Astraph

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  1. A short preface this time - phew, I never thought I'd come back to KSP with such zeal anymore. The past two weeks were spent almost exclusively in the game, designing, tweaking and refining my crewed mission architecture. Having to deal with science mode limitations is a pretty new thing for me (as I said, none of my campaigns actually progressed to interplanetary crewed flights), and it's way easier to just slap together a Dres mission in sandbox. Anyway, let's go! ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ XIII One step back, two steps forward With Ceti and Iota samples delivered onboard the Portal, Ace and Shigu sat down to tedious laboratory experiments and tests. Zero-g environment in Gael orbit and lack of local contamination helped preserve the samples' pristine condition - but the complete novelty of such laboratories meant research lagged considerably. What was designed as a 200 day long stay ended up lasting over twice as long - a whole Gaelian year. Portal's life support system was not designed for such prolonged stay; a mid-year resupply mission had to be undertaken. While Kyakovlev still had several examples of Zenith at the ready, its unsuccessful landing attempts discouraged using them for a crewed mission. Moreover, preliminary Niven mission concept studies made it apparent that any reasonable Niven-capable spaceship had to be designed from scratch. This meant the end of both Apex and Zenith projects, as all manpower and resources were to be directed towards this completely new craft. However, flights to Portal still had to be undertaken; to this end, Kyakovlev Industries presented a low-cost, expendable crew and supplies delivery system, dubbed Nadir. Vastly simpler than Zenith Heavy, Nadir was designed around completely opposite principles - the whole service and cargo module was expendable, with only the capsule designed for recovery. Dual karbonite/liquid fuel propulsion system has been replaced with a set of simple, lightweight monopropelant engines. A strictly low-orbit vessel, Nadir was painfully limited - but at the same time, it was perfectly tailored for its designed purpose. Nadir 1 & 2 flights to Poral station Ace and Shigu's prolonged mission meant that the overambitious goal set up by Astraph Kerman - to land on Niven before the second anniversary of first crewed flight - has not been met. Shelving of both Apex and Zenith projects also meant that no crewed flights beyond Portal orbit have been undertaken for the whole year. But this didn't mean the second year passed without any breakthroughs; quite the contrary. As soon as Portal became fully operational, the second phase of Niven mission came into motion; Niven Prospector. The largest probe up to date, the Prospector consisted of four separate vessels: Bus - the structural and propulsive module; powered by four experimental Candle RTG engines, it was to deliver the 3 probes to Niven, while serving as a testbed for nuclear space propulsion technnologies Scanner - an autonomous satellite, equipped with sophisticated surface imaging devices. Surface Component - twin landers, designed to achieve soft descent and collect surface samples for analysis. Mission summary 1) Launch & Coast 2) Orbital insertion & Scanner deployment 3) Probe landing The Prospector mission provided valueable insight into Nivenian environment. The surface and relief appeared relatively young, which implied a set of active geological conditions - be it tectonics, volcanism or aeolian erosion. No traces of surface water have been detected - and lack of atmospheric vapour precluded the existence of an active hydrosphere. However, considerable amount of hydrates and gypsium have been found - which meant that extracting water from soil was a viable option. This, combined with confirmed karbonite presence, meant that a wide selection of potential fuels was available for production - from hydrogen, through water, to simple synthetic hydrocarbons. Of special significance was discovery of aerial methane and ammonia. Unstable and highly reactive, those compounds could not last long in the atmosphere without a source to replenish their supply - with organic metabolism being the most exciting possibility. Out of other atmospheric gases, the results were neither spectacular nor surprising - high carbon dioxide content and was confirmed during first the very first mission to Niven and trace gases composition matched theoretical models made up back on Gael. Prospector's findings, combined with data collected during first flyby, finally provided the Agency with the bare minimum of data required to organized the crewed mission. With concept studies on Gael reaching their ending, time has come to move on to another great step - creation of an actual interplanetary spacecraft... One of preliminary designs for Apex Sidonia, with mass simulator replacing the actual crew module.
