Cashen

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  1. Part 25: Duna/Ike Probe Mission Arrives ASSET Corp. HQ has been filled with anticipation of the arrival of the Duna/Ike Science Mission. Before we begin in earnest, some housekeeping matters to address. First, some out-of-story news. I finally got around to updating the first post with a proper table of contents. I also noticed a numbering error when going back through the old posts so I corrected that, which is why the numbers jumped forward slightly. There's also a crew roster there to allow (and readers) to better keep track of who's who and where they are. Anyway, back to the story: A while back the Fundraising Campaign was terminated when it became clear that the tourism missions were bringing in ample funds. While useful during the expensive construction of all the moon infrastructure, it seems the pendulum has swung in the opposite direciton. Too much funding coming in with not enough new construction to spend it on (not yet anyway). So an Appreciation Campaign has been started, using 35% of contract income to fund a kind of advertising campaign to raise the prestige and reputation of the company in the public, to put some of that money to use and also to attract more lucrative contracts. Having achieved a sufficient level of technological progress, the company has also decided to begin sharing its scientific discoveries and research, as an alternate source of funding. The goal is to be a science and exploration company, not a tourist company, so this program, the Patents Licencing Program, will act as a new source of income allowing the company to focus more on, well, science and exploration, and leave more of the tourism to others. A one-time Research Rights Sell-Out was also conducted as an addendum to the Patents Licensing Program. (This brought the science inventory down to zero and all future science points will be exchanged for funds now that the tech tree is complete). Concurrent to the report below, there was another tourism mission to both Minmus and Mun that takes place "off camera". Having said all of that, let's see how the probe mission to Duna plays out. The probe mission, if you recall, was launched as a single monolithic package, with all the components bundled together. It's worth reviewing. The forward portion is the Duna Polar Science Package, and it contains four sub-units. Two RA-100 Interplanetary Relay satellites will provide solid relay communication back to Kerbin. They'll be arranged in elliptical polar orbits just like the pair at Kerbin. The other two modules are Ore Scanning satellites, one for Duna, and one for Ike. The middle module, arranged in a opposing configuration and separated by a stack separator ring and fairing, is the Duna Equatorial Science Package, which contains two sub-units, two probes each carrying 3 RA-2 relay sattelites, one for Duna and one for Ike, and they'll set up the familiar shorter-range relay constellations around both bodies, providing total coverage for future crewed exploration missions. The rear part is the Orange Tank transfer stage. Here, the two science parts break apart, and they do so using separatrons and while on an impact course with Duna to make sure there's no debris. They do this along the orbit vector to provider separation, so that they arrive at different times for ease of management. The transfer stage uses its remaining delta-V to slow the Equatorial package further, before it's jettisoned to crash into Duna. Here we see the Equatorial unit on its own, prior to deployment of the heat shield. Both the Polar and Equatorial units will use Duna's atmosphere for their initial capture. A close-up of the Polar unit after heat shield deployment. Here we see the planned trajectory of the Polar unit, which will use atmospheric braking while passing over Duna's north pole. Similarly, the trajectory of the Equatorial package. And I have to say I love the Trajectories mod. The separation of the two units early in Duna's sphere of influence means the Polar unit arrives first by about two hours. Here it reaches periapsis over Duna's north polar ice cap. Final orbit stabilization takes place over the south polar ice cap, and the package breaks up into its component parts. The central unit de-orbits to crash into Duna. The two ore scanners deploy solar panels and scanners. One will lift itself into a higher orbit of Duna, and the other will wait for an opportune time to hop over Duna and transfer to Ike. One orbit later, and the northern Interplanetary Relay burns to lift its apoapsis to 40,000 km. It will take 20 days to reach that altitude over the north pole, so until then, the southern relay will wait in low orbit so the two are lined up properly. One should be at periapsis when the other is at apoapsis. Shortly thereafter the Equatorial unit arrives, brakes similarly, and deploys the relay packages. First, three RA-2 relay satellites are placed in 1,500 km circular equatorial orbits of Duna, spaced 120 degrees apart. These will provide almost 100% coverage of Duna's surface, and combined with the RA-100s in polar orbit, will mean constant communication ability back to Kerbin and its relays. The other unit transfers across to Ike, and performs a similar job, ringing Duna's moon with three identical RA-2 satellites. The second-to-last part of the mission is hopping the Ike scanner across. In hindsight it was probably a bad idea to place this satellite in the Polar Unit. In the future mission to Eve, which will look similar, this unit will be placed in the Equatorial unit instead. This will be even more important to try to get to Gilly. The completed layout, minus lifting the southern polar Interplanetary Relay. Everything is in place for future exploration of Duna. The Duna Exploration contract was completed, as was a contract to transmit science data from around Duna, and several new follow-up contracts accepted for crewed exploration to come. So, what are ASSET's plans for Duna? The Ore scanners have both confirmed the presence of Ore on their respective bodies. Data about specific locations and concentrations is still being processed, but a permanent outpost on both bodies self-sustained by ore extraction is definitely possible and will feature in the plans. Limited observation from close-up shows that yes, Duna has an atmosphere, but probably not enough for reliable atmospheric flight. Parachutes will work, but not as well as they do on Kerbin. So aircraft are probably unlikely, but a science rover with a lander module is probably the way to go, and parachutes can assist with some of the delta-V requirements. Surface bases with rover/lander units will be deployed to both Duna and Ike. In a bid to simplify things, the role of surface base, tanker vehicle, and ore extraction and processing, will all be rolled into a single package, a Mobile Surface Base that will be generally confined to a small area, but mobile on wheels to meet up with returning landers. The fewer pieces of equipment, the better. An orbital station will be deployed to Duna to handle incoming and outgoing traffic, handle the space-based orbital science, crew movements as well as a spaceport for potential tourism missions. In all, ASSET estimates it will need a total crew of about twelve. Four each for the surface bases and four for an orbital station. The company will begin recruitment of potential candidates both from within its own ranks of existing Kerbonauts and external hiring. These will need to be committed Kerbals willing to spend a prolonged period away from Kerbin. As it turns out, the transfer window to Eve is rapidly approaching. While there are no Eve specific contracts, ASSET Corp. isn't waiting for contracts to dictate direction anymore. Stay tuned! Financial Statement Item Amount Starting Funds $11,421,023 Appreciation Campaign Startup -$285,250 Contract Advances $236,812 Hardware Costs -$107,920 Contract Completion Awards $2,728,915 Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $104,800 Research Rights Sell-off $14,934 Patents Licencing Income $102,434 Final Funds $14,215,748
  2. Part 24: Mun Science Exploration We're getting close to the arrival of the probes to Duna, the first truly interplanetary mission. Excitement is building and plans are being drawn up for a follow-up crewed expedition. The general consensus is that it will follow a similar template as the moon missions. That is, rather than a simple go-and-return mission, permanent installations will be sent there, and a team of Kerbals will call the Duna system their home for a while, doing research, gathering samples, and furthering scientific understanding of the solar system. The exact conditions aren't known - the only knowledge we have of Duna is observation from Kerbin. When the probes arrive, we'll have photos, detailed maps, and an understanding of the system suitable to drawing up a detailed plan to go there. But, for now, the moons of Kerbin are still producing fruitful research and act as a test-bed for hardware and technology that will eventually visit other planets. One key piece of hardware that we'll be focusing on in this update is the LRTV or Lander/Rover Transporter Vehicle, and the Science Rover it carries. It performed just fine in a limited mission on Minmus in a previous update, but this will be the first proper test of its intended purpose. The mission will be flown by the first pair of Kerbals to arrive at Mun Base, Desbury and Gregford. Here there rover is lifted up under its carrier vehicle and Gregford is transferring fuel for the flight. Newfry and Geofbro will remain behind working at Mun Base. The mission will be a relatively short range suborbital hop to a geologically different part of Mun. The surface base is located in the large Northeast Basin region of Mun. Directly north is a large Midland Crater, at the northern fringe of the Northeast Basin where it meets the Lowlands. Here we see the arc they hop with, planning to land at the far northern edge of the Midland Crater. This will give them access to three geologic zones of Mun. They set down next to a smaller crater, visible in the lower left of this picture, on a slight slope. After setting down, the pair spend time lowering and detaching the rover, and taking measurements and samples around the landing area. The gradual rise in the background is the northern slope of the much larger Midland Crater. They set off in a generally northern direction towards the slope, stopping here and there to use the robotic arm to analyze the rocks. The rover performs excellently, the added weight of fuel tanks and low center of gravity making it very stable even at speeds around 10 m/s. Continuing north and up the slope of the Midland Crater. To the east, a smaller, younger crater has left its mark in the wall of the larger one, producing some very steep slopes. The terrain changes from a dark grey to a much lighter hue. On the way up the slope they stop by a very small, and very recent-looking crater, using the robotic arm to scan and take samples. Later on, a bigger crater. The wider Midland Crater is visible in the background. They climb all the way up, passing back into the Northeast Basin and then Lowland zones, before stopping a while to admire the view. Centered in the right-side window is the crater they landed next to, more than 6km away. Having circled the smaller, steep-walled crater they drove past in a previous shot, they now descend the other side of it. The landing crater is visible in the top right. In case you were wondering how steep this is: The rover handles it extremely well, riding the brake down most of the way of course, but stable and controllable. Almost 35 degrees down-slope! For some wider context, the rover is descending the narrow strip between the two craters centered in this photo, having circled around the smaller one to the left. All in all, a successful demonstration of the rover's abilities. The only criticism of the design is the lander. It seems the original thought process was focused on a lander that could also deploy a rover. The lander can is probably not even needed. A better starting point perspective would probably be a rover with an attachment that allows it to fly. That is, the lander portion could easily be an un-crewed package of fuel tanks and rocket engines controlled from the rover like a flight module. This would save weight and simplify things, something that might be incorporated into future designs for other planets. But the rover itself performed flawlessly, and the large amount of samples and data will keep the remote lab at Mun Base busy for a while. Now, the hop back to base. After landing near the base, they drive back with the rover, samples and data in tow, ready to get down to the business of analysis, answering questions about how Mun formed and what it's made of. While all of this was going on, two other developments were taking place. Space Liner 2 and Moon Liner performed another double-moon-landing tour for a group of 17 tourists, which went off without incident. These are more or less routine. They provide a great deal of revenue for the company but aren't worth showing in great detail anymore. They are nevertheless providing a great deal of funds which the company is stockpiling for the large, ambitious, and expensive job of exploring other planets. Launching space stations, mining equipment, surface bases and exploration vehicles for the moons cost quite a lot, it will only be even more so to do that on, say, Duna or Eve. Also around this time, SENTINEL reached its perihelion and inserted itself into the proper orbit to begin scanning for Kerbin-crossing asteroids. I'm sure we'll hear more about this in the future as well. It's worth pointing out that there were several minor contracts accepted and completed in the background as well, mostly having to do with recovering or transmitting science back from both Moons. Financial Statement Item Amount Starting Funds $8,381,682 Contract Advances $84,225 Hardware Costs -$107,920 Contract Completion Awards $2,958,287 Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $104,749 Final Funds $11,421,023
