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Terran(ism) Space Program


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After starting a report series using Kerbalism in a (relatively) stock game in the stock solar system called Kerbal(ism) Space Program (https://forum.kerbalspaceprogram.com/index.php?/topic/196959-kerbalism-space-program/), I went off for a few weeks to do a space race challenge using an upscaled version of Beyond Home; in the meantime I've also been watching an RP-1 series and for some inexplicable reason now I've gone and started playing RSS/RO/RP-1 but with Kerbalism too, hence the name of this thread.

I tried RSS/RO/RP-1 before, once, about a year ago when I had only started with KSP a few months previously, and I hated every moment of those 5 minutes before I ditched it; this time round I might actually know what I'm doing, although I've already managed to rip the wings off a plane by pulling up too hard- with fine controls switched on too! Starting with the easy difficulty settings but changing a few parameters to make things slightly more difficult should be fine, right?

Here goes nothing...

Terran(ism) Space Program

Episode 1: Pilot.

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Well, when the game gives you 4 pilots and a plane is the best option for quick and easy science, what else am I supposed to call the first report? You will probably see pretty quickly that I have no imagination for naming my crafts.

Planes like this don't do tooling or anything so this one's going through as is; however it can be landed and re-used with minimal effort which makes it a good way to get some science quickly and gives those pilots something to do until more interesting stuff (X-1) gets unlocked.

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Ah, now this is more like it- an actual rocket! Skipping the 0.3m WAC-Corporal related stuff in favour of the larger 0.38m Aerobee may or may not work out in the end, but I think it will be better in the long run to get some data on the bigger hardware as the consensus seems to be that Aerobee-related tech can be used for early sub-orbital and later orbital rockets. This one will have to wait until after the plane gets built though, they're on the same production line which simplifies the KCT upgrading system (good) but means stuff happens slower at first (bad).

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Two short flights in the imaginatively named Plane 1 net 20 or so science, more than enough to keep R&D going for a few years. Those early research speeds are painfully slow, but spending funds to unlock upgrade points can help to boost it and that plane will be useful for some low-hanging plane-related contracts which will be almost 100% pure profit until I crash it, or modify it, or make a new plane...

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Like an X-1, for example: it unlocks in the first plane-related node, so the 4 pilots are already getting some training done on it. I'm not sure if starting research on nodes is supposed to cost 10,000 funds per node so will have to look into that.

https://imgur.com/a/JmPp1Fh for some nice pictures of a plane flying around Cape Canaveral a couple of times.

Coming up in episode 2: A rocket launch?

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So I may have broken my save slightly by not checking how KSPCasher works, somehow selling all my science and getting many funds for it:

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This did allow a lot of KCT upgrade points to be dumped into the VAB and R&D to speed things up, but I've lost all my science now so I'll have to go get some more; the plane's range is too limited to reach anything else, so it looks like rockets are the way forward.

Wow! A rocket! Not a very big or powerful rocket, but it'll have to do.

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Completely ruined it by angling the fins far too steeply resulting in it spinning so fast that the fins actually ripped themselves off with the force. Unsurprisingly this caused a problem for stability and the rocket immediately began tumbling, shedding its speed rapidly and going nowhere near as high as I had hoped.

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A second rocket with an additional Tiny Tim on the bottom and the upgraded XASR-1 engine was wheeled out a little while later. This one used angled fins on the SRBs but not on the upper stage which meant that the upper stage actually stopped spinning after a while; other than that, this launch went a lot better- right up until the engine exploded:

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It was enough to get up beyond the Karman line and a useful proof of concept to do some altitude-based sounding rocket contracts, plus high altitude science too.

Science points spent to unlock new nodes, but they're going slowly. Upgrade points spent to make stuff go faster:

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A quick jaunt in that little plane racked up a contract and a pretty easy 10km crewed altitude record. Further low altitude plane contracts are low value and only reach their optimal value after 120 days, so won't be appearing much unless I really need the cash.

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Then I did something a little bit stupid, but to be fair it said it was fine in the editor:

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Contract requires 90 units of sounding rocket payload, I have 89.99 units... Cue an embarrassing reload, then an awkward 5 minutes repeating what I had already done because the last save was quite a lot further back than I remembered. Fixed the payload and tried again, opting for a bit of overkill to make sure it would count this time:

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Then I spent a while playing around with a two-stage rocket to push into space and try to get as far downrange as possible and/or carry science experiments into space. Simulation runs often ended in the rocket flipping out and tearing itself apart, but that's what happens when you try and cobble together a rocket with the (probably terrible) set of parts that are already tooled- a 1.25x4m fuel tank from a rocket plane I've been working on and the existing upper stage rocket.

You can see how those simulation runs go in the album, but the TL:DR version is- too much thrust causes it to break up, too little thrust combined with too steep a climb angle also causes it to break up, somewhere in the middle can get to space and back down again.

One thing I did discover is that this drogue chute on the recovery capsule is preposterously small- I think it's approximately the size of a cocktail umbrella!

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Full imgur album: https://imgur.com/a/PU1jzoY

Coming up next time: My first attempt at a supersonic rocket plane and some more rocket launches for science and profit. Probably- I haven't done it yet so that may change!

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It's always important to define your criteria for what constitutes a 'successful mission'. In my case, because several of these were bordering on terrible accidents.

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A sub-orbital rocket launch carrying science experiments to new and exciting heights, complete with a safe recovery and a number of achievements plus a nice contract to go suborbital and return safely.

And then the first flight of my new rocket plane!

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As missions go, this one went swimmingly...

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The next attempt went completely as intended and actually landed on the runway of all places:

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The third flight pushed the plane to new and exciting heights, but unfortunately it turns out that those heights are beyond the capacity of the plane to keep its pilot alive:

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Probably best to come back down. There's an upgrade in the next plane tech node that boosts the cockpit's maximum altitude to 70km which will come in handy for these missions, but until then 30km is a hard limit on how high it can go.

