Mar 24 2017

Operations Summary – Week of 3/20/17

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Progeny Mk3 Launch #2 Initial Report

Great weather today heralded the launch of our second Progeny Mk3 rocket, which was rolled out, mounted & tested all without any issues this time, allowing Launch Control some free time between finishing pre-flight and the final countdown to run some extra tests on the rocket as it sat out on the pad through an entire night cycle. Despite the increased launch angle and because of the way rocket debris fell back toward the KSC last launch, to be on the safe side all spectators had to be either inside or within 5 feet of a building entrance in order to view the launch from the campus. As launch time approached, the launch team under Flight Director Lanalye performed a flawless countdown and the Progeny Mk3 shot up into the sky right on time.

The flight profile for this launch called for a maximum coast period between stages in order to give the rocket time to reach a higher altitude where engine efficiency would be greater and the atmosphere would be less resistant. Once the booster stage expired, it was immediately jettisoned to reduce weight however the next booster stage was not activated until the vertical speed of the rocket dropped back down to zero. We essentially launched this rocket three times, just not all from the ground! The flight of the first stage went just as planned, with a clean separation followed by a coast of the remaining rocket. The new fin angling (1st stage 1°, 2nd stage 0.5° and 3rd stage 0.25°) put the rocket into a steady spin, but at a slower rate than engineers would have liked. Additionally the length of the rocket and possibly the lack of spin speed eventually caused it to pitch well over towards the horizon by the time it stopped climbing and the second stage was activated, sending it off laterally towards the southern-edge of the pre-planned ascent corridor. With the rocket now almost flying level, the coast period between the second and third stages was very short, and when the third stage was ignited it pushed the rocket past the boundaries of the ascent corridor. Following established protocol, the Range Safety Officer saw this occur and triggered the Flight Termination System, destroying the rocket.

Although the loss of the payload is regrettable, we still gathered a lot of useful data on this flight, which is yet to be fully analyzed by engineers. The stream of telemetry to the tracking station still contains numerous useful parameters all recorded once per second, so while the loss of the Telemetry Data Unit aboard the payload is a pretty big blow to the program, we can still come to useful conclusions with the data we have in addition to the video footage, which will be posted this weekend. Next week we will perform a full review of the latest launch and decide when/how to launch the third and final rocket in this campaign.

Civvie Production Model Certified for Flight

Following up on the ground testing carried out by Commander Val at the end of last week, Captain Jebediah took the new Civvie up for two test flights this week to ensure it’s ready to begin taking on actual missions to satisfy contract work that has been piling up in the weeks since we’ve been unable to fly any aircraft. In certifying the aircraft for operations, C7 has espoused that the new Civvie design has proved to be as stable and powerful as its designers promised, much to the pleasure of everyone. C7 has already moved on to begin finalizing the plans for its next Genesis program aircraft, the Deuce twin-engine. Work is also starting to get underway into R&D of turbine-driven propeller engines.

Expect news of upcoming Civvie missions next week.

Asteroid Tracking Network Update

The latest release of the ATN catalog can be found here, containing 402 asteroids. No new alerts have been issued, and BTS-121(D) will be removed from the catalog next week since it has broken up & is currently being recovered in pieces strewn across the land northeast of the Kongo River. No chunks large enough hit the ground to cause more than damage to the immediate local area however the shockwave of the explosion did do some minor widespread damage to flora in the area when it struck the ground.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Val hasn’t really looked at Eve (or Moho) much, which is something she plans to rectify given that these planets are the only ones that show us phases. Here is Eve at max zoom just past half full since the transit on Feb 22nd, when we could see only its dark side.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 2/27/17

Oof, been a rough couple of days and starting to fall behind on things again, but slowly making progress and catching up once more. I took a lot of notes during this past week of operations so let’s dive right in…

Computer Crash

Well it finally happened, the game crashed in the middle of a long Civvie flight (the first test flight) – but not just the game, my entire computer BSoD’d! That was rather annoying given that for all this time I’ve had no problems with long hour+ missions in KSP. However given the PC itself rebooted I’m hoping it’s just a general hardware glitch from too much uptime. Will have to hope it doesn’t happen again but luckily for airplane flight this happening isn’t really a huge deal. Since I started taking screenshots every second instead of continuous video, this meant that I had a record of where I was right before the computer crashed. So I was able to use the coordinates from my last location and place my aircraft there using Hyperedit‘s ship lander. Of course I had to also remember to re-enable the VOID logger, image capture and Persistent Trails track. I forgot the last two on separate occasions so it took me three tries to get the aircraft back on track but it worked in the end.