  3. Part 23: Asteroids & Airplanes It's been a while since our last update, but ASSET Corp. has been hard at work behind the scenes on a number of things. This update deals with three different topics that we'll tackle mostly in sequence. Asteroids One needs only to look at the cratered surface of Mun to know that impact events happen. Even Kerbin itself has a very large impact crater flooded with sea water and ringed with mountains on its surface. The United Kerbin States government has issued a contract to deploy an infrared telescope, called SENTINEL, into a heliocentric orbit between Kerbin and Eve to get a better perspective on asteroids that may threaten Kerbin. From this vantage point the telescope will be mostly viewing the sun-lit side of objects and they're expected to emit strongly in this wavelength. Naturally, ASSET Corp. has been tasked with this mission. The SENTINEL IR telescope is not particularly large, nor are the delta-V requirements particularly challenging for this mission, so a simple expendable launch vehicle is more than adequate. After first stage burnout, the telescope's own propulsion module, permanently affixed, provides all the rest of the energy required for the target orbit between Kerbin and Eve. And here we see SENTINEL up close during its ejection burn, after performing some high-orbit observations of Kerbin as a calibration test. These telescopes are also well suited for orbital observation of planetary bodies, and will probably feature in many future robotic missions. ASSET CEO Cashen Kerman: "We feel like we missed an opportunity to include these IR telescopes in the Duna robotic mission, we feel they could have provided even more insight. Our engineers and mission planners are designing the hardware for a very similar mission to Eve in the near future and they'll be incorporated, along with some other improvements, but we won't know the exact configuration until after the Duna mission arrives and we get some first hand results to build on." Space Liner 2 In a previous update we saw a slight modification to Space Liner. In the end, ASSET Engineers took a hard look at the spaceplane and determined it was substantially overbuilt for the intended mission, and this resulted in a significant redesign. While it retains the same basic configuration, the changes are substantial enough to re-designate it as a new version, Space Liner 2: The main changes are a dramatic shortening of the length of the vehicle, by omitting nearly 50% of the propellant tankage. The wingspan was also shortened and the outboard engine pods moved closer to the fuselage. The dual angled rudders were replaced with a single vertical one. The outboard engine pods were slimmed down to 1.25m circular form factor and now contain a single engine each instead of two. And lastly, the two body-mounted air-brakes were moved to the underside of the engine pods so the craft's braking is symmetrical top and bottom. In all, the weight of the craft was reduced from 116,215kg to 69,045kg, a reduction of a staggering 47,170kg! While cost is less a factor in a fully reusable craft, it was nevertheless dropped from $161,440 to $107,920. The weight savings should reduce fuel consumption and thus, operating costs per mission. The biggest changes however come with the engines. The wings now mount a pair of J-X4 Whiplash Turbo-ramjets, replacing four CR-7 RAPIER hybrid engines. These are cheaper, lighter, more efficient, and provide better low and mid-altitude thrust than the air-breathing mode of the CR-7. They're used at takeoff and all the way up until just past 20km altitude. Only beyond 15km do the air-breathing RAPIERs outperform them. The Whiplash engines also provided powered flight upon return, and here their better low altitude performance and efficiency will extend Space Liner's effective range in the event of a poorly executed re-entry. For spaceflight, the Aerospike engines have been replaced with two LV-T91 Cheetah engines. These aren't quite as powerful as the Aerospike but offer better vacuum performance with an ISP of 355s. It was found that the atmospheric performance of the Aerospikes wasn't needed due to the air-breathing engines. The two Cheetah engines are ignited once passing through 20km during ascent , before the Whiplash engines are shut down and while the RAPIERs are still taking in air. This boost extends air-breathing mode for a while. Eventually the Whiplash engines are shut down, and then the RAPIERs switch to closed cycle mode, somewhere around 25km altitude. At around 40km altitude, with an apoapsis of 60km, the RAPIERs are shut down and the rest of the orbit insertion is done by the Cheetah's alone. In this particular flight, Pholo Kerman is flying a group of 16 tourists, plus Dumal anmd Alddock Kerman. Dumal is headed to the Orbital Spaceport to operate the equipment there as Engineer, and Alddock is headed to become the second Scientist at Minmus. This particular group of tourists requires a Minmus landing, but only orbit of Mun. In any case, tourism missions are becoming somewhat routine, so we won't dwell on this much until the end of the update. In the meantime, if you were wondering why the long pause since the last update, it's because ASSET Corp. (and me, as the player) have been hard at work developing a number of new flying machines. The ARA 2X Project There hasn't been much activity on the aircraft front since Pholo's crash of ARA 2 before the runway was properly upgraded. But, there's been lots of work behind the scenes. ASSET Corp. has divided its resources into four sub-groups, each tasked with coming up with a flying machine using a particular propulsion technology. In broad terms, the goal is to have flying machines capable of operating in atmospheres beyond Kerbin's. ASSET CEO, Cashen Kerman: "We know from telescopic observation that there are other bodies in our solar system that have atmospheres, although we don't know much about them yet. Eve, Duna, Jool, and Jool's innermost moon Laythe all have atmospheres. We think it would be really cool, and also really practical, to be capable of performing powered flight in one or more of these locations, so we've come up with a concept we call ARA 2X. Basically, we start from the same basic air-frame and science payload, and then build around it the propulsion system, with the goal of having at least one viable craft that can operate in a non-oxygenated atmosphere, basically by using electric propellers, and also one viable craft that can work in an oxygenated atmosphere. We've got four possible designs that we've evaluating." The first craft is the ARA 2X SB (Solar Battery) in the category of electronically-driven craft operating in non-oxygen environments. The basic shape of all the craft is more or less the same. This is the Solar Battery version, which uses solar panels and a very large cluster of batteries to provide electricity to drive the props. The payload bay, from a science perspective, is common in design to all the craft. The Solar Battery version has an inverted payload bay in the back, revealing the batteries. Here we see Jebediah testing the solar plane over the Aerospace Complex. Jeb's been busy working on the ARA 2X project ever since returning from Minmus. Weight: 11,050 kg Cost: $86,127 Energy Storage: 24,955 EC Pros: Completely passive energy generation. Does not require any refueling. Theoretically unlimited range. The lightest of the four designs. Cons: Requires sunlight at the appropriate strength. Batteries enable only limited night flying and buffering of sub-optimal sunlight angles. The most expensive of the four designs. Difficult to scale up without increasing size to make room for more solar panels. Solar panels create high drag. The SB's competitor is the ARA 2X FC (Fuel Cell): Driven by a pair of identical Standard Rotors, this craft swaps out the batteries for tanks of fuel and oxidizer to operate an array of fuel cells to provide power. Weight: 25,775 kg Cost: $57,250 Energy Storage: 1,440 LF & 1,760 Ox (Approx. 1,300,000 EC equivalent) Pros: Lower cost than solar. Operates the same regardless of day/night or distance to the sun. Can be scaled up to higher power rotors easily without significant changes to air-frame. Lower drag, slightly faster. Cons: Twice the weight of solar variant. Requires refueling and supporting infrastructure. Under-powered, like the solar variant. The last two designs are in the air-breathing category, begunning with the ARA 2X TJ (Turbo Jet): In this particular instance, the test craft has been outfitted with a pair of Panther engines, but it could easily be given Whiplash or Wheasley engines, depending on the need. These sub-variants are tentatively called TR (Turbo Ramjet) and TF (Turbo Fan) respectively. The only variant that doesn't use propellers, this gives a little more space at the leading edge for more wing area, and shorter landing gear. "Really, it's just speculation at this point. We don't know if there are even any other oxygenated atmospheres in the solar system. The exact layout and choice of engine would require knowledge of said hypothetical atmosphere first. The jet powered variant is the only craft that could theoretically reach the upper portions of an atmosphere for study, which gives it a great advantage. In the case of Kerbin, a Whiplash powered variant would be ideal for reaching the upper atmosphere. But the Panther provides better agility, and much higher efficiency at slower speeds and low altitudes. Personally, I would pick the Panther engine if it could reach the upper atmosphere." The following stats are for the Panther-powered TJ variant. Weight: 19,393 kg Cost: $61,817 Energy Storage: 1,860 LF Pros: Flexibility of engine choice. Capable of very high speeds and high altitudes. Well understood technology. Cons: Requires off-world refueling. Requires an oxygenated atmosphere. The last (and least) variant, also in the air-breathing category, is the ARA 2X TP (Turbo Prop) This turned out to be a bit of a disappointment and really struggled to find practical advantages over the jet-powered variant. Weight: 25,171 kg Cost: $61,658 Energy Storage: 2,787 LF / 33 Ox Pros: None, really. Cons: Requires off-world refueling. Requires an oxygenated atmosphere. Slower and less fuel efficient per distance than jets. Turbo props don't come with alternators, hence requiring alternate power generation (Fuel cell, in this case). In the end, the turbo-prop variant really seemed like a dead-end, technologically. Jets will be the preferred propulsion system in oxygenated atmospheres. More interesting is the electrically driven aircraft, as the perception is we're more likely to find atmospheres lacking oxygen, and in that space, the fuel cell and solar variants both have compelling advantages. Tentatively, the fuel cell version has a slight edge here, due to the operational flexibility of fuel cells and the fact that the team working on it has presented a version that's been scaled up to use the large motors to provide additional performance - something the solar craft wouldn't be able to match without dramatically increasing the surface area to mount more panels on. That said, the simplicity of solar is appealing, and may work well on a place like Eve, but in the outer solar system, the fuel cells will have the advantage yet again. There's also no reason the two can't join together and produce a fuel cell powered craft with solar panels for range-extension. In the mean time, Jebediah and Karfurt Kerman hop in a Whiplash-powered version to do some addtional atmospheric testing and science gathering. This version has been given four atmospheric analyzers. The theory is the plane can ascend through the low atmosphere into the upper atmosphere in one region, and then descend back down in another, grabbing four samples along the way without having to transmit or download data. In this case, they're headed from the Aerospace Complex, over the nearby islands, and intending to land on the island runway. A bit of a botched landing. They cut power a little too early and hit the ground a little too hard. Not nearly as potentially catastrophic as Pholo's accident earlier, which very nearly killed her as the craft cartwheeled. This was just the right engine breaking loose and the craft skidding to a stop. It does raise some questions about using the weaker landing gear, though, especially since there are no smooth runways on other planets! The science gathering part of this flight is a success, but the damaged craft had to be loaded on a barge to be returned to the Aerospace Complex for salvage. Meanwhile, at Minmus: Our tourists have arrived. And in a stoke of luck, the surface base is in the right spot for a direct descent burn from the flyby trajectory, without a separate orbit insertion. Landing goes smoothly, and Bill Kerman arrives to refuel Moon Liner, while Alddock Kerman disembarks to begin his tenure as a Minmus Scientist. After a brief stay on the surface and interacting with the tourists, Valentina prepares to leave Minmus as Bill backs the tanker up. Some very excited tourists, with Minmus base out the window. Then, it's time to leave. They'll briefly orbit Mun to satisfy all the tourist itineraries before returning home. A view of the far side of Mun with Kerbin in the background. Kerbin and Mun's limb visible out the window. Everyone looks very excited! The rest of the flight can be mostly described as routine. Space Liner's return follows a similar trajectory as on previous flights. The pitch angle in the upper atmosphere can be used to tune the landing point, but even if this goes badly, there's plenty of fuel for powered flight post-entry. As it turns out their entry is a little short and the Whiplash engines have to provide a little more powered flight than expected. But that's exactly why they're included! A little more fine tuning of the runway alignment than on previous flights, so they touchdown further and stop further down the runway, but all in all, a successful landing! So, how did Space Liner 2 perform? Well, we know from the previous flight that the old variant consumed $6,,363 of propellant, and Space Liner 2 in this mission consumed just $3,359 worth, almost cutting the fuel usage in half! Financial Statement Item Amount Starting Funds $6,286,947 Contract Advances $269,537 Hardware Costs -$250,662 Contract Completion Awards $1,834,078 Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $236,982 World First Bonuses $4,800 Final Funds $8,381,682 Science Earned: 590.2 (Not including science transmitted from Mun and Minmus MPLs) It's worth pointing out that at this point, the technology tree has been completed.
