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, 27 March 2016

Easter Holiday: Subnautica

I needed something of a holiday, but Hawaii is too far and too expensive to travel to. In comes VR. There was a game on steam with 40% off, early access, costs less than a dinner. Subnautica. A survival game: A spaceship has crashed, you are sole survivor on a water world. It sounds grim, but frankly, the game projects a kind of "holiday on a lonely island" atmosphere, with plenty of diving opportunities. Graphic and sound are very well done. A perfect virtual holiday. This is only half joking, because it really was similar to that holiday-ish feeling; you have something to do but it is not too stressful and you have plenty of time to admire and enjoy the beautifully done environment. The occasional sea monster can - with proper caution - be viewed from a safari tour distance and provides for a measured shivering tension.

Alone on an alien planet with the crashed mothership. Creates quite some hydrophobia in the beginning. Scary the thought of having to get close there; but at some point in the game, you have to. Until you can craft a scanner and a "magic base builder tool", the game makes you indeed feel pretty much "Hansel and Gretel" kind of lost in a scary subnautic forest - with lots of sea monsters, of course!

During days, in the "Safe Shallows" provide for the said holiday diving experience. Just a proper holiday resort is missing, but don´t worry, the game lets you construct one to your taste!

Once I am ready to do som "basic base building", life gets a bit more comfortable. This is my first outpost in the Kelp forest, where you can find important resources for some basic equipment.

For better equipment and advanced resources, I need to venture deeper. This is an outpots in the Grand Reef area, absolutely necessary in order to grasp some much needed air supply and bake some fish for food in between the diving tours.

Even deeper we must go, finding scary large wrecked parts of the mothership. In a later stage of game development, those will be the place for all those equipment scematics, which currently are scattered about in "chests".
Key is to find in the Grand Reef the scematics for the "Moonpool" building, which allows the little submarine "Seamoth" to recharge its energy for free; four solar panels in your base are enough for that purpose.

My main base, after some upgrading. With enough resources, the base could grow much larger, but I like it as is. Up there are the living area plus the submarine hangar, down there is the entrance and the "worklab".
I like to have a part of my base on the surface. I am no fish, after all. It´s a nice little holiday resort. All power to VR! (I don´t own VR-goggles yet, but this game will support them)

Further exploration remains scary. Here the biggest and meanest beast, the Reaper, after it had a little bite of my submarine. Thanks to an installed repulsion weapon, I can make it away alife. Those are moments where you are almost jolted out of your seat, thanks to the game´s superb graphic and sound design.

A key secret place to find is this floating island, if you play in survival mode. It has fruit trees and vegetables, which finally alleviate your fish diet and provide for a sustainable food farming right in your base. Yeah, no more hunt&harvest tours, we slowly claw our way back to civilisation!

"Current final challenge" is to get back to the wreck of the mothership Aurora and stop the radiation which is bleeding out and slowly waisting the surrounding. I haven´t found any gun scematics and had to best the trip just with a radiation suit and my trusty knife. A tense experience for sure.

My current "end-game" base. It has renewable fruit and vegetable plants and even the fish are harvested from a large aquarium which spans three levels (the only place where fish actually do proliferate, as they were getting scarce in the sourrounding because some sea monsters eat them, too).

The game still is an "early access" version, I have invested about 18 hours and experienced most of its content. As I said, a nice little virtual holiday in between with a lot of fun!

Minmus mining gets supplemented

My task list grows smaller, but it is hard work.

My specific design of a support vessel reaches Minmus.

In the meanwhile, my first Grand Tour de Kerbin for those tourists with the Spacefish draws to a close. After several rounds of aerobraking, it will dock to the Orbital Terminal. Now it is just a matter of fetching them with a spaceplane.

Now for the difficult exercise of hitting a precice landing spot. Never did this before from orbit.

My mistake: I use the target-view on the navball and try to keep target and prograde marker overlapped. Bad mistake, as this ignores the constant downwards acceleration from Minmus´ gravity. Like this I waste over 200dV and don´t even reach my target.

Thankfully, the support vessel has plenty of monopropellant, Minmus a very low gravity, so that it can drag itself through Minmus sand to the Navitas. The Navitas has now had several days of mining with quite some overheating, with expecedly low results. Also, temperature gauges show up on almost every ship part. Uh oh. I would say I made a timely arrival of the much needed heat panels from the support vessel.

However, attaching the modules with the heat panels to the Navitas is very difficult. RCS thrusters cannot float the vessel, so I have to do with some dragging and rolling about. And that, on a rather steep slope. Which, at some point, indeed destroys one of the modules.

Some felt-like hours later, I have attached the remaining three modules. Already one of them was enough to cool the drills down to optimal temperature. Now, the mining and re-fueling of the Navitas should be only a matter of two or three days!

