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It's Only Rocket Science! (RSS/RO/RP-1)


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RP-1 isn't so bad. I mean, I've done it before* and that went fine**. But, that was on easy mode because it was my first try, and there's a load of new stuff now to make life more difficult, and now I'm going to be using moderate difficulty settings. But come on, how hard can it be- it's only rocket science!


* See: https://forum.kerbalspaceprogram.com/index.php?/topic/198428-terranism-space-program-finished
** Most of the time, at least... Though running RO and RP-1 in KSP 1.11.1 when it was only meant to be used in 1.10 certainly made life interesting, as the ten minutes spent flying a Gemini capsule around with only some of the RCS thrusters working to try and catch the stray Kerbal who let go only to discover that their jetpack didn't work because it had no propellant, demonstrated pretty well.

A few ground rules for myself before I start: each mission gets one (1) retry if I do something wrong; if I mess it up on the second attempt then that's that; however if it's a game glitch or bug then I reserve the right to take multiple retries. I'll be trying not to just repeat everything I did last time too, which is necessary to some extent because of pressurants and residuals which would make my earlier designs non-functional, and while it would be nice to try and compete with my unusually speedy achievements from last time (first crewed orbit in 1957, crewed Moon landing in 1960 and Mars landing in 1965) I have no doubt that I'll be slower this time both because of the higher difficulty settings and the higher difficulty in general thanks to RO and RP-1 changes that I didn't have last time.

The first big question: what do I build first, a rocket or a plane? Rockets at this stage are mostly single-use whereas planes are reusable, however rockets can also much higher and faster and so will actually get some science data whereas the plane will have to maintain a fairly high speed and altitude to get any science at all, and even then from only one experiment since flying low science was removed from Earth.

In the end I went with a rocket, the same basic design as last time- Tiny Tim booster, 38cm Aerobee rocket with the WAC engine and some science stuff stuck on it. One thing I'll be reusing from my last playthrough is the Rainbow Codes naming scheme, since this avoids having to think of proper names for stuff. This first rocket is Red Piccolo 1 (because the piccolo is the smallest woodwind instrument).


Simulations said this thing could hit an apoapsis of anywhere between 95km and 122km depending on variance- using one propellant more or less than the "normal" values and/or differing ISP and/or thrust- but the real thing was quite lucky and drained all propellants pretty evenly to reach an apoapsis of 118km. It was only after it reached the apoapsis that I realised the thermometer on this thing was "shrouded" and so wouldn't generate any science data at all.


At this point I considered range safety-ing the rocket as it dropped below 40km and science generation stopped, but instead I let it fall back to the ground near the KSC.


And then-



For reasons I can't quite work out, the first impact with the ground at over 100m/s only destroyed the engine, sending the rest of the rocket bouncing away at a shallow angle at about 30m/s or so. Further impacts sheared off a couple of fins, but the majority of the rocket survived intact and was recovered. I really wasn't expecting that! On the plus side, recovering a vessel from a flight gives 5 science- a pretty big deal when the first set of nodes cost 1 science each and the combined data from the barometer and thermometer from flying high gives 6 science- which got the research labs up and running earlier than expected.


Various speed and altitude records were broken up to 100km and 1200m/s, each of which paid out a few thousand funds. With those payouts, the contract for first launch and some advances for a crewed flight to break the sound barrier and an X-planes contract, three KCT points could be bought.


Even split so far because of the one point you have to put into the VAB at the start of the game to make it not take decades to build anything. My strategy for investing KCT points hasn't been decided yet, it's not clear whether getting rockets launched more frequently or research moving faster is the better option.

Three months later, my first plane is ready. I stole it off the RP-1 discord and repainted it, then stuck one of my four pilots (by some weird coincidence they're all female) in the cockpit to take it for a spin. The design performed as advertised, reaching an altitude of 16km before having to descend again as the cockpit wasn't pressurised and the pilot would suffocate beyond that, and then reaching supersonic speeds in a shallow dive before returning to the runway. Test simulations showed that this thing can hit 400m/s if flown correctly, but it's easy to rip the wings off by being fat-fingered with the controls at that speed.


Landing, on the other hand, is a little bit dicey- due to the nose-high landing gear configuration the front wheel touches down first, making it prone to veering to the side and ending up in a massive drift; on the first simulation this resulted in a lot of explosions, but since then I've mostly got the hang of it and the skidding can be controlled to avoid crashing.


After skidding off the side of the runway I lost the bonus payment from the "break the sound barrier" contract, but the plane was intact and taxied back to the runway like nothing was wrong.


The sound barrier contract paid well- 21k funds on its own, enough for another KCT point by itself- and with more X-planes contracts available the plane was recovered and ready to fly again the next day. Unfortunately, I bungled the fuel levels leading to it running out of fuel before completing its contract and forcing an emergency landing, where once again it did a massive powerslide but avoided damage. For the second flight in a row, the drag chute opened during the takeoff roll, which I blame on the setting that makes it deploy on ground contact and which I fixed for future flights.


Flight number three was more successful, completing the contract and grabbing some supersonic flight science- an experiment that needs at least three flights to complete and which is just possible with this design. On the way back to the runway the pilot decided to "test the low-speed handling characteristics", which I think translates to "whoops I'm overshooting, better do some barrel rolls to try and slow down"...


But it was a good decision- even with the drag chute deployed, the plane was *this* close to skidding off the end of the runway.


Two more flights followed to gather the rest of the supersonic flight data, worth a total of 15 science. No contracts for those flights, but kerosene is pretty cheap and the plane could be turned around within a day so it wasn't really that expensive.



The first science node to be researched contained an engine upgrade to the XASR-1 config- twice the power, but only 40 seconds of rated burn time. Adding an extra fuel tank, a biological sample capsule and a parachute kept the overall delta-V the same but greatly increased its scientific payload; the test sim was successful, peeking above the Karman line, and the rocket was put on the build list as Red Piccolo 3.


Another design was also tested, this time a much larger rocket using the much larger RD-100 engine and 1.25m fuel tanks. Even with a camera can, bio sample capsule, parachute and 150 units of sounding payload on top for a contract, this design still managed to fly to over 300km altitude and return the payload safely to the surface. Provisionally named Red Clarinet, it will likely be added to the build list as soon as the tooling costs can be paid. The upgraded RD-101 config would make this thing even better, but that's 10k funds just to unlock it and I don't have enough for that and the tooling.




I originally designed another RD-100 powered rocket called Red Flute, but it was less capable and more expensive to tool so I shelved that idea. Red Clarinet outperformed it in pretty much every way while being cheaper to tool and build.


The beginnings of a downrange rocket are taking shape- perhaps double stacking Red Piccolo stages on a Red Clarinet will push it over the 3000km mark and complete that very valuable contract?


Coming soon: More sounding rockets of varying sizes, plus the possibility of a rocketplane.


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A plethora of launches to report on today, spanning a year of game time due to glacially slow build times.

First up, Red Piccolo 2- largely the same as its predecessor, but with the newly unlocked XASR-1 engine config producing double the thrust and a third fuel tank to provide the extra fuel needed. I also fixed the thermometer so it works this time.


Its mission was to cross the Karman line, a task which it was more than a match for: an apoapsis of over 150km and breaking speed and altitude records along the way made it a very profitable flight on top of the science data gathered from the upper atmosphere and low space.


On its descent back to the surface the fins got ripped off, then it smashed into the ground and was destroyed exactly like how I thought the Red Piccolo 1 would.


