The Kerbonaut program #1

This story is derived from play of an unmodified version of Kerbal Space program 1.8.1 on a custom level of difficulty.

After years of jockeying, cajoling, diplomacy, pleading, and begging, Wernher von Kerman finally had himself a launch facility with a launch pad, crawlerway, runway, mission control center, tracking station, R&D center, astronaut complex, VAB, aircraft hanger,  and administration building,  He hired two Pilots,  Jebediah Kerman and Valentina Kerman; a scientist, Bob Kerman;  and an engineer, Bill Kerman.  Most of the vehicles were based on his designs.  Gene Kerman was his right-hand man as the Mission controller.

He gathered his crew for their first mission briefing. “We are going to fly safe”. said Wernher. “First of all we fly. We will design, build, test, and fly vehicles; both aircraft and spacecraft. We will test components and performance envelopes.  Second, we are safe.  We cannot afford to kill Kerbonauts or destroy vehicles.  As a rule, we are going to go with the minimal changes possible in each flight. We cannot afford to be too fancy with our designs.  Gene, I’m turning the time to you for our first mission briefing.”

Gene Kerman stood up. “Our first contract involves no flight at all. It’s an equipment test.  Jebediah, as our lead pilot, will get the honors of sitting in an unpowered, unfueled Mark 1 Comand pod on the launch pad. He will file a mission report and do an EVA. That is all.” Groans came from the audience. “None of that.  We will be getting to powered flight soon enough.”

At the first post-mission briefing,  Jeb reported. “No surprises. I have filed a crew report from the launch pad, and an EVA report. All the switches flipped and the door opened and closed.”  Gene stood up. “Congratulations, people, We have completed our first contact, to gather a science report.  Our second contract will be to actally fly.  However, before we do that we have an additional test. There are a couple of new modules for science research, and Mystery Goo containment module, and a 2Hot thermometer. We are giving this mission to Bob, since it’s an unpowered science mission. For this one, Bob, the batteries will be changed. Get a report from the goo and the thermometer”. “Understood. Gene. I’ll get right on it. 

At the second post-mission briefing, Wernher reported. “That was another success. We now have a mystery goo and a thermometer reading from the launch pad. That qualifies us for a research grant in Engineering 101 and there are people designing several new components which we will be testing soon. In the meantime, Bob has some additional details.” He nodded to Bob and stepped aside. “I tried out the goo module from outside and it worked fine. I did an EVA to reset the goo container from outside and reran the experiment. I didn’t get any new information, and since we don’t have an antenna, couldn’t transmit.  That’s all”.  Wernher stood back up.  “That’s unfortunate, but not unexpected. We will be working on communications in our test program, and we will be doing more testing. For now, here is Gene with the exciting news you have all been waiting for.

Gene stood. “Our third mission will be an actual test flight. Once again, Jebediah will take the lead.  Valentine, your turn will come.  We are going to use the Mark 1 command pod, but strip the goo container and science gear, and activate the on-board reaction wheel. We will be adding a nose cone with a mark 16 parachute, set for full deployement at 3/4 standard atmosphere. The command pod will be sitting on top of a TS-5 “Flea” Solid Rocket Booster, set to 20% thrust and and 20% fuel. That’s 1.6 t loaded weight, 1.4 t empty, with  ?? kM of thrust, a thrust to weight ratio of 2.17.  We calculate that after a 9 second burn, this will give you 199 m/sec delta Vee, which should get you high enough to safely deploy the parachute. Go straight up; don’t try anything fancy with attitude control. At the height when your rate of climb drops to zero, deploy the parachute.  We’re taking no chances with you this flight. Everybody,  Let’s fly!” Cheers arose.

The pattern was now set. There would be a pre mission briefing, the actual flight, and the mission report.  Again  Wernher took the lead. “Another success” We have a report from in flight over Kerbin’s Shores, and and from vehicle recovered after a flight. This qualifies us for research grants in Rocketry! Jeb has more. “Everything went pretty much as planned. I did use the attitude controls after I deployed the parachute, but it only swung me back and forth. the parachute brought me straight back to the launch pad.  I got so excited I forgot to do reports on landing”.

Werner stood up. “There were other reasons for not doing those. I don’t want anyone falling off the tops of boosters and not able to climb back in. Also, the Command module has limited data storage. You might have done an EVA and extracted and sorted the data, but that’s something to remember for future flights.  We will be doing missions close enough to the launch pad long enough that we can collect  appropriate reports later.  For now, kerbs, well done!. Gene, your turn”.

Gene stood up. ” We now have a contract to Test the LT-45 Liquid fueled “Swivel” rocket engine on the launch pad.  But that’s for a later time. For now, Valentina, it’s your turn to fly. ” After the applause he continued. “”Werner has a design he’s working toward. For now, the only change to the Fleahopper 1 that Jeb flew is to add three fins for stability control. Recall that we want the aerodynamic center of pressure behind the center of mass. This will of course affect the mass of the rocket, so you probably  won’t go as high as Jeb did.  On the other hand, we’re giving you permission to try to affect the attitude as you go up. Don’t test it too far; we’ve had sims that suggest that you can easily lose control before your burn is over, an you don’t want to be accelerating straight for the ground!. Gently. “There was a titter of nervous laughter. “Again, deploy the parachute at your highest point. We’ve done this once, kerbs, we can do it again. Everybody,, let’s fly!”

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