Jan 19 2018

Operations Summary – Week of 1/15/18

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Deuce Trials Deemed Overall Success, PR Tour Planned

Throughout this week the Deuce saw a number of flight trials take place after ground trials were concluded on Monday. Various aspects of the aircraft’s flight characteristics were tested so data could be collected to validate modeling done during the design process, be used to extrapolate various ranges of performance limitations and make the full-motion training simulator even more effective. Some of the highlights from the testing:

High-Altitude Flight

Unlike the Civvie the Deuce features a cabin that can be pressurized, allowing for the aircraft to fly higher than 4.5km, where outside pressure drops below 50kPa into a range where kerbals cannot survive for long without supplementary oxygen. The further up you go the faster you die when exposed to the thin air. The Deuce reached an altitude of 6.5km, which offers better fuel economy both from just the engine’s fuel usage reduction combined with less drag on the aircraft.

Dual-Engine Failure

While performing high-load maneuvers in excess of 5Gs, the Deuce lost power to both engines. Captain Jebediah was flying solo and reacted as he was trained, preparing for an emergency landing (he was too far to make the KSC runway) and then attempting to restart the engines, which thankfully came back to life after a few tries. Both engines were broken down afterwards to determine the cause, which was found to be inadequate fuel pumps allowing the fuel to be pulled back from the engine, causing the failure. Restart attempts were numerous having to overcome the negative pressure that slammed shut fuel valves – once the Deuce descended from 3km to less than 2km outside pressure was able to help force them open. This is simply an overlooked design shortcoming in the engines, which are a well-used and reliable model for airships that are never put under such high loads. C7 has their own powerplant under development to replace the Deuce’s current engines for more power and have made note of this incident.

Single-Engine Flight

The final test was to operate the Deuce with only one engine, and it passed with flying colors. Having only one engine produces asymmetric thrust that needs to be countered with rudder and aileron to maintain level flight, thankfully the Deuce has proven it has enough control authority from both to not only still fly straight with one engine but also run that engine at full power! This is a good sign considering the newer engine under design is more powerful. To top it all off Jeb brought it in for a safe landing with the one engine still out. This was a major feature of the Deuce we have been looking forward to exploiting, allowing for much safer trips out over open water, for which the Civvie was mostly restricted from doing in excess of 10km from land.

Next week Jeb and Val will take the Deuce on its first cross-country flight up to Kravass, where they will spend the week allowing the flight instructors there some hands-on time, followed by passenger flights for several influential local kerbals. From there the following week they will head to the newly-opened airports at Sheltered Rock and Ockr to give more rides, exposing many kerbs to fixed-wing flight for the first time. They’ll be back at KSC by the end of the month and in early February C7 expects to put the Deuce into service with us here at the KSA and order a second aircraft. It will still be a few months before the Deuce enters production for public commercial use but C7 is hoping this upcoming PR tour will give them some orders to fill once that happens.

Progeny Mk5 Block I Launch Delayed

During the final integration checks after stacking the rocket vertically a weakness was exposed in the structural adapter that reduces the width profile from 0.625m to 0.35m connecting the first and second stages. It’s questionable whether this would lead to a collapse during ascent but we see no point in taking chances and so have delayed the launch until next Tuesday, Jan 23rd @ 19:42 UTC. Thankfully we’ve had a spare adapter sitting around in storage since last October when we ordered all the parts needed for assembling a Block II so the turnaround here is relatively quick with the adapter being swapped out today and final integration checks being performed again on Monday. If all looks good, the rocket will be rolled out for launch the following day.

KerBalloon Logs First Missions of 2018

Our sustaining income remains the KerBalloon program, which successfully launched and recovered both a high-altitude and low-altitude balloon this past week to kick off operations for the new year. The missions involved the longest overland trek yet covering more than 800km round trip using our 3 remaining Utility Task Vehicles, which when traveling together with a single balloon can cover 604km before needing to resupply, which they did at Kravass. KerBalloon is already busy looking over new contract submissions to handle next week after lending their support to the Progeny launch for high-altitude wind monitoring.

