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Part mods for fun with probes?

Space Nerd

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Hi, I want to start a new "science sandbox" save in 1.8.1(science mode with cheat menu to unlock all parts ), and do a probes only playthrough, with planet packs and part mods for fun.

Here's the mods I want to add:

Planet packs: Outer Planets Mod by @Poodmund, Extrasolar by @AndrewDraws, and Galaxies Unbound by @StarCrusher96if it's compatible.(a patch to make a copy of Eeloo in its original orbit is also nice)

Parts mods: Restock and Restock+ by @Nertea/

Missing history by @Snark(don't know if they're compatible)

Some of the Near Future mods(propulsion or electrical or exploration) by @Nertea

Cryogenic engines and/or Kerbal atomics by @Nertea(optional)

JX2 antennas by @Snark

PicoPort, Modular segmented SRBs, and nuclear engines in spacetux recycled parts by @linuxgurugamer

Pure electrical engines by @Jatwaafor fun(not needed if GU is installed, because that has its own fusion plasma engines)

Any other suggestions are welcome!

Edited by Space Nerd
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4 hours ago, Gordon Fecyk said:

Have you considered an alternate tech tree for this, if you're going to do a probes-only game? One that starts with probe cores such as UnKerballedStart, for instance?

Well, I have considered that, but I decided I don't want to go through unlocking the tech tree again.

2 hours ago, The Dressian Exploder said:

Try RLA reborn out! lots of probe bits there. Also ProbesPlus is definitely worth a mention.

Installing RLA reborn now.

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Infernal Robotics contains surface sampler and a "crew reporter" that can do surface samples and crew reports unkerballed. Dmagic science for moar probe science and monstrous deployable relays, hullcam vds for IVA-only runs. And recent Extraplanetary Launchpads contains some "unmanned productivity"... it is T R I C K Y but it works, sure.

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Probe options include:

Near Future Exploration: includes hollow parts for hiding probe accessories.

Octosat: a distinctive set of probe parts. Uniquely shaped so it's not easy to add 1 or 2 octosat parts onto a mostly stock probe.

Bluedog Design Bureau: a huge (huge!) pretty parts mod covering the early to middle USA space program. Has many parts to recreate historical probes, and some new science experiments.

Scansat: adds parts that can create terrain and biome maps. Creates a strong incentive for establishing polar orbits in order to map 100% of a planet.

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If you're running ReStock+ version 1.0.0 or later, you'll find that most of Missing History is either redundant or outright replaced, but there are still a few parts in there (e.g. making the FL-A10 adapter into a fuel tank) that are useful.

OctoSat and Probes Plus are also recommended: OctoSat because it's an incredibly versatile and modular system to make just about any type of probe you want, and Probes Plus because of the sheer diversity of stock-alike probe cores, landers and other parts that are actually based on real probes (prebuilt ship files are available but don't come with the mod itself) plus there are a bunch of additional science experiments in it too and a massive list of compatibility patches and plugins.

Other good mods include:

SCANsat is good for getting more science and it makes useful maps of terrain and biomes so you can find good landing sites;

NFExploration has some interesting stuff in it including a unique way of using multi-part antenna systems to get more range/take up less space and some structural probe buses that match the appearance of the cores but are hollow and can hide stuff like batteries and fuel tanks to keep the probe itself looking pretty;

RLA reborn has some new probes plus upgraded versions of the stock cores with better stats plus a selection of 0.625m parts that will work well with small probes;

PicoPort gives probe-sized docking ports- there's also an add-on that adds 0.625m, 1.25m and 2.5m variants if you like;

Extended Antenna Progression, which has relay dishes that are huge, heavy and expensive but pay off with ranges that reach over 100 light years. Between that and the OctoSat relay dish I'm not sure you'd need JX2 antennas;

KNES has many different sizes of parts, starting at 0.3125m and rising in many increments; it also comes with the smallest functioning probe core I've ever seen in KSP- it's a cube sat that's even smaller than a cubic octagonal strut;

SSR MicroSat also contains a selection of probe-sized parts including LFOx and ion engines, little solar panels and dishes. Light and compact but a bit bland to look at especially compared to some of Probes Plus' offerings.

I'd skip Cryo engines purely because hydrogen doesn't have the fuel density to compete with standard LFOx engines, and the engines are expensive. Kerbal atomics is good for either really small or really large vessels- small because they're light and the smallest nuclear engine is pretty efficient, large because the engines are really efficient and can deal with the mass of hydrogen fuel you'll need. Beware of the patch that converts other nuclear engines to burn liquid hydrogen as this will affect the OctoSat nuclear engine, and OctoSat parts can't hold liquid hydrogen; bodge the part file to use a tiny amount of electric charge on top of liquid fuel and you can get around that problem. 

NFPropulsion has some nice high-efficiency engines, but there are two caveats: first, they use A LOT of electric charge for their tech level and will require nuclear reactors to run them (unless you're going really close to a star); and second, they don't produce a huge amount of thrust when operating at peak efficiency- the VASIMR thrusters can vary ISP at the expense of thrust, and the PIT thrusters can vary their ISP at the expense of increased power use. Skip the lithium engines, they're not nearly as good. There's a patch file inside the mod that varies the thrust, power use and ISP of all the engines; is it cheating to use that? Possibly...

From what I saw the spacetux recycled nuclear engines are pretty dismal, possibly not worth bothering about. Not sure modular SRBs are worth getting either, but BetterSRBs is an interesting one that modifies all existing solid fuel rockets with a variety of different fuel burn profiles (high thrust/low burn time vs low thrust/high burn time) and works perfectly well with SRBs from mods too.

You could also try the Grannus expansion pack for another solar system, and dwarf planets plus for some additional targets within the Kerbolar system itself. And once you're done with all that, try JNSQ with the stock planets rescaled nearly 3x and a compatible Grannus expansion at the same scale.

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