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In Pursuit of the Heavens — A History of Daitōjin Spaceflight

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Chapter One — Dawn of the Space Age
I. — Early Developments, at home and abroad
   In the early 20th century, there had been a burst in scientific exploration into interplanetary travel, inspired by the works of authors such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, as well as a number of other authors. The first truly realistic proposal of spaceflight goes back to Rodinan rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. His most famous work, "The Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Devices", was published in 1903, but this theoretical work was not widely influential outside Rodina. Spaceflight became an engineering possibility with the publishing of "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes", a 1919 paper by Gaultier Martel, which demonstrated that his application of the de Laval nozzle to liquid fuel rockets gave sufficient power for interplanetary travel to become possible. This paper was highly influential on several later key players in spaceflight, including the future head of the Daitōjin Space Program, Hisamitsu Itokawa.

   Throughout the 20s and early 30s, the scientific usage of rockets was largely unknown in Daitō, although some amateur groups did exist at the time. But in 1934, Dr. Hisamitsu Itokawa, Isamu Maekawa, and Yasuji Chujo, nicknamed by some as the "Fathers of the Daitōjin Space Program", came together to found the Uchū Ryokō Kyōkai (宇宙旅行協会, Society for Space Travel), an amateur rocket group. Between 1934 and 1939, they successfully designed and tested the Shūkei Sh-1, -2, and -3 before the group was, by order of the YFD, folded into the Imperial Daitōjin Army merely a month prior to the start of the country's involvement in the Great War. Due to the nature of their work, there was significant pressure on these men to join the YFD, which, by 1941, they all had done, which certainly aided in their work as it was easier to negotiate for more funding to their program.
II. — A Dream or a Nightmare?

Shōri Rocket Launch, Summer 1944   It cannot be said that Doctors Itokawa, Maekawa, and Chujo were overly pleased with the prospect of making weapons of war. Indeed, they had all gone into the field of rocketry inspired by the works of many past authors and in pursuit of perhaps a utopian ideal, one where mankind traveled to the planets and beyond. While on one hand, they now had the backing of the Imperial Daitōjin Army, allowing them greater resources than they could've ever hoped for, on the other, it came at a sharp price. They were, after all, now forced to turn their dream into a weapon of war, targeting not other worlds, but foreign cities. From their base in Susaki, in Otobe prefecture, they worked day and night to complete their task, eventually devising the Shōri, a long-range guided ballistic missile which, in the final months of the war, terrorized Ardia's cities in an attempt at reprisal for Ardia's bombing raids in Daitō.

   Though their work was successful, few in the nation's rocket development program were pleased by their work, save for those who ordered its development. Even so, they could at least take some joy in knowing that, though today they worked on weapons that would destroy lives, they were setting the groundwork for their dream of flight. Even in 1943, at the height of the war, Itokawa had written up a proposal for a manned variant of their Shōri rocket, one which would, in theory, be capable of performing reconnaissance deep behind enemy lines before returning to Daitō or allied territory. While this particular proposal didn't make it far, it inspired something that, to the end of their lives, the men who worked at Susaki regretted.

   With a length of six meters, a wingspan of five, and a top speed of 648 km/h, the K-2, nicknamed the Ōka, or "Cherry Blossom", was an aircraft borne out of desperation. Designed to be used by Tokubetsu Kōgekitai units, better known abroad as Kamikaze, it was a suicide craft often described as a rocket plane or a rudimentary guided missile. It would be joined by the K-3 Baika in the final months of the Great War, with the Susaki arsenal being responsible for both vehicle's engines, while Aizawa and Negishi, respectively, were responsible for the airframes. Despite their intention, it is believed that only one major ship was ever sunk by one of these aircraft, more specifically a K-3 Baika on the 17th of July, 1945.

   With the end of the Great War, the team at Susaki Arsenal was greatly downsized, owing in large part to the economic depression that swept the country in the aftermath of the war. Even Hisamitsu Itokawa, who had been a founding member of the URK and the director of the Arsenal, resigned his post, instead transferring to the National Aerospace Laboratory on the 19th of November, 1945, and moving to what remained of Shinkyō.
III. — The NAL and the IDAF

Logo of the National Aerospace Laboratory (1927 - 1958)   From the end of the war until 1958, Dr. Itokawa put himself to work as a high-ranking engineer in the National Aerospace Laboratory (国立航空宇宙研究所, Kokuritsu Kōkū Uchū Kenkyūjo), or NAL. Based primarily out of Shinkyō, its headquarters had been heavily damaged during the war and, as a result, would temporarily relocate to Otsu while reconstruction was underway. Of course, as he had during the war, Hisamitsu threw himself into his work, which, owing to his reputation at the time, was never in short supply. One of his earliest tasks was to assist in converting the Shōri missile into a sounding rocket, which largely meant ripping out its payload of explosives, fuses, and everything else which would allow it to carry a bomb and instead replace it with scientific equipment. As a result, he would spend much time on the island of Tsukishima, making frequent trips to the Shirasu Missile Range on the island. Of course, it was still a military program, but the pay was good and it was, thankfully, not being used in a war.

