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Multistage Missions


Gaurdsman111
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Hi there, so, having just begun embarking on my second manned interplanetary mission (to Duna) after my first one hit Ike (I know, i dont know how i managed it, it was both a miracle and a tragedy), and it just made me wonder, how do you guys complete your missions? My craft is built in 3 modules, habitation, lander and engines, and its all assembled in orbit. How many of you assemble them in orbit like me, and how many of you just launch in one big rocket? And are there any other methods for launch you guys use?

Edited by Gaurdsman111
Posted early by accident :3
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Hi there, so, having just begun embarking on my second manned interplanetary mission (to Duna) after my first one hit Ike (I know, i dont know how i managed it, it was both a miracle and a tragedy), and it just made me wonder, how do you guys complete your missions? My craft is built in 3 modules, habitation, lander and engines, and its all assembled in orbit. How many of you assemble them in orbit like me, and how many of you just launch in one big rocket? And are there any other methods for launch you guys use?

I guess it all depends on what you're trying to accomplish, how you want to do it, and what mods you're using. Since things like life support aren't in the stock game, most stock players don't bother with habitation modules, etc (unless they are role playing) and just leave their crews in the lander. In that case, I'd say the most popular setup for an interplanetary mission is to launch a "tug" into LKO followed by a lander. Dock them together and send them on their way to the destination. Use the "tug" to get you there and back, and the lander for landing at the destination and for reentry on Kerbin. When you get back to Kerbin, leave the "tug" in orbit for the next mission. That's pretty much what I do.

If you're playing a career game, you may want to bring along science labs, instruments, etc, depending on what contracts you have to fulfill. Also, if you're using mods that add in life support requirements or make other changes to gameplay, you may need to add more stuff to your "tug", but otherwise, it's usually just a probe core, docking port, fuel tanks, and engines.

A good rule of thumb is to leave behind everything you don't need and build to suit the mission, especially in career where funds can be an issue. In sandbox, you can do whatever you want because cost isn't an issue.

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For simple exploration missions (orbit, science from space, land, science from surface) I try to launch a single vessel with the lander already in the stack. Every now and then I have to launch the two separately.

When I was using life support and such it was almost always two launches or more, crew going up last.

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Yeah I'm using life support, thats why i've got habitation. I'm also in career, so building to suit the mission, funds aren't exactly an issue but they are a constant overhang. The lander is the most complex thing i've ever designed in career, and i'm genuinly proud of what i've managed to build.

Is it more efficient to use a "mothership" style launch?

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First, I design one big rocket:

rq1irRl.png

Get it to orbit in two sections

12095269_10103920539404433_7429022844425493780_o.jpg

12079947_10103920539299643_7804082981841770667_o.jpg

Then I dock the sections and top them off

RyWOErc.png

EZ6XwJt.png

Then of course, land the planes:

kuZeQIo.png

The booster at the bottom was recovered and refueled (in space)

The mid section becomes a station at moho.

The lander at a very top stays at moho

The section below the lander comes back to kerbin for refueling.

The pod is the only part that I recover on kerbin instead of just being directly left in space and reused

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I like one launch if practical, but I also don't like big humongous launchers. About the biggest thing I've ever put in orbit in one launch was about 90 tonnes (v0.90). If more than that, I typically break it up into smaller launches and assemble/refuel it in Kerbin orbit. I try to make my payloads as lightweight as possible.

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Yeah I'm using life support, thats why i've got habitation. I'm also in career, so building to suit the mission, funds aren't exactly an issue but they are a constant overhang. The lander is the most complex thing i've ever designed in career, and i'm genuinly proud of what i've managed to build.

Is it more efficient to use a "mothership" style launch?

Depends what you mean by efficient, and mothership. A big fancy vehicle adds nothing to the mission except self-satisfaction (IE, you wanted to do it just to do it).

gbsEcoM.png

If efficiency is your goal, you want a minimal vessel that meets your needs and nothing more, preferably powered by a reusable tug, nuclear or otherwise. The tug takes your lander+supplies+crew there and back, then you leave it in orbit and refuel it. You could even have your life support tacked on the tug itself.

mz3BHrR.jpg

But in KSP (and in most things) there are two kinds of efficiency. There's cost effective (recoverable) and time effective (disposable). They are mutually exclusive, and anything that saves you money will cost you time and vice versa. There really is no "right" way or "best" way (though, any way that doesn't result in explosions and death is probably better..) to do things. You just need to decide how you want to approach things, and don't let yourself get pigeonholed into doing things a certain way just because someone said this or that.

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I like to limit myself to the tier two launch pad so assembly in orbit is a must for interplanetary.

My current duna exploration vessel required two launches for a Minmus ISRU setup, which brings fuel back for the Duna mothership.

The Duna craft herself needed five launches. The first for an ISRU with hitchhiker and trial life support, second was main booster and tanks, third for rotational habitat, fourth command with life support supplies, fifth was two landers for ore mining on Ike and science.

