Long-term Laythe - Part 27


First, some housekeeping. Several nuclear Tugs have been piling up around Laythe, what with delivering all those payloads, so it was time to prepare for sending some back to Kerbin. Nuclear engines don't grow on trees, you know. The Double-Tug that was attached to the bottom of Laythe Space Station was separated (leaving a tank behind to increase the fuel capacity of the station) and I planned to boost it out to an orbit beyond Tylo to await the next Jool-to-Kerbin transfer window.

(For earlier Tug returns, I'd boosted them out into orbits between Laythe and Vall, but this was trickier to get right because Laythe's sphere of influence would tend to swallow the Tug back up as it was leaving, despite what the projected orbit said at first, requiring some evasive maneuvers. Kicking out further to beyond Tylo avoided this problem.)

But when I plotted the trajectory for the outgoing Double-Tug, it ran into a Tylo encounter that would whip the Tugs out of the Joolian system into Kerbol orbit. Well, that was nice... so I took the shot and sent it on its way.

Next, the double-Tugs from Laythe Train #2 (which had recently delivered the RASSTO SSTO) was rendezvoused with the station and offloaded all of its excess propellant. To return to Kerbin, the Tugs would only need the fuel in their side-tanks...plus a little extra in the main tank just in case. Because of the recent spate of SSTO test flights, there was room in the station's tanks to hold the propellants. The Tugs also left behind another tank to increase the station's capacity).

Then the Train #2 Tugs were separated and sent off to beyond Tylo, which took about 582 m/s of delta-V. I did not bother to wait for the perfect time to get another Tylo encounter (because I have better things to do with my time), but I suppose Thompbles would take the time to do it. Anyway...so the Tugs will need to use another 470 m/s of delta-V to circularize their orbit out beyond Vall (which the previous Double-Tug will not have to do). All of this delta-V goes to getting the Tugs out of Jool's gravity well, of course.

But wait, there's more! The Tugs from Laythe Train #1 (which recently brought the Raptor spaceplane to Laythe, and which still had the NAMOR-21 attached) was rendezvoused with the Space Station to offload its excess fuel (and add yet another tank, which nicely balanced out the bottom end of the station).

After transferring fuel and disconnecting the rear tank, the Train #1 Tugs undocked and moved up the side of the station to dock the NAMOR-21 Marine Rescue ship to one of the side docking ports. The NAMOR-21 will be stored there until it is needed (if ever). The Tugs then undocked and backed away.

Below you can see the elliptical orbits of the first two outgoing sets of Tugs, plus the plotted trajectory for the Train #1 Tugs. Again, I did not wait for a Tylo encounter, and just kicked the Tugs out to cavort beyond Tylo with their fellow Tugs. Note that Kerbal Alarm Clock is very handy when doing this kind of thing (I have reminders set for when various sets of Tugs will need apoapsis burns or have Tylo encounters, and for when the Jool-to-Kerbin transfer window will arrive.

I did a small maneuver as the first pair of Tugs passed Tylo to give them a little extra speed so that the Tugs would make it outside Jool's sphere of influence just before the Jool-to-Kerbin transfer time comes. It was nice to see Tylo close up again. The apoapsis kicks for the other Tugs went off on schedule, and they are now happily waiting for their orders to boost home to Kerbin in about 64 days.

Thompbles's Travels

Everybody agreed that Thompbles should get out more, so he assigned himself the job of piloting the Airedale plane/rover, which is basically a BirdDog modified to carry scientist passengers and their lab equipment on expeditions to points of interest on Laythe. Below, Thompbles climbs up to the Airedale's cockpit.

Thompbles: "Airedale to Laythe Base. Radio check."
Kurt: "I read you load and clear."
Aldner: "Hey, Captain Flyboy! You remember how to do this sort of thing?"
Thompbles: "Pointy-end forward? I think I recall. But hang on the line in case I have questions."
Aldner: "Will do, Cappy."
Thompbles: "I'm lined up. Nose gear is down. Forward tank fuel flow inhibited. Stability system on. Brakes off. Engine activated. Let's see what happens when I push this lever forward."
Kurt: "Nice takeoff."
Thompbles: "Gear up. Throttle one-third. Man, it has been too damn long. This is great. I'm passing the Base 1 area... We sure do have a nice spread of hardware. Take good care of the store while I'm away, Kurt."
Kurt: "Roger, will do. Have fun."