   Those who remained at Susaki Arsenal were folded into the newly-established Imperial Daitōjin Air Force, or IDAF, in 1947. Under its supervision, they would work to upgrade the Shōri missile, as well as to develop other rockets should the need arise. With Dr. Itokawa's resignation, Dr. Isamu Maekawa was promoted and made director of the Susaki Arsenal in early 1946, working alongside the remnants of Daitō's aerospace industry to develop the tools necessary to win the next war. In effect, at least as Itokawa saw it, Maekawa had betrayed their vision for the future in 1947, though the latter justified himself by promoting the idea that peace could only truly be achieved through strength. For the better part of the next twenty-three years, the two didn't see eye to eye, and indeed it wouldn't be unfair to say they considered each other rivals, although neither man wanted it once the Space Race kicked off.

First Photo of Mundus from Space, 22 October, 1946   The late 1940s and the 1950s, while comparatively lacking in "major" developments with regards to spaceflight, were far from unimportant. Starting as soon as 1946, the first scientific payloads were launched into space, with a notable example being the launch of a camera aboard a Shōri missile, allowing for the first time a photo of Mundus from space. 1947 saw the first animals fly to space, though this, like many feats, was not first achieved by Daitō. NAL and the IDAF would launch one of the first two-stage rockets, the Kanshō, in 1949, and in 1951, Daitō would launch an East Ardian Macaque aboard a Shōri missile. Throughout the 1950s, Daitō, like many other countries, would push for higher and higher altitude records, all the while, the IDAF's team at Susaki Arsenal was hard at work to make its first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile as part of the country's ultimately aborted nuclear program. Finally, in 1955, Prime Minister Toshinari, like many other prominent figures across Mundus, declared that Daitō intended to launch "small Mundus-orbiting satellites" between 1 July 1957 and 31 December 1958 as part of the upcoming International Geophysical Year. The race was now on, the only question to be answered was who would do it?

Chapter Two — Around the world in 80... minutes
I. — Go for Launch
   The decision by Prime Minister Toshinari was met with a number of reactions both in Daitō and abroad. Some were perplexed; the country was, ostensibly, still recovering from the Great War, and even with the major strides made since 1945, it was far from a wealthy country. Others were concerned, as though the Prime Minister had intended for it to be a gesture of peace, owing to Daitō's then-ongoing nuclear program, many thought, perhaps justifiably, that it was a thinly-veiled effort to demonstrate the country's ability to strike anywhere in the world. After all, if they could launch a satellite into orbit, who was to say they couldn't put a bomb in orbit as well? Finally, and most importantly for this story, there were those, primarily in the scientific community, who were elated to hear of the country's commitment. Being a pioneer in rocketry, Daitō, like a number of other countries, stood a good chance of actually achieving their goal. Such a feat would not only show the capability of the country to rebound from past ills, but also serve to better the collective knowledge of mankind.

   But of course, there was a slight problem with their plan. One that, as with any other program, would have to be settled on before any true progress could be made. Put simply, while there was a goal in place, there wasn't a design selected, and as days turned to weeks, new proposals came forwards. Ultimately, however, three designs were deemed to be the frontrunners: The Imperial Daitōjin Army's Noto satellite, which, owing to its reliance on a rocket that wouldn't be ready until 1959, the Navy's Taimatsu, which was comparatively less ambitious but pushed by Itokawa, and the Air Force's Mori, which was far more ambitious, aiming to test whether the theory of whether Mundus had trapped charged particles in its magnetosphere. Ultimately, the Taimatsu program would get the go-ahead, being scheduled to launch in late 1957.

Taimatsu 1   The first three satellites of the Taimatsu program were quite small, only weighing about 1.4 kg. Emperor Kunan, upon inspecting one during a tour of its processing facility at Kintei Air Force Base in Tsukishima, was reported to have remarked that it was, quote, "practically a grapefruit with antennae". This nickname, "Grapefruit", stuck in the foreign press to mock the effort before, as time would have it, being adopted in an almost loving sense by the engineers working on the project. The first launch was officially announced, on the 16th of July, 1957 for the 1st of October of the same year. What hadn't been counted on, however, was a storm which struck the region around Kintei AFB, pushing the launch date back by about two weeks as engineers performed repairs on the rocket. Unfortunately, the storm's timing meant that Daitō would not be the first to launch a satellite into orbit and would, as turned out to be a trend for the next decade, have to settle for second on a major accomplishment. Finally, on the 26th of October, 1957, Taimatsu 1 lifted off from Kintei AFB, reaching Low Mundus Orbit and marking a significant achievement. The Space Race was now truly on.
II. — Early Satellites and a New Approach

NASDA logo (1958 - 1974)   That Taimatsu 1 had reached orbit was a source of great pride for the Empire in 1957 and 1958, however, its goal of being first had been snatched away from them so quickly was a matter of concern. Although everyone admitted that the weather had played a role, many in the government also suspected that the NAL was inefficient in managing the country's efforts in this new frontier. As a result, on the 16th of February, 1958, the National Aerospace Laboratory was formally reorganized into the National Space Development Agency, or NASDA, and would be brought further under the purview of the Imperial Government. This would provide the new agency a far larger budget, while also helping to serve national interests. It did not, however, go unchallenged. For though it now had the resources needed to undertake programs of its own volition, with the oversight of the Diet, of course, it took the spotlight away from the military's own efforts, and in order to avoid losing out entirely, on the 23rd of August, 1958, the three branches of the Imperial Daitōjin Armed Forces folded their aerospace efforts together, forming the Space Operations Headquarters, or Uchū Sakusen Honbu (USH).

