29 April 2013

Adventures in KSP: The Duna flight

Let's finish up this adventure so we can get to the updated version of KSP. Having gone to Duna with the Troy, my interplanetary spacecraft, I was in the process of getting my lander down to the planet. Let's see how things went...

So, we are going down to Duna. I had chosen the flat mare where I had set down my first probe before and aimed the lander at the place. The low terrain would help me estimate when I was actually approaching the ground and would give the parachutes more time to work.

Down there!

As I had tested the lander on Kerbin, I knew that the chutes by themselves wouldn't be enough to get it to the ground in one piece. That wasn't a problem though, as I had designed the lander to pop off two auxiliary tanks after landing anyways, as to not carry any excess weight back into space. The auxiliary tanks also held most of the chutes, which meant that their weight would be gone too. During the descent, I fired up the twin engines and let them burn on a low flame until the ground came near and it was time to break to less than 5 meters per second.
Chutes and thrusters, working together.
Landing didn't prove to be much of a problem. A glitch started tearing on my standing ship though, forcing me to keep the exploration of the landing site short before it would tear apart. Still, Neilkin got his fame by taking steps on Duna.
Made it! Made it! One small step for a man, several large hops for a Kerbal.
Neilkin got back on board quickly and fired up the thrusters. This stage of the flight had only been partially tested on Kerbin: I was able to ascertain that the lander was capable of lifting itself up to about 60 km on Kerbin. Knowing that on Duna that would be above the atmosphere, I was hoping that the difference in gravity would make up for the fuel I'd spend to get that height into a circular orbit...
Looking good so far.
To my surprise, it went very well. Doing a gravity-turn, the ship got into orbit with enough fuel to make the rendezvous with the Troy, preventing the scenario where I'd get the Troy to pick up the lander.
Approaching the mothership.
After successfully docking with the Troy, Neilkin spacewalked back over. Then I pumped all leftover rocket- and RCS-fuel from the lander into the Troy, as it would be a close thing to get back to Kerbin. Undocking the lander, it was left behind in orbit around Duna.
The Troy, minus its lander.
Would the fuel be enough to get the ship back to Kerbin? Would I need to do some crazy aerobraking once I got there? I didn't know but I had put someone on Duna. That was something for now...

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