Long-term Laythe - Part 22

Hmmm... I can't seem to connect to the KSP Store to download version 0.23 (the server is swamped), so rather than keep hammering on the site, I guess I'll write up this episode instead.

Today it's like Christmas on Laythe, with new presents dropping out of the sky. As the two ships approached the Jool system I did some fine targeting. Both of the ships were coming in on trajectories that allowed direct-to-Laythe aerocaptures, so I did things the easy way and brought them straight to Laythe. First in was the train carrying the new SCIENCE Base on a trajectory that swooped around Jool and encountered Laythe.

The ship came in to Laythe for aerocapture over the BAIF Ocean targeted at an altitude of 20.2 km. The aerocapture resulted in an orbit with an apoapsis of 709 km. On the way out to apoapsis I did a plane chance burn of less than 100 m/s to correct inclination to 0 degrees (where Laythe Space Station lives at 80 km), and at apoapsis I did a burn to raise the periapsis partway out of the atmosphere. Then an aerobraking pass lowered the apoapsis to 90 km, where I did a circularization burn.

Next the ship with the Spaceplane/NAMOR payloads came in. It's trajectory encountered Laythe on the way in (before reaching Jool). Below is the plot where I needed to adjust the aerocapture altitude...otherwise you can see that the purple (or blue?) line shows that the ship would skirt Laythe an plummet into Jool.

Below is the "MasterCard logo" shot of the ship approaching Laythe.

The aerocapture was targeted to an altitude of 20.07 km which resulted in an apoapsis of a hundred-something kilometers. Below we see the ship burning through the skies over Dansen Island. It would be cool to be able to watch this event from Laythe Base (is there a mod for that?).

After a little orbital adjusting, the ship was also in a 90 x 91 km equatorial orbit. This orbit allowed the Laythe Space Station to slowly overtake the new ships, and when they got close together the orbit could be adjusted for rendezvous.

Down on Laythe, it was time to bring Hellou and Emilynn back to the main Laythe Base area after they'd spent several months living in Laythe Base 3 exploring Fredoly Island via rover. Hellou was the first to take off (so that there would be a pilot on the ground at either end to help fly by remote control if needed). Her flight back was at a little higher altitude than her flight over, so it used only 31 units of fuel.

Hellou landed safely and drove the BirdDog over to GasStation 2. Aldner drove the Fido rover down to pick up Hellou (actually he gave the Fido to Hellou, then he took over the BirdDog to do the refueling). Then they drove both vehicles back to the main Laythe Base 2 module.

Emilynn took off from Fredoly and flew her BirdDog up to try cruising over at 15,000 meters. It's tricky, but possible to do this, and you get a speed of around 475 m/s at the standard 1/3 throttle setting...but it requires pitching the nose of the BirdDog up to 45 degrees to get enough lift at that altitude and throttle setting. Emilynn made the trip using 32 units of fuel, so it was not an improvement over Hellou's more standard flight profile (at least over that distance).

After a celebratory dinner that couldn't be beat, our kerbals retired for the night.

Aldner: "It sure is nice having the girls back with us."
Kurt: "Yes, indeed."
Nelemy: "Just think, Dudes...new ships, orbiting just 90 km overhead."
Aldner: "Hey, Nelemy, I found some more cases of yellow mush in the back of the storage shed if you want some tomorrow."
Nelemy: "Oh, hey... cool, Dude. But I've really gotten to like the red mush."
Thompbles: "OK, guys. Get some sleep. There's lots to do tomorrow landing the new SCIENCE Base and spaceplane."
Kurt: "Why do you keep pronouncing 'science' like it's in all capital letters?"
Thompbles: "That's just the way the KSC boys do it."

The next day, Kurt and Thompbles handled the remote landing of the SCIENCE Base. Below, the Base separated from the Tugs, then the four 24-77 engines fired for the retro burn.

The incoming trajectory was targeted a little northeast of Mariliza Island. It was nice that the area is clear of those pretty clouds.

The entry heating was tame compared to the earlier aerocapture. After the entry plasma dissipated, the drogue chutes were deployed and the heat shield was dropped.

Below, the drogue chutes have opened fully, then the six main chutes were deployed and the landing legs were extended. At 500 meters AGL the main chutes unreefed and the base came in for a landing at about 7.6 m/s.

Aldner and Emilynn hopped in the Fido and headed on over to the SCIENCE Base's landing location. Along the way they found the heat shield impact site. It appears to have hit upside-down and exploded its fuel tanks, but most of the structural panels survived. So I'll let them do a little cutting and bending later to build another shed. Also, it's sitting in the area often used as a landing strip, so they'll want to drag it out of there in any case. (And its landing location was between the two groups of ships that I have separated by 2.5 km to reduce lag...so that it was a real bother switching between ships later on because I would end up jumping to this debris and jumping to the group of ships.)

