May 08 2020

Operations Summary – Weeks of 4/27 & 5/4/20

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Rocketry Programs Update

Troubling news came earlier this week from our long-time supplier and partner Umbra Space Industries that they had run out of money in their continuing quest to scale up their 0.325m aerospike engine, which continues to be unsuccessful. Despite progress being made, it wasn’t promising enough to investors, who collectively bailed on the company. With us as their only buyers, not enough revenue remains to support them. The news is not all bad however – enough spare parts remain available to fulfill our order for the remaining two of four Progeny Mk7-B rockets and it looks like there may be a buyer waiting in the wings. We don’t have any further details yet but USI says the prospects are promising. There is still a bit of bad news in that this has upset Progenitor’s plans a bit and new launch dates won’t be coming now until later this month at the earliest.

On the Ascension side of things, work continues to assess the program’s current and future goals, review assembly and launch procedures, and more – including a complete rework of crew training. This has also set up the future Kadet program that will bring new astronauts into the space program at some point in the not so distant future! Mission design review and planning has also gotten fully underway with the continued hopes of being able to schedule missions by the end of this month. Also now happening later this month is the next test of a re-used SRB as the kerbs over at Periapsis Co. work to fix issues discovered with stress to the motor casing from the original test firing in February.

Alaba Trajectory Remains on Target

Some doubt clouded the most recent encounter that Alaba was set to have with Mun, its 37th on record. Observations taken after the 36th encounter were difficult due to the asteroid’s trajectory currently facing the sun where it encounters Mun on the ascending node. It then soars high over the upper latitudes where observation is limited and passes swiftly through descending node over the dark side of Kerbin on its way to perikee, leaving little time to get good data. As a result it was thought the moonlet had wandered far enough off course already to reach its 37th visit through Mun’s SOI up to 5 minutes later than originally predicted back in early March. While the recent encounter again occurred during the daylight hours (more like twilight as the orbit moves back towards darkness) post-encounter observations have shown it to be almost right where it is supposed to be, with an error for the next encounter later this month of only 10-15 seconds rather than several minutes. This is good news but astrodynamicists were hoping errors of several seconds wouldn’t appear until much later this year.

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 5,114 asteroids and 0 updated with new observation data. Here are the 54 asteroids that were discovered this past week.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 4/27/20

Well I made it through the next two weeks in less than two weeks as I had planned – 9 days to be exact – which is still longer than I would like however I’m also back to doing stuff like writing this and filling out the day-to-day KSA activities in-between finding asteroids. When the game is loading or otherwise churning and I can tab away for even a few seconds, I work on other things. I did this late last year and it worked well in that while I was sitting at the computer I had no real downtime between tasks. Ultimate efficiency. So while I’m still fleshing out stuff for the weekend of 5/8 I’ve actually progressed the game clock to the end of May already, including outlining all the things the KSA will be doing in that time, which I will expand upon as time allows between asteroid hunting. Once I’ve pushed the game clock ahead 3 months, I’ll focus more on the day-to-day again – like working on the Ops Tracker some more.

Life has become a bit less stressful amidst all the lockdown angst when I was finally able to get information from the IRS website regarding my stimulus payment. For the past few weeks since it was announced when I checked the site it would tell me it was unable to determine my eligibility. Just last week I was finally able to confirm I get the money and gave them my direct deposit info so it will arrive sooner than a check. Since the gym was forced to close and I filed for unemployment back in mid-March, the labor department like everywhere else has been so slammed I cannot even call. You get either a busy signal or an automated message saying the lines are full and call back the next day. I’ve been trying to reach someone since my unemployment claim has been filed but needs more information to determine my base wage before I can collect – and the current telephone appointment for that is END OF JULY. Without the stimulus check I would have run out of money by the start of July.

Nevermind the fact that even without knowing my base wage, if my claim was approved they could still send me that $600/wk extra that is supposed to be tacked on. Nah, that would make sense. Governments don’t go for that shit.

Asteroid streaking

I put way more effort into the photos of the asteroid streaking through the atmosphere than I really should have spent time on but, so it goes. I did this once before but looking back through my Desk Notes I found I did it by using Camera Tools to move the viewpoint to the ground then zoom back in for the photo. This time I wanted less of an approximation and more of an actual perspective from the ground, so I placed a bit of debris on the surface at the location of the colony south of Ockr I could view from and installed Physics Range Extender.

The first attempt didn’t work since the asteroid was destroyed by the game for getting too low in the atmosphere before it came into physics range of the ground object. So I tried it again from the other way around, starting with the asteroid so that it would stay loaded as it passed through the atmosphere and then switching to the ground object once it came in physics range (I had boosted the range out to 250km). But I couldn’t find the object to switch to when I got near the location. I figured since it was a debris object the game automatically destroyed it so I reset things but this time instead I used a probe core on the surface. Again it wasn’t there when the asteroid flew over. This time I checked the F3 log and saw it had been destroyed impacting the surface – something that can happen to objects due to terrain loading when you fiddle with physics range. So okay I tried again but with an NRAP test weight, which has insane crash tolerances. Unfortunately turns out the crush tolerances were not insane enough as it was destroyed still by 4,130kPa of pressure, when its max was 4,000.

Are you fucking kidding me right now.

Refusing to give up, I closed the game to make a ModuleManager patch to increase the pressure tolerances but couldn’t find anything in the part properties related to this. So I figured maybe it was a FAR setting that was causing the problem and restarted the game to adjust it but found nothing to suggest FAR had anything to do with it. A quick Google search for anything related to part pressure tolerances turned up the part property I had been looking for – turns out it had just been omitted so the default value was used. RRRRGGGHHHHH

So I patched the part and restarted the game again. It’s been about 2 hours now. Set everything back up and enable physics cheats from the debug menu for good measure, this time I’m finally able to switch to the test weight as the asteroid passes over! While it falls towards the center of the planet, since it loaded below the ground (hence the pressure). Dammit. But I make the attempt anyway to activate the CameraTools camera and move it up above ground to spot the asteroid, which I see moving above thanks to the game placing a target box over it but there’s no trail. The Reentry Particle Effects trail fails to render at that distance. This is similar to a limitation of Smokescreen particles also failing to render once a rocket moves far enough downrange.

Well, shit. But now at least I know not to waste my time with that again.

So instead I let the asteroid travel overhead and used PersistentTrails to mark its passage through the sky. This meant I could display the trail from the ground so I could see exactly where the asteroid moved across the sky. Then I took a generic screenshot of the asteroid reentry trail effects from the ground zoomed in using CameraTools from an approximate distance away to get the size close to correct. Finally I took the photos from the ground and used the track to composite in the asteroid moving across the sky in the proper location at the proper angle. All in all both photos took over 3 hours to get done.

Yeeesh. KSP. *sigh*