Oct 04 2019

Operations Summary – Week of 9/30/19

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Next Kerbed Mission Dated

This week we released the flight analysis report for Commander Val’s mission and then were able to pick a date for Captain Jeb’s ride into space – October 22nd! Jeb’s mission will be the same as Val’s except we will be fixing up the issues noted in the ascent profile to continue to improve the modeling in Launch Vehicle Designer. In fact we’ve already had a lengthy back & forth with LVD’s developer and things have begun to improve, with further improvement likely to come prior to Jeb’s mission so a late ascent design update is likely.

Due to the schedule switch-up with Ascension rockets the lift stage that was preparing to fly the first Mk2 will have its decouplers removed and fin angle adjusted so it can serve as the lift stage for Jeb’s Mk1 instead. The rocket engine that was supposed to be for Jeb’s mission is due to arrive next week and will instead be assigned to the next unkerbed Mk1 mission testing the larger guidance fins.

Additional Ascension news this week is that the RTG casing that was crashed into Kerbin from the latest Progeny Mk7-A mission has been reported to have survived with damage no greater than what was expected. It still wasn’t as good a test as we had hoped for though and additional impacts will be required at higher velocities. However it’s not just the speed of the impact that matters – it was pointed out on twitter we have a means to run up something to high velocities right here at KSC, but we can’t use it for this.

Progeny Mk6-I Launches Dated

Announced back in August, the Kerbal Sounding Project has made it through the submission process and has announced the dates for 4 upcoming launches that will each carry 2 student-built experiments up into space:

#1 – 11/5 @ 20:16:00 UTC
#2 – 11/14 @ 14:46:40 UTC
#3 – 12/5 @ 15:47:00 UTC
#4 – 12/17 @ 16:38:00 UTC

The project originally planned to send up 6 missions but although there was no shortage of submissions many were just not feasible within the constraints of the rocket or possible with current technology. The student teams are now assembling the experiments with mentors overseeing the process. We could not find enough experts with free time which is why the launches have been spaced out so much – hopefully this endeavor will help increase the amount of workers in the field of rocketry and space exploration!

Moonlet Updates – Surprise Encounter, Two Gone

This was a busy week for the asteroids caught in orbit around Kerbin. First, over the weekend astronomers caught a surprise encounter from Alaba with Mun, which was not supposed to next enter its SOI until the start of November. Thankfully despite all earlier predictions being spot-on astronomers did not relax their vigilance and kept the asteroid under close observation. Although the missed prediction initially threw everyone into a frenzy, once the data was analyzed the conclusion reached showed it was simply an error in software that is currently being hunted down and resolved. Our understanding of orbital mechanics remains intact.

Next was an encounter of Tantalus with Mun, the first observed encounter since the asteroid was discovered in orbit nearly a year ago back in 2018. As predicted back then, the result was a trajectory that flung the asteroid back out of the system into Kerbolar orbit earlier today. The Asteroid Tracking Network will continue to monitor it as with all other NKOs, but it is not expected to be back in our neighborhood anytime soon.

Finally, Vieras also has been removed from the Ops Tracker as of earlier today although its removal is permanent given it plunged into the atmosphere to impact the surface if it didn’t break apart on entry. The legacy this asteroid leaves behind will help us better predict large changes to trajectory between encounters, something that will likely be necessary for future probes exploring planetary systems like Jool and Sarnus with their many moons. A full analysis of Vieras’ observed orbital changes versus predictions is still underway.

KerBalloon Missions Behind Schedule

Both of our KerBalloon crews are deployed on missions this week and both were expected to conclude before the weekend but although they remain ongoing there is not yet any cause for worry. The high-altitude crew are facing harsh conditions out in the Great Desert while the low-altitude crew have to sail through rough southern seas to and from their destination. When they do return sometime in the next few days, their mission reports will be available at these links:

Low-Altitude Science Survey 51
High-Altitude Science Survey 58

Better Financial Report Access

We’ve always only made public the most recent records for our financial reports, which invalidated old links and made it hard for people to access the data. This has now finally been rectified and you can always view the latest statements for the current year at http://bit.ly/KSA_Finances, which also includes on the first sheet links to previous years. In addition, a link is now included in the Archives section of the website. We will continue to always tweet when the report has been updated with new monthly figures but we will not always mention this in Ops Summaries unless we have more details to give.

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 4,154 asteroids and 2 updated with new observation data. Here are the 32 asteroids that were discovered this past week.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 10/4/19

I was getting ready to write this back on Sept 9th before I realized my time was better spent continuing to push forward with operations (writing of tweets, creation of images, videos, etc) and I could easily return to write this when needed. As I’ve said before, the further I can get ahead the better chance I have of being able to go back and change something earlier before it is published, so for now until I have my long lead back I’m only working up the ops summary the day of or day before. Less I possibly have to rewrite here as well that way.


Well, since about mid-Sept I haven’t really had any problems but back when I was going to write this my PC would just randomly go to sleep on me. It sometimes happened thrice in a single day. It only took like 3min or so to go to sleep and wake back up after I banged on the keyboard but it was still a jarring interruption of my productivity. I think it was from a Windows update that occurred automatically even though I thought I had that disabled, and updates since that I’ve forced seems to have resolved whatever issue it was, thankfully.

Tweetdeck issues

The day before Val’s Mk1 mission three scheduled tweets did not publish and showed up in TweetDeck as having suffered an “unknown error” in their attempt to be posted. Well, that terrified the hell out of me because every single tweet on a launch day is integral to the overall timeline and is precisely scheduled. Even worse, I lazily slept in the day before so there was no chance I would be able to sleep and wake up early to babysit the pre-launch tweets (had planned to just sleep until an hour or so before launch). So I stayed up all night and during launch day set a reminder on my phone for every tweet and just took catnaps between tweets. Of course every single scheduled tweet went out just fine but I had to make sure.

More recently twitter itself had a pretty major blackout that also affected TweetDeck but thankfully none of my scheduled posts failed to send. Talk about stress I do not need…

Comm dish infographic

Making this was also for me to finally take stock of what static objects I had that could fit the various roles I had planned. The 18m dish model was one I didn’t even knew I had as an option, so inserting them to free up the 27m dishes was something I came up with while working on this. The 60m dish is actually a scaled-down 80m, so if I ever need an up close photo by itself it will actually be 80m in size so the doorways and windows will be to proper scale but viewed from a distance with other dishes also in frame it will be properly scaled to 60m. Also the 7m dish is actually a bit closer to 8.5m but I had already stated in the past several times it was 7m so it shall remain as such – not a huge visible difference anyways.

Progeny Mk1-B missing ascent data

I didn’t bother pointing it out via tweet, but there were actually 2 Mk1-B rockets launched today back in 2016 but you can only see streaming telemetry for one and that’s because I only have data output from VOID and during the flight I switched between the payload and booster after they separated. This unfortunately also affects the data that is written out to the log so the whole thing is not for the rocket payload. I did this too on the first flight but only once for a few seconds after the chute was deployed so filling in that missing data was relatively simple.

Wait for it…

if you’re wondering what was driving me batshit this past week, well you’ll have to wait until later this month to find out.