  2. @Jumberlack thanks for confirming my suspicions. I actually got the next tier of reactors (including the Interstellar's Molten Salt one), and miraculously I am finally able to generate power without crashing my whole setup. Barely 30 MW, but it's enough to actually run the H2O electrolysis without the whole thing imploding on itself. I also cheated tinkered a bit with TweakScale and by using 2.5x sized radiators managed the final iteration to look nice and actually work at the same time.
  3. Aesthetics be damned, I just slapped as many radiators on a reworked refinery as I could. However, when I'm launching KRASH to test the whole setup, both generators shut down due to... no radiator being available. I have absolutely no idea what's wrong. Generators are connected directly to reactors, reactors are working (producing actinides and so on). I have no idea what I'm doing wrong here... EDIT: I just noticed that my generator's Cold Bath temperature (500 K) is higher than Hot Bath (300 K)... Is that working as intended? EDIT2: Just in case - Reactor Control window EDIT 3: Looks like my initial suspicions were true - I am stupid and failed to notice key things (like the whole in-flight thermal readout function). Here's my troubeshooting, I'd be most grateful if someone more experienced verified my conclusions ^^' 1.25m reactors have laughable output (6.7 MW with 4 reactors) at tier 1, while electrolyzer alone gobbles up 20 MW. I tried to reduce its power consumption to 10% with the slider, but it did little to fix the issue, it still goes at full power when activated. USI reactors apparently have their own generator integrated, so I guess the mod does not recognize them as 'proper' reactors for thermal power production. My tech is tier 1, so obviously, radiators are also excrements at dispelling heat. My plan for tomorrow is to return to 2.5m reactor, but tweak its power output so levels manageable without turning the whole refinery into a radiator chrysantemium. Guess more advanced technology will allow me to build something more ambitious in near future.
  4. Yeah, when I click on Reactor Control window, things seem working - I have actinides being produced, temperature goes up and heat is produced. If I fire up only less power-hungry modules (like the Ore processor) or just the drill, they work indefinitely. Issues begin when I fire up all converters and the drill at the same time. As I mentioned, I know I used too little radiators to have 100% efficiency - but I see no way to add more without making majority of lander's parts radiators... If anyone could share their reactor setups, I would happily try to reverse-engineer them. Oh, and one last detail, though I am not sure how relevant is that - since I'm playing GPP, I am using the older version of the mod (though I can't provide the exact version number right now, as I am at work)
  5. I might be dumb and missing some very basic (and essential) part, because in tutorial/guides I have checked this thing is never explained (or rather, treated as a trival detail that should already be known). I want to build a HTP refinery for my Niven mission in GPP. I slapped the 2.5m reactor from USI, Thermal Power Generator on top of that. Then I basically covered it with radiators (wrap-up ones plastered all along the reactor and generator + 6 deploable radiator panels). When I turn the thing on, it has like 20% power efficiency and all is fine and dandy. But the moment I power up the refinery (universal drill + ISRU Processor + Electrolyzer + Refridgerator), the thing just dies. Power output drops to 0, radiators no longer have power to work, so it falls into a vicious circle. I tried tweaking it one way or another, but I am just unable to sustain operations at any rate. What can I do to fix this and what am I doing wrong? Some notes for clarity: True, in Therman Control window in VAB all values are red - but even if I literally plaster the whole thing with radiators, things barely go into yellow areas. I am trying to use vacuum-optimized radiators exclusively; I am using launch pad as test bed, then launch prototypes to Iota for vacuum tests. My thinking is that if it works in vacuum, it should also work in Niven's thin atmosphere Here's a screenshot of the prototype setup; please note the variant I am describing above has a Thermal Generator added on top of the reactor (between reactor and the reaction wheel); it has also slightly different configuration (Ore processors instead of Karbonite module), but it should not change the thermal situation, right?
  6. Haha, no worries I have a patchy schedule, I know, but I am not giving up on this campaign. It might be hopelessly outdated now (the version I play is 1.4.5), but screw this, even if I updated, checking each of 100 mods I have installed would most likely kill me and my motivation. And my hopeful plan is to get this Niven landing done before the anniversary rolls in Thanks to all else who is reading this, you are the main reason to keep writing!
