Jul 14 2017

Reaching Space and the “Monolith Incident”

During the ascent of the third Progeny Mk4 earlier this week, the Progenitor program at last succeeded after months of operation when the rocket broke through 70km ASL at L+1m44s and officially entered into space above Kerbin, heading for an apokee of nearly 135km. Cheers and applause had barely gotten underway when all of the sudden arcs of electricity began to shoot from all the consoles in Launch Control and the Tracking Station. Kerbs still outside reported a huge ball of plasma around the Monolith. The scene inside quickly dissolved into barely-organized chaos as several severely-burned operators were tended to by emergency medical personnel that arrived shortly after the arcing had ceased after several seconds of crazy sparking. Elsewhere around the KSC campus similar reports were made, although at the time of launch no other building had as much electronics in operation as Launch Control and the Tracking Station. After nearly two hours of tending to injuries (no deaths, thankfully) and putting out small fires here and there, an overall assessment was finally begun – which is when all hell broke loose again. Thankfully with most active electronics destroyed during the first event there wasn’t as much widespread damage done, lots of melting components but no serious arcing or fires, however new equipment brought online to help determine the overall situation of the KSC was knocked offline. Repair work was begun again from a rapidly dwindling supply of spare parts when roughly two hours later a third event struck, and all recovery efforts were put on hold for 6 hours in case the events continued to repeat.

Now nearly 00:00 UTC, during this time we had been able to send and receive a courier to Umbarg via the access tunnel and the report came back of similar timing to events that included huge bolts of lightning coming out of cavern walls and melting power lines, exploding transformers and in some horrible cases rendering kerbals into instantaneous piles of ash. We had hoped to receive some aid from the city but it turned out they had their hands full. MSV Tongjess and MSV Lymun were both able to lend supplies, but the need for aid was still extreme. Commander Valentina volunteered to take a Civvie aircraft up to Kravass, the next-closest city. Thankfully one aircraft had still been in the Horizontal Assembly Building, which is heavily shielded, and was able to start up and take her aloft, which she did at 4th sunrise (01:16 UTC ). At best speed it takes a Civvie roughly an hour to reach Kravass and spending just shy of an hour there Val got back 3 hours later just as the sun was setting. Unfortunately the tale was the same as Umbarg.

By the following day, the 12th, we had decided the events were over and had begun to get basic systems and utilities up and running again after repairing our emergency generators with the last of our spare parts. Shortly after second sunrise at 13:34 UTC an airship en route to Umbarg stopped by with kerbs from Sheltered Rock and Ockr wondering why all communications with us, Kravass and Umbarg had been lost. To our relief, we learned that both cities on the other end of the continent had remained unaffected. We accepted some aid supplies from them and they continued on to Umbarg, apparently another airship was sent to Kravass as well.

More good news for us to share is that the Mk4 third stage survived re-entry and was recovered 135km downrange by Lymun! We never were relying on any command to be sent to the vessel to deploy its chutes, which were armed at 8km during ascent and set to a pressure sensor. It is in pretty bad shape, the engine is almost completely destroyed and the fuel tanks crushed but they did a great job absorbing an obviously higher than intended impact with the water and the payload bays are still intact. We’ll have much more analysis once we have a chance to go over all the data from the rocket’s TDU and what we can recover here at KSC.

As for the Monolith – the evidence we have at this time it was in some way responsible includes the eyewitness reports and the roughly 250m diameter patch of scorched ground that now surrounds it. Thankfully all researchers were here at KSC to watch the launch and no pilgrims/worshipers were gathered around it at the time. The kerbs that stopped by from Sheltered Rock and Ockr also relayed information that they had picked up large amounts of radio static from the upper atmosphere that coincided with the timing of events here. What exactly the Monolith did will require a lot of investigation to determine if this was a deliberate act to sabotage our attempts to reach space or an unintended side-effect of its true purpose for which we happened to be unfortunately vulnerable.

We have spent yesterday restoring as much of our vital equipment as possible with what parts we were able to scrounge up, salvage or re-purpose. We can communicate again via this website and our media accounts, but it will take until next week until we are able to restore our operations services (Flight Tracker and Crew Roster). Beyond that we are expecting additional airships from Ockr and Sheltered Rock but with the need to also support Umbarg and Kravass getting things patched up here will still be a slow process. We will see how next week goes.

Here are the images from this past week, as this post is serving as our Ops Summary for this week.

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From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 6/27/17

So let’s get the potentially obvious question out of the way: Am I trolling all the followers who have hated how long it’s taken KSA to get to space by finally reaching space only to be knocked back yet again? No 🙂 Okay, well am I doing this because I’m still only 2.5 weeks ahead of things and want more lead time? That’s certainly a convenient outcome of this whole episode but again, no. The reasoning behind what happened is much, much more complex and I can’t really explain any further because things will now unfold over the next 2-3 years based off this event. Stick around, and you’ll get to see how it all plays out on the grand scale (I have big plot beats defined but to be honest even I’m not sure how it’ll all turn out!).

Edit 7/13: I originally only planned to stay offline for two days from the time of the Incident but I didn’t see enough people wondering what happened so I was able to go back and re-schedule things for three days without too much trouble. Mwahah. This also was better though as I otherwise would have been working the day KSA came back online.

Okay so moving on then, here are some things about this past week’s rocket launch that you may find interesting.

Rocket mount photo

I’ve been gearing up for this for a while now. I’ve always been a bit annoyed at myself for never actually showing a rocket being mounted because I go to great lengths to show just about every other aspect of operations around the KSC. I decided there was no way I was setting up for this historic launch without a mounting pic, and besides I had run out of other things to show that I hadn’t done already. There was a small hint that this was perhaps coming during the last launch where you may have seen the mount vehicle rolling back towards the garages in this photo.

