Long-term Laythe - Part 16

Vall Venture - Part 3

Time to get all the new equipment landed on Vall and Laythe, or otherwise positioned where it's needed.

I've been looking forward to breaking apart the lag-beast at Vall, so let's start there. The three Tugs have a little under 47% propellant remaining in their main tanks, so almost all of that propellant was removed from the right Tug (in the picture below) and moved it to the Tug of the main Vall ship (on the left). The right-Tug retained enough fuel to return to Kerbin. A little extra fuel from the middle-Tug, and the main ship was 100% full.

The double Fido rover payload was separated, and then the middle Tug was separated. Emilynn Kerman then moved the main ship off to the side, and then the separated middle-Tug docked to the rovers. The rovers were then sent off into a slightly lower orbit (by about 3 km) to get them out of Lag City. Happily, things got much nicer after that -- those rovers seem to be the major cause of the lag with this ship.

The next step, below, was to move the unoccupied Lander over to dock to the top of the main Vall ship (which is now on the right side, just to confuse the innocent). You know...I really love Romfarer's Lazor docking camera mod.

After the Lander was docked to the top of the main ship, the main ship and its fully-fueled Tug were separated from the triple-tug adapter, and the remaining Tug attached to the adapter dragged it off tot he side. Then the main Vall ship was docked back to its Tug. Most of this docking ballet was easy because the ship parts were just kept aligned to North, and it was very easy to slide parts back together.

Below, Jool comes over the horizon to greet the completed Vall Station. It has the Tug that will eventually return Emilynn and Hellou back to Kerbin. It also has the main Habitat, which will serve as living quarters for the return to Kerbin, but also is a fully capable emergency lander that could go down to Vall and back if needed -- or it could even land on Laythe, since it has some parachutes attached -- and it also has two single capsules with retro packs that could be used to land on Laythe (I love having lots of options in case of emergencies). And on top is the Vall Lander. This Lander doesn't drop any tanks, so it can be used to go down to Vall and back multiple times if it's refueled. That is, in fact, the plan: Emilynn and Hellou will explore from two different widely-spaced locations on Vall as part of their mission; and that's also why they brought two rovers.

The last Tug attached to the triple-tug adapter was shifted to the middle docking port so that it could push the adapter into a higher orbit where it will be left behind. I don't plan to use it, but I decided to keep it where it might be handy if needed. Its three tanks are empty.

I also took the time to put the remaining three comsats into high circular orbits where they could join the first one that was already there. These were still in the elliptical orbit that the Vall ship first came in on, and I just waited until one of the comsats reached apopasis at a time when the already-placed consats were not nearby, then did a circularization burn for that comsat.

Time to start the Vall surface exploration mission! Vall Fido 1 with its lander stage on top was popped off of the stack, ready to make its descent to the surface. The other rover will stay with the Tug, which has a fair amount of fuel, so it could potentially be used to do a large plane-shift maneuver and drop the second Fido anywhere on Vall if Emilynn and Hellou crash their first rover and need an emergency replacement. But the second rover will hopefully not be needed for this...in which case it will be used later for a second exploration location on Vall.

Two LV-909 engines will take care of the deorbiting and landing of the Fido 1 rover. It is being targeted a couple degrees south of the equator to the northern edge of a large basin.

Below, the Vall Fido 1 descends to the airless surface of Vall.

The landing location of the rover was on a long 12° slope, which was more of an incline than desired for setting up base operations, so the Fido drove down the slope, keeping its speed to less than 10 m/s because it was still carrying its lander stage on top. It eventually found a less-steep location to the south, and parked there to act as landing target for the Vall Lander with our intrepid crew on board.

Below, Emilynn transfers over to the lander via EVA. Really, with all these hatches on all these docking ports and other parts, why hasn't Squad implemented internal transfer between docked modules yet? OK...Emilynn would probably use the transfer as an excuse to do an EVA, anyway...but I'm sure Hellou would prefer the docking tunnels.

With Emilynn in the lander can, and Hellou in the (Hitchhiker) habitat module, the Vall Lander separated from Vall Station and headed for the surface. The lander has six of the small Rockomax 48-7S engines on the bottom of its six FL-T400 tanks. This should be plenty of fuel to land on Vall and return to the station in equatorial orbit later. In the right half of the picture, we see the lander with antennas and landing legs deployed, dropping toward the surface.

