Let me take you through this mission, what I felt as an epic journey, whit this after-action report / photolog. It is a long one. This wasn't easy, was my first time on Eve and just visited Mun, Minmus and Duna before. So let me tell you the whole history and a bit of the background. This is a long story, and English is not my first language, so please bear with me.
I'm playing on career mode. All stock, vanilla game with Breaking Ground expansion, no mods.
And I don't like to time-warp travel times between planets so I can use those intermediate times to send some other missions to other places and keep on collecting science points and completing contracts. But it has a downside: if the mission fails and I have to revert to a savegame pre-launch, I also loose a lot of missions done during it's travel time. So I must try to be as "not-so-bad" as I can.
I try to take as much profit as I can when an planetary intercept window arrives. But also there will be some of them fliying at the same time to different destinations, so there will be a lot of maneuver nodes, landings, dockings... all at very close timings, so the fewer ships, the easier to control all them.
That makes the start for this epic voyage.
Chapter one: planning the mission.
While I was conducting some other missions (satellites, maned missions to Mun and Minmus, completing contracts, etc.), Eve's interplanetary intercept window came. And I wanted to sent to it as much as I can. So planned to send all this:
a space station with a science module.
an exploration satellite.
a lander to reach Eve's surface with two kebals, put an unmanned Rover, scientific experiments and return to low orbit.
and a ship to return to Kerbin with 3 kerbals and all the science you can, being able to recover the low orbit lander before if necessary.
Then I started the design phase, trying to accomplish it all with my current science tree, not fully unlocked by then, and also staying in my budget.
As maybe you can assume by the ship's name, multiple, realy a lot of versions and variants of the ship were made. Until I finally opted for this one... after a lot of failures that made me go back to pre-launch savegame and loosing lots of other game advances. It's a somehow "frustrating/epic funny" process, if you know what I mean.
On this ship, all modules except the return / rescue module have an unmanned control unit, so they don't need pilots. With all other missions going on at the same time, I didn't have much of them and new contracts would have made it all blow up out of my budget. Val will be the mission commander and only pilot onboard.
The ship has configured a series of action keys to facilitate certain tasks (mainly, the collection of science data and saved in the correct module).
Chapter two: Time to launch.
And that was the mission, step by step (without all the "*return to control station*", manage some other missions to other destinations and back to this one parts, for the reader's mental sanity)
The final shuttle weights about 4,000 tons, so I learned (by the hard way) that I had to put the ship on launch pad when I was goint to launch it. Due to its monstrous weight (about 4,000 tons), it does not hold long on the ramp without starting to loose parts, no more than 20 seconds.
During the ascent phase in the Kerbin atmosphere, several stages had to be released. I had to drop them aiming perfectly prograde, failure on this make this ship the most expensive fireworks ever. Also learned by the hard way.
Out of the atmosphere, used Val to release the return / rescue ship from the rocket and dock it to the Space Station module. Once docked to the Space Station, to give it more rigidity against accelerations, used the options menu of the capsule to add auto-struts. Deactivated it's nuclear engine so it won't start when tthrottling the engines of the whole ship.
Once escaped Kerbin's sphere of influence, before reaching the descending node between the ship's orbit around the sun and Eve's orbit, released the satellite module and programed two maneuvers: one on the main ship to intercept Eve at the equator, and another on the exploration satellite to intercept Eve at the poles. It's easier (albeit slow) to modify the satellite's trajectory, so tryed to get Kerbin's escape maneuver node to get the whole shuttle as close to Eve's equator as possible.
Both maneouvers, on the main shuttle and on the satellite, diverted them appart and made the satellite ETA to Eve's SOI some hours later than the main shuttle. And that was great, concurring on the same time will make it a bit of a dissaster of at least one of them.
The X3-A5-2 Mission continued its journey. I used that time to continue and start some other missions. Until the day when they reach the awaited planet SOI. Excitement and fear, all combined in just one feeling.
Chapter three: reaching Eve.
When making the capture burn into Eve´s orbit with this configuration, the stage with interplanetary engines, the side ones, ran out of fuel and had to drop them and continue burning with the nuclear engines of the Space Station. By having the return / rescue ship docked sideways, this generated a twist on the shuttle. To make the ship controllable can do one of two things:
wait to release the side tanks stage when you have finished the maneuver
release the side tanks stage and rotate on the longitudinal axis quickly and constantly (by pressing "Q" or "E") while you finish the burn with the nuclear engines to cause a gyroscope effect so the return / rescue module docked doesn't produce lateral torque that impide you to maintaining stability.
