Hatsunese Space Program - HASDA (Japan-like) | 1989-03-12 | Saki-09, first Phobos/Deimos landings

Phase 2 - 10 - M-1A rocket with liquid rocket boosters (1967)
Phase 2 - 10

[note: this post has been retconned - original rocket configuration here]

To launch a human into space, HASDA needed a larger launch vehicle. The M-1A rocket featured the addition of two liquid rocket boosters (LRBs) using the same LE-04 engine (without vernier engines), a larger second stage using the upgraded LE-03B engine with a larger vacuum-optimized nozzle burning Aerozine-50 and nitrogen tetroxide, and a larger fairing that all had the same diameter as the first stage. The tanks used a lighter aluminum-copper alloy. This quadrupled the mass that could be carried to low Earth orbit from 700 to 2800 kilograms. The M-1A was thus nicknamed "Thor Heavy" or "Thor Multibody" in the United States. The original military purpose of the LE-04 liquid oxygen/kerosene engine was superseded by solid-fuel motors that were easier to store and didn't need to be fueled briefly before launch. However, the M-1A did not use solid rocket boosters (SRBs) unlike its American Thor-Delta counterparts, as they could not be stopped once ignited, unlike liquid-fuel rocket engines which were deemed safer for crewed missions. The LRBs had tanks that were 2 meters shorter than the central first stage to enable an earlier shedding of weight to increase performance (as the engines could not throttle), and decrease maximum acceleration to 9 Gs at booster separation, which was nearing the limit of what a trained person could handle without losing consciousness. The M-1A could also launch without boosters, with an LEO payload of 900 kilograms. The third stage used the LE-03 engine of the Negi-2A and 2B rockets same LE-03B engine instead of a solid motor for more flexibility in mission planning and operations. It could boost payloads up to 800 900 kilograms to geostationary transfer orbit, or 500 600 kilograms to the Moon. Conducting a flyby of Mars or Venus might also be possible.


1967-01-25 - The first M-1A lifted off carrying the Neginohana-2, a designation used for engineering test satellites. Neginohana-2 tested a new 2-meter-diameter satellite bus and parabolic dish communications system. The satellite was only launched to an elliptical geostationary transfer orbit, and did not have enough propellant to reach the circular geostationary orbit.



LRB separation


First stage separation


Fairing separation


Third stage burn


Neginohana-2 at apogee


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Phase 2 - 11 - M-1/1A, plasma wave science, third lunar impact, first interplanetary probe (1967)
... Is this Vocaloid/KSP crossover alternate history fanfiction??????????

Now I've seen it all.
It's mostly just a more ambitious version of the Japanese space program, not always Vocaloid-related.

Phase 2 - 11

1967-04-05 - M-1 launched "Denpa" (electromagnetic wave) to another highly elliptical orbit. Its primary instrument was a plasma wave detector to measure how Earth's magnetic field affects and creates waves in the rarefied ionized gas particles surrounding the planet. A quadrupole mass spectrometer used four parallel electrically charged rods to separate and distinguish ions of different masses and charges.


1967-07-08 (local) - Usagi-5, the third and final lunar impact probe, was launched by an M-1 and hit the crater of Timocharis.




Within the crater's rim


1967-10-15 - "Sakigake" (pathfinder/pioneer) was Hatsunia's first interplanetary probe, launched by an M-1A. It was not destined for any planet or other body in particular, but was launched to an orbit between Earth and Venus and meant as a demonstration of long-range communications systems far away from Earth. The spacecraft also acted as observatory for the Sun, its magnetic field, the solar wind, and other space weather phenomena. This mission was the precursor to the first Venus and Mars flybys.




