Drew Kerman

The Kerbal Space Agency: Progeny Mk4 Curtain Drops

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Kerbal Space Agency
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Jump to the latest Weekly Operations Summary for 8/7/17

The Kerbal Space Agency is a project dedicated to realism both in how things are played in Kerbal Space Program and how things are presented to you, the audience.

Realistic Playstyle

The “real world” here is Kerbin, not Earth, and reality applies to the kerbal world as opposed to how things behave in the Earth world. For example, re-entry into Earth’s larger atmosphere provides a significantly greater challenge relative to re-entry in Kerbin’s smaller atmosphere, and the physics of the game are not changed to make Kerbin more like Earth. Kerbin is Kerbin. It’s also proper for all bodies in the universe to affect each other via gravity, but KSP uses only a 2-body physics simulation. Although it’s possible to modify the game for an n-body simulation, reality will remain a 2-body simulation.

That said, we do allow some elements of actual reality to affect the gameplay. Some examples include: the speed of light is properly calculated when determining signal delay between vessels; Kerbals that die stay dead, and kerbals that survive horrific crashes end up injured; Some rocket engines may only have a limited number of restarts; Cryogenic fuel boils off; Radiation is a serious concern; Life support is required for crewed missions; Rockets take time to build, roll out, launch and be recovered; Technology is gained and applied gradually over time.

Realistic Presentation

All the actions and events that occur throughout the KSA’s history are presented to you as if they are actually happening at any given time (see the FAQ for more on the use of Earth time). Largely through our website, @KSA_MissionCtrl and the Flight Tracker/Crew Roster, you are able to immerse yourself in the regular operations of the Agency and keep track of what is happening. These operations are all supported by numerous materials including vessel blueprints, surface maps, visualizations, info-graphics, telemetry data, on-board camera images, videos and more, dispersed through our various media channels (see icons at top of page)While other players prefer to use YouTube or livestreams on Twitch or convert their missions to stories or graphic novels, the KSA is presented in the style of actual space agencies like NASA, ESA, CSA, JAXA, etc. While it’s possible to see much of their operations in person, the majority of people see only what is shown via the agency’s various media outlets, as it is with the KSA. Such operations will be carried out following much of the same procedures and guidelines put in place by actual agencies. You may very well forget that this is all happening in a game.

Learn more about the KSA on our website.

Frequently Asked Questions

Spoiler

#1 Why do you use Earth time (days/months/years)?

There’s no real point in making people have to learn a different time system when they are trying to follow along with ongoing operations. Being able to split events into days/weeks/month/years that people already comprehend just makes everything easier to follow. A lot of what we do can be followed online via our Flight Tracker, where you can watch launches, maneuvers and see the craft move, so it’s important that people have a good understanding of when things are happening if they want to watch. There are numerous in-jokes made about the kerbals using a system of time that has no relation to their planet. Hey how do they even speak English?

#2 What about leap years?

They simply do not exist, and every 4 years the in-game date conversion will need to be offset by one day as the game always counts 365 days for one year. To the audience, Feb 29th simply won’t have any updates, and when the account says “tomorrow” on Feb 28th it means March 1st.

#3 What about leap seconds?

If the KSA is actually around long enough to care about leap seconds, we still won’t really care about them.

#4 How does the Flight Tracker work?

A common misconception about the Flight Tracker is that it’s pulling data from an always-running copy of KSP similar to how web-based telemetry mods like Telemachus operate. The Flight Tracker however is not a real-time system, it’s just simulating a real-time system. Data for vessels and bodies are stored in states that are stamped with a specific time they are valid in seconds since the start of the game. When you view the Flight Tracker it pulls up the previous state of the vessel/body nearest to the current time you are viewing and extrapolates any data it needs from that point on. This is similar to how the game actually works – if you view your SFS save file you will see the last state your vessels were in and when you load the game it uses those values to calculate where in orbit the vessel should be for the current point in time and how it should travel from there.

The actual technology behind the Flight Tracker and Crew Roster is a rather horrible mash of Javascript and ASP tied to MsAccess databases (see the Github repository for details). It’s not pretty, but the author was never really a web developer, and it all seems to work okay.

#5 Is the game actually played in real time?

No. Events are fed to you, the audience, in real time but the game itself takes full advantage of time warp wherever possible. If 4 in-game days pass in the span of a real day, then it will be 4 real days before those events are made fully available to the audience. In fact a lead time of 1-3 months is generally in place so the author can take time off if needed without having to interrupt any ongoing KSA events. Usually.

#6 What type of game mode is KSP played in?

Career mode is used, however it is modified to allow the KSA to develop in its own way rather than strictly by how the game decides career saves should progress.

#7 What mods are used by the KSA?

You can find the full listing of mods in use and various notes about their use in our Mod Installation Log.

#8 Why is the sun yellow in space and not white?

We see a white sun in space because of how hot it is, and a yellow sun from Earth due to scattering in the atmosphere. Kerbol (known in the game as The Sun but we prefer Kerbol) is smaller and cooler, so it appears yellow from space. It should probably appear a slightly different color when viewed from Kerbin but due to game engine limitations that’s not possible for now.

#9 How many people work on this project?

Just one. He has no life. However a lot of what is used by the KSA in all aspects are also assisted by the KSP community in general in the form of ideas, mods, code libraries, graphics, etc.

#10 Will the KSA ever share universe with other twitter accounts?

No. Maintaining a shared universe across more than one hobbyist project generally is not a good idea, and too much extra work would need to go into planning to keep things working together. It’s been tried to various extents in the past, so this is not just a belief but a proven fact. You can still follow other interesting KSP space agencies on twitter.

#11 Will the KSA explore the entire solar system and colonize most of it?

Eventually, yes.

#12 How long will this take?

Years. Real-world years. Hopefully the KSP community will still be around, but if not hopefully everyone who has stopped playing or just burned out from playing will still enjoy following along.

#13 Could you burn out?

That’s very possible, hopefully it won’t happen. But if it does, it probably won’t be anyone’s fault but my own for working too hard

#14 Will the KSA visit other star systems?

Eventually, yes. That will take even longer – although the advent of some form of FTL technology will likely come about to help.

#15 What can I do to support the KSA?

Be active and responsive – I love interacting with people on twitter. Comments and feedback can also be submitted here on the website as well as stuff posted on reddit and the KSP forums. Seeing people take interest and participate is very rewarding.

 

Edited by Drew Kerman
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Operations Summary – Week of 9/12/16

Daily Operations Begin

It hasn’t been a full week but it sure feels like it was, what with all the things to do to get this complex operating smoothly. The department heads (Simon, Wernher, Cheranne and Mortimer) were all running about their respective facilities making sure everything was where it needed to be and everyone had what they needed to have to do their jobs. Drew spent most of the week off site finalizing some last-minute business deals with suppliers from the underground cities and Lanalye wasn’t even around since she was attending an ASA conference to talk about new safety protocols for unkerbed spaceflight and its effect on air traffic.

The crew were all busy settling in to their new homes in the astronaut complex section of the administrative campus and getting into a daily workout routine, which included runs along the runways and climbs up and down the internal VAB scaffolding – Simon made sure they were all careful as there are no guardrails or safety nets up there. They will shortly begin to be lectured by many of the scientists and engineers to become better acquainted with the nature of their jobs – no one really knows how to be an astronaut yet!

The KSC itself is in fine shape overall, although the contractors seem to have cut a few corners (literally, in the dimensions of some rooms it seems) in the name of budget and time (and don’t get us started on the HAB door!!). After centuries of building homes into solid rock, constructing our own dwellings on the surface was a new challenge for today’s engineers. Even though much of surface building techniques were preserved, the actual practice has shown that experience is an important factor. What’s broken can be patched up however, and over time the KSC will continue to be upgraded as surface building techniques advance.

Progenitor Project Underway

progeny-mk1-ab-smSimon and Wernher have been dying to get their first rocket program up and running – the Progenitor Program has been in development for almost a year now in conjunction with Umbra Space Industries, the first company to focus solely on products geared towards space exploration – we expect many more will soon follow. The plans were supposed to have been approved by the end of last month but delays in various parts of the project meant that things weren’t quite ready to kick off with the start of KSC operations. However the final approval came through this week and Simon has already gotten his crew to assemble the first Mk1-A rocket. It will need at least a day to undergo integration tests to ensure it was pieced together properly and barring any problems on that front we could be looking at our first launch by Thursday – as they would like to also assemble a second rocket over Tue/Wed (moving forward assembly & testing will go a bit quicker after the crew has the process nailed down from the first one). Everyone’s excited – it will either fly up into the sky or explode spectacularly on the ground – one way or another it’ll be awesome!

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 8/3/16

Hello! Great to be back to playing KSP at long last after calling it “quits” late last year. I honestly did not think it would take me this long to recover but unsurprisingly my aspirations got the better of me – it was mostly getting all the “cool stuff” working with the flight tracker, which is hilarious because most of the “cool stuff” I can’t even use for a few months or years as I work to get the Agency back to even close to where it was when I last left off. But still – it’s there, it’s done, it’s ready and looking forward to using it just gives me even more incentive.

Coming back to this, I’m excited to have a lot more of a well-considered infrastructure in place to base everything on from the very start. The backstory of Kerbin and the kerbals is fully fleshed out to fit with the current state of affairs at the the start of the program (and even a direction I want to head in story-wise in relation to The Monolith). This website, the flight tracker and the crew roster are all integrated and ready to provide a complete Agency experience, with YouTube, flickr, imgur and instagram also helping out in various aspects. Of course the main focus remains on twitter but everything is much more tightly integrated with it now.

Moving forward I’ll be using this space of the weekly ops review to take a closer look at things from the past week from an out of character (OOC) perspective and/or comment on personal issues that are related to my work with the KSA program. On that note, I’m going to come out and say right now that I do plan to setup a Patreon and Paypal donations, but that won’t be for a few months as I want to get things really rolling first. I’m not going to stop doing this if I don’t get donations, because this is something I enjoy doing, but if anything disrupts the perfect life balance I have right now (seriously, I’m a lucky son of a poodle to have all the free time I have to do this) I would of course be forced to stop if I actually needed substantial alternate income that could only be provided by a “real job”. So having donation avenues open and established will be a possible fallback option.

And just to remind you all that I pride the authenticity of my tweets – yes, I made sure that when the tracking station bounced an echo off Mun it was above the horizon at that time :) (although further editing weeks after I scheduled that tweet but before it was published I realized I initially used kilometers instead of meters for the travel distance. Oops! Editing is important…)

Looking forward greatly to this new adventure, and if you want additional personal views on KSA activities as well as my interests in science, gaming and space go ahead and follow @DKerman_KSA :)

 

Edited by Drew Kerman
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Operations Summary – Week of 9/19/16

Partial First Success for Progenitor Program

Progeny Mk1-AThe Progenitor program kicked off with the launch of two Mk1-As this week after they were assembled and tested earlier in the week and throughout the previous week. The first launch did not go completely as planned since the payload impacted too fast to survive the landing. We are still investigating the cause of the event but obviously the parachute is our prime suspect and was recovered with what remained of the payload. The booster also survived landing with a damaged-beyond-repair engine bell and all three fins reduced to splinters. Because we couldn’t recover the avionics unit only basic telemetry data was collected via low-gain transmission to the tracking station to save battery power during flight. The second launch however saw a successful payload recovery after re-checking the chute earlier in the day to ensure no obvious defects were missed during integration. The booster once again survived impact, but is no longer usable. Still, it and the previous one will provide useful data in impact tolerances. The recovered avionics unit will reveal much more detail about the second flight, which was launched without spin-stabilization. We can also re-use all recovered parts except the parachute, which needs to remain unpacked for analysis and will be unusable afterwards. Next week will see engineers and R&D focusing on this week’s launch data so expect news throughout the week. While the analysis is ongoing, two Mk1-Bs will be constructed for similar flight trials the following week.

Ballooning High with KerBalloons

We just released a report earlier today that covers the mission success of the first KerBalloon test flight, which carried a payload up to a record-setting 16.5km. We’re looking forward to more flights with KerBalloons and are eagerly awaiting the next shipment.

Celestial Sky Shows Dazzle

With the majority of kerbals still underground, we are in a great position to let kerbs experience the wonders of the night and day sky without leaving the comfort of their subterranean dwellings – although we of course encourage any and all to do so! Seeing solar eclipses and munar eclipses and planetary alignments with your own eyes is very much more rewarding in our opinion. Val is our resident hobbyist astrophotographer and has a pretty decent scope set up on the launch control roof, but so far she prefers to take much larger sky photos. We’ll continue to keep the public informed about celestial events.

New Records Set

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to visit our Records & Achievements page to check out some new records the Agency has set this past week, including greatest G-load, fastest speed and highest altitude. We’re only just getting started here! If there’s a record you want to see us track, let us know in the comments here or directly via twitter.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman ( Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff )

Spoiler

Written 8/13/16

This game week was pretty rough because I’m still ironing out issues with KSP v1.1.3 that are popping up now that I’ve started actually playing the game. Yea, it takes me a few weeks to just get the game ready to play, and then I have to work through more issues that only show up during play. Such is modding. The most annoying issue so far is the craft’s tendency to want to “bounce” when it loads, which trips the state of the vessel over from Prelaunch to Launched and starts the mission timer clock and can fire off contract stuff. Right now it seems to work when I revert the launch after the initial load from the VAB, but if I timewarp it bounces when warp is cancelled. I tried looking into it but narrowing down the mod was inconclusive. If it continues to annoy me I’ll take the time to dig into it again but the reload workaround is good enough for now, I just don’t load up the craft to the launchpad until a few minutes before launch so I don’t need to timewarp.

