Long-term Laythe - Part 15

Vall Venture - Part 2

I decided to clear out all of the ships I have transferring in Kerbol orbit...just so I can get on with things. Yes, I know that my kerbals on Laythe and elsewhere should really be doing all sorts of things in the meanwhile...but let's assume they've all discovered a cool new game called Human Space Program that they've be spending all their time playing. Or something.

So, after sending off the gigantic lag ships (the BirdDogs and the Vall Expedition on their Triple Tugs), the next thing that came up in Kerbal Alam Clock was Laythe Base 2 heading into the Jool system. I pulled it up and found... that it was still perfectly targeted to a Jool aerocapture from the midcourse maneuver I had done many weeks ago (my time). So I just had to carefully sneak it across the Sphere of Influence boundary at 1x speed, and let it fall in toward Jool. Below we see it passing near Laythe on its way in.

Below we see the aerocapture at Jool, burning through the atmosphere at about 114 kilometers altitude. The Base does have a heatshield to protect it...and apparently the tugs are still made of some amazingly heat resistent material at this point in time, since the ship came through just fine.

I quickly got an encounter with Laythe (after a relatively small targeting maneuver) and below we see the aerocapture of the ship over the night side of Laythe.

I used the Tug to raise the periapsis a couple times, allowing for two aerobraking passes to lower the ship's orbit from the initial eccentric orbit. Once in its final Laythe orbit of 80 to 90 kilometers, the Tug's main tank was over 63% full. Later, I'll take that fuel and drop most of it off at Laythe Space Station. I separated the Tug and targeted Base 2 into the Fido Bay area of Dansen Island, a few kilometers north of the current Laythe base site. Deorbiting was done by four 24-77 engines fed by two FL-T200 tanks mounted on top of the heat shield.

Base 2 comes burning in towards Fido Bay...

The heat shield is dropped, and then it was just a matter of waiting for the right moment to pop the chutes. First came the two drogue chutes. The landing gear were also deployed at this time. The landing gear are needed because otherwise the heavy weight of the base would blow the tires upon landing (I suppose that would not really matter here because I have kerbals on site to fix the wheels).

After the drogue chutes fully open, the eight main chutes are popped out in reefed condition. After the mains open fully at 500 meters AGL, the Base descends at about 7 m/s and touches down safely.

Kurt and Nelemy hop in the Fido over at Laythe Base 1 and drive over to check out the new Base. As you can see, the Base has three 4-kerbal Hitchhiker pods, one to serve as bunkhouse, one in the center to serve as the dayroom work area, and the other with more laboratory and improved life-support equipment. On top is a 2-kerbal control pod as the operations center. The modules are connected with "tunnels" that I envision allowing the kerbals to access the different modules without having to suit up. You'll notice that there are eight roundified RCS tanks on the base, but no RCS quads... those represent tanks for various consumables. The base has eight RTGs for power, but also has some solar panels that can be delpoyed if they are running experiments or recycling equipment that requires more power during the daytime. Currently, a lot of the empty space in the modules is filled with boxes of supplies, of course.

Nelemy: "Dude! They have kinds of snacks I've never seen before!"
Kurt: "Is that always the first thing you check? But it's nice to know that the big brains back on Kerbin continue to advance snack technology. Just don't eat any right now...we have to move the base."
Nelemy: "Mmmpfh?"

A couple kilometers off the the east, much of the heat shield has crashed down intact. I'll let the boys build something out of those parts later...I'll assuming they have some cutting/welding torches. (Well...*I'll* see what I can build out of those parts in the VAB and teleport it over to them.)

Kurt got into the control cabin and retracted the landing gear, and started driving Base 2 around (no doubt with helpful guidance information from Nelemy following in the Fido). I didn't really mean for Base 2 to be a fully-mobile exploration base... I only included the wheels so it could lumber along and be moved slowly to new positions if needed. But it turned out that it could easily travel along at up to 20 m/s on the relatively smooth terrain of the Laythe Base area. Thompbles originally wanted the new base to be located north of the current base, but there was a low ridge separating that location from the current base, so he had Kurt drive the base southeast to see how it looked over there. They wanted the new base to be located at least 2.3 km from the current base to prevent lag...er, I mean, to be sure it was located on higher ground in case of any future tsunamis. But the land to the east seemed a bit steep, so Thompbles had Kurt drive it over to the south to see if it looked good there. But the elevations there were not great, so Thompbles had Kurt move it back to the east.

