Dec 16 2016

Operations Summary – Week of 12/12/16

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Progeny Mk2.1 Launches Conclude

This week saw the final two Progeny Mk2.1 rockets take to the skies and return successfully to the ground. You can review Flight 2 and Flight 3 in the Operations Tracker and see exactly how it all played out now that we included staging updates. Moving forward the Ops Tracker will continue to offer up more and more information about launches as they happen. The third flight finally broke the 5km altitude barrier that was set by the Kerbal Sounding Project for our next bounty and we now have a new target of 10km. But first, the rocketry teams need to fully analyze and compare all the data that was gathered during the flights before we can push forward to the Mk3. You can see telemetry data from the Mk2.1 launches on Google Sheets (1 | 2 | 3) and view the videos of all the launches here on our YouTube channel. How about that Flight 3 video huh? It’s the best we can do right now for onboard rocket footage unfortunately, but at least it’s something! Hope we didn’t make anyone too sick watching it 😛

Expect a full report on all 3 Mk2.1 launches to drop sometime next week, and stay tuned for news of the Mk3 next year!

Civvie Prototype Returns to Flight Status

After a lengthy overhaul and reconstruction, our fixed-wing experimental aircraft built in conjunction with C7 Aerospace Division has finally reached flight ready status once again. With Captain Jeb at the controls (no punishment for Commander Val crashing the last flight, it’s simply just Jeb’s turn) it will hopefully take to the skies next Monday assuming no problems found during ground taxi. The rebuilt aircraft has a larger vertical stabilizer that engineers say will help with the aircraft’s yaw issues during flight, although ultimately they feel a longer tail boom will be required to provide a greater leverage effect for the rudder. Assuming the day’s flight goes well, Jeb and Val will continue to trade off taking the Civvie up for a series of flight trials throughout the week to see how it performs under various specific conditions.

KerBalloon Operations Set to Wrap for 2016

Along with everything else, our KerBalloon ops are ready to come to a close next week after we used up our second-to-last unit this past week gathering temperature data for Vac-Co Systems. Contracts for balloon flights were slow to come around this month thanks to the good work we did the previous month – all our past customers were still chewing on the data we gave them! This week however our Operations Director Drew Kerman signed off on the final two contracts that will use up our current stock of KerBalloon units. Next year we will be receiving a shipment of the new high-altitude balloons which also come carrying their own parachutes.

Meeny Crashing into Kerbin in 2030?

Meeny's orbits after 20 Mun encounters

Meeny’s orbits after 20 Mun encounters

Astronomers today released the image to the right, which shows the various orbital trajectories Meeny will take as it continues to encounter Mun at various times over the next 14 years, until it finally ends up on a course to impact our atmosphere. The trajectory for Post Encounter 1 is the orbit the moonlet is currently on, and you can see this current data in action over at the Ops Tracker. After encounter 4 it will re-encounter Mun before it even completes one orbit, which will ultimately send it off on the highly elliptical trajectories you see via the dashed plots. This double Mun encounter is integral to the final outcome, but also introduces a lot more variables into the problem and leaves astronomers unsure if they’ve properly calculated the following orbits.

In addition, in general out past 3 years astronomers say things start to get fuzzy, as we don’t yet have the highly-precise measurements of Mun that we would need to continue to propagate the orbits precisely. They hope that once we have some satellites around Mun to take better measurements of its gravitational effects they can refine these predictions. The only other likely fate in store for Meeny however is to be flung back out of the system instead of into Kerbin.

