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The Scrape of Things to Come - Phase 7: Inner Planets Missions


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45 minutes ago, TwoCalories said:

That's one of the best-looking interplanetary transfer stations I've ever seen. Where does it get its electricity though? I don't seem any solar.

I'm glad you asked! If you look on page 4 of the press packet you'll find a description of the bi-modal nuclear propulsion system. In addition to propulsion, the nuclear reactor is also used to generate electricity to power the spacecraft. I hear it also makes a pretty decent cup of coffee. ;)

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1 hour ago, Angelo Kerman said:

Great interplanetary ship design! What are those radial docking ports, they look rectangular?

Those docking ports are supplied by the Near Future Construction mod our sub-contractor, Clamp Depot!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Y3 D325-Y4 D169 - Jool Explorer

So, hot on the heels of the departure of Draco, we have another historical event taking place: The arrival of Jool Explorer at the Jool System! If you recall, Jool Explorer was launched all the way back in the middle of Year 1, almost two and a half years ago! Heck, that was all the way back when Jerry here was an intern! Ha ha! What's that, Jerry? You're still an intern? Oh. Well. Talk to KR about that.

In any case, as Jool Explorer is approaching its goal, this is a good time to review its mission objectives:

Minimum Objectives
(If we don't accomplish at least this much, we'll wind up sitting in front of a Kongressional hearing.)

  • One flyby of Jool
  • One flyby of Laythe

Primary Objectives
(These are the objectives that the probe has been designed to achieve.)

  • Two flybys of Jool
  • Two flybys of each of Jool's large moons: Laythe, Vall, and Tylo
  • Deploy one atmospheric probe on Jool and one on Laythe

Secondary Objectives
(Once the Primary Objectives have been completed, if the probe has any capability left, we will attempt to accomplish these additional objectives.)

  • Flybys of Jool's minor moons: Bop and Pol
  • Additional flybys of Jool and its large moons.

So, this morning, Jool Explorer crossed over into Jool's SOI. Our first task is to adjust its trajectory coming in to the Jool system. The folks over in Orbital Dynamics have worked up a plan for us that will let us use a gravity assist at Laythe to capture Jool Explorer into the system rather than burning fuel, which will help extend the life of our propellant load. If you're unfamiliar with the concept of gravity assists...well, go ask the guys in Orbital Dynamics. There's a reason I'm in management. This maneuver will also check off our first minimum objective with a flyby of Laythe.

So Jool Explorer burns at the very edge of the Jool system to set up its capture maneuver.


However, as we all know, the Jool system is huge. It's going to be almost sixty days before the Laythe flyby. So, back to work, everyone. We'll get back to this in a couple months.


Well, here we are back with Jool Explorer on Day 384. The Science team has been hard at work over the last several weeks getting preliminary readings from the experiments on board Jool Explorer, and they've already been releasing some stunning photography.


Today is the day we discover if our burn two months ago was good. Jool Explorer is rapidly approaching Laythe. And, so far, it appears that we are right down the middle of the slot.


Science has all of their instruments and cameras ready to go for our first flyby. We'll be passing about 140 kilometers away from the surface.


And we have our first successful flyby! Flight just got back and let me know that their numbers indicate that Jool Explorer has successfully captured into an elliptical orbit around Jool. Excellent work!


So now Orbital Dynamics is getting to work on plotting the next burn, which should be at JEs first apoapsis in a couple of days.


Day 387 now, and Jool Explorer is getting set to burn at its Jool apoapsis. This burn will set us up for releasing our first atmospheric probe into the atmosphere of Jool. 


The burn was successful, so Jool Explorer is now on a sub-orbital trajectory for Jool. We'll get back to it in a couple of days for the probe separation and burn.


And now we're back on Day 389. Jool Explorer is about an hour away from entry to Jool's atmosphere, which we obviously would like to avoid. So, first up, we trigger the separation of the Jool Atmospheric Probe.


Then Jool Explorer immediately turns and burns to increase its periapsis above Jool's atmosphere. This would not be the time for an engine failure. <nervous laugh>


But, thank goodness, that burn was successful. Now we can turn our attention back to the atmospheric probe. This is an important milestone of the mission, so obviously we hope that the periapsis was set to the correct height to ensure proper entry. <glances nervously over at the Orbital Dynamics folks sweating in the corner>


The probe enters the atmosphere and is almost immediately enveloped in plasma, entering radio blackout.


It's a long five minutes.

But eventually, radio contact is restored. The probe survived atmospheric entry!


It immediately begins radioing back data from its instruments. When it reaches about 200 kilometers below entry, its parachute deploys.


It continues to sink deeper into the Joolian atmosphere, sending back pressure, temperature, and spectrographic data as it goes. However, although the probe is tough, it is not indestructible, and the Joolian atmosphere is unforgiving. Finally, after sinking an amazing 500 kilometers into Jool's clouds, the probe stops transmitting.


That was an incredible outcome, and I'm sure the Science team will be parsing through that data stream for a long time.

Meanwhile, Jool Explorer's instruments have not been idle, and they have recorded their data from their first flyby of Jool, meeting our second minimum mission objective. So, we have met the minimum mission requirements! Now JE is headed back up to its apoapsis above Jool, and OD will be plotting our next move.


Back at periapsis on Day 393, and Jool Explorer is burning prograde this time to set up another flyby of Laythe. This is a pretty major burn, but it will set us up for the release of the Laythe Atmospheric Probe, which is a major milestone of the mission. So the fuel expenditure is justified.


See you back in five days for the flyby.


Back now on Day 398. Jool Explorer is approaching Laythe once again, this time on a suborbital trajectory.


