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Dancing in Light - Chapter 8.3 - Evolution vs. Revolution


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So in a bit on insanity, I've decided to revive my KSP obsession and try some new mods after playing realism overhaul for awhile. For bonus points, I'm going to be playing on the stock hard setting which disables respawning, and quicksave/reload (I'll conditionally re-enable it if something glitches, but if I screw up, I'm rolling with it). There is a loose metaplot going on, starting in Chapter 5.1 Dreaming in Light/Skipper, but it's not the main focus for this thread.

Current Achievements of This Space Program


Here's a quick reference guide for what we've done thus far. I'm not using the Return Chevron as it makes it hard to see each. For the craft type, I'm going with whatever is the most challenging or what I was most impressed by, hence why Kerbin has a plane ribbon, and not a capsule or station.


  • Mistakes will be permament, if I blotch a Duna landing, you're going to get to see it
    • Exception: Atmospheric flight is quicksave/quickloadable as otherwise I won't get the epic photos.
    • Exception: For plot relevant stuff, I'll generally allow quicksave/quickload. This happened during the first lunar mission as I was trying to get a good screenshot of an anomaly for the thread and flew too low. I'll note in each chapter where quicksaves/quickloads were done.
  • I've never played with Kerbalism before, so expect hilarious failures :)
  • The save is in career mode, stock tech tree. I'll likely be running some missions without posting about it (no one wants to read 300+ part testing contracts)

  • I'm sticking to a 30 day minimum delay between mission launches for the most part. On rare occasions, I'll bend this rule for special/planned events

    • This is primarily to avoid Mun landing in-game day 2, and then fastforward to Duna at the first launch window
    • For missions that don't leave the planet (i.e., launchpad part testing), I won't bother advancing time

  • The mod list will be somewhat fluid, list is at the below

  • Rough goal of at least doing a kerbaled mission to each planet. Will take suggests for mission ideas/craft names/etc. Will also edit the save file if someone wants a kerbal beyond the original four.


Current Mod List

  • Kerbalism

  • Kerbal Engineer

  • Alarm Clock

  • Better Burn Time

  • SCANsat

  • Scatterer/EVE

    • Astromauner's Visual Pack + KSPRC was added starting in Chapter 7

  • DMagic

  • TAC Fuel Balancer



  • FAR

  • Gravity Turn Redux

  • NavUtils


Chapter 1: K-3 Project

(full imgur album: https://imgur.com/a/Kov5g)



Nearly a decade has passed since Kerbalkind proved that explosive force had a secondary use of propelling objects at very high speed. As such, the powers of Kerbal decided to band together to investigate the species wide goal of understanding large rock in the sky that they call "Mun". The first of these projects, the K-1 involved the use of balloons, geese, and on one memorable occasions, several coconuts. The second, aptly named K-2 was the first to try and use gunpowder to soar into the heavens. Unfortunately, as the ancient scrolls tell us, the test subjects failed in their ascension. This brings us to K-3, masterminded by Wernher von Kerbal, in which kerbals attempted to propel themselves to ever loftier heights. This is their story.




On a day that would eventually become known as Day 1 of Year 1, the latest in a long line of test pilots, Jebediah Kerman would make history by being the first to survive the aptly named Lawndart series of rocket.



Jeb spoke into the mic, "Mission Control, this is Lawndart, all systems check out here, you ready?"

"Hold your horses", spat back Gene, "This is the first design that has a chance of working. Now make sure your SAS is enabled, and get ready for the final count.". The launch countdown finally began to move as Gene cleared the final pre-flight checklist items. "We're holding at T-30. Bill is still checking the craft specs."



"Ok, we're good, Gene. Now Jeb, remember, you might feel a sudden jolt. The SRB will have quite a kick to them."

Jeb rolled his eyes, but ever the professional, "Copy that? We ready to light this thing?"

"Releasing launch countdown. Brace yourself Jeb."

The MET counted down, -3, -2, -1. The entire rocket rumbled, and Jeb shot off into the air and remained pinned to his seat. "WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE". Less than 10 seconds later, the Flea exhausted it's propellant, and began to slow down.


Able to hear himself think,  he radioed back, "That was a kick in the pants!"

"You should hit apogee within 40 seconds, get ready to deploy your shoot!"




(insert missing screenshot of Jeb on terra firma)

With the first successful mission, and the first scientific data gathered, the Kerbal Space Program was (literally) off the ground. Independent companies quickly starting making bids to have their equipment tested in return for helping develop new forms of rocket technology. This lead quickly to the development of the larger Hammer booster, and the Vertical Stack Seperator, allowing the command pod to detach from spent stages or to abort a launch in an emergency. Jeb was issued the First Survival Ribbon of the KSP, for his dedication to advancing Kerbalkind.



Valetinia quickly followed as the second Lawndart Survivor, field tested the TR-18A Stack Seperator, as well as the first landing at sea.



Following these early successes, Werhan worked with Jeb's Scrapyard to develop the first Liquid Fueled Rocket, the LV-T30 "Reliant". This would lead to the next major milestone.


In contrast to the Lawndart, the V2-LD used liquid fuel, designed to allow it's pilot to throttle the engines as well as provide more trust per weight. Powered by a single Reliant, the V2-LD was intended as a technological test bed. Of course, once Val and Jeb saw the specifications, the mission parameters were changed to put the engine in it's paces. Jeb even had a reasonable argument, "We need to test it in vacuum! If we're going to go to the Mun, and maybe even beyond, we need to know what these engines can do in space. For all we know, space is like a giant black pudding." On this (dubious) train of thought, the V2-LD was redesigned and lengthened to exceed the 70km mark, the point where Werner believed that the atmosphere ended, and space actually begun. A magnometer was attached to the side of the capsule to gain further research into the actual limit of space (which would lead to a breakthrough on atmospheric sciences)



The madain flight of the LD-V2 didn't go quite as planned. 45 seconds after launch, the rocket began the shimmy and oscillate,  threatening to pitch over. At the last possible moment, Jeb managed to regain control, and found an angle the craft would fly straight on. "Control, I've got it, I'm off target, but continuing ascension. Rather not punch out if we can avoid it."

Gene nodded, and kept watching the telemetry data. "Compuer projects you're going to pass 70km, how's it looking from your end?"


"A little hot, I'm throttling down to preserve some fuel for +70 burns. Systems looking good otherwise."


As promised, as soon as Jeb passed 70km, he fired what little dreads of fuel were left, proving proposal was indeed possible in zero-g. With nothing else to do, he ditched the engine, ran the automated science instruments, and sat back until gravity reasserted itself.





The would pave the way for the accomplishment heard around the world, LD-V3, the first ship to orbit Kerbin. Arguing that Jeb got all the important milestones, Val eventually won the right to fly the mission. With the lessons learned from the LD-V3, the rocket was redesigned to use a gimbling engine, known as the LV-45, as well as second upper stage. Liftoff went smooth, and Val quickly began going faster than any Kerbal had gone before.



With a clean separation, mission control gave her permission to light the upper stage and continue into orbit. Due to weight requirements, she was on orders to simply go once around and immediately return.



With more than enough excess fuel, the rocket coasted to apoapsis, and did the final injection burn to orbit.


(insert missing screenshot of successful 70x100 orbit. I was a bit sloppy)

"Congraluations, Val, telemetry looks good, turn it around, burn for 3 seconds, and then turn radial and ditch the stage. If you stick the landing, you've made history!"


Due to the high velocities, this was the first spacecraft deployed with a heatshield, which came in handy on the way down.


As the flames cooled, and the air began to bring the capsule to terminal descent, Val could only note that this was the true beginning of a new age for Kerbalkind.




End of Chapter 1


Sorta light on narrative, but I think we've all seen the early missions a billion times, so I'm hoping the scatterer eyecandy makes up for it. I'll likely go more in-depth with mission planning and designing as we aim for the munshot and then later towards Duna. Here's Val and Jeb's stats,



Let me know if you enjoyed this, if you'd like a Kerbal who may die horribly, or if you have a mission suggestion. As of writing, I have the first tiers of probes open (as I needed the fuel cell for anything beyond 30 minutes in orbit).



Edited by NCommander
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Chapter 2 - Probe Wars and Hubris





To say there were some reservations on the unmanned probe problem would be something of an understatement. Theorically, the Stayputnik probe could relay a pilot's commands from KSC to a spacecraft. Unfortunately, the early results were ... less than impressive.



Despite these launch failures, the Stayputnik did find some use for automated part testing, having used to launch an experimental booster via spin stabilization successfully. None the less, the space program would remain manned only for the time being. With great effort, Val and Jeb eventually allowed the techboys at Probodyne to build the first true remote control system, OKTO which could hold basic stabilization. As the ground guidance computers were still extremely primitive, the OKTO was decided to fly the first vessel to the Mun, over Jeb's objections. For a shakedown cruise, the OKTO was launched to LKO with two haul missions, a 0.625 heatshield, and RoverMax wheels, combined with an orbital telescope the tech boys kicked up.


It wasn't what you could call pretty, but it worked. The intent was to detach and try to land the Science Jr. for additional rewards. While the mission was an overall success, a hard landing destroyed the Science Jr. Still, proven it could actually fly a spacecraft, the OKTO was greenlit for an ambitious mission to place a spacecraft in lunar orbit, the next milestone for an eventual Mun mission. Christened Luna 1, the payload successfully reached LKO, however, an inefficent launch left it short of the necessary fuel to reach the Mun.





Failure though, this was not. KSC, in a fit of brilliance, retasked the probe on a long term mission to study the Van Allen radiation belts, and provide data from high Kerbin orbit. Between the two flights, a large amount of data was successfully collected and transmitted back home.


The resulting research left to the invention of a small inline reaction wheel lowering the total mass and providing a much greater margin for era. Luna 1a was launched 30 days later with this new technology.



Reaching LKO, Jeb, using a stopwatch and some careful math calculated the exact time to burn and duration and programmed the flight computer to execute the maneuver. If his calculations were correct, they'd get a low pass over the mun, with sufficient velocity to swing it into a low lunar orbit. Exactly 15 minutes after orbital insertion, Luna 1a lit it's main engine for TMI, and prepared for the coast to the Mun.



Mission control could do nothing but wait. If they had successfully thread the needle, the ships groundtrack would suddenly pull towards the mun. A little over five hours later ...


Success! A few corrections were made to modify the orbital path, placing the probe in a 87 degree orbit so it's telescope could photograph the entire mun. On initial approach, the orbital telescope detected anomalous readings; the site was marked for future exploration.



As the probe swung through perimun, the engine was lit for a final burn, settling into a 40x40 orbit.


The smashing success quickly lead to funding to upgrade the KSC's ground equipment, allowing for flight planning and patched conic display. With these upgrades, an altimeter scan of the moon was launched on behast of STEADIER corporation.


Unfortunately, pride often leads to a fall, and this lead to the first fatality in space. There was a building case to send a kerbal to the Mun, but no one at the KSC knew how kerbalkind would react to the extreme radiation of the Van Alley radiation belts. Furthermore, VAB limitations were having trouble building a craft that could successfully enter and depart lunar orbit safely. A plan was eventually drafted to send a kerbal on a free return trajectory ; in effect, the course would be carefully plotted to slingshot around the mun via a retrograde orbit. By doing so, a craft's orbit would be adjusted so that it would safely return to Kerbin without a course correction burn in the ideal circumstance. This lead to the development of the "Freeballer" spacecraft which would be solar powered.