When Aldner and Emilynn reached the base, they found that the two wheels on the downhill side had blown out on landing despite having the landing legs to take up the shock. As long as the base was tilted in an advantageous direction, they dropped off the little Runabout rover from the side of the base. (After that, they fixed the wheels of the base.)

Below, Emilynn drove the Runabout over to Laythe Base 1 (where she and Hellou were living). The Runabout will be handy for driving back and forth between the Base 1 and Base 2 sites. Aldner then carefully drove the SCIENCE Base over. The wheels on this base are NOT intended for it to be used as an exploration vehicle -- they are meant for repositioning the base after landing (but the base handles very well on the relatively flat terrain near Fido Bay).

The new SCIENCE Base (a.k.a. Laythe Base 4) was parked near the original Laythe Base 1. That's GasStation 2 in the near background behind the SCIENCE Base. Note that the two Hitchhiker modules in the center were to represent one of the new big SCIENCE Lab modules (I don't know yet if they are of similar mass). The two side Hitchhikers include a living module (I assume Hellou and Emilynn will move in there to get away from the smell of old socks in the Laythe Base 1 module), and a module with lots more equipment, supplies, and consumables.

So...what about that stuff hanging off the side booms? That's SCIENCE to retrofit the BirdDogs. Nelemy drove BirdDog 3 down from the other base area and carefully lined it up under the right boom (the landing leg on that side had to be folded up beforehand so the plane could come in straight). Then the double Mystery Goo package was dropped from the boom onto the docking port of the BirdDog, which then backed away. BUT WAIT, you may say... How are they going to be able to refuel the BirdDog with that Goo package on top? Fear not: The BirdDog can drive back under the boom, then extend its nose gear, and the Goo package will dock back in place on the boom. Then the plane can be separated to refuel and return to grab the Goo again. And since I have a Big Lab Module (or so the center Hitchhikers represent), the Goo can be refreshed as needed. Yes, yes... as before, I know the game won't actually let me have SCIENCE fun in sandbox mode, but that won't stop me from having fun.

Kurt drove down in BirdDog 4 and lined it up under the other boom...and received a SCIENCE Junior materials exposure bay. It looks rather ungainly sitting on top of the BirdDog, but tests back at KSC showed that the plane can still fly in this configuration.

Of course, now I need to figure out what the different biomes are on Laythe. There's the lower and upper atmosphere layers to check. The poles. The water. The shores, lowlands, midlands, and highlands. Would those areas on each of the large islands be the same, or would different islands or island groups be in different biomes?

The SCIENCE Base itself also has a SCIENCE Junior and Mystery Goo container strapped to its sides for long-term monitoring at the Fido Bay base area. Hellou got onboard the Big SCIENCE module while Aldner watched the SCIENCE Junior as she activated it.

Hellou: "Activating now."
Aldner: "It opened. Whoa...something is burning inside...you may want to power down!"
Hellou: "Is it the little sample in the upper left?"
Aldner: "Yeah. Still smoking."
Hellou: "That's the oxygen detection sample. Anything else changing?"
Aldner: "Um...second column, third down. Half of that sample seems to be getting darker. Hmm...same thing in column three, sample four."
Hellou: "That first one is for sulphur compounds, I think. The other one may be ammonia. I need the look it up once I get everything powered up in here."

On the opposite side of the ship, Nelemy climbed up the ladder to look at the Mystery Goo container

Nelemy: "Hello there, little Mystery Goo-dude. You aren't too cold, are you?"
Hellou: "What does it look like, Nelemy?"
Nelemy: "It's just sitting there. Maybe vibrating a little. Maybe its cold, Dude."
Hellou: "That stuff can survive exposure to vacuum in space, Nelemy, it's not going to be too cold."
Nelemy: "Whoa...it's vibrating a lot now! Maybe we should close its container until the sun shines on this side of the base."
Hellou: "No, it's fine."
*About a minute later, the base site experiences one of its many-times-a-day magnitude 4 tremors*
Nelemy: "Hey, Dude... it stopped vibrating now. Do you suppose it knows when quakes are coming?"
Hellou: "Hmmm..."

It took longer than expected to get the SCIENCE Base set up, so the crew waited until the next day to bring down the spaceplane. Aldner and Emilynn would be the ones to test the spaceplane, and they flipped a coin to determine who would get to fly it down by remote control...and Aldner lost, so he got to fly it down. Lost? Yes...because that meant Emilynn would get to pilot the spaceplane on its first test flight to orbit. When the spaceplane separated from the Tugs, it took the supporting structure with it to clear it away from the top of the NAMOR marine rescue vehicle.

