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)

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Bye, Mün

Here I am, spending almost two game sessions designing a new smaller plane, dedicated for quickly and efficiently rescuing a Kerbonaut in LKO. This kind of mission contract pops up quite frequently. It takes so long because somehow I cannot accept that a deltaV of 1400m/s for the second stage rocket should not be enough to reach LKO. I mean, the "Whiplash" turbo jet engines catapult the plane already to 24km altitude and 1200m/s speed. The altogether 2600m/s deltaV are enough to get me into orbit, but there is not enough left for course correction and re-entry.

The final version has to dump the excess liquid fuel for more oxidiser, and I finally can conclude my rescue business with a small, fast and easier to fly spaceplane. Just for the landing, I have to experience again that a too narrow landing gear can easily topple the plane when braking and not moving exact straight.

- just single-serving, because construction is fun

Other news, my Mün patrol now has established routine, the Yawl can cross the entire Farside Crater without a single crash. I wonder if a rover with just landing gear and an ion drive would make for an even better racing machine? Just a bit more punch for going upwards slopes would be really nice. I do a short stop to commemorate the Omniscient´s old landing area; it seems so long ago that it has landed on Mün so daringly, but in truth, the Omniscient hasn´t even returned yet from its virgin flight and "Grand Tour de Kerbin"!

- visiting a historical site

A game session later, I still find myself driving across Mün, on my last planned and very difficult leg. Upwards, out of the Farside Crater, onto the Highlands and then to a close by Highland Crater. I cannot avoid to have an accident, driving dully straight fowards numbs awareness and, suddenly, that crater opens up without a warning. I can hastily lower the Yawl´s landing gear and mitigate and survive the downfall, but my achingly slow route back upwards and out of the crater, over the rim, makes a rover wheel finally blow up. Since the Mün patrol is really not finished and the engineer on board is missing the experience level to repair it, I reload my last 15 minutes. Oh well.

The very steep slopes suck out the Yawl´s electricity charge and, as it is midday, my solar panels have almost no sun exposition, forcing long breaks for re-charging. Then, thanks to having two reaction wheels installed, I discover this little trick here to increase the sun exposition area for my solar panels;

- rest&recover in Praying Mantis style

After a while, I have conquered the worst cliffs and finally reach highlands. My scientist goes on EVA, slips and has to discover that the Yawl oviously has some more grip than the astronauts´ boots. She tumbles down for about 400 meters before I can regain control over her. Each bumb resembles more an impact and I feared the worst, but Kerbals are tough. This accident reminds me of the upcoming cinema movie "The Martian".

- she is my Mün-ian

Some time later, I reach my final goal, a very impressive looking highland crater.

- it´s like in real life; photos do not seem to do justice

For the Yawl´s launch, I travel some more miles back to the equatorial plane. Like this, I hope to get an immediate rendez-vous with the Kerbonaut which I have the rescue contract for. Getting sloppy, I drive with rover wheels at about 14 m/s over a steeper inclining rim, a rover wheel blows again. Since it is only going downwards from here on, the damage is not debilitating my movement anymore.

- hurrah for landing gear!

The Yawl´s launch is timed a bit too late and it requires to orbital revolvements before it has caught up with the Kerbonaut in need. Then it is time to burn for Kerbin and bring back a lot of valuable scientific data. Can´t wait for it! I will land the Yawl instead of keeping it in orbit and fetching the data via a spaceplane; it is not only the destroyed rover wheel but I also plan for some improvements for its next version. Overall I am rather content now how it worked out. Maybe I can access the tech node with the "ruggedized" rover wheels, which sound like they would not blow up? Should I dare to omit the landing gear once I have them? I will decide this later.

- a long and very successful expedition is heading for home

I have taken over all two full game session for just driving around Mün, so I say a heart-felt "Bye, Mün!". I have done about half of Mün´s biomes, but for the rest, there is still the Crab Lander ready. Not sure though if I really want and need all science from there, but the completionist within me is already tugging all my inner sleeves...

The final leg of Mün Patrol has also taken about one more Kerbal day and brought up the maneuver node for the Scientia 2, which is entering Minmus SOI. On board are tourists for a suborbit and a landing. For the latter, I choose the Greater Flats, because I already know how difficult it is to touch down this vessel; it could benefit from one more reaction wheel. And indeed, the last meters become a bit fiddly and I have to emergency burn upwards again for two times until the horizontal velocity is really low enough to not make the heavyhanded rocket-tower which the Scientia 2 is, topple over.