An hour away from entry, the atmospheric probe is released.


Jool Explorer immediately burns to raise its Laythe periapsis...and its Jool periapsis? Or so the OD guys tell me. I don't get it either. I just keep pressing the "I Believe" button.

In any case, Jool Explorer is safe now and recording data from its second Laythe flyby. Meanwhile the atmospheric probe is burning its way through Laythe's atmosphere and we're all holding our breath.


The probe hurtles tantalizingly over a couple of major land masses...


...deploys its parachute...


...and settles into the ocean. :(


That's fine. The probe floats.


We'll probably get better data from Laythe's liquid water than we would from dry land anyway.

In any case, another successful probe deployment, and a second Laythe flyby checked off of our primary mission objectives.


Jool Explorer passes out of Laythe's SOI and then sweeps down to its Jool periapsis.

The probe's orbit is very low now. The good news is that this gets us a very close flyby of Jool, which marks our second flyby of Jool itself and makes the Science team very happy. However, the low orbit will make it very difficult to perform flybys of the other Joolian moons. We could just burn to raise our orbit, but the Orbital Dynamics wiz kids have a better plan. They want to use another Laythe flyby to raise the probe's orbit with a gravity assist.

So, here we are now, just a couple of hours out of Laythe's SOI, and we're burning at Jool periapsis to set up another Laythe flyby.


I guess we'll see how that turns out in a couple of days.


Well, Day 400 now, and Jool Explorer is swinging by Laythe again.


After the flyby, Flight confirms that the gravity assist has raised Jool Explorer's orbit by a considerable amount. And Science has collected their data from Jool Explorer's third Laythe flyby. So now JE is back on its way to Jool apoapsis and we're setting our sights on the rest of the moons.


Four days later now, Day 404, and we're back at Jool apoapsis. Orbital Dynamics has another burn scheduled that should set Jool Explorer up for its first Tylo flyby. Exciting!



In other news: As Jool Explorer is coasting down Jool's gravity well, Draco reaches its mid-course correction burn on Day 406. The crew of Draco have been following the progress of Jool Explorer with great interest. (Because, let's face it, they don't have much else to do.) As they look out their windows and see Jool as a sparkling green gem in the sky, the Kerbol System doesn't seem so large after all....



Three days later, Jool Explorer is approaching Tylo for the first time.


The probe swings by in a close pass and collects its data.


It then exits Tylo's SOI and carries on.

The next day, 410, Jool Explorer is back at Jool apoapsis. Orbital Dynamics assures me that a small burn here will set it up for another flyby of Tylo in a week or so.



Day 419. We're back for our second Tylo flyby. This, unfortunately, is a more distant flyby. Science is disappointed. But OD assures me that there is a method to their madness.


After Jool Explorer has exited Tylo's SOI, the probe burns again. And this burn sets it up for its first flyby of Vall next week.


As an aside: Once this burn was completed, Flight sent me a notice letting me know that Jool Explorer has reached 50% of its initial fuel load. Good to know.


It's Day 425 now, and we're excited that we're passing through our first Vall flyby!


Science has all of their data, so Jool Explorer is just going to keep coasting for now.


It's Year 4 Day 4 now. Happy New Year, everybody, hope you all had a good holiday. Jool Explorer is approaching Jool periapsis, and OD has a burn planned that will bring it back for its second flyby of Vall.


That went well, Flight tells me everything is in order. It's a long haul back to Vall, but we'll see you back in a couple of weeks.


Okay, Day 24, and Jool Explorer is flying by Vall for the second time.


So, for everyone who hasn't been keeping score, this means that Jool Explorer has successfully deployed both atmospheric probes, and completed two flybys of Jool and all three of its major moons. This means that Jool Explorer has successfully completed its primary mission objectives! Since we still have almost 50% of our fuel load remaining, we've given the go ahead to start into the secondary mission objectives. Orbital Dynamics should be getting us some flight path options for those any day now. Right? <Orbital Dynamics guys look startled for a second, then run back to their offices.>


Day 27. Jool Explorer is back at Jool apoapsis today. And Orbital Dynamics has given us a flight path that is...ambitious. The plan is this: Jool Explorer is going to make a minor burn at apoapsis today that will put it on a course to flyby Vall. It will get a gravity assist from Vall that will put it on a course to flyby Tylo. It will get yet another gravity assist from Tylo that will put it on a course to flyby Bop. I am pounding that "I Believe" button today.

So Jool Explorer makes its burn.



Day 28, we have our third flyby of Vall...



Three days later, we have our third close flyby of Jool...



Four days after that, on Day 35, we fly by Tylo for a third time...


And after we exit Tylo SOI...well, I'll be damned. We will need a course correction burn, but not a major one. I guess that worked. Good job, folks.


Now on Day 40 we have our course correction burn for Bop. We're right on target.


Things move even slower here in the outer reaches of the Jool system. See you all back in two weeks.


It's Day 54 and...


Heerree'ss Bop! Science is very excited, although all it appears to be is a captured asteroid.

Jool manages to look small from out here.


So our next target in the extended mission is Pol. Unfortunately, there are no large moons out here to provide gravity assists. So we will just have to burn for it. Orbital Dynamics is working on a plan for that.


So, did I mention that things move slowly out here? It is now Day 131, two and a half months since we left Bop, and we have finally reached the burn for Pol.


Now we have to wait more than two weeks for the flyby. All for just another captured asteroid. <yawn> 

And Flight has just informed me that this burn brings Jool Explorer below 25% of its initial fuel load.


So, it's Day 148 and we're getting the first pictures and data back from the Pol flyby...


...aanndd...that is not just another captured asteroid. I will be very curious to see what Science has to say about that one.