  7. XII Samples and Flybys With the Portal Station assembled and operational, preparation for the telerobotic sample return mission became top priority for the Space Program. Apart from obvious scientific payoff of studying Niven surface conditions without risking the life of kerbonauts, landing and taking off from the planet with an uncrewed probe offered one more benefit - access to valueable data regarding atmospheric conditions and take off profile. I - Iota Sample Return II - Ceti Sample Return III - Zenith T 4 & Extended Laboratory Music While low Gael orbit teemed with activity, the Mission Control had to keep their eyes on a more distant place; Surveyor 4, launched soon after it's Niven-bound brother (and an unsuccessful Surveyor 3), was approaching its target; planet Tellumo. Basically an updated version of its predecessor, the probe carried exact same suite of scientific instruments, and was planned to only make a brief flyby. Flyby animation As the report of the mission pointed out: Presence of abundant atmospheric oxygen and water vapour was confirmed; this opens the possibility that, barring presence of unknown compounds in the atmosphere or soil, life support systems would have to be far less complex than during other missions. Higher estimates of both radius and mass have been confirmed; crushing pressures and gravity would pose a completely different set of challenges for future explorers. Higher gravity also results in a more compact atmosphere. A single moonlet, dubbed Lili, was found within the planet's ring system. Its proximity to Tellumo would make it a good staging point for crewed missions, as well as a potential fuel depot during surface excursions. However, the overall conclusion is that crewed exploration of Tellumo should be limited to orbital missions at most; while designing an ascent vehicle capable of attaining orbit is feasible, it would require extensive and time-consuming research and development to construct one, yet alone deliver it on Tellumo's surface.
  8. XI Portal Station The discovery of an anomalous - and clearly artificial - phenomenon on Ceti sped up preparations for the full-scale Niven mission. Practically unlimited funds have been assigned to both the super-heavy launcher design and 2nd generation Apex spacecraft. Even though discovery of Anomaly 1 was not publicized, careful media campaign about potential of alien life forms commenced - with even concepts like ancient astronauts getting some media coverage. In terms of actual spaceflight, the following roadmap has been proposed for Niven mission: Construction of Portal Station - a high Gael orbit outpost, serving as a stop station between the planet and extragaelian destinations, as well as a zero g laboratory for conducting tests and experiments Niven Prospector - an unmanned probe mission, aimed at in-depth analysis of Niven atmosphere and surface composition Niven Sampling - a telerobotic mission, consiting of a crewed orbiter and unmanned lander, capable of returning surface samples from the planet's surface Niven Cygnus - An unmanned lander, containing in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) facilities, paving the way for actual crewed landing Niven Cydonia - A crewed landing, expected to stay at least 200 days on Niven surface Obviously, those plans were laid out in long term - much longer than Astraph's overoptimistic schedule of a single year. The first phase began immediately - the design of a modular space station, using experiences of the HOLTCH mission, as been in preparation for some time already. In total, the assembly required three launches - one to deliver each of the components: the Core Module. Laboratory and the Habitat. Each launch was to performed by the prototype super-heavy Electrum rocket - designed to be able to deliver 50 tons to Gael synchronous orbit. I - Portal Core launch II - Laboratory launch III - Habitat module and crew launch With Portal finally operational, green light was given for a direct Niven launch. Smaller in scale, two missions to Iota and Ceti have been scheduled as well, to test the Portal's capabilities and craft recovery techniques needed for the Niven mission. The yellow planet seemed closer than ever before...
