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Intrepid Mission to Duna - Duna Permanent Architecture Challenge [Pic Heavy]


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Intrepid Mission to Duna

Original challenge here: http://forum.kerbalspaceprogram.com/showthread.php/31510-Duna-Permanent-Outpost-Mission-Architecture-Challenge


After examining Duna and considering the President’s Vision for a continuously manned outpost on the surface, we’ve launched the Intrepid Mission to achieve this goal. The Intrepid Mission will land 4 kerbals on Duna by day 500, and include 16 kerbals by the end of day 1000. After this time, continuing Intrepid missions will function at a much reduced cost, or allow expansion of Intrepid Base.

The location of Intrepid Base has been predetermined, based on the ease of landing at said site. It is near the equator, and is in a large and deep valley. All resources will be landed near this site, and the base modules are planned to be within 1km of everything, depending on the accuracy of our landings.

The launch vehicle, Explorer, is rated at 30-tons to orbit, and has a turnaround time of 45 days thanks to its reusable boosters. This gives us an even 5 launches per full window in the 1000-day plan, with a total of 150 tons-to-orbit each window.

Aside from our launch vehicle, Intrepid will use nine pieces of hardware, all of which will be made for multiple launches to increase efficiency and reduce cost. This mission will have a high degree of redundancy and safety. All modules will have a backup or a contingency plan in case of failure or destruction.

Each 4-kerbal crew will spend about 376 days on the surface of Duna. Each crew will have a second crew on site during their stay, with an 80 day changeover when only one crew will be on-planet. All crews will have access to rovers in the mission plan, giving the crew good mobility. These rovers are short-term vehicles, as long-term rovers can be lifted as the mission progresses.

Lastly, this mission will become self sufficient by the end of this 1000-day plan. The presence of kethane in-system will allow our vehicles to refuel on-site. This allows a wide range of options unavailable if only Kerbin-launched fuel and resources. Oxium and other supplies will still require launch from Kerbin, but these are much cheaper to launch than fuel.


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Launch Vehicle

~180 tons

30 tons to 80km orbit

61.5% reusable by weight

Interplanetary Habitation Module (IHM)

Transfer habitation with space for 4 kerbals.

Supplies for 187 days on board (to and from Duna, plus spares)

4200m/s delta-V, enough for transfer to and from Duna.

“Eden†Surface Habitaion Moduel (SHM)

Surface habitat for 4 kerbals.

Supplies for 187 days on board.

Enough thrust and delta-V for hybrid drag/thrust Duna landings.

“Janus†Reusable Ascent Vehicle (RAV)

Ascent and descent vehicle for crewed Duna operations.

Space for 4 kerbals, docks with IHM to transfer kerbals.

2300 m/s delta-V, enough for landing, ascent, and orbital operations.

Duna Supply Module (DSM)

Launched in multiples, contains supplies for the mission.

In standard launch, contains 750 days of supplies.

Uses only chutes to land, unpowered.

Duna Surface Rover (DSR)

Two-seat rover for Duna operations.

Rated at speeds up to 10m/s, self-righting.

Launch in pairs, enough seats for each crew.

Intrepid Refueler Craft (IRC)

Fuel and supply ship for ITS and IHM.

3400 m/s delta-V, can operate in Duna if needed.

Supplies included to replenish IHM.

Intrepid Transfer Stage (ITS)

Duna transfer vehicle, used on needed payloads.

Carrying 30 tons, 2100 m/s delta-V.

Enough fuel to make off-window burns if needed.

Can be returned to LKO for reuse.

Kethane Orbital Station (KOS)

Duna orbital station for processing kethane.

Makes sustained operations possible.

Includes scanners for kethane detection.

Can operate around Duna or Ike.

3500 m/s delta-V, can transfer to Duna on its own.

Kethane Extractor/Lifter (KEL)

Mines and stores kethane from Ike or Duna.

Takes to KOS for processing.

Most useful for Ike operations, but can operate on Duna.

Mission Plan

Mission will be conducted in 5 phases, each coinciding with the 5 transfer windows opening during the 1000-day plan.

Phase 1: Launch preliminary modules, scout landing location, land supplies ahead of main mission.

Phase 2: Launch crew habitats, launch transfer stages, establish Intrepid Base at the initial site of landing in Phase 1.

Phase 3: Launch additional habitats, expand landing site, add second crew.

Phase 4: Launch final habitats, launch kethane modules, set up sustainable kethane pipeline.

