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Aug 03 2018

Operations Summary – Week of 7/30/18

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Progenitor Suffers First Mission Failure for the Mk6 Block I

Well, it’s been a good run of success for the Progeny Mk6 Block I but all good things must come to an end and this week’s launch, which carried mystery goo samples up into space, did not return successfully. Although the Mk6-I has failed to return safely to Kerbin on previous flights, this was the first one where a safe return was a mission critical item so the samples could be studied. The investigation into why the rocket broke apart during re-entry has only just begun and given its forensic nature in having to examine both the data and recovered parts it may take up to 2 weeks if not longer before we hear any results. The two current main focuses of the analysis are the air brakes and the goo containment units. The air brakes were logged as being deployed just prior to the rocket breaking up. Although they deployed at pressures that were less than the last flight, we can’t rule out a mechanical malfunction that could have deployed them improperly, or failed to deploy all at the same time. The goo containment units are suspect mainly because they are the only new parts on the rocket that have not been flown before. It’s possible one or both units could have failed to cycle closed properly, allowing re-entry heat to burn them up from the inside and ruining the structural rigidity of the rocket during a time when Gee forces are at their greatest. Until we have answers, the next launch of the Mk6-I, which is set to carry more samples into space in similar containers, has been scrubbed.

Genesis & Progenitor Move Closer to Airborne Rocket Launch

After 2 weeks of delays thanks to weather and mechanical issues, Flight Officers Tedman and Aldeny were finally able to take the Deuce back up carrying a Progeny Mk1-B rocket not once, but twice this week. The first release test saw them pitch the aircraft up even farther than before to try and get the rocket as close as possible to vertical on jettison. Unfortunately the results were not what everyone was expecting, as the effectiveness of the decoupler in pushing away the rocket has reduced the more the aircraft noses up. It’s not for loss of speed either, but more likely due to the rocket already being in a more stable orientation upon release and less likely to nose up because of it.

The second release test had them pull the nose up even further. This required both pilots to keep a careful watch on the instruments during the climb to ensure the aircraft did not enter into a dangerous stall, which meant the rocket itself (usually released by the copilot) had to decide when it was time to hop off. The flight computer used for the Mk1-B is rudimentary compared to the inline core used by later Progeny rockets and so a rough script had to be written to monitor the aircraft’s pitch, speed and altitude. Everything worked out fine however and the rocket was able to reach 81° of pitch after separation – which is still short of the 85° being aimed for but close to the 80° the Mk1-B was launched at from the ground during its flights back in 2016.

One final test flight next week before actually firing the engine will be a full dress rehearsal so we can confirm the rocket will behave the same way it did the previous test, it will be running the same code that will be used for release and ignition (minus the ignition actually happening), and it will also gather a lot more data than previous tests now that we have a better idea of what we want to know is going on while the rocket is floating free of the aircraft.

Ascension Capsule Testing Concludes Initial Crew Training Exercises

Since the start of July the four astronauts (Bill, Bob, Val and Jeb) have been working with the Ascension program to put our two capsule prototypes through their paces. This was mainly to get the astronauts accustomed to working within the restrictive confines of the capsule and also to ensure that all operations involving them and the capsules could be carried out properly. This included simply getting into and out of the capsules while on the ground, followed by getting in and out while floating in the waters off the coast of KSC. Exercises then moved on to scenarios for both land and sea where the capsule had returned damaged or improperly landed, some cases with the astronauts simulating being injured or completely incapacitated. Testing was done for how the capsule might be recovered from both land and sea using trucks, boats and airships. Crews from all three of our contracted Maritime Service Vessels participated in various exercises as well to work out any problems with recovery operations.

This month will now include a series of meetings to review the various merits and debate the issues for both capsules, as well as additional operational training for the astronauts within the capsules. By the end of the month we should have a final decision on which capsule will be chosen to carry a kerbal into space aboard an Ascension rocket – though not necessarily the Mk1.

More Science from the North Polar Region

Our KerBalloon crew was able to work with other science organizations to put together a mission up to the northern polar region – not all the way to the north pole but close enough to gather some new science data. While the rest of the expedition focused on installing new seismic sensors and other ground-level monitoring equipment over the Tundra and Ice Caps, the crew released a high-altitude balloon that drifted across both biomes and was recovered a day later. It carried a slew of instruments and even a sample of mystery goo. Lead Scientist Cheranne and her fellow researchers are already working through the data, which also gathered more information on the higher radiation levels experienced near that area.