The mission objectives were to explore the effects of the Van Allen radiation belts, get first hand accounts of the lunar surface by kerbal eye, and return a Science Jr and Mystery Goo from lunar orbit. 




Launch was nominal, and Jeb settled in a parking orbit for his burn window for TMI. "Jeb, you have a go for TMI injection. Godspeed!"


The Freeballer tore out of LKO, and quickly set on it's way to the Mun. KSC confirmed a good insertion into a free-return path.




Along the way, radiation sensors blared as the Freeballer crossed the highly charged belts before eventually subsiding. As long as a craft didn't linger there, the radiation risks were relatively minor, at least in the short term. An hour from the Mun encounter, the KSC realized it's mistake. "Control, I've got an impressive sight, a solar eclipse!"


It had been expected during mission planning that the craft would pass out of sight of the sun as it slung behind the mun. Mission planning however failed to account for the eclipse, leaving Jeb's craft starved of electricity. Keeping his calm, he shutdown all non-essential systems, and prayed for the best. The last reports as the Freeballer disappeared behind the mun was the CO2 level was past 7%, and Jeb had reported he was feeling extremely lightheaded.


It was the last radio transmission received by KSC.



As a final insult to injury, Jeb's efforts to accelerate back into sunlight pushed the Freeballer out of it's free return orbit.


A day of morning was held for the lost of the first kerbalnaut in space, and a hold was put on all future manned missions for the time being until the safety risks could be better managed.


And there we have it, Kerbalism gets first blood, and on a free-return mission too, one of the safer ones you can fly. In hindsight, this was completely avoidable, I had the fuel cell, and I even considered including it, deciding to just leave it off due to cost. The space program will continue with just Val and an army of probes for the time being. Until I can afford to upgrade the Astronaut complex, I won't get any rescue missions, nor can I afford new hires at this point.



Edited by NCommander
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20 hours ago, NCommander said:

As a final insult to injury, Jeb's efforts to accelerate back into sunlight pushed the Freeballer out of it's free return orbit.

Bummer.  I drink to Jeb's shade.  And maybe someday you'll have the tech to retrieve his corpse for a funeral.  Or put in a museum :wink: 

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Retrieving the Freeballer and safely landing it at Kerbin  is a goal I have in mind for this series, but it will be quite a long time before I can pull that mission off. Solar intercepts are already annoyingly difficult, and the mun launched it's in a really awkward orbit to reach, I essentially got the full 500dV boost from the mun, and it was already close to escape velocity due to the earlier failure to the point Freeballer's orbit could actually intercept Eve if it wasn't for the phase angle. I'm likely going to have to manually work out the math to determine how to even get an intercept with it without a massive amount of overdesign. Roughly speaking, there should be a launch window to Freeballer's orbit once every two years or so, depending on where it is in the solar cycle. I won't know for sure until I do the math though.

Then a few more orbits before I can get an intercept back to Kerbin. I'm not even going to bother working out the intercept math until I even have the necessary parts; specifically the grabber and the NERV or ions. As things stand though, it's going to be awhile before I have the cash to update the R&D facility+science. I'm eyeing a two probe mission to Duna to at least pay for the former, but the orbits desired are annoying awkward compared to the intercept angle I'll have at the next launch window (basically a 90 and 270 degree u-turn; Ike can sometimes be used to help there but it's going to be irritating no matter what, alternatively brake into an elliptical orbit and flip it, but again, Ike causes issues here).

The next trick is then determining if I'm sending a manned mission or not; one of the quirks of Kerbalism is part failures are a thing, and I've already had a few with the orbiting probes. An engineer can SOMETIMES repair a part, sometimes not. Once I can intercept Freeballer, I need to bring it back to Kerbin's SoI without destroying it; I try to avoid excessive aerobraking on payloads not designed for it though I can probably use a few hundred m/s to change to to elliptical and then gently aerobrake. Then for the one real practical use for Shuttles; retrieving large downmass payloads. I have the craft file, I'm fairly sure it will fit in the Mk3 cargo bay, followed by a return to the KSC, and a winch to move it somewhere. It will be a rather interesting mission when I can pull it off.

In other news, I've got two projects currently cooking.

Endurance is our manned return to flight, and proving the technology to pull off a Mun landing. Endurance has seen the first long-duration mission to LKO, rendezvous, docking and EVA, and Bill's first launch. It also had our first launch abort when I loaded the wrong craft. The next milestone of endurance is to return an unmanned probe with science from munar orbit to Kerbin, followed up by a manned cislunar mission.

Longshot is the exploration program; it's already sent a probe to Minnus and returned a bucketload of data. We've got an Eve launch window coming up which I'm going to use to lob something at the grape.

I'm currently debating if I want to upgrade the VAB now, or save money for an R&D upgrade, R&D upgrade gets me resource transfer and surface sample which are extremely useful, but 30 parts is damn chafing at times. I can pull off a landing with the 30 part limit, though I'll likely send a dedicated lander to LMO and then catch up with it on a later launch.

Edited by NCommander
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3 hours ago, NCommander said:

Retrieving the Freeballer and safely landing it at Kerbin  is a goal I have in mind for this series, but it will be quite a long time before I can pull that mission off.

Sure it'll be a while, but Jeb's not going anywhere (hopefully, barring an unfortunate encounter in the meantime).  That will certainly be day to remember when it happens.


3 hours ago, NCommander said:

I'm currently debating if I want to upgrade the VAB now, or save money for an R&D upgrade, R&D upgrade gets me resource transfer and surface sample which are extremely useful, but 30 parts is damn chafing at times. I can pull off a landing with the 30 part limit, though I'll likely send a dedicated lander to LMO and then catch up with it on a later launch.

How bad is Kerbalism on requiring extra parts for life support, shielding, and all that?  The of that that sort of thing you need, the more you need to upgrade the VAB and Launchpad just to be able to do even minimal stuff.

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So Kerbalism life support aspect is pretty close to TAC in terms of complexity but less "tacked on"; then again, kerbalism adds a lot so it's hard to compare it to any other mods. It's mostly mechanics and only has a small handful of parts in that regard. Radiation shielding is added as a resource; for a short fieldtrip I probably don't need much.The Mk.1 capsule carries enough life support for 5d. Generally speaking, it usually a day each way to and from the mun so theorically, I could pull and touch and go landing without additional parts. The trick here is power and communication, though generally I hate touch and go missions.

Right now, short of the leaning stack of batteries, the best power source I have is the fuel cell, which needs hydrogen and oxygen to run (and I get water out of it). So effectively 2-3 parts though the counter is with the way the fuel cell works in Kerbalism, I actually can skip the solar panels so it's net neutral or net negative since I can probably ditch anything beyond the capsule battery. I'm sorta debating NF Power, but I won't do that until after I finish the tech tree. I'm leaning for updating R&D because with docking, I can easily lob more hardware in two launches and just combine them in orbit; I can get a full lunar lander in 30 parts, its more getting those 30 bits to the mun without any other bits that gets tricky.


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Well, this was an interesting round of missions. Instead of recapping missions in chronicle order, I'm going to group them by project for this update.

Chapter 3: In Space, No One Can Hear You Explode




Several small burns are made to null out the lateral velocity; a little over 500 meters up, the probe enters vertical freefall, and briefly pops back up.


However ...



TOUCHDOWN! A bounty of science is sent back to the KSC, and Longshot looks rather smug. Endurance steps up to bat.

Endurance - Atlas Docking Vehicle

Thirty days later, Endurance steps up to the plate to try and match Longshots impressive accomplishments with the Atlas Docking Vehicle, the first manned flight since the Freeballer Disaster. Atlas is the acclimation of several months of R&D, the first vehicle designed to perform precision maneuvers with it's integrated RCS system. Due to Bill's status as an engineer, the KER system was swapped with a probe core to provide stability control; Bill, being an engineer can manually relay the data to the KSC. Initially, the launch goes well.


And then goes pearshaped, as the boffins at the VAB accidently mated it to the spare Luna 1 launcher instead of a larger LV that could take the mass. This mistake was not noticed until Bob's first stage unexpectedly ran out of petrol at 15km. An effort to salvage the launch was made on the terrier.


However, Bill quickly ran through the math, the upper stage simply didn't have enough ooph to reach LKO. With some regret, Bill called into the mic, "ABORT! LAUNCH ABORT!". Grabbing the handle with both hands, the decoupler kicked and the terrier performed an emergency shutdown, separating the pod from the failed LV. After a rather harrowing freefall, both recovery shoots fired ontime.



Bill quickly went into the history books as the first aborted launch in the KSC. Ouch.

Endurance - Atlas Redux

Although Longshot was supposed to take the next launch for the Lunar Orbiter mission, after much discussion, it was decided to launch the Atlas spare frame on a proper LV. This was due to the fact that Milestone station would be unmanned for 60 days, and there were concerns without maintenance, something could leak or freeze over. As such, Endurance would launch a second attempt to man Milestone, and Longshot would get the next two slots in the roster (Luna Orbiter, and Undefined Eve Mission).

After the previous screwup, the VAB team went for sheer overkill on the LV.


Determined to win back some prestige for the Endurance project, Bill had timed his launch carefully to perform a direct ascent to Milestone, intending to catch it before completing a first orbit.


After quite a bit of number crunching while still coasting towards apoapis, BIll worked out the necessary burn solution although due to atmospheric drag, several adjustments had to be made to keep the direct ascent (including skimming Kerbin's atmosphere shortly past AP). After coming back around the day side of Kerbin, Milestone began to loom into view.


After hitting the brakes, the RCS system got it's first real workout as Bill slung the craft infront of Milestone, and lined up for the docking.


Followed by ...


After visually inspecting to confirm the hardseal, Bill hopped over to station, and relayed his reports back to the KSC.


After the rather embarrassing fumble, Bill couldn't help but think the near flawless rendezvous and docking would help bring some prestige back to Endurance. As time proved though, Longshot was about to make it's first contribution to the expensive hardware lob league.

Longshot - Cismunar Orbiter/Return

The COR mission (which lacked a fancy name) was intended to return the first samples from munar orbit and return it to Kerbin. In what had become (mostly) routine, the payload was successfully lofted to LKO, and mission control gave the green light to TMI.


COR was sent to the mun on a free-return trajectory, as this would be representative of any manned mun mission. However, a sloppy throttle resulted in a slightly overcooked approach.


Since the probe was intended to orbit, a correction wasn't made; if orbital insertion failed, it would at least prevent any space debris. As per an earlier contract, the probe was eased into a relatively high orbit over the munar surface to provide scientific data for Maria Construction Toys.


Successfully entering the target orbit, material samples and goo samples were taken, and an departure burn was calculated. Due to the retrograde orbit, the probe was kicked into a higher orbit and would take two days to return to Kerbin. Right on time, the probe broke munar orbit, and began back towards Kerbin. Although excess fuel remained, the probe ditched it's engine for re-entry as this would be representational of a low fuel return.


At this point, Bill had finished 30 days in LKO, but decided to extend his mission to sixty and perhaps even longer depending on his health and supply status. He was monitoring the rather unfortunate series of events that followed. Internal sensors recovered from the wreckage quickly noted the probe was heating up much faster than expected and thermal stresses were threatening to destroy the craft. Without warning, the Material Sample Bay gave, slamming the heatshield into the probe.


It was hoped that the probe would still survive as the heatshield was still in place. However ...


