Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Kerbal Space Program AAR, Excitement!

(I apologize, problems with production means there's fewer pictures than I'd normally prefer)

Our contractors wanted more tests done. This time, they wanted us to test the stack decoupler and our liquid fuel engine while immersed in water. While we could have our machinery haul the parts over to the shore, I don't relish the chances of the equipment getting wet, and have Mant "123" suit up. Her vociferous complaints that she is not a pilot and doesn't want to splash down in the dreaded sea fall on deaf ears.

Piloting is easy, and you're only going up in a toy rocket, you'll be perfectly fine, I assured her. I even give her extra parachutes. Just make sure to pop them at the right time, I remind her.
The launch goes fine, and she's soon in the water. After her nerves have enough time to recover, she hits the button. The decoupler fires, dropping the toy rocket and also starting the liquid fuel engine. Both tests go perfectly well, all lights are green. But, she also finds herself sinking.
Surprisingly, she doesn't panic, even though people here are quickly panicking. Thankfully she's still very close to shore and so is easily recovered before she can get too deep. Given her nonchalance over the whole sinking affair, I have the head researcher educate her.

"While spacecraft and submarines both operate by keeping the air inside, they do so against two very different situations. In space, the air wants to get out, similar to a balloon. With a submarine, the water wants to get in and the craft is built to keep the water out. Our spacecraft don't have the extra reinforcement, and so tend towards spouting leaks."

Even though we had already had one bit of excitement today, we clearly needed more. Eager to go into space, our newest pilot Capt. Kiwi was busy telling me that he was perfectly capable of flying a rocket to space and back. He vigorously assured me that things would be fine, and Ms. Health would be around back at base to walk him through if he needed assistance. Perhaps against my better judgement, I agreed with him and booked two more tourists for another flight.
While it'd be safer to have him prove himself without tourists, it'd be a colossal waste of money, and I couldn't stand for that. My legal adviser, Fishman, was even in agreement with me for once. Said something about insurance getting us good money. His agreement gave me some pause, and I was again tempted to give him a trial run first, but money won out.

Given that the Spacer 3 rocket has already proven itself perfectly able for an orbital run, we run with it again. The only difference would be the Kerbals within. Narmie and Desely Kerman were our tourist passengers, with Capt. Kiwi Kerman piloting.

The launch goes perfectly smoothly, and our Kerbals soon find themselves orbiting Kerbal at a sedate pace of 2300m/s.
The first dangerous section is done. They're safely in orbit. They loop around twice, as is normal with our orbital tourist package, and it's time to come home again. Capt. Kiwi goes through the checklist. 

Step 1: Thrust into the orbit until the trajectory is at the proper angle pointed down towards Kerbal.
Step 2: Trigger the explosives to push the engines away. We can't bring them down with us.
Step 3: Keep the crafted pointed directly away from our trajectory. The craft should always have it's shielded bottom pointed down.
Step 4: Release the parachutes...wait! Ms. Health quickly works to stop him, as the parachutes are released only when he's going slow enough. Clearly we should have had that note on a separate checklist. We stop him in time before he blows all the parachutes, but the craft requires 3 for a safe landing. It only has two. This should be interesting.

He enters the atmosphere, and all around can be seen the effects of reentry. They're mostly for show at this point, the thinness of the atmosphere makes for a pretty display, but his speed is still unaffected. This leads poor Capt. Kiwi into a false sense of security. When he actually hits the atmosphere, he's jolted out of a proper facing.

Instead of facing directly down, he's angled such that the side of the rocket is also facing into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, that side isn't well shielded from the heat, and the parts begin heating up, reaching dangerous levels. Capt. Kiwi struggles to bring the craft back into a proper facing, but the aerodynamic forces are too strong, and he's only able to keep the situation from getting worse.

Thankfully, the craft holds up under the heat, and nothing explodes. Now the Captain has to deal with the lack of his third parachute. He fires the last two when it's safe, but the craft isn't slowing down enough. Things are looking rough. "Brace for impact!"
Out of the speakers back at central we hear a loud explosion.
Only to hear soon after that everyone is ok. The lab module we had sent up did not survive the trip, even though everything else did.

Everyone is brought back. Fishman the legal adviser rushes over to the tourists. I believe he worried about them suing us. Turns out they thought it all a part of the trip, and didn't realize just how close they were to death. No one here was going to let them know though.

Capt. Kiwi though was done with rockets. Too many close calls, and I'd have to agree. Rockets were clearly a bad career choice.

PS. Interesting bug/feature for anyone playing KSP: parachutes aren't checked for destruction until you're well within the atmosphere, and will apply a small amount of drag until then. Useful for when your craft is just a little too unstable to be easily piloted down like this one. The first trip went fine, because the auto-pilot controls from having a skilled pilot easily kept the craft in the safe zone. Because Capt. Kiwi didn't have the experience, he had to be piloted down, and I'm not that good of a pilot for that without the assistance of the parachute.

As another tip, the order of where you put objects is important when taking into consideration how you'll land. When you land, the game will check if the objects impacting are doing so with enough speed to explode, but it only checks the bottom. The rest are given forces to see if they come lose, but not necessarily worry about how fast. If I had put the lab module above the crew cabin, nothing would have happened. The cabin explodes at 40m/s, while the lab module explodes at 6.0m/s, so landing at 6.1 m/s like here results in an explosion. Shame. Of course, anything exploding will slightly decrease the speed, so putting more valuable modules above less valuable ones can sometimes be called for. Woops.

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