Apr 10 2020

Operations Summary – Weeks of 3/30 & 4/6/20

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Rocketry Programs Update

The first significant hurdle of many in getting back to launching rockets was completed with the release of the flight analysis report from the recent Ascension Mk1 mission that carried Captain Jebediah up into space. This cleared the way for the full review of our design and build process to begin, including testing and pre-launch protocols. This will mostly occupy the remainder of the month. We are still waiting on the Kerbin I mission report as well to determine how to move forward with future orbital satellites.

During the downtime the Tracking Station will use the opportunity to begin work on its communication systems that was originally slated for later this year to make it able to signal multiple space craft in orbit. We can’t do all the work but can get a head start on things to allow an orbital communications network to be built faster later this year. The VAB crew is also not sitting idle, working to upgrade our spin table to handle larger payloads beyond 0.625m in diameter. This will ensure they are balanced properly for flight.

Static engine firing is ongoing, with the last K2-X engine from the 2019 order successfully tested out on the vertical stand. Even though we will now not be using the engine for a while, if any major defects occurred this would have given us the time to address them. The horizontal stand  also saw action, successfully firing the fourth and final Boostertron II dual-segment SRB production test article. This is the maximum number of SRBs that could be strapped to a future Ascension Mk3 rocket and having none of them explode is a good sign. All of the spent test articles were returned to the manufacturer to be refurbished for reuse and the first one fired back in February will be test-fired again this month.

Deuce KWS Mission

After having to deny numerous requests from the Kerbin Weather Service to honor our contract with them, we were finally able to crew our Deuce and investigate a storm brewing out over the Kerblantic that was reported by the Maritime Service. The aircraft carried 4 dropsonde probes that were to be deployed off the wings of the aircraft from positions around the storm’s perimeter to help track its movement. A separate flight dispatched from Sheltered Rock dropped more probes into the heart of the storm to measure its intensity. The storm tracked northwards along the coast as was forecast with the data gathered, a huge step forward in meteorology. We will continue to assist the KWS whenever able.

Alaba Remains on Predicted Trajectory

After its 35th recorded encounter with Mun, updated orbital data was released for our only (apparently) remaining moonlet Alaba. The data shows that the asteroid was only 173ms late for its encounter, a margin of error small enough to continue to guarantee that it will be ejected from the system as predicted at the end of this year. How much this margin fluctuates however will be carefully monitored by astronomers, who are still working to determine why their predictions for Alaba generally turned out better than one of our previous moonlets. Alaba will also be continuously monitored in case it unexpectedly dips into Mun’s SOI, which has happened before.

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 4,960 asteroids and 2 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 4/4/20

Was ready to write this yesterday but instead I spent the day binging the remaining 3 episodes of Punisher S2 and all of Jessica Jones S3 to complete my first full run through of the Netflix Marvel TV shows. Although I did see all the series when they debuted this was the first time watching them all in such close time proximity of a few weeks. You definitely notice more subtle things in the ways the shows interconnect. Anyways the rush through was so I could finally dive into my second full watch-through of Battlestar Galactica. I was actually craving some space opera (and mainly the superb space combat) last month but was too lazy to pull my box sets from storage and couldn’t find any streaming options (including unofficial ones) so I started the Marvel shows instead. Then last week SyFy put the whole series plus the movies up for free (with ads of course) due mostly to the pandemic. Funny how things work out.

Speaking of the pandemic, I’m still healthy and sheltering at home although I did recently do a road trip because I was getting depressed at not being able to do the week-long out of state one I originally had planned for this month. I plan to do a few more local ones to keep the car exercised and get outdoors at least a little bit while still avoiding people. I’ve also found that not being able to coach as the gym was forced to close has also affected my desire to do KSA stuff, which makes sense as it was all part of my “normal” routine. Having that routine disrupted has forced me to find a new “normal” and that’s taking more time than I expected, so I’m glad I changed my original plan for at least a 2 week operational suspension to at least 2 months instead.

Twitter collections issue

So this is potentially devastating to the KSA’s historical records – twitter collections seem to not be able to contain as many tweets as I had been led to believe. As per this thread I started on the developer forums, it seems only a few hundred tweets rather than a few thousand can be retrieved from a collection. Whether more are actually stored and there is just a bug in getting them or there is in fact a lower limit remains unknown because I haven’t been able to get a twitter developer to respond. This is really fucking annoying since I spend a good deal of effort ensuring all my tweets are properly collected for future reference. I hope I can get an answer to this someday.

Deuce mission

This was the first time flying the Deuce in KSP v1.8.1 but no major issues with the aircraft itself arose. There was a small problem with negative mass values appearing from the KER overlays but digging into that issue revealed it was likely a problem with the craft file porting over from KSP v1.5.1 and did not actually affect the mass or flight characteristics in the game.

An annoying issue I couldn’t find a reason for and just worked around was that returning to the SPH and relaunching the aircraft caused it to stage once. This isn’t something I’ve had to deal with yet from rockets coming out the VAB so I’m wondering if this is also an older-craft file issue. I haven’t taken the time to completely rebuild the Deuce in this latest KSP version yet and for now I don’t see a reason to unless more problems like this pop up.

The dropsonde was actually way larger than I thought it was! I stuck it on the wing and was like – woah, shit am I really going to be able to fly with four of these?? Turns out that yes, the Deuce can actually handle them and I didn’t have to play around with their size or mass to make them capable of use. I never thought to actually do this prior to making the claim that they would be used by the Deuce several months ago, which is an embarrassing oversight.

The only hurdle in the mission came when I accidentally dropped the remaining three probes all at once due to a bug in AFBW. Occasionally a button will get “stuck” so that even when I press a different button on the joystick the action of the previous button is executed. So the staging button got “stuck” and when I tried to adjust my camera view with the hat buttons… yea. I’ve since removed the ability to stage from the joystick. The aircraft was aileron trimmed way to one side since one probe had already been dumped but it’s so stable that it didn’t roll over before I was able to correct. From an audience perspective thankfully none of this really mattered.

By the end of the mission my game clock was full yellow, some of the toolbar icon were missing and the crew portraits had also stopped rendering. Just as I pulled up to the SPH the game crashed. Thankfully I always save after landing so I was able to recover the entire flight without losing any data. Phew. Still, at the time I was only using 78% RAM so not sure why the game got slow and froze up like that. This was the longest flight duration of the game for me so far on KSP v1.8.1 though so it remains to be seen whether this behavior will be normal.