   These early years of space exploration saw the continued launch of rudimentary satellites into Low Mundus Orbit, with each passing year bringing new complexity to their designs. It also saw the Sekidō I ICBM enter service, allowing for larger payloads to be launched. Taking advantage of this, in 1959, Daitō performed a pair of momentous feats, first crashing a probe into the moon and later taking the first photos of the dark side of the moon. Incidentally, with the former of these two missions, due to it having the country's flag painted on the hull, Daitō held the dubious distinction of having the first national pennant on a foreign celestial body, though as it did not survive, most would not count it. But though these early years were promising, there was a goal which was now even greater than that of putting the first satellite in orbit. As early as 1957, Daitō was preparing to put a man into orbit, and it had the right people for the job.

Chapter Three — Man In Space Soonest
I. — Suzaku Leads the Way

The Suzaku Spacecraft   Project Suzaku (朱雀計画, Suzaku Keikaku) was the first human spaceflight program undertaken by NASDA, running from 1958 until 1963. An early highlight of the Space Age, its goal was to put a man into Mundus Orbit and return him safely, ideally before anyone else. Its sister-program, the Sh-16, had been initiated two years prior, initially with the goal of testing hypersonic aircraft but eventually morphed into a suborbital launch program. The program, which took its name from the Vermillion Bird of legend, cost roughly $2.38 billion adjusted for inflation and saw seven crewed launches over its duration. It would give way to the far more complex Taka Program, which was intended to lay the groundwork for missions beyond Low Mundus Orbit and to the moon.

   Compared to most every spacecraft that followed it, the Suzaku capsule was quite small, giving its crew of one only 2.8 m2 of habitable volume on missions that ultimately lasted as long as over a day. Inside, there were 120 controls: 55 switches, 30 fuses, and 35 mechanical levers. The heaviest spacecraft, designated S-14 by its designers and known to the public as Suzaku 9, weighed approximately 1,400 kg fully loaded, as it was intended to keep its passenger alive for more than a day in orbit. The spacecraft was invariably coated in a skin made of René 41, a nickel alloy capable of withstanding high temperatures.

   The Suzaku spacecraft was cone shaped, with a neck at the narrow end. It had a convex base, which carried a heat shield consisting of an aluminum honeycomb covered with multiple layers of fiberglass. Strapped to it was a retropack consisting of three rockets deployed to brake the spacecraft during reentry. Between these were three minor rockets for assisting in separating the spacecraft from the launch vehicle in the event of an abort. The straps that held the package could be severed when it was no longer needed. Next to the heat shield was the pressurized crew compartment. Inside, an ūchunaut would be strapped to a form-fitting seat with instruments in front of him and with his back to the heat shield. Underneath the seat was the environmental control system supplying life support for the crew. The recovery compartment at the narrow end of the spacecraft contained three parachutes: a drogue to stabilize free fall and two main chutes, a primary and reserve. Other features included a landing skirt which was designed to serve as a shock absorber when the spacecraft splashed down.
II. — The Seven
   Of course, there could be no Project Suzaku without a crew, and NASDA was certain to pick the best of the best. From day one, there were many ideas, but ultimately, it was decided that they would use military pilots. The vast majority of these pilots were veterans of the Great War and were test pilots. Ultimately, seven people were selected, those being as follows:
NameRankBranchNameRankBranchKanji AkasakiMajorAir ForceFumio RinzakiLieutenantNavyAkira SagaraLt. CommanderNavyHirotami NanbuMajorAir ForceBanri WakataLt. CommanderNavyJinzaburō UtadaCaptainAir ForceIehiro FujieCaptainAir Force   Prior to Project Suzaku, there was no protocol for selecting ūchunauts, so NASDA would set a far-reaching precedent with both their selection process and initial choices for ūchunauts. At the end of 1958, various ideas for the selection pool were discussed privately within the imperial government and the civilian space program, and also among the public at large. Initially, there was the idea to issue a widespread public call to volunteers. Thrill-seekers such as rock climbers and acrobats would have been allowed to apply, but this idea was quickly shot down by NASDA officials, who understood that an undertaking such as space flight required individuals with professional training and education in flight engineering. By late 1958, NASDA officials decided to move forward with test pilots being the heart of their selection pool. On Prime Minister Yanagihara's insistence, the group was further narrowed down to active duty military test pilots, which set the number of candidates at 476. These candidates were IDN or IDNLF naval aviation pilots (NAPs) or IDAF pilots of senior or command rating. These aviators had long military records, which would give NASDA officials more background information on which to base their decisions. Furthermore, these aviators were skilled in flying the most advanced aircraft to date, giving them the best qualifications for the new position of ūchunaut. During this time, women were banned from flying in the military and so could not successfully qualify as test pilots. This meant that no female candidates could earn consideration for the title of ūchunaut. Civilian NASDA pilots, such as Sh-16 pilot Hakaru Akase, were likewise disqualified for the same reason, even if they were serving as military contractors.

