Long-term Laythe - Part 45

One Point One Woes

I finally got a chance to try out KSP version 1.1 this week (I was not able to try out the pre-release versions because I'm a KSP Store kind of guy). So...How did my old Save game fare in the new universe?

When I last looked at Laythe in version 1.0.5, I was seeing a weird discoloration of some areas of the surface (see below). I wouldn't mind a two-tone Laythe, but this discoloration made those surface areas vey dark and dreary. Some people were saying this was due to a bug in 1.0.5, but I was only seeing it when I had E.V.E. installed, and did not see it in the stock game. In any case, with KSP 1.1 and the newest version of E.V.E., I no longer see this effect.

I started off my survey of 1.1 by checking out my hardware on Duna and Laythe, beginning on Laythe with the Base area on Dansen Island.

Below we can see what happened to Laythe Base 2 when it loaded up and Physics kicked in. It kicked hard. The landing legs on the Base are supposed to lift it up off of the wheels (for a firm foundation once it has been rolled into position), but the legs apparently collapsed down far enough to allow the wheels to touch the ground...and the wheels and landing legs did a buggy dance to shake and shimmy the modules around. The parachutes popping out is a result of a bug from the 1.0 update, which seems to cause some packed parachutes on landed ships to be armed...and sufficient motion sets them off.

In the aftermath of the 1.1 Bug Boogie, the Base appeared intact. I did not take the time to find out if the wheels could be fixed, because I'm not sure if a future update might come along to fix this violent shimmy when loading a Save game (if so, I'll just reload a fresh copy and go from there). So for now, nothing is "official"...I'm just testing. It's odd that only the parachutes from half of the Base were triggered...but those two halves are from different landings (which were then docked together), and the different history obviously affects how that bug bites.

Also, in the image above you can see that the flag has fallen down. At first I thought that it got knocked over during the Base's epileptic fit, but it turns out that ALL of the flags in my old Save game fall over when I go visit them.

Checking out the Laythe "Air Force" revealed that the rover wheels on almost all of the BirdDog rover/planes are no longer functional because they are apparently too close to the air intakes. Why would I have put them so crazy close to the air intake in the first place? Well, I didn't...but the size of the Ram Air Intake grew a lot during a recent upgrade.

You can also see above that all my old planes are still equipped with the old version of the Mk1 cockpit. This was done by installing parts from the Kerbal Historical Institute mod (and doing a manual find & replace in the Save file before updating). This was necessary because the "upgraded" version of the Mk1 cockpit changed the location of the entry hatch to the side where it is blocked by canards or other structures in all my old planes and rovers.

Happily, the original BirdDog 1 that Aldner landed on Laythe is different in that its air intakes are mounted higher up (I changed this later so that the drag on the intakes would be along the centerline of thrust). This meant that BirdDog 1 could actually move, so that I could test out the roving ability under version 1.1...

Alas, just driving over to the GasStation drained the batteries dry. The output from the solar panels was nerfed in 1.0, so the BirdDog is not really effective as a rover anymore without very frequent breaks. But the worse news came when I tried to dock the plane to the GasStation...and found that it no longer fits. The landing legs in 1.1 allow the GasStation to sink lower into the ground, so the BirdDog no longer fits under the boom. And, no...messing with the leg settings did not help.

I did try a short flight, and the BirdDog can still fly under version 1.1 aerodynamics, but it does seem to require a lot more up-elevator, especially when landing. The landing gear were up to the task of supporting the plane for the take off and landing, however.

When I switched over to the nearby area around Laythe Base 1, the vehicles settled to the surface, maybe bouncing a couple times, but without any disasters. But I was surprised to see that the Laythe SSTO rocket (which had landed most of the original crew) was now at the water's edge of Fido Bay inlet.

Much worse, it turned out that the newer RAPIER-powered SSTO rocket was now awash in the water of the inlet, tipping over (with that motion triggering the buggily-armed chutes).

The RAPIER SSTO is now gently bobbing in the inlet, useless. I already knew that the original SSTO would be useless in 1.0+ because the jet engines that powered it are now far too weak to get the ship up to speed to reach orbit. But some testing I had done with the RAPIER version had showed that it was possibly still marginally workable...but not if it starts out floating sideways in the water.

