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Kerbal players aren't exactly professional pilots (so landing is hard for many of us), and the runway is annoyingly short for some of the heaviest/largest spaceplanes we might build (ESPECIALLY given the lack of any Stock jet engines larger than 1.25 meters- meaning our largest spaceplanes tend to end up light on Thrust..)

Thus, I would like to suggest that there be a longer/wider runway, which players can upgrade to as a "Level 4" runway (only effect is having more room to takeoff/land) in Career, or have from the start in Sandbox.

 

While we're on the subject of facilities, a Level 4 Tracking Center upgrade would be nice- potentially allowing players to attain an even more powerful Deep Space Network, for an ENORMOUS investment of Funds (one more thing to work towards late-game)

And, among the alternate launch sites, the Desert Runway is a serious pain- could we get a little terrain leveling of at least a few of the dunes right next to it? (like how the area around the KSC is flat)  Maybe make it longer/wider as well?

Historically, some of the largest/widest runways in the world have been built in desert areas, for aerospace R&D and potentially for spaceplane use someday (Dreamchaser and X-37b were only the start...)- yet the Desert Runway we have to work with is absolutely pathetic...  As is the island runway too- meaning we only have one decent runway, at the KSC- and it's still not as long or wide as we might prefer at times...

 

EDIT: since some comments on a Level 4 DSN aren't aware- there is already one for Outer Planets Mod.  So it is definitely possible to do!

EDIT #2: Since the lvl 4 Tracking Station idea has generated a LOT of discussion, and was only an aside (from the main idea of a bigger runway), I have created s new thread specifically on level 4 facilities.  I would ask you take any discussion of upgraded DSN there- but I would ask that you please do not crowd out other parts of the topic people might want to discuss!  Thanks!

Edited by Northstar1989
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Aside from the fact that KSC is built on a large and flat plateau with plenty of space to take off or land even the largest planes, what exactly are you building that can’t take off from the runway? If you really can’t accelerate to flight speed with that runway then try strapping on some solid boosters and firing them up for takeoff or angle your wings to increase lift at lower speeds.

 

And as for the tracking station- the level 3 range is more than adequate for the stock solar system, and if you want more range just increase the multiplier in the settings. 

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Regarding pilot skills, practice, practice, practice.

Regarding issues simply getting a plane of the ground, I would question the design. Take off mass, thrust, rolling angle of attack, undercarriage placement, excessive drag, etc etc. A few extradesign principles and you might find all those problems go away.

Regarding stopping, KSP wheel brakes are quite effective, but only if a) there are a suitable number of wheels and b) they're perpendicular to the ground.


Edit : It's also worth noting that the runway being longer would create much larger or steeper ramps at the ends due to its absolute flatness compared with the curvature of Kerbin's surface. Potentially you could extend inland, but I wouldn't want to take it any futher towards the ocean for fear of creating a near-vertical drop onto the beach/into the water. It's also been discussed before that the further you go along that flat plane away from the centre, the more gravity will start to pull you back towards the centre. This could lead to planes starting to rapidly roll along the runway towards the middle when they're supposed to be at rest.
 

Edited by The_Rocketeer
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Still, bigger planes need bigger runways. Would be cool to have separate launch complex which specializes on planes and has wide and long runway. Now other launch complexes don't have any anvantage over KSC.

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8 hours ago, The_Rocketeer said:

Regarding pilot skills, practice, practice, practice.

Tell that to whoever put airbrakes so far in the tech tree that by the time you actually get them, you no longer need planes because Kerbin is done. And no, drogue chutes are not an adequate substitute because they're single-use all-or-nothing, with the result of their use being that the plane either crashes into the runway from the drogues opening too early causing a stall or crashes into the runway from the drogues opening too late causing the landing gear to explode on contact due to too high relative velocity.

And even if I do manage to touch down before having overshot half of the runway, I never reach the end of the runway because I get dunked off the side of the runway and suffer rapid unplanned disassembly because any attempt to steer away from the edge results in the plane tipping over sideways from its own momentum coupled with the sudden friction of the wheels no longer pointing directly prograde, suffering RUD anyway. Hence why I'd like the runway to be wider.

Seriously, just packing all of my planes with enough parachutes to land at 10 m/s is much less of a hassle than trying to land.