   It was further stipulated that candidates should be between 25 and 40 years old, no taller than 1.8 m, and hold a college degree in a STEM subject. This was a controversial decision at the time, as it disqualified a large number of aviators who were otherwise perfectly suited to the task, while at least one pilot, Akira Sagara, was able to enter the program without one by using influential connections to convince the selection committee to accept him. Other potential candidates declined because they did not believe that human spaceflight had a future beyond Project Suzaku. From the original 476, 110 candidates were selected for interviews, and from said interviews, 32 were selected for further physical and mental testing. Their health, vision, and hearing were examined, together with their tolerance to noise, vibrations, g-forces, personal isolation, and heat. In a special chamber, they were tested to see if they could perform their tasks under confusing conditions. The candidates had to answer more than 500 questions about themselves and describe what they saw in different images. After these tests it was intended to narrow the group down to six ūchunauts, but in the end it was decided to keep seven.

   The ūchunauts went through a training program covering some of the same exercises that were used in their selection. They simulated the g-force profiles of launch and reentry in a centrifuge at the Naval Air Development Center, and were taught special breathing techniques necessary when subjected to more than 6 g. Weightlessness training took place in aircraft, first on the rear seat of a two-seater fighter and later inside converted and padded cargo aircraft. They practiced gaining control of a spinning spacecraft in a machine at the Yamakawa Flight Propulsion Laboratory, as well as star and Mundus recognition training in planetaria and simulators. Communication and flight procedures were practiced in flight simulators, first together with a single person assisting them and later with the Mission Control Center. Recovery was practiced in pools and later at sea with frogmen and helicopters. Eventually, their grueling training came to an end, and it was time to make history.
III. — The Missions
   Once again, Daitō was struck with a bout of bad luck which cost them being the first to a goal, this time due to issues with the Sekidō I booster to be used on Suzaku 3. As a result of this delay, which pushed the launch back from the 6th of April to the 17th, another country was able to beat NASDA to putting a man into orbit. This naturally was disheartening, however, with all of the work put in thus far, it was decided that they would push forwards instead of adjusting their plans, and ultimately, on the 17th of April, 1961, Suzaku 3, carrying ūchunaut Kanji Akasaki, lifted off from Kintei Space Center. Compared to later missions, this one was to be rather short, only lasting around two hours and completing a single orbit. Incidentally, due to how the rules for what qualified a spaceflight at the time, as Akasaki had landed inside the spacecraft while his predecessor hadn't, he was dubiously the holder of the record, even if this was not known until the 1990s.

Mundus from LMO, Suzaku 3   Suzaku 4 was largely a repeat of 3, however, it lasted a few minutes longer as the spacecraft's orbital period was likewise longer. The most notable occurrence during Suzaku 4 actually occurred afterwards, as the spacecraft's hatch blew open shortly after splashdown, nearly causing its pilot, Akira Sagara, to drown and resulting in the spacecraft being lost. This led to a controversy, wherein many suspected that the pilot had accidentally set it off. Further investigation, later backed up by the recovery of the capsule and footage of the landing, suggested that static electricity may have caused the premature detonation of the hatch bolts. Earlier theories had posited that the external release lanyard had come loose, triggering the hatch release.

   From Suzaku 5 onwards, the missions began to last much longer; 5 saw three orbits over the course of close to five hours, while 7 lasted for nine hours and 8 for eleven. Ultimately, the longest mission of the Suzaku Program, Suzaku 9, saw Jinzaburō Utada fly for one day, ten hours, and nineteen minutes, completing 22 orbits before landing to the west of Tsukishima. With Suzaku 9 coming to a close, so too did Project Suzaku, giving way to the Taka and Ryū programs.

Chapter Four — Under the Falcon's Wings
I. — Overview

Taka Program Patch   The Taka Program, known occasionally as Project Taka, was NASDA's second human spaceflight program. Conducted between Project Suzaku and the Ryū Program, Taka started in 1961 and concluded in 1966. The Taka spacecraft carried two ūchunauts; over the course of the program, eleven crews and 16 individual ūchunauts flew Low Mundus Orbit missions. Taka's objective was the development of space travel techniques to support the Ryū mission to land ūchunauts on the Moon. In doing so, it allowed Daitō to catch up and briefly even take the lead in human spaceflight capability that foreign powers had gained during the early years of the Space Race, by demonstrating: mission endurance up to just under 14 days, longer than the eight days required for a round trip to the Moon; methods of performing extra-vehicular activity (EVA) without tiring; and the orbital maneuvers necessary to achieve rendezvous and docking with another spacecraft. This left Ryū free to pursue its prime mission without spending time developing these techniques.