Like I learned from the forums, with the additional surface scanner active, the orbital survey scanner re-calibrates its result. I can see now that the previous marked area where the Navitas landed is in fact not an optimal one. Bad luck, but it is probably still more efficient to stick to the current location that trying another precise landing with a spacehulk like the Navitas is, just for a few percentage more.

Another game session passed by without much progress beyond this one specific mission. This teaches me to properly plan missions. Both my efforts with the Sagitta in my last game session and this one with the Navitas would have been completely unnecessary if I had had the spacecrafts correctly designed. But I guess this is what the game is about: Trial and error which creates new and unexpected challenges, just like it does happen all too frequently in real life.

Sagitta crash exercises

My tourist cruiser, the Sagitta, has finally finished its observation exercise and gets ready to land on Mün. Simple routine...

Here we go. BTW, must those craters be everywhere?

Just made it to the ridge of a crater, for a flat enough landing surface. But what is this? The vessel tumbles and falls, even though I am sure I had horizontal velocity in the 0.x area!

Reload, next try! Killing horizontal velocity.

WTF. The four spaced engines do not seem to provide for a stable basis as I had assumed!

Next try!

... uh, well. This time I had a touchdown at about 9m/s. The nuclear engines supposedly are rated for 12 m/s, and that for normal gravity, not the weak Münar gravity. Bt I finally realize the culprit for my failures: The engine nacelles are victim to the wet-noodle effect. Apparently, the game treats them only as fixed at the top, which makes them swagger and topple the whole vessel even at the slightest impact down at the other end, where the engines are. Damn, I should have used some struts!

Like this, the construction is basically a failure concerning landings, making those a high risk effort. But I am glad having verified that it is not entirely the fault of my crappy piloting.
I finally manage. Heff.

Next waypoint: Minmus. DeltaV is not as plenty as I had hoped, so here I try for a direct transfer to Minmus from Mün. This saves me about 500 deltaV, compared to a transfer from low Kerbin orbit, with an only slightly longer travel time.

Sometimes, game sessions pass very quickly when confronted with a bottleneck-like failure like today.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Some more craft concepts

My Kerbal Alarm Clock makes me aware that a transfer window for Moho is going to arrive much earlier before one to Duna. I only have contracts for the latter, but it would be a shame to miss a any transfer window, no? So my construction musings start to center around a long range spacecraft with enough habitat space so the Kerbonauts get not crazy in tight confinements. A challenging task, because Moho is very close to the sun and needs a lot of deltaV to reach!

This is an evolved concept of the Omniscient class, codename Mohokan. A very low TWR but high deltaV to at least manage the one-way-trip. I think there is no way to have enough fuel for a two way trip if I really want to have comfortable (if not luxurious) living space on the vessel. Again, the outer passenger pods are aligned such to produce centrifugal gravity. There are lots of videos and guides how to do Moho and how to have enough deltaV, but I did not see one which tries to bring a truly passenger-friendly vessel on that trip. Mining for fuel at Moho is obligatory, or it would not make its way back.

This is a try to add a launch stage to the Mohokan, no idea if it would fly, but look at the costs!

Just a little rover. My first try in this career game. Some kind of mental counter balance to the big stuff which I try to cobble together above.

And this is the ship which could bring it along. Without that cargo, this setup would have 7200 deltaV available. I would call this a maximum efficiency without having to resort to staging extra weight off during travels. Even at maximum efficiency, this one would not make it back from Moho without additional stages, or mining equipment.

Here a try to upgrade the design with "realistic" living spaces for a long range interplanetary travel to Moho. Nah, I don´t like it. Wouldn´t even know where to put the mining equipment.

A big rover. Derived from my last career game, I improved the design and it is extremly stable and robust, with the ability to land and launch back into orbit on its own power. Let´s call it the Mako! Let´s see if we can take it along on some travels. IMO, exploring a planet without bringing a rover along is only half the experience.


Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Slow maneuvers

It is difficult to switch between construction and just flying spacecraft. In the following session, I try to not get distracted by the former. Works a bit, but I also have a backlog of screenshots of models I was tinkering with...

Here, we get a survey satelite en route to Minmus. Since the Navitas is landed, I want an independend eye in orbit. No mission attached, but the Phoenix spaceplane makes the cost negligible. And, flying spaceplanes is fun!

I again miss the right re-entry spot and have to fly a bit to reach the runway. However, this time, I have enough fuel left!

Proud to announce that I acutally hit the runway in a straight line. Must be because I upgraded and enlarged the runway in the meanwhile; it´s harder to miss now...

The Sagitta class gets now officially launched, for a tourist cruise to Mün and Minmus. The launch uses up some fuel from the nuclear stage, too, so I first want to dock at Orbital Terminal for a refuel.