Edited by Fraktal
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2 hours ago, Fraktal said:

Tell that to whoever put airbrakes so far in the tech tree that by the time you actually get them, you no longer need planes because Kerbin is done. And no, drogue chutes are not an adequate substitute because they're single-use all-or-nothing, with the result of their use being that the plane either crashes into the runway from the drogues opening too early causing a stall or crashes into the runway from the drogues opening too late causing the landing gear to explode on contact due to too high relative velocity.

And even if I do manage to touch down before having overshot half of the runway, I never reach the end of the runway because I get dunked off the side of the runway and suffer rapid unplanned disassembly because any attempt to steer away from the edge results in the plane tipping over sideways from its own momentum coupled with the sudden friction of the wheels no longer pointing directly prograde, suffering RUD anyway. Hence why I'd like the runway to be wider.

Seriously, just packing all of my planes with enough parachutes to land at 10 m/s is much less of a hassle than trying to land.

Also flaps and other similar control surfaces don't really work in KSP due to it's terrible Approximation (Can't even bring myself to call it a model) of aerodynamics. So actually mechanizing a plane to the point where you feel some degree of control over is difficult (Not impossible....but....at that point rockets look simple). Combine that with the questionable wheels and dampers that sometimes become reactionless propulsion whenever they feel like it (Seriously these things crack me up sending me from a dead stop to flying in a hyperbolic trajectory at 30m/s on the mun) and 9/10 times your only viable option is just to say **** it and plaster on dead weight in the form of chutes whenever you want to land.

That all said; there's a fantastic dev blog buried somewhere that details why making the runway longer/wider is a hell of a lot more work than it sounds. BUT i'd say fixing the buggy wheels would make all of this far less painful, and should be a priority. The aero model-but-not-really-model of KSP is also a massive problem, along with the lack of a reasonable selection of aircraft parts. But we all must remember; KSP was a rocket sim/sandbox well before it was dabbling in planes.

My janky workaround with ancient KSPWheel patches for stock gears + FAR + about 4 plane part modz is satisfying my needs ATM.

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9 hours ago, Fraktal said:

Tell that to whoever put airbrakes so far in the tech tree that by the time you actually get them, you no longer need planes because Kerbin is done.

In fairness I come with a certain amount of flight-sim gaming experience and I started playing KSP before airbrakes existed at all. That being said, from my perspective, if you need airbrakes to land a plane, it's not a very good plane. Stall speed is a matter of design, and approaching the runway too fast ,if the plane is designed to be capable of flying slower, is pilot error.

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To throw in my own two cents, I personally have never needed to use the whole length of the runway before. This is probably because airliners are much better at flying than space shuttles, so I don't have much of a say in this.

What I can say are potential solutions. Firstly, the KSP landing gear are finicky. You're right. For the most part, the Spring and Damper settings need to be turned up (I usually put mine at max). For braking, I tend to put the Brakes at 200%, which is sometimes so strong for my airliners I reduce them to 50%. But perhaps you already knew this.

Solution 2: Kerbinside / Kerbal Konstructs. Probably the solution you all wanted anyways. It allows you to spawn in a new runway wherever you want and scale its size, and set it as a new launchsite. Fantastic, isn't it?

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4 hours ago, The_Rocketeer said:

Stall speed is a matter of design

Bigger wings for more lift are not always an option. Especially if you've only got early wings and you're deliberately trying to stay under 30 parts.

Quote

To throw in my own two cents, I personally have never needed to use the whole length of the runway before.

Nor did I. It's not the length that's the problem, it's the width. Yaw controls are pretty much unusable in KSP.

Edited by Fraktal
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31 minutes ago, Fraktal said:

Bigger wings for more lift are not always an option. Especially if you've only got early wings and you're deliberately trying to stay under 30 parts.

Not to be confrontational, but bigger wings aren't necessary at those levels. If you want to share a .craft file, I'll see what I can do to demonstrate/improve (keys/mouse controls only).

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Reduce the friction and brake force on your nose wheel(s), that will help with planes swerving side to side on takeoff or landing. Leading edge slats that deploy upwards are a good way of getting more lift at lower speeds and are less likely to push your nose down than trailing edge flaps.

Good aircraft design makes a lot of difference- angling your wings up by a few degrees and adjusting the height of your wheels to give your plane a slight nose-up attitude on the runway will make taking off easier as it boosts your angle of attack and so your lift; for landings, if you don't have airbrakes unlocked then use whatever control surfaces you do have (elevons, winglets, tail fins) and set them to deploy when you brake, this also works if you have two or more tail fins. Keep your centre of mass in front of your centre of lift at all times or your plane will want to flip around and fly backwards- this can require some experimentation with fuel flow priority.

