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  1. For those early career high-altitude survey contracts, I, like many of you, have traditionally opted for a combination jet engine/rocket engine plane, where the jet engine gets me to the contract location and I then jump to the necessary high altitude using the rocket. It gets the job done, but it's tough to meet early game weight and part count limits, the craft is often limited in range, cruising speed, and number of high-altitude jumps, and I'm eager to ditch the whole design as soon as I unlock new tech nodes (especially the Panther). What if I told you there was a different way to fulfill those contracts, where all you need is...drumroll...curtains parting...the Juno? Though Junos are generally low thrust, low altitude engines, they're actually pretty capable when you use a bunch of them on a lightweight aircraft to get a high TWR. Using only four, I managed to get a craft to 1.5-2 TWR depending on fuel level, which was enough to reach a 600+m/s cruising speed, 630+m/s max speed (see second image below of the plane descending from cruise in preparation for a jump), and a max altitude of over 20km per jump (see third image below). Because it can cruise at over 10km and 600m/s, it's actually got a pretty big range as well, and if I need to reach a faraway target I can load up the Mk1 fuel tank (see image below), and by the time it arrives at the jump point it will have used enough fuel to get the TWR back up to the level where it can support a high-altitude jump. Some notes on the design (see first image below): This design uses well under 30 parts (so you can customize with the science parts of your choice), meets all early game runway/hangar limits, and doesn't use anything beyond tech level four. I experimented with using a longer tail/traditional front wing/rear tail body design to minimize the risk of flipping, but any gains in stability were offset by a lower max speed and more limited turning ability that prevented me from going fully vertical in the jump, and ultimately limited the plane's max altitude too much. The engines are placed as far forward as I can without limiting a pilot's ability to exit the craft, and the rear wings are as far back as I felt comfortable with, which enabled me to nudge the COL behind the COM. The COM is even more forward when the Mk1 tank is completely full, but I rarely keep it full so I can maintain a high TWR. In general, having the COL really close to the COM provides maneuverability that helps in transitioning from supersonic horizontal flight to a vertical high-altitude climb, and in any event the plane doesn't really have a flipping problem. Control Surfaces - I limited all of the control surfaces (especially roll) below their defaults, because otherwise the plane can be a bit twitchy at high speeds. I also recommend using fine controls for most if not all of the flight. I experimented with increasing the AOA of the rear wings to squeeze out a little more efficiency while cruising, but the plane kept flipping on takeoff. Leaving the wings horizontal eliminated the issue, and the plane is surprisingly efficient as is. Flight Tips: Be gentle when pulling up to take-off! The plane isn't particularly flip-happy, but the only time it would happen is when I pulled back too hard during takeoff. This thing builds up speed really quickly, so you should be able to nudge it into the air with relative ease. To repeat what was stated in the design tips: consider using fine controls for most/all of the flight. Use the lower atmosphere to build up speed. I shoot for an AOA of no more than 10 degrees until I reach 5-6km in altitude, and then 5 degrees or lower until I've reached around 600m/s and between 8.5-10.5km cruising altitude. I can usually get a fuel usage rate of .08 units per second or lower (visible in the resource app) under those cruising conditions. Once you approach the target location, descend slightly to max out your speed (I usually get around 630m/s), and then gradually (I can't emphasize enough that it has to be gradual) raise the nose of your craft until you're fully vertical at around 18km- you should be able to hit 20km in altitude like this, which should be sufficient for most high-altitude Kerbin survey contracts. The turn needs to be gradual; you're looking to convert horizontal speed to vertical speed, not rapidly dump speed/raise drag with a sudden attitude change. Keep an eye on your speed and g force meters. If your speed is jumping down rather than slowly descending, or if you encounter any high g forces, you're probably wasting energy, and your max altitude will be lower. Unlike