In space, no one can hear you explode. It was hoped that this wasn't an onmious foreshadow for the Stellar Wind mission


Well, that was interesting; I had a serious facepalm when I had to abort Bill's first orbit. I'm 0/2 on free-return trajectories, and I'm still not sure why the COR probe broke up on re-entry; I need to check what the re-entry heat settings are on Hard; I know I've flown basically this same exact mission and the probe wasn't even that high up when it poofed; It might be though I was returning from a retrograde Mun orbit which gave it just enough speed to break up. It's also possible Kerbalism changes how re-entry works, but that's the first Kerbin re-entry in a long time I goofed on. I'm actually somewhat nervous when I go to deorbit Bill although he has more than enough fuel to slow his descent.

Up next, Longshot is going to try to recover from that screw-up by sending a payload to Eve, and Endurance is going to begin planning for an eventual cislunar mission. As things stand, I'm likely going to have to do an Apollo-style mission unless I upgrade the VAB expect using two launches to get the necessary hardware to the Mun. That being said, I've maxed out the low end tech tree so I'm pretty torn on upgrading R&D vs VAB; I'm sitting on about 700k cash, R&D is 980k to upgrade, and I need some margin to help keep everything in the black.

I didn't notice it until I posted the thread, but the shot of Surveyor over the Mun is strikenly similar to the Earthrise photo from Apollo 8.




Edited by NCommander
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No proper update tonight, but that's due to an exceptionally long day at work, and nearly two hours trying to get the kinks out of StellarWind - this build simply wouldn't come together, and I've likely spent 40-50k in game simulating the kinks out, though we now have our first heavy lifter. The other other thing I did was complete Endurance/Atlas's mission and actually had a re-entry abort to avoid killing Bill, and some housekeeping on a few other probes to get them into new orbits. Here's a preview for the LS StellarWind mission which is taking a relatively easy Eve intercept.


After much hoing and humming, I ended up upgrading the VAB; I'm going to likely have to have a grindfest to get R&D Tier 2; sending a probe to Eve though should increment the internal progress marker and I should start getting missions to the other planets. There's a *relatively* cheap window to Duna for 3k transfer coming up in about 10 in game weeks, and I'm likely going to take it so this launcher and possibly probe design will get reused. Let's talk about Stellar Wind and a bit about it's design.

Longshot - Stellar Wind

Originally, Stellar Wind was envisioned to simply strap the Luna 1 probe to a larger LV and call it good, but Longshot was fuming after vaporizing a probe from munar orbit, so it was decided to go big or go home. I'm *still* not sure why it vaporized; re-entry heating is at 100%. As such, Stellar Wind was redesigned to be an orbiter/lander combo. Before we get into the specifics, let's go over mission objectives. As far as I understand Kerbalism, my current comm setup SHOULD work to Eve and Duna, as well as Dres for part of it's orbit; Jeb's capsule just passed perihelion, and still has a downlink to the KSC with the high-gain antenna. If it turns out that I loose radio contact with the KSC, the mission will ditch the lander and instead be a high-speed flyby. Either way, SCIENCE!


  • Stellar LV
  • Eve Transfer Module
  • Wind - Orbiter
  • Leaf - Lander

Stellar Wind - Primary Objectives

  • First (intentional) heliocentric orbit
  • Scientific data from high solar orbit
  • Eve flyby/data capture
  • Propulsive capture into elliptical polar Eve
  • SCANSat altimetry telemetry for Eve
  • Deploy the Leaf Lander

Secondary Objectives

  • Successfully land on Eve
  • Explore Gilly

The mission will be considered an overall success if we manage to get data back from Eve. Otherwise Longshot will score another point on the expensive hardware lob (Endurance and Longshot are tied ATM).

As far as building, ugh, I actually had more issues with the LV than the probe/lander, which is unusual for me. The first problem was noodly rocket syndrome as the LV expended most of it's fuel (it's going to kick us out of Kerbin SoI, then the ETM takes over). That was (eventually) fixed by removing the probes from the fairing, welding a stack seperator between them, and then bolting a decoupler to the bottom the fairing. That fixed noodly rocket, Stellar then decided to develop a slight vaporization issue as it passed Max-Q once dumping the strap-on boosters. This one was eventually resolved by installing Ferram Aerospace to get more reliable rocket physics, strutting, and some fiddling with thrust limiters.

I was kinda avoiding installing FAR because it makes building working planes fiddly as heck, but I'm too used to playing RO/RSS to go back to Kerbal physics. I've gotten usable SSTOs with FAR before, it just means the build time goes from 20 minutes to 2 hours to prevent supersonic shuttering from blowing up the LV. Planes tend to be a dangerous moneysink in career mode, but I do want to eventually upgrade the SPH/runway; I'll likely look at doing that after R&D upgrade, and launchpad L3.

As for as launch schedule, here's what's planned. I'll likely wait for StellarWind to get to Eve before pushing up the next update but I'll post these type of messages regularly.

  •  StellarWind
  • One or two rescue missions (finally got some contracts to show up, but I got ... two engineers. Ugh, persistance save file editing might follow)
  • At least one if not two Commercial Mun Missions, with LMO return (I'm going to get this working)
  • High-speed Duna mission
  • Minnus is going to get some probe love
  • Manned cismunar mission (Bob or Bill)
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Real life continues to kick my cheeks, and insomnia hasn't helped (I've slept maybe 10 hours in three days). Writing helps me unwind so ...

Chapter 4 - Fender Bender



As before, this is mostly grouped by mission/events, and not chronological.


As with any space program, clean orbits are happy orbits. In this case, we needed to complete the SCANsat map of Minnus; the earlier DMagic orbiter had completed it's primary mission objects, so it lit up its engine for the first time in half a year and slug into itself into a polar orbit.


With confirmation that the engine system hadn't failed, DMagic immediately requested the probe conduct a new survey from it's current orbit for a nice sum of cash. This happy news was followed up by Bill screaming down to mission control.


Near-Death Experience


One of the RCS-105 thruster blocks on his return craft suddenly decided to spring a leak, venting monoprop into space, and shifting the orbit of Endurance station; surprising since the capsule and RCS system were essentially brand new! A quick boot to the head jammed the release close but not before nearly a third of the RCS supply had been vented into space.



As a precaution, the monoprop tanks were locked out to prevent a occurrence, and Bill's mission would end at the 60 day mark. Originally, the plan was to stay on Endurance until life support was near exhaustion and then return to Kerbin; after this mishap, Gene was decided that Stellar Wind would hold and a rescue mission would be rolled to the pad in it's place when Bill goes to deorbit. As such, it would be possible to rapidly launch a rescue mission to LKO if something went wrong. Longshot grumbled, but even they were forced to admit a life was more important than a probe. If a rescue was NOT needed, Stellar Wind would only be a day behind it's launch schedule. Milestone station would be left with 26 days left of supplies, to be used for safe harbor until a larger station would be launched and this one deorbited. Considering it may be some time (if ever) before a kerbal revisits the station, a through inspection was completed.


With a greenlight, Bill detached from the station and began his deorbiting burn when trouble struck.


CO2 warnings blared and Bill began to feel incredibly sick. With the CO2 levels rapidly rising, Gene shouted "Abort to Orbit, Bill!". The EVA suit had an emergency scrubber, the rescue mission could reach Bill in orbit before he would expire (in theory). An emergency RCS burn put Bill on a 70x90 orbit. A quick review of the data at mission control revealed the problem; to prevent unnecessary wear and tear and power drain, the life support systems had been shutdown on the return capsule while docked at Milestone station; the stations' life support kept the pod pressured and clean air circulating. Once Bill separated, the scrubbers had never been re-enabled. Quickly flipping the breakers, air began to flow through Bill's capsule, and he went twice around before CO2 levels finally dropped to normal. After a triple-check, Bill began his entry interface, and ditched his engines.


The re-entry was violet to say the least ...


But ...



Successful! Bill left a flag to note the long spaceflight and the RTF mission that got manned exploration back on the mission rotation.



With rescue unnecessary, Stellar Wind rolled out to the pad and launched a day behind schedule.

Stellar Wind

(previously documented above, go read that for details)

Unusually for a KSC mission, SW was entirely unsponsored; there was no contract or notable award to heading to Eve ascend from the prestigate from going. As such, SW had one single chance in the budget to hit Eve and complete it's objectives. Needless to say, Longshot was really whiteknuckled that everything went to plan.


Mounted on the new Stellar LV, the Wind orbiter and Leaf lander were going to make high-speed trip to Eve. Stellar had a difficult development cycle, and there were some concerns the most expensive mission launched up-to-date would crash into booster bay. With some trepidation though, the stack was lowered into place on the pad.



Due to some inhertiant stability due to the payload, Stellar ended up shallowing on it's ascent to LKO, but eventually got there!


With the most knuckle biting part of the mission complete (until they got to Eve), an evaluation of launch options was considered. Stellar Wind had the option of two possible burn trajectories out of LKO to Eve.

  • A faster (but more dV intensive) burn that would get the probe to Eve in 140 days, with a course correction
  • A slower (but saving almost 300 m/s) course that would be a direct insertion with a minor trim maneuver.

After crunching the numbers, the Stellar LV had a full 1212 m/s left in the tank, enough to complete the initial ejection burn with 6 m/s of gas left to spare. Given the recent part failures, and the fact that the Eve Transfer Module would only be needed for the course correction and orbital entry maneuvers, the faster burn was selected after careful consideration. As the numbers went, Stellar should end up an eplitical Eve orbit with nearly 1k dV on it's own thrusters once Leaf was detached, more than enough for both primary and secondary mission objectives. The maneuver nodes were laid out, the clock was set, and the Skipper lit to expend the Stellar LV.



After main energy shutdown (due to fuel exhaustion), the payload detached, sending back images of both the expended LV, and Kerbin. Mission control checked their boards; the burn had been right down the middle, and only a minor correction was needed at the inclination change to line up with the new mission profile.


Three days later, Stellar Wind became the first craft to intentionally enter heliocetric orbit, and return scientific data!



85 days later, it will reach the descending node, and correct for Eve entry.


With one mission objective complete, Stellar Wind was off to a good start. Next, the Commercial Contract Division was going to step up to bat for it's fumble.


CCD - Fender Bender

The Commercial Contract Division is one of the oldest parts of the KSC system; launching payloads to orbit, testing parts, and providing engineer and help funding further exploration operations. Up until this point, CCD had more or less idled in the  background with no truly notable missions, and primarily lead and operated Monitor and Gus Kerman. With the new Stellar LV though, CCD was willing to allow other projects to piggyback on their launches for helping to pay the bills.

A few days ago, the brass at the KSC got a rather strongly worded request from two separate companies to rescue employees in LKO! Through deep magic, two separate companies had managed to launch kerbals into space with no method of safely returning them to Kerba Ferra. After working out the mission parameters, a new type of rescue capsule, based around the up-to-this-point disused Mk1. Lander was designed. Futhermore, an update to the guidance computers would allow full automated launches through a utility called Gravity Turn Redux. As such, two of the Rescue Mk1. pods were loaded. Longshot, seeing an opportunity pitched in to become a secondary payload; an open CMD mission requested a new probe be sent to two different Lunar Orbits, and they still had the goal of successfully returning from munar orbit. As such, the triple payload stack was assembled, and mounted to a Stellar LV. Unfortunately, the boffins under Linus's PR department forgot to take a picture of the craft on the ground, so these artistic renditions will have to do.


