Mar 15 2019

Progeny Mk6 Block I Flight 10 Analysis

This mission was the third attempt to successfully return samples of mystery goo from space, after they were lost on re-entry and lost at sea during previous missions. This mission also followed the previous launch that suffered numerous delays thanks to weather interference from the Monolith. A heavy-duty A/C system has since been installed in the Monolith temple to chill the interior and make it think there is no heat energy to form a storm with. This was based on evidence gathered from weather data that the Monolith was not able to feed energy to the storm itself. The prevention worked and during preflight after the rocket was powered on no severe weather patterns developed throughout the course of launch readiness. This allowed the launch team to hold the countdown and wait for a better launch window later in the middle of the day to send the rocket up when the radiation belt is closest to the surface to allow the payload to spend more time in the high-radiation region.

The Flight

Launching on schedule at 3pm local time, the rocket made a nominal ascent into space. Changes to the AFCS were minor, mainly to compensate for the new launch time and different payload instruments from the last flight. Some bugs were also fixed, including a rare serious one that on the last flight cut off rocket telemetry at launch. The rocket carried two separate payloads of mystery goo, one that would be exposed outside the radiation belt and another that would be exposed inside the belt. There was no room to include a radiation sensor so best estimates were used based on previous flights to determine about where the boundary of the belt would be at the time of the launch.

Both payloads successfully cycled their doors at the appropriate points along the flight and when they were closed for the final time a sensor reported that they had been sealed shut properly for re-entry. Falling from an apokee of 516km the rocket re-entered the atmosphere 332km downrange, which was already far further than previous flights had ever flown when launched direct east. Comm relay from Sheltered Rock kept us in contact a bit longer but it still fell below the horizon well before chute deployment. The recovery vessel was initially stationed at 250km, which meant it was over 2 hours away. This delay in reaching the payload after splashdown is what led to it being lost on the most recent attempt, so there was some worry it would drift too far away or gobbled by some sea creature before the ship could track it down. Thankfully its splashdown location turned out to be so close to land the tides washed it ashore, where it was located by its radio beacon. Payload sample bays were confirmed intact and at last we had a successful mission!

Flight Telemetry Data

Flight Analysis

This was an extremely routine flight, with the only relative major deviation being how flat its trajectory was to cause it to travel so far downrange. This is not outside of normal performance however as the downrange record for a Mk6 currently stands at 432km. That was for a flight launched on a high-azimuth angle however, and normally flights heading direct east taking full advantage of Kerbin’s rotational energy tend to reach the highest altitudes, which create a steeper trajectory that doesn’t travel as far downrange. In this case some minor modifications were made to the launch base to prevent any tail strikes and also weather conditions will no doubt have played a role. Ultimately though these are unguided ballistic rockets that will generally fly in the direction they are pointed but not consistently. We were extremely pleased with the performance of the rocket from this flight.

Future Plans

The Mk6 remains the only viable option to get to space for small payloads, however we currently have no future missions planned as the Progenitor program really begins to work towards bringing the Mk7 into service later this year. Contract submissions will remain open, so agencies are welcome to submit mission proposals. If we get any that we can handle there will definitely be some more Mk6 launches before the Mk7 comes around. We will be sure to announce any new contract deals as soon as the ink has dried. If not, then this would be a great mission for the Mk6 to end its career on.