  4. Part 22: We Need More Kerbals Having established permanent surface instrallations at both moons, equipped for further exploration and scientific research, ASSET Corp. has been listening to feedback from the deployed scientists and engineers, and one piece of feedback is loud and clear. Two Kerbals per base is not enough. In particular, the Mun base landed in a previously unexplored region of Mun, and so surface samples and instrumentation results collected just in the vicinity of the base has given it's resident scientist, Desburry Kerman, lots of work. He has communicated back to ASSET HQ that a second scientist would greatly improve the speed at which research is done, and ASSET management agreed. The base designs are both capable of at least 4 Kerbals, and so doubling the staffing from 2 to 4, with a second Engineer/Scientist pair, would allow for accelerated research. It would also mean one pair could go out and explore and gather new experiments without having to leave the base unattended. So ASSET Corp. is proud to announce the hiring of five new Kerbals: Newfry Kerman, Engineer Dumal Kerman, Engineer Geofbro Kerman, Scientist Alddock Kerman, Scientist Karfurt Kerman, Scientist Two scientists and engineers will be assigned to the Moon Bases and the third scientist will be retained on Kerbin, as some Kerbin-based science and flight testing is expected in the near future (we haven't heard much from aircraft development since the ARA 2 accident that nearly killed Pholo, but that will soon change). The inexperienced Kerbals have to go through a standard training program which includes Kerbin orbital flight and participating in landings on both moons, before they're considered qualified for deployment. Using seats on the tourist craft is a great way to do this. So, today's mission consists of the following steps: Launch the Space Liner, piloted by Pholo, and carrying Newfry, Dumal, Geofbro and Alddock, and a full load of tourists to fill the remaining seats. Rendezvous with the Orbital Spaceport and transfer the passengers over to Moon Liner. Newvey Kerman, currently assigned to the station, will join them at this point. Fly to Minmus and land near the base there. Newvey Kerman, who was resuced from Mun, will then be considered qualified, and will be deployed as the second engineer there. The second scientist will have to come later. Refuel the Moon Liner and depart for Mun. Land near the Mun base. Since two landings is needed for qualification, Gregford and Geofbro will be qualified to be deployed there immediately. Refuel again and return to Kerbin with Dumal and Alddock. At this point, both will also be qualified. Alddock will be deployed to Minmus on the next flight and Dumal will take over operation of the orbital station. Let's go! Flying the Space Liner spaceplane has become almost routine at this point, but it is still something of an experimental craft, and modifications based on pilot feedback are still a thing. In particular, Pholo has complained that the Terrier Orbital engines, while efficient, are very weak, necessitating the use of the RAPIER engines for some of the higher energy burns, like the final rendezvous with the station. So some changes were made for this flight, as a test. This may be the configuration used going forward or maybe not. Replacing the Terriers are a pair of T-1 "Dart" Aerospike engines. These add 1 ton to the total spacecraft mass and are very slightly less efficient in space but provide three times the vacuum thrust. Reviews during the flight are very positive. Pholo remains at the station, and actually so does Valentina, to free up an extra seat for the new staff members. In total, five ASSET Kerbonauts and thirteen tourists will make the round trip to both moons. Once again, it can't be overstated how useful the tourism infrastructure is for ASSET moving its crews around. The design of Moon Liner is perfect for these sorts of missions too. Being composed of four Hitchhiker modules gives the inhabitants lots of room to move around. It's like a flying space hotel compared to the more cramped spaceplane. Several days later, they arrive at Minmus. While the ore extraction and transport setup is meant to provide fuel for Moon Liner in Kerbin orbit, re-fueling in-situ is a viable strategy as well. It can't replace using fuel in Kerbin orbit (Moon Liner needs to depart Kerbin with a full load) but it can reduce the number of trips made moving ore around at least. Newvey Kerman, having completed his training, is dropped off to begin work as the second engineer at Minmus. Here he and Bob chat while Bill is busy at the controls of the tanker vehicle refueling Moon Liner. Alddock is planned to be the second scientist here, but he has to visit Mun as well to be considered qualified (basically, I want everyone at level 2) so he will have to return here on a future flight. Newvey being qualified right away is why he was selected - recall he'd already visited Mun, having been rescued from there. The tourists, meanwhile, get to enjoy the fantastic views out their windows. After a stay long enough to satisfy the needs of the tourists, and with a full load of propellant, Moon Liner takes off for Mun. In a brief diversion from this mission, we'll now follow Bill and Bob on a short little Minmus adventure. While Newvey settles in at the controls of the ore miner, Bill and Bob go about re-fueling the LRTV vehicle and preparing to attach the science rover to it. As mentioned in a previous update, Minmus never got the Ionograph instrument, it having been developed (unlocked) after that mission. A contract was accepted to get ion data from Minmus and the science rover was sent here with the ionograph and a solar panel in its storage compartment, but the Minmus surface science is a quarter of the way around the moon, too far to just drive there in a reasonable amount of time. So Bill and Bob are going to fly over to Greater Flats to deploy it. With the rover carried underneath, Bill and Bob take off on the LRTV. This will be the first proper test of this hardware in this configuration on the surface of a moon. It's sunset at Greater Flats when they arrive. They'll have to deploy the ionograph in the dark. Attachment, take-off, landing and deployment with the rover goes fairly smoothly. From a gameplay perspective, it has to be in docked mode with one of the KAS connectors. If in undocked mode, the connectors flex and cause all kinds of problems. If both are in docked mode, for some reason X Science doesn't show the rover's science instruments as available. So one docked and one undocked is the way to go. There is still some flex and movement of the rover in flight, but not enough to be an issue. Overall I'm very happy with the design. Craft design and engineering is probably my favourite part of Kerbal Space Program. The pair drive over to the surface instruments and use the rover's headlights to help them deploy the ionograph and an additonal solar panel. They'll have to wait for Minmus day for it to work, naturally. They also collect another round of scientific observations from Greater Flats, and then make the suborbital hop back to base. Meanwhile, we re-join Moon Liner at Mun: Since Mun base isn't on the equator, a significant plane change is required to get there. With a full load of propellant, Moon Liner is more than capable. And while they probably have enough fuel to get back to Kerbin, another surface refueling will be performed just to make sure. Pinpoint landings on Mun are a little more difficult. They land about a kilometer away. Fortunately the roving vehicles mean this isn't a problem. Desburry Kerman remains at the base continuing his research but Gregford drives the tanker out to meet Geofbro and Newfry who are being dropped off here to begin work. Here the three converse while fuel is transferred in the background. A Kerbin system grand tour for the tourists. Once satisfied Moon Liner takes off to make the trip back home. The standard aerobraking provides stunning views of Kerbin mixed with the flames of atmospheric entry, and places Moon Liner in an orbit with an apoapsis of around 150km. Analysis has shown that it's more energy efficient to aerobrake to an orbit below, rather than above, the station. The apoapsis height is a tradeoff. Higher is cheaper and safer, but takes longer to get the phase angles correct after circularizing. Then, the passengers and crew transfer to the Space Liner, which de-orbits. This is also becoming fairly standard. De-orbit happens directly over the Aerospace Complex and is done as a single de-orbit tuned to land them on the runway. Technically speaking the landing point is short of the runway but Space Liner returns under powered flight to make up the difference. Here it is gliding in over the mountains with the Aerospace Complex in the background. Another successful landing! The robustness of Space Liner in performing orbital missions has led some engineers at ASSET to consider a cargo version, which we may see in a future update! Financial Statement Item Amount Starting Funds $5,461,058 Hiring Costs -$250,000 Hardware Costs -$161,440 Contract Completion Awards $1,082,252 Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $155,077 Final Funds $6,286,947
  5. Part 21: Mun Surface Base So the first interplanetary mission is off to place ore scanners and relay satellites in orbit of Duna and Ike, but that mission will take around 250 days to arrive. The next interplanetary mission will be an almost identical hardware package to Eve and Gilly, but that won't be until after the Duna mission arrives. In the meantime, work continues closer to home. It's been hinted at in previous updates, but it's time to set up a permanent base on Mun. In terms of surface exploration, most of Minmus has been visited, but large areas of Mun, particularly its far side, remain un-visited, at least in terms of surface exploration. The ore scanner at Mun has zeroed in on a good potential base location. The way the surface operations are planned, an equatorial location is unnecessary, as there will be the surface base only, no orbital station, and so this region, the large Northeast Basin, shows a particularly high concentration of ore. Ore will be used to provide the energy in-situ to power the exploration and science processing equipment. Like what Bill and Jeb did earler on Minmus, the first phase of the mission is exploration with a surface rover, but as was also hinted in an earlier update, that rover will be paired with the new Lander/Rover Transporter Vehicle or LRTV. One of the heavier launches ASSET Corp. has done, with a stretched 5m stage and five Mastaton engines. Here's the payload. Mounted directly atop the launch vehicle is the Mun LRTV and attached rover. Since modifications were made to the Minmus rover for the LRTV, the Minmus LRTV is being launched at the same time, mounted upside-down at the very top of the payload. The new hires, Gregford the Engineer, and Desbury the Scientist, are crewing the Mun LRTV to scout for a good location for the base. The payload is broken up in orbit. The Minmus LRTV, unmanned, will proceed to Minmus for use by Bill and Bob there. Gregford and Desbury will fly their LRTV and rover to Mun. And, naturally, the booster is recovered near the Aerospace Complex. Here's a good look at the LRTV and Rover during the Mun transfer burn. The LRTV is powered by a pair of NTRs for high efficiency, mounted in pods on either side that straddle the rover and undercarriage. Electrical power for both vehicles is provided by fuel cells. During launch, the LRTV is directly connected to the rover by this truss piece and a pair of stack separators and some struts. For actual use, however, the two connection bars, folded up here, must be lowered and locked into the sockets atop the rover. Then the truss piece must be discarded. Gregford performs an EVA soon after the completion of the transfer burn to reconfigure the pair of vehicles. Note the ladder piece specifically there to make this task easier. The truss of cubic octagonal struts is mounted on a hydraulic cylinder that can raise and lower the rover for deployment. A short while later and the lander and rover are properly coupled together, and the truss piece can be discarded. After the coast to Mun, the insertion burn is executed. This burn has a significant anti-normal component, which will arc the orbit first down into the southern hemisphere, and then back up the opposite side of Mun for landing in the northern hemisphere. The insertion and plane change took place at Mun's retrograde side. After swinging around counter-clockwise and up to the northern hemisphere, a de-orbit burn is plotted to carry the craft over the Northeast Basin. Gragford and Desbury begin their landing approach, with the landing struts folded down. Touchdown is successful! Rover deployment works exactly as intended. Note the slightly lowered undercarriage under the rover. The initial surface scan for ore came back at 14.68%! Much higher than the average for Mun, and similar to the spot on Minmus where mining was set up. Basically, good enough that Gregford and Desbury radio back to Kerbin and inform ASSET that this is an excellent spot to set down the base. A note about the LRTV. The design specification for delta-V was such that it should be able to launch, reach orbit, and land twice on a single load of fuel while carrying the rover. The premise here is that it needs to be able to reach any point on Mun's surface from the location of the base, and then return to base afterwards. In actual fact, it will operate on a sequence of suborbital hops, and probably not actually reach orbit, but that was the design case. As such, fully loaded and carrying the rover, it can attain around 2,500 m/s of delta-v. In the meantime, the pair drive some distance away from the lander to do some science. This is a previously unexplored area of Mun, and so all reports are taken, all science instruments run, and all samples collected. Here they use the rover's robotic arm to examine a Mun rock. The rest of the hardware was all ready to go, it just needed a spot to be aimed at. It includes the surface base itself, and a tanker vehicle to carry fuel between the surface base (which is equipped with a scaled-down mining operation built-in) and the LRTV to refuel it between missions. Here we see the surface base being launched. A look at the base and transfer stage. The design is similar to the Minmus base, but it has integrated ore drilling and processing (and radiators, naturally) and is fully powered by fuel cells instead of solar panels. A much smaller launch is required for the tanker vehicle. While not shown, it goes without saying that all of these first stage launchers are recovered afterwards. A better look at the tanker vehicle. It's been optimized to work with Mun's LRTV, containing enough fuel to fully resupply it and the rover between each mission. Unlike the big Minmus tanker, this one has an enclosed cab for the crew. The base arrives first and begins its descent. The transfer stage is used for part of the landing. By the time it's discarded, the base is falling straight down, and will use two pairs of Twitch engines to land with. The throttle limiters have been adjusted to account for the offset center of mass, but upward facing linear RCS thrusters are included at each end to keep the base oriented properly anyway. The base touches down a little under a kilometer away from where the LRTV is. Gregford and Desbury drive over to the base and fire it up. All systems function as they should! Gregford begins operating the mining and conversion equipment, while Desbury begins processing all their newly acquired data and samples in the Mobile Processing Lab. A short while later, the tanker arrives. This uses a similar landing technique, using the transfer stage for the initial de-orbit and descent, before using some Twitch engines to land wheels down, and some linear RCS ports to help with attitude control. And that's it! A permanent surface base to conduct Mun research! See Minmus in the sky in the background? Their LRTV arrives several days later, and executed a pinpoint automated landing. This is almost identical in design to the lander on Mun, although it carries about half the amount of liquid fuel, since the delta-V requirements are so much less for Minmus. In the next update, we'll see what these vehicles can really do. Financial Statement Item Amount Starting Funds $5,473,192 Hardware Costs -$659,720 Contract Completion Awards $308,016 Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $302,130 World First Bonuses $37,440 Final Funds $5,461,058
