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Ad Astra A History of Daitōjin Spaceflight -NO LONGER CANON-

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Ad Astra: Chapter One Early Days

1945. The War to End All Wars, the Great War, is over. In the aftermath of the conflict, missile technology, once developed to bombard enemy cities, was repurposed for scientific advancement. Using the Shūkei ballistic missile as a sounding rocket, the Imperial Air Forces (IAF) began launching a series of payloads into the upper atmosphere and to the edge of space, performing a number of valuable experiments from their launch site in Western Tsukishima, the former Shiroi Sakyū Missile Range.

A Shūkei Sounding Rocket at Shiroi Shakyū Missile Range
Of course, Daitō was not alone in this endeavor, with many foreign powers also taking part in this early period of space exploration. However, as that is largely not the purview of this series, further detail will prove unnecessary.[1] Indeed, there were early proposals to use a Shūkei as a launch vehicle for a basic capsule in what was known as the Karura proposal. Such a plan was ignored owing to concerns that, at the time, the crew wouldn't be able to safely return to Mundus. However, while no man would fly into space in the late 40s, in 1947 a Shūkei Sounding Rocket would bring a bit of space back to Mundus, with the first photograph of the planet from beyond the atmosphere being released.

The Sky above Tsukishima, Shūkei No.17
As the 40s turned to the 50s, interest in the exploration of spaceflight seemed relegated to a niche community of scientists and military officers, with no truly groundbreaking changes coming for nearly a decade. However, in 1957, everything changed. With the launch of the first ICBM and later in the same year, the first satellite, paranoia gripped many a nation, Daitō included. If a foreign power could launch a satellite into orbit, then it was possible that they could launch nuclear weapons into orbit and leave them, allowing for them to strike at a moment's notice without any forewarning. With a burgeoning nuclear program (later to be cancelled in the early 70s), many within the Empire felt that it was necessary to match this feat. And so, on December 16th, 1957, the Daitō National Space Agency, or DNSA, was born. Their first mission? Put a satellite into orbit, which was no simple task. While the IDAF and IDN had programs to put a satellite into orbit as early as 1956, they were, by the end of 1957, still nearly a year away from completion.

It would be a tough call to make, but in April of 1958, the Navy's design, the Taimatsu, would be selected, with the IDAF's own Mori being put on the backburner until after its launch. And on the 11th of October, 1958, Daitō would join a growing number of nations to put an artificial moon in orbit. It would be joined by Mori-1 in November to much applause by the populace. But while the DNSA had proven itself capable, it had a long way to go before it was no longer hanging in the balance. After all, while from a strategic perspective such feats were important, many in the Diet saw it as an unnecessary expense that the IDAF or IDN could manage better.

Launch of Taimatsu-1, 11 October, 1958 1. Owing to the fluid nature of the world, it is largely pointless to even try and chronicle such early flights by foreign powers.

Ad Astra: Chapter Two Suzaku Rising

In the years immediately following the launch of the first satellites, the DNSA was given a second, albeit less important, task to accomplish. The reigning Emperor in those days, Emperor Kunan, wished for a feat which had not been done before. He sought to put the first man into space, one not born on foreign soil, but a son of the Empire. And so, in late 1958, while Daitō was coming fresh off the heels of its first orbital launches, the DNSA announced its first class of spacefarers, the first ūchunauts. These were to be the best of the best, military test pilots who already put their lives on the line to evaluate new, experimental aircraft. In total, five would be picked, those being Kanji Akasaki, Akira Sagara, Banri Wakata, Iehiro Fujie, and Fumio Rinzaki. These five, the Suzaku Five as foreign media referred to them, stood a good shot of making it to space first, or so it was believed. After all, there were others working on the same goal.

Project Suzaku was, compared to future programs, rather simple. The task was to put a single man into orbit and return them safely to Mundus, using a converted Sekidō ICBM as a launch vehicle and a ballistic capsule as the crew vehicle. It was accompanied the IDAF's JT-16 rocket-plane program, with both aiming to put man into space. The JT-16 was a hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft that first flew in 1959 and continued flying until the late 60s, however it only made it past the Karman line during two flights in 1963. The Suzaku spacecraft, on the other hand, was far simpler, but would fly into orbit, with its first crewed flight planned August 1961. Many in the Empire thought they would reach space first, but once again, they were surpassed.

