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JNSQ: Commercial Space Ventures - Epilogue

Angelo Kerman

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  • 1 month later...

Chapter 32






The Drax Fuel Depot was getting overcrowded. Jool Upper Stages were docked together like how sailing ships of old were lashed together when a harbor ran out of dock space. To alleviate the overcrowding, Drax Aerospace launched a pair of new truss segments to the Depot that provided docking space for four upper stages. Even better, the truss segments also provided docking adapters to enable a JUS to dock with a variety of different spacecraft. Those adapters would come in handy in a few weeks.



Drax Fuel Depot 2 also received a new truss structure, but without the corresponding adapters. Finally, Drax shuttled one of their tankers over to Fuel Depot 2 and docked it to the truss. Then they sent another JUS to Depot 2 to gas it up. With the prep work completed, the next phase of Project Minmus began.




First, Drax Fuel Depot 2 departed Kerbin orbit and headed for Minmus. Three days into its journey, the Ministry of Space launched their International Habitat Module into orbit. After verifying its status, they sent it onward towards Minmus. Next, two days before the fuel depot entered Minmus’ SOI, the vonKerman Republic launched Gateway Station’s Airlock Module into orbit and sent it on its way as well.





Finally, over the course of a week, the IHM arrived and docked with Gateway Station, and the Airlock Module took its place as well.

There was more to do, but it would have to wait. An old traveler was about to reach its destination.






Over a decade ago, during SLS-36, Space Shuttle Opportunity delivered the Hamek Surveyor into orbit. Its Payload Assist Module lacked sufficient delta-v for the years-long journey, so Opportunity rendezvoused with L5US-5, the Lindor 5 Upper Stage that was flown on the historic Mϋnflight 5 (a.k.a. Bill & Jeb’s excellent Road Trip). On Cuahoc 15, 2002, Hamek Surveyor at long last entered its namesake’s sphere of influence.

Hamek Surveyor’s connection back to KSC was tenuous at best and would’ve been nonexistent were it not for the First Laythe Fleet still coasting through interplanetary space, and that didn’t bode well for the Nara Surveyor. But that was a problem for another day, it was the Hamek Surveyor’s time to shine.

Nearly a day after entering Hamek’s SOI, the probe used up the last of the L5US’s propellants, condemned it to interplanetary space, and continued its engine burn using the PAM-C’s engine. The space probe gathered what science it could from high orbit and transmitted it back to KSC. If nothing else succeeded, at least they had some information about the planet.

Fortunately, things were going quite well. Hamek Surveyor had plenty of propellant to slow down and even enter low orbit around the Kuiper Kerman Belt Object, becoming the first spacecraft to do so. As the first images of Hamek began to appear, scientists were puzzled; KBOs were thought to be icy planetoids and yet Hamek had a reddish hue. Why?

To find out, Hamek Surveyor settled into a 60.3km by 786.6km polar orbit to take continuous readings with its sensor arrays Over the next few months, it would survey the rocky ground beneath the probe.

The science staff at KSC celebrated for a full day. Many of the staff were still in school when the probe left Kerbin orbit, but the older astronomers like Adsii were delighted to see the probe make it to its namesake at long last.





On a bright, sunny day on Cuahoc 21, 2002, Drax Aerospace launched a Jool Heavy carrying a modified propellant tank. The tank normally would hold just propellium, but this time, it held both propellium and oxidizer. Drax Aerospace’s workhorse shed its boosters during its climb to orbit, then, in time, the reusable propulsion module and the core tank. The vessel took the next hour waiting for its transfer burn, but with nothing else to do, its circuits simply marked time.

Then, exactly as planned, it ignited its engines at just the right moment, and 24 minutes later, it arrived at the Drax Fuel Depot. The craft didn’t stay long though; after docking at the Depot, the tanker offloaded its propellant and filled up one of the JUS vehicles before undocking and deorbiting.

The company hoped that soon- very soon- the tankers at both of their Depots would bring propellium and oxidizer back from Minmus instead of having to lift it from Kerbin. Drax had to commend Orbital Dynamics for finding water on the Mϋn- which led to also discovering water on Minmus. But he also had to revel in the fact that his company was the first to demonstrate water extraction and conversion. That gave them the edge needed to secure the ISRU contract, Gateway Station’s core module, and the ULM. But he wanted more. It still galled him that Orbital Dynamics won the base building contract- but he had plans to address that as well…




The K-26 Jetscream roared into the sky. Designed for high-speed, long-range transport, the K-26 was an experimental supersonic passenger transport built primarily to test its twin JX-4 Whiplash air-turbo ramjet engines, but in theory it could be developed into a small commercial aircraft or executive jet. The JX-4 was a powerful jet engine that used conventional jet fan technology to get up to speed and then rely on ram-air compression to propel the aircraft well past the speed of sound. That was the theory, at least; the Jetscream was hovering just under the speed of sound as it climbed past 6700 meters. But that was about to change…

“Hold onto your seats,” Tesen Kerman said from the cockpit, “we’re about to light the solids.”



Adsii Kerman and the other two scientists with him gulped. When he boarded the K-26, he plainly saw the two BACC Thumper solid rocket motors strapped to the bottom of the aircraft. They were normally attached to the sides of rockets going into orbit, and yet there they were, bolted to the underside of an aircraft. He could swear that KSP wanted himself, Ferwin, and Darwig on the flight just so that the pilots up front would have someone to torture and frighten. They were about to get their chance.

Suddenly, Adsii left his stomach a few dozen meters below and behind as the K-26 pitched up to 45 degrees and ignited the Thumpers. He passed out for a few seconds but awoke just in time to hear the solids run out of propellant and the loud bang as they dropped away.


“Oh, nice,” Tesen said calmly over the intercom, she was enjoying herself. “The ramjets flamed out at twenty-five thousand. We’ll hit apo at 34, the head back down. Mach 2 isn’t too bad, but we’ll see what the ramjets can do when we restart them…. Ok, relight at 23, and off we go! Wow, we’re passing Mach 2.5 at 16k! … Passing Mach 3.2… 3.3… 3.4… 3.5! She’s still accelerating! 3.7… 3.8, wow! Mach 4! At this speed we’ll reach Darude in fifteen minutes instead of two hours! Fifteen thousand appears to be the sweet spot for the JX-4s…”


The K-26 dropped down to fourteen thousand meters and just briefly cracked Mach 4.2 before settling into a comfortable Mach 4.1 cruising velocity. Adsii had to admit that despite the initial terror, cruising along at over four times the speed of sound wasn’t so bad- especially since they had less than five minutes to cover the nearly 300 kilometers reaming to Darude.


Adsii felt the airframe shudder suddenly, and his moment of serenity passed. “Oops, overstressed the airframe and lost the left canard,” Tesen said calmly. “We didn’t really need that… Oh, no wonder, we just slipped passed Mach 4.3. Oh well, we’re less than 100 klicks out from Darude…” Adsii hardly noticed Tut-Un Jeb-Anh Island rapidly passing below them as they screamed across the sky on approach to Darude Launch Complex. Darwig and Ferwin were even in worse shape and reaching for their airsickness bags.




Without warning, the engines idled, causing Adsii to wonder what catastrophe awaited them next. “Not to worry,” Tesen spoke over the intercom once more, “we’re just slowing down so we can drop our altitude and land. We don’t want to fly past the space center…” As it was, they had to circle around the launch complex to reduce speed and altitude before landing. Darude Kontrol cleared the K-26 to land on Runway 090 Right, and a few seconds later, they landed and taxied to their designated hangar. As the passengers and flight crew disembarked, the vonKermans immediately met them with one of their famous limos and brought them to their astronaut complex. While Adsii, Darwig, and Ferwin had a 3-day conference to discuss why Hamek wasn’t the icy KKBO that they thought it should be, Tesen and Hensen had an equal time of evaluating the performance of the K-26, filing paperwork, and drinking the vonKermans under the table…




Drax Aerospace continued their launch campaign in support of Project Minmus, this time lofting their Automated Minmus Mining Outpost (AMMO), into orbit. AMMO applied the lessons learned from Drax’s prototype water miner that landed in Drax Crater a couple of years ago. It had more drills and better power generation plus new connection hoses for additional components. It also had a set of lights to make it easier for engineers to work on the rig, and new automated fuel pumps to transfer propellants throughout the vessel.


After attaining a low parking orbit, AMMO headed straight for the Drax Fuel Depot to take on the propellant that it needed for the trip to Minmus. Half an hour later, the craft docked, took on propellant, and headed out to the Mint Mϋn. Eleven days after that, it docked with Drax Fuel Depot 2 to await deployment…


Two weeks later, Drax rolled a Jool Heavy Wide Load out to Pad B, fueled it, and launched it into orbit. Within its bulbous fairing was the last major contribution to Project Minmus by Drax Aerospace: the Universal Landing Module. The ULM had a redesign since its initial proposal. While it retained the upper and lower docking ports and it kept its four KR-1E-V Angora cryogenic engines, engineers replaced the circular solar arrays with retractable panels, and they replaced the auxiliary landing grip pads with a set of powered wheels. Most importantly, however, designers redesigned the landing gear to provide telescopic extensions. All these changes made it possible to land several different types of payloads and move them around on the surface.


The ULM had a Multipurpose Tank Module attached to its upper deck to refuel the lander with. KSC intended to ferry it to and from the surface as soon as they set up AMMO. But for now, the ULM navigated its way to the Drax Fuel Depot to refuel and waited for its final payload.



When the conference concluded, the vonKermans, Adsii, Danwig, and Ferwin were still no closer to figuring out why Hamek wasn’t an icy KKBO. It defied explanation. At any rate, Tesen and Hensen said that they weren’t finished inspecting the K-26 airframe after the mishap with the port canard and needed more time. In response, their travel budget got a bump, and while Ferwin and Danwig were eager to see the sites, Adsii got a note from Gene. “I hear that the Pyramid of Tut-Un An-Jeb is nearby,” it read simply.



Adsii chuckled, remembering the conversation that he had with Gene a few months ago (in Chapter 27) about ancient history. “What are you up to, Gene,” he said to himself. A few hours later, he and Sofia vonKerman, one of VKR’s astronauts and something of a history buff herself, borrowed one of the space center’s turboprops and flew over to Tut-Un An-Jeb Island at a stately 165m/sec (a mere Mach 0.49). It felt slow compared to the K-26.


“The Kermantians didn’t really call it Tut-Un An-Jeb Island,” Sofia pointed out, “but we don’t know what they called it.” He wasn’t sure if it was due to sitting up front in the cockpit or the charming company or both, but Adsii soon realized that he wasn’t terrified when the small plane took off or when it hit air turbulence on the way to the island. Either way, the flight was quite pleasant.



Sofia set the plane down on the island’s hard sandy surface and taxied over to the ancient pyramids. As they disembarked, she pointed out that hardly anyone visited the ruins anymore. They walked up to the statue of Tut-Un An-Jeb and admired the Kermantians’ handiwork. “On certain nights of the year, the statue stares directly at Grannus,” Sofi said. “Legend says that Tut Jeb would often stare up at the night sky longingly, so when he poofed and the Kermantians built this pyramid complex- his tomb- they set the statue's eyes to stare skyward to honor him.”

Adsii had heard of the legend before, but he nodded and acted like he didn’t. “Wow, that’s so interesting,” he said. “I guess many of the ancients longed to travel the stars as much as we did. That reminds me, wasn’t the Long Count calendar discovered here?”



“Oh yes,” she said enthusiastically. “It’s one of the oldest known renditions of the Kermantian calendar. Come, I’ll show you.” The two explorers walked to the back of the pyramid until they found the hieroglyphs for the Long Count calendar. When he saw it, he gasped. The realization finally hit him; he was here, where the Kermantian civilization recorded many of their great accomplishments!

“Here you can see where the Kermantians described how they came up with the Long Count,” Sofia said. “They tracked Kerbin’s course through the heavens, calculated the circumference of the planet- they were off by just a few meters- and measured time in many clever ways. From there they came up with the cycles of time. And over there they describe the ‘End of Time’ but, as you can see, that portion of the carvings was destroyed long ago.”

Adsii saw the damage. It was a shame that that section had fallen. It looked like it did in the black and white photos he’d seen… except… it didn’t. Something was off. “Sofi, how long ago was this section damaged,” he asked.


“A couple hundred years ago, according to the expedition that found the pyramids, why?”

Adsii’s geologically trained mind raced. It just didn’t look right, but he couldn’t place it. “It’s… weathered differently than the areas around it.”

“It’s ‘weathered differently?’ How,” Sofi asked.

“It’s… I dunno, it’s just… different,” Adsii concluded. He took some pictures and tried to put it behind him as they toured the rest of the complex.




Having learned all that they could, Adsii and Sofia returned to Darude a short time later. With the K-26 fully inspected and cleared for flight, the passengers and flight crew boarded the plane for their high-speed flight back to KSC, arriving in record time.





Phoenix Aerospace rolled out an Edna-1F to Pad A, fueled it, and launched it into a 131.0 km by 138.8 km parking orbit. The rocket carried the Ostrich Landing Command Module, built by KSC, along with a Payload Maneuvering Vehicle. After ditching the Edna Upper Stage and commanding it to deorbit, Phoenix Aerospace Mission Control got the change to test their new Edna Payload Assist Module. Little more than a small cluster of fuel tanks flanked by a pair of 24-77 Twitch Liquid Fuel Engines and topped with a probe core, the EPAM provided an extra boost to get payloads where they were going.



In this case, the EPAM hauled the LCM/PMV combo to Drax Fuel Depot. But it didn’t stay long. The little spacecraft maneuvered next to the ULM stack, detached, and executed its deorbit maneuver. Meanwhile, Ostrich and its PMV scooted over to the ULM stack and docked to its upper docking port. With the final payload installed, the ULM stack departed Drax Fuel Depot and headed for Minmus…




Nine days later, the ULM stack docked with Minmus Station. From a remote workstation at KSC, pilots unpacked the ULM stack. First, they moved the PLM to its perch on the ILM’s starboard port. Next, they unpacked the ULM and docked the LCM to HALO’s starboard port. Then, they moved the MLT to HALO’s ventral port. Finally, the team moved the ULM to the bottom of the LCM.



With Gateway Station assembled, KSP handed ownership of the JUS to Drax Aerospace, who renamed it JUS-5 and added it to their growing fleet of JUS Tugs. JUS-5 briefly went suborbital to discard its payload adapter and then reacquired orbit before it shuttled over to Drax Fuel Depot 2 to await its next assignment.





Dudmon (PLT), Jebman(ENG), Richny (ENG), Elke (SCI), and Glesby mcKerman (SCI) boarded a chartered flight from Phoenix Aerospace. The Firebird rocketed into the sky atop an Edna 1F and achieved low Kerbin orbit a few minutes later. After rigging for orbital flight, Dudmon- KSP’s Chief of the Astronaut Corps- plotted a course for Starlab and arrived a few hours later. After exchanging pleasantries with Starlab’s crew, Dudmon and his team boarded Magellan, powered up the spacecraft, and undocked from the aging space station. A couple of hours later, Magellan docked with Orbital Dynamics Shipyard.

The shipwrights celebrated their latest creation- designed by KSP- known as the Landing Puck. The station crew successfully produced their first 3.75m diameter extruded hull, a single piece that made printing the rest of the Puck much easier. As the PMV maneuvered the Landing Puck onto Magellan’s front docking port, the station crew reflected on the design. Simply put, the Landing Puck provided a mounting point for a Multipurpose Tank Module, delivered to the ground via the ULM.





A few minutes after undocking from the Shipyard, Magellan ignited her main engine and burned for Minmus. Nearly ten days later, the spacecraft docked with Gateway Station. As the crew settled in, Dudmon undocked the Drax PMV, grabbed the Puck, and tried to dock it to the underside of the ULM. Sadly, it couldn’t fit! Some quick thinking later, Dudmon returned the Puck, grabbed the MTM, and docked it to the ULM- just long enough to deposit its spacer module. That did the trick; after returning the MTM, Dudmon grabbed the Puck once more and docked it to the ULM’s underside…



Over at Drax Fuel Depot 2, the AMMO departed the station and unfurled its solar arrays. A couple of hours later, AMMO set down 85 meters from the mining site and on fumes. It wasn’t the best spot and flatter terrain appeared further ahead, but they had to wait until AMMO’s tanks were filled up to move it…

AMMO demonstrated its ability to extract resources even during the nighttime, allowing the outpost to function continuously. Once its propellant tanks refilled with propellium and oxidizer, AMMO lifted off the surface in search of better terrain. A couple of minutes later, AMMO jetted up the hill a bit and settled down again near the peak. As it turned out, the new site, just under half a kilometer from the marker flag, had better access to water and other resources. Satisfied with the location, Mission Control cleared Gateway Station’s crew for the next phase of their mission…




With the Landing Puck attached to its underside and the Ostrich LCM mounted to the top, the ULM descended to Minmus’ surface and landed next to AMMO. After dropping the Puck, Dudmon and Richny hopped out- Jebman was too stressed out to work- to connect it with AMMO. Since it was his first trip to the surface- actually, the firs time for the entire crew- Dudmon took the time to plant a flag before Richny inspected AMMO.




After completing the needed connections, Dudmon and Richny returned to Ostrich/ULM and tested the system by docking the lander to the Puck. It worked like a charm; AMMO’s automated pumps filled the lander’s tanks, marking the first time that a spacecraft without dedicated mining and refining equipment was refueled with resources mined and refined locally.


Their mission completed, Ostrich/ULM lifted off and returned to Gateway Station a few hours later. The only problem was with how much propellant it took to realign its orbital plane from polar orbit to equatorial orbit, and it was something that KSP’s staff didn’t consider.

But that was a problem for another day. Given Jebman’s current condition, Mission Control decided to bring the crew home so that the engineer could receive the medical care that he needed. After shutting down Ostrich/ULM, the crew boarded Magellan and departed Gateway Station for the nine-day trip home. The crew wasted no time powering down Magellan, boarding Phoenix, and heading back to KSC.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Chapter 33



Orbital Dynamics’ company jet- actually, Scott’s personal jet that he bought when he won the lottery- touched down on Welcome Back Island’s Runway 90 Left on the morning of Itzcoatl 7, 2003, with a load of new employees. The plane taxied past Resolute and Dauntless, much to the delight of the occupants, and then parked next to Hangar 2, home of Ascension. As the pilot performed his post-flight checklist, the new employees, all engineers, exited the aircraft and were greeted by one of the newer scientists to join the company.

“Welcome to the Island,” the scientist said, reading from a script. “We refer to Welcome Back Island as ‘the Island’ around here, because saying ‘Welcome to Welcome Back Island’ gets confusing. Anyway, I’m Glenwin Kerman, and I’ll be your mentor to help you get oriented to the Island and help you get settled in. It’s company tradition for recent hires to give the orientation tour to the new hires, so in due time, you’ll be helping new hires to get oriented as well. Let’s get started, shall we?”

Calming Kerman, one of the four engineers, grinned. This is going to be a very interesting experience, he thought to himself.



The Blackstar launched into orbit from Jay Kerman Air Force Base, carrying with it an experimental spacecraft known as the Remote Atmosphere Observation Satellite (RAOS). Built from spy satellite technology, RAOS was designed to examine the atmospheres of celestial bodies and perform spectrographic analysis on their composition. The KAF hoped that the technology would one day help the space program research distant planets and look for harvestable resources- and to give a new lease on life for obsolete technology that no longer served a purpose.



After rigging the ship for orbital flight, the crew got to work, rotating RAOS vertical and deploying the spacecraft. Once deployed, it unfurled its solar arrays and extended its antennas. As a test, RAOS pointed its sensors at Minmus- the previous Magellan crew were surprised to notice small tufts of clouds that drifted near the surface, which really surprised the team. RAOS had several weeks of observations to make, so with nothing more to do, Blackstar’s crew carried on with the next phase of their mission.



The military Mk33 aligned planes with its next target and made a couple of engine burns that parked it next to the Orbital Dynamics Shipyard a day after launch. The flight crew docked within minutes of arriving, and after exchanging pleasantries with the station crew, the Air Force astronauts got to work. The team carefully transferred the nuclear fuel that Blackstar carried over to Minmus Base’s awaiting Support Module. While the KAF/KIA/KSP team had a solution to Orbital Dynamics’ “blutonium problem,” they were still researching how to miniaturize the technology needed and getting policy formed through Kongress, so it was still necessary to bring the deadly resource up from Kerbin. But with that done as well, Blackstar departed the Shipyard and made her way back to base.



Since Drax Aerospace had more tugs to spare than Orbital Dynamics, KSP directed the aerospace giant to send one of their JUS tugs over to the Shipyard, pick up their Support Module, and send it on its way to Minmus. Neither company was particularly thrilled about KSP’s directive, but they did have a point about efficient resource allocation.

So, JUS-3- one of the older tugs- undocked from the Drax Fuel Depot, aligned planes with the Shipyard, performed its engine burns, and six hours later, arrived at the construction station. After it arrived, the station’s Harbormaster took remote control of JUS-3 and docked it with its cargo. Once the yard workers determined that its connections were solid, the Harbormaster undocked the JUS/Support Module stack, maneuvered it away from the station, and handed control back over to Drax Aerospace Mission Control. DAMC then aimed the craft towards Minmus and boosted out of Kerbin orbit.



Tesen Kerman (PLT), Elke Kerman (SCI), Glesby mcKerman (SCI), along with rookie astronauts Rosey Kerman (ENG) and Gwenmy Kerman (ENG), launched into orbit via a chartered Phoenix Aerospace Firebird to continue the work started by Dudmon Kerman and his crew during Minmus Base Expedition 1 (MBE-1). Unfortunately, their mission was cut short because Jebman got stressed out from overworking. As before, Firebird docked with Starlab and the crew exchanged pleasantries with the station crew before boarding Magellan and heading out to the Orbital Dynamics Shipyard.





