Monday, January 12, 2015

KSS Explorer II (Kerbal Space program)

Well, my previous voyage to Mun was certainly exciting, but I promised it would be back, and I followed through on that promise. Rather than build off of my space station, this ship was assembled in freestanding orbit on its own, four central components, two mun landers, and two unmanned drones for surveying work. A crew of 5 and much, much more extensive science, and engineering facilities.
The Kerbal Space Ship Explorer II

The ship is well more than three times the length of its predecessor, with massive fuel reserves, and more thrust compliments of four atomic engines.

The mission profile was much similar to its predecessor, though with a lot more actually accomplished rather than just hoped for. The plan was to launch of Kurbin orbit, reach Mun, deploy two landers at two sites, and send out my surveyor satellites for mapping at the same time. Then retrieve  all of the same and return home. Once again, the game graphics worked well for the mission, and the whole process was just a beautiful adventure.
Exit burn of Kerbin orbit. You get a good view of the
quad-array of atomic engines at 100% throttle.

The Escape burn from earth was a lot smoother this time, with four engines and a more powerful stabilization system in place. The ships was sluggish compared to the smaller "Apollo" type ships that I was used to using, but there was no doubt that I was going to get where I wanted with this thing.

Like I said before, the visuals made the trip well worth the time involved. 

Reaching Mun and breaking was almost easy with the throttle allotted on the ship. 

I took up a higher orbit than last time, almost 90 KM, and deployed the first lander. Lander #1 went down with a pilot and good fuel for the landing.  I freely admit to using mechjeb (sophisticated autopilot) for most of the advanced maneuvers in this mission.

You can see the solar panels deployed here, as well as the landing flag. The whole thing was smoothly run, which is a major relief after the last mission here. Total time for the first lander on the surface was just under an hour.

Lander two put down in the heart of one of the largest craters. The scenery wasn't too different, but from  an orbit standpoint the geology would (in theory) have been markedly different.I took soil samples, recorded observations and then returned each Kerbil to their lander.
Unmanned orbital surveyor drone 
A good view of the drone with its solar panels deployed. 
The second part of the mission was high altitude mapping mapping. The Drones I built were meant to be able to maneuver as close to Mun as possible without needing life support, or putting a Kerbal in danger. I set one drone up on a 110 KM orbit, and the other at an extremely low 20 KM orbit. While the game doesn't actually record mapping data, I stand by my assertion that even with 1960 technology, the date these two would have brought back would have been excellent.

Docking lander #2
  It took close to an hour of work to get all four separate elements back to the Explorer, each one had to be docked individually, of course. but the process was worth it, of course. When I was done, I made sure to drain all the remaining fuel into the main tanks, and to turn off Lander or drone RCS systems. After last time, I wasn't in the mood to take any chances with fuel. 

Parting shot as I depart Mun, Kerbin and the Sun in the distance. 

The return trip to Kerbin took less then a day and a half (Thank God for time acceleration). With the engines, it was easy and smooth sailing to move into a high earth orbit. 

Return to home orbit. 

The "Werm" and the "Explorer" about to"Kiss." 
The final stage of the mission was to get my crew of Back down to the planet. I short of cheated, the capsules used in the game only sit three, but the Space-X Dragon currently in use will sit 7 once the manned  "DragonRider "unit is authorized for flight. So... I used the parts I had and made a ship I call the "werm" (pronounced "verm" in reference to the German term for "dragon").   I originally loaded the crew with the same ship over a week before, so I kept it in orbit rather than have to built and fly a second one. 

The great beast in its well earned slumber.
Not the most "convention" configuration, but... it worked for me. 

With the crew aboard, I closed down the Explorer's systems and lowered the solar arrays for its period of "sleep" before the next mission.

The Werm returns from orbit as one unit, and separates just before the chutes open. As luck would have it, the process worked, and all five passengers walked away from the landing without a scratch.

Now that's how to end a mission!

And just for reference,
these images of the Explorer I (bottom) and Explorer II (top) for direct comparison.
(note for scale, the command pod on the nose is the same part in each ship)

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