ATN Database Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 1,442 asteroids and 23 updated with new observation data.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

We reached opposition with Sarnus this week, coming as close as 117,179,867.642km. The Kerman Observatory atop Kravass Mountain scoped in on the gas giant for this photo of it and its major moons (L-R) Tekto, Eeloo and Slate. Take notice that although Eeloo is transiting we can’t see its shadow – but it’s not just because we are looking at it straight-on, the shadow is actually hidden behind the rings as the sun is angling down on Sarnus at this time, allowing us to see a bit more of its lovely rings.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 1/18/17 (at 9:34am)

Well the good news is that I haven’t been awake all night up to this point. In fact this week has gone pretty damn well considering how much flying I’ve had to do. I really enjoy flying – I’ve been flying virtually since I was like 8 or 9 when Flight Simulator was just a bunch of vector lines on the screen. It’s a very time-consuming thing though for KSA operations because I can’t timewarp any of it, and then afterwards there is a lot of post-op work to do. I certainly couldn’t have done any more than I did this week and would have felt lame doing any less, so it’s been a good week and I’m a day ahead of where I was last week – but that probably won’t last because…

Ops Tracker update

Time constraints forced me to push the Progeny launch back to next week, especially when I realized the majority of this coming weekend would see me away from the computer. The Ops Tracker is still not able to auto-update for new vessel events and now that all the work to initially load and display data has been completed with past events I can get a better sense of how I want to do it with upcoming ones. I’ve outlined how the updates work in this Github issue and it will definitely be at least a two day task to get it all implemented. The upshot however is that it will lay the groundwork for the notification system which would let you leave the Ops Tracker open in a separate tab and it would tell you when things are happening like a crew member starting or finishing a mission, whether a vessel or crew has updated information and what information that is. That’s still a ways down the road though – for the upcoming launch it will just update the page without notifications.

Deuce trials IRL

So as I said much flying was done this past week, although initially the aircraft did not want to behave. Last year when KSA announced the Deuce was going to be rebuilt that is literally what I went and did in the editor, and when I took it for a spin everything seemed to be great – there was no more left roll tendency and the numbers in the FAR derivatives panel were all green and dandy. Fast forward a few months and after I got the Deuce to load into KSP v1.3.1 I took her up and to my dismay found the same roll issue was present. WTF. I loaded back to my KSP v1.2.2 save and flew the Deuce to the same results. WTAF. Am I just remembering things wrong? If it still had problems I wouldn’t have set the project aside these past few months, even out of frustration. I also couldn’t get the FAR window to give me decent numbers like I thought it did. Rrrggghhhh. But overall the aircraft handled just fine except for the roll, so I just said “fuck it” and used the Angle of Attack tweakable in the FAR control settings to increase one aileron and decrease the other so the aircraft would keep itself upright. This setting doesn’t adjust them visually so everything otherwise appears normal.

There’s also a related issue in that AirPark no longer works as it did in KSP v1.2.2 by allowing me to park a vessel up in the air and load back into it from the Space Center. In KSP v1.3.1 the physics easing kicks in and lowers the aircraft back down to the ground. I’ve submitted a bug report and hopefully it gets resolved soon but until then I have to move back to my KSP v1.2.2 install when I need to take inflight photos, which are already a pain in the ass in and of themselves for a variety of reasons which is why there weren’t all that many this past week. I was happy to discover VesselMover now hides the movement cursor on F2 as I requested a few months ago but the control window stays visible so I have to paint it out and the Camera Tools camera does not stay locked to one place while the vessel is being held up by VesselMover. So any photos that require compositing are not possible unless I use KerbCam, but I can’t zoom with that. Oh the trials and tribulations…

GPU is dying

Another thing that didn’t help this week was my computer shutting itself off due to my graphics card overheating. Thankfully I didn’t lose any large amounts of work but it still was unsettling because I was only running KSP and that usually hasn’t given me any trouble in the past. It’s been mostly giving me shutdowns playing Grand Theft Auto 5 but doing it while in KSP was not good. Then a short while later it shut off without me even playing KSP! In that case however I realized the floor fan blowing at my PC case had been inadvertently unplugged. And in the case of shut down while playing KSP I realized the ambient temperature of my room was approaching 80°F. I’ve been keeping things around 70°F since then and haven’t had any issues since.

Still, last year I was planning to upgrade my HD7970 I bought back in 2013 with a Vega 56 but wanted to wait for the non-reference boards to hit the market, then wanted to wait for any Cyber Monday deals, and then they were all gone come December and the ones that weren’t were being sold for ridiculous amounts ranging from $1k to $1.5k. I was thinking of switching over to Nvidia but their cards are just as scarce. It’s the whole bitcoin crap thing. I even found the same HD7970 I bought being sold for only ~$100 less than I paid for it. Craziness!! Hopefully things calm down before springtime because once the weather starts to warm up I’m going to have trouble keeping my room cool enough to allow my PC to operate.