Between seasons, this screen shows the results of R&D. Every mission component has a reliability value, which is used to simulate how well (or how badly) a mission goes. The only thing R&D does is increase reliability of mission components.
Below, we see that the X-15 reliability has improved by 20.2%, going from 3% to 23.2%. That 20.2% may seem like a lot; four more seasons of this, and the plane will be perfectly reliable. First, no components can have 100% reliability. Anything a human’s life depends upon has a max reliability around 94 to 98%; satellites may have a max reliability around 91%. This means no part of the mission is perfectly safe, there’s always some risk. Also, R&D cannot raise reliability to the maximum. Above a certain threshold, we have to test components on missions to really be sure they will work reliably.
Second, reliability improvement is a decaying exponential function. We went from 3 to 23% in one season. Going from 70 to 90% may take over a year. Part of the game of BASPM is deciding when R&D gains are too incremental and to put components to the test. And the X-15 is a relatively easy component to R&D. The most complex component we’ll R&D in this Let’s Play will be the Saturn V rocket, which will be about six times slower to R&D.
The Mission Control Center has finished construction, allowing us to hire up to five mission controllers. There are four hire with Learning Capacity 93 or higher, so we hire them. We only need five for the first several years, so we don’t need to expand the Mission Control Center for a while.
At the bottom left of the screen is our current cash reserves and seasonal balance. If we ever run out of money, we’re fired for mismanagement. Our current budget $2750 per season, but facility maintenance, personnel salaries, and program/component maintenance cuts into that. After hiring the mission controllers, we down to +$1585 per season, which is around the cost of flying an Explorer I mission. What I’m trying to say is we shouldn’t expand too fast, too soon.
That said, we are going to upgrade the SET Center so we can hire more SET personnel. This is a space race, and to get mission components reliable quickly, we need lots of R&D.
Now that the Astronaut Center has finished construction, we hire a couple astronauts. Unlike historical space programs, which would select an astronaut class from candidates and train them for specific programs, BASPM can get away with having a small number of astronauts across the entire game. Since we’re only flying 2-person Gemini capsules, with luck we won’t need to expand beyond the basic Astronaut Center, which can only handle seven astronauts.
Also, now that the Vehicle Assembly Building is done construction, we can open our first rocket program: the Jupiter-C booster. Below, now that the SET personnel we hired in spring have finished basic training, we’ve rearranged the department to research all three current components.
I’ve split the 7 SET 2 / 2 / 3 between the X-15 / Explorer I / Jupiter-C components as the Jupiter-C has some catching up to do. As mentioned last time, there are diminishing returns the more SET we put on each project.
Also, notice that our continued expansion means we’re only +$900 per season now.
Our first four mission controllers have finished basic training. Now it’s time for them to start advanced training to prepare for upcoming missions. Digging through the game data, we should need at most 14 mission controllers during this game. In priority order, they are:
- Crew and Payloads
- Trajectory & GNC
- Flight Director
- Spacecraft Systems
- Spacecraft Systems #2
- Mission Operations
- Spacecraft Systems #3
- Trajectory & GNC #2
- Trajectory & GNC #3
- Mission Operations #2
- Trajectory & GNC #4
- Crew and Payloads #2
The Flight Director and AFD roles use all five mission controller skills, so they should develop them all. The other roles only use one skill, and so they should focus on training that particular skill. Below, Delicia is better at Mission Operations, but we really need a Trajectory & GNC controller for the X-15 missions, so that’s what she’s training.
Abraham, being not as good in the first three skills we need, gets promoted to Flight Director. Funny how that works. Below is a screen asking which skill should he train. Like with R&D, skill training is also a decaying exponential function. Unlike the other mission controllers, who are improving one of their better skills, as Flight Director, Abraham will most improve by addressing his low Operations skill.
Each advanced training class costs $100 and takes three seasons. The class can be stopped early, with a lower skill gain, but the training cost is not prorated.
It’s a new year, and that means we can hire personnel again. The SET candidates are not very good though. We hire the two candidates with Learning Capacity 92 or higher. Hope this doesn’t slow down R&D.
We also hire a 5th mission controller to fill the building and hire the best astronaut candidate of the year. While it doesn’t hurt to start training astronauts early (besides the cost), there isn’t a huge rush either. Also, the first three astronauts so far are all male, and I would like female representation in our space program.
With the upgraded SET Center and new hires, we’re now down to +$360 per season. That’s just a handful of advanced training courses.
We skipped summer because we just stayed the course: R&D and training.
Fall has an interesting decision: it so happens that our first couple astronauts finished basic training at the same time as the first mission controllers finished advanced training and, after another SET shuffle, the X-15 reliability will rise to 82.4%. We could give everyone another round of training and get another nine months of R&D. Or we could fly the X-15 now and, if all goes well, finish the program sooner so we can close it (saving some budget) and reassign R&D to the Explorer I and Jupiter-C components, since intelligence told us that the Soviets are working on Sputnik.
You know what? Let’s do it.
Here is the screen where we assign mission controllers to roles in the mission:
For crewed missions, we also need to select the astronaut crew. Wayne Holmes will be our first test pilot.
To schedule a mission, we also need to pay the mission component costs. I think the idea is components the SET team has been working on is used on the mission, and we need to construct a new one for the next mission. Anyway, this mission costs $683, which is almost half a year’s budget surplus right now, which advanced training classes also comes out of.
Enough accounting. Let’s talk about how missions work. Every mission is broken into a number of steps. At each step there is a chance of a minor or major malfunction, which is based on component reliability (for example, when launching a satellite, the earlier steps during launch depend more on the rocket’s reliability while the later steps during deployment depend more on the satellite’s) and skills (each step uses a mix of mission controller and astronaut skills). I believe if there is a major malfunction, there is a chance of catching or fixing it based on astronaut and/or mission controller skill. If a major malfunction isn’t fixed on a crewed mission, that’s the stuff nightmares are made of.
The tensest but most fun part of the game is watching missions play out from mission control, waiting and hoping that nothing goes wrong. While the X-15 only has about 82% reliability, this is a simple mission with only six steps. The Gemini Direct Ascent we’re aiming for has 21 steps, and I would not attempt it without thoroughly testing the equipment out first.
I won’t end on a cliffhanger. The mission is a success! Pats on the back to all the personnel that made this possible. We’re off to a good start.