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Orbital Construction - Observations, Bugs, Problems, and Solutions


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THIS IS NOT A COMPLAINT THREAD

This is a discussion thread. Please keep discussion to seeking, finding, and discussing solutions, not simply lamenting about the issues.

I've had some time in orbit and I've got to say construction is a double edged sword. It makes so much possible, but is itself very difficult and prone to error. Add to that the various issues and bugs and it can be a huge downside to an otherwise fantastic addition to the game. I'm sure all the bugs (at least the worst ones) will be addressed eventually, but until then here are some workarounds to issues I've found.

If anybody has better (or even just different) solutions to these problems, I'd love to hear them. If anybody has other problems (even without solutions) I'd love to hear them as well, so we can find ways around them until they are (hopefully) fixed.

RELATIVE DRIFT:
Problem: Ships and Engineers drift relative to each other. This is worse than regular orbital drift of nearby vessels, as each construction action impels a bit of force to all things involved, including the Kerbal. This makes free-form construction across multiple ships difficult. It also makes constructing with a free-flying Kerbal difficult.

Solution: In 1.11.1 this has gotten much better. So long as your craft are still relative to each other, they will remain so even through multiple moving of parts around. Still, they will eventually drift and I'd still recommend in most situations to restrict all work to a single craft. If you need to work on one craft from parts from another, dock them first. Take this into account when designing and planning your missions. Also, Kerbals should remain on a ladder at all times. There is a setting in settings.cfg, which is also in the settings screen, that can help your Kerbal stay on the ladder:

EVA_LADDER_CHECK_END = True

LADDER FORCE:
This is no longer an issue in 1.11.1

Problem:  A Kerbal on a ladder impels a force on the craft. This is enough to cause the craft to spin and visibly change the orbit. This is a recorded bug in KSP 1.11

Solution(s):

  • Moving up or down the ladder a bit seems to stop most - if not all - of the odd forces. If this doesn't work, try the below.
  • To keep the craft from spinning, the only real solution is to make sure SAS is on at all times. In a pinch, you can go into LOCK mode so the Kerbal and ship stay stationary relative to the camera, but then the entire universe spins around you.
  • To keep the craft from wandering too far, the best solution I've found is to drop an item in space when you start construction, and then allow your craft to wander wherever it wants during construction. When you're done constructing, use the Alt-f12 menu to set the Orbit of your vessel, and Rendezvous with the part you previously dropped. It will still be in the original orbit it was in, which is very close to the orbit your station was in. Alternatively, you could use Alt-12 to set a specific orbit to put your vessel back to where it is supposed to be.

SHORT REACH:
Problem: The reach distance for picking up and placing parts is short. Granted, it is much further than a Kerbal could actually reach but it is still very restrictive compared to the VAB. The distance for picking parts from inventories is even shorter.

Solution: THIS DOESN'T WORK FOR ME. I HAVE NO SOLUTION AT THIS TIME. In the settings.cfg file there are 2 settings. I personally multiplied them by 10. I believe the numbers are meters. Also it has been reported that you need to set the settings.cfg file read only. I've not had the game overwrite these values when the file is not read only, so that only seems true in circumstances I do not experience. However, when I changed the numbers it did not affect my engineer's grab or place distance.

EVA_INVENTORY_RANGE = 5
EVA_CONSTRUCTION_RANGE = 7

HEAVY PARTS:
Problem: Many parts are too heavy to move, so you cannot construct with them.

Solution: Use this simple Modulemanager config:

@PHYSICSGLOBALS { %constructionWeightLimit = 50000 }

Note: 50000 makes Kerbals roughly 100 times stronger than they are currently, when it comes to moving parts around. Yes it's cheating. No I don't care. Make the number anything you are comfortable with.

ROOT PART CAN'T BE REMOVED:
Problem: You can only remove parts from a vessel away from the root part (like in the VAB), but you cannot re-root the root part (like in the VAB) so you cannot - for example - remove a probe core that was placed first on a vessel. More importantly, if a vessel docks and undocks, frequently (or always?) the docking port becomes the root part, which makes that docking port unremovable.