Red Piccolo 3 was next, but I forgot to screenshot that one for most of the flight. All I have are a few shots of the return section- bio sample capsule, avionics, science gear and a parachute- however the mission went flawlessly and useful science data was gathered, along with more contract money. The design was essentially the same as the Red Piccolo 2 above, but with some extra gubbins on top of the avionics and two decouplers to ditch the fuel tanks at either end.


A noticeably longer build period later and Red Clarinet 1 arrives at the pad, the first 1.25m diameter rocket using the RD-100 engine, launching a camera, bio sample capsule and some sounding payload.


It broke 2km/s and 300km during its flight, smashed the 60km target for the sounding rocket contract and returned safely from a suborbital trajectory, yielding a significant contract payout and a lot of science.



Twenty science from that single rocket gets a free KCT point all of its own. At this point I should have started the upgrade for Mission Control to allow an extra contract to be accepted, but I forgot about that and spent it all on KCT points instead.

The next launch was Red Clarinet 2, nearly identical to its predecessor but with new aluminium fuel tanks and the RD-101 config packing about 30% more thrust. Angled slightly on the pad to get some downrange distance, it dispensed with the spin stabilisation used on the Red Piccolo rockets (well, it would make the photos blurry, wouldn't it?)


It went even higher and faster than before, helped somewhat by the lack of heavy sounding payload, reaching 3km/s and 400km.


Despite the parachute getting a bit hot during re-entry, no harm was done and the science payload was recovered safely.



Another ~19 science gained makes for another free KCT point and a whole lot of nodes that can be added to the queue- enough to keep R&D going for many years at its current rate. This mission also completed a contract for low space film return, netting an extra 30k funds. At this point I finally upgraded R&D, though it'll take over 6 months to complete so will probably be ready at the end of the year.

The final launch for today is the Red Oboe 1, created by sticking a lightly modified Red Piccolo on top of a Red Clarinet with some fancy avionics to give it proper control. Attitude control will be handled by movable fins and the engine's thrust vanes providing limited gimbal ability. This mission has a minimal science payload, but then again it doesn't need one: it's going for the 3000km downrange contract.


The first stage uses the RD-101 and stretched tanks of Red Clarinet 2, while the upper stage uses new 40cm aluminium tanks; between the two is a decoupler with two spin motors on it designed to spin and ullage the upper stage after separation, then decouple from the upper stage to lighten it.

The first stage performed well until the engine abruptly cut out a couple of seconds early. The separation system worked exactly as intended and stage 2 took over, boosting up to higher speeds and altitudes than ever before- over 5km/s and 900km.



The success of this flight is one step closer to orbit, however it's almost October 1952 so first orbit will have to wait until at least 1953. If I decide to do some plane-related stuff then that will only push first orbit back further.



Not shown, the first Red Oboe 1 flight that somehow teleported through the atmosphere and straight to the seabed due to a time warp glitch, without meeting the 3000km downrange distance; I reverted that one as it's a fail by KSP, not me.

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/RE4Em3B (includes a few simulations showing earlier designs for Red Oboe)

Coming soon: Pushing towards orbital velocity as improved technologies become available, though Red Oboe 1 was almost at the limits of the current launchpad so I might need to build a bigger one.

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For all that this is a game about rockets and space, I've been spending a lot of time doing plane stuff recently. And today was no exception- new jet engines for the HJ-A to make it the HJ-B and significantly faster- whereas the old configuration could barely hold 300m/s at 10km in a slow descent, the new engines make it capable of holding 450m/s at the same altitude in level flight.

(I took the existing HJ-A, loaded the design that included the new engines and saved the edits after repainting it. Some minor details have changed as a result, but it's still the same craft as far as KCT is concerned.)


It can probably go even faster than that, but today's flight only needed a speed between 400 and 450 for 3 minutes so 405 was as fast as it went. Good thing too, as the moment I turned off the MechJeb autopilot, this happened:


Unclear what that pointy tail bit actually does for the plane, but I'm guessing whoever made it wouldn't have put it there without a good reason. It shouldn't be too hard to repair when the next contract comes up.

The upgrades haven't made it any easier to land without massive lairy skids- in fact this one was even worse due to the rear landing gear having steering enabled, in the same direction as the front wheel


And just for the record, I landed westbound...

I also checked out a couple of rocketplane designs from the RP-1 Discord server, but none really met my needs so I decided to make my own.


 Tested to 75km (the limits of the X-2 cockpit) and 1500m/s, it handled both fine and turned out to be a pretty good glider. Which meant absolutely nothing when I tried to land it and discovered it's even more prone to rolling over on landing than the HJ.


The solution? Stick tiny little wheels on the wingtips so that even if it does tip over, the wings don't hit the ground. Simple!


And it's worth mentioning Custom Parachute Messages now, since I used it on the drag chute for this plane. Great mod, well worth adding to your RP-1 games, it not only gives you the pattern-encoded parachute from Perseverance, but is also fully customisable:


I tried to code in Terranism Space Program, but it only accepts 8 characters per line so that didn't work too well- but It's Not Rocket Science fits nicely! Expect to see a lot of parachutes like this in the future.

The good news is this plane uses all tooled parts; the bad news is it'll still take nearly six months to build. That's half a year that I'm not making any rockets. A few KCT points were bought and distributed to try and fix this problem:


And now for the only rocket launch of this update- Red Clarinet 3. It was originally only meant to be doing a downrange distance contract, but the engine failed to ignite and when I rolled it back to fix it I made some modifications to add a bio sample capsule- it was 8 days to replace the engine and another 8 to add the capsule, and I'm not in that much of a hurry.

Refitted and rolled out again, Red Clarinet 3 took to the sky. The contract was easily fulfilled, the biological sample experiment completed for space low and the payload recovered safely in a flawless mission.



Flawless, that is, apart from the annoying RSSVE cloud shadows bug.


I'm now nearly at March 1953 and still nowhere near orbit, though I downloaded a 20-ton orbital rocket from the Discord and began hacking away at it trying to make it work with the tech I've already unlocked, to moderate success. With a bit more work it might make it to orbit, but it requires integral structure tanks which I don't yet have unlocked and which are expensive both to unlock and tool.


Coming soon: Rocketplanes probably, so I'd better get the pilots doing X-1 proficiency training! Forgetting to do the training delayed me in TSP so I'll do my best to avoid repeating that mistake here.

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I forget to post this for one day and I've basically forgotten everything that happened.

HJ-B flies out for another high-speed flight contract, even though I forgot to put the tail bit back on it was more than capable of meeting the goal.


But then...


I'm not quite sure how the cockpit survived that when everything around it didn't. Pilot Heidimarie walked away unharmed (physically at least...) and an investigation has been opened.


On this occasion the plane touched down, the drogue opened- and then the plane ended up rolling along on just the front wheel, became unstable and rolled too far for the pilot to correct it. RIP HJ-B, it's not fast enough to complete any further contracts anyway so this was meant to be its last flight.

Time to check on the research queue to see how far away I am from making orbit.


I need satellite era materials science for integral structure fuel tanks to get First Orbit, then satellite era science for the Geiger-Muller counter to get First Scientific Orbit; solar panels come with satellite era electronics, but the contracts for first solar and polar satellite only have a one-year timer on them whereas FO and FSO have two years. I haven't accepted any of them... yet.


A successful Red Piccolo flight, throwing some sounding payload up to high altitude and netting a tidy sum from the contract.


And another, this time throwing a biological sample capsule into space and back for science and profit.

After the mishap with the HJ-B, it's time for a new plane to keep the pilots occupied and bring in some science. Introducing the AR-1 (for Advanced Rocketplane):


Three XLR-11s provide lots of thrust, enabling this thing to reach the maximum 75km limit of the X-2 cockpit, a top speed of over 1500m/s or possibly even both in the same flight. The shakedown flight only went a little above 600m/s for Mach 2 flight science, tested its flight performance on one and two engines (can hold 600m/s with two engines on 40% throttle but not one at 100% :confused:) and finally its landing characteristics, which were found to be a little bit dicey.