rocket plane jumpers, where you try to go vertical as quickly as possible to make the most efficient use of your limited oxidizer, don't go fully vertical too quickly. You can only raise your apoapsis if the Juno is thrusting, so until you reach 18km keep shy of full vertical so you can squeeze out a few more seconds of thrust while climbing, or at least until your apoapsis display shows that you've exceeded your target height for the jump. Once your engines flame out, go full vertical to maximize the use your remaining airspeed which should nudge that apoapsis a teeny bit higher before it starts coming down due to drag. Landing: This plane handles just fine at 50m/s or below. When coming in for a landing I often have the throttle at about the 1/6 mark, which gives me just enough speed to get into position without needing to land at high speed. As an early-game craft, there are no airbrakes/reverse thrust capabilities, so you'll have to bleed off speed by maneuvering alone (from 600m/s to just over 100m/s) when approaching the KSC and then using the rear landing gear brakes only (there's no brakes for the front wheel). I haven't needed to deploy ailerons to improve low-speed handling but that's always an option. As you unlock more tech nodes/higher KSC levels, you can add more Junos, streamline the landing gear/wings, or make other improvements, but even without those this is a really capable plane that you can continue to use into the mid-game for as long as you continue to get Kerbin altitude survey contracts. Not only does it save you the need for a full redesign as the game progresses, but since it travels at 600m/s, these survey missions go by faster and feel a lot less tedious. There's still a place for combo jet engine/rocket planes, especially for part testing contracts where you're looking to reach far beyond 20km, as well as eventual SSTOS, but sometimes MOAR JETS on a lightweight body is all you need. I've written a bunch in this post, but the main takeaway is managing your TWR can squeeze a lot of performance out of seemingly unimpressive plane engines and parts. Link to full Imgur page with picture annotations
  2. When you first start a new career game in KSP, do you find yourself frustrated that you have to launch several rockets before you have one that's good enough to get into orbit. Do you dread the idea of having to grind through a bunch of boring survey or tourist contracts just to slowly progress to the point in the game in which you can consider going to the Mun or Mimnus? Do you think to yourself as you're testing an SRB on an escape trajectory out of Kerbin, "there has to be a better way"? The early part of a Career playthrough can be frustrating and grindy. It's the part of the game I like to refer to as the "Potato Phase". I don't know why I decided to call it that. I just heard someone else call it that once, and it stuck. Of course, you could bypass this altogether by just awarding yourself a bunch of Science and Funds in the difficulty settings when you first start a new game, but most people would, and rightly so, just consider that to be cheating. But there's good news: there is a better way. You can get through the Potato Phase in just six missions, if you play the right way. This tutorial will teach you how to complete the first five tiers of the tech tree quickly, and without having to grind or game the system in any way. Let's get started. For this tutorial, I am playing in the stock game set at the Normal difficulty level. On higher difficulties, there is a lower percentage in Science rewards and facility upgrades are much more expensive. You can still use this strategy, but you will have to work as many contracts as you can between these missions to save up funds for upgrades. 1 - First Mission First, you need to get some science to start unlocking the basics. Go to Mission Control and grab the following contracts: Gather scientific data from Kerbin Launch our first vessel Then, build this and click that Launch button like a boss. (In my games, this is the one and only time I EVER use an SRB.) Note: For best results, assign Bob to this mission. On the laundpad... Get a Crew Report Get an EVA Report Observe two of the Mystery Goos While you're outside of the craft, right-click on the capsule, select "Take Data" and then "Store Experiments". This will store the Crew Report you just took in the capsule, instead of on Bob's person. This will allow you to take additional Crew Reports in other biomes. Launch vessel. During ascent, observe two more Mystery Goos and another Crew Report After splashdown, do the remaining two Mystery Goos and get another EVA report and Crew