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CCKP: An eventful return.


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  • 2 weeks later...

This update is a little delayed because I've been messing around in sandbox and also started working on a casual "just playing the damn game" mostly-stock career--which turned out to be for the best, since I got a lot of debugging done that now won't have a chance to foul things up in the Kerbalist Union save. Also got to try out 1.7.1 in VR, which was in no way productive but still extremely cool. May take a break after I get back from Duna; got a lot of other stuff I'd like to be working on (kerbal and otherwise) although I'm also very much looking forward to getting the kerbo-Buran going. We will see.

@Kerballing (Got Dunked On) "Aqualung" (after the Jethro Tull song) has been the name of my tanker ships in every save ever since my very first one back in 2014. No reason to stop just because this one's in Russian.

@SBKerman We'll see how it turns out. In my experience reusable systems are fun to set up but tedious to operate in practice. On the other hand, MechJeb really smooths things over, and the Sterzhen-MN is my first one that is stable through reentry without airbrakes. Back in 1.0.2, the last time I used reusable rockets, the best I could do was get within 20km or so because the airbrakes screwed up the targeting, which meant they always had to land short to avoid dropping in the ocean. Without airbrakes, I think I will be able to consistently get the Sterzhen-MN within a couple kilometers of the launch pad. The trick is to have the fuel drain top-to-bottom with a relatively short tank at the bottom emptying last, so between that and losing the payload it's very tail-heavy during reentry, which keeps it stable. I worked that out a while back while making a New Shepard-type suborbital rocket for a challenge.

And I really like the design you've come up with; using Atlas V style strap-on booster configurations makes your Phoenix system a lot more flexible than my Sterzhen-MN. (And I see we both independently ended up using the Kerbal Reusability Expansion Dragon trunk fins as New Glenn style descent fins.)

 

Boring stuff:

Spoiler

Finally got around to reworking my career edits to make the late tech tree a little more civilized. Previously I just sort of hamfistedly multiplied everything based on its tier, which resulted in some fairly straightforward stuff (like the biggest antennas--hence no probes to Dres, Jool, or Eeloo yet) being locked in 55,000 point nodes. I want funds, rather than science, to be the main obstacle to developing parts that are just bigger versions of existing tech, so now the focus is on technical breakthroughs rather than just bigger parts. Things like nuclear and ion engines, cryonics, and ISRU still require 55,000 points whereas stuff like bigger tanks, antennas, and chemical rockets are down to 11,000. Engines are still super-expensive in fund terms though--ranging from 150,000 funds for the Ant to 34,000,000 for the Atomic Age nuclear lightbulb.

TL;DR: messed with the tech tree.

 

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Vyzov 1 approaching Duna.

 

Terpeniye program: keeping the Mun and Minmus stations running.

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P2 Zelyz and S2 Dzhassya completed their 2-year mission on Mun station Terpeniye 4, including a trip to the surface on newly-arrived lander LDK-2 to collect data and Mun rocks.

 

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What would have been Morzh Ch-3 to Minmus station Terpeniye 3 ended in an in-flight abort due to a guidance fault; the mission was announced as Kerbal 92, a suborbital test. Since the flight expended the last two-kerman Morzh-Ch spacecraft, and the station was beginning to need maintenance requiring an engineer, the bureau decided to cancel the Morzh Ch-3 mission and move on to the first three-kerman expedition, Morzh TCh-1.

 

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The first attempt to launch Morzh TCh-1 ended in another abort after one of the first-stage engines exploded. Due to a circuit fault, the rocket lifted off anyway, but the loss of thrust forced an abort shortly after second-stage ignition. Once again, the flight was announced as a suborbital test, Kerbal 95.

OOC: One thing I like about MechJeb is, while it's great for streamlining routine operations, it also sometimes causes problems on its own--either due to unexpected behavior or bad inputs--which makes a career like this a little more interesting. Here, while the engines were supposed to be started and checked before the clamps disengaged, MechJeb decided to autostage the clamps and launch anyway. Of course I could always revert to launch for these kinds of things, but I'm increasingly enjoying just going with them.

 

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On the next attempt, the guidance system put the rocket on a low trajectory, but--eager to avoid a third consecutive abort--pilot Valentina disengaged the system and completed the ascent to orbit on manual control.

 

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The OKB-F's first three-kerman crew--P1 Valentina, S0 Rosbella, and E0 Mezhlana, the last added after the Morzh Ch-3 abort--finally made it to Terpeniye 3 more than a year after the last crew had left.

 

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Their stay was relatively short--171 days, limited by the station's air supply--but engineer Mezhlana performed some important maintenance on the station while Valentina and Rosbella took LDK-1 on its second trip to the surface to collect data and samples. During the trip they also successfully confirmed the lander autopilot's ability to make meter-precise landings, although the flight profile put too much stress on the engines to be done routinely.

