Kerbal Space Program!

James Young · July 22, 2013

I recently picked up Kerbal Space Program from Steam, at lots off.  Awesome game, if you’re into that sort of thing.  I first used the stock Kerbal X rocket, and tried to get it into orbit.  After a few misfires (whoops), I managed to get it into orbit and deorbit it into the sea with the crew alive.  Yay!

Next up, I went and grabbed MechJeb2, which is an autopilot / information mod.  MechJeb can be used for a LOT of data about your rocket.  In particular, I wanted it to show me delta-V data for my stages.  I’ll admit it.  I use the autopilot for launches.  I know I can do a launch, orbit and circularize by hand, so I’m not too proud to admit to using MechJeb to handle that for me.

So, I then decided to replicate the Gemini 7/6A launches, and do the orbital docking.  Built the rocket myself according to the spec in the tutorial, with the exception that I installed a MechJeb2, two solar panels, and a battery pack on the side of the capsule.  I also put some standard canards on the first stage booster.

I used MechJeb2 to handle the launch and orbit circularization (100km), and also used it to get the capsules on an intercept course.  From there, everything was done by hand.

After some time, I managed to get them within a few meters of each other…

Gemini 7/6A Docking Approach

And then slowly, slowly, slowly coming together, I had to reorient and back away because I was targetting the capsule, not the docking port, so they were inches from bumping.  Fixed that up, and…

Gemini 7/6A Docking Complete!

Success!  After cheering for a bit, I detached Gemini 7 and deorbited it, using MechJeb’s landing guidance (no autopilot, just the projection).  Got it down within 3km or so of the KSC.

Then, I assembled a suitable lander for the Mun along with a transfer stage booster.  After messing about with trying to make a primary lifter that would have enough delta-V, I came up with this design…

Errm….  It didn’t go so well.  That was a staging failure - the clamps didn’t release when the rockets fired, and hitting space detached both the clamps and separated the rockets, which then resulted in the catastrophe you see.

In the end, I resorted to using the Zenith Rocket Family pre-built lifters.  I wanted to make sure that my stage would be appropriate, and make sure I could actually DO it.  When I do an interplanetary launch, I’ll probably use the Nomad Interplanetary Drive Family boosters.

I used MechJeb to handle most of the navigation.  The point here was to see just what happens, and to pay attention to how the various orbital mechanics actually work.  Then I’ll do it myself with no autopilot, since i know the rocket can do it and have fuel to spare.  Anyway, success!

Putting a Kerbal on the Mun!

I even had enough delta-V to get them back to Kerbin safely!  Great success!

Much stuff about orbital mechanics learned.  Now to to it with no navigation assistance besides what’s built-in, and once I have that down pat, plan a mission to Duna!

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