Kurt: "Will you make up your mind?! You're like a little old lady having me drag her couch all around the room looking for the perfect spot."
Thompbles: "It's almost perfect now. Just a bit further east and there's a small shelf in the hillside so it can sit more level. Does the tilt of the base look good to you, Nelemy?"
Nelemy: "Mmmpfh?"
Thompbles: "I'll see if I can drag Aldner away from playing HSP, and we'll both come over in the wobbly rover to help you unload supplies."

Below is the final location for the Laythe Base 2 module, overlooking the current base site closer to the bay, and located over 150 meters above sea level. The base was oriented so that the operations center window has a nice view of Jool on the eastern horizon, and the landing legs were extended for extra stability.

After this, Alarm Clock reminded me that I needed to take care of the plane shift maneuvers for the BirdDogs and, one day later, the Vall Expedition. These burns required 135 m/s and 142 m/s of delta-V. I was able to target the BirdDogs in toward a 114 km periapsis at Jool, but the targeting of the Vall ship was encountering Tylo, so I had to settle for an apoapsis further out for now (I'll fix that closer in). After these maneuvers, the Triple Tugs of the BirdDogs had 7% of the fuel left in their rear tanks (the tanks of the triple tug adapter were dry...and I had to move fuel back into the central tanks of the GasStations where it had been sucked out -- I really wish ships would remember when you've set parts of them to NOT crossfeed fuel). The Triple Tugs of the Vall Expedition had only 2% of the fuel left in their rear tanks. This was fine -- these tanks are often used up in the boost out of Kerbin orbit... but the ships did start out with the additional fuel in the tanks of the triple tug adapters.

The next thing to take care of was the Secondary Base + Fido payload that was also heading in toward the Jool system. This payload consists of another Laythe base that is like the original, along with a slightly more compact version of the Fido rover. The intention is to drop this somewhere on Laythe as an alternate base that kerbals can explore from.

The Secondary Base's trajectory to Jool was such that the descending node of the trajectory relative to Jool's orbit occured immediately before entering into Jool's SOI. Back when I launched this, this arrangement seemed like a good thing because it meant that the plane shift burn could be done as far from the sun as possible. But, it turned out not to be as good as I'd hoped, since this also delayed my fine targeting burn until the ship was quite close to Jool, so that took much more fuel than normal. Ah, well, the Tug had plenty of fuel. Below, we see me targeting the incoming ship using Conic Draw Mode 0 (which is easily set on the fly using the Improved Maneuver Nodes mod that I love). This lets me tweak the maneuver node (off in the distance there) while I'm focused in close on the Jool system to see exactly what the trajectory looks like close to Jool. The only problem I have with the process is that shifting the focus to Jool is not easy when you have the Jool system full of dozens of ships and probes -- trying to double-click on Jool to focus on it often leads to selecting a spacecraft instead. It would be nice if the little pop-up menu that appears when you click on Jool ALSO had the choice "Focus on Jool". And, while we are mentioning dirt-simple fixes to the KSP interface, how about adding a "Go to Tracking Station" button to the menu that comes up when you press ESC? It's annoying to have to "Go to Space Center" and wait a long time for that view to load just so I can click on the Tracking Station. AND, while we are at it, it would be nice if they changed the direction the planets rotate around in the "wait" icon in the bottom-right... it looks like it hould go the other way. What? Quit complaining and get on with it? OK, OK.

As I was targeting the aerocapture at Jool, Laythe kept getting in the way. OK, have it your own way... I'll send the ship in for a direct aerocapture at Laythe. Normally I avoid doing a direct-to-Laythe aerocapture because it seems more unrealistic to try to burn off all that interplanetary speed screeching to a halt in a short span of Laythe's atmosphere. I expect that when reentry heat and damge are added, even doing the Jool/Laythe two-step my be too hot to handle. We'll probably have to do some engine breaking, then skim high up through Jool's atmosphere, slowing down just enough to get captured in a huge orbit...then perform a couple more aerobrakings through Jool's atmosphere to lower our orbit. What a pain. Is that how you Dangerous Reentry guys have to get to Jool? Below: Plotting the small burn needed to ensure a prograde near-equatorial orbit for the secondary base...with wonderful conic draw mode 0, of course.

Below, the ship plunges headlong toward Laythe. The planets almost look like a Mastercard logo. "Don't carry cash to the Jool system... take Mastercard! Much more mass-efficient."