A day later, Magellan parked at the Shipyard’s pier, picked up Minmus Base’s command module, and then departed. Lacking sufficient propellium for the trip to Minmus, the vessel made a few transfer burns to rendezvous and dock with the Drax Fuel Depot, partly filled its tanks, and then departed, burning for the mint mϋn an hour later. They had an eight-day trip to Kerbin’s furthest natural satellite.



Not long after the new Orbital Dynamics employees began their tour, Scott and Frolie- mabo declined the offer to fly as well- boarded Skyranger for one final flight. Barely passing its flight inspections, the original Mk33’s fate had finally been sealed. Originally designed and proposed for the Shuttle Launch System, the Mk33 was ahead of its time, and that had originally been her undoing. Her composite fuel tanks suffered from delamination, which meant they would fly apart during launch with catastrophic results. So, the prototype languished in storage for a decade until the SLS program ended and the Kerbin Orbital Transportation Services program began. That’s when Scott Kerman, fresh out of the Air Force and winner of the largest lottery in history, bought the prototype, hired a vonKerman chemist and a bunch of engineers to fix its fuel tank lamination issues, and outfitted it for spaceflight.

From there, Mk33-01, named Skyranger, became the first single stage to orbit spacecraft, became the first polar-orbiting SSTO, and set records for the shortest turnaround of a launch vehicle- broken only by Dauntless (Mk33-03) years later. Skyranger was instrumental in creating the space tourism industry, flew the components that became Homestead Hotel- the first commercial space station- and launched numerous other components like the Astro Tug, the first spacecraft designed to reposition an asteroid.

Skyranger enjoyed a long history of service with Orbital Dynamics, but the rigors of spaceflight took their toll. Not recovering the spacecraft since her second launch Numerous flights over the years took their toll on the spacecraft, causing gaps between the parts microfractures that even required on-orbit repairs threatened to tear Mk33-01 apart during launch. An extended orbiter maintenance down period couldn’t repair the vehicle without practically rebuilding her from scratch, and the airframe was too old to be modified for runway-based launches like her younger siblings, so the company kept her in mothballs- until now.


When Drax Aerospace’s Sunkraker began flying with its own set of KR-2200L Velociraptor engines and had advanced composite fuel tanks of its own, it became clear that the competition had caught up to the Mk33’s technology. Keeping the historical spacecraft out of the public eye- and away from scrutiny by competitors- no longer mattered. So today, Skyranger taxied onto the runway at Welcome Back Island one last time.


Continuing a tradition started at KSC when the K-20 KerbalSoar rocket planes retired, Ascension (Mk33-02), Dauntless (Mk33-03), and Resolute (Mk33-04) were all rolled out of their hangars out of respect for their retiring forebear. It brought a tear to Scott’s eye. He quickly wiped it away and steeled himself though, he had a job to do.


Cleared for takeoff, Scott reved Skyranger’s engines and the venerable spacecraft lifted off into the sky one last time. They had a half-hour to fly the 150km between Welcome Back Island and KSC, so Scott reflected on Skyranger and her missions.



Before long, Skyranger crossed over to the mainland and flew over KSC. The space center paid tribute to the retiring spacecraft by rolling out their experimental planes like the venerable K-21 Sea Goat and the K-25 Sea King. Even their archrivals, Drax Aerospace, rolled out Mϋnraker 1 out of respect. It was a nice gesture, one seen all too briefly as Mk33-01 flew past, arced left, and headed to her retirement home.






Before long, the Boneyard, a patch of desert scorched into the ground by some ancient catastrophe, loomed into view, and Scott began maneuvering the spaceplane to land on its runway. A few minutes later, Skyranger set down on the unimproved landing strip and gently rolled to a stop. After turning around, Scott taxied Mk33-01 down the runway and onto the tarmac, parked in the designated spot across from the retired Shuttle orbiters, and shut down her engines for the final time.



Scott received a meeting request with Gene and Adsii, scheduled a half-hour after Skyranger’s retirement party ended. He wasn’t sure why, only that it was important. To kill some time, he took a tour of the Boneyard.



While Frolie and a few others enjoyed a tour of the Boneyard after Skyranger's retirement party, Scott reflected on how, many years ago, this site was where it all began. He convinced Sara Kerman to become CTO of Orbital Dynamics, and he revealed his plans to buy the unfinished Mk33 prototype that became Skyranger. He knew that someday, the other Mk33s would find their place here, but that day wasn't today...


“KSP appreciates your company putting your commercial mϋnbase on hold to help us with Project Minmus,” Gene said.

“Hey, I appreciate the arrangements that you made for us to visit Unity Station,” Scott said. “That’ll help us accelerate some of our tourist contracts.”

Gene nodded and hesitated. “So… this isn’t just a social visit. What I’m about to tell could end my career, not to mention land me in prison,” Gene began. He paused, weighing his decision. He sighed and continued. “Project Laythe’s mandate is to search for life on Laythe, but that’s not its primary mission. The primary mission- and we haven’t revealed this publicly- is to establish a new, permanent home for kerbalkin. That mission is based on highly classified knowledge that, according to the Kermantians, the world will end in 100 years. Only a handful of individuals know Project Laythe’s true purpose, and we want to keep it that way. I trust that you’ll keep this to yourselves.

“I know that sounds farfetched, but the President of the Kerman States, the Premier of the vonKerman Republic, and the Prime Minister of the mcKerman Kingdom are all convinced that it’s going to happen. We have evidence to suggest that the Kraken are real, and we think that when they wake up, they’ll eats us, or whatever. So, yeah, the consensus is that it’s going to end. But I… well… Adsii, tell Scott what you told me.”

Scott's jaw dropped at the news. Adsii looked similarly stunned, but he recovered and spoke up. “Well, uh, wow. That’s pretty… wow… Uh, my theory- uh, well, not just my theory- and it’s a theory, mind you- is that the ‘end of the world’ is just the Kermantian calendar ticking over like an odometer, like our own start of a new year. We, uh, we don’t know why the Kermantian Empire vanished at the start of the Fifth World- uh, Scott, you remember our conversation about the Kermantian calendar, right?”


“Ok, great. So, we don’t know why their nation ended, only that it did. Anyway, I had a chance to visit the Pyramid of Tut-Un Jeb-Anh recently and saw where archeologists discovered the writings that described the end of the Fifth World. The problem is that a portion of the wall with the petroglyphs was destroyed. When I say ‘destroyed’ I don’t mean that natural weathering caused the wall to crumble. It was deliberately defaced. I could tell that by the way that the weathering on the exposed rock was different than that of the surrounding wall. And more to the point, when I magnified and enhanced the pictures that I took, in some areas I could clearly see the indentations of hammer strikes. Somebody tried to make them look like natural weathering, but a well-trained eye could tell the difference.”

Scott wasn’t sure what he’d heard. “So, that means…”

“Based on the weathering patterns, as early as a few decades ago,” Adsii continued, “someone defaced the wall to prevent others from finding out why the Kermantian Empire ended at the beginning of the Fifth World.”

“Adsii’s ‘odometer’ theory is just too simple and plausible to not ignore. I’m starting to think- and I know how this will sound- that the destruction of Kerbin is a hoax,” Gene said. “But I can’t prove that. I need you two to get to the bottom of this. Discretely. Right now, everything is a big secret. If word leaked out about the end of the world- and it turns out to be a hoax- heads will roll, including my own! Now, I’ve done all I can as KSP Administrator to investigate, but the more I keep sending Adsii out into the field, the more I’ll have to justify the expenses. That’s where I need a big favor from you, Scott.”

“You want me to fund the continuing investigation,” Scott said simply.

“Exactly. Well, not just fund it, but take over. Your company has the resources to keep digging and you’re not accountable to Kongress. And Adsii, if you went on sabbatical or better yet, got hired by Orbital Dynamics-“

“I could uncover the truth,” Adsii interrupted and finished. “But Laythe Fleet arrives in nine months…”

“You’ll have that long to complete your investigation,” Gene concluded. “And I’ll make sure you’ve got a VIP seat and a, uh, ‘guest scientist-observer’ slot when the Fleet arrives at Laythe.”

“Oof, if I leave now, I won’t get to be there when the Second Duna Fleet arrives. They’ve got a lot of science lined up. I’ll be giving up a lot… but… this could be the discovery of a lifetime… Ok, I’m in,” Adsii concluded.

“Count me in too,” Scott added.

“Outstanding,” Gene said enthusiastically. “Thank you, both. I owe you. I know I can count on you two. Also, Scott, I’ve got a status update regarding disposing of that blutonium of yours…”




Five days later, JUS-3/Support Module entered Minmus SOI. The spacecraft dropped off the Minmus Base Support Module and went to Drax Fuel Depot 2 to transfer its remaining propellants. With barely had any monopropellant left, Drax Aerospace decided to scuttle the older model Jool Upper Stage rather than return it to Kerbin...


A day later, Magellan entered Minmus’ SOI and headed for Gateway Station. After a course correction burn to send the ship into a prograde orbit, the vessel rendezvoused and docked with Gateway a half-day later. Setting up for an extended stay, the crew put Magellan into hibernation mode and moved into Minmus’ newest space station…




Once the Minmus Base’s landing site emerged from darkness, Tesen got to work by undocking the ULM, with its underslung Support Module, from Gateway and remotely piloted it to the surface. As the lander approached the desired location, cameras picked up wisps of clouds hovering near the surface of the Mint Mϋn, once again baffling scientists. Unfortunately, Tesen overshot the landing site and had to double back. Then the ULM ran low on propellant, so she set it down 1.5km away from the desired location and drove the remaining distance.



A 15-minute drive later, the ULM arrived on site. After slowly lowering its legs, the ULM dropped the Support Module onto the ground, re-extended them again, and trundled away from the module. It wasted no time powering up its rocket motors and lifting off from the surface. Five hours later, ULM docked to the base’s command module parked to Magellan’s nose.

“Hey, boss,” Rosey Kerman, one of the expedition’s engineers began, “we’re down to about a quarter tank on the MTM, but the lander is full…”

“Uh, Tesen? You need to see this,” Elke Kerman interrupted. Rosey hid her annoyance.

“What,” Tesen asked.

“Here, look.” Elke sent the data over to Tesen’s console in the cupola module.


Tesen read the data readout. “Did you verify this?”

“Yes,” the scientists responded. “Three times. Minmus Base is sitting on a huge aquifer!”

“What’s an aquifer,” Rosey asked.

“An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock,” Elke answered. “Which means we found a huge reservoir of graywater! The ground-penetrating radar signature is unmistakable.”

“How did we miss that,” Tesen asked. “Rosey, can we activate the Support Module’s drills from here? Can they handle the influx of water along with the ore?”

“Not a problem,” Gwenmy, the other rookie engineer, responded before Rosey could.

“Great, let’s deploy them…”

Down at the surface of Minmus, the Support Module received commands to deploy its drills and activate them. The drills dug deep into the ground and began their work. As tuffs of clouds lazily drifted by, the drills struck paydirt: the module’s holding tanks began taking on bits of ore- and lots of graywater!

“Get me Mission Control,” Tesen said enthusiastically.



As KSP poured over the data from Minmus Base Expedition 2’s (MBE-2) discovery, the Duna Climate Observer arrived in Duna’s SOI on Itzcoatl 19, 2003. Three hours later, it made a course correction burn to place it into polar orbit a day later, well ahead of the rest of the Second Duna Fleet. Not needing to wait for the remaining vessels, the Climate Observer got to work.



After MoS Mission Control selected the desired landing sites, the Climate Observer deployed the first probe, aiming it towards Duna’s Midlands. Successfully powered up and prepped for landing, the probe initiated its deorbit burn. A half-hour later, it bit into Duna’s atmosphere, and as it neared the ground, it deployed its chutes and took atmospheric readings. While the probe bounced on landing and fell over, it completed its job and transmitted the results.

The next probe headed for some notable craters, with similar results. The third probe only needed to take readings while flying high over the lowlands, but as with the other atmospheric probes, the probe landed as well. This time, it stayed upright.

The fourth probe headed for Duna’s highlands, took its lower atmosphere readings, and fell over during landing. But it still transmitted its results. For the final two atmospheric probes, the Climate Observer realigned its orbit to match planes with Duna Basecamp’s equatorial orbit. Despite the large delta-v requirement, the Climate Observer had plenty of propellant to make the burn. Once the fifth landing site entered daylight, the penultimate atmospheric probe detached from the carrier, ignited its engine, and plunged into Duna’s atmosphere. It too fell over.

The final atmospheric probe was brought along as a backup, but since the other probes completed their missions, the last one was available for testing. After considering various targets, the Ministry of Space selected the crash site of Estonian 1 to find out what happened to the spacecraft. The goal was to try and land next to the crash site, but frankly, the atmospheric probes lacked precision landing capabilities.


Despite the fiery atmospheric entry, DCOP-6 emerged from its plasma sheath unscathed. Unfortunately, it landed a mere 2.3km away (just outside of physics range) from the crash site- and during a dust storm.




With its mission complete, Duna Climate Observer briefly went sub-orbital to discard the probe dispenser before quickly restoring its orbit. Then it rendezvoused with Duna Basecamp. After docking to the complex via its obsolete predecessor, the spacecraft performed a series of preprogrammed maneuvers to undock the prototype tug’s outrigger tanks and mounting them to the production model tug to form a makeshift fuel depot. Then the prototype tug repositioned itself on one of its former outrigger tanks. It would have to wait another three years for the launch window to open for a return trip to Kerbin…



The Orbital Standard Shipping Container was designed by Orbital Dynamics to ship cargo between destinations throughout cis-minmar space and potentially through interplanetary space as well. As the company gained experience with the Block 1 models, they refined their design. Their latest iteration rearranged the RCS thrusters so that they could mount dorsal and ventral docking ports and they added additional internal bracing. Plus, Orbital Dynamics created a pallet that could be docked to the ventral port, enabling the OSSC to be landed as well. The space company also had other ideas to support intermodal transportation, but they were still on the drawing board.





Since Orbital Dynamics was forbidden to ship anything to Starlab, KSC bought a shipping container, filled it with goods, and handed it over to Drax Aerospace for launch. Drax mounted it onto one of their low-cost Moho launch vehicles and shot it into the sky. A day later, the aerospace giant delivered the container to KSP’s premier space station…


Phoenix Aerospace directed PPE-1 to rendezvous and dock with Starlab, and it arrived a few hours later. Using some special components brought up in the OSSC, Starlab’s engineer stepped out to mount the components to the ion tug per instructions that Phoenix Aerospace sent up. After veteran astronaut Gerrim Kerman completed her tasks, the space company uploaded a firmware update that overclocked the ion engines. Software tests concluded that the overclocking had the desired effect; PPE-1’s ion engines had a 360% increase in thrust. Finally, Gerrim refueled PPE-1’s xenon gas stores and finished prepping the ion tug and its cargo for departure.


With its second refit completed, PPE-1/OSSC departed Starlab and “burned” its ion engines as it headed out on a fast track to Minmus. Two days later, it docked with Gateway Station.




Crammed full of field modification equipment delivered via OSSC, ULM/Ostrich touched down at the polar mining site once more, lined up with the Landing Puck, and grabbed it. Immediately, AMMO began filling the lander’s tanks. Once satisfied that their tanks were full, Rosey stepped out to disconnect the Puck’s hoses while Tesen remained inside.


With just the two of them, they could stretch Ostrich’s life support longer if needed, but they didn’t expect to need to. Instead, Rosey coiled up AMMO’s hoses, performed a quick visual inspection, and then headed back inside the lander. With their task completed, ULM/Ostrich lifted off the surface with the Puck full of propellant. They weren’t headed into orbit though. Instead, they took a suborbital hop towards Minmus Base to deliver the Landing Puck. Should anything go wrong, one of the MBE-2 crew up on Gateway could board Sea Duck and rescue them.


Fortunately, everything went according to plan. ULM/Ostrich landed at Minmus Base, dropped the Landing Puck near the Support Module, and Rosey went outside to connect the hoses and modify the Support Module to convert the graywater into propellium and oxidizer.


A day and a half later, fully refueled, AMMO retracted its drills and lifted off as well, following in the footsteps of ULM/Ostrich. It landed a scant 18 meters away from the Support Module, extended its drills, and started drilling.


Unfortunately, several failed, but Rosey simply grabbed several repair kits as she stepped out to hook up AMMO to the Support Module. She quickly found the issues, repaired the drills, and restarted them before connecting AMMO to the Support Module via a hose. With her work completed, she unhooked ULM/Ostrich’s fuel hose and went back inside the lander to relax and continue playing Surviving Duna- she just researched the tech needed to construct a Mega Dome in the game!


As Rosey tried to keep her colonists alive after a meteor struck and broke a critical water pipe, Tesen backed the lander away from Minmus Base and blasted off the surface of Minmus. Six hours later, the spacecraft docked with Gateway Station once more. Sadly, Rosey had to save her game and reconfigure the ULM to deliver the Minmus Base’s Interim Command Module to the surface. At least that was the plan, until refueling the ULM nearly emptied the Multipurpose Tank Module. It had to be refueled, which would also put the automated mining system to the test.

So, as Tesen got some rest, Rosey grabbed the MTM via Gateway’s PLM and docked it to the ULM’s underside. “I like how automated these systems are,” Rosey remarked. “All I have to do is tell it what to do, and the autopilots handle the rest.”

“Hrmph,” was all Tesen managed before she zipped up her sleeping bag...



The ULM performed its deorbit burn 30 minutes after departing Gateway Station and landed on automatic 15 minutes later. After it positioned the MTM over the Landing Puck, the ULM retracted its legs and settled onto the platform. AMMO sensed the new craft and its propellant needs and automatically began refilling ULM/MTM’s tanks. The only problem that Rosey could see was that AMMO’s converters were designed for the pure water at the poles and not for the graywater in the aquifer. Fortunately, the Support Module’s converters could handle the job thanks to Rosey’s modifications. KSP just needed to send more equipment so she could modify AMMO’s converters as well. Fortunately, Drax Aerospace was already working on the problem.




A few days later, Drax Aerospace launched their Minmus Fuel Tanker into orbit and sent it to tank up at Drax Fuel Depot. Basically just a rover platform with a large tank on its back, the MFT had the ability to interface with the Landing Puck as well as visiting spacecraft that don’t have an interface for the Puck. After taking on propellant, the MFT departed the station, aligned with Minmus, and set out to the Mint Mϋn.


A day later, Drax fielded a Block 2 Propellium Tanker into orbit. It didn’t need to be topped off; it just briefly parked in orbit, aligned with Minmus, and set out as well. The Block 2 sported a skirt extension that mounted new landing legs and it had new solar arrays and comm arrays, but it was otherwise the same as the Block 1.


Meanwhile, ULM/MTM lifted off from Minmus and docked to Gateway Station a few hours later. Then, a week later, Minmus Fuel Tanker entered orbit and aligned itself Gateway Station. It remained in its parking orbit as the Propellium tanker arrived, circularized its orbit, and began its landing protocols a day later. It touched down next to Minmus Base.





Shortly after, MFT initiated procedures to dock with Gateway Station, after which JUS-6 detached and headed to Drax Fuel Depot 2. Once it completed its docking maneuvers, Tesen and Rosey again boarded ULM/Ostrich and departed Gateway Station, taking the new MFT with them. They set down at Minmus Base an hour and a half later. Once Tesen released the MFT, Rosey used the equipment that it contained to modify AMMO’s ISRUs to handle graywater and setup filters in its water tanks as well.

After the engineer hooked up the hoses between the MFT, the Landing Puck, ULM/Ostrich, and the Propellium Tanker, she tested the refueling system by transferring propellants into the MFT, ULM and the Propellium Tanker. Satisfied with the results, she disconnected the hoses, got back into the lander, and commanded the MFT to conduct its automated refueling operations.



First, the MFT extended its refueling arm and connected it to the Landing Puck to take on propellant. Then it trundled over to the Propellium Tanker and plugged in via its refueling arm. Both tests proved successful and demonstrated that the new tanker could be refueled automatically.



Finally, ULM/Ostrich returned to Gateway, picked up the Interim Command Module, and brought it to Minmus Base. Once Tesen positioned and dropped it, Rosey hooked up AMMO’s umbilical and extended the module’s airlock tunnels. With their tasks completed, Tesen docked ULM/Ostrich to the Landing Puck to refuel for the trip back to Gateway Station.

KSP would have to wait a few days for Drax Aerospace to refuel their depot orbiting Minmus and to send their Jool Upper Stages back to Kerbin before they could ship more components for Minmus Base out to the Mint Mϋn.

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Chapter 34




JUS-1, the oldest Jool Upper Stage in the fleet, departed Drax Fuel Depot and arrived at the Orbital Dynamics Shipyard three hours later. Yard workers then attached the first Minmus Habitat Module to the JUS and sent it on its way to Minmus. The habitat module was their last project for a while; they were headed home, and a new crew would continue building the modules for Minmus Base…



A day later, Scott, Mabo, and Frolie boarded a prototype of Frolie’s “Buffalo 2” rover- so named because he didn’t like the boxy-looking design that he originally created, so he decided to change it.

“I like this ride, Frolie,” Scott said from the driver’s seat. No doubt about it, driving the rover was fun!

“Thanks, boss,” Frolie answered. “I’m satisfied with this new Buffalo design. We’re also going to test the tilt rotor soon.”

“Uh, tilt rotor?”

“Yeah… didn’t you see the memo,” Frolie asked.

