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Floating colonies in gas giants


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So I was watching the short film recommended by Nate Simpson and found this scene at the end and it just amazed me. 

I've aways felt the gas giants in KSP were kind of distant and purposeless, like a distant god that can't be touched, a far wonder that exists only to be contemplated in the skies of their moons. 

Being able to construct floating bases in those worlds would bring them a surface, landing in one of those colonies would be a new exciting gameplay challenge that could be rewarded with the resources extracted by those facilities.

Just imagine the terror of missing the landing spot and falling to the infernal core of Jool. Imagine how beautiful it would be to fly a plane down the cloud layers to extract certain elements and then land back on a floating runway. Imagine the challenge of designing a vehicle capable of diving to the metallic hydrogen mantle and then getting back to the colony by inflating some sort of balloon. The possibilities are endless... 

Floating-colony.png

Edited by Emanuel01
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Everything about this would be incredible. Gas giants are such amazing celestial bodies, it would be a waste to not be able to interact with them.

I don't think it's realistic that we could send something to the mantle of a gas giant, but we could definitely harvest certain gases from their surface. Imagine the possibilities with blimp parts!

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On 3/28/2023 at 2:44 AM, Emanuel01 said:

So I was watching the short film recommended by Nate Simpson

Name pls?

Also, how realistic would that be? Winds in gas giants would be pretty strong, me thinks.

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46 minutes ago, aNERVASman said:

one could make an object float on a gas giant with hot air balloons right

Not so easily. A gas giant is full of the lightest possible gas, Hydrogen. And why do we keep Hydrogen in liquid form? Partially because it will phase through and compromise its container if left to warm up.

Personally, I'm confident that this is in the realm of sci-fantasy and wouldn't pass for a possible stock feature (but you can bet that somebody will make a mod that allows this if they're interested enough). The obvious reason being: any sufficiently large facility will be quite massive and will require an active engine system to hold it up. This engine must be capable of an impossible (unrealistic) combination of TWR (to hold everything up) and Isp (to be fuel efficient and not force the facility to largely be a harvester). Remember, our favorite fusion fuel is not normal Hydrogen and normal Helium, but Deuterium and Helium-3, and we know those are super rare.

And we don't talk about thermal control setup for a rocket-powered sky city. :sticktongue: And that the engine heat will invite even worse "compromise" problems to the engine.

 

Edited by JadeOfMaar
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1 hour ago, JadeOfMaar said:

Not so easily. A gas giant is full of the lightest possible gas, Hydrogen. And why do we keep Hydrogen in liquid form? Partially because it will phase through and compromise its container if left to warm up.

Personally, I'm confident that this is in the realm of sci-fantasy and wouldn't pass for a possible stock feature (but you can bet that somebody will make a mod that allows this if they're interested enough). The obvious reason being: any sufficiently large facility will be quite massive and will require an active engine system to hold it up. This engine must be capable of an impossible (unrealistic) combination of TWR (to hold everything up) and Isp (to be fuel efficient and not force the facility to largely be a harvester). Remember, our favorite fusion fuel is not normal Hydrogen and normal Helium, but Deuterium and Helium-3, and we know those are super rare.

And we don't talk about thermal control setup for a rocket-powered sky city. :sticktongue: And that the engine heat will invite even worse "compromise" problems to the engine.

hot air balloons will work in a hydrogen atmosphere, since hot hydrogen still occupy more space than cold hydrogen.
if hydrogen leaks... it is not relevant with leakage in an open system. 

the question is at what depth could we expect to get enough buoyancy.
if it is too deep then we cannot rely on solar power for the heating, and must rely on an onboard heatsource , like a nuclear reactor.
weight constraints would be an issue. but if we give players the tools for this they could find ways within the realm of physics. 


the other thing we can consider is to build a Venus analogy in KSP 2. 
a rocky planet with a thick dense atmosphere. and a surface that is perhaps to hot or with pressure to high for vessels to operate.
in this kind of atmosphere blimps, dirigibles and hot air balloons would all work great. 

