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May 10 2019

Operations Summary – Week of 5/6/19

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Dhumla Crash Kills 1 Crew Member, Seriously Injures Another

With C7 back in business once again we were able to resume the investigation into why the Dhumla lost cabin pressure on its last test flight. It was found that the bleed valve at the rear which dumps excess air if the pressure gets too high malfunctioned and began to release air. Safety measures properly cut in to prevent rapid depressurization and the crew properly dove for thicker air so cabin pressure never got low enough to cause any danger. The valve was repaired instead of replaced so if it failed again we would have a better idea of what was going on.

All patched up, the Dhumla was rolled out Wednesday and took to the air again yesterday for its fourth flight test. The plan was to make a cross-country flight to Kravass General Airport (KGA) in order to run a proper check of the avionics. The crew would perform a touch and go there rather than full stop to save fuel since they were carrying as little as possible to attempt a new altitude record on the way back and stress test the pressurization system.

The flight out to KGA appeared to go without issue and Flight Officer Aldeny made a new, wider approach that he and Tedman had practiced in the simulator to allow the big aircraft more room to maneuver and line up for the final approach. What happened next still remains unclear. Many witnesses were on hand because they knew the aircraft was making a visit and wanted to see it in person, and reports vary. Some say the aircraft had trouble making the approach and landed too late to take off again. Others said the landing looked fine but it didn’t appear like the aircraft made an attempt to take off afterwards. The Dhumla ran off the end of the runway and dove into the ground. There was no explosion but the nose-first impact put a lot of force into the cockpit.

Rescue crews reached the crash site several minutes later by which time fires had broken out around the engines but did not grow large enough to endanger the body of the aircraft before the small amounts of fuel mostly leaked out to the ground, which also caught fire. Receiving no response from the cabin, workers blew the crew access hatch and climbed aboard to find Aldeny dead, mostly crushed by the fuselage as the plane had hit hardest on that side. Tedman was alive, unresponsive and still strapped to his chair but the chair had come loose and thrown him bodily into the instrument panel. He was carefully extricated and sent off to the nearest clinic. Emergency crews put out the fire and spent the next two days cutting away the cockpit to remove Aldeny’s body – taking so long mainly because Air Safety Administration investigators on scene had to ensure it was done without possibly destroying any crash evidence. The ASA will conduct a full investigation with the cooperation of us and C7 Aerospace.

Tedman was successfully treated, made stable and transferred to a larger medical facility where he is currently listed in serious condition after being downgraded late yesterday from critical. He’s facing many more surgical operations to further improve the damage done to his head, spine and internal organs but he has shown signs of consciousness and doctors don’t believe he has been paralyzed. His prognosis for recovery is still unknown.

Aldeny will be shipped back to his home cavern of Ockr and funeral services will be held next weekend. Prior to this, his final mission, he also took on a Civvie mission the day prior, collecting updated pollen data for researchers. He will be sorely missed among the staff here at KSC. He is not the first crew member lost in the line of duty for the Kerbal Space Agency, but he is certainly one of the more well-known to the general public.

Ascension K2-X Engine Cleared for Kerbed Missions

The investigation into the engine explosion back at the end of February has at last concluded and although we’ve known for a while now that it was indeed the engine that blew up the fuel tank was actually to blame. Each test was done by mounting a new engine to the same fuel tank and over time that fuel tank was being shaken violently while the engines were running. The test stand was supposed to mostly dampen out these vibrations and although it did what engineers felt was a decent job apparently it wasn’t enough for numerous tests. Eventually the inner lining of the tank broke apart, sending debris into the fuel flow, clogging the pumps and causing a cascading failure of events that led to the explosion.

With the engine clear of wrongdoing and no problems arising so far during unkerbed missions, the Ascension team sees no further reason to restrict their use on kerbed flight, which is good because we don’t have an alternative ready anytime soon! The order for 3 more engines placed earlier this year will finish being made and another 3-engine order has already been placed this week. The first new engine to arrive will be the one to hopefully power a Mk1 with a kerbal aboard up into space for the first time as early as July.

Who will that kerbal be? All four of our original crew have been training for the privilege but only one can climb into the capsule. We’ve decided to seek the public’s help in the selection process. Go reply to this tweet and we’ll have more information next week!

New Alaba Prediction to Test Long-Term Propagation

Our asteroid moonlet Alaba had its 20th recorded pass through Mun’s SOI this past weekend, which was also the fourth in a line of predictions that turned out to be accurate to the day since being determined late last year. However once they studied the new orbit in the days following the encounter the final prediction that called for an encounter yesterday was determined to not be accurate, instead the next encounter would occur in late June. Astronomers were able to view Alaba as it crossed Mun’s path and determined it began the transit 7 minutes later than predicted 6 months ago, but was accurate to what they predicted after the 19th encounter.

So although orbital modeling has gotten much better, there are possibly still issues with predictions more than 5 months out. To determine if it is the length of time or number of encounters that begin to throw things off, astronomers planned to only check ahead the same length of time, rather than just another 5 encounters. It turns out however that there are 5 more encounters in 181 days, similar to the 4 that occurred over the last 171 days. So the comparisons will be a bit closer than astronomers would like but they’ll still be making more detailed observations on the exact timing of things during the next few months. We shall see if the 5th encounter is once again off by more than a day.