So, after the Pol flyby we have some hard decisions to make concerning Jool Explorer. The probe has accomplished all of its primary mission objectives, and all of its secondary objectives. It has roughly 22% of its initial fuel load remaining. It is in the outer limits of the Jool system, with no gravity assist targets available, so any destination we pick for it will require a large expenditure of fuel. And there is a possibility that if the probe is allowed to orbit uncontrolled in the Jool system it may crash into Laythe, possibly contaminating its surface with the radioactive contents of the probe's radiothermal generators. So KSP management have decided that the probe should use its remaining fuel to achieve a controlled disposal in the atmosphere of Jool.

Day 155, a week after the Pol flyby, Jool Explorer performs its final burn.



Two weeks later, Day 169.

Jool Explorer is a couple of hours out from entry now. Still sending back data.


The probe is hurtling towards Jool's atmosphere at over 9,000 meters per second. This is the closest it has ever come to Jool, still getting good data on the planet.


And as the probe enters the outer limits of the atmosphere...end of transmission.


What a mission! Atmospheric probes deployed on Jool and Laythe! Four flybys of Jool, three flybys of Laythe, Tylo, and Vall, and flybys of Bop and Pol! A staggering amount of data! We'll be turning our attention to Draco and Duna here in just another week, but after this it will be hard not to be imagining what a kerballed Jool mission would look like. Eh?

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8 hours ago, TwoCalories said:

Great work with the Jool grand tour! But... uh, is it just me, or does Tylo have an atmosphere?

I was thinking the same thing. I know JNSQ Tylo has an atmosphere but adding one to stock Tylo would make it even more of a nightmare challenge to visit with a crewed mission.

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14 hours ago, TwoCalories said:

Great work with the Jool grand tour! But... uh, is it just me, or does Tylo have an atmosphere?

Realistic Atmospheres adds a thin atmosphere to Tylo.

5 hours ago, jimmymcgoochie said:

I was thinking the same thing. I know JNSQ Tylo has an atmosphere but adding one to stock Tylo would make it even more of a nightmare challenge to visit with a crewed mission.

Are you sure? Aerobraking is much softer than lithobraking....

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6 hours ago, TheSaint said:

Are you sure? Aerobraking is much softer than lithobraking....

Landing with an atmosphere might be easier, depending on if it’s thick enough to actually slow you down or just thick enough to be annoying. It’s the getting back where an atmosphere becomes a problem.

It could also be a hindrance for those crater-skimming flyby passes for gravity assists.

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Y4 D169-175 - First Duna Landing

Fresh off of the triumph of the Jool Explorer mission, we now turn to Duna. For the past nine months the crew of Draco have been (mostly) patiently awaiting their arrival at The Rust World. Now that day has finally come. Year 4, Day 169, Draco enters Duna's SOI.


The crew now gets to work. They stop and lock the spin habitat, then they perform a couple of small burns to bring Draco's inclination down and lower her periapsis to 100 kilometers. Then they wait with giddy anticipation as she falls down the well to Duna.


Four days later now, Day 173. Draco has reached its destination. The crew has stowed their ship for burn and strapped in to their seats on the command deck. As the ship approaches periapsis, Commander Krueger gives the order and Draco begins its braking burn.


Five minutes later, Draco has settled into its initial orbit. Cheers erupt in Mission Control as the crew of Draco have made history once again!


But, the work isn't done yet. The KSA management team has selected a landing site, based on the data provided by the Duna rovers. However, at this point the selected landing site has just passed into night time. So we will wait until local daybreak to perform landing operations. Which is fine. Draco must perform a couple of minor burns to fully circularize its orbit and bring its inclination down to match that of the landing site, and those will take time. The crew can also use this time to perform some scientific observations of Duna as well.


Well, it is now Day 175. The landing site is now in full daylight and Draco is completely settled in its orbit. The crew has made all of the necessary preparations on the base hab module and lander. Everything is ready. Let's go make history!

First up, we will be landing the habitat module. If the hab doesn't land successfully then this will alter our plans for the kerballed landing. The crew finalize their preps in the hab, then close the hatches. As Draco approaches the entry point, Commander Krueger undocks the hab and backs Draco away from it.


As Commander Krueger continues to guide Draco, Command Pilot Kline takes over guidance of the hab. As it reaches its burn point, Kline activates its engines.


And just less than a minute later they turn off and the burn is successful! The hab is on its way through a long, wide entry through Duna's atmosphere to the landing site.


Because most of the entry is through the thin upper reaches of Duna's atmosphere, the hab experiences a very slow deceleration and almost no heating due to atmospheric friction, thus eliminating the need for a heat shield.

As the hab slows and enters the lower reaches of the atmosphere, Kline deploys its parachutes to slow its descent even further.


Then, as it reaches about 3,000 meters above ground, the parachutes fully deploy and Kline jettisons the propulsion package.


A few seconds later, Kline deploys the rover. As soon as it is deployed, it releases its parachutes, ensuring that it will come to a soft landing close to the hab's landing site.


Now that the rover is clear, Kline deploys the hab's landing gear.


And now all that is left is to wait for the hab to settle gently to the landing site.


And, touchdown. As you can see, the rover touched down about eighty meters away. Kline commands the hab to deploy its solar panels.


And now it is ready and waiting for the crew of Draco. One last task, he orders the rover to jettison its landing package.


Since that is mildy hazardous, lets get that out of the way now before the lander and crew are on the ground. But it crashes some distance away without incident.

So the hardware for Duna Base has been successfully landed. All that we need now is a crew! Draco passes around Duna once again.