Hellou: "Vall Lander calling Laythe Base."
Kurt: "This is Laythe Base. Kurt here. I read you loud and clear."
Hellou: "Hi, Kurt. We are descending to Vall. Retro burn went as planned."
Kurt: "OK. We're monitoring. Is all going well?"
Emilynn: "Oh, hell yes, Jaymak! The ship is handling like a dream. It might be nice if it had some more powerful motors than these little 7S toys, but I'll avoid trying to do any last-second kamikaze burns."
Kurt: "Roger, Hawk. Put her down gently."
Emilynn: "No worries! Time for the big braking burn. Talk to you later!"

Below, the Lander slows using the very efficient, if not overly powerful, 48-7S engines...

...and touches down gently 2.3 kilometers from the Fido rover.

Emilynn: "And we are DOWN! Attitude stable. Engine Arm circuit OFF. Fuel level at 44.8%. Greetings from Eve Basin, boys! Kerbals have returned to Vall!"
Kurt: "Roger, Hawk. We copy you down. Eve Basin?"
Hellou: "Yes. We are naming this basin after Eve, the goddess of love, the color purple, and telling male kerbals they are wrong."
Kurt: "I'm sure the boys at KSC will love the name."
Emilynn: "You're probably wrong about that, Jaymak. OK, I'm going to take care of wrangling that Fido over here, then maybe we'll go out for a little walk later. Can you check the video relay links back to KSC for me, Hellou?"
Hellou: "Already on it, Emi. We want to look good for the primetime news."

Below, the landing site of the Vall Lander, seen in the center of the picture, at 2° 23.7' South, 141° 20.5' East, at an elevation of 749 meters. The probe icon off to the right is the science package left behind where Bill Kerman landed the Vall Lewis Lander to become the first kerbal on Vall almost 12 years earlier. The probe icon near the bottom-left is where Bob Kerman left a science package by Vallhenge on that same expedition. Emilynn and Hellou's landing location was chosen because they intend to do an epic rover journey to Vallhenge, and it looks like there is a navigable route to get there.

Emilynn remotely guided the Fido rover over to the Vall Lander, then separated the lander stage from the top of the Fido and hopped it to a landing a short distance away.

Then Emilynn fired the two little decouplers, and the two engine pods separated from the lander stage. You may have noticed the command seats on top of those engine pods. During my "engineering simulations" when designing the Vall Fido lander stage, I always had those engine pod tanks end up over half full of fuel (because it's always nice to have a little extra fuel). So I figured with the added command seats and the decoupler mechanism, I now have two emergency return-to-orbit pods that give our intrepid explorers another option for getting off Vall in case something went wrong with their Lander (perhaps during landing). Anyway...waste not, want not. Be prepared. And other clichés.

Somewhat disconcertingly, when I switched away to some other location (taking care of a different ship) and returned my focus to the landing site, the collection of empty fuel tanks exploded a little ways into the sky and fell back. But nothing important was damaged.

In time for the primetime news hour back at KSC, our heroines disembark for their first EVA on Vall. Below we see Emilynn about to step onto the surface.

Emilynn: "Greetings to everyone back home on Kerbin! That was a heck of a fun landing! Wish you all were here!"
Hellou: "Nice words, Emi. Thanks for using 'heck'."
Emilynn: "Hey, I said you could be first out if the words were important. Come on out, Chickadee... the water's fine. Hard as a rock, in fact."
Hellou: "OK, I'm opening the hatch now."

You'll notice in the image above that there are two lights angled inward on either side of the hatch to the lander can. This is because I found out during engineering testing that a single light located above the hatch (which seemed like a good idea) causes the kerbals to bump their heads upon exiting the hatch and getting rather violently thrown to the ground. Which never looks good on world-wide television. Unfortunately for the boys on Laythe, their new Base 2 has exactly that kind of arrangement. Very embarrassing. And I believe I've had this happen in the past on a ship in orbit around Kerbin...and the kick from the bumping the light caused the kerbals to go sailing off a considerable distance from the ship when they went out for EVA. So heed well my warning.

Below, Hellou joins Emilynn on the surface.