 - nice to meet again

I use the occasion to also bunker some more scientific data for the Scientia 2 Mobile Lab. There is now enough data to refill it twice. Until then, I shouldn´t overall have any open tech nodes anymore. The next stop should be Mün, where over my demanding little tourist buggers expect the same stuff. This should originally then have been done by the Yawl, but I am sure I will find another way once the Scientia 2 has arrived there. The insertion into Mün orbit takes a bit of fiddling with the maneuver node, and, due to a crappy transfer window, eleven travel days. But I have all the time in the world for this particular expedition; it is not vital for the upcoming big Duna expedition.

There is quite some time again until my next maneuver is due on the Kerbal Alarm Clock. I fulfill one older mission contract by sending scientific data to Kerbin, one of the still stored crew reports in the Yawl. Immediately, a new contract is available, another satelite insertion into Mün orbit. Which is a job for the Firebird.

 - always fantastic to behold

Sharpened by experience I notice that the required Mün orbit is a retrograde one. Once the satelite leaves the cargo hold, it gets plotted for a proper burn to arrive the "right way around".

After all this tight action since the start of the "busy days" a few weeks back and, in particular, driving around so long on Mün, it feels strange to suddenly have 5 Kerbal days with nothing to do. Even all my numerous contracts have nothing in there which requires another new expedition to be launched. Instead of pushing time warp, I decide on a little experimentation. The accumulated 1400 science points on my account get used to unlock Mk3 parts, all the advanced cockpits and docking ports, multi connectors. It is design and construction time! (I did not open yet the tech node with the claw equipment; I suspect it would introduce new types of missions, which I do not want and need yet; need to keep interesting stuff for later!)

Unfortunately, a game session spent on designing, trying to find a new iteration of my Omniscient-class motherships, is not something exciting to write about in this blog. Short version: Disappointing, because the Mk3-parts provide not really for an own ship line, but need to be combined with Mk2 parts, like the Mobile Lab or the ISRU and drills. As such, they just mean more mass but not better functionality. Basically, my current Omniscient class, the Navitas, already seems to have everything you can get and need for space travels, barring nuclear engines.

Well, we will see if I can still come up with something new and nice. In between my game sessions, three since my last blog entrys, I found an awesome album which contains a lot of inspiration.

In the meanwhile, over and out.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Tumbling on the edge of failure

This game session is indeed properly themed; almost every action is very close to a failure, this time.

As a little break from my Mün patrol activity, I have to attend to some maneuver nodes. As it turns out, I misplaced two of them, behind the periapsis instead of before the periapsis, both for the Fuel Ship, as well as the Tripol on their return trip to Kerbin. Thank god I routinely check for every vessel at the start of each game session; I know that I get sloppy sometimes. If I hadn´t realized in time, both ships would have entered Kerbin´s atmosphere way too low, causing re-entry and, consequently, as both were not constructed for this, their destruction. The reason why I misplaced those two maneuver nodes is that the elliptic orbit usually lets my spacecrafts return on the retrograde side, relative to Minmus´ orbit around Kerbin. Somehow, my last two ejections from Minmus with said ships made them return on the prograde side of said elliptic orbit.

After the errors are corrected, the satelite for my mission contract "Mün polar orbit" gets inserted. Then, switch again, I plot the final rendez-vous vector for the Firebird, which still is in orbit, racing to rescue a Kerbonaut. Flipping the spaceplane over for prograde and retrograde correction burns is tedious and slow. I really have to remember to put a large reaction wheel on it!

This last maneuver slightly overlaps with the first aerobraking pass of the Fuel Ship. To my annoyance, I again have to realize that aerobraking does not take place when the game is not focused on the according vessel. So, one more long elliptic orbit has to pass with its according longer travel time. Since there is no urgent need to refuel any expedition, this mishap is no big deal. But trouble is just about to start.

After the Firebird finally reaches the Kerbonaut, another quick switch to the Mün satelite is required for its last correction burn. Bing, +80,000 credits. Due to another overlap, the re-entry of the Firebird is delayed by another orbital round. During this one, I realize that I haven´t payed attention to the periapsis during its last maneuver, which had dropped to suborbit. I need another burn so that the re-entry point gets not skewed. Awfully slow to flip, the Firebird manages just in time.

Finally at the correct point for re-entry, the Firebird adopts a +10 degree descend angle, like I have come to use also for the White Goose. This causes am increased slow down in the upper atmosphere and does not drop the point of touchdown too much from the initial plot, as it usually does when the spaceplane flies straight its way through the atmosphere and just relies on its airbrakes.

Unfortunately, at 45km, the Firebird suddenly flips over, despite its airbrakes being deployed as a counter balance. I fear the worst; normally, a plane at still 2000+ m/s should get ripped apart in no time, and it already happened to it some time ago while in the lower atmosphere. To my astonishment, though, the plane holds together here in the upper atmosphere, doing the major part of its re-entry in sommersault modus. Squad probably nerfed the game´s harsh physics model by a bit too much? But right now, I don´t look a gift horse into the mouth.