On this orbit, the crew makes their preparations for landing. They stow and secure Draco, which will remain unkerballed in orbit for their entire stay on the surface of Duna. Then they climb into their seats in the lander, Olympus, and close the hatches.

Commander Krueger takes the controls of Olympus and undocks her from Draco.


As they approach their entry burn, Krueger turns Olympus retrograde. He then burns for entry.


Olympus follows a very similar entry profile as the hab did: long and wide through the upper atmosphere. Very little heating and no plasma is observed.


Finally, as they approach the landing site, Krueger ignites the engines.


And he brings Olympus in for a touchdown just 300 meters away from the hab.


Which is impressive. But we need to be closer. In order to save weight, the lander is designed to use the batteries in the hab to power its propellant storage cooling during the Dunatian night, so they need to be connected via cabling. That means the lander needs to be no more than 30 meters from the hab. Krueger fires up the engines again and hovers the lander closer to the hab.


And, now finally, they are finished.


They safe the lander's engines. And it's time. Krueger does the honors. He exits the lander's airlock and starts his way down the ladder. Everyone in Mission Control is holding their breath.


And his feet touch the red soil. Rolando Krueger is the first kerbal to walk on another planet!


The crowd goes wild! Krueger performs his first duty: Planting the flag.


What an amazing accomplishment. He takes his contingency sample, then begins to explore the surface. Kline continues to secure Olympus, deploying its solar panels and antennae, then he and the other kerbonauts join Krueger on the surface.


Chief Engineer Kirkpatrick goes over to the hab and connects it to Olympus. Once Kruger has finished his surface duties, he enters the hab and begins prepping it for their stay.


In the meantime, Kline hikes over to the rover, Syrtis.


He drives the rover over to the hab, where Kirkpatrick is waiting with a connector.



Once their initial surface activities are completed, the entire crew join Krueger in the hab. Duna Base has been established.


Back in orbit, Draco is waiting quietly for their return.


Observations from the Duna Explorer orbiters and Draco have indicated that there is a dust storm moving into their area, so they must stay in the hab for the next couple of hours.



But once that has passed, they will begin their exploration of Duna. Their return window is in 550 days, so they will have plenty of time.

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Watch out for those dust storms, they can get much worse very quickly and you wouldn’t want to end up aborting the mission early and stranding one of your crew, leaving then no choice but to farm potatoes in their own sewage to survive until the rescue mission gets there…

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Well, after spending the last two months reading through this entire report, I have something to say about it: ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT! The whole infrastructure build up is amazingly done, and the fact that you can multi task and pay attention to so many objects moving at once is a truly impressive skill! So in whole, awesome mission report!

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Kerbalsaurus said:

Well, after spending the last two months reading through this entire report, I have something to say about it: ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT! The whole infrastructure build up is amazingly done, and the fact that you can multi task and pay attention to so many objects moving at once is a truly impressive skill! So in whole, awesome mission report!

Thanks. Still moving forward. Experimenting with a combined crew rotation and resupply right now, seeing if that will streamline logistics in the future. Next documented event after that should be the return of the first Duna mission.

Edit: Actually, I think Sarnus Explorer may arrive before that. Not sure, don't have the game in front of me at the moment.

Edited by TheSaint
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On 3/11/2024 at 4:05 AM, TheSaint said:

Edit: Actually, I think Sarnus Explorer may arrive before that. Not sure, don't have the game in front of me at the moment.

Excellent! looking forward to it!


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  • 3 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Y4 D176 - Y5 D34 - Kerbin System and Duna Surface Operations

While all of Kerbin is enthralled with the progress of the Duna mission, we here at KSA have to keep things moving along. In addition to the consolidated crew rotation/resupply (Which went swimmingly, by the way. That is officially our new standard procedure.), we have some additional housekeeping to get done around Kerbin system.

Since the construction of the Kerbin system infrastructure was completed, several years ago, the demand for orbital tugs and hydrolox tanks has dropped off sharply. Three tugs, Tugs 4 through 6, have been parked in orbit above Minmus unused for over a year now with full hydrolox tanks attached to them, waiting for an opportunity to be used. And no opportunity has arisen. So, management has decided that it is time to cull down the fleet. Because Orbital Tugs 1 through 3 have the highest number of operating hours, they will be retired and brought back down to Kerbin, along with three hydrolox tanks. Before that happens, Orbital Tugs 4 through 6 will visit Minmus Station, Mun Station, and Kerbin Station to transfer the fuel loads from their hydrolox tanks. Once that has been completed, Tugs 1 through 3 rendezvous at Kerbin Station with the empty hydrolox tanks and will be brought down as spaceplane cargo. This will leave us with a standard compliment of two tugs at Kerbin Station and one tug at Minmus Station, as well as one hydrolox tank at each station with one extra at Minmus Station for fuel transfers.









The returned tugs are refurbished then placed in storage at KSC. They will be redeployed once the three operating tugs reach the end of their operational lives.

Once that evolution is completed, we need to add additional upgrades to Kerbin Station and Minmus Station. Since we have increased the crew rotation interval to a full year now, crew health and morale has become more of an issue. However, since the spin habitat module that was deployed on Draco has been operating so well, KSA management has decided to order additional spin habitat modules to deploy on the occupied stations to increase crew comfort.

So, three spin hab modules get lifted to Kerbin Station on Marvin.



Once there, two of them are installed and inflated on Kerbin Station.



The remaining module is carried via orbital tug to Minmus Station, where it is installed and inflated.



Now the crews of the stations will be able to participate in the virtual foosball tournaments with the crews of Farside Base and Minmus Base (once they get handicapped for coriolis).

