Category Archive: News

What's going on at the Kerbal Space Agency

Apr 07 2020

Ascension Mk1 Flight 12 Analysis

Captain Jebediah has waited nearly 5 months for his second chance to fly into space after his first attempt last year was foiled by religious extremists. Extensive training with his backup crew mate Specialist Bob prepared him to handle everything but the wait, which was increased further on his second attempt first by weather delays and then by a faulty engine on launch day. After successful ignition, launch failed due to low thrust issues that caused the engine to not reach a thrust to weight ratio (TWR) of 1.2 for lift off. Trying a second time led to the same result. Although the thrust loss was minimal and still would have been enough to push the rocket off the pad, downrange performance was called into question – it would have been a costly and embarrassing failure if the rocket had been unable to reach space due to thrust issues. Thankfully this additional mission delay was not as long as it could have been since we had another engine that was recently received & tested ready to swap in over the course of a week. After a static fire on the pad the day before launch to make double sure it was capable, Jeb was finally able to ride up into the starry blackness. His mission would be similar to the previous kerbed sub-orbital flights in allowing the gathering of medical data from the 0G environment as well as providing additional flight data on the performance of the capsule, heat shield and crew G tolerances. And as always – amazing pictures!

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Mar 27 2020

Operations Summary – Week of 3/23/20

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Mar 25 2020

Ascension and Progenitor Programs Suspending Operations

Today I made the decision to suspend our rocketry programs for a full review and reassessment on all levels (design, administration, operations, vehicle integration, etc) over the next two months, at least. This move is especially difficult because we started this year out so strong, putting a probe into orbit and once again sending a kerbal up into space after a 5 month hiatus of crewed flight. This month we were also due to launch the first Progeny Mk7-B rocket and begin testing booster recovery and re-use. However despite the increasing momentum we seem to be surpassing our capacity to manage the increasing complexity of our missions and run the risk of compromising safety.

Initial review of the recent kerbed mission has found out why the rocket did not travel as high as planned – it was 53kg heavier than expected. We don’t have a scale that can measure a rocket after it’s been fully assembled. We know the mass of a rocket because we know the mass of all the individual parts plus the mass of the fuels and the mass of the crew. At some point in this mission improper mass figures were given to the mission design team, or proper ones were given but then failed to be updated when changes were made to the rocket’s assembly. We’re still working down the fault chain to identify all the reasons why this mass discrepancy occurred.

Although this was a relatively minor mistake that did not lead to any actual issues with the mission itself, ignoring it could lead to larger mistakes that in turn lead to disastrous consequences. I don’t feel that it is enough to recognize the issue and say “we’ll get it fixed” as we also continue to move on with operations that may already be compromised. Shutting everything down will allow us to go back to missions and vessels already in progress of being deployed to ensure that they are properly put together.

This decision is also influenced by the recent shut down of the Genesis program, which allowed us to identify and rectify numerous issues that had creeped their way into the program over the years. While we haven’t yet lost a pilot in Genesis due to maintenance or operational errors, there have been numerous close calls and the margins for crewed rocket flight are even tighter, not to mention how much more expensive it is to lose a rocket and unkerbed payload in flight.

This shut down will affect launches and construction only at this time. Engine testing on our static stands will continue and Wernher von Kerman’s team over at R&D also remain unaffected, so some things will continue to move forward. The Progeny Mk7-B that was recently assembled will receive another thorough inspection, mission plans for it and future Mk7-B flights will undergo full reviews. The recent Ascension Mk1 flight will continue to be analyzed and a report published. The upcoming Ascension Mk1 and Mk2 missions are all undergoing the same review scrutiny and we will also be taking another look at what we need to accomplish between now and the late-2021 launch of the first Extremis mission. Crew training will be suspended so our astronauts can be involved in the review aspects oriented towards their mission preparations – we expect training exercises to resume prior to the operational suspension being lifted.

Lead Engineer Simon and Flight Director Lanalye are both in agreement with me on this decision and we are confident that this will work to ensure we finish this year as strong as we started.

– Drew Kerman
Founder, Operations Director

Mar 20 2020

Operations Summary – Week of 3/16/20

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Mar 13 2020

Operations Summary – Week of 3/9/20

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Mar 06 2020

Operations Summary – Week of 3/2/20

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Feb 28 2020

Operations Summary – Week of 2/24/20

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Feb 14 2020

Operations Summary – Week of 2/10/20

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Feb 07 2020

Operations Summary – Week of 2/3/20

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Feb 06 2020

Ascension Mk1 Flight 11 Analysis

Ever since the attack on KSC that damaged the launch pad and destroyed our last Ascension Mk1 rocket we have been working hard towards regaining launch capability. It took 2 months to repair the ground service structures as well as the actual pad surface itself, but coming into the new year and new decade we are once again able to send up rockets from the launch pad. This mission will renew the bid for orbit that began back in 2018, and was then suspended at the start of last year when the rocket proved incapable of flying a trajectory that would allow it to enter a decaying orbit without running out of fuel. After testing new guidance fins on the Progeny Mk7-A, it is now time to scale them up to 1.25m rockets and see whether they can give the additional control authority needed to allow the rocket to pitch over faster. This mission will also see new 1.25m payload fairings based on the 0.625m ones that flew on the Progeny Mk7-A, which will be tested to see how they perform under the heat and pressure of ascent. The payload itself contains another RTG test article so it can be slammed into the ground after the flight and analyzed afterwards to determine whether it successfully remained intact and would have not spilled radioactive material.

The Flight

Due to tightening operational budget constraints, we can no longer afford to fail fast for iteration – in fact we can’t really afford to fail at all. This has led to new policies and stricter launch commit criteria (weather, build process, flight quals, etc) going into effect this year. The result was some early delays for the launch due to weather being outside of acceptable constraints, but thankfully it did not remain uncooperative for long and the countdown was able to begin and run to conclusion with no further issues only a day later than planned.

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