  9. X Mysteries "Gael...? It... shouldn't be here..." - Charlie Kerman The second flight of the Apex didn’t cater as much public interest as initial Ceti flights. Even with the spaceship’s size and complexity, the mission itself was pretty routine - and with public opinion’s sight set on Niven, baren, airless wastelands of Gael’s moons stopped being that appealing. Phase I - Launch and TCI Phase II - Pharos 2 landing Phase III - Resupply Initial plan called for the Apex to perform a sub-orbital hop to Pharos 1's location as soon as sun would rise over the second rover's location. However, shortly before the scheduled departure, Varyag and his crew received a message from the Space Center; the new mapping satellite has detected an unusual rock formation, roughly 100 kilometers north-west of their position. Frame from Ceti Mapper satellite with anomaly in sight - section of image magnified by a factor of 5. It was deemed a change of landing zone would not disrupt the mission as a whole - it would still prove the feasibility of suborbital hops during a single mission, and fuel budget would remain largely unaffected. The decision was made to perform the jump. Phase IV - Sub-orbital hop & Anomaly 1 Phase V - Return Excerpt from classified addendum to post-mission evaluation:
  10. IX One year in Not surprisingly, the first anniversary of Jumper 1 flight was met with huge celebrations alls across Gael. A symbolic monument has been erected to commemorate this day - Zenith 10 lander, the supposed final ship of its series, was placed on the Space Centre's courtyard. The pompous ceremony was followed by a public press conference, where Space Agency’s chief engineers outlined the future direction for their program to take. We have come a long way in the span of those few months. Starting with capsules barely able to break the blue above our heads, we managed to end up reaching across the darkness, towards the alien worlds waiting on the other side. Today, we can only shoot a passing glance at them - but I am fully confident that next year, at this very spot, I will be able to proudly announce that first kerbonaut has stepped on another planet’s soil! I extend my congratulations towards our brave crews - to Varyag, Charlie, Jolly, Aobaka, Scoots and Meatball. To new crews, currently training for their first flights. Finally, to all kerbals who remain on Gael to make sure the pioneers’ mission succeeds - to technical crews, R&D teams, to designers at Kyakovlev and NASEK. To all those working hard to make our future brighter! Onwards, into the Void!!! - Astraph Kerman But before we move onto that, let’s spend a while for a small review of how far the kerbals had gone in the span of just a year. Initial phase was hectic and characterized by every launch using a different craft and booster. The first family to actually achieve any sort of consistency were the Beryls; based on 1.25 m wide cores, those rockets propelled early Iota and Ceti landers - such as uncrewed Ruaumoko and pioneering Zenith 5 and 6 flights. Their robust and simple design made them cheap and easy to assemble - but at the same time, their limited carrying capacity (up to 12 tons to low Gael orbit in Beryl Heavy’s case) limited their use and called for swift replacement. Beryl IIB (left) and Beryl Heavy (right) Ceti missions and interplanetary flight studies led to the creation of Corundum booster. With 2.5 m diameter core at their base and high modernization potential, Corundums evolved into the first truly universal rocket family - starting with 5 ton capable Corundum Light, all the way to monstrous Corundum III, used to launch Apex Resupply missions at the excess of 65 tons weight. The highly successful Zenith design, gradually evolving with each generation, dominated the first year of space exploration; ten vessels have been launched during that year, with five more awaiting use in planned missions. Similarly to Beryl, their small, sturdy design made them most successful in their designed role - but left unable to upgrade and advance into a truly interplanetary spacecraft. The only partially successful Zenith Heavy flight cast a shadow of doubt on the design’s future - but should the flaws be corrected, the spacecraft had a chance for a long, fruitful career. Much bigger Apex had already completed its maiden voyage by the end of the year - and entered the following one with great expectations. The second flight, paved by Pharos rovers’ mission, was to evaluate long-term mission feasibility - and with Surveyor 2 clearing the path towards Niven, it was certain that new generation of Apexes was bound to follow. Four main objectives have been designated by the Agency for the upcoming year: Construction of a 2nd generation Apex spacecraft, capable of interplanetary flight and soft landing on target bodies; in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) technologies were to be included in the project, using karbonite as resource. Development of a super-heavy launch vehicle for crewed interplanetary flights, utilizing new, experimental propulsion technology; design was given preliminary name Electrum and was to use components from Corundum family to simplify construction process and future operations. Laying groundwork for a crewed Niven mission by gathering additional information about the planet and its environment. Launching probes to more distant planets of the system; two projects have been announced with this goal in mind - Phaeton and Khione.
