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Aug 02 2019

Operations Summary – Week of 7/29/19

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Viklun Orbital Stage Initial Testing Successful

Although parts were ordered back in April and the stage itself has been assembled since late June, now that we’ve cleared out all planned Progenitor and Ascension missions the Viklun orbital stage was able to be mounted on the pad for static fire tests. The design version of the engine was run on our test stand late in 2018 and this was the first production version to be tested as an integrated component of the entire stage that will be launched atop the Ascension Mk2. You can read all the tweets about the testing in this collection.

Now that the stage has been proven to work as intended, it will be returned to the VAB for further check outs and refurbishment of the ignition system over the coming month while engineers take a close look at the test data to determine if the engine is operating as expected, performance wise.

Future Ascension Plans

Unkerbed Mk1

This mission will take the original space capsule up for the third time and also be the first contract mission for the Ascension program. The capsule is being reconfigured to allow the hatch to open while in space and deploy science instruments, with the flight console and Environmental Control/Life Support Systems removed for more room inside. The payload will consist of three Extremis instruments that have not yet seen space flight: the magnetometer, the gamma ray spectrometer and the radio & plasma wave science. They will be mounted on a turnstyle inside the capsule so that each can be positioned to deploy out of the open hatch during the sub-orbital coast. The mission will also continue to test the capsule’s endurance over multiple uses to help determine a safe limit to their deployment for crewed missions. We should have a date for later this month announced next week.

Kerbed Mk1

The second kerbal into space will be Commander Valentina, with Captain Jebediah as her backup crew. Flight analysis is still ongoing from the previous mission to determine how this next one will proceed but that is expected to wrap up next week so we can announce the mission date. The main concern of course is the pitch-over problem that led to a shallow ascent, we would like to see Val fly the proper trajectory on her mission to allow for more time in space. Both astronauts will begin training for their mission after taking leave next week, during which Bill and Bob will join with Flight Director Lanalye’s A team to train for Capsule Communication roles during the mission, with Bob as primary and Bill as backup. We are aiming for a launch in mid-September.

Mk2 Orbital Attempt

The first launch of the Mk2 will attempt to insert into a near-circular 100km orbit using the Viklun upper stage. Previous attempts by the Mk1 to reach even a decaying highly-eccentric orbit through the second half of 2018 ended our original bid for orbit but we are confident the Mk2 has all the power needed to reach this next milestone in space flight. Once in orbit, the stage will perform a retro-burn as battery power runs low to return to Kerbin and splash down in sight of the Ockr relay tower. Currently the payload is planned to be the probe Kerbin I, which will be revealed later this month. By the end of the month, seeing how construction is progressing with the Mobile Launch Platform, we should be able to schedule the first Ascension Mk2 mission – we hope for early October.

Isolated Kerbs Refuse Aid

This past week an airship loaded with supplies and aid workers went out in search of the lost tribe of kerbals discovered earlier this year in the Great Desert. Their aim was to establish official contact and determine how many were living in the area and what state their society was in. Before they could land to begin their search however they were attacked by large projectiles launched from ballistas hidden in the mountains. It appears several warning shots were fired before someone took notice, and before the airship could make a retreat one of the gas chambers was punctured. Shortly afterwards however the kerbs on the ground must have seen the ship was turning about and stopped the attack, allowing the airship to limp back to Umbarg.

The organizations involved in the mission have not given up hope of opening up contact with the tribe, but do acknowledge that their approach needs to be different next time. The government has not officially sanctioned the outreach program, mostly due to the fact that it is an election year and the current Presider is running for a second term. He has included making contact with the lost tribe as part of his platform, but has not chosen to take action while he is currently in office.

New Astronomical Mysteries Revealed

Lots of buzz in the scientific community this week from two recently-published papers. The first and most divisive is from a team of keologists that have been studying samples of meteorites collected from around the planet and comparing their composition to the rocks that were dug out of Sea Ring Crater when the Arekibo Radio Observatory dish was built. They found identical composition in both, leading to the speculation that the kilometers-wide chunk of rock that slammed into us centuries ago is from the same source as the meters-wide rocks that have been pelting us ever since. Any ejecta from the initial impact should have long ago returned to the surface, which means these chunks have always been up in space, perhaps what remains of a larger body that somehow got broken up. We know there is a large cloud of rocks traveling in orbits close to ours, and these are the ones that should most frequently be falling to the surface. Since the majority of rocks match Sea Ring, it’s safe to assume they are from the NKO family, not Main Belt asteroids that get slung in-system every now and again by Jool’s gravity. So where are the other larger pieces that must surely exist? How did this body break up? Lots of questions remain to be answered for this theory to be taken as fact, but it remains intriguing.

In the same vein of broken-up space objects, a team of astronomers who have been spending the last several months observing Dres with the 10m ATN Central scope have managed to constrain the orbits of 12 objects out of many dozens more they have detected in orbit around the small body. The initial investigation began when the ATN findings showed little to none of the Main Belt asteroid family had orbits that intersected Dres, which meant it had likely cleared out its orbit, possibly capturing several asteroids in the process and managing to hold on to them thanks to gravitational interaction with Jool. However the results of this first observation campaign were more surprising, finding no captured asteroids but instead all were in a loose ring around the planet with little to no inclination, suggesting they are the remains of one or possibly two small moons that once existed. The team has already requested more observation time and will continue to look for captured asteroids while determining how many large objects reside in the debris ring.

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 3,887 asteroids and 0 updated with new observation data. Here are the 23 asteroids that were discovered this past week.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 7/30/19

Not going to lie, been harder that one might expect to get back into the swing of things after returning from my fireworks shows earlier this month, which is why I’m back down to barely a week of lead time. Despite the success of the kerbed mission both in the game and out on the webs with my audience the struggle to move forward has mainly been due to all the new decisions that now have to be made once this milestone was achieved, whereas before I had a very clear and well-developed goal that I had been working towards for several months (years, really but I’m talking just the last few Ascension missions). So I mainly took some time away from the game to ponder things and get it all sorted out in my head – it helped that GTAV dropped a new DLC this month, and No Man’s Sky is due for a major update this summer as well. Mostly back on track now though, as evidenced by the plans I laid out in the above Ops Summary.

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