On top of game issues, there are issues with getting all the support material set up. This is mainly in regards to the Flight Tracker since I’m scheduling things in advance before I can reset the “in game clock” that tells it what day KSA operations begin (a few weeks from now – writing this in mid-August). So technically right now I’m in negative UT and the Flight Tracker can’t handle that so I need to workaround that until Sept 13th when I reach positive UT. I’m also really happy I took the time to document all my database fields, because remembering how to set things up would have been a nightmare otherwise. So TL;DR I’m already lagging in my bid to get a month’s lead time in place prior to Sept 13th.

Finally, let’s discuss image editing, because there was a lot of it this week. You already saw the VAB images and I already have a good explanation for how I do those here (scroll down the post). You can also find out info for my blueprint designs… uhm… I wrote about it somewhere… if I can’t hunt it down I’ll do another quickie in a later weekly update.

Anyways, the images I want to talk about are the two eclipses linked above. The solar eclipse is a composite of three images – mainly the eclipse (which is an in-game effect from Scatterer) and an earlier dawn photo that had darker mountains on the horizon so I used those. But I also measured the rate at which the visible planets were moving and positioned them appropriately since the game didn’t show them when the sky darkened. The munar eclipse was simply a bit of layering, using an additive filter and also some RGB curve tweaking to get the desired “blood mun” effect, although I didn’t use the word “blood” because I haven’t decided if kerbals have red blood or not yet. I’m not really as pleased with the full eclipse photo, but I think it passes pretty good. While I can see the phase of the eclipse thanks to Environmental Visual Enhancements (so the eclipse photo over KSC is where the Mun was during the total eclipse, visible because I disabled EVE body shadows for that shot), Mun does not actually turn red so I had to do that myself.

Oh and yes, the KerBalloon path was completely made up. I will be evolving a weather model for Kerbin as things progress, but I’m really hoping the Kerbal Weather Systems mod will see the light of day at some point, although I fear their focus on such a hardcore simulation will be a bit too much to handle. Although backstory itself provides a good reason as to why meteorology is a new field of science for kerbals, the reality is I’m trying to delay weather insights as much as possible to reduce any consistency issues if I ever am able to transition to using the weather mod.

It’s also been really oppressively hot again this week. I’m writing that in actually because I’d rather not have to make up lost time to not being able to work at my PC because of the heat and just have the KSA have problems too.

Also Win10 anniversary update borked my PC and cost me a few hours work. I suspect it sneakily (but unsurprisingly) re-enabled my graphics card automatic driver updates without telling me, which caused the problems since rolling back to older drivers fixed things. I have a generation gap in my two AMD gfx cards so any newer drivers will kill the older card. Not updating cards for another year so will have to remain vigilant…

 

Edited by Drew Kerman
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Operations Summary – Week of 9/26/16

Progeny Mk1-A Launch Analysis

Telemetry data from the MK1-A2This past week was focused on analyzing the data recovered during the launch of the two Progeny Mk1-A rockets that took place last week. While the first rocket failed to land its payload intact, costing us a good deal of valuable data stored on board, the second rocket returned to Kerbin safe and sound. The larger data set from the second rocket combined with the smaller data set from the first (transmitted via lo-gain signal to the tracking station during flight) gave us the ability to compare and contrast major events from both flights, as well as look very closely at the performance of the second.

The two flights only differed in the angle of the fins on the rocket – the first flight used a 1.5° pitch on all three fins to spin up the rocket as it ascended. The spin up was successful but an unbalanced payload caused a large wobble in the spin, made worse when the payload detached from the booster. The relatively extreme G-load (>3Gs) remained during chute deployment and tore several of the support lines, causing the chute to not fully deploy. The second launch also had a spinning payload after booster separation (see launch video), but not enough to cause a chute deployment issue. We’ve already begun working with USI to better handle uncharacteristic G-loading on chute deployment.

The first launch reached an apokee of around 1.8km while the second launch reached an apokee of 2.058km – this was due to the extreme wobble of the spinning first rocket causing extra drag during the ascent and after booster separation. Maximum recorded speed was 347.6m/s by the second launch rocket. You can see trajectory plots of both launches below.

mk1-a-trajectories---front_28582437474_omk1-a-trajectories---side_28916948780_o

Both rockets showed an initial nose-up tendency during the first 1-2s of launch, pitching up as much as 4° before stabilizing. During initial simulations last year, engineers reported that thrust needed to be increased. USI has made adjustments since then in their design and this first test is very promising. We may still try to increase thrust a bit further in later launches.

Both booster cores were recovered intact but damaged – all the fins were destroyed and the engine bells were severely dented, which is not surprising considering they fell from an average height of around 3km. Examination of the cores shows that they performed flawlessly, burning completely through their compliment of solid fuel. The engine bells show expected heat damage but no warping other than what was caused by impact.

Any changes to be made to the next set of Mk1-A launches will be determined after launch and analysis of the MK1-Bs next week.

Progeny Mk1-Bs Ready for Liftoff

Simon and his VAB crew have completed both Mk1-Bs this week, despite set backs due to an uncharacteristically hot few days at the start of the week. They are basically exactly the same as the Mk1-A variants except for the different booster, a second-stage core meant to be flown at higher altitudes, so getting them pieced together was relatively easy, leaning on experience gained from the Mk1-A assembly.

Although the rockets are ready to go, Flight Director Lanalye does not like the idea of launching on Mondays when it can be avoided. She says she would much rather let her team come back from a weekend and take a day to really get into the zone before doing a launch. Thus, she has a full day of launch drills scheduled for Monday to have everyone go through the paces prior to launch on Tuesday. You can see details on both Mk1-B rockets here and here.

Press Release Recap

Two announcements were released this past week from C7 Aerospace Division and the Asteroid Tracking Network. You can read them here:

Asteroid Tracking Network Comes Online in October
KSC Welcomes C7 Aerospace Division

Mission Reports Now Being Published

Once a mission has reached completion we will compile a summary of it and also all tweets related to it, which you can read in chronological order. So far we have only compiled a report for the first KerBalloon test flight, which you can read here. With the Progeny Mk1-A analysis wrapped up today, we will release a report on that mission on Monday.

Mission reports will not offer any new information if you’ve been following closely on twitter, but do provide for a means to allow newcomers to read back and pick up on the important stuff that has happened to us here at the KSA since the beginning of the program.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

We think this will be a regular segment here on the weekly recap, with good reason! Commander Valentina, our resident hobbyist astrophotographer, is always taking time to keep an eye on celestial events. Here’s our favorite image from her this past week:

A full Minmus passing by at just 1.4° from a nearly full Mun
A full Minmus passing by at just 1.4° from a nearly full Mun
 

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written 8/25/16

There's been about two weeks since this and the last weekly update I wrote, thanks to a heat wave and PC troubles. That Win10 glitch I thought I had solved turned out to be a more serious issue than I thought and forced me to buy a new graphics card to replace my older one that runs the two side monitors flanking my main display, which runs off a Radeon 7970. I ended up getting a cheap R7-250x that could also run the same driver version as the 7970. All this led me to delay the start of KSA operations by a week, which was a pain in itself to get everything rescheduled properly. But I feel it was a good move as I'm now more than a month ahead going into a week-long vacation.

This week was a lot of operations review and updates, no launches. And this should be expected for quite some time. One of the reasons I got so overburdened was from having too many spacecraft ops going on at once so there will be a much more gradual pacing this time around. It won't take me as long to get around to things as an actual space agency like NASA does because I don't have to deal with nearly as much stuff as they do but I'm sure it will invoke the feeling of taking a long time, which IMO just adds to the realism.

What really happened to the first Mk1-A payload? I don't really know. It went completely poof! on impact even though it descended well within impact tolerances. But hey, nothing wrong with a little bit of failure now and then.

I'll wrap up this entry with a look at how those body diagrams you see in the Flight Tracker are generated:

 

I use a macro program to automate most of the process. Unfortunately I still need to go in an make a few manual adjustments to the placement of the figures and also apply color to the sun and planets. But it still does in 5-6 minutes what would take me around 20 to so myself. Considering I need to do this once a week, the time savings add up quick.

 

Edited by Drew Kerman
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Operations Summary – Week of 10/3/16

Progeny Mk1-B Launches Successful

Progeny Mk1-BWe were very pleased with the launches that were carried out to perfection this past Tuesday. After the first Mk1-A launch campaign Lanalye, Simon and Drew sat down and really hashed out what a proper schedule should be for carrying out a Progeny launch. The timeline allowed everyone to know what they were supposed to be doing and when they were supposed to be doing it so things operated as smoothly as possible. There were not any huge snags in the Mk1-A launches but there was some minor confusion here and there, and that could lead to dangerous circumstances when playing around with high powered rockets!

Other than a slight weather delay for the first launch (our first but certainly not last launch delay we are sure) both the Mk1-B1 and Mk1-B2 flights went off perfectly with full recovery of both the payloads and the boosters. The second flight was most interesting as the booster actually collided with the payload after separation (you can see the video here) and was sent off on a lateral trajectory that carried it in an arc curving back towards the KSC. It landed southwest of the launch pad well short of the tracking station so no facilities were endangered but it was still a rather bizarre and unexpected event! Well, we suppose that’s experimental rocketry for you.

We also had a distinguished guest visiting us for the second Mk1-B launch. Jylivin Kerman, head of the Assembly’s committee on science and education, was both the first representative from the kerbal central government to visit us and our very first visitor to the KSC. She was allowed access to the launch control building during the launch so she could see the controllers in action. Afterwards she commented on the professionalism she witnessed and the overall thrill of seeing a rocket launch. She’ll be personally debriefed by the Presider upon her return, and we are very pleased she was able to witness our teams in action.

Engineering teams will now be spending the next week or so analyzing the multitudes of data recovered from both onboard telemetry computers, although their initial analysis has already green-lit a third Mk1-B launch next week. This will also be compared to the performance of the Mk1-A flights and the next steps for the Progenitor program will then be determined.

Minmus Transit Wows Astronomers

minmus-transit_30016299845_o-1024x640.pn

Our own Commander Valentina traveled with a group of astronomers nearly halfway around Kerbin to witness a rare celestial spectacle as Minmus transited across the face of the sun. The location was chosen so the transit could be monitored from sun up to sun down. Although the entire transit period would take longer than that, they at least got to see the transit begin and make observations as Minmus crossed onto the disk of the sun, using the thicker atmosphere on the horizon as a natural filter to make the transit visible, switching to filters later in the day.

Transits of Minmus are rare because of its 6 degree inclination, which tends to keep it above or below the sun whenever it passes between it and Kerbin. The next transit will occur on 11/30/16 and be visible over KSC for most of its duration. After that, it won’t be until the following year that two more transits occur, on 5/4/17 and 6/29/17.

Research & Development Looks Towards Future Applications

Head of R&D Wernher Von Kerman and his team of researchers have certainly not been idle in the weeks since the KSA began operations. Much of their early focus rested on closing out the KerBalloons project and testing the first prototype. That out of the way, while they await the next order to be fulfilled, they have returned focus to developing additional rocket payload instruments. Chief among these are pressure and temperature sensors, which are in high demand right now by kerbal meteorologists looking to get a better understanding of the atmospheric behavior since re-stabilizing after the asteroid impact. The temperature sensor is nearest to completion and will be tested on an airship excursion next week to sample areas in the region for comparison to readings taken during last month’s unusual heat wave. Lead Scientist Cheranne will be accompanying the 2-day expedition. Wernher says he expects both instruments to be flight-ready by the end of the month, to be flown on Progeny rockets.

front_Untitled-Space-Craft_5.png In additional R&D news, further development has been made on the fuel processing that will create the juice to power liquid rockets. Currently we are      relying on solid fuel boosters with a set thrust rate and continuous burn. These rocket motors will continue to be used in various forms as our program develops but they must also be eventually superseded by their liquid fuel variants in order for us to truly achieve control over rocket flight. The necessary oxidizer that will combine with the liquid fuel to produce the explosive thrust has already been manufactured. Engineers from Umbra Space Industries are nearing completion of their LFO (Liquid Fuel/Oxidizer) engine as well.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

As usual many cool shots of the sky were taken this week. The Minmus transit stands in a class of its own, but it still factors into our favorite image from this week, which is a bit of a repeat from last week except taken during the day instead of night. Specialist Bob, who has been a bit of an understudy for Commander Val, took this photo with a bit of guidance from Val.

Minmus and Mun are now 2 degrees apart
Minmus and Mun are now 2 degrees apart

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 9/8/16

I made sure to go back and mention it in my first dispatch, but writing this today is the day I actually created my @DKerman_KSA account. It’s been something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while. I have a personal twitter account already but I don’t really use it much anymore and I wanted to create something KSP-related so that when I responded personally to things I saw in the KSA timeline people would have a good chance of realizing who it was. I also very much enjoyed the personal approach I took to the @KSA_MissionCtrl account during the hiatus and wanted to continue to have a way of communicating directly to fans. A lot of times in the past I wanted to reply to posts on twitter but doing so as @KSA_MissionCtrl just seemed awkward. I’ve tweeted as much of all this when I first started @DKerman_KSA but in case it’s all been buried by now, that was the reason for it.