Thompbles climbed to over 12,000 meters for cruising northwest toward Jenlan Island. Nelemy had landed near the upper end of Jenlan, but most of that very large island is unexplored. There were a couple small islands beyond Jenlan that had not been visited yet, so Thompbles planned to start with them and then pick out a couple spots on Jenlan to stop at on the way back.

You can see in the picture below that the Airedale needs to maintain a high angle of attack when flying in the thin air at 12 kilometers altitude, but it makes good speed there. Because of its greater weight and drag, the Airdale is less fuel efficient than the BirdDogs, but not too bad. The LiquidFuel indicator in the lower left is only showing the fuel remaining in the rear tank (the forward tank has its fuel flow turned off to keep the CG of the plane further forward).

Jenlan is a rather rugged island, but Thompbles spots some seaside real estate that he might investigate on the way back. But he thinks the valley high in the mountains looks very interesting (from what he's seen of it on maps). The boys have yet to discover a monolith or other anomaly on Laythe, and Thompbles thinks that valley is the kind of place he'd put one if he were in charge on anomalies. Once he passes Jenlan, he spots the first of the two small islands he'll visit.

Once Thompbles passes Jenlan, he spots the first of the two small islands he'll visit.

Thompbles: "Airedale to Base. Target one acquired. I'm making my run."
Kurt: "Um, OK, Thompbles. But we just want it explored, not bombed."
Thompbles: "Roger. My ordnance racks appear to be empty anyway. I'll have to talk to the ground crew about that."
Kurt: "Let us know when you've landed."

Thompbles came in just over the little berm by the shore and landed the Airedale just fine. He raised the nose gear to drop the rover wheels to the ground, and drove inland a little.

Thompbles: "Thompbles to Base. I'm going out to take some surface samples. I'd like to name this island Bob Island after Bob Kerman. I know that Aldner already named a bay after him, but I think such a pioneering astronaut deserves an island, even if it's a small one."
Kurt: "Roger. Did you remember to set the brake?"
Thompbles: "Yes I did, thank you. Did you remember that geographical names need to be submitted on form 34G in the database?"
Kurt: "Yes I did, thank you."

Thompbles drove the rover/plane northwest. It wasn't too long before he managed to blow a tire at 20 meters per second on some only slightly bumpy terrain.

Thompbles: "Airdale to Base. Is Aldner there?"
Aldner: "I'm here, O Brave Explorer. How can I help?"
Thompbles: "Have you been watching the data feed from my IMU? I managed to blow a tire on what seemed like fairly small bumps."
Aldner: "Looking at it now. Hmm. Your ride looks pretty smooth. I wouldn't have expected a tire to blow in those conditions. But you do have an extra 1.2 tons of passenger cabins on your bird... so maybe you'll just need to keep things slower."
Thompbles: "Roger. Well, we knew this was going to be more of an airliner than an exploration rover."
Aldner: "Roger. Now get out an get your hands dirty fixing that flat. All part of the job of Intrepid Space Explorer!"

Thompbles reached the northwest tip of Bob Island and decided to do a standard float test to see what level he'd float at in the sea here. Another soil and water sample went into the plane.

Thompbles: "I'm going to hop to the next island now. Lined up. Nose gear down. Brakes off..... Full throttle. I'm off!"
Kurt: "Let us know..."
Thompbles: "Alarm."
Kurt: "Problem?"
Thompbles: "Flying fine. Warning light on the left rover wheel."
Aldner: "Did you have the nose gear down?"
Thompbles: "Yes. Shows down and locked."

