How to watch space launches as they happen – The Verge

How to watch space launches as they happen

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George Méliès’ 1902 film A Trip to the Moon has been watched by countless film and science fiction buffs. Besides its innovative (for the time) effects, one reason for its enduring popularity is humanity’s fascination with the idea of space travel. Today, however, we have an advantage that has nothing to do with special effects. We can watch real rockets go to space.

Most of us aren’t aware of how many launches take place each year. Besides flights to and from the International Space Station (ISS), there are satellites being sent into orbit, exploratory craft, and new technologies being tested. And because current technologies allow us to view the process to a greater extent than ever before (with more actual footage and less reliance on animation), it is even more interesting to watch than it was a generation ago.

Want to know when and where to view a space launch? There are a variety of online sites and mobile apps that can give you an entryway into the world of launch-watching. Here are some places to try:

Online Sites

NASA Launches and Landings

NASA’s site offers a good amount of information about any launches involving the organization, its facilities, and the ISS. Links on the site lead to information about each launch and live coverage.


Elon Musk’s company keeps information about its activities front and center on the site. Its webcast page lets you know how long until the next launch and links to the YouTube live broadcast. You can also set a reminder.

Kennedy Space Center / Launches & Events

If you live near Florida’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex or are planning to visit, you definitely want to check out its schedule of launches and events. Watching a launch on video is cool, but watching one in person is infinitely cooler. You can watch a launch from the main visitor complex or from special viewing areas (if you’re willing to pay a little more).

Spaceflight Now Launch Schedule

If you want to watch (or at least be aware of) launches outside of NASA and SpaceX’s purview, Spaceflight Now is a good resource. This site lists upcoming launches from India, China, Russia, and other space-capable nations.

Verge Science’s space page

Last but certainly not least, The Verge’s space page isn’t a bad place to get the latest news on the latest launches.

Mobile Apps

While watching a launch on a phone may provide a somewhat miniature view, mobile apps can keep you up to date with ongoing status reports. Even better, they can send you notifications so you know when a launch is about to happen (or if a planned launch has been pushed to a later date).

There are a number of apps out there, but these three are available for both iOS and Android:

Next Spaceflight (Android / iOS)

Next Spaceflight starts with a list of upcoming launches. Select one, and you get more complete information along with a link to the launch. You can also see the status of previous launches together with videos. The app also includes news articles, a Twitter feed, and descriptions of the various vehicles.

Space Launch Now

Space Launch Now displays the status of the next launch on its front page, with a countdown clock, a description of its purpose, and a link that leads to more info and the YouTube feed. There’s also info on the ISS, on all the astronauts who have been in space, and upcoming events of interest.

Space Launch Schedule

Space Launch Schedule also opens on the next upcoming launch, and it includes a countdown and links to more info, the feed, and (when available) where you can view it in person.

NASA administrator on new Moon plan: ‘We’re doing this in a way that’s never been done before’

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Axiom Space plans first-ever fully private human spaceflight mission to International Space Station

Spaceflight now live

Press Release From: Axiom Space
Posted: Friday, March 6, 2020

Today Axiom Space announced it is planning history’s first fully private human spaceflight mission to the International Space Station.

Axiom has signed a contract with SpaceX for a Crew Dragon flight which will transport a commander professionally trained by Axiom alongside three private astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The mission, set to launch as soon as the second half of 2021, will allow the crew to live aboard the ISS and experience at least eight days of microgravity and views of Earth that can only be fully appreciated in the large, venerable station.

“This history-making flight will represent a watershed moment in the march toward universal and routine access to space,” Axiom CEO Michael Suffredini said. “This will be just the first of many missions to ISS to be completely crewed and managed by Axiom Space – a first for a commercial entity. Procuring the transportation marks significant progress toward that goal, and we’re glad to be working with SpaceX in this effort.”

This is the first of Axiom’s proposed “precursor missions” to the ISS envisioned under its Space Act Agreement (SAA) with NASA. Discussions with NASA are underway to establish additional enabling agreements for the private astronaut missions to ISS.

Axiom plans to offer professional and private astronaut flights to ISS at a rate of up to two per year to align with flight opportunities as they are made available by NASA, while simultaneously constructing its own privately funded space station.

“Since 2012, SpaceX has been delivering cargo to the International Space Station in partnership with NASA and later this year, we will fly NASA astronauts for the first time,” said SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell. “Now, thanks to Axiom and their support from NASA, privately crewed missions will have unprecedented access to the space station, furthering the commercialization of space and helping usher in a new era of human exploration.”

With its team’s vast experience in human spaceflight, Axiom serves as a one-stop shop overseeing all elements of its missions. In addition to contracting with SpaceX for a Crew Dragon vehicle to transport its crew to the ISS, Axiom’s turnkey service for the mission – two days in transit and at least eight days aboard the ISS – includes training, mission planning, hardware development, life support, medical support, crew provisions, hardware and safety certifications, on-orbit operations and overall mission management.

NASA recently selected Axiom’s proposal to attach its space station modules to the ISS beginning in the second half of 2024, ultimately creating a new ‘Axiom Segment’ which will expand the station’s usable and habitable volume. When the ISS reaches its retirement date, the Axiom complex will detach and operate as a free-flying commercial space station.

By serving the market for immediate access to space while building the future platform for a global user base, Axiom is leading the development and settlement of low Earth orbit now and into the future.

Axiom Space was founded in 2016 with the aim of creating humanity’s home in space to ensure a prosperous future for everyone, everywhere. While building and launching the Axiom Segment of the International Space Station to one day form the world’s first commercial space station, Axiom provides access to the ISS today by conducting crewed missions for professional and private astronauts. More information about Axiom can be found at

For media inquiries: Beau Holder В

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KerbalEdu – Earth History Campaign

Earth History Campaign

What do you think happens when Kerbals get their hands on alien technology? When the would-be spacefarers discover how “Humans” have ramped up their attempts at space-flight, they decide they need to beat humans to it!

Start your journey from the earliest rockets and prototypes like V-2 & Opel RAK and progress through the Apollo flights to the founding of International Space Station.

It’s one small step for Kerbals but an explosive leap for Kerbalkind!

(*Requires KerbalEdu version 1.04e730 to work)

Click to play, doubleclick to view fullscreen

Mission I

It’s your first mission as a pilot and your palms are definitely sweaty. Imagine, flying to the edge of atmosphere!

The first mission of Earth History Campaign puts you in the cockpit of X-15 and other historic planes to take the first steps in your astronaut training. You’ll learn the basic controls and take on your first mission to inspect an unidentified flying object.


You will learn.

– Steering & orientation
– Take off & landing on runway
– Flying in atmosphere
– Time warp
– Force arrows

– X-15 (first spaceplane)
– Dassault Mirage III C
– NF-104A (astronaut training for X-15)

– Lift & drag
– Free body diagrams (Force Arrows)

Mission II

Kerbals have intercepted a series of radio transmissions detailing bizarre experiments. The curious Kerbals obviously need to repeat them! Join in a series of tests around the space center, uncover the secrets of the universe and find out why on there is a cabbage patch on the runway..


You will learn.

– Using engines: adjustin thrust
– Different types of fuels

– Opel RAK-2
– Goddard’s Rocket Nell

– Displacement, time & average/instantaneous velocity
– Visualization (velocity/acceleration arrows?)
– Motion with constant acceleration
– Average and instantaneous acceleration
– Concept of force

– Recognizing and framing problems
– Cooperation and sharing responsibilities

Mission III

Encouraged by the success of their previous tests, Kerbals continue to dig deeper into the plans they discovered. This time they discovered blueprints they want to follow to replicate the first suborbital rocket, German V-2. They want to make sure they understand the physics behind the rockets before venturing forth with their spacefaring plans.


You will learn.

– Take off from launch pad
– Assembly: Linear attachment

– V-2, first suborbital rocket

– Work
– Newton’s Second Law (F=ma)

– Forming and evaluating hypotheses and working theories

Mission IV

After managing to successfully replicate V-2, Kerbals throw caution to the wind and start building their own rockets. However, they still need to conduct the experiment from the science department and need to explore the nature of kinetic and potential energy. This time, the scientist let the astronauts take a little more liberties at designing the tests.


You will learn.

– Assembly: Linear attachment
– Use of Flight Recorder

– Potential Energy
– Kinetic Energy

Mission V

We are on the verge of a breakthrough! The R-7 blueprints that our scientist were able to salvage promise great things; the rocket itself is only meant to transfer stuff out of the atmosphere and to the “orbit” around Kerbin.

In this mission, you’ll attempt to crack the blueprints to build one of the most popular rockets in the history. Most important, you’ll learn how to orbit; one of the most important skills for an aspiring kerbonaut.


You will learn.

– Designing staging
– Navball markers
– Orbiting

– Orbiting
– Orbital potential and kinetic energy
– Reference frame

Mission VI

Juri Gagarin was the first human in space 1961. Now it’s your turn to guide the Kerbals on their first manned orbital flight. Assemble your own spacecraft and follow in the footsteps of Vostok’s flight around the planet to learn about changing orbits and re-entry.

In this mission, you have more freedom over the make of your spacecraft and the course of your flight, preparing you for more independent missions in the future. In the process, you can compare your experiences and progress with Gagarin’s flight in 1961 – what differences there are and what similarities?

Special thanks to Beale and everyone else behind Tantares mod for the Vostok parts!


You will learn.

– Loading and merging spacecraft
– Navball markers
– Manoeuvering in the orbit

This mission contains special parts and data that will be installed after launching the mission. If the game starts into the main menu please wait. It shouldn’t take more than 20-30 seconds for the mission to start.

Scenario 8

Bacon ipsum dolor amet turducken pig bresaola salami pork loin porchetta tenderloin pork belly leberkas ham hock shoulder cow. Beef ribs pastrami meatloaf alcatra sausage. Pancetta picanha swine bacon meatloaf. Landjaeger capicola pancetta filet mignon andouille frankfurter drumstick bacon chuck tri-tip shankle. T-bone tri-tip filet mignon pastrami spare ribs kielbasa. Strip steak boudin doner cow ball tip sausage. Jowl short loin tail doner pork bacon turducken venison jerky.

Kerbal Space Program How-to

Kerbal space program how-to


Intro: Orbital Mechanics and KSP Career Mode

Ever heard of Kerbal Space Program? Worth playing, nice educative edge. This article is a guide to understanding Kerbal Space Program in Career Mode and understanding how to make successful flights. Although there is also a lot of fun and lessons to be learned in blowing things up! Kerbal Space Program (commonly abbreviated by KSP) is a space flight simulator currently developed by Squad. Although referred to as a space flight simulator, in this article KSP is also referred to as a game. KSP is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. The game has a very extensive Modding community, adding features and improvements via third party Mods.