Third stage, with solar arrays and antenna folded



Outside the Earth's gravitational sphere of influence


Sakigake's heliocentric orbit

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Phase 2 - 12 - M-1A, first lunar orbiter (1968)
Phase 2 - 12

1968-04-28 - Usagi-6, Hatsunia's first lunar orbiter, was launched on an M-1A. The third stage sent the spacecraft towards the Moon, but the probe needed to perform a correction maneuver about two days in, to redirect its trajectory so that it would pass over the poles. After almost four days, Usagi-6 reached a perilune of over 100 kilometers above the surface and decelerated by almost 800 m/s, becoming the first Hatsunese spacecraft to orbit another celestial body. Usagi-6 featured a variety of scientific instruments, including optical and infrared imaging devices to scan the surface and its temperatures. This would assist NASA with finding landing sites for the Apollo program, and inform HASDA as it had plans for robotic lunar landers once the M-1 launch vehicle had gotten another upgrade. The magnetometer was able to detect the faint magnetic field of the Moon, the distribution of which varied around the surface. Variations in the Moon's gravitational field caused by uneven mass concentrations were also detected. Using the parabolic antenna, all of this data could be transmitted at a higher rate compared to previous lunar probes. The six solar arrays were sufficient to power the spacecraft for several years before the cells decayed.

(Meanwhile, in the previous year, Hatsunia had signed a treaty with other East and Southeast Asian countries to form the Mutual East Asian Cooperation Union [unlike Imperial Japan's "co-prosperity sphere," this had genuine intent]. The Hatsunese government had made English an official language to take advantage of its status as a lingua franca of business and science, and improve diplomatic and economic internationalization. The greater focus on English education would benefit computer programmers and the burgeoning software industry, as computers at this time did not have the capacity to store and display thousands of Chinese characters, known as kanji in Hatsunia.)




Trans-lunar injection




Orbital insertion


In orbit


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Phase 2 - 13 - M-1A, Venus and Mars flyby probes (1969-1970)
Phase 2 - 13

In the 1960s, HASDA did not have the budget to develop rockets to send humans to the Moon, but had enough to launch probes to explore the solar system with whatever rockets they had. In the 1964 Scientific Satellite Symposium, during the development of the M-1A rocket, two flyby probes were proposed for Venus and Mars. These probes, known in development as "PLANET-A" and "PLANET-B," would share a common satellite bus with the Sakigake spacecraft, but with different solar panels (which used more complex folding mechanisms) and scientific instruments that were designed for only a few days of observation. Both probes (along with all future interplanetary probes) carried metal plates as counterweights, etched with the folklore character of Hatsune Miku.

[context: this happened with our universe's Akatsuki probe in 2010, and is one of the inspirations for this whole project]

1969-01-12 - An M-1A launched the "Akatsuki" (Dawn) probe, or PLANET-A, to Venus. It was named as Venus is one of the brightest objects in the sky at dawn, and would travel to Venus in four months. Smaller solar panels were used as more energy could be absorbed by a certain surface area closer to the Sun.



1969-04-17 - "Nozomi" (Wish/Hope), or PLANET-B, was launched to Mars on another M-1A. This used larger solar panels as it would go farther away from the Sun. The launch had to be timed correctly, as the inclination of Mars's orbit around the Sun differed more from the Earth's. Launching from Negishima (over 26 degrees north of the equator) required a dogleg maneuver to shift the inclination around the Earth to 24 degrees, and once in interplanetary space, there was another inclination difference of almost 2 degrees that needed a change in velocity of over several hundred meters per second. To minimize Delta-v, an off-plane transfer was required in which the spacecraft would depart Earth on April 17 and arrive at Mars over 10 months later after going past its orbit.



1969-05-14 - Akatsuki arrived at Venus, reaching the closest point (over 6000 kilometers) on May 15/16. The spacecraft observed the thick, featureless clouds blanketing the surface, and the high temperatures of around 500 K that remained mostly the same, even at night.

Akatsuki at Venus (TUFX default config)


Arriving at sphere of influence




(TUFX default config)


Leaving sphere of influence


1970-02-23 - Nozomi arrived at Mars, making a small burn to intercept its closest moon of Phobos. It passed by the tiny asteroid moon for only a few seconds and almost 30 kilometers away on the next day, then went on to see Mars's barren, rusted, and cratered surface covered by a thin atmosphere, from as close as 3500 kilometers.

