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Are the Spaceplanes the best?


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The answer is simple:

  • Spaceplanes are the best at being spaceplanes.
  • Vertical-launch, staged rockets are the best at being vertical-launch, staged rockets.

:)

Beyond that, there's no way of answering the question without defining "best".  You can play the game either way; it's a matter of taste.  There are people who love spaceplanes, and use them a lot.  There are people who hate spaceplanes (or just love rockets more), and fly vertical-launch rockets.  There are people who like both and use both.

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IMO, it really depends on what you want to do. In a career game, when funds count, I like SSTO's to lift crew, tourists and small payloads into low Kerbin orbit. But I prefer vertical launch rockets for larger payloads or ships.

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I think (?) it's safe to say that spaceplanes offer the lowest cost per ton of payload (or per Kerbal transported) to LKO... provided you are able to land back and KSC and get the initial cost refunded.  

Beyond that, though, just personal preference.  

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It depends.... if my objective is to send something that will never return (a small satellite, for example), i always use rockets.

If the objective is to send something that i need to bring back sometime, and it fits into a cargobay, to i usualy use a Space Plane. I have almost no SSTO in my fleet, because i think its best to put 2 inexpensive droptanks with extrafuel to increase the range and maximum payload weight of a ship.

I have done the Jool5 challenge (An fly by to all jools moons with one ship), so, to do the mission, i used 2 ships: An spaceplane with a smaller Xeon powered spaceship in its cargobay.

The mission happened this way: Spaceplane took off from KSC Runway, drop its tanks at, aproximally 50Km altitude, parked in a 250Km parking orbit, released the Xeon ship. Xeon ship goes to Jool's moons and get back to Kerbin's orbit, re-docked in the Spaceplane, and lands on KSC Runway.... Mission cost: +/- 20000 credits (2 droptanks, +/- 10000 each) + Fuel costs. Mission rewards: lots of science, credits for the mission and lots of fun (which is the more valuable reward of all! <3 )! 

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34 minutes ago, Aegolius13 said:

I think (?) it's safe to say that spaceplanes offer the lowest cost per ton of payload (or per Kerbal transported) to LKO... provided you are able to land back and KSC and get the initial cost refunded.  

Beyond that, though, just personal preference.  

Even this is personal preference. 

Using a expendable multi stage rocket cost more but is much faster. In the time gained you may just do a extra contract and to pay for the higher cost. 

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2 hours ago, Just Jim said:

IMO, it really depends on what you want to do. In a career game, when funds count, I like SSTO's to lift crew, tourists and small payloads into low Kerbin orbit. But I prefer vertical launch rockets for larger payloads or ships.

But in career you also have base and station contracts. While those can be fulfilled with an SSTO, their more limited payload capacity might mean vertically launched rockets can be more profitable if contracts require bigger bases.

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2 hours ago, Aegolius13 said:

I think (?) it's safe to say that spaceplanes offer the lowest cost per ton of payload (or per Kerbal transported) to LKO... provided you are able to land back and KSC and get the initial cost refunded.  

It's also a question of what you're aiming for.  For example, I don't measure the cost of a rocket in funds, but in minutes of my playtime.  I can launch a payload to orbit on a disposable rocket in a tiny fraction of the time it takes me to launch a spaceplane and recover it, especially if I care about precise landing.  With the time saved, I can bang out another contract that nets me a lot more cash than the recovery value of the spaceplane would have been.

I'm not saying spaceplanes are "wrong", because in a game where everyone decides their own goals, there's no such thing.  :)  Just saying that even a supposedly simple concept such as "cheap" can become ... nuanced... depending on what one's priorities are.

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9 hours ago, juanml82 said:

But in career you also have base and station contracts. While those can be fulfilled with an SSTO, their more limited payload capacity might mean vertically launched rockets can be more profitable if contracts require bigger bases.

Exactly what I meant... SSTO's are fine for bringing up tourists and taking them back.... you only pay for the fuel. But in the long run, it's easier to use a vertical rocket for large payloads, or station parts, etc.... 

Edited by Just Jim
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As @Just Jim has said, SSTOs are best for small tasks. They take a lot of fuel and offer very little actual usable cargo room in return. There's also a steep learning curve in flying them. Ferrying passengers, putting small packages into orbit, or even acting as a ferry to larger in-orbit vessels and stations are the extent of what really makes sense. There are some who have made monstrous SSTOs that include everything for colonizing the Mun. Otherwise, the SSTO is pretty limited in what it can do efficiently.

If I can, I'd like to share in the theoretical part of physics. For generations, there has been research into gravity waves, gravity repulsers, and some play with magnetic fields. If these technologies were developed to the extent they become usable, then SSTOs would not be limited to fuel considerations or physic.  At that point, we'd see SSTOs that resemble those spacecraft that we see so often in science-fiction movies and some of the great science-fiction novels.

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Kinda sounds like some of you here are using kinda marginal SSTOs? With enough power, you can deliver a large payload in not a lot more time than a traditional vertical rocket, using less fuel, with 100% recovery.

Did it take many hundreds of hours of practice and detail work to get there? Yes. Did I fly big payloads on rockets before I got there with SSTOs? Yes. Are there some extra-jumbo payloads I will still boost with rockets? Yes. Are those rockets also nearly 100% recoverable? Yes...

One last thing - if you play on Hard mode (for instance) the contract payouts are much reduced, and building upgrade costs are just MURDEROUS. That means - for me at least - the game feels LESS grindy using SSTOs wherever possible rather than running more (often repetitive or unnecessary) contract missions to make up for the cost of disposable hardware. Once KSC is fully upgraded and the tech tree nearing completion, you're back in sandbox and swimming in money, do whatever feels good

Edited by fourfa
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