Course Plotting and Propellant

Hey Folks! Bit of a short day today, as I had an errand to run this afternoon. I did, however, get a bit more work done on the course plotter.

A good chunk of the morning was spent trying to figure out what the final form of this course plotter UI would be. Not graphically, per se, but what sorts of things can we control from here? I was tempted to start adding reactor start-up sequence stuff, but part of me thinks we'll have a separate UI for that. This UI is already running out of space for hard-wired buttons, and there's likely to be a lot needed for reactor controls.

On the other hand, this screen should allow you to adjust course parameters like the maximum allowed acceleration, and see things like fuel. And both of those are intimately related to reactor performance. So there will be some overlap. But there will likely be a separate reactor UI you can turn to while on this screen, sort of like flight sims do.

And for anyone wondering, yes I could just make this a giant touchscreen with whiz-bang graphics and the real-estate problem would be fixed. But I'm trying to avoid touchscreen UIs for stylistic reasons. I want to let the player flip switches and turn knobs just like Wash or Han Solo when managing the ship, not swipe left on their Apple device :) So these are more industrial-looking, hence the hard buttons. (And in theory, a slick touchscreen UI is still doable if I ever change my mind.)

So what we have here (image above) is the course plotter with some new widgets. Namely, the "Fuel" readout and an expanded "Max gs" control set.

"Fuel" just tells us how much burn time we have in our propellant tanks, based on the thrust amount listed under "Max gs." So on the image, we are plotting a course from Mars orbit to intercept with Carme (a moon of Jupiter). And the image is split to show two possibilities: the right side is maximum burn, and the left is a throttled burn.

The maximum burn takes us 4.12 days, with an acceleration of over 2.5gs. (Two-and-a-half times Earth gravity.) That's going to be a pretty uncomfortable 4 days if everybody is squished against their crash couches (or floor). And worse, we only have 1.47 days of burn time at that rate. We'll be out of fuel long before we even reach the halfway point, and will end up coasting the rest of the way, likely off-target and flying past the Jovian system at great speed.

This is where the "SET" button near "Max gs" comes in. Here, we can set a maximum thrust for the trip, and the nav computer will recalculate the trip using that thrust instead of max. We hit "SET" to enable the limiter, and use +/- buttons to adjust the throttle in quarter g increments. Reducing the thrust increases the propellant's burn time, but also increases the trip duration. Fortunately, the propellant burn time increases faster, meaning that if we reduce the max thrust to 25% Earth gravity, the propellant will last the entire 13 day journey, and leave us with almost 2 days' worth to spare.

It'll be a long trip. And we might need some rehab to recover from the time spent in low-g. But unless we stop somewhere along the way, lighten the load, and/or add more propellant, this is how it's gonna be :)