Monday, November 30, 2015

Kerbal Space Program AAR, More Contracts

There was still more work to be done and more money to be made. Next up were two contracts that were easy and lucrative enough, but required a scientist.

 Our original scientist still being on strike, we'd have to hire a new one. I called up one of the applicants, one Mant Kerman. Upon arrival, I asked her to give an example of why she would make for a good scientist, to impress me with his intelligence. She started counting. Good enough for me! Though it did earn her the nickname "123".
Her first task is to test the heat shield we've used before. I'm not really sure why it still needs testing, on the launchpad no less. Yet, if they want to pay for it, I'll do it.
Predictably, nothing much happened, aside from the funds being quickly wired over. Easy money. Next, we need her to examine some wreckage that was spotted on Capt. Kiwi's last mission.
Hopping out of the pod, she begins her journey. Running across the ground, she covers a surprising distance to collect the three pieces of wreckage we need. Thirty minutes later and almost 3500 meters later, she grabs the last piece of wreckage. She's promptly brought back in a gardener's car. In retrospect, it may have been smart to send her out in the car in the first place.

As she returned to the compound, Ms. Health also returned from her fundraising campaign. With her comes a more prestigious contract: take two civilian tourists out into orbit. To go with that, I grab another contract to grab some Science! data from space around Kerbin. Might as well while we're up there anyway.
Ms. Health suits up in our newest Rocket, the Spacer 3, along with our two tourists, Kurt and Theomy Kerman.
Getting into orbit is almost routine by now, and we're quickly in space. The tourists are appropriately impressed with the sights and microgravity.
They circle Kerbal twice, making sure they get their money's worth before coming down. Coming down is much more interesting than going up.
Initially, they heartily enjoy the sights as we fall towards Kerbal. Then the leftover bits from our stack decoupler start exploding from the heat, and they start to panic a little. While Ms. Health expertly pilots the craft down, we work to reassure them that all is well, which is made more difficult as the craft rapidly decelerates. But, all is well, and the craft finds itself floating gently over the highlands.
The craft lands safely, 1657 meters above sea level, where it is retrieved by our expert reclamation team.
Why high up in the mountains you ask? Jebediah died splashing down. Capt. Kiwi narrowly survived splashing down in the water. We wanted to be absolutely safe with our first tourist mission, so best to land as far away from the water as possible. It makes perfect sense.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Kerbal Space Program AAR, Moniez!

We were a true space program, that much had been shown so far. Yet, we were also a poor space program. That would need to be rectified if we wanted to do grander missions. To begin, it was time to get serious about funding. I was going to send our star pilot Ms. Health on a fundraising campaign.

That taken care of, I went to go looking for more contracts. There's one for a flyby of the Mun, but I don't want to do that yet. My plans require more money. There are, however, a good variety of quick and easy contracts. I settle on two that will be just perfect for training a new backup pilot.

Luckily the adds for more crew members was still out and I had a stack of applicants to choose from. Quickly leafing through the papers, one caught my eye. A captain was applying to my program! Not even aware we had captains, I quickly brought him in for an interview. Sadly, he informed me that "Captain" was a title he gave himself due to the many hours of flight simulation games he had played. Ah well, his experience should save me the 30 minutes of flight training we'd normally give so we could more quickly make some money. Capt. Kiwi Kerman seemed a welcome addition to the team.
We got him quickly suited up and a rocket designed for this easy test. The mission: haul two types of parachutes up to a height between 4000 and 9000 meters, going at a speed of 140-210 m/s. Usage of the parachutes is optional, but recommended. Capt. Kiwi sees his rocket, and seems reassured at the ample amount of parachutes available.
I should point out, my legal adviser does not find the name of this rocket (Tiny Missile) at all amusing. Nor does Capt. Kiwi, unfortunately. But this is one of the perks of being in charge - I get to make the decisions.