Hellou: "I'm on the surface. Hello to everybody on Kerbin! The view is beautiful! I'm going to take some contingency samples of the surface material now."
Emilynn: "Looks like dirty ice to me."
Hellou: "Yes, Emi. I'll handle the geological reports."

Below, with the video transmission back to Kerbin completed, Emilynn and Hellou watch Kerbol set behind the mountains.

Aldner: "Laythe Base calling Vall Lander. Aldner Kerman calling Vall Lander."
Emilynn: "Hi there, Buzz! What's up?"
Aldner: "We watched your show. Great work. I notice you didn't plant a flag."
Emilynn: "Ah, you noticed that, did you? Planting flags is under Hellou's department. I handle the piloting, half the rover driving, and the repair of equipment and wheels. Hellou handles flags, the other half of the rover driving, science, and explosives."
Hellou: "Umm...I forgot to bring out the flag."
Aldner: "Wait...explosives? Why explosives? Is this some geology thing?"
Hellou: "No. Well, I have some small charges for that as well. But the explosives are mainly for blasting a shelter into the ice if we need to hide from any radiation storms. I can blast us a nice bunker in 20 minutes flat...but I can do a much better job if I have longer. You see, we aren't lucky like you boys on Laythe with your nice atmosphere to hide under. If there's a kerbol-flare and Jool's radiation belts act up, all we have around us is vacuum."
Aldner: "I thought Jools magnetic field would protect us from any kerbol-flares."
Hellou: "Sure, it will deflect a lot of it. You wouldn't get blasted directly like you would if your ship was out between the planets. But a lot of those high energy particles will work their way in to add to Jool's radiation belts. And if the kerbol-flare is accompanied by a strong coronal mass ejection, it would compress Jool's magnetic field and the radiation belt intensity could spike by a few orders of magnitude. Best to be under several meters of ice if that happens."
Emilynn: "My little Chickadee sure does that geek-speak real well. And it was a lot of fun watching her blast holes in the ice cap back on Kerbin for practice! Listen, Buzz, we're going to pack it in for the night. We have to check out the rover tomorrow and get ready for our big drive. We'll talk to you later."

And so our heroines retired for the night in their comfy habitat module...where the bunks are located down low so the fuel remaining in the surrounding tanks acts as additional radiation shielding.

Emilynn's Dream

NOTE: The sequence below DID NOT HAPPEN. This is only one of Emilynn's dreams. Below, we see the Emilynn dreaming that she's out inspecting one of the engine pods from the Fido's lander stage.

It only makes sense to check out the command seat to see if it's comfortable. Yes. Very comfy. Hmmm... the fuel tank is over half full.

"Yeeeeeee-HA! Now that's a ship with decent thrust!"

"And enough fuel to make it all the way to rendezvous with Vall Station! Hahahahahaha! That's fine! Fine! F-nine!"

Hellou: "Umm...Emi?"
Emilynn: "Zzz..Huh? Wassup?"
Hellou: "Are you OK? You were making funny noises in your sleep."
Emilynn: "Oh, sorry. Just having a little dream. Hmmm...I wonder how far I could fly one and land back on the surface?"
Hellou: "What?"
Emilyn: "Huh? Oh, nothing. Go back to sleep."

Meanwhile, back on Laythe...

Orbiting Laythe, the big triple-tug BirdDog transport was ready to be disassembled. It was still in its eccentric orbit, and I decided to leave it there until after disassembly in order to save fuel (rather than drop the ship to a low circulr orbit first -- the BirdDogs and GasStations would come in a little hotter this way, but they each had enough fuel to deorbit from there). First off was the BirdDog 3, which would be remotely piloted down by Nelemy.

Below, the BirdDog fires its retro pack. I have a probe core between the retro pack tanks and the top docking port to give me a handy place to control the ship from during retro burn. The standard entry profile for landing at Fido Bay on Dansen island is shown: a small plane shift is required, and the trajectory is targeted to halfway between Dansen island and the tiny Mariliza island.

Nelemy orients the BirdDog 3 for entry and the entry plasma flames begin to appear.

