Jun 21 2019

Operations Summary – Week of 6/17/19

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Launch Delays for Progenitor

The Progeny Mk7-A experienced some problems during rollout, which was not entirely unexpected for a new rocket using a new (well, it’s old but new for Progenitor rockets) carry vehicle and mounting system. There were fitting issues with the support arms that hold the first stage booster and the external connection on the fuel tank that hooked up to the service tower. Adjustments were made on the pad and the rocket and the second rollout went fine. This did leave Flight Director Lanalye’s team short on time to run checks on the rocket before launch but they were given a reprieve when our downrange tracking team reported problems with the Ockr relay antenna. Due to the height and remote location of it, getting a service team out to fix it would take a few days at least. Although the fix was done sooner than anticipated, everyone still wants time to run more checks on the rocket and the relay so launch remains scheduled for its new time of 18:30 UTC on 6/24.

Another launch delay was called for the Progeny Mk6 Block II, which failed load testing after being stacked vertically in the VAB this week. The decoupler at the first and second interstage showed signs of over-stress, which could have led to failure during ascent. Review of integration procedures showed no fault during assembly so a new part has been ordered. The rocket will need to be unstaged, the decoupler replaced and load tested again over the next week, pushing the launch back to a new time of 16:30 UTC on 7/9.

Future Moonlet Predictions Fail Again

Both Alaba and Vieras experienced encounters with Mun on the same day this past week. While Alaba’s encounter occurred exactly when predicted last month, Vieras’ encounter was found to be 34 seconds later than predicted back in Feb. The 3 encounters of Vieras since its long-term prediction has occurred over a period of just 23 days. The next encounter of Alaba is right on target after what will be a period of 53 days. This lends weight to the theory that the number of encounters decreases the accuracy of the predictions rather than the length of time over which they were made. We’ll see if the timing of the third predicted encounter is off after Alaba’s second on 6/23.

Aviation Mystery Deepens

The Deuce flight that went missing last month has continued to elude search efforts maintained by private pilots, leading kerbs to wonder if the crew of the aircraft somehow got completely disoriented and lost, causing them to fly far off course and run out of fuel. This is the best explanation for why the aircraft wreckage has not been located within the original search area established based on the filed flight plan. How the crew lost their way could have been due to weather blowing them off course or obscuring ground features (the crew was instrument rated to fly in bad weather, although with the flight including sight-seeing its questionable why they would have departed in the first place if visibility was poor). It also could have been an instrument malfunction – either by giving the crew false information or failing entirely. If they failed to bring along proper charts to fall back on, this could have been a problem. Searchers fascinated by the disappearance are still out there. No one expects they would fly out over water while lost, but perhaps they were hugging the shoreline for a definitive feature and were unable to get to the beach and land before crashing in the shallows. One day we may know, but the possibility remains that we may never know.

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 3,726 asteroids and 1 updated with new observation data. Here are the 43 asteroids that were discovered this past week:

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 5/19/19

The Mk7-A launch delay was something I had written in a while ago, because launches have been pretty smooth lately for the more often-used rockets and a new one should almost always come with problems. The delay was supposed to be a bit more involved but then I got offered another fireworks assignment during the week I planned to launch the rocket. This means I’ll be doing 4 consecutive weeks of shows with 2-3 days inbetween. Originally the Mk7-A delay was supposed to be to Tuesday but that’s when I start the next show and so Monday was the only option. Being gone all next week and the following for the 4th of July is what ultimately pushed the Mk6-II back to the 9th. Not using my original delay idea meant less writing and faster progression through the days so that I can come back from my 4 weeks of shows with both lotsa money and lotsa lead time.

Something about the Mk7 using the same service towers as Ascension I did not think about was the fact that the Mk7 is much, much thinner than the Ascension rockets and the service tower arm actually doesn’t reach! They are even pulled back a bit further from normal for the Ascension rockets so that they don’t clip into the fuel tank and rock the vessel when they detach (yea before I did that they literally used to shake up the rocket atop the engine clamp during actual launches – stabilizing in the 2min to lift off – and that’s where the idea of a cable shaking loose came from). So that just exacerbates the gap. But with a good angle for the photo and a bit of editing I can make the arm appear to reach all the way to the tank.

Okay lots to do moving on…