The second option allows to save more fuel from the Space Station's nuclear thrusters. I used both for half the maneuver each one (didn't realize the second one until then).
One the main shuttle is on Eve's orbit, it's time to shift and perform the capture burn with the satellite module, so it remains in a stable polar orbit below 1,500 km high.
And let him do his job.
That was easy. Slow, really slow (thanks, Ion thrusters!), but easy. Now, let´s start with the hard part of the mission.
Chapter four: the descent to Eve
For the landing, I sent to the lander capsule a scientist and an engineer. That capsule doesn't need a pilot to have full control of the SAE as it has a module for unmanned flight.
With the main spacecraft in orbit around Eve, on the apoapsis I made a retrograde ignition, it decreased the periapsis to approximately 70km, then released the lander so that it follows an atmospheric flight path, and accelerated prograde again with the remaining Space Station to recover a periapsis height of not less than 110 km to continue its orbit.
The Space station can then use its nuclear engines more efficiently to modify its orbit.
Shifted to the lander. During the descent towards an atmospheric flight path, inflated the two heat shields and used SAS to maintain retrograde orientation during entry into the atmosphere.
When descending to Eve, if you depart from a good orbit you can entry into the atmosphere on the first descent and reach the planet's surface. If you departed from a very elliptical orbit, you may needed multiple orbits and aerobraking before reaching the surface of the planet.
Anyway, once targeted 70km height on periapsis and released the lander module, it is on it's course to the surface. Just a matter of time... with all fingers crossed.
During the descent, my kerbonauts seemed to be more worried than impressed , as you can se up there.
In the descent flight over Eve, I had to wait to be fully vertical (approximately 10km above the surface) to detach the upper thermal shield just before pre-deploying the parachutes. A bad release of the upper heat shield would have caused the lander to break and the capsule with the kerbals to separate from the rest of the module and all of it, two brave kerbals included, would only be some kind of a crater on the surface.
I had to wait until the parachutes were open (about 800 meters above Eve's surface) to release the lower heat shield. It gives stability and helps to stop the fall during the entire descent. Releasing it prematurely could cause it to impact the lander and destroy some parts. Learned through the hard way.
Extended the landing gear after the lower heat shield was released. And went down about 7 m/s until gently touching the surface, without the need to start engines.
If I would have needed to abort the landing on Eve (from descending into water, for example) I had a plan: advance the list of stages until the engines start and, with a pre-programmed action group, cut all the parachutes and try to get back to orbit. That would be a total failure, but with no casualties.
But fortunately, the trajectory lead me to the surface. So, finally, we land on Eve's surface.
Chapter Five: Time to work on the surface.
After all, we weren't there for holidays.
Before doing anything else, I released the stage with the upper parachute bindings. These were meant to cause a few explosions around the lander, so it was better to be done before deploying any kerbal or anything else over there.
Then deployed the rover with its corresponding stage. After that, I extended all the stairs (it has a lot of them, all pre-programed on an action group). And finally a kerbal stepped on Eve's surface.
The two kerbals went to the surface to plant the flag, take surface samples and make reports. On the lower cargo module, inside in a SEQ-9 module, there were some portable science modules (a control unit, communications, solar panels and science experiments) to be deployed on Eve's surface. That was the reason for taking to the surface a scientist (more science from the experiments) and an engineer (less solar panels required).
Before leaving Eve's surface, when the kerbals went back up to the capsule, there was a storage unit next to the ladder so they can save all their reports. But this report won't be a report without the crew and the flag photo.
After that, they went back to the module and started to get ready for take off. It was time to do one of the most difficult parts of the mission: beat again this level's boss, Eve's atmosphere, and return to Eve's low orbit.
Chapter six: returning to orbit.
For the takeoff, retracted all the ladders, closed the lower cargo module, made sure the rover was away and safe from the ship, and retracted all the solar panels from the lander. I didn't want to have any innecesary aerodynamic drag. Then, throttle to maximum and released the lower stage.
Some explosions occurred below, as expected. Released the next stage (landing gear) a second later, when the lander was already climbing. And some more explosions down there.
Just check their face. Mine was almost the same during this phase.