 

 

1 hour ago, cocoscacao said:

Also, how realistic would that be? Winds in gas giants would be pretty strong, me thinks.

If wind is added to the system airships would drift with the wind and would only be susceptible to changes in windspeed. or wind shear. 
this would make them drift across the surface in a controllable way without much risk.
we as surface dwellers see high winds as something scary since we have a relative speed compared to the wind. 
high up in the clouds there is no debris to fly around with the wind either. 

it would create an interesting landing puzzle to land on a platform drifting with the wind.        

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46 minutes ago, sir_frost said:

if hydrogen leaks... it is not relevant with leakage in an open system. 

My concern is not about leaking (I know the balloon itself might have exit holes in the top depending on how it's meant to operate) but embrittlement: the airfoil becoming as wet tissue paper after prolonged exposure ot hot Hydrogen.

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17 minutes ago, JadeOfMaar said:

My concern is not about leaking (I know the balloon itself might have exit holes in the top depending on how it's meant to operate) but embrittlement: the airfoil becoming as wet tissue paper after prolonged exposure ot hot Hydrogen.

the Wikipedia article you liked only applies to metals, i am no chemist but there should be other materials that could be viable?
also the temperature does not need to be too high for the system to work, it needs to be hotter than its surroundings. 

as far as i could see the embrittlement process is still an active area of research, it might not be an unsurmountable obstacle.   

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I'm pretty sure this is already planned. In the most recent AMA they mentioned something about orbital colonies so just park the colony in an orbit of Jool and you're good :)

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9 hours ago, sir_frost said:

hot air balloons will work in a hydrogen atmosphere, since hot hydrogen still occupy more space than cold hydrogen.
if hydrogen leaks... it is not relevant with leakage in an open system. 

the question is at what depth could we expect to get enough buoyancy.
if it is too deep then we cannot rely on solar power for the heating, and must rely on an onboard heatsource , like a nuclear reactor.
weight constraints would be an issue. but if we give players the tools for this they could find ways within the realm of physics. 


the other thing we can consider is to build a Venus analogy in KSP 2. 
a rocky planet with a thick dense atmosphere. and a surface that is perhaps to hot or with pressure to high for vessels to operate.
in this kind of atmosphere blimps, dirigibles and hot air balloons would all work great. 

 

 

If wind is added to the system airships would drift with the wind and would only be susceptible to changes in windspeed. or wind shear. 
this would make them drift across the surface in a controllable way without much risk.
we as surface dwellers see high winds as something scary since we have a relative speed compared to the wind. 
high up in the clouds there is no debris to fly around with the wind either. 

it would create an interesting landing puzzle to land on a platform drifting with the wind.        

wouldn't be that hard to figure out. You just need to go deep enough where the pressure is roughly the density of the ocean. Then you could pretty much have anything you wanted floating around down there with enough displacement.

You wouldn't need nuclear reactors I don't think. You could possibly burn hydrogen but I suppose you would need to ship in oxygen. So maybe you would need to run a reactor. Unless somewhere deep down there was layers of oxygen at very high pressure. Maybe compressed into a solid?

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12 hours ago, uglyduckling81 said:

wouldn't be that hard to figure out. You just need to go deep enough where the pressure is roughly the density of the ocean. Then you could pretty much have anything you wanted floating around down there with enough displacement.

You wouldn't need nuclear reactors I don't think. You could possibly burn hydrogen but I suppose you would need to ship in oxygen. So maybe you would need to run a reactor. Unless somewhere deep down there was layers of oxygen at very high pressure. Maybe compressed into a solid?

