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Hello fellow KSP players. I am relatively new to making SSTOs but I noticed that some of the planes have a hard time going into orbit even with enough fuel. I’m curious if it’s my ascent profile or my angle of attack and I was wondering if there is a preferred profile for certain types of space planes. Thanks in advance.
This is an in-depth tutorial, but still directed to beginner-intermediate players, on how to do a proper launch and gravity turn with the new aerodynamic model introduced as of version 1.0. This tutorial works for versions 1.0 to 1.3. More than giving a script or set of instructions, my goal with this tutorial is for you to gain an understanding of the factors that affect your rocket's behavior during launch, so that you can apply it to any rocket you fly. For that, you'll need to go through the entire post, but I'm also including a TLDR as a "cheat sheet": TL;DR (courtesy of @kBob) 1. Turn ON SAS and set throttle to give TWR of ~1.5. 2. Launch! 3. When your speed reaches 50 m/s, perform a pitch over maneuver (tip towards the East until pointing between 5° to 10°). 4. When SAS stabilizes (i.e. the control input arrows on the bottom left are all centered), turn it OFF. Avoid control inputs and use only throttle to control your gravity turn (throttle up to turn slower, throttle down to turn faster). 5. When your altitude reaches ~40 km, turn SAS ON. Start pitching down manually towards the horizon and adjust throttle to keep your Ap around 45 seconds in front of you. 6. When your Ap reaches the desired altitude, cut your engines, coast to Ap and circularize. ========================================================================================== General Notes on Gravity Turn You all probably know by this point that to get into orbit you need to go up, above the atmosphere, but you also need to go sideways (i.e. horizontally) very fast. To do this, we could launch straight up until we're out of the atmosphere, then point sideways and accelerate to orbital speed. But that would be very inefficient. We want to launch in a way that we gradually turn sideways while we ascend. This is called a gravity turn. The best way is to do a real gravity turn; that is, a turn caused by gravity and aerodynamic forces, rather than one achieved by actively turning the rocket. It is important to keep this in mind. Design Items Before even launching, you need to take these design items into consideration when building your rocket: TWR: Your thrust-to-weight ratio (TWR) at launch should be relatively low, around 1.5. A higher TWR at the beginning of the launch makes it harder for your rocket to turn naturally, as gravity will have less influence on its trajectory, making it fly straight and screwing up your gravity turn. Keep in mind that drag losses are almost negligible in the new aero, unless your rocket is shaped like a brick or you are going extremely fast in the lower atmosphere. Thus, a slightly higher TWR of around ~2.0 in theory is more efficient, but only if the launch profile is flown correctly. The drawback is it makes your rocket less forgiving in terms of control during ascent, and it shortnes your widnow to make a pitch-over maneuver. What usually ends up happening is that you have to force the gravity turn manually, which does generate significant drag (because you expose the sides of your rocket to the airstream anytime you deviate from your prograde vector), and causes steering losses (Dv wasted on changing direction rather than gaining velocity). This reduces overall efficiency and defeats the purpose of having a higher TWR to begin with. A higher TWR also causes increased stress to the craft, inducing wobble and risking a RUD, especially when trying to maneuver. You may experience heating issues too. For these reasons, in my experience, a TWR of ~1.5 is a good sweet spot between efficiency and controllability of the rocket. Smaller and lighter rockets handle higher TWR's better than big and heavy ones and each craft will have its own sweet spot; you are encouraged to experiment. If you find your TWR at launch is too high, either use a smaller engine or just throttle down, and vice versa. As a final note, all rockets will have their TWR go up as the launch progresses due to shedding weight by burning fuel. This is normal and you should manage by reducing throttle throughout the ascent as needed (more on this below). You can check your TWR with the Kerbal Engineering Redux mod (KER) or with MechJeb, or if you're running a stock game, the G Force meter roughly doubles as a TWR meter (if the G Force meter is pointing at 1 your TWR is roughly 1, and so on). Aerodynamic Stability: You want your rocket to be aerodynamically stable. That means that it will have a natural tendency to fly straight, instead of, say, sideways. Any object that flies through the atmosphere will naturally orient itself with its center of mass (COM) facing forwards relative to its trajectory and its center of drag (COD) facing backwards. You can see this in darts, arrows, badminton cocks, etc. Similarly, you will want to have your rocket's COM in front of your COD. To ensure this, add 3 or 4 winglets or wing surfaces with radial symmetry at the base of the rocket, and if possible cover your payload in a fairing to make it more streamlined. If your rocket insists on flipping, you need to add more/larger wings at the bottom. If that still doesn't fix it, it means your COM is shifting back too much as fuel is burnt. The heaviest part of a rocket in KSP is usually the main ascent engine(s), so the COM will tend to move back as fuel is spent. The easiest way to fix this is to add a small fuel tank at the top of the stage that's experiencing the problem and lock the tank in the VAB (right click on the tank and select the green arrows for both fuel and oxidizer). This fuel tank will act as ballast keeping your COM forward. You can unlock it manually in flight when the rest of the stage's fuel is gone so as to not waste it, and then stage as normal. Ascent Profile Once you've implemented the above design items, follow these steps for your ascent: 1. Turn on SAS and set your throttle to whatever will give you a TWR of ~1.5. 