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)

Friday, 15 May 2015

Minmus orbit

I am terribly behind scedule with my blog. The Kerbal Space Programme offers plenty of opportunity to write about exciting stories. Also, despite its a bit aged graphics, it is a very screenshot-worthy game. There are lots of "photo-stories" in the Kerbal forums. And I am also behind of doing and posting some nice screenshots (I will do so, promise). Tribute my lateness to the still captivating initial phase in an exciting new game, plus some severe real life time constraints.

Just a short tribute to the more real-lif-ey, learning side of the Kerbal Space Programme, two links which I want to conserve for myself:
Sooo, why exactly are rockets flipping?
Complexity of real rockets

Concerning my ventures in said game, these are very telling links, aren´t they? What was a mere routine before in beta 0.9, namely to reliably achieve orbit, has become quite an art. Truly, without the "reverse flight" option, my career mode game would have already and literally crashed due to lack of funds and too many dead Kerbonauts!

On the achievement-side: I focused to unlock the mobile research lab, which kind of recycles the data of your standard science experiments which you can do and send or bring back home, and yields up to an additional quintuple the science over time. Over long time indeed, that is, but it does not matter when you have time acceleration at your disposal (in-game, although real time seems to acceleraty horribly fast while playing that game, too!).

Thus my first scientific space vessel was created: "Scientia". A Mk1-cockpit, a junior lab, adaptor to a mobile lab, hitchiker passenger module (as "living area"), a 720-unit fuel tank fueling and sided by four 90-unit fuel tanks with "Terrier" engines. All available scientific instruments are on board, antenna, batteries, solar cells, some junior docking ports (which allows only fuel- but not crew-transfer; not a problem, as I can EVA crew over anyways).

I sent this "beauty" (looks more like a church tower than anything else, not much design choices at this stage), into a polar Mun orbit, thereby collecting EVA data for every Mun biome (i.e. landscape element, about 13 of them on Mun), and it was filled up to the maximum data of 500 points in no time, with quite some data still waiting to be stuffed into it. As usual, the (only) problem (read: several tries needed) was to how to put this 14-ton ship into orbit, as the drag and center-of-mass were not exactly well distributed.

- difficult to get the Scientia up

I also took some rescue missions, two in Mun orbit, one in high Kerbal orbit, in a hope to finance Scientia´s virgin voyage. However, it turned out that I was, as usual, over-optimistic as regards its fuel availability, and could count myself lucky that I managed to get the Scientia into a low polar Mun orbit at all... well, at least, I could pick up one shipwrecked Kerbonaut! Since then, Scientia continously, slowly, spits out and transmits science points from Mun orbit. As this also locked my only two Scientists in the Kerbonaut team, I also had to hire more of them if I wanted a second lab up and running. But I also had hopes that some of the shipwrecked Kerbals would actually be Scientists, so naturally my next goal was to safe as many of them as I could. Handily, another contract for a rescue mission around Mun popped up again.

- Scientia reached its destination (refrained from baptising this ship line "Churchy-class"...)

So, for the new and remaining rescue missions, my tourist-line space ships (I named them "Bumblebee"-class, closely aligned to their form) got re-activated and adapted to a slightly more noble purpose as a rescue craft, with a rather functional designation of "Munbus 36k" (thereby reminding me of the costs of sending one of these into space).

 - ugly and very utility; Munbus-class launch stage

And indeed, the one rescue mission in high Kerbin orbit actually is halfway out to Mun, requiring most of the Munbus´s deltaV potential and an awful lot of ingame-time to achieve orbit, align and approach the wrecked ship out there, about 9 to 11 million kilometers above Kerbin. Which also meant that I had sent a by far too big ship to just safe one Kerbonaut.
Also, in hindsight, learning more about orbital mechanics each session, I probably should have directly gone to Mun firsthand and use its angular velocity to get to that first whip wreck in high Kerbin orbit in a much less fuel consuming way.

Two more rescue missions remaining.

As I had learned from my first rescue mission that the Munbus 36k is not fuel-efficient enough and with its four-passenger cabin too big anyways. So I designed a smaller, remote-controlled two-man rocket and sent it to fetch the other two shipwrecked Kerbals. Which kind of worked out. I even produced the smoothest gravity turn ever during launch, albeit unintentional because I had forgotten to actually enable automatic flight stability. This way, I learned that a correctly designed rocket will do the gravity turn all by itself, with flight stability assist actually having the potential of being a hindrance for that phase of the flight. (Let me just add that this is still the only rocket which I was able to produce and label as remotely correctly designed...).