The launch and mission go smoothly. Capt. Kiwi hits the big red button, and is quickly lifted to the appropriate height and speeds, earning us the contract money. He releases the parachutes, and seems to enjoy the lengthy trip down.
20 seconds up, and 2 minutes later he's still floating down lazily. No wonder he had so many hours of flight simulation if this is how he spent all his time.
Another minute and a half later, and he's finally landed. though upside down. I inform him that rockets should land on their bellies or bottoms, landing on their noses are for missiles. Good job for a first mission though. While the crew get him and his rocket back to base, I go look for more contracts.
We've got two missions, each to aerial survey a nearby area. I call for confirmation that these contracts are, in fact, meant to be sent to the space agency. Where I'm informed that yes, of course we were supposed to get them. Who are an aeronautics agency, after all, and who else would? No one else is crazy enough to go above ground for any length of time. Having lived up here for so long, I had forgotten just how crazy I was compared to a normal Kerbal. This would explain so much.
Here is our mission, simple yet complex. We were to take readings of the areas marked here. Simple, given how they were so close together, yet complex in that the closer area required a reading below 17,100 meters. The further required one above 17,300. I work out that with the correct ballistic trajectory, we'd be able to satisfy both conditions with a single rocket, and so get Capt. Kiwi ready for his second mission.
My naming of the new vessel (The Short-range Missile) causes my legal adviser to just shake his head. I take it as a victory. Capt. Kiwi looks alarmed, but I assure him that it's not actually a missile, but turns out he's worried about the lack of parachutes. I reassure him that his first mission was abnormal, we've done plenty with this single parachute, and only one has ended up in a fiery death. I don't think he was very reassured, but he got in anyway.

A quick launch later, and things were going well. Capt. Kiwi was on the right course to achieve both contract goals.
He takes both readings, and we're very promptly paid for our tests. Now all he has to do is splash down without crashing. When I spoke to him earlier, I was correct that the single parachute would be more than enough to keep him safe. The number of parachutes would not be the problem, but the shallowness of the launch.

The trajectory was close to having the same problems that killed Jebediah so long ago. Too shallow, and he doesn't spend long enough in the atmosphere to lose enough speed so that he can safely deploy the parachutes. No number of parachutes would save him then, they'd all snap as soon as they were released if he couldn't kill enough speed. He'd need to be going under ~254m/s if he wanted to safely splash down.

Unfortunately for Capt. Kiwi, it looked like he was going just a bit too fast.
He was coming down too fast for the parachute to safely deploy. He was slowly losing speed, but we couldn't wait. Any longer and the parachute wouldn't have time to slow him down regardless. He'd have to fire the parachute and hope it didn't snap immediately. Maybe the engineers were wrong in their estimate.

He pushed the button, releasing the parachute.

We waited with bated breath to see what happened. Would he slow down, or would he follow Jeb to a watery grave?

Success! The parachute didn't fly apart, and he released just in time, slowing down to his final speed of 7 m/s at 30 meters above the ground. He wouldn't be wasting company time floating down this time!

There was still money to be made, but with Capt. Kiwi a tad shaken with his near brush with death, I'd need to find someone else in the short term to fill in.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Kerbal Space Program AAR, The First Orbit

We were officially a space program now, but there was so much still available to us. We had only scratched the surface of what was above-ground. As usual, the first step in our next endeavor is to see what contracts we can find. One comes to mind. It's time to get into orbit, the real first step of any serious travel in space.

While I'm at it, an engineer offers a small contract to use their newly developed booster to help us into orbit. They pay for the booster's cost and give an additional small bribe payment.

Getting into orbit with our current launchpad is possible, but given our current funds, we should have enough to build our rocket and upgrade the launchpad at the same time.I ok the upgrade, and my lackeys get to work.
The new pad can support a whopping 140 tons, whereas the old was limited to a mere 18. We won't be limited by the launchpad for some time. It's time for me to begin my design work.

As I'm working, my researchers come to me with a big development. They've got a new type of fuel and engine for us to use. Essentially, we mix lamp oil (aka Kerosene) with liquid oxygen (usually known as LOX), rather than using our solid rocket fuel. The big benefit is better performing rocket fuel, especially when there's little or no atmosphere. The downside is the engine is expensive, so we're better off using our traditional solid fuel boosters to begin with.

Eventually, after much testing and simulation work, I settle on our new design:

Heh, it looks like a -
Legal adviser: "Don't finish that sentence."
For once, I listened to him. The new rocket used our new liquid fuel engines, along with a new concept called "staging" where we ditch parts of the rocket as they run out of fuel. My engineers were happy as it meant they could use explosives. I do admit that planned explosions make for a good view.

The rocket is brought out to our shiny new launchpad, and our pilot Ms. Health suits up again.

The trip should be straightforward: Set off the three bottom boosters. Dump the two on the sides when they empty

 and drop the big one soon after. This should get us out of most of the atmosphere.

Continue boosting with the final engine, turning towards the east. Turn the rocket off once we'll reach 70k km, putting us out of the atmosphere.

Coast until we're almost out of the atmosphere. We want to get as much out of our fuel as we can. Then, we face straight east and go for a full burn 

until we get on a proper orbital course. We'll know we're on the correct course when we go around the planet without ever touching the atmosphere.

Success! Our periapsis is above 70k km! My legal adviser insists I use these names for our flights. Periapsis stands for the lowest point in an orbit, while apoapsis stands for the highest point in the orbit. High point and low point are trademarked, or so I hear.