Once low enough for the jet enginges to kick in, I desperately try to re-align, unsuccessfully. Flipping, altitude dropping, dropping, ...

- mayday, mayday, mayday!
At some point, I finally manage, just to loose forward alignment again. WTF!? Then, my error dawns on me. I have forgotten to re-balance the remaining fuel to the front; the Firebird currently has a center of lift far in front of the center of mass! Desperately pumping fuel in the again violently sommersaulting plane, howver, there is not much fuel left, and only by also activating the airbrakes as surplus control surfaces, at about 3 km altidude, the Firebird finally passes over into a stabilized flight pattern.

At what cost, though. The fuel reserves are nearly used up, and the Firebird is still far away from the space center, above a wrong continent. An emergency landing is in order. I quickly raise back up to about 10km altitude and then glide the Firebird, with just some 200 units of fuel left, to the coastline.

- initiate emergency landing
Unfortunately, the coast line is littered with steep slopes. On the last kilometers before touchdown, I manage to do a counter approach, turn 180 degrees and set down undamaged on the beach, in parallel to the coast line. Whew. I sure have very sweaty hands by now!

Recovering the spaceplane that far from the Kerbal Space Center makes me loose 25% of its value. This roughly reduces the profit from the rescue mission (50k credits) to one third and thus manifests as a mere efficiency drop, but not a real economic loss.

Considering all my errors during this session, considering how little I could advance my expeditions overall, I nevertheless consider myself very lucky, and strangely, leave this game session with a feeling of tremendous success.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Mün Patrol

Another short holiday has passed, another yearly faery market, but the magic for my little daughter has already waned. Where last year, I could still see the sense of wonder in her eyes, taking in everything unfiltered, uncomprehending, but taking in, her eyes now are focused on more immediate matters of interest, and interest is built upon and limited by past experiences of those three already long years of living an earthly life. Here the sweets, here the carussell, carry me please, I want a cola. Sigh. Human is taking over, I guess, as it must be.

And as often after holiday, matters of real life are prominent, had their wait, want to be ackknowledged and clarified and acted upon. There is no peace to indulge in virtual worlds but during some splinters of pause, and while "in", I just barely have time follow the matters at hand.

Re-reading my last blog entries, I am a bit uncontent about their quality. Instead of just "vomiting out" every instance of my game session, relying on advanced insider game vocabulary, I should better wait and extract the essence of my exploits and summarize it in normal, understandable vocabulary. For example, there is no need to philosophize about reasons which game mechanics cause my plane to veer off; this is no tutorial or guide, after all. This blog should rather convey the sense of wonder of exploring new (virtual) worlds. So, here is a try to do better.

My exploration of Minmus is finished. Instead of just sending the Tripol into orbit and awaiting the Scientia 2 for taking over all that scientific data, I prioritise a fast transport of the data back to Kerbin. Since all my Mobile Labs on all my various spacecrafts are still tanked up with data, I can dock and upload the Tripol´s redundant datasets from the other two pods ("Triple Pod Lander") at a later point.

- bye, Minmus, it was a pleasure to measure you!

Launching the Tripol one last time from Minmus, there is enough time until the suborbital apoapsis, in order to plot a direct transfer into Kerbin´s sphere of influence (SOI). It is interesting to see how I could use a brief pass through Mün´s SOI to efficiently lower the periapsis to Kerbin and thus get close to it with less fuel use. But the Tripol still has plenty of fuel to burn, and time is an issue, so I go for a more direct and faster path.

- lots of busy conics

And now it´s time to do ...

                       .. the MOON PATROL! 

Because this is how a big chunk of my last few game sessions felt like (minus the shooting).


 - hop!

In my last entry, I described and complained about my rover experience, being entirely uncontent with the Yawl´s design. But, as usual, it takes some time to get the hang of it. And I did spend indeed some time driving around!

After a while, a strong déjà vu emerged, to the time when I had played Mass Effect, having to learn how to properly drive the Mako and explore every planet there. I always regretted that Bioware had dropped this element in the sequels. Thankfully, announcements are that the upcoming Mass Effect 4 is going to sport rover explorations, again.

 - familiar unfamiliar

All the while, the distance covered by the Yawl was only a small fraction of Mün. But since I chose my landing spot well, I nevertheless was able to log data from five biomes; Midlands, Midland Crater, Canyon, Farside Crater. The Northwest Crater came in unexpected, at the crossing from Midland to Canyon; I suspect it is a bug, but it thankfully saves me a lot of time driving or hopping to its real location.

So, in the end, it turned out that the Yawl was not so bad designed at all. Some valuable experiences from my expedition are:

- Slopes upwards can become too steep for the rover wheels´ power. In most cases, it helped to criss-cross upwards instead of a direct approach. But in general, I avoided to cross any crater due to this issue considerably delaying travel time.