Below is the retro burn (sorry...it's not a great image). The four Rockomax 48-7S engines fire backward between the upper and lower wings. Once the plane was on an entry trajectory, the support structure that had held it to the ship was jettisoned so that it would be destroyed on entry.

The spaceplane went through the entry flames as it approached Dansen island (no radio control was possible when it was enveloped in plasma...it was on autopilot for that stretch). After the entry plasma dissipated, the plane was passing over the Fido Bay area at over 11 km, so Aldner banked into some turns to bleed off speed and then come back around. The thing does not handle as well as a BirdDog...maybe because it is heavier, or maybe because of the different CoM/CoL relationship.

The turn around lost more altitude than expected, so Aldner fired up the turbojet to bring it closer to base, but cut the engine as soon as possible to save fuel. He landed the plane safely about 5 km away, higher up the slope than they normally land.

Aldner and Emilynn hopped on the Runabout and drove out to the spaceplane's landing site.

Aldner: "You'll be the first to pilot it, Hawk, so you get to name it. What are you going to call it?"
Emilynn: "I always let Hellou handle naming things, so I had her pick out a name."
Aldner: "Ah. Some girly-goddess name?"
Emilynn: "Nope. She named it Ladyhawk. I'm really looking forward to flying her."

After they arrived at the Ladyhawk and gave the spaceplane a quick checkover, Aldner backed the Runabout under the nose of the plane and Emilynn raised the nose gear to dock the two vehicles. I really like being able to drive my BirdDogs all over the place with their rover wheels, but I didn't want to add the weight and dragf of rover wheels to a spaceplane. I also didn't want to have to burn up precious jet fuel to drive the plane around on the ground (even with the easier steering that the steerable landing gear will allow in version 0.23), so I designed the Runabout to drag the spaceplane around.

Below, Aldner and Emilynn brought the Ladyhawk to a stop next to Laythe Base 1 (between Laythe Base 1 and the SCIENCE Base). When the nose wheel of the plane was lowered, it lifted the Runabout up off the ground a little ways...then the ships were separated and the Runabout dropped to the ground and was driven off.

Now that they were back at the base, Aldner and Emilynn gave the Ladyhawk a complete check of all of its systems (after dragging out all the boxes of supplies that were stuffed into the cabins, of course). Below you can see Emilynn and Aldner climbing on board. It takes a jump to reach the bottom of the ladder to the cockpit.

The game thinks Aldner is sitting horizontally in the lander can, but of course I contend that the interior has been rearranged so that he is sitting upright. The picture below shows his re-oriented view out the side window (with the canard visible).

Emilynn and Aldner will test the Ladyhawk later. It used a bit more propellant that I expected during retro burn, but I think there is enough to return to orbit. We'll see. I had a method for adding more fuel for the deorbit process, but I didn't think I'd need it so I didn't include it (but I am sending it along with the next ships to Laythe). Below, the results of my labors so far: new SCIENCE Base, new SCIENCE on BirdDogs, new SSTO spaceplane, and the little Runabout.

Meanwhile, Thompbles was juggling some things in orbit. The NAMOR-20 was left with one fully fueled Tug (so it could be shifted around as needed and dropped anywhere on Laythe). The X200-8 fuel tank under the NAMOR is empty -- it was there mainly as a place to mount the four refuler pods that got dropped back in Kerbin orbit, and to carry extra fuel for the trip. The other Tug was separated and will be kept in orbit as a fuel reserve for now (and sent to the Laythe Space Station eventually).

The two-Tug-train that dropped off the SCIENCE Base was rendezvoused with the Space Station and docked to the center Senior port on the bottom. Most of the fuel from these Tugs was transferred to the tanks on the Station (except for enough fuel for the double-Tugs to return to Kerbin later). After these recent deliveries, the tanks on the Station are nearly full, so there is a good amount of fuel in orbit for multiple Ladyhawk test flights, a possible return to Vall, and other future projects.

For now, the double-Tug will remain attached to the Space Station (which is getting pretty laggy). While doing the rendezvous for the new Tugs, I decided to attach the old Laythe Tug 5 to the Station so that it could be used for any mission in orbit requiring a standard docking port (originally I had separated it in favor of keeping the Tug you see docked on the left side that had lots of extra probe bodies added for extra torque...but now that the old ASAS module of Tug 5 creates torque, it's a lighter, better tug.

OK...so I've been writing this instead of playing with version 0.23 (I did get a download of 0.23 started in the meantime), so I'll end this here and go play with the new version.