Suzaku and the JT-16
With pressure now on the DNSA to match the achievements of the outside world, the first crewed launch of the Suzaku spacecraft was set for the 19th of August. However, for nearly a week, the weather at Artsiv Cosmodrome proved unstable, and attempt after attempt was scrubbed. Finally, on the 26th of August, the first orbital flight by a Daitōjin ūchunaut would take place with the flight of Suzaku II, piloted by Kanji Akasaki. The flight lasted for six hours, completing six orbits in that timeframe. Like with the Taimatsu back in '58, the DNSA would be on par with the foremost powers of that day. Suzaku III, IV, V, and VI would, over the course of the next two-and-a-half years, push the limits of the spacecraft as far as possible, with the final flight, piloted by Fumio Rinzaki, lasting for just over a day.

Suzaku II in flight
With the conclusion of the Suzaku program, the DNSA now looked beyond Low Mundus Orbit, to the moon. Gone was the time of the Suzaku, now came the time of the Taka.

Ad Astra: Chapter Three Taka, Washi, and the Race to the Moon
I. Decisions

Following the success of the Suzaku program, the DNSA found itself uncertain of its future. While its neighbor, the Federal Republic of Rokkenjima, had declared its intent to land a crew on the surface of Luna, many in Daitō's aerospace community believed such a goal was, while worthy of great prestige, ultimately a fool's errand in the grand scheme of things. Rather, they believed that the DNSA should work to establish a long-term presence in Low Mundus Orbit by constructing a space station, however, Emperor Kunan saw the moon as a prize worthy of closing out his era. As such, the DNSA was directed to focus on landing upon the lunar surface in 1962, aiming to do so in late 1969. In spite of this, the space station program was also allowed to exist, albeit as a military-led program.

As part of the goal of landing on the moon, the Taka (Hawk) and Washi (Eagle) programs were approved, with Taka developing technologies necessary for landing on the moon and Washi actually achieving them. In 1962, the second group of Daitōjin ūchunauts, nine in total, were chosen for the Taka program, with some also taking part in the Washi program.II. The Taka Program

Early on in the development of the Taka spacecraft, many proposals were made for how to get the capsule into orbit and how to recover it. These ranged from the standard to, from the perspective of a modern observer, the downright strange. For launch, there were two front-runners, those being to launch it aboard a Sekidō-B ICBM or to launch it from beneath a B-81 Yoichi. Likewise, there were three major proposals for landing. These ranged from the standard spherical section heatshield seen on the Suzaku to a winged variant and even one that would land under a "rogallo wing", with the latter two landing at alternatively a runway or dry lakebed.

Illustration of a Taka spacecraft launched from a B-81
Ultimately, for the sake of safety, the Taka spacecraft would launch aboard the Sekidō-B and reenter the atmosphere much like its Suzaku predecessor. The first flight, Taka I, launched on the 8th of August, 1964, with the "spacecraft" being little more than a boilerplate, a mass simulator. The first crewed flight would not occur until April 1965, where a crew of two, led by Daitō's first ūchunaut, Kanji Akasaki, would spend a mere five hours in orbit. This would be Akasaki's only mission of the program, with many anticipating at the time he would be on one of the missions of the Washi Program. The mission would be followed up in July with Taka IV, which would see the first EVA by a Daitōjin spacefarer. Taka V would, by comparison, be considered far more boring, instead seeing the crew spend a week in orbit. Taka VI, by comparison, would be more significant, marking both the first major instance of cooperation between the DNSA and Tytor's own space program. It would see a Taka spacecraft rendezvous with a Tytorian micrometeoroid detection satellite, marking the first rendezvous by a Daitōjin spacecraft. The next two flights, Taka VII-A and VII-B, would likewise prove important, demonstrating rendezvous between two crewed spacecraft as well as an EVA by two individuals. It would likewise be followed by Taka VIII, which saw the first docking by the DNSA and by Taka VIX, which would have the spacecraft be boosted to a highly eccentric orbit with an apogee of 1,100 km. With its completion, the Taka program would come to an end and the Washi program would begin.