- Using landing gear in alteration with rover wheels was a dead right decision. Slopes downwards can accelerate the Yawl to up to 45m/s, causing the occasional bumps and high jumps (which reminded me of that good old Moon Patrol arcade game). I am sure my rover wheels would have blown up multiple times. Also, the landing gears have a much better, and sometimes dearly needed, brake power. Besides, they include free light sources, to boot!

- I had about three or four crashes, which cost me some game time to redo the track, but halting the Yawl about every 15 minutes or so in order to do a quicksave makes the time punishment a tolerable one.

- I have to rearrange the science experiments so that I can better reach the Lab JR without having to demount the vehicle.

- quite some "booms" during moments of inattention

- Concerning those crashes, the Yawl´s two reaction wheels are both bane and blessing. On slopes upwards, they would cause the rover to veer off track. But when I would deactivate them, I would also incur some crashes, in particular during those bumps on the uneven terrain. On slopes dowwards, at high speeds, the reaction wheels are absolutely needed to keep the rover from toppling over. So I did switch them on and off, according to need. In the meanwhile, I learned from the game forum that you can remap the rover steering controls, so that "forward" does not at the same time signal "downwards" to the reaction wheels, thus causing an instability from the reaction wheel´s impulse to topple the vessel over.

Having reached the Farside Crater, the Kerbal Alarm Clock urges me to attend to my other expeditions, so the Yawl gets parked. On the far distance, I can see a nav marker of the spot where the Omniscient landed some time ago.

- touchdown was somewhere at the upper right, then going south until the canyon (blue flag marker), then west until the Yawl reached the huge Farside Crater

I think I will pay it a drive-by, on my way to the last close biomes, Highland and Highland Crater. From then on, I think it will be consuming too much game time to reach other biomes on wheels. I therefore would launch the Yawl again into orbit, an aequatorial one this time, because there it can reach a Kerbonaut from one of my open rescue mission contracts. The other biomes can be done with a bit more hopping, and thus with the more fuel efficient Crab Lander, which is still docked with the Scientia and waiting for its turn to test drive.

- serene landscapes; this is from within a midland crater

Tired, but very content to have followed through some entire non-flying game sessions in the Kerbal Space Programme, I log out.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Mün rover racer

With renewed energy, I tackle the construction error of the White Goose spaceplane. And lo and behold, just about 15 minutes later, it is solved. The tips from the forums which I copied&pasted in my last blog entry were not entirely applicable, though. But the theory behind was.

- this is the struts how I had them at the end of last session

The theory is that the plane must have its lift applied evenly accross all sections. With my plane, I found out that the aft landing gear was the culprit; it was placed too much frontal. My earlier versions had it placed more in the back, close to the engines. Indeed, it was because of those forum tips that I had placed the landing gear more forward, in order for them to be closer to the center of mass, for an easier and faster liftoff. It turned out that this closeness to the center of mass made the wings bow upwards from the weight. That, or, the wobblyness of the middle part of the engine nascelle was the culprit; only the back part is strutted. But I have had enough of test launches and want to get on with my missions.

As a conclusion, I will pay attention that the triangle of the position of the landing gears must always have the center of mass in its center. If not, there is too much weight imbalance, which eventually will cause the plane to veer off at higher roll speeds. And struts, always.

- this is how it works fine now

Just to be sure, I also added one more strut at the front, and some small ones connecting the engines in the aft to each other. Presto! But what a fight to finally get back to a working plane. I guess this also proves the saying, never touch a running system.

I also added a small experimental detail: A heatshield in the front of the cargo bay. Even though I only can install it as a packed version, it seems to work, heat gauges still show, but non anymore throughout the ascend and only green heat gauges during re-entry!

- much better heat tolerance

I still have to reload once, but this is because I forgot to put the test equipment from that mission contract not into an extra stage, so it fires off too early. Then, finally, I can check off two tourist contracts and a test contract.

They get immideately replaced by new contract offers in the mission control center. Two satelite missions and a rescue mission, an ideal combination for which the Firebird (former labelled as Cargo Shuttle) was made for.

- not again please...

This mission launches fine, even though the Firebird has a similar wing construction problem, but this bird does not misbehave, so I leave it at that. One satelite is for a polar Mün orbit, one for an escape trajectory out of Minmus (I don´t ask what purpose this could have). The last maneuver for the rescue mission will take a bit, since I was too lazy to time the launch for a proper close intercept position.

Since my Minmus missions are basically finished, with the Navitas digging for ore/fuel in the meanwhile, I can now turn towards my Mün expedition. I want to first use and test the Yawl. Right at that moment, there is an area with some closer-neighbouring biomes below, so I make a hasty undock.