Some notable differences and similarities can be found between our own Solar System and the KSP Solar System, named Kerbol System. Analogous to Earth, there is the home planet Kerbin, not inhabited by Humans, but by Kerbins. Kerbin has two natural satellites one called Mun and the other Minmus. The sun is called Kerbol and analogous to Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter are respectively: Moho, Eve, Duna and Jool [1] .
A very distinctive difference between our Solar System and Kerbol is that the planets are almost 10 times smaller, but retain their density, making the planets 10 times more massive, which is by some noted as being physically unrealistic. Others find practical application for educational purposes, like Chris Bush, a teacher at Zion Benton Township High School at Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA. Mr. Bush used Kerbal Space Program as a teaching tool in his Advanced Placement class [2] .

Whatever you do in Kerbal Space Program, it most probably involves blowing things up and explosions; either intentionally or unintentionally.

Never be afraid to fail. Failure is only a stepping stone to improvement.

Key bindings: how to take control

Knowing how to use your keyboard in Kerbal Space Program is very important to be effective.
Your primary source for what keyboard keys do, read: Kerbal Space Program Wiki: Key Bindings.
Please get familiar with the terminology such as: Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA), Intra-Vehicular Activity (IVA), Stability Augmentation System (SAS) and Reaction Control System (RCS). Prior to KSP 0.21 SAS provided torque, but no automatic course correction, KSP 0.21 and later provide both.

Apart from keyboard keys, you can use the right mouse button for options of a specific part of your rocket. Including the option to transfer fuel between tanks.

The most important Key Bindings are:

Key Effect Category
M Orbital Map toggle System/ UI Commands
. Time warp (physical time warp in atmosphere) increase System/ UI Commands
, Time warp (physical time warp in atmosphere) decrease System/ UI Commands
[ Cycle through active ships (forwards) wihtin 2.5km System/ UI Commands
] Cycle through active ships (backwards) within 2.5km System/ UI Commands
W Pitch adjustment (up/back) Flight Controls
S Pitch adjustment (down/forward) Flight Controls
A Yaw adjustment (port/left) Flight Controls
D Yaw adjustment (starboard/right) Flight Controls
Q Roll adjustment (counter clockwise) Flight Controls
E Roll adjustment (clockwise) Flight Controls
C Toggle IVA view Flight Controls
Left-Shift Increase throttle Flight Controls
Left-Control Decrease throttle Flight Controls
T Toggle SAS Flight Controls: SAS
R Toggle RCS Flight Controls: RCS
X Cut throttle Flight Controls
Z Full throttle Flight Controls
G Toggle landing gear Flight Controls
U Toggle vehicle lights Flight Controls
L When doing EVA: Toggle headlamps EVA Commands
R When doing EVA: Toggle jetpack EVA Commands

Build your first rocket

Building a rocket is done in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). The Kerbal Space Program Wiki has a 45 minute Tutorial concerning Basic Rocket Design, I can recommend starting there.

Got your rocket? Rule of thumb for flying:

  1. The first 10.000 meters go straight up: the atmosphere is too thick to try and fly at an angle; you’ll waste precious fuel
  2. Keep your speed at 150m/s the first 10.000 meters; alternatively: 100m/s at 1000m, 110m/s at 1100m, 120/ms at 2000m and so on; read more about terminal velocity.
  3. At 10.000m perform Gravity turn: tilt your rocket to a 45 degree angle, increase your speed to 1800ms/s and altitude at least 70.000m
  4. At 70.000 meters altitude you will be in orbit, having no drag of the atmosphere; potential to stay permanently in orbit
  5. Circularize orbit at Apoapsis to stay permanently in orbit
  6. Depending on your altitude burn prograde at the periapsis or apoapsis; e.g. at 100.000m you need a speed of +/-2200m/s

Even more fun are the video’s of Scott Manley, who you will not only soon love because of his awesome Scottish accent, but his expertise as well. Video’s include, Scott Manley on YouTube:

  1. Kerbal Space Program 101 – Tutorial For Beginners – Construction, Piloting, Orbiting
  2. Kerbal Space Program – Advanced Rocket Design Tutorial
  3. Kerbal Space Program Tutorial Getting To And Landing On Moons

Scott Manley, combines his enthusiasm for gaming and science into his Scott Manley YouTube Channel. Having worked on his, unfortunately unfinished, PhD in the field of Small bodies in the Solar System: Asteroid Discovery 1980-2010 (interesting video) at Armagh Observatory, a Bsc in Astronomy and Physics and a Msc in IT in Glasgow, you as Kerbal Space Program player, have all the reason to keep an eye on his great videos.

Advanced Rocket Design: building a fuel-efficient rocket

Key to being successful: baby steps! First get a basic rocket in orbit, then read this section.

Advanced Rocket Design in this article has fuel-efficiency at its core: getting farther with the same amount of fuel by using fuel smarter.
An increase in fuel efficiency of +449.0% (factor +5.490) will be demonstrated below between Single Stage design and Asparagus design. Mechjeb is used to remove human error: exact same flight/ascent path applies to all tests. Identical rockets used between tests to reach a 150,000 m circular orbit around Kerbin.
The yellow arrows show the fuel flow (fuel flows to where the arrow is pointing) from the External Fuel Ducts.
Be advised: Staging occurs from higher numbers to lower numbers; i.e.: first S4, then S3, then S2, then S1.

Asparagus design increases performance greatly. Key in the asparagus design is the Thrust-to-Weight Ratio (TWR). By separating stages (in order: S4, S3 and S2) during flight as the fuel tanks become empty, you eject dead weight and thus increase the Thrust-to-weight ratio. A TWR between 2 and 3 per stage is advised to escape Kerbin.
A mod is available for showing the TWR per stage and the TWR on other celestial bodies in the Solar System , Kerbol System. See Kerbal Engineer Redux managed by cybutek on Special thanks to Plur303 for running the tests.

The Kerbal Space Program Wiki states the following: “The thrust-to-weight ratio (TWR) is a ratio that defines the power of a craft’s engines in relation to its own weight. If a craft needs to get into a stable orbit or land safely on the current celestial body without using parachutes, then its engines must put out more thrust than its current weight to counteract gravity.”

See picture at the right: The TWR is the ratio of FT (Thrust Force) and FG (Gravity Force). F (Residual Force) is pointing upwards if the TWR > 1 (your rocket will go up), downwards if TWR FT are equal).

A problem that may arise when using asparagus design is unwanted rocket spin/rotation, which can be countered with correct strut usage, see tutorial on YouTube: KSP: Asparagus/Onion Rotation – Stop that Spin! (tutorial).

Get your rocket into orbit: Orbital mechanics

Getting your rocket up there (70,000+ m) might already be hard enough, but what about staying up there?
What about changing orbit? Known and understand the basics of Orbital mechanics.



Orbital Inclination, Ascending node and descending node



Sphere Of Influence (SOI) and Orbit

In Kerbal Space Program you will be operating your rocket in the Sphere of Influence, or SOI, of a celestial body (.e.g. Planet, Moon or Kerbol). The Sphere of Influence is a sphere around a celestial body in which it has gravitational influence on another object, e.g. your rocket or a Kerbal. To keep things simple KSP uses a one-body problem: one celestial body has has influence on your rocket and the orbit of the celestial body can’t be changed; even simpler than a two-body problem. In real-world physics, gravitational forces of multiple bodies (.e.g. the Sun, Earth and Moon) may simultaneously affect an object (e.g. a rocket), which is called an n-body problem.

It is a common misconception that astronauts in orbit are weightless because they have flown high enough to “escape” the Earth’s gravity. In fact, at an altitude of 400 kilometers, equivalent to a typical orbit of the Space Shuttle, gravity is still nearly 90% as strong as at the Earth’s surface. Weightlessness actually occurs because orbiting objects are in free-fall [3] , resulting in the apparent state of weightlessness. The same mechanics count for Kerbin.

At the right you can see Newton’s Canonball, which illustrates how objects can “fall” in a curve. With little firepower (A), gravity prevails and the projectile drops back to earth. With more firepower (B) the projectile will fall farther. With enough firepower (C and D) the projectile will continuously free-fall in a circular orbit (C) or elliptic orbit (D) around earth. If the projectile is fired with sufficient velocity (C and D), the ground curves away from the projectile at least as much as the projectile falls ? so the projectile never strikes the ground. With too much firepower (E) a projectile will gain escape velocity, meaning escaping Earth’s gravity, into outer space.

Gravity assist


Eccentricity is the ratio of the distance difference of the apoapsis and periapsis, and the major axis of an ellipse (planetary orbit). Eccentricity is shown by the formula:

In practice this means that the higher the eccentricity (between 0 and 1), the higher the apoapsis in relation to the periapsis (e.g. an eccentricity of 0.9 means a big apoapsis and a relatively small periapsis).

There are more Orbital parameters, read about the Longitude of the Ascending node for example.

Whenever you want a new challenge try to create your own Geostationary Satellite Network.

The Kerbal Space Program Wiki has more terminology explained.

Get your rocket into orbit: Understanding the interface and Navball

The Navball is an extremely helpful tool in maneuvering your rocket:

  1. Left-Shift: increase throttle (throttle level shown at the left of Navball)
  2. Left-Ctrl: decrease throttle (throttle level shown at the left of Navball)
  3. Yellow icon in the center shows where your rocket is pointing at, in the image: parallel to Kerbin’s surface and around 45 degrees
  4. The current speed is shown in green on top
  5. RCS: lit light-green, so it is active; toggle with ‘r’
  6. SAS: lit light-blue, so it is active; toggle with ‘s’
  7. With a maneuver node one can change speed, direction and inclination around a body:

In order of appearance: prograde (speed up), retrograde (slow down), normal (increase inclination), anti-normal (decrease inclination), radial (in) (burn towards the planet / turn orbital plane clockwise around rocket), Anti-radial (out) (turn away from planet / turn orbital plane counter-clockwise around rocket). Just point the yellow direction pointer c.q. level indicator at one of these maneuvers and increase throttle to perform a maneuver.

To ease maneuvering, one can add a maneuver node, this can precision and thus effectiveness and efficiency of a maneuver. After setting a maneuver node, point the yellow direction pointer at the dark blue Maneuver marker .
When using a maneuver node, the Delta-V required to make the maneuver is shown on the right of the Navball together with the duration of the required burn (see “Est. Burn”) in the lower right corner. Below the “Est. Burn” one can see when the rocket reaches the created Manever node.
Tip: start your Maneuver node burn not on “Node in T – 0s” but at “Est. Burn” devided by two.
Example: the Est. Burn duration is 30 seconds. Start your burn, full throttle, at “Node in T – 15s” and stop at “Node in T + 15s”. This way your burn is done in optimal timing: not to early, not too late.

Get your rocket into orbit: Practical example

After you build a rocket, you want to get it up there, into orbit. To do this in a fuel-efficient way, we use a gravity turn.

A gravity turn is a maneuver used to launch a craft into, or descend from, orbit around a celestial body (e.g. Kerbin) while using minimal fuel. In order to escape the surface, a craft must rise faster than gravity pulls it down. In order to maintain a stable orbit, the craft must have enough sideways momentum (+/-2200m/s at Kerbin) at a high enough altitude (70,000m at Kerbin) to avoid colliding with any surface features or getting slowed down by the atmosphere. A gravity turn combines these two steps into one maneuver, saving fuel in the process. As a craft starts ascending vertically, it slowly turns to the side until by the end of the turn it points sideways.
At Kerbin: go straight up for the first 10,000m, then turn your rocket east 45 degrees. When you are near 70,000m turn to 90 degrees and create a circular orbit.