  6. Part 20: First Interplanetary Mission A transfer window has opened to Duna. A while back, ASSET Corp. took on a contract to fly by and gain science data from Duna, in anticipation of this. And given the experience gained in spaceflight so far, the company feels confident in attempting this next step in space exploration. But before we jump into the nuts and bolts of the mission itself, there's some housekeeping to take care of. Firstly, after the haul of funds from the last update, the company has but some of that to good use doing upgrades to the Aerospace Complex and construction crews have been busy. Three areas received attention. The Astronaut Complex was upgraded. As we prepare to go interplanetary, we'll need to staff up to crew these longer duration missions. This upgrade allows that. The Administration Complex has been expanded. While the fundraising campaign is over, plans are on the drawing board for a patents licensing strategy that will share the science gained with the wider scientific community (for a fee, of course). Last and most important, the Tracking Station was upgraded to 250G power, to enable good communication at interplanetary distances. Taken as a whole, this "completes" the Aerospace Complex as originally envisioned and allows ASSET Corp. to do more or less whatever it likes without being limited by the infrastructure on the ground. However, communication at interplanetary distances remains a concern. The Kerbin system has been populated with nine RA-2 relay satellites to provide constant communication from anywhere, even on the surfaces of moons facing away from Kerbin and even when Kerbin is rotated so the Aerospace Complex is out of line of sight. These relays work very well in the local system but will not be strong enough to work at great distances from Kerbin, and the problem of line of sight to other planets remains. So an upgrade to the relay network is required to facilitate communication at distance, even when line of sight from the Aerospace Complex is blocked by being on the opposite side of Kerbin from the planet in question, or perhaps even more annoying, when line of sight is blocked by a moon (particularly Mun). To that end, a pair of much more powerful RA-100 dishes will be used, and to avoid interference from the moons, they'll be placed into extremely eccentric polar orbits, such that they spend almost all of their time above or below the local equatorial and ecliptic planes. One will have apoapsis above the north pole and the other over the south pole, arranged in such a manner that when one is at periapsis the other is at apoapsis, so one always has a clear line of sight to anywhere. So the first part of the mission is launching the larger, RA-100 polar relays that will be used to communicate at interplanetary distances. For these small launches, we go back to expendable launch vehicles. The lower stage gets the relay almost to orbit, leaving its integrated propulsion to do the rest. Unlike the smaller RA-2 relays that have no onboard propulsion, these larger ones do, and they'll use them to lift to an extremely high apoapsis. The first relay reaches apoapsis. The orbit is 75km by 25,725km approximately (a little over half the distance to Minmus), or an eccentricity of around 0.95. It will spend days out near apoapsis and only minutes swinging quickly through periapsis. Just before the first relay reaches apoapsis over the north pole, the second is launched into a similar polar orbit, this one burning above the north pole to have an opposite apoapsis over the south pole. The completed relay network. Finally, we're ready for interplanetary travel! In a recent interview, ASSET CEO Cashen Kerman elaborated on ASSET's plans for interplanetary travel: "More or less the plan is to send robotic missions to each planet before sending crewed missions. We've seen how successful things like communication relay satellites and ore scanning probes are in the Kerbin system, and we know that when we go to other planets with a crew, we want to be able to communicate with them all the time no matter where they are, and we want them to have advance knowledge of the planet or moon and where the good ore sites are before we set up bases like we have on Mun and Minmus. So basically this first mission to Duna will act like a template for future missions to the other planets, especially Eve and Jool, blazing the trail and setting up the infrastructure to make us successful when we do send explorers." With those comments in mind, the Duna Science Package as it's called is a single, big launch, but contains numerous individual parts that will all have their own jobs to do at Duna. This also marks the debut of the larger Mastadon engine under the big 5 meter stage. Previously Vector engines were used and if there was not enough thrust, expendable SRBs added. Using five Mastadons in this launch replaced what would otherwise have been five Vectors and four Kickback SRBs. Not only does this make the whole flight stage reusable, but Mastadon engines are actually cheaper than Vectors in spite of the larger size (and it somehow took me this long to figure out how to modify the Mastadon to the bare configuration to make it fit. Silly me). Once out of the atmosphere the payload fairing is jettisoned revealing the science package. A Poodle engine paired with an Orange Tank acts as a transfer stage, and above that are two distinct spacecraft with their own sub-components. Right above the Orange Tank is the Duna Equatorial package, with an inflatable heat shield for aerobraking (here tucked into a fairing), some structural tubes and a small upward facing Terrier engine. Strapped to the side are a pair of probes, each holding three RA-2 relays. These will deploy the triplet relays to both Duna and Ike. At the front of the craft is the Duna Polar package, which contains four side-mounted satellites, two RA-100 interplanetary relays that will be placed in elliptical polar orbits at Duna, much like the ones now at Kerbin, and two Ore Scanning satellites, one for Duna and one for Ike. The core of this package also has a Terrier engine, this one facing down, coupled to the upward facing engine of the Equatorial Package by a stack separator and dual fairings. It also has an upward facing inflatable heat shield, again for aerobraking. The entire mission will arrive at Duna in one piece before discarding the transfer stage, and then breaking up into the two large components, before then finally breaking up into the individual satellites. By the time the mission is over, the entire Duna system will have complete communications coverage and full orbital Ore scans! This will pave the way for a future, crewed mission. Being one large monolithic launch means the big ascent stage can be recovered, something ASSET is getting fairly good at doing. Seeing big first stage boosters fly back to the Aerospace Complex is getting to be routine at this point. A better look at the Duna Science Package as it leaves the sphere of Kerbin's influence. For now, though, life goes on, and work within the Kerbin system continues, until the probes arrive at Duna. Financial Statement Item Amount Starting Funds $6,797,950 Infrastructure Investment -$1,408,000 Hardware Costs -$238,945 Contract Completion Awards $162,500 Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $83,605 World First Bonuses $74,480 Final Funds $5,473,192
  7. Yeah, it seemed smart to exchange reputation for funds when funds were tighter but now I'm kind of swimming in them. Incidentally I'm only 2 nodes from finishing the tech tree so pretty soon the science points will be exchanged for funds as well. So seems prudent to start banking the reputation again.
  8. Part 19: Minmus Surface Base As mentioned in a previous update, work has been progressing in the development of a permanent surface base for Mun. As it turns out, it actually makes more sense for work to focus on Minmus first, and today's update has several key points of introduction: Two new Kerbals have been hired! ASSET Corp. has been relatively under-staffed of late. The ideal team for each moon is one engineer and one scientist, plus an engineer on the Orbital Spaceport. Being short one of each, ASSET Corp. has hired Gregford Kerman, an Engineer, and Desbury Kerman, a Scientist. These two will eventually inhabit the Mun base, but to give them some experience, they will be passengers on another tourist flight to Minmus in this update. Jebediah Kerman is still on Minmus. So we'll be bringing him back, and in his place, dropping off the scientist, Bob Kerman, to work alongside Bill Kerman as the Minmus Team. This will also be done using the Moon Liner tourist vehicle. While intended for tourism, the Moon Liner also makes a great crew transfer/shuttle vehicle by having ASSET employees ride on it. A design has been finalized on a Lander/Transporter vehicle that can carry the Science Rover underneath it. Given the size and weight of the Rover, this was no small task. ASSET Engineers initially thought it might not be possible, which is why the Minmus Rover was sent up by itself. A combined Lander/Rover package is being assembled for Mun. A similar lander exists for Minmus, but the Minmus Rover was never designed for the Lander/Transporter, so this mission will see the tools and parts shipped up to Minmus for Bill to make the modifications in-situ - the lander vehicle will arrive in a future update. A proper surface base will be deployed to Minmus to act as liivng space for Bill and Bob, something a little more roomy and practical than the rover or miner vehicles. It will also be the first use of the Mobile Processing Lab. The tourist flight that will accompany all of this will be the first to make landings on both moons as part of the same flight. To accomplish this, the guys at Minmus will refuel the Moon Liner on the surface. Let's get started! We begin with the launching of the Minmus Surface Base atop a reusable Vector stage. Like all Minmus direct launches, this one launched directly into a 6 degree inclination orbit when the Aerospace Complex passed through one of Minmus' nodes. The launcher places the surface base and transfer stage in orbit. This base will use solar power and a lot of batteries for power, and contains two cupola modules, the lab, and a hitchhiker module for living space. A more or less standard booster recovery follows. This ended up being one of the closest booster recoveries performed to date! After checkout in orbit, including deploying landing legs and solar panels, the surface base is sent on a course for Minmus. We'll catch back up with it shortly. Meanwhile... It's time for another tourist mission, although this is more than just a tourist flight. Pholo Kerman flies the Space Liner and with him are Gregford and Desbury Kerman, the two new hires, who are along to gain some experience before they are deployed to Mun in the future. Bob Kerman is along for the ride to swap places with Jebediah Kerman at Minmus. Newvey Kerman, recently joined from the rescue mission in the last update, is also on-board and he will be sent to the Orbital Spaceport to help improve the operation of the Ore Converter there. Filling the remaining seats are 15 tourists, 14 of which have Minmus and/or Mun items on their itinerary and 1 who just wants an orbital flight around Kerbin. The ascent of Space Liner is normal. It reaches 1250 m/s and 20,000m altitude under air-breathing power before switching to closed cycle mode for the rest of the trip to orbit. Aerodynamic heating effects visible out the windows on the way up. While built for tourism, it's clear that the infrastructure is also very well suited to just moving ASSET astronauts around using spare seats. Sometime later, Space Liner docks to the station, and a bunch of shuffling of Kerbals takes place, as well as movement of propellants between tanks to configure the Moon Liner for flight. Ore conversion has been very slow, so Newvey Kerman should help out with that. Nevertheless there is enough liquid fuel to give Moon Liner a full load. Once everything is set, Val takes Moon Liner away from the station and on a course for Minmus! Back at Minmus, the base has arrived. Having discarded the transfer stage, it begins its descent. Notice the container strapped to the side. That contains the tools and parts mentioned earlier for Bill to get to work with. The initial landing is extremely good and very close to the mining vehicle. Extra fuel left over allowed the base to be moved post-touchdown to a more ideal spot. That ideal spot is right at the edge of the ridge, giving a nice view of the valley below. Now, time to get to work! Jeb and Bill first drive over and park the rover next to the base. Bill has to make modifications to the rover to allow it to couple with the future Lander/Transporter vehicle. Jeb checks out the view from the base, looking down the slope into the valley beyond. In the first set of modifications, Bill removes the two front batteries from the rover and replaces it with a bracket that can be used to carry a storage container. This will be the standard design of future rovers to give them the ability to carry parts, tools and items around if needed. For example, the container attached to the side of the base, visible in the background, could be mounted here and carried. The second and more important set of modifications is on the roof. The ladder is removed - the crew have remarked that moving around with the RCS packs is so easy on Mun and Minmus that the ladder is rather redundant, and it's in the way of the two socket joints mounted on either side of the hatch that will be the mounting points where the rover attaches to the lander in the future. No point in putting those batteries to waste, Bill just attaches them to the surface base. More parts were brought along. Since the crew size is two, a second chair was flown up to be attached to the Tanker vehicle, shown here. Around this time, Moon Liner arrives. It enters orbit but only very briefly. It turns out it arrived at just the right time and place to land immediately so a pair of burns were executed to place it in a brief orbit and then moments later the landing descent started. They land a short distance away from the mining base. All the ASSET team members. Bob and Jeb converse and get ready to trade places while Val and Gregford watch. Bill is underneath the spacecraft doing some more work while Desbury watches. What's Bill doing? In a bit of an oversight, Moon Liner was never fitted with an antenna. This meant it relied on local, pilot control, which is fine, but having antennas for constant communication is basically standard ASSET doctrine at this point. So along with all of the other parts flown up for Bill to work on, an antenna was included, and here he's attached it to the bottom of the vehicle. In the background, the tanker is also re-fueling Moon Liner with propellant to give it the energy needed to execute a Mun landing. The tanker is visible out the window as the tourists enjoy the view and watch the ASSET team work outside. Their work completed, Bill and Bob drive the tanker away. Kerbin visible in the background as Desbury climbs back inside one of the habitation modules and everyone prepares to leave. Bob climbs up and into the surface base, while in the background, Bill is recovering any left-over liquid propellant from the base's tanks. Val takes off in Moon Liner with her tourist passengers, and also Jeb who is returning home after having been on Minmus since the rover landing several updates ago. Fully re-fueled, a course is plotted for Mun to perform the second landing of the flight. Sometime later they arrive and enter Mun orbit and prepare to land. Seconds before touchdown. They land right at the edge of a large crater. The initial landing trajectory had to be modified. Val piloted the lander further downrange to avoid landing on the steep slope. This is how close they ended up. The tourists get to experience both moons in a sight flight. Val goes for a walk to the edge of the crater and has a look inside. After a short stay, it's time to return to Kerbin and close out the mission. The standard aerobraking procedure to slow down in Kerbin's atmosphere, followed by rendezvous and docking with the Orbital Spaceport. Pholo Kerman takes over to bring the passengers back to the ground. Shown here is the de-orbit burn. Space Liner's entry is very shallow, with a periapsis around 61km. Such a high periapsis works because of the wings-flat attitude taken in the upper atmosphere. So much drag is created against the thin atmosphere as to bring the spacecraft down. It also makes the deeper re-entry phase a little less intense. Space Liner on final approach, using just the three central RAPIER engines in air-breathing mode. The craft is so light at this point in the mission and has so much wing area that landing is remarkably gentle and easy. This is where the craft came to a stop, only requiring a fraction of the runway. Welcome home! Financial Statement Item Amount Starting Funds $4,259,466 Hiring Costs -$90,000 Contract Advances $161,122 Hardware Costs -$363,314 Contract Completion Awards $2,466,408 Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $274,805 Fundraising Income $89,463 Final Funds $6,797,950 After the mission, ASSET CEO Cashen Kerman announced the cessation of the Fundraising Initiative: "We feel we've hit upon something very lucrative with the tourism flights, especially after we created the infrastructure - the orbital spaceport, the various reusable vehicles, the Minmus ore mining - to do these revenue-rich missions for very low cost. As such we don''t feel it's prudent from a reputation standpoint to continue the fundraising campaign. People are going to see the balance sheet and wonder why they're giving us money. So, we're bringing that to an end."
