Jun 16 2017

Operations Summary – Week of 6/12/17

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Deuce Crash Investigation Underway

With a successful ground trial earlier this week and after review of the data turned up no major issues that required further fixing & testing the Deuce was cleared for flight trials. Captain Jeb was in command of the first flight trial, which ended with the Deuce losing control on final approach and crashing into the water 6km short of the runway. The Deuce impacted the water nose-first at a near-vertical orientation, crumpling the nose cone and damaging the leading edges of both wings. The engines were knocked off as designed so that they would sink without bringing the rest of the craft down with them if the cabin remained intact. Our rescue boat was shadowing the aircraft on its approach so was able to reach the scene of the accident within a minute to confirm that Jeb was okay and the aircraft was not taking on water. A tow cable was attached & the Deuce was slowly tugged back to shore, where it was loaded up on a carry vehicle & trucked back to the HAB for inspection. Jeb was taken to the medical center for evaluation & released without any serious injuries, although he will be on short-term medication for some strained muscles & bruises.

C7 Aerospace Division has opened a formal investigation into the crash to determine exactly what went wrong so it can be fixed when the Deuce is rebuilt. Both engines were recovered today from the sea floor, where they had sunk to a depth of 745m. The Telemetry Data Unit that records all the flight details was also preserved without damage in the tail section of the aircraft. Investigators have all the information they could ask for and plan to spend at least the next week digging through it. When they release their conclusions later this month we will also include a detailed report of the Deuce’s first flight.

Jeb was on medical leave today & will remain so over the weekend but is expected to return to full duty on Monday.

Airborne Rocket Launch Postponed Indefinitely

Last week Jeb came up with the idea of using the two Progeny Mk1-B boosters we have in surplus to test the feasibility of launching a rocket from a plane. Lead Engineer Simon initially scoffed at the idea but since the Progenitor program has slowed down waiting for their new parts to be delivered, he had time to actually think about it and decided it was worth looking into. Jeb had suggested the idea with the Civvie in mind but after drafting up various mounting ideas Simon realized this just wouldn’t be possible for various reasons. The Deuce, however, could carry the rocket on its back and in fact carrying payloads atop its tail section is what the aircraft was designed to do. However with the recent crash the airborne rocket launch idea will have to wait a while longer. Still, the Mk1-B currently under assembly will continue to be built so it is ready when the time comes.

It should be noted that using a Mk1-B isn’t just being done out of convenience for having the boosters available. The fact that we know how the rocket performs when launched from the ground will allow us to properly analyze how it performs when launched from 4km ASL.

KerBalloon & Genesis Continue Science Missions

Both programs dispatched missions to collect science and/or satisfy contracts this week, with KerBalloon launching both low-altitude and high-altitude balloons and the Civvie flying another atmospheric sampling mission, this time over the Highlands and Mountains. All the missions were successful and especially in the case of the Civvie, which was already out on the tarmac from the previous sampling mission and thus saved cost in not needing to be deployed from the HAB. Our profits continue to come mostly from the KerBalloon program, as Genesis & Progenitor have both seen recent hard setbacks with the Deuce and Mk4, respectively.

KGA Instructors Graduate

Captain Jeb and Commander Val are super proud of the 4 Civvie flight instructors they have trained over these past eight weeks & will be pinning wings on them this weekend in a small graduation ceremony to be held at Kravass General Airport, where the training school is based. Mungee, Tedman, Helta and Aldeny completed their flight training by flying cross-country from KGA to KSC or KSC to KGA – two were at either location in order to be able to fly a Civvie both ways. They will now in turn begin to train the private pilots who will soon be receiving their own aircraft. The first delivery of a Civvie to a private individual will be at the end of this month. Those still waiting for their own aircraft will be able to use one of the 5 Civvies that will be stationed at KGA – 4 have already been delivered (one is still out another week or so for repairs from a bad landing).

ATN Database Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, and covers all additions & changes made over the past two weeks since the ATN missed a report last week. There are now a total of 674 known asteroids. No new alerts have been issued.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Sarnus is pretty big now even through a low-powered scope thanks to the fact that we were at opposition to it at the start of this week. Sadly, a double-shadow transit of Eeloo and Slate will not be visible over KSC until the beginning of July.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 6/2/17

A week in 4 days?! Daaaaamnnn. And looking back at this week it’s not like it was a slow week at all. Chalking this win up to becoming a lot more structured in how I go about setting up daily activities and carrying them out in the game. I have procedures laid down for just about everything I need to do so that I can get it done quickly and efficiently. Although there are still times where the game just doesn’t like to cooperate I haven’t had to waste hours chasing down deal-breaking issues these past few days, which has all definitely helped. Also, not being sick. Being sick does not help.

Yup, the Deuce crashed

I tried really hard not to let it crash and honestly did not think I was going to crash – the “I got this” tweet prior to the “Mayday!” tweet is true to how I was feeling on approach, but I just wasn’t able to hold on to the control I had up to that point. The events of the crash will come out in much more vivid detail in the final accident report but I just want to make it clear this wasn’t a planned event. I do sometimes decide in advance how things should play out one way or another, but just as often I go out and give a mission my best shot and whatever happens is what happens. Also my arm really was getting tired keeping the aircraft under control.

