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Non-clunky way to refuel from surface base?


chd
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I haven't come up with anything resembling an elegant way to manage refueling from a surface refinery site. I imagine having a tanker or fuel shuttle that docks with the refinery site, fuels up, takes off and meets something in orbit, transfers fuel... repeat.

But docking with a surface station is a time-consuming finicky pain, and after the fifth or tenth time you need to do it it just starts to make the game not fun anymore. Is there an easier way to do this? Even with the extendible crew tubes, which make things better, you still have to spend a lot of time positioning since they don't really extend very far.

If I put a klaw junior on the end of a piston (from Breaking ground), and then extend the piston, will the extension stop when it grabs, or will it insist on finishing the full extension, probably leading to all kinds of destruction?

Any suggestions welcome! Thanks!

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With the latest update I park both vehicles next to each other. Have an engineer attach a docking port to each vehicle and both within range of the engineer. Then widget one docking port to the other.  

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If mods are an option EVA transfer or Simple Logistics is my recommendation.

 

Under stock mechanics and limitation what I found to better work for me are docking ports in horizontal position with a wheeled vehicle driving above/below the target before sitting down/raising up to dock. Seniors working better than regular that  works better than juniors.

 

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It is clunky. 

But it can be made less clunky, or at least surface docking can be made less painful.

Solution 1: Put the docking port on your fuel truck on a vertical hydraulic piston that raises/lowers it. This way you can adjust its height to match the craft you want to refuel. Bind the piston to Up/Down and it becomes almost like docking in space.

Solution 2: Use Klaws. One way that works well is to make the Klaw face up. Then drive the craft to the Klaw, and retract landing gear so that it lowers itself onto it. (Note: you need to uncheck "Fuel transfer obeys crossfeed rules" for this to work... or use EVA construction to run a couple of fuel lines between the craft, but that's not exactly LESS clunky...)

You can make a crane with Klaws as well, but you're right that they're certainly not less finicky than other solutions and often result in hilarious bouncy physics.

If you're looking for mods, KIS/KAS has fuel ports and hoses and they work well. I would really like something like that in stock as well, but one can always dream...

Edited by Guest
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spricigo basically said it all, except perhaps to mention the microclipping bug on docking on the ground.

personally, i gave up on that kind of manuevers long ago. now i have my mining ships carry the drills and the convert-o-tron. it's less efficient in deltaV terms, but all you have to do is land the ship and take off again.

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13 hours ago, chd said:

Any suggestions welcome!

I do basically this:

3 hours ago, king of nowhere said:

i have my mining ships carry the drills and the convert-o-tron. it's less efficient in deltaV terms, but all you have to do is land the ship and take off again.

My surface "base" is basically just a flag that I plant to mark the location of nice high ore concentration.  I have an orbit-capable ship that has drills, ISRU, tiny ore tanks, and big fuel tanks.  It descends to the surface, lands next to the flag, and mines/refines until it's full of fuel.  Then it launches itself back to orbit where it can dock with an orbital fuel depot or whatever.  Simple and easy.

Another approach that I've occasionally done, where I do have an established surface base, is to use Kerbal Attachment System (KAS).  That mod has "connector port" parts that are small and easy to mount radially on pretty much anything.  A kerbal on EVA can connect a pipe between any two connector ports, as long as they're within a couple of dozen meters of each other.  Go to port 1, click, choose "connect", go to port 2, complete the connection. 

So when I'm using KAS, I can have an orbital fuel shuttle that flies down to the surface and lands next to my base, then an EVA kerbal hooks up a pipe (very easy to do) and transfers the fuel across, then disconnect the pipe.

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In the past, I used klaws. I designed all my fuel tanker ships to make it easy to dock a klaw to them when they are landed.

Now, I have an engineer and an extra "Jr." docking port in a cargo slot. I drive my fuel truck up, and the engineer attaches the extra docking port at the right height, in the right place. Dock, transfer, undock, remove the port.

Maybe after doing that ten times, you get a little bored with the process -- but it's never really the same each time, so that keeps it a little interesting. And most fuel depots only get used ten times at most before you move on to another section of the solar system, so it's not like you have to do it a hundred times.

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Different strokes for different folks.

I have a refinery in low orbit.

I descend, mine the ore and take the ore back up to the refinery.

With a level 3 or higher engineer at the refinery (or in the miner doubling up as engineer for the refinery) it proves to be quite efficient and cost effective.

