Angel-125

When We Left kerbin - Chapter Fourteen: Ups And Downs

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An entire base disappearing only to quietly reappear at another location - now that's the real Mun conspiracy. Fortunately for them, telescopes on the surface just don't have the kind of resolution due to atmosphere to see such things going on on the Mun (so unless somebody would use a high-aperture orbital telescope knowing where and when exactly to look - chances of somebody spotting it in action would be pretty much zero).

One thing about the saucer prototype I'm a bit concerned of - shouldn't there be some kind of backup propulsion system in case the prototype antigravity drive fails? Of course, one may argue that it's not very safe to carry chemical fuel on something spewing electric discharges in all 6 directions either, however a small fuel leak would be much less of an issue without atmosphere, but to worry about possibility of the fuel exploding on very hard landing - if you already have a nuclear reactor running, some propellant won't add to much mess to the worst-case scenario (as opposed to the possibility of preventing the crash)

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1 hour ago, Alchemist said:

An entire base disappearing only to quietly reappear at another location - now that's the real Mun conspiracy. Fortunately for them, telescopes on the surface just don't have the kind of resolution due to atmosphere to see such things going on on the Mun (so unless somebody would use a high-aperture orbital telescope knowing where and when exactly to look - chances of somebody spotting it in action would be pretty much zero).

One thing about the saucer prototype I'm a bit concerned of - shouldn't there be some kind of backup propulsion system in case the prototype antigravity drive fails? Of course, one may argue that it's not very safe to carry chemical fuel on something spewing electric discharges in all 6 directions either, however a small fuel leak would be much less of an issue without atmosphere, but to worry about possibility of the fuel exploding on very hard landing - if you already have a nuclear reactor running, some propellant won't add to much mess to the worst-case scenario (as opposed to the possibility of preventing the crash)

Well one thing to consider is whether the added weight of Tanks/Fuel/Oxidizer/Engines outweighs the added potential of even WORSE damage from a crash. Remember they are testing the saucer prototype on the Mun. Where the gravity is much less and it looks like the saucer had a relatively low test ceiling for the hieght it was tested at off the surface. Does all the extra weight for the backup propulsion actually counteract the enhanced risk of a crash? Would it offset the extra risk of explosion compared to a low speed impact? Remember that the pilots that were lost died when the prototype gravitic drive exploded when they couldn't shut it down in time, rather than in crashes with terrain...

 

Edit: It's not the nuke powering it that's the problem, but the part that turns the electricity generated by the nuke into an anti-gravitic force...

Edited by Railgunner2160

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1 hour ago, Alchemist said:

An entire base disappearing only to quietly reappear at another location - now that's the real Mun conspiracy. Fortunately for them, telescopes on the surface just don't have the kind of resolution due to atmosphere to see such things going on on the Mun (so unless somebody would use a high-aperture orbital telescope knowing where and when exactly to look - chances of somebody spotting it in action would be pretty much zero).

One thing about the saucer prototype I'm a bit concerned of - shouldn't there be some kind of backup propulsion system in case the prototype antigravity drive fails? Of course, one may argue that it's not very safe to carry chemical fuel on something spewing electric discharges in all 6 directions either, however a small fuel leak would be much less of an issue without atmosphere, but to worry about possibility of the fuel exploding on very hard landing - if you already have a nuclear reactor running, some propellant won't add to much mess to the worst-case scenario (as opposed to the possibility of preventing the crash)

 

15 minutes ago, Railgunner2160 said:

Well one thing to consider is whether the added weight of Tanks/Fuel/Oxidizer/Engines outweighs the added potential of even WORSE damage from a crash. Remember they are testing the saucer prototype on the Mun. Where the gravity is much less and it looks like the saucer had a relatively low test ceiling for the hieght it was tested at off the surface. Does all the extra weight for the backup propulsion actually counteract the enhanced risk of a crash? Would it offset the extra risk of explosion compared to a low speed impact? Remember that the pilots that were lost died when the prototype gravitic drive exploded when they couldn't shut it down in time, rather than in crashes with terrain...

 

Edit: It's not the nuke powering it that's the problem, but the part that turns the electricity generated by the nuke into an anti-gravitic force...

The flying saucer at this point is like the Wright Flyer. The engineers barely understand the science and engineering behind it. And the gravitic engine is underpowered even in the Mun's lesser gravity. The more mass you add, the harder it is to make it fly. Adding backup rockets would be more mass for the gravitic engine to accommodate.