By the time I was done with all that, and trying another mission with that plane only to discover that the engine ignitions don't get reset between flights and the engine needs to be physically replaced for that to happen, it was 1952!

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https://imgur.com/a/MiazrDR

Coming up next time: Bigger and better rockets going very far away.

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It's a new year and that means... er, very little actually.

Some science reprioritisation has occurred, unlocking the souped-up rocketplane cockpit and its 75km limit faster as well as some materials science nodes which are a prerequisite for better parts and hold some new fuel tank types too.

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Then it was time to stick a second engine on that plane and switch the configs to one that doesn't need high-pressure tanks, which saves a lot of weight.

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Another scientific sounding rocket was launched into space for science and (contract) profit:

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And now for something completely (well, mostly) different: a new rocket design! It shares some part sizes with the other rockets I've made so far but then goes for something a lot beefier in the bottom stage- a 1.75m rocket powered by the Soviet version of the German V-2 rocket engine. This thing has a lot more delta-V than anything I've made before and promises to go very, very far.

It's also the first time I've used my new naming system, based on the 'rainbow codes' used by the UK for several decades and which gave the (in)famous Black Arrow rocket its name. This one started out as a new upper stage called Blue Baseball, then I added the lower stage (which I'm retroactively naming Blue Basketball) to create a two-stage rocket called Blue Football- and yes, I know that it isn't even remotely blue.

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A test run with no science instruments on board ended up reaching a 1400km apoapsis, clipping the inner edge of the inner Van Allen radiation belt and flying all the way from Cape Canaveral to Cape Verde (Cabo Verde), around 6000km away and double what the big downrange contract is asking for. In fact, with a few minor tweaks to this design, this thing might even make it to orbit.

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Tooling is an odd business though- that pointy tank on the lower stage is considered to be exactly the same as the cylindrical one on the lower half because their length and maximum width are the same, regardless of their shape. In theory this could allow a second cylindrical tank to be stuck between the two to add more fuel (with another upgrade to the engine to give it more thrust) and an attempt made at going to orbit without significantly increasing the costs. Those boat-tail fairings were really expensive to tool (1500 funds each, but they're identical so 1500 funds total) but their price went down from 90 funds each to 0 when tooled. Weird stuff...

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Another flight of the rocketplane was spoilt by the cabin upgrade not being applied; this will now be addressed by swapping it out for a brand new one with some minor tweaks being applied to make the controls less twitchy/prone to flip-flopping from one extreme to the other.

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/KRf6EUy

Coming up next- long-distance rocketry (a.k.a. dropping unarmed ICBMs on unsuspecting islands off the African coast), and also a launchpad upgrade- the Blue Football rocket is just under the 20 ton limit but is only about 2/3 of the delta-V needed to reach orbit.

 

 

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Swapping out the cockpit has resolved the altitude limit problem, so even more ambitious X-plane contracts could be completed:

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Despite using the same design as before, I had one rocket that just wouldn't work properly with engine failing to light or stay lit all over the place. It took about 20 attempts before it flew properly, including one where the parachute deployed stupidly early and one where it splashed down safely but then bounced off the ocean like it was a trampoline until the avionics exploded on impact.

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Eventually it worked properly and the contract was completed:

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A minor change to the Blue Football rocket was made to add some SoundingPayload which will complete a contract on top of the 3000km downrange contract and make even more money. The yellow cylindrical bit below the nosecone is an extra fuel tank, otherwise it's exactly the same as before:

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Half way through 1952 and already I'm gunning for the 3000km downrange contract. There's a spare one building just in case, but it won't be needed:

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An even higher flight followed, nearing the limits of the new cockpit:

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This was followed by a rather embarrassing incident on the next flight, which only just completed a supersonic X-planes contract and then ran out of fuel before having to ditch in the sea:

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A contract to lob a film can over the Karman line went well enough, even if the mission plan was to let the rocket tear itself apart due to a weight balance issue when the fuel ran out; it was better to do that with parts of the Blue Football rocket which are already tooled than to make something new.

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Tired of looking at all these stupid little contracts? Me too! Enough of this- it's time to go big or go home!

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These contracts handed out half a million funds in advance payments, there's 3 years before they expire but they aren't possible with the tech I have available right now and I need a bigger launchpad too. Fortunately, those advances allowed a new launchpad to be built and a lot of upgrade points to be funnelled into R&D to reduce the research time for the required nodes to be cut to around a year, leaving two whole years to build and launch the rockets.

The plan is simple- three stages, the bottom stage throws it up to somewhere between 200 and 300km apoapsis, then separates; an avionics and RCS interstage points the remaining stages in the right direction, then decouples as the second stage fires, followed by the third stage which contains avionics, science experiments and solar panels to keep the power on. Total delta-V required is around 9500m/s

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/E2j2C10

Coming up next time: a lot of waiting around, some design work and then, hopefully, an attempt at making it to orbit- possibly 4 years before Sputnik 1 did the same back in 1957!

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OK, so I may have been a little ambitious about the timelines, specifically the 'time warping forwards for an entire year' bit. There's still plenty of stuff that needs doing, more rocket launches and plane flights to get more science and money, plus it's never a good idea to leave the VAB idle.

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Everything on that research list down to Satellite Era Science is required for the 'first scientific satellite' contract- well, apart from the orbital rocketry node, but that unlocks several good engines that could be the key to getting into space in the first place.

I made a few attempts at simulating an orbital launch, using some of those not yet unlocked booster engines, with decidedly mixed results:

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But some of them got really close:

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There's a fuel tank upgrade coming soon which might help, so enough simulating for now.

Another launch of a film camera rocket ended 4 seconds in when the engine failed:

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Then I launched a Blue Softball (basically a Blue Baseball but with the three extra Tiny Tims replaced with small separation motors on the fins to spin it, and better engine configs on the top two stages) to get space science, only to have this happen:

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It wasn't all bad though: I got a crewed altitude record of 70km on one flight, upgraded the engines with a better config and went for the speed record of 1500m/s- and failed. And skidded off the runway too.

