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Building an MKS base on Laythe


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MKS is a suite of mods from RoverDude with a focus on building bases and colonisation.  It adds eleven resources that you can mine, along with various refineries to convert these raw materials into processed goods that can then be used for maintaining a colony.  It also adds an additional level of difficulty where your kerbonauts must have large, decent accomodation and supplies so that they won't go stir-crazy.

The goal here is to establish a fully sustainable surface base on Laythe - if a moon like Laythe existed in our own solar system with oxygen at reasonable pressure in the atmosphere, liquid water on the surface and 80% of earth's gravity, it would be the prime target for colonisation.  However, this isn't easy - because of the atmosphere and the gravity, the landings are challenging.

First the mod list:

MKS - colonisation mod from RoverDude, including life support.

Planetary Base Systems - effectively serves as an extension to MKS giving more part options for life support recyclers, habitation, and various other things.

Extra-planetary Launchpads - Allows building of rockets on other planets given sufficient resources to do so.

Easy Vessel Switcher - Allows you to Alt-left click to switch to a nearby vessel.  Pretty much essential when you have a dozen craft on the ground.

KIS/KAS - Inventory system and Attachment systems.  Allows you to detach and reattach parts, and to join vessels together for resource transfer.

MechJeb - Doesn't really help with flying the planes but setting up and executing maneuvers in space.

NearFuture - gives me a few additional options regarding nuclear engines and batteries - nothing game breaking and more to save on part count than anything else.

PlanetaryDomes - allows the construction of cool looking surface bases

SXT - Stock extensions.  Allows electric propellers, sea plane floats and additional plane parts.

TacFuelBalancer - Allows dumping and equalising of fuel easily.

I also have a few mods like FinalFrontier, PlanetShine, ScanSat, UnmannedBeforeManned installed that don't really impact the mission but add convenience or fun stuff.  I do have HyperEdit installed too, but it wasn't used apart from simulating transfer of nuclear fuels (I can do it without hyperedit but it's such a faff - note to @RoverDude - please make this easier!!)

Early Experiments

The first job was really to test if I could actually get stuff to Laythe, and land it relatively accurately.  For that purpose, an initial ISRU-refueller type plane was designed and landed on Laythe, called Heron One:


As it's an SSTO plane, it was flown into Kerbin orbit before being docked to a shunt that could transport it to Laythe.  This certainly wasn't my finest hour though - landing it is terrifying.  The stall speed is around 120ms on Laythe meaning that powered landings are pretty essential, and on non-flat terrain in the dark, it's horribly difficult to land.   This means that taking it back to orbit and back down again is possible, but very tricky.  It simply doesn't have enough wing area to make it work as an easy to land plane.  As such, after landing it twice it got redesignated as "surface fuel dump" and left there.  It also scanned for resources that could be mined, and it turns out that the shores of Laythe have everything I need with the exception of Gypsum which isn't massively serious.

The second experiment was to see if I could land an MKS Tundra module on the surface.  These are big and bulky, but utterly essential to constructing a successful base on Laythe - I need to be able to produce material kits, machinery and specialised parts on the surface in order to build more pieces of the base - leading it to being a sustainable colony that can expand itself.  The Barbet was an SSTO plane from Kerbin (just), so it was a simple matter to get it into space, dock it to a shunt for transport to Laythe.


Landing wasn't exactly 100%, but the important bits survived and it's around half a kilometre from the Heron, so good enough.



I also sent a cargo plane, containing essentials that would be required whilst setting up the base - some supplies to keep the crew fed, some fertiliser so that more food could be grown, along with a some small kontainers to store various goods and some inflatable habitation modules and greenhouses.  This wasn't an SSTO plane from Kerbin, so getting it into space was somewhat tricky.  Introducing the Egret:




Building the base on Laythe is not going to be easy, and naturally, things might not work out.  A single plane-crash could mean that the base simply isn't going to work.  So we have backups - planes that can take the crew off in an emergency, the Red Kite, and the Erne - there's two Ernes at the start though I crashed one later on:



We also have backups around the Joolian system, firstly a full featured base on Vall called the Emmy Noether, that can produce all materials.  Getting stuff off Vall and to Laythe is a little long-winded but in an emergency can be completed in under a week.


We also have the Leonard Euler station around Laythe - shipped out in 3 parts and joined together in Laythe orbit, it has lots of habitation and is used as a storage resource as well for the difficult to produce stuff - the Vall base has sent over lots of specialised parts, machinery, supplies, fertiliser, organics and colony supplies.  We can always go and get stuff from the station as required as it has all sized docking ports for everything.


The Madness Begins

After the initial mostly successful experiments, I started designing the crazy planes that would be required to establish a fully working base on Laythe.  All of these were tested on Kerbin first - can they survive re-entry into Kerbin, can they land at around 3000 metres altitude on Kerbin on rugged terrain (Laythe's air-pressure at sea level is roughly equal to 3000 metres on Kerbin, and Laythe's terrain is really not flat!).  The first vessel is Ardea - some drills for mining various resources, along with two Tundra refineries that can turn raw materials into processed goods.  It even has landing legs so it can form the basis of the first occupied structure on Laythe.  With this it can take all raw materials and convert them to processed goods.  With the addition of the Tundra manufacturing plant that has already been landed on Laythe, it can produce finished goods of Material Kits, Machinery and Specialised Parts which can then be used to create new vessels.


We also have two Zeltornis - these carry large nuclear reactors to power the various parts of the colony, plus large KIS containers that have a bunch of parts that will be handy for base construction when they get to Laythe.