   All Taka flights were launched from Launch Complex 14 at Kintei Air Force Station in southeastern Tsukishima. Their launch vehicle was the Taka-Sekidō II, a modified intercontinental ballistic missile. Taka was the first program to make use of the recently-built Mission Control Center at the Otsu Manned Spaceflight Center for flight control; prior to this point, flight control was located in Kintei.
II. — The Spacecraft

Cutaway view of the Taka Spacecraft   NASDA selected Zayasu Aerospace, which had been the primary contractor for the Suzaku Spacecraft, to build the Taka capsule, the first of which was delivered in 1963. The spacecraft was 5.61 meters long and 3 meters wide, with a launch weight varying from 3,220 to 3,790 kg. The Taka crew capsule, often referred to as the Reentry Module in documentation on the program, was essentially an enlarged version of the Suzaku spacecraft. Unlike Suzaku, the retrorockets, electrical power, propulsion systems, oxygen, and water were located in a detachable Adapter Module behind the Reentry Module. A major design improvement in Taka was to locate all internal spacecraft systems in modular components, which could be independently tested and replaced when necessary, without removing or disturbing other already tested components.
IIa. The Reentry Module
   Many components in the capsule itself were reachable through their own small access doors. Unlike Suzaku, Taka used completely solid-state electronics, and its modular design made it easy to repair. For abort capabilities, engineers briefly contemplated did away with a launch escape system, instead opting for a pair of ejection seats. It was reasoned that, in the event of an accident, the Sekidō II's hypergolic fuels would cause a smaller explosion, however, at NASDA's insistence, it was very nearly fitted with an escape tower such as those used on Suzaku and later on Ryū.

   Taka was the first ūchunaut-carrying spacecraft to include an onboard computer, the Taka Guidance Computer (TGC), to facilitate management and control of mission maneuvers. This computer, sometimes called the Taka On-Board Computer (OBC), was very similar to the Tenjin Launch Vehicle Digital Computer. The Taka Guidance Computer weighed 26.75 kg. Its core memory had 4096 addresses, each containing a 39-bit word composed of three 13-bit "syllables". All numeric data was 26-bit two's-complement integers—sometimes used as fixed-point numbers—either stored in the first two syllables of a word or in the accumulator. Instructions could go in any syllable. Unlike Suzaku, Taka used in-flight radar and an artificial horizon, similar to those used in the aviation industry. Like Suzaku, Taka used a joystick to give the astronauts manual control of yaw, pitch, and roll. However, Taka added control of the spacecraft's translation (forward, backward, up, down, and sideways) with a pair of T-shaped handles, one for each crew member. Translation control enabled rendezvous and docking, and crew control of the flight path. The same controller types were also used in the Ryū spacecraft.
IIb. The Adapter Module
   The "Adapter Module", often referred to as the Service Module, was split into two separate parts. These were the Retro Module (RM) and Equipment Module (EM), both of which were, regardless of mission, vital to a successful flight during the Taka program. The Retro Module contained four solid-fuel TE-M-385 Hoshi-33I retrorockets, each spherical in shape except for its rocket nozzle, which were structurally attached to two beams that reached across the diameter of the retro module, crossing at right angles in the center. Reentry began with the retrorockets firing one at a time. Abort procedures at certain periods during lift-off would cause them to fire at the same time, thrusting the Descent module away from the Sekidō rocket.

   Taka was equipped with an Orbit Attitude and Maneuvering System (OAMS), containing sixteen thrusters for translation control in all three perpendicular axes (forward/backward, left/right, up/down), in addition to attitude control (pitch, yaw, and roll angle orientation) as in Suzaku. Translation control allowed changing orbital inclination and altitude, necessary to perform space rendezvous with other craft, and docking with the Hokkyokusei Target Vehicle (HTV), with its own rocket engine which could be used to perform greater orbit changes. Early short-duration missions had their electrical power supplied by batteries; later endurance missions used the first fuel cells in crewed spacecraft.
III. — New Faces
   With the announcement of the Taka program, the need for new ūchunauts had been clear from the outset. Initially, it had been planned that, like with the Suzaku program before it, the program would be closed to anyone who was not a member of the military, however, this requirement was waived for two cases, those being Hakaru Akase and Hayate Morita. Ultimately, the new group, Ūchunaut Group 2, would be announced in 1962, while a further selection of twelve ūchunauts for Group 3 would come in 1963. Unfortunately, Group 3 was filled with tragedy, as two of its members died during training, while another died before he was scheduled to fly. Of course, not every member of Group 1 flew either; Kanji Akasaki, owing to injuries sustained in a crash in 1964, would be taken off flight rotation until the late-60s, in time for the Ryū program. Likewise, Fumio Rinzaki had retired from spaceflight to instead go into politics, while Hirotami Nanbu chose to return to the Air Force. Those remaining ūchunauts would, for the most part, fly during the program, although some would have to wait until the Ryū and even Kyūden programs to fly.
IV. — Go for Launch

Launch of Taka 1   On the 16th of April, 1964, Taka 1 lifted off from LC-14 at Kintei Air Force Station, marking the first flight, albeit uncrewed, of the Taka program. As a result, its main objectives were to test the structural integrity of the new spacecraft and modified Sekidō II launch vehicle. It was also the first test of the new tracking and communication systems for the Taka program and provided training for the ground support crews for the first crewed missions. It was followed up in early 1965 with the launch of Taka 2, which was a suborbital flight meant to test the spacecraft's heatshield. Incidentally, the second flight's capsule was the first spacecraft to be reused, being repurposed as a test article for the IDAF's Manned Orbiting Research Laboratory, or MORL, in 1966.