I made a plane a few days ago with about 12 parts in it and elevons as wings, it didn't fly terribly well but it would spontaneously lift off the ground at about 35m/s because they were angled upwards and the gear was adjusted to a few degrees nose up. A recent SSTO spaceplane I made was well over a hundred tons on the runway but still rotated and took off before passing the end of the tarmac beside the spaceplane hangar for the same reason.

Use the stock aircraft to practice flying and landing, they're there for a reason. Start with something small, like the Aeris 3A, and once you get the hang of that move on to something bigger and/or faster; landing a plane isn't easy but practice will help.

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On 5/21/2020 at 12:08 PM, Fraktal said:

The current runway is good enough for taking off. Landing, on the other hand, not so much.

It's only 2.5 km long (the longest runways at most commercial airports are 3.5 km.  The Cape Carnaveral runway is 4.5 km.  The dry lakebeds used for Space Shuttle landings at Edwards AFB had a 12.1 km long lighted strip!) it's not long enough for ANYTHING.

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On 5/21/2020 at 4:56 AM, jimmymcgoochie said:

what exactly are you building that can’t take off from the runway? If you really can’t accelerate to flight speed with that runway then try strapping on some solid boosters and firing them up for takeoff or angle your wings to increase lift at lower speeds.

A small unmanned shuttle, meant to launch inside the fairing of a rocket and land horizontally, X-37B style.  I gave it 2 small 0.625 meter jet pods (underpowered, meant for cross-range more than actual level flight), a 'Spark' rocket engine, and a 'Cub' Vernor thruster.

The fuselage was ultra-light, 1.25 meters, with structural fuselages in the back for length (as I was using FAR, the wings were highly-swept: the spaceplane was optimized for stability in high-speed re-entry and supercruise, not takeoff- which it would never do on its own in actual missions).

I placed the engine pods ABOVE the wings (to augment Lift, seems to be a thing in FAR, as the spaceplane couldn't fly at under 200 m/s without this, but was flyable down to about 90 m/s with it: after which it was impossible to maintain altitude without stalling the plane, due to very high wingloading).

I ended up having to drastically expand the wings (reducing sweep in the process due to fairing constraints), turn it into a supersonic BIPLANE (doesn't work well in FAR to my knowledge, though in real-life this can drastically improve supercruise performance if the wings are placed the right distance apart to cause destructive interference between the shockwaves.  Only works to reduce Drag at one speed for a given design, though, much like the forward below-water bulge on a ship hull...) and reduce the fuel-loading to kess than 1/3rd just to get off the ground for testing!

The thing could easily take off with a longer distance to accelerate: just with its built-in negative AoA on the ground (important for landings where the plane doesn't bounce, but makes takeoff harder) it had trouble getting off the ground at under 120 m/s (just BARELY feasible once I added the Vernor).  I had to also give it so little rocket fuel, to reduce liftoff speed, that the rockets flared out mere seconds after takeoff- often causing the design to nosedive into the ocean as it hadn't built up enough speed for the jets to reach maximal Thrust yet...  Making it to a high enough speed and altitude for stable flight only occurred about 10% of the tume before redesigns (note the rockets were needed to get the thing up to transonic speeds, where the jets could take over...)

This design wasn't built for actual horizontal takeoff, and it flew just fine at high speeds and altitudes- like was intended.  It ended up needing larger wings anyways for a safe glide-slope at KSC (this was how it became a biplane with only 60 degree wing-sweep instead of 72), as initially it came down way too fast and wasn't capable of prolonged level flight at such low speeds (once again, it could maintain altitude at Mach 0.7 and above- the 0.625 jet engines produce max thrust at Mach 1.3, and thus are *very* tricky to use in FAR planes with low TWR...) but I should never have had to make such drastic redesigns because of only a 2.5 km runway at KSC!

KSC in real life has a 4.5 km runway with 120 meters of paved width (90 meter runway, 15 m shoulders)- vs. 70 meters width and 2.5 km length in KSP...

On 5/20/2020 at 8:59 PM, RoninFrog said:

You could just taxi off the side and then take off from the KSC lawn.  It's pretty big and flat.

This should never be necessary in KSP.

How hard is it to just give us a proper, 3.5- 4.5 km long runway?!

The runway segments are all virtually identical.  It doesn't require any new modeling- you basically just reuse the middle segments over and over!

