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First Kerbin escape mission: Advice from one noob to others, hilarity, and humblebrags


Dr.Spacebird
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My highest aim is to a collection of lessons and anecdotes learned the hard way from exploring beyond the Mun. There's some humor along the way- I hope it's appreciated.

By now in my first career I've planted some flags, made some gravity turns, even scribbled some maths, but nothing could prepare me for the long journy of the Ike-razy..

rbW72kQ.jpg

 

In hindsight, it's over-engineered. I've been holding onto this idea of a re-usable lander for a while now. First I built a 10-ton Mk2 lander before I had the full-size docking port unlocked...First words of advice: Clamp-o-Tron Jr. is not a good option here unless you like maneuvering with a jelly noodle.

So anyway I'm headed to Ike with this new 4-ton lander and a good crew now that I have me some humility, and here's the thing about my new clever lander: Make sure your CoM is spot on when something's riding the nose of your rocket! I thought it was good enough...but it was only good enough to keep me drifting southward throughout my ascent...needless to say landing was a bundle of joy as well.

So Jeb is stranded in LKO at the moment and before I realized I was going on a three year trip, I figured he'd be fine. So I took Val, a scientist, and an engineer...or so I thought. Kerbals are tricksy creatures, always double check your crew manifest in between VAB edits. I'm not saying they pulled a switcheroo on me...but I'm not saying they didn't either. The end result was I took Val and two engineers to Ike and back, so much for that science grab...
 

 

I'll gloss over the nitty gritty, there's lots of tutorials for that...I hit my window, escaped Kerbin, I even made a sweet aerocapture around Duna that helped me return to Kerbin with 1000 dV (almost 3x my planned margin!)

So here I am in orbit of Ike...minus 1 RCS block and my lander's solar array...WOOPS!

TCqtO62.jpg

Yeaaaaa...when you're planning an aerocapture, don't skimp on retractable solar panels!!! Or just don't extend them? I dunno...there's a lot of details here. Now, the real mistakes come out...Probably don't cut corners on RCS when you're planning some interplanetary docking business either. I may have decided I didn't need RCS on my lander to dock it which, strictly speaking, you don't.  But, especially when you DO put monoprop on it...just add the thrusters.  Your one pilot will thank you when they don't have to EVA several times to get the un-stabilized crafts situated before docking.  So I docked this sucker with an empty lander floating through space and an asymmetric RCS arrangment.:cool:

 

I'm almost done, promise. Here I am on Ike, and then I have one thought to share about return.

h60GsPm.jpg

Pretty snazzy low-tech lander right? Yea...it's gone now.  To my friends comtemplating interplanetary adventures for the first time: Returning an object to a Kerbin orbit that you actually WANT it to be in from a Hohmann transfer without aerobraking...is hard. Even with the 1000dV I returned to the Kerbin SOI with, There was NO WAY I was putting that glass house into a reasonable orbit...I jettisoned it and let 'er burn!!

So, tl;dr, I like to learn things the hard way, and bite off more than I can chew. Learn from it, laugh at it. I thought I'd contribute something to the forum, it's been a huge help to my space program! :kiss:

To anyone good reading for laffs, I'd love build and maneuvering advice!

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I tend to leave landers in orbit of wherever they landed on, then future missions can refuel and reuse it rather than hauling their own lander.

I suspect RCS cockups are quite common. I've forgotten to turn on symmetry and only put 1 block in instead of 4 on a resupply ship before now, ended up having to manoeuvre the mothership to get them to dock :D 

 

 

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I actually docked two ships without RCS once. That was the last time I will do that.

I used to put OX-STAT panels inside service bays in my early satellites to "reduce the drag during launch." Don't do that, you lose their one advantage: Not having to remember to deploy them. I lost a few early tech satellites to this before I learned my lesson and started putting them on the outside.

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Surprisingly, I find RCS is actually really useful on vertical-descent airless-body landers.  Mostly so it can use some tiny lateral RCS thrusts as it is making its final approach to kill whatever small horizontal velocity it might still have, without having to flip the whole craft around to use the main engines, which in addition to limiting your ability to slow your vertical velocity also risks a lot of over-correction (and ultimately wasted primary fuel.)  

Edited by Fearless Son
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My advice would be not to bother with all that docking malarkey. RCS + docking stuff adds a lot of weight and rendezvous uses up a lot of fuel. Personally I only ever use RCS if making something in orbit as you can get anywhere and back in the system without it. 

You can do Ike and back with a single craft and then fly the lander back to Kerbin for a lot less hassle. In fact you can do Kerbin orbit to Ike orbit to Ike surface and back to Kerbin with a single stage with ion engines. 

 

Edited by Foxster
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4 hours ago, Foxster said:

My advice would be not to bother with all that docking malarkey. RCS + docking stuff adds a lot of weight and rendezvous uses up a lot of fuel. Personally I only ever use RCS if making something in orbit as you can get anywhere and back in the system without it. 

You can do Ike and back with a single craft and then fly the lander back to Kerbin for a lot less hassle. In fact you can do Kerbin orbit to Ike orbit to Ike surface and back to Kerbin with a single stage with ion engines. 

 

That's a good looking Ike-machine. I just found out about that clever storage bay driver trick the other day! And I don't have ion-thrusters yet, but I've done all my Mun landings with a single satellite orbit-landing-return vehicle and the dV costs aren't significantly different for each mission. Great album too, I'm going to be better about documenting missions now that they're such a...well, mission.

