Flieger, grüß' mir die Sonne, grüß' mir die Sterne und grüß' mir den Mond. Dein Leben, das ist ein Schweben, durch die Ferne, die keiner bewohnt! - Hans Albers, F.P.1 antwortet nicht (Adaptation in the 80s: Extrabreit)

Monday, 27 April 2015

Mun mission packs

These are my last sessions with the beta game client 0.9 of the Kerbal Space Programme. Three more sessions have passed until I was able to tackle my stacked number of missions on Mun.

First step, finally get some fuel cheaply and efficiently into orbit. So despite my frustration which I expressed in my last blog entry, I went again to the drawing board and designed once more a new space plane. And, what can I say, it finally works out!

- this plane knows how to fly, finally; behold the White Goose

- landing sucessful, but did not hit the runway; then ran out of electricity; had to build a rover to pull the White Goose back to base (for full recovery of funds)

Second step. Since I discovered last time that my Swan ship combo does not work too well with an asymetric composition, I send a second Swan Lander which docks at the Swan Yacht´s belly; thus, symmetry is restored.

- Set course for Mun

Third step. Burn for Mun; easy enough established with a maneuver node. Also the rendez-vous with the Warthog waiting in Mun´s orbit is achieved without problems. However, the Warthog has only one docking port, which is occupied by the old Mun lander. I should have invested a bit wiser. My Swan Yacht has brought along enough docking ports, but things are going to be a bit difficult when I would need the Swan Yacht to go back to Kerbal for another run of fuel.

All ships docked together have a deltaV of 1300m/s. This makes me think about whether I should bring the Warthog back home like this and decomission it? The hyrid spaceship/spacestation concept might be not efficient enough. Besides, with another Swan Yacht, I could dock a big space station and a fuel tank in the middle between them and thus bring a huge space station and supply base to any location I want.

- I wonder if the one docking port will hold up to the strain if I bring back the "whole package"...

Anyways, before I ponder more about this, my Swan Landers need to go to work. Fourth step.

However, before I really get used to how to pilot them, I crash two of them (i.e. reload the game two times because I am too time starved to launch new landers from Kerbal again). On my first try to land, I totally overestimate the trust of its tiny engines and splash with about 100m/s into the Mun´s surface. The second reload, I manage to touch down, but have to realize that the rover wheels are not really tough. As I set down laterally with 8m/s (a maneuver which is a bit difficult when you can only really slow down with the main engines, by flying backwards), one rover wheel gets destroyed. Even though I manned the Swan Lander with a Kerbal Engineer, who should be able to repair rover wheels, I have to realize that his experience level is not high enough yet.

 - almost there...

My third landing works out fine. Using up a bit more fuel, I slow down its fall very cautiously and touch down with 2m/s. Whew. I should have added landing struts or a complete set of plane wheels for the touchdow.

- the Swan Lander has, well, landed

It is really an awesome feeling to drive around on an alien planet, after that endless tries on space planes, travelling through space. Mission achieved! A very rewarding experience, indeed!

- the cockpit view is awesome

Unfortunately, the problems finally become apparent. Nothing new for Kerbals:

I equipped the Swan lander with a deltaV of about 2300m/s, but now there is only about 1300m/s left, which is probably not enough to visit another landing zone. This is a setback; I had hoped that this version would be able to tackle more than one landing. But at least I have enoug deltaV to really get back to the mothership in orbit, which the first minimalist Mun lander from the Warthog failed to achieve.

After the Swan Lander 1 is back in orbit and needs some time to achieve rendez-vous, I launch the second one. This one gets to tackle some "fly over" mission points. The same result here; after shifting orbit three times for three different mission points, its deltaV potential is too exhausted for tackling a landing and I have to dock back to the mothership.

From my Mun mission stack, I still have to reach two landing areas. However, my overall fuel capacity is again low. Each landing area needs a completely refilled Swan Lander, and if I refilled them from the Swan Yacht mothership, it would leave the Swan Yacht with only 62 units of fuel and thus in the same situation as I already had the Warthog in. Damn.

Option one, I leave the Swan Landers here and bring back some fuel with my Swan Yacht. Option two, I stay here and come with an additional Swan Yacht, packed with additional fuel tanks. I am undecided and want to ponder it for a while.

Doing another fuel transport from Kerbal to U-limb station is a perfect distraction. Unfortunately, this spaceplane thing really really is a balance act on a hair. Engines start to cut out badly at 35km at 1300m/s speed. Optimal would be 44km at 2200m/s. I think I can use some of that fuel, because U-limb can only hold 1440 units, while the total on board is more than 2000 units. So, I fire the rocket engines at 35km. Whoops, as I finally enter orbit, all is burned up, except for those 1440 units which I wanted to transfer to the station. A second major multiple screw up on my try to rendez vous, and only 260 units are left once I dock at the station. Sigh. This was not really worth the hassle, was it? At least I can take Kelgee back with the plane in order to finish that mission; Kelgee was the Kerbal which I saved from orbit during one of my last sessions; I had left him in the space station to recover while the Swan Yacht moved onwards to Mun.

