Oct 21 2016

Operations Summary – Week of 10/17/16

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KerBalloon Launch Campaign Successful So Far

Three of the five planned launches for KerBalloon probes have so far gone off without a hitch, despite several new logistics considerations that had to be taken into account. The first launch, from KSC, was the easiest to manage and served to get the crews back to a familiar state with the process of launching a KerBalloon. Next, we coordinated with the Maritime Service to use one of their ships, the MSV Tongjess, to take a second probe out to sea for launch and recovery. If that wasn’t enough, the location was just over the horizon. Sometimes comms had a good bounce off the atmosphere, but mostly they were unreliable enough that launch control simply had to wait for the probe to be launched and clear the horizon. Flight Director Lanalye was not very happy with this arrangement, but at the same time she places full trust in her launch crews. After a successful launch and recovery, the following day we got to put to use some of our off-road vehicles that were purchased with the initial founding payment of the KSA. These rovers will serve as a much cheaper alternative to airship charters when sites are reachable by land and time is not of the essence (some sites may still be too high/steep to permit off-road vehicle use). Despite worry by both Lanalye and Drew over a night-time traversal to the launch location, everything went as planned and the balloon payload was recovered and returned to KSC intact.

KerBalloon ground tracks

KerBalloon ground tracks

Data analysis of the probe instruments, a temperature and barometer sensor, is still ongoing, although early results are showing a surprising uniformity to the atmospheric conditions in regions around KSC that have been sampled so far. Still, ground tracks for the 3 balloons have shown that enough pressure difference exists at various layers to create winds to push the balloons around. Scientists eagerly await data from the remaining two scheduled KerBalloon flights so they can further advance their models.

Progeny Mk2 Assembly Continues

Simon reports that the VAB is working efficiently at constructing the new Progeny Mk2 two-stage rocket for launch on schedule next week. The fact that it is simply two Progeny Mk1 rockets joined together has made the process easier since crews are already familiar with the process of assembling these parts. Staging the two boosters together is a new step in the process, and for that an entire day and a half is being spent to ensure that it is done according to specifications. The payload has already begun to be pieced together for testing at the start of next week. After that the entire rocket will be integrated together and tested. Everyone is excited to see our first multi-stage rocket take flight!

C7 Off to a Rocky Start

Finally starting operations this week, the Aerospace Division of C7 has seen some early setbacks, mainly in design but also internally. Simon reports several key engineers are refusing to work, believing they have been betrayed by the main C7 corporate division. To understand why, Simon was forced to make a visit to C7 HQ in Kravass City. Turns out C7 was building its own testing facility out on an island not far from KSC when the decision was made to axe the project well into development as a means of cutting costs and turning to KSC for lease of their facilities. Apparently along with that decision came numerous project reshuffling that left several high-ranking engineers out in the cold and re-assigned to the fixed-wing project. Apparently it now falls to Simon to re-motivate them.

On the design side of things, arguments are still being made about the final wing configuration of the “Civvie” prototype that was revealed at the start of this week. Despite this, Simon has at least managed to get work started on the fuselage, which can be modified late in its production to accept whichever wing configuration is ultimately decided upon.

Astronaut Excursions Continue to Educate

Realizing that returning to Kerbin from orbit will always place them in a hazardous environment, our astronauts have been spending the past two weeks working on developing survival training that can be applied to future kadets and also prepare them. So far they have spent two nights out in the mountains with minimal supplies, suffering cold temperatures and high winds with little from which to construct any sort of shelter. They also took advantage of the MSV Tongjess to spend some time in the water learning how to stay afloat with just their pants and testing out several compact life rafts that could be deployed from a small capsule. So far all training exercises have been carried out without serious injury, although they all realize that training can be just as dangerous as the real thing.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

While Val captured a nice view of Sarnus and its moons, we think the better photo involves two planets, not just one. Here we see Eve passing close to Jool, an event known as an appulse. They aren’t actually close, but from our perspective they appear to be.

Joolean moons Vall, Laythe and Tylo along with Eve's moon Gilly are also viisble

Joolean moons Vall, Laythe and Tylo along with Eve’s moon Gilly are also viisble

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 9/20/16

Maintaining the month lead time, trying to push out to two. No real activity on the weekends is helping a lot, I’m glad I carried that over from the end of the previous run of the Agency. This week was a bit overly-busy though and I probably should have spaced the KerBalloon launches out more. But despite everything that needed to get done I didn’t lose any lead time, which is a good sign. I’m finding things are going a lot quicker with the experience that I have when it comes to creating blueprints, VAB construction shots and other things that require extra work – including image editing like the example below:

You’ll see this image posted on Saturday, so not a huge spoiler. The most subtle thing are the headlights, which don’t actually light up (the real reason that second pair of lights are there – although they also look cool IMO). I cut and pasted them into a separate layer in Paint.NET so I could apply a Glow effect. You’ll also notice that I took out doors in the back. Yea, the rover is supposed to be a 4-seat vehicle but it’s also supposed to be electrically driven and I don’t have solar power or RTGs yet which means I needed to stick a fuel tank and electric generator in there (not a fuel cell). This part is all hand-wavey stuff, but logistically it works to power an electric vehicle. So I removed the rear seats.

Also, yes I did indeed drive out to the first launch site with one of the rovers to see how long it would take

So something I mentioned a few weeks ago and forgot to follow up on was how I schedule tweets. I showed you how I edit and maintain them in the text editor, but that doesn’t really give me a good idea of how they will appear throughout the day. For that I use Google Calendar:

This lets me see whether I’m bunching up too many tweets in a single day (necessary for certain events like launches but shouldn’t be otherwise) or even tweeting too much at the same time consecutive days. You’ll notice how I tried to space out tweets not only during the day but during the week as well. To me this creates a more natural flow of communication from the Agency to readers and makes sure their twitter feed is always interspersed with other accounts they may be following.

Finally, asteroids are being discovered now, so I thought I’d mention how that works. So, I used to have a pretty involved process to finding new asteroids and I kept some of that but it’s also a bit simpler now. I’m using the same detection schedule I did for the previous KSA, so I don’t need to toss coins in a box once a week to come up with new values for how many asteroids will be discovered on a given day. Although I did consider this time to only allow myself to find asteroids that were in an area facing away from the sun, it was too much of a pain to work in that consideration and decided these asteroids would be found from data that has been pooled together recently but also collected over the past few decades, so asteroids can be discovered anywhere. Each day I simply start tracking all the unknown objects in the system and adding their designations in a list in Excel. I then randomize that list and generate random numbers that tell me which asteroid(s) in that list have just been found. Simple! Of course I also check all the tracked asteroids around Kerbin to see if any are going to impact – if it is a rock that hasn’t been found then it becomes a surprise event if I choose to acknowledge it.

Oh and I found this! http://bit.ly/BlueprintsHowTo – but it’s still buried in there somewhere. May perhaps dig it up some point soon, but for now I’ve written enough.