Below, the takeoff on the left, and the landing on the right (with blown tire visible). Apparently the plane had hit a bump hard enough to allow the rover wheel to contact the ground (at over 60 m/s) and blow. I don't recall that the ground was that bumpy, really, and this sort of thing does not happen with the BirdDogs. Hmmm.

Thompbles fixed the tire and proceded to rove north-northeast along the island, which he named Bill Island, at a moderate pace because it had rougher terrain than Bob Island.

The Airedale made it safely to the north point of Bill Island.

Thompbles carefully lined up along a smooth patch of land and took off to the east. There were no blown tires.

The map below shows Thompbles's route along Bob and Bill Islands. The view is looking toward the southeast.

Thompbles flew back over to Jenlan Island and looked over the terrain. He decided to try landing in the high valley and lined up and swooped down into the westernmost end. As he was coming in to land, the surface began to rise rapidly in front of him, and he had to pull up hard. He dropped in pretty hard, but the plane survived OK...without even a blown tire. The valley is apparently made out of connected caldera, and he had not touched down before coming up on the ridge separating one low spot from the next one.

The map view of Jenlan below showis the location of the high valley.

Kurt: "How's it going, Thompbles?"
Thompbles: "Just fine. I'm driving around looking for the lowest spot in this caldera. I think 1757 meters is the minimum. I'll get some samples, and then I'm going to set up camp for the night."
Kurt: "Well, sleep tight. Which is about all you CAN do in those cockpits."
Thompbles: "You forget...one of the rear cabins on this bird is set up as a comfy habitat. I might just sleep in late and spend some time reading tomorrow."
Kurt: "In that case, enjoy your vacation."
Thompbles: "Everything going fine there?"
Kurt: "Yep. Hellou says she's just about done with her analysis of all our previous samples, and she's keen for you to bring her more. Nelemy is designing a second shed to be made from the heat shield debris from the SCIENCE lab."
Thompbles: "Just make sure they don't set it up right in front of my window."

The next day, Thompbles drove the Airedale up and down the rolling ridges separating the parts of the valley. He didn't find any lower point, but he did take plenty of samples.

The final bowl of the valley had a bottom elevation of under 1880 meters. From the bottom of the bowl, Thompbles lined up toward the southeast, then fired up the jet engine and took off. Alas...they had still found no monuments or other anomalies on Laythe.

Thompbles landed the Airedale by a small lake near the southeast shore of Jenlan Island. The area wasn't too bad (and it's the most accessible part of the large island, being about as far south as it goes), but not a great site. He collected samples and then took off again, this time headed back to Laythe Base.

After leaving Jenlan, the fuel in the rear tank was running out, so Thompbles switched on the fuel flow from the forward tank. He landed back at Fido Bay with 107 units of fuel left (out of his initial 300), and docked with GasStation 2 to refuel. After that, GasStation 2 had less than one full plane-load of fuel left in it. But not to worry...they still have the DoubleGasStation at the main base area, and two regular GasStations waiting in orbit to be dropped in where needed.

The map below shows the route of Thompbles's training trip. The Airedale checked out fine, but as expected it is not as good a rover as the BirdDogs. It certainly can't be driven as fast as a BirdDog (not safely, anyway), and time warps over 2x should be avoided. This confirms the earlier testing on Kerbin (and it's important to heed this, because if the rover DOES fail, the passenger cabins are NOT very impact resistant).

Kethane, Kethane, Kethane!

No, I'm not going to install the Kethane Mod... But I am going to let my Laythe kerbals hunt for kethane.

[As to why I choose not to use the Kethane Mod, there are a couple reasons. First, I generally avoid lots of mods because they make upgrading my save-game file more difficult (although I love certain user interface enhancement mods). Also, when I look at things that people have done with the stock game, I am familiar with the parts, so I can easily tell what they did. If there are mod parts I'm not familiar with, I never know what I'm looking at. I prefer it if people can more easily understand the capabilities of my ships and what I'm doing.]

