icekatze

Almost successful Dres mining operation

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hi hi

I would like to share with you what has been, for me, quite the learning experience.  Not to mention a mission filled with plotting, thrills, and all the normal kinds of things that happen when you mess with things beyond mortal ken.

It all started out as most of these crazy schemes do, with an over ambitious plan.  My plan to land a mining platform on Ike and put refueling stations in Ike and Duna orbit was going along swimmingly, with a vast fleet of ships in Low Kerbin Orbit, when suddenly... without warning, the orbital trajectory planners down in the labs realized that the next window to launch a mission to Dres was going to happen before the next window for Duna, not afterwards.  Our engineers immediately scrambled to start assembling a space craft, including some never before tested rover designs.  (The winning design was the one that didn't explode, so I figured we were good.)

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Pictured above, the "Rocket Car," rover design passes it's final pre-flight test.  Moments after cutting the main engine, about to safely land on Minmus.

Pictured below, you can see the behemoth craft in orbit, ready to slooooowly boost the entire mining operation into Dres orbit.  I thought docking all those modules together was a pretty impressive feat in its own right, considering the time pressure we were on to get everything out the door on time.  Yes, we knew wobble would be an issue, but we planned to take it nice and slow.  After all, why launch six ships once, when you can launch one ship in six orbits?

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Unfortunately, I apparently managed to find a magical resonant frequency, and the entire thing wobbled apart while mission planners looked on helplessly.  After about 5 minutes of thrust, we noticed the first signs of wobbling, so we cut engines and planned to pick up again on the next orbit, but the wobbling didn't stop.  So then we cut SAS and RCS too, thinking that might allow it to settle down, but the wobbling only got worse.  After several more minutes, with no control inputs or thrusting of any kind, several of the modules on the extremities converted themselves from space ships into fireworks.  Luckily, I was able to rescue the crew.  And thanks to the good work by our legal department, their contracts still required them to go on the mission.

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Above, you can see the shotgun style approach used to send the hastily rebuilt fleet toward the mid-course plane change points.  (I learned a very important skill during this mission: making very precise adjustments to my encounter trajectory with RCS thrusters while at the ascending/descending node, rather than during the initial burn.  Also, estimating orbital angles by eyeball is hard.)

Pictured below, you can see one of the surface-to-orbit fuel tankers making its capture burn into orbit around Dres.

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Of course, before the entirety of my Dres fleet had arrived at their destination, it was time to start launching my Duna/Ike mission.  With my experience launching the Dres fleet, I was able to launch the eight vessel Duna/Ike fleet in less than two days.

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Pictured above is the surface refinery module for Ike, with detachable landing boosters, about to be launched with a big interplanetary nuclear booster.

Once the second fleet was out the door though, I had to switch back and make sure the first fleet made it into orbit alright.  Lucky for me, I had at the very least, two hours between intercept maneuvers.  Most of them were a few days apart though, so it all worked out.  You can see the Dres orbital refueling station here, just after it finished parking itself in a roughly circular orbit around 99,000 meters above Dres's equator.  Still needs to have the refueling rig land before it can fill those tanks though.

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While Gralyn Kerman was conducting a low altitude (23,000 meter) survey scan of the equatorial region, in hopes of finding an ideal flat spot for the refinery, I noticed a little flag icon appear on the scanner.  With curiosity at maximum, Gralyn (the tire repair expert) set the rocket car down to take a closer look.  Driving approximately 3 kilometers from the touchdown spot to the point of interest, she managed to avoid flipping the rover even once.  She might have made a good pilot as well as an engineer. (I still need to work on precision landing without the aid of targeting beacons from already landed craft.)

the_best_spot.png

Turns out, we had stumbled across the landing site of the very first mission to Dres I had made, all those years ago.  The mood at mission control was celebratory, little did we know what waited in store for us.  Instead, with this historic landing accomplished, the Ike crew wanted their shot at the spotlight.

Also, we really needed to get some rocket fuel up to the orbiting tanker, because somewhere along the line, the Duna survey probes' engines turned on and they drained all their propellant.  And since we had to drain some propellant out of the Duna lander's tanks to get the probes on their way, nobody in mission control was willing to send Jebediah and company down to the surface until the refueling mission was complete.  Believe you me, Jeb was none too happy about having to wait.  I think.  It is really hard to tell, he always seems happy.

ike_dualtrucks.png

Above, you can see the tanker trucks on final approach to the flattest spot I could find near Ike's equator.  We all had a bit of a scare when one of the techs pointed out, "Hey, did anyone realize that one of the docking nodes never latched down properly?  That's probably why it's dancing about so much."  But we were able to set them down after only a couple false starts.

