Kerbal Space Program Stories

The 1.11.0 release added a new form of Field Rocket Surgery. In addition to bug fixes, “As of version 1.11.1, additional kerbals outside during an EVA allow engineers to manipulate heavier items.” I’ll have to try that at some point.

I played with this new toy to eventually transfer fuel between ships not suitably equipped with fuel ducts prior to launch. This also required discovering/remembering how fuel transfer works. The keys turned out to be 1. ensure the ducts reach across the heat shield (heat shields and certain other parts prevent fuel flow) 2. ensure the ducts are NOT across docking ports (the ducts disconnected upon reload when they crossed docking ports) 3. exit to space center/tracking station/etc. and reload the ships after docking. There is something sticky about parts before/after docking which I’ll get back to but which prevents the fuel transfer buttons from showing up properly prior to reloading the docked ships.

Perhaps more entertaining than the success were the attempts leading up to the success. Prior to figuring out the bit about fuel ducts not working and disconnecting when spread across docking ports, I managed to 1. move a single fuel tank from one ship to the other 2. fuel it up 3. transfer it back.


This worked so well I tried to repeat it with the other 3 tanks, but the fuel disappeared when I transferred them back to the original ship. Repeatedly. I gave up before I completely drained the tanker. At least one tank was enough to get home, although I had to be careful with the thrust because the center of mass was way off due to uneven fuel.

While exploring the physics of docking and fuel transfer, Bill “Schrödinger” Kerman managed to simultaneously be inside and outside. When I told him to knock it off and get back inside he refused, but when I invited him outside he produced a third copy. While questions remained (if one died, would Bill be both dead and alive? What if I left one in orbit and returned the other to Kerbin? What would I do with the third?) I decided to exit the game and reload, and the clone(s) didn’t return.


I nearly lost Enfurt Kerman during a rescue mission without rocket surgery. I usually avoid creating debris by releasing stages on suborbital trajectories, but I do try to classify junk from rescue missions as debris, at least until I get a Claw. When Enfurt’s craft was reclassified, I could no longer switch focus to it. I was temporarily unable to tell Enfurt to EVA because I couldn’t focus on his ship to select his portrait. Fortunately, I was able to select the crew hatch, and he successfully escaped the debris.


Since then I’ve performed more advanced Field Rocket Surgery. I started by scavenging a Clamp-O-Tron Jr from a ship which was ready to go home to equip a station with too many small ports and too few tiny ports. Since I’d already transferred the data to the Mobile Processing Lab and the Science Jr. wasn’t on the re-entry stage, I decided to move the science experiments to the station. This might save enough mass to have dV for another rescue. Even if it didn’t, I had enough fuel on the station I refuel the lighter craft for another rescue anyway. After moving parts around, I realized that the part stickiness works both ways – I had gained fuel while moving the tanks, and I’d also gained data in science experiments from which I’d previously transferred data.

The result was a stripped down vessel unsuitable for landing, but with many times the dV I needed to do another rescue in Minmus orbit. I left the heatshield and parachutes in place, just in case I forgot to avoid rentry with it. My intent is to hop between orbits to perform the remaining Minmus SOI rescues for which I have contracts. It’s a good thing I had extra dV. I adjusted orbit to mostly retrograde (maybe 140 degrees) before realizing that my a previous rescue was still on the stripped-down ship rather than the station. The current plan is to meet back up with the station on the other side of the orbit, reverse orbit to transfer crew to the appropriate return vessel, then reverse orbit again to perform the intended rescue. That might have been a bit of a drain on the station’s fuel, but with the extra sticky fuel, I think the station is still coming out ahead. Plus, the station is getting several fuel tanks. The single large tank the station previously had was enough for holding fuel, but I find it convenient to have smaller tanks available for filling up less than 100% while preserving the required fuel to oxidizer ratio.

Other trivia:

  1. Three 1x6 solar panels are just barely more than needed to fully power a Mobile Processing Lab in Minmus orbit. Moving extra panels from visiting ships was a nice option to have.
  2. Mk0 Liquid Fuel Fuselage is more mass-efficient than the Mk1 for the same amount of fuel, but it is also more expensive. However, they can be stacked together to reach landing legs past an Atomic motor. The result has a somewhat high center of mass, but the extra dV is nice for hopping around Mun and Minmus.
  3. I’m considering re-using parts across missions by moving them across ships. It sounds interesting to get working, but once it works I suspect it’ll be more bother than just blowing credits on launching more payload. I suspect mining for fuel might fall into the same category.

Brilliant! I’ve had a couple bugs with crew not transferring between modules properly, or failing to grab doors until I un-grabbed and re-grabbed the ladder. I haven’t had the instant clones problem yet though.

Ah, that explains it. I had reinforced an area crossing a docking port with struts on a space station. At every reload the struts returned to one side with the little starting block, and had to be reattached. EVA equipment transfers and adjustments are so handy though, it’s almost mandatory for me to carry an engineer now on every major flight.

Somewhere over Minmus…

T -45 seconds to touchdown:

khrrzt … boosters depleted, disconnecting transfer stage. khrrzt
khrrzt … roger Lander 3, systems nominal, preparing to deploy rover at T -25 seconds… khrrzt

T -25 seconds:

khrrzt …uh, Lander 3? you uh… you guys ok up there?.. khrzzt

Everything was, in fact, not fine. Trying to air-drop a rover before touchdown has turned out to be a poorly thought out idea. I wasn’t entirely sure if I had offset parts clipping into one another or what, but firing the decoupler then initiated a very dramatic explosion.