Still, the wingtip wheels proved their worth and no damage was done despite a similar landing to the one that wrecked the HJ-B. Future flights will use a different approach trajectory and a drogue chute that actually works to avoid this issue.

Flight number 2 went according to plan, only the drogue chute still didn't deploy. Flight number 3 deployed the drogue, but too early!


The pilot still landed safely despite this mishap and now that I have the proper approach technique for this thing it should be much easier- and safer- to land in future. I added a second spare drogue though, just in case this happens again.

More Red Piccolo flights grabbed more bio sample science and netted a couple of contract payouts too.


Turns out they sink, but if they're airtight to not kill the organisms inside while in space then they can cope with 8 metres of water above them, right?


The final launch of 1953 got a nice sunrise at the beginning, then an unexpected surprise at the end.



The capsule came down quite close to the KSC, but weirdly, so did the bottom half of the rocket:


I didn't even see this thing coming down, yet it managed to freefall to the surface without breaking anything- not even one of the flimsy little fins!

1954 is here, and so is the newly refitted AR-2: now with added Science!TM


A basic film camera to get high altitude photographs, a mass spectrometer to slowly accumulate the two hours' worth of data and high altitude crew science to go with them, since the first two only work flying high and Mach 2 only works flying low. Oh, and a drogue chute that works properly.


And to finish, as I seem to have a habit of doing, I went and accepted The Big One: First Orbit!


The advance payment from that, along with money from the other contracts I've been doing, was spent on some KCT points, mostly for R&D, but also on a 40 ton launchpad to make orbital launches less constrained by the puny 20 tons of the first pad. It's possible to make a sub-20 ton rocket that can do FO, but the margins are very thin and having a few more tons to play with can make it much less finely balanced.



Coming soon: A lot of rocketplane flights, but who cares about that- WE ARE GO FOR ORBIT IN 1954!


I've been meaning to mention-  by some weird coincidence, all four of my starting pilots are female: Rita, Ilona, Gabriela and Heidimarie, who had that crash in the HJ-B. At present their retirement dates are in 1958 and they aren't gaining any time on their clocks with these little rocketplane flights at all, so odds of them making orbit aren't great, never mind taking them to the Moon or Mars like I did in Terranism Space Program.

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Mod update: RSSVE is out, replaced by REO (Realism Environmental Overhaul) which looks substantially better than even the high-res RSSVE, but without that  "eating up all my PC's RAM and then crashing the whole thing unless I click off KSP and mute PC sound when it reaches the main menu" thing EVO did. (Yeah, when I put it like that, EVO doesn't sound too great... but it looked good and I just got used to the weird workaround).


These clouds are particularly good, catching the sunlight (from behind the plane in this shot) with subtle hints of colour so it isn't just bland white everywhere. It's just a shame that they don't spawn in until you're close to them, but that's probably just a limitation of EVE (slash to not make your GPU melt).

A few more flights of the AR-2 went without incident, however it then suffered an engine failure on ignition that apparently knocked the right engine out completely; later in the flight the unbalanced thrust became too much for it to handle so I switched off the left engine- which inexplicably managed to relight the failed right engine and sent the plane into a tumbling spin at over 50km altitude.


It took a combination of falling to below 10km for thicker air, deploying the airbrakes and even popping open the drogue chute to finally regain control and the pilot made an emergency landing shortly after.

The plane was taken in for an engine refurbishment, during which time another Red Clarinet could launch to complete another downrange contract.


A couple more AR-2 flights went without incident before this one, which nearly ended in disaster when the plane drifted off the runway and bounced over the berm where the SPH terrain meets the runway, jumping into the air at well below stall speed. Fortunately no damage was done.


As these flights are getting a bit boring for me and doing nothing for the pilots' retirement dates, I tried my hand at building* an orbital rocket (*stealing off Discord and tweaking a bit to use tech I already have). It didn't make it all the way to orbit, but the design shows a lot of promise and with a better ascent trajectory it should be up to the task.


A few launches of Red Piccolos for altitude SR contracts and Red Clarinets for film return and downrange SR contracts ensued as I sent the pilots off for X-15 proficiency training to give myself a break from all those repetitive rocketplane flights.



Although not all of them went according to plan...



Cause of failure: me trying to be a cheapskate and removing the spin motors, it wasn't stable without them and broke apart shortly after launch. This was meant to be the last Red Piccolo launch before going orbital, but in the end I made another one to repeat this flight.

And now, the big one: it's the fifth of December 1954 and Red Recorder 1 sits on the pad ready to launch for orbit!


The first stage performs as expected, though the trajectory is a mite low and the apoapsis is slightly below 140km. Not too much of a problem, I can pitch up slightly for the final burns and burn a bit earlier to push it up into space. One of the RCS thrusters didn't fire on the avionics after it had decoupled from stage 1, even though it worked fine in the simulations- an issue eerily similar to one which I encountered doing TSP- but the four solid motors provided ample ullaging and spin stabilisation before the second stage lit.


Five AJ10-27s is a tactical risk- if one fails early in the burn then it has no chance of staying straight. Unfortunately, an engine DID fail; fortunately, it failed near the end of the burn and didn't affect the stability to any great extent. Second stage burnout, stage three ignition and-



Stage 3 failed to ignite. :( The ignition chance was about 97%, but still it failed. And as I've said before, no reverts on engine failures (otherwise why use an engine failure mod at all?) so this launch is a bust. The upper stage fell back into the atmosphere, gathering a little bit of science data right up until it disintegrated over the Atlantic.

Trying very hard to find a silver lining to this failure, at least now the AJ10-27 config has maximum data units so its failure rate is as low as it can be. The second Red Recorder will be ready in February 1955 so I can try again.


Coming soon: ORBIT! And this time I mean it!

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The failure of Red Recorder 1 stung a bit, but the backup rocket was already under construction and three months later Red Recorder 2 was ready to launch.


The first stage performed nominally, throwing the two upper stages and detachable avionics out of the atmosphere.



Then the weirdness started- phantom torque forces plagued this craft as time and time again I fired the spin motors to make the upper stages spin clockwise at over 90RPM, yet seconds after lighting the engines they'd stop spinning completely and in some cases even start spinning anticlockwise! It took far too many presses of the F9 key for my liking, but there's just no logical explanation for that thing despinning itself like it did so I don't feel too bad about repeated reloads.

All five engines on stage two burned nominally to depletion and the single engine on stage 3 also performed according to expectations, putting the satellite into a very elliptical orbit.


It's not a great orbit by any means, with a periapsis that's only just outside the atmosphere, but still- FIRST ORBIT! It's 1955-02-22, still over two years ahead of Sputnik 1.

The probe stayed active for a few hours, transmitting all the mass spectrometry data from space low around Earth before its batteries eventually died.


With that first success in the bag, the next Red Recorder was tasked with a more difficult launch into a polar orbit. It carried a cosmic ray detector as that's the lightest experiment I had available.



And again, phantom torque plagued this launch with the upper stages despinning and sometimes starting to spin the wrong way. Much F9 was used before it eventually behaved itself and stayed spinning enough to stay pointing in the right direction.


Red Recorder 4 was next to launch. It's carrying some solar panels and science experiments, so got a pair of AJ10-27 boosters to help it off the pad as its TWR was a bit low.