[Also, some mods just strike me as odd in concept, and Kethane is one of those. What is this kethane stuff, and why do we find it on all kinds of planets and moons? And you can apparently convert it into liquid fuel, oxidizer, monopropellant...and even Xenon. What alchemy is this? I love the idea of exploiting indigenous resources to make propellant and whatnot...but I'll leave the Kethane Mode to others.]

So, anyway... I wanted to have some kethane deposits that my kerbals could find. But how much kethane should there be? And how should it be distributed? What I decided to do was take a "typical" kethane distribution and use it as a basis for my kethane map. Geschosskopf (he of the wonderful Kethane Flying Circus missions) had a kethane map posted for Laythe in one of his threads... so I took that image, copied the region markers, resized it to fit my Laythe map, and then generated ramdom numbers to decide how to flip it vertically, horizontally, and shift it in longitude. And I got the map shown below:

I noticed later that I had made a mistake in my process... Geschosskopf's map had a gap in longitude with no kethane deposits, but when I resized the marker overlay to fit my map, that gap got lost... So I have more kethane than I should, I suppose, but I'll live with that. I'm not actually going to exploit the kethane (since the engineers in Division 19 never came through with the anticipated resource extraction equipment)... I just using it for roleplaying my missions.

As expected, most of the kethane deposits are underwater (easy to happen on Laythe). And whereas Geschosskopf had kethane all over what I call Dansen Island, my home base, my Dansen Island has none. But what my kerbals do have are lots of samples picked up on BirdDog missions, bagged and sealed and labeled. And they have Hellou, with equipment delivered in the shiny new SCIENCE Lab, including, I contend, sensitive spectral analyzers that can detect kethane. So she has been sucking the air out of the sample bags and running it through the infrared spectral analyzer and finding signatures of kethane.

The results are shown below: Places where my kerbals have picked up samples that show positive for kethane:

Looking at the map above, we see that my kerbals hit upon various pieces of five of the deposits. The large area of hits on Fredoly Island includes samples from Aldner's initial survey there, but is filled in a lot more because I had Hellou and Emilynn stationed at the Base 3 there for several months, so Hellou would have been all over the easily-accessible spots in that area. Not shown on this map are additional data points that did NOT show kethane, which help to delineate the sizes of the deposits. For example, Thompbles's samples from the high valley show kethane, but his samples from Bob and Bill Islands, and from the southeast coast (and Nelemy's older samples from the northeast tip) show NO kethane.

Nelemy: "Kethane?"
Hellou: "Yes. KH4. A simple hydrokarbon. Where it occurs close to the surface, it leaks out and we can detect it."
Kurt: "And this stuff is useful as rocket fuel?"
Hellou: "For future Laythe explorers, yes. You need an oxidizer to burn it, but one can process LOX from Laythe's atmosphere, or just suck in the air to burn kethane in jet engines built for that."
Aldner: "And our samples show kethane?"
Hellou: "Some of them do. Some weak, some strong. But now we know where to look in more detail."
Kurt: "Didn't you say the other day that you found karbohydrates in one sample?"
Hellou: "Yes, but that was just a snack bar that SOMEBODY had mysteriously stuffed into a sample bag."

For some reason, everybody looked at Nelemy.

Thompbles: "Do you have a plan of where we need to do more detailed surveys?"
Hellou: "Yes. I'm putting some equipment into the Lab module of the Airedale, and I'll need a ride to some places. And the SCIENCE Lab has some equipment for upgrading Aldner's atmospheric sensor."
Aldner: "My what now?"
Hellou: "On your BirdDog. There is an Sensor Array Computing Nose Cone on the tail."
Aldner: "Oh, that. Since we upgraded the software in the cockpit computers, that thing has been useless."
Hellou: "Yes, but this new upgrade will allow it to detect kethane. If you'll help me install it."

Below, under Hellou's direction, Aldner and Kurt climb all over the BirdDog and install the sensor upgrade.

