Feb 12 2021

Operations Summary – Weeks of 2/1 & 2/8/21

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Ascension Mk3 Faces Increased Delays on Kerbin III Mission

While we had hoped to be able to provide a summary of the ongoing Kerbin III mission today, unfortunately the probe has yet to leave the ground due to multiple delays with the Ascension Mk3. Originally scheduled to launch earlier this week the timeline turned out to be just a little too aggressive and brought the VAB crews to the limits of their work tolerance. Rather than force anyone to work harder than they feel capable of and thus increase the possibility of introducing errors into the integration process, the launch was delayed two days to allow for a more leisurely pace of installing the RTG and going through some final checks. It also gave more time to work issues but thankfully none arose and the rocket was rolled out fully assembled on schedule to meet the new launch target.

Preflight on Thursday went smoothly up until controllers noticed some anomalous readings coming from the engine controller. In the process of working through the issue it was determined that the data was being corrupted by the ground cables connected directly to the rocket. Polling the engine controller over the radio connection showed expected results. While at this stage of preflight controllers knew what data they should be seeing from the engine controller, later during the final steps leading up to launch the data will need to be corroborated by another source, so the ground cabling had to be fixed. This took all day and pushed the launch back again.

Today the weather failed to cooperate, with a strong front moving through the plains to the north and bringing high winds along the coast. Although we still don’t have very accurate forecasts the outlook was dismal enough to not bother trying to setup for a launch attempt, especially given the window for launch was so small we couldn’t wait around for weather to maybe improve. The mission design calls for the apokee of the launch trajectory to be put directly over the night side, so we can get as high as possible without yet entering the inner radiation belt, which is furthest from the planet opposite the sun.

This planned trajectory was designed to give the Kerbin III mission the best start possible with a high apokee of 350km that it would then raise higher to reach the belts. To do this however will require the Mk3 to fly very low and very fast through the atmosphere, getting as horizontal as possible to pick up as much speed as possible on its way to space. We’re not actually sure the rocket can do this, and the Mk2 failed on a more vertical ascent, but mission planners have decided now is no better time to find out since if any issues occur during ascent we can abort to return the entire upper stage using the parachutes atop Kerbin III. There is at least some confidence though in the more powerful RCS coupled with the longer Mk3 upper stage giving it more torque force.

The rocket remains healthy and ready to go, so we will be trying again tomorrow. As always you can get the latest updates from the Ops Tracker.

Future Launch Updates for Ascension and Progeny

We still have two more exciting missions coming up over the remainder of this first quarter year and both are progressing nicely towards their target launch dates. They too were scheduled to launch “ASAP” so there is a chance they could also be slightly delayed to ensure our employees are not overworked despite how much everyone here loves what they do.

Next up will be the Progeny Mk8 and as you can see in the image gallery above final integration is well under way in the Horizontal Assembly Building. The rocket will still be stood up vertically within the HAB for load checks and will also need to be transported over to the VAB for mounting to its launch base atop the Mobile Launch Platform. This need to use the MLP is what has forced us to attempt launching the Mk3 over the weekend since any further delays will also push back the Mk8 mission as there’s only still just enough time to make the necessary MLP modifications to support the next launch.

The remaining parts needed for the Ascension Mk1 mission in March are due to arrive later this month to allow final integration to be completed on time. The Mk1-B capsule has concluded testing all that can be tested without actually going to space and has been spending this month getting stripped of its atmospheric test equipment and being setup for vacuum testing. A second capsule is due to arrive this month as well, which will be the one to head up into orbit next, although still uncrewed for now.

Near Miss from Impact of Undiscovered Asteroid

Although the detection rate of the Asteroid Tracking Network continues to improve year after year we still  have gaps in our coverage, mainly due to daylight, which means not all asteroids bound for impact with Kerbin are spotted. We got a reminder of this just last week when an impact was detected via seismometer. Word of the event spread fast because it was picked up by stations in Umbarg and Kravass, which are constantly monitored as opposed to the hundreds of field stations spread around the planet that are checked only every so often. One of these field stations to the north of KSC had to be flown to via airship so scientists could get a third reading for triangulating the impact location.

