13) Micro Space Programme

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Sure you can build big rockets and send them to exciting places but can’t you also do the same with pocket-sized rockets? Probably not but you can do it with rockets that use only ‘tiny’ sized parts!

I’ll be doing three tiny missions, one into orbit, one to land on the Mun and one to land and return from the Mun. Stock tiny parts in KSP are pretty limited, they’re only really intended to push around little probes and such in vacuum, not for the launches themselves. There’s only one real fuel tank to use and that’s the Oscar-B. There’s a few more choices for engines but essentially my designs are limited in scope with stock parts. I’ve enjoyed used them before in my Icarus mission and have wanted to try them again ever since.

Anyway, here are my missions;

Micro-orbiter

The Micro-orbiter on the pad
The Micro-orbiter on the pad

My orbiter has three stages, all of which consist of varying sized stacks of oscar-B tanks with tiny engines. There’s a gap at the top stage because the super-lightweight LV-1 liquid fuel engine (Only 30kg!) doesn’t seem to like being attached to decouplers properly.

Any rocket can be made to look big from the right angle!
Any rocket can be made to look big from the right angle!

The rocket blasted off from the pad. The main problem with tiny parts is that the tanks themselves carry quite a chunk of weight when empty. Because you have to use so many of them it adds up once a stage nears it’s endpoint. This means that, unlike in medium or large rockets, when the stage is down to around 1/4 fuel, thrust:weight ratio isn’t massively better than it is when full, making the rockets less efficient.

Still, this rocket did it’s job and shoved the final stage into space.

So little!
So little!

The LV-1 engine puts out a pathetic 4 thrust (compare that with 3200 for the KS-25×4 Engine Cluster!) but the little probe is so light that this is more than enough to achieve a nice orbit.

screenshot9

There was even enough fuel left over to de-orbit and do a powered landing on Kerbin

screenshot10

Next stop, Mun.

Micro Mun lander

Since the orbiter managed it’s mission with fuel to spare, I figured the design I have already was on it’s way to be enough for a Mun landing. So instead of a redesign, I simply added fuel to each stage of the rocket. This was safe to do as each stage had plenty of thrust to keep it moving. Landing struts were added to the top stage and the lander was ready to go.

It's subtle but I swear it's a different rocket to the orbiter!
It’s subtle but I swear it’s a different rocket to the orbiter!

The rocket made it to orbit with almost all of the final stage’s fuel intact.

The little guy powers away to the Mun
The little guy powers away to the Mun

Despite the very low weight of the final stage, most of the fuel was used up by the time an orbit was established around the Mun. I feared the worst but pressed on in the hope that what little remained would be enough to slow the little probe down for a landing.

In it comes, but with most of it's sideways velocity still intact :-(
In it comes, but with most of it’s sideways velocity still intact 😦

As altitude dropped, I realised I wasn’t going to make it and sure enough the probe hit the Munar surface at around 50m/s with no fuel remaining. But it didn’t explode…

Dink!
Dink!

The probe was so light that, despite my expectations, the flimsy landing legs survived the crash. The probe bounced and travelled to the bottom of the crater before bouncing again. By the third impact it was travelling slowly enough that it could right itself and land! I guess by this point it was so light (0.18T) that the legs could take the strain.

Not even a scratch!
Not even a scratch!

So I now have a newfound respect for the LT-5 micro landing struts!

The Mun landing was an unexpected success and the Kerbals gathered their wits for the final tiny mission, to land a probe on the Mun and return it.

Micro Mun landing and return

This was going to be slightly trickier design-wise. I couldn’t simply add more fuel to the stages as the engines wouldn’t be able to handle the extra weight. So I needed an extra booster stage. Initially when I tried to attach Oscar-B’s to a radial decoupler, they refused to attach. The same thing happened when I tried to use girders attached to the decouplers, the Oscar-B’s simply wouldn’t latch on.

The only small part I found that would allow radial attachment was the M-Beam 650 I-Beam. I have no idea why this worked when nothing else did but oscar-B’s could be attached to the underside of these.

The only other conundrum I faced was whether or not to fit a parachute. The smallest parachute available would have done the job, however, at 0.1T, this would have been a very significant addition to the weight of the lander. In the end, I decided to try a powered landing instead.

The final design of the micro-mission
The final design of the micro-mission

 

screenshot20

With it’s new booster stage taking it above 7000m, the rest of the rocket was able to achieve orbit around the Mun with the final stage still full of fuel.

There's the Mun!
There’s the Mun!

With plenty of fuel available to it, the lander was able to make a controlled landing without any bouncing, great success!screenshot23

Bounce-free!
Bounce-free!