Should Meeny impact Kerbin before we are able to intercept and redirect it to a stable orbit, the outcome would be highly questionable. It is a Class-C asteroid, which has an pretty equal chance of hitting the ground or burning up on entry. It’s composition is stony, which means it could be a loose rubble pile or more solid rock. Even if it does strike the surface, the impact effects of what little of its mass survives the re-entry would be local to only a few hundred meters.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Val has actually been away from her ‘scope all week – it was a busy one for all our staff at KSC. So we’ll have to be satisfied with this wonderful starry and nebula-laced sky from outside the tracking station one of our controllers took. Can you spot Neidon and Urlum?

beneath-a-starry-sky_25300771139_oFrom the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 11/19/16

General Stuff

So this was a really busy week with two rocket launches and has confirmed to me that I don’t want to do this often, because I’m now lagging by a few days in my 1-month lead time. Still, everything went along pretty smoothly when it came to actually launching the rocket, taking the still photos, and taking the launch video. All three of these have to be done separately. The actual rocket launch is what collects the telemetry data that is shown, and is done without any visual enhancements to save performance. Then I reload the game with visuals and walk the time up to and through the launch to capture still photos, using data from the actual launch (I either import the landed payload to my alternate save game or use the Persistent Trails track to place it in the right spot with Vessel Mover). Then I program a simple kOS script based on what I did manually in the actual launch to create a very close repeat to film from various angles for the launch video that gets posted to YouTube. Here’s an example of the Flight 3 launch script:

wait until time:seconds > 8080020.
wait 3.5.
wait until time:seconds > 8080035.
wait until ship:verticalspeed < 0.
wait until ship:altitude > 500.

There were no major crashes or game issues that got in my way, it just took a lot of time to get through it all. There’s also the added challenge of doing nearly-similar launches in a slightly different manner so it’s not the same tweets being sent out 3 times in a row. I think I did a sufficient job mixing things up with delays and issues to keep things entertaining overall.

I also noticed a day after it went live the Flight 2 video was public on YouTube when I went to upload the Flight 3 video. I was like “shit shit shit shit shit!” and after realizing I couldn’t hide and reschedule it I had to delete and re-upload it. What happened is that when I uploaded it originally although I set it to be scheduled I then forgot to actually modify the default scheduled date. Whoops. I really hate when stuff like this happens.

Onboard Video

Usually for my launch videos I have two views: the static lift-off view I record with KerbCam because the view doesn’t jump when the rocket is launched like CameraTools does, and then the tracking cam view from CameraTools. For the Flight 3 onboard video I added a third view from a camera aboard the truss via HullCam. Turns out the payload fairings have a small gap in them and while I didn’t consider it realistic to show in the launch video, here you can check out the launch from inside the payload. You’ll notice the spin-up when the second stage kicks in.

The second thing to note about this video is that the footage you see during the freefall and the footage you see after the chute deploys are from two different shoots. I originally wasn’t going to include the final shots of the payload spinning and just fade out while under chute as normal but then I admitted to myself that someone might ask – “well if the footage from the fall was so crazy, why not wait until after the chute deploys so it’s slower?” – because there are a lot of smart people in my audience. So I was like fine and went back for another shoot. Now I don’t know the exact reason why this doesn’t actually work in KSP, but when the chute deploys the payload does not slow its spin like it should thanks to the larger diameter chute being directly connected to it. Rather than cheap out with a reason like “the payload is hooked to the chute cords with a free-rotating swivel” or something like that I simply attached a single booster to the payload and fired it straight up from the landing location, which only had enough flight time to give it a much slower spin rate. I then decoupled everything, deployed the chute at the same altitude as the actual flight and filmed the slower spin footage as it came down.

Meeny Plots

If you also use Mission Architect and wonder how I did the Meeny plot figure, it’s pretty simple. I just kept coasting to the next SOI and then after I passed Mun and was back to orbiting Kerbin I saved the orbital state data as another spacecraft, which let me continue to progress the actual orbit while leaving behind the previous orbits rendered as additional spacecraft. Sometimes even after setting the max SOI searches to 100 (Script->Execution Settings) I wouldn’t hit Mun again so I had to coast the orbit and search again. Eventually after 20 encounters I ended up with the final figure.

I should also note that Meeny was not a deliberate action on my part. The previous KSA run also had a Meeny moonlet and it too was brought about purely through normal game mechanics. I just got even luckier this time around and it happened sooner.