Dec 08 2017

Operations Summary – Week of 12/4/17

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Launch Readiness Heads Into Final Week

Things are ramping up for our Mk5 Block I launch next week after the final part of the rocket arrived earlier today – our newly-designed first stage booster which was tested last week. The third stage was completed first last month as the parts were already all on hand for assembly. A thrust-adjusted second stage booster was delivered at the end of last month and was completed earlier this week. The two stages were mated on Thursday and the first stage booster has already begun assembly. You can see in this image that the third stage no longer sports any fins, but harder to see is that the second stage fins no longer have any pitch. Only the first stage fins will be pitched to spin up the rocket during its much longer 34s boost period. Next week the whole rocket will be stacked together and final integration will see the attachment of payload fairings. Roll out is scheduled for the day prior to launch on 12/13. Everyone here is excited to finally be sending up another rocket into space!

Genesis & KerBalloon Missions

Captain Jebediah was on rotation for a Civvie flight early in the week that took him out over the West Shore Desert to collect air sample data with the Atmospheric Fluid Spectro-Variometer’s upgraded sensor suite. The data will help scientists determine how much dust is present aloft, as air particles are the genesis of snow, ice and rain. It could be that this region plays a more important role in our local weather patterns that previously thought, and through this we could get a better understanding of why the desert exists in that area. Improved weather forecasts coming? Possibly.

Specialists Bill & Bob were deployed to Ockr once again for a high-altitude balloon release, although this time it was done from an area where we were sure the balloon would be able to see the Ockr radio tower. Ockr will be the future hub for our Deep Space Network – all data from Aerkibo and ATN Central/North/South will be routed through here so it was important to test how well data from this mission was transferred to us at KSC. The mission went off without a hitch, relay through the ground fiber optic cables was 100% on point at all times.

Both programs have suspended contract operations next week. Genesis plans to test some rudimentary flight assistance software (no one is calling it an autopilot yet) while KerBalloon works to support the Progeny launch with high-altitude balloons to keep track up upper-level winds. Although these balloon releases are not official KerBalloon program missions, resources dedicated to them are mostly the same and would otherwise detract from any planned contracts.

Asteroid Makes Several Passes Through Our Atmosphere Before Breakup

The asteroid designated LPL-416(E) dove as deep as 24km ASL into our atmosphere on Wednesday, making 3 or 4 passes before observatories at Ockr and Kravass could no longer find it. Large chunks were spotted breaking off the stony asteroid after only its second pass, meaning although it was large it could have been comprised of several smaller asteroids that clumped together loosely. It’s suspected that the asteroid broke apart completely on either its 3rd or 4th pass – after the 3rd pass it came around again so quickly no observatories could see it before its 4th pass. The land under its 3rd pass has been noted for a possible future survey to try to find any meteorites. Unlike the first asteroid that made such a passage, Pilirani, this asteroid was not given a name or Flight Tracker entry. It will still play an important role however in helping scientists predict aerobraking for future spacecraft through Kerbin’s atmosphere. You can see a full timeline of events here.

ATN Database Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 1,309 asteroids and 29 updated with new observation data. We have also begun to include the KSPTOT Matlab file that contains all the detailed orbital data for each asteroid, should anyone want to make some plots of their own.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

This photo of the aurora was taken from above Sheltered Rock, which is not usually privy to such displays of celestial magnificence. We have known of the existence of these sky lights over the north and south poles but rarely to they appear at latitudes this low. Only a few dozen times before the Sea Ring impact were they able to be seen in non-polar regions and only once almost 1000 years ago is there a record of them being visible near the equator. We still don’t fully understand their existence although some scientists have made a case for a link with sun activity. We expect the northern and southern lights to be a topic of study for future space probes.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 12/6/17

Technically it’s 15 minutes past midnight but I’m still calling this the 6th. I’ve managed to recover nicely after running out of lead time entirely when I had to go back to helping my friend move house. The power outage from Umbarg thankfully did not need to be extended past the weekend for me to get back to work. Unfortunately the downside of not posting updates for two days meant I ended up with quite a few new asteroid plots to publish and I knew I would end up with even more during the week. I really didn’t like the idea of clumping them all together so much so I managed to spread them out across the week thanks to waiting until some hit periapsis rather than noting them on the day of their SOI entry. One more week of intensive operations left and then I can cruise into next year and hopefully start off 2018 with a 3-week lead again.

