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Breaking the Bank with ISRU


katateochi
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One thing I've always wanted in KSP was a reason to setup a sort of space trucking program.  Not just hauling stuff out to other planets, but bringing things back...for a profit.
The stock mining doesn't really provide this, it's just not profitable to transport fuel that's been mined/refined on another planets back to Kerbin, you'd have to transport a LOT and even then, the payoff is pretty slim.  

I wanted to have something that could be mined on Mum, or perhaps further afield, that was worth something.  So in this career I installed MKS for the first time, and that opened up the options to mine a bunch of other things aside from Ore. "Exotic Minerals" and "Rare Metals" were the two resources that caught my eye. So whistling 'Uranium Fever' from Fallout, and with precious little planning I shot off to Mum to make my fortune mining these Rare and Exotic resources.

In my greed and haste I had selected a 2.5m Kontainer from MKS (below) to store my haul in.  A quick check showed that one of those full had a value of 2.4 million funds!! WOOOO!

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What I didn't check was how much it weighed when full....it was kinda similar in size to a FL-TX1800 fuel tank and they weigh about 10t so surely it'll be in that kinda ball park. I was extremely wrong.
Fully loaded that Kontainer weighs ~85 tons. It was going to take a much more beefy lifter than the one I brought, and a complete rethink about how to get it back home. 

So, somewhat miffed, I returned to the space centre and this time did some planning. Which is of course always a hazardous occupation in KSP, and I rather went down the rabbit hole on this and ended up with something that's so insanely profitable that it really kinda breaks the game from a funding point of view. 

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This is Romeo-Echo-Foxtrot (REFinery), a base that mines Exotic Minerals, Rare Metals, Silicates, Substrate and Minerals. It also requires Metallic Ore but that isn't available in the same location as the other resources, so it's mined a few km away and trucked in.  Those are refined into Silicon, Refined Exotics, Polymers, Metals and Chemicals, which are then further refined into "Specialised Parts" and "Material Kits". The two building blocks for creating and deploying DIY kits from scratch. And this is the final product.

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What is it you ask.... 
It's a set of KAS containers filled to the brim with Gravmax Gravioli Detectors (1600 of them), which I think have the highest cost to mass ratio of any part.  Weighing only 10t it's easy to transport and has a value of...... 14 millions funds!
(note: the containers only have 40 item slots, so originally I scaled the containers down so they matched the volume of 40 Gravioli detectors. But as I was already running into part count issues I went with the larger containers and added a config line in the KIS settings that enabled stacking detectors so I could put more than 40 in a box. That doesn't effect the volume constraints and it also meant I didn't have to drag 400 of them in one at a time!).

At it's current level of efficiency this base can produce one of these every 15 days......this base can generate around 364 Million funds per year.

And that's not even running at full efficiency. As I was new to MKS I hadn't understood what the significance of the "Machinery" resource was, and didn't know it effects the efficiency of the converters.  So my design for the base only factored in power consumption for mid-range efficiency. I also have some (slightly odd) issues with overheating on the base.
But a quick check suggests that with a bigger power supply and more cooling, I could potentially push the output of this base up to something like 680 million funds per year. I'm not going to, that'd just be absurd!  As it is I never need to accept another contract ever again.

So from one extreme to another;  with this system I'm now generating actually too much money. I was aiming for something a bit more balanced; a good source of off-world income, but not so ridiculous it completely breaks the funding aspect of the game!
I think next time around I will apply some constraints that say that certain resources can only be found on certain planets (ie Rare Metals are only on Dres) and then there will be the need for a more complex transport network and the process slowed down by interplanetary travel time.

I guess in the end the main thing is I had a load of fun designing it. Its way more complex than it needs to be, has stupid details like tracing lights that show "direction of flow" of resources from the drills and has way more storage capacity for the component resources than it needs, but that was an aesthetic choice.  It's also fully self sufficient for TAC life support resources and has 6 Kerbals living there, potentially indefinitely.
Building the base was the really fun part though.  I chopped it up into small parts, shipped them out over about 14 launches and It was mostly assembled on site by Kerbals (with the power of Kerbal Inventory System) and a couple rovers to move heavy parts around (a few of the really heavy parts were joined with welding docking ports from MKS).  All in the base cost just under 3 mil to build and launch, took about 40 Kerbal days to assemble.  It then took several weeks to get it up to higher efficiency, but it's already made about 30 mil profit in it's first 100 days since construction began.  

 

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I thought I'd share this gold mine process, although I think overall it's too OP and game breaking. 
If you want this base, I've posted it on KerbalX, It's also very possible to achieve the same conversion process with a simpler base, but I always get carried away with designs. 

 

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@Lewie This is my complete mod setup http://kerbalx.com/katateochi/installed_mods
(list is missing a couple things, like scatterer, but what's missing from the list are all dependencies of other mods on the list; ie Spectra will require scatterer)

yeah building this base is not straight forward! I'm planning to do a post on how I built this and also post the couple of rovers I used to help with construction, but that will have to wait till tomorrow now.
But the general idea is chop the base up in the editor into small manageable sections which you can launch and that aren't too heavy to move about, either using EVA Kerbals (with KIS installed) for the smaller parts or with rovers for the heavier parts. MKS has a special docking port that once docked can be "wielded"; you click join on the docking port and the docked ports disappear and the parts they connected to are joined.  So for the heavy section I used a low-loader rover (there's a couple pics of it in my post on KerbalX) to move them into place and they were joined with those MKS docking ports. Everything under 6 tons was put into place by Kerbals.  
Two sections (the central part and the workshop with a hab module attached to it) where too big for either option. So for those I used Global Construction to build them on site (you package up the section as a DIY kit, fly that out along with some Material Kits and then use a workshop with some engineers in it to build the kit).  The workshop bit was added towards the end, was too heavy to move with a rover so used KAS winches to drag it into place and it's joined with docking ports (getting the winches to drag it so it lined up close enough to dock was awkward!)

You could package the entire base into a single DIY kit and just fly that out and assemble it from that.....only problem with that approach is the DIY kit for the entire base weighs 95 tons and you'd also need around 82 tons of Materials Kits (plus a workshop part and some skilled engineers, and it'll probably take quite a while for them to assemble it!).  That's the easy option in the sense you don't have to chop it up and then re-assemble it on site, but transporting 95 tons to Mun won't be so easy!

 

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