Aldner: "Yo, Little Buddy...you still have the retro pack attached."
Nelemy: "Huh? Oh! Yeah...hold on, Dude... OK...it's decoupled now!"
Kurt: (at the hatch) "Wow...Great entry flames. Hey, you got nice Mach effects there for a couple seconds.
Aldner: "It's through entry. Remember to jettison the wheel heat shields."

Because of the lift, the BirdDog overshot the Fido Bay area, and Nelemy circled it back around, managing to pitch up violently a couple times...but the plane recovered quickly. But that did place the plane lower than expected. Rather than burn lots of jet fuel, Nelemy set the plane down about 5 km east of the base on steeper terrain than usual.

Then Nelemy raised the nose gear to drop the rover wheels to the ground, and drove the plane over to the new base.

Nelemy: "Allright, Dudes! Down and safe."
Thompbles: "Try not to run it into the base or rover when you park it."
Nelemy: "No problemo, Captain Thombples, Dude. Wheels stopped. OK, I'll go unload all the supply boxes from the cockpit!"
Kurt: "Just don't eat all the new snacks, OK?"

Then it was Kurt's turn at the remote-control panel. BirdDog 4 was separated from the big ship and Kurt fired the retros for a standard entry. Below, the retro pack drifts away from the BirdDog... and then the intense entry flames of the steep entry, and then Kurt popped off the wheel heat shields over Fido Bay. I've never seen these shields survive imapact... maybe they despawn first.

Kurt made a more liesurely turn to bring the BirdDog back around to the base area, then landed it gently on the flats a little over a kilometer from the old base. Then he remotely drove it over to the new base in rover mode.

Kurt: "BirdDog 4 is parked and powered down. I'll go unload the supplies from the cockpit."
Thompbles: "It looks like Nelemy is alreay over there pulling out the boxes."
Aldner: "Guys, we have quite a nice little air wing here."
Kurt: "The famous Laythe Air Force!"
Thompbles: "And now that we have several operational planes with lots of rescue options, you guys can finish off the island surveys."

Next to be deorbited was the Double GasStation. This was separated from the big ship, and its twelve 24-77 engines were fired to send the station on its way down to the Fido Bay area.

Below: the entry flames. Then it was a matter of waiting for the right moment to deploy the twelve parachutes.

I was trying to land it by the previous GasStations, but it went a little long and actually ended up touching down closer to the new base (which you can see off in the distance wih the Laythe Air Force.

The Big Question, of course, was "will the BirdDogs be able to dock to either of the two refueling booms on this ship?" ...since it would be annoying to have all that jet fuel unavailable. So Aldner drove his BirdDog on over and tried it out. The boom port looked to be a bit high... but with careful placement of the BirdDog, the ports clicked together after the nose gear was lowered to raise the front of the plane. Excellent!

Up in orbit, GasStation 4 was separated from the increasingly-inappropriayely-named Big Ship. The gas station was targeted to Aldner Island to serve as a refuling base for the exploration of the remaining islands in the southeast section of the Big Ass Impact Feature on the far side of Laythe. Below, we see the six 24-77 engines deorbiting the station, and then see it passing over Bsalis Island on its way to the southeast corner of Aldner Island.

The southeast corner of Aldner Island has a long, sloping landing area located at Laythe's equator, so it's a nice place for a reconnaissance base. GasStation 4 ended up at a 6° tilt.

GasStation 5 is being left in the eccentric orbit so that it can be landed at some future time at a place where it will be needed. By keeping it in the high eccentric orbit, it will be easier to easily land it at a high latitude, if desired. Below, the GasStation and Tug are separated from the triple-adapter, which the other tugs pull out of the way, and then the Tug docks to the GasStation. The main tanks of these tugs all all still pretty full.

As you may recall, a secondary Base + Fido rover payload came into the Jool system and was parked in Laythe orbit waiting for a decision about where to put it. I was originally thinking of putting it on Aldner Island, but the payload includes a rover, and Aldner Island (although nicely placed at the equator for a fine base location) is really not a very large island, and I thought the rover could be put to better use exploring a bigger island. So I decided to put this Base/rover combo onto the high basin area on Fedoly Island (the large island to the southwest of Dansen Island). It has a nice wide basin, easy for landing planes, and is located far from the oceans, so no danger of tsunamis. But it is located at over 13 degrees South latitude, so first I had to use the Tug (the recycled/upgraded Tug L5) to shift the orbital plane to reach 12 degrees South...and the Base's engines could handle it from there.