The reduced width is a pain, but justifiable: craft in KSP need not be as large as their real-life counterparts.  But smaller planes (with the same TWR and wingloading) tend to have WORSE performance than larger ones, both in real-life and KSP: especially with FAR installed.  So we actually need a LONGER runway for takeoff if anything! (landing, admittedly, is easier with smaller planes: and usually the factor that drives runway length.  Hence why the Shuttles had a 12.1 km landing strip in the unpaved lakebeds near Edwards Air Force Base they used whenever landing in California!)

Edited by Northstar1989
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On 5/21/2020 at 4:56 AM, jimmymcgoochie said:

And as for the tracking station- the level 3 range is more than adequate for the stock solar system, and if you want more range just increase the multiplier in the settings. 

I know about (and use!) the DSN slider in Career.  The Stock DSN range is unrealistically low- even for a scaled-down Kerbin system.  The real-life Voyager spacecraft maintained (very weak) comms as far out as a bit past the orbit of Pluto, WITHOUT the kind of heavy dish-spam (you need TONS of the largest dishes for thos, due to diminishing returns from stacking antennas...) you need for anything like thos relative range in KSP

Note: despite its semi-similar physical characteristics, Eeloo is NOT a close analog of Pluto when it cones to Comms.  The Kerbin system only has one Gas Giant (despite the dev's originally promising two!!) which Eelop is sometimes CLOSER to the sun than.  By contrast, Pluto is far out beyond the orbits of all 4 gas planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) in our own Solar System!  A comparable analog in KSP would have to cone from mods, like maybe Outer Planets Mod- the planets from which you CAN'T reach with a level 3 DSN even with the slider set to 2x, without ridiculous amounts of dish-spam (your only real option for probes is a Probe Control Point on the same mission!  And transmitting science home with 1-way probes?  Forget about it!)

Edited by Northstar1989
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20 minutes ago, Northstar1989 said:

I know about (and use!) the DSN slider in Career.  The Stock DSN range is unrealistically low- even for a scaled-down Kerbin system.  The real-life Voyager spacecraft maintained (very weak) comms as far out as a bit past the orbit of Pluto, WITHOUT the kind of heavy dish-spam (you need TONS of the largest dishes for thos, due to diminishing returns from stacking antennas...) you need for anything like thos relative range in KSP

Note: despite its semi-similar physical characteristics, Eeloo is NOT a close analog of Pluto when it cones to Comms.  The Kerbin system only has one Gas Giant (despite the dev's originally promising two!!) which Eelop is sometimes CLOSER to the sun than.  By contrast, Pluto is far out beyond the orbits of all 4 gas planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) in our own Solar System!  A comparable analog in KSP would have to cone from mods, like maybe Outer Planets Mod- the planets from which you CAN'T reach with a level 3 DSN even with the slider set to 2x, without ridiculous amounts of dish-spam (your only real option for probes is a Probe Control Point on the same mission!  And transmitting science home with 1-way probes?  Forget about it!)

Voyager took hours to send back individual pixels from images. Meanwhile there are seventy metre wide dishes on Earth to receive those extremely faint signals. It wasn't being flown in real time or having to send large quantities of data in short bursts; that would be a really boring game as your data trickled in slowly over several days.

Turn the signal multiplier up more if you don't get enough range, or use one of the many mods that boost communications- some add higher level tracking stations (fairly sure OPM comes with a level 4 DSN upgrade), some add bigger and better antennae (extended antenna progression has relays that extend into the tens of light years of signal range), some add new ways to boost signals from existing dishes (NFExploration's signal reflectors for one). Don't blame the developers for not supporting your own specific edge cases when a) it doesn't affect the stock game, b) modders have solved the same problems many different ways already and most importantly, c) it's a game! It's not supposed to be realistic, because in many cases (like this one) realistic is dull and games should be fun. You're in a 1/10th scale solar system building rockets from parts literally built in a junkyard, not exactly the domain of lifelike simulations of deep space operations.

And your plane, that you admit wasn't supposed to take off from a runway and had design features that made runway takeoffs more difficult, didn't work when you tried to take off from a runway, and that's the fault of the runway for not being long enough? Make your own longer runway with Kerbal Konstructs if you want a longer one; it's been a very long time since I built a plane that couldn't take off from the runway and even that had tiny little wings for its size and only got airborne because the runway ran out and it could rotate nose-up.

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13 minutes ago, jimmymcgoochie said:

Voyager took hours to send back individual pixels from images.

That's what we call very low signal-strength in KSP (a 1% signal models that well enough for a game).