Phase 5: Establish rotating crews, launch any redundant modules, conduct any science packages as designed.

Phases 1-4 is the “true†Intrepid Mission goal. 4 kerbals will set foot on Duna by day 500 (the initial goal), and 12 will have set foot on Duna by day 1000, with 4 more en route at the time.

First launch will be ready on day 10, and every 45 days following. Given the planetary cycles, that gives 5 launches per window in the initial period. Each window has at least one launch that can be scrubbed to ensure than any lost primary payload can be replaced.

During Phase 5, a maximum of 2 launches are required to continue operations, leaving 8 launches for scientific operations or additional infrastructure. Intrepid Base can be expanded at a rate of 1 Eden SHM per window, given that supplies can be sent to cover all kerbals currently on-planet.

At any point during the mission, an emergency launch can be readied to retrieve stranded kerbals. A Janus vehicle with its ITS can make a one way, high delta-V, off-window burn if necessary to cut down on the interval time. In case of a single SHM failure, any other single SHM can be used to house all 8 kerbals on-planet until either a new SHM arrives or extraction can take place.

The IHMs will remain on station for the duration of each mission, providing emergency egress if needed. This vehicle can make slightly off-window burns without refueling, but after kethane assets arrive, the vehicle can make emergency transfers off-window if needed. This redundancy keeps the mission on track even if any one vessel is lost at any point, either during launch, transfer, landing, or on-planet.

Early in the mission, the schedule will be tight as we build up the resources and modules needed in-system for Duna. After the initial build up, more secondary launches open up, making emergency launches more available.

Detailed Mission Schedule:



Type column -> colors designate which Phase each launch/transfer is a part of.

Hardware column -> green designates transfer out, red designates an arrival.


Given a fully completed mission with no emergencies, scoring should be as follows:

Primary Scores:

Early Mission Value: 612

Early Mission NIMLKO: 11 launches, 330 tons

Early Mission Efficiency: 1.85

Sustained Mission Value: 3796

Sustained Mission NIMLKO: 22 launches, 660 tons

Sustained Mission Efficiency: 5.75

Achievement Scores:

Mission Execution - 0 (will fly missions in the future)

Crew Mobility - 2

Base Mobility - 0

Crew Safety - 1

Mission Robustness - 2

TOTAL: 5 (hopefully 8 with full Execution score later!)

Mods used: MechJeb, KW Rocketry, NovaPunch, AEIS, B9 Aerospace, KSPX, Kerbal Alarm Clock, Crew Manifest, TAC Fuel Balancer, Kethane, Procedural Fairings, Editor Extensions, Fusty’s Station Parts, Kerbal Attachment System, Chatterer (doesn’t affect craft performance), Subassembly Manager (doesn’t affect craft performance), HyperEdit (testing in “simulator†only)

Mods installed, but not knowingly used: Fusty Station Expansion, MapSat, pWings

Other notes:

I could have maxed out my score a bit by not worrying about kethane on Duna and not worrying about my Robustness and Safety scores. I wanted to go for a more “realistic†(as much as KSP is realistic!) score, though, so my hard numbers aren’t impressive. Hopefully, I can make up for it as I fly the missions.

I was inspired by the Constellation mission video, which I wanted to emulate for this. I couldn’t quite do that given the restraints of this challenge, mostly due to the weight required to do so. I might have made a massive 50- or 60-ton launcher and gotten away with it, but I would have had to nail every launch to get 4 kerbals by day 500. With what I have, though, I got close enough to call it good in my book.

I think I got the spirit of the mission though! This is, by far, the most interesting thing I’ve done in KSP.

I'll be posting in this thread as I complete missions with pictures and updates.

Edited by Raptor831
Added original challenge link
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It's supposed to be in here, as it's a mission report for a challenge, not the posting of a challenge. Due to the complexity and duration of this challenge, the entrants posting their reports in the main challenge thread would just blow it out and make it unreadable and messy, so it's better to create a mission report in this section and just reference in challenge thread when you update it.

Great entry btw, Just getting round to posting mine also so will follow this as it develops.

Edited by Speeding Mullet
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Phase 1

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Janus RAV Launch

Day 10

First launch of the mission, and first official launch of the Janus RAV, went smoothly. The Explorer performed very well, with just enough fuel in the last stage to circularize at 80km x 81km. The autopilot took care of the vessel and no manual input was needed, much to Jeb’s disapproval. Eh, autopilot lets us take pretty pictures.