Aldner: *In the BirdDog's cockpit* "So how does this work?"
Hellou: "The Sensor Nose Cone now has two kethane sensors: One is an IR spectral analyzer, the other is a catalytic detector."
Aldner: "Hmm. Both of the new indicators are showing positive. Do we have kethane deposits by our base?"
Hellou: "Both?"
Aldner: "The one marked 'IR' is barely flickering. The one marked 'CAT' is stronger."
Hellou: "The IR sensor is very kethane specific, and it's just picking up the background amount in the atmosphere. I'll adjust the bias so it won't do that. The other one is picking up your kerosine."
Aldner: "My what?"
Hellou: "Your BirdDog is venting a little fuel. The JP-A or RP-1 or whatever you guys call it. It's basically kerosine, a hydrocarbon."
Aldner: "Kerosine? Do you scientists have to name everything starting with the letter K?"
Hellou: "Sorry. Anyway, once you get moving through the air, it won't pick up the tiny amount of fuel venting."

Thompbles's Travels Two

The hatches to the two passenger cabins of the Airedale can be reached by a kerbal standing on the ground. One of the cabins is outfitted as a comfy habitat module. In the other cabin, the passenger rides is less comfort because it is packed with lab equipment. To its standard equipment, Hellou added what she needed to test samples for kethane out in the field.

Because of the need to position the passenger cabins' hatches to be accessible, their windows give a not-overly-exciting view of the vertical stabilizer and docking port of the Airedale... but these kinds of things happen when you repurpose existing modules. For it's first fully-crewed exploration trip, Thompbles would be taking Hellou and Emilynn to check out the extent of a couple of the kethane deposits.

Thompbles: "Airedale to Base. The first scheduled flight of Laythe Airlines is ready to depart."
Kurt: "Roger, Airedale. You are first in line on runway 14."
Thompbles: "Thank you. Keep the boys out of trouble while we're gone."

The Airedale took off, climbed to cruising altitude of 12 kilometers, and headed southeast to Thompbles Island.

Back at Laythe Base, Kurt, Aldner, and Nelemy were having breakfast...

Nelemy: "Dudes, I hope Thompbles likes being a airline pilot."
Aldner: "Yeah. But I guess some people have to settle for the secondary jobs."
Nelemy: "Yeah."
Kurt: "What?"
Aldner: "Well, you know. It's like the difference between the guys who fly fighters..."
Nelemy: "...or are test pilots..."
Aldner: "...and the other guys who fly the transport aircraft."
Nelemy: "Yeah, Dude. But not everybody has the right stuff. Some of us explore with hot BirdDogs or test spaceplanes...others fly passengers, Dude."
Kurt: "I see. You do realize that while the three of us are sitting here, Thompbles is off on an extended mission with the only female kerbals within 70 million kilometers, don't you?"
Nelemy: "..."
Aldner: "..."
Kurt: "Now eat your mush."

Below, the Airedale approaches Thompbles Island. Thompbles has the image from the nose camera piped into the passenger cabins.

Emilynn: "Smooth flying there, Thompbles. Remember, if you get tired of flying, I can take over for any leg of the trip you want."
Thompbles: "I'll keep that in mind, co-pilot."
Hellou: "Look! We are flying right into the mouth of the dragon. A whole new island for me to study!"
Thompbles: "Yes. But let's avoid any jokes where we refer to the geography as parts of my body just because the island has the same name as I do."
Hellou: "Not a problem...we left Aldner at home."

The Airedale flew over the head of the dragon and targeted a landing along the middle of the west coast of the island. This is the area where Aldner picked up the samples with the strongest kethane signature.

Thompbles: "Make sure your tray tables and seat backs are in their full upright and locked positions, ladies."
Emilynn: "And in the event of the plane having to make a water landing, those of us in the fragile passenger cabins can kiss our butts goodbye."
Thompbles: "Now, now. Your seat cushion serves as a flotation device for your psychological convenience."
Emilynn: "Yes. I'm sure it would float away nicely after my cabin and I sink like a rock."
Hellou: "Can we please skip the 'jokes.' Landings always make me nervous."
Thompbles: "Sorry, Hellou. Don't worry, we have a nice, smooth beach ahead. Expect a tilt to the right as we touchdown."

