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About Alchemist

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    PowerTech Chief Engineer
  1. As the one who made this (yup, 100% flown by kOS - replicating the way the real flight went), let me give some thoughts: In any case the question is never about fully manual flying of something this complex (we do have stock SAS!), it's about how far and in what way it should be allowed to step beyond this SAS functionality In the current form (unlike the very first version of the challenge) this progression of missions can be considered to be more of the engineering than piloting challenge. Including the challenge of building something you can reliably fly manually and/or with relatively simple automated/semi-automated tools. Heh, I still consider myself not that good of a pilot. Even after this insanity. And a few others. It's more like HRO is the overengineered masterpiece optimized to work with my piloting capabilities. This brings us to the true point behind this kind of rule - excessively versatile externally designed autopilot capable of handling even a very poorly designed shuttle basically negates both engineering and piloting challenge. Haven't touched MJ for quite a while (once took part in a challenge where it was kinda requirement - got fed up with designing for this smartS thing, decided it's more fun to design for my skills... or to design the autopilot as well), but as far as I remember its arsenal varies from simple semi-automatic assistants to that very level of doing half the mission in couple clicks with almost any craft. But there is also another aspect greatly amplified by the very nature of asymmetric craft, especially given many of us use keyboard - combination of large control deflection necessary for balancing with only small input needed for course adjustment. I'd say I don't mind any control assist system (whether it is plugged into stock SAS or uses similar-level control override) as long as the navigation input is either manual or follows a simple formula/profile (preferably, adjustable on user's end). And to be fair, apart from this sensitivity issue, ascent profile of a vertically launched shuttle doesn't differ much from that of a regular rocket. For ascent I really don't mind some simple guidance/assist, since nobody pilots that manually IRL anyway and specifics of such asymmetric launch configurations go way beyond Kerbal-style full manual piloting. Besides, the main engineering challenge for this part is still here no matter the autopilot - if you don't balance it properly across the entire range of fuel levels, it will flip no matter what. By the way, my Energia-Buran replica can go all the way through ascent with just switching between hold attitude and prograde SAS modes, HRO (with more STS-like engine configuration) requires just a little initial nudge to start pitching in the right direction. At least if there is no need for doing something serious with roll. but any course adjustments are done by pulling against prograde SAS - which is not the best idea with higher thrust vector deflection. A little bonus: quickly made Space Shuttle replica, inclined orbit launch and me totally not used to flying something like this without halved framerate - one big mess of a launch. Well, a legit reason to send a rescue mission, isn't it? Plus, I think there would be no real objections for using ascent autopilots to optimize performance needed for difficult missions, if it is already demonstrated that the spacecraft (with similar payload mass) is quite controllable during ascent using simpler means. Landing, on the other hand, is exactly the part with a serious navigation (especially if you aim for KSC or any other location) and piloting challenge (plus, of course, the engineering challenge to make it controllable. I said controllable, not barely getting out of corkscrew flat spin 200 m above the ground!!! Been there, flew that. Do not recommend). This is definitely the part where it's better to be careful with allowances. I'd say, piloting assistance (like keeping/limiting AoA or some smart smoothing of control inputs) could be allowed, but no automated third-party landing navigation. It's also rather interesting how this rule turned around from "no autopilots except couple standard solutions" to "no autopilots in atmosphere except self-made" Another thing to consider about allowing autopilots: what would the real crew do if if automatics failed at the particular part of the mission? If it's immediate switching to abort sequence, then maybe this is the part best given to autopilot. If it can be salvaged in manual mode - the cosmonauts would get trained for doing this operation in full manual. Russian rule for this is "the spacecraft should be capable of doing its mission fully automated the crew should be capable of taking manual control at any point".
  2. You are allowed even to totally design a new shuttle from scratch in the middle of progression. Especially if it turns out that another mission is just plainly too much for the current design. For example, I started it with Energia-Buran replica that (with some minor tweaks and improvements along the way) turned out capable of everything up to station assembly and Duna station deployment. But for asteroid recovery I totally designed much larger vessel, couple variants of which were used for the high-end missions (and some more variations for bonus stuff like redoing low-tier missions in some fancy ways)
  3. Well, without a clear example of something that might be the other half (especially if it's something easy to disguise as a human) such conclusion is not too obvious even if referred by Krakens (and for them all people must fall into one of 2 categories: either worthless ants or annoying abominations). As for things like top-level technical talents (and those can be quite amplified if you happen to end up in a family with quite some skills and resources) or making friends with paranormal beings and aliens much easier than with regular humans - those don't seem too strange to me at all... maybe I'm not fully human either...
  4. Yeah, HRO was designed to be the kind of large overengineered overpowered all-purpose shuttle (OK, not as overbuilt as some other entries for interplanetary missions, but turned out to be quite optimized for such scale missions). So when you take two of them at once - this is what happens. Of course the very description of Laythe mission left no doubts about using HRO-M03 with the mining base in the payload bay, but necessity to have the second vessel, capable of refueling at minor moons, quickly escalated into "well, this configuration should be capable of visiting at least Vall" I think for Mun STS-2-4 I'll have to try flying them there and back without ISRU - at least this way there is some challenge That rule basically means not to do this (yes, that's what caused the rule to be explicitly put in there ) - just don't fly up to orbit and back in one piece. And this is the very orbiter that when launched in shuttle-style configuration got several high-end badges... pretty much the full batch of high-end badges, if you count in the landing-optimized version with cargo ramp. So, basically, it's not an issue that the orbiter can do SSTO (well, for Laythe mission it's almost a requirement, unless you do something way more complicated), it's just the question of it not being launched as SSTO
  5. Ok, here is my report for the STS Jool-5 Full report here:
  6. The Ultimate Jool 5 Challenge!