After a slightly shaky launch to LKO, the triple-stacked launcher settled into an 80x75 orbit. To keep weight down, the two landers only had RCS thrusters, probe core, and heatshield. However, the light weight of the craft meant they could get over 600 m/s dV from their monoprop supplies! The secondary payload and the Stellar LV would complete an orbit then burn for the Mun after both rescues were detached. Rescue I detached cleanly, and headed into a leader orbit that would catch it's target within an hour.



Rescue II however would have to slow down to a chaser orbit as it was impossible to catch both pods on a single direct ascent. It would take 4 hours to reach it's target, but manage the encounter for a total 20 m/s and a relative velocity of 6 m/s.


Both Rescues finished their RCS burns and settled in. The Stellar's Skipper lit up and sent the last payload to the mun, but we'll follow up with that story in a bit.

Right on queue, Rescue I managed to catch up with it's target.


Nathalan quickly hopped out of her capsule/prison, and into the newly arrived rescue ship, where a design problem was promptly discovered.


As with any space craft, the Rescue vessels had been tested in simulations to make sure that they could provide enough power to run their life support and other components. Jeb's illfated mission was powered by two solar cells, and Bill had fuel cell power + solar. What wasn't properly accounted was that a kerbal actively using life support put a heavy drain on the battery packs, and that, combined with the probe core (which in Kerbalism you can't disable) caused the power rates to go negative. A workaround was quickly devised. By keeping Natalan on EVA, the battery packs would recharge off the solar cells, and then the pressurization system disabled. Testing showed it would take roughly 30-45 minutes for climization to become dangerous, and another 30 or so minutes before lethal exposure. With careful management and nursing, Rescue I began it's deorbiting burn.


And 20 minutes later, splashdown, with an alive kerbal! Victory!


With the lessons learned, Neldum in Rescue II was picked up two days later and safely recovered.



Two engineers were added to the roster not long after


There's been debate sending them for retraining as either a pilot or scientist though ...

While some design flaws needed to be addressed, the fundamental Rescue Mk. 1 idea was sound, and would serve as a usable escape vehicle in the future. While this was going on, Longshot's Mun Orbiter Mk2 had slipped into the Mun's SoI. As with the previous orbiter, it too had been launched on a free return trajectory. Unfortunately, the rapid rush to design the third payload meant the KER upload module was forgotten. While this wouldn't affect flight controls, accurate counts of fuel and dV estimations became impossible. It was known by using the baseline model however that the Stellar LV should have enough fuel left to enter orbit, detach it's probe, and deorbit, impacting on the mun. A probe core had been installed to allow this. As planned, the Stellar LV did infact enter orbit, and detached its final payload. Due to inexperience with multi-land payloads, the CCD mission director however forgot to check that the probe had cleared the path of the LV *before* sending the commands for retrograde burns. What happened was the first fender-bender in space.


Amazingly, despite the blast, the Stellar LV took most of the damage. Telemetry downlink confirmed the probe had escaped MOSTLY intact ... except it's parashoot and short-range omnidirectional antenna had been sheared off. As such, the orbiter could only downlink with Kerbin and couldn't receive relayed commands from the other probes in orbit. Limping, the orbiters engines did infact survive the impact, but without the shortrange antenna, it took three days for the mun to move to a point where commands could be relayed directly from Kerbin to execute the burns. Eventually, both orbits were achieved, but without the parashoot, a safe return to Kerbin was impossible, precluding Longshot's primary objective.


For the time being, Longshot's second attempt at a Munar Return stood in ruins. There had been some debate if it would be possible to return the probe safely to LKO and repair it as a secondary objective of a future mission however ...


So ... yeah, oops. That was a bunch of close calls, and my second mun mission failure, though I did make a bunch of money so CCD did finish it's objectives. I need to just attach a fuel cell to the rescue pods and small O2/Hydrogen tanks; I thought I could get away with solar because all LKO manned missions had used it to this point but the power draw is simply too high when you add the probe core. There is a mono-prop fuel cell, but I can't use it with the Mk1 pods (which only have two slots for equipment, normally the scrubber and pressurization modules which are kinda necessary). I had been planning on playing until Stellar Wind reached Eve (two launches later), but my muse escaped, and I've personally feeling meh. Writing this up has been the hilight of otherwise cruddy week.

I also caved and added Gravity Turn Continued to the modlist. I usually use MJ when I start doing large amounts of construction, but I was getting tired of simulating a LV (which is 2-3k funds each shot) and then sitting for 4-5 minutes to get it into orbit with careful micromanagement. I thought about using kOS and writing a launch script which would be in line with the hardcore play-through, but sitting and debugging kOS scripts is far to close to the day-job for my liking, and pre-existing scripts have an annoying tendency not to work across versions. 

As for other mods, I'm fishing through my old installs and CKAN, and will probably end up adding Atmospheric Autopilot; essentially functional autopilot for planes. I'll also add in procedural wings/tanks once the VAB hits L3; the problem with the tanks is they completely break the balance of upgrading buildings. Near Future packs will also likely get added, but not until after I finish the tech tree, and even then I'm ehh, though having a nuclear reactor would be nice; I'll likely limit myself to adding a part pack once every few thousand science points though I might add the sub parts this weekend; there's a DMagic experiment that really wants them.

KerbinSide is an option; I might end up doing polar launches (haven't been any this game yet) from KSC2 or another launchsite just to mix it up. 



Edited by NCommander
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I need some advice. So, I had the day off, so I ended up on a KSP binge, and wanted to fly a plane. As I said before, planes are difficult at best in KSP when you're using the keyboard. I ended up building Skipper, the first jet of the KSC and kicking off some plot for this LP, but ran into problems.


To prevent bankrupting my space agency, I designed the skipper in a seperate copy of the save with reverting on as it's notoriously difficult to build a plane in FAR that can land on rough terrain and be stable regardless of fuel levels and KRASH sets simulation costs in atmo at 300-400 per minute. This was to complete a mission to bring a tourist to the North Ice Shelf, land, do science, and hit recovery. I decided to penalize myself for building it in a spare save, I'd fly to the pole and bring it back. To my credit, I did actually make it all the way there, stuck the landing and back to the KSC with excess fuel to spare. The problem was I timed the North Pole departure rather ... poorly, and returned to the KSC in the dead of night. I've managed night landings before but only with a fully upgraded runway. It's *really* hard to even seen the ground.

I also discovered Skipper had something of a small stability problem when landing with half-full tanks; it would be sluggish to pitch up and I kept bouncing or rolling over. As I found, Hard actually allows F5/F9 to work, so I ended up debugging the flight. To actually land, I had to cave and install an ILS mod and fly the entire approach via instruments. I eventually determined to keep the plane flyable, I had to come in at 1/3rd throttle; a problem I didn't have with nearly full tanks or empty ones when I tested. Once I figured out a slight bug with NavUtils (hint: don't have a waypoint called KSC 09), it only took three attempts to stick the landing on 27 mostly due to my in-familiarity with during a pure ILS mod (I couldn't see the runway until I was literially ontop of it).


To be blunt, I'm not sure how best to handle this. Hard mode does allow F5/F9, so technically, I haven't violated the rules that KSP sets, but I also don't think I'm willing to risk any planes (space or otherwise) without some leyway; I'm not Scott Manley :). I also technically completed all the contract aside from hitting recover before I save/reloaded so there's that. Ultimately, this thread is for entertainment; I'm not trying to prove anything, so if people want to see pretty scatterer screenshots and allow me to F5/F9 on planes, they'll continue. Otherwise we'll be a rocket based program for the most part. I could also allow quicksaving to in-atmosphere flight with airplanes; i.e., if I'm flying a plane on Duna, I can F5/F9 and simulate it freely with hyperedit. I'll leave no revert for everything else because the failures are funny to look at in hindsight.

I've also added a parashoot mod so I could have ditched (although in this case, I got determined to get the landing in the night despite teh cheating). So I'll let the jury decide. I'll have some time before the next update. I've only done two missions since I sank a few hours into getting a plane working

Edited by NCommander
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@NCommander, I think that F5/F9'ing for planes is fine. Really wonderful mission report by the way, and sorry about Jeb. Also, I've worried about hitting the space station after undocking, but never the launcher after decoupling though. I could see it happening. I actually did hit the space station once, in a career save.

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18 hours ago, NCommander said:

so if people want to see pretty scatterer screenshots and allow me to F5/F9 on planes, they'll continue.

No complaints from me.


18 hours ago, NCommander said:

I couldn't see the runway until I was literially ontop of it

Did you add any floodlights or were you just using the minuscule lights on the LG?

Also, especially before I have the Level 3 Runway, I always land in the grass and taxi up onto the runway once I'm safely down.


18 hours ago, NCommander said:

I eventually determined to keep the plane flyable, I had to come in at 1/3rd throttle; a problem I didn't have with nearly full tanks or empty ones when I tested.

Have you tried using RCS Build Aid to help you build a plane whose CoM doesn't move despite fuel burn?  Or is that not an option with FAR?

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I have RCS Build Aid installed, Skipper is *stable* during flight regardless of fuel load; it actually is quite land-phobic when the tanks are bone dry. Getting something stable in FAR is something of a trick; you actually have to understand the aerodynamic principles in play to get something that's remotely flyable let alone going supersonic. Stock is considerably easier, but if you expect reality, you can actually get rather confused (flying the stock SSTO with FAR is an exercise in hilarity).

I actually went to the island airfield for plot reasons and discovered with the tanks mostly empty, it will actually go super-sonic. The problem was it's unstable landing with nothing short of full tanks or empty tanks. After a LOT of additional testing, I eventually worked out the root cause to be related to the landing gear and a bad interaction with Atmospheric Autopilot; specifically, I had steering on the front enabled with steering enabled. This was causing a hell of a lot of twitchiness when I had touchdown; atmospheric autopilot would try to correct to the original heading and *SPIN*. Landing with SAS on the other hand was quite a bit more stable. This might be because I haven't used AA in 1.3; I don't remember having the issue in 1.2. The forward trust actually was helping keeping the gear going; I couldn't see it in the dark but I suspect a lot of the landing crashes were due to landing and then flipping over; when I reproduced the flights during the day, that's what typically happened.

The gear was also angled to provide a slight pitchup; this works wonders for getting off the runway, but the gear being offset made it quite a bit squarely at about 80 m/s. A brief redesign got it stable at much slower landing speeds and I've had a lot less issues (I lost the flaps and gave it spoilers since it's perfectly happy to fly, land and take off at flaps 0). I likely need to play with the friction sliders to see if I can get it to stick to the runway and not re-create Kerban Drift Program. It looks like 1.3 changed the 1.2 wheel physics slightly (though to be fair, I've had gear issues since 1.1 dropped). Flying with a keyboard also means control inputs are fairly heavy.

And yeah, the actual landing was only with the gear landing lights. Skipper was exactly 30 parts with the three science experiments; I hadn't planned on a night return to the KSC. I did work out the range based on the little jaunt to the poles; I *drastically* overdesigned Skipper; it has enough fuel to go around the world twice if I did the math right. I might even just try that at some point.

As far as where we are in the save, Stellar Wind just crossed into Eve's SoI, and I'm holding off launching a mission to try and hit the Duna intercept, though that's going to be tricky since it's going to need a massive rocket. I'm doing the write-up now. Next session will be pretty much Stellar Wind at Eve. CCD's Minnus mission failed to meet all it's objectives (which is becoming a theme). For the Duna mission, I need about 7-8k dV to actually get there and park it in the right orbit; I also have a contract to explore Ike so I might head there instead of mapping Duna per my original intentions.