When I switched to the ancient Fido Pup rover (the first probe that I had landed on Laythe), it looked fine at first...until I realized that it was now under water in the inlet. The Fido Pup used to float (see my previous mission logs), but I'm not surprised that it no longer floats under the new Physics... but how did it get out into the water? What in the world happened?

I had read something in a 1.1 pre-release forum thread where somebody said that some of their old vehicles had shifted position from where they were in his old save, so at first I thought that might be it... But an overview of the Base area shows that the inlet has spread further south in 1.1... which is odd, since I hadn't heard that there was going to be any landscape tweaking in this version.

Below is a side-by-side comparison of the inlet (being overflown by Aldner after the previous tsunami...from a previous episode), and the current state of affairs in version 1.1. The inlet has certainly flooded into the prime real estate of my Base 1 area. Note that the additional dark splotches in the right image are cloud shadows. Also note that the trademark dune features don't seem to be as visible in 1.1 from altitude as they used to be. I don't know what's causing this.

I made a quick check on the ShoreLab vehicle that was parked near the shore west of the Base area, and it is still on dry land (although I don't think I left it parked that close to the water...but I may not be remembering correctly).

But let's get back to the Base area. I wanted to try docking the FuelFido to the Mallard seaplane (not to be confused with the later KSP stock plane of the same name). All of the wheels of the FuelFido are unblocked...but they don't seem to turn properly to steer the vehicle anymore (below).

Despite the screwed-up steering, I was able to shift the FuelFido back and forth, and I was able to dock the claw to the rear of the Mallard. Huzzah! Immediately after docking, the FuelFido had an epileptic fit that blew a few of its tires (you can see one in the image below), but it was otherwise intact. Later, after I un-docked the FuelFido, the steering directions of the wheels were working properly. Freaky.

The situation with the newer Claw-based GasStation was not so rosy. Below you can see where a BirdDog was left after it had just refueled from that GasStation. The Claw on the side is supposed to be at wing level of the plane...but the landing legs are allowing the GasStation to sink lower into the surface, so the Claw will no longer align with the ships it was meant to service.

The way that Claw GasStation was designed to work (if you recall) was that its Claw was to be armed, and then the plane was to be maneuvered up against it to dock. Alas, it turned out that this was the kind of thing that could cause world-destroying problems...so I was hoping that this defect would be fixed in 1.1. Unfortunately it seems that Squad's idea of a "fix" was to make all Claws on inactive vessels inactive...so this technique for docking will never work. What can work (I assume...I could not test it because this BirdDog's wheels are blocked by its air intakes) is the workaround that I previously used: Get the plane rolling toward the GasStation, then quickly switch to the GasStation to make it the active vehicle before they touch (which can be difficult in a Base area filled with many ships that you may need to switch through). Well, yes, that won't work HERE because the landing legs now let the GasStation sink too low (maybe that Claw on the other side is the correct height now?).

So here is the part where Brotoro once again begs Squad for some refueling hoses. Please. Pretty please. Give the kerbals hoses. It's only reasonable that they would have hose technology. And it would give kerbals a great thing to do on EVA. If you don't want to make a cool animation (but how cool would that be!), just give us a box labeled "Refueling hoses" that I can right-click on to link my ship to any close-by ship to allow right-click transfer of fuel (assuming I have a kerbal present to do the EVA). Pretty pretty please?

I did a quick test flight of the Mallard and tried a sea landing. I was not surprised that the clusters of air intakes (which used to be magically hydrophobic and made great flotation pontoons) no longer worked in 1.1, causing the Mallard to land hard and destroy its air intakes. The plane now floats as shown below.

In 1.1 you can easily pan below the water level to see the rest of the plane. Undo. Undooooo.

I switched to one of my network of eight Laythe Ocean Probes...and I was quite surprised to see it was still floating...

...oops. Spoke too soon. I was not surprised to see it sink out of sight. I guess it was a wonder those things ever floated to begin with.

The probe ended up on the bottom of the sea (after several minutes of sinking) at a depth of 1219 meters (the altimeter does not display a minus sign for depths). Alas...this leaves our intrepid explorers without their network of tsunami alert sensors.

