Jul 12 2019

Operations Summary – Week of 7/8/19

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Ascension Crew Final Flight Preparations

This was the last week Specialist Bob and his backup, Specialist Bill, had to train for the upcoming kerbed mission. Since officially becoming part of the Ascension program a little over a year ago the two, along with Captain Jebediah and Commander Valentina, have been working on general skills – the physics of rocket flight, command of the capsule, recovery procedures, emergency situations, etc. This was all done in conjunction with testing the various capsule prototypes and developing the current Mk1 command capsule. Over the last month since the crew selection process Bob and Bill have been receiving mission-specific training and spending long hours in the capsule simulator going through all manner of scenarios. This past week was spent mostly on improving in areas where both crew members had struggled during the mission training. Our launch team has recently been expanded and split into two teams, A and B – the A team will be handling crewed launches while the B team will be handling uncrewed.

With the launch scheduled for next week, no more time is left for training as both the primary and backup crew will remove themselves into isolation in the Astronaut Complex. This will keep them from being exposed to any illnesses that may be working through the campus and also allow any incubating sickness to show itself prior to launch. It will also allow for some relaxing downtime to help ensure they remain both physically and mentally healthy. Medical staff will be the only ones allowed access to them, and in addition to general health checkups their diets and sleeping habits will also be controlled and monitored in the days leading up to the launch. We have no idea what effects space travel, no matter how brief, will have on the kerbal physiology so it is important to establish good baselines for which to compare against upon return of the astronaut.

In other Ascension news the final K2-X engine of the three we ordered back in February has been delivered. The additional order we placed in May for three more will now begin to get underway and should be completed by the end of the year. So, as it stands now there is a possibility of five more Ascension launches in 2019 after this upcoming one.

Progeny Mk6-II Reaches New Heights

This week’s launch of the Mk6 Block II surprised everyone when its final booster cut off and the apokee was reading nearly 4.4Mm! That’s over 1Mm more than the previous launch which was also allowed to ascend with a full burn of the final stage. The flight analysis is nearly complete and should be posted early next week so we will let that explain the height difference. Mission controllers were very concerned about battery power on the longer trajectory, which turned out to be just enough to allow the rocket to perform its mission to completion. Also, no one has given a correct answer to this question we tweeted out earlier in the week, and the answer will come with the flight analysis. Still, can anyone guess?

Genesis Explores New Lands

Since Val and Jeb are not assigned crew for the current Ascension mission they were able to take some time to fly a mission for Genesis in the Deuce, taking a long trip out to a remote island – the largest landmass furthest from any other. The mission was to gather new aerial photographs and closely investigate several landing sites for maritime vessels to come ashore and deploy a large science expedition that plans to spend several months on the island exploring its isolated ecosystem.

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 3,823 asteroids and 2 updated with new observation data. Here are the 30 asteroids that were discovered this past week:

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 6/8/19

full steam ahead to the kerbed mission! I have 3 days before leaving on my first fireworks show and losing 5 days of lead time. Then another 3 days back before losing 4, then 2 days back before losing almost 2 weeks. Yikes. I need need need to get to the kerbed launch because I’m pretty sure there are things I haven’t considered that I will have to go back and write in or change. Hopefully not, but I doubt it.

Mk6-II mission

This was way harder and took way more time than I thought it would, or that I really had to spare. 4 days total – mainly because it took so many tries to get the flight software working properly and the mission lasts for over 3 hours. So if anything went wrong I had to start over. And I couldn’t come up with any good way of doing logic tests on the code because the hibernation requires preset conditions that come about after launch and ascent. So I couldn’t just save the mission after launch and reload to that point to continue testing a certain mission milestone that was causing a program crash.

Eventually I just said screw it – if the program crashes out I would just startup a screen cap and rebuild the mission telemetry log from that and video capture. It would still take time but not as much as redoing a three hour mission over and over. Thankfully though everything finally worked on that last try where I said I’d give up if it didn’t work.

This was the first time where I really felt a small bit of the incredible pressure that must weigh on actual mission planners. I mean, I know they have taken the time I don’t have to develop simulation software that can stress-test their code and make sure that everything was programmed properly but nothing is ever guaranteed 100%. Here I am biting my nails hoping my software doesn’t crash on a 3 hour mission I spent two days programming and you have actual mission scientists doing the same but for a mission they spent years working on and years waiting for it to travel out to its target. Holy shit I have so much respect.

Also, I had absolutely no idea the rocket would fly that high. None. At all. Which meant the decision to switch to 30s hibernation intervals which I did make based on how much EC was remaining after the last mission and before I launched this one was a real consequence, not something I made up to make things more tense. I was literally on the edge of my seat watching the power drain as the spacecraft neared the edge of the inner radiation belt. Then it squeaked out with a minuscule amount of power remaining I threw up my arms and whooped. Great moment.

Also, while it would have been nice to have actually programmed the electrical drain failsafe, the actual plan in order to save time not having to write and test more code was to just enable infinite EC in the cheat menu and then afterwards manually cull out any log data that shouldn’t have been logged between then and the next time it contacted KSC. As in, completely – not even saving it for myself to reference.

Deuce mission

Well the flight itself was uneventful – aircraft flew fine, game didn’t slow to a crawl in the hours it took to fly and I even managed a decent landing upon my return. But getting those four screenshots? Holy fuck. Two hours. I’m not even going to get into the details in how many ways this game messes with me trying to setup for these images because I would get really mad again. I got them, they are pretty, end of story. But if you ever wondered why I don’t post a lot of them from aircraft missions, now you know.

[update 7/9] Ops Tracker live trajectory

The plotted trajectory for the Mk6-II flight was something I did on past missions but this time was a bit different in that I implemented a new feature in the Ops Tracker. I managed to get it done the day before I left for my 2-week road trip for fireworks shows. This is the basis for live aircraft flight tracks once comm satellites are in orbit to provide full mission coverage