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This contains my entry for the Caveman Challenge 1.11 (its about completing the tech tree without upgrading buildings) Below I will explain my missions and strategy to accomplish this. The "Diamond" level of the Caveman Challenge is just career mode with the following limitations No upgrading any buildings Custom difficulty Every slider on the lowest/harshest setting Except for science gains at 20% Details can be found on the Caveman challenge topic You win when all Tier 5 tech tree nodes have been unlocked That sounds simple enough, but so many advanced features are linked to building upgrades Kerbals cannot EVA in flight, no flags No fuel transfers No orbital trajectory predictions, or maneuver nodes Launch mass, height, and part count No quick saves/reverts In short, if you think you got the hang of KSP by now because you have done Eve accent missions, or low dv transfers via slingshots, this challenge might put a bite back into the game! I'll try to organize all the images in an imgur/google-drive album, with minimal pictures here to have an easier reading experience. Simply open up the album in a separate window to view the entirety of it. Overall strategy goals (which inevitably fails, but it guides well enough) Get some surplus funds in the bank. Enough funds so that the next launch won't bankrupt you if when it fails Unlock all the science experiments. One thorough clean sweep over the KSC is easier than going back many times This is not entirely possible though, since you need science to get science experiments Missions that cannot be 100% recovered, cost funds. Unless they are offset with contracts, or world first records Hopping a Flea booster around the KSC is almost free Dropped stages on the way to orbit are expensive Unlock the high ISP Terrier engine. This makes Mun/Minmus missions reliable and easy Post construction for Minmus biome hopping Docking fuels pods in orbit. Got a manned capsule with ~6000m/s dv. Interplanetary travel is still difficult, but it now has a big safety margin (?) Stranded engineer in orbit . Rather put a scientist in EVA orbit, they can re-use heavy science pods (engineers aren't much more useful than dockings ports already are...for in this situation though) (?) Docking boosters onto hanging rockets on the launch pad. Works wonders, less effort than 2x launches, and results in almost 3x payload to LKO (without needing more probe cores, so it becomes cheaper than 2x launches) (?) An engineer with many assistants could build Spark-engine-boosters Lessons learned Research tech nodes very carefully. Docking ports and Juno engine(with the basic aircraft wheels) were essential to my missions, but Rover wheels only got used once Nodes with science parts obviously bring in more science Adding Thumper boosters to launch vehicles reduces cost per ton of payload, since you can double the payload, but don't have to double the controlling probe core Caveman comms can reach the Mun, so early probe landings are an easier way of getting science Minmus comms might be possible after many satellite contracts Docking without RCS is obviously harder, but don't overcomplicate it with weird designs Kerbals can EVA infinitely by moving their EVA pack into/out of containers The Start Album 1 The settings: So we start out with zero funds, zero science, and zero negative 1000 reputation That's fine, well make money after the first launch, unless we can't launch without any funds! What we do is...roll the dice. If you are lucky, you will get 2 contracts which give 600+ funds in advance. We then use that to launch the first business vehicle (getting funds is the top priority now, science we will only be taken if its free) Be extremely careful when clicking to accept contracts: Miss-clicking the red decline button will cost you probably all the funds you have (some have a penalties of like -90 000) Accepting a contract that you are not ready to complete yet, can become a heavy ball-and-chain on your space program Some contracts cannot even be declined Declining contracts are expensive 1 less slot for active contracts in flight make it difficult to be profitable in launches Lucky enough with those funds, I "launched" this...thing. There was hope that pressing spacebar with that empty booster would count towards the "launch first vessel" contract (spoiler, it doesn't) Now take crew reports, EVA the kerbal since we are landed and take EVA reports as well. Shove those EVA reports into the capsule to take new reports. An easy EVA report here, is to climb on top of the capsule and jump off! When in mid air, click the "EVA Report" button. After that, run up to the Crawlerway towards the KSC buildings. The Crawlerway gives another EVA report. Run back to the capsule, drop the EVA report, and run down to the beach. There's more EVA reports there, as well as some "World First Contracts" on the way (thanks to one of the masters of this challenge for pointing out that trick) This nets a total of...a puny amount of science. Need a tiny bit more for the first tech node. Make a simple hopper rocket on the runway, launch it towards the KSC and collect the science. Do not use decouplers on the Flea booster...rather land it together with the capsule to get the recovery funds back. Remember to make a habit of removing the Kerbal inventory items, and also any ablator in the heatshields (if you are carrying those). Once we have 5 science, we unlock the tech node with the thermometer science part. Getting new science opportunities is very important here, but science itself takes 2nd priority (it will make sense in a minute). Dropping spent contracts Album 2 I'm still stuck with that "Escape atmosphere" contract, taking up a valuable slot of the total 2 slots we have for contracts. To cash in on it, we launch...a thing! Its simple really, get the capsule up to +70km, but also safely back down, or risk having 1 kerbal less. It is tempting to do this before unlocking decouplers, but its not worth the risk. Even a Flea booster on the back of a capsule can be enough to flip it, into a really aerodynamically stable orientation. Those dart too quickly into the ground for parachutes to even open up. So add a decoupler between the capsule and the Flea (but point the decoupler downwards to save some recovery cost). The Hammer booster can be hot-staged: no decoupler used, just fire up the Flea right before the Hammer is empty (when it has about 1 second of fuel left, or 100m/s dv in the readings). It is important to catch this earlier rather than later (a late burn will cause the Hammer to not explode off the craft as soon as it should, while blocking the Flea's thrust) Get some science on the way up. In this launch science experiments can be done when Landed, and in