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Mar 20 2020

Operations Summary – Week of 3/16/20

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Captain Jebediah Finally Makes it to Space

After having to wait nearly 5 months thanks to his original mission literally going up in flames, today’s Ascension Mk1 mission finally lifted Jeb above the atmosphere to make him the third kerbal to travel through space. He spent just under 11 minutes in 0G and climbed as high as 244km over the planet before safely splashing down in the waters east of Ockr as planned. What wasn’t planned however was him attempting to use the Launch Escape System push motors as an additional stage in a vain attempt to fly higher than Commander Val’s current record of 252km. Although someone tweeted this as a suggestion before the mission, Jeb’s ascent plan was originally putting him at a lower apokee than Val and he says the idea for using the LES was one he came up with well before the rocket even reached the launchpad for the first time. If the rocket had made it closer to the planned apokee of 239km, Jeb’s last-ditch effort would have worked. As it is, he’s facing disciplinary action without any new records to show for it. He does have new ribbons though, which you can check out on his crew page.

Ascension Mk2 Set to Fly Again

This week saw the release of the flight analysis report from last month’s Ascension Mk2 orbital mission. Overall the rocket is a solid performer and we have additional K2-X engines coming later this year, one of which will be earmarked for the next mission. While we are still waiting for the analysis of the Kerbin I mission, which was dependent on this report and is also still waiting on results from debris analysis (including the RTG casing) there are already plans for this next mission to carry into orbit a technology demonstrator for future communication satellites (see gallery above). We’ll be releasing more information about the mission next month.

Quarterly Pollen Survey Conducted

Another second-attempt mission was conducted this week with the Civvie finally being repaired after its crash landing last month. All that can be reviewed in the mission report. Val was at the controls again since Jeb had to remain in quarantine awaiting his mission so was unable to rotate into the cockpit. Lead Scientist Cheranne and her field research team have already begun to work through the data they had planned to have last month when peak pollen production was expected. They now face a more challenging task of having to extrapolate the amount of pollen that was generated during the peak time with how much currently remains in the air.

KerBalloon Contracts Remain Scarce

Although the high-altitude team (along with Cheranne and her team) returned this week from their mission to the northern Tundra, no new contracts were awaiting the KerBalloon team and the low-altitude crew has also failed to secure any new ones. As stated in earlier Ops Summaries, this is merely a regular slowdown as a result of data saturation among the various agencies that normally contract with us. Head of Finances Mortimer expects things to pick up again late next month or early May at the latest.

In regards to the radiation data gathered on their trip, it will prove valuable in telling engineers how they should construct habitat models that can be brought up to that region for testing. This is not just for living on the surface but also for traveling through space as well – the capsule used currently by our crew can be designated as a habitat, albeit a cramped one without much longevity.

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 4,890 asteroids and 1 updated with new observation data. Here are the 33 asteroids that were discovered this past week.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 3/19/20

Actually it’s 3:45am on the 20th but it feels better to date this the 19th. I woke up at like 6pm so just going to stay up through the launch. It’s already been tested so there shouldn’t be any problems for which I will need actual brain activity to handle by that time.

Yup, COVID-19 has people acting rather crazy but I’m mostly uninterrupted by it all. I never went out much to begin with so isolating at home (no official declaration to do so yet, just being sensible) isn’t much different from my daily routine. I’ve noticed though that overall I haven’t felt as productive as normal – I mean heck I totally blew through my lead time – and surprisingly I think spending less time going out, even if I never went out that much to begin with, has had an affect. Even if it’s just to run a simple errand, like 30min, there’s still the thought of having to wrap up what I’m doing before I get interrupted. If I can just hang around for however long, then I can take my time getting around to whatever I need to do. Hence – finalizing a launch the day before. Not ideal. Guess I have a bit of getting used to the “new norm” after all.

Mk1 mission

Sure let’s just jump right in to the main event. After all the troubles in setting up KSP v1.8.1 and working up to the point where I could actually execute the entire mission, how many tries did it take me? ONE! Finally. Although to be fair after all the shit I had to go through I was probably more prepared for this mission than any that came before it. Of course, it couldn’t let me get through it entirely without issue. After splashdown recovering the vessel froze up the game. A check of the log was inconclusive, maybe something to do with Station Science, but thankfully before freezing and making me task kill it the game properly saved. So I was able to restart it and recover the vessel no problem and didn’t lose any data from the mission.

I did, however forget to save data during the mission, for fucks sake. It was bad enough I forgot that after triggering the LES I needed to make a manual save but I also overlooked that the automatic save points I add to the kOS script (not the one published) were not there. Actually they were there, but I reset to the public scripts to make sure I was using the latest version and forgot to re-implement them. There’s an item in my launch checklist to “add save points” but since I had already done it, I checked it off. It now says “confirm” instead of “add” so that it forces me to go and look even if I think I already did it.

So all the photos were taken from a trajectory I just had to re-fly the rocket into in KSP v1.5.1 which, to be honest, isn’t really anything that would be noticeable. But it still bugs me. That and I have no archival trajectory data from the mission to reference if needed.

Stupid Daylight Saving Time – I thought for sure I had the Ops Tracker clock finally working properly at being able to detect whether or not the user was or was not in DST so that the UTC offset would be properly applied to the local time clock and thus the programmed clock that was running all the updates. It wasn’t, which meant those out of DST saw things happen an hour late, so I finally gave up trying to be smart and just hard coded it. I just have to remember to change the offset twice a year I think I can manage that.

