Aug 14 2020

Operations Summary – Weeks of 8/3 & 8/10/20

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Progenitor First Mk7-B Launch Partially Successful

Nearly a year after the Mk7-A flew and after numerous delays the Mk7-B finally took off on its first mission earlier today. The rocket’s initial ascent was horridly turbulent – at this time we are unsure whether it was a guidance control issue or unforeseen disturbance in the atmosphere. The result of this was a slower ascent due to drag losses that caused the rocket to only reach 84km apokee instead of the planned altitude of ~160km. Despite the lack of time in space controllers were still able to restart the Ospray vacuum engine, the first time the Ospray has been restarted in flight. Although the second stage was found broken and damaged, the first stage was recovered intact.

We won’t be able to inspect the second stage until after it is returned this weekend but reports are that the lower half of the fuel tank was ripped off, taking the engine with it, which was a vital part that we had hoped to recover for post-flight analysis. The rocket likely broke apart during the plasma blackout because no telemetry signal was received by the Aldeny after initial comms loss and the overall damage on the exterior does extend to the flight computer. Teams will be working hard over the coming week on post-flight analysis to determine if any major changes need to be made before the next flight later this month.

Genesis Program Shuts Down Operations

The writing has been on the wall for a while now but the Genesis program officially and quietly ended operations at the end of July. The two aircraft that we currently operate, a Deuce and Civvie, will now fall under control of KSC in general and while they will be at our disposal as well, we will not be using them for any future missions. Both aircraft designs along with the Dhumla that were developed under the program will continue to be manufactured by C7 Aerospace Division, which is also working on new designs for propeller-based aircraft as well as continuing work on jet turbines. Our R&D labs continue to participate as well.

The Horizontal Assembly Building will become the new home of the Progenitor program, as their rockets, both present and future, will be able to fit inside even when stacked vertically. This will clear up room in the VAB for larger and larger Ascension rockets as the program moves forward.

Ascension Program Reviews Recent Missions

With the next Ascension Mk2 launch delayed to allow for the Progeny Mk7-B missions this month, the Ascension teams have been pouring over data from their past two missions to prepare for future ones. The unkerbed mission launched back in June finally got a post-flight analysis after lots of hard work to recreate the computer glitch that caused the Launch Escape System tower to decouple in flight.

All 4 astronauts are currently undergoing medical exams and centrifuge training as part of post-analysis to the recent kerbed mission to better understand how re-entry forces affect kerbal physiology after Specialist Bob blacked out for 24s while returning from space.

Alaba Predicted to Eject from Kerbin System

The latest prediction from ATN astronomers has Alaba getting kicked back out to kerbolar orbit in October after its 49th encounter with Mun. Although past predictions have not been accurate in foretelling Alaba’s fate, this one is only two months out and for the first time starts to take into account close Mun encounters’ effect on the resulting trajectory. Still, there’s always a chance astronomers are wrong and new things need to be learned to compensate for the errors uncovered, but if not we will at last have to say goodbye to the longest known visitor to our planetary system.

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 5,562 asteroids and 2 updated with new observation data. Here are the 38 asteroids that were discovered this past week.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 8/14/20

IMO this was a crappy Ops Summary. Should have lots more depth and back links to historical references, but once again I’m up against the wall and barely managing to get this all done in time. It’s getting really annoying and it’s no one’s fault but my own. I’m going to be dedicating the next week to putting up at least 2wks worth of lead time and continuing to build from there. I’m going to use the off-weeks when no Ops Summary is posted to go back and start filling out these desk notes I’ve neglected – including this one!

Updated on 10/16/20

Hey, only took me two months to get back around to doing this 😛


The storm that hit KSC on 8/4 was during the time Tropical Storm Isaias was passing over my area. It didn’t look like a serious threat but I didn’t see any reason to chance things and have to rely on my phone and mobile service if power went out. Thankfully there were no power interruptions for me (although I did have friends and family without power for several days) so I was able to get right back to things without further postponement.

Genesis shut down

The biggest reason behind this was the (at the time) upcoming Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, with which I planned to return to flight simming after stopping a few years ago when FSX became to much of a pain in the ass to manage properly without a stupidly powerful rig and tons of add-ons. Since I have to fly aircraft missions in real-time, I would rather spend that time flying in MSFS than KSP (which has served as a flight sim replacement). The decision was also due to the troubles I was having with the latest KSP seeming to lose performance the longer I flew, making the flights last even longer.

Even without MSFS, time-wise I wouldn’t have been able to put in as much effort anymore and would have not done the separate jet-engine program any good service. Best to just relegate it all to background events. Lacking lead-time the decision to bring the program to an end came rather abruptly, although I’m still mostly pleased with how it transpired over the past year or so with the slow-down of operations and the battles between the airship barons and commercial flight.

