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In Kerbal Space Program I'm developing a refueling/mining network. I've got miners scattered across the stellar system, but now that I'm out on Jool's moons, I've found that solar panels aren't as effective as they are on the inner planets.

ksp mining ship

My standard miner is 6 drills all feeding a converter and usually I just use 18 XL solar panels. But around Jool, that isn't enough. I'm draining 150 power units per second, so I'd need 200 RTGs so that's out of the question.

Can I use Fuel Cells or Fuel Cell Arrays to efficiently power a mining ship?

Fuel Cell Array

Would I get more fuel from the mining operation than the Fuel Cells use?

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Yes - conditionally.

You NEED a good engineer on board.

I don't have the calculation on hand, but it was found that a three-star engineer is able to break even (with a microscopic surplus) between mining efficiency and fuel consumption of fuel cells to power said mining. You need a 4-star engineer for mining to be of actually practical use, and a 5-star one for something resembling efficiency.

With anything less than a 3-star engineer, you will not be breaking even, burning more fuel than you produce.

RTGs are impractical for the reasons you have mentioned, but if you're very hard-pressed to go mining and unable to get a 4-star engineer, replacing some of your power supply with RTGs will bring you somewhere above the "break even" line and allow a constant, if minimal trickle of surplus fuel.

Also, use Fuel Cell Arrays. They look like a set of 6 Fuel Cells, they weigh about as much as 6 fuel cells, but they produce power of 12 Fuel Cells.

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    Note: in order to get 4-star crew you need to visit other planets (and return), Kerbin system + Kerbol orbit (just leave SOI for a while) can get you only to 3-star. Duna+Ike can get you to 4-star, but Jol system will get you to 5-star with just series of moon fly by. KSP Crew Experience – PTwr Nov 4 '15 at 10:03
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Yes - conditionally. You do not need an engineer on board - even though having one greatly helps.

The first and most important thing is to use the correct parts (the large ones):

The Convert-O-Tron 250 makes by far the biggest difference but every bit helps.

The second thing (even more important than an engineer) is the landing spot. Mining with fuel cells on 1% ore concentration is not going to be successful. Choose your landing spot carefully to get at least around 5% concentration. The more the better.

The third most important thing is the engineer.

Given the conditions above are fulfilled you can get away with one fuel cell array per Drill-O-Matic on a mining rig that has at least four Drill-O-Matics. In this case the fuel cells can also power the Convert-O-Tron 250 and heat dissipation parts without fully maxing out its capacities.

My small mining rig has such setup and runs the 4 fuel cell arrays at 95% capacity while still producing a (small) surplus of both ore and fuel simultaneously (8% ore concentration, no engineer).

Also on inner planets fuel cells on mining rigs have the advantage of enabling mining during the night and/or greatly simplifying the setup.

Sidenote: I know that this question has a bit of dust on it but since the only answer is somewhat incorrect I chose to post an update. The answer is technically for KSP 1.6.x but it is likely valid for all other versions > 1.0 as well as mining hasn't changed since if i remember correctly.

  • Hi Fulgora, welcome to the Stack Exchange network! If you see that an answer is incorrect or outdated you are encouraged to edit the post to improve and update it. You also added a bunch of different information though, so I think your separate answer was the right choice though. Since you already used the formatting nicely, I think you already understand mostly how the site works, but if you haven't, I strongly suggest you take a quick peek at our tour for a brief but complete introduction. – Bassie-c Jan 21 '19 at 20:30

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