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The second Blue Softball launch went without incident and returned the last of the biological sample science along with some other data. This science will be useful to unlock an upgrade to procedural avionics which reduces the mass of science cores by 75% and power consumption by a frankly ridiculous 99.4%! Both of these things would be particularly good for that first satellite, but not strictly necessary.

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At this point there's almost exactly one year of R&D stuff to get the nodes I think I need for an orbital launch.

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Coming up next time- I might try to use the air launch system to drop a plane really REALLY far away, like the Sahara or the Arctic, to get more science from new biomes. There's not much else to do in the meantime, so I might cobble together some rockets with better science experiments and throw those at space.

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Today I had my first Kraken attack in this playthrough, but it was an absolute doozy- plane cabin crushed by over 3.5 TeraPascals, or about 35 million atmospheres, at over 10% of light speed! I think I should never again attempt to air launch that particular plane, which is a shame as that means it'll be much harder to get science from all those biomes in the western US.

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When the KSC looks like this, you know you have to reload the game:

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In other news, I went looking for the Appalachian mountains only to discover that pretty much all of the eastern US is 'forest'; on the plus side, I did break 1500m/s and get a nice little bonus for breaking that record:

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A long, long flight was attempted with a redesign of my old Plane 1 but that ended when I realised that the science probes I had stuck under the wings a) didn't have batteries in them and b) kept exploding when I decoupled them. Landing the plane got some science until the batteries ran out.

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Another flight record, this time for altitude- ignoring the 'go down or you will die' warnings for longer than strictly necessary resulted in a maximum altitude of just over 83km and another bonus for topping 80km.

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Another Blue Basketball rocket lobbed a camera into space for science, plus data for the RD-100 rocket engine which might just be enough to get a satellite into orbit.

A few different rocket designs were tested in the simulator using various combinations of RD-100s and Aerobees; one run actually made it into orbit, but annoyingly doing a KRASH simulation then returning to the VAB results in all unsaved changes being lost, so I lost the configuration and haven't found it again :(

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My latest crazy idea is to use the RD-102 configuration with four XLR11 engines (the same as on my rocket plane) on stage 1, then a massive cluster of 19 Aerobee AJ-27 engines on the second stage, with avionics and steerable fins on stage 1 to give it some semblance of control and a total of 10km/s of delta-V to play with. Engine clustering is advised against in the RP-1 wiki, but what do they know? I'm sure it will be fine :wink:

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/Lc1HHkW

Coming up next time- more simulating of an orbital rocket, then possibly the same thing but for real.

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Here's a simulation of my brand new Red Tiger launch system going into orbit:

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Spoiler

Here's an outtake of the real thing- TestLite decided to have the main engine first lose half its thrust, then the other half, plus one of the side Aerobees failed too. :mad:

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One problem with the main engine I could probably live with, but to have it suffer two malfunctions in the same flight was just not on!

And here's a real Red Tiger FLYING INTO LOW EARTH ORBIT!

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*ahem* I may have gotten a bit excited there, but that's my first proper orbit of Earth with RSS/RO/RP-1 and it took several days of trial and error to get it right- and even then I did a bit of a Kerbal move by sticking moar boosters on it, each of which was pretty much identical to the upper stages.

First artificial satellite around Earth in April 1954, take that Spudnik!

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And just to prove the first one wasn't a fluke, I followed it up with Red Tiger 2, now sporting solar panels and the latest in space science experiments to fulfil the first scientific satellite contract. This one had to stay in orbit for a day and still have power, but the batteries were more than up for the job even without solar power.

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With these contracts done and more accepted- polar satellite and solar-powered satellite- it was time to buy some upgrade points:

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There were some new contracts popping up for the advanced biological sample capsule; conveniently I already have a rocket (Blue Basketball) which has an advanced biological sample capsule and can complete these contracts with no modifications at all plus it gets more data units for the RD-102 (and later RD-103) engines for the orbital launches plus more science too.

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One embarrassing (and slightly bewildering) failure as Red Tiger 3's last stage fails to burn due to a non-pressurised fuel tank. Strange how that got changed when I just copied the previous design and made minor tweaks...

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A quick sim run proves that Red Tiger 4 can complete both the polar and solar satellite contracts in one go:

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Contract advances and completion rewards = more upgrade points:

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In between rocket launches I also did some X-planes contracts, which were pretty routine apart from the very last one:

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Well, when the wheels sink into the runway things start getting weird. I *may* have briefly deployed the 'no crash damage' cheat to avoid Diana Zonova's fiery demise, but the game was cheating first by making the wheels clip into the ground so I call that even.

Oddly enough, replacing the missing wing only counts as 5% of the total build:

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A few interesting tech nodes have been unlocked, of which the most notable is EDL- entry, descent, landing, a.k.a. heatshields! I've already cooked at least one Blue Basketball by coming in too fast/too steep and the last of the three advanced bio capsule contracts wants the rocket to go at 4km/s in space and come back which will require some considerable effort; it might require the whole Red Tiger first stage to get the required velocity. Also unlocked were better avionics cores (75% less mass and 99.4% less power use on science cores? Don't mind if I do!) and new science experiments, which were required for the science sat contract.

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/fHNFYSZ

Coming up next time- can I throw a biological sample capsule into space at 4km/s and bring it back again?

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After the raucous celebrations had died down a bit following not one, but two orbital launches (only slightly dampened by the failure of the third), Red Tiger 4 rolled out to the launchpad to do what the simulator run said it could- first polar satellite and first solar-powered satellite.

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A successful launch, but due to the possible delta-V constraints of launching into a polar orbit I didn't include any science experiments, something that's going to come back and bite me later.

A contract to reach 4km/s orbital velocity with an advanced biological sample capsule and then bring it back down was dispatched without any issues, even though I forgot that the Red Tiger's interstage avionics didn't have an antenna on it meaning this launch was done with minimal control:

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Next up was a routine X-planes contract and flight, with a successful runway landing this time after the rebuild from the last *ahem* incident.