Nozomi at Phobos


Nozomi on the day side of Mars


Entered sphere of influence





Leaving sphere of influence

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Phase 2 - 14 - M-1A, first crewed orbital mission (1970) [VIDEO]
Phase 2 - 14

1970-09-12 - Utahime-01 was the first Hatsunese human spaceflight, launched on an M-1A rocket. With a mass of 2 tonnes, the Utahime (diva/songstress; literally "song princess") capsule was similar to Mercury and Gemini, and did not have much in capability compared to Apollo or Soyuz; it was only meant for the prestige and to prove technologies for larger, future spacecraft. The cone-shaped Core Module had enough room for one astronaut, several days worth of food, water, and oxygen, and a heat shield and parachutes to return from orbit safely. The Propulsion Module contained avionics, propellant, and thrusters, able to perform rendezvous and docking tests on future missions. Electrical power was provided by alkaline fuel cells running on liquid oxygen and hydrogen, which required insulation to prevent boil-off. Living space in the vehicle was cramped, so HASDA was looking for small, lightweight candidates who also had previous piloting experience. After going through several rigorous physiological tests, three candidates were selected. The first astronaut was Yuzuki Morita. At 24 years old, she was one of the youngest to go into space. The other two astronauts were Marumi Nabatame (who was of Hatsunese and Micronesian descent) and Akari Miura. Together, they were known as the "Rocket Women."

The launch took place 39 minutes after noon (locally). The M-1A leapt off the pad with a sudden jolt, gradually increasing in acceleration as the fuel and oxidizer burned off. At booster separation, it reached up to 9-10 Gs for about a second. Yuzuki and the other astronauts had undergone special training to handle these high forces, and even they could only withstand it for a few seconds before losing consciousness. The second stage separated, and the launch escape system tower was jettisoned at three minutes after launch. The thrust of the LE-03B engine felt relatively calm compared to the wild roller coaster of the first stage and boosters. After 9 minutes, Utahime-01 had finally reached orbit. Yuzuki tested the reaction control systems to rotate the craft, and viewed the Earth 200 kilometers below through a tiny window. As she waited, she sometimes drank vegetable juice, which became HASDA's version of "Tang." After orbiting two times, Utahime-01 performed its de-orbit, separation, and re-entry maneuvers, re-entering with an offset center of mass at a certain angle of attack to generate a small amount of lift and reduce forces to just under 3 Gs. The parachutes deployed, and the capsule splashed down south of Saipan almost five hours after launch, having gone about 3 times around the Earth, to be recovered by a vessel of the Hatsunia Maritime Defense Force.

With the completion of this mission, Hatsunia had become the third country to send a human into space. This was celebrated within the country and met with fanfare in Hatsunia's Asian and Western allies, but did not get as much attention as the American manned Moon landing that occurred in the year prior. It had some impact in that it was the second time a woman was launched into space (the USSR had, but not the US). In the US, this brought attention to the "Mercury 13", a group of 13 women who went through the same tests as the actual, all-male astronauts selected for the Mercury program. A few of them would be selected to go on the last few Apollo missions and visit the Skylab space station. The flight also encouraged the European space program to develop their own crewed spacecraft, using an evolved version of the "Europa" rocket based on the British Blue Streak missile with French and German upper stages. South China was also interested, but would need to overcome post-war restrictions on indigenous rocket and re-entry vehicle development. Some news media dubbed Hatsunese space travelers "uchuunauts," combining the Hatsunese term for "universe"/"outer space" with the Greek term for "sailor." Officially, HASDA used the term "astronaut," or uchuuhikoushi. September 12 also became known as "Space Day" in Hatsunia.



