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Making Life Difficult (a heavily modded colonisation playthrough)


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About a month ago,  I got the itch to play KSP again. Specifically, with the USI/MKS mod installed. I'd had previous runs with it, but I always burned out when it came time to go interplanetary. I sent entire armadas of base modules off to Duna, in the hopes of setting up a base there, but the sure and certain knowledge that I'd got something wrong, along with the arduous process of shepherding so many vessels into capture drained my enthusiasm.

But this time... this time, I was going to do things differently. And the Global Construction mod was gonna help me pull it off.

Why send fleets interplanetary, why assemble bases piecemeal (oh god the lag) when I could just send an engineering ship, and a metric crap-ton of Materials Kits? Why, indeed? So much simpler, so much neater, and I could test out my base designs easily enough on Minmus. So that's exactly what I did!


One happy little workshop lander, one DIY kit, and a MaterialsKits resupply because bases don't grow on trees. Aaaaaaand...


It worked! Yaaaaaay! One fuel refinery, fully operational! Though I did later end up moving everything off that radiator boom, since it bounced like mad on vessel loading. Say hello to Aurora Base.

So with that success under my belt, I thought, why not expand the base? See if we can't generate some supplies with an agricultural module?


...turned out the ag module was set to cultivate with Substrate, and the base only had a Dirt drill. Whoops. But hey, learning experience! Surely I'll remember to keep a supply of MaterialsKits and SpecialisedParts around my bases in future, right? Right?

Anyway. Good as Aurora is for mining Ore, it's useless for Substrate, Minerals and Metallic Ore. I set my sights on a location for a new base, one that would be a hub of industry! The Orbital Survey told me there was an area that had all three resources in fair abundance. I sent my workshop lander off on a new mission. A mission which resulted in the construction of... Meridian Base.


Nuclear reactor, extensive cooling arrays, two drills for each resource, and storage for everything. Plus Material Processing Units to turn those resources into better resources. Surely this masterpiece will be a great boon to my space program!


Oh. Oh no.


Damn thing broke in half! Good thing I've got all these flexi-tubes! But... half the cooling array is gone, and the processing systems are all wonky. This isn't quite going how I'd planned. Still, the first upgrade is under construction. Extra large smelters, storage for MaterialsKits, and extra drills.

Just Substrate and Mineral drills, though. My Orbital Survey lied to me. There was no MetalOre here, so I had to launch an automated mining rig. That had its own problems, with 3/4 drills set incorrectly. It took waaaaay too much time and effort to fix that thing.

Hey, let's check back in on Aurora, shall we? Things were going smoothly enough ther-


...the base reactor launched itself 300 meters into space. It decided to go for a walk.


Shockingly, it survived that little jaunt with no damage. Minmus gravity is awesome.


The rover on the bottom right was used to drag it back to the base, where it was reinstalled with a lower spring setting on its landing legs. Something you may notice is that the entire base also decided to go walkies, shuffling onto a weird angle. I guess the fuel farm wanted to feel the gentle touch of a lamppost.


Okay, I take full responsibility for this SNAFU. My liquid-fuel transport, a Manticore FTV-L, hit the ground at high speed due to my failure to start the landing burn early enough. I hadn't taken into account the LV-Ns having significantly lower thrust than the Cheetah engines on the standard LFO Manticore design.


I had it drag its backside like a dog over to the base, for later disassembly. Scrapped for MaterialsKits, it can still serve a use.


I was having rather more success with my space stations. Centaur Station here is my fuel depot and science lab over Minmus, providing a destination for all the fuel Aurora cooks up. I've since expanded it by adding another fuel tank, and moving the Orbital Workshop from Mirage Station in Kerbin orbit, once I was finished building my first two interplanetary vessels. Speaking of...


Mirage Station. Since I didn't want to build stupid huge launch vehicles, or dock a ship together in orbit, I had Mirage build them in one go. Here's the IPT Adventure, ready for launch. Adventure was originally supposed to go to Eve, with that dinky lander for Gilly. Unfortunately, the Eve launch window was over a year away, so it was given a much larger lander and sent to Duna instead.



The IPT Odyssey, a somewhat more capable vessel (at least in terms of life support) which will be heading for Dres. It carries a lander and rover with skycrane. After landing, the engineer will move all the science experiments from the lander to the rover, which has a Bon Voyage controller on board. With that, it can visit many more biomes than the lander could, even taking into account the fuel Odyssey carries.

In the background is the Super Atlatl SSTO,  a very capable vessel, though not as reliable as the original Atlatl design. IIRC, this one went into a flat spin it was unable to recover from, due to the centre of lift moving too far forward and there not being enough liquid fuel on board to trim it out. I've been working on a new SSTO, the Paladin, which looks to be much more stable in flight, though it's significantly more expensive.


After everything that went wrong at Meridian, I decided I wanted a fresh start for my industrial ambitions. About 7km away, I set up Wyvern Base. There's a few substantial improvements here, but the main thing to note is how I replaced landing legs with launch clamps. Landing legs bounce. They yeet reactors into the heavens. Even with Ground Anchor enabled, they go walkabout.

Launch clamps have proven much more reliable, although the base is a bit higher off the ground than I'd have liked. Still! The base works, and it didn't break in half! I also used much more resilient radiators, so I wouldn't have to worry about them.


While I was faffing about with uncooperative bases, Adventure arrived at Duna, performing a flawless aerocapture with an apoapsis high enough to capture around Ike afterwards. It occurred to me that since I had a Manticore FTV arriving a few days later, I could make more landings than I'd anticipated. And since Duna has an atmosphere, and Ike is so easy to escape from, it was the logical choice to go to Ike first then make a Duna landing.