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A new launch rocket, the Red Leopard- an evolutionary step from the Red Tiger with integral structure fuel tanks (more expensive but lighter and higher fuel fraction), upgraded to the RD-103M engine configuration and with a fully guided first stage complete with 40 tons of avionics support; the rocket only weighs 35 tons on the pad but the extra capacity means it can be re-used for bigger rockets in the future.

Tooling the new parts was pretty expensive, but worth it for the cost and construction time savings:

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Here's a launch that I don't really know why I did- it didn't fulfil any contracts so maybe it was intended for that 4km/s and return one that I did before, or for the orbital velocity and return one but that requires 6.5km/s of orbital velocity and the rocket doesn't even have 6.5km/s of delta-V on the pad...

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Sadly that wasted launch meant that I ran out of research nodes!

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Fortunately, Red Leopard 1 launched shortly afterwards and not only completed two contracts, but also carries several science experiments to get more science- plus the latest science core avionics, improved communications tech and solar panels mean that it actually gains power while in sunlight so should last for a very long time and send back some nice science data.

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Full album: https://imgur.com/a/FOeygcT

Coming up next time- chasing science any which way I can, plus I've finally found out how to use TUFX to paint parts so I'll show off my (probably terrible) new look rocket plane.

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Before I do anything else- I've finally got TUFX part painting figured out:

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It's a little bit annoying that not all parts can be painted though, that thing would look much better if the wheels and cockpit matched the rest.

That flight ended with a successful contract completion and a minor case of CO2 poisoning for the pilot, because for some reason it has no scrubbers in it and the CO2 from each flight stays put between flights. I had to switch the cockpit out for a brand new one to solve that problem.

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After buying the AJ10 engine from the tech tree I stuck together a cheap and fairly crude sounding rocket to get some data units into it and improve its rather poor reliability- 30% ignition failure rate, 20% overall.

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Fortunately, the rocket was recoverable and only the fins needed replaced; unfortunately it only lets you recover stuff to the SPH...

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I'm not sure this is an intended part of the RP-1 experience, but it works so I'm running with it.

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One new cockpit later and another X-planes contract gets done without any problems at all.

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Red Jaguar took to the launchpad to reach orbital velocity- 6500m/s- and then return to the surface. Despite some minor glitches on the launchpad at first, everything worked out fine:

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A hefty financial reward plus a bit of bonus science, combined with the data that Red Tiger 4 has been sending back from orbit, means I have enough science to restart the R&D department and get some research done! This node looks interesting- procedural probe cores will look nice and deep space avionics are required to go to the Moon and beyond:

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The next contract is to reach orbit and then return, which offers a substantial reward but will require a new rocket to handle the weight of that sample return capsule.

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With the advance money from this contract and the reward from the last one, I can unlock a load of new engines with much better performance than the RD-100 series I've been using so far, although their reliability isn't particularly good to start with. Unlocking the LR-79 made many of the other American engines much cheaper (and some earlier ones completely free), so I also had the funds to unlock balloon tanks which are very expensive but have a ridiculously high fuel fraction.

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With those new parts I could build a new rocket (with shiny new paint scheme) and test it out in the simulator to see if it can indeed make orbit and return:

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Unfortunately the simulator runs didn't work for various reasons and then I ran out of time.

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/m1eo4uX

Coming up next time- the quest for science continues as I attempt to put an advanced biological sample capsule into orbit for a whole day and then return it to the surface.

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First up, an attempt at a sun-synchronous satellite which didn't quite meet the parameters that the contract required:

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Never mind, there's another one on the build queue and this thing is loaded with science experiments to get that much-needed science.

Next, Red Leopard 2 completes a weather satellite contract:

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Followed by Red Leopard 3 which completed the sun-synchronous contract:

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At this point there are a few different satellite contracts being offered, but I'm not sure that my current rocket design is capable of completing them as they require high and/or precise orbits. Or...

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MOONSHOT!

Those hefty advances paid for a lot of KCT upgrade points, with some funds left over for any tooling etc. necessary for the new rocket that will fling a probe at the Moon.

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Wow, it's 1955 already!

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/PPaOrRy

Coming up next time- can I hit a ~3000km wide Moon from ~300,000km away?

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Project Moonshot is a go! Which means I spent most of yesterday's KSPing in the VAB and the simulator trying to make a rocket that could actually hit the Moon, and a substantial part of today as well. Very few screenshots because I was changing things so often and on several occasions I binned the entire rocket only to build something very similar a few minutes later. There's a reason those RP-1 playthrough videos skip over the design and testing phase of the game, because it's really boring and often frustrating.

On the real rockets front, Green Pepper 1 successfully completed its mission to launch a sample return capsule into orbit, complete the advanced biological sample experiment and then return the capsule to the surface:

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With almost 50 science gained from that mission it was time to unlock some more tech nodes, most importantly 1958 orbital rocketry which contains many engine config upgrades as well as a neat little Soviet upper stage with high ISP, and the Gamma 2 and Gamma 8 engines from Black Arrow- one of my favourite real rockets, even if the story behind it makes me ashamed of being a Brit :blush:.

Actually, while I'm on that subject- I finally created a design for the Moonshot that should be capable of doing the job, with two variants- Green Sparrow uses the Gamma 2 engine from Black Arrow and HTP powered RCS (as Gamma engines burn kerosene/HTP), and Green Swallow uses two AJ10s and N2O powered RCS; the pair of AJ10s is marginally more powerful and more efficient, but require high pressure tanks which Gamma 2 does not, plus Gamma 2 can burn for longer and has a lower failure rate even with no data in it- 10% ignition failure versus 18% for the AJ10 which has been used on several flights already. I also discovered that the default shiny metal look is really hard to see in the dark, even with ambient lighting turned up really high and engine lighting providing some illumination for the other parts.

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RP-1 101: always tool your rockets. Yes, it's expensive, but the reduction in per rocket build costs can be substantial and the build times even more so:

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Price per rocket reduced by just over 17k funds, time to build reduced by over 75%. Balloon tanks are expensive to tool and to build, but their outrageously high fuel fraction makes it worth the effort; for some reason fairings are also really expensive in RP-1, though tooling them cuts the cost down to a more sensible level.