Solution: I do not have a solution to this one yet. Maybe a mod that enables re-root in flight?

Edited by Superfluous J
Many changes
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(Doesn't a canadarm grappling help?)

Imho, this is mostly to be addressed to the developers

Relative drift.
Kerbals need some magnetic boots (idk how it works with aluminium, but in Expanse it does, lol) or suction cups (a vacuum version), or at least some sticky patch to attach a tether. to a glued ring.
No need to walk, just to attach to the current place of the hull.
Also they need an ability to be canadarmed to the workplace. like irl. (Again, being sticked to the canadarm.)

Also such CasualTemporaryAttachmentModule would be useful for magnetic mines, beacons, other fridge magnets.
 

28 minutes ago, Superfluous J said:

A Kerbal on a ladder impels a force on the craft.

Like Newton teaches. Just probably the game engine should not overestimate the reaction.

Edited by kerbiloid
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6 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

Doesn't a canadarm grappling help?

Effectively the same as docking, no? Unless you're literally grabbing it with grabber parts and not using a Claw-type part to "vigorously dock without a docking port."

If the two vessels remain separate, I'd expect that to cause issues as the placing and removing of parts causes them to move semi-randomly relative to each other.

 

12 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

Like Newton teaches

Just mentally add "and there is not an equal and opposite force from the ship onto the Kerbal who is holding the ladder such as to cause the two forces to cancel each other out" and assume I left that part out so it was easier to read. :D

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2 minutes ago, Superfluous J said:

Effectively the same as docking, no?

Would you irl actually start welding a tonne-heavy dumbbell, just floating  around, standing between it and the ship, before  either fixing its position with a canadarm or attaching yourself to it?

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2 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

Would you irl actually start welding a tonne-heavy dumbbell, just floating  around, standing between it and the ship, before  either fixing its position with a canadarm or attaching yourself to it?

If you're suggesting we require all orbital construction to be done with a robotic arm slowly moving the parts from physical inventory spaces into place then I can't really address your concerns because they fall way outside how orbital construction works in the game.

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2 hours ago, kerbiloid said:

Also they need an ability to be canadarmed to the workplace. like irl.

This made me think

Can they weld things from the external seat? (genuine question, I still haven't played it nor remember if that's a thing). If yes then problem solved, an arm with seat at the end.

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13 hours ago, Superfluous J said:

Just mentally add "and there is not an equal and opposite force from the ship onto the Kerbal who is holding the ladder such as to cause the two forces to cancel each other out" and assume I left that part out so it was easier to read. :D

In the meantime, I guess someone can explore the bizarre realm of Kerbal Facial Propulsion techniques. Just line a bunch of Kerbals up on a section of ladder in space and see what happens.

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Ladder drives have indeed been around in KSP for a long time. And as for Newton - unfortunately this is a phantom force originating from nowhere, and there is no equal and opposite reaction. Try this - take a craft based on one of the Vostok style pods (so no reaction wheels), send an engineer out on EVA (remaining on the invisible ladder). Now remove a part, observe the continuously increasing pitch rate, and see how long it takes before the ship flies apart

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I have a potential partial solution to the docking port version of the root part problem.

Pre-1.11, I built a Mun Mining lander with the intent to refine the ore in orbit, so I had a tank and drills with no converter (and a docking port on the top and side). I realized later this was foolish with almost no net fuel (or net negative), so launched a Converter 125 with docking ports on either end and attached it to my lander (four parts, "lower" port-converter-battery-"upper" port). Now I could fill my fuel tanks before leaving the surface with a load of ore (where I had a 250 converter in orbit), and the "upper" converter port became my default docking port.

With 1.11, I decided to make this a permanent feature, and ran into the docking port problem. The "upper" converter docking port was now my root part, and while I could undock the converter stack and disassemble everything from "lower" end, I now had a floating docking port I could not get rid of and would rather not throw away.

Thanks to you, I figured out the root part was my problem.