Yea that second Mk1-B launch had a cool consequence of the booster bumping the payload after separation. I was afraid the game wouldn’t be able to replicate it for me to go back and video, but it did after several tries and I was able to capture some good footage. However I accidentally also captured the booster flying back and impacting the ground in a wide shot – I didn’t even realize it until I was pretty much done and rendered out. So rather than go through filming it all over again I just went back and changed things I had written previously about where the booster landed – because it didn’t come down in the same spot it did originally. I had to guesstimate it’s landing location and then composite over the damaged booster from the original landing:

Original landing on the left, adjusted landing on the right
Original landing on the left, adjusted landing on the right

I actually spent some time sourcing sound for this video, and it was as much of a pain in the ass as I thought it would be. I pulled the sound from a model rocket launch video on YouTube. The wind noise is from the Chatterer mod. Finding good sounds isn’t easy, so I will not be including them in all my videos. But at least once I would like people to hear how I think the rockets should sound.

Also, the clouds really happened on that day for the first launch. I wanted a weather hold to happen, and was prepared to muck around with the cloud positions to make it happen, but I didn’t have to. That was nice.

Dealing with a couple of issues that are holding things up and that’s always annoying. The good news is that it’s only holding up the creation and scheduling of content, not actually holding up my overall progression. It’s taken me a while to get a good look to the sun while Minmus was transiting and I’m still working on getting a few details right. Not sure how it will ultimately turn out but yes, I am writing this before the Minmus transit details you see posted above. I will have to come back and edit those in later. Such is the nature of having a month lead time to work things out. Another annoyance is CameraTools bouncing the camera up a few feet when a rocket is launched, which ruins the video I’m trying to take. I let it go with the Progeny Mk1-A videos but I want it fixed for the Mk1-B footage and future videos, so hopefully the CameraTools maintainer can release a bug fix. For now I just use KerbCam for the initial launch footage and then switch to the zoomed-in CameraTools view (two separate videos).

Here’s another issue that I didn’t notice and had to fix after the fact. Sometimes terrain textures get stretched and I failed to make note of this when taking the original image on the left so I had to go back to that day/time (yay HyperEdit) and position the camera close to the original location, take a screenshot and the composite in the booster and payload from the original image so the terrain would be proper. Need to keep a better eye on these things!

texture stretching on the left, fixed image on the right
texture stretching on the left, fixed image on the right

Still, everything is going pretty well so far. KSP in general isn’t giving me a lot of issues with crashes or anything like that and the PC is humming along fine since I got the new secondary graphics card. I’m excited that KSP v1.2 is finally in experimentals, although realistically I probably won’t be able to switch over to it fully for about a month while all the mods play catch up. I will most likely end up running v1.1.3 and v1.2 side by side and use each for various things until I can merge everything over to v1.2 when enough mod support is in place.

Hey has anyone ever wondered how I managed my tweets? Well it’s nothing too complicated:

Untitled-300x240.png

Yup, just text in a text editor! (No, I was not inspired by George RR Martin) All my tweets are stored in this one text file so I can search and easily read through them for editing purposes and making sure things are staying coherent and consistent. I use TweetDeck to schedule the tweets in advance and to check that the character length is good when using hyperlinks and images. I’ll let you see how I schedule them all next week.

 

Edited by Drew Kerman
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Operations Summary – Week of 10/10/16

Progeny Mk1-B Flight Analysis

Graphical telemetry plots - 0.5s per pixelAfter three flights the Progenitor team of engineers today submitted their final report to Drew and Simon. Overall the higher-efficiency booster performed as designed, and all three survived impact. Examination of the spent booster cores show all solid fuel was expended and no aberrations were detected in the engine nozzles other than damage incurred from the impact upon landing. The highest apokee achieved was during the non-spinning second flight, where the payload reached an altitude of 1.549 km. Average max G-load during ascent was 13.1Gs and thrust was great enough to prevent the rocket from flipping over during its boost phase, although the nose did rise as high as 90 degrees before burnout. Velocity peaked at 236 m/s. Payload fairing separation and chute deployment went off without a hitch for two out of the three flights, but the second one experienced an anomaly when the booster collided with the payload after it was separated. The chute deployed late after the command was sent but ultimately returned the payload safely to the surface.

The collision on the second flight was thought to have directed the booster on a trajectory that brought it curving back towards the KSC, where it impacted just southwest of the launchpad. However the third launch produced a similar behavior without an impact, and the booster flyback took it all the way to the tracking station, where it narrowly missed impacting one of our communication dishes. Engineers don’t have enough data to form a clear picture as to what led the booster to behave in this manner without an impact when it fell down almost straight after detaching cleanly for the first flight. They suspect it had to do with the extra spin given to the booster by increased fin angle for the third launch.

Spin stabilizing the rocket was a goal of these launches and engineers were disappointed with the performance of the first flight, which had 1.5 degrees of pitch on its fins and barely achieved any roll before burnout. However they were happy to have a direct comparison to the 1.5 degree pitch of the Mk1-A booster. The third launch pitched the fins to 5 degrees and produced a roll rate of 14 deg/s, which was very near the 15 deg/s minimum rate engineers were going for. Coupled with the Mk1-A lower stage they estimate a 2.5 deg pitch will work best for the Mk1-B when used as a second stage.

KSP_x64.exe_DX9_20160914_040202-300x188.pngKSP_x64.exe_DX9_20160914_040251-300x188.png

Flight profiles for all three launches show that once again the non-spinning rocket performed the best, which has led Simon to get his engineers working on a spin table in the VAB so that payloads can be checked for proper balance before being mounted on the booster. Although spinning rockets in general achieve a lower apokee due to energy being used to spin the rocket taking away from velocity (note the faster-spinning flight 3 went slightly lower than flight 1), the lack of payload balance also caused the payload to tumble a lot on all 3 axis after booster separation, which greatly increased drag.

Next Monday Drew, Simon and Wernher will gather to decide on the next steps the Progenitor Program will take.

Is the Monolith Trying to Talk to Us?

Tracking station staff spent the past week analyzing all the data collected from signal analysis during the various rocket launches, where they detected some interference on the frequencies being used to beam down telemetry. They determined the source to be local and ruled out all broadcast sources on the KSC campus, leaving the mysterious Monolith to our north. You can read more in the full press release from earlier this week. No sense has been made so far of the signals picked up from the Monolith, and it does not seem to broadcast unless rocket activity is going on. The tracking station will continue to monitor it closely and see if it picks up anything during our next KerBalloon launch next week.

Temperature Sensor Passes Field Test

Our new 2HOT Thermometer was field-tested this past week on a research trip that went out to collect further data in the region to help scientists put last month’s short heat wave into better perspective. The instrument is the third of four to be tested for future Progeny launches and also use in future KerBalloon flights. There was a minor snafu in the data collected during the trip, which was supposed to be at a much higher altitude, but Kerbin Motion, the meteorology company that contracted us for this research trip, was willing to re-negotiate the terms of our agreement to accept the data. We lost a bit of reputation, but a valuable lesson was learned.

New KerBalloon Launches Next Week

We’ll be receiving 5 new KerBalloon units similar to the one we first tested last month. These will be deployed in various locations in the region surrounding KSC and will carry aloft all four of our Progeny payload instruments: the Aeronomy Sensor Array, Meteorological Survey Package, 2HOT Thermometer and PresMat Barometer. The PresMat will be field tested for the first time on these flights to the upper reaches of the lower atmosphere. Both the thermometer and barometer were developed in partnership with Probodobodyne Inc. The exact timing, schedule and locations for launches are as follows:

Launch Date Launch Time (UTC) Launch Location
10/20/16  16:20:00 KSC
10/20/16  22:20:00 Water
10/21/16  16:25:00 Highlands
10/25/16  16:40:00 Grasslands
10/27/16  16:45:00 Deserts

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Easily one of the most impressive planetary captures so far, Commander Val managed to squeeze all seven of the brightest naked-eye planets into a single image frame. Just a day earlier Moho wasn’t high enough to fit in the frame with Sarnus, but thankfully the fast-moving little planet zipped high enough to get into the shot. The only other naked-eye planet not visible in this photo is Dres, which is a hard target to pick out with the naked eye unless it happens to be close to the sun at dawn or dusk when the brightest stars are washed out.

The dawn march of planets
The dawn march of planets
 

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 9/14/16

wrapping up this week of operations as the KSA finally rolls into positive UT and begins operations on Sept 13th. It was a great first day for the Agency, lots of interaction on twitter to what was posted. Wonder what people will be thinking by the time they get to this point in the timeline, a month later. Let me know in the comments!

I think the hot days are finally past, for the most part anyways. Where I live doesn’t cost me nearly anything in rent or utilities and I have everything I need but there is the downside of no A/C, which means once the mercury gets above 90F things start to get uncomfortable, especially when the PC is running KSP and has everything spooled up, generating a ton of extra heat. It was really frustrating to go a day without work because of the heat, but such are the trade-offs you make in life.

I guess the most bizarre thing to happen this past week of operations was the booster flyback for the Mk1-B 2nd and 3rd flights. I mentioned last week how I had to tweak some things when the booster landed closer to the pad than it did originally. Well good thing because the third launch followed the same flyback ground track and went even further to almost impact the tracking station. It really did come close to taking out a dish. Not sure if those can be damaged individually. Glad I didn’t have to find out.

Here’s a better look at the editing I do for kerbolar eclipses that I talked about in an earlier desk notes where I said I changed the color of the mountains in the distance:

KSP_x64.exe_DX9_20160911_1733141-1024x213.png

So what you’re seeing is the original eclipse screenshot captured from the game. Then I waited until just after the sun disappeared behind the mountains and took another screenshot. The mountains in the distance were then composited in Paint.NET and I made some hue/brightness adjustments to them in order to have them look more natural in my opinion. I also use Ambient Light Adjustment to make the scene darker/brighter within the game to adjust for varying light levels (if there are more clouds in the image, I will make the scene darker). I should note though that the vast majority if my images have no post-editing done whatsoever. The game really can look pretty awesome when you set it up right.

Damn these weekly recaps are getting long aren’t they?

 

Edited by Drew Kerman
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Operations Summary – Week of 10/17/16

KerBalloon Launch Campaign Successful So Far

Three of the five planned launches for KerBalloon probes have so far gone off without a hitch, despite several new logistics considerations that had to be taken into account. The first launch, from KSC, was the easiest to manage and served to get the crews back to a familiar state with the process of launching a KerBalloon. Next, we coordinated with the Maritime Service to use one of their ships, the MSV Tongjess, to take a second probe out to sea for launch and recovery. If that wasn’t enough, the location was just over the horizon. Sometimes comms had a good bounce off the atmosphere, but mostly they were unreliable enough that launch control simply had to wait for the probe to be launched and clear the horizon. Flight Director Lanalye was not very happy with this arrangement, but at the same time she places full trust in her launch crews. After a successful launch and recovery, the following day we got to put to use some of our off-road vehicles that were purchased with the initial founding payment of the KSA. These rovers will serve as a much cheaper alternative to airship charters when sites are reachable by land and time is not of the essence (some sites may still be too high/steep to permit off-road vehicle use). Despite worry by both Lanayle and Drew over a night-time traversal to the launch location, everything went as planned and the balloon payload was recovered and returned to KSC intact.

KerBalloon ground tracks
KerBalloon ground tracks

Data analysis of the probe instruments, a temperature and barometer sensor, is still ongoing, although early results are showing a surprising uniformity to the atmospheric conditions in regions around KSC that have been sampled so far. Still, ground tracks for the 3 balloons have shown that enough pressure difference exists at various layers to create winds to push the balloons around. Scientists eagerly await data from the remaining two scheduled KerBalloon flights so they can further advance their models.

Progeny Mk2 Assembly Continues

Simon reports that the VAB is working efficiently at constructing the new Progeny Mk2 two-stage rocket for launch on schedule next week. The fact that it is simply two Progeny Mk1 rockets joined together has made the process easier since crews are already familiar with the process of assembling these parts. Staging the two boosters together is a new step in the process, and for that an entire day and a half is being spent to ensure that it is done according to specifications. The payload has already begun to be pieced together for testing at the start of next week. After that the entire rocket will be integrated together and tested. Everyone is excited to see our first multi-stage rocket take flight!

C7 Off to a Rocky Start

Finally starting operations this week, the Aerospace Division of C7 has seen some early setbacks, mainly in design but also internally. Simon reports several key engineers are refusing to work, believing they have been betrayed by the main C7 corporate division. To understand why, Simon was forced to make a visit to C7 HQ in Kravass City. Turns out C7 was building its own testing facility out on an island not far from KSC when the decision was made to axe the project well into development as a means of cutting costs and turning to KSC for lease of their facilities. Apparently along with that decision came numerous project reshuffling that left several high-ranking engineers out in the cold and re-assigned to the fixed-wing project. Apparently it now falls to Simon to re-motivate them.