Yuzuki Morita before boarding


A minute after launch


Launch escape system jettison


Over eastern Africa


Over India


Over South China


South of Hatsunia's western islands




Separation of core and propulsion modules




Drogue chute


Main parachutes


Splashed down

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Phase 2 - 15 - M-1A, first spacewalk (1971)
Phase 2 - 15

1971-08-03 - Utahime-02 was piloted by Marumi Nabatame, who had Micronesian and Hatsunese ancestry. She performed Hatsunia's first extra-vehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalk, on the second orbit. Unlike the Mercury capsule, which had a hatch that was bolted on before launch, the Utahime capsule had a hatch which could be opened during flight. The EVA lasted over 30 minutes (mostly over Asia), with Marumi testing the flexibility and handling of her thin, lightweight spacesuit (similar to the ones used on the Gemini missions), which also had small thrusters using nitrogen gas. During the EVA, the vehicle was stabilized by the onboard avionics. After climbing back into the vehicle, she would stay in orbit until one day had elapsed to evaluate life support systems, before returning to Earth southeast of Negishima Space Center.

The "Rocket Women," from left to right: Yuzuki Morita, Marumi Nabatame, and Akari Miura


Marumi on EVA (you can pretend there is a tether)


(note: the Realistic Progression mod disables EVAs for the single-person capsule, like the real-life Mercury. To re-enable, I had to remove "ModuleNoEVA" from the "mk1pod_v2" part in [KSP folder]\GameData\RP-0\Tree\TREE-Parts.cfg)



Marumi exits the vehicle


Using nitrogen thrusters over India


Viewing Minamikushi Prefecture/Negishima Space Center


Over the Philippines


Suez Canal









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Phase 2 - 16 - M-1B rocket with hydrolox upper stage (1972)
Phase 2 - 16

The M-1B launch vehicle replaced the hypergolic upper stages of the M-1A with the first Hatsunese cryogenic stage, which used the LE-05 engine fueled with liquid oxygen and hydrogen. The higher specific impulse (444 s vs 311 s) of the LE-05 meant that the payload capacity could be approximately doubled from 2800 to 4800 kg to low Earth orbit. Without boosters, up to 1900 kg could be launched. Only two stages were needed to send most payloads destined for geostationary transfer orbit and beyond, so the shorter version of the M-1A fairing could be used. The second stage was also longer due to hydrogen's low density, but was still light enough to be lifted by a single LE-04 core stage. The development and operation of such an engine and its associated infrastructure had significant costs, due to the very low temperatures of liquid hydrogen which made it difficult to store, but they were considered worth it for launching larger or longer-range interplanetary probes without completely redesigning the rest of the vehicle. Insulation and white paint were used to mitigate the evaporation and leakage of hydrogen when in orbit.

edit: the hydrolox upper stage was nicknamed "Hakuba" (白馬) or "White Horse."



1972-01-09 - The M-1B launched the Neginohana-3 test satellite to geostationary orbit. The LE-05 ignited at almost 100 kilometers, with a flame that was faint but packed a lot of energy. It burned again to deliver the satellite to a geostationary transfer orbit. After separation, Neginohana-3 used two burns: the first burn to raise its orbit slightly so that by the next time it reached apogee, it was above East Asia and Australia.




First/second stage separation


GTO burn


Second geostationary insertion burn


Neginohana-3 in geostationary orbit


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Phase 2 - 17 - M-1A/B, Sun/Earth observatory, 3-day crewed mission, 2nd lunar orbiter probe (1972)
Phase 2 - 17

1972-04-17 - "Taiyou" was a spacecraft launched by a single-core M-1B to study the Sun's effects on the Earth's upper atmosphere (using an ultraviolet spectrometer), magnetic field, and plasma environment. It also tested a heavier and more sophisticated live camera.



1972-08-09 - Utahime-03, piloted by Akari Miura, tested the endurance capabilities of the spacecraft's life support systems. She spent over three days in orbit photographing the stars and Earth and recording her medical status, as the alkaline fuel cells produced power from the reserves of liquid hydrogen and oxygen, generating water in the process. Due to the small space of the capsule, a person could not psychologically handle being in there for longer periods of time.





