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, 1 June 2015

SAS/RCS grind

Some more references I want to conserve:
- nice photo-story about a blue guy´s career mode
- enlightening thread about how the Mobile Lab works
- scientist levels and Lab processing time
- tips about useful mods
- wet spaghetti rockets

- Fuel Jumbo, marvellous union of joy and pain

My two current projects keep me busy for quite a while. My first interplanetary ship, the Omniscient, is in orbit and needs a refuel and a crew with scientists before moving on. My crew transport ship Munbus returns from Mun with a bunch of saved and thus newly recruited Kerbonauts, the two only available and still unoccupied scientists among them, and is on aerobraking course.

For refilling the Omniscient, I use the "Fuel Jumbo" space plane. It has a payload of 1440 units of fuel. Unfortunately, the Omniscient is a fuel-voracious beast; I am going to need 10 fuel flights with the Fuel Jumbo, omygosh. I can now understand a little bit where from all those launch&throwaway rockets gain their attraction from; Milkcan or Tetrapack, here is your answer!

 - Fuel Jumbo, going up*10

On top, during those 10 launches, I have to suffer repeatedly through each of the design flaws of my space plane. Which mainly are an overcompensating SAS ("Stability Augmentation System", a very barebone autopilot) during ascend, which causes very difficult to control pendulum movements; this is probably due to having too many or wrongly used control surfaces. And on top (or maybe also inversely the cause for the crappy SAS behavious) a very poor torque effect and RCS during rendez-vous. It also seems to be impossible to construct a un-wobbly wing surface from multiple wing parts, even with stuts. There is also the odd bug which renders RCS ("Reaction Control System") unresponsive or makes my overburdened plane tear apart and explode before I even start a launch (a reload fixes this, fortunately).

- temperature gauges reliably cause crashes in game version 1.02; disable with F10

Altogether, the Fuel Jumbo indeed is a clumsy elephant, and docking clearly is no fun like this! But somehow, I had the idea those few flights stuff would be done quickly, more quickly than trying to fix all those little and difficult to remedy design flaws of a plane which is going to be obsolete anyways, once my tech level raises to Mk3 plane parts. By hindsight, I maybe should have indeed spent more time on the drawing-board in order to delete some of the grindy frustration I had to go through.

 - with or without SAS: extremely difficult to control!

In between my refueling flights, I guide the Munbus through multiple aerobraking passes. I am very cautious to not go too deep into the atmosphere in order to avoid an unintentional re-entry. A periapsis of 55km yield a very light braking only, going deeper to 45km seems to be ok, but you already loose height also at the periapsis and have to readjust it in order to avoid an amplifying and re-entry. This of course may differ according to the drag of the individual craft. About five rounds later, I can circularize the Munbus again into a stable orbit and start the rendez-vous procedure. The intended destination, the White Goose (my double purpose, crew and fuel, transport), got rerouted to dock with the Omniscient, and that´s where the Munbus is now headed, too.

 - the end of a long project phase is near, finally

Docking with the Munbus is a breeze after having handled the Elephant (formerly know as Fuel Jumbo; there, a new ship class name has been born!). The only caveat is that it has only the monopropellant from its Mk1-cockpit because I again forgot to add monopropellant-fuel tanks. And there I thought I finally had a perfectly constructed vessel...

- at long last, all vessels have rendez-vous´d

A nagging suspicion gets confirmed once I let the two scientists do some test work in the Omniscient´s lab. Not enough solar panels! Damnit, why did my lazy-ass not check before launch and for example compared to the number of panels used on the Science-class? Trial&error, aka, I never learn, do I?

So a new mission has to be set up; I call it Repair Ship. Thankfully, I had installed enough docking ports on the Omniscient. You can never have enough docking ports, I say! Four of them will now get docked with a small construction each, bearing solar panels. For this goal, I use the latest transmissions of science points from my Scientia ships and open the 160-point tech node which allows access to larger, foldable solar panels. They get attached to modular girder segments, add two docking ports top and bottom, presto. I also build a small drone thug on top in order to be able to actually place them at the Omniscient and then nicely wrap the stuff in a fairing.

- Repair Ship; has its flaws, too

Man, that rocket is unexectedly difficult to control. It is probably too long, and it seems that the stuff inside the fairing is also adding to the hated wobble effect which serves to throw the rocket further off course. Four tries, and that thing is in space. The fairing explodes into a bug, so I have to redo and relaunch once more. Then I am finally en route to a, thankfully and for a change, unproblematic rendez-vous. Or so I think. Once I decouple the thug with the payload from the launch stage, I discover that the RCS is severely imbalanced, relative to the payload. Docking is again an art with this, and this time I really have to thank the SAS that it somehow manages to keep the whole thing stable, and this also only when doing little RCS thrusts at a time. Fiddling around like this takes time and patience. Nothing is a simple matter in Kerbal Space Programme, aka, even just simulated physics is a harsh master.

 - this thug-setup does not work well

Once the additional solar panels are attached to the Omniscient, I undock the White Goose and finally bring the Kerbonauts back home. All of them have experience from Mun orbit, two of them were on Mun´s surface. The latter get 5 experience points (one of them inexplicably 7), which is a bit disapointing and makes me wonder whether my idea to ferry them all to Minmus for a landing really is worth the hazzle.

- attaching additional solar panels to the Omniscient; serves well to always have some spare docking ports

Altogether three game sessions have passed. The Omniscient is refilled, the Kerbonauts are back home. Next steps would be to man the Omniscient and then either burn directly for Duna or do a 5-6 day detour to Minmus first. Of course, it must be the latter, because I want the ship´s lab to work while it is on its long travel! After that I should focus on getting some more science points. I will want to launch the ships for my next contracts equipped with the highly efficient nuclear engines. So, either some Mun and Minmus landings are in order, or maybe just have a break and time warp my Duna mission. After those 300+ days, all three existing Labs in my ships (i.e. Scientia, Scientia 2, Omniscient) should have churned out plenty of science, probably even have exhausted most of their data (3x500 data should yield something between a whopping 4500 to 7500 science)!

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