On the design side of things, arguments are still being made about the final wing configuration of the “Civvie” prototype that was revealed at the start of this week. Despite this, Simon has at least managed to get work started on the fuselage, which can be modified late in its production to accept whichever wing configuration is ultimately decided upon.

Astronaut Excursions Continue to Educate

Realizing that returning to Kerbin from orbit will always place them in a hazardous environment, our astronauts have been spending the past two weeks working on developing survival training that can be applied to future kadets and also prepare them. So far they have spent two nights out in the mountains with minimal supplies, suffering cold temperatures and high winds with little from which to construct any sort of shelter. They also took advantage of the MSV Tongjess to spend some time in the water learning how to stay afloat with just their pants and testing out several compact life rafts that could be deployed from a small capsule. So far all training exercises have been carried out without serious injury, although they all realize that training can be just as dangerous as the real thing.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

While Val captured a nice view of Sarnus and its moons, we think the better photo involves two planets, not just one. Here we see Eve passing close to Jool, an event known as an appulse. They aren’t actually close, but from our perspective they appear to be.

Joolean moons Vall, Laythe and Tylo along with Eve's moon Gilly are also viisble
Joolean moons Vall, Laythe and Tylo along with Eve’s moon Gilly also viisble

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 9/20/16

Maintaining the month lead time, trying to push out to two. No real activity on the weekends is helping a lot, I’m glad I carried that over from the end of the previous run of the Agency. This week was a bit overly-busy though and I probably should have spaced the KerBalloon launches out more. But despite everything that needed to get done I didn’t lose any lead time, which is a good sign. I’m finding things are going a lot quicker with the experience that I have when it comes to creating blueprints, VAB construction shots and other things that require extra work – including image editing like the example below:

highlands-dawn-launch_29693118082_o-1024x320.png

You’ll see this image posted on Saturday, so not a huge spoiler. The most subtle thing are the headlights, which don’t actually light up (the real reason that second pair of lights are there – although they also look cool IMO). I cut and pasted them into a separate layer in Paint.NET so I could apply a Glow effect. You’ll also notice that I took out doors in the back. Yea, the rover is supposed to be a 4-seat vehicle but it’s also supposed to be electrically driven and I don’t have solar power or RTGs yet which means I needed to stick a fuel tank and electric generator in there (not a fuel cell). This part is all hand-wavey stuff, but logistically it works to power an electric vehicle. So I removed the rear seats.

Also, yes I did indeed drive out to the first launch site with one of the rovers to see how long it would take

KSP_x64.exe_DX9_20160927_215106-1024x640

So something I mentioned a few weeks ago and forgot to follow up on was how I schedule tweets. I showed you how I edit and maintain them in the text editor, but that doesn’t really give me a good idea of how they will appear throughout the day. For that I use Google Calendar:

Untitled-1-1024x566.png

This lets me see whether I’m bunching up too many tweets in a single day (necessary for certain events like launches but shouldn’t be otherwise) or even tweeting too much at the same time consecutive days. You’ll notice how I tried to space out tweets not only during the day but during the week as well. To me this creates a more natural flow of communication from the Agency to readers and makes sure their twitter feed is always interspersed with other accounts they may be following.

Finally, asteroids are being discovered now, so I thought I’d mention how that works. So, I used to have a pretty involved process to finding new asteroids and I kept some of that but it’s also a bit simpler now. I’m using the same detection schedule I did for the previous KSA, so I don’t need to toss coins in a box once a week to come up with new values for how many asteroids will be discovered on a given day. Although I did consider this time to only allow myself to find asteroids that were in an area facing away from the sun, it was too much of a pain to work in that consideration and decided these asteroids would be found from data that has been pooled together recently but also collected over the past few decades, so asteroids can be discovered anywhere. Each day I simply start tracking all the unknown objects in the system and adding their designations in a list in Excel. I then randomize that list and generate random numbers that tell me which asteroid(s) in that list have just been found. Simple! Of course I also check all the tracked asteroids around Kerbin to see if any are going to impact – if it is a rock that hasn’t been found then it becomes a surprise event if I choose to acknowledge it.

Oh and I found this! http://bit.ly/BlueprintsHowTo – but it’s still buried in there somewhere. May perhaps dig it up some point soon, but for now I’ve written enough.

 

Edited by Drew Kerman
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Great idea. Great thinking. Good website formatting. I love it.

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Posted (edited)

Operations Summary – Week of 10/24/16

Progeny Mk2 Launch Anomaly – New Findings

A quick review: this past Wednesday during the launch of our first Progeny Mk2 rocket, an anomaly occurred 3 seconds after main booster ignition which caused the first stage to completely disintegrate. Launch controllers followed protocol and immediately armed the recovery chute in case the payload was flung from the rocket. However the second stage ignited itself and carried the payload away from the explosion. Unfortunately something caused the chute to deploy during the second stage booster firing, which ripped the chute to shreds and made recovery of the payload impossible.

After spending lots of time studying launch footage (you can see the stationary camera footage here) we have determined that the second stage in fact ignited prematurely on its own, which caused the first stage to overheat and explode shortly afterwards. This change in the order of events has led the investigation down a new path, away from looking closely at the first stage booster as the source of the anomaly.

We’re also still not sure why the recovery chute deployed prematurely. The nosecone is relatively intact as the payload truss took the full impact with the surface, so examination of the recovery chute mechanism is currently underway. We’ve also gathered up all debris and started to piece the rocket back together with what we have to determine what is missing and whether it was completely destroyed or lodged in something else.

The team leading the investigation does not expect results until later in November. In the meantime Lead Engineer Simon and his team on the Progenitor project are still in a detailed review of the entire Mk2 design process.

KerBalloon Launch Campaign Ends with Vehicular Accident

Of the 5 launches scheduled for our new KerBalloon probes, 4 made it off the ground and were also recovered successfully. However the fifth and final launch did not proceed as planned. Enroute to the launch site, the UTV carrying the KerBalloon unit rolled down a slope and caused enough damage to the unit that it was unable to be used for flight. This was an unfortunate end to an otherwise successful launch campaign that covered various biomes in the region around the KSC, collecting numerous data points on temperature and atmospheric pressure that meteorologists will be using to better understand the nature of Kerbin’s weather systems.

A unique aspect to these flights involved launches that occurred out of initial contact with launch control, something Flight Director Lanalye was not very happy about, but she was unable to secure additional funding to station an airship that could relay communications over the horizon. Still, there is a relatively steady flow of airship traffic between cities and the airship captains were more than willing to help pass along communiques as they went about their business.

We don’t currently have plans worked out for our next KerBalloon launch campaign, but additional units have been ordered.

Kerbin Targeted by an Asteroid

After sparking a minor panic at the beginning of this week by inadvertently announcing to the public a possible asteroid impact was imminent, the ATN cleared things up in a press release we covered earlier today. We don’t think it’s likely that the asteroid will make it to the surface intact, but even if it breaks apart in the atmosphere pieces of it should make it to the surface where they can be recovered for study. Regular denizens of Kerbin may be fearful of what’s coming, but scientists can’t wait to hopefully be able to peer into the past of our planetary system.

C7 Pushes Forward on Fixed Wing Development

In the gallery above you will see some of the progress C7 has made this past week on their Civvie fixed wing prototype, which continues to take shape in the HAB. We’ve also just received word that the decision has finally been made and the prototype will be fitted with wings over top of the canopy. Simulations have shown that this would be better for overall flight stability and it will also afford the pilots a much better view of the ground below.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Commander Val was pretty busy this week, but there also wasn’t much going on in the night sky. The planets are pretty spread out across the sky now, although Duna is slowly catching up to Jool. Just today though she managed to capture Mun occulting Minmus, which is a fairly rare event if you only observe from one location on the planet. She says she plans to photograph something else later tonight, but won’t say what.

Mun and Minmus are just 0.6 degrees apart
Mun and Minmus are just 0.6 degrees apart
 

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 9/24/16

So the Mk2 launch anomaly was indeed a planned event, and it took me a few days to really decide how I wanted to go about doing it. It’s easy to make things explode in KSP, but it’s harder to make things explode in a way that you can then write a story about and have the reasons fit into the larger picture of what you’re trying to accomplish. So I couldn’t just have the whole thing blow up. I went through several methods of explosions, including the explosive that comes with Kerbal Inventory System. The problem with that is it requires a crew member to set and arm, so I needed to build a contraption to get a kerbal up near the rocket payload while it was mounted.

Val waves from atop her perch
Val waves from atop her perch

In the end that was too hard to control since I couldn’t use the staging system and had to set the timers on them. Eventually I just fell back to the simplest solution – having the lower stage blow up when the upper stage is triggered too early. That also fit perfectly with what I wanted the accident to push the Agency to do next. Nothing major, just a logical progression, but you’ll have to wait to see what that is.

Now, for the launch video I did spend a little bit of time on YouTube trying to source some rocket sounds and explosions but I just wasn’t feeling it. I really did want to add sound to the video but I’d rather spend time on other things to be honest. Hopefully one day the sounds in KSP will just be improved.

Last thing to talk about this entry is I spent some time today putting together an inventory spreadsheet in Excel to keep track of the parts I’m using and re-using. Very simple, I just record the amount of parts I’m using and the amount I’m regaining on recovery of the vessel. Good news is that even tho I came up with this two months into the program, all the parts balanced out and I never used anything I didn’t have. *phew*, saved myself some rewrites there. Now moving forward I don’t have to worry so much about it.

Untitled-3-e1474739923727-1024x278.png

That’s it for this week, now to close out October in September and move on to November!

 

Edited by Drew Kerman
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Posted (edited)

Operations Summary – Week of 10/31/16

Progeny Mk2 Launch Anomaly Investigation Update

After spending the beginning of the week continuing to analyze data from the Progeny Mk2 launch, the investigation came to a possible hypothesis about what initiated the anomaly. The next step of course was to test this hypothesis, which was done earlier today using the last Mk1-B booster. The theory was that the booster could ignite itself if enough compression was forced upon the engine bell and supporting frame, so we dropped it from 250m after it was lofted by a KerBalloon (the balloon was expended in the operation). Sure enough, when the booster landed on the ground it took off by itself, spiraling wildly through the air thanks to a damaged and ruptured engine bell until it was destroyed by a package of K-4 that was attached to the booster and linked to launch control.

Closeup of engine staging
Closeup of engine staging gap

So what happened? Turns out the ignition wire that runs up the inside of the booster to the solid fuel doubles back on itself enough that, if the lower section of the booster is crumpled slightly by a hard enough impact, the wire will pinch and short itself out, firing off the engine. How did this happen in the Mk2? A structural failure of the engine shroud. Looking at the image to the left, you can see the gap between the first and second stage boosters. The engine shroud connects the two, the boosters themselves are not connected. The build-up of pressure at launch eventually caused the shroud to fail and the upper stage to fall back and impact the lower stage. Ignition of the upper stage may not have been immediate (we can’t tell via video when the shroud failed) but if not then eventually it was compressed enough too after being weakened by the initial impact to short the wire and ignite.

The team still has more research and testing to do next week with the structural materials in question, but since today’s test went as expected they feel confident in their theory. Simon and his team of design engineers are already contemplating various solutions to the issue and USI has been kept in the loop throughout the process, they are standing by ready to make any changes deemed necessary.

Here is the full test video:

Progress Continues on Civvie Prototype

It seems troubles are fading into the past now at C7 as work continued to pick up throughout this week on the Civvie prototype. As reported last week, the overwing design was chosen and implemented this week. The entire airframe, including the engine, has now been completed and for at least the next week engineers will be crawling all over and through it to make sure everything turned out according to specifications. Once this checkout is complete, the finishing touches will be added including cockpit instrumentation (the design of which test pilots Val and Jeb signed off on this week), navigation lighting, landing gear and a recovery parachute to be used in the event that landing is impossible or the aircraft suffers a malfunction/failure while in flight. C7 expects it to begin ground trials before the end of the month, hopefully flight trials as well.

Asteroid Tracking Network & KSA Finance Reports Released for October

You can have a look at how the KSA spent its money this past month in our monthly finance report compiled by Mortimer. A new field added to the top keeps track of our total net income, which is nice to see during months were we don’t make any money yet manage to stay ahead in the grand scheme of things – like October. Certainly the failure of the Mk2 hurt us financially, and not just in the loss of valuable payload instruments and other recoverable parts. We had several contracts lined up that could have made use of the Mk2, and we had the parts to pull off another flight within the month. Thankfully though we didn’t make the situation worse by signing any of those contracts prior to the Mk2 failure.

Also released this week was the monthly report from the ATN, the first report actually – congratulations to them on officially going into full operation this past month! The initial results of their efforts has certainly proven that this is an endeavor we should be dedicating resources to. In addition to the one NKO discovered to be on an impact course with Kerbin, 13 other NKOs have also been discovered, making them the majority of asteroids discovered so far by a significant margin. If this trend continues it would mean we are flying mostly blind through a dense field of space rocks, some of which hold the potential to once again attempt to end life on this planet. We’ll be keeping close tabs on things over at the ATN and share any announcements and data.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

There wasn’t really any competition this week, the heavens are not offering up much of note lately. The single photo Val took however is more than enough, showing how the mighty Jool compares to the meeny Minmus when they passed just 0.2 degrees from each other at appulse. Jool is 100x the size of Minmus and at the time of the photo it was 1,464x farther away.