With the award for the second maddest vessel I sent to Laythe, we have the Runway.  This allows new vessels to be constructed using material kits and specialised parts using the Extra-planetary launchpads mod.  Also contender for the most draggy plane I've ever built.  It's not fast, but it does actually fly and land relatively well:



I did say second maddest didn't I?  We also have the Triple Heron.  A 3-cockpitted, twin-fuselage aircraft that really shouldn't exist, or at least, not fly as well as it does.  It serves as a backup for the Zeltornis craft above and carries the same cargo, nuclear reactors and large KIS containers:


We also have a couple of other utility vessels, firstly an SSTO plane called the Wigeon, that can take resources such as machinery and specialised parts from Laythe orbit to the ground base, as well as carrying a couple of crew:


And two Teals designed to be converted to rovers on landing by tearing off the wings and engines - these will be used to move crew and parts from vessel to vessel.


I also sent a second variant of the Heron that looks identical to the one already landed at Laythe - however, this one's cargo is some Duna-style modules to help construct the first habitation portion of the base - a PDU (nuclear reactor), a logistics centre and a pioneer base.

Getting to Kerbin Orbit and beyond

Naturally, getting these "planes" off Kerbin is tricky.  The best way I found was to surround it with large boosters to try and keep centre of mass low enough and not have the aerodynamics of the planes interfere too much.  Massively overpowered to reach Kerbin orbit, I don't really care as all I want is for them to get there.




And they're either designed to dock to a shunt or do get there under their own steam (possibly after some refuelling in LKO).



Here's the shunt that pushed most vessels to the destination.  Uses some NearFuture engines - they're not any better than the stock nuclear engine, but it helps save on part count when I want moar power:


Landing on Laythe

The place chosen for landing is a small piece of land of around 250 square kilometres called Ishmael Island, it sits on the other side of Laythe to Jool on the equator, so we get to see the other moons occasionally, but the choice of location was really determined by the initial Heron and the crashed Barbet that could no longer be moved.


The main plan here was to get everything down and landed all in the same place ready for assembling.   That meant landing all the planes before sending a crew down.




The Wigeon also went down but it stopped off first at Leonard Euler to pick up some machinery, specialised parts and two crew members.



Most things landed safely, but not all.  The second Heron crashed around 2.5km from the launch site (though retained all the important cargo) and one of the Zeltornis planes decided that it didn't like having wings and landing gear any more (self-destructed on physics load on the ground, though it landed ok).




Building a working colony

Once the crew were down from orbit (via the Ernes / Wigeon), it was time to start creating a base by joining stuff together, recycling unneeded parts like engines and wings.  I crashed one of the Ernes on landing (not fatal for the crew, but it'll never fly again) meaning that I now only have one remaining Erne to take crew off planet.  The first job was to sort out the Teals, tear off the wings and engines and convert them into rovers that could be used to move parts around.  There's two of them (Cape Teal and Baikal Teal) and they are the true work-horses (or work-ducks) of colony building - moving parts from place to place.


The second job was to take Ardea, tear all the wings and engines off, put it on landing legs, attach a reactor, add the Tundra assembly plant, and a million and one little jobs.  Driving backwards and forwards with the rover to various different vessels, detaching parts, attaching them to the rovers, driving to Ardea, attaching the part there, and so on.  This is all painfully slow and involves many steps but eventually I have a workable manufacturing hub.  This has all the capabilities to go from mining the raw materials to processing them all the way up to producing material kits, specialised parts and machinery.


Then it was time to sort out the runway, by adding a reactor, a workshop and some habitation:


You can see the large a KIS Kontainer in the screenshot above - this is now all that remains of one of the Zeltornis craft - both have now been completely recycled for parts, with the exception of the KIS kontainers.  Additionally, the Barbet no longer exists - once I'd taken the Tundra Manufacturing and storage container off it, it had served its purpose and was scrapped for its material kits value.

The six crew are all required for moving parts around and often have to engage in team lifts to move the heaviest parts.  The Teals always come in useful to ferry both kerbals and parts around.  The brave pioneers are Tanris, Learigh, Maxalla, Stelya, Gersan and Madie (and technically, Jesra who's remained on Vall to build any emergency stuff that might be required).


Rather than cobble together a habitation section from the parts I'd brought with me, all the scrapping of wings and engines and planes means I have plenty of material kits to play with.  As I have a working runway that can build other vessels, I decided to construct a skeletal base that I could then attach the parts I'd brought with me.


Unfortunately it was dark by the time it had finished, so final tweaks like attaching of parts I had brought with me had to be done in the dark.


But finally, it's done - and the second crashed Heron was recycled for parts after all its useful bits had been taken for the new habitation base.


All of my bases on other worlds are named after female scientists, and this one will be no different.  Please give a warm welcome to Grace Hopper.

At this point the base is effectively finished - it can keep up its supplies, has good habitation ratings and can produce its own vessels.  Subsequently I did build other stuff - a nuclear fuel and fertiliser plant (I know, these don't really go together, but they were the two manufacturing chains I was missing) -


I also built a plane do a bit of (fuel efficient) exploring.  If we're going to live on a world, we want to explore!


I did build a replacement habitation module that isn't fully equipped as yet - the problem is the initial one is slowly but surely slipping down the hill, gradually trying to get out of physics range where local logistics will stop working and eventually slipping into the sea.  The plan is to replicate the base around 5 kilometres away where it is much much flatter, but that will take a significant amount of time to generate the material kits and machinery to build it.


Finally, here's a screenshot of all the vessels I could get in a single shot.


I have many more plans for the base, but for now - it's ok as it is, it can produce everything it needs to, it has long habitation ratings and plenty of supplies to keep the Kerbals fed and happy.

I've had great fun doing this mission - my plane design skills have gone up many notches in the process and surface base building is always great fun.  Here's the imgur gallery with some additional images as well


Edited by bigcalm
remove space at the bottom, two finallys.
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