The mount vehicle is constructed with Konstruction parts and an Akita rover cab for the operator. Being an open cab I either had to view it from the rear so I could stick a generic kerbal in the seat or use one of the astronauts – Bill was of course a perfect fit so that worked. Unfortunately the vehicle I had built and used in the previous photo was not found in any of my game saves! But, that’s why I have all my vital KSP files backed up with CrashPlan, which also does revision backups so I was able to look back through multiple Auto-Saved Ship.craft files to find the one of the mounting vessel and properly save it as its own craft file. Seriously, back up your shit people. This is just one of many times CrashPlan has saved me.

Unfortunately the grasping claw does not fully articulate and relies on kinetic joint movement for some of its armatures, which is a complex way of saying I couldn’t maneuver it to actually pickup the rocket in-game from the bed of the carry vehicle. Also, when dropped onto the carry vehicle the rocket would eventually slide far enough off that the Kraken would appear and fling them both into the air. Picking it up off the ground was a no-go also. So what I did instead was just pose the claw in the flight scene, take a screenshot of the robotics window that has all the movement values, and then programmed that position back in the SPH. Then I just attached and properly offset a Mk4 vessel after merging it into the craft file.

The space center crew being out on the pad is just taking photos of them in the VAB then masking out and layering them onto the external shot. Unfortunately the workers do not have set animations, so I have to spend a good deal of time following them around with WasdEditorCamera Continued and wait for them to act the way I want while also being sure to capture them from the right angle. It must have taken me about 15 minutes to get that damn butt pick, following random workers around hoping they would do it, only to see the one in the background doing it! The kerb behind the carry vehicle looking up was just a bit of detaching his head from his neck and tilting it back. Also, it’s not as visible as I thought it would be because I had to make him smaller than originally captured, but the marshal’s vest does in fact say “KSC” rather than “KSP”. Shadows were manually drawn to really make them blend into the scene, as well as some lighting adjustments.

Finally, I messed up a bit on having the fuel tankers out on the pad – they really had no reason to be there (they went out with the carry vehicle last time but that was because we were going straight for launch from mounting) but I liked how they crowded up the scene and had already placed a kerb walking away from them and the two standing there talking when I realized my error. So I came up with the excuse of tanking the rocket to ensure the extra weight of the added payloads would not cause undue stress on the launch rail. Ehhh, a bit thin for like 23kg of extra mass but whatever.

Launch delay

I realized there was no way I actually wanted to get up for a launch early in the morning, but why wouldn’t the KSA want to launch the rocket at the earliest opportunity? So I planned to have a weather hold during the first launch attempt. Then I realized I wanted to try to rope as many people into watching this launch bomb out as possible with KSA going offline, and setting it up to have an ambiguous delay would mean anyone that did actually bother to tune in probably wouldn’t stick around to see if it launched that day cycle or got scrubbed to the next. So I just had the MSV have a scheduling problem so I could move the launch back with enough time for people to see the change and maybe still tune in.

I still had a weather delay, because I decided to see what the game would put up for cloud coverage on that day and it turned out that it did actually clear up within a few minutes of the actual launch time so I let that play out.

Can you see the planes?

Yea they are barely noticeable but they are there, the two Civvies parked on the tarmac outside the SPH. I originally forgot to include them in the shot from the bunker cam and wasn’t sure if they would be a noticeable. Turns out, not really noticeable at all. But better safe than sorry. I have a reputation for detail to uphold you know.

Terminal count

This is just a simple kOS script coupled with the script I use to record the timing of manual events so I can recreate the launch as close as possible for video recording. I’ve discovered a while ago that launching manually via the space bar and launching via kOS script for some reason can lead to extremely different results during the initial flight phase. I have no idea why, because it’s not a timing issue, it’s the way the rocket leaves the launch sticks that is noticeably different for both methods of launching. Very strange. Anyways since KSA has talked more about the upcoming Progeny Mk5 automation I felt now was a good time to introduce the AFCS, which will become a legit aspect of the automation control scripts I’ll be publishing as they are developed.

The actual launch

It only took me two tries to get this launch done – getting better! I would have had it in one, but for some reason FAR‘s windows have taken to hiding themselves randomly and I can’t figure out why. It did it during both launches and the second time I was just like “screw it” as I have other sources of similar data to turn to if needed. I also had to go back through the launch recording to determine when I did all my manual staging because since I wasn’t decoupling the fairings on this launch I moved them into their own staging group separate from the chute, but that added another stage to the stack and my kOS recording script was looking for specific stage numbers to recognize when an event happened. Not a huge deal but just one of those examples where small things can trip you up in unexpected ways.

Also, I didn’t think about it until I started getting into post-launch activities but – I should have quicksaved while I was in space!!

That eclipse shot

So first I took a regular photo of the eclipse with Scatterer, then I used Kopernicus to disable the atmosphere around Kerbin:

      %enabled = false

I made sure to also remove Realistic Atmospheres since that edits the same node. Then it was just a matter of taking another shot at the same time (using HyperEdit to set the time to the same second) and merging them together in Paint.NET. This part was a little difficult as I had to find the right combination of layer ordering, transparency and masking to get a good effect. Then I also had to copy one of the brighter stars and adjust their hues to make Eve and Moho (whose locations were visible in part thanks to Distant Object Enhancement, although they are loaded as models & visible also). Will definitely be using this method again in the coming months, as the sun will move to new areas of the sky.

And that’s all I have to say about all of that!

Yea it’s back to slow going for a while but I promise I know how to pace things and all this slowness in recent months will be met with lots of fast-paced missions and more launches soon to come!