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So what is the functional difference between a stack decoupler and a stack separator? Why might I use one over the other? In what cases would I want to choose the TR-18D Stack Separator over the lighter TR-18A Stack Decoupler?

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

The Stack Separator decouples from both the child and the parent node whilst the Stack Decoupler remains attached to the child.

Why might I use one over the other?

Situations where you are separating satellites, rovers, probes or other payloads and don't want the Decoupler still attached.

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Is the parent the lower section (by default decoupler orientation)? – GnomeSlice Dec 12 '12 at 15:47
@GnomeSlice - Parent is the ship, child is the bits that come off. – Christopher Dec 14 '12 at 3:42
@Christopher I think the latest update changed the behavior of decouplers. They are now directional, and will stay attached to the component on their "bottom". – MBraedley Dec 28 '12 at 4:14

Also, the decoupler have an explosive charge attached to it that might change the orbit of your ship if the gravity of the planet/moon is too weak and/or your ship is too light. I'm not sure if that's the case of the separator. If it doesn't change the orbit, that's another advantage.

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Separators have the same explosive charge. When you want less decoupling force, either use the tiny-size decouplers (any structural problems which occur from this can be fixed by additional struts) or use docking ports. Docking ports must be triggered manually, but they disconnect with no force at all. When you don't intent to re-dock, you only need one docking port. – Philipp Feb 28 '13 at 12:04

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