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)

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.

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