The third in the 'go to space and come back again' contract series popped up, so I grabbed that and made some minor alterations to Green Pepper 2 which had started construction to meet the higher orbital requirements.

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That advance money combined with what I had left of the previous contract's reward paid for upgrades to mission control and the runway as well as a lot of KCT points, mostly funnelled into the VAB.

Green Pepper 2 then flew its mission, meeting the orbital requirements with fuel to spare and then returning safely for another lucrative reward:

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And just when I was starting to get a bit of momentum going, the game crashed :(.

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/dSgbhL3

Coming up next time- with the help of some super slow motion, can I put a new crater in the already heavily cratered surface of the Moon?

Edited by jimmymcgoochie
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A few extra contracts for LEO satellites were accepted, helped by the upgrade to Mission Control that bumps the total contracts available from 3 to 5.

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A little bit of experimentation showed that the first two stages of Green Sparrow had the delta-V to complete these contracts- it can put a ton of Lunar impactor into LEO so it's hardly surprising that it can also put itself plus small quantities of satellite payloads into slightly higher orbits.

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The last of the Red Cat rockets rolled out to the pad- at this stage I've all but given up on trying to remember what they're called, but I think this is Red Leopard 4- to complete that weather satellite contract. No frills, no science experiments, no solar panels, just the bare minimum to put the thing into the desired orbit as it'll disappear as soon as the contract is completed:

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Spoiler

Enjoy your 'satellite' for the remaining 5 minutes of battery life :sticktongue:

More KCT upgrades:

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It's June 1955 and already Green Swallow 1 is heading to the Moon! It'll crash straight into it, but that's about as good as it gets right now.

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Battery life was an issue as the probe got close to the Moon, grabbing as much science as possible and sending it back at a trickle until impact.

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Half a million funds from those two contracts, plus with Green Sparrow nearly built I can do them again right away:

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One million funds and 83 science to spend! The science was spent on three nodes: human-rated EDL, 1959 orbital rocketry and early human spaceflight electronics research, which has no parts but does unlock two crew experiments and also unlocks the next wave of probes/avionics,  power generation and storage, communications and science tech as well as the first RTGs. There's a little science left over as unlocking the first space capsules requires four separate nodes to be unlocked first, of which I currently have two in progress.

After starting a tracking station upgrade I spent most of the remaining funds on KCT points, boosting the VAB and lab by quite a lot. Upgrading R&D isn't necessary just yet, and while upgrading the VAB to allow a second build queue would be nice I doubt I would be able to use the extra capacity just yet. Upgrading the single production line is more efficient right now than adding a second with no points in it.

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Green Sparrow headed out to the launchpad for its turn to take on the Moon, but due to a PEBKAC error the AJ10 first stage boosters failed to light as their fuel tanks weren't pressurised. Oops...

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When I rolled it back off the pad, the game crashed. A convenient excuse for me to do all that stuff I'm supposed to do, like 'shopping' and 'cleaning', but a mildly embarrassing way to end this report. :blush:

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/3fHZ3az

Coming up next time- more Lunar littering as I continue to chuck rockets at the Moon.

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Shooting rockets at the Moon, part 2 begins with Green Sparrow and a booster engine losing thrust right off the pad:

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It made no real difference though as those boosters provide less than 5% of the thrust of the core engine. Lunar collision course was duly acquired and Lunar impact carried out with only the minor inconvenience of forgetting to upgrade to a level 2 antenna to transmit more science.

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There are only two Lunar flyby contracts in total but three Lunar impactors; looks like I'll need a different contract, maybe something like this:

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That's right- orbit the Moon! Moonshot phase 2 is go!

The Early Human Spaceflight Materials Science node went into the research queue, another prerequisite for crew capsules and also unlocking the ability to store food/water/oxygen in service module tanks, which is rather important.

A new launchpad begins construction, it'll be needed to go beyond LEO with anything substantial but possibly not to make orbit of the Moon- there may be a way to get that done with a 60 ton launch.

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The rest of the money went on KCT upgrade points:

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A few easy satellite contracts were completed with the Green Starling rocket- just the first two stages of Green Sparrow with up to 117 units of payload in the avionics core, though pushing the payload that high does mean that the RCS is pilfering HTP that would otherwise go to the main engine (though the margins would have to be really thin indeed for that to have an impact).

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And another X-planes contract thrown in for good measure:

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Green Swallow completed its Lunar impact without incident, netting more funds and science:

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Funny how something that just days ago was ridiculously ambitious has become so routine...

The Crew Survivability tech node was added to the queue, the last prerequisite to the earliest crew capsules and by extension to crewed orbit; though I could unlock a plane node to unlock the X-15 type parts instead, which has been available for a while but which I never prioritised.

The final scores, after buying even more KCT upgrade points:

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2 months left in 1955 so I could still make a Moon orbit happen by the end of the year, if the design I have in mind pans out.

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/ULrkIdB

Coming up next time- Orbiting the Moon? Possibly. Sending pilots over the Kerman Karman line? Possibly. More boring satellite contracts? Definitely! I'll try to stick to the highlights only for those, they'll most likely all use the same rocket design anyway.

Spoiler

Oh, and does anyone recognise this?

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By a combination of accident and design, I've stolen  replicated @Wiseman's Tellah rocket. A good chunk of what I've done so far has been based on his 'Next Small Step'  series, so it's only fair that I keep stealing his ideas :P (the "parachute on the X-plane" thing was another)

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A new 150 ton launchpad is completed. It has a light on it. I don't actually need a 150 ton launchpad yet so it's actually costing me money and not getting used, maybe I should have waited for a while before making it; oh well, too late.

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The next launch was the Green Sparrow X, heading out to the Moon to park itself in orbit. Well, that was the plan...

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One engine failing I can tolerate, but two in one flight? With a <3% failure rate on the Gamma 2? That's just not on. REVERT!