  11. This worked, thanks for reminding me about this game's basics
  12. Before we begin today, just a small shameless plug - I recently started/reactivated a small blog, which I plan to use as a nexus for stuff I post on the Interwebz - for now AARs, in the future with some other forms of writing. So far there's not too much there, but I invite you to pay a visit nevertheless. Link is both here and in my signature below each post. Anyway, let's go! __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ VIII Near and Far "I don't even know that song" - Astraph Kerman Following Piñata I test flight came the trail of its competitor, Zenith Heavy. Using components from a discarded Apex variant, the new spaceship was to be able to carry three Kerbals - one less than the shuttle - to every point withing Gael stationary orbit and return to the surface. While it lacked the shuttle's ability to return to every point on Gael by atmospheric cruise, it boasted an ability to deploy secondary payloads, while retaining a similar degree of reusability. One huge difference between Zenith Heavy and old Zenith model was the reentry technique: instead of parachuting to the ground, Zenith Heavy would use a set of three engine pods to perform the final burn before landing. The spaceship's first task was to deliver the first permanent crew to the HOLTCH space station, consisting of Ceti mission veterans: Aobaka, Meatball and Scoots Kerman. ZH-1 flight Despite partial failure of the mission, Zenith Heavy was approved into production, as fixing the issues would take much less effort than in Piñata's case; Inflatable cushions were to be added to the bottom section, both to allow splashdowns and to cushion dry land impacts Karbonite supply was to be extended to increase safety margains during landings Two other variats have been proposed; Zenith Heavy T for secondary payload deployment and Zenith Heavy IC, capable of operating from perspective stations around Gaelian moons. Paralelly with Zenith Heavy mission, the Ceti exploration project continued; with Apex lander's stability issues, it was decided that the second flight would have to carefully pick landing sites, to avoid the risk of the Trialblazer tipping over. In order to facilitate that, two rovers were to be constructed and delivered to Ceti to survey potential landing sites. Upon doing so, they were to deploy a radio beacon, which in turn was to be used to guide Apex's approach. Due to their 'lighthouse' mission, both rovers were named Pharos, after an ancient lighthouse in Kalexandria. Pharos I mission Pharos II mission And finally, far beyond Ceti's orbit, another mission came to it's successful conclusion - Surveyor 2 probe, launched from Gael shrotly before the Apex flight, has reached its target. A distant relative to CetiExplorer, Surveyor series of probes have been designed to provide data on the planets closest to Gael by performing a close flyby. Launches 1 and 3 ended up with complete spacecraft loss, due to issues with experimental, Karbonite-based launcher being used. Surveyor 2 and 4 relied on a modified Corundum core to throttle them to orbit - and wen to their long journeys towards Niven and Tellumo - the 3rd and 5th planet of the Ciro system. Gael-based observations managed to uncover basic information about Niven; it was a small terrestrial globe, possessing a thin atmosphere and a uniform, brown-grey surface colour palette. Surveyor 2 was to perform close observation of the planet, its magnetosphere and atmosphere. Due to its proximity (3.5 million kilometers average), Niven has always been considered the most probable target for first Kerbal interplanetary flights - and with recent advances in shipbuilding, this dream finally seemed an actual possibility. Surveyor 2 Niven flyby Even without the irradiance data, the flyby provided valueable insight into Niven's characteristics: Lack of any moonlets has been confirmed; while Gael-based observations disproved existence of any moons larger than 1 km, some claims for smaller moonlets' existence continued Niven's thin atmosphere, while rarer than Gael's, extended far higher than expected; this was attributed to the planet's low gravity Thin atmosphere would make parachute-assisted landing difficult, if not impossible; development of propulsive landing technology was given priority. Lack of irradiance data meant the composition of the atmosphere (assumed to be a nitrogen/carbon dioxide mix) could not have been confirmed; however, lack of bodies of water confirmed planet was arid, if not completely desert. This posed significant challenges for potential long-term stay. Magneosphere is practically non-existent; Ciro's solar wind keeps blowing off outer layers of the atmosphere, but the magnetosphere's presence indicates some sort of internal activity is possible Concluding the flyby, the Space Agency was tasked with preparing a comprehensive crewed Niven mission plan.
