Jul 17 2020

Operations Summary – Week of 7/13/20

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Ascension Program Completes Kerbed Suborbital Flight

This week Specialist Bob finally got the ride into space that was taken from him almost one year ago. Although the ascent did not go as planned, things worked out well in his trajectory happening to bring him down over land so he was able to wait several hours for the recovery ship to arrive without having to worry about rough seas or a sinking capsule. His mission set several records for altitude, space duration, G load and distance traveled downrange. Although Bob was able to spend time outside the capsule exploring his environment, the decision has been made not to award him any EVA time, which will be saved for during space walks or on other planets. He did get the honor though of being the first crew member to plant a KSA flag on Kerbin. MSV Aldeny is scheduled to arrive at port in Sheltered Rock later today where Bob will be given a full post-flight medical exam before he heads home to Kravass to get his victory parade. He’ll be back at KSC later next week to continue working. Meanwhile post-flight analysis has already begun to track down the guidance issue that almost threw the rocket over. We expect a report sometime next month. Don’t forget to check the gallery above for photos of Mun’s shadow from space!

Future Ascension Program Plans

With all four of our crew having traveled to space and safely returned we have completed our first round of kerbed flight and the next crewed mission will be to put an astronaut into orbit! This will be atop the Ascension Mk3 with the Mk1-B capsule no earlier than mid-2021. The Mk1-B has seen favorable development over the past year but progress was halted along with everything else during the program re-evaluation and although we plan to debut the final design later this month it won’t be delivered until towards the end of the year and will still need to undergo rigorous testing prior to carrying a kerbal into space. Who will that kerbal be? Commander Val is currently slotted to be primary crew. Although Bill is technically next in the crew rotation he has already been dubbed first kerbal to reach space. Bob will be backup crew to Val – again against normal rotation as Jeb is after Val but he was barred from being first to orbit after multiple accounts of insubordinate behavior on his mission.

Another factor that will determine when we launch a kerbal into orbit next year will depend on the reliability of the Mk3 itself, which should begin flying at the start of 2021 to give us time to test out the new WildCat-V lifter engine. Being one of only two brand-new components on the rocket means unless it shows serious problems the Mk3 should not take long to qualify. In fact, if engine testing continues to be good we plan to launch our first communications satellite (or even 2-3 together) for the Mk3’s first mission.

But what exactly is the Ascension Mk3? The Ascension rocket has had a bit of a troubled past when it comes to designations. Originally it was dubbed the Mk1 Block I and Block II, with the Block II carrying up to 4 solid rocket boosters for heavy-lift capacity. It was thought that the Mk1 would be able to reach orbit but after this was proven to not be possible program engineers had to design an upper-stage vehicle. Since the upper-stage could be paired with either the Block I or Block II it was simply named after its Viklun vacuum engine. Further along it was realized that SRBs for sub-orbital flight provided no benefit to the mission as pushing a capsule higher would send it long past our planned recovery zone east of Ockr or bring it back down steeply with too many Gs than was thought to be safe. So the Viklun was to be paired only with the Block II for orbital flight while the Block I would be strictly sub-orbital. With clearly separate use cases the Mk1 Block II was re-designated the Mk2. The Mk3 will essentially be an upgraded Mk2 with the new lifter engine plus improvements to the Viklun orbital stage along with new dual-segment SRBs.

Speaking of the new SRBs, which are behind schedule in their testing, the Mk2 has already proven it can reach orbit on our existing single-segment SRBs, which will still be available for us to order from Luciole as a result of their USI purchase. Had USI just gone completely out of business the Mk3’s debut launch would have been dependent on the development of the Progeny Mk7-B, which is being used to flight test the new dual-segment SRBs. Thankfully we can now launch with our current SRBs if the new Boostertron IIs are not ready by the start of next year.

We will debut a blueprint and vehicle page for the Mk3 later this year after the next orbital launch of the Mk2, carrying Kerbin II, which could slip into September if we are able to launch Mk7-Bs in August instead. Ascension engineers want to see if the Viklun stage improvements allow the Mk2 to better reach orbit before making final design tweaks to the Mk3.

