Jan 12 2018

Operations Summary – Week of 1/8/18

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Looking Ahead to 2018 Operations

We had a pretty tumultuous 2017, what with the Monolith Incident and dealing with newfound hazards of surface living. Still, despite a lot of operational downtime we managed to also accomplish a lot, logging just as many historical firsts as in 2016 when pretty much everything was a historical first. We aim to keep up the pace in 2018 with a number of exciting events that are planned to happen this year:

Jan – Deuce flight trials resume
Feb/Mar – Progeny Mk6 Block II launch
Apr/May – Ascension Mk1 launch
Jul/Aug – Kerbin I orbital mission
Aug – Arekibo Radio Observatory commissioned
Sep/Oct – Extremis I mission finalized
Nov/Dec – Final crew capsule design
All year – Astronaut training/testing for space flight

Of course these are all just the very broad strokes to give everyone a sense of what we want to accomplish. Orbital flight and prepping for astronauts in space (not necessarily on orbit) for 2019 are the biggest goals, but Genesis will see more exploration into fixed-wing flight while Ascension works to give Extremis a better idea of how much resources they will have available for their long-term missions.

One thing we’d like to elaborate on is the Progeny Mk6, which we tweeted about at the end of last year. Due to the obvious visual design changes being made to the Mk5 (the removal of stage three fins) the decision was made to move on to a Mk6 designation with its own patch to match the look of the rocket and avoid confusion.

Operational Growth Leads to KSC Expansion

Currently the Extremis and Ascension programs are being managed from KSA headquarters in Umbarg but as both these programs begin to mature it will be more beneficial to have the teams onsite at KSC. Our current administration building is not up to the task of holding that many kerbs so over the next three months it will undergo renovation and expansion. This is the first major structural change to KSC since it was first constructed back in 2015/16, not counting the Tracking Station’s dish rearrangement. The cost of the project is 780,000 funds, with KSC footing some of the bill as investment into their own infrastructure. 300,000 funds from our operational budget will be allocated to the project, which starts us off with a negative lifetime net income for 2018 but Head of Finances Mortimer says we are projected to be back in the green by the end of the year, though our yearly net is probably lost to the red ink.

Ascension and Extremis Post Major Updates

The Extremis program completed their Phase One trajectory calculations at the tail end of last year, which has been a months-long project we’ve referenced many times but never fully explained. Now you can read all about it to learn how we setup the planning for our multi-year multi-planetary flyby missions.

Ascension also shared some big news this past week, the selection of their 1.25m lifter engine. They also detailed how getting a probe into orbit is going to be a lot more complex than initially planned due to having to rely on the highly radioactive Kuudite for a power source.

Deuce Trials Begin Anew

The Deuce has finally begun trials again after a nearly 4-month hiatus to completely rebuild the aircraft to remove possible flaws that may have worked their way into the original prototype and also apply several improvements to the undercarriage, avionics and control systems. Today started off with a ground trial, which was expected to lead straight into flight trials but unfortunately some issues were uncovered with the new main gear that warranted further investigation, postponing the flight portion until the start of next week at least. C7 also said they wanted to further review the data collected during the trial and at this time have still not clarified whether or not they had possibly uncovered other issues that needed looking at.

Progeny Mk5 Block I Launch Date Set for 1/19

Really says something when the rocket launch gets pushed to the bottom of the report. Is it getting old already?? Nonsense, but certainly in light of other things it is becoming a bit routine. Anyways, we’re already well into the process of constructing the next Mk5 Block I rocket that will make its launch attempt this coming Friday at 19:29 UTC. We are hoping that this is The One which will perform as expected throughout its flight and allow us to retire the Mk5, move on to the Mk6 with a regular launch cadence and begin building the Block II for its first launch!

Operations Tracker Deployed

Teased since mid-2017 the new Operations Tracker has been officially deployed as replacement for the combined Flight Tracker/Crew Roster. If you haven’t already, check it out! You can learn more about the various functions and features via the wiki and use our Github page to submit bug reports and suggestions. It is actually a bit lacking in features compared to the old Flight Tracker but we will gradually be adding things back in as they are needed. Early next week should see the addition of being able to once again render aircraft plots on the surface map once we have some new Deuce flights to show and late next week with the Mk5 launch we’ll have data updates for the flight status similar to how it was in the Flight Tracker as this functionality will be used for data updates in general across all aspects of the tracker. Once this is locked in we can look at real-time streaming of data for launches.

ATN Database Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 1,416 asteroids and 19 updated with new observation data.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Technically it counts because Mun is in it – look everyone! Mun! But really we just want to show off the full image that now adorns our website and various social media outlets in banner form. The changes are subtle, but KSC does have a different look than it did at the start of 2017. We’ll be continuing to update our banner yearly and expect to see more and more changes as time goes on.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 1/12/17 (at 4:30am)

Hrrrnnngghhh writing and playing out this week was going so well at the end of last week but I got bogged down in so so many details that needed to be resolved in order to move forward that here I am, finishing up Friday at the start of Friday. Really hoped to push my lead time back way out over the holiday break but it just didn’t work out that way. Here’s why.