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Chapter 5 - Dancing in Light

Missions with a * in the tile notes that quicksaves were used in the mission. Quicksaves are only used for plane missions.



Endurance - Kosmos

After the previous oops, Gene, in collaboration with big brains at R&D decided to greenlight a second manned cislunar. Extensive computer simulations shows that the primary failure of the last mun return mission was due the fact the return height was simply too high; the probe heated up without slowing down; a more violet re-entry would actually reduce total heating. After the fundamental root cause was determined, Kosmos was greenlit after Bill's success with the Atlas mission, and the fact that some risks were needed in the name of progress. Bob Kerman, thus far the only astronaut not to fly in space was selected for his knowledge in studying the radioactive exposure of a mission in munar orbit and was provisioned for 10 days of supply, with an expected mission duration of five days; two in transit, and three in munar orbit which would be representative of the actual mun landing mission.

 The third Stellar LV (this time without the strap on boosters) was rolled to the pad, and lit.



Bob, mission first, was collecting new silence data that no other kerbal could economically recover.



Unlike the prior StellarWind mission, the LV was dropped on a suborbital trajectory; Kosmos would use it's own engines to head to the Mun and back. Once in orbit, Bob quickly EVAed to check his spacecraft, and mission control gave the green light for TMI.



A secondary objective of the mission would be to photograph the darkside of the mun while illumated. This would provide excessive light for munar insertion, and provide data not available to other missions that depended on a lit mun facing Kerbin. The ejection burn was clean, and Bob was thrown onto the (hypothetically) safer free-return trajectory that up to this point had failed to actually return anything from the mun.



After a rather sedate day in transit, Bob became the first Kerbal to successfully enter munar orbit. He frequently EVAed to reset his experiments, and mission command got a steady downlink of new scientific data.


Aside from a slightly higher consumption of hydrogen than expected, Bob's three days in munar vacation passed without note. A return burn was calculated by mission control, and uploaded to the Kosmos orbiter.



Approaching kerbin, the craft turned towards Normal, and dumped the engines. Sir Issac Kerman was in the drivers seat from this point forward.



After several minutes of radio silence due to plasma interferences ...


Successful shoot deployment! Bob was quickly recovered, with Endurance well on its way towards the first Munar Landing.


Longshot - Stellar Wind

After two months coasting, Stellar Wind had crossed the descending node, and needed to make the final course correction towards Eve. So far, the probe remained in good health but there were reservations as the craft had to hit a rather narrow window to successfully enter polar Eve orbit, and the margins for the TEI module were streched then. Using Wind's engines were always an option, but would more or less kill any possibility of a trip to Gilly.


Several minutes passed in silence as Gene waited for downlink telemetry to calculate the probe's new trajectory after burning for Eve. The data came up on screen.



"Guidance, this is flight. We're showing good Eve correction burn. Estimated encounter in 35 days for intercept with a 91 inclination orbit." Cheers broke out, the burn had been right down the middle. Now the TEI would just have to bring them into an elliptical orbit, and several slow passes of aerobraking would bring it into it's proper orbit.

Still, the most difficult parts of the mission lay ahead.

CCD/Longshot - Read the Fine Print

In the making money department, CCD was grabbing the last spot in the schedule before the Duna/Ike mission to send a payload to Minnus for two contracts; perform a recon scan of Minnus, and place a probe in a specific orbit. Longshot was sending a secondary payload to test docking in Minnus orbit, and attempt return from the lump of jelly. The bulky satelite required a rather inefficient launch profile to prevent toppling over, and the entire stack barely managed to leave the pad; additional fins had been hastily bolted to the LV to keep the center of mass towards the rear of the rocket.




The mission parameters required reaching two orbits with different inclinations. Due to the positions of Minnus and Kerbin, the probe itself would arrive well off-center for an easy intercept. The longshot payload was designed to dock with the SIGINT satelite for both Longshot's testing and act as the maunvering engines; whatever was left in the Stellar rocket would be expended and (hopefully) deorbited into Minnus.


Several corrections would be needed to get the probe in the correct orbit, and more than a few moments when someone accidentally plotted a suicide course.


Eventually both orbits were reached, and the recon antenna was deployed in low minnus orbit; a short in the Stellar LV prevented it deorbiting but no other major goofs up to this point (note to mission command, check your EC before you detach the launch stage).


With a clean deployment and confirmation of downlink, Mortimor discovered a slight problem with the payload when he argued for money from DMagic.


It seems by recon scan, they meant vision and not radio surveillance scan. The mission parameters for Duna and for Minnus had gotten crossed inflight. Ugh.

With the primary mission complete, Longshot stepped up to plate. The RV was detached, and maneuvered away to line up for docking.


However, despite using something quicksave/quickload, the contract parameter would not complete after three attempts. (OOC: quickload was only used because I thought this was a bug. In hindsight, I think it was because I never let the payload get out physics range; worlds first didn't give me anything either; I need to send a new payload to this orbit anyway so I'll try this again. Otherwise I'll force complete the contract with debug).

Frustrated with fine-print failures, the RV lit up for a Kerbin return. Due to the inclination of orbits, the return burn launched the satelite to near escape velocities before it would (eventually) return to Kerbin 30 days later. If everything went as planned, the two mystery goo modules that had ridden in the RV should provide quite a bit of interesting data.


I'm going to post Flight of the Skipper separately as its 1. long, 2. plot-relevant (the start of a loose mytharc for this game). 



Edited by NCommander
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Chapter 5.1 - DIL/Skipper



Valentina was frustated; ever since Jeb's death, she had essentially been grounded. On one level, she got it; the current capsules used by the KSC could only support one kerbal, and the Rescue Mk1 was still pending a redesign to allow multiman missions. With the advances in automous operation, there had been little need for pilots at the KSC; Bob was a scientist, he went to the mun because they needed to know if it was safe. Bill on the other hand was needed to prove the technology.

It hadn't been the first time she had been sidelined, but she was the only pilot left in the astronaut corps. It was at least a little lonely. As she watched construction of the Duna/Ike mission (still unnamed) in the VAB, Bill walked up, "There you are, been looking all over for you?"

Val shrugged. Bill gave her a look, "Still doing the broody thing, look, I get it. Anyway, was wondering if you wanted go flying?"


"Yes, flying. You know, that thing we used to do. Skipper has been in Hanger 1 for so long it's beginning to rust."

On one level, Val understood the words, but had absolutely no idea what Bill was saying. "It's not space, but getting out will be good. Remember? Anyway, Gwendon from the old research team phoned me up asking for a favor. Needed a skilled pilot for a hop to the North Pole. I remember you boasting Skipper could go around the world and have fuel to spare. Figured a hop there and back should be no big deal. Let me know if you're interested."

Val nodded, and wondered if this was Bill's idea of a prank. Still, with nothing to do, she made the walk out to the small hanger next to mission control. To Val, the runway and hanger had been something of an anamoly; in her entire time at the KSC, no planes ever landed, and the buildings were essentially derelict. Flipping on the light breaker, there was a loud whine as the lamps lit up the room. Unexpectedly, instead of an empty hanger, something large and roughly planeshaped was sitting under a tarp. Grabbing one end, she pulled the entire thing clear to reveal a small sleak two person jet, with the nameplate of Skipper painted on the side. A orange and black flag was painted on the side.

Now confused, Val made her way onto the wing, shimmied herself into the copilot seat and then slid down the access hatch to the main cockpit. As she thumped into the seat, a cloud of dust sprang up. Coughing, Bill hadn't been kidding when he said this had been here for awhile. Some thumping under the chair found the master switch, and the consoles began to light up. The VOR was reporting a strong signal from "KMA-01", her compass was dancing, and the ILS system was complaining on no signal from KMA-01 R09"

"Ok, so there's a jet here. Why did Bill think I knew about this?"

That answer revealed itself when a thick wad of papers was retrieved from the pouch directly behind her chair when she found the plane's airworthiness certificate.

"Civil Aviation Administration
Vehicle Registation: N-X-8724D
Classification: Experimental Jet/STAL
Range: 4000 kilometers (estimated)
Date of Original Certification: 4/22/277
Last Recertification: 7/11/285
Good Until: 7/11/295
Filed by: Valentina Kerman
Airworthiness Inspection: Bill Kerman"

Val blinked at the slightly yellow documentation. This was HER jet? She was about to dismiss this as an overly elaborate prank, but something about it seemed familiar. The flight log was even more confusing because it was in her own handwriting. The first entry had been (as the airworthiness certificate suggested) made nearly fifteen years prior, and merely listed a few test flights operating from a grassy field on the edge of continent. The notes suggested she had flown with Bill several times.

The maintence log was much harder to read (due to the fact that the author had incredibly poor pensmanship), but Skipper had been rebuilt several times, either due to rough landings, or to improve its range and capabilities. The latest entry showed installation of an experimental radio landing guidance system in addition to the standard NDB/VORs. There was a (now expired) limited passenger transport certificate allowing her to operate as an airtaxi service. Later entries in the flight log showed one passenger and their destinations, mostly throughout the Inhabited Continent, and some sightseeing flights. The last few years though showed a lot of travel to and from a location only noted at KMA, and some choice comments about the issues with the site. The last entry was two and half years prior, a landing at KMA from Homestead.

"KMA?", she shook her head. It didn't make sense, and she wanted to grill Bill for answers, but appearing crazy would get her off the roster so quickly it would cause observers whiplash. Instead, she would play along, and went to find Bill, who was eating a late lunch in the astronaut complex.

"Alright, you win. Do a full inspection of Skipper, it's been sitting awhile and I don't want something to go wrong because a joint rusted out."

Bill smiled, "As always, Hermes. My wish is your command."

Val didn't even blink at the odd nickname. For the time being, she'd keep her head down, and figure this out on her own terms. True to his word, the next morning, Skipper had been taxied to the start of the gravel strip. The pilot was exhausted, she had read through most of the manuals and documents she found stashed in the cockpit, and was reasonably sure she could fly her(?) jet. She was a pilot after all.


Gwendon was waiting for and greeted her with a warm smile, "Always loved looking at this jet when you were coming and going. Always wanted a chance to see what it was like on the inside."

Val, still bothered by the lack of memory just made a passive comment, "Cramped."

Not realizing the deflection, Gwendon chuckled, "Yeah well, still better than those buckets that used to leave bits on the runway. You'd think with all the work they're doing here now, they'd at least pave the damn thing. Always thought the jumbos were going to sink into the soil."

"Anyway, let you say you get this show on the road."

Val squeezed in first, and Gwendon hopped in the top seat, securing the hatch behind her. The two jet turbines began to wine as she finished her preflight checklist. A brief discussion with Gene had approved this flight, though the mission was entirely unofficial. The control tower remained unmanned. Still, following best practices, she picked up her tuned the radio to the KSC frequencies, "Center Traffic, N8724D departing runway 09."

With no answer, Skipper began it's takeoff roll.




With the thrust provided by the two Juno jet engines and fitting its STOL capabilities, Skipper popped into the air long before the end of the runway. Despite Bill's checks, the compass was still dancing madly, but her flight track showed her on a departure heading of 90 degrees. Val began a steep climb up to their 10,000m cruising altitude. As they flew over the aptly named booster bay, Val noted something out of the corner of her eye.