“Um, I’ve been kind of busy…”

“Hrmph. Well, remember when were at Billstown, and I said that we could build a modular Buffalo?”

“Yeah,” Scott answered. “I remember that several modules were derived from the old Mark One Laboratory Extensions that they flew during Mϋnflight, and we talked about making the Buffalo modular so that we could use the body components as a base as well.”

“Right,” Frolie confirmed. “Well, my R&D team did their research and development very well, and as a result, the Buffalo is so modular, it can be more than just a base and a rover. With the right mods, we can turn it into a tilt rotor, a station, a superstructure for a ship, and even a submarine. I’m sure we can come up with other configurations as well.”

“Wow,” Mabo exclaimed. “Wait, a submarine?

“Yup! Just add some internal bracing and the body components can withstand high pressures. We’re working with SunkWorks to build specialized components like aquatic propulsion, ballast tanks, and a dedicated submersible cockpit, but once that’s done, we’ll be able to build subs as well.”

“Wow,” Scott repeated Mabo’s sentiment. “Really well done, Frolie.”





The flight crew parked their new ride next to Resolute and boarded the Mk33 for their trip into space. Shortly afterwards, the company’s new crop of engineers boarded the craft as well. Resolute taxied onto Runway 090 Right, paused briefly for the blast deflector to raise and for takeoff clearance, and then shot down the runway as soon as Scott firewalled the jet engines and lit the Velociraptors. As the Mk33 sped down the runway, Scott could see the unused launchpad off to the left. “So much easier than before,” he remarked as Resolute rotated off the runway and angled upwards for the boost into space.

Right on cue, the Panther jet engines cut out at 25,000 meters altitude and Resolute continued the climb into orbit. Five minutes later, Mk33-04 achieved a 114.3km by 115.6km orbit. “We’ve got a nine-hour wait for our transfer window,” Mabo said. “I wonder if, someday, we can whittle that down…”

“Who knows,” Scott answered, “maybe our cache of 'element zero' can help.”

“Have we figured out anything else about it,” Frolie asked.

“Not yet,” Scott admitted. “The National Research Laboratory is completely stumped on where the electric charge goes after element zero is saturated. It seems that our technology just isn’t advanced enough to determine that. That reminds me, we have to fly an auditor from the General Accounting Office up to the Magic Boulder to assess exactly how much blutonium it contains- and I’m afraid, they’ll find out just how much of that exotic matter we have as well. Sara couldn’t get around it- the auditor is a requirement for handing over the blutonium. I also suspect that the NRL wants to get their hands on more element zero.”


Nearly a day later, Resolute docked with Orbital Dynamics Shipyard. After exchanging pleasantries with the station crew- who were hungover from drinking “hydrazine” that the vonKermans smuggled aboard- the combined crew transferred the fresh supplies of snacks and fresh air over to the station.



Then, after saying their tearful goodbyes, the vonKermans boarded Kallisto and departed for their trip home. Most of the crew were saddened and stressed out from the thought of rehabilitating on Kerbin after spending so much time in space, so Kontrol flew the space plane on automatic the whole way down.


With Kallisto safely on the ground, Resolute, with its weary passengers, departed Orbital Dynamics Shipyard as well and returned to Welcome Back Island.




A week later, on Moctez 25, 2003, the Duna Schaffer rover entered high orbit around the Rusty Planet. Then, another three days later, the Duna Geo Observer entered low orbit. Of the Second Duna Fleet, only the Estonian 2 had yet to enter orbit, and it was 52 days behind…



As the Ministry of Space assessed the condition of their two vehicles, JUS-1/Minmus Hab 1 arrived at Gateway Station, where Tesen took control of the vessel and parked it next to the station. Then she flew the PMV over to JUS-1/Minmus Hab 1 and grabbed the habitat module, docking it to the underside of the ULM. Next, she returned the PLM to its perch on the station and then handed JUS-1 back to Drax Mission Control. Finally, DMC commanded the tug to rendezvous and dock with Drax Fuel Depot 2. It arrived a couple of hours later.




Back at Gateway Station, ULM/Hab 1 departed the complex and landed at Minmus Base under the cover of darkness. Thanks to the relay satellites in orbit, the station crew at Gateway Station remotely extended Hab 1’s forward docking tube and piloted ULM/Hab 1 over to an available docking tube on the Interim Command Module. The base still lacked sufficient stores of snacks and fresh air, but its converters were hard at work producing air from the water pulled from the ground. KSP’s scientists and engineers determined that by the time that Hab 2 arrived, the base would have what it needed…


At Drax Fuel Depot 2, the aerospace company completed refueling JUS-1 for its experimental return flight. Seven hours later, it left Minmus’ SOI, but it still had another eight and a half days to reach low Kerbin orbit.





At Duna, the Ministry of Space cleared their spacecraft for operations on and around the Rusty Planet. They sent their first Duna Geo Lander on its way and aimed for the Lowlands in a spot dubbed Kraken’s Lament. Owning to the inaccuracy of the probe design, the Geo Lander completely missed its target. Fortunately, all it needed to do was land in the Lowlands, and after finding a suitable spot, it deployed its chutes to slow down, and used its engine for the final few meters. The next morning, DGL-1 took its sensor readings for local gravity and beamed the results through the relay network back to MoS Mission Control.



The second lander aimed for Sector LLX-4 in one of Duna’s notable craters. Unfortunately, the probe inaccuracy struck again; DGL-2 overshot the landing zone, tried to compensate by burning nearly all its remaining propellant, and in a desperation move, deployed its solar arrays to increase drag. Sadly, its attempts all failed, and the probe landed hard in the Highlands just past the crater. The rough landing snapped off its primary antenna and crushed one of its solar panels while its other panel rolled underneath the lander. Clever use of the landing legs enabled MoSMC to roll the lander until its one good panel could point towards the sky. The next morning, it took readings in the highlands and transmitted its data.


The third landing attempt aimed for Kerbin’s Prize, one of the craters along Duna’s equator. This MosMC was successful; DGL-3 landed in the crater and took its gravity and seismic readings.


DGL-4 aimed for LLX-4 and performed its deorbit burn. At a pre-programmed time, the lander ignited its motor a second time to slow down in the upper atmosphere, and then followed the example of its predecessor and deployed its solar panels to increase drag. The plan worked; there was no doubt that DGL-4 would land in the notable crater. Then, moments before deploying its chutes, the lander retracted its solar arrays to prevent breakage during landing. Finally, DGL-4 landed upright 5.6 km away from the LLX-4 landing zone, then sent the results of its experiments on their way.


For DGL-5, the Duna Geo Observer adjusted its inclination and orbital altitude to reach the target area. The spacecraft had more than enough delta-v available to do so. After taking some gravity readings in high orbit over the mountains, DGL-5 detached from the payload carrier and deorbited a day later. It attempted to land in the mountains next to Lem’s Knoll, but it hit the mountain and slid down its face, coming to rest a mere 3.7km away from the target.


Finally, DGL-6 detached from the payload carrier and aimed for Sector SNJ3, a zone near the south pole. Given how inaccurate the probes were, MoSMC had little hope of landing in the target zone. Nonetheless, they did their best to aim the spare probe at its target. Sadly, it overshot, burned through its propellant in a feeble attempt to slow down, and ripped off its solar arrays in a failed desperation move. Surprisingly, with no propellant to slow down with, the probe managed to land upright…



With its primary mission complete, the Duna Geo Observer briefly deorbited long enough to discard its payload carrier. The Geo Observer no more, MoS Tug 2 matched planes with Duna Basecamp and rendezvoused a few hours later. From there, MoS Tug 2 shed its now empty drop tanks and they docked with the growing fuel depot before docking itself to MoS Tug 1. MT-1 also shed its tanks and donated them to the depot.



Duna Schaffer patiently waited in orbit since its arrival, and now it was finally its turn to act. As the site known as Sector LLX-4, located in a notable crater, entered daylight, the Schaffer rover activated its fuel cells, separated from its payload carrier, and lined up for its deorbit burn. A half-hour later, the deorbit motor ignited and sent the rover on its way down. Learning from past landing attempts, the rover lacked a heat shield- it didn’t need one- and instead it had airbrakes to help slow it down when the time came.






The plasma fires engulfed the rover on its way down and gave MoS Mission Control anxiety, but the rover soon reestablished its uplink. Not long after, it deployed its chutes and discarded its descent stage. As the stage met its end on the crater floor, the rover comfortably slowed down enough for its landing rockets to provide a gentle touchdown- or rather, a touchdown and somersault, followed by a quick recovery. Though it landed 10 km away from the target site, Schaffer could drive to the location.



After MosMC verified that the rover was undamaged, the rover conducted a test of its Surface Ablation Laser Light Imager. Then it tried it its PresMat Barometer. Finally, it tried out its Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons experiment. That sensor found evidence of subsurface water in the crater! The rover then set out towards its original landing site. Along the way, it took sensor readings from a Dunastone that it encountered. Several minutes later, the rover reached the designated landing spot but found that it had uneven terrain. As a result, the rover backed up a few hundred meters to flatter terrain. Once MoSMC was satisfied with the location, they designated it Knights Landing and marked the spot on their maps. They finally had a location where they could establish a base!



Now that the rover found a suitable location for a Duna base, the former Duna Schafer carrier, now designated as MoS Tug 3, readied its secondary mission. Eager to test the redesigned Duna Copters, MoSMC hoped to have better success than their predecessors. Duna Copter 3 undocked from the tug and aimed for an area designated as FRN-3G. A few minutes later, the probe’s RCS motors performed the deorbit burn and sent the spacecraft on its way.

The Copter slowed down using its speed brakes and used its RCS thrusters to continually course correct to reach the target zone. It was working; as the probe fell through 6,000 meters altitude, the navigation computer noted that the target zone was 6.3 km away. But the true test was about to begin…





After applying the airbrakes and discarding the descent stage, DC-3 deployed its parachutes to slow down. Next it spun up its rotors. Unfortunately, the Copter slammed into the floor of the crater at 23 m/sec, crushed its landing gear, and lost most of the lower body- including the science instruments. 

But it landed.


Its modular design prevented an abject failure of the mission, but there wasn't much left. With nothing left to lose, MoSMC commanded the Copter to roll upright and jettison its parachute rig. Then it spun up its rotors and leapt into the Dunan air. The only instrument left was the BTDT sensor, so the probe activated it to investigate an anomaly detected by the SCANSat spacecraft in orbit.


After flying around for a while, Duna Copter 3 eventually found it; an unusual rock formation resembling an arch. The probe set down next to the arch, never to lift off again; the damage to its systems was too great…



Not long after, Duna Copter 4 departed MoS Tug 3 and headed for the surface. Unfortunately, it fared worse than DC-3. It too slammed into the ground, but unlike its sibling, DC-4 was destroyed.







Back at Minmus Base, the ULM undocked from the base after being fully refueled and headed for orbit. Three hours later, it docked with Gateway Station. After it docked, PPE-1 departed the station in preparation for the next phase of operations. Then, few hours afterwards, ULM/Ostrich landed at Minmus Base with the underslung OSSC.


After Tesen dropped the OSSC, docked to the Landing Puck to refuel the lander, and the station crew entered the base, Rosey Kerman unloaded the OSSC's RTG units while Elke mcKerman deployed the science experiments. The team was excited to perform new science on Minmus! Of course, it would be another few weeks until their laboratory module arrived…



On Axaya 7, 2003, JUS-1 reached low Kerbin orbit and tucked away its solar arrays, docking ports, and relay antennas in preparation for its experiment. Just after battening down the hatches, JUS-1 plunged into Kerbin’s upper atmosphere. The flames of reentry engulfed the spacecraft, but it slowed down and exited the atmosphere a couple of minutes later- intact, thanks to the transpirational cooling of its engines and lower thrust structure. Since JUS-1 dipped no lower than 51 km, it had another seven days to try again.

A week later, JUS-1 repeated the process. As before, the spacecraft vented some of its cryogenic propellants to cool down, and again it worked. Then, two days later, it once again repeated its feat. This time, it performed a supersonic retro-propulsion maneuver to lower its orbit. Again, JUS-1 emerged from the flames without damage. Over the course of the next several hours, JUS-1 returned to Drax Fuel Depot with about a third of its propellant remaining.

Though the experiment was a success, it cost a significant amount of propellant to travel from Minmus to Kerbin. To make it cost-effective, Drax needed to build much larger tankers, and/or somehow convince Kongress to let private industry operate nuclear rockets like they allowed the private sector to operate nuclear power plants after the end of the Last War. If his source in the Kerman Air Force was correct, then there might be a way to get his wish…





Fully refueled, JUS-1 departed Drax Fuel Depot and shuttled over to Orbital Dynamics Shipyard, where it acquired the Electrolysis Puck and Minmus Hab 2. Shortly thereafter, JUS-1 departed the station and headed for Minmus. Calming caught an external image of the departing spacecraft and marveled at the technology. The new Minmus modules were large, but the Jool Upper Stage dwarfed them!




Not long after, Drax Aerospace launched ULM-2 into orbit, something that KSP hadn’t originally planned on. Why? A week ago, when Mission Control directed Minmus Base to send ULM/Ostrich back to Gateway Station, Tesen had the nerve to ask, “If we have an emergency and we have to leave the base, how do we return to Gateway Station if the Ostrich is already docked there?”

“Mulch” was the answer that Mission Control had at the time, followed by a hasty effort to stack the spare Universal Landing Module onto a Jool Wide Load, and launch it into orbit as soon as possible. So, ULM-2 careened through space a few hours behind JUS-1 and its stack of cargo…



Eight days later, the new craft entered Minmus orbit. ULM-2 arrived at Gateway Station first; its Jool Upper Stage, now designated JUS-6, shuttled over to Drax Fuel Depot 2 after dropping off its payload. JUS-1/Hab 2 arrived next and parked the stack on the underside of ULM-2. Having fulfilled its mission, the obsolete upper stage briefly docked to Drax Fuel Depot 2, donated nearly all its remaining propellant, undocked, and deorbited…





Back at Gateway Station, ULM-2, with Hab 2 and the Electrolysis Puck in tow, departed the station and headed for Minmus Base. Just after making an automated landing nearby, Tesen took manual control of the vehicle and slowly walked it over to the base via its RCS thrusters. After hitching up Hab 2, Tesen undocked ULM-2/Electrolysis Puck and moved it over to its designated parking spot. Then, Rosey hopped out and hooked up the transfer hose.

“Hab 2 powered up and unsealed”, Gwenmy said, “it’s ready to be lived in.”

“Great,” Tesen said excitedly. “I was getting tired of sleeping in the briefing room.”

“When do we get our lab,” Glesby asked. “Playing with those new science instruments are great, but I am missing the lab work.”

“It should be in the shipment after next,” Rosey answered. “We’ll be getting the lab along with our command module. KSP is doubling up the modules they ship now that we’ve got the infrastructure to refuel the depot.”

“Speaking of,” Gwenmy interrupted, “that Drax tanker is finally fueled up.”





Since Minmus Base wouldn’t be getting its command module until after the lab was delivered, Tesen hopped into ULM-1/Ostrich and used its console to order the tanker to lower its shields remotely start up the Drax fuel tanker. The large vehicle ran through its pre-flight checklist. Then, it fired up its RCS thrusters and moved away from the base before igniting its main engines for the climb to orbit.

“Off it goes,” Tesen said as it climbed away from the base. “Hopefully we’ll refuel Magellan soon too. I don’t like that we’re stuck here- unless we use one of the ULMs to get home.”




Three hours later, the tanker arrived at Drax Fuel Depot 2 and offloaded its propellants. Then, after Drax Aerospace repositioned its Jool Upper Stages and sent them on their way back to Kerbin, the tanker departed and headed back to the surface. It landed an hour later, and Rosey hooked up the transfer hose once more.

Finally, the fully refueled ULM-2 lifted off the surface and shuttled back to Gateway Station where it waited patiently for the next shipment.



Eight days after it left, JUS-6 arrived in Kerbin orbit with its “payload” of three other Jool Upper Stages, two of which were full of propellants. As JUS-1 did before it, JUS-6 ignited its engines as the assembly shot through the atmosphere and slowed down. While the hardware survived the trip through the atmosphere, Drax Control had to burn about a two-thirds of the remaining propellant to slow down sufficiently attain orbit and rendezvous with Drax Fuel Depot. As each JUS docked to the Depot, Drax Kerman again thought about the profit margin of shipping propellants from Minmus to Kerbin orbit- only a third of the propellant is profit? Unacceptable!



A half-hour after the last JUS docked with the Drax Fuel Depot, JUS-2 entered Minmus’ SOI and circularized its orbit. It took another three and a half hours for it to rendezvous with Gateway Station and offload its cargo. The last of the dual-propellant Jool Upper Stages, JUS-2 shuttled over to Drax Fuel Depot 2, where it offloaded nearly all its remaining propellant, detached the payload carrier, and then moved away from the station. Not long after, JUS-2 performed its final engine burn, sending it on a collision course with the ground.



With JUS-2 disposed of, back at Gateway Station, ULM-2 departed the station with its cargo and headed for the ground. A half-hour later, the lander delivered the Water Splitter Module as well as the Electrolysis Puck to Minmus Base. Tesen docked took over control of ULM-2 and docked the WSM to the Support Module before detaching the second Electrolysis Puck from the stack and moving ULM-2/EP-2 nearby. At least, that was the plan. She realized too late that she undocked ULM-2 from the entire stack!



Fortunately, she had a backup plan. She carefully maneuvered ULM-1/Ostrich over to the stack and had the spacecraft take the place of ULM-2. Then, ULM-2 took ULM-1/Ostrich’s place on the Landing Puck.



Next, Rosey stepped outside and disconnected the Landing Puck’s umbilical hose after ULM-2 received a full propellant load. Then, Tesen remotely moved ULM-2 out of the way and dropped Electrolysis Puck 2 in its place. Next, Rosey connected the umbilical hose to EP-2, and, while she was at it, disconnected the Drax Tanker’s hose as well.



Finally, Minmus Base had all the electrolysis devices needed to rapidly turn the gray water from the aquifer into usable propellium and oxidizer. That meant that ULM-2 could return to Gateway Station. Tesen directed the lander to take off and head for the station with the Landing Puck in tow. At the appropriate suborbital altitude, ULM-2 discarded the now obsolete Landing Puck and left it to its fate. And after circularizing its orbit, ULM-2 docked with Gateway Station two hours later.



Audrey Kerman wasn’t looking forward to her flight. She passed the physical and the training, but she just wasn’t excited about hurtling her body into the void of space. She’d rather stay on the ground, thank you very much, and leave the space stuff to the professionals. She wasn’t a tourist, either. This was a business trip. Her employer needed her skills up in orbit, so up she went.

There were just four of them; herself, Scott, and Mabo- the two pilots-, and Frolie, the flight engineer. They were the ones whose expertise she’d need to answer her questions. They sat inside the cockpit of Orbital Dynamics’ Dauntless, the “tanker” configured space plane that carried extra fuel- propellant- whatever- that they’d need to refuel their spaceship.


Audrey ignored the chatter from the cockpit crew as they went through the paces of launch, ascent, and orbit, and instead focused on her checklist: make sure they answer all her questions truthfully. Double-check their paperwork. Inspect the machinery for signs of- shall we say- misrepresenting the expected values.


When the main engines stopped firing and the Dauntless attained orbit, Audrey finally understood why so many kerbals before her flew into space: the view was tremendous! She couldn’t help but stare out the cockpit windows.

“We have about 2 hours until our transfer window opens,” Scott said from the left seat if the cockpit. Plenty of time for Audrey stare out the window mor-


“So, how long have you been at the Government Accounting Office,” Frolie asked, interrupting her reverie. She frowned ever so slightly.

“Uh, about fifteen years,” she answered.

“Have you had any other jobs like this one?”

“Uh, no, not quite,” Audrey admitted. “Well, that’s not true. I did an audit of Aquarius’ mining systems once,” she continued. “The ore they were producing under contract didn’t match some of the reports that we got. It turned out that they were skimming off the top.”

“Aquarius,” Frolie asked. “Is that a company?”

Audrey nodded. “Aquarius Mining Company. They had an underwater mining rig, called the Aquarius- big surprise there- off the east coast, where they mined the ore for the government. I had to take a submarine 452 meters down to the seabed to reach the rig. The thought of getting crushed by several metric tons of pressure like a tin can wasn’t very appealing, but I got used to it. Plus, I kept my mind off the thought by focusing on the job. That rig had a lot of documents to read through, not to mention the machinery!”


Two and a half hours later, Dauntless arrived at Homestead Waystation, and Scott and Mabo guided the big space plane into the forward docking port. Shortly afterwards, Frolie flipped some switches on his console that sent propellant from the payload tank modules over to Finch. “I didn’t realize that you had two spacecraft,” Audrey noted aloud.

“Well, Seagull is only for orbital transfers,” Frolie responded, pointing to the smaller ship, “and small ones at that. It can go between our hotel, waystation, and shipyard. They’re in low orbits. To go to the Magic Boulder, we need the Finch- the one with the large heat shield. In fact, I should make a note to move the Seagull back to our hotel...”


With the fuel transfer, Finch had enough to reach the Magic Boulder and back, so the crew put Dauntless on automatic and boarded their orbital transport. “Preflight check complete,” Scott said from the command pod, “casting off from the Waystation. Our next destination is the Magic Boulder.”

Nine minutes later, Finch made a small plane change maneuver, then lined up for their transfer burn an hour later. “Finch is the one that you flew to the Mϋn with,” Audrey said, “right?”

