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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. THE MIDAS PROGRAM I am one of those guys who has a hard time stopping the tinkering process with the stuff I build in KSP. I try to make them as accurate as possible within the limits of KSP. Every so often I come across new information that gives me inspiration to make an update to something I have built. Last week I came across this article: Missile Defense Alarm: The Genesis of Space-based Infrared Early Warning. I found some stuff I honestly didn't know. The first was that the infrared seeker head on the Midas vehicles rotated along its axis with the vehicle pointed down at Earth. This allowed a large cone of area below the vehicle to be scanned for missile launches. It also allowed multiple looks at the target missile which gave the system the ability to determine the target's course. Made a lot of sense! Secondly I originally thought that the Midas program ended with the Series 3 (Agena B based) launch of Midas 9. There was actually a follow up Midas series called the Research Test Series (RTS) that used the Agena D as the base vehicle. Intrigued, I set to work to incorporate these changes in my Midas kitbashes. Below are the results. This is the recreation of Midas 2 on May 24, 1960. This mission was Agena A based and not entirely successful IRL. The major revision to my earlier builds was the seeker head. I used a BG rotator to make the head and electronics section spin slowly. The Coatl IR head is mounted to a fairing base. The motor imparts a little torque to the Agena body, but the SAS adequately controls it. The nosecone is a Keyhole adaptor with a Tweakscaled Soltan nosecone on top. IRL it would have been a two piece vertically split fairing, but we don't have one of that shape in BDB or any other mod that I use. One lesson... I would suggest adding some jettisonable struts to help hold the seeker head still during staging and nosecone jettison. The Agena A was a good looking but stubby rocket stage. Too bad it had some frustrating reliability problems. I would have liked to see more of them fly. This is the Midas 3 mission of July 12, 1961. This was the first of the Series 2 Agena B based birds. Sources indicated that it had deployable solar panels, so I included them here. The seeker head is the same as the Series 1. The follow-on RTS series was Agena D based. This is Midas RTS 2 (aka Midas 11) mission of August 19, 1966. The linked article did not have pictures of these birds, but there were several key references that helped me determine how to build it. The article referred to the vehicle having both an aft and forward equipment rack with fixed solar panels on each rack arranged to ensure sunlight exposure at all times. So, I took the Agena engine mount, flipped it upside down and attached an Agena D aft rack to it. This formed the basis of the forward rack. I used a longer Agena SAF fairing and put two antennas near the forward rack, under the fairing. Once again, the seeker head rotates on a BG rotator. I am quite sure that the real vehicle was built very differently, but I think this one is a reasonable reproduction of it, given the parts limitations that we have with KSP. Getting a full BDB version of the Midas and Samos vehicles would be awesome, but I understand that it will probably not happen in KSP 1. That's okay. They are rather niche I will admit, but still fun to fly.
  2. I don't think Alternate Apollo was ever really finished, as it is still listed as a WIP. But it is fully playable. It has a lot of unique parts, including the 1962 "Bug" LEM! The mod can be found here:
  3. Good point! I think if NASA had a definite payload for Saturn I, they would have pushed von Braun's team to get her going faster, perhaps eliminating a little bit of the overhead in time caused by not using the "all-up" testing method and by pushing Douglas a little harder on S-IV development.
  4. ALTERNATE GEMINI Here is something to consider... What if Jim Chamberlin's fascination with using the Titan II as a launch vehicle for Project Gemini been overridden early in the development process and he had been ordered to use NASA's in-house design Saturn I instead? What would the vehicle have looked like? See below for my interpretation. This was made with a combination of BDB and Alternate Apollo parts. I have always been fascinated with the decision that was made to use the Titan II as a launch vehicle for Gemini. Apparently, Chamberlin (the head of engineering at the Space Task Group) was rather enthralled with the idea of the Titan II as a launch vehicle, and no other vehicle was ever seriously considered for Gemini. However, the Titan program eventually ran into severe problems with pogo oscillations during the launch phase, so bad in fact that NASA didn't think a crew could survive it. The Air Force dug in their heels and initially refused to do anything about it as it did not adversely affect the missile's performance as an ICBM. It took some very high level "discussions" before the AF relented and solved the problem. The vehicle I have shown here represents what I think the Project may have looked liked if NASA dictated that Gemini use Saturn I from the very beginning instead of bowing to Chamberlin's fascination with Titan II, before the retro and adaptor sections would have been designed to make the spacecraft fit the Titan II diameter. I think we may have gotten an even more capable vehicle than Gemini was IRL because of the higher lift capacity of the Saturn I. Also, they certainly would have had to use a LES in place of ejection seats due to the greater potential explosive power of a failing Saturn I. That frees up space inside the spacecraft. Fascinating to consider...
  5. I would give this a bunch of likes if I could. Thank you for making the effort. I really enjoy the historical aspect of BDB and this Atlas revision will immeasurably add to that. This is dangerously close to photograph like realism. Bravo! Your TUFX profiles are amazing.
  6. Very nice kitbashing. I have my own versions of the C-2 and C-3. I have wondered about the B-series Saturns. Might try those too! Clustered tanks seem like such an engineering compromise though.
  7. 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!
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Does anyone know how many cubic feet of useable space this would have had in this configuration versus an LM-based lab?
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
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