Was there something on that small island? She couldn't make it out, and the takeoff climb required her full attention. With the raw noise coming out of the jets, the only way she could hear Gwendon was through the intercom. "Coming about to new heading 027, continuing our ascent climb."


As they reached cruising altitude, Val throttled down to 55%, and the jet settled into a nice cruising speed of Mach 0.9. Skipper handled like a dream, it was fast and responsive even with a full load of fuel, and Val couldn't help but feel a familiarity with these controls. Gwendon, who had been merely watching Kerbin go by cut in "Quite a kick, how long until we reach the pole?"

"About an hour to the shelf, and another 20-30 minutes, then however long it takes to find a flat enough bit of land to set her down." 

Several minutes later, the compass regained it's mind and started pointing north again.


As with any long flight, boredem (and in Val's case confusion) set in, "So what did you do at KMA anyway? Don't remember you, no offense."

"Geologist. Wanted to see if I could make heads or tails of the stratum around the artifact. Not that it did much good without reference samples. Best I could tell, the entire cape had unusual religoth compared to similar regions in Kerbin, and very resistant to erosion, but beyond that, your guess is as good as mine."

Having worked with Bob, she knew the best way to get answers out of the science sort was to pose an open question, "Can't say I remember much about it; always coming and going you know, mind refreshing my memory?"

"Well, the cape always had been known for being odd in my field; it wasn't until the magnetic anomalies started did they actually start paying attention. Compasses would go haywire, hair would stand on end, that sort of thing. I got involved with the project not long after the source was pinpointed. Had to come in by ship; you probably remember the days before radio guidance. Is that how you got involved?"

"Um, well I flew in the bush, small air hopper. Guess they needed pilots to get in and out who could land on rough terrain."

"Yeah, I remember they were quite upset when the Mallard came down in two pieces. The reef makes bringing a ship in close difficult. Eventually had to bring in the diggers in pieces and airdrop them for reassembly. Gus was the guy on the ground, but I vaguely remember you co-patriot was the mastermind for the airdrops."

Well, that explained the rusted equipment that lived next to the VAB which had last seen use when they redid the launchpad, "Still surprised they decided to build the space center there. Didn't even bother hauling away the monolith."

Val bit her tongue; despite her curiosity, confirming her case of retrograde amnesia would be at best a suicide pill for her career. "Ever figure out what the monolith is?"

"Your guess is as good as mine. When we unearthed it, it sent a rather massive burst of EM radiation towards the Mun. After that, they started building the launch complex. Last time I was at KMA, it was just the R&D building, barrack, and the runway. Hard to believe it's the same place."

Val weighed this. There had been a large push to get to the Mun, but she couldn't remember an underlying reason. Had she simply forgotten or was there more to this. Before she could muse anymore though, she felt a case of vertigo and a warning tone blarred out. "Pressurization failure! Hold on your hat!"


She pitched Skipper down to find breathable atmosphere before they could suffocate.


The jet screamed as it threatened to go supersonic, but if Val blacked out, they would die. Simple as that. As they passed 8000 meters, the surface oxygen level got within safe limits and the warning buzzer stopped.


A quick check of the systems revealed the scrubbers in her cockpit had been disabled, likely when the plane was last used for low altitude flight. A quick switch got them running again.


"That's our glitch for this mission. You ok back there?"

"Just a bit motion sick. I'll be fine."

The flight continued mostly in silence as the Inhabited Continent slid out from under them.


It wasn't long after that the ice flows of the pole became visible.



It wasn't long after that they started reaching the site. Heavy cloud cover precluded visual observation. "Look, I'll descend to 2000 meters, but if I can't see the landing site, we're going to have to scrub."



Eventually, the clouds receeded, and the ice planes loomed into view.



Val throttled down and began a series of corkscrews to bleed off speed, and bring the jet down for a soft landing.




With a thump, Skipper came to a stop in one piece on the ice.


The corkscrew and landing had made Gwendon's air sickness even worse, and she reached for the sickness bag. As Gwendon recounted last nights lunch,  Val slowly taxied over to the site. Unfortunately, the design of the Skipper made it somewhat awkward to get in and out of. Val eventually resorted to raising the gear (gently) to allow Gwendon to do her work and to erect the flag for this mission.



Using the pause to stretch her legs, Val watched Gwendon work. She was concerned as the jet was beginning to sink into the ice from the heat of the wheels.


Originally, the mission called for staying overnight and setting off the following morning, but there was a serious concern that Skipper's wheels would sink into the ice. Val made the decision to take some caffiene pills; as soon as Gwendon had her samples they were heading back. Eventually the kerbal finished her work, and both them piled back into the jet. "We're going, don't want to risk getting stuck here. Gene would have a fit if he had to send a recovery team out here.". Especially since this wasn't an "official" mission of the space program. As soon as they were ready, Skipper was screaming back into the air, and Val pointed her stead back home.


The take-off climb plowed through some of the most stunning views Val had ever seen.





After settling back into level flight, she spoke to Gwendon, "So why'd you need those samples anyway?"

No answer. Slightly concerned, Val shifted herself so she could just barely see Gwendon in the cockpit behind her, out like a light. "Huh ..."

The flight continued in silence.



Night had fallen by time they reached the cape, and Val was concerned. No one was answering her calls on the radio, and the munless night had reduced her visibility to near zip. In theory, she could get a lock on the runway if she crossed the centerline with the ILS, but several passes had failed to light the marker. Either she was too far out. Her fuel levels were good, but it was a concerning development.



She was in the right area, her magentic compass was dancing as it had been when they started the flight. Suddenly, in the distance, she spotted an unusual light to her left.



It was strange and jagged, and the weird cross shapes gave her the willies. She could just barely make out a landing spot on the rock, but didn't like her chances of doing an unguided landing in the dark. Suddenly she realized it was the same island she spotted during their take off climb hours earlier. Pitching eastward, she hoped she was right. After several tense moments, the glidescope indicator lit up as the ILS system at the runway intercepted Skipper.


It wasn't her best landing ever, but Skipper came to a stop on the embankment right next to the runway.



Gwendon had slept through the whole thing, and Val had more questions than answers.


OOC: Quicksaves/loads were used for the landing at KSC as documented above. I decided not to incorporate them into the plot however.




Edited by NCommander
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On 1/19/2018 at 7:38 PM, NCommander said:

However, despite using something quicksave/quickload, the contract parameter would not complete after three attempts.

In my experience, docking contracts can only be satisfied with separately launched ships.


21 hours ago, NCommander said:

"Ok, so there's a jet here. Why did Bill think I knew about this?"

Ah, very interesting, this loss of old (but not new) memories....

Edited by Geschosskopf
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So I'm going to do plot in the .1 chapters, and regular play in main chapters. My KSP time over the weekend was primarily getting a lunar lander design that I was happy with that could work within the 140t limit of the L2 launchpad (I was going to go Apollo style, but I can't justify the cost and I couldn't work out a design that could actually get into orbit and go to the mun within 140 tons. LEM 1 (design name) though is at least constructed and undergoing simulations at the moment to see if it's actually ready for duty. The real downside to career mode is I can't reproduce the entire set of Apollo missions. As per usual, for mission chapters, we'll group them by sets, and not chronically.

Chapter 6 - The Sudden Stop At The End



CCD - MinnusRecon

Mission control was waiting with abated breath as Longshot's return module began it's return to Minnus. Up until this point, no probe had successfully been able to return to Kerbin, and the wonky orbit from Minnus required nearly a 30 day return period. None the less, the return sample was nearly back among them.


Radio contact was lost as the probe plunged into Kerbin's atmosphere and began taking more than a little punishment.


As the mission clock ticked by, suddenly, a small pinging noise came and ...




With this success, a mission to launch the missing recon component was greenlight.

CCD - MinnusRepair

Launched ontop of another of the increasing reliable Stellar launch vehicles, the repair mission would head to Minnus, and dock with the already in orbit radar recon satellite, and then finish the 30 day observations as per our contract with DMagic, as well as provide the first docking and rendezvous on another stellar body.




A rather aggressive maneuver flipped the repair mission into the correct orbit as it zipped by Minnus, catching up with the broken mission on the first orbit.


The recon sat looms into view.



And suddenly, two craft become one.


(OOC: I had to edit Kerbalism here briefly, the recon sat is weird that it has both sample and transmission stuff like the stock goo/science jr, but the contract specifically says data is supposed to be transmitted and the part says it can. Kerbalism requires return for it to count, and returning a recon sat is extremely difficult; they're fragile. I won't have accepted this mission had I known about this, and I think its a bug in how kerbalism/dmagic interact so I simply turned off the science manager. I'll have to do this again for the Duna mission, but I won't take this contract again in the future).

With the contract parameters complete, CCD cooled it's heals while the countdown timer ran.



Longshot/Stellar Wind - The Sudden Stop

Meanwhile, out in deep space, Stellar Wind began it's approach to Eve.


Mission control waited with bated breath as represents from the Kerbin World's First Society got their checkbooks out and ready. With merely a flip of the navball, the Stellar Wind mission began falling towards the giant grape.


Massive amounts of data began their slow journey across the stars back to the KSC.


Flipping around to the daylit side of Eve, the TEI lit up for the final time to bring the probe into orbit.




Mission control checked the probe's location as it re-emerged from radio blackout.



A small burn at Apoapsis would start a slow descent down towards Eve. The first two of these passes went without note, but an attempt to increase the descent speed went disastrously wrong.



Amazingly, and despite the odds, despite the vehicle breakup, the Leaf lander and it's descent engine had actually survived intact, it's heatshield being exposed during the RUD and protecting the probe from aerodynamic forces. When the main Leaf orbiter fell apart, the backup high gain antenna on Leaf automatically deployed, and began relaying telemetry to mission control. Without the Wind orbiter acting as a commsat though, the mission was going to be difficult.



A known problem going into the design is the sunlit side of Eve was simply facing Kerbin in the wrong direction. Wind would have allowed Leaf to maintain contact through the descent and landing. Leaf's high gain antenna couldn't be safely deployed during descent. With nothing to loose, Leaf continued to aerobrake on it's own.


Unfortunately, the heatshield was not meant to be exposed through aerobraking, and each pass was steadily removing ablator. After the 10th of so pass through the atmosphere, Gus estimated the shield had spent half of it's serviceable life, and was close to becoming unusable for final descent.  Options were considered. The first, and the simplest was to simply park the probe in orbit and wait for Eve to rotate in it's orbit. However, it would be over a year before the sunlight side and Kerbin aligned. With no backup for the comm units, there was a real risk that the high gain antenna would fail and the probe would become useless. In addition, without orbiter to provide complete scansat telemetry, there was no way of knowing on WHAT they'd be landing on; the orbital telescope had revealed vast oceans, and Leaf would likely sink if it hit them.

Furthermore, without an orbital satellite to relay from the low-gain antenna, there was no way to stay in contact with the probe. The on-board guidance computer could only hold an angle, and not properly align the probe towards the retrograde vector. The next mission to Eve wouldn't have a window for ages, and HighSpeed had given mission control pause before sending a payload on an extremely fast flyby for the orbit. Computer simulations showed however Leaf had a decent chance of surviving the re-entry unguided if it took a steep descent through the atmosphere; there was a brief window each day where Leaf's solar panels, the sun, and kerbin were all visible from Eve's surface. Despite the lost of the Wind orbiter, a large amount of science had been successfully gathered, and advances in rocket technology would mean larger and better landers could get to Eve in the future. After much debate, Gene approached the Impact Crater plan, and Leaf's small Ant engine light up to adjust it's re-entry angle. Shortly before atmospheric entry, the descent engine was decoupled; Sir Issac Kerbin was once again in the driver's seat.


