nose cone was jettisoned, exposing the F-1 package. The package was run through its test program, which was mostly experimental in nature, proving out concepts of electronic surveillance from orbit. After the F-1 package was jettisoned, the E-1 cameras did their work, transmitting a lot of data to the ground. The DoD and USAF to this day can neither confirm nor deny that Soviet naval facilities on the Kamchatka peninsula were imaged on this flight. Note: In the non-KSP real world, Samos 2 suffered from a host of problems, both with the Agena vehicle and the payload. While some test data was returned from the F-1 package, little if any useful data from the optical cameras was transmitted. Ultimately, film scan and readout would be dropped because a high enough resolution could not be obtained, and the data received was poor. The Samos program would quickly pivot to returning the film to Earth for study, along with the camera. See the coming part 2 for that.
  9. I am not sure what you are asking. I started with stock scale, and when I loaded KSRSS it converted it 2.5x. Is that what you wanted to know?
  10. THE MIDAS PROGRAM The Missile Defense Alarm System was the U.S. military's first attempt at a space based program designed to detect Soviet missile launches. An infrared sensor in the nose of each spacecraft was intended to detect the heat of a missile launch and broadcast a warning to U.S. military forces. Intended to be a fully operational system, the system ran way over budget and suffered from reliability concerns. In the end it wound up filling a research and development role for the later and much more successful Defense Support Program (DSP). Three of the program's 12 missions ended in outright failure, while the rest provided valuable, if not fairly limited and crude service. The program ran concurrent with Corona and SAMOS. The first reasonably successful flight was the MIDAS 2 mission on May 24, 1960. The Series 1 bird was a pathfinder, intended to demonstrate the technology and was not considered an operational model. Atlas 45D and Agena A A1007 boosted the spacecraft from Cape Canaveral's LC-14 to a successful, but limited flight. The limited abilities of the Agena A spacecraft led the program to shift to the restartable Agena B for the Series 2 "operational" missions. The images below are meant to recreate the MIDAS 3 mission of July 12, 1961, launched from Vandenberg (Pt. Arguello) LC-1-2 on Atlas 97D and Agena B A1201. It was fun kitbashing this stuff, and I went through several iterations before I got to the final design. Between BDB and Coatl I had lots of parts to choose from. Next up... SAMOS!
  11. @Zorg, @CobaltWolf, Since there is some ongoing work on the Atlas series, would it be possible to get a revision or addition to an Agena fairing? Several missions (Heavy Ferrets, SAMOS and others) used a simple two-piece conical fairing that exactly matched the diameter of the Agena. Currently, we have the SAF Standard Agena Clamshell Fairing, but it is slightly larger than the diameter of the Agena. I have kitbashed several one piece nose cones, but the SOLTAN nose cone that makes up the top part is not hollow so if you are not careful you run into clipping issues. See below: The one on the left uses the Kerbodyne ADTP-2-3A and the SOLTAN, and the one on the right uses the Keyhole RVA-1 and the SOLTAN. Both work, but it requires some manipulation to get right. Historically these should be two piece split clamshell affairs. There were several different color schemes, and believe it or not this beige color (courtesy of Simple Repaint) was actually used on the Ferrets. Note that these all have semi-rounded tops, which is what they were historically. I avoid using Procedural Fairings, as they will only come to a sharp point. As an alternative, would it be possible to have the SAF-SAC start off with the zero segment model being about the height of the ones I have pictured above? It could gradually get taller as you added segments. Currently the zero segment version is quite tall, with no way of making it shorter. Thank you for the consideration.
  12. I will throw in that MJ does not like solids. It will not ignite them. So, with Surveyor I fly it manually in retrograde until it is time to ignite the solid, about 50-60k. I light the verniers at the same time. As soon as the solid burns out I jettison it and engage MJ, using the “land anywhere” function under Landing Guidance. You have to be quick on this. MJ flies it quite well right down to touchdown. For added historical accuracy, I cut off MJ a few meters above the surface and let the lander free fall the rest of the way. The “new” BDB Surveyor has plenty of gas in the tank, as the verniers really sip the fuel.
  13. Atlas Able was only intended to be an interim solution until the more capable (but ultimately canceled) Atlas Vega and then the Atlas Agena and Atlas Centaur came on line. Even if it had been completely successful, Atlas Able most likely would only have flown for an additional year or two at most. It was a bit of a mis-match really, IMO. Having the powerful Atlas pared with the low powered and skinny Able seemed like overkill for the first half of the ride uphill with low weight, small dimension payloads like early Pioneer, Tiros, Explorer, and Transit. These types of missions made much better sense with a Thor as a first stage. Atlas Able was kind of like using a diesel truck to tow a garden cart. Pairing Atlas with a Vega, Agena, or Centaur not only allowed heavier payloads, but ones with larger dimensions as well. This reality made a swift change from an Able upper stage to something bigger and more powerful inevitable. With all that said, I disagree with people who say that Atlas Able was an ugly rocket. I think it was pretty cool looking and BDB has made it fun to play around with.
  14. Hey, no problem on that. I was only pointing it out for general information purposes. The ceramic material surprised me. I am sure the process of modeling it in KSP is quite complex.
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