Then it was just a matter of waiting for the right time when Fredoly Island would be lining up under the orbit, and the payload was separated from the Tug and deorbited with its four 24-77 engines. Below, we see the retro burn and then we see the payload heading in toward Fredoly.

The payload came in from a relatively high elliptical orbit (I left it there so the plane change maneuver would take less fuel), so the entry flames were strong (they are just getting started below), and I popped out the drogue chutes as soon as possible after the plasma dissippated to slow down the ship fast. The heat shield was separated after the drogues deployed.

I also got the main chutes out in reefed condition right after dropping the heat shield. Below we see the base/rover stack descending vertically under the fully-opened drogue chutes and the reefed main chutes. The landing legs of the base have also been deployed. Since the base was all set to land, I separated the rover at a couple thousand feet and let it freefall a bit to get it clear of the base (this whole operation has been controlled from the probe core on the top of the Fido rover), and then deployed the six parachutes on the Fido. You can see the Fido hanging from its fully-deployed parachutes with the base high above under its fully deployed chutes.

Below, the Fido toucheed down, and I immediately ran it off to the side to get out from under the base, which we see descending from the Fido's viewpoint. The base landed on a slight slope, bounced a bit, and did a heart-stopping partial pirouette around on one leg before settling into place. Whew.

The base landed a couple kilometers short of my intended target in the flat bottom of the sandy basin, but it's not tilted too badly. Now the base (Laythe Base 3) and Fido will sit and wait for me to assign a kerbal or two to use it s an exploration camp.

Last came the drudgery of handling the Tugs. A thankless job, but one that had to be done. So Thompbles probably had to take care of it. There was stll a lot of fuel left in the Tugs from the BirdDog ship, but those Tugs only had Senior docking ports, and Laythe Space Station has no Senior docking ports (having been sent out before they were invented). BUT, the Tug L5 that just dropped off Base 3 has a standard port on the front, and has a Senior port on the rear that it acqired during its refurbishment back at Kerbin before it was sent back to Laythe again with the Base/Fido payload. So, Tug L5 was docked to the Space Station first, then the two Tugs from the BirdDog ship were docked (after coming down from their higher orbit and dropping off the triple-tug-adapter in a slightly higher circular orbit in case I have some use for it in the future. The fuel from all of these Tugs, except what they would need to return to Kerbin, was transferred to the tanks on Laythe Space Station.

After the fuel transfer, I separated Tug L5 (WITHOUT its upgrade module that had added the Senior docking port and a bunch of probe cores that were for extra torque...but which are not needed now that the Tug's ASAS unit mysteriously started generating torque). Tug L5 scooted out of the way, and then the remaining Tugs re-docked the upgrade adapter to the Space Station...where it will serve as a Senior docking port for any future operations needing one. The two Tugs then backed off and moved to a higher orbit to await being sent back to Kerbin. I have them docked to each other, rotated at 90 degrees, just so I'll be able to send them back as one ship (much less bother that way).

So that's all the new assets at Laythe. The high orbits have the four comsats wandering around; the ellipticl orbit is the Tug with GasStation 5 waiting to be placed somewhere in the future; then comes the ancient Clark lander from the original Laythe expedition; then comes the orbit of the possibly useless triple-tug-adapter; then the low circular orbits close together of the Laythe Space Station and the recently released Tugs awaiting return to Kerbin. And then all the goodies on the surface. It makes me happy to look at all my goodies in place at Laythe.

And so ends this installment. Oh, OK... here's a last look at our girls on Laythe readying their rover for their Big Trip. The rover is my tried-and-true eight-wheel design that has done so well for me in the past, but this one has a control cockpit (good visibility, and very high impact tolerance) for the driver, and a single-kerbal lander can that has been refurbished into a living quarters module so that the off-duty kerbal can stretch out, wash up, and ride in comfort. There is also a "Granny Clampett" chair on top of the module that a kerbal could ride on to get a good view of the surrounding terrain as the rover travels along. The Fido has RCS for those unexpected moments when the rover might become airborne over a bump (but I expect the cockpit torque will be sufficient to keep the rover steady in such a case), a couple RTGs for power, and lots of bateries.