The last signal from the probe was a weak databurst showing it was experiencing heavy g-forces, and then silence.


Unknown to mission command though, Leaf had actually survived. (OOC: and I forgot to close the trajectories UI which shows up even when the HUD is disabled)




The shoots were pre-armed before descent and fired right on time.



World's First eventually cut the KSC a check saying there was a decent chance something from Kerbin "landed" on Eve, but most in Mission Command were slightly put out that their efforts failed.



Longshot - HighSpeed Ike

Following up the loss of Leaf, the fast transfer to Duna was still greenlit to place a probe in Ike orbit. For the time being, the recon mission was scrubbed as the Duna margins were thin with the amount of speed the probe needed to achieve the necessary escape velocity to get the transfer. A special Duna Transfer Module, using an asparagus staged terrier engine would hurl the probe out of Kerbin's SoI with an ejection force of nearly 4000 meters per second, and another 2000 to bring the probe to orbit upon reaching Duna. Due to the launch schedule, HSI was going to sit in LKO for 30 days before beginning it's high velocity exit. Mission command was relatively confident in getting the flyby, though success of actually reaching Duna orbit, let alone Ike was held at 30% by the betting pool.


A revised Stellar LV, built around the recently developed mainsail engine would loft the probe to LKO with a special upper-stage that would both complete the launch process, and start the escape from Kerbin attached.




With HSI in LKO, mission control counted the days before the probe would begin it's journey out of Kerbin's SoI.


Meanwhile, Gus and Bill were working on the first Lunar Lander, though the design was still being worked on. It was hoped before the end of the year, kerbal-kind would step foot on the Mun.



Next update (6.1) will primarily be plot. I need to take some more screenshots for that, and then we're going to the mun. Minnus is technically doable with what I have, but the life support for 30 days for two kerbals is close to impossible with my launch weights, and I'm not sending a manned mission without an engineer, and I really want a scientist since Minnus has a massive amount of science I haven't collected yet. Since she's currently the focus character, I'm likely not going to send Val it's going to spork the story if I manage to loose her. It's just unfortunate pilots stop being very useful once you get probe cores; she was going to go before I gave up an Apollo style mission (which I had designed, just couldn't get it to LKO with enough fuel) and simply doing a direct ascent.

It's likely going to be Bob and one of the whitesuites I rescued. As the screenshot suggests, the bonuses from the last few contracts plus World's First for Eve gave me more than enough cash to upgrade R&D. The science also gave me the Twitch engine which replaced the thud's on the LM module I'm testing; I wasn't happy with the margin since testing showed the mainsail was struggling to put the payload into orbit.

I'm considering Stellar Wind, despite the hiccups, a success as I got a massive amount of science and money out of that mission. If Leaf's comm antenna survives, I'll also get surface science out of it when the next probe heads to Eve.

On the bugfront, I have Base and Stations contract pack installed, but its being glitchy. I may remove it, or edit it somewhat to get it working. I'm also going to have to hyperedit a commsat to Eve orbit. Right now, Kerbalism is generating spam every time Leaf looses solar power and kicking me out of timewarp (so once every three ingame days) which is very annoying. You can configure a craft's notifications, but they need to controllable to do so. I tried to edit persistant, but couldn't figure out what was needed to fix the problem. Looking long-term, I just managed to unlock the greenhouse, and a few of the other of the life support items, so I'm likely going to launch a long-duration mission to the Mun (I may also launch a station, but I've never gotten much mileage out of a mun station; Minnus, due to travel times and low velocity needed to orbit/deorbit is different). The Mun has the most anomalies of any planet beside Kerbin, so long term research in finding and exploring them will be interesting. I'm not sure if the first mun mission is going to check out the anomaly I already found though. I think it's the armstrong memorial but I haven't checked the wiki.

I'm also not sure if SCANsat will find the green monoliths; my rough plan is for every green monolith I find, I'll let myself add another part pack or if I dump a crapton of science. I dislike CTT for the sheer amount of grind it has, but I don't want science to stop being useful.

Long-term, we'll start exploring Minnus, and then probably a manned flyby to Eve or Moho. I've got the better comm antennas, so Dres is now an option for probes, as is Jool for close approaches.

EDIT: I forgot to note that I can't seem to arm parachutes traditionally in this save. I don't know if that's a Kerbalism tweak, or some mod broke them. RealShoot lets me arm them through staging which is how Leaf landed. A brief look through Kerbalism's thread doesn't bring this up at all nor did I see anything in the source code that removes this function, so I'm going with glitch (it seems a rather silly thing to remove).  I also noted that g-forces weren't enabled since the probe survived a 15G deceleration. That's been corrected. We're just going to assume Leaf got lucky.



Edited by NCommander
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Hey NCommander,

6 hours ago, NCommander said:

Minnus is technically doable with what I have, but the life support for 30 days for two kerbals is close to impossible with my launch weights, and I'm not sending a manned mission without an engineer, and I really want a scientist since Minnus has a massive amount of science I haven't collected yet.

When concerned about launch weights, you can try the traditional, kerbal method of dealing with it. MOAR BOOSTERS.

In my Kerbiting System game, to get to Minmus, I had to have 16 boosters in a semi-appagrus staging to get out of the lower atmosphere, then use two main 2.5 meter stages to get to actual orbit. Luckily I had my third and lander stages left over for the rest of the mission. 

Also, if you are pressed for thrust, you can try to put multiple 1.25 meter engines on the 2.5 meter core stage. To put them on, you have to use the aerodynamic tail spines or whatever they call them, and clip maybe 6 or 8 of them to the side of the fuel tank. On the bottom there is an attachment node where you put the engine. Then tada! A 7 or 9 engine rocket with a lot of thrust. 

(Mathy stuff here - 

A Reliant Engine has 280 ISP - produces 230 kilo-newtons of thrust. If there are 7 of them that is 230 * 7, which equals 1,610 kilonewtons or 110 kilonewtons more than a Mainsail rocket motor, but with a lack of gimbaling. Subtract 50 kilonewtons from the equation and 20 ISP from sea level and you have added a gimbaling Swivel engine to the center of the rocket and the rocket has 6 Reliants and 1 Swivel. 

- End of Mathy stuff which might not be correct because this is all from memory because I could never open KSP this early in the day:wink:)

I find that very useful, especially as I haven't unlocked those engines yet in my game. Also, as far as I have seen, you haven't been using the 2.5 meter second stages very often. Those are extremely necessary. A Rockomax 2.5 fuel tank + Poodle engine is the best for Delta-V efficiency. 

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@Alpha 360 It's mostly the amount of weight on the launchpad to get it within 140 tons of rocket hardware, the tier 2 launchpad is something of a drag that way.  I have no problems building heavy payloads, I just don't have the cash in game to upgrade the launchpad to the final tier, the R&D upgrade is already a bank breaker. Once I have the Tier 3 Launchpad, I'll have no trouble sending a payload to Minnus with the necessary life support bits. As for Mainsaill vs. Reliant, your calculations also don't take in fuel efficiency. The mainsail guzzles fuel at 98.55 units of LF  vs each reliant at 15.77 which comes to 126, and eight reliants also weigh about double a single mailsail which gets you that much closer to the all important T2 Launchpad weight limit.

For very light payloads, I will still send them up on 1.25m parts, even after finishing the tech tree just because they're really cheap.

I do use Poodle second stages a fair bit (the Duna HS went up with one, and I think I had at least other one payload that used it), but my payloads are generally light enough that I can launch on a single stack which reduces costs, and complexity. I generally been launching on the skippers, the Duna HS is the only thing I sent into space on a Mainsail simply because I didn't have it up until that point. Generally the skipper with an orange tank will send 18-20 tons SSTO if it can get going. Thumpers or kickbacks can get the payload going and give a TWR <1 all the way to orbit.The problem with the Poodle is it rather low TWR, and thus it can actually be a net negative because it may take too long to get out of the atmosphere. Basically, to actually get to orbit for 3400 m/s, you need to be blitzing through atmo, and then immediately circularize; Gravity Turn's stats page is actually quite enlightening and shows you how much you lost in dV because you hadn't reached +70, or conversely, how much you lost because your ascent trajectory was too steep.

Edited by NCommander
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Great to know. If you want a mod which will greatly help your money problem, get Strategia. It makes the Administration Building very useful indeed by giving options for different Programs. For Example, the Mun Program means that you have to land on the Mun and plant a flag. You will get 25,000 at the end of it, but all world firsts count as double the cash. But if you receive a world first from Minmus, it would be half of what it would be worth. Please consider this mod. It is brilliant!  

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I've used Strategia before, it sucks the difficulty out of career mode. It's fairly trivial to break the game in half because I ended up with a SSTO that counted as a heavy weight launcher and BAM, money. I also dislike being forced onto one specific path. If I took Mun program, I would never bother sending missions to Eve or Duna until I completed it. The unmanned missions are also annoying since it requires three separate landings; not a trivial thing when you're forcing delays between launches like I am or using Kerbal Construction Time.

Pilot Focus II or III can make a stupid amount of money since it's pretty trivial to build something that can ship tourists to a moon relatively easy. When combined with heavy launches ... well ...

It also doesn't help that the penalties for ending a program are really high.

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No pictures for this update, but I needed to move the plot along to setup 6.2 or 7.1.  I also suck at building sets, so some imagination is going to be required for this update. I've been fairly swamped at work, so this is mostly what I've managed to get down on paper during moments of air.

Chapter 6.1 - Forgotten Archives




Since the jaunt to the North Pole, Val had been using every bit of her free time in trying to understand the strange events that seemingly followed her. There was a fear that she had simply snapped, an all too reasonable conclusion to draw. That being said, when looking at the circumstantial evidence around her, she couldn't help but think that there was something greater afoot. Her discussions with Neldum and Natalan only reinforced this belief. At the moment though, Val was dealing with a distinct lack of hard evidence. Digging through her storage locker for the umpeth time, a familiar feeling of frustration began to set in. Val unfortunately had never taken much stock in material possessions. Beside Skipper's airworthiness and maintenance documents, the only things she had were a few handwritten letters, her original pilot certificate, and a photo of her and Bill at what she was assumed was 'Homestead' with Skipper in the background.

The picture was perhaps the most damning thing of all. As far as she could remember, she had met Bill at the KSC, but the evidence showed that they had known each other for far longer. As things stood, her own memories of her life were even suspect at this point. What she could remember, and objectively prove was that she was a bush pilot flying across Kerbin on a near daily basis. Skipper had obviously been her plane, but she didn't remember it specifically. Sitting in the cockpit though, she couldn't help have a feeling of familarity with it. She clearly remembered flying all around the Inhabited Continent, and ever the rare flight to the Outer Lands. As far as her logs were concerned, she began working on flights to and from the mysterious KMA. What KMA was though remained nothing short of a mystery; aside from the identifier code, she had nothing to go on. Perhaps more concerning was though, she had become a permanent resident of the cape, and joined the space program.