Plus, I've had many a work project where an issue cropped up from something that is obvious now, but wasn't while the thing was being designed. As Railgunner pointed out, the engine failures were from static charge buildup, something the kerbals didn't think of. Everything was running fine, then boom, dead. So in these situations, backup rockets would just make the problem worse as fuel and oxidizer combined and ignited.

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On 8/26/2019 at 1:28 AM, Angel-125 said:

And the gravitic engine is underpowered even in the Mun's lesser gravity. The more mass you add, the harder it is to make it fly. Adding backup rockets would be more mass for the gravitic engine to accommodate.

True. Of course, Mun's gravity and low altitude also means that it doesn't take much propulsion for emergency landing either, to the point a good RCS system could be enough (and also work as backup in case of attitude control issues).

On 8/26/2019 at 1:28 AM, Angel-125 said:

the engine failures were from static charge buildup, something the kerbals didn't think of. Everything was running fine, then boom, dead

I agree, backup thrusters wouldn't help with that (although, crewed test of something you are pretty much checking if it blows up again or not is quite the Kerbal practice. But pretty much everybody playing KSP sometimes does that - having the revert button causes some specific habits)

On 8/26/2019 at 1:28 AM, Angel-125 said:

The engineers barely understand the science and engineering behind it

That pretty much was my point - what if it manages to lift off and not blow up, but the controllability goes haywire (because if you don't fully understand how it works, chances are it would do something unpredicted)?

Yeah, there clearly is a bit of Kerbal logic involved:
1) crashing into ground is already a progress compared to blowing up mid-air (where? On Mun??) mid-flight, we'll think about it when we get there.
2) why to bother with ensuring softer landing if most equipment is lithobrake-certified for such impact speeds? (which also has the implication of structural elements already having a few tons of extra weight spent on this sort of rigidity...)

 

On another topic: the explanation about pouring electricity into graviolium to produce gravity waves and static discharges forming as a side effect - is this a Mass Effect reference? There was pretty much the same explanation for how all such tech works

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28 minutes ago, Alchemist said:

True. Of course, Mun's gravity and low altitude also means that it doesn't take much propulsion for emergency landing either, to the point a good RCS system could be enough (and also work as backup in case of attitude control issues).

I agree, backup thrusters wouldn't help with that (although, crewed test of something you are pretty much checking if it blows up again or not is quite the Kerbal practice. But pretty much everybody playing KSP sometimes does that - having the revert button causes some specific habits)

That pretty much was my point - what if it manages to lift off and not blow up, but the controllability goes haywire (because if you don't fully understand how it works, chances are it would do something unpredicted)?

Yeah, there clearly is a bit of Kerbal logic involved:
1) crashing into ground is already a progress compared to blowing up mid-air (where? On Mun??) mid-flight, we'll think about it when we get there.
2) why to bother with ensuring softer landing if most equipment is lithobrake-certified for such impact speeds? (which also has the implication of structural elements already having a few tons of extra weight spent on this sort of rigidity...)

 

On another topic: the explanation about pouring electricity into graviolium to produce gravity waves and static discharges forming as a side effect - is this a Mass Effect reference? There was pretty much the same explanation for how all such tech works

You’re assuming there are enough margins for the mass of rockets. There isn’t. When the craft crashed, it was going slow enough to be recovered without too much damage (that was fixed off screen). The prototype doesn’t have much crash tolerance...

As for the static charge, yup, that is a direct reference to Mass Effect.

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Posted (edited)

Another thing to keep in mind is that while the kerbals may not necessarily understand the science behind it all that well, They did have the saucer's user and maintenance manual. Also the control systems are all kerbal designed and built, it's the gravitic drive that they don't really understand. But like most species, that doesn't really stop them from plugging alien tech into their own control systems and getting something that "works?". I've seen my fair share of manga and anime where they can build a control system for alien tech out of their own tech, but never really quite understood alot of the alien tech until far later in their plots, The Macross for example. I'm of course referring to the TRUE Macross series, not the frankensteined Robotech.....

First time they fired up the reverse engineered anti-grav units, well the units worked as intended. But the mounts holding them into the ship didn't work quite so well, they had to use the old fashioned chemical rockets to take off. Then there was the Macross main gun and ftl drive, the gun would fire on it's own, and the ftl drive? Well it jumped the Macross alright, but it failed to transition itself back to realspace with the rest of the ship. And in the process left a great big hole in the power grid which rendered the main cannon inoperative, until they came up with the Transformation hack based on the Macross' modular design. That was the reason for it's iconic "Robot" mode, an workaround hack to get the main gun working again!!