The crater they found in the area was about 18m wide and had caused significant damage to the surrounding ground and foliage, but no fires were still burning. Because no one saw this rock coming, we couldn’t know if it was glowing, which meant extra precautions had to be taken to ensure the environment around the crater was safe. We still do not know what exotic compounds produce the glow in some asteroids so whether it is dangerous or not also remains unknown. After a few days scientists were cleared to approach in protective gear and so far over 50kg of meteorite fragments have been recovered.

Not only was this impact close, only ~120km from KSC, it was very near to the equator and this image shows just how lucky we have been over the years since the KSA was begun that the rotation of Kerbin has not brought any of these rocks down on top of or closer to us. This is why a space telescope to complete our coverage of the sky is a vital mission we hope to carry out for the ATN within the next year or two.

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 6,441 asteroids and 3 updated with new observation data. Here are the 36 asteroids that were discovered this past week.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 2/10/21

Near disaster occurred when my motherboard died the evening of the 29th last month. I had a spare tower that I was able to grab a PSU from and test to make sure it was indeed the mainboard and not the power unit. That tower also had a fried mobo or maybe bad CPU – it wouldn’t boot last time I tried a few years ago. Luckily I had one more even older PC that I had to fetch out of my storage unit. It was a very strange feeling booting up into Windows XP SP3! But at least it gave me something functional I could use in the meantime.

Although the death was sudden – PC just blipped off – there had been warning signs for a while now. My front bay memory card reader had stopped working several weeks ago, so I figured the USB header had died and my USB monitors, plugged into an expansion port, would at random intervals switch off and on a few times so I figured that header was also on its way out and possibly the whole mainboard as well. I was hoping it would last a few more months tho so I could plow through the busy Q1 launch schedule and also get through tax season (I don’t withhold much money so I’m usually cutting the gooberment a check). I mean, my regular 4yr CPU + mobo upgrade should have happened last year anyways and I had already set aside $1k for it but I had wanted to wait for the 10th gen Intel chips to drop and settle while also giving AMD some serious consideration for the first time since I began building my own rigs in 2006. Since I switched from AMD to Nvidia graphics last year though I decided it was best to also stick with Intel.

So in the end I snapped up an i9-10900K (upgrading from an i7-4790K), MSI mobo, 32GB RAM and even a 1TB NVMe for just $35 over budget grand total from NewEgg. Really is a nice buyers market out there as long as you don’t need a GPU!

I was already screwed being that it was the weekend so my order wasn’t handled until the start of next week and then of course shipping these days isn’t that great nevermind a nor’easter dumping snow on us that weekend and I also managed to miss their first delivery attempt the following Wednesday since a signature was required. Finally got the package late Thursday and spent all day Friday getting the rig fixed up because even though I’ve replaced my CPU twice before already it’s over a span of like 12 years and my brain doesn’t retain that kind of sparsely-used knowledge very well.

I barely managed to keep on top of KSA stuff over this intervening week. The day my mobo died was actually the day I had just finished working on all the in-game images I had planned to post the following week. In fact I hadn’t even uploaded them yet and my automated backups didn’t scrape them up so I had to pull the HDD out of my rig and use an external enclosure to plug it in via USB to the working PC I had – but XP couldn’t read the W10 file system. Fortunately I had a housemate’s Chromebook on hand that I was supposed to look at for performance issues like, sometime last year. Turned out he just had a crapton of useless spam/malware apps eating up his CPU cycles. So I cleaned that up for him and also used it to access my HDD and get the images I needed to post. My cloud backups led me nab the latest version of my tweets text file so I could continue to write and schedule them over the week. The one thing I couldn’t do was complete the financial report, since I had to have access to the game for pricing parts, so Mortimer’s computer died as well.