Also visible are the moons Vall, Tylo and Laythe
Also visible are the moons Vall, Tylo and Laythe
 

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 9/26/16

Still waiting for 1.2 to land, which is one of the main reasons I’m stalling for the flight of the Civvie, since the trike landing gear in 1.1.3 just don’t work at all. I could just stop and wait, but I don’t want to stop and I also want to build up a 3-month lead time. I’m closing in on the halfway point, the Mk2 failure will help calm things down enough to make the days move quicker with less work for me. That wasn’t the real intent, the Mk2 failure was an overall pacing thing, but it does work to help get my lead time up. Eventually I can just do one day’s work per day and go back to focusing on other things – like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided :P I’ve also been thinking off and on lately how I might want to implement something similar to DSN Now, since I plan to do a more ground-based comm network with this version of the KSA rather than launching lots of dedicated communications satellites.

I think I’ll also cover creating images like the one I posted for celestial snapshot of the week. I use CameraTools to zoom in from the ground, and Distant Object Enhancement points me to the planets, the flares disappear once you zoom in close enough and you can use it to black out the skybox. Once I’m zoomed in I take the screenshot, and then head into Map view, where I take another screenshot of the planet itself to get the proper lighting and texturing that isn’t shown with the default zoomed-in photo. I simply use that for the proper apparent size of the object, which I then match with the planet image I took from the map view. Sarnus is the furthest planet I can see with this method. For Urlum and Neidon I will need one of the telescope mods.

Finally, here’s a look at an alternate booster test – I ran several before finding the one I liked. This one is definitely more spectacular in its result however I didn’t like how the booster got stuck in the ground (fell through the KSC surface) for a bit before taking off again. Enjoy!

 

Edited by Drew Kerman
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Posted (edited)

Operations Summary – Week of 11/7/16

Progeny Mk2.1 Announced for December Return to Flight

The first Progeny Mk2 exploded shortly after launch and the investigation into the anomaly concluded earlier this week. Now that we know the problem and how to fix it, new parts have been ordered and the rocket re-designed to remove structural stress on the engine fairings. Everything is expected to come back together for a launch of the MK2.1 in early December.

C7 Readies Prototype for Trials

Progress continues on the Civvie prototype, with its airframe completed and checked out the final steps have begun to install the wiring, avionics, seats, parachute, lighting, control cables, etc to make the aircraft fully functional. Then the landing wheels will be attached and it will roll out of the HAB for ground trials to check the undercarriage and engine before it attempts to take flight off the runway, which has been surfaced as best as possible. C7 expects the trials to begin next week.

Known Asteroids Whiz Past Kerbin

The Asteroid Tracking Network has cataloged almost 50+ asteroids to date, some of which you can see in its first monthly report. Two of these asteroids are paying the Kerbin system a visit this weekend, with more on their way. It’s important to understand that these are just the asteroids we know about currently passing through the system. The ATN estimates there could be as many as 2-4x that number at any given time that are simply not seen due to various factors, like observation time, position relative to the sun, size, albedo, etc. Astronomers will be tracking these objects closely after they have left the Kerbin system to make sure they don’t pose any future threat after the slight alterations to their orbits from passing close to Kerbin (and sometimes Mun).

Research & Development Update

A contract has been signed with Bluedog Design Bureau to join us in development of a new payload instrument for measuring radiation. This is a very important aspect of space flight that needs to be closely monitored to ensure the safety of future space travelers. Right now we have no idea what the radiation environment is in our upper atmosphere, let alone space.

The liquid fuel program has had a minor breakthrough, attaining a sizeable reaction with our oxidizer. No one was in danger during the testing, and the team has filed an initial report with Cheranne on their results. We expect to hear more on this in the coming month. We’ve already begun the process of choosing a LF/O engine design from either Umbra Space Industries or Kerbodyne to use with our Progenitor Program.

Additionally, the use of a separate stack decoupler for the Progeny Mk2.1 instead of one built-in to the booster has us looking into adding a radial decoupler to our inventory as well. We’ve already started looking at design bids from several companies.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

After witnessing the Minmus transit last month Val has been on a quest to get her personal telescope upgraded with a higher-powered objective lens so she could better see transits of moons across not the sun but other planets. She finally saved up the funds this month to buy the parts she needed and has put the upgrade ‘scope to work on Duna, Sarnus and Jool, the three planets with the best transits to be seen from a small ground-based telescope.

No shadow visible thanks to our current viewing angle to Duna
No shadow visible thanks to our current viewing angle to Duna
 

Transits happen often, however planets have to be visible in the sky over KSC for Val to catch them in action, and she can’t see them during the day. She’s determined however to catch as many as she can when she can. We can’t blame her, they are really cool!

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 10/1/16

Finally went back and took care of the Minmus transit photos and event tweets. If you want to block out the glare of the sun you need to uninstall Scatterer and make sure you have Kopernicus. Then you just need to add the following MM config somewhere in you GameData folder:


@Body[Sun]
{
  %Template
  {
    removeCoronas = True
  }    
  %ScaledVersion
  {
    %Light
    {
      %sunLensFlareColor = 0, 0, 0, 0
    }
    %Material
    {
      %rimBlend = 0
      %sunspotColor = 0.54,0.35,0.13,1
      %rimPower = 0
    }
  }
}

whether you want to removeCoronas or not is up to you, it clips into the sun a good deal and looks bad. I actually had to disable, screen cap, restart with it re-enabled and then composite the corona-less sun atop the one with the corona. You also don’t need sunspotColor if you don’t want it.

It also took me 61 attempts to get the image I wanted for Val smiling and giving the thumbs up in front of the transiting Minmus. This was due to the fact that to get her to smile time warp needs to be on, but the thumb-up animation raises and lowers the arm. So with time warp the arm doesn’t stay up long and I have to coordinate the keypresses for entering timewarp, triggering the animation and then snapping the screenshots. In retrospect I probably would have been better off just filming and taking a frame image or modifying the thumbs-up animation to stay in the thumbs-up pose. Regardless, it has made me wonder if I should take another stab at the mouth manipulation in Kerbal Animation Suite, which was pretty complex to mess with due to the amount of settings that are attributed to the mouth.

Still no 1.2? Still no 1.2. At this point if I get to the point where Civvie flight trials are due to begin I have two options – stop playing and wait for 1.2 (and FAR) so I can use the trike gear, or stick some retractable gear on to take off with.

A few hours later… decided to give the normal wheels a go. Wow wheels really suck hard still in v1.1.3…

 

Edited by Drew Kerman
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Posted (edited)

Operations Summary – Week of 11/14/16

Civvie Prototype Cleared for Flight Trials

Yesterday Commander Valentina Kerman climbed aboard the Civvie fixed-wing prototype and took it out for its first real shakedown to test out all systems while on the ground, parked and taxiing. The ground trials ensured that avionics, control cables, power, control surfaces, lights, engine, etc all functioned as designed while under operation. Engine run-ups were also performed – while the engine itself is not new technology it has never been integrated with a vessel in this way so assurances were needed that it was functioning properly. Take off roll testing was undertaken after careful review of the taxi data. The take off roll test ensured that the undercarriage was clear of any issues and the engine could power the craft up to take off speed. One of the concerns was the aircraft may have been built too heavy, since it was designed to withstand horrible crash tolerances to help ensure the safety of the test pilots. It successfully reached take off speed by the end of the runway on only half power though, which was a great sign.

Val was very excited to be piloting, even if it was only on the ground for the initial trials. She likened the experience to “driving a car with a horrible suspension”. The taxi tests were also meant to see how the aircraft performed on different surfaces – dirt, tarmac and turf. Val reported that she liked the firmness of the turf and would recommend take offs be done to the side of the runway. However the dirt offered up more friction, and she says she would prefer to land the plane on the runway rather than the turf. This will be taken into consideration for the flight trials, which have been approved for next Monday after second sunrise. Captain Jebediah Kerman is still recovering from an injury and will not be able to pilot the aircraft until the end of next week at the earliest assuming he receives his medical clearance.

The first flight trial will be to simply leave the ground and return in one piece. Val will take off, climb to around 1km and then turn about and deploy the recovery chute to assist in bringing the aircraft in for a landing on the runway. If all goes well, the chute will be repacked and Val will take to the skies again the same day to begin more and more rigorous flight tests to see how the aircraft performs under various conditions and how well it matches simulations. Flight trials are expected to last at least all week.

Progeny Mk2.1 Assembly Begins

The VAB work crews today began to assemble the three Progeny Mk2.1 rockets that will be launched in December. We are still missing the new Mk1-B boosters that have been redesigned to overcome the self-ignition problem, but they will be integrated late after they are delivered at the end of the month. We will have more details on the upcoming Progeny launches sometime next week.

KerBalloon Launches Continue to Pad Coffers

Thanks to the Progeny Mk2 failure shutting down all rocket flights, we’ve had to rely solely on our KerBalloon missions to bring in money and thankfully companies have been more than happy to send in contracts for the gathering of atmospheric data that our balloons offer. Being able to climb 3x higher than airships opens up a whole new frontier for weather scientists. Our most unique mission this month so far has been deploying a balloon during an eclipse to observe how much Mun’s antumbra cools the area beneath it as it passes over.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Hot on the heels of last week’s capture came this one from Jool, which shows Laythe dropping a shadow on the cloud tops as it passes by. Jool is the furthest planet from the sun that can still have shadows appear on its surface. The moons of Sarnus and beyond are too small and the light from the sun too diffuse to allow shadows to be visible on the planets. Val hopes to catch a double-shadowed double-transit later this year as we approach opposition with Jool.

illiwsd.png
There’s literally a pixel in the lower left corner that is Bop
 
 

Thanks to weather and prepping for her test pilot duties, Val did not have a lot of time this week to go chasing after transits. Most likely next week will be just as busy for her as well.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 10/7/16

v1.2 next week!! Can’t wait, despite all the recent turmoil that came of the huge developer departure. It’s a shame things went down the way they did. Sure a lot of them could have had expired contracts they couldn’t or didn’t want to renew but the way they left just smacked of dissatisfaction with their working conditions under Squad management. I really hope most if not all of them eventually return to the modding community and go back to enjoying doing their own thing. Regardless they left KSP in a great state as far as I can see.

Another rather large issue that has come up is the fate of KerbalMaps.com, which seems to have gone under for good. I was working rather closely with the author of the site to increase the zoom levels and update the terrain and biomes to the newer versions when he suddenly stopped communicating in early July. I poked him twice since then but never got a response. Then the site went down in late September and since it had happened earlier this year I waited to see if it would come back. It didn’t, so I tried another email. Nothing. I then did a whois lookup for the domain and found a phone number registered to it. Called that and left a message on a generic voicemail so no idea if I actually reached the author. I know his full name and location but couldn’t dig up any news articles about him. The domain itself is locked down probably because he failed to pay his server bills.

An unfortunate state of affairs given how much the Flight Tracker relies on the service to provide its dynamic content. I will now have to divert time and effort to bringing it back in some capacity to use, and hopefully that won’t have too detrimental an effect on my lead time in the process. We shall see.

 

Edited by Drew Kerman

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Operations Summary – Week of 11/21/16

Preliminary Crash Report for C7 Civvie Prototype

It’s been a busy week for our aircraft partners over at C7 Aerospace Division following the crash of the Civvie prototype during its first flight trial at the beginning of this week. Before we get to details involving the crash we should look at how the Civvie performed in flight, because fly it did despite worries that it might be too heavy as the airframe was built very strong to handle any problems during flight or landing that involved the ground.

The takeoff roll was performed at full throttle, taking 43 seconds and just under 2km to achieve a rate of positive climb @ 58m/s, although a small 3s hop just prior to takeoff did occur due to a bump in the turf. Flaps were set at 2 notches for takeoff and raised after positive climb was confirmed. Still at full throttle, Commander Val was able to establish and maintain a climb rate of 5m/s all the way up to 1km ASL with speeds ranging from 60-65m/s. During the climb she attempted to maintain a heading of 270 but even slightly adjusting the roll of the aircraft produced a great deal of sideslip, as much as +/- 5°, that slewed the aircraft slightly off course. Overall control in a westerly direction was maintained. Upon reaching 1km ASL she leveled off and conducted a gradual left turn of 15-20° back towards KSC, attempting to maintain attitude. Upon initial roll to the left a large slideslip was recorded of +/- 15° but Val was quickly able to properly coordinate the turn with her rudder and came about facing KSC still at 1km ASL, when she cut throttle completely to prepare for landing. Descending at 5m/s speed increased to over 70m/s and 1 notch of flaps were deployed. Falling below 700m ASL descent rate was increased to 10m/s and flaps notched to 3 (maximum). At around 300m ASL Val realized she was not well-aligned with the runway and attempted to correct her course with some large banking maneuvers over 20°, which also introduced a large amount of sideslip that was not properly corrected. Eventually these maneuvers oscillated into a sideslip so great it yawed the aircraft almost completely around at about 4m AGL, which caused airflow under the tail to flip the Civvie over and land upside down on the ground just south of the runway edge.

civvie-prototype-flight-path_30168396496_o-150x150.png civvie-prototype-flight-path_30168396296_o-150x150.png civvie-prototype-flight-path_30168396376_o-150x150.png
Various views of the Civvie’s 28km flight path

Post-analysis of the crash so far shows that although the Civvie’s extra-tough construction did its job in keeping the airframe intact and preventing Val from being crushed upon impact, she was still very lucky in that the large slew and flip-over dropped her speed from a bone-crushing 70m/s to a still bruising but survivable 44m/s. The impact force was just over 4Gs. The tail of the Civvie was bent upon impact and the right wing was also deformed as the aircraft slid along the ground and it dug into the incline of the runway, spinning the craft roughly 90° to its final resting position. The engine was almost completely destroyed as the nose was the first to impact the ground, which also crumpled and absorbed most of the shock.