ATN Database

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 2,290 asteroids and 8 updated with new observation data.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Funny enough, Mun did actually manage to slip itself into another one of our photos this week, but that’s getting old so here’s a photo of the Progeny Mk6 Block I waiting for launch on the pad as Duna and Eve still shine overhead while the sky begins to brighten with the coming dawn.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 8/1/18

Two days out from Friday! Whoo! Progress in the battle to gain more lead time. There are already things that have been posted I wish I could go back and change as the story further out ahead comes into clearer focus. I don’t like to outline details of future events. I have the broad strokes laid out and dated in my upcoming timeline notes but I don’t like to work out the details until I get there. This means of course that I could want to do something that would require me to alter other things leading up to that thing. The further ahead of the current time I am, the more I’m able to go back and make things lead up properly to the event I’m working on now. Anyways, I’ve belabored this point before – it is what it is I’m doing the best I can. Moving on!

Tweetdeck collection issue

Yea so I’m definitely sure now that TweetDeck’s problem is for some reason it has a maximum limit on how many collections it can list for you to select from. This is likely due to the fact that accounts used to be limited to only a certain number of collections until several months or maybe a year ago. I don’t know when but at some point twitter either removed the restriction or increased the allowed number of collections per account. I haven’t gotten any errors yet creating new collections so if there’s a new upper limit I’ve not yet reached it (I was getting around it earlier by just creating the collections under my @DKerman_KSA account since ultimately the end user doesn’t see what account the collection is from when it is displayed on the website). Hopefully TweetDeck catches on soon, but in the meantime I do have my script to use to keep adding tweets to collections as needed, it’s just a bit hacky and adds additional time to the whole process.

Dhumla cargo space

If anyone was wondering what I did to get the exact dimensions for the interior of the Dhumla included in the latest blueprint revision, I used Kronal Vessel Viewer. I mean, it’s obvious that’s what I used to get all the blueprint images but I actually took two screenshots of the Dhumla fuselage and one of them included a stock 1m truss. Then I used Paint.NET to measure the length of the truss in pixels. After that I just had to take pixel measurements of the spaces within the fuselage to get their dimensions in meters. Oh yes, and keeping everything in orthographic perspective is of course key.

Average asteroid perikees

Lest you thought I was spewing out made up numbers to look cool (you didn’t actually think that did you? C’mon!) here is the spreadsheet that includes all the asteroid passes recorded. It was a relatively simple if slightly time-consuming matter of just paging through all 383 asteroid plot photos that have been posted since November 2016 and inputting their perikee heights. There were about 5-6 that didn’t have actual perikee heights since they were discovered late and I only made note of their Munar Distance – but that’s still quite accurate in the grand scale of things. Note that I have them grouped by the month they passed Kerbin at perikee, not the month they were first discovered or entered the SOI.

Progeny flight

The mass of the two goo containers turned out to be only a few grams difference from the truss, batteries and payload fairings that normally go there. This was not by design! Just a happy coincidence of the tweakscale patch that was written by whomever to scale down the inline containers.

No I’m not going to tell you here why the rocket broke up. I know why, it’s not like the mysterious roll over of the Ascension rocket that I really don’t know. I didn’t plan for it to happen, but it happened so I’m going with it. I may reveal the reason at some point if I feel it won’t spoil anything too much for anyone. I like being able to reveal operations details here but I still want to respect the story. Truth is in some cases when accidents happen you just don’t know for sure what went wrong and I think you could all use a bit of that still.

There was a pretty interesting interaction with a follower in the final 2 minutes leading up to the launch, where he tried to get me to abort because of an inbound ICBM. I think that was a bit much and not really fitting well to the storyline (where on Kerbin would such a thing come from??) but I went with it. I’m still not sure if my interpretation of his motives was accurate or not, haven’t heard from him since. Maybe he didn’t actually think I was going to respond so fast and then had to scramble for a response. Events like these are fun tho, and I always encourage followers to interact with the account as if they too are part of the universe.

Also managed to figure out how to manually edit the save file to put the damn launch towers back into the ground if they start floating upwards after reloading the scene a few times, saving me from having to redo that whole process of putting the launch base out on the pad with the towers there as well.

Deuce flights

Both flights went off fairly smoothly. The first one I had to reload the save file I made shortly before the release maneuver since I forgot to also run the pitch script that showed me how high the rocket nosed up the first time I flew the entire mission. The second mission I had to actually pause and leave literally a minute after takeoff when I realized I forgot I had to be somewhere. Of course I couldn’t remember before taking off. But was able to resume no problem later. Then I also realized I forgot to hack together the script that was going to release the rocket and had to do that while flying. It’s funny how I tweet about the pilots going to briefings and shit but do I ever do that for myself?? Not as often as I should.