While the world’s attention has been drawn to the arrival of Duna Express, Eve Express was being wheeled out to the launchpad at the RUD space center for a launch early this morning. Eve Express climbed through the clouds of Kerbin as Duna Rover 1 began its final system checks to parachute to the surface of Duna, a first for Kerbal-kind.
Eve Express, much like Duna Express, is a multi-ship mission. It is actually a slightly improved version of the Duna Express, with modifications to systems learned from the Duna Express mission. The only major modifications were changes to the communication systems onboard the probes and rover, launch vehicle structural improvements and a solar panel array now onboard the Duna Express bus, which carries the multi-craft mission from High Kerbin Orbit to Eve; a change that “will open up more science opportunities” says one RUD scientist.
“As Eve Express Launches, we step forward yet again into the cosmos” says Jebidiah Kerman moments before the launch. The 156-ton launch vehicle lifted off without a hitch, roaring into the skies and above the clouds. The first stage of the launch vehicle jettisoned it two exterior tanks and rocket motors as they ran out of fuel – a sight that could be seen from the launchpad with binoculars. The second stage, the central orange fuel tank, would not be jettisoned until it was several thousand kilometers above Kerbin and it would do so at a point where it will fall back to Kerbin and safely burn up in the atmosphere hours after launch.
Eve Express will then wait in a high orbit around Kerbin for its window of opportunity to make a burn for Eve. While it is waiting, mission controllers on the ground will be checking and double-checking every system onboard to ensure a safe delivery of the payload spacecrafts that the Eve Express bus is carrying.
Once the burn has been made, it will take Eve Express 42 days to reach Eve, traveling at a speed of 8.5 kilometers per second. Eve Express has only a single course correction and misson controllers plan to use a technique called aerobraking to slow the craft down once it reaches Eve by dipping it into the atmosphere of Eve to cause drag against Eve’s dense atmosphere and slow it down without using fuel. This maneuver will allow Eve Express to be captured completed by Eve and enter a stable orbit without escaping Eve’s gravity.