I forgot to note the entry speed, but here we are part-way through the aerocapture flames. The ship is tearing through the atmosphere 20 clicks directly over Laythe Base. There must have been a hell of a sonic boom and light show for the boys to watch.

Safe in an elliptical Laythe orbit! Also on board this ship are two more comsats, nestled under the front and rear of the rover. Below, we see the first of the comsats being popped out.

Then the other comsat was popped out, and the antennas and solar panels were deployed. The secondary base will remain in the high elliptical orbit for now until I decide where to drop it (so that any plane-shift needed will be cheaper). The comsats were manueuvered up into approximately 10000 km cicular orbits. Hopefully now it's less likely that all of them won't all be bunched up on the same side of the planet when we need them. Yes, yes, I could try to tweak them all into perfect orbits that will keep them nicely spaced...but that's not my particular idea of fun. So I'll just throw more satellites at the problem.

Next up, Kerbal Alarm Clock started nagging me about Laythe Tug 6 that was returning to Kerbin. My burn sending this tug out of the Jool system had been sub-optimal, but a relatively small midcourse burn set it up nicely for a Kerbin intercept, and I did some final targeting to do an aerocapture pass at 29.5 km.

Below, the white-hot goodness of compressed palsma provides a light show over Kerbin. The aerocapture resulted in an elliptical orbit with an apoapsis of 552 km. I then rasied the periapsis a bit, did an aerobraking pass, and raised the periapsis again, and made a final aerobraking pass, then raised the periapsis out of the atmosphere with the Tug in moderatly low orbit, ready for refueling and re-use. But the design became obsolete in the time it took the Tug to travel to Jool and back. All those probe cores were there to provide extra torque...but now the old SAS unit provides plenty of torque, and all those probe cores are just a huge drain on electricity. Maybe I'll just deorbit some of these old tugs (ones that have parachutes on the nukes, anyway), and use the parts for upgraded tugs.

And now for the main event: The Vall Expedition and replacement BirdDogs are heading into the Jool system. Even though the BirdDogs were boosted away from Kerbin first, the Vall Expedition is the first to arrive at Jool's sphere of influence, four days ahead of the BirdDogs. The small high gain antennas on the ships are designed to communicate with the huge high-transmission-power, high-reception-sensitivity antennas at KSC, but once the ships get close enough together, they can start communicating with each other.

Hellou: "*static*...calling Laythe Base. Vall Expedition calling Laythe Base."
Kurt: "This is Laythe Base. I read you Vall Expedition. This is Kurt Kerman speaking."
Hellou: "Vall ex... Oh! Hello, Kurt! You're coming in fine, too. We have crossed into the Jool system."
Kurt: "Oh, wow. It's great to talk to somebody without a couple minutes of light-speed delay. Welcome to Jool, the best little outpost this side of Duna."
Hellou: "Thank you. Hold on, and I'll get Emilynn.. *crackle* Emi...I've got Kurt Kerman on the line."
Emilynn: "Hey there, Jaymak! How are all you pudknockers on Laythe doing?"
Kurt: "Now, Hawk, I told you before that it's impolite to call your fellow pilots 'pudknockers'."
Emilynn: "Hey, I know pudknockers when I see pudknockers. Is your Grand Poobah available?"
Kurt: "Hang on, Hawk. I'll get him."
Emilynn: "Thankie, Jaymak."
Thombles: "Commander Emilynn, this is Thompbles. Welcome to the Jool system. Is there anything we can do for you?"
Emilynn: "No, sir....just checking in as required. All is well here. I had to jink a bit wide of Tylo on the way in, so I need to do a burn now to fine tune my periapsis at Jool."
Thompbles: "OK, commander, I'll leave you to it. If you want to send your parameters to Kurt, we can do some orbital sims here to double check the trajectories."
Emilynn: "Thankie. Always good to have backup. Put him back on the line."

In the plot below, we see Laythe in the lower right, Vall in the center, and Tylo on the left. The things orbiting between Laythe and Vall are Tugs L7 and L8 in parking orbits around Jool waiting to be sent back to Kerbin.

Below, the Vall Expedition ship falls in toward Jool. Laggy as ever.

