Feb 08 2019

Operations Summary – Week of 2/4/19

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Latest Progeny Launch Delayed Due to Freak Weather

The planned launch attempt yesterday of the latest Progeny Mk6-I rocket was put on hold until tomorrow thanks to a strong thunderstorm that whipped up shortly after pre-launch operations began. High winds and numerous ground lightning strikes carried on over the space center for almost 2 hours while everyone hunkered down inside. Light damage was done to buildings thanks to chairs and other items left outside by visitors but thankfully no injuries were reported. Equipped with lightning rods and taller than the rocket anyways, the Ascension service towers protected the rocket from electrical discharges but it was nevertheless unmounted and returned to the VAB for close inspection to be sure.

Today meteorologists finished analyzing data collected from the local weather station and determined the storm formed practically right on top of us – not from out over the water like was initially thought. Unsurprisingly therefore the center of the low pressure system was located right on top of the Monolith. Surprise! Not really, although the fact that it can manipulate weather like this is a surprise. How it does it, no one really knows and thanks to a recent government directive all monitoring instruments were removed from inside the dome (sorry, temple now) late last month. Why it’s doing it is another question that needs to be answered, because this launch doesn’t seem to be particularly special except that it is the one occurring after we (unintentionally) sent a Block II outside of our magnetosphere. We’ll have to see what happens tomorrow before speculating further on the cause behind the effect.

Speaking of the latest Block II flight and its new radiation discoveries, you can read all about that in the flight analysis that was posted earlier this week.

Dhumla Shows Promise in First Flight Trial

After waiting several days for near-perfect weather to ensure the flight crew had less to worry about while in the air, the Dhumla finally took flight for its first trial. There was no issue during take off and while aloft the aircraft was reported to handle superbly. Banking in turns up to near 40° the aircraft remained stable and showed no tendency to continue rolling once the controls were centered. Level flight was done via trim and no erratic behaviors were noted. Steady as she goes! Landing was the tricky part and took the flight crew two additional attempts after a smooth planned touch and go. The gear was damaged but can be repaired without having to be replaced. A slight modification to the vertical strake that rises up out of the fuselage to connect to the vertical stabilizer will add the ability to insert ballast weights that can make it easier for the aircraft to pitch upwards. These weights can be removed as needed when the aircraft is carrying cargo loads that would weigh down the rear on their own. The plan is to have it back up in the air for more trials before the end of the month.

Congrats also to Tedman, in command this flight, for earning his Test Pilot wings! Aldeny will get his chance next trial.

Arekibo Radio Observatory Begins Science Operations

After over two years of construction and delays and commissioning the ARO’s 200m dish has finally begun science operations this week. The dish can receive and also generate radio signals, which means it can be used to probe objects like nearby planets and asteroids with RADAR. It is a big ear listening deep into space and is set to revolutionize the budding field of radio astronomy. One of the many science projects that have been announced will be investigating the possibility of signals being detected originating from the area where Jool was located at that time, which showed up in the commissioning runs but not with enough data to give a conclusive result. Whether the signals were indeed coming from Jool or passing Jool coming from deep space will be the big question to answer if they can be picked up again.

In addition to the huge dish, which isn’t very maneuverable, two smaller & faster-moving 27m dishes are located there as well to communicate with objects nearby in space. One of them did support communication to the recent Progeny Mk6 Block II flight as it fell back to Kerbin.

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 3,115 asteroids and 4 updated with new observation data.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 1/13/19

Wait wat, it’s been less than a week since the last Desk Notes? Lordy I felt like I was falling way behind these last few days. I mean, I am still behind from my 3-week lead time pace but I thought I had fallen further back. Alright, that’s cool. Last few days were rough, lots of sleeping, lots of stress from the day job. Hard to keep my mind focused on KSP stuff, but did manage to get some things done:

Launch Vehicle Designer

I guess one reason I feel like I didn’t get a lot done this week is because I spent the majority of it messing with LVD in KSPTOT since ArrowStar was being extremely responsive and I had a good use case in trying to model the ascent of a Progeny Mk6-II compared to actual telemetry data. I got as close as I could and realized that due to the uncontrolled spin of the rocket there was no way for LVD to properly account for the drag being generated and would always produce ascent profiles well in excess of actuality. While disappointing, I was still able to uncover a lot of bugs and made a case for thrust profiles to be implemented.

Block II booster flyback

So this is actually pretty cool. After the Block II launches there’s a tweet about one of the boosters flying back and hitting the Ascension service towers. I completely made that up I swear. I just thought it would be a cool bit of filler and it seemed plausible. Well imagine my surprise when I made a recording of the booster separation days later (it took me a while to convince myself it was worth the effort – making even short videos is still tough) and I see one of them get flung back behind the rocket, which would be towards the service towers. Seems totally plausible it would hit them, but again I swear I didn’t know this when I first thought of the tweet. If you haven’t seen the video, it’s in the flight analysis.

Dhumla test flight

Had a few false starts on this one. For one thing I just spent a little time flying it around randomly to get the feel for it, enough that I felt comfortable with it like I might if I spent some time in a simulator. I wanted to fly this mission with some experience.

Then I forgot right before takeoff I had to look into a battery issue. Since I don’t have rechargeable batteries, when they drain but an alternator is present I don’t want them filling back up. Forum user Cakepie wrote up a cool part config with a ModuleConverter that lets me use a part’s intrinsic electric charge like a capacitor, so that recharges, but the batteries only drain. As long as the EC of the part (in this case the cockpit) is being supplied enough power, the batteries don’t drain. At least, that’s how its supposed to work and does on the Deuce and Civvie but for some reason not on the Dhumla. So I just made the batteries able to be toggled on and off in an action group.

After that it was writing down a short list of things I wanted to do on the flight, after reviewing what I’ve done on previous flight tests for the Deuce and Civvie.

Finally I ran through the flight once and although I thought I loaded on enough fuel just as I was approaching for my actual landing attempt the tanks ran dry and I crashed. That was a bit of a rage quit right there. I could have kept it like that but I had no good reason to hold up development that much so I just loaded up more fuel for the next attempt the following day after I calmed down.

If you want to check out the actual landings, here’s a playlist. I really did have a smooth touchdown for the touch & go. You’ll notice for the first landing how I never release the pitch control, and the second landing bounces until I finally drop the pitch and let the nose settle. I didn’t expect the aircraft to be able to hold the nose up like that after touchdown and that I would have to lower it myself.

Also, in the images of the Dhumla that show the HAB I originally had the Deuce parked outside until I remembered it’s in the hangar getting serviced. Luckily I’m getting good at painting things out in Paint.NET so that was faster than redoing the images. Here are the originals compared to the edited ones.

Mk6 launch

Not feeling like working on a launch but still wanting to progress the timeline actually led me to conceive of a whole new Monolith plot line. Hurray for laziness! Obviously I won’t spoil anything but it will be an interesting way to reveal more about the mysterious edifice through deduction rather than explicitly stating things. Of course I’ll do that eventually but in the meantime everyone following along should be able to try and make up their own minds about what is happening. Hopefully I get some interaction from it, maybe someone will even guess what’s really going on. Let’s see!

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