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Jan 15 2021

Operations Summary – Weeks of 1/4 & 1/11/21

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Q1 Launch Schedule Booked

In addition to attempting a reflight of the Progeny Mk6-II carrying a KSP payload to kick off rocket operations this year we have three exciting and pivotal missions already scheduled for the remainder of the first quarter of 2021.

Early next month will see the debut launch of the Ascension Mk3 carrying aloft the Kerbin III probe. This will bring into service a rocket that we hope will take probes to Mun, Minmus and even beyond the Kerbin system later this very year if its calculated performance proves to be as expected. It will be constructed entirely of flight-proven hardware and although we do have used boosters being prepared from past Progeny Mk7-B flights all four of the SRBs supplied for this mission will be brand new. After Kerbin II spent nearly 3 months in space we are hoping that Kerbin III will last several months longer as it makes hundreds of passes through the inner and outer radiation belts to better understand their structure and how they interact with Kerbin’s magnetic field.

Late next month will see another debut launch as the Progeny Mk8 comes into service. This rocket is a more radical departure from previous Progenitor designs due to the acquisition of USI by Luciole Space Systems last year. Despite this it will still serve to carry out the Progenitor program’s main objective of testing new rocket technologies by being the first vehicle to be flown entirely by thrust vector control as well as being the first vehicle to cluster multiple engines. Both of these advances are things we want to incorporate into the Ascension Mk4 if the Progeny Mk8 turns out to be successful. We will not be asking too much of it on its first flight, sending it on a sub-orbital trajectory with a fixed payload that will carry it through the inner radiation belt. On board will be instruments recovered from a failed Progeny Mk6-I mission late last year as well. If the mission goes as planned we hope to use the Mk8 to place a small probe into orbit later this year and possibly send small probes to Mun and Minmus as well.

The last pivotal launch of Q1 2021 will feature the final flight of the Ascension Mk1 as it carries the new Mk1-B capsule up into space. This will be the penultimate test on the capsule’s long road to flight certification that began last year, with its design starting back in late 2019. The ultimate test will of course be whether the capsule survives a longer and shallower re-entry at the end of the mission. If all goes well, the capsule design will be the one that takes either Specialist Bob or Commander Valentina up to become the first kerbal to orbit the planet later this year. The Ascension Mk1 will be retired after this mission in favor of the Progeny Mk8, which will come along with a “heavy” variant that can lift larger payloads.

Engine & Capsule Testing

Although the Progeny Mk8 has been scheduled for a launch already, this remains entirely dependent on whether we successfully fire off all nine engines on the vertical test stand later this month. We’ve made it up to five and everything is looking good, so fingers crossed! The vacuum engine for the second stage has already undergone what testing it can at sea level, so we at least know it should ignite. These same engines will be ones that fly next month.

As we install the final two Skeeter engines, the vertical test stand will be rigged with the first production WildCat-V engine to begin its qualification trials. While a WC-V test article underwent some firings last year that initially gave good data, a serious possible flaw was discovered during the post-firing evaluation that required several months of additional work, which is why it is not ready to debut with the Ascension Mk3 as planned. If this new round of testing goes well however it could enter service in time for the next Mk3 mission. We have additional K2-X engines already on order though just in case.

Although it has a flight upcoming, the Mk1-B capsule is still being used for several tests and exercises this month and next month. It’s been dropped out the back of a Dhumla aircraft to land and splashdown under chute, activities which could result in the loss of the capsule and thus were not performed early in testing. Thankfully it survived and is now being used by the crew for egress/recovery and emergency scenarios out at sea. Last year the capsule underwent recovery exercises at sea while the crew used a mockup to practice on land. Now the two are being put together, which despite being training still carries some risks. If anything should happen to the capsule we do have a second one arriving in February which can be used that will otherwise be the one to carry a kerbal in orbit.