There was still (hopefully) plenty of fuel left to return to Kerbin (around 3/4).

The little craft returns home
The little craft returns home

By the time Kerbin’s atmosphere was reached, only 2 units of liquid fuel remained. This proved to be just barely enough for a powered landing in Kerbin’s oceans

screenshot29

Splashdown!
Splashdown!

Micro-manned!

Jeb looked at all this nonsense with ant size rockets that seem to propell ditty little probes with the power of wet farts and scoffed. “I bet it couldn’t handle a Kerbal” he said in his smuggest astro-celeb voice.

The rocket scientists of course took offence to this and decided to prove him wrong by sending one of their own to Minimus and back with a micro rocket.

There’s only one way to keep the payload light enough for these engines and thats with a frikkin space-chair. Now even Kerbals know that it’s just not safe to go into space on a chair but they found a volunteer who was unlikely to return. Lets call him…. Ensign Startrek (the Kerbals don’t yet have red jumpsuits but just imagine one).

Here he goes…

Brave Ensign ascends the flimsy ladder to his flimsier chair
Brave Ensign ascends the flimsy ladder to his flimsier chair
It's not that tall for a rocket, but it sure as hell feels tall from here
It’s not that tall for a rocket, but it sure as hell feels tall from here

After strapping himself in that alarmingly named external chair, Ensign waves farewell to the KSC crew and gives the finger to Jeb.

The engines fire…

omgomgomgomgomg this feels so precarious!
omgomgomgomgomg this feels so precarious!

Luckily, Ensign is pretty badass and not generally afraid of heights. But this takes the biscuit. If anyone has ever been on this type of ride you’ll know sort of how he feels (it wobbled around a lot too during early flight)

Holy **** NOW IT'S TILTING AND I CAN SEE STRAIGHT DOWN OMGOMGOMGOMG!
Holy **** NOW IT’S TILTING AND I CAN SEE STRAIGHT DOWN OMGOMGOMGOMG IM SO HIGH!

Eventually however, he pulled himself together and got down to the business of spaceflight.

Somehow the height doesn't seem as bad from up here...
Somehow the height doesn’t seem as bad from up here…
And so he sits, like a serene deity. A green one, on his way to a moon made out of minty ice cream.
And so he sits, like a serene deity. A green one, on his way to a moon made out of minty ice cream.

His fears behind him for now, Ensign approaches Minimus.

"Here I come you big green thingy!"
“Here I come you big green thingy!”
Ensign descends into the minty sandstorm which for some reason exists (It's from the visual enhancement mod I'm using)
Ensign descends into the minty sandstorm which for some reason exists (It’s from the visual enhancement mod I’m using)
And touches down sucessfully with fuel to spare!
And touches down sucessfully with fuel to spare! Ensign startrek might actually finish this mission alive after all!

Thrilled with his achievement, Ensign calls Jeb back on Kerbin and says I told you so.

HA!
HA!
He even figures out some wise words for the occassion
He even figures out some wise words for the occassion

After some obligatory low gravity arsing around, Ensign re-boards his craft and returns to Kerbin.

The ladder climb wasn't quite so bad this time
The ladder climb wasn’t quite so bad this time

As he approaches Kerbin he begins to contemplate why on earth external chairs aren’t used more often in space programs, they’re so light after all!

It’s about this point that he notices Kerbin’s atmosphere.

This might be painful
This might be painful
Ensign enters the atmosphere.... doesn't seem to bad so far!
Ensign enters the atmosphere…. doesn’t seem to bad so far!

Ensign had had a blast on his mission so far. Alas, all good things must come to an end.

OWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
OWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Miraculously, Ensign survived the brutal trauma of re-entry. He was going to make it!!!!

Unfortunately, from the word go, the micro craft had an unforseen design flaw. It was designed to make a powered landing using the fuel left in the tank. Unfortunately, the tiny parts don’t hold enough fuel in them to make the craft bottom heavy. In fact the heaviest remaining part of the rocket was Ensign himself. So naturally, he ended up this this.

Crap
Crap

With no RCS or parachute, Ensign was, unfortunately, doomed.

Well, what did you expect, haven't you ever watched star trek? Ensigns always die!
Well, what did you expect, haven’t you ever watched star trek? Ensigns always die!

So was this mission a failure? As the smoke from the landing site clears the wreckage remains.

It's still ok!
It’s still ok!

Although brave Ensign gave his life for this programme, he did prove one thing. You CAN use tiny parts to get Kerbals into space.

 

Just not back down again.

RIP Ensign

 

 

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