Return of the Valkyrie
In 2025, a single Valkyrie was recovered in Lunar Orbit. Though more or less intact, it had suffered severe damage, and all onboard systems had stopped. Thought to have been shot down and abandoned in the First Space War, and fearing possible Zentraedi booby traps, it was carefully brought to the Moon's Apollo base for examination, where an astonishing discovery was made.
The machine was an A type Block 2, rolled out in December 2008 as the third VF-1 produced. This Unit 3, along with Unit 2, were transferred to the L-5 Laboratory station for extra-atmospheric equipment testing, but most records were lost in the confusion following the First Space War. However, according to records at the Apollo base that were recovered from the abandoned Laboratory Station, this machine was discovered to have been used in a unique test.
The testing involved the durability of the VF-1 and its FF-2001 Thermonuclear turbines, in addition to final testing of the ANGIRAS Artificial Intelligence system, was launched as an unmanned unit to Saturn.
This durability test was named 'Project Trapeze', and underwent preparation for two months in March 2009 at the L-5 Lab Station.
The project name, Trapeze (a type of midair swing) is said to have been named in hopes that the unit would not fail to return. Unit 3 was chosen for the project, and overhaul on the engines were the first step. For propellant, the efficient hydrogen gas was selected, and the engines were modified as high efficiency models that emitted a minimum of drive plasma to reduce the demand on the reactors and inertial flight systems, resulting in an a final engine output of 37,500kg. In addition, the engine component materials were reviewed, and the new engine exhaust nozzles were rebuilt using high-temperature resistant materials, and the coolant systems were completely replaced as well.
The FF-2001 was a durable engine to begin with, but with the testing planned to last a minimum of 10 years, there were many unknowns regarding the continuous operation of an engine for such an extended period of time, leading to elaborate and careful engine modifications.
Though the mission would naturally be unmanned, the transparent canopy was kept, as additional recording equipment and 12 types of optical sensors were placed in the cockpit, and the cockpit shield was also kept to protect against debris and micrometeorites. In order to accommodate 10-year flight, an enormous amount of consumable reactant and propellant was prepared in the form of a giant tank attached to the VF-1. Using a modified NR-707 space shuttle fuel tank, the largest available at the time, a total of 2,457,000 liters of liquid hydrogen and 2,898,000 liters of reactant were supplied.
According to the plans drawn up by the project team, the VF-1 would launch from the L-5 station in May 2009 with an initial acceleration of 19.5 km/s, and pass Jupiter in January 2011, using a combination of engine thrust and Jupiter's gravity to accelerate to 45.7 km/s, arriving in Saturn orbit by August 2017.
The unit would then decelerate around Saturn, and after some investigation, would begin a return orbit to Earth, with the return journey taking an estimated five years.
On May 23rd, 2009, VF-1 Unit 3 left L-5 as planned. Unit 3, christened 'Amanda' after the name of the team leader's wife, completed its initial acceleration and the flight was proceeding smoothly, until the vanguard of the Boddole main fleet attacked Earth in 2010, resulting in the destruction of the L-5 station by Zentraedi forces, making it impossible to track further progress of the flight.
In the post-war chaos, the project itself and the individuals involved were forgotten, resulting in further reports from 'Amanda' and even those who knew of the project in the first place, vanishing.
Though 'Amanda' was recovered in 2025, the recording equipment had unfortunately been destroyed and very little could be recovered from the few data fragments that were recovered. However, a few images of Saturn were recovered, so at the very least, it was confirmed to have reached its ultimate destination, Saturn, along with images containing countless points of light thought to be the Bolddole main fleet, resulting in the suggestion that the craft may have been destroyed by Zentraedi forces. The investigation determined, however, that the damage was not caused by beams or missiles but the damage is now thought to have been sustained from micrometeorites in the asteroid belt. To be precise, it is now thought that when 'Amanda' sustained this heavy damage, it also caused a course deviation. Despite all of this, the fact that the craft managed to return to its course is amazing, again showcasing the superb qualities of the ANGIRAS system.
'Amanda' has now been restored to the condition in which it was launched from L-5, and is now housed at the Moon's Apollo Base, where it rests its wings alongside its testing partner, VF-1 Unit 2.
The woman who the craft was named after survives, and provided images that she had preserved, with restoration using these contemporary images as a guide. In one of these images, a painting of a woman on the craft's nose can be seen, and even this nose art has been recreated as accurately as possible.
Source; Variable Fighter Master File VF-1 Valkyrie 'The wings of Space'. Softbank Creative, 2010.