“That’s right,” Frolie responded. “Me, Scott, and some tourists became the first commercial crew to reach the Mϋn and walk on the surface. We flew in ‘ole Finch here. The design is based on the Magellan Mϋnar Shuttle Module, but it’s more modular. When we added in the habitat section and our Orbital Cargo Transfer Vehicle- uh, the space tug with the big heat shield- we were able reach the Mϋn without going stir crazy. And Minmus too- we’re headed there soon. Interestingly enough, KSP had us refit Magellan based on the Finch- except for its atomic rocket, of course.”






Finch arrived at the Magic Boulder and docked to its pier without incident. Audrey and Frolie stepped outside of the Finch, and Audrey strapped herself into the nearby Kerbal Maneuvering Unit- it had more propellant than the small jet packs that had been in use since the early days of the space program. The two jetted over to the Astro Tug, ruined from its efforts to lower and circularize VDP-762’s orbit. Over the next several hours, Frolie answered Audrey’s meticulous questions about the mining process, the storage bladders that he invented, how the spacecraft sorted and counted the various resources, the reported amounts, and so on. Orbital Dynamics’ Chief Technology Officer answered her questions to her satisfaction, and she could see the relief on the engineer’s face.


Not long after, the pair returned to the Finch, which went back to the Waystation. A quick layover later, the astronauts boarded Dauntless for their trip home.

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1 hour ago, nascarlaser1 said:

I don't read many mission reports, but I found this one by accident via google and its awesome! (Haven't caught up fully yet though.)

1 mod question though if you don't mind: What mod are you using to get the furniture and TV screens inside of the custom made rooms in some of you're screenshots?

I'm pretty sure those are actually Angel-125's mods.

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1 hour ago, nascarlaser1 said:

I don't read many mission reports, but I found this one by accident via google and its awesome! (Haven't caught up fully yet though.)

1 mod question though if you don't mind: What mod are you using to get the furniture and TV screens inside of the custom made rooms in some of you're screenshots?

I've got another chapter in the works but I need to grab more screenshots. After I finish Buffalo 2 I hope to have more time for this mission report. :)

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Chapter 35


After sailing through space for months, Estonian 2, the improved version of the Ministry of Space’s Duna lander- and the last of the Second Duna Fleet- finally arrived at the Rusty Planet. Its predecessor suffered catastrophic damage during its attempt to land, and that was a fate that its successor hoped to avoid. If it worked, then the MoS would have what it needed to safely reach Duna’s surface and return to orbit. Soon, they’d find out.

Two hours after entering the planet’s SOI, the spacecraft made a 900 m/sec orbital maneuver to reduce its periapsis and ensure that it orbited Duna in the right direction. Another 1,576 m/sec burn a day later circularized the spacecraft in low Duna orbit. A third, 400 m/sec burn aligned its orbit with the Duna Basecamp. Though extreme, the nuclear propulsion tug had ample propellant to accomplish the tasks even with its payload.



Safely in low Duna orbit, Ministry of Space’s Mission Control started Estonian 2’s monopropellant power unit. Then they commanded it to perform final systems checks before separating from the interplanetary tug. It automatically plotted a deorbit maneuver that hopefully would land the craft near Knights Landing, the future site of the MoS’ Duna base. Thirty-three minutes later, it performed its deorbit burn.


Four and a half minutes later, on Jool 20, 2003, Estonian 2 entered Duna’s atmosphere and began slowing down. Learning from the lessons of the past, the lander kept its descent motor in hopes of preventing the craft from flipping around like its predecessor did during its landing attempt. Combined with a shallow entry profile, that worked.


At 38,000 meters altitude, plasma fire licked the sides of the craft as it continued its course. Within just a couple of minutes, it kept its proper attitude and sailed over the notable crater where Knights Landing was located. Unfortunately, a navigation error left the spacecraft several kilometers short of the target, but that was secondary to its mission.


At 9,500 meters altitude, Estonian 2 discarded its descent motor and kicked open its heat shield to reveal its aerospike. The engine performed both descent and ascent burns.


At 6,000 meters, the lander deployed its airbrakes and chutes. Unlike its predecessor, Estonian 2 only had drogue chutes- Estonian 1’s main chutes failed to deploy in the thin atmosphere. As the drogue chutes fully inflated, Estonian 2’s landing gear deployed, ready for landing.


At 500 meters, the lander ignited its landing spike, but it was a little too late. The spacecraft landed hard- 23 meters per second- and crushed its landing gear. But it was otherwise intact. Estonian 2 landed 11 kilometers away from Knights Landing. Despite the mishap, they’d done it!

Most of Estonian 2’s science instruments were useless due to Duna Schaffer arriving earlier, but the mystery goo still had some results to yield. And pretending like it had a crew aboard, the lander deployed its ladder. But there wasn’t much else to do- except for one more thing.




Estonian 2 performed its final systems checks two hours later. Then, after shedding its entry, descent, and landing section, the lander reignited its aerospike engine and lifted off the surface, using its EDL section as a launch pad. It worked! Estonian 2 entered an 83.9 km by 87.8 km orbit, with delta-v to spare. Despite the initial setback, the Ministry of Space made history with the first launch into orbit from Duna’s surface.


As a final test, Estonian 2 performed a series of burns that placed it next to Duna Basecamp just three hours later, proving that the lander had sufficient delta-v to rendezvous with an orbiting spacecraft. then, the lander performed an automated docking to one of the smaller service ports on the cluster of interplanetary tugs.

There was no doubt about it, the Ministry of Space had the technology to send kerbals to Duna’s surface and back again. They just had to wait another year for the launch window to Duna to open again.



Back in Duna orbit, MoSMC had some tidying up to do. First, they shuttled MoS Tug 3 over to Duna Basecamp and donated its drop tanks before joining MoS Tug 1. Then, they did the same thing with MoS Tug 4.





Next, they undocked Duna Basecamp, and moved the tank that previously hosted it to the back of the chain of tanks.

Then, the cluster of MoS Interplanetary Tugs cast off from the new completed Duna Depot and temporarily reconnected with Duna Basecamp.

Afterwards, the Duna Science Probe cast off from the Depot in preparation to return to Kerbin in 318 days.

Then, Estonian 2 departed the MoS Tugs to be visited by future travelers. Finally, Duna Basecamp left the tugs so that they too could return to Kerbin in 318 days.

At last, the Ministry of Space proudly announced that the Second Duna Fleet had accomplished its mission.



In the middle of the night, a Jool Wide Load lifted off from Pad B. But instead of heading eastward, it arced westward in a retrograde direction. That took considerable clout on Drax Aerospace’s part to pull off…


Right on schedule, the solids dropped away and safely landed in the desert away from any populated area.

A few minutes later, the Jool Propulsion Module dropped away from the stack after expending all the propellants in the core stage tank, and the core stage tank followed soon after. Within seconds, the stripped down Jool Upper Stage ignited its engines and continued the climb into orbit.


Despite going retrograde, the rocket still attained a 141.4 km by 158.1 km orbit and then aligned orbital planes with its target. Then, having done its job, the Jool Upper Stage offloaded its payload- the Drax Asteroid Miner- and deorbited. A few days later, Drax launched a pair of tankers to fuel the Miner.


Once refueled, Drax Asteroid Miner extended its solar arrays. Then at the right time, it performed a brief burn with its secondary KR-84 Ocelot motors as well as its six tertiary ion engines.



Two days later, the Miner rendezvoused with Asteroid VPI-273, a B-class asteroid. To the disappointment of Drax Aerospace, it wasn’t like Orbital Dynamics' "Magic Boulder", with its glowing veins of strontium aluminate. Nonetheless, the Drax Asteroid Miner took aim, armed its grappling claw, and dove for the target. A few minutes later, the Miner latched onto the asteroid- and made history as the first spacecraft to grab an asteroid in interplanetary space. The World’s First Organization even recognized the event as the first construction of a “space station” in solar orbit.

The spacecraft’s resource scanner took its readings and discovered a cache of blutonium, ore, water, rock, metal ore, gemstones, gray water, hexagen, hydrokerbon, minerite, precious metals, and zeonium. It also discovered a trace amount of a substance that the scanners could not identify. They’d have to table that mystery for later, though, they had a job to do.


Using the same techniques pioneered by Orbital Dynamics- and possibly the same technology- the Drax Asteroid Miner sorted the resources that it drilled and stored them in the asteroid itself as it hollowed it out. But in an impressive first, the Miner fired up its DA-5 Catapult, a new engine that the company engineers designed. The Catapult took waste rock, heated it to a molten state, and expelled it to produce thrust. While not terribly efficient, the engine made it much easier to move asteroids around due to the steady supply of waste rock. Combined with its secondary LFO engines- which needed the craft’s fuel processors to produce propellant for- the Asteroid Miner could slow VPI-273 enough to enter Low Kerbin Orbit.

The Drax Asteroid Miner made an intercept burn with Kerbin, followed by three course correction burns three days later. Seven days after that, the Miner would reenter Kerbin’s SOI. By that time, the resource extractors would be done processing the asteroid.




ULM-2 dropped down from orbit and landed at Minmus Base, carrying the base’s new command module and, at last, the lab. After it landed, Tesen took control of ULM-2 and wiggled the command module into place. Then, after undocking from the stack, she guided the lab module into its spot as well. And after refueling ULM-2, she detached it from the lab and sent it on its way back to Gateway Station. They had only one more module left…

Nine days later, the last Minmus Base component, the Greenhouse Module, arrived at Gateway Station via JUS-4. Once delivered, the space tug departed the station and took up residence at Drax Fuel Depot 2…




Back at Gateway, ULM-2 undocked from the station with the Greenhouse module in tow and headed for the surface. It landed at Minmus Base a half-hour later, where Tesen took control. She slowly walked it over to a spot next to the lab. Then she made some minor adjustments to dock it to the base. Once everything clicked into place, the whole crew cheered. Minmus Base was complete!

KSP Mission Control congratulated the teams for all their hard work to make this momentous occasion possible and praised everyone for their cooperation. The base had everything it needed to be self-sufficient and was ready to accept more crews- once the second Ostrich-class lander pod was built and delivered. Minmus Base was also set up for expansion later- but that project was for another time. Today, they crew had cause to celebrate.



With their contract to build Minmus Base modules completed, the Orbital Dynamics Shipyard turned their attention once again to their own projects. First, they built the Finch Automated Command Module, affectionately called BirbStar, to support automated landing of spacecraft. BirbStar probes would take the place of the Finch OTV and could be stationed at Oasis, freeing up the kermanned OTV for other tasks.

Once completed, Calming Kerman took a spacewalk to examine the construction manipulator and perform some maintenance work. Sometimes, the 3D printer nozzles got residue on them during their additive manufacturing, and they needed to be cleaned. The engineer carefully worked through the procedures and documented everything, including taking lots of pictures.


When he finished, he went to the Sandcastle 3D printer module to run diagnostics. Once everything checked out, he had some free time on his hands, so he decided to record a video to his folks back home. That’s when Willorf Kerman, the ranking engineer in charge of the station, noticed the unusually high data bandwidth being taken up by Calming.

“You’ve been sending a lot of videos lately, Calming,” Willorf said on a private channel.

Calming froze and looked nervously about. “Uh, I’m just excited to be here in space,” he said nervously. “Just sharing with my family is all. I miss them.”

“Okay,” Willorf answered. She knew what it was like to be away from family. “You’re using video compression, right?”

“Yeah, highest setting,” Calming responded. “We uh, got an update recently, maybe it’s a new compression algorithm?”

“Yeah, maybe,” Willorf conceded. She shrugged. Something was off, but she had to table the conversation for now. “How are the diagnostics looking,” She asked, changing the subject.

“All good, we’re ready to build the next components,” Calming responded. He called up the next set of plans, the Finch Core Support Tank, and started up the construction manipulator. It would take a couple of hours to complete. He had time on his hands, so he decided to catch the latest episode of Galaxy Trek…



A couple of hours later, the printer produced the Support Tank. After moving it over to the BirbStar, the shipwrights repeated the process with a second tank. Then, over the course of the next week, they built the new Converter Module, the Finch Core Tank, and finally, a Finch Landing System. These components were all needed for the next phase of operations on the Mϋn- a mining base to refine water into propellants. They needed that base to economically refuel the OCTV for the trip back to Kerbin. But before that, they needed Dauntless to fuel up the new modules for the trip to the Mϋn…


After round the clock fueling flights, BirbStar departed the Orbital Dynamics Shipyard, aligned planes, and burned for Kerbin's nearest natural satellite.



It took several orbits to complete- and several times the engines nearly overheated- but at last, the Drax Asteroid Miner entered low orbit around Kerbin. As an added measure, the Miner matched orbital planes with Drax Fuel Depot. The feat proved once again that Drax Aerospace could compete in any space industry, and the press loved it.

Drax Kerman looked at the resource manifest for VPI-273. It wasn’t impressive, but the primary mission was to test the technology needed to capture an asteroid and bring it back to Kerbin. At least the water and gray water would supply the depot for a while, and the combined value of the gemstones, precious metals, and other resources would pay for the test mission. The metal ore also had a useful purpose. The “mystery substance” that the scanners detected was puzzling, but the drills only recovered a little over 200 units of the stuff, so it could probably be safely ignored.

As impressive a feat as it was to bring the asteroid into low orbit, Drax set his sights on a much larger asteroid, one that he hoped would be even more impressive than that “Magic Boulder” claimed by Orbital Dynamics…




Three days after departing from Orbital Dynamics Shipyard, BirbStar entered the Mϋn’s sphere of influence, and two hours after that, it executed a maneuver to correct its orbital direction. It took another two days for the spacecraft to rendezvous and dock with Oasis.




Meanwhile, back at the Shipyard, workers completed assembly on the Finch Drill Module as well as an Oasis Power Tower, connected them to an OCTV, and sent them on their way to the Mϋn.


Wasting no time, the shipwrights cleaned the yard and immediately began building three sets of Finch Core Tanks and stacking them one atop the other. By the time that they finished, the OCTV/Drill Module arrived at the Mϋn…



Once the OCTV/Drill Module docked at Oasis, ODMC began reconfiguring the various spacecraft for their next mission. First, they remotely piloted the station’s PMV, programming it to relocate one of the station’s docking adapters. Next, they commanded it to move the spare Power Tower and placed it atop the Finch Converter module brought by BirbStar. Then, after grabbing onto BirbStar’s tank module, the propulsion section detached and moved over to the newly opened docking port, dropped off the tank module, and reconnected with the lander. Finally, the OCTV repositioned itself and the ODIN Fuel Depot onto Oasis’ forward docking port in preparation for its next maneuver. An hour later, it carefully performed an orbital plane change maneuver so that Oasis could reach any point on the Mϋn’s surface. Given how long it took, the tug needed to make a second plane change maneuver.

But not before BirbStar had to depart.




The automated lander undocked from Oasis and performed its deorbit maneuver eight minutes later. After an hour of falling, BirbStar approached a landing zone designated SK0-97. Ten minutes later, the lander lit its landing rockets - and promptly burned off its underside solar arrays. ODMC made a note to have a word with the Orbital Dynamics Shipyard crews to update their propulsion system designs. Fortunately, the spacecraft still landed successfully.





Time was of the essence, so Orbital Dynamics Mission Control had to act fast. Once BirbStar found a relatively flat spot, it quickly rolled to a stop, undocked its front and back sections from the converter module, and connected them together, leaving the converter module and its power tower behind. Then, right after Oasis finished realigning its orbit, the automated lander lifted off to meet up with the station. It had a nine-hour flight, so ODMC took the time to rearrange the modules at the station and get ready for the next delivery…




When BirbStar arrived at Oasis, ODMC directed it to the primary ventral port and then parked the propulsion section onto the drilling module. Then, after repositioning the front half to make room for the power tower, the back half rejoined the front. Some refueling later, BirbStar was ready for its next trip to the surface…


The lander departed Oasis soon after, but it had a two-day wait for its deorbit burn. Meanwhile, Oasis used the OCTV to lower its periapsis to make it easier for landers to reach it in the future. Then, right on time, BirbStar made its deorbit maneuver and headed for the surface and landed a hour later.



In a series of pre-programmed maneuvers, BirbStar separated into two halves, maneuvered the drilling module into place, and docked it to converter module. After rejoining the two halves, BirbStar docked with the growing mining station. Once ODMC deployed the drills and turned on the converters, the mining station registered positive flow for gray water, which was then converted into cryogenic propellants. At last, the Orbital Dynamics Mϋnar Mining Station was operational! All they had to do was wait a few days to refuel BirbStar before it returned to Oasis to pick up the additional core tank module for the mining station. Then they could deploy the second power tower and begin hauling propellants from the surface to Oasis. But for now, Orbital Dynamics had cause to celebrate.



For the last week, as Drax brought their asteroid into Kerbin orbit and Orbital Dynamics built their mining base, Adsii had been touring the warehouses of the vonKerman Republic’s Museum of Natural History in search of photographs. Specifically, he wanted to find pictures of expeditions to the Pyramid of Tut-Un Jeb-Anh. The Museum’s records were meticulously kept- except for piles of them that either displaced photos to different boxes- or different boxes in different warehouses- or went outright missing. Despite the difficulties, he still managed to find many pictures from various trips to the Pyramid. While what he found was fascinating, it wasn’t what he’d hoped for. But he was nearing the end of their list of records, and he was on his last warehouse for the day. Regardless of what he found, Adsii was looking forward to treating himself to a nice dinner as a reward. He really wanted to try some hamburger pannfisch…


After going through the records on the first couple of floors, Adsii took a deep breath and climbed to the third floor of the warehouse. It’s so high up, he thought to himself as he told himself to not look down- and promptly did it anyway.


He distracted himself by looking at the replica miniature monolith- at least that’s what it looked like- standing in the corner and collecting dust. It looked real to Adsii, and he wondered if the vonKermans visited Kape Kerman before the Kerman States built the Kerbal Space Center.


With his tummy starting to growl, Adsii turned back to business and found the documents cabinet that he was looking for. Being methodical, he started with the bottom drawer, opened it, and began thumbing through the photos absentmindedly. One of the photos caught his attention, and suddenly, Adsii’s thoughts of dinner quickly vanished. He pulled the photo out to get a closer look.



There it was, unmistakably, a black and white picture of a team of four scientists and two young students, with an intact wall of hieroglyphs. There were a lot of symbols that he didn’t recognize, so he’d have to wait until he got home to translate them.

Adsii looked on the back of the photo. It was dated 4/15/1953, and it had the names of all the kerbals in the picture, from right to left, of the professors and students. He read the last name on the list, flipped the picture over, and looked at the leftmost kerbal. Then he gasped.

The last name on the list was Drax Kerman.





Flying the new tiltrotor was a lot of fun! The aircraft was responsive, fast, and it had a lot of potential for shipboard storage- its wing could pivot until it was parallel to the modular fuselage. Speaking of fuselages, Scott liked the new Buffalo Base design that Frolie’s team put together from the modular rover system and looked forward to spending time in it- especially now that their obligations to KSP’s Minmus Base were now completed.




Soon, the Shipyard would be finishing construction on Oasis, churning out Buffalo Base modules for their mϋnar tourist complex, and gearing up for their trips to Minmus. It had taken years to reach this point, but they finally had the infrastructure that they needed! It was also hard to believe that soon, this mission report will come to an end, but another is in the works Orbital Dynamics would fulfill their original tourism contracts.


“Scott, it’s Sara,” the cockpit radio squawked, interrupting his reverie. “When you get done, can you meet me in my office?”

“Sure thing,” Scott radioed back. Now he was curious. What’s going on? He thought to himself. He’d find out in a few minutes…


“We got the results of the Magic Boulder audit,” she began. “They agree with our reported amounts of aurum, precious metals, nitronite, minerite, hexagen, gemstones, metal ore, and of course the blutonium.” She paused briefly before continuing. “As you know, the audit also required us to reveal that the Magic Boulder has 122,689 units of exotic matter,” Sara said. “They valued it at 1,200 Funds per unit, for a total of 147,226,800 Funds. That’s about 3.87 times the value of all the other valuables in the asteroid combined. The catch is that they want it.”


“The exotic matter? How much,” Scott was afraid to ask.

“Not just the exotic stuff, Scott. They want all of it. They want the entire asteroid.

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Chapter 36


The press conference was exhausting. Reporters wanted to know everything about Magic Boulder’s deposit of exotic matter. Is it dangerous? What does it do? How much did they have, and so on. The conference overshadowed Drax Aerospace’s announcement last week that they captured their own asteroid, of course, but more importantly, it took control of the narrative about the fate of Magic Boulder- formerly, VDP-762.

“A hypothetical Eminent Domain claim on Magic Boulder would set a precedence for the federal government to seize any asteroid they fancied, including Drax Aerospace’s recent capture,” Scott E. Kerman, CEO of Orbital Dynamics, said when Karbal Kerman, one of the reporters, asked about the company’s plans for the exotic matter. His forehead itched but he had to remind himself not to rub the spot just above his left eye where makeup artists covered up a bruise. Yesterday, he got into a fight with a bookshelf. The shelf won.

“Capturing an asteroid is a significant expense. If the government seized them whenever they felt like it, it would ruin the space mining business. To ensure that that doesn’t happen with Magic Boulder, I’m pleased to announce that Orbital Dynamics is donating the exotic matter to the international science community.

“The material, which, as I said earlier, has an atomic number of zero on our table of periodic elements, will be held by an independent Element Zero Trust Organization that will fairly distribute samples to vetted scientific research agencies. The Trust will be held to account to ensure that the samples are available to every accredited international research organization that requests one, with the proviso that all research into the properties of the new element are also shared with the international community. Any commercial applications and technologies that arise from element zero research would of course remain the intellectual property of the organization that developed them. As an analogy, if someone were to discover that propellium can be combined with oxium to form water, that knowledge would become available to all, but a fuel cell that combines propellium and oxium to produce water and electricity would remain the intellectual property of the individual or organization that created it, with the discoverer of the scientific property behind the application earning a percentage of royalties.

