Nov 22 2019

Operations Summary – Week of 11/18/19

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ASA Official Report on Deuce Attack Released

Earlier today the Air Safety Administration released the official report of their investigation into the Deuce aircraft that crashed into the Ascension Mk1 last month. It had already leaked that the aircraft was the one missing since May earlier this year but the identity of the sole occupant who piloted the aircraft was not confirmed. We now know that it was Ribfel Kerman, one of the original 5 crew members of the missing flight. The aircraft was registered to Ribfel who operated it with his wife Mirgan. The day the aircraft went missing they were accompanied by their daughter and two close friends.

The aircraft was recovered with the main cabin and tail largely intact, if rather banged up. Both wings were mostly shredded as although only the port wing struck the rocket the starboard wing struck the ground and the fuel tanks in both exploded, also causing major damage to the engines and retractable gear. Therefore it was difficult to find any damage that could have been caused prior to the rocket impact except in the case of the tail gear, which showed signs of patchwork repairs that could indicate a hard landing prior to this recent one. Maintenance records for private aircraft are not required to be kept and it appears none were in the case of this aircraft, although they could have also been destroyed. The cabin interior showed no signs of forced entry or struggle. The “black box” that records flight data to help investigators determine the cause of an accident was not onboard, so it was impossible to determine where the aircraft originated from on its final flight.

The most disturbing revelation from the report was that Ribfel’s cause of death was determined to be by self-inflicted wounds after he survived the initial collision. Law enforcement officials were brought in on this aspect once arrests started to be made to see if anyone could shed light on why Ribfel would voluntarily kill himself. The report has confirmed Ribfel and his family were not known to be Monolithic followers themselves, but one of the close friends on board that day the aircraft went missing was. Whether it could have been that a recent conversion took place or Ribfel was trying to protect his family that may still be held by the exiled cultists has not be determined at this time by any detained kerbs.

Related to the report, the recent arrests were made after a close look at aircraft flight plans to and from the Kongo River research facility showed inconsistencies which could have allowed airships and aircraft time to fly over the region populated by the exiled cultists and either engage in radio communication or drop supplies. Another method by which contact could have been maintained would be via “skip” transmission of radio waves at night off the ionosphere, allowing them to travel over the horizon as far as Ockr, which remains under darkness at the same time as the Great Desert. Both of these avenues are being thoroughly investigated by law enforcement as they continue to work to shut down the support network in this region.

Progeny Mk6-I Concludes Second Successful Student Payload Mission

This week culminated with the second launch in a series of four that will carry student-designed and built experiments up into space two at a time. The mission went much more smoothly than the first launch earlier this month, achieving a higher apokee and coming down only ~1.5hrs from the recovery vessel’s initial hold point. We expect the rocket to be returned to KSC tomorrow and a full review of the flight should be out next week. Analysis of the previous flight was also released this week. Any changes that need to be made based off lessons learned from these two missions should be able to be completed in time for the next two launches in December.

Metallic NKOs May Pose Low Threat

Over this past weekend the Asteroid Tracking Network announced they had discovered the first-known asteroid crossing Kerbin’s orbit that contained a high metallic content. Asteroids of this nature originally were formed in the main belt between Dres and Jool, leftovers likely from a planet that failed to fully coalesce thanks to the gravitational effect of these two planets and dubbed Main Belt Asteroids. A small percentage of these get knocked around by Jool, Dres and to some extent Sarnus to end up in elliptical orbits that take them deeper into the Kerbolar system and are therefore dubbed Inner asteroids. A smaller percentage of these cross close enough to Kerbin’s orbit there is a chance they could intercept its Sphere of Influence and are considered to be Near-Kerbin Objects.

The vast majority of NKOs are classified as stony asteroids that tend to not be very dense and are largely loose piles of rubble. They also tend to exist in orbits similar to Kerbin, meaning relative speeds are low. Inner asteroids that are also NKOs travel on orbits that increase their relative velocity and thus present a greater danger should they ever impact the planet. Having a high metallic content can mean greater density and a better chance the asteroid will reach the ground intact.

The fact that it’s taken three years to discover the first metallic NKO is a good sign that not many are out there to threaten us. It’s still worth noting though how long it takes to find the next one considering ATN North and South observatories will be coming online in the next year and will increase sky coverage dramatically.

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 4,362 asteroids and 2 updated with new observation data. Here are the 21 asteroids that were discovered this past week.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 11/7/19

Dual flagpole reference

In the tweet sent out this week about shorts being hung on the flagpole, anyone familiar with KSP should know that you can actually climb the flagpole with a kerbal in the game so that was probably the most obvious reference. Those who were kids in the 90’s like me might have also picked up on the Salute Your Shorts reference as well though.

OFU-009(A) pass

Once again, an actual game event not something I conspired to make happen. In the game, it was a bit more complicated to deal with than I was expecting because watching it happen with the asteroid loaded in flight I noticed the orbital parameters were changing even before the asteroid entered the atmosphere, there was a ton of nullref spam in the console and during the aerobrake pass the Ap value increased. I managed to make it better by re-installing the latest FAR release compatible with KSP v1.5.1 but still noticed that although Ap decreased as expected during the aerobrake after the asteroid left the atmosphere it slowly started rising again. Timewarping made it stop, so I just made sure to exit back to the Tracking Station right away.

Mk6 launch

I was saying to myself there was no way I could screw this up on the first try – it was literally the same exact mission as last time. What could go wrong? Well partway through the trip up to apokee when passing through 250km and the second science experiment was triggered the kOS code crashed. DAMMIT! What did I do???

Turns out for the first flight I had the same two science experiments aboard. There is no actual science part for the Kerbal Sounding Project experiments so I’m just using USI Sounding Rocket models with the KSP logo on them but still the original experiments – some of which don’t make sense to run in space but whatever there’s science points the game will give me for them so here’s where I’m taking it. Anyways the code for running the experiments was the same for both and as long as the science modules were the same, no problem. This rocket had two different science modules and I didn’t realize the code was only set for using the same module twice. So, when it tried to query the second experiment, which wasn’t the same as the first, thinking it was the same as the first – BAM. Crash.

Anways that was an easy fix, a relatively quick reset and everything worked fine on the second try. Being so similar to the first flight let me copy/paste a bunch of after-mission stuff and breeze through it all fairly quick. Next two should be easier now. In theory. Maybe. I hope.

*KSP points and laughs at me”