Meanwhile, on Duna, the crew of Duna Base are keeping themselves busy. They are using their rover, Syrtis, to explore as much of the surface of Duna as they can reach.



They even make the trek to inspect Duna Rover 1.


They collect a large variety of samples, many of which are analyzed in the base lab, and many of which are stowed away in Olympus for return to Kerbin.





But, at the end of the day, it's always good to get back to the base for a nice hot shower and dinner in the wardroom.


While the crew on Duna continues their history-making mission, we back here at KSC greet the new year and look forward to the arrival of Sarnus Explorer in our next report.

Edited by TheSaint
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  • 2 weeks later...

Y5 D35 - Y6 D74 - Sarnus Explorer

Now that we've gotten things squared away in the Kerbin system, it's time to turn our attention to the outer system once again. On Day 35 of Year 5 of our program, Sarnus Explorer finally arrives at the outer reaches of the Sarnus system, after a journey of almost four years.


Now that we're here, it's a good time to review the mission objectives for the probe:

Minimum Objectives:

  • One flyby of Sarnus
  • One flyby of Tekto

Primary Objectives:

  • Two flybys of Sarnus
  • Two flybys of each of Sarnus' major moons: Tekto, Slate, and Eeloo.
  • Deploy the probe's atmospheric sub-probes, one on Sarnus and one on Tekto.

Secondary Objectives:

  • Perform flybys of Sarnus' minor moons: Ovok and Hale.
  • Perform additional flybys of Sarnus and its major moons.

As can be seen from the mission plan, one of our major goals for Sarnus Explorer is to study Tekto, which appears to have a dense, nitrogen-rich atmosphere. So, as luck would have it, Orbital Dynamics informs me that Sarnus Explorer has the opportunity to fly by Tekto immediately upon its entry into the Sarnus system. This is obviously a chance we can't pass up. So, here at the edge of the system, the probe burns to intercept Tekto.


See you back here in a couple of months.


Things move slowly in the outer system. Here we are almost two months later, and Sarnus Explorer is rapidly approaching Tekto.


This is obviously the closest anyone has ever been to the Sarnus system, and the imagery we're getting back is just stunning.

Since we have no assurances that we'll ever get this close to Tekto again, we're going to take this opportunity to deploy the Tekto atmospheric probe.  As Sarnus Explorer reaches the release point, about half an hour away from periapsis, it releases the probe.


Sarnus Explorer then immediately burns to raise its periapsis above Tekto's atmosphere.


Now that Sarnus Explorer is safe, we can turn our attention to the Tekto probe. It strikes the upper atmosphere of Tekto and is immediately enveloped in plasma.


Thankfully, the heat shield holds, and soon the probe is free-falling through Tekto's atmosphere and returning data.


The probe continues to fall, slowed to ridiculously slow speeds by the dense atmosphere.


It appears to be falling towards an area in Tekto's northern hemisphere that is dominated by rugged mountains and lakes of liquid hydrocarbons.



Five hundred meters above the surface the probe deploys its parachute.


In an incredibly lucky break, the probe touches down on an island in the middle of a lake. It continues to transmit data to Sarnus Explorer until it passes out of transmission range.



Sarnus Explorer passes within a hundred kilometers of Tekto, and then continues on to Sarnus.



What an incredible start to the mission.

Well, despite losing some velocity from its Tekto flyby, Sarnus Explorer is still on an escape trajectory out of the Sarnus system. We should probably do something about that. A gravity assist from Slate would probably allow us to capture without a burn, but unfortunately Orbital Dynamics just can't seem to find an angle for that. However, they do come up with an angle for an Eeloo flyby. Any port in a storm.

Sarnus Explorer performs a minor burn just after leaving Tekto to line it up.



Two days later now, and Sarnus Explorer is closing in on its encounter with Eeloo.


Although the probe will lose even more velocity with this flyby, it still will not be in orbit around Sarnus when it exits Eeloo's SOI. So, in order to capture around Sarnus, it will have to burn at Eeloo periapsis.


So now Sarnus Explorer is officially captured at Sarnus!


(And, even though the requirements of the burn reduced our scientific gain, the Eeloo flyby was still scientifically significant, so it meets the requirements for our mission objectives.)

Sarnus Explorer swings wide around Sarnus and heads out to its apoapsis. Meanwhile, Orbital Dynamics plots their next move.


Okay, so it has been almost another two months. Sarnus Explorer is approaching its apoapsis, and we're all waiting with baited breath to hear what rabbit Orbital Dynamics has pulled out of their hat.

<reads brief handed to him by OD supervisor>

Well, it seems that the plan is to burn at apoapsis for a flyby of Slate, then to use the gravity assist at Slate to reduce Sarnus Explorer's periapsis enough to release the Sarnus atmospheric probe. I like it.

Sarnus Explorer burns at apoapsis.


And now we'll come back here in another couple months to see where that gets us.


Here we are back on Day 191, and now Sarnus Explorer is passing by Slate for the first time.


Once it has exited Slate's SOI, we get our data back...and it's not quite there. The periapsis is not quite low enough to release the probe. So we require another burn. <disapproving glare at OD gang>


So now, Sarnus Explorer is finally on course to release the Sarnus atmospheric probe.


As it descends towards Sarnus, we have more bad news. It appears that the atmospheric probe will be making its descent on the night side of Sarnus. So while this will have no effect on most of its scientific data, we will not be receiving the kind of stunning visual images we received from the Jool atmospheric probe. We could delay the release of the probe until such time that it could be released on the day side, but the visual images just aren't important enough to warrant the risk.

In any case, Sarnus Explorer continues its descent. About half an hour away from periapsis, it releases the probe.