“Since we believe that Magic Boulder isn’t unique in its deposit of element zero, we strongly encourage other asteroid mining agencies to contribute their deposits to the Trust until such time that it is determined that element zero has industrial uses. If such a determination is made, then any remaining element zero in the Trust will be auctioned off to commercial interests, and the proceeds donated to the International Wilderness and Wildlife Conservation Fund.

“And to answer your follow-up question, Orbital Dynamics will be taking naming suggestions from the scientific community into account as they discover the properties of element zero before making our final decision. It’s the privilege of discovering a new element to name it, but it’s a privilege that we take very seriously.”


Drax Aerospace wasn’t happy about being upstaged by Orbital Dynamics’ announcement, but when they cited the possibility of Eminent Domain destroying the space mining business, they quickly reiterated their rivals’ concerns about jeopardizing the industry and praised them for donating their exotic matter to science. Additionally, they announced that their own asteroid had “some” element zero- the mystery material that DAM-1 discovered- and that they were honored to donate it to scientific research. Behind the scenes, Drax’s lobbyists pressured Kongress to curb any efforts to seize Magic Boulder- and by association, their own asteroid as well.

Then the international community chimed in. In a rare show of solidarity, both the mcKerman Kingdom and the vonKerman Republic issued a joint statement declaring that the nations would levy stiff economic sanctions against any nation that seized a company’s asteroid and/or the resources mined from it so long as the asteroid and its resources were used for peaceful purposes. They both strongly believed that space mining, combined with space manufacturing, would significantly reduce the strain on Kerbin’s natural resources and help reduce global climate change. Seizing legitimately claimed asteroids would kill both industries, they argued.

As a result, the federal government immediately backpedaled and proposed setting up the Extraplanetary Mining Oversight Committee (EMOC), a government body officially established to ensure that dangerous substances from outer space aren’t introduced to Kerbin’s environment, but unofficially established to transfer said dangerous substances to the federal government. EMOC would follow the international customs model to inspect shipments arriving from space. Companies could mine planets and asteroids for valuable resources like aurum, gemstones, and precious metals- and quietly sell resources like blutonium. A small fee based on the resources collected would pay for EMOC’s operational costs. Both the vonKerman Republic and the mcKerman Kingdom followed suit with their own EMOC variants.

So, while Orbital Dynamics lost the opportunity to sell their exotic matter for a lot of Funds due to their donation, they secured ownership of Magic Boulder- and any other asteroids and resources that they may encounter in the future. That was a good thing, since the company was about to set up a base on the Mϋn and go prospecting- as soon as they finished Oasis and their propellant factory…





It took three days to refuel BirbStar, but once completed, the lander departed the ODIN Mϋnar Mining Base and arrived at Oasis a few hours later. ODMC commanded the back half to dock with the Mining Base’s fuel tank module and reconnect with the front half. Then, after refueling the landing system and support tanks, BirbStar departed Oasis for its trip to the surface. Three days later, the lander initiated its deorbit burn. Then, after an hour and a half wait, BirbStar arrived at the Mining Base. As it did before, the two halves of the lander split apart, wheeled their payload into place, rejoined, and docked to the Mining Base. As expected, BirbStar had sufficient propellant in its outboard and support tanks to reach the surface without any propellants in the core tank module. That meant that it didn’t need as much propellant to reach the surface as originally feared.

Orbital Dynamics estimated that it would take about three days to refine a full tanker load of propellant. Fortunately, the Mining Base already had sufficient propellant stores to refuel BirbStar without waiting, so the cargo lander departed as soon as it had a full propellant load. Nine hours later, it arrived back at Oasis and repeated the process of grabbing a Core Tank Module, refueling, and heading back to the surface. This time though, ODMC had an important test to make; accounting for the fuel needed to return to orbit, how much usable propellant payload would they receive on a single tanker flight? They were about to find out.


In its tanker configuration, BirbStar departed Oasis once more and headed for the ground. After landing, the tanker docked with the Mining Base to refuel. Unfortunately, the facility didn’t have enough propellants produced to refuel the tanker fully, so it had to wait. Meanwhile, ODMC monitored the output of the drills and noted that their current location wasn’t producing any pure water from ice; only gray water from an underground aquifer could be sourced. But there was plenty of oxium along with small amounts of blutonium, hexagen, metal ore, minerite, nitronite, zeonium, and even some precious metals in the mix. ODMC made a note to go prospecting in the area to find a better site, but for now, the location would suffice for testing purposes.

It took another day to scrounge up enough propellants to top off BirdStar, but at last the tanker was ready to fly again- just in time for a momentous event.



After nearly three years of travel, on Ahuit 23, 2003, Galileo- the Laythe Ascent/Descent Vehicle- became the first vessel in the First Jool Fleet to enter Jool’s sphere of influence. Out in deep space, there wasn’t much fanfare since the autopilot woke up, plotted a course correction burn that aimed towards Laythe by way of Jool, and then promptly went back to sleep. It had a three-day wait for its course correction burn, and then another 51 days until it arrived at Laythe.

On the ground, however, after the LADV reported in, KSP Mission Control cheered. Their hard labor was finally beginning to bear fruit. Over the next two weeks, more vessels in the First Jool Fleet would arrive, and in just under 60 days, Nautilus would enter Jool’s SOI as well.



Back at the Mϋn, BirbStar departed the ODIN Mining Base with its full fuel load and rocketed into the sky. The tanker’s outrigger and support tanks weren’t enough to attain orbit with such a heavy load, so ODMC unlocked the central tank in the Core Tank Module for the remainder of the trip.

Ten hours later, BirbStar arrived at Oasis and refueled its outrigger and support tanks using its core tank module. Then ODMC engineers ran the math. Including the fuel spent from the Core Tank Module to reach Oasis, delta-v margins, and refueling the tanker itself for the next trip to the surface, the fuel payload ended up at 33% of the cargo tankage- one single H250-64 propellium tank, or the equivalent volume of one “big orange tank.” With an average of one round trip every three and a half days, the Mining Base/BirbStar tanker combo could fully refuel the empty ODMC Fuel Depot in about 24.5 days, and fully refuel an empty OCTV in a bit less than that.


In the meantime, though, BirbStar refueled the OCTV-2’s shield tank- enough for the cargo tug to head back to Kerbin. It took several days to reach its maneuver node to place it on course with escaping the Mün. It still had about a week to aerobrake and meet up with the Orbital Dynamics Shipyard.

Meanwhile, the Shipyard commissioned OCTV-3, another Orbital Cargo Transfer Vehicle to help ship freight to Kerbin’s natural satellites. OCTV-3 linked up with Oasis’ long overdue Sandcastle 3D print shop and its second Homestead module and departed the Shipyard. Forty minutes later, the transfer vehicle burned for the Mün…




It took three days for Oasis to reach apospsis before OCTV-2 departed, and another 4 days to return to the Orbital Dynamics Shipyard. It wasted no time docking with the awaiting shipment of modules earmarked for Oasis, refueling via the stack of core tank modules, and heading back to the Mϋn. Once the final set of modules arrived at Oasis, the OCTV was ready to begin regular supply runs between Kerbin and the Mϋn. All they needed to know was how much propellant they could deliver to the Shipyard per trip after refueling the orbital cargo transfer vehicle, and how often…




Orbital Dynamics weren’t the only ones trying to work out how long it took to replenish their orbiting fuel depot. The Drax Triple Tanker, so named because it consisted of three tanker hulls lashed together, careened through Kerbin’s skies as it shed speed to slow down. As with the prototypes that came before, the tanker vented cryogenic propellant to keep its engines cool during aerobraking. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked. After four such trips through the atmosphere, the Triple Tanker slowed enough to efficiently use its engines to circularize its orbit, match planes with the Drax Fuel Depot, and rendezvous and dock with it.

Connecting three tanker hulls together- albeit two with disposable engine modules discarded and capped with heat shields in their place- combined with assisted aerobraking proved to be economical. Using the three H-500-144 tanks to finish orbital rendezvous and to refuel the Triple Tanker for another trip to Minmus left the three larger H-500-288 propellant tanks available to refuel the Drax Fuel Depot. With two Triple Tankers rotating between Kerbin and Minmus continually supplying the Fuel Depot, a single tanker was enough to fill the Depot’s former Shuttle External Tank from empty to 100% capacity every 18 days.


Drax Kerman was pleased with the results.






Orbital Dynamics’s announcement coupled with the proposal for EMOC sparked a resource rush in space. First, a Jool Wide Load sent an upgraded Drax Asteroid Miner into orbit, followed by another refueling launch. Right after, DAM-2 went on its way. A week later, Drax Asteroid Miner 2 rendezvoused with DSV-451. After performing system checks, Drax Mission Control cleared it to approach and grab the massive asteroid. Within moments, Drax Aerospace captured its second asteroid. And a Class I at that!

After the celebration subsided, DAM-2 got to work. It performed its scans and determined that like VPI-273, ore and water were the highest concentrations, at 64% and 11% respectively. As for the other resources, it had gemstones, metal ore, hexagen, nitronite, and zeonium, all at less than 1% of the total mass. But since DSV-451 massed 1,985,653.7 metric tons, there were a lot of resources. The team had to wait for DAM-2 to process the asteroid and refuel its engines before deciding whether it was worth it to move it into Kerbin orbit. But in the meantime, they renamed it to Drax DSV-451 and staked their claim…






Not long after, the Arrow Space Corporation, sponsored by the Ministry of Space, launched their AstroMiner technology demonstration mission. Built from an Arrow 5 Upper Stage, AstroMiner rocketed away from Kerbin to chase down a small, Class A asteroid. Several days later, the spacecraft caught up with the asteroid and grabbed it. After a few hours of scanning, AstroMiner determined that it was mostly composed of ore, water, and rock, with traces of gemstones, hexagen, zeonium, and nitronite. LUL-145 was unremarkable, but it still served as a test to capture an asteroid and bring it back to Kerbin.

AstroMiner waited a couple of weeks before making an engine burn to put the asteroid on course to Kerbin. But it had another 100 days before arrival.






Meanwhile, back in Low Kerbin Orbit, it took eleven automated Sunraker flights to assemble, but the latest Drax space station finally took form. Flying on automatic, the station rendezvoused with VPI-273- the first asteroid that Drax captured- and speared the asteroid with its grabbing unit. Once everything settled, the station discarded its maneuvering thruster and began processing the asteroid’s gray water into cryogenic propellants and refining its metal ore…



With their Münar propellant infrastructure established and Oasis completed, Orbital Dynamics continued their engineering work on a delivery system for their Buffalo rover. Meanwhile, the Shipyard began construction on Refuge, the next Oasis-class station. Like the government-owned Gateway Station orbiting the Mint Mün, Refuge was designed to be Kerman-tended. Unlike Oasis, Refuge would be built in a low equatorial orbit- reaching polar inclinations required far less delta-v than at the Mün. Since clients wouldn’t need to wait weeks for a landing site to become available, Refuge didn’t need as extensive facilities as its high-polar orbiting sister station. But since the Oasis-class stations were designed to be modular, if needed, Refuge could be expanded in the future.



As OCTV-3 returned to the Shipyard, shipwrights built the station’s core modules as well as its power tower and its payload maneuvering vehicle. The station crew parked them on the upper docking pier until an OCTV could be spared to deliver them to Minmus.



Not long after, OCTV-3 picked up the tank cluster and headed back to the Mün, while the workers assembled Refuge’s habitat modules and parked them as well.

By the time that OCTV-3 returned to the Shipyard, workers finished Refuge’s fuel tankage and the landing system that Finch would need to reach Minmus’ surface. It was hard to believe that Finch, having made history as the first kermanned spacecraft to reach both the Mün’s orbit and its surface, would soon repeat its accomplishment at Minmus! It would be the first time that a single spacecraft- albeit a modular one- orbited and landed on both of Kerbin’s müns.



With OCTV-3 back at the Shipyard with its cluster of tanks, Orbital Dynamics’ accountants ran the numbers. For the initial trip with its tank clusters, OCTV-3 was fully fueled, but it used less than half of its propellant load to transport the empty tank cluster to Oasis. Hence, its shield-tank would be sufficient to reach the nearest natural satellite. When it departed the polar orbiting station, all its tanks and the entire tank cluster had a full load of propellant. By the time that OCTV-3 arrived at Orbital Dynamics Shipyard, the Orbital Cargo Transfer Vehicle burned through its propellant load- but two of the nine tanks in the cargo cluster proved more than sufficient to refuel the craft to complete rendezvous and docking with the Shipyard- and still have plenty left over for a return trip to the Mün.

Finally, accounting for the time it took for the mining station to refuel Oasis’ depot and an empty OCTV, and adding in the round trip to and from the Shipyard, a tanker could deliver seven “big orange tank” volumes of propellant every 37.8 days. That was enough to completely refill an empty OCTV with propellant left over, or two OCTVs that were full when departing Oasis. While the numbers looked impressive at first, when Sarah compared them to Drax Aerospace’s numbers, things didn’t look so well. Drax could deliver twice the propellant to LKO in half the time based on both companies' current production rates. If they were going to be competitive, they’d have to expand their mining facilities, add additional depot storage, and build more tankers to match and exceed Drax Aerospace’s LKO delivery rates.





Sunraker- the first runway-to-orbit SSTO- lifted off from KSC’s Runway 09 on another trip to orbit. As it climbed into orbit Drax Aerospace’s commentator noted that the spaceplane was the first winged craft to perform all flight operations, from takeoff to orbit to landing, all without a crew aboard. During the first few assembly flights of their new space station, Sunraker’s crew were simply observers, ready to take over if the flight computers encountered a problem. But once proven, Drax didn’t bother assigning a crew to complete assembly of the station. Delivery flights flew on automatic and assembling the station’s components happened remotely.


Today’s flight was both routine and a first. Once again, the spaceplane flew on automatic, but it was also the first time that Sunraker flew to Starlab without a crew. Seven hours after takeoff, the SSTO arrived at Starlab and docked without any troubles. Announcers remarked that next-generation SSTO freighters would likely not even bother with cockpits, saving both mass and cost.

Shortly after Sunraker docked, Phildas noticed a master caution alarm on his panel. For some reason, Starlab showed “NaN” for its battery level. Again. “I thought we fixed that,” Phildas said.

“We did,” Gerrim, the station’s engineer, responded. “But Starlab is showing her age. She’s over a decade old.”

“As you’ve reminded me each time our experiment stations or air converters or the entertainment center breaks,” Phildas retorted.

“I don’t think we can fix it any further,” Gerrim said. “We’ll have to manually check the batteries from here on out.”

“We really need to replace the station,” Phildas lamented…





At KSC’s sunrise, Sunraker departed Starlab for its trip home. Everything went as planned, including closing the payload bay and docking port doors, performing the deorbit burn, and pitch-over to the proper angle for reentry. Ten minutes later, the spaceplane kissed the top of Kerbin’s atmosphere, and plasma-fire engulfed the airframe as it dug deeper into the atmosphere. At 35,787 meters altitude, things took a turn for the worst.





(o7 Columbia...)



Drax hung up the phone after hearing the bad news and sat in silence, stunned- and fuming- for what seemed like an eternity. He thought about his next move. Perhaps the PR team could spin the failure as a software corruption that resulted from interfacing with Starlab’s computers, he thought to himself.


Drax sighed. Mϋnraker 1 had just retired and been rendered unflyable, and with Sunraker’s demise, it left Drax Aerospace with no kermanned spacecraft. He needed a new solution, and soon. One thing was certain though, Sunraker was a dead end. Buying a company like Phoenix Aerospace was an option, but one that would show weakness- the public would perceive the acquisition as an admission that Drax Aerospace couldn’t create reliable spaceplanes. But there was another option. He knew what had to be done, but he didn’t like the encouragement that it would bring.

He picked up the phone and dialed a number.

“Hi dad, how ar-”

“How long until you can get Pathfinder operational,” he interrupted his daughter and said tersely. There was a brief pause in the conversation.

“Y- You know about the OV-200 series?”

“I know about all the projects at my company. Especially the secret ones. How long,” he impatiently asked again.

“Well, Kerbodyne recently completed testing their CR-24 Longbow ThermalJet and LV-N209 Promethium atomic rocket, and if we can get some-“

“How. Long.” Drax did not like repeating himself.

“Uh, by the book, three months to integrate the-“

“I’ll get Kerbodyne and the federal government to cooperate, and I’ll approve whatever budget you need,” Drax interjected. “You have one month.”

Drax hung up the phone.

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On 1/17/2023 at 12:58 PM, Angel-125 said:

but unofficially established to transfer said dangerous substances to the federal government

I feel so much safer now....

On 1/17/2023 at 12:58 PM, Angel-125 said:

Drax hung up the phone.

I told you someone needed to keep an eye on that guy!!!


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  • 2 weeks later...

Chapter 37


While the National Aerospace Transportation Safety Board convened to investigate the cause of the Sunraker accident, Drax Aerospace took a pause in their operations while other agencies continued forward with their plans. Via the Arrow Space Corporation, for instance, the Ministry of Space rolled out the newest addition to their fleet, the Arrow 6 launch vehicle. A product of two decades of flight experience, the Arrow 6 was a redesigned Arrow 5 that doubled the number of Oscelot engines in its first stage, shed its vonKerman-designed Photon solid rocket boosters, and greatly lengthened the first stage itself. Additionally, the top of the stage incorporated RCS thrusters, grid fins, and an array of parachutes to aid in landing while the bottom of the stage sported new landing legs. The increased propellant load and additional landing equipment enabled the Arrow 6 booster to land downrange of the launch site.


The Arrow 6 could still make use of the existing Arrow 5 upper stage for backwards compatibility, but for this flight, the vehicle had the all-new, fully reusable Newton Upper Stage. Shaped like a mini external tank with winglets, Newton was powered by a new Kerbodyne KR-2200C Tyrannosaurus aerospike engine. Building on the success of their KR-2200L Velociraptor linear aerospike that powered Orbital Dynamics’ Mk33, the KR-2200C repackaged the same performance of the Velociraptor into a shape better suited to cylindrical rockets. But they didn’t stop there; following Kerbal Automatics Design Bureau’s example with their CE-2X Ulysses rocket engine, Kerbodyne invented their own transpiration cooling system and equipped the Tyrannosaurus with it. Thus, the KR-2200C doubled as Newton’s heat shield.



On Cuahoc 7, 2003, Arrow 6 lifted off from the Ministry of Space’s launchpad at Kerbal Space Center and rocketed into the sunny sky. The booster burned through its propellants in under two minutes as expected and then separated from the Newton upper stage. As the booster prepared to land on a downrange barge, the upper stage- a shuttle in its own right- ignited its aerospike motor and continued the climb into orbit. Six minutes after liftoff, Newton settled into a 148.0km by 151.4km orbit, spread its solar arrays, unshielded its docking ports, and opened its payload bay doors in space for the first time. MoS Mission Control cheered as their hard work paid off.


With Newton, the Arrow 6 launch vehicle was rated to deliver 34 metric tons to orbit, but its first payload was much lighter. At the dawn of the Shuttle era, the Ministry of Space debuted their then-new Arrow 4 launch vehicle and their Arrow Lab, a test module derived from the Arrow Transfer Vehicle. Had things gone differently, Arrow Lab, and other modules like it, would’ve formed a space station that mcKerman astronauts would’ve used to conduct research and learn how to live in space. Unfortunately, funding in the post-Münflight era dried up, forcing the Ministry of Space to slow development of their Arrow Crew Vehicle and partner with the Kerman States to build Starlab, the Kerbin Orbiting Station.

For the past ten years, the Ministry of Space achieved their goals through their contribution to Starlab including the Pier module, the Beagle Support Module, the Newton Research Module, and numerous resupply flights via their Arrow Transfer Vehicle. But one thing eluded them- a space station of their own. With Starlab nearing the end of its operational life faster than expected and the Kerman States planning on relying on commercial space stations until Nautilus returns to Kerbin and is converted into a space station, the Ministry of Space saw an opportunity to fulfill their dreams. The module in Newton’s payload bay was the first step in reaching their goal.


Newton spent a couple of orbits performing automatic system checks before MoSMC began the next phase of the mission. Engineers took the time to transfer propellant into the aft tank to balance the craft for reentry. They noted that by reprogramming the flow priorities, they could avoid the step in the future. After unlocking the RCS propellant tanks on both Newton and its payload and ensuring that the payload had a full electric charge, Guidance put Newton into station keeping mode, and Payload released the contents of the upper stage’s payload bay. Then, using its RCS thrusters, Newton gently dropped away from the new satellite and gave it some room. The satellite, the modest first module of the Space Operations Centre, spread its wings and oriented itself in space.


Once its systems check reported nominal, MoSMC cleared Newton to dock with the SOC Node to test both spacecraft’s automated docking capabilities. As expected, Newton had no problems docking to Node One. The brief test validated Newton’s rendezvous and docking capabilities, but it was time to say goodbye to the fledgling station and head home. The freighter parted ways with Node One and calculated a maneuver node to deorbit itself. As it waited for the proper time, Newton stowed its high-gain antenna and solar arrays, closed the docking port shields, turned off the payload bay lights and closed the bay doors. Five minutes before the deorbit burn, it warmed up its aerospike engine and unlocked the flight control surfaces. Three minutes before atmospheric entry, Newton switch its control orientation so that the aerospike engine was now the “front” of the spacecraft.






As Newton careened through the atmosphere, the engine quietly expelled propellant to keep it cool as plasma fire engulfed the spaceship. A quick retro-propulsion burn later, the freighter was on track to land back at KSC. With some maneuvering, it aimed at the landing pad and deployed its parachutes. Though it landed on the grass instead of the pad and set a small grass fire, Newton landed safely, ready for its next mission.