The aim was to do first scientific satellite and first solar-powered satellite in one go, however solar sat requires a 300km periapsis which this design just can't do- the first stage can barely make it to 200km apoapsis and it's next to impossible to get a 300km periapsis when you don't even reach 300km...


And yes, this launch had phantom torque too... I tried redesigning the fairings for this one but no joy.


On the plus side, the scientific satellite contract was completed after a day in orbit (helped in part by the polar orbit satellite getting some data for the experiment that the contract requires) and paid out 200k funds!



Coming soon: A new and much more capable launch rocket called Orange Cornet: full guidance into orbit, RCS for orbital fine-tuning, far greater payload capacity and scope for higher and more demanding orbits. Sneak peek:


Edited by jimmymcgoochie
Alas, first orbit is in 1955, not 52
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Red Clarinet 8 launched an advanced biological sample capsule on a suborbital trajectory, gaining a tiny trickle of science and a reasonable contract payout. The experiment takes a whole day to run and only works in space, so lobbing one up there on a suborbital trajectory isn't a viable long term strategy to complete it.


Next launch was the first of a brand new line of rockets- Orange Brass, with an RD-108 first stage and a Gamma-201 second stage. Weighing in at just under 40 tons, it's vastly more capable than the Red Recorder: fully guided right up to orbit, RCS for orbital adjustment and the added bonus that the second stage uses HTP as its oxidiser, so HTP powered RCS can tap into that reserve so long as there's enough pressurised helium.


This rocket had to be rushed a bit as the deadline for first solar powered satellite was fast approaching. Both engines performed nominally and the vessel was positioned with its solar panels facing the sun, spun up to stabilise it, then the near-Earth avionics were detached to reduce the power drain and give the science core on top a chance to generate useful science without running out of battery power.


Orange Cornet 2 was next, once again aiming to do two contracts in one launch- sun-synchronous orbit and atmospheric analysis satellite.


Initial orbital insertion worked for the sun-synchronous orbit contract, however the atmospheric analysis contract wanted a slightly higher orbit than I ended up with. HTP RCS to the rescue, providing more than enough extra oomph to boost the apoapsis and periapsis to the required altitudes for the second contract to complete.


Double contract rewards totalling nearly 90k meant there was enough to upgrade the Tracking Station, unlocking patched conics at last!


Upgraded ground stations will allow future missions to the Moon to communicate back to Earth, but the main benefit is patched conics and the ability to actually see where you're going for a lunar flyby/impactor/orbit mission. Though possibly not all three at once...

In between rocket launches I gave the AR-2 rocketplane a small refit, adjusting the science experiments and making some engine tweaks. This gave it the designation bump to AR-2.5, as AR-3 is reserved for the X-15 cockpit when that gets unlocked in the near future.


Coming soon: Crew across the Kármán Line (or is that the Kérmán Line?) and preparations for a Moonshot!

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I got distracted by Dyson Sphere Program again, so posts here will be a bit slower for a little while.

With the Tracking Station upgrade already started (see last post), I also added a Mission Control upgrade to the list to unlock mission planning (a.k.a. maneuver manoeuvre nodes) to go with the patched conics.


As you can see from the orange dots on the tech list, I'm running right at the ragged edge of the research slowdown system of RP-1 and consequently the research nodes are taking longer than normal. It's not an issue right now, but it could become one later.

Those upgrades were expensive, but there are plenty of contracts available to make up the money. First on the agenda was a weather sat, which was an Orange Cornet with a dinky little service module tank stuck on it to hold the necessary payload.


A 300km circular orbit with a moderate inclination was well within the Orange Cornet's capabilities and the contract paid out a tidy sum:


The final flight of the AR-2(.5) also took place as hypersonic flight has now been unlocked and the X-15 cockpit is now available. I looked at refitting the existing plane with the new tech, but the cockpit swap alone meant it would take the same amount of time as building a brand new plane instead, so I made a new one instead. The new AR-3 is powered by two XLR-25 engines, each producing double the thrust of the XLR-11s used on the AR-2, and combined with stretched fuel tanks they allow this plane to reach speeds and altitudes that the old one could only dream of.


Its first flight pushed to a speed of over 2km/s and an altitude of over 100km, breaking the Karman line and bagging two contracts in one go for a combined payout of nearly 100k funds. Unfortunately the flight also ran into some problems: the pointy bit on the nose melted from the heat as it came back down and the pilot had to make an emergency landing as a chronic lack of batteries meant the power ran out mere seconds after touchdown, rendering the plane completely uncontrollable and no doubt dooming it to a fiery crash if it was still airborne at the time.


The second flight was more successful, pushing even higher and faster before landing safely on the runway. I forgot to add the nose spike back, but it didn't seem to cause any problems.


In between the real rocket launches and rocketplane flights, I also put some work into designing some new rockets- sticking an Aerobee stage swiped from the Red Recorder and stacking it on top of an Orange Cornet was enough to make a lunar impactor, while a more experimental design proved to be capable of throwing 1000 units of satellite payload into a high and/or inclined orbit, assuming MechJeb doesn't waste the second stage engine's ignition as it did in the simulation.


The four AJ10-27 boosters were added as a single RD-108 struggles to launch 60+ ton rockets on its own, hence the next design:


Twin RD-108s on the first stage are more than enough to loft a 100 ton rocket, then a Gamma-301 second stage which had to have its tank utilisation reduced to avoid an excessively long burn time but which is still more than sufficient to launch that red nose tank full of 1000 units of payload into space. It probably won't be needed just yet, but this could be a useful rocket in the near future for launching lunar orbiter missions once deep-space avionics are available.

The lunar impactor design has now been named Orange Trumpet and the first is on the production queue. It's now January 1957, so it might still be possible to hit the Moon with a rocket before the launch date of Sputnik 1.


Coming soon: Deliberately crashing a rocket into the Moon.

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Orange Cornet 4 was a navigation satellite launch, worked entirely as expected, pay no attention to the weird pink square sticking out of the avionics because PlanetShine got a dodgy update...



A few flights of the AR-3 rocketplane bagged a lot of hypersonic science and some other experiment data along the way, with the odd X-planes high contract thrown in for good measure.


I decided to add some wing strakes to make it look cooler improve the aerodynamics (somehow), which didn't make it fly any worse than before so that's a win in my book! I also discovered that the reason most of the RCS thrusters weren't working was that the RCS propellant is in the cockpit, but the decoupler behind it wasn't set to crossfeed.


One flight got a bit more interesting though- and by interesting I mean EXPLOSIONS!


It wasn't as bad as it looked though, two of the solid rockets in the emergency cockpit ejection system got cooked by a steeper than normal re-entry and could be replaced very quickly once the plane landed safely on the ground. The wheels are actually deployed in the image below, it's just a graphical glitch with the runway.


And now to the main event- Operation Poke The Moon In The Face With A Rocket is go for launch!


First attempt at launching, PVG decided it would be a good idea to separate stage two and immediately ignite and then shutdown the engine, wasting its ignition. Game fault = free revert, so I launched again with the engine one stage higher than the decoupler and it worked fine. TLI burn proceeded...


...and I cut the engine marginally too early so the probe would miss the Moon by about 300km. Which I was prepared to accept, right up until I started time warping and the trajectory changed dramatically- it went from lunar periapsis of 300km to not even reaching the Moon's SOI at all! Come on, KSP, what's with that? Missing the Moon due to pilot error is fine, but missing the Moon entirely because of a stupid time warp glitch is definitely not.

With no save between launching and the trajectory glitch, I had to fly it again from the launchpad; third time was the charm as on this attempt it reached Earth orbit with no trouble and the TLI burn resulted in a trajectory that would impact the Moon. Ignore the white line coming out of the avionics, that's PlanetShine with a second buggy update.