Boosters separated at around 12km and splashed down near the KSC to be reused for a later mission. The core stages will either burn up on reentry or splashdown too hard to be reused (or salvaged, for that matter).

Second stage was a little unstable, but nothing out of safety limit. As this was an unkerballed mission, if the vehicle did spontaneously disassemble, no lives were at stake.

The third stage performed well, and pushed the Janus/ITSa up to orbital velocities. The whole lifter could have used a bit more fuel, as this was a “lighter†load than many of our payloads, and a few will need help circularizing from transfer stages.

Since this mission doesn’t require any docking, since the ITS was launched pre-attached, the Janus craft will sit in a parking orbit awaiting the appropriate transfer window to open. According to our notes, that should begin around day 55, which is also the next launch of our schedule.

DSM Launch

Day 55

This is the second launch of the Intrepid mission, and the first DSM launch. The DSM will supply the kerbals on-planet for the duration of their mission. It is also the least-used module, and it is the most tight on delta-V. This makes the launch a very important one. If we lose this module, the whole program will be pushed back by at least one launch, if not more.

The launch went well, and the vessel held together without issue. However, during the second stage, the autopilot was correcting the trajectory when the third stage kicked in. Because there was much less control authority on the third stage, the vehicle went towards the horizon at only 30km altitude. The issue was corrected, but we lost some precious delta-V for the craft. Nothing mission critical, but our margins are now lost.

The circularization burn was done by the transfer stage LV-N, outside the atmosphere per regulations. Once completed, the orbit settled at around 80km. Since the transfer window opens up today, the parking orbit didn’t last too long.

Phase 1 Duna Transfer

Day 55

Both the Janus (dubbed the Janus I, since there will be a few of them) and the DSM needed to do their transfer burns during this window. First to set up was the DSM. We set up a 1050 m/s burn that placed us inside Duna’s SOI. That’s about as close as can be expected, and we can make fine adjustments during the mid-course correction burns.

The Janus I did much the same, but an orbit behind. Unfortunately, the burn times are on the order of 8-9 minutes a piece, thanks to the efficient LV-Ns we are using for transfer engines. That also means that we can’t control two burns at once, so we’ll need to space those out when needed.

DSM completed the transfer burn in 9 minutes. No issues or oddities, but due to the length we burned about 1170 m/s following the autopilot. It may be good to not rely on the autopilot for such long burns in the future. DSM had 440 m/s delta-V afterwards. This will force it to use aerocapture to stay in Duna orbit once it arrives.

Janus I, again, did much the same. Burn was a bit shorter at 8 minutes, but used the same amount of delta-V. At the end of the burn, Janus I had 2270 m/s delta-V left in the transfer stage. This should be enough for capture and return. We may try an aerocapture for Janus I as well, just to conserve fuel for the return trip and/or refueling operations in LDO if needed.

Day 56

After the autopilot calculated our course outside of Kerbin’s SOI, it plotted a 39.5 m/s course correction to aim for a 10km periapsis at Duna. Should leave about 400 m/s dV for maneuvers inside Duna’s SOI.

Floating out of Kerbin’s SOI, it will be a long wait until the vessels arrive at Duna. Janus I’s mid-course correction was plotted at 43.1 m/s on day 60. This should put the Duna periapsis at around 12km.

Day 57

Mid-course correction for the DSM is completed. 403 m/s dV is left in the transfer stage. With the calculations updated post burn, it looks as if the encounter with Duna is dead on. Maybe even to close, as no periapsis is showing. Will need another correction burn inside Duna’s SOI to get the periapsis at the correct altitude, and to make sure any encounter with Ike does not affect our capture.

Day 60

Looks like travel times will be right on 60 days or so from transfer burn to capture. Right on schedule, per the calculations. After Janus I’s correction burn, we saw the same outcome as the DSM. Duna SOI corrections will still be needed.

Kerbin is but a glimmer now, and Duna is yet to be visible. We’re flying along in the cold black. Jeb is getting excited about the next phase, as it will finally entail him strapping into an interplanetary rocket! First launch is on day 100, and will put the transfer stages needed in orbit around Kerbin. No kerbals in orbit until around day 280, but the pieces are coming together.

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Phase 2, Part 1

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ITSb/ITSc Launch

Day 100

We’re starting the second phase of the Intrepid mission now. First up is the launch of the two ITSs needed to get the first two SHMs to Duna. The launch itself went well. Second stage of the Explorer LV is still wobbly, but a few extra struts seemed to help out.