   The first manned flight of the Taka Program, Taka III, lifted off on the 21st of March, 1965. Crewed by Suzaku veteran Iehiro Fujie and Natsuki Sanada, the mission lasted just five hours, completing three orbits as the crew ran a number of tests on the vehicle ahead of the more complex missions yet to come. While it is less notable than perhaps Taka IV and VIII, Taka III did see the first orbital maneuver by a crewed spacecraft shortly into the flight.  Furthermore, though perhaps a dubious honor, Taka III led to a change in materials used in space suits, as the landing resulted in Fujie cracking his suit's faceplate. Future suits, including those used to this very day, now make use of a stronger polycarbonate plastic in lieu of the previous acrylic.
IVa. Out for a Stroll

Ūchunaut Hayate Morita makes Daitō's first spacewalk   Taka IV lifted off on the 5th of June, 1965, carrying ūchunauts Kensuke Hatori and Hayate Morita into a 289-by-165 km, 32.5 degree orbit. Their mission, which lasted for just over four days, saw Daitō attempt its first extravehicular activity (EVA), colloquially called a spacewalk. By the time it had launched, this was not a world first, however, it was nonetheless vital to the success of the Ryū program, as well as to any future programs in Low Mundus Orbit, so the mission was not changed in any way, not that there would've been time. Even still, this EVA would not go without issue, as though it was largely successful, Morita came relatively close to both heat stroke and decompression sickness towards the end of it, though this was more due to him overexerting himself during the EVA than any issue with the suit.

   This EVA wasn't the only objective of the Taka IV mission, of course. Carried aboard the spacecraft were eleven different experiments, which included: Ka-8, which measured the electrostatic charge in the spacecraft, Ka-9, which was an experiment in simple spacecraft navigation where the crew used a sextant to measure their position using the stars, Ma-1, which measured the electrostatic charge in the spacecraft, and a number of others. Ultimately, the mission was a resounding success, landing four days later in the Kyne.
IVb. Docking Waltz

Taka VI as viewed from Taka VII   A particularly memorable mission from the Taka program was the joint Taka VI-VII mission, which launched on the 3rd and the 7th of December, 1965, respectively. The twin spacecraft were tasked with completing the country's first orbital rendezvous, as well as an admittedly dangerous EVA which saw the pilots of each spacecraft trade place mid-flight, resulting in the first two-man EVA as well as the first transfer of crew between two orbiting vehicles. More importantly, however, was the modification performed on the Taka VII spacecraft, which allowed it to function as a target vehicle for Taka VI, with the two spacecraft ultimately docking by way of a stripped down version of the docking port used on the Hokkyokusei target vehicle. As a result, Taka VI and VII were able to knock out a number of objectives for the program, while future missions would instead refine the techniques developed. Taka VII would spend a further week in orbit, while Taka VI returned to Mundus two days after the docking.
IVc. Legacy of the Taka Program

Taka XII lifts off with a Tenjin V booster in the background   Ultimately, the Taka Program, while often forgotten owing to its place between the Suzaku and Ryū programs, was an incredibly important period in NASDA's history, as without it, Daitō would've never had a chance of making it to the Moon, let alone to develop its presence in Low Mundus Orbit. The ripples of the program are felt to this very day, even if they are not immediately noticeable, whether by intention or not. For while NASDA had officially brought the program to a close, moving on to the next phase of its exploration of the cosmos, there were others that wished to make use of the spacecraft, and not for the benefit of all mankind. The Space Operations Headquarters wanted in on manned spaceflight.

Chapter Five, Part One — The Long Road Ahead
I. — Origins and Overview

Ryū Program Patch   The Ryū Program, also known as Project Ryū, was the third Daitōjin human spaceflight program carried out by NASDA, which, while not achieving it first, succeeded in preparing and landing humans on the moon by the end of 1969. Formally conceived during the Rokuda administration in early 1960 as a follow-up to Project Suzaku, it was first intended to carry a crew of three into low mundus orbit. At the time, it was proposed that missions could include ferrying crews to a space station, circumlunar flights, and eventually, crewed lunar landings. In May 1960, Dr. Yasuji Chujo, serving at the time as NASDA's Deputy Administrator, announced the Ryū program to representatives of Daitō's aerospace industry in a series of conferences. Preliminary specifications were laid out for a spacecraft with a mission module cabin separate from the command module—piloting and reentry cabin—and a propulsion and equipment module. On the 18th of August, a feasibility study competition was announced, and on October 16, study contracts were awarded to Zayasu, Aizawa, and Negishi. Meanwhile, NASDA performed its own in-house spacecraft design studies led by Emon Uehara, to serve as a gauge to judge and monitor the three industry designs.

   Following the successful launch and return of Suzaku 3, Prime Minister Shiba, during an address to the Imperial Diet, announced that Daitō would push forwards with the goal of landing a man on the moon before 1970. As a result, Project Ryū became, overnight, a matter of national prestige and a household name. For many, it was a chance to prove the strength of Daitōjin industry in the post-war world, as well as potentially a chance to boost investment in the country. But more than anything else, it would serve to inspire a generation, to show them that anything could be achieved so long as they tried. For the sake of future generations, it was argued, this endeavor was supremely important.
II. — NASDA Expansion
   At the time of Shiba's proposal, only one Daitōjin had flown in space merely two months prior. There was much doubt early on—even within NASDA's ranks—that his ambitious goal could be met. At times, there were proposals made by his administration as late as 1964, though ultimately never presented, for a joint Daitōjin-Achkaerinese lunar mission so as to eliminate the duplication of effort. With the clear goal of a crewed landing replacing the more nebulous goals of space stations and circumlunar flights, NASDA decided that, in order to make progress quickly and prevent cost-overruns, it would discard the feasibility study designs of Zayasu, Aizawa, and Negishi, and instead it would proceed with Uehara's command and service module design. The mission module was determined to be useful only as an extra room, and therefore, was held back for later missions. In late 1961, using this design as a baseline, they held another competition, ultimately contracting Zayasu to build the design, in part due to its long-standing partnership with the Agency.