VAB backdoor irony

As I tweeted about, I had the idea to take a look out the back door of the VAB since I had never opened it in any photos before. For the one time I used an actual in-game look out the front doors, I was able to place the camera inside the VAB at the approximate location of the camera in the VAB editor and see through the VAB model in the game because it had back-face culling enabled. Then I erased what lines were visible of the model. Turns out for some reason the rear door ignores culling and shows a texture when the camera is both inside and outside of the VAB. Drat!! However there was a workaround – I placed the in-game camera approximately where the VAB editor camera was and then I upgraded the VAB. When you upgrade the VAB from Level 0 to Level 1 it actually moves the entire building eastward a bit. This meant when I returned to the flight scene and put the camera back (using KerbCam to save its location previously) there was no longer a VAB in the way for me to take a clean photo to layer in with the VAB editor photo to “open” the doors.

The VAB is the only building on the campus besides the Admin building that does not build out from its current location but actually shifts location during a building upgrade. I’ve already thought up a way to deal with this. You’ll know it when you see it, but I’ll still come back with an explanation here when it happens. (Update, 2021: the original plan was to destroy the VAB with a bombing attack carried out by Monolithic extremists where the fuel trucks were used as explosive devices. It would then be razed and rebuilt in the new location. I’ve since decided to not do this and instead just build an additional VAB since such static structure placement became available in later KSP versions)

Ops Tracker update

Just a status update, haven’t had time to do any real updates to the upcoming Ops Tracker lately. Finally heard back from the developer working on the new KerbalMaps Leaflet library that would be built upon the newer 1.0 version of Leaflet and looks like he won’t have time anytime soon to work on it. This is a bummer because I was hoping to apply it straight to the Ops Tracker but will now have to remain with the older library used in the Flight Tracker for the time being. Thankfully the upgrade to the newer library when it is finished shouldn’t be too much trouble and I at least know it’s something that will have to be done eventually so I can plan for it while coding.

Also since SketchFab continues to have no interest in updating its KSP model exporter, I’m thinking of whether I can integrate Blend4Web to load blender imported KSP craft models to display instead of the static images currently used.

Aurora a real event

The appearance of aurora at lower latitudes was not just a cool thing I decided to do to fill some space. Yes, I lowered their latitude myself through the Environmental Visual Enhancements configuration settings but an actual in game event caused me to do so. Those of you familiar with Kerbalism may know what I’m talking about, or if not you can check out the mod to try and figure it out. I just want it known that this wasn’t something I came up with myself and it will be a thing that has greater effect once some probes are up in space on a more regular and permanent basis.

The truth behind LPL-416(E) 

I made it explode because as I was plotting out how many passes it should have through the atmosphere using KSPTOT I realized I was using the exact same drag coefficient for every aerobrake pass and that made me realize there was no simulation of ablation in the game. The asteroid was going deep, there’s no way it wouldn’t have lost a good deal of surface material and possibly large chunks of itself after each pass. Despite its size, it shouldn’t be quite as large on subsequent passes. Although there has been slight mention of a mod that could reduce asteroid size, none yet exists. So I had it break apart rather than make more aerobrake passes without any change.

Photos aren’t always worth the trouble

I planned for a photo of the balloon rising with the airship floating near the ground in the background but several factors made me go “fuck it” and toss the idea. For one, something about the exact location I chose for that contract made HyperEdit drop the balloon there and cause it to explode. Every time. I landed elsewhere fine just to test and it was only when I went to land at the exact coordinates the balloon exploded. WTF. Then of course to show all the ground scatter reduced my FPS to FPM so I would have had to place things without scatter, then save the camera position with Kerbcam and reload the entire game with scatter for the photo – but oh wait if I use AirPark to setup the Airship just above the ground when I reload the game and go into the flight scene it’ll just crash. I had a workaround for that as well but it just added shit on top of shit that I had to do for this one photo so yea – fuck it. Sometimes I just have to admit I don’t have the time to deal with all this crap.