I had originally written Jeb “laughing maniacally” for his launch tweet back for the first attempt before deciding to delay the mission. I think it worked so much better after that.

I always planned from the start months ago to have a character moment for Jeb in using the LES to try to beat Val’s record and when planning the mission it just so happened to work out that his apokee would be lower than Val’s without me having to do any extra finagling to get it there. I even expected him to reach close to the planned apokee and beat Val’s record. The fact that he didn’t was something completely dictated by the game play which I accepted and wrote in.

The capsule roll for re-entry to make sure the radial chutes didn’t cook was not only a sensible thing to do but a reference to my first kerbed space mission in the original KSA, which killed Jeb when his radial chutes burned off. This was not planned and mostly due to an issue with the game but I took the opportunity to get rid of the one kerbal everyone else has already played the most with. I’ve decided this time he gets to stick around longer tho 😛

I figured out why I had trouble handling the loss of comm connection in kOS. It turns out if the PAW to the command capsule is not open, the fields reflecting the current status of the comm network do not update. This is a known issue and happens to some other fields like the G reading for the accelerometer. What’s annoying about the capsule PAW however is that it takes up the entire height of the screen and if I hide it behind some other stuff that just makes it harder to get to. Thankfully there is Part Access Window Sorter to slim it down a bit but even that is annoying since I have to do it every time as PAWS doesn’t save its settings on a per-vessel or per-part basis.

If you look at the code for when the capsule returns to Kerbin, you won’t find anything referring to the radial chutes to be used as backup in the case of main failure. I was going to add that if I had time but since I knew it wasn’t going to be a problem I didn’t bother initially. In the best-cases I do like to include stuff like this for the realism aspect but it’s not something that would jump out as an issue for anyone really IMO. I’m pretty sure no one is going to come at me like “Why’d you bother putting backup chutes on if you couldn’t even use them?” Although on the other hand it would be pretty cool to have someone or some people that into it to actually notice.

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG there’s finally the ability to log data in FAR. I tested it out with this mission and this will save me a good chunk of post-flight analysis time and effort since before this I had to work through the recorded ascent video second by second to manually record all the FAR data into my telemetry spreadsheet. And yes this data, especially the drag coefficient, is indeed vital to planning ascents in LVD.

Speaking of LVD, in related news the recent release implemented a new drag curve modeling feature that even lets me import drag data from CSV, which is the format the FAR logger outputs in. More time saved! Hopefully even more accurate ascent modeling now too!

As I was working up the live ascent telemetry for this launch (embarrassingly recently) I noticed for the first time that after main engine throttle up all the way to Mach 1 the kOS script only output data every two seconds. I haven’t even taken the time yet to look into why this is – never seen this behavior before and off the top of my head I can’t think of a reason – just another KSP v1.8.1 annoyance. Anyways I think it spiced up things a little bit, hopefully caused some people to wonder what was going on while they were watching it. I could have interpolated the values myself but I didn’t have the time or the will to make the effort.

Finally, the extra zoom levels for the surface map is something I just worked out a few hours ago. The real annoying thing tho is that I could have had this way back when I first refactored the Flight Tracker into the Ops Tracker 2 years ago. The functionality was coded into the Leaflet library I just never went looking for it. I never thought until today “hey, how come the lowest-level zoom tiles just can’t resize and become blurry as you zoom in more?”. Seriously. I never thought of that. Once I did it took me all of a few minutes searching to track down how to do it. Face, meet palm.

Civvie flight

Alright, finally flew an aircraft mission in KSP v1.8.1. It went off pretty good with the exception of when an hour into the first try I went to the map screen and then came back to the flight scene with a black screen behind the GUI. The game froze shortly thereafter before I had a chance to quicksave and since I was flying the game did not autosave, so I couldn’t even attempt to pickup from where I was and had to fly it again from the beginning. So the mission was actually going to be longer but after the do-over I flew over two locations instead of three. If It had crashed on me again I would have flown over just one location before the atmosphere scoop had developed problems. If it had crashed on that attempt Val would have just had another issue on take off again.

There were some other minor issues, like having to whitelist some more stock textures so ReStock would let them load as well as recreating some of the stock parts ReStock replaced. I was afraid of my Saitek X55 HOTAS not working because plugging in my XBox gamepad a few weeks ago had failed to let it work properly when it was working fine before and I thought maybe my system had developed an issue with its USB drivers. But although I had to remap all the buttons despite copying over the same AFBW config from KSP v1.5.1 all the controls were fine.

Also the stock fixed wheels still suck and I still need to use a kOS script to automatically disable wheel friction after I get up to 25m/s so the aircraft doesn’t veer off the runway before enough speed is reached to take off.

ATN progression

I haven’t had to work on “discovering” new asteroids since mid-December as I had pushed that out to 3 months well ahead of my actual lead time. It’s a good thing I did that too because it’s what gave me the time recently to keep up with operations. Now however I’m back to having to do this as well. There was a bit or re-learning the whole process but the more I worked at it the more the old memory pathways were rediscovered and re-connected. The human mind is an amazing thing. I keep saying I will write about the process but I never have the time. Still don’t – it’s already 5am.