During the climb, the stages were in aspargarus configuration, so I had to keep an eye on when a stage run out of fuel to release it and not cause unnecesary aerodynamic drag. Eve's atmosphere is dense as hell.
Aimed completely vertical until passing 20 kilometers high, there I began a very smooth gravitational turn to reach 100 kilometers height low orbit on Eve. Not the best profile probably and you can be sure that wasn't the best execution, but I made it to orbit.
Didlreda and Gregbruna were way to happier then.
As it was a bad ascension, with the remaining fuel in the lander capsule I wasn't able to fully intercept the the Space Station. That was once of the contingencys expected. So Val took the return / rescue module from the space station, intercepted the lander module, docked to it and tow it to the space station.
It could be done by simply taking the kerbals and the science of the lander module, but the return / rescue ship had delta-V enough to make it anyway.
The lower part of the lander, the one that has a cargo bay, was left on Eve's surface. This is intended so it then is used as a base - communications repeater. Shifted to it and, with a pre-programed action group, it was time to open the cargo module doors, extend its solar panels, and unfold its antennas. Sorry, with all the emotions I didn't take any photo of it.
Chapter seven: time to depart to Kerbin.
Back at the Space Station, I reviewed what science and kerbals would remain on it and what I would go back to Kerbin. Some scientist would be left on the Space Station doing research with part of the science obtained to multiply the science points untill further missions to this planet.
Half of the mission was accomplished by then, but in the career mode science points are more valuable than gold, didn't want to loose anything by transmitting them, so I thought that investigating with duplicates and take to Kerbin all the rest was the best option.
Time to say goodbye to part of the crew, and continue different roads.
Uncoupled the return module and departed to Kerbin.
Chapter eight: back to Kerbin.
The return module had fuel for its nuclear engine enough to return to Kerbin's sphere of influence and perform a retrograde burn to slow down the capsule before entering the atmosphere.
It also could be done by aerobraking directly with the atmosphere, executing an intercept orbit that take it to less than 20 kilometers from the surface of Kerbin on the first approach. But there were a lot delta-V on this module, so I used it.
The return capsule entered Kerbin's atmosphere, they were finally back at home.
Deployed parachutes and wait until touched Kerbin's surface once again.
It was a long trip, fulled with a lot of emotions. All the missions were acomplished but some were not finished yet. Eve was no longer out of our frontiers. Some heros and some equipment were still there, getting those valuable points, waiting further missions to come... all for the Science.
Our history on Eve has just started. It is to be continued...
I'm sure that a lot of you have done it before. And probably with better, more efficient and more beautifull ships. But this was a real challenge for me and my almost 250 hours of KSP by then, I felt very happy to achieve this. So I wanted to share it with all you.
I also uploaded this whole Shuttle to Steam WorkShop, so anyone could use it if they want: X3-A5-2 Multi-mission launcher to Eve and back
It's the same shuttle I used here, and it has pre-programmed this action groups:
Extend intermediate solar panels (in side rocket interplanetary stage, for the trip to Eve)
Inflate lander’s thermal shields.
Cut lander’s parachutes
Extend / retract lander’s ladders
Execute robotic's action to extend panels and antennas in the base module on Eve
Observe port material’s module and Mystery Goo.
Observe starboard material’s module and Mystery Goo.
Collect science from all resettable experiments in the lander / rover
Store all the science of the ship in the container of the lander
Store all the science of the ship in the container of the return module.
For science pickup, you can use Action Key 8 on all stages of the flight: solar orbit, Eve's atmosphere entry, Eve surface, and in every single opportunity. You can also use action group 6 and 7 as much as you want ir the lander module is still connected to the Space Station, as you can take the data and reset the experiments from the Station Science Module.
You can also use one of them (6 or 7) on when the lander is on Eve's atmospheric flight and the other one when you are landed on Eve.
After executing anyone of these action groups, execute action 10 (or 9 if you are only with the lander) to save all the reports in the return module. You can also send the data you want to the research module if you have scientists to carry out an investigation.
Before leaving the space station back for Kerbin, perform Action 10 to pass all of the science collected to the return module and take it back with you.
I think I forget to do this on some stages of the flight, but anyway I get more than 2,400 science points returned to Kerbin, and many more being generated by investigation conducted in the Space Station.
So, apart from the excitement of achieving all this, I think I can call it a great mission.
Thanks for letting me share this with all of you. Hope to see you on every Kerbol System's planet.