Report (remember to store the previous Crew Report you took during ascent by right-clicking on the capsule, and selecting "Take Data" and then "Store Experiments"). Also, climb onto the top of the capsule and jump in the air, and while you're in the air, get an EVA report "flying over Kerbin's water". You'll want to right-click Bob before you jump, of course, so that you have time to click the EVE Report button during the fraction of a second he is in the air. This should net about 34 Science, plus 8 more Science for contract completion and various milestones, for a total of 42. Grab the following contracts: Escape the atmosphere Orbit Kerbin In R&D, research the following tech: Basic Rocketry General Rocketry Engineering 101 2 - First Orbit Build this It includes 11 FL-T200 tanks, a Swivel engine, a decoupler, a parachute, four basic fins, four Mystery Goos, and six 2HOT thermometers. Take the monopropellant out of the capsule to increase the dV just a little bit more. Something to keep in mind about this craft is that you have barely enough dV to make it into orbit, so you need to be very efficient in your ascent. This launch is the most difficult part of the entire tutorial. It's not uncommon for it to require a few attempts before doing it successfully. I recommend the following ascent profile: At 1000m, turn 5 degrees. Stay with the prograde marker and try to be at 45 degrees by the time you reach 10000m. After you reach 16000m, lower the throttle to 1/3. Cut the engines the second your Apoapsis reaches 72km. Wait until you're less than 20 seconds from apoapsis to circularize, taking your time and staying on the prograde marker. You need be as efficient as possible because you have no fuel to spare. If the apoapsis gets away from you, stop and coast until you reach it again before continuing your burn. Stop the moment your Pe goes above 70km. You'll probably need at least 3 units of fuel set aside to deorbit. During ascent, after you reach 18km, observe two Mystery Goos and log temperature. Once officially in orbit, do a Crew Report, observe two more Mystery Goos and get two temperature readings. To deorbit, set your Pe to 50k, for a shallow reentry. You don't want your science instruments to burn up. After you've lowered your Pe, feel free to decouple the launch stage. Or you can keep it on until after reentry to use as a heat shield. Just make sure you get rid of it while you still have plenty of altitude to open your chute. During reentry, get two temperature readings. After the parachute opens, before landing, get a temperature reading. Should get about 59 Science, plus another 30 in completion bonuses. In R&D, research the following tech: Survivability Advanced Rocketry Stability Upgrade... Mission Control to Level 2 Astronaut Complex to Level 2 Launchpad to Level 2 Grab seven contracts at Mission Control to get some advance funds. Make sure Explore Kerbin is one of them. Choose the ones with the largest advance amounts. You don't have to complete them. You can ditch them later on in the game when you can afford the penalties. 3 - EVAs in LKO Next, send a rocket into a polar orbit with Bob and pick up EVA reports from as many different biomes as you can. This ship will do the trick. Be sure to include two Mystery Goos, two Thermometers, and two PresMats. Without a pilot, you have no SAS, so flying straight will be a challenge. Once in orbit, the workflow will be: Get EVA report. Store experiment in capsule. Get another EVA report when in a new biome. Repeat. You want to get an EVA report in space above the following biomes: Water Shores Grasslands Highlands Mountains Deserts Tundra Ice Caps Northern Ice Shelf Southern Ice Shelf Badlands Something that will make this mission a hundred times less tedious is a mod called [X] Science. It will not only let you know which biome you are currently in, but it will let you know all of the experiments you can perform at any given time, and even provide you with a button to perform them easily. And get a crew report, an EVA report, and two readings from high orbit (above 250 km) from each of your science instruments as well. After landing/splash down, get an EVA report. You can easily get about 155 Science from this mission, plus another 7 in completion bonuses. Once you have about 100 Science, go back to R&D and get the following: Basic Science Aviation Flight Control 4 - Tour the KSC Build this rover to get all the Science from the KSC (I got about 265 Science). You need a scientist on this mission. Get Science from the following biomes: Runway KSC Administration Astronaut Complex R&D Complex VAB SPH Tracking Station Mission Control Crawlerway Launch