Proxima: A Human Exploration of Mars

Chapter 4: Enter Valiant
Hello you lovely people, it's time for something you've all been waiting for... OV-102!

While I'm sure this scenario will not appease everyone's desire's for the outcome, I hope it provides a cool "what if" for the orbiter and that you'll come along for the ride as we explore this wacky alternate world. I would love to extend my greatest thanks to my dear friend Tracker, who did so many incredible images for this post and is a trooper for putting up with all of my design changes.

Chapter 4: Enter Valiant

NASA’s shuttle program had been hurried into existence by the dramatic turn towards climate awareness, with scientific representatives from NASA, NOAA and the EPA touting a system of both human and robotic observation to maintain awareness of the state of the planet. Engineers had pointed out that rapid, reusable vehicles would only advance life on Earth, perhaps solving the needs of billions of people and ensuring American leadership in the global technosphere. Both Ford and Carter’s administrations had been sold on the idea of reusable, common and world leading space travel; and in 1977 Congress acted to ensure greater funding in the program’s infancy. Work by Rockwell and Aerojet had been slow to start, but quickly picked up as the Space Shuttle Main Engine issues were resolved. The Department of Defense had been quick to fund additional capabilities, and in many ways, had shaped the program’s overall design. However, with the additional scientific capabilities, and talks of repurposing Skylab or even building a new station, the DoD’s dedicated missions had been pushed further down the flightline. For many years since the start of the Space Age, the Air Force had been interested in flying their own crew on their own vehicles, separate from the scientific focus of NASA’s human spaceflight office, and more importantly, free from safety constraints that may restrict their ability to act in national interest. In the 60s, programs like the Manned Orbiting Laboratory had promised to revolutionize the practice of observation. Internal support for these programs had dwindled, largely due to automated spy satellites taking over from crewed observation. However, crewed spaceflight remained on the Department of Defense's radar, and the capabilities of the Space Shuttle system were not to be ignored.

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As NASA had taken delivery of their Space Shuttle fleet, there had been a noticeably missing component, the first space-capable orbiter off the line. Despite the tremendous support from the federal government, something had gone wrong. As Rockwell had worked to fine tune the vehicle over the course of production, it became apparent that OV-102 was coming in way over the weight advertised to NASA, which would end up losing capability. This was to be expected, OV-102 was in many ways a prototype, and manufacturing would be refined as the program went on. Later vehicles, such as OV-103 and OV-104 would be refined with lessons learned from OV-102’s time at Palmdale. Small cracks in the airframe and damage to the nose tiles during a mating test to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft only furthered the problems with the vehicle, and the final blow was dealt in the summer of 1978. The mostly completed vehicle, scheduled to be flown from Palmdale to Dulles International Airport for an exhibition on human spaceflight, was being prepped for loading onto the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Lifting was underway on the Mate Demate Device, and the vehicle was roughly 35 feet off the ground when the two forward cables supporting the orbiter snapped. The nose of the orbiter slammed into the ground, bending the airframe and shattering the incomplete thermal protection system, scattering around the vehicle like broken teeth. For the lift crew, there was a moment of deep and profound silence. For NASA, their plans for a fleet of reusable vehicles seemed to be up in the air. Rockwell was already in panic mode, OV-102 seemed like a total loss, the first orbiter of five and it could not even be delivered. The public fallout was immense, and an image of the orbiter, milliseconds from contacting the ground taken by a lucky photographer, was the front page of the Los Angeles Times, the headline; “NASA’S NEW SPACE SHUTTLE IN PIECES”

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A crisis meeting was immediately held, and the options were presented to NASA. A structural test article, OV-099, could theoretically be quickly converted into a new orbiter. Parts for OV-103, Discovery, were already arriving at the Palmdale facility for assembly, Converting OV-101 Enterprise would be a more difficult endeavor, as the vehicle would essentially need to be rebuilt from the ground up. NASA had agreed to pursue OV-099’s conversion, and allocated the required funds. OV-102, in its sorry state, would be brought back into the production facility where it would sit. In late 1979, after the upgrades to Challenger had begun to enable the automatic flight planned for STS-1, NASA would declare OV-099 their first orbiter; leaving OV-102 in the factory, and later declaring that they would not accept the vehicle given the immense stress the airframe had undergone. NASA management was troubled by the incident, for sure, and paid close attention to the construction of both OV-099 and OV-103, while their perhaps misplaced confidence and lack of oversight with OV-102 had led to the accident with the MDD.