Just getting to the Moon gave out a very large quantity of funds...


But this probe's going to get even closer!





A second large contract payout, with bonus science! Nearly 400k funds from those two contracts was supplemented by some hefty advances for other contracts, so for the first time in this career I have more than half a million funds.


I'll probably spend half of that on the first R&D upgrade, which is needed for crewed orbital capsules. My four pilots will probably retire before that stuff gets unlocked though, which is a shame, but maybe some suborbital flights in the AR-3 will push their retirement dates back a bit?


Coming soon: The AR-3 is capable of reaching 140km, if only briefly, so I might try some suborbital hops to keep the pilots amused while building more contract Earth orbit satellites and a second lunar orbiter.

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A quick test flight of an orbital imaging satellite with a film return capsule. The science part worked fine, the return bit... not so much- the capsule overheated and exploded every single time in the simulations, when the re-entry profile should be survivable. Maybe it's a KSP 1.12 thing?


This project will have to go on hold for a while until the return mechanism gets sorted out, either by an RO/RP-1 update or if I find an alternative part(s) to do the same job.

The first real launch of this update is another Orange Cornet, completing a weather sat contract purely for profit.


The next Orange Cornet had no contract to fulfil, but instead carried science experiments to a polar orbit to maximise the science yields.


Once in orbit the avionics and engine of the second stage separated and deorbited, leaving the science core attached to the fuel tank and solar panels in orbit. There's no way to power a near-Earth avionics with these tech levels of avionics and solar panels so this is a necessary step to make the satellite function.


Now for some simulations of a lunar orbiter/impactor mission. Newly unlocked Castor 1 solid boosters provide a useful kick off the launchpad, allowing a single RD-108 to push nearly 100 tons into the sky, while two RD-0105 upper stage engines will handle orbital insertion and trans-lunar injection. The Gamma-301 has served well so far with nearly double the thrust of the RD-0105 and a useful synergy with HTP powered RCS, but the longer burn time, superior ISP and lower oxidiser mass of kerolox mean that the RD-0105 is required for anything beyond LEO. Reliability on the RD-0105 isn't great though at 90% ignition success with no data units, so I'll probably swap some Orange Cornets on the build queue to use them instead of Gammas to improve the reliability on lower value launches.


Despite PVG having some issues with the rocket, often cutting the main engine after about 5 seconds of flight or the upper stage tank's single MLI layer causing it to explode above 90km, in some simulations it got to orbit successfully and the second stage could deorbit itself with RCS while the third stage prepared for TLI.


Fully guided TLI, then trajectory and attitude adjustment with the RCS followed by separation of the orbiter on top allows the third stage to move to a collision course with the Moon while the orbiter carries on to circularise at the Moon with four small solid motors.


Whether the orbiter works well, barely or not at all will depend in no small part on the direction of the sun, since it has no attitude control of its own and must be properly aligned for the capture burn close to Earth. This sim was pretty marginal and the probe struggled a bit for power in lunar orbit, but the design is sound and two Orange Bugle rockets are now on the build queue.

Now for a historic flight of the AR-3.1 as pilot Ilona Fischer becomes the first woman in space in February 1958, if only for about 30 seconds on a suborbital hop.


I chose this pilot because her retirement date appeared to be the closest, however despite reaching space there was no bump to her retirement date and soon enough both she and fellow pilot Heidemarie Meyer left the space program. The other two pilots aren't due to leave for about a year, but I have well over a year's worth of research to do before getting basic orbital capsules even with the R&D upgrade I just did so it's incredibly unlikely that any of my starting four will be going to orbit.

Another Orange Cornet contract sat launch went without incident and netted some more funds.


Final scores after the R&D upgrade just finished and some KCT points were spent:



Coming soon: Orbiting the Moon in 1958?

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The launch of the first (and only) Orange Flugelhorn didn't get off to a great start with an engine failure right there on the launchpad.


Fortunately it's easy to fix- roll it back and roll it back out- so the launch was only delayed by a few days.


The objective was to throw a sample capsule up to 150km and 6500m/s and then bring it back safely, which went without a hitch. A mass spectrometer was included to try and get some high atmospheric data, but it didn't work because it was inside the sample capsule which was closed for nearly all of the flight. Oops.



This single contract paid out enough to get 9 KCT points, so I added a bit of the reserves to make it a nice even 10 and split them between the VAB and R&D.


Obligatory Orange Cornet contract sat launch:


Followed by an X-planes high contract for the AR-3.1 which flew the entire mission without any issues but managed to bounce off a seam in the runway at 25m/s and leap into the air before coming straight back down onto the cockpit and bouncing both wingtips off the tarmac; fortunately the cockpit held up and the wingtip wheels did their jobs so no damage done.


I made a token effort to convert the AR-2 into a supersonic jet, which didn't work very well. It could fly at over 550m/s in level flight, but the low speed performance was dismal and there were a few incidents during the simulations...



That idea got scrapped, since despite the significant money on offer for the long-overdue X-planes supersonic contract the risk of losing a pilot is simply too high.

And now for the main event- Orange Bugle 1 shooting for the Moon to complete orbit and impactor contracts.


It was all going so well, until-



Yup, two consecutive RD-0105 engine failures- first the second stage gave up half way through its burn, then when I tried to light the third stage to salvage the mission as a high-Earth science probe that one didn't ignite at all. The probe itself fell back into the atmosphere and burnt up over the Atlantic, well short of orbital velocity. If there's any consolation to be had, at least it gave a lot of extra data units for the engine so future missions are less likely to fail.


Coming soon: Going to the Moon again, and actually getting there this time!

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Oops, I did it again... I let a contract time out and went 12k into the red, at least until I re-accepted the contract to get the advance payment.

In other news, Orange Cornet launches now use the RD-0105 instead of the Gamma-301 in their second stages; the Gamma-301 is more reliable and twice as powerful, but can't compete for efficiency or burn time so the RD-0105 can get much more delta-V overall and the oxidiser is lighter, if a bit less dense. Multiple launches have gone without any failures so far.



Another successful flight of the AR-3.1 picked up another contract. I didn't realise it at the time, but with the two remaining pilots about to retire this is actually the last flight this plane is ever going to do.


And I didn't crash it once!

Now for the headline act- Orange Bugle 2 going to the Moon, and unlike last time it actually gets there!


Second stage deorbited with RCS, all three stages performed nominally and the probe was sent on its way to the Moon. Following the burn, the third stage pointed the probe in the right direction for its unguided capture burn, spun it up to stabilise it and released the probe before spinning down and changing its own course to crash into the Moon, at which point the battery was turned off to preserve the electric charge required for the impactor contract.


A few days later...



Bonk! Significant funds and science gains just by crashing the transfer stage into the surface. Barely three minutes later, the probe itself arrived at its capture node and fired its quartet of solid motors, capturing into an elliptical orbit of the Moon.


Big payout and the science gathering can now ensue. Solar panel orientation isn't ideal, but it's enough to be power positive even with all the experiments running and transmitting throughout the orbit. It's 1959-04-27, a whole seven years ahead of the first real lunar satellite, so while I won't be winning any speed running awards any time soon I think I'm doing pretty well.


With both of my remaining starter pilots retiring as the Orange Bugle 2 was under construction, I had to hire some more crew for the upcoming orbital flights(!). Say hello, Vera and Klaus!


I wanted to hire an engineer and Jean-Luc Picard Bernard looked the best of the bunch, but I don't think I need an engineer just yet and that's funds I can spend on KCT points instead. I'll probably need to hire some extra astronauts in the future, but these two will do for now.

