Apr 12 2019

Operations Summary – Week of 4/8/19

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Orbit All The Things!

This was an exciting week for the future of space flight as we announced confirmation of multiple aspects of our rocketry programs being capable of reaching orbit. First there was news of Ascension being able to loft 1t payloads to orbit with our new Viklun upper stage, then preliminary confirmation that the Progeny Mk7 can make orbit, followed by additional Ascension news saying we can get a capsule into orbit. Let’s go over the steps that still need to be taken to make sure everyone’s expectations remain in check.

The most important consideration to keep in mind is that all these announcements were made based on data derived from launch simulations conducted by the Launch Vehicle Designer (LVD – a component of KSPTOT), which is a recent addition to our suite of software tools for mission planning and analysis. It’s important to note that no mission to date has been successfully flown using this tool, which means there remains a chance that the results we are getting from it are wrong. While the tool has been developed based on our past years of rocket flight data and likely is very accurate, it could still contain a margin of error that would affect the successful outcome of launches planned with it. We won’t know for sure until we can fly a mission as designed by it.

This brings us to the next Ascension flight, which will be critical to testing the accuracy of the LVD. Previous flights have been unable to properly follow the planned ascent path due to control limitations – the latest rocket has been adjusted to allow for greater range of downward pitch. Although it will not be attempting to achieve orbit, it remains an important milestone along that road based on how well the actual flight data matches up with the planned flight data if it can indeed stick to the pre-planned ascent trajectory.

Orbit for Ascension also relies entirely on the new Viklun engine, which has yet to be flight-tested and proven it can operate as intended in the conditions it was designed for (initial design tests were done with a bell optimized for sea level – vacuum performance was extrapolated from that). Any failure here will be a massive setback.

The Mk1 space capsule has fared well in testing so far but it too has yet to experience the actual rigors of space flight. It will not be able to orbit anything if it can’t even properly conduct sub-orbital flights first, let alone carry any kerbals along for the ride.

By the time the Progeny Mk7 debuts later this year the accuracy of the LVD should no longer be in question one way or another. If it has been proven to be reliable in its ascent calculations the Mk7 still faces the challenges of incorporating various new technologies such as fully-actuating fins, a new vacuum engine and stability system – all of which could trip up its success at achieving orbit.

While we hate to place a damper on any excitement we ourselves may have instigated with the announcements this past week, it’s important to remember that there’s a lot of work still to do, but we remain encouraged by the prospects of these rockets working as designed.

Uncontacted Kerbals Discovered in Great Desert

There has been no additional news since the initial report we released earlier this week, so check it out if you missed it. We don’t expect much action to be taken on this anytime soon given that they don’t appear to pose any threat and our society currently has much bigger problems to concern itself with. Still, it’s an intriguing discovery and makes you wonder if they aren’t the only ones? Someday when we have orbiting satellites that can observe the planet we may find more?

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 3,411 asteroids and 4 updated with new observation data. Here are the 33 asteroids that were discovered this past week:

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 4/1/19

Technically it’s April 2nd right now but this is the first thing I’m doing today so I’m counting it as the tail-end of yesterday. Even still, another 3-4 days for a week considering all that I got done is satisfying. Plotting out ascent profiles with LVD is still a lot of work since I don’t have much experience with it yet, but I’m quickly getting the hang of it. Everything I said above about orbiting is true – I have no idea if I’m planning things properly and we will have to just wait and see how it all turns out!

I’ve also had the uncontacted kerbals storyline in my back pocket for a few years now and it just felt like the right time to pull it out. I’m not saying to expect much anytime soon, but just know it’s not a one-off event. This whole project is a slow burn, don’t forget. If I make it long enough, there are other plots I already have planned for the future…

Buuuut I’m not going to get there if I’m sitting here writing this. Especially since I still have more lead time to build up so I can get back to working more on the Ops Tracker…