Within the agency, the consequences of the accident were beginning to be felt. While OV-099 could be brought into service fairly quickly, the delay had its repercussions. The longer Skylab spent in orbit untended, the more difficult it would be to deal with. The sun had entered a period of solar maximum, increasing drag on the station, and there was only so much the Titan Boost module could correct for. Payloads for the space agency were also nearing completion, and time spent sitting in a warehouse would only cut down on-orbit lifetimes. Under executive branch directive, NASA pushed Rockwell to return the funding for the vehicle, under the charge that it would only delay the further advancement of human spaceflight. Rockwell, in a negotiated deal, would agree to keep the payment and produce a sixth orbiter, Intrepid, while allowing the company to continue to fiddle with the undelivered vehicle in an attempt to reduce weight, with the hopes that perhaps the vehicle could be delivered if NASA required it. This was a massive public relations nightmare for the company, as journalists decried the workmanship of the Palmdale facility and the company’s management in general. It became such a bloated issue that NASA spokespeople became involved, defending the performance and reputation of their vehicle, and demonstrating their capabilities on subsequent flights. For Rockwell, OV-102 would remain a reminder of their own shortcomings for the foreseeable future.

OV-102 would sit dormant in the Palmdale facility for several years, as the team worked to correct issues with the vehicle, being powered up semi-regularly to check systems and keep the vehicle functioning. In 1982, with 4 orbiters of NASA’s fleet delivered, several members of Air Force seniority arrived at the Palmdale plant and presented Rockwell with the problem at hand; the Atlas, Titan and Delta family was aging rapidly, and iterative designs of these vehicles could only go so far. Reliability in manufacturing had also been a concern, noted on Titans that had been assembled for both ICBM and launch vehicle use. Rather than wind down these programs and wait for available NASA shuttles to fly their payloads on, they would instead be interested in purchasing OV-102 for use out of both the East and West Coast. NASA had looked, rather intensely, at the West Coast launch site, and had even assisted in the renovation of Space Launch Complex-6, but no mission so far had warranted a California launch. The Air Force, in a matter of relative redundancy, would keep some of the Atlas, Titan and Delta vehicles on reserve, but looked to maximize their flights on this new vehicle. However, there was a serious caveat: Rockwell would have until the end of the year to apply the weight saving measures found on the NASA shuttles to OV-102, as well as install new ELINT equipment and radiation hardening measures. Faced with an uncertain production future now that only Intrepid remained to be delivered to NASA, OV-102 would be brought into the production line again, and considerable weight removed from the vehicle in order to enable the kind of payload performance the Air Force was looking for out of both Vandenberg and Kennedy Space Center. The Air Force, in a public ceremony in Washington DC, would name this new spacecraft SV001 Valiant.

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The vehicle rolled out into the California sun in November, over a month ahead of schedule, and was handed to the 77th Valiant Operations Wing, a special division of the Vandenberg Air Force Base operations. This delivery also left the Air Force with another issue: who would be available to fly her? Two months ahead of the projected delivery, recruiters from Vandenberg traveled to a variety of facilities eager to find airmen to pilot the shuttle, as well as payload specialists. Training operations would be carried out at Edwards Air Force Base, initially in conjunction with already flying NASA astronauts. After the first round of airmen would be trained, they would then go on to fly on Valiant, before returning to Edwards to train other rookie airmen. The Valiant Operations Wing would also take delivery of 6 escort F-15s, and a dedicated C-25 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a modified Boeing 747-200 to serve as the equivalent to NASA’s fleet. As with orbiter Enterprise in years prior, Valiant would roll to the pad at SLC-6 for its own series of fit checks in preparation for a debut flight in 1983. These would see a novelty among the twin space shuttle programs, a grey tank with an Air Force roundel, much like the white tanks of the early shuttle missions. The vehicle was a striking comparison to the shuttles NASA flew, a dark and almost sinister vision shrouded in a good deal of secrecy. This would change fairly early in Valiant’s life, as Martin Marietta aimed to keep cost and weight down by producing identical tanks for both the Air Force and NASA, and soon, the only discernible difference would be the tail markings on the USAF Orbiter and the Air Force Star on the solid rocket motors. Soon, Valiant would see final checks for the maiden flight for the Air Force’s dedicated orbital vehicle.

