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My First Space Station, and Misadventures Related Thereto

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My First Space Station, and Misadventures Related Thereto

In which mistakes are made

I was waiting for various maneuver nodes to come up on my first manned trip to Minmus, initiated almost at the same time as the consummation of my first unmanned trip to Minmus (my first mining-refining vessel, on the Mun, decided to have some mission creep).  In the meantime, I decided to accept a bunch of contracts regarding putting a space station into orbit, which I had never done before intentionally.  (There was an early-game derelict spacecraft—a crossfeed error made it run out of fuel unexpectedly and I had to rescue the pilot via EVA—but other than that I had never put any kerbal carriers into permanent orbit.)  There was one for Kerbin (10 kerbal capacity, research station) and one for the Mun (5 kerbal capacity).  Additionally, I already had a contract for docking two vessels on or around the Mun, but it turns out that a lander returning to an orbiting mothership doesn't qualify.  (Perhaps it was that the vessels had to be launched separately.)  I thought I could kill three birds with one stone if I launched a space station with a shiny newly unlocked Clampy Senior, and then launched a lander-miner-refiner Mk.II capable of pushing it to the Mun.  I decided to give the station a dedicated lander (capable of potentially ferrying tourists to and from the Mun) and a couple of escape pods (partly for fun, and partly because of an "orbit Kerbin" contract that I didn't feel like carrying to the Mun).

Soon I was launching Alpha Space Station into orbit.  It clocks in at almost exactly 50 tons, counting 27 tons of fuel and monopropellant reserves, and seems to have more than enough battery to last through a night-side orbit while still researching.

[edit:  TinyPic is dead; long live Flickr.  Original link for insanity posterity:  http://i63.tinypic.com/2a8jlnk.jpg ]

14 baby's first space station launch (2a8jlnk)

Moving and re-docking the lander proved conclusively that I am genuinely bad at complex RCS maneuvering.  I can sort of handle translating in the cardinal directions, and pitch/roll/yaw aren't too different from doing it with reaction wheels, but any attempts to control any two impulses at once degenerate quickly into hopeless, hilarious failure.  Nevertheless, I managed it.  I noticed that I forgot to put any solar panels on the lander, so my tourists had better not dawdle on the surface before coming back up.  150 electricity should be enough for the command pod reaction wheel on a trip like that, right?  Just gotta remember to turn off the SAS when I'm not using it, like after landing.

[ http://i68.tinypic.com/90y5fp.jpg ]

15 docking lander to side before making destination (poor decision) (90y5fp)

Recovering the second stage brought the total launch cost down to 59k.  Not great by some standards, I'm sure, but not too bad for something I hope will see lots of future use.

Next up, launching the propulsion vehicle.  It's a spiffed-up version of my previous mining vessel.  Since the last one is still in the field with all its onboard science, I didn't have enough to unlock everything on my wish list (large ore tank), but this is still a big improvement, largely because of the 2.5m-1.25m quad adapter and better thermal dissipation.  It also has its own research facility and houses a crew of 4 (using the 2-man can to fit a Clampy Senior on top).  Four-way symmetry should help my RCS control a little compared to the Mk.I's three-way.  I think I'll call it Prospecting Unit/Lifter/Lander.  Kind of a mouthful, but it does a lot of stuff, I hope!

The team slapped on a PPD-10 to add a few last-minute Mun tourists to the itinerary, and a small manned probe hopefully capable of making polar orbit, and then blasted off!  No second stage lifter needed here—the package to be delivered can do its own work after the initial boost.  If I need extra fuel to get to the Mun I can borrow from the station.  Cost of lifter:  46k (69k less 23k recovered) for putting 70 tons of craft in orbit (less perhaps 5 tons of fuel I used from the nukes to get to the rendezvous).

Without further ado, mission A.S.S.-P.U.L.L. was a go!  About 115 tons put in orbit between station and miner/tugboat for a slightly smaller number of kilocredits. 


In which Bob thinks he can pilot a ship, but is wrong.  

It didn't take too long for Mission Control to realize they had put a scientist in a ship with no probe.  Well, I guess old Bob could use the practice.  

Also, I put the tourist who only signed up for Kerbin orbit into an escape pod with Valentina (so I could have at least one kerbonaut holding down the fort at home; I cleaned out the place for these launches) and pulled the trigger.  Up until now there had been thirteen (13) kerbals aboard the A.S.S.-P.U.L.L. mission, which is by far the most I've had at once.  To be fair, I've never combined two launches into a single mission before.  

Meanwhile, it turns out that the lander attached to my A.S.S. is throwing off the balance—the reaction wheels aren't able to compensate enough to keep the ship straight at full thrust.  Perhaps if I emptied out the fuel?  But I only have spare tankage for the liquid, not the oxidizer.  My A.S.S. is still just too fat.  I could nurse the thing along at half throttle, but it's already a long burn.  In doing so, I might even briefly drop out of space mid-burn, not that it's dangerous to be at 69km or whatever, but to heck with that!  I have tons of monopropellant and even if this isn't what RCS is meant for, it's sure good enough to do the job!  

[ http://i68.tinypic.com/209j0ic.jpg ]

16 2nd miner pushing station with lots of RCS keeping orientation (209j0ic)

And after repeating the same ridiculous scheme at the Mun capture burn, I'll be ready to land and rejuvenate all this stuff I've been burning.  

