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Step by Step Mining Guide


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Hey all! I wrote a step by step mining guide for Steam and I figured I'd share it here. If you have any questions, additions or feedback please let me know here or on the steam guide and I'll update and edit as needed.


Unlocking the Research

Before we start an asteroid or extraterrestrial mining operation it is important to unlock the key parts and understand what they do. There are several parts that are utilized for Mining.

Surface Scanning Module


The Surface Scanning Module is a critical part in surveying a planet or moon. You will use this part to find the exact ore concentrations on the ground.

M700 Survey Scanner


The M700 Survey Scanner is a critical part in setting up a mining satellite. You will use this part to survey a planet or moon in order to find general ore concentrations.

ISRU Converter


The ISRU Converter is a critical part in setting up a refinery. You will use this part to convert ore into fuel.

'Drill-O-Matic' Mining Excavator


The 'Drill-O-Matic' Mining Excavator is a critical part in setting up a mining operation. Obviously you will use this part to mine ore.

Small Holding Tank

96FCEC0BEA6A1326F6C735B839D3C3B13F3F77F4The Small Holding Tank is a part in setting up a mining operation. Obviously you will use this part to store ore.

Large Holding Tank


The Large Holding Tank is a part in setting up a mining operation. Obviously you will use this part to store ore.

M4435 Narrow-Band Scanner


The M4435 Narrow-Band Scanner is an optional part in surveying a planet or moon. This part will allow you to see a narrow swath of land with higher detail than the Survey Scanner.

Scanning for Ore Concentrations

Step 1. Setup an ore concentration scanning satellite.

The satellite will need;

  • M700 Survey Scanner
  • Any Antenna
  • A Control Module (Probably probe, but you could do it manned)
  • Power Generation*
  • Power Storage*
  • Xenon Fuel and Engines**
  • Small Inline Reaction Wheel**
  • M4435 Narrow-Band Scanner**

*You can get away with having just either power generation or a lot of power stored in batteries. When you first use the M700 Survey Scanner it will transfer the scans back to Kerbin which takes a lot of power.

**These are nice things to have on a scanning satellite, but by no means required.


Step 2. Launch the scanning satellite into POLAR orbit around the moon/planet you intend to mine.

A polar orbit of 25000m* to 1,500,000m* is required to use the M700 scanner.

The a POLAR orbit is required in order to properly scan the moon or planet you intend to mine. Usually in KSP we setup equatorial orbits, so I am stressing that the orbit needs to be polar for a very specific reason. If you accidentally setup an equatorial orbit it will take a lot of ÃŽâ€v to fix.

*These may vary on very small or very large objects like Jool or Minmus, but generally speaking a 50,000 to 100,000 orbit will do just fine.


Step 3. Use the satellite to determine a high concentration of ore.

Once you have scanned the moon or planet and transfered the data back to Kerbin (you'll get 10 science) you'll be able to overlay ore concentration onto the moon or planet you scanned. You can setup the overlay from the satellite or from the Tracking Station.

Step3a - From the satellite

From the satellite right click the M700 Survey Scanner and select 'Toggle Overlay'. When you enter the map mode you'll see the moon/planet you scanned with an ore concentration overlay now. You can adjust your M700 Survey Scanner to hone in on a good mining operation location.

Use Cutoff+ to raise the minimum ore concentration in order for the overlay to display. Basically you want to keep raising this percentage until there's no overlay left, then use Cutoff- just once and all of the terrain highlighted will be the highest concentration locations.

Step3b. - From the tracking station

First, focus on the body you just scanned. On the right panel of your screen where the Info and Orbit icons are there will be a new icon for Resources. Click the button and then select Resources -> Ore. The setup here on out is the same as it was on the satellite, use cutoff+ to find the highest concentration possible.


Surface Scan with a Rover (Optional)

This part is a little optional, you can setup a base from the M700 Survey Scan, but that scan only tells you generally what concentrations of resources will be in an area. On the surface, concentrations will vary by a few percentage points. In order to find the most ideal location for a mining base, I suggest using a rover with a surface scanner.

You'll want somewhere fairly flat, trying to land a giant mining base on slopes is going to be tricky. The slopes will also block direct sunlight, so if you're in the inner solar system you want as much sunshine as possible. (This patch also made it so any moon/planet past Dres has really bad solar power generation)

You'll want something close to the equator. It'll be easier to land/take off from and it'll have longer days than if you setup on the poles.