The final decision as to whether this event was a cause of pilot error, design error or both is still under review. Crash investigators have yet to interview Commander Val, who was just today put back on active duty after spending the week recovering from her injuries, which only involved heavy bruising from her straps and a slight knock to the head. A complete check on the Civvie’s airframe and systems is also still underway in the HAB. We expect to hear more, if not a final verdict, sometime next week. We’re just happy Val is okay!

Progeny Mk2.1 Continues Readiness for Launch

The VAB crew has already begun assembling the first stage Mk1-A boosters with their new decoupler units and also readying the payload sections of the rocket. 3 rockets are being assembled simultaneously, although the fins on two are only being loosely attached so they can be adjusted as necessary for later flights based on the performance of the original design. The new and improved Mk1-B boosters are due to arrive next week so they can begin getting assembled and integrated as well. Overall, Simon says everything is on track for early next month and we’re excited to get back to launching!

KerBalloon Launch Updates

Since we’ve been unable to launch any rockets this past month, our KerBalloon program has been the main source of income for us. At the beginning of the month we received 10 additional units, our largest order to date, and so far we have used all but 3 for various clients to gather pressure and temperature data in the region around KSC. Launches have occurred both on land and sea, with support from the Maritime Service Vessels.

One unit was used to test our Mk1-B booster theory in the destruction of the Progeny Mk2 and because we couldn’t spare a parachute or had any way to attach it, the unit itself just floated up and burst as normal then came crashing back to the ground. KerBalloon took note of this design oversight and now has given us the option to attach parachutes directly to the balloon casing itself.

Another launch worthy of note was a recent deployment at sea which sank upon landing. The KerBalloon unit cases are designed to be buoyant, so no additional flotation devices are needed. We are still unsure of exactly what happened to cause the payload to sink as the recovery vessel did not witness the splashdown, it only arrived at the last transmitted location to find nothing. While partially equipped for salvage operations, scans of the sea floor did not turn up anything conclusive, as it is very rocky down there and scan resolution was not great enough to pick out the probe from the scatter. We examined the remaining units for any flaws that might have contributed to the sinking but did not uncover any. Unfortunately this mystery may never be solved, although we’ve mandated stricter recovery operations for water landings in the hopes of catching one sinking in action if it does occur again.

Finally, we got tired of not having photos of these balloon flights and while we still don’t have great camera technology we managed to strap on two basic cameras with only 30° field of view and send them up in lieu of science instruments. The photos they returned with were pretty amazing – click the photo below for an album of the best ones.

cool-pics-balloon-flight_30235137561_o-3

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

While Val was recuperating Bob was borrowing her telescope for some skygazing and managed to catch a very tight view of Jool with Tylo transiting and Laythe & Vall also in the picture. An interesting thing about this photo is that although the size of Laythe would make you think it’s closer to us then Vall, the opposite is true, and it’s just the fact that Laythe is nearly twice the size of Vall that it looks closer.

8swWQ1K-1024x640.png

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 10/17/16

It’s been a week since v1.2 has arrived and things are looking pretty good already from a mod standpoint:

305 mods used
120 (39%) updated to v1.232 critical mods remain

That’s not too shabby if you ask me. Being up and running completely on v1.2 within a month would be beyond my initial expectations. Some of the most worrisome updates, like RemoteTech, have already happened even, and other stuff like FAR and KSPRC have been announced as being worked on. So it’s just sitting back, waiting and watching for new updates to hit every day.

But let’s talk about the Civvie flight, which for a while I was afraid I would not be able to do under v1.1.3 because of the wheel physics. I could not get the aircraft to takeoff with the wheel configuration as shown to the public without it wobbling side to side and flipping out at around 30m/s. I checked the design numbers in the FAR analysis window and even posted on the forums about it and confirmed it was a wheel issue not a FAR issue. Finally I got a takeoff without control input using this configuration:

ksp_x64-exe_dx9_20161006_131614

Those are medium-sized gear tweakscaled down and the small-sized gear used for a tailwheel. This setup matched the same angle of the aircraft at rest on the ground that the trike fixed gear setup achieved. I eventually realized it was just the tail wheel that was causing the trouble, and could have ditched the medium gears for the fixed gears but I chose not to, because having the medium gears on the wings made the aircraft more unstable but still controllable, which ultimately led to Val’s crash. I didn’t want to crash, I really did want to land the aircraft, but the likelyhood of a crash happening without me intentionally crashing increased thanks to the gear on the wings. This was ultimately a good thing as it let me slow things down and lengthen the pace of development while I focused on the v1.2 release and the loss of KerbalMaps.com.

Also some insight into the details behind the report you read at the start of this entry:

Untitled-300x188.png

I record everything with Fraps and then save it as a Divx file for much smaller size. So it’s very easy to go back and analyze things in detail. You’ll also notice the sky is not the sky you would see using Scatterer and EVE, because I don’t have any visual enhancements running when I do actual flights, for performance reasons. So how did I achieve a photo like the one showing the aircraft on takeoff? VesselMover combined with AirPark lets me place the craft at a height and orientation of my choosing, which was along the path generated by PersistentTrails so I can take a good photo that would hold true to the original flight conditions.

 

Edited by Drew Kerman
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Operations Summary – Week of 11/28/16

Progeny Mk2.1 Launch Delay

Unfortunately despite the amazing effort of our launch teams today, circumstances just weren’t in our favor and the long-awaited return to flight of the Progeny rockets had to be postponed until tomorrow, earliest. The battery issue that caused the initial launch hold which led to the scrub is still under investigation and Simon is very concerned that a bad battery made it through the integration testing. On the weather front we can’t say much other than at the time of this writing it’s still raining, and still raining hard. Generally the type of storms that come through and dump a large amount of water don’t last very long, but this one has been rather persistent and we’ve already got large streams of water flowing down from the Grasslands and under our causeway bridges to the ocean. The Kerblantic ocean itself seems to be still having a fit, and an offshore storm has created a surge in sea levels that threaten to spill over onto our shores.

We’re hoping the weather passes overnight so we can try to launch on Saturday at 20:20 UTC. All crews have agreed to working on the weekend and Mortimer has approved the overtime thanks to the great last month we had for income. Expect another update from our twitter account on launch conditions sometime early tomorrow.

We’d also like to mention that although it has been declared on twitter that Mk2.1 integration has been going smoothly with all pieces ready and available, this is not quite the case. We did suffer a small parts shortage thanks to that recent KerBalloon payload loss, which carried with it to the bottom of the sea a TDU, payload truss and parachute, all of which are parts we regularly re-use. We had to order new parts to replace these as otherwise there wouldn’t have been enough for a third Mk2.1 as well as being able to continue balloon launches. Thankfully Simon was able to plan for them late in integration for just the third rocket and so, overall, integration has indeed progressed smoothly.

Civvie Reconstruction Begins

If you missed it, C7 released the accident investigation final report earlier this week, where they announced that the Civvie would be rebuilt for additional flight trials sometime in December. Towards the end of this week HAB crews began to take off the tail fin and damaged wing sections of the aircraft. The engine has already been removed and junked after it was inspected, the Civvie will be getting a new engine of the same model to replace it.

Asteroid Database and KSA Finance Updates

It’s the first day of a new month, which means we’ve closed our books for November and the Asteroid Tracking Network has updated their database with all the new space rocks found last month. We both had a great month, us all in the green again and the ATN collecting 60 new asteroids for a total so far of 93.

We’re also polling on behalf of the ATN whether they should change to releasing reports weekly or stick to monthly. You can vote here on twitter. Your opinion matters!

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Partially visible over KSC this time, the last Minmus transit of 2016 was seen by all who managed to haul themselves out of bed at 2:30am :P This of course included Commander Val, who snagged the shot below from the top of the VAB. Minmus was still in transit when the sun set hours later.

Don't clean your screen. That dot on the sun is Minmus!
Don’t clean your screen. That dot on the sun is Minmus!
 

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 10/25/16

Ok so the big question of the week might probably be how I pulled off the shot in the VAB with the “ceiling cranes”.

mk21-final-integration_30459022225_o-102

Well it’s some pretty complicated image compositing work, and it took me about 2-3 hours to do because I was so out of practice since I did it the last time for the previous KSA run. There’s a lot of things to get done in the proper order. Here are the images that were used to make the final scene:

Blank slate for background, made by offsetting the whole rocket off-screen and then just waiting for VAB workers to move off-camera, where a game bug(?) keeps them there until you look at them
Blank slate for background, made by offsetting the whole rocket off-screen and then just waiting for VAB workers to move off-camera, where a game bug(?) keeps them there until you look at them

rocket in place with mid-section up but no clamps for proper shadow of rocket parts and proper visibility of detached rocket parts
rocket in place with mid-section up but no clamps for proper shadow of rocket parts and proper visibility of detached rocket parts

Using Action Groups Extended mod to get rid of the widget buttons and left-screen menu
Using Action Groups Extended mod to get rid of the widget buttons and left-screen menu

clamps attached to the mid-section
clamps attached to the mid-section

I forgot I needed to see the clamp behind the rocket nose
I forgot I needed to see the clamp behind the rocket nose

mid-section translated with offset tool above the screen
mid-section translated with offset tool above the screen

I took a lot more images that these, but these are the main ones that come together to form the final image. Most of the other images I took were because I couldn’t remember quite how I needed to set the rocket up for the various images I needed (as you can see where I forgot about lowering the rocket nose), so I fell back on a bit of trial and error. Other images were so I could add in some VAB crew afterwards. Then it was just erasing the girders underneath the launch clamps and keeping the ones on top (with some additional compositing to “twist” the girders to angle into the clamps). I also used floaty so I could pan the camera around and return it to the original viewpoint (tho if I had accidentally moved the camera I would have been screwed).

Here are some images from the previous KSA iteration that feature ceiling cranes:

22414498105_64895a7d83_o-150x150.png22226530670_4ff3de6dbe_o-150x150.png21791644634_ef48aea6d4_o-150x150.png

 

Edited by Drew Kerman
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Posted (edited)

Operations Summary – Week of 12/5/16

Progeny Mk2.1 Flight 1 Analysis and New Launch Dates

We’re still extremely pleased with the success of the Progeny Mk2.1 and have spent the last few days since the launch going over the telemetry data recovered from the TDU. Engineers report that everything went as expected for this flight, the first of three that we have planned for the Mk2.1. You can review all the data yourself online here at Google Sheets. We will continue to release telemetry data whenever possible. This launch of the Progeny Mk2.1 reached an apokee of 2.786km ASL, the highest-flying rocket to date. It also managed to set another record of 374.189m/s for speed during powered ascent and although it came up well short on the G record, the tumble taken by the payload after second stage separation was still pretty extreme at 16.6 Gs. The payload landed 954.9m downrange of the launch site after traveling 6km.

Something you may have noticed when watching the launch footage for the Mk2.1 is that the second stage was lit off prior to the first stage burnout, and there is a split second where, even though the decoupler has fired, the two boosters remain joined together. This was a deliberate action by the launch controllers and was done to test whether the lower stage would explode. It did not, which only further reinforces the theory that the rapid collapse of the engine shroud and the slamming together of the two booster stages is what caused the Progeny Mk2 lower booster to explode shortly after launch, not just the ignition of the second stage booster by the impact.

You can also see the payload tumbling in the launch footage after separation. We suspect this is due more to the close passing of the booster rather than an actual strike of the payload. Interestingly, after separation the loss of weight on the booster turns the fins into a propeller that carries it up and away at a faster rate than the payload itself. We’ve already made note of this for future Progeny designs.

The next two launches for the Mk2.1 will occur on 12/13 @ 16:50 UTC and 12/15 @ 17:00 UTC. No changes to the rocket will be made for either flight. The flight procedures will change however, with the second flight coasting until maximum TWR on the second stage before continuing the ascent. We will then use the data from the first two flights to see if we can determine an optimal time for lighting off the second stage booster.

We’d also like to mention the Kerbal Sounding Project, announced earlier this week, which came about as a bet between Drew and a business friend.

Civvie Rebuild Continues on Schedule

No problems have been reported by C7 as they continue to rebuild the Civvie to begin flight trials once again, this time with Captain Jeb rotating in for his turn at the controls after recovering from his injury. Right now they are aiming to do ground trials by the end of next week or possibly just rolling straight back into flight trials on the 19th of December. The C7 team is hoping to get in a full week’s worth of flight trials before going on break for the week of New Year celebrations.