But first, what about Bob?  He has the opposite problem:  too much control.  His unsteady hands are capable of doing a full rotation when only a modest adjustment is needed.  After locking the engine gimbals and setting wheel authority to 50%, though, he's starting to feel like a real pilot.  Now let's get some polar orbital contracts/science!  

Literally eleven minutes (game time) before entering the Mun's SOI, I get a contract offer to "return or transmit scientific data from space around the Mun".  Well, I'm not going to say no to that!  

Speaking of our Mun burn, the fuel is running lower than I expected, but fortunately I lifted off with full ore tanks to refine more fuel with en route, which I've been converting to liquid fuel.  And a little extra monopropellant, which I was shocked to find in danger of actually running out.  But, after all, it was just for convenience, not a mission requirement, although I'm resolving to hang on to some for "real" usage.  

After a routine circularization burn, other than continued RCS abuse, I detached the miner-lander and proceeded to a landing that was completely ordinary, including my continued ability to pick a landing zone that is too steep for comfort but not quite steep enough to prevent landing.  

[ http://i65.tinypic.com/2589y8k.jpg ]

17 2nd miner refueling on Mun (2589y8k)

The miner comes back up to dock.  I'm a bit worried that I STILL won't get credit for the docking because even though this includes hardware from two different launches it came to the Mun in one piece.  Additionally, I left one piece that was originally part of the lander with the station when it detached.  Will this count?  Or is the contract's secret requirement that two vessels dock FOR THE FIRST TIME in the Mun's orbit?  

Nope, this doesn't count either.  But I haven't given up all hope yet; I can still detach the PPD-10, land with the Mun tourists, and come back up to dock two vessels that don't have any pieces of each other in them yet.  

The miner/refiner refuels the station but the modest ore hold isn't enough to completely refill both the liquid in the station's LFO tanks and the prodigious amount of monopropellant that we burned.  Oh, gee whiz, what a tragedy to have to land back on the Mun for some more.  

As it happens, when I finish refining my ore I'm very close to an equatorial Canyons biome passing underneath.  Sounds good to me!  I quickly detach and kill most of my orbital velocity, lining up my remaining path with the canyon.  

... it turns out that canyon floors look really nice and smooth, and they are smooth, but not flat.  Had to burn a lot of fuel changing landing zones twice to achieve a mere 15 degree tilt, which I think is my steepest yet with these disconcertingly tall landers.  

[ http://i64.tinypic.com/2ijl0xy.jpg ]

19 2nd miner refueling again with passengers (2ijl0xy)

When I undocked, the name changes gave me hope that this time the contract will work.  The station got its old launcher name back, and hilariously the lander got bequeathed the station icon and name.  So yes, KSP says I have a space station landed on the Mun.  

The docking was an exercise in frustration; after the second bounce I went in with a perfect plan, only to have the docking ports stabilize without completing the docking.  Why do you hate me?  A short expenditure of RCS later (by the station, since it's lopsided and probably lighter anyway) and I'm finally docked, and yes, the contract finally completed.  

What replaced it?  Well, turns out I need to get "scientific data from the surface of the Mun."  Does it count scientific data I've already collected even if I'm no longer on the surface?  Yes.  

And now, time to go home.  It turns out I did not sufficiently think that part through.  It was easy enough to carry over a dozen kerbals to the Mun with this space station, but bringing them back without bringing the space station back is trickier.  

In the end, the two scientists volunteered to man the station's lab, and the ship left while the engineer was admiring the view from the station's cupola.  

My Mk.II miner was a modest success, and maybe it's the sunk-cost fallacy but I don't quite feel like deorbiting the thing, so I slapped together a 10-kerbal SSTO ferry (8 returning from the Mun, 1 pilot, and 1 LKO rescue) and took off, after sending it back from the launch pad for a last second addition of a stored-science-retrieval kit.  I had to research the Klaw for this vessel as tourists cannot EVA.  That solution seemed easier than designing the ferry to include a Clampy Senior. 

This thing really jumped off the pad, so Valentina decided to try a much shallower ascent path than usual to minimize gravity losses; we hit 70km apoapsis just as the speed was threatening to fry the solar panels so she coasted up and circularized.  

[ http://i64.tinypic.com/p0emc.jpg ]

18 SSTO LKO ferry (p0emc)

As the Mun tourists returned to Kerbin, Mission Control didn't want the ship to go too deep into the atmosphere for fear of breaking the satellite dishes, and gentle airbraking was way too boring, so the NERV engines were put to good use again doing most of the work.  The miner sidled up to the waiting Klaw ship and the tourists and data transferred over.  KSC was drawing near, and there was a fair amount of fuel remaining, so a hasty deorbit put us reasonably close (by my lax standards).  

No sooner had we landed than new contracts came in asking us to use our brand new Klaw, to rescue kerbals and objects around the Mun, no less!  Looks like the engines on my P.U.L.L.er will barely have time to cool off.  


Edited by FinalFan
TinyPic is dead; long live Flickr.
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22 hours ago, FinalFan said:

Thanks, and sorry for leaving everyone in suspense on my other mission.  Now you know why! 

Yup. Now we know. Looking forward to more! 

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