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I had to make sure I had sufficient reason for OV-102 to be delayed enough to be converted into SV001, but I think this will do it justice
Honestly...I doubt she'd return to flight after an impact like that. Individual components might be able to be pulled off, checked out, and restored to flight, but the entire primary structure is probably suspect at that point. The bay could almost certainly better be used assembling a brand new orbiter from scratch--it'd hardly take less time than fixing an orbit's whose primary structure is suspect and which must be torn down and rebuilt checking every weld and bolt. This is...basically the exact reason NASA ordered the structural spares that become OV-105 Endeavour OTL, and the reasoning probably holds ITTL, too. The idea is cool, but the specific accident is far, far too severe.
 
Honestly...I doubt she'd return to flight after an impact like that. Individual components might be able to be pulled off, checked out, and restored to flight, but the entire primary structure is probably suspect at that point. The bay could almost certainly better be used assembling a brand new orbiter from scratch--it'd hardly take less time than fixing an orbit's whose primary structure is suspect and which must be torn down and rebuilt checking every weld and bolt. This is...basically the exact reason NASA ordered the structural spares that become OV-105 Endeavour OTL, and the reasoning probably holds ITTL, too. The idea is cool, but the specific accident is far, far too severe.
I imagine during the rebuild into Valiant, we'd see some spares get swapped in and pieces of the airframe get reassigned. I really didn't know what kind of steps would be taken in an accident like this, so I wagered my best guess. Still, I guess this is kind of a ship of theseus moment, as the airframe has progressed forward in time. Had to make my best guess!
 
I imagine during the rebuild into Valiant, we'd see some spares get swapped in and pieces of the airframe get reassigned. I really didn't know what kind of steps would be taken in an accident like this, so I wagered my best guess. Still, I guess this is kind of a ship of theseus moment, as the airframe has progressed forward in time. Had to make my best guess!
You'd be better off starting with the structural spares in an empty assembly bay, because you don't have to tear anything down and check it before you start building--the same reason OV-105 existed OTL instead of tearing OV-101 down to rebuild her for flight, but here intensified with the added reason that no one had dropped Enterprise three stories.
 
You'd be better off starting with the structural spares in an empty assembly bay, because you don't have to tear anything down and check it before you start building--the same reason OV-105 existed OTL instead of tearing OV-101 down to rebuild her for flight, but here intensified with the added reason that no one had dropped Enterprise three stories.

And the Air Force is trying to get an Orbiter of their own... I don't doubt that every single spare WAS used and it will come out later that the Air Force essentially paid Rockwell to both build them a 'new' Orbiter and to lie to everyone about how it was all done :) The AF looks to be embracing the Shuttle even more than OTL.

Randy
 
And the Air Force is trying to get an Orbiter of their own... I don't doubt that every single spare WAS used and it will come out later that the Air Force essentially paid Rockwell to both build them a 'new' Orbiter and to lie to everyone about how it was all done :) The AF looks to be embracing the Shuttle even more than OTL.

Randy
a certain level of fuckery is to be expected
 
Well, I salute a way of breaking an orbiter without killing a crew.
I'm not far off what e of pi is saying in that the entire frame is going to be suspect, but I can see a desire to recover something out of it.
The deep question becomes how far back does the damage go - if it's all ahead of the Xo582 Ring bulkhead, then large parts of the spaceframe might be salvageable. If the damage extends further aft, then less would be still useful. I'd fully expect the boattail, control surfaces, and many components in the aft fuselage to be recoverable.

This image, from the Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Report (don't read unless you are used to accident investigation reports) gives an idea of the structural layout of the front of the shuttle. major structural loads are only transferred at the z-link (on the Xo378 Bulkhead), the y-links, and the x-links (both on the Xo582 Bulkhead):

Screenshot_2021-12-06_at_20-27-03_Layout_1_-_298870main_SP-2008-565_pdf.png


The other concern I have is that based on historical events, There wasn't a lift device at Palmdale until the one form Vandenberg was sent there. Previously, orbiters were moved from Palmdale to Dryden/Edwards by road, and then loaded up. The orbiters had also been accepted for delivery by NASA prior to that overland move, meaning blame for the incident is going to depend on what exactly went wrong, but most of the possible failures are not Rockwell's fault. Now, the contractor who build the Mate-Demate Device could be in serious trouble...
 