I decided to try and force a change to the root part by undocking and redocking. This was my procedure:

  1. Lander docked to space station by "side" lander port, the troublesome "upper" converter port hanging off the end.
  2. Undock lander from station
  3. Undock "lower" converter port from "upper" lander port, converter module now floating.
  4. Dock "upper" lander port and "upper" converter port (basically flip converter upside down)
  5. Dock "side" lander port to the same station docking port

At this point, the old "lower" converter port was hanging off the station and I began to disassemble the stack. However, this forced a change in the root part of the converter stack, so now I could not only disassemble the "lower" port and the converter, but now the "upper" converter port was no longer the root part and I could also take it off.

At the moment, I cannot complete the entire retrofit I had planned, as the "upper" lander port is still the root part for the lander itself and I want to rearrange the parts beneath. However, I will keep trying this trick and see if I can also shift the root part of the lander proper: I may have gotten lucky with the converter.

I don't play with mods or DLC, so anyone should be able to try this out and see if you can replicate it or if I got lucky. If your spacecraft only has one docking port, I'd add another and force the "new" port to become the root part so you can retrofit the spacecraft (I expect I'll have to do this for a couple space station modules).

I'll report back as I continue to test this out on other spacecraft. I intended to make several docking port changes to my existing stations and landers (replacing normal size with large, adding large, etc.), so I should have quite a few testing candidates.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I recall being able to "weld" two items together at the nodes by temporarily using docking ports, ie in the vab design two ships which lined up docking ports so the two ie tanks nodes would be together when it docked.

is this still a thing? could w use this technique to join heavier items?

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3 hours ago, se5a said:

I recall being able to "weld" two items together at the nodes by temporarily using docking ports, ie in the vab design two ships which lined up docking ports so the two ie tanks nodes would be together when it docked.

is this still a thing? could w use this technique to join heavier items?

That's part of the Konstruction mod I believe.

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I love the difficulty brought about by the drift issues. Don't change that. Everybody needs to simply remember lots of hand-holds like they have on the ISS. But what's frustrating is when I grab a part from a pallet of parts that I just sent up and none of the nearby nodes light up for me to connect it to. Not a huge deal for parts that allow you to place them anywhere like beams and large panels. But when I grab a docking port Sr., I need the nearby nodes to light up. If they don't, my only choice is to let it drift away as space junk and grab another one hoping this one will work. Not good. Yes, orbital construction should be an extreme challenge, but not because of glitches. By the way, don't ever put undo into EVA construction. If we need undo, we can build it in the VAB/SPH and launch it like normal.

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On 12/24/2020 at 6:42 AM, Superfluous J said:

Problem: Ships and Engineers drift relative to each other.

Ladder!

On 12/24/2020 at 6:42 AM, Superfluous J said:

but then the entire universe spins around you.

Like a night sky.

On 12/24/2020 at 6:42 AM, Superfluous J said:

ROOT PART CAN'T BE REMOVED:

KIS/KAS grab, attach, and they are no longer root.

On 12/24/2020 at 9:57 AM, The Aziz said:

Can they weld things from the external seat?

Welding need gravity because of  diffusion during process. It dosent work well in microG. Welds in microG are generally poor with our current technology (materials are not clean enough) and propably this problem cannot be solved in reasonable manner. But technology can change to solve conections in diferent way.

 

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19 minutes ago, vv3k70r said:

Ladder!

Haven't updated to 1.11, l would think you could weld on this: https://wiki.kerbalspaceprogram.com/wiki/Pegasus_I_Mobility_Enhancer next to where you want to place your part, then just have the kerbal grab on to that when you place the next part, then remove the ladder at the end.

Regarding the root part issue, could you assemble a robot arm with a mini-claw, undock your craft, then grab your craft with the mini claw, then release it... would the part that was grabbed (resulting in the same effect as docking, as far as KSP is concerned) then count as the root part of the undocked craft?

This would result in the need to carry ladders and parts to build robot arms for full construction capabilities, but that sounds ok to me.