- no time to admire the skyline

For the landing, I watch the KER figure for the suicide burn, but again, like during my first Mün landing, the figure is wrong, so I am burning too late and crash horribly. Reload. Crash again. Apparently, the landing gear is not really up to compensate an impact with 50m/s, even though its description says so. Two crashes later, I found the sweet line at about 20m/s. After all, I wanted the landing gear instead of landing struts in order to save deltaV by having not to decelarate so much.

Eventually, the Yawl has a touchdown on Midlands, short before dawn. Starting all science experiments, the JR lab is not reachable from top. Dismounting via the ladder is also a problem, I attached it too low, causing my Kerbonaut to fall off.

 - going through all engineering errors

Then I start to drive around. The wheel motors do have some trouble accelerating the boat on upward slopes. At about 20 m/s, the rover becomes unstable and hops on slight bumps. And the distances, they are really huge. 20 minutes of driving, and I haven´t yet arrived at another biome, which seemed to be so close by as seen from above. As I have to climb down a steep slope into a crater, a moment of inattention at max speed and the rover topples.

- quite overdone for a simple sommerault, no?

Sigh. And reload, loosing the last hour of gameplay or so. I shudder to think how many Yawls I would have had to bring here if I played "iron man" style...

This time, I try to land even closer to a spot which is close to three biomes. A Mün map download from the kerbalwiki helps me to do so.

- I choose a spot south of the polar crater

After some more driving around, I get a bit frustrated by the weak motorpower; steep slopes get the Yawl down to a crawl of 4m/s at most. Also annoying is the fact that rover wheels, even thought they are rated to have a braking power of 30, cannot stop the Yawl at a steep slope from going backwards down. The landing gear, with its nominal torque of 17, do manage, on the other hand. Since it is still not dawn and the batteries are almost depleted, I park the vessel.

Some maneuvers concerning my two satelites mission serve as a diversion and help me to finish the game session on a lighter mood; after all, the rover test so far was more on the disappointing side.

- test contract for spider engines, which make for good satelite engines, and an occasion for witnessing a nice scenery

Friday, 7 August 2015

Too many crashes

My game session was very short, due to sucking up all news on Elite: Horizon. For my captain´s log here: All I achieved was to pack the White Goose to the brim with tourists and bring them into orbit and transfer them to the Scientia 2 along with the crew (which is now at experience level 2, thanks to their brief shore leave).

 - who needs pilots?

Then I sent the spaceplane on a rescue mission. After all this was done, a Kerbal night had passed and the Navitas at Minmus has already produced enough fuel to tank up the Tripol lander.

Of course, what sounds simple had a number of stumbling stones in the way:

The White Goose veers off and breaks apart during launch; I know the usual culprit and just added another strut to stabilize the outer part of the wings. Interesting enough, the strut structure at the lower wing side now resemble closely to that of a sceletal bird wing.

Once the rendez-vous is achieved, all but three tourists transfer, the latter ones just required LKO. Then I realised that this was in fact the case for only two of them, but only after I had already undocked and gone for the rescue mission. Thus, the White Goose went back to another rendez-vous with the Scientia 2, to rectify my tourist logistics. Thankfully the White Goose has plenty of unused fuel reserves, as the Scientia 2 is already tanked up.

Switching between vessels is sometimes a hazardous undertaking; the game also crashes two times during these rendez-vous exercises. Not only the game client, but also the spaceplanes are affected by crash-sickness; trying to land the White Goose again produces one explosion after the other.

 - already visible on the left outer side; something is very wrong with the wings

The spaceplane just veers off at high roll speeds. I can see the wings wobbling, but even with those three struts, the problem persists. This should not happen! I have already flown this plane several times and did not have problems! Somehow, after six tries, I manage to touchdown this buggy mess.

- veers off especially when trying to brake; again, I can see and suspect the wing parts don´t hold together

- close up of the problem; this thing has three struts below, and still! Strange enough, it had already worked fine, before

After this unpleasant and time consuming interlude, a Scientia 2 with its load full of tourists makes for Minmus. I had toyed to go first to Mun, but docking with the lander/rovers there would have required a polar orbit and there´s hardly a way I can get onwards to Minmus from a polar Mün orbit!

- electricity runs out; the vessel stays on course only thanks to the gimballed engines

After all these unpleasantries, I want to get back to the Tripol and finish exploring. And, yes, finally some nicer gameflow is established. The tanked up Tripol hangs a bit down from its suspended position, barely holds on. Undock is no problem, though. 

 - so long, and thanks for the fuel!

My first hop to the poles misses; the biome is smaller than I thought. One reload, then a crash (of the game client...), so I have to launch a third time. Finally, a touchdown and science experiments are done at the Pole. Then the last remaining biome, Lesser Flats, also get their visit.

