Oct 18 2019

Operations Summary – Week of 10/14/19

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Ascension Mission Training & Launch Readiness Complete

The crew for next week’s mission is resting in the Astronaut Complex under quarantine protocols after completing their training this week. All 4 of our crew get along in general but Captain Jebediah tends to hang out more with Specialist Bill while Specialist Bob and Commander Valentina make another pair. Under the stress of training Bob & Jeb did not always see eye-to-eye in how they should go about things since although they both follow the same procedures Bob tends to think Jeb doesn’t take things quite as seriously as he should. Jeb on the other hand believes he’s being just as serious as Bob but in a more “laid back manner”. Once again Jeb scored highest overall on simulator runs, and both Flight Director Lanalye and Operations Director Drew have agreed they have equally good approaches and if they can’t get along they can just train separately for now, which works fine since they won’t actually be crewing a capsule together.

With the crew ready, the rocket has also been made ready, undergoing its final checkouts and being loaded up onto the carry vehicle for roll out on Monday. FD Lanalye will run her Launch Team A through a wet dress rehearsal to ensure the rocket and pad are setup properly after it has been mounted. Lead Engineer Simon expressed admiration of the VAB team for getting the Mk2 lift stage switched over to a Mk1 in time for this launch after the schedule was switched around.

Rocket Sled Project Final Run?

Dr. Murstap climbed aboard this week for the last planned run of the rocket sled, which had nearly been delayed due to arguments between him and the oversight committee in charge of ensuring the program was carried out safely given it was a medical study pushing the limits of what the kerbal body could endure. After blasting down the track at nearly 250m/s the sled was slammed to a stop so severely that the monitoring instruments actually broke and failed to record just how extreme a deceleration it was – the highest recorded value was 41G. Murstap was unresponsive at first although by the time the medical teams arrived he had regained consciousness but still had to be helped from the capsule. He was rushed to the medical center in the Support Village where he remains under observation in stable condition with several minor to severe injuries including vision loss, 2 broken ribs, strained neck, minor head trauma and some internal bruising.

No one was expecting such a massive deceleration force to be applied and the initial belief was that a malfunction was the cause until further investigation revealed the safety systems both on the sled and the track had been disabled or tampered with. Murstap admitted when confronted with the evidence that he had refused to follow the recommendations of the safety committee and had planned to take this final test to the extreme limits at the possible expense of his own life, although he also claims that he felt confident he would survive while admitting he expected severe injuries.

With the conclusion of the initial round of funding, project researchers will now take the data that has been gathered and begin a deep analysis. The results will determine if more testing is warranted. In the meantime Murstap has been removed from the project although he insists it is merely due to his injuries and that once he recovers he will be back in charge.

KerBalloon Missions Update

The low-altitude team saw no issues with a mission this week to release a balloon near The Wall east of Kravass to get data on the low-level jet streams that work north and south of the impressive geographic feature. Although the area features some nasty terrain the balloon drifted down into a valley after it reached a height of 16.5km. While normally UTVs could be used for a mission like this we still only have one after the other two wrecked so airships had to be chartered.

The high-altitude team was not as lucky with their mountainous mission this week and the latest report was they need to wait for specialized equipment to arrive this weekend to access the steep slope where the payload landed and got hung up by its chute rather than roll down to a more accessible spot. They will again return to the Kongo River Research Base after recovering the payload and remain there. Although it’s not certain more missions will become available in that area, we’re no more certain the next one will be closer to KSC either. Once they have completed their mission the report will be available here.

ATN Database

The latest update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 4,202 asteroids and 5 updated with new observation data. Here are the 31 asteroids that were discovered this past week.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 10/12/19

Wrote this a day after last week’s Ops Summary, like I said I’ve got a good operations lead I just need to catch up on things I skipped over to advance the story ahead faster. I always leave myself notes for when I come back to these however so let’s see what we have here…


I was pleased to see the game was still generating these for me. It’s been a while since the last one back in 2017 and I thought maybe some changes to the game and the mods associated with asteroids since then may have removed the possibility of them spawning with trajectories into the atmosphere. So yes, this was totally a game event not something I orchestrated in any way.

The periapsis value I gave came from trajectory propagation using KSPTOT – in the game itself I think I may have screwed up copying over the asteroid VESSEL{} node to my main save file when the game clock wasn’t close to its last orbit update or something because it came in on a ground impact trajectory. Regardless, it exploded in the atmosphere before reaching the ground so I kept that part.