Taka VI launchIII. The Washi Program

The Washi Program dates back to roughly the same time as the Taka Program, owing to them being approved in the same year. The Washi Program was intended to be Daitō's effort to put a man on the surface of the moon by the end of the decade, however, delays led put such a goal into doubt. Originally, it was hoped that the first manned flight of the program could occur in 1966, immediately after the end of the Taka program. However, owing to these delays, the first launch of the program would only occur in 1967. The first crewed mission of the program, Washi II, was meant to occur in march of that year, with the crew lifting off the pad on the 21st. However, the mission would fail shortly after liftoff with the loss of the booster, forcing an abort. The crew of three was badly injured, with all of them save the commander, Iehiro Fujie, retiring later that year. It was determined that the issue was caused by a faulty pump in one of the rocket's thrusters, with this fault being corrected in the others. However, as a result of this, as well as the DNSA wishing to change course, negotiations began behind closed doors to license the Atlas spacecraft and rocket for Daitōjin use.

Washi III on the padIn spite of efforts by the DNSA to move away from the Washi spacecraft and by extension, the program which spawned it, the agency found itself under political pressure to move forwards. As a result, while they would quietly cancel further orders of the spacecraft, they would proceed with the lunar program for seven additional flights, starting with, after yet more delays, Washi III. Unlike its predecessor, the third mission of the program would be a total success, with the crew spending a week in orbit before returning safely home on the 10th of April. it would be followed by Washi IV, which would test the lunar lander in Low Mundus Orbit before, in early 1969, the crew of Washi V would orbit the lunar surface. Akira Sagara, who had been on this mission, is quoted as saying the following:

--- Quote from: Akira Sagara ---As I looked up upon our fair world from afar, I felt a distinct sense of unity with all of humanity. As though every life that had been lived had led up to this moment, where we three intrepid explorers could see where all of mankind had been born."
--- End quote ---
Washi VI launched in April of 1969, carrying ūchunauts Fumio Rinzaki, Hiroji Fukai, and Goro Haku to lunar orbit alongside their lander for what was meant to be a final test before a prospective landing in July. While the mission itself was a success, with the lander coming as close as 15.6km of the surface before returning to the command module. Everything seemed nominal from the moon to reentry, however, it was far from normal. It started with a failure by the crew to regain communications, however, soon the carrier that was set to recover the spacecraft saw a grisly sight. As one sailor aboard the carrier, the IDN Hidaka, remembered,

--- Quote ---"There was much abuzz on the bridge as we fought desperately to find the spacecraft. Then, a fellow sailor shouted something, 'By the Spirits, she's burning.'
--- End quote ---
What the crew saw was the capsule breaking up over the Kynean Sea, the result of a flaw in the heatshield which extended to the remaining batch. There was no hope for the crew of three to survive. Practically overnight, the Washi Program was as dead in the water as the crew which had lost its life. With this outcome, for two years, Daitō was back to being a purely satellite-based space agency while the Ryū Program began to gain traction.

Ad Astra: Chapter Four The Dragon and the Heavenly Palace
I. The Ryū Program and LEM-Lab

The Ryū program was a six-year program lasting from 1971 until 1976. Making use of licensed technology from Tytor, it allowed for the DNSA to maintain a presence in Low Mundus Orbit into the 1970s, even as the UHS Program kicked off in development. Key to this program was the Ryū spacecraft and the Tenjin rocket family, which were iterations of the Tytorian Atlas spacecraft and rocket family. Despite this, the Ryū spacecraft had a number of differences from its Tytorian counterpart, most notably the usage of a Nitrogen-Oxygen mix instead of a pure oxygen environment inside the spacecraft. The first manned flight of the program occurred in 1971, when a crew of three performed a flyby of Luna, even as Rokkenjiman astronauts walked upon its surface. Apocryphal stories tell of how the crews greeted each other, however no record on either flight backs this up. A further two flybys occurred in late 1971 and early 1972, after which the Daitōjin lunar program, at least for the moment, came to an end. But though the first half of the Ryū program was at its close, the program as a whole was not.