  9. Part 18: Mun Rescue! An urgent request has come in from Rokea Incorporated! They've had an accident while in Mun orbit that has resulted in their engineer, Newvey Kerman, becoming stranded in Mun orbit in his Hitchhiker module. Rokea is offering to pay for his rescue and the return to Kerbin of the habitation module as well. ASSET Corp. has agreed to take on the challenge, but with so few Kerbonauts of their own and a busy schedule, and given the time pressure, this mission will be done using probe cores. This will also keep the weight down on the vehicle that has to be able to re-enter Kerbin's atmosphere with a Hitchhiker module. No time for fancy reusable launchers here. ASSET Corp. returns to its roots with a very simple Orange Tank core stage and a pair of Thumper SRBs. The Skipper-powered Orange Tank stage gets the improvised spacecraft most of the way to orbit. Here we see the spacecraft that will perform the mission. Very simple Remote Guidance Unit with a Claw module to grab the target and bring it back with. Upon arrival at Mun, the vehicle gets into orbit and performs a rendezvous with Newvey's stranded habitation module in Mun orbit. Captured! Now we just have to hope re-entry goes smoothly given the size, shape and weight of the habitation module behind the heat shield. Mun casts its shadow on Kerbin during the return journey. Having discarded everything else, the spacecraft re-enters the atmosphere and flight is stable, with the habitation module nicely protected by the larger heat shield. Landing under parachute happens in a mountainous region of Kerbin at night. Newvey is safely back on Kerbin! And in a move that surprised nobody, he quickly resigned from Rokea Incorporated and took a job as ASSET Corp's second Engineer! Welcome, Newvey! Financial Statement Item Amount Starting Funds $3,940,244 Contract Advances $81,853 Hardware Costs -$30,654 Contract Completion Awards $242,402 Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $8,016 Fundraising Income $17,605 Final Funds $4,259,466 As an aside, after this mission I realized I really disliked the dynamic created by rescue missions coupled with the exponentially rising cost of hiring Kerbals, so I decided to add the TRP Hire mod to provide a more realistic way to grow the number of Kerbals ASSET Corp. employs.
  10. Part 17: Space Tourism with Reusable Spacecraft ASSET Corp. is in the planning phase for many science based missions, and hardware development is underway. In particular, the following initiatives are geared towards ease of scientific exploration and we'll be seeing more of this in the near future: The establishment of a permanent surface base on Mun, with small scale ore extraction and processing to supply the energy needed for the operation of the base and exploration equipment. In addition to ore refining facilities to be self-sustaining, it will contain a Mobile Processing Laboratory to allow scientists to perform their research in-situ instead of having to ferry data back to Kerbin. A re-usable lander/transporter that can carry a rover from the surface base, to any point on Mun's surface, land, and then return to the vicinity of the base again, where it can be re-fueled for the next flight. A modified Science Rover, similar to the one deployed at Minmus, with the hardware to attach and detach from the lander/transporter and explore the area around the lander. Upgrades to the Relay Network. Unrelated to the Mun base, but eventually interplanetary missions will happen and the existing Relay Network will be insufficient. Communication at interplanetary distances will require an upgrade to the Tracking Station, but when the Tracking Station isn't facing towards the planet in question, the Relay Network will need to assist. To that end, a pair of high-power RA-100 relays are being prepared to launch into extremely elliptical polar orbits, with apoapsis near the edge of Kerbin's spear of influence and periapsis near the atmosphere, allowing them to see over Kerbin and Mun and relay back down to the surface. But before we can do any of that, there's a significant backlog of space tourists. The infrastructure has been laid down to do this in a more economical way. The first aspect of this is a reusable single-stage-to-orbit space-plane, called the Space Liner. Like similarly named Air LIners, it will ferry tourists between the Aerospace Complex on the surface, and the Orbital Spaceport. Space Liner in the Spaceplane Hangar being prepared. It has a total capacity of 20 Kerbals. On this flight, Pholo Kerman will be acting as pilot and will be flying with 19 tourist passengers. Space Liner is powered by seven brand new RAPIER hybrid Jet/Rocket engines for the ascent and a pair of LV-909 high efficiency engines for finer orbital maneuvers. Prior to the first flight, a significant amount of capital was invested in upgrades to the Spaceplane Hangar and also the Runway. Space Liner takes off from the upgraded runway under air-breathing power. The Aerospace Complex in the background looks very different than its humble beginnings. It's now the proper spaceport it was intended to be. A look at the seven RAPIER engines powering the Space Liner. There is also a set of small RCS thrusters for docking to the station, and a single fuel cell mounted in the tail to provide electrical power. It's a full house aboard the Space Liner for its maiden voyage up to orbit! The flight profile takes the Space Liner to about 20km altitude and 1,250 m/s speed on air-breathing power, before the switch over to closed cycle rocket thrust does the rest of the lifting up to orbit. Once in orbit at around 80km, the small Terrier engines provide the higher-efficiency thrust for orbital circulatization and also the intercept burn to reach the station up at 250km. \ The shielded docking adapter in the nose provides the connection to the station, and the passengers transfer over. Of the 19 passengers, 11 have Minmus as their only destination, another 6 have both Minmus and Mun, and another 2 are just Kerbin orbital tourists. Those last 2 will remain on the station while the other 17 head to Minmus. Fuel permitting, Mun flyby and/or orbit might be on the itinerary as well. But we need the Moon Liner spacecraft for that part. Speaking of the Moon Liner, here it comes. Being launched by Valentina Kerman, the spacecraft is fully loaded with propellant for the trip, since the first batch of Ore from Minmus hasn't arrived yet. In the future, that ore will provide orbital refueling capability for Moon Liner. "Early iterations of Moon Liner had it looking more aircraft-like, in an attempt to mimic the feel of simply passenger aircraft to emphasize how 'routine' space travel should be. But there were design issues. First of all, flights using aircraft generally only last a number of hours. Round trips to the moons will take days, and nobody wants to be crammed in an airliner seat for that long. Also aerobraking would be tricky flying forwards like an aircraft, especially with exposed landing legs since these craft are intended to land on the moons. In the end we opted for a short, wide spacecraft similar in design to the Ore Transporter, with everything tucked behind an inflatable 10m heat shield, and using four Hitchhiker cans to provide ample room for passengers to move around in without feeling claustrophobic during the long trip. So think of it more like a deep space hotel or ocean liner, rather than a deep space aircraft." At the same time, the booster that launched the Moon Liner is set to be recovered. This one lands a little bit long and splashes down in the ocean off of the Aerospace Complex, but is recovered just the same. Meanwhile, the Moon Liner docks with the station and does the passenger transfer. Departing the station with Valentina in control and 17 passengers, they prepare to perform a plane change. With the station in a zero inclination orbit, there's no benefit of launching directly into a Minmus trajectory, so the craft is designed to have plenty of delta-V for a plane change in addition to the injection burn. Yes, much more roomy than a simple air liner. The passengers enjoy the multi-day coast out to Minmus. Arrival at Minmus on schedule. Note the heavy duty landing legs with motorized hinges and hydraulic ram struts. Valentina looks pretty pleased to be on the surface of Minmus! Like before, tourists can't go EVA, but Valentina goes out to stretch her legs a little bit. The passengers get to enjoy the low gravity of Minmus and the views of the flats and mountains out the large porthole windows. After staying on Minmus for a while, it's time to head back. The Moon Liner burns up to Minmus orbit, and then plots a trajectory that will fly past Mun, since a few passengers have that on their itinerary. Some time later, during the coast in towards Mun, Minmus passes its ascending node, and the opportunity arises for the Ore Transporter to return to Kerbin with minimal delta-V expendature. In fact, the ejection burn is such that it leaves Minmus on a trajectory almost perfectly aligned with Kerbin's equator. We'll get back to the Transporter in a little while. It turns out there is enough fuel to briefly orbit Mun. Not enough to land, though. This completes the itinerary for 15 of the 17 passengers (the other 2 have Mun Landing on their list). After this, it's back to Kerbin, where the atmosphere will do most of the slowing down. Aerobraking over Kerbin. The short, wide design of the Moon Liner allows it to stay fairly stable behind the larger heat shield. A single pass through the atmosphere brings the apoapsis down to 120km where it will circularize and wait for an opportunity to transfer up to the station. A successful return to the station. The 15 passengers who have completed their itinerary transfer back over to the Space Liner to join the two orbital tourists and Pholo who have spend the interveining time here on the station. Valentina and the Moon LIner will stay here and wait for the nest set of tourists. Now the important and perhaps most difficult part of the mission. Flying the Space Liner back to the Aerospace Complex. Space Liner de-orbits from 250km using the Terrier engines, on a trajectory that will carry it into the vicinity of the Aerosapce Complex. The initial atmospheric entry is done pitched up 90 degrees with wings facing into the direction of travel. This high-drag attitude will bleed off as much energy in the higher, thin atmosphere, making the lower part of the entry a little easier. The real entry begins and the Space Liner levels off with only a slight nose-up attitude. Airbrakes deployed to help slow down further. The approach is intentionally short. Space Liner has plenty of fuel left and would rather avoid overshooting and having to turn around. Here speed and altitude are low enough that the middle three RAPIER engines, in jet mode, will be used to return to the Aerospace Complex via powered flight. Lining up the final approach.... The instant before a successful runway touchdown! Everyone's home safe, and ASSET can collect payment from the passengers. Do you think all this infrastructure investment and hardware development cost was worth it? Let's find out! Financial Statement Item Amount Starting Funds $2,732,857 Infrastructure Investment -$1,127,000 Hardware Costs -$372,844 Contract Completion Awards $2,352,191 Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $274,946 Fundraising Income $80,094 Final Funds $3,940,244 And as a quick little addendum, the Ore Transporter arrives. It performs a deep aerobrake down to 33km altitude and then docks with the station. Ore from Minmus begins to flow into the converter at the bottom of the station, and is slowlyt converted into propellants. The final step in a truly cost effective, reusable space program.