I think everything is wrong with this second paragraph:

  1. Oxidation/Hypergol reaction for main power is thinking too small. It's too inefficient. Any capable sky city is going to be quite massive (heavy) and there's going to be a very heavy energy demand no matter what, and you'll be spending energy to keep your Hydrogen and Oxygen as liquid. Think of how much energy (outside of the city) needs to be spent to process and ship that Oxygen in, and the dV and ship design necessary for bringing it in. Might as well try to run the ISS on SolidFuel or Gun powder and try to #dearMoon with a Falcon 1.
  2. If you can get something into Jool (without clinging to antiquated engines and without spamming heatshields and airbrakes. No well-written sci-fi civilization is going to do these things) in the first place, you'll understand the kind of effort and technology necessary to deliver a floating hab.
  3. Deep diving a gas giant (or super deep water ocean) requires a whole new set of design principles for the diver craft. Consideration needs to be taken for the type(s) of engine the craft needs, and the problem that it needs to withstand unimaginable ambient pressures, be able to operate in both the shallows and the deep, and be a harvester of something (Metallic Hydrogen) that is known to require tanks with thick walls of Lead or heavier metal...at least to pressurize it in the first place, for science.
  4. That Oxygen layer is not going to exist. If it does, it's impossibly deep and just not worth going after. It's going to be under the MetallicHydrogen layer (because denser than Hydrogen) and you know what kind of pressure is needed by that, right?
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The only reliable source of power that can be sourced from a hydrogen gas gigant would probably be wind power.

this seam counter intuitive when airships glide with the wind. 

but we make a tall craft with a wind turbine below, hanging like a pendulum beneath the craft.
the the craft is placed in a way that allows the bottom part to drag in another another region with a different wind direction.
since it will act like a neutrally buoyant pendulum it would be stable and gravity would counteract the torque from the wind differential.

the downside is that you would have winds potentially blowing stuff of the platform. since the entire craft would experience relative motion compared to the surrounding atmosphere .

i have no idea if using wind shear to power stuff will work, but it is a fun thought experiment.    

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On 3/30/2023 at 6:50 PM, JadeOfMaar said:

The OP is specifically asking for in-atmosphere colonies. Blimps; Sky cities.

Ohhhhh I respectfully disagree with that, it just doesn't feel very kerbal imo

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On 3/31/2023 at 3:47 PM, sir_frost said:

The only reliable source of power that can be sourced from a hydrogen gas gigant would probably be wind power.

You can easily do fission or fusion, especially fusion considering your fuel is the air. 

Orbital colonies are definitely possible, you can make a hot air balloon in a gas giant as previously mentioned. NASA looked into using solar powered hot air balloons for Jupiter previously and found out you need 112 kg of balloons for 10 kg with this design. I assume you can get better figures switching to nuclear as you can get to higher tempatures. 

The main uses I can see for floating colonies is 1. Atmospheric harvesting from gas giants, for things like helium-3. and 2. Support colonies for surface bases, stuff like having most of your crew on Eve while only your miners are on the surface. This would be used for when the surface has a reason why you wouldn't want to be there, such as low access to power on the surface but good access to solar above clouds, or when floating is more habitable then the surface.

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 3/30/2023 at 2:19 PM, cocoscacao said:

Also, how realistic would that be? Winds in gas giants would be pretty strong, me thinks.

Ideed they are, since no mountains stand in their way to even slightly slow them down. Storms on gas giants can easily grow to a size where their winds go around the entire planet and reach speeds of hundreds or maybe even thousands of meters per seconds. So in real life, it might not be advisable to put balloons in there unless you don't care if they regularly circumnavigate the planet on a unpredictable trajectory at an incredible speed (and neglecting the dangers of lightning strikes)

On 4/2/2023 at 9:50 AM, Nicrose said:

Ohhhhh I respectfully disagree with that, it just doesn't feel very kerbal imo

How is a big city built on a hot air ballon floating in Jools atmosphere whith a spaceplane runway on top of it not kerbal in your opinion?

On 3/30/2023 at 4:28 PM, sir_frost said:

the other thing we can consider is to build a Venus analogy in KSP 2. 
a rocky planet with a thick dense atmosphere. and a surface that is perhaps to hot or with pressure to high for vessels to operate.
in this kind of atmosphere blimps, dirigibles and hot air balloons would all work great. 