Pad Shores In each biome, do the following: Crew Report Log Temperature Log Pressure Observe two Mystery Goos Observe two Science Jr's EVA Report Take the data out of your science instruments Restore the Mystery Goos and Science Jr's Store your data in the Experiment Storage Unit Store your remaining data in the cockpit take data from cockpit and store it again (this allows you to store the crew report) Get back in the rover and move on to the next biome 5 - First Probe to the Mun Once you have about 300 Science, go back to R&D and get the following: General Construction Fuel Systems Electrics Upgrade the Tracking Station to Level 2 Build the following ship. All you need to do is get into the Mun's sphere of influence, get as much Science as you can, and get back to Kerbin. Keep the experiment from the Materials Bay and one of each of the other instruments. For your second 2Hot, PresMat, and Mystery Goo, transmit the data. When returning, get a Kerbin Pe of about 60km. That Materials Bay is very delicate and can easily overheat during reentry, so circularize and come in as shallow as you possibly can. And make sure you stay dead on that retrograde marker until the heating dies down. You should get about 188 Science for the experiments you brought back, plus another 32 from the data you transmitted. You'll also get about 9 in completion bonuses. It's not much, but it should be enough to unlock another two tech nodes. Go back to R&D and get the following: Miniaturization Heavy Rocketry Upgrade the VAB to Level 2 6 - First Kerbals to the Mun For the first manned Mun mission, build this You need a pilot and a scientist for this mission. You want to try for a polar orbit, so you can pass over all the biomes. In each biome, do the following: Observe the materials bay Bob goes EVA Collect data from materials bay Close doors and restore materials bay Store experiments in his pod Do an EVA report Observe the materials bay Collect data from materials bay Close doors and restore materials bay Right click Jeb's pod, and store experiments Bob gets back in Get all available science from LKO, if there's any left to get. Get all available science from High Orbit on the way to the Mun. Get all available science from Mun high orbit as you approach. Get EVA reports above all of the Mun's biomes. To return to Kerbin, make your Pe about 50km If you have the dV, circularize after aerobraking at just above 70km To land near KSC, place your Pe at 19km just above the large peninsula east of KSC You should get about 550 Science from this mission, depending on how many biomes you can get an EVA report of. At this point, you should have enough Science to close out tier 5 of the tech tree. In order to go any further in the tech tree, you will need to upgrade the R & D Complex, which costs about $450,000. Chances are that you currently only have roughly $150,000. Sadly, you will have to work some contracts to scrounge up some cash to make this needed upgrade. My first recommendation is to take any rescue contracts that are offered. It will hone your rendezvous skills, and not only will you not have to pay large sums of funds to hire additional Kerbals, you'll get paid for it. After a few of these missions, it will start to feel a bit repetitive, but adding roughly six to eight Kerbals to your program is going to be pretty helpful in the long run. My second recommendation is to take any contracts that ask you to do the things you were going to do anyway: space stations, satellites (if you're into that kind of thing), etc. Stay away from anything involving parts testing or high altitude surveys. They're garbage and a waste of your time. At this point, you have what you need to land on the Mun and Mimnus, and the Science you grab from fully exploring all of their biomes will easily net you enough Science to unlock everything up to and including Tier 7 of the tech tree. You will then have everything you need to start exploring other planets in style. KSP is fun again. Huzzah! Stay tuned for an upcoming tutorial on how to close out the rest of the entire stock tech tree in just six two more missions... I got the idea for this approach by watching Mark Thrimm's SSTO Space Program series on Youtube. I highly reccommend you check it out, because it's awesome. Feel free to let me know in the comments if I got anything incorrect, or how this approach can be improved. Example ships for all of the missions in this tutorial can be found here. 1 - The Angry Grasshopper.craft 2 - Orbiter One.craft 3 - Orbiter Two.craft 4 - KSC Research Rover.craft 5 - Mun Probe.craft 6 - Munraker One.craft
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