Scott Manley has created a helpful tutorial explaining for to orbit Kerbin, so I advice to watch this:

Basic maneuvering: Apoapsis, Periapsis, Inclination

Get your rocket down to Kerbin: Deorbit

How to get maneuver nodes?

How to get Science

How to get Money

A broad community behind Kerbal Space Program creates modifications (short: “mods”) to the original game. These mods make all kinds of changes to the game, including: off-world refueling (Karbonite), autopiloting, additional flight information, extra planets in Kerbol System and additional parts.
It is confirmed that an adaption of Roverdude’s Karbonite mod will be included in Kerbal Space Program 1.00. this enables players to refuel their space crafts on other planets in the Kerbol System.

Handy Mods:

  1. Important statistics about your ship and orbit: Kerbal Engineer Redux a.k.a. Kerbal Flight Engineer by cytubek
  2. Docking: Docking Port Alignment Indicator by NavyFish_KSP
  3. Autopilot and flight statistics: MechJeb by r4m0n
  4. Alarms for maneuver nodes, rendezvous and more: Kerbal Alarm Clock by TriggerAu
  5. Refuel: Karbonite
  6. Transfer fuel, add/remove parts of vessel, etc: Kerbal Attachment System (KAS)

In general Umbra Space Industries mods feature some great additions to KSP, check it out!

Fun mods:

  1. Mission control and Kerbonaut chatter and background noises: Chatterer by Athlonic
  2. Kerbal Multi Player

Read more about the best mods in detail.

In conclusion

Kerbal Space Program is a very cool simulation game.
There are some bugs in version 0.90 BETA that need to be resolved. On my part the most annoying bugs are:

  1. When time accelerating, please go to 1x speed when above 600 meters. The parachute opens at 500 meters and is know to rip apart in time accelerated mode.
  2. When doing and EVA in stable orbit, Kerben is shot out the capsule; At first thought it could be decompression ( 1 bar inside the capsule ), but when Kerbin reenters the module and Kerbin leaves at a later time again, he is shot out of the capsule again. A nasty bug/annoyance.
  3. In-orbit spacecraft assembly/reconfiguration is not possible at the moment.

Interesting Space Mission tips to explore after this guide are:

  1. In-Orbit refueling: can be done by docking
  2. Detachable landing crafts: can be done by docking

If you’re not convinced about if the game is worth playing, watch this 4 minute trailer:

Watch live @ 3 pm ET: NASA, SpaceX preview next cargo launch to space station, Space

Watch live tonight! SpaceX Dragon launching NASA science to space station

Liftoff is at 11:50 p.m. EST (0450 GMT).

A SpaceX Dragon cargo ship will launch a fresh haul of NASA science to the International Space Station tonight (March 6) and you can watch it all live here. Liftoff is set for 11:50 p.m. EST (0450 GMT March 7), with NASA’s webcast beginning at 11:30 p.m. EST (0430 GMT).

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Dragon’s CRS-20 mission to the space station. Both vehicles have flown before and are making return trips to the station. Dragon CRS-20 is hauling more than 4,300 lbs. (1,950 kilograms) of supplies to the space station.

To read more about the science experiments and other payloads, you can find NASA’s descriptions here.

From NASA:

SpaceX is now targeting March 6 at 11:50 p.m. EST for launch of its 20th commercial resupply services mission (CRS-20) to the International Space Station. During standard preflight inspections, SpaceX identified a valve motor on the second stage engine behaving not as expected and determined the safest and most expedient path to launch is to utilize the next second stage in line that was already at the Cape and ready for flight. The new second stage has already completed the same preflight inspections with all hardware behaving as expected. The updated target launch date provides the time required to complete preflight integration and final checkouts.

The cargo Dragon will lift off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying more than 5,600 pounds of science investigations and cargo to the station, including research on particle foam manufacturing, water droplet formation, the human intestine and other cutting-edge investigations.

From NASA:

NASA will unveil the name of the agency’s next Mars rover, currently known as Mars 2020, during a live event on NASA Television at 1:30 p.m. EST Thursday, March 5, followed by a media teleconference at 3:30 p.m. about the mission and the naming.

The Mars 2020 rover was the subject of a nationwide naming contest in 2019 that drew more than 28,000 essays by K-12 students from every U.S. state and territory. Nearly 4,700 volunteer judges – educators, professionals, and space enthusiasts from around the country – helped narrow the pool down to 155 semifinalists. A second round of judging selected the nine finalist essays that were open to an online public poll before Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, made the final selection.

To participate in the post-event media teleconference, media must send their name and affiliation to Vizza by noon PST Thursday. Media and the public can submit questions on social media by using #AskNASA. Participants may also follow the telecon live on YouTube and Ustream and listen to the event at:

‘ISS Live!’ Tune in to the International Space Station

Find out what the astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station are up to by tuning in to the “ISS Live” broadcast. Hear conversations between the crew and mission controllers on Earth and watch them work inside the U.S. segment of the orbiting laboratory. When the crew is off duty, you can enjoy live views of Earth from Space. You can watch and listen in the window below, courtesy of NASA.

“Live video from the International Space Station includes internal views when the crew is on-duty and Earth views at other times. The video is accompanied by audio of conversations between the crew and Mission Control. This video is only available when the space station is in contact with the ground. During ‘loss of signal’ periods, viewers will see a blue screen.

“Since the station orbits the Earth once every 90 minutes, it experiences a sunrise or a sunset about every 45 minutes. When the station is in darkness, external camera video may appear black, but can sometimes provide spectacular views of lightning or city lights below.”

My Own Personal Space Agency – Spaceflight Blunders – Greatness

My Own Personal Space Agency

I’m a chronic computer gamer.

Lately, I tend to limit my addictions to one game at a time. For years, this has kept me limited to spending still a little too much time in the multiplayer world of “Dungeons & Dragons Online,” a very enjoyable world of adventurers based in the Eberron and Forgotten Realms campaign worlds. When that game is offline or time prohibits me from playing in a world where you can’t press “pause” (a multiplayer world is a real-time environment), I’ve normally revisited some classic games, installed on my computer, in single-player mode.

But I had heard for years about a game–a simulator, actually–called “Kerbal Space Program.” A few weeks ago, I took the plunge.

I am now hopelessly engrossed in the thing. It’s about spaceflight. I blunder through it. It’s great!

KSP (the popular short-name) involves a solar system that’s not very different from our own. A yellow sun. The third world is a blue-green watery world like Earth…except it’s populated by (literally) little green men and women, who are just starting out into space.

KSP’s Earth-like world is Kerbin. It’s smaller than our Earth but with similar features. Your concern is centered on the infant space complex, conveniently located on an eastern shore nearer to the equator for better rocket launches.

The Kerbal Space Center at dusk. You have a Vertical Assembly building, a Mission Control, a tracking station, research-and-development labs, an astronaut complex, administration offices, and a spaceplane/airplane port. Look at the beautiful Mun in the low sky.

But your space agency barely have anything sufficiently advanced to reach their version of the Karman Line, much less orbit. So, in Career Mode, you’re tasked to aid the kerbals (the name of the actual little green people) in testing technology, launching anything they have to improve their cash flow, improve their science, better train their “kerbonauts” and improve their reputation to obtain more missions, technology and improved facilities.

As you reach suborbital and orbital status, you’re greeted by a whole solar system of your own to explore. The worlds are typically analogues of Earth’s solar system worlds with a few creative exceptions.

  • Kerbol: A yellow star not unlike Sol.
  • Moho: A hot, barren planet (analogue to Mercury)
  • Eve: A purple, heavy gravity planet with a thick atmosphere and seas of effectively rocket fuel. It has a small moon, likely a captured asteroid. (Analogue to Venus)
  • Kerbin: The kerbal’s Earth-like home planet. It has two moons: The Mun (analogue to Earth’s Moon) and Minmus, a small greenish icy moon, perhaps a captured comet. The Mun is tidally-locked to Kerbin, like our Moon.
  • Duna: A red planet with large polar ice caps, no water, no axial tilt and a thin atmosphere, with one large moon named Ike. (Analogue to Mars with a little Pluto-Charon double-planet vibe)
  • Dres: A barren, small gray world (Analogue to Ceres, the dwarf planet)
  • Jool: The system’s only gas giant, big and green, surrounded by five moons, one of which has blue skies and is dominantly ocean-covered. (Analogue to Jupiter)
  • Eeloo: A distant icy small world with a very eccentric orbit. (Analogue to Pluto)

Progression begins with testing simple solid and liquid fueled rockets and related tech, learning to build and fly a jet plane, working your way up to your first sub-orbital and orbital missions.

Then things get complicated as you learn orbital rendezvous, first by close-proximity non-docking rescues of stranded kerbonauts, later with docking. Precision orbital insertion of space probes come next, then your first flyby and landing missions to the Moon-analogue called the Mun, and then to a unique tiny greenish icy moon, Minmus.

One of my landers on descent above Mimmus, Kerbin’s second moon.

Spaceplanes may be next on your menu, although I’ve skipped this progression for now in the Science tree of my first game save. Missions related to technologies only appear if you progress. Space stations and advanced rescues from stranded kerbals on a munar surface or at high orbital inclinations relative to Kerbin are offered before you’re invited to make flybys and landings on other planets, starting with Duna, naturally, as a Mars analogue. Documenting and even capturing asteroids are possible.

KSP is very free-form. There’s no forced path at all. Want to take a break and just fly something? Go for it. Want a cis-munar station? Okies.

One area that fascinates me are space probes. In KSP, you get manned spacecraft as well as robotic control modules, which are both known as command pods. A piloted spacecraft (you must have a kerbal pilot aboard) fly according to the experience of the pilot). Probe command bodies have varying abilities but have one weakness: Since they are remotely controlled, they must have a communication link. Go out of the antenna range available to the probe (including orbiting behind a celestial body), and you lose control of it.

A Pathfinder/Sojourner-like rover on powered descent to Mimmus. Skycrane deployments are popular in KSP, emulating what was used to land the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity. This rover landed successfully but, in the low gravity of this moon, couldn’t roll around.

So you’ll need to launch relays–space probes with antenna which not only extend the range of space probes to work within Kerbin space but can also keep probes commandable as they go interplanetary. This communications network, CommNet, is also essential for piloted spacecraft to transmit back science data with minimum data loss for a more effective science score.

Each celestial body, except for the sun, have biomes, areas of unique science interest. To unlock more technology by earning more science points, you use your science tools to scan each biome you can find on a planet. (The term is a misnomer in that biomes imply life existing in a region, where it’s really implying a unique location on a body.) Special achievements (first flyby, orbit, landing, walk flag-planting and surface samples) have varying weight in science points depending on the planet.