Ah, but what about the DogFish, I hear you DogFish fans asking (you know who you are). The DogFish is still afloat, rather nose heavy. I did not test out its mobility.

A quick check around Laythe showed that the other GasStations were in place (you can see the Manley Base station below), unfortunately with their landing legs allowing them to sink low enough into the surface that they are useless as BirdDog refueling points. You can also see that Aldner's special flag has fallen to the ground. I think of this as version 1.1's way of laughing at all my hard-earned accomplishments, which it has brought low with one mighty blow.

I saw a KSP 1.1 pre-release thread in which somebody reported that Laythe's ice caps were gone... so I went to the flag that Nelemy planted at Laythe's south pole (watching it fall over with 1.1's mocking laughter ringing in my ears), and the ice is still there. I zoomed out to get the picture of the edge of the ice cap shown below (which has been brightened up considerable, since it was quite dark there).

A quick look showed that Laythe Space Station was still there, with no shaking or fits going on...although I didn't try to see what would happen if I undocked various parts. All those nuclear tugs are old-style, which will now be poor performers because the nukes can now only use liquid fuel. They also don't meet the design requirements of ridiculously overheating NERV engines...so their burns will need to be made at lower thrust with cooldown phases. If I ever use them at all.

Ah, but perhaps I should despair not, since maybe an update will fix various issues with the legs and wheels and whatnot, you say? Perhaps you are right. So for now, I decided to do something else in KSP 1.1...


Bringing Back BirdDog

What I decided to do was test out the rover wheels and airplane landing gear that many people have reported having problems with in version 1.1. And to do this, I asked myself the question, "How would you design a BirdDog for the 1.1 universe?"

The BirdDog is supposed to explore Laythe by being part airplane and part rover...so that it can fly to all the interesting islands, and then drive around on them to see the sights. The original BirdDog was a one-kerbal ship, but it soon became apparent that being able to carry around passengers, specifically a scientist and science gear, was an important feature...so the new BirdDog would have the capability to carry passengers.

Below, you can see my result:

The new 1.1 BirdDog uses the Mk1 Inline Cockpit (with its wonderful view) and the Mk1 Crew cabin (which could be outfitted, I imagine, to carry two passengers or one passenger with more spacious living quarters and research equipment). The Mk1 Liquid Fuel Fuselage holds 400 units of fuel in half the volume that the original BirdDog tanks needed to hold 300 units. On the back is a Weasley jet engine (although I tested versions with the Panther and Whiplash). On the front is the inelegant-looking Advanced Grabbig Unit "Claw", which I would gladly give up if Squad gives us refueling hoses (pretty please with sugar on top??). There is also a battery pack, RC-001S Remote Guidance Unit (so that the plane can be flown by remote control), and a Service Bay in the back. The single air intake was positioned on top with the thought that the BirdDog might be able to handle water landings (which would be a very useful capability on Laythe). The delta-wing-and-canard arrangement of the original BirdDog was retained.

Below, you can see the new BirdDog in roving mode. The nose gear only is retracted to lower the two rover wheels onto the ground. I went with the TR-2L Ruggedized Vehicular Wheels instead of the traditional wheels for better traction and because they have lighter weight and less drag (which surprised me). The wheels are mounted on Small Hardpoints (which have their separation function disabled) to reach the ground and not get blocked by the fuselage. The wheels are powered by a bank of six PB-NUK Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators that are stuffed into the lower half of the Service Bay...no solar panels needed (since solar panels are now crap on Laythe, and covering the plane's surface with solar panels would be extremely draggy anyway nowadays). A high gain antenna for long range communication sits on top, and the upper half of the Service Bay has all the SCIENCE instruments that can fit, including a Goo and a Resources surface scanner.

The Whiplash version below shows off the retro pack that can be used to deorbit the BirdDog, located at the center of gravity. This will also bee the connection point for attaching the BirdDog to the side of its launch vehicle (they would be sent up in balanced pairs using the method I use for launching DunaDog planes in my "Developing Duna" thread). I have tested the ability of the BirdDog to land from Kerbin orbit. Just keep the nose up 30 degrees during entry...the plane bleeds off speed quickly and has no overheating problems.