You can setup your rover to also double as a fuel tanker. Setup the rover so it has a docking bay that can couple with your mining base. If you then design and build ships that can dock with your rover you can export the ore or fuel from the surface.

Attached is a picture of my fuel rover.


Setting up a Mining Base

Once you've picked out a specific location for a mining base it's time to set it up! This guide assumes you know how to land, orbit, etc and I don't want to tell you exactly what to design and setup, but here is some tips and ideas.

  • Make sure your drills are attached to a HIGH mass object like a giant fuel tank. Drills will produce heat and when they're attached to high mass objects, the high mass objects help to absorb a lot of that heat efficiently.
  • Attach solar panels or wings to the high mass object / fuel tank your drills are attached to. They'll act as passive radiators, dissipating heat away from your drills.
  • Setup your mining drill so that it has a pilotable command module for an engineer. Engineers also help to manage and dissipate heat from the drills.
  • Set up your mining base so it can be docked with in some way, otherwise all the ore and fuel you're producing will likely go to waste.
  • Bring a lot of batteries or fuel cells. If you want your drills and ISRU to run continuously you'll need to supply it with a lot of power. Solar generation is great, but when it is night time on the planet or moon you're on, you'll need batteries or fuel cells to keep it going.
  • Think about setting up a mining base that is coupled with a fuel rover. You can use the fuel rover to dock with landing vessels to refuel them, or to use a reusable vessel to transport the fuel to an orbital station.
  • Make sure to have storage for all the types of fuel you'll want to produce. The ISRU can make MonoProp, Liquid and Oxidizer. If you don't have a tank for MonoProp, for instance, you won't be able to produce it. With that in mind also make sure your fuel rover has storage for all types too.

Here's a little screenshot of the first Mining Base I setup if that helps you.


Mining an Asteroid

Every asteroid will have a certain mass and ore concentration. Mining an asteroid is very much like mining a planet or moon. You'll need drills, ISRU, heat management and power management. Keep in mind a few VERY important things.

  • Asteroid mass is limited. This means you can deplete an asteroid of ore.
  • Asteroids come with their own ore concentrations, meaning a 95% Class A asteroid can have more ore than a 5% Class C asteroid.
  • Turn off your drills when your ore tanks are full. The drills will keep depleting the asteroid even if you have nowhere to put the ore.

Here's a screenshot of a Class A 95% concentration asteroid I landed at KSP.


Edited by rhadamant
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Hm. Regarding that asteroid you landed - if you drill into that, fill up a craft with a tank, and then recover it, do you get credit for the resources?

Sure would, but fuel sells at such a cheap rate that it wouldn't be a functional way of making money.

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Does the ISRU deplete regions of Mun or Minmus of suitable ores like asteroids (and the Kethane mod)? If so, what's the depletion zone (i.e., how far do you need to relocate to drill again)?

And thank you for the primer on drilling. It's just what I was looking for.

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Does the ISRU deplete regions of Mun or Minmus of suitable ores like asteroids (and the Kethane mod)? If so, what's the depletion zone (i.e., how far do you need to relocate to drill again)?

And thank you for the primer on drilling. It's just what I was looking for.

havent tried it yet (waiting for all the mods i like to stabilize before committing to a new career) but based on whats written it sounds like planets dont deplete, only roids. otherwise he probably wouldnt have made a special note about roids being depletable and instead would have said something along the lines of "like planetary deposits, asteroids have a limited quantity of yada yada..."

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Does the ISRU deplete regions of Mun or Minmus of suitable ores like asteroids (and the Kethane mod)? If so, what's the depletion zone (i.e., how far do you need to relocate to drill again)?

And thank you for the primer on drilling. It's just what I was looking for.

No, only asteroids have finite deposits; all other bodies are concentration based, like the Karbonite mod.

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  • 1 month later...

I send survey satellites to Mun, Minmus, Duna and Moho, and all I get are max concentrations of maybe 3%. Is that right? Is that normal? I'm just wondering because the cutoff-levels are in 10% steps....

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Great guide and certainly helpful to newbies like me - a couple of questions:

1. Does your Rover drive up and nicely dock with your mining ship - so when you built your rover you tested it to make sure it can drive right up to the docking port?