 - still holds true; an excellently performing vessel

By this, the exploration of Minmus is finished. Bottle of champaign, please! Now I just have to wait until the Scientia 2 is arriving, then hand over two pods of data to their respective intended target ships before getting the last pod of data back to Kerbin.

Somewhat calmed, I check the mission control center. There are two new tourist contracts for LKO. Easy; and there is still this contract for a LKO equipment test which I had forgotten about. This is enough of profit to warrant another launch of the White Goose; the next time window for a maneuver of one of my active vessels is in 2 hours, anyways.

However, the White Goose again chooses to seriously misbehave. No idea what to do about this. Especially since this plane already did work fine for a few flights before. How is this possible? I launch several different configurations, but to no avail. In the meanwhile, there are five struts on the wings´ underside, but they do not prevent this behaviour. Frustrated, I have to log out. My ventures have by now eaten up two game sessions, and I haven´t progressed very far.

- go to hell, again (look at the outier wing and you see why)

As usual in such cases, the culprit will most probably sit behind the controls. A research in the forums found me a few helpful threads, in particular this hint:

"Too much weight per wheel ratio can cause it. Particularly if the weight is focused on your front wheel. What can make it worse is if your back and starts lifting up more so than your front, causing it to "wheelbarrow" over your front wheel. Basically your back end lifts up and drives your front wheel into the ground which causes unevenness. That last one is why some people have suggest putting canards up towards the nose."


"So when you start picking up speed you suddenly have very little contact force between the plane and the ground. Think if suddenly your car had 1/50th of the force of gravity to hold it to the road, it would suddenly veer off right? A tiny fraction of a movement left or right (Nothing can be perfect, even in this game) gets amplified at the speed, and you try to correct and then we have dead kerbals. Your plane has to be well balanced, have a better Angle of Attack, or better acceleration to reduce the time in which you can't quite fly but also can't quite "drive""


"Try to ensure a lifting balance between your front and back wheels. If the front or back generates excess lift, that reduces the sideways friction between the wheels and the ground; thus you see you start veering when you get up to speed. Also, at 100 m/s you should be able to lift off by pitching up (actually, if its a spaceplane then 50 m/s is preferable); if not, your rear wheels may not be close enough to your CoM, or you simply need more lift somewhere on your plane."

So, my White Goose might have an acute case of "wheelbarrow"; almost all the lift force comes from the wings in the aft part. I guess by changing only so little changes as adding back the "goose-beak" can make the whole thing go unbalanced in a decisive way. I should have already learned the lesson that a modified plane is a new plane!
Moreso, in light of these comments, the idea to roll and get speed on the runway as long as possible might actually a very risky, if stupid, idea. Even though it worked fine until now...

I will have to figure this out in my next sessions, I guess.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Elite: Horizons announced at Gamescom

This of course is a kind of "re-tweet", since the big unveil has been today on the GamesCom in Cologne, Germany. Frontier has again done a right step in the right direction and finally tackles the long awaited planetary landings! Wohooooooooooo! This game is shaping up to be the immersive world I had hoped for.

I wasn´t sure if they wouldn´t first do walking in ships and the whole first person stuff. But considering that Elite: Dangerous is one of the best possible experiences for the Oculus Rift, it is a wise step to stay first in cockpit environments only. Add also the session based combat zones, lebelled QCQ, and you have a little leasure as a sideline, when you don´t feel like embedding yourself in something so huge as 400 billion accessible stars... [edit: geez, initially wrote 40, but it is 400 billion, hard to grasp that mind staggering numbers]

Thus, we will not be able to actually walk on a planet, but drive with rovers, which you have to bring along in your cargo hold. Combat between rovers, as well as air-to-ground and vice versa is said to be possible. I am very excited, since this is a feature which I am waiting for since I have first heard of Elite: Dangerous on kickstarter. The amazing thing is, they are going to bring this feature out still this year. I really thought pessimisticly that this would take a lot longer. They also stated that the name of the expansion "Horizons" does not only refer to the landing, but some more things are going to be implemented soon after. In the twitch chat today, Sandro Sammarco ominously said, "loot", and David Braben added a phrase wherein I heard the word "crafting". I am *very* curious!

With this announcement, I think my musings from just a few blog entries ago are obsolete; I am sure there will be plenty of new adventures to write about for this blog from within Elite: Dangerous; thus I have no need to worry about finding another fitting VR game anymore.

Maybe also a litte side note on the necessary VR hardware; a good article in the current German C´T magazine holds a test of no less than five VR goggles. What surprises me is that, according to their description, not the Oculus Rift is the most promising, but a model from Valve and HTC. Well, competition can be only good, it will make the stuff cheaper and better for us customers!

A little addendum: While browsing through the news, I found this; a web comic about Elite: Dangerous, and I think this particular one is very well done!