Everything worked fine the second time, right up until Persistent Rotation did strange things when approaching the Moon and the probe stopped spinning, pointing the wrong way. It took A LOT of save file poking to rotate it back to the right direction (why are there four rotation values for craft in the save file? I still don't know what any of them actually mean) but eventually the cursed mission made it into orbit of the Moon:

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It then sent back a generous helping of science before the batteries eventually died.

A bit of tech reprioritisation was done, with Hypersonic Flight added to the list and immediately bumped up to second so I can have a suborbital spaceplane ready for when the crew have been trained for it.

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Two contracts for doing the same thing is a good idea:

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Bought a load of KCT points with the money, then started the four pilots on X-15 proficiency training:

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With the science that came back from the Moon, I added 1960 orbital rocketry to the list which contains that hypergolic AJ-10 and its infinite restarts:

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At this point I see no reason to continue posting boring reports about repetitive satellite launches, so I'll go for a TL;DR version:

It's 1956!

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The VAB is producing a rocket every 21 days, dropping to every 19 days when I added the most recent LR79 upgrade and could drop the quartet of AJ10 boosters from the Green Starling setup. Some rockets were launched, some contracts were completed, with only one minor mishap where I forgot to put enough payload in one rocket and had to roll it back and fix it.

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Now I've decided to stop launching one satellite for one contract, and go for the more lucrative satellite network contracts:

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The communications network will be fully functional, with a proper antenna and a large solar panel on each so they can provide a semblance of communications to anything in LEO; solar panel degradation will eventually make them non-functional, but by then I'll have a replacement constellation in geostationary orbit (hopefully!).

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/8vASOrP

Coming up next time: Many satellite launches, which are boring and repetitive, then the first flights of my new X-plane 3 and the final flight of the old Plane 2, which will be retired after a long and successful series of missions, two ditchings at sea and only one major crash!

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I gotta admit I saw the picture of your Tellah-like rocket and had the thought "huh, I don't remember coloring any probes like that in my series". I'm glad I provided some small bit of inspiration! Loving these mission reports, too!

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At last, some restartable rocket engines have unlocked!

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However, it's pretty clear that something else will be needed to put a probe on the Moon, as even with a 150 ton rocket I was still some way short:

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Whichever way I slice it, there wouldn't be enough fuel left in the second stage to do the transfer burn, which is important as I need all of the solid upper stages and the fuel in the probe itself to actually land from LMO. Perhaps a smaller lander would be better?

In other news, I rejigged the Green Sparrow X which previously made it to Lunar orbit to go into a high Earth orbit instead and sent up the Green Sparrow Y to get some science.

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Some science was gathered, but power production is an issue and it ran out of battery pretty quickly, so I doubt there'll be much more science to be gained from it.

With the 1960 orbital rocketry node come more engine config upgrades, including one for the LR79 on the first stage of the Green Starling (and other related rockets), meaning I can do higher orbits with bigger payloads and do more contracts:

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Then I realised that I could take that failed Moon lander and turn it into a pretty successful Moon orbiter with a few minor design tweaks, so I took a contract to do precisely that:

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And now, back to some crewed flights! The brand new X-plane 3 was wheeled out for its first flight- and promptly wheeled back in when it was discovered that the X-15 cockpit has no power storage on board and cannot be controlled without power. One mildly embarrassing edit later a battery was installed and it went up to attempt to break the 100km Kerman Kármán line.

Spoiler

I'm genuinely surprised that they haven't put the Kérmán line into stock KSP, it's literally one letter away.

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Not entirely surprising, it was the first flight of this new design and it needs a few tweaks to make it fly properly- sticking the same wings on a larger, longer and heavier plane didn't do much for its handling, so canards on the front will be added to make it fly better. I'm also switching to HTP for the RCS system as the engines already use a little bit of HTP and it's much more dense than N2O even if the latter has a better ISP.

Then I took it out for a second flight, with the extra modifications, and this happened:

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And then this happened:

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So, long story short, coming back down from that altitude at that speed generates A LOT of heat, which caused the battery to explode, which caused the plane to lose all control, which caused a water 'landing' with the parachute, which wasn't balanced with the new canards so it went in nose first and started bouncing off the water like crazy. It survived, but only with a little help from super slow-mo time warp and a few carefully timed 1% gravity hacks to stop it bouncing at 20m/s every time it touched the surface. Note to self (and anyone else)- do not land on water! Ever!

Despite the mishaps on the way down, it was still a successful flight:

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Full album: https://imgur.com/a/QyVq6oW

Coming up next time- a whole flotilla of satellite launches, a Moon orbiter and possibly even an attempt at sending one of my pilots into the cold black void of space.

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Note to self- DO NOT make rash contract decisions right before stopping for the night, it leads to BAD THINGS.

But first...

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This is fine.

Once the *ahem* minor stability issues on the launchpad had been resolved, the Grey Tetrahedron (or just Grey Tet for short) actually showed a lot of promise, making it into something very close to the contracted orbit:

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The irony is that the TLI stage had around 600m/s of fuel left when I dropped it, because the avionics are near-earth and so won't work out at the Moon. The simpler and cheaper solution was to add more solid motors to the capture 'stage' aka a decoupler with a dozen separator motors stuck to the bottom, then use RCS to reach the desired orbit then point its huge solar panel at the sun.

More KCT points added:

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Now for blunder #1- the suborbital crewed flight contract:

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There was nothing wrong with the flight- Ann Horton became the first person ever to go into space- apart from one minor detail which you might spot in the image below:

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I was rather confused when I landed as the contract didn't complete, then I double checked the fine print and noticed why:

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Target altitude- 150km, maximum altitude on that flight- 145km. :mad:

That did slightly dampen the achievement of a crewed flight getting into space, but Ann Horton didn't care:

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One boring satellite contract:

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And one LEO camera satellite:

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That's the first of five Green Falcon sats, since each camera only carries 20% of the total samples so it takes at least 5 to get the whole experiment done, and you have to recover the films, and they're too heavy for the re-entry pod's avionics to work properly. This could be interesting...

