Year 13, Day 402 (Explorer 5 Readied For Second Mission)

As an experiment, KSEA decides to test the capabilities of the Explorer 5 spacecraft. Having returned from Duna, is it capable of entering Duna orbit again, and returning safely to Kerbin orbit? If so it would provide a much more cost effective means of transporting Kerbals to and from the red planet.

Explorer 5 docked at Kerbin Spaceport. Discovery can be seen docked in the background.

The new Discovery-class spacecraft design is certainly capable of the trip, however it is overkill to the extreme – DSV-2 Discovery could travel to Duna, return to Kerbin, and repeat the trip without ever needing to refuel!

Gillian, Shepely, and Seely (the current crew on Kerbin Spaceport) start work refuelling Explorer 5 for it’s next mission!

Year 14, Day 400 (Last Pathfinder 7 Probe Lands!)

The third Pathfinder 7 probe heads down, after deploying from the Pathfinder 7 spacecraft. Since so many probes have missed their targets, a much larger landing zone, the northern polar region, is selected.

The heat shield glows bright as the probe decends through Eve’s thick atmosphere…

Finally, the parachute deploys and the heat shield seperates. The surface of Eve glows an eerie shade of green…

Finally – the little probe sets down on Eve! Sensors indicate a successful landing at the north pole of Eve!

“Finally a successful deployment of the mini-rover!Nice work everyone!”

-Gene

While the final Pathfinder 7 probe was a success, the general agreement at KSEA is to rework the planetary probes – the mini-rovers are simply too fragile and have limited scientific and power abilities!

Year 13, Day 396 (Laythe Spaceport Launches!)

The Laythe Spaceport launches atop the Jool DS-1 Rocket! KSEA was running out of superlatives to describe how big the rockets were getting, so DS-1 seemed liked a good name for the first really big deep space launcher!

The mighty solid rockets push the rocket faster and faster, until…

Having exhausted their fuel, the solids explode (safely) away from the rocket with a load “ka-chunk!” Each one is equipped with a small parachute and transmitter to aid in recovery and re-usability efforts!

The launch stage ejects, and the orbital stage fires, providing the bulk of the energy required for circularizing the spacecraft in orbit of Kerbin!

The protective fairing ejects, then the Interplanetary Transfer Stage fires for just a moment to finish the circularization of orbit.

Success! The station will remain in orbit until the window to Jool / Laythe opens!

That went about as well as it could! The station is reporting all systems are functioning properly. Good work team!

-Gene

Year 13, Day 391 (Pathfinder 7’s Second Probe Deploys!)

Pathfinder 7’s second probe deploys! As the probes launch from Pathfinder 7 itself the vehicle’s center of balance changes. Thankfully, the reaction wheel works overtime to stabilize the spacecraft.

The probe’s RCS engines fire, and de-orbit!

The probe’s heatshield and re-entry shell protect the little rover inside!

Let’s open that chute the moment it’s safe… we’re going to need to slow this thing down as much as possible if we want those wheels to survive!

-Gene

The parachute deploys… and the little rover slowly decends to the surface!

The landing is a success! The little probe sets down safely!

We’re a little off target… let’s get that rover to head east. To the… Western Sea. Hmm.

-Gene

The probe sets off, toward the Western Sea.

We’ll be watching it drive forever! It’s a shame we can’t just set the rover to head that way, and come back and check on it later!”

-Orlas

“It sure is. It sure is.”

-Gene

Year 13, Day 390 (Pathfinder 7’s First Probe Deploys!)

The first probe ejects from Pathfinder 7, and heads down through the atmosphere!

While the parachute deploys, Mission Control reports that the entry angle to reach the Impact Ejecta landing site was off… the probe will set down in the Highlands, west of the crater and completely off target!

Worse still, the landing was too fast, damaging the fragile little rover’s tiny, tiny wheels.

“Drat! It’s starting to look like the mini rovers aren’t a very solid design. We might have to go back to the drawing board for the Eve Mini-Landers! We still have two more to go… hopefully they do better!”

-Gene

Year 13, Day 385 (Pathfinder 7 Orbits Eve!)

After its long journey, Pathfinder 7 arrives at Eve!

The engines fire to circularize the orbit…

…and the orbital transfer stage ejects! Then the spacecraft’s remaining fuel is used to change the inclination to provide a greater range of potential landing targets! An 80 degree inclination is finally reached.

It’s important to make sure the craft is in its final desired orbit before launching the probes… the downside to the radially mounted probes is that it makes the main engine quite unbalanced!

Despite having all this time to plan for where the three rovers will land, KSEA has only just begun picking out landing sites!

“I suppose we didn’t want to make all those maps until we were sure it would work! Now that we’re there… well, we’ll get right to work! The Wanderer Rover set down near the Explodium Sea and the Shallows… so probably not there!”
-Gene

Year 13, Day 182 (First X-10 / LCV-1 Endurance Test Flight!)

KSEA is ready to test fly the X-10! A name and designation was finally chosen for the craft, LCV-1 Endurance! (LCV stands for Laythe Crew Vehicle).

Mirphe is chosen to be the first pilot to test the X-10 Laythe Spaceplane on Kerbin! Dunwin will be the flight engineer. The X-10 is taxied out to the runway, and Mirphe performs the pre-flight checks.

“Ok. Brakes on. Throttle down. Rear engines at air breathing… SAS on… seatbelts… ON! We should be ready to go! Firing Verticle Lift Engines! “
-Mirphe

The VTOL engines fire, and the Endurance slowly lifts off the ground!

“OK – we’re at altitude. Brakes disabled, RAPIER engines… fire!”
-Mirphe

The main engines kick Dunwin and Mirphe to the back of their seats, as they fly full thrust towards the KSC island!

As the runway approaches, Endurance opens its airbrakes and cuts engines… then deploys its landing parachute!

“I pulled the ‘chute a little too close to the ground! This plane lands almost completely fueled… we’ll have to make note of that when we land it again!”
-Mirphe

The landing is a success! The science bay opens, then Mirphe hops out!

I’d call that landing a success!
-Mirphe

Dunwin climbs out, and joins Mirphe to inspect the spaceplane….

“No damage … looks in good shape! The next test is an atmospheric landing, then this plane should be ready to head to Laythe!”
-Dunwin