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Sep 11 2020

Operations Summary – Weeks of 8/31 & 9/7/20

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Ascension Program Updates

The Ascension Mk2 is stacked and ready to go atop the Mobile Launch Platform, Lead Engineer Simon has signed off on the final checkouts and we will be proceeding on schedule with roll out to the pad Monday. Leaving the VAB two days prior to launch will allow us to perform a wet dress rehearsal on the day of roll out to ensure the ground service equipment is working properly – mostly the upper umbilical and crew towers since they are not used for other rocket launches. Tuesday the RTG will be installed, using the crew tower to access the hatch in the fairing, and the space craft will be powered up and tested. If all these events proceed without serious issues we will be set for our launch attempt on Wednesday.

Periapsis Co. has confirmed the test data from the static fires we did for the new WildCat-V lifter engine is as expected and the engine is ready for production. We will be receiving the first engine by the end of the year so it too can be tested and confirmed to be performing properly at the start of 2021. It will then go to power the first Ascension Mk3 up into space by Q2 2021.

The flight analysis report for the 14th Ascension Mk1 flight was released this week, detailing the harrowing ride up into space Specialist Bob had to deal with thanks to an issue with the guidance computer. This mission was the closest we have come so far to losing a crew member in flight. It is also the final planned mission for the Mk1. We are not yet officially retiring the Mk1 because it could still be useful in the future for lofting large payloads into space that the smaller Progeny Mk8 cannot handle.

Progenitor Prepares for Oct Mk7-B Launch Campaign

The Operations Tracker now includes launch dates and times for the final two launches in the Progeny Mk7-B campaign along with preliminary mission information, which is highly subject to change based on further evaluation of the first two flights. In addition, the recent successful test of a twice-refurbished Boostertron II means that the third flight could fly another refurbished booster instead of a new one. The booster recovered from the first Mk7-B mission is currently being prepared for testing later this month and if it fires okay the final Mk7-B could re-fly the booster recovered from the second mission.

KerBalloon Lands Long Term Contracts

The low-altitude crew conducted another pollen study and the data from those two releases coupled with the mission last month was used by Lead Scientist Cheranne to secure funding for her Field Research Team that will have the low-altitude balloons released on a more regular schedule to help augment the data on regional pollen levels gathered by quarterly Civvie flights.

The high-altitude crew will be spending the next month out at the Kongo research base releasing a balloon once per week to gather a larger set of data over time for weather in the area, which will help increase the accuracy of forecasts that ground expeditions will rely on for their planning.

Groundbreaking Underway for Surface Colony

Construction has finally started at the new surface colony that has been planned for the past decade, with the KSA helping out in recent years by using our Deuce aircraft to perform aerial surveys of potential sites. The final location that was chosen is on a peninsula of land at the mouth of the river leading to Sheltered Rock, which has to be constantly dredged out in order for ships to pass through to the mountain port cavern. In addition to replacing that port with one that is more accessible, an airport will be constructed to serve Sheltered Rock and Ockr with commercial traffic, mostly cargo on the larger Dhumla that has trouble accessing the smaller and more challenging airports currently servicing the two caverns.

Over land train routes connecting the caverns will carry goods to/from the colony, dubbed Narskeim (Nahr-sky-ehm) – a word derived from ancient kerbskrit meaning “open sky above”. The fact that this colony will be able to take advantage of natural sunlight will be advantageous not just for those living there, all kerbals will prosper from the crops and livestock that can be raised in better conditions than is simulated underground. Space missions will also eventually benefit from this new colony as there will be more of a push to develop kerbolar power that could one day assist in powering space probes.

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 5,680 asteroids and 3 updated with new observation data. Here are the 30 asteroids that were discovered this past week.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 9/10/20

Hey guess what? I actually remembered and managed to find time to go back and start filling in the Desk Notes I skipped! I’m doing them one at a time when I get to a Friday between the bi-weekly Ops Summaries. You can head back to read the extended notes for weeks 6/29 and 7/6. So I should have another one done for the next Desk Notes in two weeks.

Mk7-B video

Just wanted to point out that for this video I thought to disable physics for the particle effects and that caused the smoke to no longer shoot out at random intervals. Although the effect did slightly annoy me on the first Mk7-B video I also thought it provided a good visual cue for the rocket’s ongoing wild gyrations when the view angle places it out of sight behind the smoke trail.

Surface colony

This has been one of those long ongoing plot points that will continue to evolve alongside the KSA story. One of the most common questions I get about the KSA is its lack of solar (or in this case kerbolar) power and I think this detriment not only makes sense considering the lore of them being forced underground but also provides for a lot of nice probe design challenges for the early age of orbital operations.

The name was a bit of a journey. I like my names to have meaning and so I usually head over to the random name generator Behind the Name because I can look at what the names mean and apply that to what I’m trying to name. Problem is it’s random so even if I select to generate the max number of names per request it can still take a while sometimes to find something close to appropriate. This wasn’t working out after a while so I then looked up how to say “open sky” in several languages and ran the results through an anagram generator. Still nothing interesting or legible. Finally I just took an anagram of “kerman” that came out to Nark Em and added “skie” to create “narskiem”. So the meaning didn’t end up being all that relevant but I like the way it looks and sounds.

Mk2 mission

I’ve started work on this already as you would expect although I am not as far along as I would like to be by this point, especially because my house mate had to spend a few days in the hospital and I had to cover his gym classes, so that’s a good deal of hours away from the computer I had planned to put to use. Whether this will affect the launch date yet I can’t say, but it might.

An issue for this mission I didn’t have for Kerbin I is that with the new setup using the stock CommNet with kOS the inline probe core I’m using for the Viklun stage for some reason is not recognized as a unit that can actually maintain comms to mission control and control the space craft. So I had to add a small radial probe core from the USI sounding rockets mod, which is actually something I meant to do for the Kerbin I mission since the Viklun flight computer was supposed to have extra mass for the dual CPUs. The reason this wasn’t an issue for Kerbin I is that the Viklun core was drained of all energy by the time Kerbin I was released and never had to operate on its own. Hopefully Kerbin II’s Viklun stage will be able to perform its own operations for a time before de-orbiting.

Planning for the mission has been using the latest release alpha for KSPTOT‘s Launch Vehicle Designer and the ascent has been created by the optimizer so as with a previous Mk1 mission the guidance code will enter into several phases to follow the proper ascent angle up into space. I’m also actually coding in measures to put into effect if the Viklun stage tumbles again and if it tumbles but fails to recover well enough. I will be flying this mission just once (barring any stupid mistakes affecting the actual game play not game mechanics) and going with what happens. Not forcing a success on this.

I’m also going to try to play again with the orbital decay mod now that it has been picked up by prolific KSP modder LinuxGuruGamer and has a much better chance of being a mod with ongoing support that I can continue to use for future missions without have to retcon or explain away differing orbital dynamics. Kerbin I’s large eccentric orbit and short stay in space meant that I didn’t have to really plan for any orbital decay, so no retcon needed there. Ultimately regardless of whether the mod works well or not I will only continue to use it if I can get KSPTOT to support the modeling as well, which the author has already done to some extent. I much prefer the ability to properly plan my missions over the existence of decay.