Jul 26 2019

Operations Summary – Week of 7/22/19

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Specialist Bill Becomes the First Kerbal in Space!

With data saturation hindering KerBalloon, no active contracts for Progenitor and Genesis lacking pilots, all attention this week was able to be focused on the Ascension program as the Ascension Mk1 launched Specialist Bill beyond the atmosphere. While ultimately successful, the mission was of course not without its challenges, the most serious one being a shallow ascent of the rocket. This could have potentially led to a mission abort or manual override if it had happened sooner but thankfully the relatively extreme pitch over came late in the ascent when the apokee was already out of the atmosphere. The low TWR of the engine also allowed for the rocket to travel inside the atmosphere longer than planned without fear of friction heating becoming too great.

The improper ascent threw the guidance computer into an infinite loop and it was unable to orient the capsule automatically via RCS thrusters once it was separated from the lift stage. Since the rocket was already nearing apokee, there wasn’t enough time to reboot the computer and feed it new instructions. The manual controls still functioned perfectly however and the continued pitch-over naturally brought the capsule into a retrograde position which Bill was able to hold without issue for the remainder of the short flight.

The capsule was oriented window down so Bill got some great views as he traveled through space, saying he noticed no ill-effects from zero-G on his eyesight or ability to swallow, breathe, etc. Unfortunately he was so busy working to keep the capsule oriented properly and ensuring systems were set for re-entry he didn’t have the ability to take many photos out the window. Though he says he certainly felt weightless, he also didn’t have time to unstrap and float about the cramped capsule.

After Bill’s safe return he and the capsule arrived in Sheltered Rock the next day. He has since undergone a full medical evaluation and doctors are happy so see he remains in good health, although they still need to perform a full analysis of his exam results. We’ll welcome him back to the Cape tomorrow while the capsule already arrived today, along with its heat shield.

Next month we will post a full flight analysis, which will allow us to lock in plans for the next kerbed launch carrying Commander Valentina (or her backup Captain Jebediah)  no earlier than September. Funds for this flight and for additional Mk1 and a Mk2 launch have been provided by the Kerbin World First organization, which has released a 57,000 funds prize purse for us from agencies across Kerbin who are interested in investing in kerbed space flight and future orbital flight. Many thanks to them for their continued support!

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 3,864 asteroids and 1 updated with new observation data. Here are the 14 asteroids that were discovered this past week. The red orbit in the inner system diagram is not a mistake, that’s a comet that crosses Kerbin’s orbit and is properly designated a NKO. Comets are the most dangerous of space objects because of their large relative velocities thanks to the highly elliptical trajectories they are found on compared to the majority of asteroids. Thankfully this one will be of no danger to us for at least the next 375 years.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 7/12/19

Made it back from my 2-week fireworks road trip with all limbs and digits still attached as well as no car troubles or cop troubles – however I am completely broke again. Was expecting show checks from late June to have arrived when I returned but of course not, that would make life too easy right? Thankfully $50 cash I withdrew before leaving I forgot to pack so I had that much to feed me this past week. Grucci asked me to do a show this weekend and so I had to borrow more money from friends and family to get gas to do it, but they assured me my checks were all in the mail to arrive next week. Also, tho I was originally scheduled for a 2-day show they switched me to a 1-day show because they needed a computer operator but are still paying me for 2 days. Score! I’ve managed to hold a 2-week lead time this week but overall it was rough because being broke is kinda depressing you know? Not for long though…

Kerbed mission

Big milestone indeed, sending a kerbal up into space. The first time I tried it in the previous KSA incarnation it didn’t go so well, but I also ended up with a great story and it had a nice impact on reddit. I hope people enjoyed this mission’s story as well and I liked it a lot better being able to work in a twist in crew rotation as well as finally being able to reveal what the Monolith was really responding to with its storms (explained in last week’s Desk Notes). It’s that kind of long-form plotting that will affect future missions as well.

Despite the astronaut order being chosen randomly it worked out perfect in letting me scare Bob out of the capsule for Bill to take 1st in space while Val, who has in the past been shown to be close to Bob, was able to calm him down at CapCom and then cede her place to Jeb in support of Bob. So all 4 crew members got to participate in this first kerbed mission! Boo yah. That wasn’t a goal going in it just turned out that way.

In case you don’t follow my personal KSA twitter account, I made mention of the fact that the last 6 tweets leading up to the start of launch day operations counted down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0 with the last number of their time stamps.

There was going to be a further delay, with the launch umbilical becoming jammed after being attached over the extended period of time of the weekend, but I didn’t really see any good reason for it given everything that had already happened to push back the mission and knowing that I was also already planning to add a weather delay. update 7/25: the weather delay was in place since I’m out of the house Tuesday evenings and can’t manage things as well from my tablet, but it also turned out I was without power from a storm the previous day, so that worked out well.

The pitch-over increasing and not stopping at 48° is a real programming error I still haven’t taken the time to look at, it wasn’t a pre-planned thing. The locked-up guidance computer however is based on the fact that Bill is not a pilot so the game would not allow me to activate the SAS system. I totally had not thought of that! Worked out well though as an additional issue for the mission to overcome.

A tough aspect of the mission was deciding how much interaction with the crew to include in the time leading up to launch, since it’s no longer just an empty rocket sitting out on the pad. Ultimately I decided that the least amount of interaction I could do the better, since there will be many future crewed launches on the same rocket which will present other opportunities for unique dialogue and keep launches from getting repetitively boring.

Crew interaction during the mission was another problem since I can only schedule tweets at minute intervals and every single minute had to include new details since the mission was so short. So it was tough to prioritize what to mention. Not sure if I really want to add anything in real time during the mission or not, I’ll see how I feel when the time comes.

The science gain from the mission could have been greater, but I intentionally restricted the amount since Bill was so busy manually controlling the capsule he didn’t have time for extensive crew observations.

I completed flying the mission on 6/10, the day before I set out for my first of 4 fireworks shows. Cutting it close, but I got it done!

update 7/24: since I flew this mission over a month ago, watching it unfold wasn’t really all that exciting for me despite the huge milestone it represented, but what I enjoyed most were the tweets from the people that were tuned in live to follow the mission, so thanks to everyone who participated!

Reddit announcement

I made a reddit post announcing the launch was a week out and the response was unfortunately somewhat as I expected as most people didn’t really understand at first glance what I was doing (although, as of this writing it has 40+ upvotes with 98% approval so that’s rad). Thankfully someone did at least, but I haven’t really come up with a good way to introduce this whole concept to people. It’s something I’ve always struggled with since the very beginning. Right now in fact I’m about 1/3 through re-reading every post on the website to make note of any discrepancies, errors, plot holes, etc and see if it’s possible to get a good backgrounder if someone only read the Op Summaries. When I start to try to bring this project to more people’s attention I want to make sure it is as accessible as possible to newcomers that have to recap a few years of work.