Below, the aerodynamic heating affects begin to appear. I mentioned that the flimsy connections between the triple tugs were sufficient because the forces were the same on all three parts under thrust. But, during aerocapture, the different forces acting on the separate parts made them wiggle around a fair amount...and wobble around a LOT if I tried to use physical time warp. So, the laggy ride through Jool's atmosphere had to be done at 1x and took a loooooong time.

Hellou: "Em-Emi? Is the ship-p sup-posed to sh-ake so much?"
Emilynn: "Not a problem, Chickadee! It's only a problem if it suddenly quits shaking, because that would be when it breaks apart!"
Hellou: "Oh, gr-reat. I fell much bet-ter now."

The Vall Ex. ship camee through at a periapsis of 116.9 km, and that left its apoapsis right on Vall's orbit. A tiny bit higher periapsis might have been better, giving a apoapsis a little ways out beyond Vall so the ship could loiter around for an encounter longer out there.

Aldner: "Laythe Base calling Vall Expedition. Aldner Kerman calling Vall Expedition."
Emilynn: "Hey! Buzz! How they hangin'?"
Aldner: "At point 8 gee, not so low. Welcome to our neck of the woods, Hawk. I have the trajectory data following your apo-burn. We confirm that you will have no moon encounters until after the BirdDogs do their aero capture, unless you want to burn fuel."
Emilynn: "Thankie, Buzz. No, I'll hang tight and let you guys handle your incoming load first. I appreciate the co-piloting from afar. Hey, let me put Hellou on for you."
Hellou: "Hi, Aldner. Long time, no see. You never told me your call sign was 'Buzz'."
Aldner: "That's right, 'Chickadee.'
Hellou: "Hey, don't blame that one on me...Emi gave me the name. So why 'Buzz'...are you some kind of insect?"
Aldner: "No. Back in the early days I had a habit of buzzing the control center. I grew out of it, but the nickname stuck with the other pilots."
Hellou: "Oh, you'd love the new control tower they built at KSC."
Emilynn: "Hey, Buzz. We still got some stuff to clean up from the shaking we got, and then we're going to get some shut eye. I'll let you keep my girl up late talking some other night."
Aldner: "Roger, Hawk. Talk to you later. Night, Hellou."

Next in came the BirdDogs with their multiple GasStations...laggy, but not as laggy as the Vall Ex. ship. Again, I had to sit through the looong laggy aerocapture at 1x to minimize the shaking of the ship. The aerocapture altitude was 114.5 km, which placed the apoapsis a little way out beyond Laythe's orbit.

Below are the orbits after the aerocaptures and apoapsis kicks of the two ships. Then I took a break. I did ponder what would be the most efficient way to get to Vall... My default method (based on what I did in my early Visiting Vall mission), was just to wait in the post-aerocapture orbit for a handy encounter with Vall. If Jool does have a powerful radiation belt, it would probably be important not to hang around in this zone any longer than necessary, even if burning extra fuel was required. And, while I hang around like this for a Laythe capture, so that Laythe's atmosphere can provide all the delta-V for speeding the ship up to Laythe's orbital velocity...in the case of going to Vall, my ships's engines are going to provide the delta-V to speed up to Vall's orbital velocity. So maybe it's all the same if I burn out at apoapsis right away to speed up to Vall's orbital speed, and then arrange a capture out there at a slower relative velocity. Or would that be losing me so gravity-assist that I get from coming at Vall from further in? BUT...I think maybe the most efficient way might be to get an aerocapture by Laythe (or an almost-aerocapture) and then proceed on to Vall from there. Has anybody done the calculations comparing these options? I was originally planning on using a save game to repeat the mission trying different methods...but this laggy beast is such a pain to work with, that ain't happening.

The first ship to get an encounter was the BirdDogs. I planned a small burn to adjust the encounter and got the plot below, which may look funny until you recall that I'm using conic draw mode zero, so the encounter path is down near Laythe, and the seemingly disconnected ellipse is where the ship would end up if it shot past the Laythe encounter.

I did the maneuver to encounter Laythe and tweaked the aerocapture altitude at Laythe to 24.36 km. This emptied the fuel in the rear drop tanks of the three Tugs, so I separated those as the ship headed in toward Laythe. These empty tanks should then do aerocapture and then multiple aerobrakings until they enter Laythe's atmosphere...but that wouldn't happen unless I actually focus on the tanks and follow them around. I'll probably just terminate their flights later.

Some reentry heating...a little plane shift with Jool as a backdrop after Laythe aerocapture...some further aerobraking and orbital maneuvers... and the BirdDogs and GasStations are safe in Laythe equatorial orbit, ready to be brought down under remote control on another day.

