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, 8 February 2016

Kerbal Space Program 1.05

After what seems a long time I start the Kerbal Space Program. Thanks to my blog notes, I quickly am up to date, but also overwhelmed. There are 15 missions to be fulfilled, about a dozen vessels en route, the to-do list on Kerbal Alarm Clock beckons. I check the Vehicle Assemby Building (VAB) for the newly designed parts which were introduced with the latest patch 1.05. Damn, the new Mk1 Cockpit looks better than I thought. But, alas, it thouroughly replace the old, equally nice design, even on my saved files. Also, some parts got modified and need refitting; especially the parts, which I used to place landing gear on, have a new form.

Then, the setback: Almost all of my designs have become invalid! Checking back with the Science Building makes things clearer: A certain delta wing got placed to tech nodes higher, which I do not have access to. Same applies for the Whiplash jetstream engine. This means that my entire supply structure, my spaceplanes which bring fuel and cargo into orbit, is down. Back to rocketbuilding, I guess.

As usual, when I enter a mid-game after a long time of absence, my motivation to continue it quickly drops. Things are simply not present anymore, and I suffer from the complexity I have created myself. I am also surprised to realize that my blog entries do not help me to get back in. On the contrary, it feels wrong to continue with invalid ship designs floating everywhere. Granted, I could have just deleted all and start with my current science and wealth, but this feels more like invalidating past efforts and those good memories. A fresh start is in order, which has also the advantage that I can experience the game with the new low-level parts, most notably new small jet engines and a new Mk1-crew cabin for two passengers.

New Career Game, moderate difficulty.

- a fresh start

Yes, the mission offering structure has been definitely improved. Also, having now started two career games already, I run them much more efficent and smoother, knowing exactly how and where to reap science on the way.

However, the atmospheric model has also changed again. I realise this when my Mk1-pods when dropping from the sky frequently just don´t slow down enough in order to safely deply parachutes. Not sure if it is properly simulated to have a Mk1-pod plus a Junior Lab hit the surface with supersonic speed, just from the acceleration of its own weight from great heights?

 - old pilots truth: up is easier than down

Once I try my first aerobraking through the atmosphere, going down to the 45km, which I still knew from my last game, the entire ship explodes with the cockpit, pilot and scientist on board. Thoughtless I had invalidated the reverse-flight option and not done any quicksave. With 2 of 3 kerbonauts dead and very little money left, this career game is doomed after one game session. Besides, no way that I continue without the iconic Jebediah, my chief pilot kerbonaut!

New Career Game, moderate difficulty.

As it turns out, hitting observation points above certain altitudes is not possible with the new Wheesley jet engine. Maximum height is about 5 km. The next powerful version fails at about 10 km. Also annoying is the constant trial and error approach with rockets, as I have no idea how deltaV and drag interact, each time in a different way for each new rocket.

 - environmental effects mod makes it more immersive


So, surprisingly, I come to like those tourist contracts. Mostly thanks to the new Mk1-passenger module, which is very early available, I can ferry them very efficiently into suborbit. The only problem which remained is the very high re-entry speed, too high for parachutes. Airbrakes would be nice, but they are locked much higher in the tech tree. This is the point where I remember the Orbiter approach, i.e. glide back in like the Space Shuttle did. What can I say, it works fabulous. A pair of wings not for flying but to slow down the fall until the parachutes get their bite.

This idea at the same time marks the beginning of my “Starglider” series, which finally leads to a very cheap single-stage-to-orbit plane/rocket hybrid.

 - this one marks the beginning of a new concept

 In my previous career game, I had funnelled all research towards the construction of space planes, because jet engines are a very fuel efficient means to gain altitude, thus allowing for very good payloads in form of fuel, satellites and even whole spaceships. Since the changes in the tech tree in version 1.05, the according technology has even higher science point requirements, which makes it impossible to achieve a spaceplane logistic in an early to midgame stage. In come my hybrid rocket planes.


- evolving

Before unlocking more tech or going to Mun, all tourist contracts remain on demanding suborbital or orbital flights. The Starglider offers this for up to four passengers and the trip costs overall only about 8,000 Credits. After some time in the tourist business, one might also be tempted to already call it grinding, my account is well filled with about 300,000 Credits. This strategy is similar to what I did in the career game before. Later contracts will cost much more time to fulfil, so this phase in the game is the best cash earner, if you can stand the grind.


 - matured model

I guess, after three game sessions, I am back in the Kerbal Space business.


- smooth touchdown

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