I was later informed by @SirDrew that what likely happened was that some engineer never bothered to turn down the stack decouplers lower than 100% explosive force. So rather than decoupling the rover shroud, it decoupled some other pieces instead:

Screenshot from 2021-02-05 16-23-21

Sigh… crap, that just made this landing a bit harder. Suddenly the ship is minus 2 fuel tanks, one terrier engine, and 1 landing leg… great.

So the rover was jettisoned, and thankfully by adding the large RCS thrusters and employing the gentlest of landing burns I was actually able to get it landed pointing straight up. Pretty sure this would not have worked on Mun.

Rover didn’t make it by the way. Broken solar panels and 4 broken tires. Landed about 2km away, upside down :frowning:

Mission failed successfully?

So the only payout this mission was able to get was planting the flag, which didn’t even pay for the mission but I guess that Kerbal for ya. So before the return trip it was time to employ the emergency delta-V maximizer protocol

AKA ‘rip all the bits off we can before takeoff’

Screenshot from 2021-02-05 16-38-27

Liftoff was… dramatic. Such unbalanced thrust resulted in tipping the craft over nearly parallel with the ground (well sure, it seems obvious now…).

So I was trying to roll the craft over and keep it pointed up-ish while figuring out what to do. Spent some dV careening over the landscape just barely clearing hilltops, and then I… one sec…

hey!.. hey guys, can you turn that radio down? Yeah… yes I know they’re unhappy, I’m just tired of hearing the screams.

Where was I? Oh right, I was able to get things stable enough to set that third terrier engine to 30% thrust, and that the gimbles could handle. So we made it to Minmus orbit, ditched that 3rd engine, and made it the rest of the way home without incident (and with more dV to spare than I thought it would be).

Screenshot from 2021-02-05 16-43-59

I was totally out of mono-propellant by this point though.

I believe we call this the “Martian Maneuver.” :wink:

@Canem I can’t tell from the pictures. What was under the center fuel tank? Any engines there?

What was left of the sky-dropped rover. I was/am having a hard time figuring out how to haul rovers into space and deploy them. So it was a structural component of the rocket in this case.

Waaaaait a minute. You removed a structural component of the rocket and were surprised stuff blew up? :stuck_out_tongue:

They were attached via decouplers on either end of the rover. The rover was part of the length of the rocket.

Pro tip: don’t do that… horrible idea…

Wibbly wobbly flippy wippy rwockets?

There were struts thank you very much! It got to minmus just fine… and then everything went all Apollo 13 on me.

I imagine Kerbals don’t have the Chuck Yeager radio drawl… that would be interesting to hear! :smiley:

Kerbal Space Program really is Dwarf Fortress for the stars. I’m dying over here!

@Canem have you tried assembling the rover after launch? Might even be able to use the lander with wheels. Either make them just higher than the extended landing legs at launch or attach them after reading orbit, then you could retract landing gear to switch to rover wheels. I don’t recall if I’ve ever done a rover. For site seeing a jetpack gets you a long way, and I’ve not taken the time to drive around for science.

Good idea, I’ll try that next. I’ve got the larger wheels unlocked now, I think I’ll try that lander/rover hybrid idea. If I put it in a shell maybe I can just use the folding wheels as the landing legs? On Mun and Minmus anyway I can set the craft down pretty gently.

Quick update on my Eve nanolander project- Behold! The closest I’ve come in 4 tries to reach the surface on Eve:

Screenshot from 2021-02-16 08-47-51

Sigh… yeah there was a probe core on top of that. Now it’s just a battery and a heat shield. Or was anyway.

I’m going back to Duna until I get the inflatable heat shields unlocked.

What are your failures on Eve from? Heat issues on entry, pressure issues on landing, ? I don’t recall Eve being terribly hard to land on, just a super thick atmosphere, so skim the outside until you’re slowed down a lot. Or carry enough to retroburn and kill your orbital velocity, but I’ve put a few probes on Eve and don’t recall any particular issues with the entry.

Maybe. You can land on engines, fuel tanks, or wheels for jets, so wheels for rovers might work.

Seems like it was heat on reentry. I thought I was at a pretty shallow angle, but it seems the heat gets around the heat shield and burns up the stuff above. Not shallow enough I guess. In this picture, there was a HEC5 probe core, another battery, and a parachute on top of that.

Some attempts had a few instruments sticking out over the edge of the heat shield. I got away with that on Duna, certainly not here.

Do I need to build something with one size up heatshield? Or maybe just be much more careful on approach.

Come to think of it, I should just start testing some of these probes in Kerbin re-entry. If it survives that, it’ll probably survive Eve?

Not sure - Eve has a denser atmosphere than Kerbin. Upsizing your heat shields would definitely be a major step in the right direction, though.

The “Bouncy Castle” heat shield isn’t really needed until you’re doing massive ore return missions.

Not needed, but very Kerbal. Also useful for part return missions.

Heat shield being slightly too small and retrograde orbit vs surface are real problems, but you can have too shallow of an angle. Intense heat is a problem, but so is prolonged heat.

For Kerbin I usually aim for roughly 38k pe prior to hitting atmosphere, but high 20’s to high 40’s can be fine for some crafts. Higher than that I’m probably just burning off energy before the final orbit. In between is a region of prolonged heating which seems worse than getting through it quickly.

I usually have a more than adequate heat shield at 1/2 default ablator. I also usually have a large safety margin of deltaV I can blow to slow down. OTOH I also played around without heat shields on earlier versions, so I did a fair amount of fiddling with aerobraking and pe before hitting atmosphere on Kerbin.

Edit: perhaps @Syonyk can tell something of dropping straight down rather than slicing horizontally through the atmosphere.