The other concern I have is that based on historical events, There wasn't a lift device at Palmdale until the one form Vandenberg was sent there. Previously, orbiters were moved from Palmdale to Dryden/Edwards by road, and then loaded up. The orbiters had also been accepted for delivery by NASA prior to that overland move, meaning blame for the incident is going to depend on what exactly went wrong, but most of the possible failures are not Rockwell's fault. Now, the contractor who build the Mate-Demate Device could be in serious trouble...
Yeah, this was actually a mistake I made.. I wasn't exactly sure when the MDD was in service (and seem to have forgotten about when they moved the shuttles overland) but, hey, you live and learn
 
a certain level of fuckery is to be expected

It's the Air Force versus NASA (and a LOT of senior Air Force and even DoD personnel had an active hate-on for NASA even into the mid-80s) so yes that's to be expected :)

(And I apologize in advance for somewhat hijacking your TL with some background questions to "the usual suspects" here but it's an opening and I'm exploiting it :) )

Well, I salute a way of breaking an orbiter without killing a crew.

A LOT better than some of the concepts I'd had that's for sure :)

Then again I'm (desperately :) ) trying to find a plausible POD where they end up using the STS as a "system" due to problems but still eventually field an engineless Orbiter version.
I'm not far off what e of pi is saying in that the entire frame is going to be suspect, but I can see a desire to recover something out of it.

It essentially is all going to be suspect which is why NASA won't touch it but may designate it as "spares" (with the caveat they need to be pretty desperate to use those spares) and why the Air Force could see an opportunity. In this case they are essentially paying NASA to 'buy' a "wrecked" Orbiter that NASA already "owns" but can't use and then turning around and offering to pay Rockwell to 'rebuild' that Orbiter into a working vehicle. As far as it looks on the outside NASA won't have much reason to say 'no' and Rockwell, (in the end) gets paid to build more 'spares' for NASA on the Air Force's dime. (In theory. as noted I would not put it past the AF of the time period to use up NASA's "spares" and then keep pushing paying to build more down the road indefinitely :) )

The deep question becomes how far back does the damage go - if it's all ahead of the Xo582 Ring bulkhead, then large parts of the spaceframe might be salvageable. If the damage extends further aft, then less would be still useful. I'd fully expect the boattail, control surfaces, and many components in the aft fuselage to be recoverable.

And I'll point out that Rockwell had already done some work on their own for using such parts should there be a need or requirement, and this could arguably be a moment for all that work to pay off. I'll again point out that TTL "something" significant changed in the Astronaut Office AND hold-over Apollo management are suddenly willing to set a precedent of the Shuttle flying unmanned which OTL they were adamantly and institutionally vehemently against. I can't stress how major a change that is.

If NASA is not willing to take that next obvious step, (and in context here "Skylab B" is sitting right there in storage and only needs a booster which the "Orbiter" can't be but....) then maybe the Air Force will. (And you avoid 'stealing' NASA spares or having to pay for essentially rebuilding another Orbiter essentially from the ground up.... No pun intended :) )

Maybe have Rockwell pitches the idea of actually using the "system" aspect of the "Space Transportation SYSTEM" and the Air Force bites and runs with it.

This image, from the Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Report (don't read unless you are used to accident investigation reports) gives an idea of the structural layout of the front of the shuttle. major structural loads are only transferred at the z-link (on the Xo378 Bulkhead), the y-links, and the x-links (both on the Xo582 Bulkhead):

Screenshot_2021-12-06_at_20-27-03_Layout_1_-_298870main_SP-2008-565_pdf.png


Not that it 'matters' much but I'd say ever single joint aft of that bulkhead is stressed beyond repair but I'd also point out that everything forward of that bulkhead was what Rockwell proposed could be 'lifted' from the Orbiter and put into a new vehicle if the will was there so maybe 'breaking' it there would simply require replacing some of the load links?

(Rockwell's proposed Orbiter forward section mated to a 'new' lifting body concept vehicle)
Rockwell Proposed Orbiter based Command Post.JPG


On the other hand not sure if Rockwell would be willing to take that risk.

The other concern I have is that based on historical events, There wasn't a lift device at Palmdale until the one form Vandenberg was sent there. Previously, orbiters were moved from Palmdale to Dryden/Edwards by road, and then loaded up. The orbiters had also been accepted for delivery by NASA prior to that overland move, meaning blame for the incident is going to depend on what exactly went wrong, but most of the possible failures are not Rockwell's fault. Now, the contractor who build the Mate-Demate Device could be in serious trouble...