I love this cockpit design.


Adventure made its way to Ike, and the lander did its stuff, getting data from 2/3rds of Ike's biomes. Unfortunately, it turned out to have less deta-V capacity than I thought it had, and despite the FTV, I ran out of LFO.  I felt it was more important to have a large margin of error on the interplanetary spacecraft than to attempt more landings. So, Adventure left Ike, dropping into low Duna orbit, where it rendezvoused with a garden station I'd sent. That will keep it in Supplies for the year and 160 days until the Duna-Kerbin transfer window, when the crew will head home. Sadly, no Duna landing, but hey. There's always next time.


In recognition of its being very well behaved, Wyvern received this expansion. A MaterialKits workshop, and industrial module for refining metal, polymers and chemicals, an ag module for generating supplies, and an ag support module for generating Fertiliser.

The ag module didn't work for lack of water. I forgot to add a water tank, but that's easy enough to fix. The industrial equipment was also lacking in Machinery, so I used the Paladin to lift a resupply probe, which transferred the Machinery across. Now there's a new problem... not enough electricity! The reactor I gave the base can't keep up, even at 100% output, so I had to shut down some Fertiliser and Materials Kits production.

My shopping list: Bigger reactor, water tank, and a bit more Machinery. 

Given how little lag there is at Wyvern, I may well expand it further for SpacialisedParts and Machinery production. I look forward to having a huge, fully functional base, Not only will it provide the resources for orbital construction over Minmus, it will serve as a blueprint for bases on other worlds.

I have a good feeling about this playthrough. I might actually see it to the end, this time.


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Since this is not just a colonisation playthrough, but career mode as well, I had a bunch of tourists needing shipped to Minmus. My new Lionheart class SSTO served the purpose very nicely. I've been using SSTOs a lot for low-mass payload missions. For heavier stuff, I use the FMRS mod to recover my boosters. It was confusing at first, but now I understand it, I'm using it all the time. Clawing back those sweet, sweet funds!


It was surprisingly easy to take off from Minmus. Felt just like lifting off from a runway. I'm sure this comes as no surprise to experienced spaceplane pilots, but I haven't really done this sort of thing since 2012.


The next stage of Wyvern Base is complete! It has everything it needs to make Specialised Parts... so long as I set up mining facilities elsewhere on Minmus to gather the materials.  It's honestly shocking how little lag I experience. The timer is yellow, so it's not like there's no lag at all, but I was kinda expecting a slideshow at this point. I don't exactly have a beast of a cmputer, either. 

Next step is setting up the mining facilities. I'll need to confirm the presence of the resources, but my Orbital Survey suggests that I can get Metallic Ore, Exotic Minerals and Uraninite on the spot my metal mining rig was established.  Rare Metals, meanwhile, are found around Aurora Base. I'll send a survey rover, then the mining rigs, if the scan goes well. Fingers crossed!

After that, an assembly plant for Machinery, and possibly a nuclear fuel plant. At that point, the facility would be basically self-sustaining, aside from crew rotations once a decade.


Edited by RedDwarfIV
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Today I launched several missions, but since I've been asked how I got launch clamps to Minmus, I thought I may as well show off a mission from start to finish.



My Thunderstorm reusable rocket. I have variants with side boosters of various sizes, also recoverable.


Separation! At this point, I controlled the payload all the way to orbit before using FMRS to load the booster for descent.


Burn, baby, burn.


I use parachutes because I'm not too picky about where I land.


Also because they can keep the booster from exploding if it does this. One of the landing legs failed due to a high impact velocity. My bad.


The payload made its way to Centaur Station, where it sipped a bit of fuel since it was almost out.


Payload landed, skycrane disassembled for the Materials Kits. The Workshop flew over here, followed by the Chipmunk lander when I realised my engineers weren't on board.



Ta-daaaaaa! One Rare Metals mining rig, fully operational! Though, uh, pointed in the wrong direction. I couldn't fix that, but at least it not being properly aligned with the reactor tube port meant that the Strip Miner drill didn't quite touch the tube. I can live with that.


On a less happy note, the Odyssey's mission is not going so well. Originally designed for a mission to Eve, I failed to consider the drop in solar energy that would result when the ship headed off to Dres instead. Everything except the hab ring and the main life support unit have been shut down to conserve power.

To make matters worse, the delta-V remaining is reading as 900m/s. I can increase that by using fuel intended for the lander, but that would mean even less science will get done. Unfortunately, sacrifices may have to be made to ensure Odyssey captures in Dres' SoI at all. A rescue mission would be far easier with them in that situation than orbiting the Sun.


At least they're in good supplies, which they'll need, since I missed the Dres window for launching a garden station after them. Once the supplies run out, the crew revert to Tourists. I wouldn't be able to set foot on Dres, let alone transfer the science experiments from the lander to the rover. Silver lining, the rover has an RTG, something I almost skimped out on. If I can get it to the surface and transfer the experiments, it can carry out the mission on its own. All will not be lost!


Lessons learned: my next interplanetary ship needs to have a load more fuel, a load more supplies, and a load more power generation.

Edited by RedDwarfIV
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Fenrir Base is now fully constructed and operational. A remote mining outpost, fully automated. Metallic Ore, Exotic Minerals and Uraninite are mined here, and at prodigious rates, too! I imagine Wyvern's next segment will include a facility for the production of fuel for advanced nuclear rockets. And here I thought it'd just be making Enriched Uranium for the base reactors!



