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I haven't played a serious computer game since "Panzer General" years ago, but my brother #4 just got me into "Kerbal Space Program". It's currently in beta stage, and the full version can be bought for something like 23 dollar, with a free demo available. I have about exploited the latter and definitely need the pay version.

 

KSP lets you run your own space program on planet Kerbin in a solar system broadly modelled on our own, but with sizes and distances an order of magnitude less for ease of playing and bodies named differently; the Venus analogue is Eve, Mars is Duna, Jupiter is Jool, etc. The Kerbals are little green people with names like Wernher von Kermin, Gene Kerbal, etc. The mood is quite humorous, but physics quite hard, if somewhat simplified; celestial bodies have clearly defined areas of gravitational influence in which only they excert pull, and there is currently (v0.18) no temperature development during atmospheric reentry, though that is announced to be implemented in future versions.

 

This is still very much a work in progress, and evolved stages are released periodically (at increased prices). However, it has already quite a fan base, with user-developed mods particularly concerning additional parts. KSP lets you assemble rockets and spaceplanes from pre-fabricated modules, then fly them, and learn about rocketry, aerodynamics and orbital mechanics in the course. It is open-ended with no other aims than those you set yourself, though I understand in the career mode of the pay version you can take on challenges to earn money for your program.

 

It makes for lots of fun, spectacular catastrophic failures on launch pads, and is highly addictive and time-consuming, which is why I haven't attended TankNet (particularly the Russian America thread ...) as much as usual over the last week; my head was literally up in space as I successively mastered getting a rocket off the pad in a straight line, achieving orbit and executing orbital maneuvres. Last night we stayed up until shortly past four until we at last managed to successfully land on the Mün. Well, actually we tore off a landing leg and engine from my aptly-named "Crasher" lander design, but were able to return to Kerbal safely. I need more challenges now, and better parts - my moon rocket looked like a pyramid of fireworks based upon V-2 technology.

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Ahhh...so you have met the Nazi rocket scientists we pinched from the Baltic research site. S-boats, Aunty JUs, German speakers, Zundapps, Auto Union staff cars and 1929 Pol Roger. Surely you must have been wondering what Signals has been working on all this time........

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MCab posted about it back in Dec 2011. I've been playing it off and on.

 

I'm running a bunch of mods to enhance objectives.

 

I have a station in low Kerbin orbit.

Mapsats around Kerbin, the Mun, Minimus and Duna

Comsats around Kerbin, the Mun and Duna

Probes down on the Mun, Duna and Minums.

Kerbols on the Mun. Still working on getting a good system to get resource and supplies to them on Duna.

 

I'm playing with the MechJeb and Crew Transfer/Resource mod now too.

 

I've done about a hundred dockings by now. It's a fun game. Challenging too.

Edited by rmgill
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I'm still on the demo version and trying to rendezvous with debris from earlier launches in Kerbal orbit as a training for docking maneuvers. The best I've managed so far is coming within a couple kilometers on entirely different trajectories. I thought the way to do it would be setting up a maneuver that lets you intersect the target orbit near the target, then align orbits, but I have failed until now despite multiple repeats of the above in the same mission.

 

My near-term goal is nudging the debris that is cluttering up near-Kerbal space into re-entry trajectories. The upper stage I was targeting already had a perikerbalum of 30 kilometers, but seems not to be affected by atmospheric drag as it keeps going in the same exact orbit. So far I have only suceeded in multiplying debris as I went for it with my Mün lander and foolishly separated my empty descent stage in orbit - consisting of four individual tank/engine units ...

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For Docking. Align your orbital inclination, boost normal or anti-normal at your descending or ascending nodes respectively.

Then if you're behind it get a lower orbit, ahead of it a higher orbit. As your distance gets down, you want to raise/lower your orbit so it's less and less distant in final distance. At less than 10,000km, you want an orbit that's about 5,000 meters different or less.