Naturally, some places can’t be reached. You can’t land on the sun or the gas giant Jool unless you like suicide. KSP limits you to its solar system; no interstellar flights (at least without mods). There’s lots to see and do despite that limit.

As for the probes, I’m looking forward to getting rovers on Duna and Ike and in getting a ion engine-powered probe flying by the outer planets for now.

KSP’s visuals are a delight. The worlds smoothly render from far away to close up on a surface. The game freely supports third-party modifications, or mods, to add passive and advanced features and even new parts and challenges. For instance, KSP normally doesn’t bother you with life support issues, but one mod, for instance, can add food, water, air and waste heat as limitations to press your time.

KSP loves to offer you complex orbital mechanics. Inclinations and delta-V all have to be accounted. You can use slingshot maneuvers, aerobraking and aerocapture. Heavy-gravity or heavy-atmosphere worlds have special needs. Eve, the Venus-analogue, is more terrifying than its Solar System counterpart with seas of “Explodium”–what might be easily converted into rocket fuel.

KSP works in game time, so it may take the better part of several game days (a Kerbin day is 6 hours long). So you can use “Time warp”, to speed up the game to move your mission along. The only problems in using time warp are that you can’t fully control any spacecraft while in this mode, and any other missions in your solar system are also accelerated. If you forgot that you left one spacecraft in a suborbital trajectory for atmospheric re-entry while you time warped to get another spacecraft to the Mun, well, one of these crews are going to die!

Depending on your game settings, your kerbals will re-spawn eventually–but it’s bad form to use them as fodder, since, like humans, there are things that only a Kerbal can do and probes cannot.

My first space station on the launch pad at night.

Some players just use time-acceleration to move things along, playing one mission at a time, especially interplanetary ones. I, for one, have enjoyed the vistas. After landing a small rover on the Mun, I decided to travel over 30 km to a crater at 10 meters/second (22 mph), taking over 45 minutes in real-time to drive there. You can’t time-accelerate the game while driving on terrain. Others have complained of the fragility of rovers, often damaging wheels or overturning them.

I, for one, know better. While we players have the benefit of operating rovers in “real-time” as if driving a car, rovers aren’t cars. Better to plan a straight-line trip for a few kilometers, making very minute changes to avoid rocks or grades, stop to assess, then continue. In a much shorter way, this is how NASA has done it since they can only safely plot movement of their two rovers this way. Real rovers move glacially slow for a reason.

I’ve developed a rover with twice the speed of my first, that should work in many more places. It’s un-flippable on Kerbin at speed, but lower-gravity terrain is less forgiving. I’m more worried about control authority as the rover makes its landing attempt on airless worlds. Duna should be easier with drogue chutes, a wide inflatable aerobraking heat shield and thrusters to stabilize.

But that super-rover was just too super–too large and so too expensive to fly, requiring large boosters to get it anywhere. I’ve since redesigned it to be 1/2 the size for easier flights.

I was captivated by the details of the Mun, so much like Earth’s moon. I had to work out traverses over large craters and steep slopes without flipping, colliding or falling off precipices. Eventually the sun would rise and set slowly on this tidally-locked moon and I’d have to stop travel due to the loss of battery power while my solar panels passed into shadow, forcing me to move to another mission until sunrise.

My Sojourner-like rover on the surface of the Mun.

As you unlock the technology in Career Mode (or choose to have everything available to you in Sandbox mode) KSP offers advanced science such as radioisotope thermoelectric generators for weak-sun missions such as to Eeloo (Pluto-ish world) and Jool, the gas giant. Fuel cells are available, too. Rather than gases, they generate electricity from your liquid fuel and oxidizer stores.

KSP doesn’t require you to emulate NASA’s progression. For kicks and giggles, the first space station I built looked a lot like America’s first station.

But unlike NASA’s version, not only did my station reach planetary orbit without calamity, after docking a Command/Service Module with it, I sent it to the Mun!

KSP relaxes some of the design constraints of actual spacecraft. You can send a single-pilot munar lander and skip an Apollo-style CSM/LM version. I’ve done some of these just because it’s cool, but KSP allows fuel transfer between docked vehicles, allowing you to refuel and send landers for additional excursions. Likewise, separating lander and ascent modules aren’t required unless weight becomes a serious concern.

Your kerbals have varying personalities, noted simply by two criteria: Courage and stupidity. Some love perilous events, right to their doom. Others freak out at the slightest vibration. You have pilots (who can fly any spacecraft without need for a commlink from home), scientists (who can reset one-use experiments and generate more science points over time) and engineers (useful for repairing things should they break when far from home, as well as improving the efficiency of mining operations). KSP shamelessly takes on tourists who pay KSP big bucks for joyrides around Kerbin orbit or the moons to boost your funding for other things.

Non-player character kerbals are peppered throughout. A white-vested Gene Kerman offers you missions from Mission Control. Wernher von Kerman is near the Vertical Assembly Building and the Research & Development labs to guide you along. KSP is loaded with all kinds of humor, hidden and obvious.

Mass and stability are a big concern that can bite you in the ass. I had just docked yet another fuel tank on a space station around Mimmus when the station literally shook itself apart. It took me a second try–and subsequent explosion–to realize that the station’s elements were too imbalanced. Thankfully I had made the station modular and could rearrange everything to put things to rest. (The station you see in the preview image is the rearranged station, which looks like Skylab fused with the International Space Station–it actually wasn’t intentionally built that way.)

I had a great time emulating an Apollo-style Mun mission, complete with transposition and docking. The docking indicator to the right is a mod that greatly aids in accurate, safe docking.

I mentioned ion engines are available–highly efficient, although slow. Advanced science gets you a nuclear engine for sufficiently powerful but fuel-efficient manned interplanetary ventures.

As for spaceplanes, you can make Space Shuttle-like vehicles or go for a single-stage-to-orbit vehicle. You’re not limited to low-Kerbin-orbit versions, either. You start off by making small jet aircraft (emphasizing the aeronautical side of KSP) with an airstrip, and can gradually unlike tech for high-speed jets and then go for space in whatever way you’d like.

As for my first spaceplane, I thinking of going Jurassic on KSP and revive Dyna-Soar. Or, for something practical for low-Kerbin orbit crew or cargo ferries, I’ll make a Dream Chaser-like variant.

One thing that pleasantly annoys me about KSP is how you’ll find yourself spending far more time (at least for me) in planning and construction of missions over actually flying. The permutations of how to do something, especially the way you want, preoccupy my subconscious each night, often causing me to wake up earlier than I should if I’m to complete my work days without nodding off. While you’re in build mode, all mission time is suspended, so you’re not penalized in time.

Inside your Vertical Assembly Building, you’re in build mode. Here’s my Skylab-like space station, with a fairing protecting its telescope mount, in a rather non-Saturn V launch arrangement.

Reusability is a feature. You can design your boosters to go all SpaceX and make powered landings. Such vehicles can be then recovered and its cost partially refunded to you.

Like the real universe, you also have to wait for transfer windows to more efficiently get to other planets. You really begin to get a better understanding of orbital mechanics with KSP and how what seemed to be counter-intuitive burns make sense to get your spacecraft where you want them.

But the accomplishment value of these tasks–landing on the Mun, or getting your first probes and stations away–it’s indescribable. KSP makes creativity and thinking fun.

Interplanetary missions require you to carefully monitor your fuel needs. You may need to consider using advanced tools for in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) that search for ore you can mine from a moon, planet or even asteroid that can be converted into fuel at distant locations.

An expansion of KSP, “Making History,” adds parts that look much like American and Russian spacecraft and launch vehicles. You can make an R-7/Soyuz launch vehicle as well as Saturn rockets, and even go down the Nova route. Vostok and Voshkod modules are available, although you’ll have to hack about a Soyuz spacecraft variant from your own creativity. There is a Munar Excursion Module, or MEM–the ascent stage analogue of a Lunar Module. You have to build your own descent stage. Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle Orbiter elements can also be fully recreated, and you can choose to make your spaceplane glide back to Kerbin or add some jet engines to it.

A mission planner also allows you to generate your own missions with failure modes where your kerbals’ skills will be essential to completing a task.

My Munar Module separates and lands on the Mun. Like the real LM, fuel is at a premium for a Mun landing. You’ll have a better time on Mimmus landings. You can choose to fly up the ascent stage, but most of the time, keeping the descent engine as your sole engine works better.

KSP has a great player community with the mods available. You can add more environmental effects, such as clouds, to make the planets more realistic. The downside is that mods can cause bugs, particularly after a game update. I’ve stuck to three essential mods: Kerbin Alarm Clock, which allows me to coordinate many missions at once by having it remind me to manage another spacecraft as well as calculating launch windows for landing; a docking tool that makes that task much more easier than in-game resources; and Kerbal Engineer Redux, which gives you stats, accurate burn times and delta-V calculations to ensure you don’t make an under- or over-powered launch vehicle or spacecraft.

My knowledge of actual space travel has made my progress a bit faster in Career Mode than I liked in my first campaign. You can adjust the difficulty settings to force you to be more determined in unlocking parts in the science tree than where I’m at.

Kerbal Space Program is a treat. If you love space exploration, it’s an inexpensive way to enjoy having one of your own–with much less political issues that underfund our actual space programs on Earth.


Spaceflight now live

ASTRONAUTS CAPTURE SPACEX CARGO CAPSULE WITH ROBOT ARM FOR FINAL TIME – For the final time, a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule approached the International Space Station Monday for capture with the research lab’s robotic arm, delivering more than 4,300 pounds of food, experiments and spare parts. Future Dragon resupply missions will use a new spaceship design to automatically dock with the space station. The unpiloted cargo freighter completed a two-day pursuit of the space station Monday with an automated approach to the orbiting research outpost. More
(Source: SpaceFlight Now – Mar 10)

OLYMPIC ORBITER: ‘GUNDAM SATELLITE’ HITCHES RIDE TO ISS TO PROMOTE 2020 GAMES – A microsatellite carrying model robots from the popular science fiction anime “Mobile Suit Gundam” was successfully launched to promote the Olympics, organizers said Saturday. The so-called G-Satellite, which contains two figurines from the animated series, hitched a ride to the International Space Station on Friday aboard a SpaceX/Dragon cargo flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It will reach the ISS on Monday at 8 p.m. Japan time. More
(Source: The Japan Times – Mar 8)

THE DSCOVR EARTH AND SPACE WEATHER SATELLITE IS BACK ONLINE AFTER A MONTHS-LONG GLITCH – A disabled satellite that tracks space weather is back online after nine months of efforts to get it communicating with Earth, according to a U.S. government update. The nearly five-year-old Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) went into a safe mode lockdown on June 27, 2019, due to issues with the attitude control system that keeps it properly oriented in space to receive commands and send data. More
(Source: – Mar 8)

SATELLITE IMAGES SHOW THE IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS – A crowd at Mecca’s Grand Mosque and the Kaaba on Feb. 14, 2020 (top) and a much smaller group of visitors on March 3, 2020, a day before fears over the novel coronavirus led to the the suspension of the “umrah” pilgrimage. Satellite images released on March 5, 2020 by Maxar Technologies reveal the impact of coronavirus on activities around the world. More
(Source: USA TODAY – Mar 7)