I'd kind of suggest a revision/re-write given how those effects will drastically change the suppositions if not the outcomes. Not to mention this kind of accident may have more far reaching effects than one might think. See this MDD page and realize that without known exactly WHY and how this happened (and how to ensure it won't every happen again) the whole program is again facing a significant delay period. (Worse since the Orbiters are not held up by cables but by rigid beams fitted to attachment points on the Orbiter. The cables are attached to the beams but are multiple and redundant. And people wonder why I'm terrified to write a time line :) )

Setting aside the "how" at the moment what we have is in essence NASA "owns" an Orbiter that was wrecked in moving that had numerous issues they were having to work on resolving but then the Air Force steps up and offers to take it off their hands for what amounts to support for funding a replacement Orbiter for NASA and now not having to fully support West Coast STS operations and (possibly) fewer DoD payloads displacing NASA payloads on NASA Orbiters. Other than some "control issues" (which are going to be there in any case) this looks like a 'win/win' for NASA and the Air Force overall. Maybe the Air Force goes more 'modular' than NASA does, (because of the Orbiter damage) which in turn feeds into NASA looking into the idea more as time goes on? Plausible or no?

Randy
 
While in reality makeing a hole new orbiter would probably be smarter. It may be esser to get congress to pay for it if its gust "repairing" an already existing orbiter.
 
"Rebuilding" trashed equipment for more than the cost of building new equipment, and then selling the process as "cost saving", is an entirely typical NASA/military trick.
 
The vehicle rolled out into the California sun in November, over a month ahead of schedule, and was handed to the 77th Valiant Operations Wing, a special division of the Vandenberg Air Force Base operations. This delivery also left the Air Force with another issue: who would be available to fly her? Two months ahead of the projected delivery, recruiters from Vandenberg traveled to a variety of facilities eager to find airmen to pilot the shuttle, as well as payload specialists. Training operations would be carried out at Edwards Air Force Base, initially in conjunction with already flying NASA astronauts. After the first round of airmen would be trained, they would then go on to fly on Valiant, before returning to Edwards to train other rookie airmen. The Valiant Operations Wing would also take delivery of 6 escort F-15s, and a dedicated C-25 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a modified Boeing 747-200 to serve as the equivalent to NASA’s fleet. As with orbiter Enterprise in years prior, Valiant would roll to the pad at SLC-6 for its own series of fit checks in preparation for a debut flight in 1983. These would see a novelty among the twin space shuttle programs, a grey tank with an Air Force roundel, much like the white tanks of the early shuttle missions. The vehicle was a striking comparison to the shuttles NASA flew, a dark and almost sinister vision shrouded in a good deal of secrecy. This would change fairly early in Valiant’s life, as Martin Marietta aimed to keep cost and weight down by producing identical tanks for both the Air Force and NASA, and soon, the only discernible difference would be the tail markings on the USAF Orbiter and the Air Force Star on the solid rocket motors. Soon, Valiant would see final checks for the maiden flight for the Air Force’s dedicated orbital vehicle.

A few other thoughts I've had on the above section.
  • Valiant is a good name for an orbiter.
  • I presume that the aircraft would also get the specialized in-flight refueling boom that was considered OTL. With a proper tanking aircraft (such as a KC-10, or a KA-3) it is possible to pump fuel up the boom (albeit at a reduced rate), meaning the SCA can fly longer distances non-stop. This tanker-aft configuration would have reduced the strain on the SCA relative to a configuration with the tanker ahead of the SCA.
  • I'm not sure airmen is the right term here, as most of the crew are going to be officers, and "other rookie airmen" feels a bit off.
 
A few other thoughts I've had on the above section.
  • Valiant is a good name for an orbiter.
  • I presume that the aircraft would also get the specialized in-flight refueling boom that was considered OTL. With a proper tanking aircraft (such as a KC-10, or a KA-3) it is possible to pump fuel up the boom (albeit at a reduced rate), meaning the SCA can fly longer distances non-stop. This tanker-aft configuration would have reduced the strain on the SCA relative to a configuration with the tanker ahead of the SCA.
  • I'm not sure airmen is the right term here, as most of the crew are going to be officers, and "other rookie airmen" feels a bit off.
Thanks very much. Valiant seemed like a good choice, and I think it lends itself well to still honoring sailing ships through the naming scheme. There is a slight reference in there as well. The USAF SCA would have the tanking/refueling equipment, and would probably be a Boeing 747-200 pulled off the production line rather than one taken from airliner service. In terms of airmen, I think the people in the Air Force would run into some nomenclature issues later on as they figure out what to call their astronaut corps. I know I certainly struggled with what to call them.
 