The remaining funds from the lunar contract payouts went into KCT points:


Next launch was another successful Orange Cornet flight, which met its target orbit despite one of the solid kick motors exploding...


And then I did what I always do and accepted a HUGE contract- first crewed orbit!


Most of that advance got dumped into a whole 40 KCT points, spread fairly evenly.


And last but not least, Orange Bugle 3 headed up to the Moon. Upgraded tech levels for solar panels and avionics meant it could carry some heavier, more power-hungry experiments without losing any delta-V. However, not everything worked as planned:


Castor booster explosion aside, the launch was successful and the mission followed the same path as its predecessor- RCS to deorbit the second stage, TLI on the third stage followed by probe pointing, spin-up and then third stage course correction onto a collision course.





And the final scores for this report:


1960 is only a few months away, the two new astronauts are training for the Mercury capsule which is nearly researched. The first Mercury launch will be ready before the crew are, so I'll send an advanced biological sample capsule up to emulate the real Mercury launches with chimps in the capsules, gaining some science and completing the 'orbit and return' contract in the process.


Coming soon: Mercury shenanigans, and I should probably start looking at interplanetary missions soon too.

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I dug out an old design I made a while ago- twin RD-108 first stage- and polished it up a bit with improved avionics, better engine configs and considerably stretched tanks to make it capable of launching interplanetary probes.


Two Algol-1s give it a helping push off the launchpad, while the second stage is powered by a fairly beefy LR-91 and the interplanetary transfer stage uses an RD-0105, though that might change to an RD-109 when that unlocks due to the higher ISP, integrated RCS and good reliability. As tested, there's just enough delta-V to get a flyby of Venus, though the probe on top wasn't particularly suited for the task and I'm sure I can do better. The Venus window is over a year away, so no rush.

Another test flight looked at the feasibility of launching multiple satellites at once for a contract that needed five sats with 120 units of payload each. Turns out, launching them all at once and then separating them in orbit does satisfy the contract parameters, so this one's going ahead.


Real launch time, and the first of the Yellow Percussion series (somehow I've ended up with Yellow for crewed vessels again) is ready to launch; though in this case, without crew. It's also the first launch of 1960!

Yellow Cymbal 0 is a test of all things Mercury related and carries an advanced biological sample capsule to imitate the real Mercury flights with chimpanzees on board, or the Soviet Vostok missions with dogs aboard.


The mission has three main goals: prove that everything works correctly in the rocket, complete the 'orbit and return' contract and gather all the advanced biological sample data in one flight. A whole day of orbiting will also test out the capsule's on-board systems close to their limits, as the Mercury comes with a day and a half of life support and battery power.

In the end, the launch went absolutely fine; however the second stage briefly lost guidance as it was too heavy for its avionics (it recovered without incident after burning fuel) and the decoupler under the pod got stuck on the retropack for a while after staging.


Those problems aside, the mission proceeded without incident. 24 hours in orbit completed the science experiment and the retropack rockets were fired to bring the capsule back to the surface. I've never actually used the proper Mercury capsule before so I didn't know exactly how well the retropack would work; as it turns out, better than anticipated, so instead of landing in North America it ended up coming down in the Pacific south-east of Hawaii.


Parachutes deployed correctly and the splashdown didn't break anything.


A very lucrative contract payout plus 50 science- 40 for the experiment plus 10 for returning safely from Earth orbit- was well worth the effort. Future launches of the Yellow Cymbal will carry crew and have minor updates to resolve the issues found in this flight.


The build queue currently looks like this:


Orange Horn is the navigation satellite cluster to complete a contract, Orange Tuba is a radar altimetry satellite which will complete a contract to do so and Orange Trombone is an orbital imaging satellite (a.k.a. Corona), which requires five satellites to complete and their samples dropped back from orbit. After some experimenting I've finally made a sample return capsule that can actually return from orbit- slapping a 1m heatshield on the bottom did the trick- which is why these are appearing now.

There were also three Orange Cornet contract satellite launches, though they're pretty repetitive and I won't show those any more. The last one got a good view of Earth though due to its high apoapsis- Africa is visible on the left on the dark side of Earth, Madagascar is just on the terminator.



Coming soon: Kerbals can into space!

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Klaus Hoffmann completes the first crewed orbit of Earth aboard Yellow Cymbal 1. All systems check out and the mission is cleared for Phase 2- a 24 hour stay in orbit and a pair of experiments for Klaus to perform to keep him amused advance the understanding of on-orbit conditions.

After spending a day in space, it's time to come home. The capsule is reoriented and the trio of deorbit motors lit to drop back into the atmosphere. An attempt was made to land near Cape Canaveral, with some success (it was in the same time zone, probably...):




And a safe splashdown in the ocean. Almost half a million funds were paid out for the first crewed orbit contract and a 1 day crewed endurance record, while the experiments run in flight and returning safely from orbit netted plenty of science. Klaus even decided to delay his retirement by almost eight months!


Scientist Vera Schultz will be flying Yellow Cymbal 2, which will complete more experiments and attempt a two day endurance record; the capsule has been crammed full of batteries and life support supplies to make this possible.


Coming soon: Plenty of missions to be keeping busy with, though the uncrewed Moon landing contract is slowly ticking down and I have no real idea how I'm going to complete it...

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I've been doing a lot of test flights involving bigger and better rockets, which have once again converged on the R-7 design because the latest configs for the RD-107 and RD-108 have a failure rate of less than 0.1%.

An early Moon lander, using a solid braking stage:




Too much delta-V from the SRB, it ended up flying back the way it came and the little landing thrusters on the lander itself couldn't slow it down enough after that.

Take the same rocket, remove one booster and stick three communications satellites on top:



More than capable of launching them into the desired resonant orbit for even spacing, though the fairing did shred the bottom satellite's solar panels and has subsequently been adjusted to not do so in the real version.

After the big payout from the first crewed orbit, I spent a quarter of a million funds on a new 350 ton launchpad; I considered a 250 ton pad to save a bit of money, but that lunar lander above was right on 250t so there would be no room to improve in future, but a 350 ton pad is more than enough to launch some serious interplanetary missions and lunar landers.


Much of the remaining funds went into KCT points, bringing the VAB up to triple figures and boosting R&D too. Some of it was also spent unlocking new engine configs from the orbital rocketry node that just unlocked.

Now for the "real" missions. First up, a boring Orange Cornet launch made slightly less uninteresting by the use of that new RD-108 config along with the RD-0109 config, boosting thrust, ISP and reliability over the base RD-0105. Both worked perfectly and another contract was duly completed.


Next, Vera Schultz gets her Mercury flight, but things don't go entirely to plan...


MechJeb's PVG was still using the settings from the Orange Cornet launch earlier, which has a much higher TWR and climbs much faster and so needs a faster pitch rate; that would probably have been fine on its own, but a weird staging issue reared its ugly head as soon as the first stage burnt out- the LES motors fired as they should to detach the LES and throw it away, but the decoupler did not; cue crazy spinning as the deliberately asymmetric thrust totally overpowered the puny gimbals on the RD-0109 and the equally puny RCS thrusters on the second stage:


Let's try that again... But with the correct PVG settings and staging this time! It worked exactly as planned second time around, putting the capsule into a 200km circular orbit where it stayed for nearly 33 hours before the life support supplies and battery charge began running low. By that point Vera was getting a bit stressed out too, but the 'orbital flight with one crew' contract's timer had completed so all that was left was returning to the surface.


Like Yellow Cymbal 1 before it, Yellow Cymbal 2 aimed for Cape Canaveral with its deorbit burn, and once again missed- though not by much, you can actually see the Cape from here.