The landing was perfect, and Thompbles switched over to rover mode and drove closer to the water. While Emilynn did a walkaround inspection of the plane, and Hellou started shifting through the sand, Thompbles went out to do a standard float test. Hellou popped a surface sample into her cobbled-together kethane detector, which heated the sample to help drive off any kethane residue into the IR analyzer.

Thompbles: "How does the sample look?"
Hellou: "Strong kethane signature, as expected. Aldner's samples were showing higher and higher concentrations of kethane the further south he went, and he got to about here before turning east. Can you drive us south along the coast, please?"
Thompbles: "Sure thing. Hop in."

Emilynn: "Gee, Thom. Can't you drive a little faster?"
Thompbles: "Not while I have valuable cargo on board. OK...the area ahead is smoother... I'll take it up a little...but 30 m/s maximum."
Hellou: "Slower is fine with me."

A little bump later, and the Airedale blew a tire.

Thompbles: "There, you see? We aren't really going to travel any faster if we need to stop and fix a flat very often."
Emilynn: "I'll hop out and fix the tire. This bird really is more sensitive to blowouts than the BirdDogs. And that bump didn't even feel that big. Who'd have thought that an extra ton of cabins would make such a difference."
Hellou: "Well...have you considered that with these lander-can cabins you have a lot of extra control torque that's trying to keep your plane steady as you go over bumps, putting more force on the wheels and making them hit harder?"
Emilynn: "..."
Thompbles: "..."
Emilynn: "You see... That's why every plane should come with a science geek installed as standard equipment."
Thompbles: "OK. Switching off the lander can torque systems. Thank you. Emilynn, please remind me to turn them back on before we fly again...the extra control authority can help keep the plane from doing any unexpected pitch-ups."

Below, the Airedale stopped at two peninsulas jutting out to the west so that Hellou could analyze her samples. These locations showed the strongest kethane yet.

Our intrepid explorers continued south until they got to the duck-foot peninsula of the dragon. The samples continued to show signs of kethane, so probably the deposit continued ate least partway out onto the foot of the dragon, but the terrain of the foot was high and rough, and the crew was looking for easily-accessed kethane deposits... so they decided to not continue their drive south and would switch to heading east.

Below, the duck-foot of the dragon is visible across a small bay from the Airedale.

As the Airedale got up into the rougher, higher elevations, the sun was getting low in the sky.

Thompbles: "OK, we'll stop here for the night."
Emilynn: "I'll pass out the grub. I'll let you have the comfy cabin for tonight, Chickadee."
Hellou: "OK, thanks. But don't thrash around and wreak any equipment in the lab module."
Thompbles: "I'm camping out under the stars, myself. Aldner says it worked quite nicely with the suit heaters on medium."
Emilynn: "Well in that case, I'll sleep in the cockpit if you don't mind. That's usually where I slept in the Vall rover."
Thompbles: "OK, sounds like a plan. There's a nice view of Jool."

The next day, Thompbles continued the drive eastward between a ridgeline to the north and taller hills to the south. Kethane continued to show up in the samples. Eventually they reached a small bay on the backside of the dragon where Hellou investigated some strange luminescent spots on the ground. After another campout, Thompbles drove the Airedale back and over the ridge to the north, then east along the ridge overlooking the large circular bay in the belly of the dragon.

Hellou: "Based on what we've found, along with Aldner's samples from further north, it's pretty clear that this whole island is sitting over a kethane deposit, except for the nose of the dragon where Aldner first landed. And a lot of the areas are easily accesible."
Emilynn: "So Thompbles's gas will be supplying the fuel needs of future Laythe colonists?"
Thompbles: "Now, now."
Hellou: "Anyway, I'm done here. We can move on to Manley Island whenever you'd like. But an extra day here to let me do some sample cataloging would be nice."

So the next day, Thompbles took off and headed the Airedale northeast.

Below we see the Airedale flying away from Thompbles Island, and a map showing the exploration route across the dragon-duck-shaped island.

I'll halt now and get this posted, and then write up the rest tonight.