So far the new rig is running great. I haven’t had time to do any gaming yet besides KSP though, and as expected I don’t really see that much of a performance increase since it’s mainly a single-core game and my clock rates are similar to my old i7-4790K. Still, the i9 is able to off-load more general tasking stuff to other cores and free up that single core better than the i7 which means there are some minor gains. The NVMe also wasn’t so much faster loading the game than my WD VelociRaptor platter drive to make it worth moving everything over to it (including lots of file references). It’s been rock stable so far however for some reason it likes to restart when I’m asleep. Every day it’s restarted when I’m sleeping, and looking at the uptime in the Windows Resource Monitor shows the time it’s restarting is not the same. Not sure yet what’s up with that as it’s never exhibited this behavior before and it’s not Windows Update. I’m at 22hrs uptime now and my CPU is only ~35-38°C so idling further with Windows in lock mode shouldn’t cause any problems. Furthermore, evidence points to it being a hard reset, not Windows itself restarting so that’s possibly not good…

Kerbin III

The delay with the ground cabling was already written in before I ran into PC trouble. There was no other good in-universe reason not to launch on the original Tuesday date but I had to work that night and didn’t want to be away from the PC for the aspects of the mission that would extend later into the day so Wednesday I would have all day. Then the PC died and I really did try to stick to the original schedule but started getting stressed on Sunday and I’m not doing this to get stressed so then came the “we need more time” delay which is really what I needed. But then again I didn’t want to delay toooo long so moving to Thurs put me on another workday but the already-written delay would make it Fri, also a work day so “weather” pushed it to Saturday when I next had a whole day free. (for the record I’ve still not had time to integrate the new KSP weather mod, but it will happen!).

The original design sketch for Kerbin III I posted to twitter last year actually had RCS thrusters for ullage but for some reason they did not make it into the final design – no idea how they got removed along the way. Still, I like the idea of spinning it rapidly to create enough force to push the fuel into the small pressurized tanks surrounding the engine. No idea if it would actually work but it sounds feasible enough.

Speaking of those small tanks, I did try to split them up into 6 tanks instead of one but the part would not recognize multiple RESOURCE definitions of the same resources. So I will have to include in my kOS script enabling the engine tank only long enough to drain the amount that would have come from a single tank when using the engine.

That photo taken of the MLP rolling out to the pad? All this shit happened during the creation of that:

– didn’t explode when taken out to launchpad in 1.5.1 so yey (even fully fueled!)
– crapton of NRE spam tho
– began removing parts few at a time to see what was causing it
– went like half a dozen rounds before finally down to one part. Still NREs
– load to flight scene with existing vessels. still NREs
– restart game. Still NREs
– switch to save without static craft. No NREs
– go back to static craft save and start removing them
– remove everything one by one till launch tower probe is last and then NREs go away
– load to only debris object remaining, just a truss, and sim rate still 70-80%
– recover it and load probe core to pad 90-100% holy WTF
– reload save with launchpad & static displays. Remove launch tower probe. NREs back fuuuuuuk
– player/output log no help, just NRE: Object reference not set to an instance of an object at ModuleAnimateGeneric.FixedUpdate ()
– removed all, loaded launch towers into VAB, NREs same problem
– shutdown game to remove suspected AnimatedAttachment mod. Was not even installed. FFUUUUKKKKKKKK
– restarted, deleted main tower, NREs gone
– deleted lights, NREs gone
– gotta be ReStock, did a lazy copy from 1.10.1 to my 1.5.1 install, remember light issues in prev instances
– yuuuuuup

So instead of taking a few minutes to pull out only the parts I needed, just quickly copying over the whole folder brought some unstable changes into the game and I spent over a hour trying to figure out why I was getting NRE spam. That’ll learn me!

I have absolutely no idea how well this mission is going to work but at the same time that’s kind of exciting. I’m really terrified though that I missed something important in my mission planning and I’m going to end up in a situation where I can’t make it work and there will be no time to go back and redo things. Oh well, only way is forward right now as I struggle to stay ahead….