Unfortunately, this is when disaster struck.  When I focused back on the Dres mission, Grelyn's lander craft was nowhere to be seen!  It had just vanished, possibly a victim of the once notorious Space Kraken.

gralyn.png

She was a brave Kerbal, and she will be missed.  Now, it is up to me to see if I can find funding to continue the mission, or if the entire Dres Base will need a rescue craft to come and bring home the surviving crew.

Edited by icekatze

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hi hi

I wasn't sure I would ever be able to drum up public support for a rescue mission to bring home the remaining Dres mining crew.  But it would seem the project got a second lease on life just now.  Or at least a one point five~th lease on life.  In order to build a ship under budget, I'm going to have to take the ore refinery and support equipment down blind since the survey rover was destroyed, and use that to refuel the rescue craft once it reaches Dres orbit.  Oh, and also bring everyone up safe and sound.

That rescue mission is underway, and I hope to have some screenshots sometime in the relatively near future.  But there is something I can report on to the committee for the identification and elimination of dangerous extradimensional beings, I believe I may have found the culprit for Gralyn's mysterious death.  It seems there is a rather mischievous space kraken around Dres that likes to toss objects into the sky when you're not looking.  Already it has tried to toss some debris and one of my refueling trucks into the sky.

Here is photographic evidence recovered by our brave Dresonauts.

dres_kraken1.png

Above, we can see the Dres Escape Vehicle on final approach to Gaspump Crater.  (The long lens on the orbital station is really something else.)  There is still enough Delta V in the Dres Insertion Booster to take the DEV all the way to the surface, and so I used that for the majority of the landing just in case the refueling station fails.  (The DEV has enough propellant for a one way trip, and would otherwise need to be refueled on the ground before it could rescue anyone.)

dres_kraken2.png

Above you can see the DEV has safely touched down after jettisoning the main booster.  The booster was separated at an altitude of about 100 meters, and had a semi-soft landing nearby, prior to the DEV touching down.  (Semi-soft, in that only 3/4ths of the booster was destroyed.)

dres_kraken3.png

But after only a short time of busying themselves with rummaging through the snack drawer, when the on site commander checked the navigational display, the main booster had been tossed almost exactly 3000 meters straight up.  Where it promptly began falling to the ground a second time.

We weren't able to get any photographs of the Kraken itself, but our top scientists assure me that it is both scaly and gross.

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hi hi

After more than two (in-game) years, I'm happy to announce that our space program has completed its rescue operations on the planet Dres, and all of the surviving Dresonauts have been returned safely to Kerbin.  Um... no, there weren't any problems along the way, why do you ask?  You read about it in the paper?  Who told them!?  ... Er, I mean... Look over there!

...

It looks like the flight director left some laundry on the stove, so I will attempt to conclude the presentation and answer any questions you may or may not have.  As was already stated, we didn't have the budget, or the motivation, to build a rocket that could go both ways on a single tank of propellant.  So that meant taking the mining rig down without scouting out a flat landing site. 

As you will see, missing that crucial step did indeed come back to haunt us.

drescue_landingrig_blind.png

In the above picture, you can see that we had a relatively good idea of where the necessary ore was from our orbiting probes, but the terrain was a total mystery. 

Also, the mining rig handles like a giant... non-handling... thing...  Look, the point is it's really hard to control. 

Also also, the mission scientist was running some experiments to see how snacks behave in freefall, and managed to spill soda on the guidance console.  So after the de-orbit burn, we had to set the rig down without any maneuver nodes.

drescue_notflat.png

As you can see above, the randomly picked landing spot was... horizontally challenged.

Spoiler

drescue_roverlanding_kraken.png

Now, I don't want to alarm anyone, so look away if you are easily frightened.  But while in the process of landing the mining equipment and launching the refueling craft, we captured multiple images of the Space Kraken. 

As you can see, it is his holding some of the lander debris aloft, and it is scaly and gross. 

What is that?  No, our top scientists have assured me that only the smartest people can actually see the Kraken in the photos, and I am a smart person.

In any case, Dres mission command finished setting up the refueling station, and they even managed to recover one of the tanker trucks that had been flung into the air by the Kraken.  I don't know what they used to repair the wheels, or why they call it the air when there isn't actually any air, but it worked out in the end.

Spoiler

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drescue_drifting2.png

The mood in mission control was up beat.  The Space Kraken was throwing everything it had at us, and we were still alive and kicking somehow. 