A few other thoughts I've had on the above section.
  • Valiant is a good name for an orbiter.
  • I presume that the aircraft would also get the specialized in-flight refueling boom that was considered OTL. With a proper tanking aircraft (such as a KC-10, or a KA-3) it is possible to pump fuel up the boom (albeit at a reduced rate), meaning the SCA can fly longer distances non-stop. This tanker-aft configuration would have reduced the strain on the SCA relative to a configuration with the tanker ahead of the SCA.
  • I'm not sure airmen is the right term here, as most of the crew are going to be officers, and "other rookie airmen" feels a bit off.

Just an FYI but officer or enlisted we're ALL referred to as "airmen" and yes it DOES get a bit confusing when most of your very 'basic' ranks start with "Airman" :)
It's an Air Force thing and we've even got a 'split' where as noted our "official" nomenclature is "Airman" whereas those in the Missile field insist they are called "Missilemen". (Aka "Steely Eyed Missileman" is a compliment :) ) The rest of us just called them stuck up, not that they care :)

Randy
 
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In terms of airmen, I think the people in the Air Force would run into some nomenclature issues later on as they figure out what to call their astronaut corps. I know I certainly struggled with what to call them.

"Astronauts" which is what we call them anyway as that's a 'specialty' designation per their job. Most of the ground and flight support would be "missilemen" as per above I don't think we'd see a separate "Space Force" any times soon but this will very much be the Air Force "Space Program" and treated as such.

While in reality making a whole new orbiter would probably be smarter. It may be easier to get congress to pay for it if its gust "repairing" an already existing orbiter.

Congress is odd that way yes but they'd be more interested (at that time) of finding a way to blame NASA and reduce it's budget allowance rather than pay for another or even fix this one. Congress all through the 70s and 80s was very hostile to the NASA budget, (specifically because every NASA budget request was essentially a pitch for another Apollo program to Mars) so they tended to not give NASA the money it needed. By the late 80s they were using specific "line item veto" to remove approved funding from project they didn't like and if not withholding it completely they would move it to specialized 'pork' projects that NASA wasn't funding.

You can essentially see this played out with Artemis with sufficient funding aimed at SLS (where it literally goes to certain districts) but where the actual "Human Landing System" is underfunded and under-supported so as to frustrate the actual landing schedule. Congress is willing to let the Executive branch spend money on studies and low-level work (look at the amounts spent on Space Station Freedom for example) but balk and resist actually spending money on items that have utility.
Most space time lines have to assume a significant difference in Congressional attitude and more willingness on the part of the executive to actually spend money and a somewhat more supporting public and political landscape to move forward once Apollo is over,.

In reality both the public and politicians were tired and unwilling to see NASA spending large amounts of money any longer and it took till the mid-90s for most of NASA to finally accept that.

Randy
 
Chapter 4.5: Image Annex and Some Notes
Chapter 4.5: Image Annex and Some Notes

Hi all,

I just wanted to throw a few images up that didn't make the final posting for Chapter 4. I'm glad y'all seem to like Valiant so far, there is so much more in store for her and I can't wait to show you. The image I have of Valiant on the pad is done once again by Tracker, and due to some limitations of parts for Vandenberg Air Force Base, is a close replica. Also included will be the official patch for the 77th Valiant Operations wing, our fictional branch which would operate the USAF orbiter, which was also very painstakingly made by Tracker for Proxima. I also wanted to share a note on Valiant's construction. In this case, a lot of the orbiter would have been parted out during the initial recovery for the accident to help accelerate other orbiters, but what was left that was usable would have been brought back into the assembly process. This kind of ends up with a weird ship of Theseus moment that results in OV-102 (kinda) becoming SV-001 over the course of reconstruction. Next Monday we will be diving into some international politics, and contract awards which will help advance our mission to Mars even further and I'm very excited to share that with you. Enjoy!
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