low atmosphere (-30km?), and in high atmosphere (-70km), and again in space. You will have to choose which ones you want, since you can't carry them all without more science containers. The landing happened in the mountains (yeah fresh science! but, dangerous steep slopes) I couldn't get the capsule to stay put without SAS on (in order to EVA the Kerbal). So i decided to not risk getting outside for a tumble The craft name in the mission debriefing explained the entire purpose of this launch. This got lots of useful science, and even some funds, but the best part is it opened up the extra contract slot! Eternal balance, science vs funds Album 3 What follows is a bit of a grind to get enough funds for bigger missions. If done thoughtfully, you can also get science along the way. Go get some contracts that specialize in simple tests: Test on launch pad Test parachutes at less than 10km (just check that the speed range is attainable) Haul parts up to altitude Anything that you can do while hopping around the KSC will fit. Then just aim for a different KSC buildings each time Its not a ton of science, but it adds up soon enough Orbit Kerbin Album 4 We got a contract and word first records to fund this mission - getting into Kerbin orbit. Building under the strict limitations, I found an interesting bit of info: The Reliant engine is better than the Swivel engine under some circumstances. That sounds plausible, but here I found that even when the vast majority of engine usage happens in a vacuum, the Reliant (with a worse vacuum Isp) still beats the Swivel in terms of dv (and of course thrust as well). This is due to the Reliant having less mass than the Swivel. It misses out on gimbaling though, but that's not necessary for this craft being well balanced and in space most of the time. This effect is very apparent when comparing a Terrier engine to a Spark engine, on a single 2t fuel tank. They almost break even at that mass (depending on the payload of course), but unless lots of thrust is needed, you are better off with the Spark since it has less mass for the previous stages to push around. Pretty typical launch. This shape is very aerodynamic, so get that trajectory flat quite early. A trick I use to know if my launch is going well: Open up that orbit info tab (purple button, bottom left corner of the screen) Keep the Apoapsis minus current altitude to less than 10km apoapsis= ~37km, altitude= ~30km, apoapsis - altitude = ~7km, (which is less than 10km) This works well for the part of the launch where your speed is between 500m/s - 2000m/s At the launch pad, the results of this is obviously bogus Near final orbit, its not that useful anymore So when that difference gets greater that 10km, i ease up on the throttle. Below 10km, and i throttle up a bit This is probably TWR dependent, so make that "10km" threshold whatever works best Got into a safe (but ugly) orbit, its fine, its +90% successful if you could measure that. What now? Don't deorbit yet, listen to the music and stuff, but more importantly press escape, go to the contracts building. Check if they have a new contract, like "Return to Kerbin from orbit". Its free money! We have been using fuel very sparingly and efficiently up until now (either it costs funds, or we need it to make orbit, always an excuse). Now, that fuel is going to be crashing into Kerbin, might as well use it while you got it. Use as much as you need for a reentry close to the KSC Caveman diamond rules set the reentry heat to 120%. I have never tried that before, this was my first time. I was afraid Jeb couldn't take the heat, so I packed a heatshield (empty out that ablator though, its just extra mass). After this reentry, I know its not that harsh at all. Gentle reentries could survive without one I think. Got near perfect reentry profile that landed me just beyond the tip of the runway. Also congratulations Jeb on that promotion! Challenge the Mun Album 5 At this point, I wanted to do that Mun contract, but didn't have the Terrier engine. Without it, even a stripped down command pod vessel could barely reach the Mun. I tried to attain the extra science needed with the famous KSC roller! It failed miserably, the Materials bay I added in the center exploded after exceeding 6m/s. So i added sturdy...wheels?. That wasn't controllable at all. I did some more KSC hops, maybe I could source the little bit of science needed locally. That didn't seem like the easier way I knew that if i could just do 1 Mun flyby, I would get loads of science and cash. Im going to say Jeb convinced me to do it, and that it was out of my hands, but we are launching for a Mun flyby! We are using a similar design as the first orbit vessel (didn't get enough science for new parts, so it feels a bit like the middle ages over here). Same trick as before, the Reliant engine actually performs slightly better as a vacuum engine here. Get into a nice orbit. To intercept the Mun: Draw a vertical line through Kerbin Measure the angle from the top, clockwise towards the Mun If that angle is 45°, its time to do that trans-munar injection burn When your craft is at the bottom of that vertical line, just burn prograde When your Apoapsis touches the Mun's orbital line, stop burning I think 55° is slightly better, but its hard enough measuring this by eye so we all just say 45. In hindsight, don't set the trajectory beyond the Mun, rather let it barely touch the Mun's SOI to be safe. Running on fumes! Good thing the calculations were correct, there is still fuel left. If all goes well, it will be enough fuel to get back to Kerbin. Got a dangerous intercept here. Try burning towards the "other" radial () marker, that should push our orbit so that we don't get a slingshot into interplanetary space. That Earth Kerbin-rise never gets old "If all goes well"...I jinxed it by saying This could be really bad, we don't have enough fuel to change much about the orbit, we don't have fancy upgrades that show us predictions about encounters...Jeb's fate is pretty much locked into whatever the Mun wants to do with this now. After lots and lots of slingshots, the Mun finally messed up while toying with Jeb. This ended up on a trajectory somewhat past Minmus, we have a chance to hit the atmosphere with this tiny bit of fuel! At Apoapsis, check the orbit velocity and compare that to the total dv in the craft. If you can cancel most of that orbital velocity, you will be falling almost straight down to Kerbin, hopefully drowning some of that excess kinetic energy into Kerbin's atmosphere. Remember to drop the bottom half of the craft earlier rather than later, tumbling head first is something i have not tested yet. Landed at a pretty crater Enough science for the all important Terrier engine, this was quite stressful ... More to come!