Some good news is that it took off without me having to disable friction on the wheels, although I almost forgot to switch off the tail wheel steering so I could control the rudder as a good deal of sideslip presented itself in the take off roll. I’ve switched over to using my X55 since it has a split throttle and for some reason it can only do wheel steering or rudder control at any one time. Ironically I can’t even use the split throttle because Davon Throttle Control is not compatible with Advanced Jet Engine since the latter changes the names of the modules the former uses to recognize an engine it should be controlling. Hopefully a v1.3 update will fix that.

I’m not entirely pleased with the Deuce crash image, I tried to get the nose cone to crumple further (it does this with Kerbal Krash System) by dropping it from various heights but that was the best I could do. I still don’t really understand the KKS config values for part damage and didn’t want to spend the time experimenting aimlessly in the hope for a better result that maybe wouldn’t happen. Also getting it setup was a bit of a pain since if I plopped one of the craft in the water then went back to the SPH and brought out the second the one in the water would get kraken’d off into space, so I had to deploy the first and move it off the runway, deploy the second then VesselMover them into the water. Again also with a spam of NREs from G-Effects that slowed things down. Bah.

Worst lag ever on latest Civvie flight

The last science flight ended with about 4 real seconds for every in-game second and OMG it was torture. Performance was fine at takeoff, but as the flight progressed it got worse and worse. I opened up the debug menu but didn’t see anything obvious in the logs. This flight wasn’t any longer or really different than the last science flight and the only new mod I’ve installed since then is Kopernicus, so that is a suspect but unlikely. I thought maybe the Persistent Trails track, although hidden, was taking up performance since it was set to high-res and I wasn’t flying much in a straight line. I actually stopped, saved the track, paused the game, deleted the track from the data folder, resumed the game, deleted the track from the game and started a new track. No difference. The only other thing I can think of is that there is this weird issue when I do named quicksaves that the camera switches to one of the Hullcam VDS views or even opens the Advanced Fly-By-Wire dialog boxes. Well, sometimes if I use Backspace to return to normal view it screws up the camera or just screws up the hullcams so when I try to look through them I’m staring inside the aircraft. This latter issue was present on this flight and could have caused some lag… somehow. I dunno, but it was the only unusual aspect to the flight. But hey, I still managed to land the Civvie intact!

Also, for the first time in v1.2.2 I took off in the Civvie from the ground, on the fixed gear. I was tipped off a while ago that disabling all friction on the wheels would help solve any issues related to misaligned gear and finally remembered to try it out. Nice to be able to have a rolling takeoff again (friction is re-enabled for landing because without it the brakes don’t work! So I disable it right before starting the takeoff roll).

Also the X55 rollers on the throttle I have set to pitch/yaw trim are so much better than my X52 – I should have just been using the X55 from the start.

More efficient post-flight picture taking

If you don’t know, I fly without any graphics mods for better performance, which means that for all the fancy images from the aircraft that you see I need to recreate the exact conditions from which they were taken. I’ve discussed this in previous Desk Notes here and here if you want the details. Because I couldn’t see through the hullcams on this last Civvie flight I had to guess at where along the flight would be good points for photos. Because I would be guessing & have to redo placement a lot I did all the initial setups without any graphics mods so things would load faster & perform better. While doing this I came up with a great way to save the location/orientation/altitude so that once I got the positions I wanted, I threw all my graphics mods back in and was able to just hop from place to place and switch to the hullcam and snap the shot without needing to fiddle around with the aircraft in a low-FPS environment. I forgot to save any before shots for comparison of this last flight but here’s an example I forgot to show off a while ago as to what I see when flying the mission and then how it looks when I go back and recreate it with graphics mods:

Second Mk4 launch a successful failure

I already spoke more about the details behind the latest Progeny Mk4 launch but this past week I actually got to watch everyone else experience it and was very pleased in the engagement by followers. It definitely seemed like people “came out” for the launch and were eager to follow along closely more on that day than on others. I don’t mind that, in fact I think it is normal behavior – I don’t expect people to be hanging on for every tweet by the KSA. Most it seems come around twitter to catch up every few days or every few hours a day. I doubt any of them are pinning up a livestream of the account for them to monitor all day while they go about their own business (actually, maybe some are).

Was still annoyed to catch mistakes however. One tweet was scheduled way early, there was a typo in my launch countdown timeline and the ascent graphic originally had some misleading text coloration. I took it down, modified it, posted a new version that looked terrible, took it down again and redid it and posted it a third time. Stressful.

Also my webserver can’t seem to maintain a constant time on their system clock. Maybe its something to do with a cloud service and my server is really being handled by a variety of machines I don’t frikin know – all I know is that I synced the Flight Tracker clock earlier in the day and by launchtime it was like 40 seconds off. This will be solved when I refactor the Flight Tracker and only use JavaScript to check for timing events rather than a mix of JS and ASP, which return different time values when I ask them “what time is it now?”.

Warming up on reddit

Have been engaging more with the reddit community as well. I’ve upgraded to the new profile and other there you can see I’ve chosen to post a few select heavily-edited images that people have enjoyed viewing, they’ve all gotten above 50 and some near 100 upvotes which is pretty good all things considered. The image of the Mk4 heading out to the launchpad sparked the biggest discussion yet into the KSA, much to my enjoyment.

I’d like to take a moment to say that there are events that have already been planned months ago which will make it look like I’m trolling all the people who have been frustrated that it’s taken so long for KSA to get to space. I’m not really sorry about that or anything, I’m just saying. Big things are coming, and an event that will appear to be me snubbing my nose at everyone who wants KSA to get to space already will lead to some huge plot developments down the road & really start to bring out the story-driven aspect of the KSA.

And that’s all I’m gunna to say about that.