 

And then blunder #2 happened, because I got overambitious late in the day and forgot to read the small print AGAIN...

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A million fund advance for a crewed orbit? Ideal! Let's do that- hang on, why did that suborbital crewed flight contract just fail?

(checks small print)

*facepalm*

The bright red warning text on that contract, just off the top of the contract window, clearly says that if you accept the orbital flight contract then the suborbital flight contract gets cancelled.

Did I read the big bold RED warning text on the contract?

Spoiler

nope

With a million funds to spend, I could upgrade R&D and Mission Control with plenty of funds left over; the R&D upgrade allows nodes of up to 50 science to be unlocked, including the first capsule node and some new science experiments too.

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Full album: https://imgur.com/a/eqAggWF

Coming up next time: Can I actually complete all those incredibly valuable contracts in time? I have 4 years to get a crew into orbit and 3 years to land a probe on the Moon, so there's plenty of time, but judging by my most recent run of terrible decisions it wouldn't surprise me at all if I managed to accept something ridiculous and ruin everything again. Oooh, a Mars flyby contract!

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Since the first proper capsules are still some way off, I'm looking into low orbit spaceplanes launched on a conventional rocket. The concept shows a lot of promise, but still needs a couple of tech nodes to unlock scrubbers and other life support related gubbins so the pilots can actually come back alive.

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Yes, it's a 2-crew design. The addition of a second cockpit allows more crew science to be done was well as getting that '2 crew in orbit' milestone. In this particular test I realised that I forgot to add ullaging thrusters, so the plane was actually stuck in orbit- something that will be rectified by the time I actually build it.

Using the same first stage booster, Grey Tet 1 lifted off in late August 1956, tasked with orbiting the Moon and gathering science as well as that orbit the Moon contract. A weird glitch with the launch clamps didn't affect the launch, which went perfectly.

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While that was on its way to the Moon, I did another flight of the new X-plane 3, which suffered from a catastrophic autopilot malfunction:

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Atmospheric autopilot decided it was a good idea to pitch down when plummeting into the lower atmosphere, rather than up as I was telling it to, resulting in the tail and both wingtip winglets burning off and a total lack of flight control. Fortunately the parachute worked as intended, though this is just the latest mishap with this plane- I actually had to revert the flight after AA made an even bigger blunder the first time round and destroyed the whole plane, leaving poor Alexei stock in just the cockpit and pulling ludicrous G-forces until they killed him.

 

 

 

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Since I've already (accidentally) moved on from suborbital flights, there's no point fixing this plane up and flying it again, so I scrapped it.

Alexei didn't seem to mind his brush with death though:

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And then it was back to Grey Tet which successfully inserted itself into a nice Lunar orbit which dips between space low and space high to gather as much science as possible. Contract completed, chunky solar panel pointed right at the sun, then the science started rolling in:

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August 1956, over a year before Sputnik 1 managed to orbit the Earth, and I've put a solar powered science probe into orbit of the Moon. Science transmissions gave a free KCT point as well as the ability to unlock something new on the tech tree:

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This new communications tech unlocks both S-band frequencies, which are much more powerful than the UHF signals you get to start with and have far higher ranges and transmission speeds, but also have a limited signal cone which means they don't work at close ranges. They'll be very useful for future missions to the Moon and vital for going interplanetary.

Next up was the last flight of Plane 2, which went without incident and completed the last X-planes contract I'm ever going to do.

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This one managed to outlive the plane that was supposed to replace it, but now it too has been scrapped; I like to think that they're both in a museum somewhere...

Now for something a bit more ambitious, but not quite let's land on the Moon in 1956! ambitious: Molniya and geostationary orbits:

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While I don't see much use for a Molniya orbit here, it will be a useful stepping stone towards a geostationary satellite and from there a proper geostationary communications network to ensure coverage of anything in LEO. These contracts will need a new booster though as Green Starling simply doesn't have the delta-V; fortunately enough, I already have the booster used on Green Tet which I can easily modify to launch satellites around Earth instead of to the Moon.

Continued science transmissions from Grey Tet allowed another node to be added to the research queue:

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Tech level 1 solar panels are better in every single way- lighter, cheaper, more power, less wear- so they'll be very useful for, well, everything!

The second of 5 nav sats headed up to join the 'network':

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And finally, a lot of changes to the rocket build queue:

Cdt3W93.pngAll of the planned Green Falcon rockets have been scrapped as they'll need the new solar panel tech to work properly; engine upgrades were added to the NavNet launchers to improve their performance; the spare Green Tet was scrapped as the first one has completed the mission excellently; and the first Grey Cube satellite has been added to attempt a Molniya orbit. Build times are substantially shorter with the KCT upgrades that have gone in lately so Green Starlings can be made every 15 days or larger 150 ton rockets every 25 days. It's a long way from the days when a simple sounding rocket took two months to build!

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/IrD1LHX

Coming up next time: More boring launches, a few interesting ones (maybe?) and hopefully a crewed orbit!

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Due to a sudden change in lockdown rules, I've had to change travel arrangements and will be without access to KSP (the old PotatoComputer I have at home can't even run stock KSP, let alone this RP-1 beast with ~130 mods!) from tomorrow, so this series is on hold until I manage to get back. No idea when that'll be yet though, some point in mid January maybe?

Edited by jimmymcgoochie
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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm baaaack! Now what was I doing the last time I played this game?

 

Ah yes- navigation network satellites. Cue the montage!

Spoiler

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Network completed and nearly 300k funds from the contract. Green Starling is reaching the end of its operational life as I shift towards engines that can be restarted, but there are still a few easy satellite contracts that it can do and I can build two of them per month.