I had to reconfigure one of the strip mining drills, I'd accidentally set it to Rare Metals rather than Exotic Minerals in the VAB. Luckily, I had some Specialised Parts lying around, this time.

Also present in these pictures, connected to the Workshop, is the Wolverine Ground Construction Vehicle (GCV). Twice as efficient as the in-line workshop, with space for more engineers, I decided the original workshop just didn't build as fast as I'd like, and barring a (very heavy and cumbersome) Orbital Workshop, this was the only option. It has a pair of greenhouse domes for Supplies recycling,  a pair of little inflatable habitats for extending hab time, and a Bon Voyage control unit so it can move around Minmus with no fuel required. Though it does have engines, so it could fly if need be.

Next stage, Wyvern's Machinery production and nuclear processing facility.

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On 11/18/2023 at 1:22 PM, RedDwarfIV said:

On a less happy note, the Odyssey's mission is not going so well. Originally designed for a mission to Eve, I failed to consider the drop in solar energy that would result when the ship headed off to Dres instead. Everything except the hab ring and the main life support unit have been shut down to conserve power.

To make matters worse, the delta-V remaining is reading as 900m/s. I can increase that by using fuel intended for the lander, but that would mean even less science will get done. Unfortunately, sacrifices may have to be made to ensure Odyssey captures in Dres' SoI at all. A rescue mission would be far easier with them in that situation than orbiting the Sun.

Eh. I'm sure you won't miss much by skipping the landing. Dres isn't real anyway. ;)

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31 minutes ago, TwoCalories said:

Eh. I'm sure you won't miss much by skipping the landing. Dres isn't real anyway. ;)

Ah, the Bielefeld of KSP.

A little update today, since I didn't do anything major.


Pegasus Station reached Eve, and since it still had plenty of fuel. I decided to park it over Gilly. Not like any crewed missions I send will be doing much at Eve itself anyway.

I managed to find a Dres braking maneuver that would get the  Odyssey into orbit for 1,500m/s delta-V. It will use all its spare lander fuel to do so. Looks like we'll only have one shot at a landing. On the plus side, there's another Dres transfer window coming up in about 250 days, so at mininum I can send a Manticore FTV-L to refuel it. More likely, I'll send something even bigger, carrying a bunch of Fertiliser and extra Gigantor solar panels. Odyssey has an engineer on board, so if he hasn't gone Tourist by the time it arrives, I can do more than just dock them.

Had to send a couple more missions to Wyvern Base, as it turned out I hadn't included a Refined Exotics storage or any means of drilling for Silicates... aaaaaaand it just occurred to me that I'd given Wyvern Stage 3 two RareMetals/ExoticMinerals storage containers, so I could have moved the contents and converted one for Refined Exotics. In fact, I may still do that, because the 3.75m container currently dangling from a docking port on the underside of the silicon workshop is Kraken bait if I'd ever seen it. In any case, with the drills added and somewhere to put RefinedExotics, I was able to start Specialised Parts production. It's quite slow, so I'll see if I can move the no longer in use Industrial Refinery at Meridian over to Wyvern and reconfigure it for Specialised Parts so I can double the speed. Regardless, the base is ready for Stage 4.


Also, in an Alternate Universe, the Wolverine GCV's Bon Voyage controller had it arrive in the same location as Wyvern base. This telefragging on load caused a massive explosion which destroyed the base. Luckily...


So we don't have to worry about that.

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Turned out I was wrong, I hadn't put two RareMetals/ExoticMinerals containers on Wyvern Stage 3, so I actually had to send one (the right size this time) to replace the 3.75m container dangling from the base's underside. Used Konstruction ports to weld it to the base.


Having gotten tired of running out of basic resources, I also sent a new base section with Industrial Strip Miners on board. Now I shall need never worry about running low on silicates, subsatrate or minerals ever again! Mwa-haha-ha-haaaaa!

I also found I could increase refined resources production by activating some of the Material Processing Units in Smelter mode. Unfortunately, they're whacking great power hogs, and even the Prometheus reactor I'd built into Stage 3 couldn't keep up. As it stands, the assembly plant has one bay producing Specialised Parts at 173%, while a second runs at 70%, The third production bay is shut down for lack of Silicon. What I've learned from all this is that Stage 4 will not need another SpecialisedParts assembly unit, rather it will need to have another nuclear reactor so that the MPUs can be run at full capacity. Then, and only then, will Wyvern Base be capable of producing MaterialsKits and SpecialisedParts at a rate that would support full orbital construction over Minmus, which would finally disentangle the space program from the need to launch anything but crew and resupply missions from Kerbin.

Might take a while before I can launch Stage 4. I'm down to 1.2 million VF, which I think should go to fulfulling some ooutstanding contracts I have. Either that or a cargo ferry to carry Rare Metals from Minmus to Kerbin, make some cash that way.

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3 hours ago, Kerbalsaurus said:

These are some pretty sick looking bases. Nice job man! Base construction is not easy.

Thanks! Being able to design them in the SPH then use Global Construction opens up a lot of options that I was happy to take advantage of.

The stations in Carnasa's Coming Home Redux series were a big inspiration for me, having a lot to do with the aesthetics of Aurora, Meridian and Wyvern.

Fenrir was all me, though.


I think a big reason why I decided to make a thread about this playthrough is how neither the YouTube tutorials nor the full series I watched really helped me understand MKS. The tutorials didn't go far enough, and the series weren't trying to explain how the bases worked.