There was a blank in her memories though. She couldn't remember how or why. Her attempts to dig out the truth of the matter were being stymed by her work as the ace pilot of the Kerbal Astronaut Corps. With the constant simulation drills to get the bugs out of the LEM, and other pressing meetings, Val hadn't had an opportunity to go flying or even follow up with the strange lights she saw on the island. When she asked a few kerbals about the supposed island airfield got her nothing but blank looks. Mentally, she was wrestling with bringing the topic up with Bill. As pilot in command, the lives of her fellow kerbals would be in her hands. If she was mentally compromised, then it was her responsibility to remove herself from active duty. A small part of her also was willing to admit that coming forward would mean she'd likely never get a chance to go towards the stars again.

On the flipside, there was a reasonable argument that she wasn't the only one being affected by this. The two engineers rescued from LKO - Natalan and Neldum - had no memory of how they ended up floating in capsules. She had spoken to them both, and the only thing that they agreed on was that they were working at their jobs, and then poof, somewhere in space. Even more confusingly, they had survived an extended period in orbit without any means of viable life support. Given that the Rescue Mk. 1 had only been developed to bring these boys down, it seemed impossible that they had gone into space from the KSC.

Perhaps even stranger, after the recovery teams brought them back for questioning, they both wanted to work for the space center. This request was eventually approved on the basis of prior experience - they had already been to space after all. Val couldn't help but think it was questionable reasoning at best. In her conversations with the "Wayward Duo"she had noted something odd. It was had to describe in words, but both of them seemed just a little off. Both were friendly enough though Natalan was not much of a conversationalist. Neldum on the other hand was hard to stop once he got started. They both spoke of grand designs, and seemed unconcerned on their situations. When they spoke of the future, they saw nothing but endless missions to the Mun, Minnus, Duna, and the other known planets of the Kerbol system. It was quite an ambitious dream to say the least.

For the moment though Val was cooling her heels. Currently, the design team were revising the LEM spacecraft again, and HS Duna was getting ready for it's departure burn; as such she had no pressing engagements until later that evening. It was more than a perfect opportunity to go digging around. Gwen had inadvertly given her a hint of where to start - she had specifically said when she visited KMA, the only thing there was the runway and the R&D building.

During the occassional staff meetings, Val had learned that there was a fairly extensive research archive in the basement of Research and Development. The idea of lurking in the stacks was not Val's idea of a fun time, but it *was* a source of potential information. With some trepidation, she set out from the astronaut complex, and made her way into the atrium of the complex. Surprisingly, Wernher was there apparently waiting for someone and pulled an appropriately fake accent to place up the stereotype of mad scientist, "Ja? Is Valentina Kerman? How unusual!"

Val smirked, there was a friendly rivalry between the pilot corps and the eggheads that made their rockets go. Jeb would have died of shock had he seen her here, "Hello, Wernher. Waiting for someone?"

Wernher nodded, "Lunch awaits launch. You are welcome to join us if you care to grace us with your presence."

Val shook her head, "Already ate, and we don't want to deal with recalculating fuel margins if I got any heavier. I'll take a rain check though." 

Wernher, obviously amused, played along, "Ja, the lost boys would be most upset at that development! Not all progress is good progress!", the more serious tone returned, "So what brings you to our humble abode?"

"Wanted to check something in the archives. How do I get down there?"

Wernher looked surprised but quickly directed her, "Straight ahead, then down the staircases. Anything in practical you looking for?"

"The visiting researcher, Gwendlon, said there were some interesting files on the early days of the KSC. Before they started the corps. Was curious"

Wernher gave her a pointed look, obviously not buying it. She suddenly understood Linus gave the Mad Doctor a wide berth. "Alright, honestly? Something dry enough to help me sleep." That actually got a snort out of the bespectacled scientist, "Interesting choice, young Valentina. Most would try the works of Komer."

"What can I say? Fiction and history are both interesting, besides, if I lived in his time, I'd probably be right there with them sailing into the unknown."

Before the banter can continue, Bob walked in, "Ready to go? Oh, Val!"

Wernher nodded, "Valentina was looking for some dry reading in the stacks, and a brief discussion on Komer's skills as a writer of fine literature."

Bob shuttered, "Thank you for that, I thought I repressed those memories of Komer. Anyway, if we're going to have those numbers for Gus and Gene, we need to be quick with food."

Wernher nodded, "Have a pleasant afternoon, young pilot! Don't let the stack bugs bite. Jajaja!". Val watched Bob and Wernher set off, and then made her way to the stacks, hoping to avoid any more unpleasant questions. Fortunately, it was just past noon, and with most of R&D out to lunch, the archives were empty. Having never been there before, Val was surprised at the sheer size of them. The archives were organized by planet, separate shelves held their (rather merger) knowledge of Eve, Mun and Minnus, and many simply lay bare. However, the Kerbin shelves on the back wall were overflowing with knowledge. The sheer amount of dust suggested that no one had touched these records in a very long time.

Making her way along the Kerbin stacks, she found that they were roughly subdivided by type. Passing by atmospheric sciences, she finally spotted something at the far end of the row "Kerbin Magnetic Anomaly 1". KMA. Paydirt. A brief glanced showed that the research was indeed extensive, and had spanned decades; the microfiche rolls were something of a giveaway. Looking at the titles, Val hoped there was some sort of comprehensive summary, or at the very least, an index. Going through all the research data would be a drag. After a few minutes of searching, she spotted it, "Conclusions and Final Report of the Wernher Commission on KMA-1". A brief check of the spine suggested it was relatively new, it had only been published five years prior.

The cloud of dust that came when she pulled the book off the shelf was impressive, and Val had something of a coughing fit as the plume enveloped her. With her prize in hand, she sat one of the reading tables and began flipping through it at random. Despite Wernher's dry tone, Val found herself enraptured by the material. The Wernher Commission had been the final iteration of Civil Avionics Administration research into the magnetic anomalies that dotted Kerbin.  Vague recollections in Val's memory brought up how both sailors and pilots would have to compensate for compass drift flashed through her mind. Komer's Odyssey even talked that their compasses were at best unreliable, and the early Kerbonauts used the stairs as they made the journey to the Outer Lands. 

Originally, the Wernher Comission had started life as the CAA Magnetic Research Project. MRP was tasked with trying to create predictions for the drift so that charts could be published. At the time, the only sure fire way to know where you were was to use a sextant and navigate by stars. Skipper even had the astrolabe mounted in the rear seat for the navigator. By creating a null reference chart, a compass could be used to navigate safely day or night. Working through historical records and their own observations, MRP determined that these magnetic anomalies would come and go over time at seemingly random intervals.

Throughout their research, MRP had identified at least six different sources for the anomalies. A rough set of coordinates had been noted, but only one had been accurately triangulated by using three separate teams, a lot of expensive equipment, and some blind luck. With a definitive source identified, MRP gave birth to the Wernher Expedition to what the report referred to as as KMA-1. Eventually, the CAA funded an expedition to try and find the fundamental source for the disturbances.

This was the first mention of Jebediah Kerman she found. Jeb had lead one of the triangulation teams, and had been selected due to his rather impressive history in exploring the unknown reaches of Kerbin. Wernher had hired him as a guide to get them to the cape, and eventually organize the entire expedition. In what was becoming a running theme, instead of returning his nomadic life, Jeb had eventually joined Wernher's team as a permanent member. Skipping further ahead in the report, a long term research outpost was setup, and supplies and personal were brought in by air. Val could only assume this was she got involved in the history of KMA (and in turn had become a permanent resident of the cape).

The running theme of anyone who got involved with KMA never leaving was readily apparently to Val.

Eventually, they found the source of the disturbances, a black monolith burned fifteen meters below the surface with strange writing on it. Wernher strongly believed it wasn't a natural phenomenon. Not long after they dug it up, it had sent a massive burst of electromagnetic radiation towards the Mun before going nearly inherit. KMA-1 subsided except in the area directly around the cape. The final conclusions made by Wernher was that further research into the other KMAs be conducted, and a secondary program to eventually investigate the destination of KMA-1 transmission be launched.

Val closed the tome, and tried put it all in context. The KSC's current objective was a manned Mun landing, but there was no specific destination in mind. KMA-1 had sent a signal to the Mun. Obviously, Wernher had managed to get enough seed funding from the CAA to get the KSC off the ground, and commercial ops kept them in the black. None of this research had been classified. As far as she could tell, knowledge of the monolith had simply been forgotten by nearly everyone. Gwen appeared to be an exception to that rule. There was also hard evidence suggesting there were further anomalies on the munar surface; Luna 1 had spotted unusual reading from the surface of the Mun but as far as mission ops were concerned, it was nothing more than a curiosity.

There was a running theme here. People who get involved with the monoliths stay on the cape. Val couldn't remember why (or even) how she got involved. It was disturbingly like the Wayward Twins. Val shivered. Before she could reflect any further, a voice startled her, "Ground Control to Major Val, anyone there?"

Beside her, the master engineer was looking at her with some concern, "Bill? What are you doing here?"

"Looking for you, you missed your date with the simulator. Gene was about to organize a search mission until Bob remembered seeing you heading down here."

She glanced at the clock, it was well past dark - she had been in the stacks all day. She looked rather sheepish, "Um ... oops ..."

Bill shook his head, "No harm done. We ended up putting the OKTO through a landing test.", he looked glum, "Impacted on the side of a crater. It's not like you to loose track of the time, what were you reading?"

She held up the cover. "Wernher Commission? I'm surprised I didn't find you in the corner with your brain dribbling out of your ear."

Val's laugh was a more than little forced. "It's actually really interesting; it's the research into the Kerbin Magnetic Anomalies."


Val blinked. Bill didn't know?

"Magnetic anomalies, it why compasses go haywire around here, and the corrections pilots have to make."

Bill looked more confused than anything. Val followed up, "You didn't know?"

Bill shook his head, "I mean, I knew about compass drift. We had to compensate for it for launching probes. It's why the Stayputnik kept landing in the bay. Didn't know there was a  research into it."

A snap decision lead Val to go fishing, "Bill ... you don't remember anything about KMA?"

"Should I?


Bill put her hand on her shoulder, "Val, seriously, are you OK? You're kinda weirding me out right now ..."

Val shook her head, and inspiration suddenly struck, "I'm alright. All these drills are just exhausting. Look though, I need a favor."

Bill nodded, "Name it."

"I need a flying buddy. When I was flying Gwen, I spotted something on that small island just off the coast. I've been meaning to check it out, but I rather have a second set of eyes. Just in case ..."

Bill wasn't sold, "Something, Val? A little vague don't you think?"

Val shook her head, "I'm not sure what I saw. I was having trouble finding the runway beacons, and I overflew the island as I circled around. I looked out the window, and I could swear I saw buildings on that island, but I was running on mental fumes because of the long flight, but its been bothering me. Please?"

Bill was silent, Val gambled "Please? For old time sake."

Bob sighed, "Alright. Might be fun, haven't gone flying in ages. HS Duna is scheduled to do it's exit burns in two weeks so we're fairly backed up between that and LEM testing. Most of the team will be tied up pooling through data, and then we're scheduled for some downtime. More than enough time to go investigating."

Val relaxed. She would tell Bill everything then. Despite forgetting nearly everything, sitting in Skipper's cockpit made her feel safe and secure. It was merely an added bonus she did actually want to check out that island.

She would get to the bottom of this, one way or another. The last question in her mind before going to sleep though was, if they moved the monolith, where was it now?



Edited by NCommander
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