1972-11-21 - M-1A launched Usagi-7, Hatsunia's second lunar orbiter. The probe had higher-resolution instruments compared to its predecessor, a slightly longer structure to hold these instruments, and spherical propellant tanks. It used the camera to select sites for future lunar lander probes.






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Phase 2 - 18 - M-1A/B, Geostationary network, first crewed rendezvous, first Mars orbiter (1973-1974)
Phase 2 - 18

1973-01-04 to 1973-10-22 - Sakura-5a, 5b, 5c, and 5d were launched by M-1B rockets and their "Hakuba" hydrolox upper stages to form a new geostationary communications network spanning most of the globe. Advances in antennas made longer-range applications of communications satellites possible. The network was used to maintain almost-constant connections for future satellites launched into Earth orbit. It was also used for communications between places on Earth during emergencies, or to remote areas. Sakura-5a was positioned over Hatsunia and the western Pacific Ocean, 5b over the Middle East, 5c over the Atlantic Ocean, and 5d over the eastern Pacific Ocean.

Sakura-5a (5b, 5c, and 5d)


1973-04-01 to 1973-04-08 - Utahime-04, Yuzuki Morita's second flight, was launched by a triple-core M-1A to perform the first crewed rendezvous. The reason why leading zeroes were used for human missions was that the number "4" could be pronounced similarly to the word for "death" (shi) in Hatsunese* (an alternate pronunciation for 4 was yon). The destination was the Rendezvous Target Vehicle (RTV-1) which had launched a week earlier by a single-core M-1A to a 300 kilometer orbit. It only consisted of the M-1A upper stage and a basic cylindrical structure with solar panels to keep the batteries alive. Utahime-04 launched into a 200 kilometer orbit and was behind the RTV, but since a lower orbit is faster, the capsule gradually caught up. It performed a transfer burn to intercept the RTV, then another burn to slow down relative to the target. Morita was assisted by radar systems and some visual aids to maneuver the capsule in front of the RTV and proceed forward as if to dock, stopping only a few meters short, then backing away. After station-keeping for about an hour, she initiated the Earth return sequence and splashed down almost 21 hours after launch.

[*supposedly this is why the video game "Ace Combat 04" is specifically named that way, at least according to TV Tropes]

(pretend that the capsule has forward-facing windows)


Utahime-04 launch


"This is Utahime commander Yuzuki Morita. I am entering the transfer orbit, now"


Slowing down relative to the RTV









1973-08-05 to 1974-02-28 - Nozomi-2 or PLANET-C was HASDA's first Mars orbiter, launched by an M-1B rocket on a seven month journey. On 1974-02-28, the spacecraft arrived at Mars and inserted itself into a 300 by 3400 km polar orbit. It built an extensive map of the Red Planet as it observed craters, deep valleys, inactive volcanoes, polar ice caps made of frozen water and carbon dioxide, and dust storms. Implications of past liquid water were seen in what looked like dried out rivers and lakebeds. The upper atmosphere, ionosphere, and the magnetic and gravitational fields of Mars were also studied.



Trans-Mars injection with a significant normal (perpendicular) component, so it is tilted at an angle from the prograde/forward direction


Path from Earth to Mars (the purple line is the orbit it would have if it continued to fly past Mars instead of entering orbit)


Mars approach and insertion


Above Martian south pole



In orbit



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Phase 2 - 19 - M-1A/B, Launch of Mercury flyby, first docking (1974) [VIDEO]
Phase 2 - 19

1974-03-13 - The Mercury flyby probe "Mio" (PLANET-D) was launched by an M-1B. The name, meaning "waterway," represented the journey it would take through interplanetary space and the solar wind, as it would conduct the first gravitational assist at Venus en route to Mercury. This would save propellant and Delta-v requirements by transferring some of Venus's orbital energy to change the spacecraft's velocity. The name also reflected the Chinese and Japanese names for Mercury, which meant "water star" (水星) as it represented one of the five elements in Chinese philosophy. The probe was due to arrive at Mercury in January 1975.