ROCKET ISSUE DELAYS LAUNCH OF UAE’S FALCON EYE 2 SATELLITE FOR A MONTH: REPORT – A sharp-eyed satellite’s launch has been pushed back from its expected Thursday (March 5) launch date until no earlier than April due to a rocket problem, according to a media report. Arianespace, which will be providing the launch from French Guiana, has not disclosed a reason for the delay. Nor did it release a new launch date for Falcon Eye 2, which is a high-performance optical observation satellite for commercial and military users in the United Arab Emirates. More
(Source: – Mar 7)

SPACEX LAUNCHES CARGO TOWARD SPACE STATION, ACES 50TH ROCKET LANDING – SpaceX successfully launched an uncrewed Dragon spacecraft for NASA today (March 6), sending fresh supplies toward the International Space Station (ISS) — and also sticking another rocket landing, the 50th for the company overall. The two-stage Falcon 9 rocket used in today’s flight is a veteran; its first stage also lofted the previous Dragon cargo mission, in December 2019. The rocket blasted off from Pad 40 here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 11:50 p.m. EST (0450 GMT on Saturday, March 7), illuminating the skies above Florida’s Space Coast. More
(Source: – Mar 7)

ROCKET LAB TO SEND CAPELLA RADAR SATELLITE TO MID-INCLINATION ORBIT – Capella Space will send a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite into a mid-inclination orbit later this year on a Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle, the two companies announced March 5. “It will be the first commercial SAR satellite in a mid-inclination orbit,” Payam Banazadeh, Capella Space CEO, told SpaceNews. “Customers want to monitor areas around Korea, the Middle East, some portions of Europe and North America. Putting a satellite in a 45-degree-inclination orbit allows you to have good coverage of those areas.” More
(Source: SpaceNews – Mar 6)

ISRO POSTPONES LAUNCH OF GEO IMAGING SATELLITE GISAT-1 DUE TO TECHNICAL REASONS – The launch of Indian Space Research Organisation’s (Isro) Gisat-1, scheduled for Thursday, has been postponed due to technical reasons. Isro said that a new launch date for Gisat-1 will be announced in due course. The launch of Gisat-1 was scheduled for March 5 from the second launchpad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. More
(Source: India Today – Mar 5)

DARPA PICKS NORTHROP GRUMMAN AS ITS COMMERCIAL PARTNER FOR SATELLITE SERVICING PROGRAM – The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency selected Northrop Grumman as its commercial partner for the Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites program, the company announced March 4. The announcement comes on the heels of Northrop Grumman’s successful operation of its first satellite servicing Mission Extension Vehicle. The MEV-1 launched in October 2019 and last month docked in-orbit with an Intelsat communications satellite in an effort to keep the spacecraft in operation for an additional five years. More
(Source: SpaceNews – Mar 5)

AUSTRALIA DEVELOPING SATELLITE TO PREDICT BUSHFIRE DANGER ZONES – Australian scientists are developing the country’s first satellite designed to predict where bushfires are likely to start, following months of devastating fires. The Australian National University said Wednesday a team is creating a “shoebox-sized” satellite that will measure forest ground cover and moisture levels using infrared detectors. It is hoped the data will help determine where bushfires are likely to start and where they may be difficult to contain. More
(Source: – Mar 5)

EXPANDING, AND EVENTUALLY REPLACING, THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION – Aboard the International Space Station (ISS), humanity has managed to maintain an uninterrupted foothold in low Earth orbit for just shy of 20 years. There are people reading these words who have had the ISS orbiting overhead for their entire lives, the first generation born into a truly spacefaring civilization. But as the saying goes, what goes up must eventually come down. The ISS is at too low of an altitude to remain in orbit indefinitely, and core modules of the structure are already operating years beyond their original design lifetimes. More
(Source: Hackaday – Mar 4)

YOUR PHONE MAY SOON RECEIVE 4G SERVICE . FROM SPACE! – In the United States it’s easy to take cell reception for granted. With few exceptions, you can use your phone to text, call, and get online from pretty much anywhere in the country. Yet about 2 billion people around the world live in areas that lack mobile coverage, mostly far from major cities, which makes building a network of terrestrial cell towers to connect them prohibitively expensive. If you built a cell network in space, it could plug the gaps in global mobile coverage by raining 4G service from satellites to users on the ground. More
(Source: WIRED – Mar 4)

AFTER LAST-MINUTE ABORT, DARPA LAUNCH CHALLENGE ENDS WITHOUT A WINNER – Astra engineers scrubbed a launch attempt Monday at Kodiak Island, Alaska, to assess troubling data from a guidance, navigation and control sensor on the company’s new small satellite launcher, ending a bid to win up to $12 million in prize money from a U.S. military research agency. Monday’s countdown was aborted on the final day of a 15-day window set by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which offered Astra a $2 million prize if it successfully placed three small CubeSats into orbit. More
(Source: SpaceFlight Now – Mar 3)

SPACEX TEST-FIRES ROCKET, PREPS FOR FINAL FLIGHT OF FIRST-GENERATION DRAGON CAPSULE – The Falcon 9 booster for SpaceX’s next mission fired up briefly on a Cape Canaveral launch pad Sunday in a routine pre-flight test before a scheduled launch Friday night to kick off the final flight of the first version of the company’s Dragon cargo capsule to the International Space Station. Nine Merlin 1D main engines at the base of the Falcon 9 booster fired up at 11 a.m. EST (1600 GMT) Sunday at Cape Canaveral’s Complex 40 launch pad. More
(Source: SpaceFlight Now – Mar 3)

NITROGEN DIOXIDE POLLUTION OVER CHINA PLUMMETS IN NEW SATELLITE IMAGES – The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has caused widespread alarm, travel bans, and the quarantine of multiple cities across the world. But there’s also been an unexpected effect on the environment, in the form of a notable drop in nitrogen dioxide emissions levels across China. Data collected from the Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) on ESA’s Sentinel-5 satellite shows a significant drop of nitrogen dioxide – a gas mainly emitted by cars, trucks, power plants and some industrial plants – between January 1 and February 25. More
(Source: ScienceAlert – Mar 2)

NASA WANTS YOU TO PHOTOGRAPH STARLINK SATELLITES WITH YOUR SMARTPHONE – SpaceX and others plan to launch thousands of new satellites into low-Earth orbit, creating streaks that cut through astronomers’ images. Now educators at NASA are asking citizen scientists to help document the problem. Over the coming years, Elon Musk’s private spaceflight company, SpaceX, will launch thousands of small satellites as part of an effort to provide global, space-based internet. More
(Source: Discover Magezine – Mar 1)

CHINA TO COMPLETE ITS ANSWER TO GPS WITH BEIDOU NAVIGATION SATELLITE LAUNCHES IN MARCH, MAY – China will launch Beidou navigation satellites in March and May this year, completing a constellation designed for an array of civil and military applications. A Long March 3B rocket arrived at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center Feb. 14, according to China News Service. The Beidou satellite for the launch has also arrived at Xichang, the report states. Both missions will launch single satellites to geosynchronous transfer orbits using enhanced hypergolic Long March 3B rockets. More
(Source: SpaceNews – Feb 29)

INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION RESUPPLY MISSION TO CARRY NEW ARISS HAM RADIO GEAR – The scheduled March 7 SpaceX CRS-20 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) will include the initial Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) Interoperable Radio System (IORS) flight unit. The IORS is the foundation of the ARISS next-generation amateur radio system on the space station. The ARISS hardware team built four flight units, and the first will be installed in the ISS Columbus module. More
(Source: ARRL – Feb 29)

Why Single Stage to Orbit rockets SUCK

Why Single Stage to Orbit rockets SUCK. The wacky history and future maybes of SSTOs.

Rockets are HUGE, complicated and expensive. As a matter of fact, the rocket that took humans to the moon, the Saturn 5, was 111 meters or 363 feet tall, and had more separation events than dating teenagers.

So why do rockets always split themselves into multiple parts. Isn’t that complicated and risky? Why throw so much away? I mean, there’s got to be a better way.

Well how about if rockets were only ONE stage? How awesome would that be? Well this idea isn’t new… it’s called single stage to orbit or SSTO and it’s often considered the holy grail of rocketry.

Well, today, I’m going to SMASH THAT HOLY GRAIL and explain why I think SSTO’s SUCK.

Woah woah woah, yes, I’m sure you DID build an awesome SSTO space plane in Kerbal Space Program that can put 2 large Orange fuel tanks to orbit, yeah me too… but… In order to drill this point in we’ll teach you all about the tyranny of the rocket equation and help you understand why every orbital rocket, well, ever is multistage.

Then we’ll take a stroll down SSTO history and look at some crazy designs that in some cases almost worked…

And not to be a huge downer, we will take a look at some SSTO designs that MIGHT actually work, including the Skylon spaceplane that uses the awesome SABRE hybrid engine.

Ok, Everyday Astronaut VS SSTO’s… but hear me out, let’s get started!

But what if I told you, I can’t hardly think of one good reason to build an SSTO in real life? Well there’s a few potential benefits, but do they outweigh all the negatives?

Ok… ok… so before I sound like some old grump here “Get off my lawn you darn kids with your SSTOs”, let’s talk about why SSTO’s are considered desirable by some and why people dream about a time when launch vehicles are only one stage…

Imagine a world where a launch vehicle takes off, goes to space, comes back, refuels and does that multiple times a day. No problem. Sounds like a real life millenium falcon.

When most people use the term SSTO it’s inferred that the vehicle would be reusable… it would go up in space and come back down all in one piece, throwing away only fuel to get it there and back.

And again, when talking about reusable SSTOs most people and concepts utilize a spaceplane design. A vehicle which takes off and lands like a plane.

Sounds great right? One vehicle to do it all! Nice and simple. Take off from a runway like any other jetliner at an airport, and then instead of leveling out at a boring old 10 kms or 35,000 feet or so, keep accelerating and increase your altitude until you’re in orbit!

Then when your mission’s done, just come back down from space and land on any old runway, again, like any other jetliner.

OK, SSTO’s don’t sound bad… do they? Uh oh, have I lost my mind. Well, before we keep on dreaming about our potential sci-fi future, let’s take a quick look at the history of rockets to see why so far, SSTOs haven’t been attainable.

The first liquid fuel rockets ever made were just one stage. Basically a rocket engine, some propellant inside the fuselage and in most a cases, some kind of warhead on top. Rocket’s were mostly used as an advanced weapon delivery system at first, but lucky for us, they also so happen to be able to be used for spaceflight!

The V2 rocket built by Germany, were the first rockets to ever reach the edge of space. In June, 1944, a V2 rocket on a test flight reached beyond the karman line, the most commonly agreed upon boundary of space at 100 kms or 62 miles in altitude.