Edited by Railgunner2160

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Chapter Fourteen: Ups And Downs

As it had done many times before, the Nautilus began to skim Kerbin’s upper atmosphere in order to slow down from its trip to Minmus. Her pilot and spacecraft commander, Chademy Kerman, was new on the job, but his flight engineer, Derry Kerman, was and old pro. As DSEV-03 cooked its way through the atmosphere, Chademy noticed something wrong…

“Uh, Derry, where are you,” he asked.

“Portside greenhouse,” Derry answered, “why?”

“We’re getting major overheat warnings across the board,” Chademy said agitated. Nautilus’s metal groaned as if to prove Chademy’s point.

“We’re supposed to have a peri of 45,” Derry responded, “what does the readout say?”

“36.”

“Not good, Chademy, we need to be higher next go around.”

“Uh, ok, I’m going to turn us around and raise our orbit,” Chademy said with more panic in his voice. He hit the RCS and began to flip the ship around.

“No, wait,” Derry yelled. It was too late.

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The ship lurched violently. Derry was thrown against the bulkhead as Nautilus turned around in the slipstream. The last thing he saw was the module hatches automatically slamming shut as the hull screamed in protest. Or was Chademy screaming? It was hard to tell. Getting knocked out had a tendency to cause confusion.

When Derry regained consciousness, he tried to hail Chademy to no avail, then performed a damage diagnostic. The ship as a whole survived its trip through the atmosphere. But it didn’t take long to determine that the battered craft’s ventral SAFER was gone along with the primary science antenna, and the command module had sheared off and exploded, taking Chademy with it.

 

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With no time to grieve, Derry opened the emergency terminal and contacted Mission Control for help. They instructed the autopilot to circularize the ship’s orbit. He hoped that the fuel tanks were intact and the engine wouldn’t explode. It didn’t. A few burns later, Nautilus limped to Skybase where the station’s harbor master brought the ship to a successful albeit somber docking.

 

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***

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With the next target in sunlight, Valentina wrestled the Duna Flyer 2 back into the air, taking readings in the Western Canyon as it went. As it continued westward, the relay satellites went over the horizon, leaving the flyer with no remote control. It flew along for dozens of kilometers until DSEV-02 finally cleared the horizon. Relieved that their atomic powered aircraft was back under control, she made a note to build a communications relay network around Duna as soon as possible.

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The Duna Flyer 2 veered left into the Northern Basin in search of its next anomaly. The BTDT sensor began pinging shortly thereafter. “There,” Payin said, pointing at the monitor, “Off to the right.”

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Valentina dove the plane, extended its landing gear, and banked hard to the right. What they saw was unmistakable- a kerbal’s face carved in stone.

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***

“Captain, I am receiving an EAM from Mission Control,” Jane said.

James cursed, he’d just stepped into the zero gravity shower. No vessel or base had ever received an Emergency Action Message before. Whatever was in the message had to be serious. “Route it to Starboard Habitat, he answered over the intercom. A minute later, he finished dressing and read the message:

EAM EAM EAM
AUTHENTICODE: NCC1031

TO: DSEV-04 DISCOVERY/CPT JAMES T KERMAN
FROM: KSP MC
SBJ: NEW ORDERS
CAPTAIN, YOUR MISSION IS CANCELED. YOU ARE HEARBY ORDERED TO REVERSE COURSE AND RENDEZVOUS AND DOCK WITH MINMUS ORBITAL SHIPYARD ASAP. UPON ARRIVAL YOU WILL RECEIVE NEW ORDERS.
SIGNED: BOBAK KERMAN FLT DIR KSC MC
EAM EAM EAM

“So much for the little training cruise,” James muttered, quoting an obscure science fiction movie. He tapped the ship wide intercom channel. “All hands, this is the Captain. Prepare to come about and burn for Minmus Station. We have new orders…”

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***

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 “That’s a face. The Face,” Bobus said astonished. “JJ Kerman wrote about it in the Duna Space Program. How did he know..?”

“That is a good question,” Valentina answered, not taking her eyes off the screen. She finished landing the aircraft and parking it next to the strange rock formation. “This was clearly meant for us. Bobus, you said JJ Kerman wrote about this?”

“Yeah,” he responded. “In the story, you- uh, fictional you- and Jeb-"

"Wait," Jeb interrupted, finally putting two and to together. "JJ Kerman got sued over using our likenesses in the Duna Space Program, right? I thought he just made Galaxy Trek."