2020 in Review

If you haven’t yet looked back at the year that was, we have several ways for you to recap 2020 KSA operations:

  • This flickr album contains infographics covering not only 2020’s yearly operations but yearly operations dating all the way back to KSA’s first complete year of operations in 2017
  • This flickr album contains 52 of the 264 images we posted last year to highlight our most notable events and achievements
  • The financial report for 2020 has been posted to a separate spreadsheet for review

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 6,264 asteroids and 3 updated with new observation data. Here are the 34 asteroids that were discovered this past week.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 1/15/21

Right, so – holiday break was great, relaxed and played a lot of CyberPunk 2077 (still am) as it works well enough on PC and honestly the bugs are hilarious. New year drops, yey, get back to work on KSA and it’s all going great and then Jan 6th fucked me up just about as bad as any other sensible American. No wait, I mean about as bad as any other sensible human being. Worse, my friend and his wife who I live with went to DC and although they didn’t storm the Captiol they were still at a possible super-spreader event which meant I had to take extra precautions when they got home and work extra hours to cover my friend’s gymnastic classes while he waiting on a rapid COVID test, which thankfully came back negative although that’s not 100% in the clear but *sigh* good enough all told.

ANYWAYS…

It’s been rough getting back to productivity this past week but I’ve managed to keep KSA operations rolling at least a day ahead so that’s something. Playing CyberPunk has also had the benefit of making me realize how much my backup service CrashPlan was taking up CPU cycles in the background cause I would hear the sounds glitch every now and then (onboard audio) while playing. Now I know to not just disable backups during launches (to prevent kOS read/write errors if it tries to back up a file its using) but to completely task kill the background process and free up frikkin 5-10% of my CPU – I guess it’s compressing shit in the background or something.

1.10.1

So my big objective over the break was to update to the latest mod-stable version of KSP, which went off without a hitch over the course of about 3 days as I gradually installed 225 mods manually to make sure everything worked properly. Going from 1.9.1 up to 1.10.1 did not bring along any huge game changes so I wasn’t expecting any trouble.

Unfortunately Custom Asteroids is not yet compatible with 1.10.1’s new comet system so I still need to keep a 1.9.1 install for my Asteroid Tracking Network stuff, but really that’s not a hassle – I have it setup with its own shortcut and don’t need to swap files around between that install and the current “main” on 1.10.1. It also makes some of the logistics easier actually.

And then I still have a 1.5.1 install because despite my attempts to use Scatterer, EVE, etc in 1.10.1 I couldn’t get things to look as nice as they do in 1.5.1 (the sunrise/sunset colors especially) in addition to Kerbal Konstructs still throwing some hissy fits in regards to the static objects I’m using – all things I could probably fix but why bother take the time when it all runs fine and looks fine in 1.5.1? Again, separate install, own shortcut, easy to manage so whatever.

I even still have 1.3.1 on call for Jool and Eve clouds. So for everything else though, like from space or the surface of other bodies besides Kerbin I will be using whatever the latest KSP install I have with stuff like Parallax as well.

Kerbal Weather Project

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG

So it was back in 2014-2016 the last time any serious attempt was made to introduce weather to KSP and the leader of the project was attempting to create a real-time weather system within the game. Here is the portion of the thread with that relevant discussion and me asking – why do it in game? He unfortunately completely missed the point of my question, which was based on an earlier suggestion I had made. Still not entirely clear on why he thought an in-game simulation was feasible or necessary and since then I’ve just been waiting and hoping someone with an interest in climatology would actually do as I suggested and create an external model to feed data into the game. FINALLY it has happened. Wow.

At this point still not sure when I will get around to really looking into using this. The latest update has proper interaction with FAR for pressure and temperature changes, which is good. I see no real barriers to implementing this into my roleplay and even LVD should be able to handle it although right now not sure if the author is willing to provide support for it in being able to modify temp/press curves from within the application rather than manually editing the .INI file.

Mission planning

So you’d think that all the upcoming missions are already fully realized and planned and ready to go right? HAHAH no. Which is frustrating cause I’ve already had to go and retcon some stuff as I realized things that need to be done differently as I went about working up the final designs of the rockets. The Mk8 for example only became fully-realized in the last few days and I’m hoping I can make it all work as intended, as well as Kerbin III. I haven’t even flown next week’s mission yet which I hope to do over the weekend. I’m fairly confident that I’ve given myself enough time between launches to get through them all. We shall see – delays are no stranger to rocket flight at least, if I need to use them…