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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 marker 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.