  11. Part 16: Minmus Ore Mining As they say, you have to spend money to make money. ASSET's space tourism business is booming in terms of interest, but there is a significant backlog of interested tourists waiting for their flights. When I say significant, it's more than 20 total Kerbals. This delay is because ASSET is first spending the funds and time to set up the proper space infrastructure to facilitate the tourism business. This, in turn, should increase revenue generating ability which will then allow more robust funding for future space exploration and science missions, especially interplanetary ones that are coming eventually. Related to that, the first interplanetary contract has been accepted: A simply flyby of Duna and the collection of some science data from there. More on that in a future update. To start, a big and expensive renovation to the Vehicle Assembly Building, enabling it to assemble the most complex vehicles for launch. Then, three successive launches of heavy payloads bound for Minmus: An Ore Extraction rig to land in the location previously spotted on Minmus. A 16-wheeled tanker vehicle to move extracted ore from the drilling rig to a landed Ore Transporter. The Ore Transporter to ferry Ore back to the Kerbin Orbital Spaceport for processing into liquid fuels. All of these will be heavy launches using the big 5-meter Vector booster we saw last time. So let's get to it! The first launch is the miner itself. The largest, heaviest of the payloads, it flies atop an extended Vector stage with eight Kickback SRBs. All three launches are timed to match the orbit of Minmus, and all three are intended to return the booster to the Aerospace Complex for recovery and reuse. Bill Kerman is flying with the miner to return to Minmus to run the operation. Total launch cost: $375,115. With the miner safely into orbit, the booster prepares to de-orbit. The re-entry burns are set up to compensate for the fact that they're not starting form an equatorial orbit and the Aerospace Complex won't be beneath the original orbit. The first booster return is more or less right on target. In short order, ASSET Corp. crews will be out to bring the booster back for refurbishment and re-use. Recovered value: $141,294. Now let's see the miner itself. Containing a single 2.5m Converter and six large drills, the miner is powered by nine sets of 3x3 fuel cell arrays, 1000kw of cooling radiators, and enough internal storage for 13,500 units of Ore in nine large holding tanks. This will be the standard Ore load. Economics of scale says: Go big or go home. The miner design was finalized after the previous mission and is optimized for the conditions at the target location. Here it's mated on an Orange Tank core stage, previously a first stage booster for smaller launches, in this instance a transfer stage to get to Minmus. The next heavy duty launch happens during the day, and is the surface tanker vehicle. Lighter than the previous launch, it still requires eight Kickback SRBs but only a standard length Vector stage. Booster separation. A pair of Kickbacks happened to collide with each other post-separation. Payload fairing jettison during the coast to the orbital insertion burn. Each launch followed the same pattern. Direct injection into an orbit matching that of Minmus, followed by booster separation and booster de-orbit approximately 1/4 of the way through the first orbit, at a point where an inclination correction for the return flight would be most effective. Booster separation using sepratrons. The tanker is powered by three fuel cell arrays and contains the same standard nine Ore tanks, plus dedicated tanks for liquid fuel to refuel the transporter. A transfer stage is attached to the back of the vehicle. This booster return isn't quite as close as the last one. It started out on target but drifted to the west, away from the Aerospace Complex. Nevertheless, the booster touches down safely and is recovered. Total launch cost was $284,282, and the booster's recovered value was $133,702. The economics of booster return are obvious. A look at the tanker in orbit during Minmus transfer burn. It's being flown remotely, but on the surface can be driven from the front command seat. Also note the retractable fuel hose mounted on the front for ease of transfer. The third and final launch occurs at night. The lightest of the three launches, this one only needs four Kickback SRBs. This is the Ore Transporter that will make automated runs between Kerbin orbit and the surface of Minmus. A look at the last booster de-orbit burn. The burns had a significant normal or anti-normal component to them. Being launched into a 6 degree inclination meant that the Aerospace Complex would rotate away from the orbital track after the first orbit, so de-orbit includes an inclination change to place the booster on a path that intersects the launch site again. Another booster touchdown within sight of the Aerospace Complex. This launch was the cheapest at $277,385, and the recovered value of the hardware was $135,927. The first good look at the Ore Transporter making the burn for Minmus under it's own power. It's powered by three Nuclear Thermal Rockets, and has been given a partial load of propellant to make the trip to Minmus, where it will be refueled and loaded with Ore. The design is very short and squat, to make landing easier and to keep it dynamically stable with aerobraking under the inflatable 10 meter heat shield. Now, all three vehicles coast to Minmus... Bill is the first to arrive aboard the miner, which uses the last of the fuel in its transfer stage to slow down before orbit insertion and landing. The transfer stage crashed into Greater Flats and the impact is recorded by the seismometer left behind. Bill performs orbit insertion using the small radial engines provided on the miner. Jeb is waiting at the landing site, using the rover as a target for Bill. Pretty close! Bill's going to touch down somewhere between the rover and the flag he and Jeb planted earlier. Note the improvised landing struts using motorized hinges and hydraulic rams. A safe touchdown. Bill deploys the drills and radiators and gets to work almost right away. The fuel cell arrays will provide power no matter where the sun is, and it doesn't take long for Bill to fill up the ore tanks as well as re-fill his own liquid fuel, oxidizer, and monopropellant tanks. In spite of being the third to launch, the Ore Ferry is the second vehicle to arrive. It uses similar landing struts for extra stability with heavy loads. The heat shield is deployed at this point. The vehicle is just a mass of tanks strapped together under the heat shield with really no consideration for aesthetics. Purely functional! Landing is pretty close, though not quite close enough for a direct coupling to the miner. This is where the rover/tanker comes in. Speaking of the tanker, here it is. The transfer stage in this case performs the orbit insertion and then the initial de-orbit burn for landing. Then, it's ejected to crash elsewhere on Minmus as the tanker orients itself wheels down for a vertical drop. Coming right down atop the base of operations. A safe touchdown on Minmus! All the hardware has arrived! The tanker's center of mass was expected to shift along its long axis as propellant was consumed for landing. Front and rear mounted RCS blocks has to be added to help keep attitude control during the landing to compensate for this. Bill climbs aboard the command seat and begins driving the tanker over towards the miner to transfer the first Ore load. At this point Jeb has driven over and is out helping Bill with the Ore transfer. They also fill up the side-mounted liquid fuel tanks, and the rear monopropellant tank. The guys work through the Minmus night. Here Jeb is loading ore, liquid fuel and monoprop into the Ore Transporter. The next day, the Ore Transporter lifts off into Minmus orbit, where it will hibernate for a little while. The Transporter has 835 m/s of delta-V when completely full, which is enough to return to Kerbin with assistance of aerobraking, but to make the return efficient, it will only take place during either an ascending or descending node with respect to Kerbin's equator, to minimize the inclination adjustment needed on the way back to link up with the Orbital Spaceport. Minmus is about one third of the way between descending and ascending nodes, so it will be a bit of a wait. The huge quantities of ore being transported mean these trips should be somewhat infrequent, so we can afford to wait and be patient for the right opportunity. On the next update, ASSET will begin to use its new space infrastructure to clear the tourist backlog, take the very first steps in laiyng the foundation for future interplanetary travel, and debut two more new vehicles! Financial Statement Item Amount Starting Funds $3,940,160 Contract Advances $112,000 Infrastructure Investment -$845,000 Hardware Costs -$936,782 World First Bonuses $47,360 Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $410,968 Fundraising Income $4,151 Final Funds $2,732,857
  12. Part 15: Kerbin Orbital Spaceport Yes I know Jeb is still on Minmus. No Jeb isn't appearing in this update. In fact, no Kerbals are appearing in this update. Nevertheless, this is a big step for ASSET Corp's progression to a more permanent presence in space. Sometimes you pick up a contract for something you were going to do anyway. I didn't mention it, but that contract advance at the end of the last update was for putting up an orbital station that has an antenna, can generate power, and house at least ten Kerbals. ASSET Corp. has been planning a space station to act as an orbital spaceport for streamlining the space tourism industry (among other uses, like as an orbital refueling depot). This will go hand in hand with the future mining operation on Minmus. The design of the station has gone through multiple iterations, generally revolving around two major segments: A habitation module with space for between 16 and 20 Kerbals, this number having been chosen as a standard passenger load fixed by the design of the Space Liner spaceplane (which will be appearing soon). And an orbital propellant depot and ore conversion unit to process ore brought back from Minmus. ASSET has decided that the flexibility of having propellant in Kerbin orbit outweighs the energy savings of refueling at Minmus, especially as designs of the future Moon Liner spacecraft have evolved. We'll see Moon Liner soon as well, but basically the design is intentionally simple and doesn't come with a lot of excess fuel. A tourist mission to Mun might not leave enough fuel to get to Minmus and back, at least not without some risk. So Moon Liner will probably refuel after each journey. Extensive use of aerobraking in Kerbin's atmosphere also means most of the propellant will be used for outbound trips. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. The actual design of the station layout and how to assemble it went through multiple iterations, as mentioned. The initial plans were for a station that could support 27 Kerbals in 3x9 habitation "modules", coupled with the propellant depot, all launched separately in four launches. As the comfort level with very large boosters grew, the central habitation module and propellant depot modules were merged into a single, heavy launch, with two side mounted habitation modules launched separately. Then, some thought was put into how many Kerbals the station actually needs to support. In theory, Kerbals will only be passing through. Space Liner and Moon Liner will spend time docked to the station, passengers can move through, and the only passengers who stay for any length of time will be ones who's itinerary involves stops at both moons, necessitating they be on two trips. Finally, a streamlined design with a capacity of 19 Kerbals was drawn up, replacing the two side-mounted habitation modules with just a pair of viewing cupolas, and the entire station could be put in orbit in monolithic style, with one single, huge launch. The final station design costs $124,842 and weighs 43.64 tons. Launching it, however, is a different story. The total cost, station and launcher, is $339,121 and lift-off mass is 629.6 tons. It goes without saying this is the largest vehicle and largest payload ever attempted from ASSET's Aerospace Complex. A single massive 5-meter core stage, powered by five Vector engines, has enough delta-V to put the entire payload in orbit, but lacks the initial thrust-to-weight, so it's been fitted with eight Kickback SRBs. The SRBs are cheap and expendable, the expensive Vector core stage is intended to be recovered. The payload fairing on this thing is truly huge, and we'll see the space station within soon enough. In spite of the huge size and complexity, the launch goes extremely well. The target is a circular, zero inclination, 250x250km orbit. The higher altitude will give fantastic views of Kerbin and aid in easy rendezvous from lower orbiting vehicles. A tense moment as the eight Kickback SRBs are discarded over the ocean. Since the target orbit is so high, the gravity turn is much gentler. We're aiming for a direct burn to a 250km apoapsis. Once in space the payload fairing is jettisoned. The four outboard Vector engines are shut down, and orbital maneuvering is provided by just the single center engine. Here, it performs orbital circulariszation at 250km. A few smaller burns to correct inclination and eccentricity would follow over the course of the first orbit. Once the desired orbit was achieved, and while facing prograde, the booster separates and backs away using four small Sepratrons. The station will then use its reaction wheels to orient its long axis normal (north/south), while the booster prepares to de-orbit. Perhaps the most interesting detail of the space station are the angled trusses. Those trusses house the solar arrays which have not been deployed yet. They're mounted on hinges, and are tucked in alongside the core of the station right now to fit inside the payload fairing. We will see later how they extend outwards perpendicular before deploying the panels. Following procdures developed after the last booster return failure, all the propellant left over is routed to the lower-most fuel tanks, to act as a heat sink for the engines and also to lower the center of mass to make the booster more stable on landing. Here the center Vector engine performs a direct de-orbit from 250km. Some at ASSET wanted to drop down to a lower orbit, say 75km, before attempting re-entry, but a decision was made to drop down from 250km directly. Re-entry begins and all looks well. "From telemetry data we found that the bottom engine, the one closest to Kerbin, would heat up more than the others. So when this happened we commanded the reaction wheels to induce a roll in the booster. That way, each engine would rotate through that hot spot and then cool off again, and no single engine was exposed to it for long." Let's just watch this booster sail home to the Aerospace Complex (or close enough) in the next sequence of pictures. The central Vector engine slowed the descent from a stable 12 m/s to less than 5. The dust is still settling from the propulsive landing in that last picture. Recovered value of the booster was $133,970. Considering the launch vehicle cost (total cost minus the cost of the space station) was $214,279, that means the actual expended cost for the flight was only $80,309. In the mean time, let's get a look at the fully deployed and properly oriented Kerbin Orbital Spaceport: With room for 19 Kerbals, and a propellant depot capable of holding 12,850L of liquid fuel, 3,250L or oxidizer, and 750L of monopropellant (the tanks were obviously launched empty), this will be the hub through which almost all future space travel will pass. As part of the design simplification, any on-board Ore storage was deleted. Instead, the Ore Transport Vehicle, still being developed, will act as ore storage. When docked to the large clamp at the bottom, Ore will be offloaded directly to the large converter housed there to be refined into propellants on demand, and routed to the various storage tanks. In the next update, ASSET Corp. will establish that Ore extraction and transportation system. Financial Statement Item Amount Starting Funds $3,980,727 Hardware Costs -$339,121 Contract Completion Awards $145,314 Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $133,970 Fundraising Income $19,.270 Final Funds $3,940,160
