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Jun 01 2018

Operations Summary – Week of 5/28/18

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Progenitor Program Prepares for the Mk6 Block II

After this week’s final planned launch of the Mk6 Block I, it’s time for the program to finally return its focus to the Block II. Although it debuted alongside the Block I back in October of 2017 (then designated Mk5) the more-powerful Block II was put on the back burner after the Block I reached the height the Block II was supposed to fly to, negating any reason for it to to be used. Since successive flights of the Block I failed to make it high enough to pass completely through the hazardous radiation region, the Block II finally has a mission it can take on. While preparations are being made to launch two Block II’s in close succession sometime in the middle of this month, the loss of the last Block I and tight purse strings has led to a part shortage. If we lose the first Block II as well that will set things back a few weeks while new parts are ordered and integrated for the second rocket.

To help fund the Block II missions, a new organization has pledged money to us. The Interstellar Exploration Foundation is comprised of scientists whose families have deep pockets and has dedicated itself to helping companies involved with anything that could lead to kerbals one day traveling among the stars. Given that the threat of radiation to future astronauts is a serious concern, helping us explore a potential danger to just leaving the planet is well within their interest. We thank them for their support!

New Crew Welcomed Aboard

With an aerial survey flight this week, Captain Jebediah and Commander Valentina officially ended their tenure with the Genesis program. Today they, along with Specialists Bob and Bill (who also had their final KerBalloon mission this week), transferred over to the Ascension program to begin working on kerbed spaceflight. Because Jeb and Val had to stop over in Kravass to get back on the ground before nightfall, they were able to ferry over to KSC the new crew members that will take over their duties in the Genesis program. Aldeny and Tedman Kerman have accepted the position of Flight Officer, which means they are certified to fly aircraft within the atmosphere. While Aldy is committed to one day earning the rank of Captain to participate in space flight, Ted is currently more than happy to remain within Kerbin’s atmosphere testing and developing new fixed-wing aircraft with Genesis and C7.

We originally extended the job offer to Aldeny and Helta, but Helta declined, leading to us approaching Tedman next. Although we had hoped to diversify our new crew intake, Helta informed us she was more than happy to leave Val working as a role-model for young kerbettes with the space program while she continued to champion female pilots within the aviation community. It’s worth noting she didn’t turn us down because she had no interest in going to space.

Ascension Mk1 Works to Overcome Hurdles Prior to Flight

The first Mk1 rocket finished assembly this week. The rocket mostly came together as planned, the only real problem was mating the test weight to the fuel tank. Because the entire rocket is meant to be recovered for analysis purposes (all the high-res data will be stored in the test weight) the test weight won’t be leaving the fuel tank and the interstage decoupler seen in the blueprints was not included. This fact was not communicated to the test weight manufacturer and so some adjustments had to be made to mate it directly to the fuel tank.

Once the rocket was stacked, it was laid horizontal so the VAB technicians could access everything for final checkouts before it was loaded onto the carry vehicle in the same orientation. Problems arose here as well when it came to strutting the rocket down to the frame of the carry vehicle – the attach points created an uneven load on the treads that would have caused the vehicle to want to constantly steer off to the side. Adjustments were made and the rocket was successfully moved out to the launch pad earlier today.

However problems continued to plague the carry vehicle when the hydraulics failed during the lift to vertical. Thankfully fail safes locked the push rods in place and the platform did not collapse back down onto the bed. The cranes used to construct the service towers were moved back into position to help lower the rocket and the carry vehicle was able to return to the VAB. The crews will continue working over the weekend to assess the failure and repair the carry vehicle to hopefully try again on Monday. There is plenty of room in the VAB to raise the rocket there, so testing can be done before the move to the pad. Unfortunately not enough money was in the budget to build a scale model of the rocket to test the carry vehicle prior to this (hence the fail safes).

Once the rocket is out on the pad we still have to go through connecting it to the service towers, installing its engine support collar, ensuring fuel, power and comms are all in working order – there are still plenty of things that can go wrong but it’s hard not to have issues with such a complex operation like this. The teams are ready to work through issues and that’s what they’ll do.

Monolith News

This past weekend the team on the Monolith research project that has spent these last 10 months following the vein of crystals that headed in the general direction of Sheltered Rock & Ockr have announced they’ve reached a break. A fault line has sheared the vein vertically by just over a meter, which would have meant any energy sent along them would have not been able to reach any further. This could maybe explain why both caverns failed to receive deadly electrical discharges during The Incident while Umbarg and Kravass both experienced them. We say maybe because it is unknown yet whether these veins actually extend all the way to either cavern – the digging continues. This discovery has once again brought up speculation that the Monolith was trying to actively kill kerbals, but the discovery could also mean that the inability to fully discharge its energy across its entire crystal network led to more powerful than normal surges traveling back to hit Umbarg and Kravass. There is no evidence yet discovered that the energy was discharged at the break.