Sarnus Explorer immediately burns to raise its periapsis so that it doesn't burn up in Sarnus' atmosphere. This consumes a large amount of fuel, and Flight informs me that this brings us below 50% of our initial fuel load. It seems early in the mission to be this low, but apparently this is going to be a very different mission than Jool Explorer was.

In any case, the Sarnus probe hurtles towards its doom.


However, its heat shield holds, and it descends through Sarnus' atmosphere, transmitting data to Sarnus Explorer as it goes. When it reaches 300 kilometers below the cloud tops, it deploys its parachute.


It then continues transmitting until it fails at about 200 kilometers altitude.

Although Sarnus Explorer is obviously in transmission blackout on the night side of Sarnus, when it reaches daylight it transmits the data it received from the atmospheric probe, as well as the data it collected from its own close flyby of Sarnus. Two more successful mission milestones!


While Sarnus Explorer is climbing back out of the well to its apoapsis and Orbital Dynamics is plotting its next maneuver, we can turn our attention to the upcoming crew rotation, which will take place entirely before Sarnus Explorer returns to the vicinity of Sarnus.


Day 207. Orbital Dynamics has interrupted my very busy morning to inform me that Sarnus Explorer has the opportunity for a double whammy. A burn at the next apoapsis can set up a flyby of Hale, and then on the next orbit, with no burn necessary, it will get a flyby of Ovok. Normally I wouldn't approve of fuel expenditure on secondary objectives before the primary objectives are complete, but this seems like the sort of opportunity that will only happen once on this mission, so it's too good to pass up. So I sign off on the flight plan. Then I get back to herding the cats through the crew rotation.

Two days later, Sarnus Explorer burns at apoapsis.


I guess we'll see how this works out.


We're here on Day 227 now, and Sarnus Explorer is approaching Hale.


It's a captured asteroid. I'm glad you guys are excited.


I've pulled bigger rocks out of my garden.

Anyway, since its so small, it has no appreciable affect on Sarnus Explorer's velocity. OD tells me that we are still on course to intercept Ovok on the next orbit.


And now it's Day 256, and we're coming up on Ovok. Apparently this worked. Good job, guys.


First images are coming back from Ovok...and...it looks rather odd.


It's an egg....


Well, now I've seen everything. If any of the images come back with a giant space chicken, let me know. No, actually, on second thought, don't. I have enough to worry about.

So, that was a very successful maneuver, killed two...birds...with one stone. So to speak. We've got another couple of weeks now until Sarnus Explorer reaches apoapsis again.


So, SE is back at apoapsis again. OD looked at our objectives and poured over our options. So now we're going to make a minor burn to line up for an Eeloo flyby. And apparently the gravity assist will sling us around for another Eeloo flyby on our next orbit. Sounds good.



Day 286, and Sarnus Explorer is cruising by Sarnus towards its second flyby of the little iceball, Eeloo.


And there it goes.



And OD informs me that the next Eeloo flyby is lined up perfectly. Good job. You've almost worked off that screw up you made with the Slate gravity assist. <wink>

Meanwhile, the next day, our intrepid crew on Duna reach the end of their mission. They stow and secure the hab and rover at Duna Base, and then make their way to Olympus to prepare for their departure.


Then, as Draco passes over the horizon: Liftoff!


Guided by Captain Krueger's expert hand, Olympus glides into orbit next to Draco.


And then he guides her in to dock.


Draco's departure window is about 12 days away, so the crew has time to get their gear stowed and bring all of Draco's systems back online.

In the meantime, we can get back to Sarnus.


Sarnus Explorer reaches its apoapsis, but it is on course for its next Eeloo flyby and requires no intervention.


I guess we'll leave things here and get back to Duna.


Back aboard Draco, the crew is ready for departure.


Although their time on Duna has been rewarding, and their names will go down in history, they are all ready to go home.

As Draco approaches its burn time, everyone checks and double-checks their systems. When everything is GO, Captain Krueger gives the GO, and Kline ignites the ship's engine and burns for Kerbin.


Several days later, Draco exits Duna's SOI. The crew spins up the habitat and settles in. Their course correction burn is more than a couple months away, and home is three times as far as that. So they might as well kick their feet up.



Back at Sarnus, SE arrives at its third Eeloo flyby.



While I appreciate everything that OD does for us, I think I speak for everyone when I say: We've had enough of Eeloo. However, this flyby will give us a gravity assist and push the probe's orbit further out, which should give us more opportunities for flybys with other moons on our next orbit.


As Sarnus Explorer approaches apoapsis again, our fortunes have improved. OD's new flight plan involves a small burn which places us on a course back to Tekto.


Excellent, more study of Tekto will improve our mission success.


Okay, we're here on Day 366 for our second Tekto flyby of the mission.


Well, that was a little anticlimactic. But Science is telling me they did get good data. And OD says if we had flown any closer it may have gravity-assisted us right out of the Sarnus system. Okay, I guess. Better luck next orbit.


Day 397, back at apoapsis. OD has us burning for Slate this time.


I guess we'll see everyone back here next year.


Okay everyone, it's Year 6, Day 3 now. Happy New Year. Sarnus Explorer is cruising on down to its encounter with Slate.


There now! That's a flyby!

However, OD tells me that the gravity assist has seriously reduced SE's orbit. However, with a slight burn at the next apoapsis, which is now in just two days, we can plot another Slate encounter that will gravity assist the orbit back up to a reasonable distance.

SE burns at apoapsis to raise its periapsis and intercept Slate.



And now, two weeks later, Sarnus Explorer has another close encounter with Sarnus.


And when it pulls out of that, it swings by Slate again.


And, OD informs me, with a burn now, just outside of Slates SOI, we can plot another flyby of Tekto.