Seeing as I'm learning by doing, I thought I might as well log the learning process, since that might help some people having the same problems.

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As mentioned in my last comment, the space program is a little low on funds. Normally having over a million VF in the kitty would be pretty good, but this is an MKS playthrough. Nothing comes cheap when you're building a self-sufficient colony. So I launched a Paladin SSTO with a Rare Metals/Exotic Minerals cargo container in the payload bay and sent it all the way to Wyvern Base. 

The mission: Milk Run 1.


Before arriving at Wyvern Base, the Paladin had 3,000 m/s of delta-V remaining. 

After filling up the 3.75m container, it had less than 800. Nowhere near enough to return to Kerbin unless I was willing to faff about with a tedious series of aerobrakes. So instead, I sent it up to Centaur for refuelling... where I discovered it had no RCS ports for moving forwards or backwards. No worries, I just filled the Manticore with LF and docked that to the Paladin instead.


In an alternate universe, the Paladin made its descent after two aerobraking maneuvers, having used up much of its remaining fuel in an inclination burn as it left Minmus at a bad time. It overshot KSC, flying across the ocean with the  goal of making a landing on the other side, a common landing area for reusable boosters that couldn't return directly to the launch site. Unfortunately, it was too nose heavy to flare and hit the ground with its horizontal and vertical speed far above safe limits. It was destroyed with the loss of all cargo.

Happily, that never happened to us!


Here, it left Minmus about a week later, when the moon was above Kerbin's equator. This gave it an extra 200 m/s for its braking burn, which it ended up needing, having just 80 m/s remaining after entering LKO.

Knowing the Paladin would be too heavy to safely land with the payload on board, I designed the Warlock SSTO to meet it halfway.  Its large wing area and 2.5m cargo container would give it much greater tolerances, though multiple trips would be needed to carry the cargo down. The pair of Project Eeloo nuclear engines performed well, had less mass than the lightbulb/Valkyrie combo, whilst being significantly cheaper than the Paladin's Nuclear Lightbulbs. Their only drawback being the lower ISP, which is no issue so long as the vessel doesn't have to leave the Kerbin system.

Just don't let anyone leave the KSC until the boys with the lead pyjamas are done hosing everything down.


Despite making a successful landing, it was still pretty hairy. Nose heavy and with a tendency to swerve, bringing the fully loaded Warlock down onto the runway was an effort of will, and it only stopped where it did when the rear brakes were increased to full. It slid sideways until coming to a stop... but it was intact. All it needs is a few adjustments in the SPH and it ought to perform better next time.


That one flight netted me two million VF!


And that's only a third or so of what the Paladin brought back! This is gonna finance the colonisation of the Kerbol System. Can't wait!

Edited by RedDwarfIV
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Using the wealth generated by the recovery and sale of an absolute boatload of Rare Metals and Exotic Minerals, I was able to launch Wyvern Stage 4. The Ground Construction Kit massed 50 tons by itself, so rather than send it and its skycrane up on the same launch, they were brought to orbit separately. The first skycrane turned out to have insufficient propellant and was quite unstable. The second, however, worked flawlessly. I used LH2/Ox engines for the first time, and I appreciated their high ISP. The boiloff when the vessel ran out of electricity was negligible.

During the 47 day construction period the Dres communications satellite arrived at the dwarf planet and shuffled its way into orbit. Thanks to an ion drive that couldn't go above 10% throttle without eating all the electricity, its acceleration was pitiful. Thank frick for Persistent Thrust. That it had such difficulty at Dres orbit leaves me with low expectations for the comsats I sent toward Jool, Urium and Neidon. They'll almost certainly have too little power to function and sail past the planets. At least they were fairly cheap, so no great loss.

Then, finally, construction was complete! Wyvern Stage 4 popped into existence, and nothing exploded besides the lag. I spent about 15 minutes driving the Wolverine out of physics range then launching the Workshop into Minmus orbit. Much more bearable after that, but seals the fact that this is the last expansion Wyvern will get.


Here's the result! Stage 4, containing the Recycling Centre (turning Recycleables into Chemicals, Polymers and Metals), Nuclear Processing Centre (taking Uraninite or Depleted Uranium and producing Enriched Uranium), Machinery Plant, Training Academy, Nuclear Fuel Plant (takes Uraninite and produces fissionables for advanced nuclear propulsion.) And, last but not least, a second Prometheus nuclear reactor so the smelters can be brought online.

Wyvern now has two bays for producing Specialised Parts running at 160%. I couldn't activate the third without running out of Silicon. All three bays for Machinery were active, but for some reason they were all at 10%, and barely producing anything at all. I spent quite a while scratching my head over this, and only just now realised that's probably because it has very little Machinery in the assembly plant itself. So I'll need to send a resupply mission to fix that. In ten days or so, we'll have the base fully operational!


I have been having a problem with the Launch Clamps... the base keeps going higher every time it loads, and the launch clamps can't return to the surface since they're anchored. I think this is WorldStabiliser's doing,  so I'll be uninstalling that mod and seeing if the issue goes away. Not a bug, just an intended feature that happens to not play nice with my preferred base design.

