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The Autonomous Satellite Launcher is, as the name suggests, an improvement on the stock Satellite Launcher craft. Whereas the Satellite Launcher requires a kerbal to crew it - a kerbal who will inevitably be killed when the aircraft portion of the Satellite Launcher passes too far away from the rocket portion and despawns - the Autonomous Satellite Launcher instead uses a probe core to control the contraption, and takes no crew. In the place of the Satellite Launcher’s inline cockpit and nosecone adapter, there are (in addition to the Steadler RGU providing primary control) a diverterless supersonic intake (with some built-in fuel tankage) and an all-speeds shock-cone intake (mounted on the front of the DSI).
Additional improvements over the stock Satellite Launcher become apparent as we move rearwards. Most obvious is the dorsally-mounted tankage for the four Twitch rocket boosters mounted on the empennage; the Twitches provide the aircraft and its payload with an extra speed and altitude boost before payload release. The Twitches initially draw fuel and oxidiser from two Baguette droptanks mounted forwards on the airframe; when the Baguettes run dry and are decoupled, the rockets switch over to two smaller Dumpling tanks embedded amidships.
In other news, the main gear have been beefed up from those on the Satellite Launcher (and their mounting points raised up through the wing structure to accommodate the new, longer gear struts) and the payload has been moved forward considerably, both to help keep the payload’s tail fins from scraping the ground during takeoff. Additionally, the flaps and flaperons have been reworked, a command-uplink antenna has been mounted on the upper fuselage to allow remote control of the vehicle, and the payload has been strutted to the aircraft fuselage to better secure it during takeoff and manoeuvring.
Although the replacement of the kerbal pilot allows the Autonomous Satellite Launcher to discard its aircraft portion without killing anybody, it should, in principle, be possible to land the aircraft safely after putting the satellite in orbit, by editing the pack and unload distances in your physics.cfg file to values large enough that the aircraft remains within physics range of the satellite throughout boost and orbital insertion (disclaimer: I have not yet tried this).
Built in the SPH in KSP version 1.9.0 using 63 of the finest all-stock parts, the Autonomous Satellite Launcher’s root part is probeCoreHex.v2.
- Type: SPH
- Class: aircraft
- Part Count: 63
- Pure Stock
- KSP: 1.9.0