The Whiplash-engine version above also shows off the access ladder location. A kerbal can climb up to the top of that ladder, then "climb out" up onto the top of the plane and walk over to the cockpit canopy to get in. When exiting the cockpit, the kerbal can drop onto the canard, then walk aft and Grab the ladder to descend.

The technique for refueling the new BirdDog is shown below. GasStations will be simple barrels of fuel (dropped from orbit with retro engines and parachutes as needed) that the BirdDog will nuzzle up to a poke with its Claw. No more worries about finicky landing legs changing the heights of things. It's foolproof!

Of course, leave it to 1.1 to try to make a fool out of me anyway: When I did a test docking to make sure the method worked, the plane started jittering continuously after docking like an excited puppy on amphetamines. BUT...it can still get its gas. And we can all hope that the issues with the wheels and landing gear get sorted out soon.

ROVING TEST RESULTS: I tested the new BirdDog in rover mode in the hills west of KSC. It can't handle inclines of 10 degrees head-on with its wheels, but you can attack them at an angle to switchback up the hill. If you are impatient, a burst of jet engine power can push the BirdDog up a steep incline. What you can NOT do is run the rover using Physics Warp... the wheels and landing gear get extremely jittery and will cause the plane to flip out, spin out, or otherwise crash and often explosively disassemble. My only thought about people who claim that the wheel problems are "not so bad" is that they haven't tried them using physics warp. And anybody who has done a lot of roving knows that you NEED to be able to drive at physics warp if you want to get things done in a reasonable amount of time. So there's your test case, Squad.

FLYING TEST RESULTS: The plane lifts off quickly with a short run, and can land at slow speeds, just like the original BirdDog (and I was able to get in and out of a lot of tricky places all around Laythe with that ol' plane).

To test the range the plane could fly, I performed a set of identical flights (made as similar as possible by having MechJeb's autopilot keep the plane at the target altitude and heading), each test using 200 units of fuel. This was done at 4x physics warp...which the plane handles admirably in flight (except sometimes with the Whiplash). The plane was flown to the cruise altitude at full throttle, and then the throttle was set to the cruise setting for the remainder of the flight.

For the Weasley using full throttle for cruise:

At 6,000 meters, the plane covered 499 km (speed was 274 m/s at the end)
At 7,000 meters, the plane covered 530 km (speed was 263 m/s at the end)
At 8,000 meters, the plane covered 569 km (speed was 255 m/s at the end)
At 10,000 meters, the plane covered 670 km (speed was 232 m/s at the end)
At 11,000 meters, the plane covered 695 km (speed was 207 m/s at the end)
At 12,000 meters, things got difficult because the Weasley could not keep the plane going fast enough to keep it aloft in the thin air.

For the Weasley using 2/3 throttle for cruise:

At 8,000 meters, the plane covered 653 km (speed was 192 m/s at the end)
At 9,000 meters, the plane covered 671 km (speed was 178 m/s at the end)
At 10,000 meters, the Weasley could not keep the plane going fast enough to stay aloft at 2/3 throttle.

Notes: I list the "speed at the end" because the cruise speed was slowly increasing during the cruise as the plane got lighter because of fuel burnoff. Cruise speed started a little slower than this speed. I would expect the range to be better for the remaining 200 units of fuel in the tank, so I expect a range of more than double the values shown above. Also, in Laythe's 0.8G gravity, I expect that the plane will do better at staying aloft at slower speeds in thin air. For reference, the circumference of Laythe is about 3,140 km, so the new BirdDog might be able get get almost halfway around Laythe without refueling.

For the Panther using full throttle for cruise:

At 6,000 meters, the plane covered 457 km (speed was 240 m/s at the end)
At 7,000 meters, the plane covered 493 km (speed was 230 m/s at the end)
At 8,000 meters, the plane covered 530 km (speed was 222 m/s at the end)
At 9,000 meters, the plane covered 566 km (speed was 210 m/s at the end)
At 10,000 meters, things got difficult because the Weasley could not keep the plane going fast enough to keep it aloft in the thin air. These were my first tests, so I learned more about getting the plane up to cruise at the higher altitudes later, so I could probably get it to work at 10km...but the results were worse than the Weasley, anyway, so I didn't bother to go back and try.