Edited by RedDwarfIV
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With the Dres  transfer window coming up, it was a race to get the rescue ship operational before it would need to leave. At only 35 tons, the kit was easier to get to Minmus than Wyvern Stage 4, but actually building it was a another matter. The only free docking ports on Centaur were on the fuel cans, and as a result, the entire thing had a tendency to shake itself to bits (in simulations). More annoyingly, the Workshop was bugging out if I separated the transfer stage before Deployment, so I had to make sure SAS was off, start Deployment, then separate the transfer stage *before* the interaction started causing phantom forces. Got there in the end, though.

16 days later...


The IPTV Valkyrie, in all it's glory. Dramatically improved habitation and agricultural support, advanced solar arrays, a nuclear plant, and a Liberator LH2 nuclear thermal drive for propulsion. Fully fuelled, this absolute beast of exploration has around 6,000 m/s of delta-V. More than enough to reach Dres, and return the stranded crew of the Odyssey to Kerbin.

Honestly, the most annoying part is fuelling it. It requires LH2, which I was able to get one shipment of from Aurora base by docking the Loup-Garou FTV with a KIS pipe and activating LH2 production on the ISRU unit. When the FTV returned for a second shipment, however, the base provided 2000 units of fuel before claiming the 216,000 unit tank was full. Nothing I tried would get it to continue fuelling. Even restarting the game didn't work. In the end, I decided that since any mission to fix the Minmus infrastructure would require a base construction mission or a jerry-rigged solution, I might as well send Valkyrie to Kerbin orbit, refuel it there, and leave worries about infrastructure for after  the ship headed off on its mission, rather than risk delaying its departure beyond the transfer window. That would have to wait until Minmus was in an equatorial position, however.

In the meantime, I sent the engineers Kathbart and Samson back down from Centaur to Wyvern, since none of the other crew members were capable of performing Maintenance and the Machinery couldn't be transferred from the Paladin SSTO through Logistics.  Samson did the honours. The Machinery plant now produces 0.05 Machinery per second, all three bays operating at 208%. The Recycling Centre and Nuclear Processing Plant were brought online, and the Smelters returned to full operating capacity. 



I discovered that, for some strange reason, the Nuclear Salt Water option on the Vulcan nuclear smelter required Ore, rather than... you know, Water. Presumably because it's from a separate mod to MKS. I'll see if I can make some changes behind the scenes to fix that. I'd rather not have to send an Ore container to Wyvern to get it working when it doesn't make a ton of sense to begin with.

On the plus side, uninstalling WorldStabiliser does indeed seem to have fixed the issue of floating launch clamps. No more faffing about in EVA detaching all the clamps in hacked gravity just to lower the base by a few meters.

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As planned, Valkyrie parked itself in LKO ready for tankers to ship fuel up.


It required two trips with one large and one small LH2 tanker, but the refuelling operation was successful. In the end, the IPTV ended up with a bit over 5,000 m/s of delta-V to play with, and that's with a full load of Fertiliser and Supplies. As those are used up during the mission at Dres, the vessel will gain some delta-V which might be needed for the return trip. I'm considering sending an LH2 tanker to Dres along with Valkyrie, just to make sure it will have no difficulties.

Whilst I am using this vessel for the Dres rescue ship, I don't plan to send it further out than Duna in any further missions. The Liberator is a highly efficient and powerful drive, being the second best NTR, but it's by no means the most efficient or powerful drive I have unlucked. It was what I had available, with the financial and logistical constraints, not to mention the Dres transfer window deadline. In short, it was the only vessel that would be ready in time.


Meanwhile, a Pandora CRV was headed out to Minmus, carrying four Engineers to Centaur Station. They're joining three others who arrived a few weeks earlier along with a Mechanic for Wyvern Base. That makes seven Engineers... and the Orbital Workshop only houses six. But fear not, for once this wasn't a bugger-up on my end.  No, I have special plans for several of these new Kerbonauts.


"What the frick is that!?" you may be wondering.  It's so large I had to move the docking port just to fit it! But I'm not going to say just yet. It'll be a fun surprise. Won't be too long, because the extra Engineers reduced construction time from 60 days to just 15.

Something else of note is that I replaced the old Orion ILV with a new Inter-Lunar Vehicle, the Leo. With its nuclear lightbulb drive, this vessel can trot about the Kerbin system without me having to worry about fuel. It can happily return to Kerbin from Minmus, then fly back to Minmus again and have propellant to spare. It could probably make that trip twice. Oh, and it actually has a communications antenna. Upgrades, people, upgrades.

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Even as the Surprise was under construction, Centaur's next project arrived at Minmus. This is the kit that will become Tarasque Station. Centaur is a perfectly serviceable fuel depot and research lab, but the difficulties I've had with building things there inspired me to design a new station that would handle orbital assembly properly.  Tarasque will do that, and more, as it features modules for creating Kits in-situ using Specialised Parts... which Wyvern manufactures plenty of, when it's not producing Machinery.


No sense messing around with the Surprise when it's already in progress, though, so the new station is going to wait.

Not long after Valkyrie's arrival at Kerbin, it was followed by the Paladin SSTO, carrying another load of valuable resources, braking around Kerbin so as to rendezvous with the Warlock that had been waiting in LKO for the past few weeks.


Coming down over the terminator was quite the sight. It brought home 2 million VF. Another launch is needed, then the Paladin can descend with the rest.

I didn't carry out that mission because the transfer planner was telling me I had 2 hours before the Dres transfer window. So, finally, it was time for the Valkyrie to stretch her wings and fly.


Fly she did. The Liberator's thrust is impressive, so despite the immense mass of the vessel, only a single burn was needed. 