We have Ms. Health go around the planet twice. It's very strange to have someone go by at 2200m/s without any active propulsion. As she comes around again, we go for something different. She's got plenty of fuel left; we could deorbit now, but we could also go further. The people in charge have decreed 250,000km out to be "very far into space". We can easily reach that far and still come back, so I have Ms. Health prepare for the next burn.

Which comes to the weirdest part of orbital mechanics. In order to reach a higher point in space, we'll thrust into our orbit. In this case, that means we're thrusting straight east in order to go up.

Everything completed, we wait 30 minutes for her to come to the apoapsis.

Well said. We finish our observations and begin the trip back. Unsurprisingly, if thrusting into our orbit sends us further out, thrusting against our orbit brings us closer. In this case, closer means coming back into the atmosphere.

All that's left to do is wait. As we hit the atmosphere, we jettison the engines and tanks, and have the heat shield protect the craft.

Then we watch as 2000m/s of speed is burned up in the atmosphere.

Letting us gently fall to the sea for the last 300 meters.
Leaving us with another successful mission, and some much needed Science!
Now the fun times could begin.

PS. I went into more detail this time around because getting into a basic orbit is the bread and butter of space travel. Bonus picture from testing:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Kerbal Space Program AAR, the Flight to Space

I needed new kerbonauts if I wanted to continue the program, so I put out some ads. Pilot funny looking rockets! Enjoy the emptiness of space! Get as far away from other Kerbals as can be possible! Join our space program today!

My legal adviser advised me again that as we hadn't been to space, then we couldn't call ourselves a space program, and could be held liable for false advertised. I ignored him again. Surprisingly, we didn't have long until we got our new first new applicants. After applying our rigorous tests to determine the best applicant (first come first serve) we had our new pilot, Lisya"Health" Kerman.

Hopefully her nickname is a promise of things to come, and not her being ironic. I quickly shuffle her off to basic pilot training and move on to designing a proper rocket for going to space. This time I'd go through some actual planning and design, along with making sure to run it through simulations first. I didn't like Jebediah, but his death will spur me to do things right. I get a basic design down and run simulation

after simulation

after simulation

until I'm sure that I've got something workable. Short of gross pilot error, this rocket would not be destroyed because of my design.

With the design done, and Ms. Health finishing her basic training, I giver her a quick briefing before she steps into the new rocket.
"The flight is simple, keep the rocket facing straight up. Press this first button to start things, then this next button when it lights up, followed by this third when it lights up. Supposedly, you'll go higher if we stagger the rockets, rather than lighting up them up all at once. Don't press any other buttons. We'll give further instructions when you've left the atmosphere"
There were no comments or questions, and so we set up the launch.

We got the rocket on the launchpad, all lights were green for launch. I gave the go-ahead for the countdown. Ms. Health begins counting down steadily:
Press all the buttons!

My assistant came over with an outstretched hand, asking me to pay up on our bet. I grudgingly gave him the money. But we had planned for this. Even if she launched all the rockets at once, she wouldn't blow up, nor fail to make the required height. Everything was going well, even if I was down 100 spesos. I held my breath as she passed the danger zone, where her large speed would compress the air. Compress it too much, and the buildup of heat would blow up the rocket, as had happened so often in the simulations.

But she made it through, even if some warning lights were a tad angry with us. The craft continued coasting, getting ever closer towards that magical 70k marker, where it would leave our atmosphere and truly enter space.

We reach it, and our pilot gives us a few observations. Success! We're officially a space agency now. The craft continues climbing towards that 150k marker that we need for the extra cash.

We reach it, with some distance to spare. Even better, we get a picture of a future destination. Well done. But now it's time to bring our pilot back, and the planet looks much different when you're falling into it from 150k kilometers up.

I give her the remainder of her instructions. "Flip the switch on your left to jettison the empty tanks. You won't need them any longer. Then flip your craft nose first towards the ground. My researchers tell me that their funky shape is deliberate. If it works as designed, it'll end up bottom down no matter your orientation, and they won't to test it out. They tell me the risk is minimal. On the right is another switch for the parachutes, flip it when the light turns green. Please wait this time before hitting it"

Everything looks good, and it's time to see if everything works out. Will she burn up on reentry? Will she pop her parachute at the appropriate time? Will it slow her enough? All these worries fly through my head.

She's well into the atmosphere by now, and unsurprisingly (or surprisingly, depending on how much you trust the researchers) the craft has turned bottom down. Neat. Now to see if it would explode from the heat, or if something will go wrong with the parachute or...

But no. Everything goes perfectly well, and Ms. Health lands perfectly. Even exiting the craft for a quick picture. Success! First manned mission to space!