Jeb says he’s very excited to get a chance to pilot the craft, and Val has given him a thorough debrief on the behaviors of the Civvie.

Report on the “Perfect Storm”

If you’d like to know more about the whopper of a storm that passed through the area last weekend and totally washed out our first launch attempt for the Progeny Mk2.1, you can read this report we released earlier this week. Meteorologists are pretty sure the conditions that produced this extreme weather don’t come around often, which is good news.

Asteroid Hit & Miss

There’s been a lot of Doomsday reports circulating about the asteroid the Asteroid Tracking Network announced back in October that was on a collision course for Kerbin, despite their efforts and ours to make the public aware that the asteroid was very small and likely posed no danger to the surface of Kerbin, let alone everyone living beneath it. Thankfully now all that can be laid to rest as the asteroid, designated OVD-128(A), behaved exactly as expected and completely burned up on entry into our atmosphere at the end of this past week. Yes, there are many deadly space rocks out there but this was not one of them. The ATN has still worked harder to clarify their public announcements to hopefully avoid any undue panic in the future.

However it turns out that Kerbin was indeed hit with an asteroid this past week – last weekend while we were dealing with flooding seismographs in Kravass City detected a very small quake-like signature from the opposite side of the planet, in a region not known for groundquakes. It took a few days for scientists to put together an expedition and travel to the location, but when they arrived they found a crater 1.65m wide and 2.3m deep and showing all indications that an asteroid had survived entry through the atmosphere and struck the surface. They are still out there scouring the area for debris to collect and study. Asteroids remain from the birth of our planetary system and could reveal a lot about our past. Right now they have no estimates for the size of the object that impacted, although they speculate it was probably a Class-C or -D rock, some of the largest out there.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Once more – with shadow! Val had already taken an earlier photo of Ike transiting Duna but the angle from Kerbin to Duna at the time prevented us from also seeing the shadow crossing the planet the same time Ike did. Now that we are near opposition (it occurred on 12/5) we can see Ike transit and its shadow together on Duna.

ike-transit-with-shadow_30737525936_o.pn

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 11/9/16

This week was all about recovering from dropping KSP altogether to finally play through Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, which was pretty great. Better in some ways than Human Revolution (boss fights) but also a bit worse (how your actions are interpreted by the main story). Still, it was Deus Ex and it was great, can’t wait for the next one.

Anyways it took me about 3 days to actually be able to run KSP again since I had to catch up on forum posts and updates (didn’t help it was the day v1.2.1 dropped) and just get back into the “mindset” of where the KSA was at, which also meant re-reading all the un-posted content so I could edit things and ensure that continuity was maintained between events (it’s really easy to forget something else is going on the the story and totally drop that thread if I don’t make careful notes in my text file).

In regards to operations this week, the KSC flood was a simple matter of adjusting the water height in the Scatterer settings, which you can change and apply quickly in-game. The Mk2.1 launch footage was captured with the help of a simple kOS script in order to get the timing of events just right since I couldn’t see the interface to time it manually (launches are still all done manually by me). The worst was the asteroid re-entry image, which took a lot of time because if I didn’t get the shot setup right before the asteroid burned up and was destroyed CameraTools would cause the game to throw an NRE when I tried to revert back to an older save and I had to restart it. I finally managed to get the offset values right for the fly-by camera position and ended up with a view close to the ground that I used to take the final image. The long trail is thanks to Re-Entry Particle Effects.

Still not on KSP v1.2.1 and I won’t be until you see all the red items on this list get updated.

 

I finally figured out a good use for this thread again. Since I can't embed tweets into spoiler tags (to keep this thread from becoming a scroll fest with hugely-long posts) I won't be posting mission reports, but since the Imgur embedding works again I can properly format the Weekly Operation Summaries! I think these are a much better fit for the forum anyways in retrospect, especially since they are only posted once a week.

Stand by though, as I have a bit of a back log to catch up on, and will be posting all the ops summaries from the past few months here over the few hours (need a break in between posting so they aren't merged)

Edited by Drew Kerman
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Operations Summary – Week of 12/12/16

Progeny Mk2.1 Launches Conclude

This week saw the final two Progeny Mk2.1 rockets take to the skies and return successfully to the ground. You can review Flight 2 and Flight 3 in the Flight Tracker and see exactly how it all played out now that we included staging updates. Moving forward the Flight Tracker will continue to offer up more and more information about launches as they happen. The third flight finally broke the 5km altitude barrier that was set by the Kerbal Sounding Project for our next bounty and we now have a new target of 10km. But first, the rocketry teams need to fully analyze and compare all the data that was gathered during the flights before we can push forward to the Mk3. You can see telemetry data from the Mk2.1 launches on Google Sheets (1 | 2 | 3) and view the videos of all the launches here on our YouTube channel. How about that Flight 3 video huh? It’s the best we can do right now for onboard rocket footage unfortunately, but at least it’s something! Hope we didn’t make anyone too sick watching it :P

Expect a full report on all 3 Mk2.1 launches to drop sometime next week, and stay tuned for news of the Mk3 next year!

Civvie Prototype Returns to Flight Status

After a lengthy overhaul and reconstruction, our fixed-wing experimental aircraft built in conjunction with C7 Aerospace Division has finally reached flight ready status once again. With Captain Jeb at the controls (no punishment for Commander Val crashing the last flight, it’s simply just Jeb’s turn) it will hopefully take to the skies next Monday assuming no problems found during ground taxi. The rebuilt aircraft has a larger vertical stabilizer that engineers say will help with the aircraft’s yaw issues during flight, although ultimately they feel a longer tail boom will be required to provide a greater leverage effect for the rudder. Assuming the day’s flight goes well, Jeb and Val will continue to trade off taking the Civvie up for a series of flight trials throughout the week to see how it performs under various specific conditions.

KerBalloon Operations Set to Wrap for 2016

Along with everything else, our KerBalloon ops are ready to come to a close next week after we used up our second-to-last unit this past week gathering temperature data for Vac-Co Systems. Contracts for balloon flights were slow to come around this month thanks to the good work we did the previous month – all our past customers were still chewing on the data we gave them! This week however our Operations Director Drew Kerman signed off on the final two contracts that will use up our current stock of KerBalloon units. Next year we will be receiving a shipment of the new high-altitude balloons which also come carrying their own parachutes.

Meeny Crashing into Kerbin in 2030?

Meeny's orbits after 20 Mun encounters
Meeny’s orbits after 20 Mun encounters
 

Astronomers today released the image to the right, which shows the various orbital trajectories Meeny will take as it continues to encounter Mun at various times over the next 14 years, until it finally ends up on a course to impact our atmosphere. The trajectory for Post Encounter 1 is the orbit the moonlet is currently on, and you can see this current data in action over at the Flight Tracker. After encounter 4 it will re-encounter Mun before it even completes one orbit, which will ultimately send it off on the highly elliptical trajectories you see via the dashed plots. This double Mun encounter is integral to the final outcome, but also introduces a lot more variables into the problem and leaves astronomers unsure if they’ve properly calculated the following orbits.

In addition, in general out past 3 years astronomers say things start to get fuzzy, as we don’t yet have the highly-precise measurements of Mun that we would need to continue to integrate the orbits precisely. They hope that once we have some satellites around Mun to take better measurements of its gravitational effects they can refine these predictions. The only other likely fate in store for Meeny however is to be flung back out of the system instead of into Kerbin.

Should Meeny impact Kerbin before we are able to intercept and redirect it to a stable orbit, the outcome would be highly questionable. It is a Class-C asteroid, which has an pretty equal chance of hitting the ground or burning up on entry. It’s composition is stony, which means it could be a loose rubble pile or more solid rock. Even if it does strike the surface, the impact effects of what little of its mass survives the re-entry would be local to only a few hundred meters.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Val has actually been away from her ‘scope all week – it was a busy one for all our staff at KSC. So we’ll have to be satisfied with this wonderful starry and nebula-laced sky from outside the tracking station one of our controllers took. Can you spot Neidon and Urlum?

beneath-a-starry-sky_25300771139_o

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 11/19/16

General Stuff

So this was a really busy week with two rocket launches and has confirmed to me that I don’t want to do this often, because I’m now lagging by a few days in my 1-month lead time. Still, everything went along pretty smoothly when it came to actually launching the rocket, taking the still photos, and taking the launch video. All three of these have to be done separately. The actual rocket launch is what collects the telemetry data that is shown, and is done without any visual enhancements to save performance. Then I reload the game with visuals and walk the time up to and through the launch to capture still photos, using data from the actual launch (I either import the landed payload to my alternate save game or use the Persistent Trails track to place it in the right spot with Vessel Mover). Then I program a simple kOS script based on what I did manually in the actual launch to create a very close repeat to film from various angles for the launch video that gets posted to YouTube. Here’s an example of the Flight 3 launch script:


wait until time:seconds > 8080020.
stage.
wait 3.5.
stage.
wait until time:seconds > 8080035.
stage.
wait until ship:verticalspeed < 0. stage. wait until ship:altitude > 500.
stage.

There were no major crashes or game issues that got in my way, it just took a lot of time to get through it all. There’s also the added challenge of doing nearly-similar launches in a slightly different manner so it’s not the same tweets being sent out 3 times in a row. I think I did a sufficient job mixing things up with delays and issues to keep things entertaining overall.

I also noticed a day after it went live the Flight 2 video was public on YouTube when I went to upload the Flight 3 video. I was like “excrements excrements excrements excrements excrements!” and after realizing I couldn’t hide and reschedule it I had to delete and re-upload it. What happened is that when I uploaded it originally although I set it to be scheduled I then forgot to actually modify the default scheduled date. Whoops. I really hate when stuff like this happens.

Onboard Video

Usually for my launch videos I have two views: the static lift-off view I record with KerbCam because the view doesn’t jump when the rocket is launched like CameraTools does, and then the tracking cam view from CameraTools. For the Flight 3 onboard video I added a third view from a camera aboard the truss via HullCam. Turns out the payload fairings have a small gap in them and while I didn’t consider it realistic to show in the launch video, here you can check out the launch from inside the payload. You’ll notice the spin-up when the second stage kicks in.

The second thing to note about this video is that the footage you see during the freefall and the footage you see after the chute deploys are from two different shoots. I originally wasn’t going to include the final shots of the payload spinning and just fade out while under chute as normal but then I admitted to myself that someone might ask – “well if the footage from the fall was so crazy, why not wait until after the chute deploys so it’s slower?” – because there are a lot of smart people in my audience. So I was like fine and went back for another shoot. Now I don’t know the exact reason why this doesn’t actually work in KSP, but when the chute deploys the payload does not slow its spin like it should thanks to the larger diameter chute being directly connected to it. Rather than cheap out with a reason like “the payload is hooked to the chute cords with a free-rotating swivel” or something like that I simply attached a single booster to the payload and fired it straight up from the landing location, which only had enough flight time to give it a much slower spin rate. I then decoupled everything, deployed the chute at the same altitude as the actual flight and filmed the slower spin footage as it came down.

Meeny Plots

If you also use Mission Architect and wonder how I did the Meeny plot figure, it’s pretty simple. I just kept coasting to the next SOI and then after I passed Mun and was back to orbiting Kerbin I saved the orbital state data as another spacecraft, which let me continue to progress the actual orbit while leaving behind the previous orbits rendered as additional spacecraft. Sometimes even after setting the max SOI searches to 100 (Script->Execution Settings) I wouldn’t hit Mun again so I had to coast the orbit and search again. Eventually after 20 encounters I ended up with the final figure.

I should also note that Meeny was not a deliberate action on my part. The previous KSA run also had a Meeny moonlet and it too was brought about purely through normal game mechanics. I just got even luckier this time around and it happened sooner.

 

Edited by Drew Kerman

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Operations Summary – Week of 12/19/16

Progenitor Program Moves to Phase 3

Which is another way of saying the Progeny Mk3 rocket is ready to be debuted at the start of our operations next year in 2017. Progenitor Program scientists and engineers have been working hard on the Progeny Mk2.1 data all week to finalize their plans for the Progeny Mk3. All we will say right now is that it will aim to break our next altitude goal of 10km, and possibly higher. We don’t expect to reach space until our liquid fuel rocket arrives for Phase 4 and none of these rockets are expected to make orbit – that will be a totally different rocket program. Phase 5 of the Progenitor Program will focus on rocket control for internal systems when out of range of KSC communications.

If you haven’t already, do check out the report released earlier this week that went into more detail about the timing of the second stage booster and how the different coast times affected the apokee of the rocket.

Civvie Prototype Passes Trials, Production Model Next

C7 engineers are very pleased with the data that was gathered during the various flights of the Civvie prototype by Commander Valentina and Captain Jebediah this past week. The biggest problem the prototype has was its sideslip issues causing a large amount of yaw during level flight and turns, which was corrected by attaching a taller vertical stabilizer. Even during Jeb’s first flight the sideslip very rarely surpassed 5° in either direction and did not exceed 10°. The production model of the Civvie will have a longer tail boom, which will give the rudder a greater amount of torque effect for better control authority in this region. The production model will also have better handling and flight performance since it will be built much, much lighter than the prototype. This means it will not withstand crashes nearly as well, but flight data have shown that under the right operating conditions the Civvie is a real joy to fly and handles great in stalls, dives, steep turns and apparently can even pull off a vertical loop (not to be recommended in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook). Landing posed various issues for both pilots but the lighter weight of the production version will take a lot of load off the undercarriage suspension, which will help greatly.