Once I had collected both Kerbonauts in need, I was unsure of what to do. They are both engineers, with a scientist sitting in the Scientia, at a vastly different orbit around Mun. I had the choice, and chose to not directly return them to Kerbin but to exchange one of the engineers with the scientist waiting in the Scientia. Unfortunately, this meant in the end that my rescue vessel did not have enough fuel left to return to Kerbin. Sigh. So I had to send another space ship, again a Munbus 36k. I don´t know why I did that, probably I wanted to bring back all three safed Kerbonauts at once.

However, polar orbits are tricky. Especially when Mun has revolved around Kerbin, but the polar orbit stays on its original vectors. So, I arrived with my Munbus 36k at a 90 degrees different angle. Readapting this angle cost, you guess it, a lot of fuel. And, you guess it, once it actually arrived at Scientia, it was also out of fuel. At first I thought, hey, no problem, I can refill at the station, uhm, at Scientia, with what little of fuel remained there. However, the Munbus 36k did not have any docking ports to be able to actually exchange fuel. Duh!

Yep. Third ship needs to be sent. A common occurence for aspiring players of Kerbal Space Programme, as I can see from many stories in the forums. One poster (of course a real pro by now, but everyone starts small, right?) claimed that he had about 20 Kerbals on Mun before he was able to sucessfully bring them back...

- the missions with the "Munbus"-class never went smoothly

In the meanwhile, I am in my third or fourth game session since my last blog entry. Time just violently blows past in this game!

For my "next three last halves of the rescue missions", I re-designed and re-named the Munbus to "Munbus Reloaded", give it more fuel capacity and some fueling ports, damn already!!!

This one finally manages to arrive and transport my refugees back to Kerbin. Don´t ask me how, though. Even with its slightly extended fuel capacity, I was only able to do so by waiting for Mun to revolve further around until the Scientia´s polar orbit was again back aligned to the Kerbin incoming vector, thereby relieving me of having to expend fuel for another huge angular shift of the incoming polar orbit (or non-polar, does not really matter anymore when at this big orbital discrepancies!). Landing that ship back on Kerbin yielded me quite some relief. Missions finally accomplished! Jay!

In the meanwhile, a lucky combination of two contracts wanted me to put a space station into orbit of both Kerbin and Minmus. Since I accepted both contracts before building a station, I was able to use the same station for both mission goals. So, I built an even bigger version of a science vessel, aptly named "Scientia 2", about 20 tons of mass, which had even excerbarated problems to reach initial orbit. These I could only solve by putting three big "Skipper"-engines (well, biggest available to me, currently) and fins as a launch stage, thereby making it my most expensive vessel so far (75k credits). However, those two contracts rewarded me with a total of >300k credits in the end, so all is green (it probably would not be so green if I would have needed to pay for every failed launch before... not to speak of lost Kerbonauts which cost now lots of funds to employ, too).

- Scientia 2, here a launch with one of the many unsuccessful launch stages

After I have now conquered the orbits of both Mun and Minmus and propped them with science ships/stations, the next level-up mission is to actually land on these two companions of Kerbin. I am told in forums that the science from crew reports and surface probes will greatly (and instantly) aid the further unlocking of the tech tree. And I do finally want to be back where I was in beta 0.9, where I just started to churn out useable SSTO space planes and had the nuclear engine. In the 1.0 game, the required parts are now much higher in the tech tree.

- mission accomplished

With all the cash earned so far, I expand both the Kerbonaut- and the mission-facility to its highest tier. Like this, I can staple a lot of Mun-related contracts and two very lucrative new satelite-missions (150k plus 15 science each). Now it is only a matter of bringing along a lander and enough fuel for multiple landings. An attempt which I was not really successful at even in the last sessions in the beta 0.9 game. And at that time, I already had space plance SSTOs and the nuclear engine at my disposal. But it should be doable, albeit more expensively and maybe not as elegantly as with a Swan Yacht!

Anyways, the game keeps throwing its challenges of simulated real world rocketeer science at me, and I am happy to crack them, one by one!

As a little funny side note about "that other game" which made me create this blog, Elite: Dangerous; recently, my wife talked to me about some of the biggest stars out there in the galaxy, and I answered something like, yeah, I know, I have visited some of them, those size relations are really fascinating and hard to comprehend... which of course drew me some strange looks and had me some explaining to do! (altho ofc she should know in the meanwhile that she indeed did marry an alien from outer space)

Can´t wait to have the Oculus Rift consumer version to re-experience Elite: Dangerous in all that grandeur!

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