Feb 14 2020

Operations Summary – Week of 2/10/20

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Ascension Mk2 Launch Date Announced

Everything continued to proceed on schedule moving into this week so the decision was made to schedule the launch for the following week, on 2/20 @ 14:33 UTC. More information can be found on the Ops Tracker. The rocket completed its initial assembly this week and to expedite the launch VAB technicians will be working through the weekend to perform final checks and closeouts so the Mk2 is ready to roll for the pad on Monday.

Flight Director Lanalye has been training her Launch Control team A ruthlessly since operations resumed last month and looks forward to also debuting a new team of controllers who will be in charge of the Kerbin I probe after it has been deployed. Up until now all missions have been handled by the same controllers that launched the rocket since it was always just one rocket or a rocket and a payload that was coming right back down. Now a new Mission Operations Control team is needed because while the Kerbin I probe is proceeding with its mission after deployment, the Launch Control team will be working to de-orbit the Viklun orbital stage at the same time. In the future more complex missions will require even more division of effort and the two teams will become more specialized.

Although this may seem like our first attempt at orbit, this is actually our 3rd and anyone who hasn’t followed us for a while should check out this news story that explains why our 2 attempts in mid-2018 with the Mk1 failed and why we decided to put that goal aside during 2019. Given all that we’ve learned in the year since, you could say this is our first attempt with a high likelihood of succeeding!

Ground Broken in Commercial Airport Expansion

Two weeks ago the turf runways were decommissioned and in the time since the edge markers have been removed as well as the approach markers at the thresholds. The area that is to hold the new tarmac, runway and taxiways was surveyed and marked, now construction has actually begun this week. Ground movers and dirt trucks got to work in the hills just west of KSC to dig up and transport the material needed to build up the terrain north of KSC upon which will sit the new infrastructure. During construction of the new runway and taxiways the current paved runway 09/27 will remain in operation.

New Encounter Dates for Alaba

After its 33rd encounter this past weekend astronomers checked up on Alaba‘s new orbit, finding that it matches predictions made back in October of 2019. However looking ahead with the new orbital data for the next encounter they found that it would be occurring on 3/10 instead of 3/17. Double-checking the initial prediction calculations they found that 3/17 is indeed what they initially predicted and it wasn’t a typo on the published schedule. So since the current orbit matches what was predicted then recent changes to how KSPTOT detects encounters has led to a more accurate prediction moving forward than previously. This is a potential good sign but now we have to wait and see if the updated prediction is indeed the correct one. In the meantime astronomers will continue to track the moonlet closely in the event that neither prediction is correct.

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 4,713 asteroids and 1 updated with new observation data. Here are the 17 asteroids that were discovered this past week.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 1/28/20

Kraken attacks!

I had to deal with a potentially catastrophic situation the other day. I will let Geralt demonstrate the problem. So at some point since I designed and tested it back in April of 2019 something in KSP changed to render the Mobile Launch Platform unusable. This almost drove me mad because I had specifically done the work back then to make sure that when I actually used it I wouldn’t run up against the problem of planning all these photos and events to find out that the actual implementation had issues. I solved all the issues last year, but apparently something happened since then. So I took a deep breath and started to work the problem.

First I tried removing the visuals and using the sterile environment that I have for launching missions. Nope, Kraken.

Next I tried using my CrashPlan revision backups to restore older versions of the craft file from last year. Nope, Kraken.

Tried loading just the MLP without the rocket and service towers. Nope, Kraken.

Took the original file date of 4/22/19 and checked my mod installation log to see what new mods I had installed since then and took them out. Nope, Kraken.

Since I attempted to upgrade KSP a few times since the v1.5.1 I’m still using now, the mod installation log update order listing wasn’t of any help to see which v1.5.1 mods I updated, however I also keep the last three versions of mods I update in a separate folder so I have a record there of updated mods. Tried to roll back several versions of KJR and FAR. Nope, Kraken.

Okay so now I’m getting a bit desperate and wondering if I need to tear down the MLP bit by bit to see what’s causing the Kraken to appear. First though I realize that even if I find and fix the problem will I be able to carry it onwards to KSP v1.8.1+? With a Kopernicus update finally dropping soon I figured it was time I get a basic v1.8.1 setup anyways and who knows – maybe the problem will be fixed in the latest KSP? So I got stock v1.8.1 setup and loaded the craft file for the full Ascension/MLP rocket to determine what parts were missing. Then I installed all the parts and their dependencies. Lo and behold, it worked! Well, almost. Additionally the treads seem to not handle the load as well and are missing textures but, minor issues. It doesn’t Kraken! Why?

I decide to go back to my KSP v1.5.1 install but this time I use KJR Next instead of the previously-linked KJR Continued, which I had to install in v1.8.1 because I needed Infernal Robotics Next and KJR Next was made to be used with it. Viola! No more Kraken, even the treads behave well in KSP v1.5.1 still. Crisis averted.

Honestly not sure what I would have done if I hadn’t been able to fix this problem. I’m glad I knew that I had it working once before (still not sure how my KJR went bad) or I surely would have panicked a lot more. Not being able to use the MLP as intended wouldn’t have stopped the mission, the rocket can still launch off the engine clamp at the same height and configuration as when it is attached to the MLP, but getting photos or especially video of it launching off the MLP would have been very, very difficult and I would have been very sad not being able to show that.

While I hate having to have wasted a day on this problem when my work momentum was really good at least I did get a head start on the inevitable KSP v1.8.1 upgrade.

Mission coding

The rest of the time spent between now and the last Desk Notes entry a few days ago has been spent coding up the kOS script for the mission. Scripting the ascent up into space is pretty routine now – even the use of radial boosters and multiple stages I have experience to pull from thanks to the Progeny Mk6 Block II. What was the most different about this mission is that there are two separate probe cores on the rocket, which causes a few complications when the “software”, the AFCS, that runs on the cores is only designed to expect a single probe core on the vessel.

Only minor retooling of the boot script was needed though so when loaded on a probe core it could directly reference the specific core it was running on instead of the generic core part of the vessel tagged ‘cpu’. I also briefly played with adding support for the ability of CPUs to send messages to each other, but realized for this mission it would not be needed. At some point I will implement it but no need to spend the time on it yet.

More “simming”

Given how much longer the mission will run over previous flights, it’s important I get as much right as possible because if I keep having to redo things eventually I will run out of time to get it all done before the date it’s supposed to go live! So things like cheating the probe into space so I can see how reaction wheel settings work, check out the force settings of decouplers, etc. I think I’m feeling like 0.005% of the pressures real mission teams have to collectively shoulder to make sure nothing goes wrong while their probe is carrying out is mission. Actually, they always figure something will go wrong and have to spend even more time trying to figure out how they’ll fix things when things go wrong.

One thing I have purposefully not tested is how well the RCS holds up the rocket’s nose angle during ascent. I want that to be a complete surprise for me as to whether it works or not. Gotta keep things exciting for myself somehow…