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You know, I have the best Rocket design That I currently use. It is called the Tylonian V Due to it being able to launch largish cargo into almost any orbit. I mainly use it for Kerbin system activities. But it has made it to Duna and Almost to Eve. (The eve one was caught on a bad intercept, I would have lost soooooo much fuel if I did a Retrograde burn) This weekend I could totally post an image of it. I think its current cargo weight limit is about 10-15 tonnes. Pretty much, it can hold a Largish rover or a big Orbital Probe. Plus, It always makes it to orbit and is extremely smooth going up. (At first it was extremely vigorous, but that was before duct tape came into play...) So, if you want to see it, just tell me. :) 

 

P.S. It also works very well in bringing up station fuel reserves, if I could figure out how to dock of course. :D

Edited by Obsidian_mc
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Now a funny story to go along with my (mostly) successful cargo hauler. I was trying to get the Kerbollo I (Original name XD) to land on the Mun, but the transfer stage ran out of fuel, the lander had a good amount of fuel, but I was too cautious to send them down there to land. So, they had to use their modified transfer stage (Made to be the Hub for a new station, kill 2 birds with one stone deal) and get into a goodish orbit so they could dock with a fuel tank being sent there. The Fuel stage made it there a lot faster and a lot more fuel efficient than I thought it would, so its orbital stage was still on with a TON of fuel. Spent an HOUR AND A HALF getting the orbits to line up, after about 5 in game days, the orbits finally matched up. Only problem, Apparently putting a "puff" Monopropellant engine would have come in handy, I kept on overshooting it by about 1 kilometer each time. So, I decided to dock WITH THE LANDER. It was a lot easier, but still extremely tough due to the angles of the docking ports. 10 DAMN TIMES I flew by that thing, each time breaking some random part off. After the 11th time, I actually managed to get the two close, then...FULL THRUST BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The thing went flying and i got so enraged, I deleted the save and vowed to never do this sorta thing again. *Sigh* Not a fun time, but funny now. XD 

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22 hours ago, Obsidian_mc said:

Spent an HOUR AND A HALF getting the orbits to line up, after about 5 in game days, the orbits finally matched up. Only problem, Apparently putting a "puff" Monopropellant engine would have come in handy, I kept on overshooting it by about 1 kilometer each time.

Hint of the day: Engines are equipped with thrust limiters.. you might want to look into that. ;)

Edited by JAFO
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2 hours ago, JAFO said:

Hint of the day: Engines are equipped with thrust limiters.. you might want to look into that. ;)

This was a little while ago, I know realize how important those things are. If only I knew :D Now I am planning a project that wont have to be docked in order to be assembled! The Zehonian I & II, These 2 craft are supposed to be assembled in a high orbit, each on coming in 3 parts, cargo, (Where the lander and the "solar sails" are kept) Orbital Module, (For refueling and/or Converting Ore to fuel), and the lander, (You should know what this one is for).Mark I is for exploration use only, the Mark II is meant for mining and refueling other craft in the vicinity. (Mark II is pretty much a mobile Refueling outpost) They should be assembled this weekend and will be doing trials in Eve orbit... (Along with my Jool class rover Mark III and a Kraken Class Flyby/Orbiter Probe, and several other probes attached to the Zehonians, Jesus I am going to probe the Hell outa Eve!) Wish me luck!:cool:

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On ‎20‎/‎01‎/‎2016 at 9:17 PM, Foxster said:

My advice would be not to bother with all that docking malarkey. RCS + docking stuff adds a lot of weight and rendezvous uses up a lot of fuel. Personally I only ever use RCS if making something in orbit as you can get anywhere and back in the system without it. 

Depends what you want to do when you get there, and your own playing style.  You've clearly set yourself the challenge of doing an Ike lander for the minimum weight (and ended up with a really nice looking ship too), but my personal preference (call it role play if you like) is go with something a bit more realistic, and at least send the pilot in a pod, with some science instruments.  This is why I've started using a life support mod, and tend to send bigger missions, such as landing in all Minimus biomes in one mission, 9 landings and very cheap minimus launches for one Kerbin launch and 3 or 4 dockings.

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On 1/20/2016 at 3:17 PM, Foxster said:

My advice would be not to bother with all that docking malarkey. RCS + docking stuff adds a lot of weight and rendezvous uses up a lot of fuel.

No offense meant, but that just means you're bad at it. Once you've practiced enough to get good at rendezvousing and docking efficiently, it pays off hugely. My typical Mun landers are able to rendezvous and dock with the Mun station multiple times with just the Monopropellant in the capsule.
That said, I'm probably too much of a veteran to be allowed to post in this thread xP

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29 minutes ago, parameciumkid said:

No offense meant, but that just means you're bad at it. Once you've practiced enough to get good at rendezvousing and docking efficiently, it pays off hugely. My typical Mun landers are able to rendezvous and dock with the Mun station multiple times with just the Monopropellant in the capsule.
That said, I'm probably too much of a veteran to be allowed to post in this thread xP

Offence taken. I can rendezvous and dock craft no problem. I just very rarely have the need to do it. I don't see any of the huge pay offs you mention. I can plan, built and complete any kind of mission I care to do to anywhere in the Kerbal's system without docking. 

Even returning from a science mission to Eve I just rendevouz with a mothership in orbit and EVA my crew across along with their science and discard the now useless lander.  

I can see the attraction of building craft that way. I just don't happen to care to and was pointing out that I find no practical reason to. For something like a Mun mission it is over-engineering and so is something done as an affectation.  

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