The third stage brought us just under orbital velocity, so we needed a 50 m/s maneuver to circularize using the LV-N on the transfer stage. We balanced all the fuel out to ensure both ITSs had the same delta-V, but the extra burn won’t affect any outcome.

ITSb/ITSc will sit docked together as a unit until the next launch when the SHM comes to dock. Due to the tight fuel budgets, the SHM will need to rendezvous with the ITS during launch. During simulations, this process went smoothly with the autopilot, but we shall see if the same occurs in a live environment.

Entering Duna’s SOI

Day 113

The DSM crosses into Duna’s SOI on day 113. We executed a 2.3 m/s maneuver to adjust periapsis to 11 km for aerocapture. No encounters with Ike this go around, again, so no crazy maneuvers to get around. MET is 58 days, so coming in before scheduled time.

The shroud protects whole ship from heat during the aerocapture. According to the calculations, we’ll be around a 200km apoapsis after aerocapture. Much better than simulations, and saves even more fuel.

194.6km apoapsis after the aerocapture maneuver. We set up inclination adjustments (15.6 m/s) and circularization burns (33.1 m/s and 61.7 m/s) to give us the 65km x 65km orbit we wanted. 290 m/s dV left in the transfer stage. Would not have made it without the aerobraking.

Day 114

Now, Janus I crosses into Duna’s SOI. After a 0.6 m/s plane change and a 5.8 m/s periapsis change to 12km, we’re looking good. No Ike encounter to deal with. Predicted Apoapsis after aerocapture is 78km. Very good, if it works, which it did!

15.3 m/s plane change after braking, and 45 m/s for circularizing. ITSa is left with 2162 m/s dV with the whole craft counted, so very good fuel situation. There will be plenty for ITSa to return to Kerbin later on.

Orbit stands at 74km x 74km. A bit higher than planned, but can be corrected. I’ll probably test with the Janus I to see if a higher orbit helps or hurts when landing.

First Duna Landing - DSM

Day 115

Decided to go for Duna landing today. Found a better spot than what was anticipated. Around 500m altitude, and on the equator. Flat plain that extends for a long way in every direction. Set the autopilot to mark the spot.

Came in for landing with the shroud. We dumped the deorbit stage a bit too soon, forcing a higher than planned ejection of the supply modules. There were no batteries on after the deorbit stage was jettisoned, so we would have run out of power. But, all 4 made it safely down within a 200m circle on a rolling plain. Would have preferred a flatter area, but this will do. Could have been far worse in the highlands.

Welcome to Intrepid Base.

Janus I will orbit until the first crew arrives, where it will take them down to the already landed SHM. Or, it will stay in parking orbit where it will serve as a backup descent vehicle and emergency shuttle.

The ITSa has been undocked from Janus I, and has been moved to a 70km x 70km orbit to keep it out of harms way until the next Duna-to-Kerbin transfer window. That will be around day 267.

Eden I Launch

Day 145

Launch ready in the pre-dawn at KSC. Timing the launch to rendezvous with ITSb/ITSc at an 80km orbit, as we don’t have a lot of spare fuel in the Explorer LV to conduct orbital operations. If all goes well, we should be within a few kilometers of the target and be able to use RCS to close the gap.

Well, the autopilot seems to have overshot my target, leaving us 100 plus kilometers from our intended target. After shifting some fuel into the 3rd stage tank, we set up an orbital change to 85km. I need to preserve the docking port that blocks the engine for Duna deorbit and Duna-orbital operations. Also, I want to save as much fuel in the ITS as I can to try and send it back to Kerbin or use as a fuel dump in LDO.

Docking took a bit of effort. We burned quite a bit of our monopropellant to get all straightened out, but this is the only stage that needed monopropellant. Reaction wheels will take care of most of the orientation from here on out. At least that is over, as that may be the hardest docking procedure for the mission. This will need to be done every time an Eden is launched, but they are permanent to Duna, so once we have all of them there, we don’t need to do it again!

Eden I will stay in a parking orbit at 80km x 80km until the next transfer window. Then the ITS will take it to Duna. The crew will not board any of the Edens until they touch down on Duna in a Janus RAV.

IHM 1 Launch

Day 190

Jeb decided to christen this ship the “Starfireâ€Â, so KSEA agreed to it because it sounded cool. Jeb liked the explosion reference. In any case, IHM 1 “Starfire†launches on Day 190 of the mission.