Sure, a single stage rocket could get up to space, but what about stay in space? Well in order to stay in space, an object needs to reach orbital velocity. To orbit the earth, a vehicle needs to be traveling at about 28,000 km/h or 17,500 miles per hour to stay in space.

Ok… so now we have a new goal for humanity. Get something into orbit.

Well on October 4th, 1957 the Soviet Union managed to place Sputnik 1 into orbit. The shiny metal ball with scary looking spiky antennas weighed only 83.6 KG or 184 pounds, hey that’s pretty much my weight!

The vehicle that carried Sputnik to low Earth orbit was a two stage launch vehicle most commonly known as the R7. This rocket was revolutionary and allowed the vehicle to ditch unnecessary weight on ascent by ejecting spent fuel tanks and rocket engines that were no longer necessary.

This is called staging. It was revolutionary and pivotal in putting anything of significance into space.

Staging is the number one cure for the tyranny of the rocket equation. The tyranny of the rocket equation is basically the diminishing returns on adding fuel.

If you were to double the fuel in your rocket, you don’t double the delta V or change in velocity… Due to now having to push around all the weight of the extra fuel and fuel tank, the rocket is able to burn longer, but it doesn’t receive anywhere near double the change in velocity.

And it only gets worse the further you go until the rocket actually gets too heavy for the engine and next thing you know you’re adding engines to lift the extra fuel and so on and so on.

So this is where staging comes in. Once the rocket empties a fuel tank, why not throw it away? Even better, if the rocket is throttling down an engine to stay accelerating at a safe speed, why not throw away the heavy, unnecessary engines.

This is what the R7 rocket did. It was basically a good sized rocket with 4 extra rockets attached to it. Once those side rockets were spent, they were discarded in this really cool formation known as the korolev cross, named after Sergei Korolev… who you can think of as the Werner Von Bruan of the Soviet space program.

BTW, you can still see the Korolev Cross on any of today’s Soyuz launches. I love watching that! So cool!

Separation events are often a breath holding moment in flight. There are two main types of staging events.

First there’s parallel staging where multiple stages are fired and active at once, like Soyuz, or the Space Shuttle, or Falcon Heavy.

Everyone holds their breath during staging because if a booster doesn’t separate, the mission will fail. It was definitely a big moment when the side boosters of the Falcon Heavy separated safely.

Or there’s an even more complex and nail biting type of staging called tandem staging. This is what a more traditional multistage rocket does.

It fires one stage first, then that engine cuts off, the 1st stage and 2nd stage separate, the 2nd stage fires and keeps going to orbit as a brand new fresh rocket.

Not only is the 2nd basically a new fully fueled little baby rocket, but their engines are also optimized for vacuum operation by having a much larger exhaust nozzle. We’ll talk more about this in an upcoming video, but, that’s another huge advantage for staging. Having different engines optimized for different environments.

The first rocket to ever do any kind of tandem staging was called the RTV-G-4 Bumper. It was literally a V-2 rocket with a small sounding rocket on top of it. It was launched between 1948 and 1950 and launched 8 times, creating a lot of valuable data on multi staging.

But this stage separation event was really hard to accomplish and almost considered impossible for a long time. That’s why many early rockets utilized parallel staging.

As a matter of fact, separation events, or more specifically a botched separation event almost lead to SpaceX being another forgotten aerospace company who went bankrupt after only 3 flights attempts.

Flight 3 of their Falcon 1 rocket had a separation event go wrong when the first stage had a little residual thrust after stage separation, causing it to bump into the upper stage, leading to a failed mission.

So if it was so coveted and necessary to make multistage launchers, why are SSTO’s so sought after?

Well, there’s something to say about making a less complicated launch vehicle. Maybe SSTOs are good for something…

Alright, so I can already hear you over there saying but but but… and the first but is probably “but Elon musk said the Falcon 9 booster could reach orbital velocities…”

Sure it can. Now good job. You just put a $30 million dollar piece of hardware up in space where it has no spare margin to carry anything more than a small backpack and no remaining fuel to re-enter or land. I think there’s better ways to put a backpack in space…

And again… Elon said that the BFS, the spaceship portion of the big falcon rocket is capable of reaching orbit by itself with a low payload but using the booster, it can deliver more than an order of magnitude more payload.

Well first off, it would require firing the 4 vacuum raptor engines at sea level which Elon says, “I wouldn’t recommend.” Ok, so combustion instability aside, let’s pretend it could put 15 tons into orbit AND somehow have enough margins to deorbit, and safely land…

So… now we flew a BFS to space and back so it could deliver something smaller than a Falcon 9 could do. The cost of range, personnel and of course refurbishment of the ship need to be considered.

These things considered, do you think it’s cheaper to just fuel up the booster too, since a lot of the costs are inherent to the launch cost and the fuel is relatively cheap.

Since the booster experiences much less reentry heat than the upper stage, it can be flown a lot more often without maintenance and refurbishment costs.

Just like how block 5 of the Falcon 9 should be able to fly about 10 times without any scheduled maintenance or refurbishment yet the upper stage is still elusive when it comes to reuse.

So why not utilize the entire vehicle? In the best case scenario you just launched 1/10th the payload capacity just to save a little on gas money. Once an entire vehicle is routinely rapidly and reliably reusable, woah that’s a lot of R’s… then who cares if it’s two stages or one.

In best case scenario 2 stages is better than one and in worst case scenario one stage doesn’t even work at all.

Ok, but let’s not be all poo poo. Let’s take a look at some SSTO designs past, present and future to see if there’s any that seem promising.

Let’s start off with some previously proposed and pursued SSTOs and look at why they failed.

Well, one of the earliest proposals was the One Stage Orbital Space Truck or OOST by Phil Bono of Douglas Space in the 1960’s. Later he proposed a reusable version called ROOST.

Another proposal from the 60’s was the NEXUS rocket which would’ve been HUGE. I’m talking HUGE. It would’ve been 122 meters or 400 feet tall, and a width of 50 meters or 164 feet. HOLY MOLY.

Ok, so paper rockets are one thing, but how about a rocket that was actually being tested? Look no further than the DC-X or Delta Clipper Experimental made my McDonnell Douglas.

The DC-X was was an actual working 1/3rd scale prototype of a proposed DC-Y SSTO that was to be capable of putting about 1,300 kgs or 3,000 pounds into orbit.

The DC-X was just to demonstrate vertical take off and landing and it actually flew 8 times between August 1993 and July 1995 and pretty successfully… but it only reached a maximum altitude of 2,500m. Think of it like SpaceX’s grasshopper.

In 1996 NASA took the program and turned it into the DC-XA which made some improvements to the vehicle. It flew four times, including a 26 hour turn around and setting a new altitude record of 3,140 meters or 10,300 feet.

It’s last flight was on July 7th of 1996. After a landing strut failed to extend and a lox tank leaked, causing a fire and damaging the vehicle.

Despite a relatively low cost to repair and continue working, NASA cancelled the program and looked to pursue Lockheed Martin’s VentureStar… So let’s talk about that!

VentureStar is probably one of my all time favorite spacecraft designs. See… I don’t HATE SSTOs….

Lockheed Martin proposed a space shuttle replacement in the mid 90’s and received funding from the U.S. government to work on development.

The VentureStar ticked all the SSTO boxes. It would’ve been amazing and it actually got painfully close to flying… well at least a subscale, suborbital version. But here’s the rundown.

It had advanced carbon fiber construction, a giant linear aerospike engine and could take 20,000 kgs or 45,000 pounds to LEO. That’s close to a Falcon 9!

It would take off vertically like a rocket and land horizontally, just like the space shuttle.

Unfortunately, the subscale x-33 demonstrator was cancelled in 2001 despite being really close to flying. The X-33 demonstrator had 96% of its parts manufactured and was 85% assembled… and even the launch facility was complete!

The reason for its cancellation was a long series of technical difficulties, flight instability and excess weight. DARN YOU WEIGHT!

That got so close to flying, it hurts.

Next how about maybe the craziest proposed SSTO of all time. The Roton. This thing is hilarious. This… is a helicopter that could get to orbit.. Supposedly.

So basically it was a helicopter powered by jet tips… So some small thrusters at the end of the rotors. It would lift itself using the low powered jet tips spinning the helicopter rotors until the atmosphere got too low where it would then light up a rocket engine and ascend to orbit using the rocket engine.

The rotors weren’t just dead weight once in space either. Instead of providing lift, they would continue spinning to power the turbopump for the rocket engine. Then they would also be used to slow down through descent in the atmosphere and used to land softly.

Despite a full scale atmospheric test vehicle being built, and flying… well sort of… the program was cancelled in 2001 due to lack of funding and people saying the technology wasn’t valid and it was technically impossible on available technology.

Apparently it was horribly unstable when flying like a helicopter… actually the vehicle was found to be unflyable by anyone except the test pilots who even then had periods of being entirely out of control… yikes.

But I still LOVE that wacky thing.

Ok so what about some current proposals? It’s been more than a decade since those last proposals ended, there’s got to be some new technology we can apply and make these things happen, right?

Well, you can’t talk about SSTOs without talking about perhaps the most alluring SSTO, the Skylon space plane. The Skylon is being designed by the United Kingdom’s Reaction Engines Limited and utilizes an amazing combined-cycle hybrid rocket engine called the SABRE engine.

Now this is the one concept I can sort of get behind. The Skylon’s SABRE engines act like a fairly traditional jet engine. It uses the atmosphere to its advantage.

Instead of a traditional rocket that tries to get out of the atmosphere as quickly as possible by ascending virtually straight up for a minute or so, the Skylon will reach 5 times the speed of sound or around 6,000 km/h or 3,800 mph while pulling in oxygen from the atmosphere, just like a any other jet.

Then the SABRE engine then closes its intake and turns into a more traditional rocket engine where it’ll burn fuel and oxidizer to reach orbital speeds.

The SABRE engine has received even further funding from the United States’ DARPA, Boeing & Rolls Royce to build a high temperature test facility which hopefully will begin testing this year.

So the Skylon actually has some promise! But… even though it’s technically theoretically possible, even the makers of the Skylon seem to be backing down on its SSTO potential, at least for now.

Reaction Engines is currently pursuing non SSTO vehicles first, much before the Skylon will ever fly.

In 2017, Mark Thomas of Reaction Engines said they’re currently pursuing a spaceplane as a 2 stage vehicle where it would deploy an upper stage at a high altitude and a high velocity and then the space plane would turn around and land.

So… even with this crazy awesome air breathing engine, they’re finding it too impractical currently to make the Skylon an SSTO. Again, it’s just plain hard.

And one more thing while we’re talking about Skylon. Remember the SR-71 blackbird? Even though it could only reach mach 3… it still experienced so much heat that it needed to have large gaps in body panels since it expanded by 60 cms when flying at speed.

This led to it basically peeing its pants and dripping fuel when fully fueled on the runway. Now can you imagine something going even faster in the atmosphere? Well this is the 21st century after all, I don’t think the Skylon will pee its pants on the runway, but the crazy heat at high mach speeds in the atmosphere might be a huge hurdle.

