Tales from the Edict 38 - Affinity Star
Updated: Apr 29, 2021
Space Y’s Affinity Star was the first space vehicle capable of carrying humans deep into the solar system. Before then several spacecraft had attempted interplanetary travel, most infamously the Kremlin Collective’s 2032 attempt to deliver a crew to the Venus orbiting platform Venera-D.
Since that ill-fated mission and the near disaster of Silver Bare the space industry has come to recognise the extreme dangers posed to human space flight beyond the protective shielding of Earth. Though the risks had been known prior to both missions, it was deemed as marginal, no spacecraft having been lost due to debris collision prior to these events. But man’s understanding of the ‘void’ of space has grown exponentially with every launch into the wider solar system to the point where today we are able to run simulations that will give highly accurate impact event risk analysis maps of quadrants of space bounded by the orbital path of Mars and Mercury. Today, in 2040 the Asteroid Link network monitors over 12 million asteroids and NEOs with a size greater than 50m, as well as providing early warning of events resulting in belt ejections down to 1m in size. However, that leaves tens of millions of smaller objects unreported. And before 2035 when the Asteroid Link network started on-line there was zero warning of impact events.
In 2029 Musk’s first shipment of modules to the lunar surface (contracted through Space X) set in motion the next phase in his project to colonise Mars although, at the time, it was not widely known that he still had his eyes firmly set on the objective, having so recently sold the apparent means of getting there. But the founding of Radix-M was simply the start of the next phase.
The lessons of Silver Bare in 2031 had not escaped Musk. He realised how lucky the crew had been, and subsequently how unlucky the Russians were in 2032. The key to surviving deep space travel lay in the ability of a space vehicle to withstand impact events. Smaller satellites and unmanned craft were smaller targets and more likely to suffer a near miss than a ‘hit’ but the chances of a collision are exponentially increased with size. Musk modified his plans accordingly, but this new iteration barely slowed his characteristic drive to succeed.
Radix-M became the first off-Earth space vehicle construction yard. Capable of being run remotely with full automation, the facility undertook resource extraction from the lunar surface for a narrow range of key minerals from which metals and other key elements could be extracted. Over the course of eight months the automated manufacturing facility extracted, processed, and began printing all the components to make a new design of interplanetary space vehicle that came to be known as the A Class (Musk has always had a panache for naming his creations, in this case A is thought to be for armoured).
The core structural construction was completed within eight months, at which time a Space Y? engineering team landed at Radix-M and began the fitting and integration of systems supplied from Earth. Work continued for another eight months with engineering teams in rotation until late 2033 when the newly christened Affinity Star lifted off from the lunar surface under the power of its eight Hydra Methalox thrusters. At the time, its mass of 2,578 tonnes made it the largest object ever to be put into orbit. A further 6 months was required to fit out the spacecraft with more components transferred from the Radix-M facility via Starship deliveries and consignments from Earth. Additional armour plates made of iron brought the total weight to 4,012 tonnes. Designs for Affinity Star were published online by Musk in 2034, coinciding with the arrival of the spaceship into high Earth Orbit. Although invisible to the naked eye, the spaceship became a tourist attraction and caused a boom in LEO tourism spaceflights.
Designed to carry a maximum of 138 passengers and crew into deep space, the Affinity Star broke orbit in 2034 with a crew of 30, plus additional equipment of the type used at Radix-M. The ship set course for Mars, the first of what would become a series of epic missions, each deeper into the solar system.