"He did," Bobus confirmed. "He made Galaxy Trek afterwards. Anyway, fictional you and several others found The Face on Duna. You- uh, the characters flew over to it and went inside and found out that it was a control center. In the story, there was this doomsday device going on that would turn the sun into a black hole and trap the kraken forever inside its event horizon. All of kerbalkin would’ve been exterminated too.

“But there was a way to stop it. The characters traveled to another Face, this one on Dres, to trigger a counter-explosion and stop doomsday.”

“Sounds pretty elaborate,” Jeb quipped.

“Uh, yeah…” Bobus admitted.

“Did it work?”

“Mostly, Val,” Bobus continued, “the counter-devices placed out past the story’s outer planets did fire, but the kraken woke up and reset time.”

“Naturally,” Jeb snorted.

“Anyway, the story ended soon after that,” Bobus concluded. "He didn't make a sequel on account of the lawsuit..."

“Right... Ok, so we can’t just send a probe to the face,” Valentina decided. “I guess that means we need to check it out ourselves. Which means bringing the Flyer back to modify it. But to do that we need better satellite coverage… Bill, contact KSC and ask them to send us plans for a satellite constellation launcher. Once we get that built and deployed, we can bring the Flyer back without worrying about an uncontrolled atomic airplane flying around. Meanwhile, we need to expand the base to add fuel production and storage. After that…”

***

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By the time that Discovery reached Minmus Station, members of the newly formed Nautilus Accident Investigation Board had already arrived. After the usual Navy traditions to greet an arriving spacecraft concluded and a quick debriefing of DSEV-04’s crew, the investigators got to work. They started by examining the exterior of the craft, paying particular note to how the atomic reactors were attached as well as noting the orbital command pod’s construction. James and his crew had their hands full answering all their questions at first, but after several days of furious activity, they had little to do now but wait.

“Full dwelling,” Jane said, laying her magnetic cards across the display screen.

James grinned. “Ah, but today is Solday,” he said, beaming. He put his five cards on the table. Jane cursed and James swiped the digital pot of Funds over to his ledger. He dealt a new set of five cards and the two players filled the pot once more. They traded cards and tried to fool each other.

“Rumor has it, Capt- uh, Jim- that Mission Control recalled us because they couldn’t find any asteroids to capture,” Jane said while organizing his cards.

“Don’t believe everything you hear, kid,” James retorted. “Unless we’re playing Five Cards and it’s a Munday. We’re here because the Discovery is a Protector-class at heart despite her modifications. The investigation needed a working ship to compare the Nautilus to, and ours was the nearest, with the class’ namesake still at Duna and all… I’m sure we’ll be out of here in a few days once they get done. In the meantime…” He put his cards on the table.

Jane cursed again. “How are you so good at this,” she asked.

“I’ve been playing Five Cards since before you were born…”

***

 

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The construction arms retracted into the Rangeland construction pad, leaving the new vehicle to stand on its own.  The low Duna gravity enabled the launcher to rest on its engine bell with ease, standing ready to launch. The team went through their checklist, and Jeb took the controls.

“Erm, you eh, fly car iz bad,” Karl vonKerman said in broken Kerman. Bobus looked surprised.

“You speak Kerman? This whole time…”

“Eh, some,” Karl admitted. He pointed to the remote-control station. “Eh, bad fly car.”

“Jeb glared angrily at the vonKerman. “You people have done nothing but eat our snacks, breathe our air, and take up space,” he growled. “Seriously. Why don’t you take a long walk out a short airlock! Comm Bus Launching in three, two, one…”

The launcher lifted off. Then everything went south.

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Jeb immediately noticed temperature warnings. “Uh…” Before he could ask his question, the launcher exploded. Individual communications satellites sped off in different directions while the main body became an uncontrolled missile, landing and exploding several kilometers away.

Valentina just shook her head. “And…. What did we learn,” she asked.

Jeb looked positively embarrassed. “Check your staging,” he said sheepishly. Fourteen days of work, gone in a flash.

“Well, time to build another one,” Bill said simply. He pointed the vonKermans. “Hey Karl, do you and Alzer and Ernst want to help?”

The vonKermans beamed with excitement.