 

Once you get things very close aim for the target and thrust gently towards it. you should see things coincide with the orbit markers. If your orbit is a gently crossing orbit that's ok. A velocity differential of 10 or less m/s is easy to deal with. Then as you get less than 1000 meters to your target, reduce your differential down to 2-3 m/s at 500 meters and less as you get closer.

 

Mech-Jeb is immensely helpful as it'll give you pointers for direction and such. Getting the basics down of washing your orbit first though without mech jeb makes mech jeb much easier to use.

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I downloaded the pay version this week. It's a whole new universe out there! Landed a probe on Minmus last night. Now, on to Eve or Duna? Decisions, decisions.

 

I need more computing power though.

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They just introduced Paysafecard as an alternate means of payment, where you basically buy prepaid tickets at drugstores etc. and enter their code at online shops which support the system. No need to give any financial or personal information. I used that since I have an inherent distrust of Paypal and similiar payment schemes. Worked flawlessly, too.

 

Managed a 30,000 km Duna flyby. Note to self: solar panels are useless if angeled up on top of your probe while oriented away from the sun. Ship went dead before the encounter and was not able to maneuver, then promptly recharged afterwards continueing in solar orbit. Oh well, I wouldn't have had enough delta-v to land anyway. Currently have an improved design with nuclear transfer stage and tracking solar panels in Kerbal orbit waiting for an Eve or Duna window.

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I have found one can introduce a much larger margin of error by orbiting your transfer stage and then your vessel after a fueling transfer to fully fuel the vessel and lander components. Not necessary for the Mun, but far more useful for a DUNA vessel that has the presuposed mass to keep the crew alive.

 

I'm about to start using the crew transfer and resource component to see if I can keep kerbels supplied and eating/living on a trip to Duna and back. So far I'm just getting the bugs worked out of a Kethane mining program on the Mun so I can orbit fuel for a lower to orbit cost.

 

Mods I'm using regularly.

Docking struts (critical for ships made up of docked components or space stations)

Kethane

the Bobcat suite of mods (really nice modules)

Interplanetary missions pack

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  • 2 weeks later...

In the Week Without TankNet I got a lot done. Probe down on Eve. Reactivated my failed Duna probe for a close Moho fly-by. Hard landing on Dres. Would have landed on Duna too, but arrived with so much fuel to spare that I decided to make a stint to its moon Ike first. Those little bodies are pretty asymmmetrical, and in periapses of just a few kilometers, you may encounter terrain quite suddenly. Ask me how I know ...

 

I have designed a manned single-ship planetary lander with a nuclear return stage, which I have only tested on Kerbal so far. Also developed a twin probe to visit planets and their moons in the same mission, which I have tested on Mün-Minmus flights. There are still some problems with stage control after separation - grouping just goes to hell once you split a mission into two ships - but I discovered one of the Mün arches from orbit.

 

Now that I'm on 0.19.1, I guess my next step will be designing rover probes. Have the week before Easter off, will leave for the family place today to get advise from brother #4 (who infected me with KSP) on a new computer - have a five-year-old Barebone Shuttle with no graphics card, and I'm experiencing time dilatation on interplanetary flights. I swear I'll buy the fastest processor with the biggest honking graphics card that still fit the same format.

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Muhar, 3.1 GHz quad-core processor with GT 640 graphics card. No more time dilatation on interplanetary flights! Plus great detail of spacecraft and landscapes!

 

I have been fiddling around with sub-probes and rovers. The latter in particular seem still somewhat buggy (no pun intended); if you put them on spacecraft, they tend to run their engines along with the ship's, sucking dry batteries unless you manually stop them (but start them again before you drop them off, or they may not run at all). Also have problems switching back from detached probes to the mothership, as often I am only offered "end flight" rather than "go to space center" as an option on the escape menu - may be I'm forgetting to throttle them down, which is difficult in rovers anyway.

 

Lessons of the week: carelessly connecting parts of a probe with the mothership it is supposed to detach from will put the whole assembly in unstoppable motion with external solar panels flying off. However, putting a dying probe on a course into Eve's atmosphere with activated parachutes and extended landing struts will result in a perfect landing even with dry batteries (luckily, nothing will currently burn off during re-entry).