 

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After the Morzh TCh-1 crew returned, supply module Prikhvosten T-4 was launched to the station with a docking node, intended to allow more ships to dock simultaneously without resulting in a long, wobbly stack of Prikhvosten-Ts docked end-to-end. The next crew--S2 Bobyn, P0 Mirlyn, and S0 Ivaryn, the first crew not commanded by a pilot--arrived for a two-year mission on Morzh TCh-2. They were joined a few months later by Prikhvosten 10, a supply ship hurriedly sent up after it became clear the station was still short of air.

OOC: I'm encouraged by the performance on this thing; with the core, three supply modules, one lander, and one crew shuttle it's well over 300 parts but the frame rate is still tolerable.

 

Vyzov 1: Objective--Duna!

Spoiler

Ever since the first successful Mun and Minmus landings, the OKB-F engineers had been puzzling over the problem of sending kermen to the next obvious destination--Duna. The baseline plan varied over time--ranging from relatively simple lander/orbiter combinations to complicated missions involving four or five separate vehicles--but they always seemed to require on-orbit assembly. The space program's existing launch vehicles--Iskra, Iskra-K, Kvark, and Sterzhen--simply weren't powerful enough to launch a vehicle with enough delta-v for a Duna landing and return, large enough to keep its crew sane and healthy, and holding enough supplies for a nearly three-year trip.

With the notional next generation heavy-lift fireworks still on the drawing board, and likely to remain there for many years, the engineers were faced with the prospect of a mission which would require nine Akvalang flights to assemble and fuel up, in addition to three or four Sterzhens and Kvarks for the vehicle itself and a final Iskra-K for the crew. The whole thing would cost well over 500,000 funds--and possibly closer to a million--per flight, to say nothing of the complexity of assembling such a ship on-orbit.

Once again, however, the after-work drinking sessions came to the rescue. A number of stupid ideas were proposed, such as "What if we only sent one kerbal down to the surface?" and "What if we just built a bigger damn Sterzhen?" and "What if we fly through Duna's atmosphere to capture into orbit?", all of which eventually added up to a minimal vehicle with a two-kerman crew launched on a new interim heavy firework built with existing Sterzhen hardware. Extensive simulations of the firework, the orbiter, and the tiny one-kerman lander suggested that the design would work--and for a cost of less than 200,000 funds per shot.

 

OOC: While I had hoped to do the Duna mission with existing hardware, as in HSP, I also didn't want to just do a repeat of Bravado II, the HSP's first Duna mission, and that was what it looked like the multi-launch concepts were converging on as I increasingly optimized them for cost. And I liked the idea of a single-launch Duna mission, especially with the added challenges of early game tech and the issues of sanity, radiation, and life support imposed by Kerbalism. In the end, new rocket or no, this was by far the most primitive interplanetary mission I'd ever launched--even my very first one-kerman Duna landing back in 1.0.2 had more advanced engines. And between the one-kerbal lander and 36 first-stage engines, it's also a lot closer to an N1/L3 recreation than the Sterzhen/Morzh Mun rocket was, which is nice.

 

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After several years of design work, simulations, construction, and last-minute changes (including adding extra fuel tanks to the lander), Vyzov 1 was finally prepared for liftoff on the first Sterzhen-ST rocket.

 

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Based on the simulations, the engineers were confident the new firework would still work even with one or two engines out, but all of the 36 T45s in the first stage ignited cleanly and the rocket lifted off.

 

OOC: As much as I love clustering T45s, I hope to not have to launch too many of these. They seem to work fine but Engine Lighting and Real Plume are both extremely laggy with big clusters like this--the 35-engine Iskra-K is nearly as bad--so I'm definitely looking forward to getting my version of the Energia/Buran/Zenit family going, which will replace the huge T45 clusters with a much smaller number of Mainsails. An Iskra-K replacement using the MH R-7 parts might happen eventually as well--same reason.

 

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On board the rocket were two of the design bureau's veteran kerbonauts, P2 Dzhedasyn and E1 Byldo--selected both for their spaceflight experience and their good records of maintaining sanity on long space station missions. Vyzov 1 is expected to last nearly three years--longer than any previous station trip--and the crew will have to make do with less living space, so avoiding space madness is one of the engineers' main concerns.

 

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The fairing and the makeshift launch escape system were jettisoned at fifty kilometers during the first burn of the second stage (a modified Sterzhen first stage). The second stage completed two more burns, first to circularize and then to start the departure maneuver from Kerbin.

 

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The third stage, derived from a Kvark-I second stage and integral with the spacecraft, completed the transfer burn, sending Dzhedasyn, Byldo, and Vyzov 1 on their way to an encounter with Duna.

 

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Half a year later, the spacecraft entered the atmosphere of Duna in a maneuver carefully calculated to burn off just enough speed to capture into orbit.

 

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The aerocapture maneuver and a second aerobraking pass to lower the ship's apoapsis were successful, and the ship used its 48-7S maneuvering rockets to circularize its orbit.

 

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Once the necessary calculations had been made showing that the ship had more than enough fuel and supplies for the return to Kerbin (a relief mission could have been launched at the next window in an emergency), Dzhedasyn boarded the landing craft for the descent to the surface.