   In order to land humans on the surface of the moon within a decade, at the time the most significant burst of technological creativity and largest commitment of resources in peacetime ($164 billion, adjusted for inflation) ever made by a nation in peacetime until the Hōrōsha Program. At its peak, the Ryū program is estimated to have employed more than 400,000 people, all the while requiring the support of over 20,000 industrial firms and universities. This cost, though astronomical, paid off in helping to build the modern world as we know it. Everything from freeze-dried foods to integrated circuits and from fire-resistant materials to dialysis machines can, in some part, be traced to funding for Ryū and similar programs at the time.
IIa. MSC and LOC

Vertical Assembly Building (VAB) under construction, c.1965   It became clear that managing the Ryū program would far exceed the capabilities of Dr. Itokawa's Space Task Force (STF), which had been directing the nation's crewed program from NASDA's Otsu Research Center. As a result, in late 1962, Itokawa was given authorization to grow his organization into a new NASDA center, the Manned Spaceflight Complex. A site was chosen in Yuzawa, Fukui Prefecture, on land which was donated by Yushiro University, and NASDA's administrator, Ryuzō Dojima, announced its conversion on the 18th of September, 1961. It was also clear NASDA would outgrow its practice of controlling missions from its Kintei Air Force Base launch facilities in Shiojiri Prefecture, Tsukishima, so a new Mission Control Center would be included in the MSC. The Manned Spaceflight Complex would be renamed the "Kazumasa Toshinari Manned Spaceflight Complex", frequently abridged to the "Toshinari Space Center" in 1970, by the Imperial in honor of Prime Minister Kazumasa Toshinari's death in 1969.

   It also became clear that Ryū would outgrow the Kintei launch facilities in Tsukishima. The two newest launch complexes were already being built for the Tenjin I and Ib rockets at the northernmost end: Launch Complexes 23 and 27. But an even bigger facility would be needed for the enormous rocket necessary for a crewed lunar mission, so land acquisition was undertaken starting in July 1961 for a Launch Operations Complex (LOC) immediately north of Kintei at Takeshima Island. The design, development and construction of the center was conducted by Dr. Iehisa Takashi, a former member of Dr. Itokawa's team at Susaki. Takashi was later named the LOC's first director. Construction began in September 1962.

   The new Launch Operations Complex included Launch Complex 29 (LC-29), a Launch Control Center (LCC), and a 3.7 million cubic meter Vertical Assembly Building (VAB), in which the launch vehicle would be assembled on a mobile launcher platform and then moved by a crawler-transporter to one of several launch pads. Although more were planned, only Launch Complex 29A and 29B would be completed by October 1965, with 39C being finished a year later following delays. The LOC also included an Operations and Checkout Building (OCB), where Taka and Ryū spacecraft were initially received prior to being mated with their launch vehicles. There, the Ryū spacecraft could be tested in two vacuum chambers capable of simulating atmospheric pressures up to around 76 km, or in other words, nearly a vacuum. The Launch Operations Complex would be renamed to the Akasaki Space Center in 2022, following the death of the ūchunaut who had started it all.
IIb. Organization
   Administrator Dojima recognized that, in order to keep the Ryū program's costs under control, it would be necessary to develop greater project management skills in his organization. In order to accomplish this, he hired Dr. Kakutarō Hoshino for a high-ranking management position. Hoshino accepted, however, he required that he have a say in any NASDA reorganization necessary to effectively administer Ryū. Dojima then worked with Deputy Administrator Chujo to reorganize the Office of Crewed Spaceflight (OCSF). Hoshino was formally appointed Deputy Associate Administrator for Crewed Space Flight on the 26th of July, 1963. Under Dojima's reorganization, Doctors Itokawa and Takashi reported to Hoshino.

   Based upon his experience on missile projects, Hoshino recognized that many skilled project managers could be found among the higher ranks of the Imperial Daitōjin Air Force, so he got Dojima's permission to recruit General Sakichi Kamei, who earned a reputation for his effective management of the Sekidō program, as OCSF program director. He was able to get the approval of Kamei's superiors to loan him to NASDA, however, this came with the condition that Kamei be made Ryū Program Director. Hoshino agreed to this proposal, and from January 1964 until January 1970, General Kamei served as the program's director, after which he returned to active duty.
III. — The Disaster
IIIa. Plugs-out
   On the 21st of February, 1967, the crew of RT-204—ūchunauts Akira Sagara, Hayate Morita, and Takauji Sanada—entered their capsule as part of a "plugs out" test, intended to determine whether the spacecraft would operate nominally on internal power. Passing this test was necessary if NASDA wanted to make the March 7 launch date. The test was determined to have not been hazardous, a result of neither the spacecraft nor the rocket having been loaded with fuel or cryogenics and all pyrotechnic systems being disabled. Little did anyone present know, however, that none of the crew would exit the spacecraft alive.