Mining on the hillside proved to be even more difficult and dangerous than we originally thought, but somehow we were still able to move forward.  Well, unless we had a tanker full of fuel aimed uphill.  As you can see above, with a full load of fuel, our tanker truck has accelerated to 12 meters per second with the brakes on, going downhill.  Even craft without wheels found themselves sliding in the regolith. 

The refueling lander also slid downhill for several minutes before finally coming to a halt, after returning from space.

Spoiler

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drescue_refuelinglander.png

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Even through all of that, we were able to get the fuel where it needed to be.  Sure, the refueling truck's automated grabbing arm failed, and wouldn't latch on to the DEV, until we pushed it about 100 meters up onto an incline so that the angle was better.  Thankfully, the landing legs were able to handle the strain.

With everything squared away in orbit, it was time to pack up and leave the mining facility behind.  We had everyone double and triple check to make sure there were no stowaways hiding in one of the snack bins, then Hilayne Kerman shut down the mining gear, folded up the solar panels and radiators, and turned out the lights one last time, before making the long walk to the Dres Escape Vehicle herself.

Spoiler

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It was a textbook liftoff, rendezvous, and docking; even though the engineers forgot to put any way for the DEV to generate electricity, and the SAS system was out of electricity the entire time.  (Or maybe because of that, it was a textbook liftoff, considering the way the rest of this mission went.)  As you can see above, the DEV is coming in for docking with no electricity, but still some monopropellant to spare.

Now that we had some assurance that we could actually refuel on arrival, I called in the mission planners to start talking about launch windows.  We still had about a year to design and build the rescue craft.  But there was one hitch in the plans.

drescue_closeplot.png

Our best calculations showed that we would need to leave on Year 15, day 266, and leave on Year 17, day 44.  The problem was, most of our attempts at plotting a course left us arriving on or after the 44/17.  We knew that the margin of error in our burns would be much smaller than we were used to, even though the rescue craft was as over-engineered as we could afford to make it.

drescue_pad.png

Enter the rescue craft!  Since we were on a budget, the entire first stage ended up being solid rocket boosters.  That made it difficult to get an ideal ascent profile, but we wanted to be as high as we could before the skippers kicked in anyways.  The skippers were also chosen because we were on a budget.

drescue_rescue_1ststage.png

As you can see, the gravity turn didn't work out terribly smoothly by the time the first stage was ready to separate.  But good ol' Staxie Kerman wasn't about to complain.  Those skippers worked like a charm too.  Not even a single one of them failed to light!

Spoiler

drescue_cleanup.png

Also, since this is an environmentally friendly space program, we always try to clean up our debris.  With what little DeltaV we had left in the second stage, we were able to send them all back to Kerbin. 

What is that?  No, I'm sure they didn't land on anything important.

Spoiler

drescue_midplane1.png

Above, you can see the rescue craft plotting its mid course plane change maneuver.  Considering that we were eyeballing the ejection angle, fudged the ejection angle to narrowly avoid a Mun encounter, and then didn't quite pull off the main burn correctly, I'd say we did pretty well on the Delta V budget overall.  Sure, the rescue craft had about 1.8 times the suggested propellant that all the interplanetary maps suggested, but we probably could have gotten away with 1.5 if someone made tanks in that size.

drescue_approach.png

As you can see above, the rescue crew is thrilled to be arriving at Dres, and they even managed to get there a few days ahead of schedule.  Of course, considering their velocity, they were even more thrilled to discover that the rescue ship had enough thrust to achieve capture before they escaped Dres' sphere of influence on the other side.

Spoiler

drescue_leavestation.png

For once, things went according to plan.  Docking with the Dres orbital station went smoothly.  We did another double, triple, and quadruple check of all the spare compartments to make sure there were no extra kerbals or space squirrels hiding in them, before folding up the extra panels, refueling, and blasting off for home again. 

What did you say?  No, I cannot confirm or deny the existence of space squirrels.  All I can say is that getting the ejection angle right is easier around Dres than it is around Kerbin, at least when you're burning on a single nuclear booster. 

Also, it is still easier, even when one of the pilots does a repeat performance of the freefall snack experiment, and all maneuver nodes get knocked out in the middle of the burn.  Thankfully, we still had enough Delta V to eyeball it.

drescue_kerbreturn.png

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And so, after a long, long, long, long period of waiting, both the rescue crew and the surviving members of the Dres mining expedition have returned to Kerbin Orbital Space Port, where they will either ride a shuttle down to the surface, or be sent back out on another mission.

Thank you for your time and support!  :D

Edited by icekatze

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