***

The Nautilus Accident Investigation Board's report concluded that Chademy Kerman erroneously dipped Nautilus (DSEV-03) too far into Kerbin's atmosphere during her aerobraking return from Minmus. He then made a critical error when he tried to rotate the ship prograde to raise its periapsis. That act resulted in the spacecraft tumbling out of control in the upper atmosphere and caused excessive overheating, which resulted in numerous structural failures. Those failures resulted in the destruction of the ship’s Orbital Command Module and the death of Chademy Kerman, pilot and spacecraft commander of DSEV-03.

The investigation could find no inherent flaws in the S1 Orbital Command Pod design or its method of attachment to the rest of the vessel. The destruction of Nautilus’ command module was the result of structural forces being applied to it that were beyond its design limits rather than a manufacturing or engineering defect. As a result, the NAIB cleared Discovery (DSEV-04) for continued operations.

As soon as they got word, Discovery’s crew powered up DSEV-04 and cast off, burning for escape orbit as soon as they were able. They had a target and a short time to catch it.

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The NAIB also recommended that the Protector-class Deep Space Exploration Vessel and its derivatives use propulsive captures in the future, and that aerobraking is to be used only in an emergency and limited to no more than 50km altitude.

Finally, damage assessment to DSEV-03 declared it serviceable after an extensive refit. To that end, Barfal "Barf" Kerman began refitting DSEV-03 several weeks later. She replaced the lost SAFER and its RTG auxiliary power unit and capped the central corridor with a docking port.

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Lemley then clipped DSEV-03’s Space Transportation Main Engine and Barf bolted another docking port in its place. These changes gave DSEV-03 the unique ability to utilize modular construction.

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Three days later, Skybase’s drydock finished assembling the new command module, and Lemley docked it to the front of Skybase. A few days after that, the Skybase crew completed Nautilus' refit and she set out for trial runs with a new crew to verify its repairs and upgrades.

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***

“Ok, let’s try this again,” Valentina said. “Jeb, you’re up. And check your staging…”

Jeb was determined to not fowl up again. He was meticulous. The satellite booster launched.

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At 15km altitude, it flipped upside down in the slipstream. Jeb gritted his teeth. He was not going to lose this ship.

He calmly waited for the booster to rotate more or less vertical, and then hit the engine throttle again. The booster aligned itself back on its flight path, then burned its way out of the atmosphere.

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At 100km, Jeb circularized its orbit, then immediately aimed for a 1000km apoapsis. The communications network was finally on its way…

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***

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Several days later, Jeb couldn’t sleep. He got up, grabbed a very early breakfast, and did his usual exercise routine. Then he checked the satellite network. Then he got bored; everyone else was still asleep.

He checked the duty list for the day. Valentina was scheduled to bring the Duna Flyer back home for refit. With nothing else to do, he decided to take care of it himself. After a brief power up and systems check, the Duna Flyer 2 lifted off of the rusty desert and into the air.

Flying in the dark, he lined up the navigation indicators and trimmed the aircraft to cruise back home. Everything was going perfectly…

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…Right up to the point where he remotely flew the aircraft straight into a mountain.

Valentina was not going to be happy.

***

“Are you guys sure that you don’t need me to do more test flying? I’m happy to stick around some more,” Kelbin pleaded. “

“Not for a while,” Lodory answered. “Now that we know what’s wrong and that the technology works, it’s a matter of refining it. Right now, the saucer can barely fly on the Mun. We need to improve the micro-singularity projector for higher acceleration and better mass displacement. Then we need to restore the saucer’s structural bracing, and upgrade the power distribution network to reduce static charge buildup…”

“Besides,” Parie added, “you’re wanted back on Kerbin. Something about an archeology expedition.”

“Are you heading back with me,” Kelbin asked.

“No, my tour just got extended and won’t be done for months. But Loner and Wenbles will head back with you; you were flying two tourists, after all, gotta keep up appearances. They’re due to be rotated back anyway.”

A few minutes later after suiting up and stepping outside, Kelbin took one last look at the A-51D. He wasn’t the first to fly the gravitic Flapjack, but he was definitely the first to fly it without crashing. And he had a hand in figuring out what was wrong. That was something. After the trio boarded the rocket saucer that he arrived in- still sitting on its landing legs- Kelbin performed his pre-flight checks and warmed up the craft for launch.

“Flapjack 1, you are cleared to launch and return to Kerbin via Groom Lake Air Force Station,” Parie said over the wireless. “Have a good flight.”

In the dead of munar night, Flapjack 1 lit its linear aerospike and began its trip into orbit. Kelbin wondered if he’d ever see the Saucer Works again.

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Edited by Angel-125

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