Artist's conception of the Ryū Solar TelescopeMoving its focus to Low Mundus Orbit once more, the DNSA saw fit to figure out how to live in Space. While Emperor Kunan had sought prestige, his successor, Emperor Daiwa, instead allowed the DNSA to focus on this goal which they viewed as more important, after all, more could be learned from six months in orbit than a few hours on the lunar surface. As a start, the DNSA contracted the manufacturer of the Atlas lunar lander to make a modified lander that would serve as a basic space station or a man-tended Space Telescope. The Ryū Solar Telescope, often known outside of Daitō as LEM-Lab, was born. The RST was, by comparison to later stations, quite small, being only slightly bigger than the standard Lunar Module. In many ways, it straddled the line between a docking target and a proper space station, as it allowed the crew to access it, but their tasks aboard were rather limited beyond operating the telescope. For a period over the course of late 1973 and early 1974, the RST would be operated by the DNSA prior to the launch of Kyuden, the Palace in the Sky.II. Kyuden, our Home in Space

Compared to the Ryū Solar Telescope, Kyuden was a veritable mansion. Made of a converted Tenjin V upper stage, it featured a derivative of the RST as one of many experiments to be used onboard. With a pressurized volume of 361 cubic meters,  it was nearly 54 times as massive as its predecessor and was capable of, at the time, hosting crews for up to three months at a time. However, it would have to be launched before it could actually be used, and so, Kyuden was set to launch in June of 1975. Delays did occur due to Tropical Storm William affecting the east coast of Tsukishima, however, and it would instead launch on the 6th of July, 1975, drawing crowds from across the Empire and many people from beyond as well.

Launch of Kyuden
Although the launch seemed to have gone well, in reality, as soon became apparent, something had gone wrong with the station. Now, the crew of Kyuden II, ūchunauts Haruto Adachi, Ginji Yabuta, and Takauji Yanagida would essentially have to race to rescue the stricken vessel, which meant a much harder mission than previously anticipated.
IIa. Kyuden II

Kyuden during a flyaround inspection, 11 July, 1975As crews on the ground practiced a variety of methods to repair the stricken space station, the crew of Kyuden II arrived on the scene. There, they found that one of the "Solar Wings", as well as the micrometeorite shield, had been ripped off during flight, and that the interior of the station was much warmer than was safe for extended habitation, reaching up to around 52C.  This was a problem that had been anticipated following the launch of the station, so prior to the crew's launch they were given a sort of parasol to cool the station. Working in turns over several hours in the station's searing heat, eventually, the crew would successfully deploy the parasol through the station's upper science airlock. Slowly but surely, the temperature would drop from such a high to about 28, allowing for the crew to comfortably work in the station. With the temperature now under control, the crew had a much bigger issue to solve, that being the second solar wing, which had failed to fully deploy.

Haruto Adachi and Takauji Yanagida work to free Kyuden's solar wing, 1975This task, unlike the previous one, was much more difficult given that the solar panel was in a place which had no railing, no lighting, essentially where no crew member was ever meant to go. And yet, they had no choice but to do so. It was this task that crew and its backup found themselves working on in the DNSA's neutral buoyancy tank prior to launch, trying to find a way to release the solar panel without risking the loss of the station. The solution they came up was unprecedented. For the first time, a crew would have to perform repairs in orbit, something that had, up until that point, not been done before. The solar panel had become jammed by a small piece of metal which had to be cut so that it would open. Taking a tool that looked essentially like a tree limb cutter, they would free the solar panel, which opened with enough force to fling them off the hull. This did little but test their nerves and the strength of their tethers, and after regaining their composure, the duo would return to the inside of the station.

