Long-term Laythe - Part 41

In this episode:

• The Old Crew prepares to depart
• Beta 0.90 hits!
• Consequences and Conversions.

Post Pol Project

After several more weeks of exploration on the surface of Pol, Thompbles, Kurt, Hellou, and Emilynn were ready to return to the Grey Haven Express in orbit for their belated return trip to Kerbin. They (along with Aldner and Nelemy) have completed a comprehensive survey of Laythe, Vall, Tylo, Bop, and Pol...a much more extensive mission than was originally planned, with a couple extra years tacked on.

Below: At Pol Base 0, the four kerbals and all their trove of SCIENCE from Pol are loaded into the Pol Base Lander, ready to liftoff with Kurt and Emilynn in the control cabin.

Kurt: "Everybody strapped in? We're ready to boost to orbit."
Thompbles: "Make it so, Mr. Kerman."

The Pol Base Lander, overpowered as always, lifted off:

Rather than wait for the perfect launch window to rendezvous with the Grey Haven Express, Kurt used a relatively steep boost to put the Lander into a 100 km orbit, then plotted a transfer from there up to the main ship.

Below, the Pol Lander approaches the Grey Haven Express, aiming for the top docking port on the Vall Hab module.

Kurt: "Greetings, boys. We're home for supper."
Nelemy: "Welcome back, Dudes! I missed you!"
Kurt: "Good to be back. Say, that's quite a collection of Nuclear Tugs you've got there."
Aldner: "It's amazing what you can find floating around. I'm going to take them all back to KSC to collect the deposit on the empties."

[The real reason that I've been stacking up the used Tugs is so that I can bring them all back as one ship, rather than having to herd a whole fleet of ships back to Kerbin. Plus, it looks cool.]

After the Pol Lander docked to the Grey Haven Express, the crew and samples were transferred to the main ship. Then the Pol Lander was fully refueled (its six FL-T400 tanks and its RCS tanks were filled). Then the six kerbals were refueled during a party that couldn't be beat -- all of them were back together for the first time since Aldner and Nelemy had gone off to explore Tylo, and Emilynn and Hellou had returned to Vall to finish their interrupted exploration there.

Because the Grey Haven Express had more than enough fuel for return to Kerbin (assuming all the calculations were correct), Thompbles decided that the Pol Fidos would also brought back up to orbit for refueling to maximize the options of any future explorers who would re-use the hardware. Below, Pol Fido 1 boosts into orbit.

As the Fido approached the Grey Haven Express, its landing illuminators brightly lit up the ship. Before the Fido could be docked to the top of the Laythe Transfer Hab, its antenna had be be retracted.

Once the Fido was fully fueled, it was separated from the ship and moved off a short distance. Then the Pol Base Lander was separated, flipped, and docked to the Fido.

Then the combined ships were shifted into a slightly lower orbit for storage. Perhaps the samples and science data that our intrepid kerbals collected from Pol will reveal how deep space refueling might be accomplished (if the guys in Division 91 back at KSC can get all the details worked out).

Below, the Pol Fido 2 rover was also boosted back into space. I chose to send it off in a very low trajectory to see if I could get some nice pictures of it skimming along over the evening terrain, streaked by the long shadows of Pol spires.

Unfortunately, the Bugs of Pol took this last opportunity to bite me on the butt -- and the central parts of the Fido suddenly exploded, leaving the outer parts of the rover tumbling along. Well. The rover was plenty high, so this was not a terrain collision -- this was the same bugginess that made my surface exploration so frustrating.

Apparently, the surface bugginess reaches high enough in places to swat a ship in very low orbit -- although it strangely destroyed only the center parts of the rover (and not the whole thing, as happened when I hit these anomalies while roving). Maybe it had to do with moving at a faster speed.

The surface bugginess seems to be limited to (or at least most severe on) the half of Pol that is East of the 180 degree longitude line.

But game bugs are a valid excuse to call up a quicksave, so I did that. On the next attempt, I boosted the Fido into a steeper trajectory to get it higher before it passed over the Land of the Explosive Bugs. Pol Fido 2 rendezvoused and docked successfully with the Grey Haven Express.

After the Fido 2 was refueled, it was separated and moved off to rendezvous and dock with the Laythe Tug 5 (which had previously been fully refueled by the Grey Haven Express). My reason for docking the ships together was mainly to lower the number of separate ships that need to be tracked in my Save game. And, of course, this equipment and store of yummy fuel will also await potential use by future explorers.

OK! Now that the missions were finished and all of the Old Crew were together again, it was time to balance the propellants on the Grey Haven Express to ready it for the flight back to Kerbin. (See explanations and image below.)

Because of the orientations of the nuclear engines, only the two Tugs in the bottom tier and the two Tugs in the third tier would be fired for the boost homeward. So, the propellants in the X200-32 center tanks of the second and fourth tier Tugs were moved to the first (bottom) and third tier Tugs. The FL-T400 tanks in the side nacelles of the inactive Tugs were left with some fuel (less than half full) for when they need to be maneuvered separately later in Kerbin orbit. The side nacelle tanks of the active Tugs were filled up.

