Jan 13 2020

2020 Program Goals

Over the entire last week, as is per usual for the start of the operational year, numerous meetings were conducted among the various programs here at KSC where all team members were allowed to pitch ideas and voice opinions about the coming year so admin staff could work on decisions for 2020 operational goals. Thankfully all arguments remained professional – no chairs were thrown or whiteboards defaced. Here is all that we hope to accomplish this year.

Ascension Program

Still the most exciting aspect of our operations, Ascension will seek to travel higher and further than ever before starting right this month with the latest Mk1 mission to test out new guidance fins (larger versions of those that flew first on the Progeny Mk7-A) as well as attempt another RTG impact test. More details on the mission will be posted later this week when we announce a launch date. The Mk1 will also fly at least two more times this year to send Captain Jeb and Specialist Bob into space on sub-orbital missions to continue to observe the effects of zero-G on kerbals, as well as tolerance to re-entry forces.

The first flight of the Mk2, as early as February, will be entirely dependent on the performance of this month’s Mk1 mission. If successful, the new fins should give the Mk2 the control authority required to pitch over fast enough to achieve orbit. From the first mission we will aim to deploy a satellite, Kerbin I, which was announced last year. It will allow us to conduct various tests before being de-orbited due to limited battery power. The Mk2 will continue to fly throughout the year to place more payloads into space and help certify the RTG for flight so that we can send up a trio of long-lasting communications satellites by the end of the year. If the Mk2 shows itself to be a reliable vehicle, sending a kerbal into orbit before the year is out is a serious possibility but not one we will rush towards.

In the latter half of this year we hope to also debut the Mk3, the full design spec of which you can review here. This was officially approved last week although the production dates have been pushed back. The Mk3 should be the rocket that lets us send payloads into orbit around Mun and Minmus, perhaps this year.

Finally, work is also being done on the Mk1-B capsule that will debut later this year, retaining single-occupancy but upgrading various systems & design.

Progenitor Program

Progenitor will continue to primarily serve as a technology demonstrator for larger Ascension rockets this year. The Mk7-B final design that will debut later this week, which was originally more powerful and nearly capable of orbit, has had its second stage solid booster removed. Its goal instead of trying to reach orbit will be to test steering performance of the gimbal vacuum engine, heat and pressure load tolerances of the payload fairings, better reaction wheel energy management for large masses, and reliability of the new 2-segment SRBs along with recovery and the possibility of re-use.

The following iteration the Mk7-C will be the first full-stack 0.625m rocket with a new LF/O fuel tank and scaled up Ospray engine currently used on the Mk7-B. It will likely make use of the second-stage solid motor discarded from the Mk7-B design and possibly also see the use of a 3-segment lower stage SRB. Its goal will be to have the capability of placing small payloads into low-Kerbin orbit and also potentially send fly-bys to Mun and maybe even Minmus.

Due to the success of the Kerbal Sounding Project last year, talks are already underway with schools on the possibility of bringing it back again at the end of this year using the Mk6 Block I. We’re also still keeping the Mk6-I available for contractors to order for any sub-orbital experiment needs.

Genesis Program

The research and development team at C7 Aerospace Division, which also works closely at times with our own R&D team led by Wernher von Kerman, continues in their quest to develop “rocket planes”, although various designs with actual rocket engines have yet to leave the drawing board and frankly we doubt they ever will. An alternative design using compressor turbine technology is also in the works and Wernher says it appears to be more feasible. Whether anything will come of it this year we cannot say, such is the nature of advanced R&D.

Although the initial study into air quality and pollen levels using the Civvie concluded last year, the aircraft will take at least one flight each quarter over the KSC region to keep gathering ongoing data. The Deuce will continue its storm flights in conjunction with the Kerbin Weather Service although as Ascension activities ramp back up Jeb & Val will become less & less available. The option to hire additional flight crew has been left open. The Dhumla will finish up flight testing and begin production early this year, serving as the major cargo hauler for fixed wing operations. No new propeller-driven aircraft are currently under development.

The KSC itself will also see some major changes this year in regards to aircraft operations with the construction of the commercial expansion project. This will add a second paved runway, additional tarmac and hanger space, along with a freight processing center that will connect to Umbarg via a rail tunnel. This will allow commercial freight traffic to flow in and out of KSC aboard Deuce and Dhumla aircraft, essentially serving as an airport to Umbarg since all the other caverns already have their own. Umbarg is a hold-out since it is has the largest underground airship hangar complex and is the headquarters of all the major airship companies.

KerBalloon Program

Continuing on mainly as normal, both the high- and low-altitude crews will remain the same size so mission cadence will not increase much over the previous year. This is mainly due to seeing no increase in demand for balloon flights but thankfully no real decrease either. Later in 2020 if we get our comm satellites up into orbit this could allow for much more extensive exploration of the eastern hemisphere, which doesn’t feature many long-term missions due to being unable to remain in radio contact. It’s not that there is a lack of daring explorers, but lack of confidence in anyone willing to fund them to potentially disappear without a trace.