“Is that you, Robert,” Dolores asked.

“No, mom, this is Adsii Kerman,” Daisy Kerman, Dolores Kerman’s daughter, answered. “She has early onset dementia,” she whispered to Adsii.

“I’m sorry,” Adsii said silently. Daisy nodded. Sadly, the researchers in the photo that Adsii found had all passed away, and Dolores- the fellow student alongside Drax- was fairing little better. It took some doing to track her down…

“Oh… Okay… You look like Robert,” Dolores said. “I could’ve been a general. I was a general in a past life…”

“You would’ve been a great general,” Adsii said, playing along. He changed the subject and showed her a copy of the picture of her younger self alongside a young Drax Kerman and four deceased researchers. “Do you remember when this was taken?”

Dolores’ eyes opened wide. “Yes,” she said lucidly. Her mind snapped into sharp focus. “That was before he defaced it.”

“He? One of the scientists? Or-“

“Drax,” Dolores finished for him.

“Why did he deface the wall?”

Dolores winced from the memory. “I can’t- He- he threatened me. if I said anything... He paid me to keep- to keep… I secretly filmed the conversation…”

Adsii perked up. “You said you filmed the conversation?”

“Yes,” Dolores said sharply.

“Do you still have it? The film?”

“Stolen… Someone stole it,” Dolores answered. She looked scared, but only for a moment. “It was… was… Robert? Is that you? My Robert is an astronaut, I’ll have you know…”



As Newton completed its mission and Adsii continued his quest, up in orbit, Orbital Dynamics Shipyard was a bustle of activity. First, Refuge’s core modules departed the construction yard with OCTV-2, lined up with Minmus’ orbit, and burned for Kerbin’s second natural satellite.



Next, after taking the orbital transfer segment of Seagull, the new station’s fuel tank modules and Finch’s landing system departed and repeated OCTV-2/Refuge’s maneuvers. Finally, OCTV-3/Refuge Habs left the construction yard and begin their journey to the Mint Mün. The three craft had a little more than a week to reach their destination before they could link up for the first time.



A couple of years ago, Orbital Dynamics licensed the 3D printing technology pioneered by the Ministry of Space that was researched from within Starlab’s Newton laboratory module. They expanded upon the idea and created their own system that enabled the space company to create their Shipyard. But they weren’t the only company to license the technology. Dinkelstein Kerman's Construction Emporium also saw potential in the 3D printing technology and licensed it as well. While Orbital Dynamics focused on creating an orbiting shipyard, Dinkelstein turned their attention to terrestrial bases made from local materials. After numerous false-starts and years of annoying bugs, they finally achieved success and rolled out the fruits of their labor.



The prototype Worker-C, automated construction rover- a.k.a. Sandcaster- guided itself to the designated spot by the Ministry of Space’s Vehicle Assembly Building at Kerbal Space Center. The robot had a Dinkelstein SC-150 Sandcaster 3D printer, a large, crane-like device capable of producing complete vessels- without the aid of kerbals! The revolutionary invention made it possible to send robotic scouts to other worlds to build bases and other infrastructure ahead of a crewed mission. All mission planners had to do was provide the resources that the Sandcaster needed- or better yet, produce them in-situ. Such a feat would eliminate the need to send hundreds of metric tons of hardware each time the kerbals wanted to build a new base on another world. Had the technology existed before building the First Jool Fleet, the Sandcaster would’ve saved millions of Funds spent on Project Laythe!

Worker-C, so named because it was a constructor, maneuvered itself into place and deployed four survey cones via its aft-mounted CD-10 Cone Dispenser. The cones marked where the construction bot intended to produce its first vessel. Then, it deployed its construction arm and verified its operation. Finally, it got to work. It needed three days and change to complete its first project- nobody said that automated printing would be fast- but the mcKermans were patient.





Demonstrating a two-day turnaround, Newton rolled out to the launchpad once again, this time on the second Arrow 6 Booster- Booster 1 was on its way back to KSC. Three hours after launch, Newton docked with the fledgling Space Operations Center. After MoSMC confirmed the hard dock, teleoperators on the ground unlatched Newton’s payload- a Quantum Leap-derived airlock and a Drax Aerospace supplied Payload Maneuvering Vehicle- and flew it out of the payload bay. A short hop later, the airlock and PMV docked to SOC’s nadir port, where it would stay until Node 2 arrived at the station.




With KSC shrouded in darkness, MoSMC decided to wait until the next day before bringing Newton home. The craft had no problems performing its deorbit burn, but the freighter experienced abnormal heating on the way down which resulted in its underside structural fairings tearing away. As a result, Newton landed short of KSC proper but still on the space center’s grounds.

It was clear that the Arrow 6 Upper Stage needed additional work.



Meanwhile, in orbit, the shipwrights at the Orbital Dynamics Shipyard completed assembly of their latest project: the Orbital Propellant Transfer Vehicle. OPTV-1 backed out of the yard frame and parked itself on the forward-port docking port. Essentially a redesigned Orbital Cargo Transfer Vehicle, the OPTV stretched its tanks and added extra propellant tankage specifically designed to haul propellant from Oasis to the Shipyard or another designated facility. The OPTV was capable of hauling cargo like its OCTV counterpart, but Orbital Dynamics dedicated the OPTV to tanker flights almost exclusively. OPTV-1 was the exception; it would haul some cargo to Oasis before it began its regular supply run between Oasis and the Shipyard.


After Willorf added a service port to the Shipyard’s construction frame, the OPTV moved itself over to the new port to make way for new construction. The crew got right to work on their next project: a tank cluster extension for Oasis’ fuel depot.



Back on Kerbin, Sandcaster failed twice to build its first vessel due to KSP driving it into the ground and causing it to explode software errors, but after moving away from the MoS VAB and correcting the issues, Sandcaster built its first craft. Due to its limited resources, Sandcaster had to start small, and its first construction, the Mining Seed, fit within its budget. Aptly named, the Mining Seed was designed to extract metal ore from the local biome and refine it into metal. Sandcaster’s onboard assembly systems could then take that metal and turn it into rocket parts.


Once completed, engineers realized that the Mining Seed had no electric charge and charging it from Sandcaster would be problematic. They made a note to alter the design to add some “bootstrap” solar panels and add a grabbing unit to the construction rover. In the meantime, engineers drove out to the test site and gave the Mining Seed a quick charge- just enough for its command functions to activate and deploy its solar arrays and drill. And since it was frowned upon to extract resources on KSC grounds, the engineers loaded the device with metal ore to simulate extraction from the local environment.

With its first construction completed, Sandcaster retrieved its survey cones and re-deployed them a short distance away. This time, it began working on a Converter Seed. A modification of the Mining Seed, the Converter Seed, as its name implied, converted one resource into another. In this case, the Seed converted the scrap metal produced when making rocket parts back into metal. Since the Sandcaster prototype lacked storage areas to collect scrap metal, engineers drove out to the test site and installed storage bins to continue their testing. Some field upgrades also sped up the production process, but they still had to wait a couple of days until Sandcaster finished the Converter Seed.

As engineers monitored the progress, they realized that creating the Scrap Seed before the Parts Seed would slow down their in-situ production line, so they decided to change the build order for the production Sandcaster. Regardless, once the Scrap Seed was completed and powered up, Sandcaster collected its survey cones once more and re-deployed them again.



The shipwrights at the Orbital Dynamics Shipyard completed work on the extension to Oasis’ fuel depot, re-positioned the Finch tank cluster to the extension, maneuvered OPTV-1 to the back of the tank stack, and began work on their next project.


In order to speed things along, Dauntless made four daily tanker flights to the Shipyard to fuel OPTV-1. Once topped off, OPTV-1 departed the Shipyard with its cargo and headed for the Mün. Not long after, shipwrights completed work on OPTV-2. The two Orbital Propellant Transfer Vehicles would cycle between the Shipyard and Oasis once the rest of Orbital Dynamics’ münar infrastructure was upgraded…


Three days later, OPTV-1 arrived at Oasis and de-stacked its cargo, then took its place on the depot section to await refueling. It still had a long wait, but hopefully once the polar mining station was upgraded that would soon change.



The commercial space companies weren’t the only ones who were busy in space. KSP Mission Control was treated to a welcome sight as the Laythe Ascent/Descent Vehicle rounded Jool on its way to Laythe. It made a small course correction burn to ensure a low orbit around Laythe when it arrived, and then went back to sleep. A few hours later, it woke up again as it crossed into Laythe’s sphere of influence. On Cuahoc 13, 2003- 3 years, thirty days, and 48 minutes after leaving Kerbin- the Laythe Ascent/Descent Vehicle performed a whopping 4,500 m/sec burn and became the first vessel in the First Jool Fleet to attain orbit around Laythe. As Mission Control cheered, project engineers congratulated themselves for over-engineering the nuclear propulsion sections to account for such huge maneuvers. The LADV settled into a 151.2 km by 260.2 km equatorial orbit. A short burn later, the vessel aligned itself with Laythe’s equator.

It was only a matter of time for the rest of the Fleet to follow suit.





The construction bot began working on the Worker-B, an automated rover capable of drilling for resources like metal or and rock and refining the metal ore into metal. It could also perform site surveys to find the best concentrations of resources. While the Sandcaster couldn’t build a Worker-B on its own, the two construction Seeds gave it the extra resources that it needed. Five days later, Worker-B-1 went online. That paved the way for Sandcaster to begin the next phase of its operations.



It took eight days to get there, but OCTV-2 arrived in low Minmus orbit at last. ODMC verified that the transfer vehicle’s engine was shut down successfully before orienting the station and directing the PMV to get to work. The Payload Maneuvering Vehicle’s first task was to move Refuge’s Power Tower to the proper docking port, then relocate the docking pier, and finally perch itself on the airlock’s starboard port, where it waited for its next task.


A couple of hours later, OCTV-3/Refuge Habs arrived at the space station. OCTV-3 quickly proceeded to maneuver the two modules into place.

Then, after OCTV-2 reoriented itself, Refuge’s propellant tanks and Finch’s landing system arrived. To make room for everything, OCTV-3 transferred its fuel to OCTV-2 so that it could return to Kerbin. Minutes later, OCTV-2 departed Refuge and headed home…


Back at Refuge, the landing section and one of the core tanks undocked from Refuge and darted over to the port vacated by OCTV-2. After transferring their propellant into the relocated core tank, the PMV got to work again and repositioned the remaining core tanks. Finally, the PMV moved the OTV service module to its new parking spot before the payload maneuvering vehicle returned to its perch…



Finally, as part of their negotiations with KSP to build the modules for Minmus Base, Orbital Dynamics obtained some "bootstrap" refueling flights for their commercial efforts around the Mint Mün. To that end, KSP hired Drax Aerospace- currently the sole provider of propellant from Minmus- to send a tanker to Refuge. A single tanker proved sufficient to refuel Refuge’s mission tanks as well as fill up OCTV-3 for its trip home. Not long after the tanker departed, OCTV-3 headed home as well.

At last, Orbital Dynamics’ latest space station was open for business.




After a week of repairs and modifications, the Ministry of Space once again launched their Arrow 6 launch vehicle. This time, it carried the Space Operations Center’s Habitat Module into orbit. Newton docked to the station’s lower docking port to give the PMV enough room to pluck its payload out of the bay and then dock it to Node 1.






A day later, Newton departed SOC and headed home. After a 30-minute wait, it performed a deorbit burn, and then coasted for another 5 minutes until it hit the atmosphere. Everything worked out well; the new wing design, coupled with shifting propellant to the nose tank, gave Newton the improved gliding capability that it needed, while additional parachutes softened the landing. As a result, the spacecraft barely missed the landing pad at KSC. With some additional practice programming refinements, the Ministry of Space had no doubt that Newton could make pinpoint landings.



Finally, on Cuahoc 19, 2003, Nautilus (DSEV-01) crossed over into Jool’s sphere of influence, becoming the last vessel in the First Jool Fleet to do so. The ship’s autopilot assessed its situation, verified its position, and calculated a course correction burn to properly aim for Laythe. Three days later, with its crew still slumbering, Nautilus successfully performed its engine burn.

After verifying its arrival time, KSC Mission Control set the ship’s timer to wake the crew in 66 days, giving them a week to recover from any adverse effects of cryogenic stasis before entering Laythe’s SOI. It was hard to believe, but their years long journey to Jool was nearly over.

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Chapter 38


While two Orbital Dynamics spacecraft, OPTV-2 and OPTV-3, continued their slow fall to Kerbin and another of the First Jool Fleet entered Laythe orbit, the Kerman States National Transportation Safety Board published the results of their investigation into the crash of Drax Aerospace’s Sunraker. Based on the evidence, Sunraker’s flight control computer commanded the RCS thrusters to fire and the vehicle experienced uncontrollable yawing motions that stressed the airframe to its breaking point. In laykerb terms, the autopilot tried to maneuver at high speed and caused the airframe to break apart. Had a crew been aboard, the pilots could have corrected the issue. Grateful to have the NTSB’s investigation closed, Drax Aerospace moved forward with Project Pathfinder.

Drax took the opportunity to roll out their new vehicle, Pathfinder, for a taxi test. The brainchild of Jadzia D. Kerman (her middle name is Drax- there was no way that her mom would let Drax name his daughter after himself), Pathfinder was the first of the 200-series Shuttle Launch System orbiter. Named after the first K-20 KerbalSoar, Pathfinder was a Shuttle-derived second generation orbiter that was powered by a pair of advanced CR-24 Longbow scramjet engines and a single LV-209 Promethium rotating detonation engine. The Longbows gulped air and sipped propellium to produce thrust. Once the air became too thin, the Longbows shut down and the Promethium took over. Its innovative rotating detonation technology detonated rather than combusted propellium and oxium to produce thrust. Kerbodyne’s engine produced thrust comparable to their KS-25B Rainbird, but with a whopping 512 seconds of ISP compared to 452 seconds for the Rainbird.


Pathfinder needed help from a modified K-26 Behemoth to attain orbit, but today OV-200 operated alone. After rolling out of SPH 2, Pathfinder taxied over to Runway 090 and performed a high-speed taxi. Before it ran off the end of the runway, Pathfinder’s pilots slowed the shuttle down and turned onto the taxiway for its trip back to the hangar. It passed by the K-21 Sea Goat, the venerable sea plane that carried Pathfinder’s K-20 namesake into the air for drop tests and recovered wayward K-20s that failed to return to the space center. Surprisingly, the Sea Goat was still in service, leased by Phoenix Aerospace to provide the same recovery service for their K-24-derived Phoenix space plane.

With their testing completed the pilots brought Pathfinder back to SPH 2 to analyze the data.





As part of their PR campaign to move past the Sunraker accident, Drax Aerospace conveniently scheduled a Jool Heavy launch right after Pathfinder’s taxi test. The enormous rocket blasted off of Pad B as many other Jool Heavies have before it. With so many Jool Heavy launches, the latest launch was textbook routine; the solids dropped away cleanly, the propulsion module was jettisoned on time, the core stage tank was discarded, and so on.

Learning from the lessons with its Minmus Tanker, the latest Jool Upper Stage design is based on the tanker but without its additional propellium tanks. The additional hardware enabled the JUS to land for refueling if needed. Drax Aerospace wasn’t sure if the new design would replace existing Jool Upper Stages or if it would have limited utility, but the design was perfect for its payload.


Stacked atop the JUS was the all new Münbus. Conceptually built like Orbital Dynamics’ Finch OTV, the Münbus was larger and held more passengers and crew in its luxurious accommodations. In addition to the cockpit, Münbus had two staterooms and a habitat section that could house up to 6 passengers much more comfortably than the Finch could (the flight crew hot bunked in the cockpit). Further, Münbus had a dedicated sickbay to help passengers recover from space sickness or other illnesses. Finally, the module had an airlock to allow passengers and crew to disembark onto the surface when Münbus landed.


Today, Münbus headed to the Drax Space Hotel, but once its shakedown cruise was completed and Pathfinder was certified to fly passengers, the spaceliner would begin service to the newly completed Drax Minmus Orbital Hotel. Since it could land, it would ferry passengers to the Drax Minmus Resort once completed. And once they built out their infrastructure on and around the Mün and built a münar hotel and resort, Münbus and her sister ships would fly to Kerbin’s closest natural satellite as well. No doubt about it, Drax Aerospace was determined to make their rivals irrelevant.






OCTV-2 arrived at Oasis, and Orbital Dynamics remotely got to work unpacking the cargo, assembling BirbStar 2, and stacking its first payload. In this case, it had two of the core tanks and a Finch Converter Module. It took several hours to carefully maneuver everything into place and another day to land at the company’s polar mining station. A couple of hours later, BirbStar 2 maneuvered the upgrades in place, refueled, and headed back to Oasis.

It had a seven-hour wait to arrive, but once it did, BirbStar 2 split in half and picked up the Finch Drill Module. But it had to wait another few days for the landing site to line up with Oasis’ orbit, so Orbital Dynamics decided to refuel OCTV-2 and send it home…




Four days later, BirbStar 2 delivered the drill and immediately turned around to head back to the station. This time, it picked up the last of the original core tank structure and headed back to the mining outpost. From there on out, the two BirbStars rotated between the surface and Oasis, delivering propellant to the station’s upgraded fuel depot every three days. That enabled the two Orbital Propellant Transfer Vehicles to rotate between Oasis and the Orbital Dynamics Shipyard, delivering propellant every twelve days. That finally put the company on a competitive footing with Drax Aerospace.

Now they just needed to catch up and place their own resorts on the Mün and Minmus…



After nearly two weeks of work, Sandcaster finished its latest contraption: The Worker-T. Based on the Worker-B chassis, the T variant replaced the B’s drills and refining equipment with a sizeable storage area and two converters that could melt rock into konkrete. Due to the large power requirements, only one converter could be run off the solar arrays at a time. Engineers made a note of the limitation and planned to equip Sandcaster with a power generator. By adding microwave transceivers to Sandcaster and its entourage, the construction bot could beam electric charge to its progeny and enable them to operate day and night. The Ministry of Space knew that they’d need two Worker-T construction bots but for testing purposes they simply rolled out a prototype that they built.


Sandcaster had one more item to build and it needed its entire entourage to make it. Unfortunately, it needed several weeks to complete the work. Nonetheless, the testing proved to be successful and an invaluable learning experience for the engineering team. The team even began thinking about new designs to expand upon Sandcaster’s capabilities such as advanced mobile refining robots.

With the right Workers, Sandcaster could self-replicate, finally realizing Neumann vonKerman’s dream of sending out automated probes to other planets to build homes ahead of a kermanned expedition.




Orbital Dynamics remotely piloted the Finch from Homestead Waystation to the Shipyard in preparation for its next trip. Once it arrived, it docked to the upper pier. As the station crew cleaned the interior, restocked its supplies, and topped off its fuel tanks, Willorf stepped outside to perform a minor refit- replace Finch’s faulty boarding ladder.


The replacement was straightforward and took very little time. Finch gained one other addition: a grappling claw vital for its next mission.



Given the high part count number of vehicles at the Shipyard, ODMC decided to ferry OCTV-2 and OCTV-3 over to Homestead Waystation to await their next assignment. They arrived a day later…


Not long after, Ascension arrived at the Shipyard to perform a crew swap at the Shipyard. The current crew had completed numerous constructions, but they were tired and they needed to recuperate from their time in microgravity. Willorf handed over the station to her counterpart, the two crews shared a meal together, and then they boarded Ascension for the trip home.


Mk33-02 landed and taxied to its hangar without incident, but as the crew deplaned, they were met by Rangers. Willorf saluted them.

“Calming Kerman, you’re under arrest for industrial espionage,” one of the Rangers said.


“You thought we wouldn’t find out? We knew you were taking extensive pictures of our 3D printing equipment,” Willorf said, “and sending them to someone. The second I saw your extensive bandwidth usage I knew something was up.”

I was sending pictures to my family,” Calming bleated.

Willorf smiled. “There’s just one problem with your story- you don’t have a family. In fact, ‘Calming Kerman’ doesn’t exist.”

Calming gasped. “I- I can… I can give you my contact at Drax,” he pleaded.


She ignored “Calming’s” pleas as he was hauled away.




It was unusual for Sarah to personally drive out to the airfield with the flight crew and tourists, but this time it was special. “We’re making history, Scott,” she began, “This will be the first time that a commercial crew has gone to Minmus! It’s hard to believe that after this flight, we’ll have completed all our original contracts.”

“Except for the casino,” Scott pointed out.

“Except for the casino,” Sarah repeated. “Okay, I admit it, that wasn’t our best idea. Who would’ve thought that grabbing asteroids would be so difficult. No to mention the red tape…”

“Now if we could just prevent Drax Aerospace from copying us and taking over our markets,” Scott lamented.

“Such is the nature of big business, I’m afraid. Move and countermove. It’s a primary driver of innovation,” Sarah said.

“It’s only a matter of time before Drax launches a Shipyard of their own,” Scott added.

“Not if we can help it,” Frolie said, and grinned. “I’m pretty sure that Calming was sending those images to Drax. Anyway, all we need to do is tighten our security, and then keep outpacing Drax and create technology so advanced, they’ll never be able to duplicate it.”

“Got any ideas, Frolie?”

“Actually, I have quite a few.”

“I shouldn’t be surprised,” Sarah said, “you’re a genius. The stuff that you keep coming come up with is amazing! You’ve really helped Orbital Dynamics grow. Making you CTO and Chief Engineer was one of the best things I ever did.”