In additional news, a peaceful protest outside the Monolith visitation registration offices turned violent earlier this week, forcing a police response with tear gas to disperse the crowd. Several arrests were made but none of them claimed to be responsible for agitating the crowd. The office has remained closed since the end of last year when it was attacked by a still-unidentified group of kerbs that left some staff injured. The government refuses to open it until those responsible have been found however despite religious leaders claiming to be doing all they can to help no arrests have yet been made and the case remains cold. Whether or not the same mysterious group incited the riot is still not known and authorities remain frustrated.

ATN Database

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 2,008 asteroids and 7 updated with new observation data.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

We’ve had several close planetary encounters recently and the latest is Duna and Eve, captured here by the Kerman Observatory atop Kravass. Although they did come closer, no scopes were in place to witness it. Because Eve is on an inclined orbit, it doesn’t always approach Duna when they share the same elongation, or height above the horizon. Furthermore as an inner planet it doesn’t always get high enough in the sky to approach Duna’s position either. Duna’s moon Ike is visible but Eve’s moon Gilly was too far away to be included in this close-up image.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 5/17/18

Took a week to get this far but at least I didn’t lose any more time. GTA: Online had a stimulus package giving you money for just logging in every day the past week so I did and wasted a good amount of time on it with my buddy. I also got a bit burnt out and spent some time planning a road trip for this summer. I enjoy the logistics of planning things. Once me and an ex-girlfriend planned a 5-day Florida trip to Disney World, Sea World, Epcot, MGM Studios and Universal. Yea, 5 days. We had an itinerary for all the attractions we wanted to hit and when. I’ll tell you we did everything we planned for and it was by far one of the best vacations I’ve been on.

Progeny launch

This was a new experience because I wasn’t just taking the rocket straight from the VAB to the pad and launching it. In hindsight I probably could have created a launch site with Kerbal Konstructs – not actually placing any objects just defining a new launch site location. Instead I launched the rocket to the pad from the VAB then moved it with Vessel Mover over to the launch site. Then that kicked off the mission timer so I had to modify the persistence file to return the vehicle to a pre-launch state. Now I had to load into the flight scene for a vehicle already active which was a different state from just deployed, so my kOS code needing a bit of tweaking to operate properly at boot-up. Finally the launch base wanted to rotate veeeery slowly for some reason, so I had to engage timewarp while getting set up to launch so it would freeze.

Other than all that everything went fine. Well, except for the failure to recover the rocket. But that oversight with the altitude measurements was an honest mistake. I didn’t find it and leave it in there, although maybe I would have if I had. Also the inclination deviation was not planned, that’s just what happened. Despite the rotating launch pad I did send up the rocket at 44.69°

Deuce photos

Uuuughhhhggugghghggdhfwetrfdwhwegdf – taking inflight photos has become such a pain in the ass since AirPark stopped working properly in KSP v1.3 – it’s still not fixed in v1.4 either. Originally I could just place the plane in mid-air right from when the flight scene loads and just switch to the camera view and save a photo. Now I have to position the plane while allll the scenery and stupid-high level of detail terrain is loaded and it’s sloooooowww. Like, depending on the circumstances it can seriously take upwards of an hour just to setup and capture a single photo. I’m not kidding, because there are times I have to deal with shit like this photo, which was from a camera mounted on the belly but for some reason the Infernal Robotics swivel part I was using couldn’t turn past 90°, so I actually had to rotate the entire plane to get the angle I wanted (and then had to spend more time fixing the rotation in the SPH later).

I went a bit low-effort on Jeb and Val’s photo because of all the trouble I went through getting the aircraft photos. I just didn’t have the time left to put more work into it. Originally I was going to have them side by side with Jeb hugging around Val’s waist and her with an arm up over his shoulder. Could have been possible with some compositing since they can’t actually touch like that in the game, I can only pose them individually. I was going to get some small facial motion out of them too with time warp but it decided not to work when I tried it so, fuck it.

New crew

Bringing in crew from the original flight instructors to replace Jeb and Val was always the plan, the original iteration of the KSA had such Flight Officers as well. I did have some second-thoughts tho and considered not having any new crew so I could relegate Genesis missions more into the background like I do KerBalloon missions. This would mean I’m not spending time flying around so much. Ultimately tho I decided I like flying too much and want to keep doing it.

Autopilot

I’ve been using the FAR stability controls to keep the wings level during flight but a wings-level 0° roll position doesn’t mean the aircraft’s heading will remain constant thanks to the planet turning underneath it. This rotation also means when traveling in a great circle path to a location the heading needs to constantly be updated. This last flight I actually looked into the stability settings and found I can set the hold point for roll. So by tweaking it to values like -0.175° I can have the plane hold a bank juuuust enough to turn at a rate that keeps pace with the changing heading to the waypoint. So yea I can mostly sit back and read on my iPad while the aircraft flies, which means long flights aren’t a complete time-sink now at least. I have two side monitors I wish I could do work on as well, but when KSP loses focus the right-click part access windows I have pinned freeze and no longer update so my 1-sec screen captures no longer have updated data for everything. Data logging from the game itself still runs fine but I’m not capturing all my data that way.

Welp, back to it…