    And here I go with the conclusion of my mission with the shuttles KSP version: 1.2.2 Level 3, ISRU (took 3 mining rigs, left 2 on Laythe), but no nukes mods: only kOS, and I didn't even use it for flying Launches: 2 (2 shuttles) Landers: 2 shuttles (4 crew each) Return to KSC: 2 shuttles Additional vessels (all carried by the same shuttle): hydrofoil/hydroplane (circumnavigated Laythe and left there), mobile mining base (left on Laythe), 2 mapsats (for Laythe and Tylo) Full report here:
  7. Landing sequence Heat it up! Now just navigate to KSC And looks like we've bounced a bit too high Yeah, overshot Finally turning around Well, jets are mostly meant for this Touchdown! First, aerobrake on the other side of the planet Overcompensated the inclination a bit, but the speed is perfect And the second reentry Too high, too fast, too good at gliding Overshooting again Or not and... Touchdown!!! And mission complete!!!
  8. Back to Bop Didn't even refuel fully, but since we didn't spend too much fuel on the way here, I just decided to take the next option for aligning transfer with plane intersection OK, maybe the fuel budget is going a bit tight if this transfer is done without a slingshot... But we seem to have quite enough left for landing Let's meet with other shuttle Can we join? Transfer to Kerbin Fully fueled, and with a good ejection angle - time to go home And going for ejection straight away And maneuver around Jool And couple years later... Of course, we can't really aerocapture like this (besides, it's a bit way too fast), so... And now the remaining task is quite the trivial one for these shuttles
  9. Yeah, testing the flight capability before going to space - that's a good thing to consider for development of a shuttle. The story of my Buran replica somewhat started (and almost ended) with "OK, it looks quite close, but can I even make something like this fly with my piloting skills?" So I replicated the flight test vehicle. Buran's looks like this Flew surprisingly well right away and required just a few minor tweaks. It was much more problem getting Energia to fly straight, but then in the next version they added proper engines with enough gimbal range Need to think of something interesting for this. Somehow, I feel tempted to drop the escape vehicle out of a shuttle in flight... But first need to finish a few things on the previous mission. that is the reporting part. As for the shuttles, here they are
  10. Thank you very much for running and improving this challenge! It was a great ride. Fly safe and may our trajectories intersect in some other orbit. P.S. My crew sends a postcard P.P.S. Surface docking near this was probably not the wisest idea. There were a few... anomalies in the process. Also, it's quite slippery in this low gravity
  11. The Ultimate Jool 5 Challenge!

    The last 2 moons I had to visit... and anomalies. At least these shuttles need no atmosphere for horizontal takeoff Funnily enough, there was a very cheap option to get back to Pol, yet I managed to leave so much fuel up there that we had no trouble flying to Bop in a rather straightforward way And then, this time with a proper slingshot, HRO-M flies to Vall And looks like it still got half the delta v still in the tanks Probably, this shuttle will return to Bop to top off the fuel and then both ships will fly back to Kerbin together
  12. At least these shuttles need no atmosphere for horizontal takeoff Funnily enough, there was a very cheap option to get back to Pol, yet I managed to leave so much fuel up there that we had no trouble flying to Bop in a rather straightforward way And then, this time with a proper slingshot, HRO-M flies to Vall
  13. Reentry with kOS? Well, just keeping the proper AoA during the reentry part is easy to script. Reliably getting navigation so it brings you to KSC - that is completely another story (I so far made couple ships to fly home from LKO - here's the video with Buran - but that was circular equatorial orbit of a particular altitude and just hardcoded deorbit at a particular longitude. No fancy navigation for that yet). And then there is the part of gliding down to the runway... something for which I haven't got that much robustness either. Of course it has to be all about several ship-specific parameters, but all what I have so far is way too much hardcoding for way too specific approach. Need to investigate better ways to make it work Yeah, one of those things on the to-do list... to which I'm not sure I'll ever really get. My ambitions in this regard often tend to wildly exceed the productive amount of free time I get
  14. About the drag on the booster's nose - it you make the interstage with fairings, you can stick a nosecone under the engine, so that it's much less draggy. And if you are having this kind of issues with the booster, it also means you could consider moving its CoL even further back On the other hand, for 2-stage VTHL you may also consider belly-to-belly side-mounting instead of stacking - this way you don't have to counter the orbiter's lift with such huge wing area on the booster. Although, KSP may do stupid things about control point when the root part is side-decoupler.
  15. The Ultimate Jool 5 Challenge!

    Use Tylo. If you arrange a slingshot around plane intersection - it's a very cheap way to make a major plane change (and in this case raise orbit as well). BTW, in the cases of having to use a specific ejection angle due to your parking orbit, it is also possible to arrange a slingshot off the very body you started from (after an orbit or two... sometimes even in half an orbit), if you couldn't find a better solution Yeah, Laythe's upper atmosphere is such a brick wall. Cuts off quickly at the edge but just below that it's almost as draggy as on Kerbin at the same altitudes. Although I faced quite the opposite problem - wanted to lower orbit in several passes, barely avoided falling all the way down to surface on the first