1974-06-18 - Utahime-05 was piloted by Marumi Nabatame to conduct the first orbital docking with the second Rendezvous Target Vehicle. This required the attachment of a small docking port at the end of the cylindrical structure that normally detached when the launch escape system was jettisoned. The procedure for carefully approaching the target, moving into position, and docking was partially assisted by computers to compensate for limited visibility from the capsule. Once docked, Nabatame performed an EVA to test satellite inspection and repair operations. Afterwards, she undocked from the RTV and returned to Earth about a day after launch.




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Phase 2 - 20 - M-1B, Venus swing-by to Mercury, first lunar lander probe (1974)
Phase 2 - 20

1974-08-24 - Mio got a gravity assist at Venus on its way to Mercury, passing as close as 600 kilometers from the planet.


1974-10-10 - M-1B launched Usagi-8, Hatsunia's first (robotic) lunar lander, which arrived on October 14. The design of the lander was an adaptation of the Usagi-6 and 7 orbiters, with larger propellant tanks to be able to decelerate into lunar orbit and land on the surface, extendable leg structures to support the vehicle once landed, and solar panels angled to receive some light when the Sun is low in the sky. The landing site was a relatively flat area in Mare Humorum (Sea of Moisture), a basaltic plain which has been estimated to be 3.9 billion years old. Data about local magnetic fields, high-resolution images of the surrounding area, and regolith composition were transmitted. The probe's systems had to hibernate during the half-month-long lunar night.




Lunar orbit insertion


Descent and landing








Regolith scoop

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Phase 2 - 21 - M-1B, Mercury flyby, launch of Venus orbiter and Jupiter/Saturn flyby (1975)
Phase 2 - 21

The development of HASDA's mass and volume-constrained interplanetary probes was becoming part of the revolution that was making computers smaller and more convenient for public use. Computers across the country were also starting to be connected in what was known as the "Hatsu-net" project, started earlier in the decade for use by universities and the military.

1975-01-07 - Mio arrived at Mercury, but was only within the sphere of influence for four hours. It observed Mercury's craters and escarpments (cliffs formed at fault lines, suggesting geological activity in the distant past), a trace atmosphere of helium, a magnetic field implying a large iron core, and large temperature variations between the night and day sides (-183 °C to 187 °C). It also measured the plasma of the solar wind at a much closer distance compared to Earth. Small course corrections put it on a path to visit Mercury again in approximately six months (2 Mercurian years), but due to Mercury's 3:2 spin-orbit resonance (3 rotations for 2 orbits around the Sun), only the same portions of the surface would be visible. Data from Mio complemented NASA's Mariner 10 probe, mapping some parts of the planet that were in shadow when it passed by Mercury.






1975-06-08 - Akatsuki-2 (PLANET-E) was launched to Venus, where it would perform an orbital insertion at the end of October to study the Venusian atmosphere at different wavelengths. Shaped as a rectangular prism with two solar arrays, it contained metal balancing plates etched with images of Hatsune Miku (like all Hatsunese probes) and thousands of submissions from the public for a "Send Your Name to Venus" campaign.

(real life inspiration: http://wiki.nicotech.jp/nico_tech/index.php?HatsuneMiku_to_Venus)






1975-07-02 - Mio made its second flyby of Mercury, passing closer to the southern hemisphere.

1975-07-02 - Watarimono (渡り者, "wanderer") or PLANET-F was launched as Hatsunia's first probe to the outer planets, specifically Jupiter and Saturn, using a design similar to Pioneer 10 and 11. After using the Hakuba hydrolox stage, the spacecraft was boosted by a Star-39H solid kick motor borrowed from Thiokol, as it had a high propellant mass fraction in a small, compact package. It provided the majority of the 6390 m/s required to get to Jupiter, where it would be redirected to Saturn by its gravitational field. Because solar panel power generation is too weak at those distances, two SNAP-19 radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) were used. The Plutonium-238 fuel in the RTGs was expensive to produce, and used a significant but not excessive portion of HASDA's budget, but provided higher power density and safety compared to alternatives. This mission was done in preparation for a Grand Tour of Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune which would occur in the late 1970s with a larger next-generation rocket. Watarimono was expected to reach Jupiter in December 1977, and Saturn in May 1981 with a flyby of its atmospheric moon Titan. (a closer flyby of Saturn was prioritized instead)