The last remaining crew on Orbital Terminal, a pilot, also gets transferred. Two tourists want a Mün and Minmus landing, and I want to be able to take surface probes, which tourists cannot do.

In the meanwhile, my first big tourist cruise with the Spacefish nears its end. It enters once more a Mün orbit, and this time, the mission parameters update accordingly. The Spacefish can now bring the tourists back to Kerbin, to earn about half a million credit.

The Sagitta travels to Mün and enters a longer period in orbit. Reason is, there is also a contract for gravity measurements, which I cover by placing the Sagitta into a polar orbit and wait until each navpoint passes under the ship.

The Lander finally gets close to the first rescue mission on a high Minmus orbit. Shortly later, it also reaches the second Kerbonaut in need of rescue in a low Minmus orbit.

There is not much deltaV left, but I take my chances and try to bring the Lander with the two rescued Kerbonauts immediately back, without waiting for a refuel from the Navitas, which is landed at Minmus and mining for fuel. I use Mün as a gravity assisted reduction of the orbit altitude, which works fine. However, I am still not sure the remaining deltaV is enough even then.

So this was some progress along multiple missions, which in my game sessions were taking place in between a lot of time in the construction buildings. Their conclusion is still a bit away but soon I will be able close to "close" a lot of missions.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Again, construction time

Can you believe it; another three game sessions get spent just on constructing stuff, nothing more happens in the career game itself. Well, this actually *is* the first time that I allow myself to toy around with the end-tech-level parts!

This is a try to make the stuffed version of my cargo spaceplane a bit more balanced. Fails miserably. The pitch elevators are too strong, and the center of mass is going to shift too much back and forth with cargo/fuel compared to without. Neverthless, it flies, if it must!

Not satisfied, but too frustrated to continue on spaceplanes, I change over to spaceship construction. This version should be a successor for the Spacefish, with higher deltaV for extended tourist travels. The large docking port on top could be also used to attach this spacecraft to a larger construction and use them as a kind of engine nascelle. I call it "Spaceshark".

And, this is how I want to launch the Spaceshark, basically like a huge spaceplane satelite launch system.

I think it can be counted as an achievement to have a plane explode before it could even start anything. Cause: The dreaded wet-spaghetti effect; the spacecraft in the cargobay shifts around like a wet noodle, clips through the cargobay and hits the ground. BOOM. Solution: Place struts! However, this makes my idea to actually also bring the spacecraft back down via the same means obsolete; struts unfortunately are one-use items and can´t be re-attached outside the construction building.

Somewhat unfocused, I go back construction cargo planes. This version makes it off the runway, the spaceshark with a new bunch of tourists on board. However, the engine power turns out to be too weak in order to reach orbital speed and height. Besides, I hate this particular design. I am tempted to install the mod called "procedural wings", because constructing large wings really is a problem in this game!

... and this, again, is why constructing large wings is a problem. They don´t behave as one, I blame the already mentioned wet-noodle effect. I am tempted to install a mod called "struts be gone", which entirely removes the physiks concerning this effect.

More engine power, check. Nice design, check (I have to admit, I borrowed some ideas from a great designer by name of Val). On top, this plane is insanely heat resistant. It boosts through the lower atmosphere with speeds as high as 1500 m/s - and survives the treatment.

A bit less engine power is sufficient. Here another try to work with struts only on the Spaceshark itself, in order to be able to redock and bring it down via the same cargo spaceplane. Unfortunately, it does not work out. I think I will give up on the concept of bringing heavy spacecraft back down by means of a spaceplane.

In the meanwhile, I happen to like the Spaceshark design less and less. Tourists want an experience, a grand view of space, right? So, how about something more luxurious, with lots of cupola modules, like, this?! This "Sagitta"-class vessel can also double as a modernized science lab. Broadly spaced nuclear engines will allow for safe landings also on slope´y grounds.

It is almost refreshing, after all those failed and half-assed tries of a space plane launch into orbit, to just do a normal rocket launch into space. Here I discover that four arrays of small radiator panels is not enough to fully cool the nuclear engines. I will redo the launch later, right now I just wanted to try it out.

After that creative break, I am back designing spaceplanes. This one looks cool and is supposed to be a fuel tanker. Way too less wing lift area, but, hey, it looks cool! I chose to not use the RAPIER engines, but Whiplash jet engines, which are stronger in the atmosphere, in combination with Aerospikes, which are stronger in vaccuum. Nevertheless, the plane is so heavy with all that fuel that it almost drops to the gound after launch. Also, it flips at higher speeds, so I have to think about shifting the center of mass a bit more forward in front of the center of lift (which, in turn, will probably prevent take-off due to all the overweight).

Still a bit more work on design to do before I get back to actually flying these things. But all that construction payed off and I am very content with the way my designs start to look like.