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Are you putting some form of command unit on your probes and mini buggies?

Put an RTG on your biggies. MAke sure your staging is correct for them with the Probe's parts above the decoupler in question. Use the blue decouplers if you want the decoupler to come off both objects.

As to power, I like to add a quartet of panels to my transfer stage as well as the panels on the final probes/landers allowing power to be certainly maintained on the whole package during transfer. A couple of batteries is advisable unless you want to go with an RTG.

Edited by rmgill
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On my double-stack probes, obviously I put a command unit on each of the pair. After experiencing construction and staging control problems with putting the sub-probe (meant to investigate moons while the main probe goes on to their planet) on top of existing designs, I rearranged parts to build top down from the original CU; since the sub-probe is detached first, unfortunately this means the ship designation stays with it while the main probe (now controlled by the added-on CU) and transfer stage get labeled as a probe. That's not too problematic, since you can rename it and rearrange the messed-up staging controls after separation. However, once the sub-probe is landed, I'm only given the option to end the flight rather than go to the space center and re-select the ship while leaving the secondary mission active.

 

Same with detached autonomous rovers; there were only two instances where I was able to switch back to the lander, both during tests on Kerbin after I had managed to fully stop the rover by throttling down and putting on the parking brake. The problem here is that rover motors seem to spin all the time from the get go unless you program them into an action group along with the brake, and even though I put rover speed control on my joystick nick axis in the settings, power is still controlled by the thrust lever. I have solved the power problem with RTGs, but it's still nasty. Looking forward to manual control by Kerbalnauts being implemented.

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That's odd. I'd throw a mech-jeb module on there. That or Remote-Tech Relay component. But then Remote-Tech adds it's own host of challenges, like getting a communications relay network up.

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I have found that the problems in switching back to the space center are indeed due to leaving ships throttled up. Which is smart from a flight safety point of view, but also mildly annoying as I currently have a fleet of five ion-driven "Zapper"* probes underway. Those have 22 engines each, powered by 24 large and 12 small solar arrays plus assorted RTGs, and actually manage a meaningful acceleration (escape from Kerbin after just two revolutions in orbit).

 

However, they are more like sailing ships in that there is an optimal "sailing point", with the sun a couple degrees off their roll axis giving optimal energy flux. There's no burning for a couple seconds or minutes, then turning up time warp; you may thrust for a half or full hour at a time. I'm confident to visit every single body in the solar system with them, though.

 

The real challenge was bringing the increasingly heavy and unwieldy probes of the series into orbit - the last one required a four-and-a-half-stage Zeus-D* carrier with a twin-nuclear engine final stage and struts supporting the outreaching girders which mount the radial solar panels. I also need a bigger graphics card again already ...

 

* I have developed my own naming conventions. My first rocket design in the demo version was designated Athena, followed by the triangular Triton and the Hera moon rocket. My current standard carrier is the Zeus developed from the initial pay-version model Rhea, though I also have the experimental Hermes with air-breathing first stage and am working on the Kronos for heavy planetary landers.

 

My first munar lander design was named Crasher during trials for obvious reasons, which has since evolved into the nuclear-powered Radiator for (as of yet untried) planetary landings. Then there are the Kaputnik and Exploder landing probes, the latter developed into the re-entry-capable Reexploder, and the Collider rover probe. I also have the experimental Truckinator manned rover-ship standing around, but that is more of an aberration, basically a direct-landing Mk 1 command pod with truck wheels ...

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  • 2 weeks later...

You'll never get a 40-ton tanker truck to Minmus, they said. And why would you, they said. Watch me, I said. I'm gonna refuel my interplanetary flights without all the hassle of orbital maneuvring, I said.

 

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Stardrive is a completely different game, it's a 4X strategy game, whereas this one is, from what I've read here, a space program simulator. You don't get to build space battleships and conquer the galaxy. ;)

 

... yet? ;)

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