 

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The lander entered the atmosphere, deployed parachutes, and descended towards the dusty Dunatian lowlands.

 

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Dzhedasyn: first kerman on Duna!

 

 

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Last update for a while--call it the end of chapter 1. I'll be back when I'm back, hopefully with chapter 2, although Kerbalism is being increasingly difficult so I might start another log instead. We will see.

@RocketMan-Explorer I'm pleased to say I knew the original without clicking the link. (Unsurprisingly, given one of the HSP's ships was named after another song by the same duo.)

 

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Dzhedasyn lifts off from the surface of Duna in the Vyzov 1 lander.

 

Moho and MN-1: interplanetary probes.

Spoiler

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The stretched Sterzhen MN-1 flew its second mission, orbiting Gilly satellite Zhabry 2 and its transfer stage before making a successful landing. The engineers are contemplating using it in a suborbital configuration with an expendable second stage to increase its capacity; simulations suggest such an approach might be possible with improved guidance systems. (OOC: I tried a Falcon 9 style return-to-launch-site mission in a simulation; it worked, but it looks like to get both stages to work I'd have to either fly a bizarre trajectory or use FMRS, which I've never gotten to work consistently in the past but I think I may have been using it wrong. We will see.)

 

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Two Kvark-I rockets launched Moho 2 and 3, both designed around the sample-return vehicle originally designed for Duna to achieve the necessary delta-v. Moho 2 orbited the planet while Moho 3 became the first probe to soft-land on it.

 

Terpeniye 3 and 4: station ops.

Spoiler

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The crew of Morzh TCh-2 were forced to return early from Terpeniye 3/Minmus after registering anomalously high radiation exposure. The OKB-F engineers were mystified at the time, because the TCh-3 crew in Munar orbit were not similarly irradiated, but now suspect kerbolar flares were to blame--the Minmus station orbits much higher than the Mun one and so spends less time in its orbital parent's shadow, which may explain the discrepancy.

Morzh TCh-4 (above) arrived at the station on a 1-year maintenance mission; engineer Nila performed routine maintenance on the station's solar panels and other systems as well as installing an air regenerator--tested by Morzh TCh-3 at the Mun--which should resolve the air supply issues of both stations indefinitely.

 

Vyzov 1: return from Duna.

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Dzhedasyn spent a few hours exploring the landing site and collecting samples before returning to the lander.

 

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Once he was back on board, the lander lifted off to return to the orbiting Vyzov 1.

 

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The first-stage fuel tanks and landing gear were jettisoned during the ascent.

 

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Dzhedasyn and the second stage returned to orbit and docked with the Vyzov 1 orbiter.

 

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After a year and a half waiting for the planets to align, Vyzov 1 restarted its T-45 main engine to return to Kerbin. Although the trip out had been uneventful, a kerbolar flare during the return caused the two cosmonauts to be more than 80% radioactive by the time they arrived in the Kerbin system. While the engineers were somewhat discouraged by this, simulations suggest that turning the ship end-on to the sun during such flares will reduce exposure on future missions. (OOC: I discovered this after the fact; while it's technically very cool, I still would prefer a passive storm-shelter system to something that requires this much micromanagement.)

 

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As the ship approached Kerbin, the habitat and lander (the latter having been kept for extra living space on the return trip) were jettisoned and the command module reentered Kerbin's atmosphere.

 

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Unfortunately, it happened to descend over a dangerous mountain range, forcing Byldo and Dzhedasyn to bail out and parachute to the ground. (OOC: Between this and the solar storms, I swear this mission was cursed. In all the time I've been playing KSP this is the first time I've ever had this happen on an interplanetary mission.) The capsule was destroyed, but the two cosmonauts landed safely--the first kermen to return from another world.

 

And now, I''m off to micromanage some Sims. I expect I'll be back before too terribly long though; I've got a lot of ideas both for this save and for others that I'm looking forward to trying out. See you all then!

 

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26 minutes ago, Kerballing (Got Dunked On) said:

Question, did you manage to retrieve the science from the capsule?

Yes, in fact: I set the parachutes to open at high altitude, which gave Byldo (who inexplicably had a stock parachute this time... guess it was just a glitch that Venlana was missing hers before) plenty of time to collect the science before letting go of the capsule. Not that there was much science to save: Vyzov 1 had no instruments (the sample-return missions already got a lot of the same data) and EVA and crew reports are 100% transmittable, so all that was left in the capsule at that point was a surface sample and some blueberries.

While Vyzov 1 was good for PR, it had hardly any scientific value compared to the space stations, and future "flags and footprints" missions like it will have even less. Right now (assuming I do carry on with this career rather than starting over) I'm thinking of only two or three more baseline Vyzov missions--to Gilly, Ike, and possibly one more to Duna--and then move on to a larger version with a three-kerman crew and a lab, launched by two Sterzhens.

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1 minute ago, Kerballing (Got Dunked On) said:

Are the blueberries in the surface sample?

Blueberries are one of the collectable surface features on Duna, added by the Breaking Ground DLC.

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