Should be a simple launch, as we’re just placing this in another parking orbit until needed. 80km x 80km as usual. The IHMs carry enough supplies for 4 kerbals to and from Duna, plus about a half trip extra for emergencies. Bob says the cockpit looks cool. KSEA agrees! It is shrouded during launch for aerodynamic reasons (and to make a cool reveal!).

The IHMs, once in LDO, will stay for the duration of the trip. They carry enough fuel for a one-time off-window transfer, just in case. Also, once Intrepid Base is self sufficient, they will be able to make emergency “crash†transfers. They also, in a pinch, can house up to 10 kerbals like sardines. That would be a long trip, with tight rations! But, it could be done.

Starfire’s launch went just as planned. The IHMs are probably the most hands off launch of the bunch. They weigh just under 30 tons, so the Explorer LV can get it to 80km no problems with some wiggle-room to spare. We jettison the protective fairings once in space and before circularization to ensure they fall back to Kerbin. Once we’re circularized, the third stage is deorbited. Solar panels are unfurled, and we’re set for a 93 day hibernation until we light the LV-N for the transfer burn.

Janus 2 Launch

Day 235

This is the second Janus launch of the mission. There will be 4 total in the initial plan. It should be another straightforward launch, as we’re still just throwing hardware into LKO for the next transfer window. It will get busy once that window opens.

Launch goes off without a hitch. Seems our aerospace industries know how to make reliable hardware! ITSd will take Janus II to Duna once the window arrives.

ITSa Kerbin Transfer

Day 266

Since we want to reuse as many transfer stages as possible, we need to get them back to Kerbin. The ones used for the Janus RAVs are the best option for this, as they weigh the least.

This is a flexible part of the mission. The Intrepid Mission calls for two ITS units to be sent back to Kerbin. These are planned to be ITSa and ITSd. We can use any ITS units that have enough fuel, but the more fuel they arrive home with, the longer any one IRC can go refueling.

For just the ITS itself, we’re beginning the burn with 57% of our fuel left. We’ll use probably another 20% or so, leaving us with around 35-40% fuel left, if the napkin math is correct. Burn was about 1:35 seconds in length, but about 650m/s. The projected Kerbin encounter was inside 10 Mm, which would be very good.

Not quite so awesome on execution though. But we were planning on a correction burn anyways.

Day 267

We crossed out of Duna’s SOI today. We plotted our correction burn today with the autopilot. Looks like a 31.8 m/s burn which is projected to give us a 150 km periapsis of Kerbin in 78 days. Bit longer than the initial trip here, but still within our supply budget for the IHMs.

The burn will take place in 37 days, so we’ll have a few things to do in the meantime. Like, doing all the transfer burns for Duna for Phase 2! And, finally Jeb, Bill, Bob, and Shelgel can hop in a shuttle and get started on their journey!

We’ve also picked the crews for our mission. There are 4 crews needed for the initial 1000-day plan. They will be as follows:

Crew A: Jeb, Bill, Bob, Shelgel (Phase 2 crew)

Crew B: Geofwig, Geofdin, Seanbert, Halrey (Phase 3 crew)

Crew C: Billy-Bobburry, Samsey, Mac, Dudvey (Phase 4 crew)

Crew D: Dobart, Halrod, Derlock, Mergan (Phase 5 crew)

After this, we’ll probably rotate in new kerbonauts with the previous crews so that every crew has at least one Duna-experienced kerbonaut.


Only 3 unique launches left to go in the entire mission, and only 1 in the first 500 days. I’ve gotten through a quarter of the mission without much issue yet. Although, I’ve only had to land on Duna once, so we’ll see how accurate I (well, MechJeb) can be in landing. I’ve gotten within a few hundred meters myself with MechJeb’s landing aids (but no autopilot, as HyperEdit seems to mess with the maths involved).

My biggest worry is the SHMs coming down, as they can’t really be moved once they are down. None of my modules are mobile, but the Janus RAVs I can jump around with and the rovers, well, are rovers and can cover any distance they need to really. I tried to make a short hop when I landed on a hill in testing, and that ended in unplanned rapid disassembly (i.e. the pilot stinks).

If the SHMs come down in a wide pattern, it’ll be nigh impossible to correct without much F5-ing, and I’d like to keep that to a minimum. They also don’t carry a lot of fuel (only about 750 m/s delta-V) and the TWR is doable on Duna. Here’s hoping I can pull that off!

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