I personally foresee there being many fairly substantial issues to making the Skylon actually work. It’ll be amazing if it does, but for now, it’s stuck in future hopes and wishes to me.

If you guys want me to do more about Skylon, let me know. We could probably do a whole article on it, it’s really a cool vehicle.

And lastly… we should probably mention Arca space’s Haas 2CA… This to me, is pretty silly.

It’s an SSTO rocket with a linear aerospike engine… cool. BUT, it’s only capable of 100kg or 220 pounds to orbit… ummm. Maybe they should just add a small upper stage on that thing and put 1,000 kgs into orbit since they’re throwing away the whole thing anyway.

My big question for Arca is… why. What’s the point? The ONLY thing they claim thats an advantage is they can launch inland because there are no spent stages… Hmmmm….

Not sure how I feel about that. I mean yay for aerospikes, but boo for a rocket with such limited capability.

Ok… so all past SSTOs have failed, all current SSTOs are either not going to be SSTOs or are kind of pointless in my opinion… and there really isn’t much on the table for a usable SSTO in the near future without some major breakthrough in material science or propulsion.

BUT WAIT. There’s ONE MORE THING. So far I’m here talking about how all SSTOs failed… that’s not true! As a matter of fact, one of the most famous spacecraft in all of history was an SSTO… the lunar excursion module!

Of course it could, but only on the moon! The LEM was capable of achieving lunar orbit using only one stage. But… that’s the moon. The moon’s gravity is much weaker than Earth’s gravity AND there’s no atmosphere to fight against.

And then we have SpaceX’s BFS which will be capable of not only SSTO from the surface of Mars, but even have enough performance to get all the way back to Earth from the surface of Mars in a single stage.

This is mostly due to Mars having only 38% the amount of gravity of Earth AND having only 1% the atmosphere of Earth. Making achieving orbit, much much easier.

So maybe SSTOs don’t suck. Maybe Earth sucks. It has just enough gravity to make it barely possible to achieve orbit with rocket engines and it has that pesky atmosphere which slows vehicles down on ascent.

So…. how are you feeling? I still stand by the fact that as cool as SSTOs are, and as much as I do actually love them, they just don’t really work in practice using currently available technology. Of course I’m not saying that’s how it’ll always be, but for now, give me them stages.

After all. I think we can all agree the most important aspect of an SSTO is the reusability thing. So what if a multi stage rocket IS fully reusable? Like the BFR? Isn’t that what matters most?

The first stage does what it needs to do then comes back and is refueled and reused. Same with the upper stage. So who cares if the vehicle does it in one peice or breaks off into two more dedicated pieces.

I can’t wait for a day when orbital flight is routine and reliable and fully reusable. And for the foreseeable future, I think it’ll continue to be done in stages…

So what do you think? Do you think SSTOs are still valid and practical or are you on team multistage? #teammultistage

Let me know your thoughts on SSTOs in the comments below. And PLEASE, spare me your Kerbal SSTO designs… It works in Kerbal Space Program is not a real argument… unfortunately.

And before you tell me all about how SSTOs can take off and land on runways… remember, that’s NOT exclusive to SSTOs. That’s an air launcher and or lifting body advantage. That is not exclusive to SSTOs, so I’m not going to say that’s much of a check box…

Let me know if you have any other questions or things you want me to cover in future articles!

As always, I owe a huge thanks to my Patreon supporters for helping make this and other Everyday Astronaut content possible. I owe a special thanks to those Patrons in our exclusive discord channel and our exclusive subreddit for helping me script and research. If you want to help contribute, please visit

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Kerbal Space Program – Ars Technica OpenForum

Kerbal Space Program

Honestly, it was late at night and I was so pissed I just cheated it down with such an abrupt lithobraking maneuver that the capsule would have become its own goo canister. This after a couple drops into the water. It appears that if you hit the water hard enough even with damage turned off, you still lose the craft.

The rescue contracts themselves are a little funny, conceptually. “Hey, let us know in the next couple days if you’ll be able to retrieve this noble Kerbal. And if so, no rush — if you can get around to it any time in the next five years, that’d be great. They’re fine up there.”

I definitely need mechjeb for 1.2

This is the release I think I’ll play for a good while. The comm net thing is fun + cool.

There’s a dev version of MechJeb that is 1.2-compatible:

Seems to work pretty well without too many bugs (at least as far as I’ve seen), so you don’t necessarily have to wait for the actual release of the mod.

There’s a dev version of MechJeb that is 1.2-compatible:

Seems to work pretty well without too many bugs (at least as far as I’ve seen), so you don’t necessarily have to wait for the actual release of the mod.

Built a few stations without MechJeb (one around Duna for delicious, delicious cash), but it’s much better to have it.

The orbit, delta-V info and the node planner are invaluable.

Relays work too. Most of my contract sats are relays.

It’s the deviation. Some contracts have “reasonable deviation”, some have “minimal deviation”. You have to be much, much more precise on the latter. They may also specify derived orbital characteristics like the longitude of the ascending node or argument of periapsis.

@relays, remember to place a relay capable antenna on your radio relay satellites. Not all antennas can relay. Most can’t, and can only receive signals meant for the ship they are attached to.

Okay now that we got comms, how long until we get life support? It is the only major piece of a spacecraft puzzle still missing from the game. Or would it be bad press if players started suffocating or starving the Kerbals to death? It’s one thing to crash them and they disappear in a puff of smoke. Having them die inside the ship? Maybe they could just have them disappear from the cabin? Or maybe if they ran out of life support they fall back to their EVA suits, but then they can’t pilot the ship or run experiments or fix broken parts? That’d then require a rescue mission.

Kerbal Life Support (IIRC) does exactly that, and is a pretty mature and well thought out mod.

Yes and I use it. It’s pretty good.

Word of caution to those with an old save. Your existing manned missions won’t have life support.

I think life support is, like monopropellant routing (it’s surprisingly hard to make hydrazine do what you want it to do without becoming explodey) and cryogenics, just handwaved away to make a better game

Besides, fanon holds that kerbals are photosynthetic.

They’d survive in the capsule since it has grow lights inside. Of course you would need power to run the lights and keep it warm.

Hmm, this may explain a bit about why Jeb always looks stoned during a flight.

It just means life support requires power to power the sunlight bulbs.

So I randomly decided to start playing Kerbal again, it finally hooked me.

I made orbit, finally got an airplane to take off, finally got Kerbins to survive an airplane flight (the plane not so much).

Is Ferram Aerospace Research still highly recomended?
MechJeb needs an update as well.

FAR is no longer a must-have mod since the game fixed its atmospheric model. The stock aerodynamics are fine now. FAR gives more nuanced models and plenty of data regarding atmospheric flight (like mach number or stall conditions etc. ) but that isn’t necessary.

Yep official Mechjeb needs updating. However there’s an updated dev package you can find here:

That’s a lot of fly-bys. Are you allowed to dock with tankers or fuel stations to gas up along the way?

I’m not sure. I didn’t. I left LKO with six of the largest solar panels, four RTGs,

18,000 m/s delta-V from three ion engines and a course set to Eeloo (via Mun gravity assist). It was done unmanned. The longer burns at Dres, Eeloo and Jool were done with two engines out due to lack of solar power.

The three ion engines were to get the planned very high energy transfer through Moho able to get to Eve properly, so for most of the flight, two of them were really unnecessary. They’re light enough, and some of the scientifics I took weren’t necessary either.

Mun > Eeloo > Jool > Laythe > Vall > Tylo > Bop > Pol > Dres > Duna > Ike > Moho > Eve > Gilly > Minmus > Suborbital at Kerbin (then orbital, as I’m going to fuel it back up a bit and send it back to Jool to be a relay). Eeloo to Jool was really easy, less than 300 m/s after leaving Eeloo. Jool to Dres was a bitch and a very high energy transfer. Duna to Moho was the highest delta-V and the probe screamed past Moho, with no opportunity for an assist to Eve, so the probe had to cancel its own velocity (which was enough to take it back out past Duna) to reach Eve.

The worst are Duna and Eve, because they have moons. You can’t just scream by and do a quick course correction to reach the next target (like I did at Eeloo), you need to burn into orbit. Duna wasn’t so bad, Ike’s SOI is huge, so you can usually catch it with a pure fly-by, and I did. No chance of that at Eve.

I arrived back in suborbital spaceflight at Kerbin with about 500 m/s of delta-V left. After re-establishing orbit once the contract came in complete, that was zero.

How do you set up your fly-bys/grav-assists? Just hand-tweaked maneuver nodes, or is there some tool for assisting? There are plenty of tools for doing regular transfers, from MechJeb on down, but not much I’ve seen for helping setting up assists.

They’re mostly by-hand nodes. For interplanetary transfers, I use MechJeb’s porkchop plot to find an exit trajectory on the map/orbit view, then try to find a parallel trajectory manually after a Hohmann to whatever body I want to do an assist from, typically Mun. With a bit of practice (maybe a lot) you won’t need much of a mid-course correction. You’ll often find that the assist costs more delta-V than the straight course. This basically means it isn’t possible with the position of the Mun, or whatever else you’re swinging around. For fly-bys, it’s important to get on the right side of the object, typically day or night sides.

If you’re doing one from a fly-by, you burn in/out to get on the right side with as low a periapsis as you need (lower = more assist) then you just set up a node at periapsis and pull it around until you’re going where you want to go

FAR is no longer a must-have mod since the game fixed its atmospheric model. The stock aerodynamics are fine now. FAR gives more nuanced models and plenty of data regarding atmospheric flight (like mach number or stall conditions etc. ) but that isn’t necessary.

Yep official Mechjeb needs updating. However there’s an updated dev package you can find here:

MechJeb updated officially for 1.2 a week or two ago finally.

Found out I seriously need to practice on my Mun landing skills. Crashed twice trying to rescue an out of fuel early landing attempt.

Kerbal has hooked me hard now. I’m playing science mode, but unfortunely with constantly changing goals I’m kinda getting everything in the tech tree.

Getting to orbit is no problem, getting to the Mun is no problem, minimus isn’t too bad. I landed an airplane, and that was amazing. Built a few com relays for the hell out it (turned out to be rather nice for when I put a probe on Mun and landed on the wrong side).

For some reason I’ve been trying to figure out how to do things on my own before I look them up (not how I operate in life). Orbital intercepts are the thing I’m working on now. I’ve got a few fuel depos in orbit as targets. Couldn’t get that to work so I looked it up, and looks like my mistake was impatience and wanting to do launch and burn to dock, instead of orbit a few times to catch up.

So much fun, runs on the company laptop as well so that’ll make Christmas a bit nicer.

If you’re patient and don’t mind doing a bunch of repetitive “land on moon, but different biome this time” missions, you can complete the entire tech tree without ever leaving the Kerbin system. I find that gets a bit dull though; if you’re doing moon trips, you’re building rockets with nearly enough grunt to do flybys of both Duna and Eve. Getting to either the Mun or Minmus takes 4500-ish m/s dV, which will actually get you to at least a fly-by of either planet with a reasonably efficient transfer, and then allow for a fair amount of inefficiency if you’re setting up the transfer by hand and fiddling around until it’s “about right”. So, just build something a bit bigger, and enjoy the sweet sweet science from other planets (and their moons).