That sounds really unnecessary. What would be the purpose of a planet with a solid surface that cannot be reached with a spacecraft or anythin else in a game about space exploration. A place that is unreachable isn't fun.

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On 3/31/2023 at 10:47 PM, sir_frost said:

The only reliable source of power that can be sourced from a hydrogen gas gigant would probably be wind power.

this seam counter intuitive when airships glide with the wind. 

but we make a tall craft with a wind turbine below, hanging like a pendulum beneath the craft.
the the craft is placed in a way that allows the bottom part to drag in another another region with a different wind direction.
since it will act like a neutrally buoyant pendulum it would be stable and gravity would counteract the torque from the wind differential.

the downside is that you would have winds potentially blowing stuff of the platform. since the entire craft would experience relative motion compared to the surrounding atmosphere .

i have no idea if using wind shear to power stuff will work, but it is a fun thought experiment.    

I'm not sure if this even makes sense, I'll have to think about it. But do I understand that correctly that you want to place it in a place where there are 2 wind currents exactly above each other that constantly blow with the same speed but in the exact opposite directions? Wind systems aren't constant. And why would such a wind system even exist on a gas giant.

And also, are there even any plans to add weather to this game? Because if wind won't be properly simulated, I think it would be a bit weird if they'd add wind turbines anyway.

On 3/31/2023 at 2:28 AM, uglyduckling81 said:

wouldn't be that hard to figure out. You just need to go deep enough where the pressure is roughly the density of the ocean. Then you could pretty much have anything you wanted floating around down there with enough displacement.

That would make the base a hard-to-reach place. And I don't think you need to go that deep to make a working balloon

On 3/30/2023 at 9:37 PM, Nicrose said:

I'm pretty sure this is already planned. In the most recent AMA they mentioned something about orbital colonies so just park the colony in an orbit of Jool and you're good :)

That, on the other hand, is truly un-kerbal and sounds just boring in my opinion.

Why is everyone always looking for a reason why stuff would be usefull in some sort of career mode? Isn't "it is cool" more than reason enough to build something in KSP?

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Posted (edited)
On 4/26/2023 at 7:18 AM, s_gamer101 said:

How is a big city built on a hot air ballon floating in Jools atmosphere whith a spaceplane runway on top of it not kerbal in your opinion?

Just because of the winds, gravity, and air resistance that would cause them to fall down and make orbit impossible <3 and if it's just floating then I see no challenge either. Just get there and deploy. No landing, orbiting, etc. I see many logistical and unrealistic problems with the entire process of doing what you're talking about. How can you orbit a planet and simultaneously deploy a hot air balloon? The drag and physics wouldn't make any sense unless you make some really complicated systems that are only applicable for your exact scenario for only Jool and that's a looooot of resources to put into something super specific. Would it be cool? Sure, but not kerbal to me. 

On 4/26/2023 at 7:32 AM, s_gamer101 said:

That, on the other hand, is truly un-kerbal and sounds just boring in my opinion.

Why is everyone always looking for a reason why stuff would be usefull in some sort of career mode? Isn't "it is cool" more than reason enough to build something in KSP?

"It is cool" is not really a great way to think of gameplay loops and mechanics. Orbital stations are real (ihe ISS is a great example) and expanding that idea to colonies would be the next logical step in a society. On top of that, it's also integral to the gameplay loop of resource gathering and surveying/science so it aids in the gameplay. "It is cool" does nothing but let you achieve something and look at it and say "wow" and then what? Perhaps you can tell me how a floating colony would add anything to the gameplay? How do you propose rewriting the game to get rid of orbital mechanics as they are and allow for ships to stop in the middle of an atmosphere to land on a floating and stationary ship? Is it really worth it to put all those resources into changing the game for "it is cool"? I personally don't think so and I know that anyone in charge of managing man hours and funds would also agree. 

Edited by Nicrose
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