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- Type: VAB
- Class: station
- Part Count: 85
- Mods: 3
- Squad (stock)
In addition to the well-known NASA project there were plans by the USAF to develop its own extensive space program, primarily for reconnaissance. In the beginning of the space program the abilities of unmanned satellites were extremely limited and were a far cry from modern spy satellites. It was decided that surveillance should be handled by manned craft including manned space stations which would process and analyze footage without the need to send the raw footage back down to the ground.
Both the United States and Soviet Unions had extensive manned surveillance programs such as the Almaz program for the Soviets. The Manned Orbital Laboratory (MOL) went through a number of initial proposals including a small manned station launched on a Titan rocket. It would be an extensive of the Gemini hardware coupled with reconnaissance technologies present in spy satellites. However it would also allow the two-man crew to develop and even analyze the footage on-site and transmit the analyzed intelligence back to the ground.
However by the late 1960s and the conclusion of the Gemini program the capabilities of spy satellites had improved greatly. The newer satellites could provide extensive camera footage which was picked up mid-air in its own return capsule. They could also transmit low-resolution footage remotely and soon enough could even transmit all their footage eliminating the need for return capsules altogether. This was the death knell for most of the USAF Gemini programs including the MOL although some of the work on the MOL was incorporated later into the Skylab and Space Shuttle programs.
This build of the MOL incorporates a number of proposals and partly taken from the pre-existing FASA craft files. It focuses on a laboratory module which can house a crew of four Kerbonauts although only a single crew is required for successful research. The service bay has a large camera to simulate the planned array of cameras meant for the real-life MOL. I have also included some extra fuel in the event you wish to dock it with additional Gemini capsules. A key difference that sets the MOL apart is that unlike most other space stations it actually launches with a Gemini capsule instead of being an unmanned launch.
While most of the MOL proposals designed it as a one-use space station this version could be used long-term with any Gemini or Gemini-derived spacecraft through an Agena docking adapter. It has two powerful solar panels with a similar configuration to Skylab so it can be powered indefinitely. It should be noted that the space station isn’t designed to be operated remotely so the solar panels should be extended prior to decoupling its Gemini capsule.
The lifter is the venerable Titan III-C which in real life was used as a dependable heavy lifter serving from 1965 to 1982. It is a three stage rocket or a two stage rocket with a solid rocket booster stage. The second stage, much like the Titan II, is a small upper stage but in this case its incorporated into the MOL. The main and booster stages are fired together at launch with the boosters decoupled upon exhaustion, usually somewhere in the mid-atmosphere. The combined lower stage should put you into the upper atmosphere after which the second stage takes over for the rest of the ascent and orbital process.
Built in the VAB in KSP version 1.4.3.
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