Separation of Star-39H solid kick motor


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Phase 2 - 22 - M-1A/B, Final Utahime mission, Venus orbiter, 2nd lunar lander probe (1975-1976)
Phase 2 - 22

1975-10-02 - Utahime-06, piloted by Akari Miura, was the final mission in the Utahime program. After docking with the third Rendezvous Test Vehicle 300 kilometers above Earth, Miura waited for almost a day before using the RTV's propulsion system to raise the apoapsis to 1039 kilometers where she could view most of Hatsunia. Then she returned to a 300 x 300 kilometer orbit before undocking and performing the last re-entry and splashdown of an Utahime capsule, which would be replaced in a few years by a newer, bigger crew vehicle that was being developed along with its launch vehicle.







1975-10-31 - Akatsuki-2 performed Venus orbit insertion, which mostly took place while Venus was blocking communications signals to and from Earth. The final orbit had a periapsis of 539 kilometers and an apoapsis of over 9000 kilometers. The spacecraft observed the thick, dense, and hot CO2 atmosphere and its cloud layers in visible, infrared, and ultraviolet spectra, while mapping the topography of the terrain and measuring the ionosphere and magnetic field around Venus. The orbiter discovered an equatorial jet stream, and a large atmospheric wave in the region of Aphrodite Terra nearly stretching from pole-to-pole.






1976-07-19 - Usagi-9, HASDA's second lunar lander probe, went to Ina, a shallow crater in Lacus Felicitatis (Lake of Happiness) considered to be one of the Moon's lowland regions. The surface was porous from ancient volcanic activity, with high levels of titanium.



Orbit insertion


Landing burn

Phase 3 - 01 - M-2 rocket, Saki Orbital Flight Experiment (1977)
Phase 3 - 01

The development of the M-2 rocket had several motivations. The Hatsunia Defense Forces and Cabinet Intelligence Office needed to lift large reconnaissance satellites with telescopic imaging capabilities. On the civilian side, scientists desired a rocket that could lift probes such as Mars landers or spacecraft to the outermost planets in the Solar System. HASDA was also planning a successor to the Utahime crew capsule with more living space for astronauts. This was known as Saki, named after the tallest mountain in Hatsunia at 3939 meters. The M-2 thus became a launcher with similar capabilities to a Titan III with solid rocket boosters.

The M-2 had a 4.39-m-diameter core stage with five LE-04 engines, which could be augmented by up to four 2.39 m LE-04 liquid rocket boosters identical to the ones used on the M-1A and M-1B rockets, bringing the total to nine. To carry large payloads to Low Earth Orbit (up to 7 to 12 tonnes), a cheap high-thrust second stage was needed. Using another LE-04 on the second stage was considered to reduce development and manufacturing costs. But without the ability to throttle, this would result in the stage having excess g-forces and vibration near the end of its burn, especially for a crewed launch. Instead, three LE-02B engines (derived from the first stage engine of the Negi-2 sounding and orbital rockets) were used. Optionally, a hydrogen/liquid oxygen third stage with its additional efficiency and expenses could be added for payloads going beyond Low Earth Orbit (up to 3 to 6 tonnes). This was a 3.9-m-wide version of the M-1B "Hakuba"/"White Horse" stage called "Hakuba-A," with the same burn time. It had relatively lower thrust, so it was not practical for large LEO payloads.

M-2 configurations were designated "XY" in which X represented the number of stages, and Y the number of liquid rocket boosters. For example, an M-2 24 had two stages and four boosters, while an M-2 30 had three stages and zero boosters.

