Kerbal Halloween Blastoff!

One of very few video games we get to enjoy around here is Kerbal Space Program. It’s actually my wife’s fault as she bought the game for me before D was born. It’s a great way to lose track of time and build rockets till sun-up(some just to see them explode, some to actually get to or beyond orbit) and it’s all based on real life physics/rocket science. It’s a really fun game if you’re into rockets but I digress..

Valentina Kermin is a main character in the newly released KSP2 (which, by the way is still kind of a beta for now, so I’m waiting for it to get sussed out while still being entirely content with KSP original. Check it out if you like. Anyway, so the video sums up this deceptively challenging costume. The Astro-suit is generic Amazon, the head was pretty basic paper mache over an exercise ball (& some LEDs/Wires) but most of the challenges had to do with design choices for the jetpack smoke.

*Actually, I just remembered that although I had a little & appropriate DC cooling fan at the ready I ran out of time to install it, and just hoped the clear visor wouldn’t fog up out there on the mean streets of candyland. It did, though- so you might notice those two gaping holes in the back that were carved with a pocketknife at the last minute. They’re pretty ugly but they did the trick. Now back to the jetpack:

I wanted to have instant-on smoke, and a lot of it, but I also didn’t want my kid to start on fire. I included a pre-heater resistor in the fluid this go-round which probably contributed to an easier ignition threshold. I’ve done propylene glycol/Vegetable Glycerin smoke generators (vape tech) before and I was trying to run the setup hotter than usual for testing, so yea, I likely could have dialed some varibles around enough to get a satisfactory medium-safe result but I also wanted to use this indoors without complaints so I moved onto humidifier tech. I’ve touched on this before, but this is the first time I’ve actually tried a unit with 4 “heads” (piezo/ceramic transducers). I intended to order a 12 head unit but this is what I got. Despite that its actually pretty good, but takes a good bit of power with 48v at almost 2A. Fortunately I’m also into FPV drones and so getting that kind of power portable only entailed reaching to the other desk in my office to link up 3 4s Lipo packs in series for a very compact, portable, and lightweight high power source. All of that would have been great if I had started with this plan in mind. I did create a surround mesh that contained things to some degree but the end result still would have been a big wet mess inside a cardboard box. Maybe next year I’ll do something cool with it, but it will take some more R&D and a wet plan from the get-go.

With time running out I just subbed in some dry ice- which we’re familiar with from other experiements. Its pretty easy to come by usually but I had to do a bit of running around due to the extra halloween demand- we got the first block too early but still seized the opporutunities for some bubble-freezing, rocket, and the usual other nifty experiements. In the end, I ended up stuffing a few conveniently handy polyimide film heaters leftover from another client project. They’re not spec’ed for this project at all but by dumb luck end up being pretty darn ideal for this power source and wattage. I just threw them inside a pair of aluminum cans and decided they’re immersion heaters instead now. I’m not sure adding water to kick up the smoke volume was the right choice here- it certainly delivered a burst but also allowed water to form a protective ice shield that the heaters couldn’t always keep up with. So again some more time for R&D would have been nice but in the end it worked OK. I carried a thermos of warm/hot water in my backpack to recharge on occasion. Pretty much the whole project was recycled parts lying around the house. About all I bought was the dry ice, and amazon astronaut suit. Oh- and that humidifier assembly- but since they messed up the spec on that, it was almost free too. Falcor donated his eyes to the cause, and we dug up fans from our “thermodynamics” drawer from a friend who’d worked at Scent-air. Even the jetpack straps were found on the sidewalk the day before- literally just somebody’s run-over black tie downs that we cut and bonded onto the pack, and the lights/jet were a button assembly we made for the peacock spider last year.

There is definitely some poetic justice in the the whole “recycled & improvised rocket parts” theme of Kerbal which was so aptly embraced for this particular costume effort.

So all in all, happy to have it done and as usual, we learned a lot in the process. Happy Halloween!