“I’m just happy to be a part of the team,” Frolie responded. “And I’m no genius. I just stick to things longer than most. Perseverance is the real genius…”



Scott, Maxpond, Frolie, and four very excited tourists- Meldorf, Pepe, Frogun, and Ludus- boarded Ascension for their trip uphill. They were the last of the original four tourists who signed contracts almost four years ago. When the tourists signed on for their trip to Minmus, only Skyranger, the first Mk33, was flying, and it launched into space vertically. Today though, Ascension (Mk33-02) rolled out of its hangar, taxied over to Runway 090 Right, ignited its engines, shot down the runway and climbed into orbit like a high-tech airliner.


Given the special occasion, Orbital Dynamics gave the tourists exclusive use of the Homestead Hotel to acclimate to microgravity while they waited for Finch to arrive. A couple of hours later, Finch, on autopilot, arrived at Homestead Hotel. The flight crew- Scott and Frolie- performed pre-flight checks while the four tourists settled into the ship’s habitat section. Not long after, Finch departed the station for her first trip to Minmus!


Two days later, Finch crossed through the Mün’s SOI, making its closest approach at 9,352 km. The crew and passengers took turns looking through the ship’s command pod windows and snapping pictures. It was a nice treat to see the Mün relatively closer on their way to Minmus. Seven hours after münar periapsis, Scott made a course correction burn to compensate for the Mün’s gravitational influence on the ship’s trajectory.





As Finch coasted away from the Mn and towards Minmus, The Jool Mapper entered Tylo’s Sphere of Influence and released the Tylo Mapper. An hour later, Tylo Mapper circularized its orbit around the massive mün, deployed its sensors, and got to work while Jool Mapper continued its course. Not long after, Jool Mapper made a course correction burn that placed it on target to encounter Laythe.



Once in Laythe’s SOI, Jool Mapper performed a 1,544 m/sec burn to aim for polar orbit, and after determining that the Laythe Mapper would have enough delta-v to circularize its orbit, Jool Mapper released the probe and continued coasting. Like its sister probe, Laythe Mapper circularized its orbit and got to work.


Finally- at least for a while- Jool Mapper slowed itself down to enough to enter Jool orbit and plotted some maneuvers that would enable it to intercept Vall within a couple of weeks.




It took another four and a half days of anticipation for Finch to finally reach Minmus’ SOI, but the ship’s entertainment centers kept everyone busy. An hour later, Scott matched orbital planes with Refuge, and then three hours later, he circularized Finch’s orbit. Half a day later, Finch docked with Refuge.


As the tourists got settled in and Frolie began starting up Refuge’s various system, Scott undocked Finch’s command module and moved it over to the OTV section. Once he got a hard dock, Scott retracted half of the solar arrays on OCTV-1 and Finch’s extended cabin to make it easier to maneuver the OTV.

As soon as Frolie finished his onboarding tasks for Refuge, he hopped into the back of the OTV, and the crew and passengers departed the station. For the first time in many years, Finch was a simple orbital transfer vehicle again- but one that has made history as the first spacecraft to visit both of Kerbin’s müns. “Congratulations, guys,” Sarah called from Orbital Dynamics Mission Control, “you’re officially now the first commercial astronauts to visit Minmus.”

The tourists asked if they could land on the Mint Mün for the umpteenth time, but Scott gently reminded them that it wasn’t in their contract, and that they were slated to visit Unity Station. But he also had a treat in store for them. KSP asked Orbital Dynamics for a favor: retrieve the Sparrow Münar Excursion Module and dock it to Unity Station.



During the Münflight Program, the Münflight 2 went to Minmus. It was Sojourner’s first flight, and it was the first kermanned expedition to the Mint Mün. Bob and Jeb piloted the Sparrow MEM to the surface of Minmus- there wasn’t enough room for Bill- performed some science and returned to the awaiting Sojourner. As was standard procedure for Münflight missions, the MEM’s ascent module was either abandoned in orbit or deorbited and left to crash into the surface.




Two and a half hours after departing Refuge, Finch arrived at the Sparrow. The passengers and crew took a moment to marvel at the old technology used to fly a pair of kerbals to the surface, noting just how much smaller and cramped it was compared to the Finch. Scott then grabbed the ascent stage near its engine bell and, thanks to orbital mechanics, delivered it to Unity Station an hour later.



Münflight 6 was the last Münflight to one of Kerbin’s moons. Sojourner again made the trip, carrying Valentina, Gerrim, and Santrey along with Unity Station in place of a MEM. The vonKermans later joined them in what became known as the Münflight Drakken Test Project. As neutral ground for the two superpowers, the vonKermans continued to use Unity Station as a staging area for their missions to Minmus’ surface. Watching the mission play out on TV was one of the reasons why Scott wanted to be an astronaut. And now here he was, about to set foot in history!





With some careful maneuvering, Scott docked the ascent module to Unity Station’s only docking port capable of accommodating it. Then he backed Finch up and parked it on the station’s nadir port. Scott, Frolie, and the tourists spent the rest of the day exploring Unity Station- Meldorf especially enjoyed his time and took extensive pictures of the interior for historical preservation.





The next day, Finch returned to Refuge, and the tourists tried in vain one last time to land on the surface. Scott and Frolie flatly refused, citing that they had a schedule to keep and were awaiting a fuel shipment. As if on cue, the Drax Minmus Tanker showed up and docked to the station, delivering propellant for Finch’s return trip. Once refueled, everyone piled into the Finch and departed the station for a ten-day trip back to Kerbin.



While Finch coasted home, Jool Mapper performed a course correction after making gravity slingshot maneuver around Laythe to slow down. The spacecraft was on course to drop a probe off at Vall. Two days later, it entered Vall’s SOI and dropped off the Vall Mapper. The probe circularized its orbit and began scanning. KSP’s science teams hoped to determine the source of the odd radio signals that the Jool Surveyor spotted so many years ago.

Three hours later, Jool Mapper left Vall’s SOI and was back in Jool orbit. With one mapping probe left, KSP Mission Control elected to drop it off at Pol- it had a greater travel time than Bop, but it required less delta-v to match its orbital plane. That was important since KSP MC hoped to mine the mün for propellant and ship it to Laythe.


KSP MC was about to execute the maneuver when some bright engineer pointed out that Jool Mapper still had a lot of delta-v available. There was no reason why the spacecraft couldn’t hold onto the mapping probe while it did its work, and then drop off the probe at the other mün. That convinced Mission Control to change their target to Bop. A day later, Jool Mapper executed its 1,114 m/sec plane change maneuver, followed by a 695.4 m/sec transfer burn six hours later. That put it on course to intercept Bop Eight and a half days later.



Gene had been watching the news coverage of Orbital Dynamics’ Ascension returning home, carrying the first commercial crew and tourists to visit Minmus, when he got a knock on his door. “Come in,” Gene said. Two Rangers entered the room along with the District Attorney and what looked like an Orbital Dynamics employee. Gene had been expecting them. “It’s time,” the DA said.


When the DA informed Gene that they were going to arrest someone at KSC, they granted his request to be present as a show of solidarity. Plus, learning that someone was conducting industrial espionage on his watch irked KSP’s Administrator. As they drove across the KSC campus, he listened to the DA instruct Louis Kerman, alias Calming Kerman, on his role in the sting operation. Louis just needed to hand the documents over, and then the Rangers and DA would take care of the rest. The DA assured him that he’d be granted leniency for his part in the operation.


Gene, the DA, and the two Rangers waited outside while Louis went in. Everything went perfectly; Louis walked into Leando Kerman’s office- the Drax Aerospace liaison to KSP and Louis’ contact- he handed over the documents, and then the authorities busted in!

“Leando Kerman, you’re under arrest for conspiracy to commit industrial espionage,” boomed one of the Rangers. Leando looked stunned. “I, uh- I want to plea bargain,” Leando blurted out in a panic. “I know about Project Eve!”

“What is Project Eve,” Gene asked.

“P- P- P- Project Eve w- was a p- proposal by Drax Aerospace for a kermanned flyby of Eve using a converted Lindor 5 rocket. This was before the Shuttle Launch System was proposed.”

“Uh huh,” Gene answered, unimpressed.

“It- It was a cover!

“For what?”

Leando told him. “I knew it,” Gene said sternly.

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Getting close to the end of my JNSQ mission reports...

Chapter 39






Valentina shivered despite the warmth of the cryobay. It took what felt like an eternity for her mind to remember where she was. She saw Sara vonKerman looking at her.

“What happened,” Valentina croaked. “What went wrong?”


“Nothing went wrong,” Sara said, smiling. “We’re a week away from entering Laythe’s sphere of influence.”

“What? But-“ Valentina’s teeth chattered as she shook. Sara turned up the heat. “But we just entered cryosleep.

“Valentina, it’s been nearly three years,” Sara pointed out. “Check your chronometer.” Valentina checked the cryopod’s chronometer. Sure enough, the mission elapsed time read 2 years, 344 days, 8 hours, 27 minutes, and 50 seconds.

“Wow. It worked! I mean, I’ve seen the research and all, but… Wow. We made it!

“Welcome back,” Sara said. “Rest for a bit and get some koffee. I need to wake the rest of the crew.”



Since Leando and Calming were considered flight risks, neither were available to accomplish the task at hand. Instead, Leando provided all the credentials needed to enter Drax Aerospace’s headquarters- and The Vault. Still, it bugged him to be taking the risks today.

“I’m an astrophysicist, not a spy,” Adsii told Gene. Nonetheless, here he was, checking in with the guard and handing him his credentials. At least I got a nice suit out of it, Adsii thought to himself. The guard checked his credentials, and then double-checked them. Adsii tried to not look nervous.



“Go on ahead, Mister Leando,” the guard said. A moment later, the door to The Vault buzzed and opened, and Adsii stepped inside. It didn’t take long for him to locate the filing cabinet that he was looking for. Much faster than finding that old photo, he thought to himself. Looking inside, he found the Project Eve folder- and the missing film reel! Adsii quickly gathered up the items and headed out.

“You’ll need to sign for those,” the guard said.

Adsii briefly froze, but then picked up the pen and calmly signed Leando Kerman’s name. He hardly breathed until he exited Drax Aerospace headquarters. When he was safely away, Adsii had a moment to reflect on how easy that was. "I guess when you hide in plain sight, you're vulnerable," he said to no one in particular...


“So there I was, trying to leave with these, and the guard tells me to sign for them,” Adsii told Gene nervously. “I about had a heart attack! But I signed Leando’s name- in my handwriting, I’m afraid- and the guard didn’t even bat an eye.”

“Great job, Adsii,” Gene said, “really great job.”

“Just don’t ask me to do anything like that again, Gene,” Adsii retorted.

“Oh no, you’ve done enough. I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done to investigate- and for your discretion. As promised, you’ll have VIP and consultation status for Project Laythe. FYI, the crew is awake and about to enter Laythe’s SOI. Thanks again, Adsii,” Gene said. “I’ll get these documents over to the DA’s office so we can put this case to rest.”

“Drax is in big trouble, isn’t he,” Adsii asked.

“Oh yes…”




Jool Mapper completed its journey to Bop and commanded its last probe to begin its survey. Meanwhile as Nautilus coasted towards Laythe, Bob Kerman, Sara vonKerman, and Sammal mcKerman- the crew’s scientists- began analyzing years of science data that was beamed to DSEV-01. They had a lot to process, and they probably needed to bring the research with them to Laythe.


A week later, after the crew got caught up on current events, Nautilus performed a 2,096 m/sec burn to place the ship in high orbit of Laythe. KSP Mission Control cheered for several minutes until Bobak calmed them down, just in time to hear Valentina report that Laythe looked a lot like Kerbin.




A few minutes later, Bill Kerman, the ship’s chief engineer, stepped outside to perform a visual inspection of DSEV-01 to ensure that there were no issues after her years-long journey. By doing so, he became the first kerbal in history to take a spacewalk in Laythe orbit. One thing he noted was that half the tail RCS thrusters were missing! That would be a problem if not addressed, but he kept going.



Once he took note of the issues, Bill headed back to the airlock. But just before he got back inside, he performed an EVA science experiment and made some historic observations. “It’s a fantastic view outside,” he said…


Despite the missing RCS thrusters, Valentina decided to rendezvous with the Laythe Ascent/Descent Vehicle awaiting in low orbit. Half a day later, DSEV-01 caught up with the LADV. The two craft docked (another World’s First, yay!), with Nautilus serving as the passive vehicle. Their first order of business was to scavenge the remaining propellant from the LADV’s propulsion section; Nautilus had plenty of delta-v margins to reach Jool, but not quite enough for the return trip. Mission Control always planned for DSEV-01 to refuel via the rest of the First Jool Fleet. In this case, the LADV’s transit stage had enough propellant left over to fully refuel four of Nautilus’s tank modules and partially refuel two more. Given the fuel state of the rest of the Fleet, there was no doubt that Nautilus had more than enough to return home even if the Icebreaker mission failed to yield results…




Bill took another spacewalk to replace the missing RCS thrusters. “It’s as if somebody didn’t turn on part symmetry when they placed the parts,” Bill said. Nobody knew what he was talking about, so they just ignored him. Regardless, Bill got to work harvesting RCS thrusters from the LADV transit stage while Jeb piloted one of the PMVs and brought one of the comm/RCS masts to the work site. After Bill attached the new RCS thrusters, Jeb flew the mast back to its spot and grabbed the other one. Once they completed their work, the crew jettisoned the LADV’s transit stage and prepared for their next rendezvous.



A day later, Nautilus rendezvoused with the Laythe Support Module. Its transit stage released its payload, docked with Nautilus, and donated its remaining propellant. Then it backed away so that DSEV-01 could dock with Laythe Base’s support modules. Half an orbit later, Nautilus joined up with the modules…




KSP Mission Control worked with the crew to find two potential landing sites- Alpha One and Beta One- that appeared to be flat and had obtainable resources. Once selected, Bob powered up the first Bumblebee atmospheric probe and programmed its landing coordinates. At orbital sunrise, Bumblebee Alpha departed from the ship and began its descent. Right on time, Bumblebee Alpha lit the deorbit motors and sent it on course to enter Laythe’s atmosphere. A few second later, it jettisoned its service module and oriented its heatshield towards the atmosphere. The probe caressed the outer layer of the atmosphere at 75km altitude and began to slow down.




The spacecraft barely felt any heat from slowing down, and at 20km altitude, it deployed its parachutes- 70km away from the intended landing site. Fortunately, Bumblebee could fly the remaining distance. At 16km, the heat shield dropped away, and the probe extended its landing skids. At a scant 1,700 meters altitude, the main cute finally inflated and slowed the probe to a mere 6 m/sec. It was time to fly. After dropping away from the aeroshell, Bumblebee Alpha spun up its rotors. And for the first time, an aircraft flew in Laythe’s skies!


Bumblebee Alpha managed a hover at 1,500 meters. As it oriented itself and aligned its navigation systems, the aircraft conducted the first of many atmospheric tests including temperature, pressure, and atmospheric analysis. Everyone at Mission Control and aboard the Nautilus were fixated on the data coming back- especially the images of the landscape!

“It’s cold down there,” Bob noted, “Look at the readings! It’s -53 degrees Celsius. We’ll need to bundle up when we go outside.”

Bumblebee Alpha reached the Alpha One site after a half-hour of travel. The area was particularly flat- and relatively uninteresting. The science team took another look around at the data and found a potential alternate site 111km away- not a problem for the Bumblebee. With luck, the site would also be flat but also have groundwater. Since it was up for the task, Bumblebee Alpha took off and set out for the Alpha Two site. Along the way, Sammal took note of the desert’s stalagmites.

Sadly, what looked like green fields from orbit thus far had turned out to be barren landscape. At least the Alpha Two site, in the Midlands, had good concentrations of resources including groundwater- and it was closer to the equator. It wasn’t as flat as the team would’ve liked, but Alpha Two was a better candidate than Alpha One.


The Bumblebee was still in good shape, so Bob commanded it to head due south along the equator. Unfortunately, the desired spot was too hilly, so Bumblebee Alpha turned west, eventually landing on the shores of the continent. They finally found a suitable location: site Alpha Three. It had the right combination of resources and level ground.


With its primary mission completed, Bumblebee Alpha headed west in search of an anomalous reading 231 kilometers west of its current location. The aircraft flew for hours out into the middle of the ocean in search of the anomaly. When it arrived at the precise location, there was nothing but water.

“I guess it must have been a reflection,” Bob said simply. Sadly, Bumblebee Alpha had run out of time. It crashed into the water when its fuel cell ran out.




A day later, Bumblebee Beta separated from Nautilus and plotted a course to land at Beta Site. Since the heating requirements weren’t as bad as expected, Bill and Bob decided to try an experiment and leave the probe’s descent stage attached for atmospheric entry. A few minutes later, the probe was 18,000m above the surface and 25km away from the Beta Site. When it jettisoned the descent stage and the heat shield, Bumblebee Beta deployed its chutes. But for some reason, the drogue chute was torn away, leaving the main chute to slow the aircraft down.


Fortunately, the main chute worked, and Bumblebee Beta left the aeroshell a scant 15km from Beta Site- though not without struggling to be free. Nonetheless, the aircraft landed at the site and while flat, it lacked usable resources. Looking at the resource maps, it looked like Beta Site wasn’t very promising at all, so Valentina declared Alpha Site Three to be the landing site for Laythe base, and freed the science team to send Bumblebee Beta to a location of interest- 300km northeast of Beta Site…

As Bumblebee Beta began its journey, Nautilus jettisoned the Bumblebee Payload Rack and commanded it to deorbit to make room for future dockings. Four hours later, Bumblebee Beta reached its destination- but found nothing. With its fuel cell nearly depleted, Bob commanded the automated aircraft to fly north to see if it could find anything. Unfortunately, nothing out of the ordinary was in the vicinity. Sadly, Bumblebee Beta met the same fate as Alpha and plunged into the ocean after its fuel cell ran out.






With their landing site selected, Val informed Mission Control, and they concurred that it was time for the colony drop. The Support Module descended first. Despite the nominal deorbit burn, the module was off course- and tumbling! But there was little that anybody could do. Fortunately, the chutes and the heat shield deployed to help the craft slow down, and once the chutes inflated, the module jettisoned its heat shield in preparation for landing. Right on time, the landing engines fired and gently set the Support Module down- albeit 14.5km away from the intended landing site!


Once Nautilus verified that the module landed safely, Bill commanded it to perform its post-landing tasks. First, it transferred all the remaining landing fuel into the skycrane and simultaneously re-lit its engines while decoupling it, sending it on its way. Next, it extended its high-gain antennas and discarded the now useless landing tanks. Finally, the module extended its maneuvering wheels and set out towards the desired landing site. Fifteen minutes later, it arrived on site, deployed its drills, and got to work…



Mission Control was delighted to hear that all their hard design work paid off, and the Support Module arrived at the desired landing site despite touching down several kilometers away. Flush with their success, Nautilus deployed their second module, the base’s 3D printing workshop. It fared much better, landing 2.6km away from Laythe Base. A short drive later, the workshop docked to the Support Module…




With the support section of Laythe Base landed, Nautilus’ engineering team focused on Rover 1 and the two habitat modules next. Rover 1 landed 3.7km away from the base, but it easily navigated the distance…




Hab 1 landed 2.7km away but had no trouble driving over to the base and docking with the growing structure. Hab 2 landed 1.1km away and joined the base.



Meanwhile, the transit stage for the two habitats rendezvoused and docked with Nautilus to complete DSEV-01’s refueling. Fully fueled, Nautilus had more than enough propellant to return to Kerbin, so it departed DSEV-01 to perform its new mission: to keep track of when to return to Kerbin. A day later, the transit stage circularized its orbit around Jool. The spacecraft would also become part of the communications relay network in the Jool system. After doing the maneuver calculations, Mission Control had their answer: they had 85 days until the transfer window back to Kerbin opened…




Back at Laythe, Nautilus’ engineering team got to work landing Rover 2 and the remaining Laythe Base modules. Rover 2 had a 7km trek to reach Laythe Base. The greenhouse module had an 8km trip, but it still made it to the base. The science module- the last module for the base, landed 6km away but still successfully drove to the base and completed it.

At last, Laythe Base was ready for visitors!



Behind the Scenes: Deploying Laythe Base was a lot of fun. I went through a big redesign early on in my mission report when the original Laythe Base modules exploded during their reentry test. launching all the modules into orbit was time consuming, and it took a lot of waiting for the Fleet to arrive at Jool. For all that work, I was finished landing the modules and refueling Nautilus in two afternoons, lol! But I'm glad I over-engineered the propulsion modules to provide ample fuel for the trip to Jool and to ensure that Nautilus could refuel from the Fleet. And it was surprising that the crew only had 85 days before the transfer window opened for the trip home. I'm so used to having a couple of years when my previous missions arrived at Duna.

Anyway, just a couple more chapters until Commercial Space Ventures comes to a close...

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Chapter 40









Sarah couldn’t believe what she saw. “I should’ve done this years ago,” she said as she looked out of Ascension’s right cockpit windows. “This is… breathtakingly beautiful! No wonder you made sure that you could do this. I’ve heard your descriptions over the years but this… this doesn’t compare.”

“Finch is ready to fly, guys,” Frolie said, breaking their reverie. “The departure window opens in 15 minutes. We should probably get going.”

“Go have fun,” Sarah said, “I’m going to enjoy the view from our hotel.”





Showing off its versatility, the Arrow 6 Booster launched the previous generation’s modified upper stage into orbit. It didn’t stay long in orbit though; AstroMiner 2 boosted for high Kerbin orbit in pursuit of an asteroid giving off strange radar reflections and residing in a near-circular orbit. Ten days later, AstroMiner 2 found its quarry and approached it. Once it got close enough, it MoS Mission Control saw that it was clearly no asteroid!