Preparations around Kerbin and Mün

My Minmus operations are on hold until the Navitas has produced enough fuel in order to continue the Tripol´s exploration. The game session passes with some preparatory or finalizing maneuvers during that phase. In short news-screenshot style:

While on its way to the Scientia 2, the White Goose rescues an engineer Kerbonaut, thus generating profit for this flight.

The Fuel Ship reaches Mün orbit, on its way to the Scientia and the two lander-rovers.

The Navitas has produced enough ore to fulfill the according mission contract. It seems the drills can run without electricity during nights if you do not switch to the vessel and leave it when it still has some remaining charge. Cheesy.

A new tourist contract, very demanding conditions; four tourists want a tour around Duna, one a suborbital of the sun. The annoying thing is the micromanagement of each individual tourist, as each of them has different requirements.

After some hazzle, I manage to dock the Fuel Ship (RCS thrusters cannot be well aligned because center of mass is very shifty, according to how much fuel currently is stored in the vessel). The receivers are now mostly tanked-up and ready for some Mün landing missions.

The Fuel Ship´s escape vector back to LKO is not very efficient; an inherent disadvantage when starting from a polar Mün orbit with the current crappy orbital angle.

The White Goose finally reaches the Scientia 2 in LKO, tanks it up, takes over the 30 science datasets and the complete crew for a shore leave.

Re-entry falls a bit short of the landing area, promting an extended flight at Mach 3+. The heat is up to the limit for some parts, notably the RCS thrusters (I have to figure out something for them) and, inexplicably, the stuff in the small cargo bay. Thank god the Octo SAS unit does not explode (although not so vital here as for the Fuel Dragon, as the White Goose has a cockpit and a pilot on board).

I rarely remember to do sceenshots during final approach. It´s a very sensitive phase, requiring some skill and focus.

The scientific data from the Scientia 2, largely from it´s Minmus landing on the slopes and orbit, give a big boost to my science account.

The latter achievement provokes some thought on where to invest those ~1100 science points; as anticipated, some 700 came from the data from the Scientia 2, with about 400 hailing from crew and EVA reports from the Tripol, which I could immediately transmit from there without any loss. The science could either launch the "nuclear area", or allow access to construction parts and large docking ports, or perfectionise my spaceplanes by getting access to wings with fuel capability etc.. However, it is still not enough points to realise some new spacecraft designs which I have in mind. Maybe it is the best to just access nuclear engines, as there is an immediate need for them to fulfill the sun suborbital tourist missions. Once I have finished the ongoing Minmus exploration and rover´d around Mün, I should be swimming in enough science points, so a limiting decision now has no long term consequences, anyways.

As soon as contracts are fulfilled, new ones pop up in the mission control center. There is one which makes me ponder some time: Get 450 ore from Mün. Of course, the challenge is to accept every contract the game throws at me. This particular contract is so profitable that it could even afford the launch of a new Omniscient-class vessel, as a mining outpost on Mün. Of course, if the time until the Duna transfer allows for, I could also just re-route the Navitas, once fuel is no longer needed at Minmus.

I will have time to decide this until my next game session. Log out.

Next steps:
- fuel up and finalize the Minmus exploration with the Tripol
- start the exploration of Mün with the two lander-rovers
- decide how to go about Mün mining
- decide about scientific development and cfg. do the tourist suborbital sun missions with nuclear engines
- maybe think of finally allowing shore leave also for the Mün-based crew, in this context plan for a shuffling-around which will get all Kerbonauts to experience level 3

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Minmus hops and mining

The rather underwhelming result of the Navitas´ mining operation on Minmus had me research some guides. It turns out that the ore concentration in Minmus can in rare cases scale up to 15%, where 8% is already considered a good value. So, the Navitas´ landing area with its 4.32% is rather below average. I guess in order to find a better spot, I would have to land in each area which is highlighted by the orbital ore scanner and then use the surface scanner to find out the real ore concentration. However, right now I do not have the time nor the fuel to do so.

I also found out that the efficiency of the drill is strongly dependend on the presence of an engineer. A simple level 1 engineer will multiply the output by 9. No wonder why my current mining efficiency is so abysmal low! This means I should look to staff the Navitas asap, and an occasion for this pops up sooner than I could hope.

Back to the Tripol, the next suborbital hop is going to be to a Midland, which is right next to a Flats. After touchdown and my science collecting routine, I suddenly realise that the Navitas is just 25km away. Aaand, conveniently, one of my three crew members is an engineer. Get your RCS-pack ready, Magcella, you get promoted to the first acting captain of the Navitas! Those 25km distance can easily be bridged via a Supergirl-type flight, no need to burn fuel from the Tripol.

