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MisterKerman

Satellite space program

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Posted (edited)

How viable are satellites for gathering science over manned missions in regards to unlocking tech early on in career mode?

I've always been OCD and figured if you want it done right (not waste science points by transmitting it rather than recovering for full value) you do it yourself with a manned mission. But I feel like I'm past that phase and would love to focus on satellites next run once "Breaking Ground" drops for collecting enough science to go interplanetary comfortably with manned missions. I've never gone interplanetary before.

A proper Mun/Minmus mission seems like the most effective way to gather science. So after I've gathered enough tech/experiments to make satellites worthwhile, I would love to just start flinging satellites everywhere and I'm not particularly knowledgeable about that and would take any tips you'd like to divulge.

Nothing specific I'd just like some opinions on whether this is a good idea for someone in my shoes and maybe a few things I might not be thinking of in regards to achieving success this way.

I imagine this being very profitable and not so risky, but probably still very difficult for someone who's never gone interplanetary before. I feel aside from wasted value for science data, it's an efficient strategy as the values for bodies further away from the center are more valuable and not necessarily "harder" to get to if you're prepared. (Which I'm not at all.)

Thoughts?

Edited by MisterKerman

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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, MisterKerman said:

How viable are satellites for gathering science over manned missions in regards to unlocking tech early on in career mode?

Satellites cannot reset experiments and they cannot do specific crew-required experiments (namely, surface samples, EVA reports, and crew reports) but they can perform any other experiment and return it for full value.

You lose some viability when you decide to transmit rather than recover, but if you're past that, then it's just the three crew-required experiments that you cannot do.

14 hours ago, MisterKerman said:

A proper Mun/Minmus mission seems like the most effective way to gather science. So after I've gathered enough tech/experiments to make satellites worthwhile, I would love to just start flinging satellites everywhere and I'm not particularly knowledgeable about that and would take any tips you'd like to divulge.

Nothing specific I'd just like some opinions on whether this is a good idea for someone in my shoes and maybe a few things I might not be thinking of in regards to achieving success this way.

I imagine this being very profitable and not so risky, but probably still very difficult for someone who's never gone interplanetary before. I feel aside from wasted value for science data, it's an efficient strategy as the values for bodies further away from the center are more valuable and not necessarily "harder" to get to if you're prepared. (Which I'm not at all.)

Thoughts?

On default settings, the science available in the Kerbin system is enough to fill the tech tree.  I believe that part of the reason for that was to give people the chance to develop the good rocket parts without requiring them to first go on missions that needed those parts, and part of it was to give a number of opportunities to people who didn't want to search under absolutely every rock.  If you want to try to develop a space program on only transmitted robotic orbital science, then maybe it'll work.  I don't know whether that will supply enough, but remember that if you don't like the distribution or the number of points available, then you can adjust that value in the settings.  You also can make use of asteroids and mobile labs, though both of those require crew.

I'm not certain whether you mean orbiters only or are including robotic landers in your definition of satellites.  The thing to remember about the way that science works in this game is that the only bodies that give more science for being in orbit instead of in the atmosphere or on the ground are Kerbin and, oddly enough, the sun (good luck getting that science, though).  Everywhere else has a higher value for ground and atmospheric science.

However, assuming that you want to deal with orbiters only and not bother with atmospheric science at all, then there are a few experiments that you won't need.  The Double-C Seismic Accelerometer only works on the ground, so you can leave that off, and the Atmospheric Fluid Spectro-Variometer only works in the presence of an atmosphere, so you can leave that off, too.  Keep the PresMat Barometer, though:  it works in space; it just reads zero pressure.

The next thing to remember is that every celestial body has a low space and a high space range of altitudes for purposes of science collection.  Every experiment that works in space will gather science in high space.  Of that list, the SENTINEL Infrared Telescope is the single experiment that works only in high space.

Further on the subject, most experiments that work in space are a type called global experiments, which means that they do not respect biomes.  Instead, there is one experiment result for the whole region of space and the specific features of the body directly under your vessel are irrelevant to the data.  The one experiment that robots can perform but that also takes per-biome results is the GRAVMAX Negative Gravioli Detector.  The gravioli experiment takes biome-specific results in both high and low space, which means that it will be the main source of science.  In fact, if you want to avoid heavy experiments (Such as Mystery Goo and Science, Jr.) entirely, then consider taking only a thermometer, barometer, and gravioli detector.  You'll still get the great majority of science points and keep your satellites' masses (and fuel requirements) very low.