Takeoff/Landing Video

I’ve added to my Before Takeoff and Before Landing checklists to begin recording video using a button on my joystick. I really do like the smaller file size of just stitching together the 1s images but when crashes happen during takeoff/landing the extra FPS really helps me see what went wrong and make it easier to share that exact data in my public reports. So now I just record video during these segments of the flight only.

Joystick Control Issues

Unfortunately it seems the AFBW mod that lets me use my joystick without input lag doesn’t play nice with the KSP trim controls, nor does its own trim control work properly. When you set the KSP trim, moving the joystick will move the control surfaces from 0 pitch/roll/yaw instead of started from wherever the trim is currently set. I made note of the this in the first Civvie test flight and said it was fixed in the second. It isn’t fixed, I’m just dealing with it using the aileron trim. I tried to go back to stock KSP joystick controls but input lag still prevents me from using it. Any delay in the physics ticks of the game (yellow/red time) will also slow the input from the joystick. Even if you don’t see the timer as constantly yellow, sometimes it will briefly flash and the controls will lag. I also thought I had found a way to program my joystick to ensure only a single keypress was sent when a button was hit, but turns out I still need to be careful about how I mash the buttons on the joystick (Saitek X52) to ensure I don’t, for example, start and immediately stop recording video.

Better Overland Distance Calculation

When I want to know how far a ground vehicle will travel I use Vessel Mover, which lets me zip a vessel across the surface while Persistent Trails is active measuring the distance I’m traveling along the route. However for just a straight line between two points I whipped up a simple web page that let me input coordinates to the source code, save and when I ran the page gives me the distance in kilometers between the two points using this javascript code version of the haversine formula.

Looking Out the VAB

I finally went and tried a realistic view outside the VAB and it came out pretty good. I started with the image from the VAB which I then superimposed over the KSC flight scene with floaty. Then I used Camera Tools to match the perspective looking out the doors as much as possible using the flagpole near the launchpad to line up the horizon angle. This gave me the following image:

Yes, unfortunately the VAB is not totally invisible when you are inside of it, although it’s close enough to make this whole idea feasible. I took this image and layered it under the VAB interior photo and then cut out the default backdrop outside the doors so the above image showed through. Then it was a bit of tedious work with the Stamp tool to do a “nearest-neighbor” replacement, copying the sky closest to the spars criss-crossing the image to remove them entirely. This worked great for the vertical pieces as it maintained the gradient of the sky moving upwards. The lateral pieces were a bit more difficult, and you can still see some banding in the final image but I think it passes as high-altitude clouds. Will have to see if I can find a way to remove the VAB textures from view entirely.

Looking in the HAB

Here’s another example of structure manipulation that I’ve showcased several times before:

But let’s not dwell on the hangar interior, which is old hat – take a closer look at the two images. The original is on the left and the modified version is on the right. There are two key differences. First I’ve made the navigation lights on the Civvie look like they are lit. Second and more subtle, the daylight shining in through the VAB skylights and windows has been dimmed to match the outside light conditions better. A lot of my images have these small changes to help enhance their look and feel.

Progeny Launch #2

This launch took me two tries because when I initially created the Persistent Trail entry for this launch I made two by accident, and I deleted the most recent one, assuming they were both recording. Well, when I had the payload under chute and waiting for it to descend, I noticed the distance measurement on the trail had not increased from 0. I should have deleted the first trail I created. D’oh! But on the other hand, this was a fortuitous break in my progress because it made me go back and think about how awry the launch went from a trajectory perspective and that it probably should have been terminated for exceeding the range limits. That made for a more interesting event, so I went with that on the second launch.

I also did a better job on the video this time, remembering to use multiple camera angles. This is a trick I had forgotten I already knew to do from the original run of the KSA when I had to “stream” launch video right alongside telemetry, so events had to occur properly at the exact second. Having multiple angles allows you to jump ahead in the footage without anyone realizing it by switching to a different viewpoint. It’s almost impossible to tell the next scene after the cut is actually 6-7 seconds later in the footage to allow things to sync up properly. So this launch video has all its events happening at the proper times as logged by the telemetry data made publicly available.

v1.2.2 Upgrade on Hold

Since I’m clawing my way back to a month of lead time I’m not working through my mod list to upgrade to v1.2.2 anymore for the moment. However I realized this isn’t a huge deal since I can’t actually switch to v1.2.2 until I’m done with the Progeny Mk3 rockets, since I don’t want any changes to occur to the flight profiles as a result of moving up to the new game version and FAR version. There shouldn’t be a huge difference but still. I’ll continue the upgrade once I can, but even if I have the new version ready before I’m done flying the Mk3 I won’t use it until afterwards.