To reduce the strain on the government's space budget, a decision was made to privatize launch operations and promote them to an international market. Mikubishi Launch Services was formed as the world's first commercial launch provider, selling rides for geostationary communications and broadcasting satellites on the M-1B and eventually the M-2 series as subsequent satellites grew in mass. The late 1970s also saw the formation of Europaspace, a European launch company that Mikubishi would compete head-to-head with throughout the 1980s, as they both used native-built engines based on the American LR79.


1977-02-17 - The first launch of the M-2 (24 configuration) carried the Saki Orbital Flight Experiment (SOFLEX) and Vehicle Evaluation Payload (VEP). SOFLEX was an uncrewed prototype version of the Saki Core Module, a 3.7-m-wide capsule that was flat and wide like the mountain it was named after. This shape was designed to reduce g-forces during re-entry with a shifted center of mass. However, after the M-2 upper stage performed a de-orbit burn before one full orbit was completed, SOFLEX re-entered ballistically with higher g-forces as it tested the durability of the heat shield and control systems. It deployed a large parachute and splashed down south of Negishima. Below SOFLEX was the box-shaped VEP, which acted as a mass simulator for heavy cargo.

(Utahime probably had uncrewed prototype tests, too, I just didn't simulate or depict them)

(I am now using the Waterfall mod, which produces engine exhaust effects with better framerates compared to particle-based effects)







De-orbit using only one LE-02B engine


SOFLEX re-entry


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Phase 3 - 02 - M-2, dual-payload test, Jupiter flyby (1977)
Phase 3 - 02

1977-05-31 - Neginohana-4a and 4b were communications and engineering test satellites launched by an M-2-30 (three stages, zero boosters) with a Payload Append System (PAS), an additional fairing structure designed to contain one satellite and support a second satellite on top. The satellites tested a new standardized bus for geostationary applications, with three-axis control and sun-tracking solar panels. 4a and 4b were respectively placed above the western and eastern sides of the Pacific Ocean.




Burn to Geostationary Transfer Orbit


Partially-circularized transfer orbits






1977-10-02 - Watarimono arrived within Jupiter's massive sphere of influence. Over the next two-to-three months, it would approach the largest planet in the Solar System, getting as close as 12000 kilometers from the cloud tops, and reaching a speed as high as 56 kilometers per second. About a week before the closest approach on December 27, it crossed the orbit of the moon Callisto. The trajectory of the spacecraft took it within Jupiter's equatorial radiation belts (of solar particles captured by the planet's magnetic field), which were ten thousand times stronger than the Van Allen belts surrounding Earth. The probe's camera took close-up views of the swirling cloud bands in Jupiter's atmosphere, including the centuries-old storm known as the Great Red Spot. The four Galilean moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto) were also imaged, but from a farther distance. Jupiter was used for a gravitational assist to reach Saturn in 1981. (The Titan flyby was cancelled as a closer approach to Saturn was prioritized. The moon of Mimas would be flown by instead.)

The shadow of Europa is visible on Jupiter

(default TUFX)


Entered sphere of influence

One week from closest approach - Jupiter can be distinguished from the four Galilean moons


Six hours from closest approach


Closest approach






Next stop: Saturn (in 1981)

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Phase 3 - 03 - M-2/1B, advanced recon sat, 3rd lunar lander probe (1978)
Phase 3 - 03

1978-05-09 - An M-2-24 launched the first Advanced Information Gathering Satellite (IGS-A) for the Cabinet Intelligence Office. Many details of its capabilities and operations are still kept secret, but it is believed to have a similar design to the "Stargazer" space telescope launched several years later. Much larger than the last IGS generation, it does not rely on film that has to be returned to Earth in a capsule, but instead uses electro-optical digital imaging.




1978-07-23 - Usagi-10 was launched to land in Aristillus Crater on the Moon, located in Mare Imbrium (the "Sea of Rains"). The landing site was between the crater rim and the peaks of the impact site at the center.





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