Lastly, as a general tip, it may make more sense to send one probe to a number of destinations with the repeatable experiments.  You can send a stack of twelve Science Jr. and Mystery Goo modules to Jool to get science from high and low space for all of the bodies in its sphere of influence, but it may be more logistically preferable to send one probe with a thermometer, barometer, and gravioli detector to orbit each Jool-sphere body in turn (or it can accomplish a similar result--minus the completeness of gravioli biome results--with flybys; you may have more fun setting up a Not-So-Grand Tour).  If you want to recover the probe and get full value on the experiments, then include a science container to hold the results (the experiments themselves will only store the most recent result).

As a postscript, this is absolutely a good idea.  Some of the orbits in KSP are designed so that you can set of a Voyager-like flyby tour very quickly after starting a new game.  Probe science is a great way to get a few extra points when you don't quite have the skill to reliably bring Kerbals back to Kerbin.  By all means, try it.

Don't forget the antenna and electrical system.

Edited by Zhetaan

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15 hours ago, MisterKerman said:

How viable are satellites for gathering science over manned missions in regards to unlocking tech early on in career mode?

Depends on how you like to play and what you're trying to optimize for.

Let's say you're in early career, and you're thinking of sending your first lander to the Mun.  You're trying to decide whether to make it crewed or uncrewed.

Well, the first thing to bear in mind that either way, it's a big win.  The game balance is set up so that Mun and Minmus science is worth far more than Kerbin science, so you're gonna get a big boost no matter which option you choose.  (And other planets are another quantum leap upward in science value.)

Both ways have their advantages and disadvantages.

  • Advantages of a crewed return mission:  You get a lot more science in one launch.  You can bring back science (not just transmit it), which approximately doubles the value.  Plus there are some experiments that only a kerbal can do (crew report, EVA report, surface sample).  Plus, if you happen to be hitting multiple biomes and have a scientist along, you can reset goo and Science Jr.
  • Advantages of a robotic mission:  You can make it much simpler and lighter.  For one thing, you don't have to lug a heavy crew pod along.  For another, it doesn't have to return, which saves you a ton of dV, making it even simpler and lighter.  Plus there are categories of accidents that a crewed lander has to care about that a robotic lander doesn't (e.g. "oh no, I tipped over and can't get it right side up again").

So, one path would be to make your first Mun landing a crewed one, and bring back a ton of science.

Another path would be to make it an uncrewed lander, and transmit a half ton of science (still a lot), which lets you unlock some nice tech nodes so that your second ship can be a crewed one (and a nicer one than if you'd made it your initial launch).

I've played it both ways, and they both work just fine.  It's just a question of your play style and how you like to set things up.

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Posted (edited)

I'm familiar with experiments. I'm actually quite thorough. (OCD)

I'm trying to get past manned missions recovering experiments for full value because the tech tree doesn't take very long to unlock everything for to begin with; just a couple moon missions. I was just wondering more or less if chucking one-way-trip satellites all over the place (and ideally getting a stable orbit somewhere juicy) when I have enough experiments unlocked is an effective way to play. I've always envied other people's satellite flybys transmitting free science from far away back to Kerbin as it passes by.

If I'm better off just doing moon missions within Kerbin's SOI then I'll probably just continue to do that, but I feel like I'm missing out on a very respectable aspect of running a space program by just going for gold every time the same way, just because I know it's there.

If it's possible to shoot off some easy encounters with cheap low-tech-part satellites fairly early on, that's my ideal plan of attack.

Is that a common strategy or is this one of those things Scott Manley would do leaving us scratching our heads about how he even managed?

Edited by MisterKerman

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1 hour ago, MisterKerman said:

Is that a common strategy or is this one of those things Scott Manley would do leaving us scratching our heads how he even managed?

[...]

If it's possible to shoot off some easy encounters with cheap low-tech-part satellites fairly early on, that's my ideal plan of attack.