My streak of good luck ended here. After making the burn to leave Kerbin orbit, I found that the transfer planner had lied to me. Dres' extreme inclination tends to mess with the planner's calculations, and as a result, no simple inclination burn would allow Valkyrie to intercept the dwarf planet. After much faffing with the maneuver planner, I found that if I decelerated while still close to Kerbin, then set another maneuver close to the solar orbit apoapsis, I could meet Dres where its inclination against Kerbin was zero. This would mean a journey time of over a year, but the intercept would happen.



I decided to go ahead with the plan to send a tanker to Dres alongside Valkyrie, so here we have the Kraken FTV-H. With a tiny nuclear reactor on-board, it won't run low on electric charge even if its solar panels fail to collect enough energy. Since it has four panels, somewhat awkwardly placed where they can rarely be all used at once, I was thinking it could donate two of them to the Odyssey after reaching Dres. That then put me on to the idea that it would be nice if that big Liberator engine didn't go to waste. So, should Valkyrie turn out not to need refuelling, I'm considering the possibility of using the FTV to replace Odyssey's entire engine section. I know Odyssey has some spare docking ports. If successful? I wouldn't just rescue the Odyssey's crew, I could salvage the ship too!

You know, I'm starting to think I got a bit too ambitious launching a Dres mission with only NTRs . Should've sent a tanker. That, at least, is not a mistake I plan to make twice.

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Milk Run 2 was completed, bringing the space program's funds up to 7 million VF.


I'm still no closer to understanding why my spaceplanes swerve around or go into a spin when I turn on the brakes.

Figuring the "LH2 full" issue might just be an artifact of trying to use KIS connectors to transfer fuel, I decided to send up a new Minmus facility: Dragon Base. Its sole purpose, to mine ore and convert it to hydrogen fuel.



It did not, in fact, fix the issue. I have no idea why it does this, and google couldn't find anyone else with the same trouble. Fortunately, this is a modded playthrough, and I'm not above cheating when the mods refuse to do what they're supposed to. I have a facility that should be able to generate LH2. So I ended up using HyperEdit to fill the tanks. I'll still be shipping fuel from this surface base to any orbiting spacecraft that require it, so the only real difference is that I don't have to timewarp to get the fuel. I'll be happy to not cheat if I can get the bug fixed. Already brought it up on the relevant thread.


And finally, please imagine a drumroll in your head before you scroll down to look at this. I present to you all, the true form of The Surprise:


The Inter-Planetary Engineering Vessel Leviathan. Carrying a full assembly line, this vessel will be capable of orbital construction from start to finish. I had to turn on NoCrashDamage just to launch this thing, or else the clipping would cause it to shake apart, but it seemed stable enough when I turned that back off again.

A Garnet fission reactor ensures the vessel will have power even where its gigantic solar arrays are insufficient. Twin Emancipator engines provide immense thrust and twice the ISP of the Liberators used by the Valkyrie and Kraken. When empty. the vessel's delta-V is over 6,000 m/s. When filled with MaterialKits and SpecialisedParts, that drops to just 1,800. Clearly I'm going to need to find a happy medium that will give it enough SP and MK to build a base that can produce those on the surface of wherever it goes, which will allow it to then produce bigger and better bases.


I'm planning to send Leviathan to Duna in the next transfer window, to start working on infrastructure at Ike. Infrastructure that will go on to support the colonisation of Duna.

Edited by RedDwarfIV
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Today was all about fuelling the Leviathan. After building Dragon Base, I realised that while I had two ways to transfer fuel to the Loup-Garou FTV-H, they both required a Kerbal on site to assist the process. Either by hooking it up with a KAS fuel pipe, or with Local Logistics.  I opted to send a habitat to expand Dragon . The Stag DCC (Depot Control Centre) features genous living arrangements for a single Kerbonaut, and the fuel tanks used for getting it to Minmus ended up serving a second purpose of storing fuel that could be transferred to the FTV-H lander without waiting for the ISRU converters.


I discovered only after reaching LKO that this vessel was incapable of roll, pitch or yaw. It had no SAS or RCS. As luck would have it, though, I'd elected to use this mission to ferry another four Engineers to Minmus to join the Leviathan's crew. All I had to do was send up a 20k VF rocket with some small SAS parts on board, and the engineers could stick them to the sides of the vessel.



Fuelling operations began, requiring five trips from Dragon to Leviathan. I'm very much considering building a larger tanker that could have done it in two or three trips instead. I was tempted to use Hyperedit, but I promised myself I was only going to cheat where the game forced me to, and it wasn't doing that. Happily, Minmus is such a forgiving planet that five trips didn't become a bunch of save/reloads.



It's nearly 4AM. So, alas, I couldn't get everything done today. The ship needs more MaterialKit deliveries, but it is fully fuelled and nearly fully provisioned. The vessel uses LFO for RCS, so the lack of monopropellant is effectively a non-issue. At best it's a safety net for the lander, but even that could dock with its main engine if neccesary.

Annoyingly, the six radial LH2 tanks don't seem to be feeding the engines directly, so the current delta-V readout is only around 2,500 m/s of delta-V. Transferring fuel to the main tank manually shouldn't pose an issue, so I don't forsee the ship running low at any point on its mission. It'll need that fuel, too, since the unretractable solar panels preclude any aerobraking maneuvers.

The next Duna transfer window is in 90 days. Wyvern actually ran out of MaterialKits, having used so many in the production of Machinery (which the Minmus Planetary Warehouse now has a great abundance of.) I cancelled further Machinery production, along with Specialised Parts (also in abundance) because that was using too many Chemicals. The base is now working solely on making more MaterialKits. Here's hoping 90 days is enough.