Space Station Kyuden in early 1976With the solar array deployed, Kyuden was finally open for business, with the first crew, Kyuden II, returning home in late August. Following this, the station would be visited by three more crews, those being as Kyuden III, commanded by Kanji Akasaki, Kyuden IV, which was commanded by Takatsugu Konishi, and Kyuden V, whose commander, Hayao Suyama, would be the last to enter the station for many years. With the departure of this final crew, the station would go dormant, awaiting its next crew which would bring it into a new era. But that was something that would come in many years, for with the end of the Kyuden V mission, the Ryū program had come to a close. Gone was the Ryū capsule, closing another chapter in the long march of progress. Now, the page turned on the UHS program, which was soon to enter flight testing.

Ad Astra: Chapter Five Probes of the 1970s
I. Lunar Missions
The 1970s saw, alongside a shift in the focus of the DNSA's manned program from lunar exploration towards a sustainable Low-Mundus Orbit presence, a number of robotic missions that explored the Solar System. These included probes to Luna, Ishtar, Nergal, and the Outer Planets. Starting out, we will discuss the continuation of the DNSA's Tsukuyomi program which started in the mid-1960s. In 1970, Daitō launched the Tabibito rover, which, as part of the Tsukuyomi program, would land near the limb of the moon, that is, the edge of the light side of the lunar surface. The Tabibito rover would remain online for just shy of a year, travelling some 10.5 kilometers while it could. To this day, Tabibito, while unable to conduct experiments or drive on its own, provides valuable data through Mundus-based Lunar Laser-based Rangefinding experiments.

Artist's conception of the Tabibito roverThe Tsukuyomi program reached its peak with the Tsukuyomi-11 mission, which successfully returned samples to Mundus after landing on the lunar surface in 1974.II. Missions to Nergal
Perhaps one of the more obvious targets for robotic exploration in those days was Nergal, which, being one of the closest planets to Mundus as well as the easiest, at least compared to Ishtar, proved a tempting target. While flybys had been performed in the 1960s, it was in the 1970s that exploration of its surface really kicked off. Most notably, in 1975, the final Tenjin V rocket lifted off from LC-17A at Artsiv Cosmodrome, carrying the twin Kirin probes and an orbiter into LMO. Using a Misaki upper stage, it would then be injected into orbit around Nergal, arriving in 1976. The probes would land a month later, operating for roughly five years before loss of signal in 1982.

Artist's conception of a probe in the Kirin Mission to NergalIII. Missions to Ishtar

Photo of Ishtar's surface, Kinsei 8, c.1975Compared to Nergal, Ishtar proved a more challenging destination owing to its dense atmosphere, extreme pressure, and heat. This meant, for the most part, that the DNSA's exploration of the planet was done from orbit, however, three spacecraft would attempt to land on the planet, those being Kinsei 7, 8, and 9. Of these probes, only Kinsei 8 would be able to take photos, as 7's lens cap didn't deploy and 9's camera melted through due to a flaw in its construction. As for the orbiters, they would perform a number of survey missions from 1974 until 1978, assisting in mapping the planet's surface, although to a very limited degree.IV. The Grand Tour, Part One

Kōkaisha-1 flies by Marduk, c.1979As early as 1964, there were proposals for missions which would extensively explore the outer solar system. Such missions would, in theory, see a series of four spacecraft perform flybys of Marduk, Ninurta, Anshar, and Kishar. However, due to the enormous cost at the time, such a proposal was declined, and instead, two spacecraft would fly in what became known as the Kōkaisha program, however, the name "Grand Tour" stuck outside of Daitō. The program was approved in 1972, being built by the DNSA's Yuzawa facility for longevity, allowing it to accomplish the same goals as the older Grand Tour proposal with only the two spacecraft. The first of these spacecraft, Kōkaisha-1, would only fly by Marduk, Ninurta, and one of Ninurta's moons, while the second, Kōkaisha-2, would preserve the Grand Tour Mission Plan, visiting Anshar and Kishar as well as Marduk and Ninurta. Kōkaisha-2 would launch in September of 1977 while its successor and also predecessor, Kōkaisha-1, would launch the next month. The two probes would fly past Marduk in 1979, after which they continued on their way towards a flyby of Ninurta in 1980. However, that is a story for another time.


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