Propellant was also moved into some of the FL-T400 tanks around the Vall Orbital Hab and Tylo Orbital Hab modules. This propellant would be kept in reserve to act as radiation shielding against the possibility of any large Kerbol flares during the long trip home. Also, to balance the extra mass of the Laythe Transfer Hab on the one side of the ship, the X200-8 tank below the Vall Hab and an additional FL-T400 tank on the side of the Vall Hab were filled with propellant. All this propellant would also help shield the crew against the higher-than-normal neutron backscatter expected from the operation of the third tier nukes with lots of Tug mass below them.

Below: The final propellant inventory of the Grey Haven Express. All of this fuel balancing would have been much easier in the new KSP version 0.90, with its feature that allows you to select multiple tanks for simultaneous fuel transfer. I had the TAC Fuel Balancer mod installed when I did this in version 0.25, but with a ship that has as many tanks as the Grey Haven Express, even using TAC Fuel Balancer was not simple.


Broken By Beta!

At this point, I was planning on sending the Grey Haven Express on its way to Kerbin. But then Squad released KSP Beta version 0.90...and things changed.

Below: Hellou, Aldner, Nelemy, and Kurt were having a little party that could possibly be beat in the Tylo Hab module, while waiting for the Jool-to-Kerbin transfer window to arrive. Thompbles was asleep in the Laythe Hab module, and Emilynn was asleep in the Vall Hab module.

...Then ship suddenly lurched as the kind of eye-watering, brain-fuzzying shock wave that you get during a game version upgrade passed through the Grey Haven Express.

Alarms sounded.

Hellou, Aldner, and Kurt flipped up the kPad displays of their seats and called up various readouts. Hellou had called up the ship piloting and control display. Aldner and Kurt called up the Science sensor displays. Nelemy checked to be sure the snack bar he was eating had not been damaged by the shock.

Nelemy: "Dudes! Did we hit something? What are the alarms?"
Hellou: "There are failure alarms on the SAS system...I've switched those units offline for now. A small rotation was imparted to the ship, but I'm correcting that with RCS."
Nelemy: "You are?"
Hellou: "Yes. Pointing back at Normal now. Some of the torque wheels are showing red, but I'm switching the ones showing green back on line. Ship attitude his now steady. The propellant readings for the nuclear engines have changed...I've taken them all offline until I can find out why."

Aldner: "The Gravioli sensor log shows that a wave of gravioli particles passed through the ship, causing the jolt. Origin is unknown. The Vanallen meter shows that the wave also contained beta particles with energy 0.90 MeV."
Nelemy: "Dude! Wait. What? Beta particles?"
Kurt: "Beta particles are high energy electrons, Nelemy. That type of particle radiation is not very penetrating, so the hull of the ship stopped them...but the secondary bremsstrahlung radiation in the form of X-rays did get through...but the dose was fairly low...maybe 20 milliSieverts. I'm re-checking my calculation now.
Nelemy: "Um...Dudes..."

Hellou: "Hmm. It's only that reaction wheels in the OKTO2 probe bodies that are down. The reaction wheels in all of the ASAS modules and Mk-2 Control Cabins are working fine and I have good attitude control. The weird fuel level readings from the nukes are apparently caused by them only reading the fuel levels in the side tanks...not the center tanks."
Aldner: "Maybe the pulse selectively caused damage to only certain control circuits, like the OKTO2 reaction wheels and the fuel transfer ducts."
Nelemy: "DUDES!"
Kurt: "What is it, Nelemy?"
Nelemy: "Um... Why are you guys all acting so strange?"

Ah. It seems that when Squad decided to implement kerbal roles (pilot, engineer, scientist), they didn't just add a parameter to the Save game file to specify each kerbal's role -- instead, the role is determined by the kerbal's NAME...somehow. So now Jebediah is a pilot...Bob is a scientist...and Bill is an engineer. Pilots have skills in flying ships that improve as they level up by gaining experience. Engineers can repack parachutes, and fix landing legs and rover wheels. Scientists increase the amount of science you gather with their bonus multipliers.

So what does all this mean for my venerable Save game? Well...by whatever arcane method Squad chose to determine roles from names, Hellou turns out to be a pilot (as does Nelemy). Aldner and Kurt turn out to be scientists. Thompbles and Emilynn are engineers. BUT this is NOT a good thing. Totally unacceptable. My kerbals have roles they've been serving for a long time now. AND in many cases my pilot kerbals have been doing things that are now the purview of engineers (like packing chutes and fixing rover wheels).

So...I made changes. After some experimentation I found out that changing Hellou's name to "Hellou{alt-space} Kerman" makes her a scientist...and the alt-space character in her name does not distract me. Kurt Kerman was changed to "Kurtj Kerman" and he is now an engineer. Aldner was also made into an engineer by changing his name to "Aldner. Kerman" So now he's Aldner...Period!