The main fuel tanks of the three Tugs are almost 90% full... plenty of fuel to bring to Laythe Space Station....... except... hmmm... ...there's no way to dock those Tugs at Laythe Station because they all have Senior docking ports, and the Station has no Senior docking ports...having been built back before Senior docking ports were developed. Bugger. I guess I should have kept one of those rear drop tanks attached, since they had standard ports on their bottoms. I COULD blow the Senior port off of the center Tug to uncover the standard port underneath...but then that Tug becomes useless for re-use pushing Senior-port payloads from Kerbin. Bugger. Ah... there is a standard port on the top of the Double GasStation in the center...so once I dump off the BirdDogs and the two side GasStations, I could use that to dock to the station...maybe it would be toooo laggy. Ah! The Tug that brought in the Secondary Base + Fido is one of the upgraded old Tugs that has a standard from port, but also has a Senior port on its butt for docking on the drop tank. So I can dock THAT to the station, then bring these other tugs in individually to dock there and offload fuel in a less laggy manner. Yeah...I like that. Maybe it would have been better to plan ahead properly...but getting the job done with the tools at hand is satisfying in its own way.

Almost immediately after the the BirdDogs got settled down in Laythe orbit, an encounter came up for the Vall Ex. ship.....at Laythe. Should I? But while fiddling with a maneuver to either dodge Laythe (the ship had earlier dodged past Laythe, getting a little pump-up to a slightly higher orbit) or maybe try for a Laythe/Vall two-step... I saw that I could get a direct Vall encounter. So I just went with the original plan and took that.

Below is the maneuver setting up the close pass by Vall (about 163 km). I dropped the three rear tanks, now empty, partway through the burn for this maneuver, to fly happily around Jool forever...or until an eventual Laythe or Vall encounter scatters them hither and yon. Actually, I terminated their flights...but now I wish I had left them there to see where they would have ended up.

And here's the orbital insertion burn to put the Vall Ex. ship into a 163 x 1500 elliptical orbit around Vall. This is what I used.

Below: The Vall Expedition ship safely in orbit around Vall. While it was still in the high eccentric equatorial orbit, the four comsats were popped off of the lander and deployed. I'll give them kicks at apoapsis to put them into circular 1500 km orbits... later.

The Vall Ex. lagfest ship was maneuvered into a 163 x 165 orbit. Good enough. Man, I can't wait to start breaking this ship apart and getting the lag down. In this final orbit, the three Tugs had 47% fuel left in their main tanks. One of those Tugs will be used for returning the Vall crew to Kerbin later.

Emilynn: "Vall Station calling Laythe. Are you boys awake?"
Nelemy: "Yo, this is Nelemy speaking."
Emilynn: "Hey Nelemy. This is Emilynn. Nice to meet ya'! Looks like we're going to be neighbors for a while. Please tell the others that we are safely in our operational orbit around Vall, and thanks for the trajectory help. I surely appreciated it."
Nelemy: "Sure thing, Emilynn."
Emilynn: "All right. We'll be off the air for a while. You sleep tight tonight too, Nelemy."

And so ends this installment, as the boys on Laythe have a fine supper in their new bigger Base.

Nelemy: "Wow, dudes. Just think of it: Female kerbals, just 16,000 km away."
Kurt: "What? Listen to what you just said."
Nelemy: "Well...OK...16,000 kilometers..."
Thompbles: "...More like 40,000 at the moment..."
Nelemy: "...OK, sure. But in the same moon system, dudes! And that Emilynn seemed pretty nice."
Kurt: "Cool your jets, kid. Emilynn doesn't...how shall we say...fancy boy kerbals."
Nelemy: "Whoah, dude! You mean she's..."
Kurt: "Yup."
Nelemy: "Oh. ...Not that there's anything wrong with that."
Kurt: "Not at all."
Thompbles: "Hey...the KSC has an official "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. How would you even know that?"
Kurt: "Oh, Hawk's not shy about it. And let's just say that she 'shot down' our flyboy here in more way than one."
Aldner: "How about let's just say we don't discuss it at all?"
Thompbles: "OK, guys, it's time we got some sleep. We have a lot of work ahead of us, getting BirdDogs and GasStations and alternate bases landed, and Tugs docked to the station and fuel transfered. They'll be plenty to occupy your minds."