Jun 28 2019

Operations Summary – Week of 6/24/19

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Progeny Mk7-A Fails Debut Launch

After some delay due to technical issues with the rocket and downrange tracking assets, the first launch of the Progeny Mk7-A took place at the beginning of this week. The Monday launch was uncharacteristic for us since Flight Director Lanalye prefers a day back at work for the launch team prior to flying an rocket, let alone a brand new one, but thanks to the Ockr relay issue they had plenty of time at the end of last week to get comfortable with the new vehicle after it was rolled out to the launch pad.

Although the initial ascent appeared to be going fine, the rocket suffered a break-up less than one second after the 3rd stage engine was ignited. The structural failure left the nosecone chute, batteries, reaction wheel system and probe core all still holding together. Thanks to better fault tolerance on behalf of the AFCS operations code for the mission, the failure was detected and handled, arming the chute through apokee and deploying to a reefed state as the rocket approached the water. Unfortunately the chute failed to fully deploy in time to properly arrest the descent and the remains of the rocket hit the water far in excess of crash tolerances.

Although disappointing, this is just another in a long line of Progeny failures. More important is the fact that this mission was designed to break the rocket – although of course we hoped it would hold together. The most similar past failure would be the maiden flight of the Progeny Mk4. It too was sent up with rapid staging events and immediately came apart once the third stage was released on its own. Whether the reasons are the same or not is what the ongoing post-flight analysis aims to determine. After that we can decide if another Mk7-A flight is feasible or if we need to iterate to a new design with the Mk7-B.

Kerbed Spaceflight Scheduled for July

This week the new K2-X engine was mated to its lifter (the last one that was fully assembled from 2018) and test-fired on the launch pad. The results show a well-performing engine that ran flawlessly throughout its full burn check. At this point we no longer have a reason not to send a kerbal into space and thus have scheduled the next Ascension Mk1 flight for July 18th @ 19:21 UTC to carry Specialist Bob, who was selected back in May to be the first kerbal in space.

The mission design will follow the path of previous Ascension Mk1 flights except the rocket will ascend with a TWR limit on the throttle for a more comfortable ride and also return by not flying as high. This will mean less time spent in space but this too is a good thing since we have no idea what adverse effects zero-G will have on kerbal physiology. If Bob suffers from any issues in flight, the less time spent in that environment the better.

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 3,762 asteroids and 1 updated with new observation data. Here are the 36 asteroids that were discovered this past week:

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 5/22/19

Mk7-A launch

oof this one took me a good two days to nail down. 1 day was pretty much spent refining the mission and coding up the AFCS – which took additional time once I saw in testing the rocket was probably going to fall apart. For testing I launched it on a different heading and also just had it pitch over at a linear rate change every second – it did not fly the actual mission profile. Since it came apart with the probe core intact I modified the operations code to be able to handle this scenario (or RUD at any stage actually). It’s actually something that you should be able to see in the code dating back to the earlier days of the program but who looks at that anyways? 😝 And since I was still knee deep in code approaching the end of the day I decided to finally implement some more instruction loading commands as well to the boot system.

The second day of attempting to fly the mission was a full-day ordeal because of this bizarre error that turned up in the actual mission code when I switched from the test code to using the proper pitch profile. That was the main time sink but I also had to deal with the non-rechargeable batteries not working correctly again. I feared I would have to rebuild the rocket but after much testing discovered that as long as went straight from the VAB to the launch pad they would work properly but if I reset the flight to launch they would not. So for any revert I would have to go to the VAB and relaunch.

Everything continues to move along well. I will be pushing my lead into July shortly and well before I leave May. The content is all a bit spartan in these intervening weeks so far but I can always go back and add stuff if I feel like it. As much as I would like to get back to focusing more on individual crew characters I realize the overall character of the KSA needs to evolve a bit more first. Once more crew missions start happening again that focus will return as well.