Feb 01 2018

Progenitor Transitions the Mk5 to the Mk6

The original plan for the Progeny series of rockets was to end with the Mk5 being the most-capable design of reaching space above Kerbin. This was almost the case, except for the visual design change of losing the upper-stage fins and the development of the Block I and Block II designs (the Block I offers up better performance over the original Mk5 design). With all these changes there was talk late last year about moving on to a Mk6 designation but the team wanted to wait to ensure no more major design changes were needed. The most recent flight last week is still undergoing analysis but the early consensus is that the overall design is ready to be locked in. The Mk6 will still see tweaks to performance but the overall look will remain the same. The Mk6 will only fly as a Block I or Block II, there is no “base model” like there was with the original Mk5. Since the Block I has proven it is capable of reaching both low and high space above Kerbin, this has called into question the purpose of the more powerful Block II design, which was originally meant to fly above 250km as it was assumed the Block I would not be able to reach or get any higher than that. Thanks to the radiation measurements taken on the Block I flights however there is currently at least one goal that the Block II can possibly satisfy – determining how far the region of high radiation around the planet extends.

Scientists are in agreement that we’ve not yet broken out of Kerbin’s magnetic field, so the radiation detected must be trapped within it somehow. It either exists as a region surrounding the entire planet or a belt encircling part of it. Future Block I launches will head up into space at increasing inclinations to try to determine if there are differences in the strength of the field. Once we can get a better picture of what the field’s extent is, we will send up a Block II to try and push all the way through and see if radiation falls once again on the other side. While we were originally planning to launch the Block II in February, the first launch is now delayed indefinitely pending the results of future Block I launches.

Looking further ahead, Progenitor team engineers have begun discussing the possibility of extending the program into orbital flight with a Mk7 that would fly in conjunction with the Mk6 rather than replace it. The Mk7 would incorporate steerable fins to allow the rocket to flatten out its trajectory more to attempt an orbital insertion. The team has already begun talking with Umbra Space Industries and several other contractors about a new 0.35m LF/O engine that could be restarted multiple times. Having the Progeny make orbit would bring the Block II design back into greater use as the additional requirements of orbital injection would mean the Block I would most certainly not be able to make it above 250km with any significant payload. A lot of this depends greatly on the Ascension program however to develop good ascent profiles into orbit, determine more precisely the amount of Δv required to get there and also proving the Kuudite RTGs are a viable means of powering missions.

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