A safe landing later, the contract paid out its weirdly specific 59895 funds and Vera decided to open the hatch and leave her pod.


Then she tried to get back in, jumped- and triggered a Unity crash. Oops... Fortunately for me, the game saved after Yellow Cymbal 2 touched down but before Vera did her game-breaking EVA so no harm was done. 


Coming soon: Going interplanetary! And a lot of simulated Moon shenanigans.

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It was with some trepidation that I reloaded the game after that Unity crash at the end of the Yellow Cymbal 2 mission- if the game had saved at the wrong point it could erase Vera and her capsule from existence. Fortunately enough, it auto-saved just after the capsule touched down but before the EVA so both are safe and sound.


More simulations, first for a radar altimetry scanning satellite destined for the Moon, which is pretty much identical to the one going to LEO except for better communications kit.


It turned out that I'd really overbuilt this- that upper stage still had 2500m/s left when I decoupled it.

And that got me thinking- what takes around 2500m/s from low lunar orbit? Landing!


By taking the lander design I tried out a while ago, swapping out the rather unpredictable and uncontrollable solid braking stage for this hypergolic one using the Juno 6k, it's entirely possible to land on the Moon with fuel to spare.


OK, I scuffed the landing and broke half the solar panels off, but it worked.

Re-using the same rocket, but with a different payload again, I've created something of an orbiter/lander mission for Venus. The lander part might not work due to using a LEO-rated heatshield and a sample return capsule to try and take the heat, rather than the lunar-rated heatshields that are recommended for such missions, but at this point I have little to lose by trying.



It has the delta-V for it, but the next transfer window is a mere 90 days away so no chance of launching this then. Next transfer window, though, we're going to Venus!

All I need now are the two tech nodes for the RD-58 and fuel ducts and my next-generation heavy launch rocket will be ready to go; the 350 ton launchpad is already under construction and will be ready before the tech is.

After realising that I can just squeeze a flyby probe into the next Venus launch window, I cobbled together a probe to do so out of the rocket used by Orange Bugle lunar satellites and sent that without really testing it at all. That was a mistake, as I soon discovered...


As soon as the first stage separated, the problems began- the second stage avionics were woefully insufficient to control the whole craft. This was the case with the Orange Bugle too, but with an even heavier payload this time it was uncontrolled for even longer and a lot of fuel was wasted. The second stage only just managed to limp into orbit running on fumes, but that was enough for the third stage to then fire up for the transfer burn to Earth's nearest neighbour.



It's a really simple probe- avionics with some HTP tanks for the RCS, a decent-sized S-band dish for communications and all the science experiments that'll generate any data, with a single solar panel on the bottom to power it all. It should be enough to get a nice close flyby of Venus, transmitting as much science as possible both from Venus' SOI and in solar orbit.


A good transfer burn and a little bit of course correcting later, Orange Sousaphone 1 is heading out of Earth's gravity well. (No, I didn't know what a sousaphone was either, but I'm running out of brass instruments so you'll see a few more obscure ones until I switch over to the larger Green Fruit-class rockets.)


So long, pale blue dot.

Much closer to home, the Orange Tuba 1 was bumped up the priority list when the radar scanning contract began to near its deadline. The first launch attempt went well, until I decided that using x6 physics warp in the lower atmosphere was a good idea and, well...


Every mission gets one free revert and I stayed away from physics warp on the second attempt, which went exactly according to plan. The probe was put into a polar orbit, the upper stage deorbited itself with its RCS thrusters and the radar scanner got to work.


And a mere two days later, the contract was done.


Final scores for this report:


I also turned my hand to making a Molniya satellite launcher, which worked relatively well despite the lack of fuel ducts. 900 units of payload is more than the contracts are asking for (so far) and if I need more payload or a higher tundra orbit, I can always add MOAR BOOSTERS!



Coming soon: Orbital imaging satellites and 350 ton launch rockets.

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OK, I lied. No orbital imaging satellites, because that lunar landing contract is about to time out and I simply can't afford that.

But first, Orange Sousaphone 1 reaches Venus:




Flyby completed, but unfortunately I must have used the wrong settings in the antenna planner because there's no signal! By some fortuitous coincidence, however, Venus gave the probe a gravity assist that will make it fly out beyond Earth's orbit right away and let the planet catch up a bit, which might be just enough to get a signal from the probe and send back the vital science data needed to complete the Venus flyby contract. Failing that, an expensive Tracking Station upgrade will be needed.

The first of two launches today is Yellow Cymbal 3, carrying pilot Klaus into orbit to try and set a two-day endurance record.


As you might expect with failure rates below 1% on both engines, the launch went flawlessly and the capsule was dropped off in orbit before the upper stage tried to deorbit itself, but failed due to a tiny RCS propellant reserve.


Two days later...


Food, water, oxygen, power and lithium hydroxide are all running out, the scrubber is starting to fail (it has a two-day half-life) and Klaus is getting cabin fever from being stuck in this tiny capsule. Time to come home, and conveniently the capsule is in a good position to try and land near the KSC- no, never mind, I keep underestimating those deorbit motors.



A slightly inauspicious landing in either north-west Mexico or south-west USA and the orbital flight contract also pays out. Total income for this flight is around 200k funds, which is going straight into KCT points to try and get this Moon lander ready in time.


With less than a week left on the contract, and after a painfully slow 14 day rollout to the new 350 ton launchpad, Green Dragonfruit 1 is ready to launch.


Using three brand new and untested engines, this is a launch with significant risks- if any one of those three engines fails, the contract fails and I'm in serious debt.

Despite the R-7 style design, the boosters refused to do anything remotely resembling a Korolev cross.


New engine 1: RD-0107.


A successful full-duration burn to orbit.

New engine 2: S1.5400.


Successful TLI burn, followed by stage separation and four more successful ignitions (no free data units this time by making it fail, but it's a pretty reliable engine already).

New engine 3: Juno 6k. The least reliable of the three new engines with an ignition chance of 90%.


Braking burn successful. The probe's trajectory took it right over the nearly flat terrain of Mare Crisium at an altitude of barely a kilometre and almost entirely horizontally, making the braking burn very efficient and the vertical velocity very easy to control- no risk of crashing into the terrain when a 3 degree pitch up is enough to halt the descent.


I tried this landing twice. The first attempt suffered an ignition failure on the Juno 6k on its second burn to try and slow down shortly before touchdown, then I accidentally turned off the RCS which meant the lander didn't have enough thrust to slow down and crashed at 40m/s. One free retry per mission and a reload to just before the braking burn later...



Touchdown confirmed!


With barely two days left on the contract, Green Dragonfruit 1 lands safely on the Moon and begins sending its science data back to Earth. The contract is complete, the funding issues mostly alleviated and while October 1961 isn't setting any speedrun records, I'm happy with the progress I'm making.


Coming soon: More Green Fruit class rockets, and maybe I'll get around to those orbital imaging satellites at some point this month?

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At last, the first Orange Trombone orbital imaging satellite is ready to launch.


The launch was a success and the satellite is now busy taking pictures of stuff. Definitely not any secret military bases or anything...


After the comms-related foul-up on Orange Sousaphone 1 I wasn't expecting to ever hear from it again; however it managed to get a tenuous signal at its closest approach to Earth and send back the data it gathered on its fly-by of Venus, completing the flyby contract in the process.


The next launch was the Orange Horn "navigation network", lobbing five "satellites" into orbit at once.


With some high-value contracts completed it was time to upgrade the VAB to level 2. This also upgrades the spaceplane hangar building to level 2 now, which is a nice touch- I had to tweak the save file to do that last time.