For the Panther using 2/3 throttle for cruise:

At 6,000 meters, the plane covered 532 km (speed was 177 m/s at the end)
At 7,000 meters, the plane covered 559 km (speed was 168 m/s at the end)

SO: The best results were from the Weasley, and for full-throttle cruise. The only advantage I see for the Panther is its afterburner mode, which might help you take off in a shorter distance.

For the Whiplash...well, this was an entirely different beastie. Trying to climb to cruise altitude at full throttle was terribly fuel-wasteful. I got my best result climbing at 200-something m/s to about 10 km, then leveling off and blasting through the sound barrier at full throttle, and then rising to between 20 and 22 km to cruise. Still, at best I only got 429 km on 200 units of fuel (going 870 m/s at the end). I extended the test to use a full 400 units of fuel (since so much is wasted in the climb), but that still only got me to 1000 km (plus 55 km more during the glide down)...but that's still not as good as the Weasley could do with 400 units of fuel.

Maybe one of you 1.1 spaceplane jockeys could tell me how to do this better... but the Turboramjet is not the magic it was in 0.90 (where it could easily boost my Mallard all the way around Laythe). And the Whiplash has a much more finicky flight profile (although it's faster, of course).

I gather that the Weasley got a buff with version 1.1, so maybe these results shouldn't surprise me. But the Weasley was my final choice for the BirdDog engine.


Liquid Landings

Sir Bedevere: "But what else floats on water?"
King Arthur: "A BirdDog!"
Sir Bedevere: "Exactly!..."

Of course, I had to try landing the new BirdDog in the water (hey...that could easily happen on Laythe, you know). The result...it floats! And nothing breaks if you ease it in at under 65 m/s or so, which the Doggie does well.

Sadly, trying to take off again was a no-go. The plane could only make it up to about 26.5 m/s and would not lift off. The culprit: All of that drag from the rover wheels under the water.

So...let's try it WITHOUT the rover wheels. After all, we need a replacement for the Laythe Mallard and its pontoon goodness. Below: The new Mallard. Plus...dat new interior view option. So cool. I left the Claw on the front because with careful piloting, the not-rover-capable Mallard can be aimed at a refueling barrel, too. And the Claw has way better impact tolerance than a any aerodynamic nose cap that I could put on the front of the Mk1 inline cockpit...which might help it survive water landings.

Below, the new Mallard lands in the water offshore from the KSC with only a few splashes.

However, an early test shown below revealed a problem: The swimming kerbal could not get back onto the plane. He could Grab the ladder and climb up...but there was no "climb out" option available while the BirdDog was floating in water (looks like a bug to me). Climbing up off the top of the ladder simply dropped him back into the drink, with no way to scramble on top. Grrr.

The solution was to add a couple ladder rung segments on the side of the plane (see below). The kerbal could swim over, grab the rungs, the climb up and scramble out on top of the plane.

To take off from the water, just give the Mallard full throttle while hold full-up elevator. At about 45 m/s you start getting all sorts of exhaust cloud spraying around effects. At less than 50 m/s, the Mallard lifts off into the air.

In fact, I did discover a way to the the new BirdDog to take off from the water, even with its draggy wheels (see below). Start by skimming along horizontally at full throttle...this will get you to around 26 m/s. Then briefly give full DOWN elevator. The plane will submerge. Then give it full UP elevator, and the plane will porpoise out of the water and into the air. Fly, Big D! It's going pretty slow when it breaches, but it does make it into the air and up to flight speed. Of course, many might consider this cheating unless you can provide them with the snorkle intake design your engineers came up with to briefly close the intake during the plunge.

Let me end by pointing out that you should look closely at how low the plane floats in the water in various pictures here. The exact same plane can end up floating at different depths in the water on different flights. What he heck? This is like all those pictures I took of my kerbals floating in the water at various places on Laythe...floating at different depths all the time. Why? Nobody ever explained this to me. Well, whatever causes this doesn't appear to have gone away with the new buoyancy physics.


So... There are some initial experiments in 1.1. Maybe some of the bugs will be fixed in upcoming updates...but for now, the Laythe mission continues to lie dormant.