I can even use a tiny awful drill to mine the ore (takes a while) then I don't have the expense of lugging large drills and converters up and down even the weight saved on cooling and power is all fuel. Then even a level 2 engineer is cost effective.

 

D.

 

 

 

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On 2/14/2021 at 4:09 AM, chd said:

I haven't come up with anything resembling an elegant way to manage refueling from a surface refinery site. I imagine having a tanker or fuel shuttle that docks with the refinery site, fuels up, takes off and meets something in orbit, transfers fuel... repeat.

Yea, I do that on 3x games to improve payload fraction, otherwise on stock games, I have the mining equipment on my tanker:

Spoiler

sJgNVto.png

sQl9lZY.png

It was really awkward before robotics... but I did all my suface bases by aligning docking ports

BnvvUFG.png

bR6LjAm.png

BtTgntL.png

and here with a tanker that was its own miner:

rIqMUIK.png

more pics of landing rove-modules, and fueling bases:

OqkkHrQ.png

E9EzaPW.png

 

 

On 2/14/2021 at 4:09 AM, chd said:

If I put a klaw junior on the end of a piston (from Breaking ground), and then extend the piston, will the extension stop when it grabs, or will it insist on finishing the full extension, probably leading to all kinds of destruction?

The force it applies is limited, if you have a weak piston and a massive craft, its fine. If your craft is on wheels, its fine. See below:

Spoiler

The surface base being boosted to orbit by a recoverable 2nd stage on 3x (first stage is recoverable too)

msXJmOb.png

Transfer, part autostrut after locking joints is very useful:

xlYF0oo.png

Landing the mining module (scince hab was left in orbit for this first descent):

Y2Smu4Q.png

H2fbXhw.png

Refueling the lander with a robotic connection:

KuUkbwt.png

The assembled surface base, all connected with robotic parts, and a refueling tanker nearby (the module lander, with its landing pistos retracted, is in the background):

VM4blLG.png

Its also good to have a hotkey to turn off the motor on your robotic arm the moment it connects.

I also use axis groups to make control of my arms easier, so I can use i/k to raise/lower it, j/l to rotate it or just move left/right, and h/n to extend/retract

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I was excited when stock robotic parts appeared, surface refueling is something that challenges me also.  Unfortunately, even with the robotic parts I found surface docking too buggy.  After countless kraken attacks docking surface vessels resulting in the destruction of both vessels, I gave up.

I normally don’t use mods, but that is probably the best solution, as others have mentioned.  I just want to run a garden hose from one ship to another one- why isn’t this available in stock?

In the past, I’ve used a mining ship which docks to an orbiting refiner.  Currently I skip that step- now all my long-range ships have drills and a refiner on them.  It’s not efficient or how I would ideally like to manage things, but seems to be the best that I can do with stock KSP.

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I don’t often do ISRU mining, but when I do I make the mining rig itself have all the drills and converters as well as enough fuel tankage to fill up the tankers; the tankers themselves are just a big fuel tank with some rocket-related gubbins on each end to make them fly, and wheels on the bottom in case of inaccurate landings. After trying to assemble a very modular mining system on the Moon which slowly tore itself apart with terrible frame rates, I now use Simple Logistics for everything to save the hassle of precision landings and surface docking-grappling/KIS and KAS shenanigans which also tended to break stuff when I connected/disconnected the KAS hoses. Now my mining operations can be as simple as landing the tanker, transferring fuel with a few clicks and flying away again while the miner keeps on mining.

Edited by jimmymcgoochie
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Ok, now that many people (including me) provided ideas for how to circumvent the hassle of docking with the mining base and still use IRSU, for the sake of completeness (and with devious second intentions) let me point out that money is not an object in this game and you can lift a kataklysmic amount of fuel from Kerbin's surface

Spoiler

qJjs638.jpg

@Whackjobsaid is too small.

So, maybe, just maybe, not using ISRU is a viable idea too. :wink:

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On 2/14/2021 at 1:03 AM, Brikoleur said:

Solution 1: Put the docking port on your fuel truck on a vertical hydraulic piston that raises/lowers it. This way you can adjust its height to match the craft you want to refuel. Bind the piston to Up/Down and it becomes almost like docking in space.

Dang, I wish I'd thought of this before I spent hours creating a mining rover with an articulated arm with multiple hinges and pistons with a Klaw on the end, then binding each piston and hinge to various keys to manipulate it. I was SO proud of it ... only to have it perform a most interesting disassembly the first time I released it from a vehicle I'd refueled!  :sticktongue: 

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