Excellent work, everyone, excellent. However, Flight informs me that Sarnus Explorer has, as of the end of this burn, dropped below the threshold of 25% of its initial fuel load. Since we have officially met all of our primary and secondary objectives, that means we need to begin to look at our end-of-mission options.


Four days later, Day 25, and Draco has reached its course correction burn. Time flies when you're having fun, right guys?


The next day, Sarnus Explorer reaches its third flyby of Tekto.


Orbital Dynamics has a final flight plan for me. Two days out from the Tekto flyby, SE executes a burn, which plots a course for another Tekto flyby. That flyby brings it around to a course to intercept Slate. Then the gravity assist from Slate will bring the probe's orbit down such that its periapsis intersects with Sarnus' atmosphere, which will result in the disposal of the probe and the end of the mission.

So, two days out from Tekto, SE burns again.


It begins its descent towards Sarnus.



Day 54 now, and Sarnus Explorer is approaching its fourth and final Tekto flyby.


It's another distant flyby, but it is certainly worth the effort from a scientific standpoint.

As it exits Tekto's SOI, OD informs me that we will require another small course correction to finalize our trajectory to Slate.


This brings the probe below 20% of its fuel load. Good thing we're ending this now.


Day 72 now. Sarnus Explorer is in its last few days now. It completes its final flyby of Slate.


And once it has exited the SOI, OD informs me that everything is lined up perfectly.

Two days later, the probe is rapidly approaching the cloud tops of Sarnus.


Slate, Eeloo, and Ovok showed up to see Sarnus Explorer off.

And as the probe enters the atmosphere...


...end of transmission.

Another excellent mission. Couple of hiccups in there, but we still vastly exceeded the mission objectives. Once again, good job everyone!

Next up on the agenda is the homecoming of Draco and her crew. Beyond that, we will be planning our next mission to Duna, as well as possibly commissioning another vessel in the Draco class for additional missions in the inner Kerbol system. So many possibilities await!

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Well done! Congratulations on achieving all your primary and secondary objectives at Sarnus. Great use of gravity assist and conservative fuel burns, and way to go with the hole-in-one atmospheric probe landing on an island in the middle of a lake. :)

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  • 3 weeks later...

Y6 D185-232 - Draco Return and Nuclear Reprocessing Module

Well, here we are almost halfway through year 6, and things are moving along nicely. We're just about finished with this year's crew rotation, and Draco has arrived at the edge of Kerbin's SOI.


Our first Duna mission has gone splendidly, but it is readily apparent from the crew communications that after more than two years in space they are ready to get home. Unfortunately, they aren't there yet. Their current flight path takes them on a close flyby of the Mun, and then they will burn into an elliptical orbit around Kerbin. Then they'll plot a course to rendezvous back with Minmus Station. The crew will leave Draco there and ferry back to Kerbin Station aboard a transport, and then be carried back to Kerbin via spaceplane. So, they still have a way to go before they're feeling grass between their toes again.

A couple of days later Draco passes by The Mun, which slightly alters its course.


The good news is that Orbital Dynamics calculated this encounter into Draco's trajectory all the way back at their mid-course correction last year, so they're all set, no burn necessary. OD wanted to use this encounter to capture Draco with a gravity assist, but we decided against that. We're not hurting for fuel at this point, Draco is still at almost 35% fuel load, if you can believe it. So we thought that a controlled burn for capture was a much more reliable choice.

A couple hours later and Draco is approaching periapsis.


All systems are go, the crew is strapped in on the command deck, and they are ready to burn.


Over on the night side of Kerbin, Draco burns to capture into Kerbin orbit.


Welcome back, Draco!

So now Draco is in a highly elliptical orbit around Kerbin. However, OD has just come back with some bad news. They're in a really bad orbit for getting to Minmus. Essentially they're going to have to cruise out to apoapsis, then fall back for a day before they even get to their burn. Then their transfer orbit to Minmus will take fourteen more days after that. Sorry, folks.

While we're waiting for Draco to arrive at Minmus Station, let's get them a ride. The orbital transport Capricorn is dispatched from Kerbin Station and burns for Minmus, unkerballed.


It will arrive there well before Draco.


About a week later now, and Draco has arrived at its burn for Minmus.


And then, the next day, Capricorn arrives at Minmus Station.


So now we just have to wait for Draco to whip around Kerbin again and make its way to Minmus. Stay strong, folks. You can do another two weeks in a spin hab on your heads.


So now it is day 213 and Draco has finally arrived at Minmus.


She coasts in and burns into a 200-kilometer orbit.


A couple of hours and a couple of burns later, she arrives at Minmus Station.


Chief Engineer Kirkpatrick shuts Draco's reactor down, and then Captain Kreuger takes the conn and guides her in to dock.


Finally, after over two years, the crew of the first Duna mission get to see other faces and talk to other people! But they do have some work to do. They finish securing Draco and rigging the ship to take power from Minmus Station, ensuring that the reactor will be safe. Then they begin transferring their personal gear and the incredibly-valuable Duna samples to the orbital transport Orion (yes, we rotate the orbital transports, so Capricorn will be staying here while Orion carries the crew home).

Once these duties are completed, the crews share a celebratory dinner together. Then the Duna crew boards Orion, closes the hatches, and undocks from the station.


Then they wave a final farewell to Draco, and burn for Kerbin.


While the crew is on their week-long trip back to Kerbin, we can discuss our next major project.

Draco's reactor is currently just above 50% of its reactor core life remaining. It could conceivably make another trip to Duna with its current nuclear fuel load, but that would be unwise, since the reactor is its sole source of electrical and propulsive power. While we could just fly a new propulsion module to Minmus, this would get very expensive, very fast. However, we have a solution: The nuclear fuel reprocessing module!