Now back to the tricky issue of putting a Kerbal into orbit- or more specifically, getting them back down from orbit. Turns out the LEO-rated wings and fuel tanks are in the next plane node along, which costs 51 science and needs a level 3 R&D department. Sticking a 1.25m cockpit on top of a rocket and chucking that into space also didn't seem to work as any RCS fuel tanks burnt off while it was still above 90km altitude, swiftly followed by the RCS thrusters and then the cockpit itself. It also turns out that the 1.25m X-15 cockpit is nose-heavy even with 2 tons of lead ballast in the back of it, which may just have been weirdness caused by spawning the pod in the upper atmosphere at orbital velocity.

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Fortunately, the Grey Tet keeps on sending science back from the Moon and combined with the science I could salvage from the Green Falcon camera sat there was enough to unlock proper crew pods:

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Another easy satellite contract:

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And finally, the Grey Cube Molniya launched to complete a Molniya orbit contract, only I had to relaunch that one because I forgot to bump the avionics from 60t to 150t. Then the upper stage engine failed during ascent, which was fine because it has 3 ignitions and I only need 2, except that it failed again when I tried to burn into its final orbit; one quickload later and it worked fine.

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With 2.5km/s of delta-V remaining in this orbit, this thing will probably be able to make it to geostationary orbit- assuming the engine works properly, that is. Maybe I'll make a sounding rocket type thing to get some data units into it; the AJ10-mid has infinite ignitions, but the ISP is worse and it needs high pressure tanks which reduce its delta-V considerably.

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The next communications tech node was unlocked too, unlocking new relay dishes, S-band communications (much range, but narrow cones of communication) and another upgrade to the tracking station as well as level 3 communications tech, which is better in some way that I haven't yet found out. Level 1 solar panels are arriving in a few days too, then research switches towards crewed stuff; there's a Venus transfer window in just over a year which will be perfect for a science-laden flyby, followed by a Mars transfer window in a little under 2 years.

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/CKsiLQa

Coming up next time: Building and launching a communications network to plug the gaps in radio coverage for LEO. And possibly some science probes around Earth/Moon to keep the research going.

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Level 1 solar panels are here, and here's a quick illustration of how much better they are:

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Level 0-

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They cost half as much, produce over 50% more power and wear out slower too; this is going to be useful for future missions.
Another boring satellite contract to pay the bills:

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Then I got enough science together to put a science node into the queue:

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Infrared spectroscopy, two versions of the SCANsat radar altimeter and the orbital perturbation experoment which takes TEN YEARS to complete. I'm guessing that multiple vessels are meant to do this at once?

After blowing a silly amount of money unlocking the (currently not very useful) LR87 booster from the Titan rocket, which is worse in pretty much every way to the LR79 and LR89 I have now, the next contract's advance went into KCT points instead:

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I spent A LOT of time doing simulations to try and get a Moon lander on a 150 ton launchpad, but it just wasn't happening no matter what I tried. The next launchpad is 350t and costs 250k funds, so I think I'll wait until I complete the big comms network contract and use that money to build the pad that I'll need to land on the Moon.

And would you look at that- it's 1957! Will this be the year Kerbals make it to space?

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And then I started thinking about that comms network contract a bit more carefully, and realised that by combining the first stage of the Green Starling with the second stage from the Grey Cube I could get a rocket with enough payload capacity and range to make it to the required orbit, even with the extra mass of solar panels and a proper communications dish.

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This design will build in a little over 15 days per rocket, so a bit slower than Green Starlings but much faster than the Grey Cube, plus it can launch from a 60 ton pad. In the screenshot above the communications dish didn't deploy because it was clipped too deep into the avionics core, but that has now been rectified and the newly named Green Seagull will be making its first real flight in the near future.

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/Wp2d10w

Coming up next time: I completely forget a fundamental part of RP-1 and end all hope of putting a Kerbal in orbit in 1957, oops :blush:

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In a rare bit of forward thinking, I knocked together a test rocket to rack up data units on the Juno IV 6k engine to try and reduce its high failure rate, as it only has 3 ignitions and will usually need all three for the mission to work:

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Three flights later and the failure rate on ignition is down from 15% to just under 4%, a marked improvement. All the more impressive considering I accidentally set it on fire the third time:

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That's not rocket exhaust, that's the fins burning due to aerodynamic heating...

And now for my rather novel approach to putting a crew pod into orbit. The new Mercury and Mk1 pods are 2m diameter, but my current 150 ton launcher uses a 1.25m diameter upper stage- solution? Just whack the 2m pod on the top and use the extra space for deorbit motors, it'll be fine. Right?

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First re-entry attempt burnt up despite the Mk1 pod's built-in ablator, so I decided that in future I'll use up all the remaining fuel on the second stage to slow down and then the deorbit motors to push away from the discarded stage so it doesn't come back and smash the pod; those solid motors under the pod will also double as some form of launch escape system as they can provide a short but intense burst of thrust.

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Simulations say it can easily complete the orbital contract and rack up some solid science data while it's there, plus the supplies will last for over a day (power won't though, not yet) so there's scope for slapping a service module on the back and doing the 1 day duration record too.

And then, just when my quartet of intrepid pilots were leading a conga line through the Astronaut Complex's canteen chanting "Go-ing in-to or-BIT!"-

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Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

I forgot to do the proficiency training when I started unlocking the node ;.; and it takes 260 days to boot- or to put it another way, right up until December 1957, plus there's mission training to do before they can actually fly the missions. There goes any chance of getting a Kerbal into space this year...

And just to make things worse- Grey Tet 2 went out to the Moon to add more science, but if I had pushed the latest science node before crew pods it would have had even more science experiments, plus the engine was on squint so it flew a bit weirdly:

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It made it to the Moon and inserted into orbit, so it's gathering a bit more science now, but I forgot to put into a polar orbit to get more data from the poles. Looks like I'll have to cover those biomes when I launch my first SCAN satellite.

One more contract completed, this time for a tundra orbit satellite:

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And I did that "accepting loads of contracts when I probably shouldn't have" thing again:

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Venus in three years, Mars in 4, and a radar altimetry scan of Earth which needs a part I haven't unlocked yet? That should be fine :huh:

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/ajeBMsE

Coming up next time- Saving up for a bigger launchpad to land a probe on the Moon and throw more probes at other planets.

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