In other news that happens to lack any nice screenshots to look at, the "DRP" arrived at Dres. I can't remember what that stands for, but it's probably "Dres Refuel Probe". Despite the name, it's not going to save Odyssey from being stranded at the dwarf planet. It's a 2.5m aviation tank that's half empty already. At best, it would allow Odyssey to turn it's highly elliptical capture orbit into a low Dres orbit instead, where it would be much easier to launch and receive the science lander. Better than nothing.

Odyssey itself is a week away from arrival at its destination. Many little green fingers are crossed.

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Finding Wyvern insufficiently capable of generating Chemicals, I decided to launch an Industrial Refinery module to operate as a dedicated chemical plant. It took 9 days to reach Minmus, by which time Odyssey was finally arriving at Dres.


I activated the crossfeed to the landers, giving the nuclear engines access to all the liquid fuel on board. Somehow the crew managed to fully charge the batteries, allowing the vessel to limp in with a constant power drain of a bit over 1 ec per second. With life support shut down and just the inflatable module for habitation, only engineer Ennie Kerman was still at his post. The other two slackers went on strike, if you can believe it.  


Even with all the LF available, it wasn't going to be enough. Odyssey was going to fly off into Kerbolar orbit. Something to do with a miscalculation over liquid fuel verses liquid hydrogen, which meant the vessel would have less delta-V than expected. To make up the difference, RCS added its miniscule thrust for the duration of the burn, and in fact made the final ten m/s of deceleration that ensured a successful capture. Admittedly, if she hadn't been carrying a 2.5m tank's worth of RCS to begin with, this might not have been neccesary.


Talk about cutting it fine!


Wishing I'd thought of this earlier, but better late than never.  A pair of flat-aspect solar arrays had been sitting on either side of Odyssey's main propellant tank. Their original purpose was to ensure that no matter which direction Odyssey was pointed, it could receive at least some solar power. That meant they were effectively useless extra mass so long as the vessel was oriented to allow its main arrays to point at the sun, which is basically all the time.

Ennie Kerman went EVA to move them somewhere more useful. Generating a whopping 3 ec/second, these panels allowed the hydroponics gardens to be reactivated, ensuring that the crew would at least have Supplies to (hopefully) last them until Valkyrie arrives.

Edited by RedDwarfIV
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I discovered that the Dres capture burn had fully depleted the Uranium fuel in the Odyssey's three NERV engines. Had I known this would be an issue, I might have kept one offline in reserve, but alas, no such foresight. However, after rendezvousing with the DRP, LFO was in plentiful supply. The lander reserve tanks were still full of oxidiser. With no nuclear propulsion, I instead moved the crew lander to the nose and used its four Terrier engines to do the job of braking into LDO.


From here, a Dres landing mission becomes possible. Ennie and Linski board the crew lander, while Luman Kerman remains in orbit. She'll get her turn.


Before risking the lives of any Kerbonauts, it was important to ensure their transport would have already landed safely before they attempted the same. The rover successfully made its descent, and began collecting some basic science, since the majority of the scientific instruments were on the crew lander and would remain so until Ennie could transfer them over.

The rover currently has three days worth of Supplies on board, certainly enough for the purpose of exploring the nearest biomes, of which there are 5, possibly even 6.

Power output was too low for the Bon Voyage controller to operate. Happily, I didn't immediately ditch the Skycrane, so I was able to fly it just over the border into the Highlands. I'll be keeping the Skycrane attached until Ennie can transfer its solar panels across to the rover. It'll need them. 


All scientific equipment successfully deployed, including an RTG to keep them operational overnight. It produces 4 power, not quite the 5 needed to run everything, but hopefully the control unit will shut down the Seismometer instead of anything more important.


The third biome visited by the landing party was Dres' Impact Craters. Here, the rover is parked on the slope. I'm very glad I fitted it with an RTG, because otherwise it would've been a sitting duck for the 5 hours or so until sunrise.A generous battery capacity of 2,000 ec also allows for the transmission of plenty of scientific data.

Getting the rover out of the crater was a harrowing experience, but after finding the right combination of SAS and traction control, became surprisingly simple. I can only attribute this to the RoveMax Ruggedized wheels, which have excellent grip.


I did, in the end, timewarp to the daytime, but mainly so I could actually see when the rover reached Dres Canyon. It's not as impressive as I was lead to believe.

And now for the 19km drive back to the lander.



Made it! So long, little Badger, our trusty steed. Of course, I had Ennie salvage anything useful from the rover, including scientific instruments and the RTG, before liftoff. With all the power issues Odyssey was suffering from, every little was going to help.


Mission complete. I might make one more landing at the Impact Ejecta biome, but as you can see, Odyssey has already collected an immense amount of data. I would not be surprised if this was enough to complete the rest of the tech tree. This is what the three brave Kerbonauts came here for. It, as much as they, is what Valkyrie is coming to rescue.

Edited by RedDwarfIV
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Leviathan will have company on its journey. In 40 days, Adventure is going to depart Duna, so there wouldn't be anyone present to receive a new and improved lander. May as well use all that funding the Milk Runs have generated to assemble another IPTV, right? Say hello to the Endeavour.



Since Mirage Station's Workshop was moved to Centaur, it can no longer construct vessels in orbit, which is why I didn't bother with launching a kit. Instead, I did the orbital assembly the old fashioned way. The Command Section and Propulsion Section are technically viable spacecraft when separated, in the sense that the Command Section could serve as a very basic space station, while the Engine Section may function as a tug. It's going to need some small upgrades before that would be possible, however, as it currently lacks the electrical storage for independent operation. 15ec isn't much and those LH2 tanks are hungry for spark juice.