This module is a marvel of engineering. It has been a collaborative project between CKAI, Kerbal Atomics, and Kerman Systems Group robotics division for almost two years. The idea is that nuclear propulsion modules can be removed from their respective crafts and docked to the reprocessing module hub. Then the four waldo arms are used by operators to remotely remove the modular fuel elements in the propulsion module reactors.


Obviously we require the use of these waldos to remove and insert the fuel elements from the reactors. It's not like uranium is some kind of liquid that you can pump around in tanks or something. LOL.

These expended fuel elements are fed into the reprocessor, which then deconstructs them into their component materials. The reprocessor recovers unused enriched uranium and recycles the recovered materials into new nuclear fuel elements, which can then be reinserted into the propulsion reactors. Any high-level waste is accumulated for later disposal.

This module is incredibly complex, and breathtakingly expensive. So I am only going to say this once. If any of you screw around and break this thing, THERE WILL BE NO FOOSBALL FOR A MONTH. Do I make myself clear?

In any case, before we can send the reprocessing module up to Minmus Station, we need to do some prep work. We will need to increase the crew compliment on Minmus Station from six to twelve to handle the increased work load. And we will need to increase the amount of power and cooling available on the station to support the module itself. Thankfully we already have quite a bit of living space on Minmus Station, but we will need to increase the amount of spin habitat space. For the power and cooling, we will be sending up a new truss with additional solar panels, batteries, and radiators.


Robby is doing the heavy lifting for us today, and after an uneventful climb to orbit, we find it rendezvousing with Kerbin Station.


Once they're docked, the crew of Kerbin Station gets to work. They guide Orbital Tug 4 over to pick up the spin hab module, and then bring it down to dock with the new expansion truss.


Then, once the station comes around to the departure point, they undock Orbital Tug 6 and Mission Control instructs it to burn for Minmus.


Then they undock Robby and it flies back to Kerbin.

Now we're going to wait a week or so for Orion to come back with the Duna crew.


So, here we are a week later. Orion is a couple of hours out from Kerbin. Tug 4 is about a day out from Minmus. So we're going to launch the additional crew for Minmus Station, and then the Duna crew can ride that spaceplane down. Save us a trip.

ArToo is making this run with The Pod in her bay.


While they're making their way around to Kerbin Station, Orion burns in to its parking orbit around Kerbin.


And then, a couple of hours later, they arrive at Kerbin Station.


The crews all exchange more greetings and congratulations. Then they set about moving gear once again, transferring all of the Duna samples into the Pod for the trip down to Kerbin. Then Kerbin Station reaches the departure point for Minmus and Orion departs once again.



And then Kerbin Station reaches the departure point for the spaceplace. They close the hatches and undock ArToo.


Then the Duna crew finally burns for home.


ArToo cruises through reentry.


And then sails in to a dramatic nighttime landing at KSC.



Finally, after almost three years in space, the crew of the first Duna mission have made it home! Ticker-tape parades and Kongressional addresses next week. Tonight they get a hot meal and a real bed. Congratulations to all of them!

The next day, we're prepping the reprocessing module for launch.


Gort is doing the honors this time, and it launches the next evening.


Am I the only one who gets nervous seeing millions of funds worth of hardware hurtling through the air at Mach 4? Nobody else? Really? Just thought I'd ask.

Anyway, while Gort is going through its maneuvers to reach Kerbin Station, Tug 6 arrives at Minmus.


It's got half a day before it arrives at the station yet.

Meanwhile, Gort arrives at Kerbin Station and docks.


The crew gets busy deploying the reprocessing module and docking Tug 5 to it.


While Kerbin Station is coming around to its departure point, Tug 6 arrives at Minmus Station. The crew guides it in to dock the expansion truss.


Then once that is in place, then bring the tug around and dock the new spin hab outboard of the old one, mounting them in a counter-rotating pair.


Then, once the tug is out of the way, the crew deploys the radiators, solar panels, and spin hab.




Then they start getting all of the new systems tested and settled before the new crew shows up. Minmus Station is starting to rival Kerbin Station in size and function.


Back at Kerbin Station, the crew undocks Tug 5 and Mission Control orders it to burn for Minmus.



As Tug 5 brings the reprocessing module out to Minmus, Orion arrives at Minmus with the new crew.


A couple of hours later, they arrive at the station.


They've got a week or so to get settled until their job shows up.


Eight days later, Tug 5 arrives at Minmus.


After the usual maneuvers, it arrives at Minmus Station, and the crew brings it in to dock.



Once the tug is clear and the hatches are opened, the new crew gets inside and starts familiarizing themselves. Their first task is to limber the waldos and set them in their resting positions.


So far, so good. Next we'll see how they do with a real refueling....

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Hey, I know where Waldo (1, 2, 3, 4) is!

By the way, what heat system are you using that requires so many radiators? I gave up on stock heating long ago because if I left a ship for a long time and came back, the stock heat system would fry everything.

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26 minutes ago, Angelo Kerman said:

Hey, I know where Waldo (1, 2, 3, 4) is!

By the way, what heat system are you using that requires so many radiators? I gave up on stock heating long ago because if I left a ship for a long time and came back, the stock heat system would fry everything.

I have System Heat installed, but in many cases the size and number of radiators is mandated more by the "This Looks Right To Me" system. As are the size and number of solar panels, batteries, and nuclear refueling waldos.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Things are getting busy around the household with the end of the school year and whatnot. So the mission report will be going on hiatus for a little bit. Check back again about the middle of June or so.

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