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 5,424 asteroids and 2 updated with new observation data. Here are the 25 asteroids that were discovered this past week.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 7/17/20

It’s just after 3:30pm local time and I have to get this done (image gallery still needs creating) so I’ll be brief once again. Not running ragged, have everything planned and outlined moving forward, but also not liking how yesterday I was only a few hours ahead of the launch, still working on end-day stuff as pre-launch was progressing. Still doing KSA stuff every day but mainly just finding less time to work on KSA because I’m spending more time gaming online with my friends. I also might be back to coaching next month and doing it more often than the past 2 years. Regardless, I remain committed to this project and at worst the timeline for things will just get stretched further and further to give me less things to do on a daily basis so I can get back ahead several months or at least stay ahead.

I’m saving all the notes I have written down that I usually expand upon here. Eventually I’ll have time to come back and take care of this. Instead of the empty promise of last week saying you should check back, just look for me to post links back to them in whatever Desk Notes after I finally get around to it.

Edited on 9/27/20

Finally made it back to these notes and it’s just about the Mk1 mission so here we go…

Similar lead-up

It’s a good thing I go back and re-read what I did for previous launches because I was leading up to this launch very similar to how I led up to Jeb’s mission. There was a storm chance with a Deuce flight going out of Sheltered Rock to check on development then a 90% chance of GO… I managed to go back and rewrite it all with about an hour to spare before the first of the tweets went live – having no lead time really sucks!

Mission planning

For the first time I was not only able to import drag coefficient (Cd) data from a CSV file but I actually had a ton of Cd values exported directly from FAR logging to use. What I didn’t realize is that importing a few hundred values would totally drag down the LVD simulation and make planning a real chore as updating events would take over a minute and optimizing could potentially take over an hour. So I reduced the original log file but 1/2 and then 1/2 again (1/4) to create smaller data sets I could import. This way I could start with 1/4 for rough modeling but faster optimization then bump it up to 1/2 and then the full data set as the optimizer worked closer and closer to the optimal solution and I could continue to minimize the constraints.

I also realized some fundamental mistakes in planning literally two days before the launch, which again was really frustrating when you have no lead time and thus have to scramble to make things work. Which I did of course, but extra stress not good.

Actual mission

Had to redo the launch only once thanks to an error in the kOS script caused by how Kerbalism displays radiation readings in the PAW that the logging script reads from. Under conditions that are non-threatening to crew and spacecraft it reads “Nominal” instead of a numerical value. I knew it did this for the internal rads reading but for some reason on this flight it also did it for the external rads, I think because the sun was not as high?

Despite catching the fact that I was using full 200u of ablator earlier when I mentioned the planning mistakes I still managed to launch with 200u instead of reducing it since this was supposed to be a re-used heat shield. That was annoying but I made it work – no lead time to go back and fix it.

I thankfully auto-save through the kOS flight script at key moments in the mission so I was able to go back afterwards and re-fly the re-entry to use all the chutes on landing, because it wasn’t something I thought about until I was writing up the mission tweets. This was necessary because the amount of time taken to land and the descent rate and all that would be different that what was originally logged and would be made public.

Another no-lead-time-panic-attack was induced launch day because it appeared that my webhost went down hard and I still had updates to make to the database files powering the Ops Tracker that would be carrying updates for the launch later that day. Thankfully even though I had intermittent connection issues with the website and the host company website was completely offline, FTP access was still capable.

Getting a launch photo, this is when I discovered the kraken launch clamp bug that I only recently fixed, where loading the craft to the pad in KSP v1.5.1 would yeet it out into space at ludicrous speeds. I’m just going to post the notes I made on this one:

– worked fine last time. WTFFFFFFFFFFFFFF
– tried removing service tower, then launch clamp
– it was launch clamp. removed & replaced with new one – still happened & crashed game!!
– fukkti don’t really need clamp anyways just used service tower, tho no lights
– kOS undefinde varible “time” – base keyword waaaaatttttt *sob*
– restart PC fixed kOS prob but launch clamp still krakens
– can’t just use service tower – rocket on ground makes no smoke!!!
– used stock clamp and offset back to launch tower
– oh wait. no smoke cause no smokescreen working?! AAAAAUAUAUAUAGAGAGHGHGHGHGHGHG
– removed dx11 and reshade before realizing never actually replaced SS after deleting it
– fasa clamp still yeets rocket but smokescreen works w/dx11 and reshade now

Yea I was quite put out about the whole ordeal and its associated issues but I eventually made it work after a few hours