Jan 17 2020

Operations Summary – Week of 1/13/20

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2020 Program Goals

Check out this post from the beginning of the week for all the details on what decisions were made regarding the future of our various programs. 2020 is looking to be yet another exciting year!

First Launch of 2020 Scheduled

The repairs to the launch pad & ground service equipment have been confirmed to be completed and functional thanks to a recent wet dress rehearsal using the Ascension Mk1 lifter that was built for the next planned mission. It was rolled back to the VAB and has been integrated with its payload for flight next week. The launch is scheduled for 1/21 @ 18:37 UTC.

Due to increased financial strain we’ve tightened our launch commit criteria to help ensure resources are not wasted on in-flight failures. This will potentially lead to more launch delays while we wait for ideal conditions or refuse to sign off on launch readiness due to factors that do not meet with the new standards. While this does make it seem like we played it “loose and fast” for previous missions, this was never true when it came to the safety of our crew or ground infrastructure. Loss of the flight hardware was more acceptable when we had deeper fund reserves to allow for faster iteration & more launches, now we have to slow down a bit and work extra hard to ensure we can get as much data as possible from as few flights as possible.

Progeny Mk7-B Design Finalized

You can see the final blueprint in the gallery above or its full-res version on flickr. The rocket design was in a lot of flux early on because we had to ensure it could be attached to one of the two current service towers to receive power and liquid propellants. Despite being able to hook up fueling tankers directly to past versions of Progenitor rockets (this is still how the Progeny Mk6 gets fueled) the newer fuel tanks used for the Mk7, although visually similar to the Mk6, include structural changes for use with the Ospray engine that require them to be hooked up to the service structure.

The final design allows the Mk7-B to reach the lower service arm just like the Mk7-A while still being able to be loaded up onto the Ascension Mk1 carry vehicle and raised up into position over the launch clamp. The original design with the 2nd stage SRB was able to reach the upper service tower but mounting it was an issue that couldn’t be overcome using either the Ascension Mk1 carry vehicle or the Mobile Launch Platform.

The order has been placed for 8 Boostertron II dual-segment 0.625m SRBs that will be the Mk7-B’s first stage. Periapsis Co. will produce 2 per month with the first two to be delivered in late Feb for testing on our horizontal stand. if no problems show up, the next batch of two in March will be split with one for the first flight and the second for another static-fire. The same will occur in April and by May we should be able to use both boosters for flight. Beyond May we will attempt to re-use the casing of one of the static-fired boosters for flight. We’ll also see by that point whether any successfully recovered flight boosters can be re-used as well.

KerBalloon Concludes First Missions of 2020

With Genesis unable to fly so far due to weather and crew issues, KerBalloon has logged the first missions of 2020, releasing three balloons this past week. The low-altitude crew had two sea releases, one of which was unable to be recovered due to bad weather which is an unfortunate drain on our already dwindling reusable part inventory. The high-altitude crew had an easier time of it, releasing and recovering over land with the help of an airship. The readings they took will help with planning for the new surface colony that is expected to begin construction later this year.

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 4,585 asteroids and 0 updated with new observation data. Here are the 19 asteroids that were discovered this past week.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 1/13/20

struggling a bit to get fully back on task with KSA operations, so much to plan out for this coming year that it’s a bit overwhelming at times and I just have to stop and distract myself with games or movies until my brain is annoyed it can’t work on KSA-related things. That sounds a bit funny but it’s the best way I can describe it. Whenever I’m not working on KSA stuff it’s still being thought about & eventually within a day or so I have organized my thoughts enough that I want to do something with them. This is how I work, rather than force myself to sit in front of the computer and think things up right there it’s a lot more organic to just let things come to me in time – which can also be a bit stressful tho because more time spent thinking means less & less lead time. So a balance must still be struck. Right now I’m holding at around a week lead time, aided by the fact that my asteroid discovery/tracking is pushed all the way out to March, so that’s less work I need to do on a daily basis right there – for the next few weeks anyways until I catch up to that as well. Hopefully by then tho I’ll be “back in the saddle” a lot more.

Mk7-B design issues

The struggle with this rocket was real, and took up a significant portion of my time from after completing 2019 operations in early December to when I left for my fireworks show later in the month. I tried several different options with the 3-stage rocket design using both the launch clamp setup used by the Mk7-A and even contemplated several ways the MLP’s central opening could be reconfigured (in a manner that would serve this rocket and not make it unusable for the Ascension Mk2 as well). In the end I made the decision just as it was told on twitter to simplify both the rocket and its goals. As you’ll see in an upcoming launch readiness pic in a few months, the Ascension Mk1 carry vehicle can indeed mount the rocket as shown in the blueprint.

I also completely forgot to integrate the Parallel Control Unit in some form, which is why it was pushed back to the Mk-7C. Not a huge deal, the Ascension Mk2 will also feature dual control units, it was just that the Mk7-B could also experiment with the idea if the Mk2 was delayed further.

Moonlet radar images

So this was an complete oversight on my part. Once I started publishing images of asteroids flying by it should have been relatively easy for Arekibo to have also gotten images of those in orbit. Surprisingly no one else really seemed to care or suggest that this happen sooner, so that’s at least a good thing. Although i admit I would have been pleased to see someone suggest it.