 - going to visit a neighbour

Once Magcella has reached an apoapsis of 8km, Kerbal Alarm Clock tells me that a vital maneuver node for the Yawl is closing in. This is simultaneous to the anticipated touchdown of my Kerbonaut. Thus, I have to rudely interrupt the Kerbonaut´s flight, and I manage just barely to land her before it is time to switch to the Yawl. It is the Yawl´s last burn for the rendez-vous with the Scientia, and it then docks without trouble.

 - car garage at Mün

Once this little interlude is over, I can complete the crew transfer on Minmus. There is just barely left enough monopropellant in Magcella´s RCS pack, and I wisely keep the last droplets for unforeseen things.

 - acting Captain Magcella Kerman reporting for duty

My caution pays off, and I actually come to use the last monopropellant droplet to put my Kerbonaut safely on the Navitas´ ladder. I had miscalculated its height, taking as a base height the ship without extended landing gear. As such, it is barely out of arm´s reach. Instead of an uncontrolled low-gravity jump, a little puff from the RCS, and Magcella finally enters the Navitas.

- the ladder is not really inclusion-fiendly

The effect on my mining operationo is notable; the drills´ efficiency jumps up to 0.019428ore/second, a nearly tenfold improvement! I can finally hope to produce sufficient fuel within the time left until the Navitas needs to be back to Kerbin in time for the Duna transfer window.

In the meanwhile, the Tripol gets to take a step to the northeast, into the Flats. 742m/s of deltaV are left, and three more targets would still need to be visited; Great Flats, Lesser Flats, Poles. I do one more suborbital hop and land in the Great Flats, trying to use as little fuel as possible and thus skimming closely by the midland ridge which is sourrounding the flats. But, alas, as I finally touchdown, the deltaV potential is down to 180m/s, which is barely enough to get back into orbit. 

As a little break from my Minmus activities, the Kerbal Alarm Clock offers a undisturbed window of two hours; things get slower again, thank god. I can make good use of this time window and bring the Dragon back down to Kerbin. The craft performs nearly flawlessly. It just turns out that a triangular arrangement of the front airbrakes is actually a bad idea, since it makes the plane pitch down. Since I do not really need much of airbraking, the error is only minor.

- all levels are green
 Before I launch the White Goose, for reasons of caution, I modify it similar to the Dragon, by adding and putting the Octo control unit into a small cargo bay. This entails some problems concerning a too-forward center of mass, so I compensate by removing the inline-docking port, which I currently do not need, anyways.

- test launch of a new White Goose iteration
Two test launches later, I have a working version, but it is now missing its characteristic goose-like beak. This design of taste issue will have to be rectfied later on, but now, I want to continue to focus on my Minmus exploration.

For a while, I also try to modify the course of the Münbus, in order to achieve an even lower Kerbin periapsis but a bug doesn´t let me plant a maneuver node on the conic before entering Mün SOI.

Before my game session has to end, I want to solve the issue with the Tripol. I have a crazy Kerbal-idea; how about docking the Tripol to the Navitas on the ground? Positioning the Tripol horizontally could actually coincidence with the height of the lower docking ports. Just to be sure, I quicksave, then launch the Tripol to the Navitas. If I had had this idea earlier, I could have saved the time to fly Magcella over there. But let´s see if the docking maneuver would work out. First, I undock the surface ore scanner and leave it; it can be retrieved later, if needed.

The Tripol´s remaining deltaV is as low as 28m/s once I have landed close by. I retract the landing struts and pull the Tripol horizontal via just the torque from the reaction wheels. With the remaining fuel as well as RCS controls, I try to approach and align to the docking ports but ultimately mis-aim and fail. Worse, the Tripol topples over. Should I reload and try again? But that would be too time consuming and also cheesy, no?

- uhm... push it a bit?
It is time to give a little push from outside, I guess. Unfortunately, the craft seems to be too heavy for one single Kerbonaut´s RCS. The application of force is also very difficult to control, worsened by the fact that we are on a slope. Finally, I kind of despair and just wildly swing the Tripol back and forth via the reaction wheels and some push via RCS thrusters, which are only strong enough to do so on the ground when pushing sidewards. 

Like this, somehow, the craft inches towards the Navitas´ docking port. The latter is a bit too high, but I can lift the Tripol´s nose and initiate the magnetic clamps. As I hoped, the gravity on Minmus is this so low that the magnetic clamps are actually powerful enough to lift the whole Tripol off the ground and into the required horizontal position, suspended just inches above ground. Yay!

- crazy ideas sometimes work out
Now I just have to wait until the Navitas has produced enough fuel to be able to continue the Tripol´s scientific exploration. In the meanwhile, I send the scientist into the Navitas´ Mobile Lab and download  lowland-specific data from one the Tripol´s pods into it (but not actually displacing it into the Navitas yet). The bonus of doing this sur place on lowland ground is convenient!

Happy to have mastered this crazy venture, I log out.