Aside from construction, what most sets Endeavour apart from its IPTV cousins is the propulsion system. An advanced afterburning Fission Fragment drive. Even while using LH2 to increase thrust, it provides 75,000 m/s of delta-V. Seventy-five thousand.

This thing is insane! And while the supposed drawback for that is low thrust, it's still about on par with NERVA engines, so far as I can tell.  I think I've found my new favourite drive system. With that kind of mileage, I would never have to worry about running out of fuel again! Hell, that might even be getting into the realm of feasible Brachistochrone trajectories.

Edited by RedDwarfIV
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Not so glamourous as the manned missions, but essential all the same. The space probes Jool Surveyor and Wayfarer 4  arrived at the gas giant.


Jool Surveyor, a scansat with the mission of surveying each of Jool's moons for exploitable resources.


Wayfarer 4 is primarily a communications relay, hence the Molniya style highly elliptical polar orbit, which should prevent comms blackouts except on very rare and [predictable occasions, so long as other relays are present at the moons, otherwise vessels landed on their southern hemispheres would have no connection.

The satellite is also equipped with a fair number of orbital science instruments, which it has used to collect data in high Jool orbit, and will do the same for low Jool orbit after an adjustment burn and the long fall to periapsis.


The Duna to Kerbin transfer window opened. Adventure undocked from the garden station and burned for home. Having drained the garden station's fuel tank - which it no longer required - and completing the escape maneuver, the IPTV had 1,100 m/s of delta-V remaining. Certainly enough to capture at Kerbin, hopefully enough to make LKO


I had intended for these early IPTVs to be reused, but the serious design flaws exposed by the missions they went on have shown that doing so wouldn't be worth it.


Over Minmus, Centaur Station had begun work on it's not-quite replacement, Tarasque.


The work took ten days. Six Kerbals in the Workshop do a quick job of it!


Once again, the services of No Crash Damage and Unbreakable Joints was temporarily required, at least until it had settled itself. 


The first MaterialKits delivery was mostly spent on inflating the habitats. I had gone to the effort of using the Skycrane that had been sitting around Kerbin to pick up the abandoned workshop at Meridian base and plonk it down over at Wyvern, to double the MaterialKits production rate. Happily, it worked, though it certainly wasn't easy to lift the thing, or put it down where I wanted it.


There was nothing else on the to-do list, so...  let's do the time warp agaiiiiin! 


Neither KSP's stock alarm clock, nor the mod version managed to accurately predict the Duna transfer window, being off by about 10-20 days, but Minmus was in the right part of its orbit so I could afford to wait no longer.  It was finally time to sent the IPEV Leviathan on its way.



As I learned from the Odyssey's misfortune, NTRs eat EnrichedUranium like there's no tomorrow. The Emancipator engine is no exception, possibly being even worse for it. Leviathan's engines will last long enough to reach Ike, of that I have no doubt. What it won't do is allow a return to Kerbin. Not unless I send a supply of EnrichedUranium so the engines can be serviced. That should be eminently feasible, but it's by no means the only option. Leviathan's capability to make Kits and construct vessels from them offers an enticing alternative... simply replacing its main drive altogether. Having discovered the effectiveness of Fission Fragment drives, andwith the ship already mounting extensive LH2 storage capacity, I figure it's perfect for a refit with that type of engine.

I would send the uranium anyway for safety's sake, but any refit operation will mean the Emancipators get dismantled. The options are mutually exclusive. I'm definitely leaning toward the refit option, as the rewards would be so much greater. Besides, if it comes down to it, Endeavour could return the crew home. Or Leviathan could become Ike's permenant orbital shipyard. That would be no huge loss,especially since it would have been Leviathan's job to build such a shipyard anyway. 

As for Endeavour, it left Kerbin not long after its bigger brother. using two burns to escape into Kerbolar orbit.




All she has to do is get to Duna and land on it. I fully trust that Endeavour is up to that mission.

Oh yeah. I should send a rover for them. A proper one, with all the habitation and life support they could need for exploring the dusty orange planet. The Badger was good enough for Dres, but it won't cut it this time.

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48 minutes ago, Kerbalsaurus said:

That is a hell of a lot of infrastructure. How much has all of this costed in total? Cheap-ish I imagine, If you’re building everything off world.

Around 7 million VF so far, I think, haven't really been keeping track. The Milk Runs made it possible to acelerate my efforts. Couldn't have built Leviathan or Tarasque without it. Contract missions are too little reward for the effort required.

Wyvern accounts for maybe 3 million of that.

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Oh yeah, something I forgot to mention, thought it's shown in one of the screenshots: A large part of the reason for doing orbital construction out at Minmus instead of Kerbin orbit is that anything out at Minmus can take advantage of its orbital velocity.

Leviathan is something of a wallowing pig when fully stocked, having slightly less than 2 km/s of delta-V. From LKO, that would be enough to make the Duna transfer burn, and possibly capture at Duna too. Ike capture would be about the same. But the margins would be tight. Because it launched from Minmus, Leviathan  used a mere 674 m/s, leaving plenty of reserve propellant.

This kind of savings won't matter so much as more of my vessels start to use the increasingly efficient high-tech propulsion systems, but the idea of using a moon as a giant slingshot does appeal to me.

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