The perfectly shaped tetrahedron glowed brilliantly and its lights appeared to be animated. There was writing of some kind, but the Ministry of Space Mission Control had no idea what language it was. It really looked like they’d found definitive proof that kerbals weren’t alone in the universe! There was just one problem: The tetrahedron was intricately described in Project Eve’s files. When KSP shared what they knew about Project Eve with the Ministry of Space and the vonKerman Space Agency, they were furious.

Finding the tetrahedron, and the commotion it caused, was the last straw…



Drax Kerman looked bemused when Gene, the District Attorney, and two Rangers barged into his office and demanded to see him. “Is there a problem,” he calmly asked.

“We know about Project Eve,” Gene said sternly.

“Oh? And what’s that,” Drax asked.

“You know very well what it is, Drax,” Gene said.

“Please, enlighten me,” Drax said, trying not to look nervous.

“I’ll let your younger self explain,” Gene grinned and said. He pulled out a kPad and played a video. It showed a young Drax Kerman speaking to a young Dolores Kerman.

“…Of course I defaced it,” young Drax said. “If Professor Buford is correct, then the glyphs describe the end of the world- and how the Kermantians ended. I can use that, but only if I control the narrative.”

“Use it? For what,” young Dolores said.

Think about it, Dolores. If everyone believes that the world is going to end, they’ll buy anything in a panic! Even better, if somehow there was a way to save kerbalkin, governments will pay anything to preserve their way of life! Just imagine what new markets will open up if, say, kerbals had to relocate to… to.. another planet! And because I control the narrative, I can be at the forefront of the profits!”

“Y- You’re going to fake the end of the world… for profit?

“Well, it’s not like I’ll get rich right away,” young Drax admitted, “but… yeah! Defacing this wall is just the first step of a long journey that’ll probably take decades to complete. And if you say nothing about this, Dolores, you’ll be rich too…”

Gene paused the video. “Project Laythe,” he said, fuming, “was secretly predicated on the belief that the world was going to end. We spent millions of Funds changing our plans from going to Duna to going to Laythe because of that belief. I always thought it was odd that on the eve of announcing Project Duna, we suddenly had to pivot and go to Laythe. But the whole thing was a hoax, perpetrated by YOU! And Drax Aerospace was right there with all the top contracts to assemble the First Jool Fleet and station resupply. Had your lies continued, there’s no telling how many Funds your company would have raked in.

“Oh, and we found out what poisons you’ve been administering to Dolores, she’s recovering well.”

Drax looked absolutely in shock as the Rangers arrested him and escorted him from his office.


“About Project Laythe… What happens now,” the DA asked. “As I understand it, the whole mission was based on a hoax.”

“The crew doesn’t know that,” Gene responded. “Only a small handful of people knew that they were going in order to find us a new home. And we’re going to keep it that way. We cannot let this incident become publicly known- it would cause an outrage!

“So, we stick to what we officially announced: Project Laythe is about the search for life on Laythe. There is some evidence that life might exist there, after all…”



The crew of Nautilus stopped the centrifuge and turned off the lights to preserve power before boarding the Laythe Ascent/Descent Vehicle. They took their time powering up its systems and performing preflight checks. When they completed, Valentina turned to Jeb. “The ship is yours,” Val said. Jeb grinned and got to work.



First, he jettisoned the shroud protecting the K-25B Rainbird- and immediately it sounded like metal wrenched and tore. Next, he warmed up the Rainbirds and plotted a deorbit burn. Twenty minutes later, Galileo performed its burn.



“We’re committed,” Jeb said simply. A few minutes later, Galileo hit the upper atmosphere. For the next several minutes, Jeb was fully focused on keeping the LADV right on its glide scope, making small adjustments here and there and closely monitoring its trajectory. He was a jerk, Valentina noted, but he was good at what he did.


Jeb made a sharp roll to the left to correct their course, then dove for the ground, all the while keeping Galileo on its proper flight path. He banked the ship in a series of S-turns to slow down, and then banked in a large circle to angle back to the landing site. The LADV continued to slow down. Then he dove for the ground.


“Uh, Jeb, chutes,” Valentina said calmly.

“I got it.”



Seconds later, he slammed the chute deploy button, and suddenly, Galileo violently flipped around as the chutes deployed. He quickly extended the landing legs. Ten seconds later, the LADV landed hard- but the numerous landing legs absorbed the shock. They’d done it! They were the first kerbals to land on Laythe!

“Laythe Base here, the Galileo has landed,” Jeb said. He paused for dramatic effect. “Ok, uh, engines off, cabin lights off, comms deployed, ladder deployed. We’ve got nearly a full tank of gas. We can abort at any time. Niiice, we’re 359 meters away from the base. Walking distance. Ok, Val, she’s all yours.”

Valentina thanked Jeb for getting them down in one piece, then instructed bill to bring the rovers over. They were within walking distance, but they weren’t ready for a stroll yet. Around since the Münflight days, each rover held three kerbals. Once they arrived, it was time to disembark.




The crew decided years ago, before they went into cryosleep, who would step off the ladder first. It was only fitting that Valentina, the first kerbal to reach space, and the first to set foot on the Mün, would be the first kerbal to set foot on another world. Jeb, the second kerbal in space, and the first to set foot on Minmus, followed next, and then Bill, and Bob. The Original Four, the first kerbals to go into space, each one a legend in the Kerbal Space Program, would be the first four to step onto another world. “I’m feeling my age,” Jeb said as he climbed down the ladder. “My knees hurt.”




One by one, each member of the crew stepped off the ladder, refusing to say a word. When they lined up. Valentina finally spoke: "We take these first steps onto Laythe for all Kerbalkin," Valentina said. Then she planted the flag. Three space-faring nations made the trip possible, but the crew meant what Valentina said. The first flag planted on Laythe depicted Kerbin itself.


With the festivities completed, it was time to get to work. “We have 60 days,” Valentina said, “Let’s make every second count.” The crew piled into the rovers, leaving two behind- at least that was the plan. Jeb grabbed onto one of the rover’s boarding ladders and Bill followed suit. Valentina just laughed, and the entire crew drove to their new home for the next two months.







“I have finished translating what I can of the hieroglyphs,” Adsii said. Both Scott and Gene looked excited.

“So that’s why you called this meeting,” Scott said.

“Yup! I think you’ll find the translation interesting. I suspect that whatever I was investigating was bigger than the defaced wall…”

“I can’t talk about it, other than to say that your efforts prevented a serious embarrassment of several nations. The Kerman States owes you two a big favor,” Gene responded.

“I guess we’ll never find out what the big deal was,” Scott lamented. “So, what did the inscriptions say?”

“As you know,” Adsii began, “the Kermantian Empire vanished 100 years after the beginning of the Fifth World. Until know, we didn’t know why. The inscriptions tell us what happened.”

“Wow! Well,” Gene prompted, “what happened? Don’t keep us in suspense!”

“Oh believe me, Gene, I felt that way as I worked on the translation. So, the Kermantians didn’t vanish without a trace- they disincorporated!”

“They were vaporized?

Adsii laughed. “No, Scott, the Kermantians uh- in business terms- they dissolved the corporation and dispersed the assets. There were several political factions in the Kermantian Empire. Political strife combined with an inability to maintain their expansive territories resulted in a loss of political control [*]. The various political parties became so sharply polarized that they couldn’t even agree on the simplest things. As a result, the only thing left to do- short of going to war- was go their separate ways. So, the political parties dissolved the Kermantian Empire, divided up its assets, and they separated. To the Kermantians that scribbled on that wall, it was the end of the world. Their way of life as they knew it was over. So bitter were their rivalries, the former Kermantians didn’t talk about it, and knowledge of their origins got lost to time. I guess if we looked hard enough, we might find other records like that wall...

“Those political parties spread out across Kerbin and eventually became the modern nations like the Kerman States, the mcKerman Kingdom, and the vonKerman Republic. You see, the Kermantians didn’t vanish- we are their descendants.





A week after departing Homestead Hotel, Finch circularized its orbit around Minmus and then promptly headed to Refuge. Once the ship docked at the station, Scott and Frolie got to work repositioning the Finch command module and attaching its landing section. It didn’t take long, and once completed, the crew and tourists hopped into the command module for the trip down to the surface.



A half-hour later, Finch touched down at Minmus Base- and became the first spacecraft in history to both orbit and land on both of Kerbin’s müns. “You realize that we’ll probably have to retire Finch after this,” Frolie said.

Scott just harumphed. “Frolie, want to be the first commercial astronaut to step on Minmus?”

Frolie beamed. “You sure, boss?”

“Yeah, go make history,” Scott said.



Frolie cycled through the airlock, climbed down the ladder, and set foot on the Mint Mün for the first time. He was excited, but he carefully took a few low-gravity steps away from Finch. He took out the flagpole and planted it into the ground. Everyone was quiet for several seconds while Frolie gathered his thoughts. “Hey, I’m the first commercial astronaut to set foot on Minmus,” he finally said.


Not long after, Scott stepped outside to join him. “This is something else,” he said.





The pair of commercial astronauts and tourists walked over and took turns cycling through the designated airlock at Minmus Base. Inside, they were treated to a tour of the base by the base’s commander, Tesen, who was also commander of the Münflight 4 and Skybase 1 missions and commanded the second Shuttle Launch System flight. This was her last mission before retiring from the Astronaut Corps, but she remained professional throughout her tenure at Minmus Base.


By the end of their tour, Tesen, Rosie- the base’s engineer- and Glesby sat down with Scott and Frolie to discuss improvements to the next generation of modules while the tourists enjoyed the base's cafeteria.


After spending the night in Habitat 2, it was time to go. Scott and Frolie said their goodbyes and Finch's crew and passengers walked back to the Finch. Frolie was quiet and lost in thought. “Do you mind if I step outside one more time,” he asked.

“Not at all,” Scott said as he worked through the preflight checklist.



Frolie grabbed a jetpack just in case, stepped outside once more- and then promptly jumped upward in the low gravity. He looked over at the solar arrays powering the drilling equipment. I should do that next time, Scott thought to himself.

“You know what we haven’t tried,” Frolie asked as he reached apoapsis.

“Tried? Tried what,” Scott asked.

“The exotic matter. We haven’t tried weighing it.”

“I’m pretty sure that we did.”

Frolie landed on the ground. “Not after we charged it up. We should zap it with an electric charge and then weigh it.”

“Might as well,” Scott shrugged and answered, “we’ve done just about everything else.”


A couple of hours later, Finch was back at Refuge and being rejoined to its orbital section. After the Drax Minmus Tanker refueled Finch, the vessel was on her way once more, heading away from Minmus and coasting back to Kerbin.




Another week-long journey later, Finch returned to Homestead Hotel once again and was greeted by Sarah and the hotel staff. It was a long week at times, the tourists couldn’t stop talking about their experiences. Scott could relate, and wanted to talk more with Frolie, but he was busy scribbling designs and writing equations. He knew better than to disturb his Chief Engineer when he was “in the zone” so he stuck to entertaining his guests with his exploits. By the time they returned to the Hotel, everyone was talked out.


Not long after, Ascension departed the Hotel and performed her deorbit burn.

Scott said nothing as he waited for the Mk33 to reach Kerbin’s upper atmosphere.


“We did good with these,” Scott finally spoke up, patting the dashboard.






“With your leadership- sorry, our leadership, and of course my initial investment, we created the world’s first single-stage-to-orbit spacecraft, we went to Skybase, and we started the space tourism business…



“… we created the first commercial space station- and with it, the first space hotel…”


“… we captured Magic Boulder…”




“… we built the Finch and visited both of Kerbin’s müns…”



“… we built the first orbital construction shipyard and used it to build stations around the Mn and Minmus…



“… we set up mining on the Mün. We even built the modules in use at Laythe Base.

“These are the commercial space ventures of Orbital Dynamics,” Scott said, contemplating their contributions to spaceflight. “When I discovered KSP in 2013 my astronaut application was rejected by KSP, I never thought I’d wind up building so many mods starting my own space company and writing mission reports making history. But here we are. In our own way, we’ve made our mark on Kerbal Space Program. I wonder what’s next…”


“Just you wait,” Frolie said, grinning.


Stay tuned for the epilogue!


[*] See: The Fall of the Western Roman Empire

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Epilogue: Huitzil 18, 2007




“We’re doing this because the technology is obsolete,” Scott reminded himself. It felt like he was retiring an old friend. It made him sad. But the simple fact was that the Mk33s couldn’t be upgraded without practically tearing them down to the airframe and rebuilding them. That wasn’t cost effective. It was cheaper to simply build a new one. So, today, he and Mabo were flying Resolute, a.k.a. Mk33-04, to the Boneyard- correction, the Kerbal Spaceflight Museum, to join her sister ships in retirement. Blackstar would have joined them too had the Kerman Air Force not decided to keep their sole Mk33 in active reserve.

They would have received better news coverage of the retirement, but they were being overshadowed by the Nautilus’ recent return from Laythe. They were already talking about refitting her instead of converting her into a space station. Scott understood the lack of coverage; Nautilus and her crew found phytoplankton in Laythe’s oceans! But they weren’t the only ones who made amazing discoveries in the past three years…

When Frolie’s experiment to zap the exotic material with an electric charge worked, it changed everything. In short order, Frolie Kerman became the Father of Gravitics. It turned out that applying an electric charge to graviolium- the official name of the exotic matter- altered the local fabric of space-time. And that discovery changed the nature of spaceflight forever.

Orbital Dynamics kept gravitic technology- a.k.a. grav-tech- a tightly held secret thanks to vastly upgraded security procedures, an army of lawyers, and quietly, with help from the federal government. Other companies would love to duplicate their work as soon as they got their hands on one of their engines, but the company had key patents on lockdown. That gave the company a monopoly on grav-tech for the foreseeable future. For now, grav-tech remained mostly experimental and in limited supply. But it was clear that the days of traditional rockets were numbered. For instance, Kopernicus (DSEV-02) and the Third Duna Fleet- launched shortly after Nautilus began her journey back to Kerbin in 2004- would be the last interplanetary exploration fleet to be powered by conventional and atomic rockets.




“She’ll be well taken care of,” Mabo, Orbital Dynamics’ Chief of the Astronaut Corps, said, breaking Scott out of his reverie.

“Yeah,” was all Scott could manage. Resolute banked on final approach to the Boneyard, touched down, and taxied over to her resting place next to her sister ships. As before, the pilots shut down the spacecraft but this time, for the last time.


As they exited the craft, ground crews began offloading her resources and rendering her non-flyable. Across the way, the pilots saw the previous generation of reusable shuttles resting in retirement as well- including Münraker 1, the sole Block 2 Shuttle orbiter.

Scott reflected on what happened with them… Drax Kerman was forced to step down as CEO of Drax Aerospace when he was arrested for attempting to poof Dolores Kerman, and he received the maximum penalty. And his time in lock-down wasn’t going to be like one of those “resort” prisons that the wealthy usually enjoyed… Drax Aerospace also suffered unusually severe fines for attempting to steal Orbital Dynamics’ microgravity 3D printing technology. Consequently, they canceled their own orbiting construction yard, and offered their mass driver engines as a gesture of goodwill to the space mining industry. At least the Arrow Space Corporation was properly licensing the printing technology for their own orbiting yard- the sharing agreement was part of the stipulations for basing their printers off the original MoS prototypes from Starlab. At least Orbital Dynamics was smart enough to negotiate an exclusivity period…



Scott and Mabo didn’t stay for long; they boarded the company jet- Scott’s turboprop that he bought when he won the lottery- and flew back to Welcome Island.



From there, they watched as ground crews loaded up the payload that their brand new, graviolium-powered Mk33 would carry. Unlike the previous models, the new one had an aft cargo ramp that made life much easier. No more loading via overhead cranes!


The pilots boarded the new spaceplane and said hello to Frolie. He grunted a greeting and then looked up a few seconds later. “I’m working on a new gravitic OCTV design,” he said.



Scott left him to his work- the new flight computers performed the preflight checks automatically. A flight engineer was mostly a formality. Scott got clearance to taxi out of the hangar and onto the runway, then he asked for clearance to take off.

“Skyranger, you are cleared for takeoff from Runway 090 Right,” the air traffic controller said.

“Roger that,” Scott radioed back. “ODMC, how we looking?”

“Minmus Base is looking forward to that Sandcaster, Scott,” Frobert Kerman, Flight Director of Orbital Dynamics Mission Control said. “Your mission is a go. They still can’t believe that we can deliver it in a few hours instead of the usual week and a half.”

Scott laughed. “Let’s prove them wrong.”



After warming up her engines, Skyranger flew straight up into orbit.


Thanks for reading! I hope you had as much fun reading about my missions as I had flying and writing about them. As for what I’ll do next, it depends on what KSP 2 can offer during Early Access, and if readers want to see another mission report in my JNSQ save.

Bonus images



From Kerbin to Minmus in 8 hours:




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9 hours ago, Angelo Kerman said:

Epilogue: Huitzil 18, 2007




“We’re doing this because the technology is obsolete,” Scott reminded himself. It felt like he was retiring an old friend. It made him sad. But the simple fact was that the Mk33s couldn’t be upgraded without practically tearing them down to the airframe and rebuilding them. That wasn’t cost effective. It was cheaper to simply build a new one. So, today, he and Mabo were flying Resolute, a.k.a. Mk33-04, to the Boneyard- correction, the Kerbal Spaceflight Museum, to join her sister ships in retirement. Blackstar would have joined them too had the Kerman Air Force not decided to keep their sole Mk33 in active reserve.

They would have received better news coverage of the retirement, but they were being overshadowed by the Nautilus’ recent return from Laythe. They were already talking about refitting her instead of converting her into a space station. Scott understood the lack of coverage; Nautilus and her crew found phytoplankton in Laythe’s oceans! But they weren’t the only ones who made amazing discoveries in the past three years…

When Frolie’s experiment to zap the exotic material with an electric charge worked, it changed everything. In short order, Frolie Kerman became the Father of Gravitics. It turned out that applying an electric charge to graviolium- the official name of the exotic matter- altered the local fabric of space-time. And that discovery changed the nature of spaceflight forever.

Orbital Dynamics kept gravitic technology- a.k.a. grav-tech- a tightly held secret thanks to vastly upgraded security procedures, an army of lawyers, and quietly, with help from the federal government. Other companies would love to duplicate their work as soon as they got their hands on one of their engines, but the company had key patents on lockdown. That gave the company a monopoly on grav-tech for the foreseeable future. For now, grav-tech remained mostly experimental and in limited supply. But it was clear that the days of traditional rockets were numbered. For instance, Kopernicus (DSEV-02) and the Third Duna Fleet- launched shortly after Nautilus began her journey back to Kerbin in 2004- would be the last interplanetary exploration fleet to be powered by conventional and atomic rockets.




“She’ll be well taken care of,” Mabo, Orbital Dynamics’ Chief of the Astronaut Corps, said, breaking Scott out of his reverie.

“Yeah,” was all Scott could manage. Resolute banked on final approach to the Boneyard, touched down, and taxied over to her resting place next to her sister ships. As before, the pilots shut down the spacecraft but this time, for the last time.


As they exited the craft, ground crews began offloading her resources and rendering her non-flyable. Across the way, the pilots saw the previous generation of reusable shuttles resting in retirement as well- including Münraker 1, the sole Block 2 Shuttle orbiter.

Scott reflected on what happened with them… Drax Kerman was forced to step down as CEO of Drax Aerospace when he was arrested for attempting to poof Dolores Kerman, and he received the maximum penalty. And his time in lock-down wasn’t going to be like one of those “resort” prisons that the wealthy usually enjoyed… Drax Aerospace also suffered unusually severe fines for attempting to steal Orbital Dynamics’ microgravity 3D printing technology. Consequently, they canceled their own orbiting construction yard, and offered their mass driver engines as a gesture of goodwill to the space mining industry. At least the Arrow Space Corporation was properly licensing the printing technology for their own orbiting yard- the sharing agreement was part of the stipulations for basing their printers off the original MoS prototypes from Starlab. At least Orbital Dynamics was smart enough to negotiate an exclusivity period…



Scott and Mabo didn’t stay for long; they boarded the company jet- Scott’s turboprop that he bought when he won the lottery- and flew back to Welcome Island.



From there, they watched as ground crews loaded up the payload that their brand new, graviolium-powered Mk33 would carry. Unlike the previous models, the new one had an aft cargo ramp that made life much easier. No more loading via overhead cranes!


The pilots boarded the new spaceplane and said hello to Frolie. He grunted a greeting and then looked up a few seconds later. “I’m working on a new gravitic OCTV design,” he said.



Scott left him to his work- the new flight computers performed the preflight checks automatically. A flight engineer was mostly a formality. Scott got clearance to taxi out of the hangar and onto the runway, then he asked for clearance to take off.

“Skyranger, you are cleared for takeoff from Runway 090 Right,” the air traffic controller said.

“Roger that,” Scott radioed back. “ODMC, how we looking?”

“Minmus Base is looking forward to that Sandcaster, Scott,” Frobert Kerman, Flight Director of Orbital Dynamics Mission Control said. “Your mission is a go. They still can’t believe that we can deliver it in a few hours instead of the usual week and a half.”

Scott laughed. “Let’s prove them wrong.”



After warming up her engines, Skyranger flew straight up into orbit.


Thanks for reading! I hope you had as much fun reading about my missions as I had flying and writing about them. As for what I’ll do next, it depends on what KSP 2 can offer during Early Access, and if readers want to see another mission report in my JNSQ save.

Bonus images


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From Kerbin to Minmus in 8 hours:




Thank you for everything you've done to make KSP and the KSP Forums a better place :)

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