  13. Part 14: Minmus Ore Prospecting Having done an orbital survey of Minmus to determine rough/bulk ore concentrations, it's time to put boots on the ground and find an optimum spot to set up a drilling and extraction operation. To facilitate this, a brand new piece of hardware will be employed: A two-person roving vehicle, the Minmus Prospector, equipped with science instrumentation as well as both the narrow-band scanner, and precision surface scanner to get exact ore values. The rover is large and spacious enough, and well equipped enough, to support an extended surface stay. We'll get into more of the technical details of the rover later. Also, as per the contract with FLOOYD Dynamics, 1,100 units of ore need to be extracted from Minmus and brought back to Kerbin. So a special vehicle, AMOTA, the ASSET Minmus Ore Test Article, has been designed and built to accomplish this task. A much larger, permanent ore extraction kit is in the design stages, but requires knowledge of the precise ore concentrations to finalize the design. The mission profile is that both the rover and extraction vehicles will fly to Minmus together as part of a single launch. The rover will land, crewed by both Jebediah and Bill Kerman, prospect for a good site, and then AMOTA will land using remote guidance. This will test precise landings, as the rover will act as a landing target. Once landed, Bill will use the lander to extract the required quantity of ore, take off, and return to Kerbin with it. Jebediah will, for the moment, be left behind on the surface of Minmus with the rover, awaiting the arrival of the next mission to the tiny moon. Let's get started. It seems every launch is a new first for ASSET Corp. This launch out-does the one from the previous update as a new 'Heaviest Launch'. A double height Mammoth core stage is flanked by a whopping eight Kickback SRBs. The SRBs are expendable, while the core stage is intended to return from orbit. The core booster and payload separate in orbit. Here we get our first good look at the rover and mining package. One of the theories of the previous booster return failure was that the booster was too small to absorb the heat effectively which resulted in the overheating and failure of the Mammoth engines. This stage is plenty large. Note the 2.5m payload bay at the top. This is becoming a somewhat standardized way of containing the avionics package in the reusable boosters. Inside are three things conforming to the 1.25m stack form factor. A pair of batteries for power, a single set of reaction wheels for attitude control, and a single RC-001S Remote Guidance Unit controlling the booster's flight. Communication with the Aerospace Complex is provided by a Communotron 16-S. However, the theory about booster physical size proves to be misleading: The Mammoch engine overheats and is destroyed, again. Without the engine providing for a heavy base and aerodynamic stability the booster tumbles and the lower fuel tank rapidly overheats and explodes as well. But it gets worse. While the drogue parachutes deploy, the mains refuse to (In-game, they said they were stowed, but the fairing was gone. Maybe they were too close to the service bay?) This was all of the booster that survived: The avionics bay and the eight, un-deployed chutes. ASSET engineers have a new theory about re-entry heat and survivability of the Mammoth engines. It may have more to do with the propellants acting as a heat sink than the physical booster tanks themselves. So, on the next booster return test, provisions will be made to have a little more extra fuel left, and most importantly, the ability to pump all remaining propellant into the lower-most fuel tank to act as a better heat sink. Getting the booster recovery part right is important. The Mammoth engine is basically four S3 KS-25 "Vector" engines in a single package, and ASSET is developing an even larger, 5-meter form factor that will be powered by five of these powerful (and expensive) engines. Recovery of the future 5 meter boosters will be critical for the economics of ultra-heavy launches. But that's for the future... The drilling vehicle supplies the delta-V required for the Minmus transfer, with Jeb and Bill in the rover up top. Some time later, they get to Minmus and get into orbit. Once ready, they decouple from the miner and prepare to land. The rover is equipped with a small LV-909 de-orbit and descent stage that will do most of the work. The rover also has three LV-1 "Ant" engines mounted underneath it for the final touchdown. Here we see the 909 performing the de-orbit. A promising, high-grade site is being targeted in a hilly area of Minmus. Technically it's within the Slopes biome but Jeb and Bill are hopeful the area rich in ore extends up to a flat spot at the top of the slope. Average ore density for Minmus as a whole was a little over 7% but the Slopes regions averaged just under 10%. The 909 has done it's work and is jettisoned and the three Ants begin controlling. The forward Ant has a thrust limiter set lower than the middle and rear engines to compensate for the fact that the rover's center of mass is slightly to the rear. Jeb and Bill land successfully, even on an incline. While there is a small 3x2 retractable solar array, primary power is actually provided by an array of six fuel cells mounted at the back of the rover. It was desired to have a rover that could function day and night equally well. It was also thought that the heavy fuel and oxidizer tanks, which only expended a small fraction of their quantity in landing, would provide extra weight down low and add to the vehicle's traction, while providing enough reactant for the fuel cells to power them for a long time. This turned out to be true, as even in the low gravity of Minmus, the heavy rover handles exceptionally well. The solar array is there to provide base-load trickle power and also as an emergency power source should the rover ever run out of fuel. Future mining operations on Minmus should provide an essentially endless supply of fuel for this thing. According to ASSET CEO Cashen Kerman, "For electrical power we're a big believer in the use of fuel cells. This will be especially true in the future when we venture into the outer solar system. Solar definitely has a place. Our current design for an orbital spaceport around Kerbin uses large solar arrays and batteries for instance. But for rovers, and even our big, permanent ore extraction rig, we're focused on fuel cells for their reliability no matter the conditions." While doing their ore survey, the pair also test our some other new technology the rover employs. Here this scanning arm examines and samples a specimen of Green Sandstone. Later, they fine a large Olivine formation. Here's the view from inside the cab as the rover arm drills a sample for analysis. The analytical results are then transmitted back to the Aerospace Complex through the Relay Network. No need to wait to bring the results home by hand! Another look at the rover. Entry and egress is from the top, and an angled latter provides ease of access. The pair continue on their way. The cab is quite large and roomy, intended for long-term occupation on extended trips. Surface scans are very promising. It seems this particular region sports an ore density of upwards of 14%! Far higher than even missions planners had expected. But they need to find a spot suitable for landing a heavy mining rig on. All that ore won't mean anything on a steep incline like this (note, the Navball is wrong, I hadn't switched to forward control from upward control, but you can see the retrograde marker at the top of the ball, the slope is around 25 degrees here, climbing up). At last, a suitable spot. After climbing the ridge they find a relatively flat region that is large enough to make landing reliable. And the views are pretty nice! A final check reveals this location has an ore concentration of 14.55%. The sun is getting low, but they call in the mining test rig. They plant a flag to mark the exact spot. This will be a test of precision landing. As the sun sets, the miner begins its approach. The north-facing slope leading up to the site is still lit by the sun, while the plateau above, where Bill and Jeb await, is in darkness. Not the best precision landing. Touchdown will be a couple hundred meters from the rover. This will take some practice. But, it may be worthwhile to have a wheeled tanker vehicle to transport fluids between a future miner and transport vehicle. A little added expense for the flexibly of not requiring precise landings. While the future miner is planned to use fuel cells, this one is simple and cheap and uses solar arrays. Hence, mining is impossible right now. So instead, Bill and Jeb settle in to sleep through the long Minmus night, and be ready to mine the following morning. The two get up early the next morning and Bill heads over to the miner to begin working. They start early. Unfortunately, one of the solar arrays was blocked by the vehicle itself, and so it wasn't until around solar noon that all four arrays, and hence all four of the small drills, could be used. Nevertheless, by mid afternoon they've extracted 1,102 units of ore, which is enough for the 1,100 contract from FLOOYD Dynamics. Loaded down with ore, Bill begins his ascent from Minmus to return to Kerbin. Jeb will stay behind and live in the rover until the next Minmus mision. Don't worry, the rover is stocked with plenty of snacks, and plenty of things to do. The heavy lower part of the miner, containing the drills, engines, landing legs, solar arrays and radiators is discarded and the Lander unit and ore tanks, protected by a heat shield, are all that returns to Kerbin. Bill glides down to the ocean on parachutes, ready to be collected. In private conversation, Cashen Kerman remarked, "FLOOYD Dynamics basically paid us almost a million for a sample of ore from Minmus that, as far as we can tell, is functionally no different from ore you can get on Kerbin. Whatever, I hope they're happy. More than paid for the whole mission." As an aside, the water landing is not where Bill eventually ended up. See, sometimes KSP contracts are stupidly, frustratingly specific. The contract said "Land your Ore on Kerbin" but I guess I didn't consider that it wouldn't count of you splashed down. No, it has to be on land, specifically. Frustrated, I re-loaded a save and had Bill come down on land instead. I wasn't re-doing the whole mission because of something silly like that. Financial Statement Item Amount Starting Funds $3,156,666 Contract Advances $50,371 Hardware Costs -$210,454 Contract Completion Awards $903,372 Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $19,806 Fundraising Income $60,886 Final Funds $3,980,727 Science Earned: 1,533