I quickly undock my spaceplane again and prepare the landing. I have almost not enough remaining fuel to de-orbit where I want, so I have to fly a bit farther once I am back in the atmosphere. However, I am content that I do a rather precise landing, just some few meters to the left out of the runway. Fine for me!

After this inefficient interlude, it is time to decide how to proceed the Mun mission. The old Mun lander and Swan Lander 1 get filled up to the brim with fuel and are undocked, to be left in Mun orbit. After all, it does not make sense to take back unused fuel to Kerbal! Before undocking them, I correct the orbit back to an aequatorial one; the Warthog had been still on that tilted orbit when it went out of fuel, so many game sessions ago.

A deltaV of 500m/s is left to propel the Swan Yacht docked together with the Warthog into Kerbal orbit. It is very difficult to control, and the now again asymetric composition of the Swan Yacht with only one lander does not help. Both ships swing wildy during acceleration, it looks scary, but the docking clamps hold. I discover that I can alleviate the swinging by switching off the large gyrowheel on the Warthog; no idea why this caused the instability.

While I wait for the Swan Yacht to get back into the sphere of influence (SOI) of Kerbal orbit, I engage in a little supplementary project. Fuel starvation has been a permanent problem so far. Therefore, the Swan Yacht should be equipped with some additional fuel tanks. The small Rockomax tier 2 fuel containers have a flat, almost disk like, form. Four of them, equipped with two docking ports each, stack nicely. They will be decoupled and docked one by one on each of the Swan Yacht´s upper and lower docking ports. This should transform my multipurpose Swan Yacht into a good interplanetary fuel transporter wth a very balanced and symmetrical payload.

However, getting the fuel disks up into orbit strains my launch pad´s maximum weight allowance of 140 tons. After some pondering, the only solution is to bring them up empty and refuel them later via separate fuel runs with the White Goose. This decision in turn allows me to still add a small thug to the rocket´s payload, which will later serve to arrange those tanks efficiently, so that they don´t need any own power. [By hindsight, I could have thought about equipping each discus with a control and engine unit so that they might double as probe or sattelite...]. I name the rocket practically the "Fuel Disks".

- Fuel Disk, plus a little space thug

Some time later, a second fuel flight of the White Goose and said Fuel Disks are on rendez-vous to U-limb station. Since my last rendez-vous disaster, I learned my lessons and meticously achieve synchronized orbits just by adapting apopapis and periapsis. Like this, I need only a few two digit number of deltaV each to finally dock to U-limb. Since I was so efficient, there is still some fuel left in the launcher rocket of fuel discus rocket. Same with the White Goose, which this time is able to tranfer 1090 units of fuel to the space station´s tanks.

I am a bit undecided about to which docking port at the station I should attach the fuel tanks for now. Then a little accident with my keyboard controls cause a mishap (pressing "Z" for full throttle....), and I spend about 30 minutes to get back from where my thug catapulted its payload. Once everything is towed in, I cannot help and feel proud about my now grown-up space station, which now looks like a hub of bustling activity, with a docked thug boat, the White Goose, which is waiting to take over and bring down my four incoming astronauts from Mun, and a vastly extended fuel capacity of about 4000 units (1440 of them in modular disks ready to be docked to a Swan Yacht if needed). It would be a matter of three more fuel flights with the White Goose to fill it all up.

- pinnacle of my beta 0.9 career mode game

I switch back to the incoming Swan Yacht. Its SOI changed to Kerbal orbit. However, I realize now that I might have left a bit too much fuel at the Mun. A deltaV of only 280m/s is left, and I have to close down from a periapsis of 4 mio km. Playing around with a maneuver node, the only thing I can achieve with this amount is a periapsis of 48km, which I use for aerobraking, i.e. the atmosphere´s drag on my ship will substitute for a retrograde trust. I never did this before but saw and learned this from youtube videos.

After about ten orbits, the aerobraking brought the apoapsis down from 9 mio km to 500,000km. I use my remaining 28m/s deltaV to lift the periapsis back to a safe level at 76km. I believe I can consider "my kerboys are back home"; the final steps would now just a matter of another rendez-vous and a de-orbiting flight with the White Goose. OTOH, this is probably a somewhat light-hearted assumtion, since things can go wrong anytime in Kerbal Space Programme... Not that I would not want to tackle this challenge, but game sessions always pass by so fast and tomorrow the new game client is out!

So, this has to be it; a nice conclusion of my time with the Kerbal Space Programme 0.9 Beta version. I did not finish all Mun missions as I wanted to, but the expedition itself is basically completed. I have left about 1 mio credits and a good basis for further expeditions into space. This was so far a very exciting and challenging adventure which provided for a lot of fun and excitement. And I have tried and tested a conceptual foundation which will prove very useful in the course of a new career with the new game client.

- our boys are back home

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