Dec 13 2019

Operations Summary – Week of 12/9/19

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Progenitor KSP Campaign Continues Success

This week saw the third launch in a series of four that will carry a total of 8 student-designed and built experiments up into space. The mission went off with no issues, continuing the Progeny Mk6’s excellent track record. There was a mechanical problem with the recovery ship MSV Aldeny, which had to be towed back into port after its engines broke down on the way home with the recovered rocket. We only had to wait an extra day for the payload to be returned to us so we could begin to analyze its telemetry and science data, which will also be sent to the students and their mentors for post-flight analysis as well.

The assembly of the final rocket, due to launch next week, remains on schedule.

Genesis Weather Studies Ramp Up

Last week concluded contract negotiations with the Kerbin Weather Service for the Deuce to be ready during normal KSC operating hours 7 days a week to embark on moments notice when the KWS detects a storm worth investigating. This went into action over the past weekend when a low-pressure system over the eastern Kerblantic developed, as reported by the Maritime Service, whose ships regularly ply routes through there between Umbarg and Sheltered Rock. The frequency of these flights will depend entirely on the weather, and will only be for storms of considerable strength since they can extend far up into the atmosphere and are therefore not very well-studied by ground stations.

One major issue is reaction time. Storms don’t always last long and although the Deuce is the fastest aircraft available it still takes time to make ready for flight before having to travel perhaps several hundred kilometers to reach the storm system. In order to mitigate this the KWS has bought its own Deuce aircraft with the weather sensor package that it will operate out of Sheltered Rock to cover that region while our Deuce handles weather events in the western Kerblantic and between Umbarg and Kravass. Our aircraft flew out to SRG this week, taking readings on a minor storm that happened to be just to the north, and will spend the next week training the new flight crew before returning to KSC.

Major Break in KSC Attack Investigation

Law enforcement announced this week they had finally tracked down and apprehended the crew of the airship that likely led to the first contact of the lost tribe earlier this year. This crew disappeared months ago but the reason was never known until the attack on KSC and the gradual realization that the exiled Monolithic followers had been in contact with kerbs from the home region. The airship in question had suffered mechanical problems and was unable to depart on schedule for the Kongo River base. At the same time a KerBalloon mission was trying to recover a payload when they encountered the tribal kerbs, who we now think were outside their caves expecting the arrival of the airship. This also makes it clear that the later mission to establish a relationship was likely a botched attempt to capture the airship rather than an attack to shoot it down, and that they knew we were coming.

The capture of the airship crew, who were hiding out in an abandoned cave system in Sheltered Rock, will potentially lead to more higher-ups in the local organization that appears to be supporting the exiled cultists. These kerbs were likely the ones most involved in planning the rerouting of airships and aircraft and thus would be in contact with the kerbs who were providing any supplies and equipment. This will hopefully deny the exiles needed resources that could serve as a way to open up negotiations among religious leaders from both sides.

Zosimus Fails to Survive 4th Aerobrake Pass

After spending the past three days searching fruitlessly, astronomers have agreed that Zosimus most likely failed to survive its fourth aerobrake pass through the atmosphere this past Wednesday. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, given the asteroid was only a couple meters in size. Repeated passes would have not only burned off material to make it smaller but also structurally weaker depending on its makeup. The fact that it was rather dense relative to most stony asteroids of its size is likely why it managed to hold together for so long. Regardless, it only had one or two more passes before it wouldn’t have made it back out of the atmosphere anyway. Astronomers will spend time further studying the changes that were made to Zosimus’ trajectory after each atmospheric pass to help improve atmospheric models that could be of use one day in aerobraking spacecraft over Kerbin and other planets. In fact, past data from other atmospheric skimming asteroids helped astronomers closely predict the third pass and find the asteroid shortly afterwards with an infrared scope. This makes them confident that if they haven’t found it by now it’s not up there anymore.