2. Does your Rover double up as the "shuttle" ship from your mining operation to the space station (or whatever it is you have) sat in Orbit above?

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Impressive work! :) I'll have to take a better look once I have a more stable Internet connection (currently still getting adjusted to my "home away from home" for my summer job, which has some interesting complications of its own to work out), but this is looking like it would make an excellent addition to the Drawing Board.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I feel like I'm going insane here, because wasn't there a 2.5 meter inline mining drill as well? I distinctly remember having it, but now it's nowhere in my parts list! it was big, orange, and (I think) had it's own ore storage. If this was in a mod, then I can accept that, but I SWEAR it was a thing, and I can't find anything about it!

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  • 1 month later...

The mapview is highly inaccurate and only bases off relative values.Once the surface scanner has landed you can get an average ore concentration for the biome. However you NEED the Hexagonal scanner to get a good ore deposit. Looking at the map after a surface scan and running the hex scanner (which is merely a detailed GUI for ore) you can get deposits up to 9.5% in a 3.5 average biome.

- - - Updated - - -

Great tutorial but Personally the idea of the Surface scan and Hex scanner being optional is not that good. I have found deposits of up to 9.5% in a biome where it averages around 3.5% by using them so they are very important.

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  • 3 months later...

It would be nice to keep this thread updated with advice regarding the new mining parts in 1.0.5.


From pad experiments, the small ISRU will convert 1500 ore (one large tank) to 135LF/165ox.  The Large ISRU will convert 1500 ore to 1350LF/1650ox.  The small ISRU weighs 1.25t, the large weighs 4.25t.  So the large ISRU has a 10x efficiency advantage, vs a 3.4x mass disadvantage.

If you sit on the surface to fill your tanks and carry little to no ore with you, the main difference will be the amount of time spent in time-warp.  For many people this will be no disadvantage at all, while the compact size creates many advantages.  A small ISRU, small drill, radiator, and small radial ore tank can even shoehorn into a single-length Mk2 cargo bay.


Then, here's some info comparing the small and large drills.  I did a quick test with a 4-star engineer on a 8.37% patch of ore (my launchpad), both drills at 500K with abundant power and cooling.  Large drill pulls 0.1318 ore/sec, small drill pulls 0.0264 ore/sec.  If the engineer EVAs (so zero engineer bonus), the large drill pulls 0.006274, small drill pulls 0.001255 ore/sec.  In both conditions the large drill pulls 5.0 times as much ore per second as the small drill, and weighs 5.0 times as much.  Note that the tool tips don't mention the output difference, just that both have a maximum output of 1.0 ore per second.  

The big disadvantage however, is that the small drill won't work whatsoever with ore concentration less than 2.5%.  The M700 survey won't show you this number - only the narrow-band or surface scanners.  I've found the narrow-band scanner pretty tricky to use in flight to choose a landing spot.  And the surface scanner is no good at all until you're on the surface, and perhaps stranded out of fuel for another hop to a richer spot. 


I suspect some people have slapped a small ISRU and small drills on a ship, landed on marginal ore deposits, perhaps with a low level engineer or none at all, perhaps with inadequate cooling, and been frustrated at the length of time needed to make any fuel.  The small drill produces 1/5th as much ore per second, the small ISRU turns it to 1/10th as much fuel, yet that 1/50th fuel fraction often needs to obtain 33 EC/sec from 2 Fuel Cell Arrays, vs the large/large combo's 45EC/sec requiring 3.  The fuel cells may eat up the fuel entirely.

The small ISRU gear can fit into a very small package, but it will require a lot more care and forethought in ship design and usage than the large gear.

Edited by fourfa
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  • 2 months later...
  • 3 months later...

@rhadamant Great guide, but you're wrong about landing near the equator.  Polar locations are the best because planets/moons in KSP have no axial tilt.  This means if you land close enough to a pole the sun will never set and your base can use solar panels and run full time without the need to carry batteries or worry about drills stopping overnight.  You don't even need to worry about shade from local mountains/craters as the illumination check considers the planet to be an ideal sphere. 

While it's true that it takes less delta-V to land at the equator, the prime candidates for mining (Minmus, Gilly, Bop, Pol) all have such low escape velocities and sidereal rotation velocities that the added cost is minimal.

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  • 2 years later...
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