The second build line is terribly slow right now, but will get faster soon enough; in the meantime it can get a second vessel going before it gets bumped up to the first build line for completion.

Another Venus mission and another inexplicable planning failure- I'm sure this thing worked perfectly well in the simulations, but when I did it properly it was woefully short on delta-V so instead of a combined orbiter/lander mission it can't even make it to orbit; I'll just have to hurl the lander at the atmosphere and hope for the best.


The next Green Fruit series rocket didn't fare much better: Green Apple is built for Molniya and possibly tundra orbit satellite contracts, but the first launch suffered an ignition failure on the second stage's first ignition and failed to reach orbit.



The second launch succeeded where the first one failed and the first Molniya satellite contract paid out. A few more contracts will need to be done before the really high-value commercial contracts start getting offered, though the Green Apple can take 1000 units of payload with the two booster configuration or 1500 units with three boosters so I expect to make a lot of money out of them.


Coming soon: Launching more than one Kerbal into space at the same time?

Side note: the next transfer windows to Mars and Venus are the ones I sent crewed missions out on my last RP-1 career; a combination of playing on a proper difficulty level and substantial changes to RO and RP-1 are the main reasons for the drastically slower progress this time around.

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The third of five Orange Trombone imaging satellites steps up to the launchpad. Metaphorically speaking.


Launch is successful and the satellite is deployed while the second stage deorbits itself with RCS.


While Orange Trombone 3 is just starting its mission, Orange Trombone 1's is just finishing as the film runs out. Time to check if that return capsule actually works...


Good news: it worked!

Bad news: it landed somewhere in the far north of Canada. Better deploy the sled dogs...


Once recovered, the films are processed and a nice chunk of science is the result, along with a load of orbital perturbation data (which probably should've been transmitted but whatever) and some free KCT points.

Less than two days later Green Banana V arrived at Venus and-

Utterly failed.


I knew it was going to fail as soon as the transfer burn was done, but it was even worse than I thought: no signal, no hope of capturing into orbit, atmospheric entry at over 12km/s which incinerated the "lander" in about 3 seconds flat and the Juno 6k engine failed on its third ignition to boot.


The "orbiter" part managed to avoid the atmosphere and flew past at considerable speed, getting a hefty gravity assist in the process that lobs it almost out to the orbits of Vesta and Ceres, but a combination of terrible solar panel tech and a woefully underpowered antenna mean it's never going to get a signal back to Earth, ever again. This mission is an unmitigated failure and my run of bad luck with interplanetary missions continues.

After this failure I went back and looked at the design, cutting down on weight wherever possible and then adding more fuel wherever possible. This required the addition of four solid boosters to push it off the launchpad, but the result is a vessel that should be able to capture into orbit at the next transfer window and then drop a probe into the atmosphere; that probe is literally an avionics stuck to a heatshield with only the most basic science experiments on it, but given how ludicrously thick Venus' atmosphere is, the probe might be able to survive the impact.


I'm pushing the limits of the current 2 metre tanks, which are a bit too small for the RD-107/108 modular tank bases anyway. The next step would be going up to 2.5m tanks, but that would require a lot of expensive tooling that I can't afford right now.

Back to the launchpad for Green Apple, the trio of communications relays heading to a fairly high orbit of Earth. Unlike the "cluster of crayons" of the navigation network, though, these are fully functioning relays and will stay in place for some time to provide better coverage in LEO.


Aside from a minor staging mishap during booster separation that somehow destroyed one of the separation motors, the launch went perfectly- right up until I realised that I had launched to the Cape's 28.6 degree inclination instead of the >50 degrees required for the orbital perturbation experiments added to each relay. This wasn't a huge problem as the third stage's S1.5400 (the first config of the RD-58) has five ignitions and loads of spare fuel after performing the apoapsis kick and setting up a 2/3 resonant orbit for even spacing. There's enough fuel left to change the inclination and get that science data.

And then the engine failed.


It's not mission critical as the relays can still deploy perfectly well, but it means less science and a bit of wasted money putting those experiments on the relays.

Each relay did its circularisation burn on successive orbits using the old XASR-1 engines, not seen in nearly a decade; they're crude and inefficient, but they had the right combination of thrust and burn time to do this job and their reliability wasn't terrible either (~97% ignition chance). All three worked perfectly and the relays were deployed properly.



The orbits aren't perfectly synchronised and I'm not sure the relays can talk to each other properly, but the network is up and at least nominally functional so I call that a win. I'll probably go back and tweak their orbits a bit so they don't drift relative to each other, at least not before they get replaced by a new system later.

That reward money was exactly what I needed to upgrade the Tracking Station, which should put an end to all these Venus missions having no signal when they get there, with enough left over to add another Green Cucumber to the queue to try and launch to a tundra orbit, though this may require a reduced payload.


In other news, Gemini proficiency training is complete for both astronauts and the second-gen capsule node has finished researching, but Gemini-related stuff is too expensive right now so I need to do some more contracts first before that stuff can begin.


Coming soon: Assuming I can tear myself away from Rimworld for long enough to do some KSP, I might take a swing at making a Gemini vessel so it's ready when I can buy the parts. There's also another Venus window in 300 days or so, and I might take a look at something quick and dirty for Mars depending on when that window opens.

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A pared-back version of the Green Cucumber commercial satellite launcher lifts off to try and complete some contracts.


I was originally going to do both a commercial commsat contract and the first tundra orbit contract in this one flight, but completing the first contract would make the vessel disappear and there wasn't enough battery to do a whole orbit in the tundra orbit to then lower the apoapsis again. In the end, the commsat contract won as its deadline was sooner.



Although thinking about it now, maybe I could have positioned the craft in the tundra orbit, waited for the 2 minute timer to tick down and then slowed down into the commsat orbit? Too late now...

And at the same time as this mission, Green Banana V managed to phone home as it hurtled away from the Sun, gravity assisted by its flyby of Venus until it'll almost reach the orbits of Ceres and Vesta.


The signal is weak and sporadic, but data is coming back and that means more science, plus it also makes this mission not a complete failure after all!

Next to launch was another Green Dragonfruit lunar lander, which followed a similar pattern to the last one except that it captured into lunar orbit before descending to try and pick a better landing spot.



A potential "early landing" on the side of a crater rim was averted thanks to some evasive action...


And the lander touched down safely on the surface.


Due to bad luck with the timing, the entire near side of the Moon is in darkness right now, however the landing site is near the terminator so should get sunlight in a few days' time and the batteries will hold out for more than long enough to keep the experiments running until then.


Another contract completed, then immediately re-accepted as these landers can be made relatively cheapy and I've just unlocked some new science experiments to put on them.

Final launch for today is Green Elderberry, a lunar scanning satellite that also carries some experiments and will attempt to act as a relay too; the experiments could have been upgraded with the new tech, but I forgot about that until after it launched.


It's basically the same rocket as the Green Dragonfruit, but with two boosters instead of four; consequently the third stage didn't quite have the delta-V to complete the TLI and the fourth stage Juno 6k engine had to use one of its three ignitions to finish it off. Another ignition was used for a plane change inside the lunar SOI to get a nice polar orbit for scanning, then the third one was needed to capture. Margins? What are those?


Everything worked out in the end though, the probe deployed into scanning mode with its solar panels facing the sun while the upper stage deorbited itself with RCS.


Scanning took a little while due to the Moon's slow rotation speed, but that also means that it'll get 100% coverage in about two weeks. The contract only required 25% coverage, which was done in a couple of days.


That money is going to go straight into unlocking Gemini and Gemini-related paraphernalia to give my two astronauts something to do, and complete some valuable contracts in the process.


Coming soon: Kerbals can into space again?

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