Actually, it's fairly common for new players to botch a Mun capture (possibly by time-warping too much) and as a result get a gravity assist to interplanetary space.  The only real difference with sending out a cloud of probes is that you're doing it deliberately.  One of the interesting things about KSP's development is that when they first introduced planets, there was only sandbox mode, so the developers put the planets (or many of them) very close to good transfer windows at the start of the game.  When they added career mode, they never changed the planets' initial positions, so if you want to get to other places quickly, then you usually have to do it with a cheap flyby probe in early career.

1 hour ago, MisterKerman said:

I was just wondering more or less if chucking one-way-trip satellites all over the place (and ideally getting a stable orbit somewhere juicy) when I have enough experiments unlocked is an effective way to play.

Absolutely, yes.  The science returns for other places put the Kerbin system to shame; the only advantage for Kerbin is that the Kerbin system has an immense number of biomes.  The experiments are light, the electrical systems that you need unlock on the same tree branches as the experiments (or close enough that you don't need to research the whole tree just to do this), and in general, especially with one-way trips, you simply don't need that much rocket to accomplish the mission.

1 hour ago, MisterKerman said:

If I'm better off just doing moon missions within Kerbin's SOI then I'll probably just continue to do that, but I feel like I'm missing out on a very respectable aspect of running a space program by just going for gold every time the same way, just because I know it's there.

You are missing out, should you not at least try it.  Decide whether you like it.  Take a lot of screenshots.  Post it over in Mission Reports.  See the things that you don't know are there.

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14 hours ago, Snark said:

Advantages of a robotic mission:  ... it doesn't have to return, which saves you a ton of dV

Having my space station with science labs in LKO, I usually try to get my missions back, rendezvous, and transfer the science to the labs. And yes, it adds some dv-requirements and complexity, I like that, just for the fun of it.

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The biggest factor spurring my interest in disposable satellite missions was indeed not only that they aren't required to return, but that at a fairly easily reached point in the game science becomes meaningless aside from Administrative Strategy value in converting it instead to funds or reputation points.

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You can definitely get good science from unmanned interplanetary probes. Sure, each individual mission will produce less science, but it will also be cheaper and if it's a non-return mission quicker to fly. And it's arguably more interesting exploring lots of planets by probes rather than doing repeated Kerballed Mun/Minmus landings.

A few pointers:

The gravimeter is by far the best experiment to use in space, as it's biome-sensitive, so you may want to rush it in the tech tree. But if you don't have it yet, don't worry too much.

If you don't yet have the gravimeter, I'd lean towards doing either flybys or landings. (Or impactors, if you want an excuse for booms.) You'll gain little extra science from entering orbit but not landing. Though you might want to park the sat in orbit to act as a comms relay or to snag "Science Data From" contracts. Once you have the gravimeter and ideally the big ore scanner too, then it's great to park in a polar orbit to scoop up more science.

Speaking of biomes, I seem to remember the surface ore scanner's right-click menu shows the current biome. Nice to have if you're not using KER (which has a biome display) or a science alert mod.

And speaking of comms relays, you don't need a super-fancy perfect coverage system. You can work with intermittent connection, just as long as you take a little care to ensure you have signal when you need it. For example check your planetary periapsis is on the side towards Kerbin (or above the poles) so you can do your capture burn. With an atmo lander, arm the chutes ahead of time so they'll deploy automatically even if you lose signal on descent.

Transmitting data can take a lot of electricity, make sure you pack plenty of batteries.

If you want to get into serious gravity assist use, the sky's the limit. In terms of being both fairly useful and fairly easy, the Joolian system is a great place, see if you can get Tylo to capture you into a Jool orbit.

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Posted (edited)

Because it takes so little dV (and cost) to get a mk1 capsule back from the Mun and Minmus it seems almost a waste not to and halve the science for a mission.

This kinda  makes exploring without a crew almost an affectation. 

A way to reduce the return dV/cost further is to take along a scientist to reset experiments and take the crew-only readings at multiple biomes and then abandon him and return an Experiment Storage Unit with all the juicy science collected.

Edited by Foxster

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On 5/23/2019 at 1:01 PM, MisterKerman said:

If I'm better off just doing moon missions within Kerbin's SOI then I'll probably just continue to do that, but I feel like I'm missing out on a very respectable aspect of running a space program by just going for gold every time the same way, just because I know it's there.

honestly it's boring doing the same biome hopping missions with every different save game .. doing something different is what keeps gaming fresh...  

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