Friday, December 11, 2015

Kerbal Space Program AAR, The Rescue

After that big mission, we had some good news and some bad news. The bad news was we had learned just how bad our facilities were for sending missions throughout space. If we wanted to do more, we'd need to upgrade them heavily, and that would cost money we didn't have just yet. The good news was, others saw how well we were doing and figured they could set up private companies to take some of our success. It's much cheaper when you don't have to do all the initial legwork to get started, and they were eager to get started. Good for us though that they're really bad at it anyway, and we'd profit off their mistakes.

Our first new mission involves rescuing a poor pilot who was stranded in orbit. An overeager company had decided to try for an orbit as their first mission. All had gone well until they were making the final checks for re-entry. Apparently they had forgotten to put any parachutes on the craft, and so coming back down would be suicide. Really, who does something that silly? As Capt. Kiwi will tell you, parachutes are the most important part of any rocket.
They didn't have the equipment to rendezvous with the stranded pilot, which is where we came in.  Along the way, we signed on a tourist to go up with us. We had the room anyway.
In order to get started, it was time for some more improvements to the facilities. The tracking center was the first to get upgraded. The facility received better equipment, mainly in the form of advanced computing hardware we called "calculators" that would let us calculate farther out how our orbits would look, even with multiple orbital bodies.
Mission control would also get upgraded. We bought a very expensive whiteboard that we could use to make plans ahead of time. It's amazing what proper planning can do for a mission. We'd also have room for more contracts at one time, if we could find any others that were worth taking.

Ms. Health and our tourist suited up for their mission, using a variant of the Spacer rocket series.
The new rocket came with more fuel, and a new scientific invention that would enable us to record the atmospheric pressure at that location. Part of our new study into aerodynamics and working with the air instead of against it.
It was time to launch. Our target was ahead of us and already in orbit. Our first order of business would be to launch into an orbit of our own, matched up as closely to theirs as we could.
Here you can see our wonderful new upgrades in action. The blue line is our orbit, the yellow line our target's orbit. The orange and purple markers mark our next two closest intercepts. The orbit wasn't as close as I'd like, but it was close enough. The problem was our target was very far ahead of us in the orbit, we'd have to catch up to make our rescue. Now came the complicated part.

On Kerbin, if we wanted to catch up to someone we'd speed up towards them until we caught up to them, then slow down to match speeds. In space, the same maneuver would be highly inefficient - too inefficient for our limited fuel reserves. This is because, if you'll recall, speeding up widens our orbit, while slowing down shrinks it. Speeding up to them would throw us off. We'd have to do things a little differently.

Our plan is to speed up, enlarging the orbit. For each time we went around, we'd make the trip faster than them, decreasing the distance between us. Do this enough times, and we'd get close enough for a rendezvous. Then we'd slow down to match speeds.
Here we were in our faster orbit. Now it was time to wait. A few rounds around the planet, and we were coming much closer with each passing orbit. Next we slowed down to match orbits closer; we didn't want to start pulling ahead of them.
The difference in our orbits was slight. We'd only catch up some 6 km each orbit, but we'd catch up. In the meantime, the eggheads wanted us to test the atmosphere in space.
 We confirm what we had already known: there is no atmospheric pressure in space, because it's a vacuum. At least the new science gizmo works.

Finally, we found ourselves only a mere kilometer away, with a 34.4 m/s (77mph) difference in speeds. While we could match speeds with our rocket if we wanted, we chose instead to have the stranded pilot do all the work. His small rocketpack was more precise than our unwieldy rocket.

He stepped off into the void. His little rocket pack contained a surprising amount of delta-vee. It was useless on Kerbin, as it wouldn't generate near enough thrust for lift-off, but here it'd allow him to travel the kilometer difference and match our speeds with no problem. Space is weird.
Final approach to the Space 4. He overshot it a tad, but what can you expect from a newbie?
On board and ready to go. All that was left was the smooth reentry. Which Ms. Health could do with no problems. It helped that we brought a parachute.

Home sweet home, with a nice chunk of change for us. Mission successful.

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