In the past examples given for atmospheric atmosphere passes I’ve already went through the trouble of capturing photos of the asteroid streaking through the atmosphere from the ground and its a pretty big pain in the ass, so despite someone actually asking for video I decided to keep this relegated as a small side-plot so I could focus my time on other things.

Things like….

Rocket sled video

Hoooooly hell this was a sumbitch. I mean, I said in earlier desk notes I probably wouldn’t do any video because I knew it would be rough but I worked out what I felt was a pretty good implementation in my head and just had to see it through. First, I want it known that the 24G crash that Jeb experienced in the Deuce was the actual Gforce the game reported for the event, and that was at only 80m/s. So traveling at over 250m/s and slamming to a stop, even if not as quickly, is a reasonable speed IMO at which over 40G could be generated. I didn’t do the math, but John Stapp, upon who this is all based, did survive 46.2G in the forward-facing position on an open sled. So I’m comfortable with all the forces written to be in play here.

Okay so how was it done? Check out this video of the raw capture footage and you can see the craft I built. It’s an NRAP test weight at the front to offset the mass of the sled at the rear, with the largest wheels I could find (ended up being stock wheels) so that they would not rotate so fast when traveling at such high velocities and hopefully keep any wheel physics krakens at bay. Of course using these wheels also meant they had a suspension and although I maxed it out the mass was still enough to sag the sled on load and the thrust of the motor dropped the test weight at the nose and raised the sled as it was moving. So a lot of trial and error was needed there to get the initial height right to be near the track while running and not hit it.

Every time I adjusted the sled height I also had to make small adjustments to the wheels and sometimes even the position and mass of the test weight to keep things balanced so it wouldn’t want to veer off the runway immediately (despite all my efforts, at no point did it not veer off the side, I just managed to make it do so later and later thanks to RCS Build Aid). The speed was also too high for kOS to manage to steer the thing in a straight line because enough lift would be generated the wheels would lose traction.

Once I had everything balanced and made some runs over the track I realized it wasn’t moving fast enough in the short span of distance before reaching the planned camera position (short distance because too long a distance and it would veer off noticeably). Well, shit – I need to up the thrust. That was easy, just edit the config file for the motor. But then I did something really stupid and also increased the amount of fuel so it wouldn’t burn out too fast. This added mass and I had to re-balance the whole thing. Why was that stupid? Because I could have just used the infinite propellant cheat. Dumb ass.

I was forced to use a high camera angle looking down a bit on the sled since I couldn’t actually run it on the track – that was one of the first things I tried but it weighed too much and would always end up impacting the track and destroying itself if it came into contact with it in any way, so it was really floating about half a meter above it.

I couldn’t use CameraTools for the video because it has some issue that causes the camera position to slllowwwly slide downwards over time, even as short a span as a few seconds it can be noticeable. My other option is KerbCam which does a superb job of remaining fixed in position however it also has issues in KSP v1.5.1 where once I reload a flight scene it no longer works, so I have to restart the game and then get one shot to try and capture footage or I have to restart the game again. And since for some fucking reason the stupid sled would always want to crash into the track if I wasn’t viewing it from the default game camera, I knew it would take a lot of attempts to get right.

So I settled for placing an actual camera out there with a part from the HullCam mod atop an Infernal Robotics swivel/pitch mount so I could move it into the position I wanted. Of course it still had its own problems, namely some flickering texture issues, like Z-fighting – which is something I tried to figure out the cause of months ago but stripping down to near-stock showed no signs of it going away. Then also having a physical object out there meant it could be affected by the sled’s wheels whipping past & knocking it over god dammit. So more sled adjustments were needed. Then to ease the flickering I went back to the Space Center after placing the sled at its start position, came back and the flickering was less but I couldn’t toggle off the friggin wheel brakes. The endless ways this game finds to frustrate me is amazing.

You can see the flickering in the raw video capture, also with banding on the runway. It never really went away but managed to behave for the 1 second of good footage I managed to extract after over 20 hours of work. I wanted to cut to a shot of the sled racing away from the camera as well but trying to get it to work with the sled in front of the wheels was an endeavor I gave up on in minutes.

Welp, I tried my best and at least I came away with something, even if it is just 1 second.