2. Launch! 2. As soon as your speed hits 50 m/s, perform a pitch-over maneuver to begin your gravity turn. To do this, tip your rocket towards the East slightly, until it is pointing between 5° to 10°. Don't start pitching over before your speed is ~50 m/s, otherwise you will likely find yourself horizontal within a few seconds, as your winglets won't be biting into the air hard enough to provide stability. The higher your thrust, the more you need to pitch over initially, because higher thrust makes the rocket want to go straight. If you're using a TWR higher than 1.5, your pitch-over should be to at least 10°. 3. As soon as your SAS stabilizes (i.e. the control input arrows on the bottom left are all centered) turn off the SAS. Watch closely for this moment, as you will have only a small window of a few seconds at most before the SAS starts trying to resist the gravity turn. Turning SAS off while it's trying to steer will cause your rocket to become unstable and lose its heading or possibly break up. You should be done with your pitch-over maneuver and have your SAS turned off by the time your velocity is around 100m/s. If you take too long and your rocket is going too fast by the time you're done, it won't want to continue turning (fast rockets like to go straight, remember?) and you'll have to force the turn manually, which is inefficient and causes stress on your craft. As mentioned above, a gravity turn should happen on its own and not as a result of control input. For particularly unwieldy rockets, you can lock SAS to prograde instead of turning it off during this phase. However, stock SAS is far from perfect and it's best to let gravity and aerodynamic forces do the steering for you. If you do use SAS, be sure to disable it before you hit 35 km to avoid you craft from jolting down suddenly when the navball automatically switches to orbit mode, which happens at around 35 km. 4. Enjoy the view while your prograde marker gradually sinks towards the horizon; your rocket will follow on its own thanks to gravity and aerodynamic forces. Try to avoid control inputs during this phase (i.e. no AWSD), just let it fly. If you need to make adjustments, use throttle. Remember, lower thrust means the rocket turns more, higher thrust makes it want to go straight. At about 10 km altitude, you should be pointing roughly to 45° and your speed should be around 500 m/s. If at 10 km altitude you're still pointing above 45°, your TWR was too high and you went too fast and/or your pitch-over maneuver was too gentle. Next time throttle down more or make a more aggressive pitch-over maneuver. On the other hand, if you're pointing below 45° at 10 km, you went too slow and/or your pitch-over maneuver was too aggressive. Next time use higher thrust or do a gentler pitch-over maneuver. If your rocket flips on its end at any point, it's not aerodynamically stable enough. See above under "Aerodynamic Stability" for possible solutions. 5. At around 40 km altitude, turn SAS back on and start steering manually; use pitch and throttle to keep your Ap around 45 seconds in front of you. Any time you're burning above the horizon, you're wasting part of your thrust to gravity instead of gaining horizontal speed; this is called gravity losses or gravity drag. In the initial stages of the launch, you can't help incurring gravity loses because you need to gain vertical speed to get out of the atmosphere. The atmosphere also means you can't steer away from the prograde vector without inducing aerodynamic drag, steering losses and/or destabilizing your rocket. However, by the time you get to ~ 40 km, you'll have enough vertical speed and the atmosphere will become negligible. Thus, at this point you want to begin gradually pitching down towards the horizon. During this phase, you will also start adjusting your time to Ap. It's most efficient to perform your orbital insertion burn right at Ap, so you want to keep it "hovering" only a few seconds in front of you. Of course, you don't want to it to get too close either, otherwise you risk passing it and falling back down into the atmosphere. A time to Ap of ~45 seconds is a good rule of thumb to balance safety and efficiency. To control your time to Ap, use pitch and throttle. If your time to Ap is more than 45 sec, throttle down a bit and point more horizontal, and vice versa. Avoid pitching below the horizon. Continue adjusting pitch and throttle until your Ap reaches your desired altitude, at which point you can cut your engines, coast to Ap and circularize. Note that as you approach orbital speed, there will be a point when your Ap will begin shooting away even if pointing straight at the horizon and no matter how much you throttle down (unless you cut the engines of course). If you reach this point, just let it go until engine cutoff; any efficiency gains from keeping your Ap near you will be negligible by then. Advanced Mode Try doing the ascent and orbital insertion in a continuous burn. This is the most efficient profile (citation needed) and it's extremely satisfying. Easier said than done, though. To pull it off, you need to allow your time to Ap to creep closer and closer during steps 4 and 5, while not allowing it to get higher than your intended orbital altitude. You do this by reducing throttle and lowering your pitch in a more aggressive manner. The closer you are to orbital velocity, the closer you can allow yourself to get to your Ap. You want to hit orbital velocity exactly at Ap. There will be much trial and error and the exact procedure will vary from rocket to rocket, but give it a try!
I was wondering what is the delta v for going into orbit and the specific thrust to weight ratio and medium to small lander examples? I am new to Eve but I have been to other planets though. I have sent probes and failed Landers btw.