Kevin K was the chief proponent of the Nymph Project. His vision was to began the Era of Spaceflight with a series of probe-controlled rockets to establish practical experience in planetary (and interplanetary) rocketry, before risking the life of a single Kerbal. He was in something of a minority, but even with the lax safety standards of this time this vision of computer controlled craft gave him one unsurpassed advantage – of all the competing projects of that time the Nymph Project was in position start launches long before the competing Enterprise and Cyclops Projects.
The first test rocket managed sub-ortibal flight, but clearly lacked the necessary power to get into a reliable orbit. The second rocket was not so successful, spinning out of control at a mere 4km. The third design was, on the face of it, even less successful. The addition of four solid-fuel boosters caused the entire design to bend inward, resulting in a fireball at the launchpad. Kevin K, however, was unfazed, and more or less kept the design for the fourth rocket, the Nymph-D. All he directed was the addition of some struts to the solid rockets, linking them together.
It was a critical launch. Kevin K needed to show some progress at least, and he knew that observers Directors of the other projects were using his experiments to inform their own designs. From the three diary accounts we have the control room on that morning we know the atmosphere was tense – but by the late afternoon the champagne was out. The Nymph-D design had successfully launched a probe into orbit. Displaying a certain lack of imagination for which all his projects would be known the probe, once orbit was successfully established, was called the Nymph-1.
The initial orbit was somewhat inclined, but this did not mar the festivities, especially as the following day calculations for a correction had been made to make the orbit properly equatorial and circular. Plans were already afoot for a second launch, which occurred as soon as a further Nymph-D rocket was ready. This launch was a rather better run affair. It also had a slightly different aim, seeking to establish a satellite with a polar orbit, which it did with great success, and was duly named Nymph-2. The major difference between the Nymph-1 and Nymph-2 launches was the Nymph-2 still had fuel for its final stage by the time a stable, circular, orbit had been achieved. The Nymph-1 had been forced to use the remaining fuel on the probe itself to achieve a stable orbit. The now superfluous stage was jettisoned, which meant this launch also contributed to the first piece of space debris in the skies above Kerbin. Some have regarded that in itself as something of an achievement, but others consider it a more sinister milestone.
The Nymph-D can lay claim to be the most influential rocket in the history of Kerbal spaceflight, and its basic design became the hallmark of all rockets launched during the Nymph Project. The probe itself had a small supply of monopropellant for precise manoeuvres, and also a small liquid fuel engine for short burns. This sat above a central fuel-tank and engine, which was known as the final stage. Attached to this were four more fuel tanks and engines, fired in pairs. Finally, attached to each of the outer engines was a solid-fuel booster – these were the first stage designed to get the rocket off the ground itself. Some took to calling it “The Square Rocket” on account of its somewhat quadrilateral shape, and also if gossip to be believed after the shape of the glasses that Kevin K wore at the time.