  13. VII Piñata I "It might require some adjustments" - Kosen Kerman With Apex missions depending on a limited supply of Zenith capsules to enable crew transfers, two corporations have been tasked with creating a replacement for the trusted spacecraft. Kyakovlev Industries, creators of the original Zenith, proposed yet another iteration of their flagship product - featuring a more robust design and sacrificing all beyond-LGO capacities in exchange for full reusability. Their competitors from NASEK Corporation proposed a spaceplane, capable of controlled reentry and powered flight to the Space Centre. In the long run, the spaceplane development was to offer 100% reusability as well - through the creation of an actual Single Stage To Orbit (SSTO) plane - but those promises were at least as distant in time as an interplanetary Apex craft. Both concepts were given a green light; NASEK's spaceplane was to conduct a test high-orbit mission to the parked Trailblazer spacecraft, while Zenith Heavy prototype was to deliver the first crew crew to the HOLTCH station. Piñata shuttle render Due to limitations of aeronautic technology, the first iteration of Piñata shuttle had limited capabilities- enough space to carry 4 Kerbals into orbit, without any functional cargo hold or bulk carrying capacity. Still, the promise of a controlled reentry and landing the kerbonauts directly was sufficient for the administration to approve the design - and give it green light for testing. The first flight was aimed at evaluating the shuttle's aerodynamics; the spaceplane took off from Space Centre's runway, performed a short flight around the island and, after confirming all systems worked correctly, landed on the grassy field next to the compound. Test pilot's report was optimistic; while the shuttle did feel underpowered with only twin turbojets providing propulsion, neither limited wingspan nor a heavy engine in the back caused any issues when it came to flight characteristics, both under power and while gliding. The second - orbital - flight has been approved. Since Piñata lacked means to get to space on its own, several launch configurations have been proposed, including designing a dedicated stack centred aroung an external fuel tank, using a high-altitude carrier aircraft as a launch vehicle and adapting an existing rocket design. Ultimately, the final option prevailed, due to simplicity and low cost - and Piñata's maiden voyage was to begin atop the Corundum booster. Another issue was the question of fuel; the shuttle's small frame left little space for tanks, especially since the main propulsion was to be provided by a hydrogen-powered engine - which, due to hydrogen's low density, meant the fuel supply for given volume woud be very limited. Out of options evaluated - including ideas as exotic as launching the shuttle atop its fuel tank into a suborbital trajectory, decoupling and redocking before achieving apoapsis and then making circulation burn - the one chosen was, again, the simplest; three strap-on external fuel tanks have been attached to the spaceplane's wings and hull, to be discarded shortly before reentry. Piñata I Test Flight The post-flight evaluation of crashlanded shuttle resulted in the following conclusions: Cockpit requires thorough redesign; while it turned out to be impossible to determine whether its destruction was caused by overheating or random damage, it was beyond doubt a pilot's death would be inevitable Shuttle's sturdiness during uncontrolled reentry exceeded all expectations; it was also noted as remarkable that the passenger compartment did not suffer any extensive damage Hydrogen engine performed well in terms of efficiency; however, given Corundum's carrying capacity, it was deemed that using a less efficient (but more compact) fuel would be preferrable A dedicated docking adapter would be developed for both Piñata and Zenith Heavy, for use with future space stations and landers. Kosen Kerman was granted funds to continue the development; however, the ultimate decision was to be taken only after Zenith Heavy flight.
  14. I'm not really emulating any RL missions deliberately, but you're right - why fix something that works? Well, at least until I go interplanetary on a larger scale. Kraken help me then ^^' I'll post an update tomorrow - stay tuned
  15. Thanks I'm very happy to finally be able to move on with this campaign - and not be discouraged by like 2 KSP updates that got released in the meantime. But GPP > stock system in my book, so... I mostly used RL craft ideas as inspiration so far - Zenith, especially in its current iteration, is pretty much Soyuz, while Apex is a weird mix of Apollo (transposition and docking after launch) and Soviet LK-700 Moon lander. I have the whole reusable Apex idea in mind, and when I look at it, it gets weirdly similar to Musk's Spaceship, with a reusable lander, orbital tankers and so on... Guess I'm not really that creative XD As for interplanetary flights - Niven is definitely primary target, I don't even plan to land crewed ships on Tellumo until I get my tech advanced far enough... As for Gratian and other planets, I admit I didn't check them too thoroughly; I want to have some fun and surprise discovering them on my own as well