May 18 2018

Operations Summary – Week of 5/14/18

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KerBalloon Decide Against Partnership Renewal with Genesis

Last year KerBalloon and Genesis programs teamed up to use a Civvie to deploy balloons in flight, which was met with some success. After a few missions the team-up was dropped so a full review of the joint program could determine whether it would be worth pursuing again when the Deuce came into service and offered up an even better platform for deploying balloons off the roof rather than the belly. Despite the benefits of getting the balloon to the location to be deployed, the method gave no benefit to recovery crews that still had to travel the same distance to get the payload after it landed – especially over long ranges. Closer to home, some savings could be had when using UTVs but with KerBalloon deployments ranging much further from KSC nowadays this benefit is lost.

The teams are still holding out for the possibility of pursuing this partnership again when communication satellites are available to relay data from distant deployment locations the Deuce could fly to. Despite not collecting the payload afterwards, the loss of any reusable parts could be less than the cost of retrieving them, and the data would still be transmitted home via satellite relay.

Genesis Continues to Pursue Partnership with Progenitor

Now that the Deuce has been put into full service, Genesis and Progenitor programs can at last begin to move forward with a plan first concocted last year to mount a Progeny Mk1-B rocket atop the Deuce and fire it off at an altitude of around 7km ASL. We’re not talking significant gains in vehicle performance here, the whole project is merely a proof-of-concept for future aircraft that could fly in the upper-atmosphere and perform similar launches with heavier vehicles, perhaps a future version of the Progeny rocket.

We’ve had a nearly-completed Mk1-B rocket collecting dust in the VAB for months now and Lead Engineer Simon will have some of his engineers start to get it ready for flight. The rocket will be flying when it is detached from the Deuce but it will not fire its engines. Before igniting the rocket we first need to make sure that a clean and proper separation is achieved, which will be done via a camera on the roof of the aircraft. If separation looks good, the launch control team will send the rocket off during a following flight. Right now the first mission is scheduled for sometime in Mid-June.

Astronomers Nail Alaba Prediction

Identifying a bug in their orbital propagation software last month after noticing they missed an SOI transit by Alaba, astronomers came up with a workaround and were able to make another prediction on when the moonlet would next encounter Mun. Turns out they managed to get it right to within 10 seconds – maybe even better but they were unable to see the encounter itself due to Mun being in daylight at the time. The margin of error was determined based on the slight difference in the actual current orbit and the one they had planned to see post-encounter. It was very close. They’ve used the same technique to determine the next encounter is on 6/4 and if things remain accurate they will once again attempt to propagate forward through multiple encounters to see whether Alaba ends up being ejected or smashed into Kerbin or Mun.

KerBalloon Successfully Braves the Northern Sea

After a near-disastrous trip to the southern sea, this week’s mission from the KerBalloon team saw them trip over 1,200km into the northern sea to potentially face similar conditions when releasing and recovering a low-altitude balloon. They returned safe and sound to port today after 2.2 days at sea. Bill was a bit shaky on his legs still but says overall the trip has hardened him further and the big waves don’t bother him as much. Bob was planning to be out on the deck most of the time to help out but the crew refused to let him, although they did thank him for wanting to help.

ATN Database

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 1,960 asteroids and 1 updated with new observation data.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Our favorite astronomical pun is the “Eve”ning star, seen here showing above the mountains to the west as the sky darkens. Duna is also starting to become visible towards the top of the image.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 5/4/18

Only 1 week behind and hoping to continue the catch-up over the next few days. I just finished reading Artemis by Andy Weir and I also have Chasing New Horizons loaded up on the iPad to read next. I’ve been doing a day of KSP work then a chapter or two of the book – it worked out well as a break between KSP sessions.

This week was pretty easy since it was mostly setup – although the setup covered a shit ton of things. My process for keeping everything organized is insanely simple – I just write it all down. I literally have a plain text file in which I compose and date every tweet. They are all listed in chronological order. Below the most recent planned tweets are dates under which I have written what goes on at those dates – sometimes generally sometimes specifically. So I’m currently at May 18th. Lets say I decide to tweet something on May 18th that I know I’m going to have to follow up on later in the month. If I know what day then I’ll make a line somewhere below with the date and a note about what I’m supposed to follow up with that day. If not I have a general list of things that need to get done that month at the bottom of all the May dates with specific stuff I’ve noted so far. Pretty simple. I get an idea for a future story plot? I just note it below. Now I can mostly forget about it until I reach that point down in the text file, after progressing through however many days to get there. If I reach that point and realize I forgot to do some setup tweets beforehand, well that’s why I like having a 3-week lead time because that’s generally enough time to go back and add some relevant setup tweets before anything related to this upcoming event is published.

Now, I just need to keep seasonal allergies in check – went back on some over the counter meds after being laid up for almost two days when the pollen levels spiked. I don’t even know what I’m allergic too I just know what meds makes me feel better – it’s a thing I didn’t even have to deal with until a few years ago.