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 4,434 asteroids and 2 updated with new observation data. Here are the 26 asteroids that were discovered this past week.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 11/23/19

Zosimus’ demise

The game itself never caused the asteroid to blow up in the atmosphere. Asteroids in the game can blow up in the atmosphere but they generally have to be on a much lower trajectory through it and generate enough heat to exceed their max temperature limit. The game also doesn’t model ablation on asteroids, so they don’t change shape or size after passing through an atmosphere. Therefore I decided myself that it would blow up after several passes.

On the same topic, the game gave me another Class-A already in a decaying atmospheric orbit that didn’t even survive the initial pass after it was first discovered by the game. It happened over a region of the planet at night but where no one would have seen the fire ball. So there are things happening that never get revealed – I don’t always take what the game gives me.

Atmospheric radiation data

So getting the data to make the plot that wast tweeted this week was a bit more convoluted than you may expect thanks to how the game is setup. First off I can’t access the “archive”, which is the main data store of kOS instructions at KSC, without a connection to KSC. There are no comms links that far north, so I have to load the instructions onto the probe from the launchpad before I move it to the release location. Since I’m not in contact with KSC at all during the ascent, I have to store all the logged data locally, but kOS has storage limits and if I log data every second I run out of space. Thankfully the rads/hr doesn’t change rapidly during the ascent so I just log the new rad reading every time it updates in the PAW. Then after reaching max altitude I have to Hyperedit the balloon back to KSC so I have a connection to dump out the logging results. Yeesh. Actually it was a bit more involved than that but that was mostly from me being lazy.

Also the sunset release photo isn’t actually date accurate, it just happened to be sunset when I moved the probe to the new location and I wanted a sunset photo so I just took it. But no celestial objects are in the sky which makes it ambiguous date-wise anyways without axial tilt.

While I’m admitting things might as well also make note of the fact that several recent KerBalloon release photos where you can see the rocket payload truss being used to hold instruments are technically not correct. There are only 4 payload trusses in my part inventory and they are all being used between the Progeny Mk6 missions so they wouldn’t also be available for use by KerBalloons. Minor details tho, the instruments can be attached directly to the balloon casing so lack of truss availability has no impact on the ability to actually carry out the missions themselves, at least. That I wouldn’t do. It’s not the first time I’ve made a slight mistake like this either, as these Desk Notes detail.

Deuce science flight 15

I can’t remember the last time I flew a mission over the weekend, but I felt that was a good way to drive home the fact that storms are not beholden to the regular operations schedule.

Since it would be over a featureless ocean I designed a flight plan to ensure that the aircraft ground plot would be a reasonable appearance of flying around a large enough area for a storm while also looking guided.

I also had to deal with the dog bumping into my joystick cable and causing it to come loose and the game to no longer recognize it again. Thankfully it was on my way back to KSC so just had to struggle a bit on the landing.

Deuce science flight 16

Even though I had terrain for reference I still made another flight plan because it worked real well for the last flight.

Heading to SRG at the end of the mission I almost flew the plane along the contours of the mountains, as in I would bank gradually around and between the peaks. This is because I have the ambient light jacked way up so I could see them, but then I realized it would be an instrument approach at night since seeing the terrain wouldn’t be possible (Mun was not out) so the aircraft should be flying in straight lines along set courses.

Also the altitude shading I use for the flight path on the surface map can be seen by anyone if you click on the plot and select the “Show Data” option. However right now by default the highest altitude is 8km and for the plot images I made the max altitude 6km so it would use the whole range of colors. By next year the Ops Tracker will have this feature more fully fleshed out which will dynamically adjust the min/max value to each flight and also allow you to see changes in speed as well as altitude, with a color key similar to the one in the images also being displayed on the map.

Mk6 launch

First try!! Finally.

I also didn’t actually move the launch base a few meters because that put it down on a differently-sloped section of terrain and I didn’t feel like having to take the time to re-adjust the launch base for proper pitch/heading. Doubtful anyone even noticed anyway, but let me know if you did and I’ll make sure to be more diligent in the future.