Peace.

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I've tried out most of the permutations of launching a craft, all the way from launching huge PC Killing monstrosities down to tiny really efficient beautiful craft. I've launched things that started off as space stations and ended up as very modular interplanetary missions. They all worked as well as each other. Each mission taught me something that I used in subsequent missions.

There isn't a best way of doing it but there is the way of doing it that you would enjoy most at the moment I think.

I would say do it that way.

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Generally I launch the mothership in one piece, usually consisting of at least a cupola, one habitation module, a science module and power. I play stock, so I don't necessarily need all this, but I don't like the idea of cooping up my Kerbals in a tight space for years (I recently listened to a podcast about the Gemini missions and, man, the long duration missions in that small two man capsule must have been brutal.) I then dock the lander to it. I get the Kerbals, and stored science back from the mothership to Kerbin via spaceplanes.

The goal so far has been to make one of these mothships completely reusable... so far I have not achieved this goal as the fuel capacity has not been sufficient for a round trip (disposable refuellers have been necessary every time). Although now as I've unlocked mining and refining, the reusablity issue should now be solved.

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I've used various approaches, but I'm leaning towards one launch from Kerbin now, or sometimes one hardware launch and a refuel.

The downside of orbital assembly is lag. You need some way to put it together and if you start putting probe cores, RTGs, RCS blocks, and monoprop on every module the part count adds up. If you use a tug that presents its own challenges, like how you balance the thing. And if the ship is complex and high part count anyway then while lag is never fun it's especially not fun when you're docking. Oh, and the current release of KSP is a performance disaster.

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I've used various approaches, but I'm leaning towards one launch from Kerbin now, or sometimes one hardware launch and a refuel.

The downside of orbital assembly is lag. You need some way to put it together and if you start putting probe cores, RTGs, RCS blocks, and monoprop on every module the part count adds up. If you use a tug that presents its own challenges, like how you balance the thing. And if the ship is complex and high part count anyway then while lag is never fun it's especially not fun when you're docking. Oh, and the current release of KSP is a performance disaster.

The other problem with tugs I've found is that they can be Kraken bait. Especially if you forget struts. I've had two tugs now, usually consisting of four nukes, LF tanks, connected to a central docking point via cubit struts, which tore itself apart the second I docked something to it.

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I've always gone for the 'armada' approach. Gather a space station, landers, crew return module, extra fuel etc in orbit of Kerbin, then dock general-purpose tugs to the payloads. Each ship then gets sent on its way independently and if required, meet up in orbit of the target. More launches but smaller launch vehicles. The spent tugs can be returned to Kerbin along with the crew and reused.

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Before 1.0 I've typically made single-launch missions. With the now improved aerodynamics I tend to bring landers up in a second mission. For more elaborate projects I even assemble everything uncrewed, and bring Kerbals as a last step.

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I found docking to build my ship in orbit to be time consuming enough, that for the most part I've always aimed to do single launch missions, unless the mission is really big. For instance, I did two launches for my Jool-5 mission (not including relaunches of the same section to fix a problem). One was the drive section, and the other was the interplanetary stage with the landers.

And it just keeps getting easier to do single-launches, with the availability of bigger and bigger launch stage parts these days... ;)

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First order of business for me is to build some refuel stations into the needed orbits as I like to make interplanetary trips in a SSTO or with only one or two stages left of a rocket. I usually have a station around Kerbin at 640km, one at ~150km and one around each planet I visited which I use for my return to Kerbin. Once those stations are build I refuel them every 3-5 missions before launching for a new mission.

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I generally launch a single vessel that handles transit, landing, ISRU, etc.

The only thing I dump is the launch stage(usually with parachutes and stage recovery).

Not terribly cost efficient or fuel efficient, but takes very little play-time to set up.

I do this for everything from biome hopping to base missions to training missions to interplanetary exploration vessels.

The biggest change I make outside the cargo hold is a pair of landing gear on the underside of the Mk3 fuselage when I need to use the nose-claw to pick up something landed for return to Kerbin.

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I try to build everything as one part, however I usually use tugs. Either to push things to the edge of Kerbin SOI or continue to the target to be used where.

It also depend on how hard things is to launch, might launch rover and similar seperatly and then dock in orbit.

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I found docking to build my ship in orbit to be time consuming enough, that for the most part I've always aimed to do single launch missions, unless the mission is really big. For instance, I did two launches for my Jool-5 mission (not including relaunches of the same section to fix a problem). One was the drive section, and the other was the interplanetary stage with the landers.

And it just keeps getting easier to do single-launches, with the availability of bigger and bigger launch stage parts these days... ;)

This was under the old aerodynamics, so building wide and complicated was the way to go. I figured I'd show some screenshots of that Jool-5 mission:

Interplanetary and lander(s) section:

0JHC3yx.jpg

Engine section:

eirSvga.jpg

Assembled in orbit:

l3gjwXv.jpg

Album:

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