  14. Part 13: All About Mun (Again) This update begins with a lesson on reading the fine print of a contract. "We'd been issued a contract that basically said, Return to Kerbin from the surface of Mun, which, if you've been following us, we'd done a few times already. But the contract refused to pay out. Apparently they meant return from the surface of Mun to the surface of Kerbin in the same vehicle. We'd been using separate landing and return vehicles, because of the obvious benefits, but apparently that didn't count to them for whatever reason." So, without any plans to drastically alter the scientific exploration program to use a Direct Ascent profile, ASSET Corp. decides to put together a one-off flight using custom parts and take care of a few different things all at once. Valentina Kerman will fly a modified Space Tourism vehicle to land on Mun and return, and it just so happens there are six Kerbals who have signed up to land on Mun anyway. The flight will also pack a bunch of science gear for Valentina to run once landed. There is another key development that will be tested on this flight as well: In yet another instance of the largest thing ASSET Corp. has launched, rather than a multi-stage expendable Orange Tank launch vehicle, this is the first flight of the Mammoth Engine and enlarged core stage. This single stage will put the entire vehicle in orbit, and then contains avionics that will allow the booster to re-enter the atmosphere and hopefully land to be re-used. The booster puts the tourist vehicle into orbit and then prepares to turn around and return, targeting a landing close to the Aerospace Complex. A plot showing the targeted landing site. Also obviously I've installed the Trajectories mod to make this easier! The booster failed to include an antenna of its own and communications was lost briefly in the upper atmosphere. Without the ground controllers in control, the booster drifted slightly off attitude and the extra drag moved the predicted landing point further west. Here the booster clears the mountains west of the Aerospace Complex. Mammoth engine temperatures also registered as quite high. A combination of parachutes and engine burn slow the booster down. A safe touchdown! Of a total launch cost of $118,094, the recovered booster returns $61,806, more than 50% of the total cost! The economics of booster recovery may make large, single launches more appealing. Otherwise these Mammoth engines are very expensive to just discard, relative to the smaller engines ASSET has been using to this point. As for Valentina and the six lucky tourists, they proceed with Mun Injection and the coast out to their destination. The trip is timed to allow the tourists to witness an eclipse of Mun by Kerbin's shadow, close up. To maximize the collection of new scientific data, the landing is taking place within Northwest Crater, far from the previous landing sites in and around East Crater. The vehicle is very tall and landing is tricky, but the ground here is fortunately very flat. This will probably be the only tourist mission using this kind of a landing vehicle. Work continues on Moon Liner, which will set down horizontally, more akin to an aircraft. Valentina disembarks to collect some surface samples and admire the view. The tourists, however, are not allowed to disembark. They do however get to enjoy the view out the windows, and the reduced gravity on Mun's surface. Before the group depart, Valentina collects some rock samples. A short whole later, the vehicle blasts off again, to make the journey back to Kerbin. In all, the mission employed a high degree of re-usability and recoverability. Only the upper transfer and landing stage was not recovered. Financial Statement Item Amount Starting Funds $2,485,250 Hardware Costs -$118,094 Contract Completion Awards $586,078 Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $85,824 Fundraising Income $17,295 Final Funds $3,056,353 Science Earned: 582.0 But we aren't quite done with Mun yet. An unmanned mission, Mun Science Package, takes off powered by a smaller Mammoth first stage. Here we see the science package itself. The upper portion is an Ore Scanner. ASSET doesn't have plans for Ore extraction from Mun, but a private contract was accepted to perform a scan of it anyway. Behind that is an automated transfer vehicle to deploy three relay satellites around Mun in a similar manner to Minmus. "In the future we would like to land exploration missions on Mun's far side, and so this is the only reliable way to establish communications there." This time the booster included an antenna so communications were rock solid until the deep part of re-entry, at which point the aerodynamic forces held the booster in the correct attitude even without direct control. But there was another problem. Even with a much more gentle re-entry trajectory to help with the overheating seen on the previous flight... The Mammoth engine explodes due to overheating. ASSET engineers theorize that perhaps it has to do with the booster being smaller, and there being less thermal mass to absorb heat. Without the stabilizing effect of the engine, the booster then spins out of control and the extra drag moves the landing site west towards the mountains. Without the engine to slow down, the large fuel tank at the bottom would also be lost on impact. But the upper part with the avionics bay would survive. A disappointing outcome, but booster recovery is also new and cutting edge, and there is much to learn. On the way to Mun, the science package breaks up into its three components: An ore scanner, a communications relay probe, and the transfer stage, which will be crashed into Mun. The Ore Scanner assumes the polar orbit stipulated in the contract. The relay probe begins placing comm satellites in 1000km, circular equatorial orbits spaced 120 degrees apart. A low resolution Ore scan is completed of Mun. The probe has a narrow band scanner equipped, should ASSET ever become interested in Ore on Mun, but for now the focus is Minmus with the lower gravity and easier landings. Its job complete, the probe that deployed the relays then crashed into Mun at high speed near the instruments placed on the surface by a prior mission. In fact, that landing site and the science gear can be seen as a dark spot in the image to the right of the probe. The seismometer placed on the surface registers the impact! Meanwhile a complete set of relays now covers all of Mun's surface. Financial Statement Item Amount Starting Funds $3,056,353 Contract Advances $88,460 Hardware Costs -$102,940 Contract Completion Awards $94,717 Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $12,682 Fundraising Income $7,394 Final Funds $3,156,666
  15. Part 12: Return to Mun This time on ASSET Corp Mission Logs, we have two very important missions. The short-to-medium term strategic plan for ASSET Corp is to establish a permanent presence at both moons, using reusable hardware. This will allow for continued science, and also tourism, in a much more cost effective manner to both Mun and Minmus. The longer term goal, of course, is exploration beyond the Kerbin system entirely, but we're a long way from that. In any case, several technological developments coupled with several important missions need to take place before that can happen: The development of a 'Space Liner', a single-stage to orbit aircraft with a high passenger capacity to handle both the initial leg (moving tourists into orbit) and final leg (returning them home) of each passenger's journey in the Kerbin system. This craft would take off and land like an aircraft, reducing the costs associated with getting Kerbals to orbit to basically just propellant. The technology for this doesn't quite exist yet but is being developed. An orbital transfer and refueling station in Kerbin Orbit. This would contain habitation space for a large number of tourists passing through, either on their way up to visit one or both moons, or their way down after completing their itinerary. A 'Moon Liner' spacecraft, using high efficiency nuclear propulsion, that would handle the journey from the orbital station to the the moons. Most likely this craft would be designed to land on the moons directly and be able to return to the orbital station to refuel and exchange passengers without the need for additional infrastructure at the moons (ie: No orbital transfer stations at the moons and no dedicated, separate landing craft). Nuclear rocket propulsion has recently been developed by ASSET Corp. but has yet to be put into practical use in space. A Minmus-based ore mining and fuel processing operation to provide for the whole operation. This is considered foundational, and needs to be the first element in place. It is, however, the least fleshed out component, as the design depends on several factors, including the exact distribution and concentration of ore on Minmus, and a study on the best way to set up a refueling system. Options include a) Ore transport to the Kerbin station for processing into the right blend of fuels on an as-needed basis, or b) refueling the Moon Liners in Minmus orbit or even directly on the surface, which would reduce operational flexibility but be far cheaper (no dedicated fuel transport). ASSET Corp continues to spend capital where it feels is prudent. As part of the development of Space Liner, the first of two planned upgrades/renovations to the Spaceplane Hangar was undertaken. it's likely a third upgrade to both the hangar and runway will be needed before flight testing can begin. The second is a third upgrade to the Rocket Launch Pad, to accomodate heavier launch vehicles. For today's update, incremental progress. We have two missions to cover. The first is rather simple and related to the Minmus Ore Mining project. The Narrow-Band scanner technology is ready, and rather than a Kerbin based test, ASSET is opting to launch a combined wide and narrow band scanning probe direct to Minmus. A simple Orange Tank lower stage coupled with a payload fairing to get things started. This also shows the third and final iteration of the launch pad, capable of providing for launch vehicles of any foreseeable size. And here we see the spacecraft. Both the wide beam and narrow beam scanners are on board, as well as a large solar panel and plenty of on-board batteries for power purposes. In this case, the satellite has been equipped with its own engine and fuel tanks to provide propulsion. It completes the orbital insertion, and shown here, Minmus transfer burns. Then, it's the long coast to Minmus. Then, the second mission. The upgraded launch pad is needed here. Pholo, Bob, and Bill Kerman are launching for a science and exploration mission to Mun. This mission is different in that it will use a Mun Orbit Rendezvous profile, so the entire vehicle is launched as one unit. Noteable is this is the first spaceflight for engineer Bill Kerman. Bill has been working hard behind the scenes on R&D and spacecraft design, but it's been decided that he needs to get some actual spaceflight experience himself. The debut of the powerful RE-M3 "Mainsail" engine in the core Orange Tank stage. There are several technological firsts here. This is, to date, the largest single launch undertaken by ASSET Corp. The Orange Tank Skipper stage, a typical core stage on previous missions, has been used as two side-mounted liquid propellant boosters, utilizing propellant cross-feed to keep the core Mainsail stage full. It's also the first time ASSET Corp is using propulsive booster separation, using small solid rocket motors to push the large boosters aside. Propulsive separation is also used to draw the core stage back from the spacecraft. The transfer stage was only required to burn briefly for orbit insertion. This mission had a significant Kerbin orbit component as well. Recently a Gravity Sensor was developed as part of the standard Science Instrumentation loadout, and the mission would perform both a low Kerbin orbit and a high Kerbin orbit taking gravity readings around the planet in various locations. Therefore, Mun Transfer took place from a higher orbit than is typical. Part of the new mission profile involves separation of the CSM from the stack and some RCS maneuvering to dock with the Mun Lander. Here Pholo pilots the CSM around the stack separation ring to get re-docked. As in the past Mun landing, the transfer stage is then discarded on an impact course. The rest of the mission proceeds as normal. This is a re-desigined, single-stage lander, very similar to the one used previously at Minmus. It contains a more powerful engine and additional propellant for Mun. The solar panels were re-designed after the prior mission and this lander also incorporates Probodobodyne HECS acting as a guidance computer, allowing Bob and Bill to fly the lander without the need for a specialized pilot. Like the prior Minmus mission, this is intended to be a multiple-landing mission. However, given the propellant load of the lander and Mun's higher gravity, re-fueling from the CSM will be needed after each landing, and there's enough fuel for just two landings. The first landing will be in the Mun's highlands to the east of East Crater, approximately 30 kilometers east of the first Mun landing which was in East Crater. Note the upgraded, heavy-duty landing legs. Bob and Bill land in a gently sloping region of Mun's highlands. The two disembark and Bill plants the UKS flag on the surface. Just like at Minmus, the pair deploy science equipment on the surface. This package includes an Ionograph, something recently developed and hence was not available for Minmus. Bill assists with deploying the solar arrays before the two begin exploring the nearby area. The RCS "jetpacks" work wonders to get around quickly. Mobility is still limited to the amount of propellant a single Kerbal can carry, however. Something ASSET is developing for the future is a reusable wheeled exploration vehicle for the crews to use to enhance mobility further. One of the private contracts accepted before the mission was to bring back a sample of Mun Rocks. So here, Bob chips a piece off of a larger boulder to bring back with him. This appears to be a relatively fresh, small crater the two are investigating. After spending some time on the surface, the pair re-ignite the engine and return to orbit to prepare for the second landing. A rendezvous and docking on Mun's night side. Here Pholo uses lamps to illuminate the lander to ease docking and propellant transfer. Then, Bob and Bill are off again. Approaching for the second landing. This time, Bob and Bill are targeting the Mun Midlands to the west of East Crater. Bill looks out the window of the lander, post-landing in the Midlands, before the EVA begins. Having accomplished the goals of deploying the science gear and collecting Mun rocks for the private contract, the second landing is limited to the standard scientific observations and gathering of surface samples to bring back to the R&D lab. The return to orbit from the second landing. There is only enough propellant to facilitate two landings. Another night-side docking. This time Bill and Bob transfer themselves and their experiments and samples over to the CSM. The lander, was was done previously, is intentionally crashed into Mun afterwards. A correction burn on the way home to get a targeted periapsis of around 30km. A normal re-entry over Kerbin's expansive grasslands region. Bill's view up at the parachutes, post-deployment. Another successful mission! Meanwhile! The survey scanner arrives at Minmus. Firsty, the wide beam scanner performs a high-level survey of Minmus. Then, the narrow beam scanner begins, well, narrowing down Ore concentrations to specific regions of Minmus. A map of 'hot spots' is developed. In general, Minmus contains around 7.1% Ore, but it is not distributed evenly. The Lowlands, which dominate Minmus, are around average at 7.6% or so. The polar regions are more concentrated, in the 8% range. The Sloped regions seem to be the most rich at just under 10%, but mining from a high incline would be difficult. This map will form the basis of a future, more detailed, ground-based survey to pinpoint an optimum location for an ore extraction operation. Interestingly, a private contract was issued to extract and return to Kerbin with a 1,100L sample of extracted Minmus ore. "Ordinarily we would never plan to bring significant quantities of ore back to the surface of Kerbin, but the contract is lucrative enough that we're planning a purpose-built mission around it. It anything it will serve as a test of the technology before a permanent extraction facility is landed." Financial Statement Item Amount Starting Funds $2,734,285 Contract Advances $301,.374 Infrastructure Investment -$507,000 Hardware Costs $154,371 Contract Completion Awards $110,962 Hardware Recovery Reimbursement $2,708 Final Funds $2,485,250 Science Earned: 3,112