On 12/24/2020 at 6:42 AM, Superfluous J said:

HEAVY PARTS:
Problem: Many parts are too heavy to move, so you cannot construct with them.

Even in zero G? It would be nice if you could move heavy parts with a robot arm until they are in very close proximity to where you want to attach them, and then have the kerbal do the weld...

 

More questions: Can you do anything resembling symetry, or get CoL indicators and such? I am very interested in assembling winged landing craft in orbit, prior to descent

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6 hours ago, KerikBalm said:

More questions: Can you do anything resembling symetry, or get CoL indicators and such? I am very interested in assembling winged landing craft in orbit, prior to descent

There are COM/COT/COL indicators in the EVA construction mode, but no symmetry modes. I don't think it would make much sense.

And if you're going to upgrade to 1.11, I'd recommend you wait for the .1 bugfix patch. There are some annoying bugs at the moment.

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Not really orbital, but I've found that trying to rotate or move wheels on the mun causes a massive frame rate drop, which doesn't fix itself by exiting out of build mode. I have to go back to the KSP then to the tracking station and then back to the kerbal on the mun.

That and not having some indication of symmetry made trying to match the wheels up on either side very difficult, even with snap mode on. 

Orbital construction is frustratingly limited sometimes, but it is extreamly handy for those "recover module from orbit" missions. just fly your SSTO space plane up to it, claw attach, slap some parachutes on, put it in a de-orbit trajectory, disconnect the claw, get the  spaceplane back on an orbital trajectory, then switch focus to the de-orbiting module. then quickload because you forgot to deploy the chutes before detaching.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Changed the OP. Ladder force and relative drift are basically fixed in 1.11.1, and we've got a fix for Heavy Parts. I forgot who said it but when I find out who, I'll credit them.

HEAVY PARTS:
Problem: Many parts are too heavy to move, so you cannot construct with them.

Solution: Use this simple Modulemanager config:

@PHYSICSGLOBALS { %constructionWeightLimit = 50000 }

Note: 50000 makes Kerbals roughly 100 times stronger than they are currently, when it comes to moving parts around. Yes it's cheating. No I don't care. Make the number anything you are comfortable with.

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51 minutes ago, Superfluous J said:

Problem: Many parts are too heavy to move, so you cannot construct with them.

Shouldn't you be able to fix this in a non-cheaty manner by using this new feature introduced in 1.11.1?

Quote
* Kerbals can now assist an Engineer in construction to move heavier parts.
* Construction panel now shows manipulation weight limit and assistants count.

You might not be able to move parts as heavy as you can by increasing Kerbal strength by 100x, but it would certainly be an improvement.

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Oh, ladder forces got fixed? Great news. That was honestly by far my biggest problem. Sometimes, there is just no way to get around having to do construction from another ship, so you can move about with the storage in tow, but then the ladder force just made matching orbits impossible to any practical degree.

For large construction, I prefer to keep old methods. Use docking ports in more places, then your engineers can always add RCS and probes to any large sections and you can move them under their own power and re-dock as needed. The great thing about EVA construction update is that now I don't have to pre-emptively put RCS and probes on everything and once things are attached, I can add struts and fuel lines. And that's honestly enough to get almost any orbital construction or retrofitting I might care to do.

Though if they added a part that increases construction weight limit, that'd be neat. Like, a manipulator arm of some sort that you can attach to your engineering vessel or station used for orbital construction.

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1 hour ago, K^2 said:

Though if they added a part that increases construction weight limit, that'd be neat. Like, a manipulator arm of some sort that you can attach to your engineering vessel or station used for orbital construction.

More Kerbals will do that, but I can see how handling large groups of Kerbals on EVA at once could get annoying fast.

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I think that is is unrealistic that capsules just float on water. I think that capsules should be able to sink. to counteract sinking KSP2 could have floats that make your rocket float. This would also encourage underwater exploration and trying to get back your rocket after it sinks. Please like this if you think it is a good idea. Later I might start a pole and see how people like the idea.

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