LES issue still a mystery

Although in the recent Ascension post-flight analysis I said the LES detachment problem was solved, I still have no idea why the game is staging that part when the vessel loads after I replace it via editing the save file. I will simply have to factor this issue ahead of time into future missions so that there’s not a situation where it can possibly happen. That’s one way to fix it anyways…

Mk7-B mission

Here is the real reason why the launch was delayed – I was becoming more and more obsessed with Rocket League. Ultimately it hasn’t overtaken me enough to prevent KSA from progressing but it has kept me from advancing my lead time.

I tried to integrate RealChute directly into the nosecone that contains a parachute from USI but despite following MM patches that worked for other mod compatibility I couldn’t get the game to stop giving me NREs whenever the nosecone chute was selected if a RealChute module was added to it. This is especially annoying cause it worked fine in earlier KSP versions. So okay whatever I just stuck a radial chute atop the battery stack so it would be under the nose cone. However that failed because the chute detected that it was shrouded by the nosecone part and failed to deploy. So I just had it poke out slightly to the side of the nose cone.

I tried to use BetterSRBs but turns out that the thrust curves it uses are not compatible with LVD and the KSPTOT author wasn’t able to get tangent curves working in LVD. In the end I just gave it the same thrust curve as the single-stack booster used with the Mk6 and earlier.

There were issues with getting the rocket, designed in 1.5.1 update to work in 1.9.1. but thankfully it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Mainly I needed to just make sure the support legs were offset properly – for some reason they would sometimes load in the VAB slightly under the ground and I would have to raise them back up. Lately when saving they load properly and I have no clue why sometimes they load fine and sometimes they don’t depending on the vessel save file. Such is KSP.

I had a minor frustration in getting the support arms to retract via kOS because I hadn’t changed the code I was using for the Mk7-A launches so why wasn’t it working now?? Finally I realized what the problem was – symmetry! I was calling each arm individually and toggling it to retract but every time I did that it told all the arms to toggle. So the Mk7-A had three support arms and thus the toggle command was sent three times – retract, extend, retract – and so the final toggle caused them to retract. The Mk7-B has 4 support arms so when I made the calls it was – retract, extend, retract, extend. This happens so fast that the arms just did not move and so it initially looked like the command wasn’t being carried out. So I just had to tell one to retract and they all retracted. Yeesh.

The Ospray is from Near-Future Launch Vehicles and modeled off a Space-X vacuum engine (Raptor or Merlin I can’t recall) so it was set to fire with a methalox plume and this is why I never took videos/photos of it on prior uses. I finally replaced the plume with a LF/O variant.

The engine shroud really would come off during flight – sometimes even when the service tower swung away which was of course annoying because I didn’t want that to happen. Apparently some spring/force/damping parameters had for some reason been applied and rather than track down what mod was doing that I just set them all as low as possible and that made disconnecting them not rattle the rocket to shake the shroud halves loose. Although it took a few extra tries, I was able to get the proper half to come off when recording the tracking camera footage since it didn’t always separate the same half every time.

I was planning to reload a quicksave auto-saved by the kOS ascent script when the solid booster was detached to see how it splashed down but for some reason the quicksave failed to include it in the save file, likely because it would have registered as debris in atmosphere and thus discarded. I could have installed FMRS but I didn’t want to bother with it. Instead I just reflew the flight and when the solid booster separated I switched to it. Or, I tried to. WTF? I know I could switch to nearby objects in atmosphere in previous KSP versions. What changed? Well that’s what change logs are for and when I went back and checked I saw for 1.9.0 they had indeed changed the behavior of in-flight vessel switching. I always read change logs when new versions are released but I don’t always remember everything in them I read.

I had the upper stage landing pretty fast to save mass on the parachute and I expected it to handle the landing okay since the engine was rated for 20m/s impact speed but apparently the way KSP models impacts was not what I expected. I expected the engine to soak up the majority of the impact and the parts above it would be able withstand the remainder of the force but instead everything but the engine got destroyed! So I just enabled the no crash damage cheat and fucked it up a bit for the story.

Two aggravating issues came up when I attempted to take the launch photo for this in 1.5.1. For some reason the launch clamp now wants to yeet the rocket out into space many times the speed of light as soon as you load it onto the pad. I spent some hours trying to fix or work around this to no avail and eventually just used Precise Editor to properly offset the support arms after attaching them to the launch tower and simply launched the rocket off the ground with no engine clamp (to which the support arms are usually attached to). The second issue was SmokeScreen deciding it didn’t want to render any particles for any engines for some reason. I spent the same amount of hours at the same time working to get this resolved over many restarts of the game and trying to figure out which version works best for 1.5.1. I even re-downloaded the entire fucking game for a fresh 1.5.1 install. I eventually got the particle effects to work again, but the UI window still does not properly load in the game. FFS. Despite this partial victory, I almost completely lost my shit after multiple failures to get the SRB plume to work on the Boostertron II when they showed up fine with the same config on the USI booster from the Mk6. The reason? One had a thrustTransform attach point for the effects and the other had a ThrustTransform and the property was case-sensitive. AARRRGHGHGHGHGHHG