KerBalloon Witnesses Asteroid Impact Effects

Returning from the mission they set out on last month, the low-altitude KerBalloon team described large clouds of dust drifting eastward on the winds as they left their research area. An asteroid was due to impact the edge of the Great Desert roughly 200km to the west, and it appears that it made it to the ground intact which is great news for meteorite hunters. It’s also great news for ocean-dwelling creatures because the dust in the air will eventually settle and fall onto the seas, bringing nutrients upon which small microbial life feeds upon. The resulting bloom could potentially be visible from space and provide a feasting ground for marine life. Someday we’ll have the ability to see such spectacles from far above.

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 3,512 asteroids and 0 updated with new observation data. Here are the 22 asteroids that were discovered this past week:

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 4/25/19

Still poking at v1.6.1 graphical stuff. Whenever I have some random spare time – like I feel too tired to really get into another day of KSA ops but not tired enough to yet go to bed – I’ll load up 1.6.1 and play around until I get frustrated. Learning a bit more each time and slowly getting things to look the way I want them. it’s still an annoyingly involved and tedious process though.

Selection meddling

This wasn’t really a dig in any way at the 2016 US election but instead just a way of recognizing that I do make my own decisions about things behind the scenes. I’ve been feeling trepidation about which astronaut to send up first for some time now – if I choose Jeb someone has to think that of course I would choose Jeb because he’s Jeb – but then also everyone chooses Jeb so why should it be Jeb? And then of course anyone with even the slightest feminist tendency would want Val to be the first – but why should I choose her just because she’s the only female kerbal on the crew (so far)? Then there’s Bill and Bob who are both always underrated by everyone so shouldn’t they get a shot at fame?

So yea I’ve worked out a simple process instead that totally takes the choice out of my hands and I’m going to livestream it so no one believes I’m just trying to make everyone think they were making the choice instead of me.

5/7 Addendum – really stoked with the response to the selection numbers tweet even on the first day. I was so ready for the tweet to get more “likes” than responses and fly into a fit of rage. There have been some people who liked it but didn’t send in numbers, so I was justified in being fearful of the response. Thanks to all who are participating!!

Alaba uncertainty

This isn’t a story gimmick I came up with, the predictions really did hold true to the day until the final one. So now it’s another few months of observation to see if it happens again. If so, I can bring the issue up with the KSPTOT author and see if it’s anything with the program or simply floating point errors growing larger over time. To be honest I like the possibility that despite KSP’s deterministic nature it’s impossible to predict orbits too far into the future since with real life you can only attain a certain amount of accuracy anyways.

Big stuff coming – literally

I kind of bragged on twitter this week about building something really cool I can’t show off yet – but I really can’t wait until I can. This was really the biggest time sink this week because I had to construct several things to ensure that they actually worked the way I expected them too because it would be really, really hard to change things if I were to write the story up to that point and then discover what I had in mind didn’t actually function properly in the game. I’m glad I got it all done and it is all working because that makes the next few months much easier

Dhumla crash

Okay finally here’s what I made you read (or skim) up to – Aldeny is dead. There is no zombie Aldeny, there is no ghost Aldeny, there is no Aldeny-from-another-timeline. He’s gone and yes that is sad, but it’s also been three years and I haven’t had a single death yet among the “primary” well-known crew so I felt this was a good time to kill off a relatively minor character.

Also, the game kind of pissed me off.

It was then made worse when I flew all the way up to KGA, forgot that I was only doing a touch and go, tried to take off again anyway cause I knew I wouldn’t stick the landing, and crashed by smacking into the ramp at the end of the runway. Okay, not too bad because I could reload the flight and just takeoff from KGA so merging the flight data wouldn’t be a huge hassle like if the game had crashed in mid-air or the aircraft had crashed in the middle of nowhere. So I did that, took off and was flying merrily back to KSC climbing high when Kerbalism again tried to suffocate my kerbals even though I had the cabin habitat active this time. At the same time though the crew cabin had remote control installed so I was just like – fuck it let them die I’ll revive them with a cfg file edit and just remote control the plane since I was back in sight of KSC. So they died and I guess I didn’t have the remote module setup properly in the part config because I could no longer control the plane.

Dammit.

So I took a break to eat some dinner and came back for another attempt. This time the game decided I really wanted to launch from the KSC runway even though I had the Kerbal Konstructs menu set to KGA. I tried twice before switching the launch site to KSC and back to KGA before it worked and dumped the plane on the KGA runway. Then for some inexplicable reason the aircraft would nose dive off the end of the runway. Three times I tried to takeoff, making some adjustments to things here and there. How the hell it worked that first time and then kept failing after I came back to the game I still don’t know and I finally decided I didn’t want to waste any more time figuring it out. Hence, the aircraft crashed at KGA.

To be honest I was also getting a bit worried about what I was actually going to do with the Dhumla once the flight testing was over. I really didn’t have any cool missions in mind for it at this time anyways. Like I said before too it’s been a while since a major crew accident has befallen the KSA and so far no one had died yet from them. As to why Aldeny, well there is actually a story tie-in that made me choose him which we be revealed in time but also – just look at him. Maximum heart-wrenching potential. So fresh and full of youthful energy. Maybe I shouldn’t have started watching Game of Thrones…

Yea so to sum up: the perfect storm of KSP bullshit finally killed someone.

Also if you recall the tweets made toward the end of April about a Civvie crash at KGA and then talk of a new airport being built to better handle large aircraft like the Dhumla – that was written before this crash was decided and was actually unintentional foreshadowing.

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