But it still managed to send and receive control signals.  So it WAS still in-tange out past Pluto.

It also had a rather small antenna, compared to what we could've given it, to save mass.

16 minutes ago, jimmymcgoochie said:

Don't blame the developers for not supporting your own specific edge cases

Calling things edge-cases and saying "there's a mod for that" is simple defeatism.

It can be done in real life, has utility in-game (with level 3 DSN, many antennae can't even operate near Jool- an upgraded DSN would make these missions slightly easier, with better signal strength or signals with antenna that currently get none at all), and it adds good publicity for the game, adding a stock lvl 4 DSN and runway (dev's can say they're continuing to add new features: yet neither feature is actually much work to implement).

What's more, mods break, get abandoned, or are slow to update.  Basic features like this that SHOULDN'T slow future development in ANY way (a new model for the DSN and runway is a one-and-done deal, requiring almost no feature maintenance) there is no reason not to add.

23 minutes ago, jimmymcgoochie said:

that's the fault of the runway for not being long enough?

Yes.

The runway is unrealistically short, to a degree that makes the game harder than it needs to be for no reason (we should by trying to make basic actions like landing and takeoff easier so more players will engage with the spaceplane features and the game in general, not harder), and the plane WAS able to land and takeoff with the larger flat grasslands near the KSC.

My plane was IMPOSSIBLE to land or takeoff on a 2.5 km runway, but many designs (including most shuttles) are just "hard".  Adding a more realistic, long runway would make these missions a little easier...

This isn't an uncommon problem/solution either- so much so that the knee-jerk reaction of many players here was to say "just use the lawn" on a suggestions thread- where the whole POINT is to suggest new features!

We should ask more of SQUAD, and ourselves.  When you do a job, you should do it to the best of your ability: if there's a widely-useful feature that requires very little cost or effort and would improve the game, even marginally, SQUAD should add it.

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I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the real reason the runway isn't any longer than it is. Kerbin is small enough that the runway we have is large enough to show the curvature of the planet. That's why planes roll forward on deployment: the runway there is actually sloped downhill.

Any larger and it'll just be worse.

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53 minutes ago, Superfluous J said:

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the real reason the runway isn't any longer than it is. Kerbin is small enough that the runway we have is large enough to show the curvature of the planet. That's why planes roll forward on deployment: the runway there is actually sloped downhill.

Any larger and it'll just be worse.

Not bad enough to be a big problem.

The lawn around the KSC is also perfectly flat.  Yet planes don't roll on it (much).

Players may have to up their brake-strength (through stock right-click) a bit: but this is realistic for other reasons.  Real jet engines can't produce zero thrust, even when stationary.  Some produce enough stationary thrust at zero throttle that the brakes have to be upgraded.

I don't have any issues with planes rolling on the KSC runway, though, unless the engines are throttled to high with brakes on.  Most players who experience motion do so for other reasons: like a Center of Mass too far forward relative to the wheels...

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Regarding the DSN thing, I'd very much like it if the ability to create maneuver nodes would be un-tied from DSN power. CommNetting home from Minmus is perfectly doable with only a level 1 DSN and a few Communotrons, but eyeballing an off-inclination transfer is not something that can be done by most players, meaning that you never actually get to use the level 1 DSN.

Edited by Fraktal
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What do you think of a longer strip mowed into the grass ?  hzAt1q6.jpg
Even better, I think would be to have KSC modeled to look like a tidal island, where geologic rebound has raised a former tidal flat to form a flat plain of bare packed sand.
Then there is something that looks like a runway that we can try to land on if we find it fun to try, but a convenient alternative that looks appropriate for experimental aircraft.

A couple years ago Kergarin (who is rather good at making craft with extreme capabilities) suggested a longer runway (forum link).  The forum (which was somewhat less friendly then than it is now) was unable to convince Kergarin that he was playing the game wrong, but we found it rather easy to convince him that having a runway that typical aircraft find reasonably challenging, is often fun.

Several of the basic parameters in KSP were adjusted when the game was first designed.  Smaller planet, heavier engines and fuel tanks --- and air that feels thicker at low speeds. (Actually under the hood the density stays the same but the lift and drag forces are increased at low speed.)  This makes KSP planes much heavier than the real-life craft they resemble, but perform very roughly the same. So you might consider the length of the runway to be one of the choices for game-balance. 

If you are using the mod FAR, this increase in low-speed lift is absent, so it is harder to use that runway unless you use other mods to get realistic masses.

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