Ops Tracker

I finished playing and writing up to Jan 2nd on Dec 23rd, and from that point on after upgrading to KSP v1.3.1 it was pretty much nothing but coding the Ops Tracker to a point where I could feel right about taking the Flight Tracker/Crew Roster permanently offline. Still barely made it, was coding up the deployment to Jan 2nd and so actually ended up for the first time ever being at a point where reality was ahead of where I was in the game. Yikes. That would be why the building survey took a few additional days, which was a thing I had in my back pocket I was hoping I didn’t have to use, was really looking to resume regular ops on the 2nd but I’ve learned to build escape hatches into the story so I can duck out and recuperate if needed. There was nothing hugely frustrating or worth telling about the final development up to deployment-ready status for the Ops Tracker, it just took longer than I had hoped it would, as such things tend to do. I thought I was done a couple times before remembering “oh yea, I have to do that too.”

KSP update

The second big factor was finally moving up to KSP v1.3.1 from v1.2.2. I’m no stranger to updating so the process wasn’t really hard it was just a lengthy process due to how I have things setup and need to install everything manually and make sure along the way that no serious mod conflicts arise because the more I add the harder it becomes to track down instances where the game just refuses to start or load completely. Only had one major issue there tho that was resolved rather quickly. Again, experience! Still, it took me three days of nothing (except eating and sleeping) but working on installing mods and setting up the environment and porting over various bits of v1.2.2 to reach a point where I could say I’m playing on KSP v1.3.1.

Progeny launch prep

Getting set for the next launch meant I had to go back and add some missing features to the Ops Tracker that I would need to show a newly scheduled launch. I changed a lot of the database structure and the biggest change was planned launches and maneuvers no longer had their own database, instead the AJAX call from the Ops Tracker for this information had to search through all the vessels and pull out the information contained in their database tables to determine if any launches or maneuvers were planned for the future. It’s a bit more work on the coding end but now that it’s done it means a lot less work for me when inputting database information as I only have to record a launch date in one location and it’ll be used for the vessel page and by the events calendar.

Kuudite details

There was a ton of research and decisions I had been putting off for Kuudite that I finally had to dig in and take care of in order to write up the Ascension report and be able to say how it stacked up against batteries and how long the RTG built for the orbital missions would last and how much it would weigh – all these factors are dependent on the half-life, the Watt/kg rating of the material and its cost/kg – all this needed to be solid numbers I could re-use for future missions and RTG builds to remain consistent while also considering gameplay balance and how I wanted this power source to stack up against batteries and future solar (kerbolar) power. What I ended up with was material that was very heavy and expensive but reusable if recovered, although that of course led to all the other considerations that now had to be planned for as covered in the Ascension brief.

Ascension lifter

Up until last week I had no idea what my orbital lift vehicle design was. At all. So that needed to be done and I had to choose not just an engine but a tank and fins, controls, how it was going to be transported to the pad (can’t wait to show that off), etc etc. Thankfully the engine choice wasn’t as bad as I feared even with the 200 or more part mods I have the early engines in my 1.25m size only numbered 12 (yea that bit about 12 designs in the Ascension report was accurate, as were the agency names). This is where I actually make use of the Tech Tree in the game, which I don’t unlock with science but based on my own progression. So unlocking just the Basic Rocketry node gave me the engines I could select from. Stuff like fuel tanks and control surfaces and other rocket bits I rely less on Tech Tree placement to decide whether they should be used or not, but still try to keep their spots in the Tree as a general guide as to what part is considered more advanced than another. I actually did spend a good amount of time also on the Kerbin I probe design which is what led to my decision to go with RTG power.

Deuce craft file issues

So of course the Progeny rockets all load fine and the Civvie loads fine but when I opened the Deuce in the HAB for the first time I got a crapton of errors about “prefabs” and improper module indices in the craft file when I looked at the error log and I was like WTF?? But after a bit of thought I realized that the “prefab” is the part config file and there must be modules in there that were not in the v1.2.2 config file. So I did a Diff check of the part in the craft file versus the part config file and sure enough there were. I manually inserted the missing modules into the craft save file and that solved that problem but then I also had an issue with missing Kerbal Inventory System items that I had to manually delete from the file. There was also a re-named attachment node for the fuel tanks attached to the engines I had to update. Finally I got the vessel to load an realized I would have to revert to old v1.2.2 textures for the nose, of all things! Still, I was so so so so happy I didn’t have to rebuild the whole craft again, because that’s what I literally did towards the end of last year when KSA said Deuce was being rebuilt.

Deuce ground trial issues

So all that above is the past three weeks not to mention all the writing for the Extremis and Ascension posts. I finally ran up to this point trying to get the Deuce ready for ground trials due to having to hunt down and debug various issues and dutifully make the reports to the mod authors. I just ran out of time to do all the work that is required after performing a flight mission, not to mention still having not coded the Ops Tracker to show aircraft plots. I bought myself the weekend by pushing things to Monday so here’s hoping I can keep up! I also threw the aircraft up into the air just to check if it still behaved as it did after I rebuilt it in v1.2.2 and… well… that’s for next week’s desk notes after I write about the flight trials I have yet to actually play but already know how things will go.

Oh and the work I had to do for the new 2018 financial spreadsheet and aircraft stats tracking… will save that for the end of the month when the finance report is released.

It is now 5:35am (but don’t feel bad, I’ve only been up since 3pm yesterday)