   At 2:07 PM, Sagara, then Sanada, and then finally Morita entered the command module in their pressure suits, and were strapped into their seats and hooked up to the spacecraft's oxygen and communication systems. It should be noted that Sagara noticed a faint odor in the air circulating within his suit which he described as reminding him of spoiled milk, and the simulated countdown was put on hold at 2:27 PM while air samples were taken. No cause of the odor could be determined, so the countdown resumed at 3:49 PM. During the investigation into the accident, the odor was found to have not been related to the fire. Three minutes after the count resumed, the hatch was installed. This hatch was made up of three parts: a removable inner hatch, which stayed inside the command module; a hinged outer hatch which was part of the spacecraft's heat shield; and an outer hatch cover which made up part of the launch escape system's cover, which protected the spacecraft from aerodynamic heating during launch and from exhaust in the event of an abort. The boost hatch cover was partially, though not fully, latched in place as a result of the flexible boost protective cover being slightly distorted by cabling run under it to provide simulated internal power. After the hatches were sealed, the air in the cabin was replaced with pure oxygen at 115 kPa, 14 kPa higher than atmospheric pressure. The simulated countdown was put on hold again at 7:27 PM while attempts were made to troubleshoot a communications problem. All countdown functions up to the simulated internal power transfer had been successfully completed by 7:07 PM, and and at 7:20 the count remained on hold at T minus 10 minutes.
IIIb. The Fire
   During this hold, the crew spent their time running through their checklist again, when at 7:33:57, a momentary increase in AC Bus 2 voltage occurred. Nine seconds later, one of the ūchunauts, generally believed to have been Sagara, exclaimed "Fire!". This was followed by two seconds of scuffling heard over his open microphone. This was followed at 7:34:06.1 by another ūchunaut, likely Morita based on recordings of the incident, saying "Uh, we've got a fire in here.", which in turn was followed by a badly garbled transmission which said, roughly, "We've got a bad fire... We're trying to escape... Let us out!" which ended with a cry of pain.

   The fire, fed by the cabin's pure oxygen atmosphere, caused the pressure to rise to 200 kPa, far above the spacecraft's inner wall. This resulted in the capsule rupturing, with fire and gas rushing out through open access panels to two levels of the pad's service structure. The intense heat, dense smoke, and ineffective gas masks designed for toxic fumes hampered the ground crew's attempts to rescue the crew. Immediately, there were fears that the command module had exploded, or at least would, and the resultant fire could cause the solid fuel rockets in the LES to ignite, which would have likely killed nearby ground personnel and potentially destroyed the pad. As the pressure was released by the cabin rupture, the rush of gases inside caused flames to spread across the cabin, starting the second phase of the disaster. The third phase began when most of the oxygen was consumed and was replaced with atmospheric air, which practically quenched the fire and left high concentrations of carbon monoxide and heavy smoke inside the cockpit, as well as large deposits of soot which soon covered most surfaces.
IV. — The Investigation
   In keeping with Deputy Administrator Chujo's instructions under Management Instruction 8713.6, which defined Mission Failure Investigation Policy And Procedures, NASDA's existing accident procedures, based on military aircraft accident investigation, were modified to provide the Deputy Administrator the option of performing independent investigations of major failures, beyond those for which the various Program Office officials were normally responsible. It declared, quote, "It is NASDA policy to investigate and document the causes of all major mission failures which occur in the conduct of its space and aeronautical activities and to take appropriate corrective actions as a result of the findings and recommendations."

   Immediately after the fire, Administrator Dojima asked Prime Minister Giichi Inukai to allow NASDA to handle the investigation according to its established procedure, pledging that it would be truthful in assessing blame and that it would keep the appropriate members of the Diet informed. Deputy Administrator Chujo then directed the establishment of the Ryū 204 Review Board, chaired by Dr. Itokawa, which included Ūchunaut Kanji Akasaki, spacecraft designer Emon Uehara, and eight others. Chujo ordered that all Ryū 1 hardware be impounded, to be released only under the authorization of the board. After thorough stereo photographic documentation of the CM-07 interior, crews began the long and painstaking process of disassembling the spacecraft using procedures developed on the identical CM-08 spacecraft and conducted a thorough investigation into each part. The board also reviewed  the crew's autopsy reports and interviewed witnesses. The board finally published its report on the 19th of May, 1967, in which they identified several major factors which caused the fire and the ūchunauts' deaths, which included the following:
   ‣ An ignition source, most probably related to, quote, "vulnerable wiring carrying spacecraft power" and "vulnerable plumbing carrying a combustible and corrosive coolant".
   ‣ A pure oxygen atmosphere at higher than atmospheric pressure.
   ‣ A cabin sealed with a hatch cover which, given the circumstances, could not be removed quickly enough at a high pressure.
   ‣ An extensive distribution of combustible materials in the cabin.
   ‣ Inadequate emergency preparedness, such as rescue or medical assistance, as well as crew escape.

   In later years, many would come to point to the Ryū 1 disaster and the response, which included numerous redesigns to hardware carried aboard the spacecraft, as being the moment that Daitō lost the race to be first to the moon, as these changes would result in delays to the program.


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