Not to defend drudgery, but Mun and Minmus have the virtue that you can put a station in orbit, dock a tanker to same, and support several landings with completely reusable ships that are simple to design. You could do the same with Ike and Gilly, of course.

Once you have a simple station in orbit of Minmus, you’ve essentially won the game.

For drudgery, Minmus is king, in science mode you can max out the tech tree without ever going anywhere else, and it’s the easiest object to reach and return from.

Were I doing that, I’d make a reusable vertical rocket SSTO (just a really big first stage, think of a Falcon 9 which can reach orbit), which is a lot more easy than it sounds, then use its payload fraction to deliver fuel. The fuel tankers reaching Minmus are disposed of by deorbit, or a relay antenna mounted and then they burned out to escape for a crude relay network.

I’m also a big fan of mounting relay antennae to any interplanetary mission, that’s saved my bacon a number of times.

On a lark I’ve been cost-optimizing my ground-to-orbit taxi, whose job is to rendezvous with a station in a 120 km orbit and then bring the crew home when they’re done.

CSM: Mk1-2 Command Pod, docking port, two radial parachutes, 4x RCS quads, FL-T100, 48-7S, and some OX-STATs, plus a stack sep and a couple size adapters.
2nd stage: FL-T400, FL-T200, LV-909, 4x basic fins, stack sep.
1st stage: 2x Kickbacks on radial decouplers, 3x delta deluxe winglets each.

After circularizing it’s got about 280 m/s left in the CSM, which if I get a good launch rendezvous is more than plenty. Cost is a bit over 20k credits for the lot.

Any suggestions for further cutting the cost? I’m not keen on spaceplanes because I suck at getting a good approach to KSC.

For me, the game begins when the tech tree is completed. My last two careers have focused on getting science labs to Minmus, banking tourist trips within the Kerbin system, and then turning Minmus into a staging area for further exploration.

After completing the tech tree, patents licencing turns the science into a trickle of money that recovers launch costs over time and I allow the missions to dictate the course of expansion.

This time I have the rather ambitious objective of putting an E-class asteroid with an outpost in orbit of every body in the Kerbolar system–and no, I don’t expect I’ll live long enough to actually pull that off. But Minmus and Dres look like Saturn right now in the map view!

I feel like 1.2 is probably going to be the apex of the game’s development, and I’m fine with that.

On a lark I’ve been cost-optimizing my ground-to-orbit taxi, whose job is to rendezvous with a station in a 120 km orbit and then bring the crew home when they’re done.

CSM: Mk1-2 Command Pod, docking port, two radial parachutes, 4x RCS quads, FL-T100, 48-7S, and some OX-STATs, plus a stack sep and a couple size adapters.
2nd stage: FL-T400, FL-T200, LV-909, 4x basic fins, stack sep.
1st stage: 2x Kickbacks on radial decouplers, 3x delta deluxe winglets each.

After circularizing it’s got about 280 m/s left in the CSM, which if I get a good launch rendezvous is more than plenty. Cost is a bit over 20k credits for the lot.

Any suggestions for further cutting the cost? I’m not keen on spaceplanes because I suck at getting a good approach to KSC.

Get your first stage to orbit or very nearly so. Send your payload on its way, circularising as needed. Switch BACK to the first stage, and here your genius takes hold: You’ve given it a probe core, batteries and maybe a few flat surface mount solar panels. It needs to be controllable because the top of it has airbrakes and parachutes and the bottom of it has some landing legs which have been retracted during ascent.

The first stage is much more expensive, but you get nearly all of that back by recovering it. I have a few pre-rolled designs if you need more inspiration.

I’ve got a .craft file someone else made which does what you’re proposing.

I could adapt that, I suppose. Wouldn’t use the upper stage as it is b/c in 1.2x it doesn’t seem to fly well on reentry (which might be my fault; mostly the jet engine can’t do anything but prolong the glide), and as I mentioned I suck at approaches.

Elon, is that you?

F***ing hell, that .craft file is overengineered! Happy to throw one together for you. Do you use KW Rocketry or any other stock-alike mods?

The only parts mods I’m using ATM are Sounding Rockets and Atomic Age.

This guy will get to a 120km circular orbit with 820 m/s left in the launcher (easily enough for a purely propulsive descent!) and a full command module payload. Feel free to replace the command module.

Take off and fly cost is 57,936 including the payload in this example.

It drops 2x Reliant liquid engines with 6x FL-T800 tanks on the way up. It should be fully stock, but let me know if it complains. With KW, you can ditch the strap-ons and use a 3.75m stack for full reusability. . Core.craft

On recovery, you get 29,416 cash back if you nail the landing, as I very proudly did
Landing speed with just brakes and chutes is about 8.7m/s, so keep a little fuel left if you want to do a softer landing.

Non-recovered cost is 28,520, half of which is the payload at 14,300, 50% cash to orbit is very, very good! When you recover the payload, the launch has (ideally) cost around 14,000.

Fight Notes:
I didn’t asparagus stage it, but it’s very attractive to do so. I simply manually emptied the top two FL-T800s into the core using resource transfer during flight. This is necessary if you don’t asparagus it. If you’re aiming for a 120km station, I would personally do a holding orbit at 75-80km to allow phasing into a Hohmann transfer. The command module should have easily enough delta-V to do that itself.
On re-entry, the core rocket doesn’t need any thermal protection so long as you do a fairly steep descent. I usually wait until I’m over the desert spur just before the KSC continent, then burn such as my “impact” point is half way between the KSC shore and the island with the airfield. This usually allows you to shed more velocity on the way down if you need to. On my entry, I kept the airbrakes open all the way down for attitude control.

Cool, thanks. I’ll see if I can do a decent approach on this thing.

I was finally able to dock with my space station and deliver two scientists to it, super satisfying to pull off. They don’t have anything to study but I’ll figure that one out later.

Next up is a manned landing on the Mun with recovery.

Howdy all! Bought this over the winter sale and reaaally enjoyed playing through 1/2 the tutorials. Made it through the orbit tutorial (even successfully splashed down the command module) then decided I was itching to get into the actual game. Played about an hour of the career and got about 5 goals done.

I love the career mode’s small goals which helps me understand some of the ‘experiments’ I need to be trying with equipment. However, I do have a question or two for you veterans:

1) Does it matter what orientation the craft is in when it touches back down on the planet? Should I be worried about where to position chutes so the craft is always upright? I’ve been trying to save the booster of each launch but it doesn’t always land the right way. hasn’t blown up anything yet at least.

2) Do you have to click on the ‘science’ modules during a flight to get a benefit from them? I noticed that the goo module only gave me science like the first time I used one (right-clicked on it during flight) and hasn’t really done anything else since.

1. If you’re just floating down on parachutes, it doesn’t make a huge difference what the orientation is for the capsule. The first parachute that’s available is meant to go on top of the nose of a command module, so it will float down more or less upright, but once you get parachutes that can be side-mounted, you can change that if you want. Of course, if you’re trying to land something with wheels or legs, orientation matters a bit more.

2. You only get science points when you ‘run’ an experiment, otherwise they just sit there and take up weight. You can either Transmit the science back to base, or keep it in the capsule and recover it on landing. Depending on the type of experiment, transmitting the results will only give you a fraction of the possible science, but if you’re (for instance) building a probe that’s doing a one-way trip to a moon or other planet, you aren’t going to be recovering it so it’s better than nothing.

At the beginning of the game, there are only a few types of experiments that are available. Mystery Goo is a run-once experiment; once you run it in a given flight, it’s used up. A Scientist-class Kerbal can restore it so it can be reused (though you need to have the ability to do in-flight EVAs for that, which comes after you’ve upgraded a couple of your buildings at the space center). An easier approach in the early game is to just bring along multiple Goo cans; they don’t weigh very much, so it’s not a big deal to carry along 3 or 4 of them.

Crew Report and EVA Report experiments can be run multiple times in a mission, though for Crew Reports, you’ll either have to transmit the report immediately to base or do a slightly annoying dance involving a short EVA to move the report into long-term storage in your capsule to make room for another one. As you move through the tech tree, you’ll unlock additional experiments, most of which are like the crew report in that they can be run multiple times, but one (the Science Jr. materials bay) is like the Goo canister.

Drop tank mod. Compatible with Tweakscale and can wrap around other components.

1. If you’re just floating down on parachutes, it doesn’t make a huge difference what the orientation is for the capsule. The first parachute that’s available is meant to go on top of the nose of a command module, so it will float down more or less upright, but once you get parachutes that can be side-mounted, you can change that if you want. Of course, if you’re trying to land something with wheels or legs, orientation matters a bit more.

2. You only get science points when you ‘run’ an experiment, otherwise they just sit there and take up weight. You can either Transmit the science back to base, or keep it in the capsule and recover it on landing. Depending on the type of experiment, transmitting the results will only give you a fraction of the possible science, but if you’re (for instance) building a probe that’s doing a one-way trip to a moon or other planet, you aren’t going to be recovering it so it’s better than nothing.

At the beginning of the game, there are only a few types of experiments that are available. Mystery Goo is a run-once experiment; once you run it in a given flight, it’s used up. A Scientist-class Kerbal can restore it so it can be reused (though you need to have the ability to do in-flight EVAs for that, which comes after you’ve upgraded a couple of your buildings at the space center). An easier approach in the early game is to just bring along multiple Goo cans; they don’t weigh very much, so it’s not a big deal to carry along 3 or 4 of them.

Crew Report and EVA Report experiments can be run multiple times in a mission, though for Crew Reports, you’ll either have to transmit the report immediately to base or do a slightly annoying dance involving a short EVA to move the report into long-term storage in your capsule to make room for another one. As you move through the tech tree, you’ll unlock additional experiments, most of which are like the crew report in that they can be run multiple times, but one (the Science Jr. materials bay) is like the Goo canister.

Thanks!! I’ll have to dork around with the goo some more then. I’m assuming doing the ‘same’ experiment on different missions doesn’t produce any more science. I’ve been playing with the thermometer and I got science by clicking on it while my space ship was fire red and again when I was just under 70K meters up but haven’t figure out how to get any more science from it.

Still LOVING the game though.

You can do a given experiment multiple times on a given flight and get the same science from it, but on subsequent flights the science return reduces or is zero for experiments you have already done.

You can see a list of these somewhere, forget where, but you basically have a slew of locations / conditions in which to do given experiments. Measure temperature on the pad with engines off, measure pressure on pad with engines off, temp during lift-off before 10,000ft, pressure @ same, temp in orbit, temp on re-entry, temp at high altitude above water, temp at low altitude above water, temp while in water, etc.

You can kind of thus “cheat” science gains early on. Build a ship and give it all science-y things you currently have access to, multiples of each, and run tests while it is on the pad then recover vessel. Then do the same with a low-alt takeoff and land. Rinse repeat.