It turns out that Squad stores the kerbalnaut role definitions in a file named Traits.cfg inside the GameData/Squad/Experience folder. (Thank you, Cydonian Monk, for pointing this out to me.) I decided to copy and paste the piloting and engineering skills into both the Pilot and Engineer classes in that cfg file, making all my kerbals pilot/engineers unless they are Scientists. I'm fine with scientists just getting science bonuses.

So...a second, less-violent shock wave passed through the Grey Haven Express... and Hellou, Aldner, and Kurt looked momentarily confused about the displays they were viewing...and changed them over to Science display (Hellou), ship control display (Aldner), and ship engineering display (Kurt)...and got back to work. And so we carry on with only Nelemy being a bit confused about what had happened. But he's used to being a little confused."

Thompbles: "What's going on? Is everybody OK? What's the status of the ship?"
Aldner: "Some sort of wave hit us. All OKTO2 probe reaction wheels are dead, but the rest of the OKTO2 circuits are working. All other reaction wheels on the ship are OK, and we are holding attitude. All external fuel ducts are nonoperational. All nukes are in cold shutdown."
Kurt: "This is Kurt. All tanks and hab modules show steady pressure. Environmental systems green. Electrical power bus at 100%. Aldner, Nelemy, Hellou and I are in Tylo Hab. Last I knew, Emilynn was in the Vall Hab."
Emilynn: "Hey, you pudknoockers should keep it down when a lady is trying to get some shut eye. I'm in the Vall Control module now. I'll start running system checks."
Nelemy: "The snack cabinets seem to be OK, Dude. The Trash and Rubbish compartments still contain trash and rubbish...except for what floated out when I was checking. The Board Games cabinet is OK, but we're probably still missing the robber piece from Settlers of Katan, and the..."
Thompbles: "Fine, Nelemy. We'll get a full inventory later. Contact Laythe Base and see if they are OK."

Hellou: "I was trying to contact Laythe Base, but there was lots of static and then I lost the signal."
Thompbles: "Have you tried switching comsats?"
Aldner: "Won't do any good, Bossman. We have links to the comsats via our omni antennas, but the engineering data from the comsats indicate that they are slowly tumbling, so their high gain antennas can't keep a lock."
Kurt: "All of the comsats use OKTO2 probe bodies for attitude control. Looks like whatever took out our OKTO2 probe reaction wheels also hit them."
Thompbles: "Check them all, including the Vall, Tylo, and Bop constellations. Use our own high gain antennas to make contact with Laythe Base."
Hellou: "I'm trying that now, but all the comsats in the Laythe constellation are dead, too...and Laythe Base is on the far side of Laythe for another six hours."
Thompbles: "OK. Point a high gain at Kerbin and send a full status report to them."

Below: One of the many now-useless comsats I have in orbits around Joolian moons. Not that I actually use them. But, still, Squad: Please give the OKTO2 probe cores back at least some small amount of reaction wheel torque.

OK...Enough story for today...but let's discuss the biggest problem that the KSP Beta 0.90 upgrade threw at me: The change to the external fuel ducts. This change (while I'm sure it's a happy and wonderful thing because it makes ducts and struts use a common code format, and hopefully will resolve some fuel-flow irregularities I've encountered in building ships) means that fuel ducts in old Save files no longer transfer fuel when those Saves are opened in 0.90. And I have hundreds of fuel lines on the various ships that inhabit the Kerbol system of my Save game file.

Now don't get me wrong... KSP was an Alpha game (and now a Beta game), so changes like this are to be expected, and I'm not complaining. BUT...one of the ways I have FUN in KSP is seeing how long I can keep my ancient Save game universe (which was started in version 0.18) working. So I delved into the Save file to see if I could fix the problem. The fuel must flow! He who controls the fuel, controls the universe!

It turned out that the old fuel ducts stored their connection data in a "cData" line...and all that information now resides in a "PARTDATA" child of the fuelline part...and there were also "CModuleLinkedMesh" and "CModuleFuelLine" modules that needed to be added...and lots of parts needed to get "cid" numbers assigned, since that's apparently how the fuel flow code identifies the parts. I was able to figure out how to hand-edit all this into place, and I fixed one of my Tugs as a test...which worked! But I didn't fancy having to edit the monstrosity of fuel lines that is the Grey Haven Express...nor did I relish the thought of finding and fixing all the other fuel lines on all the other ships in my Save game.

But, happily, KSP Forums member JumpsterG offered to try to write a VB script to automate my procedure, if I would send him the example files. So I did. And he did. And there was much rejoicing!

Whatever the strange Beta wavefront did to discombobulate the fuel ducts, one of the steely-eyed missile kerbals back at the KSC (one JumpsterG Kerman by name) was able to figure out a software workaround that was sent up to the Grey Haven Express to get its fuel lines operational again.

So, next time, I really WILL get around to sending the Old Crew back to Kerbin.