The production model will begin construction in the HAB when we return to operations in January. The prototype will be used at the start of the year for several more science flights and then be flown to Kravass City for its retirement in the Air History Museum.

KerBalloon Probes Ready to Soar Higher

We’ve finally run through our entire stock of 10 KerBalloon units this week that were shipped to us back at the start of November. Various contracts were satisfied, although we are still not sure what happened to the one unit that sank at sea after splashdown. The MSV did not reach it for some time so it could have just been in the water too long and a small crack in its casing that wasn’t noticed during final integration could have taken on enough water for it to sink. KerBalloon assures us they are doing their own tests to ensure a properly-built unit can stay afloat for several hours after landing. Overall though the KerBalloons performed with great quality and consistent results.

Next year we will be receiving a shipment of our regular standard KerBalloon units but also taking delivery of a smaller sample of high-altitude balloon units for testing. These new balloons are made of a lighter, more flexible material that can expand further without ripping or tearing, which is the fate of the current balloons and the reason they are unable to make it out of the lower atmosphere. Scientists are hoping these new balloons can open up the upper atmosphere (>18km) to researchers. Both units will come equipped with their own parachutes as well.

KSA Archives Online

If you’ve been lagging behind on goings-on at the KSA then the best place to catch up on everything would be the Archives section of the website, where you can access images, videos, mission logs, tweets, and more.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Eve and Sarnus, two of the brightest objects in the night sky, came together this week and of course Val was ready. They look the same size but Sarnus is in fact still a little bit bigger in this image, though not by much. Also visible is Gilly near apoev at the bottom and the three Sarnus big moons of Eeloo, Slate and Tekto.

eve-and-sarnus-appulse_30506089534_o-102

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 12/2/16

This past week or two was very rough. A lot of it was spent on real-life stuff like Thanksgiving and insulating my office against the cold weather that is now encroaching. But I’m nice and toasty warm now so it was worth it – trust me typing with cold, cramped fingers sucks. You’ll note that I’m writing this in Decemeber and the KSA is still in December – not good. But I’ve had to get through a bunch of new experiences in flying aircraft in KSP and had to develop several new techniques for doing things. Hopefully with all that now streamlined I can recoup the lead time I’ve lost.

Reliving the Flights

One of the biggest new techniques I’ve devised is how to fly an aircraft with minimal graphics settings, then go back for photos of the flight with maxed-out graphics settings. I have a decent computer but still, running high-res graphics with all the mods I have installed takes a toll, and I’m generally getting 17-20 FPS with a constant yellow time, which means physics ticks are being dropped and I don’t like that. Plus reducing the graphics and upping the framerate makes for a more enjoyable and responsive flying experience (I’m still on v1.1.3 so the garbage collection snags remain an annoyance though).

So the technique combines several mods: HyperEdit, VesselMover, Persistent Trails, Kerbal Engineer Redux (KER) and AirPark. It goes like this:

  1. Record the flight on video
  2. Choose a point in the flight video I want to take a photo – make note of the Lat, Lng and AGL from KER
  3. Convert the Lat/Lng from degrees/min/sec to decimal (honestly don’t know why KER shows it in this format)
  4. Show the trail of the flight made by Persistent Trails
  5. Plug the location and altitude into HyperEdit’s vessel lander and toggle the landing
  6. Use the I,J,K,L keys to fine tune the position of the aircraft to fall on/near the trail
  7. Activate the AirPark anchor when on/near the trail to freeze the vessel in place
  8. Activate VesselMover, which doesn’t let me move the vessel’s location (because AirPark is active) but does let me orient the vessel properly with the Q,E,I,J,K,L keys
  9. Use the HyperEdit misc function window to set the game to the proper UT time
  10. Remove all UI elements and take a screenshot

Here’s what it looks like in action:

ksp_x64-exe_dx9_20161130_080427

Using this technique I can closely if not exactly match the location (Lat, Lng, Alt) and orientation (pitch, roll, yaw) of the aircraft in order to get a photo. Now that I have the method down, it goes pretty quick jumping around for photos. This is how I got all the external camera views of the last two Civvie flights.

Wheels – I Screwed Up

So I finally realized what I was doing wrong with the wheels – I was overburdening them with the excess weight of the Civvie because I never tweaked down the wing strength. So it was too heavy for them. Adjusting the springs to their max made things much better, but still a bit difficult. Really, I should have tweaked down the wing strength and lightened the Civvie to the point where the wheels functioned well under their max spring settings. For some reason I thought the wheels auto adjusted to the weight that they were bearing when the craft was launched – pretty sure I read something to that extent in the dev notes prior to v1.0 but I guess something changed, or I didn’t interpret it properly. Anyways, lesson learned!

This also means pretty much all the landings I showed on the runway were “faked” to some extent. I mean yes I did actually come in at the speeds that were posted on twitter but the wheels on the runway were rather temperamental and, well… there was flipping. Nothing major that broke the aircraft but still a few tumbles that I didn’t feel were proper given the approaches I made. So they didn’t happen. I can’t and won’t let everything that goes on in the game dictate how the story plays out.

Yay Flying Again!

It was a lot of fun to break out the Saitek X52 and fly around. I’ve been a huge Microsoft Flight Simulator fan practically my whole life, since my uncle introduced me to FSII from SubLogic, what would eventually become MSFS. This was my flight sim setup prior to starting to really play KSP:

   
Saitek yoke, throttle cluster, rudder pedals, X52 flight stick

Saitek yoke, throttle cluster, rudder pedals, X52 flight stick

Later upgraded w/second cluster for twin engines and using my iPad for a radio stack

Later upgraded w/second cluster for twin engines and using my iPad for a radio stack

I still have all those controls and also have a Saitek Rhino X55 for dual-engine jets. I mainly use the joysticks only for KSP tho – setting up the yoke, throttle and rudder pedals is a bit of a pain.

So yea, I have a lot of experience flying single-engine propeller planes and I put that to good use putting the Civvie through its paces and all the terminology and approach work seen this past week. Good times. I still miss FSX though, and do continue to keep tabs on the flight simulation community.

Inventory Shortage

In a previous Desk Notes I showed how I keep track of what parts I have available. Well funny story is that this month I almost screwed up when I wrote that science instruments were being installed on the Civvie. Thankfully I didn’t note specifically which ones but I had planned to do temperature and barometer. However the KSA only ever had two and one of each was lost when the KerBalloon sank and the other ones were being used the same day for a KerBalloon probe. Rather than switch over to using the Aeronomy and Meteorological packages from the rockets, I just decided to include an order for replacement instruments earlier in the month on the finance sheet so I could use them in the Civvie. Yea, stuff like that happens and I need to retcon a little :P

“Same Yet Different” Challenge

The one thing that is challenging about repetitive events (this applied to the Progeny Mk2.1 launches as well) is making them interesting each time. I mean sure the Civvie was doing different things in the air but when it came to landing and taking off a lot of that is pretty routine. So finding ways to shake things up (like forcing the Rwy27 water approach and bringing in the MSV) and even finding new angles to capture images, is a constant challenge. The main objective is to never quite cover how things are happening more than 2-3 times the exact same way – hopefully never the exact same way. And it’s not just the images but the way things are tweeted, finding new ways to describe similar events. I enjoy that challenge from a writing perspective, and the 140 character limit and my personal limit of 2-3 tweets about the same event increase the challenge. Very enjoyable.

Vacation Time! Wait, No…

So now the KSA is on operations break, but that doesn’t mean I get to just jump ahead a few days unfortunately. I still need to timewarp through all the days so asteroids are generated, and the ATN isn’t on break so I will need to collect any new asteroid data that comes up for each day during the break, and maybe make note of significant celestial events or asteroid events that occur during that time. Meeny orbital data needs to be updated and new system charts published as well. So I still have a good deal of work to do during the “vacation” but it will definitely be a lot less than normal and get me closer to being one month or more ahead of things again. Onward!

 

Edited by Drew Kerman

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Operations Summary – Week of 1/2/17

KSA Operations Resume

Great to be back and kick off a new calendar year for the Kerbal Space Agency! This year should be very exciting as we plan to reach space with our Progeny Mk4 or Mk5 rocket and move onwards and upwards with our to-be-announced orbital program, which will begin its development phase this month. Unfortunately the week got off to a slower start than anticipated thanks to a delay of parts shipment from Kravass City, which suffered a major storm and grounded all airships on the day our delivery was due to depart. Although the storm passed by the end of the day, it hit us next so airship arrivals were cancelled. We hope to receive the parts by Monday to get started on the Progeny Mk3, Civvie Production Model and testing the new high-altitude KerBalloons.

Genesis Program Sees Income Growth

Now that the Civvie Prototype has been certified fully flight-capable we can start accepting contracts, and now that a physical observer (the pilot) is along for the ride we can do more than simple scientific readings. Several companies have already signed with us or expressed interest in receiving science data and/or dictated aerial reports of the areas sent to be investigated. Unfortunately do to the Civvie being a single-seat plane the crew reports are not very detailed or thorough, but they are at least acceptable. While the Genesis Program is still quite a ways from turning a profit, it’s starting to work more towards that direction at least. The one flight we got off the ground before weather closed in saw Valentina nail the first observation contract, and two more already await Jeb next week.

More Facility Work Suspends Operations

Seems a bit silly to come back for a few days and then go away again, but that’s what we’re going to have to do next week while additional work is done around campus to fix more building issues we’ve identified in the weeks since the last “patch job”. One of the new leaks that sprung up caused quite a foamy reaction in the chemical labs back in November. There’s also some structural concern in the VAB that needs to be inspected. We’re still planning to replace all our buildings entirely with new versions sometime in the future, but not all at once and only when we’ve determined all the current issues have been ironed out so that we have a solid foundation upon which to design our replacement facilities. Although it would have been nicer to just have another break on the end of the holiday break, the contractor refused to begin work earlier than later this month.

We will recap the events of next week with the following week’s recap.

Link & Image Highlights

Several links and images tweeted this week we feel deserve a mention here in case you missed them:

asteroid-census-2016_31539083432_o-300x270.png

2016 Asteroid Tracking Network Census

in-one-year-of-kerbin_31391823616_o-300x300.png

In One Orbit of Kerbin…

 

Twitter Moments – relive or discover some of the most notable events in KSA history
ATN Timeline – always be up-to-date on the latest news of any asteroids in the Kerbol system

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Val managed to catch Slate transiting across Sarnus and casting its shadow, although it was a near miss since sunrise is right behind Sarnus clearing the horizon and Slate was almost past when it rose. She would have had to wait a little over 8 days to try again.

slate-shadow_31520312452_o-300x187.png
Also visible are Eeloo to the right and Tekto to the left
 

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 12/17/16

It’s taken me 15 days to do a week’s worth of work. That’s… not good. But there is some hope because a lot of the time was spent doing stuff I should have done before restarting the KSA and now that it’s finished I don’t have to spend time on it anymore. I also had to deal with patching up my new living space to deal with the cold of winter moving in. Another thing I don’t have to spend time on once its done, which I think it pretty much is. I’m toasty right now writing this. Still, I’m way behind in lead time and that’s why the KSA is forced to take an ops break this month, especially given that I’ll be out of the country and away from KSP access for the better part of a week or so after xmas.

Program pages

The Programs pages was the huge project that took me like 3-4 days to nail down design and implementation and then an additional 2-3 days to get the hang of using properly and getting everything filled in. I was looking at the website for a similar role-play that actually took inspiration from my role-play, the Kerbal Aerospace Institute. They had a detailed page for their missions and craft with patches and ribbons and it reminded me that I had always wanted to do something similar – and I should have done something back before I started but thankfully it wasn’t too late to go back and collect and organize the data I need to build these pages as if they’ve been a part of the site from Day One.

Along the way doing this has made me feel even better organized in how I want to progress things, as I made myself sit down and think about future vessels that will be appearing for the different programs, as well as what are the goals these programs are chasing after. There’s also now even tighter integration between the site and the Flight Tracker/Crew Roster since I link to astronauts assigned to the program on their pages and the Flight Tracker sports Program/Vessel/Mission patches for vehicles that link back to their respective program pages. Even the finances sheet got an improvement – I moved the totals up to the header for each column, which now that I think about it makes a lot more sense. It’ll debut in the Jan finance report, I won’t go back and change the earlier reports because they’ll all be included in the Jan report anyways.

The downside is of course maintaining these pages has increased my daily workload depending on what events transpired that day. Hopefully I can streamline things a bit better as I get more experience working these new features into the role-play but I’m still lagging for it at the moment.

Switching to screencaps instead of video for long flights

I have a lot of space on my SSD but still, after an hour or so of flying my video capture files can equal 50GB or more in total size. I don’t really need 30FPS when I’m looking back for specific points in the flight, so instead I’m doing 1s image captures of the screen. The Civvie flight this week came out to 5,061 PNG images (8.85GB) which I then used a program to stitch together in batches of 1500 to create 4 mpeg videos (1.94GB) which were then combined and converted into a single DivX movie file of 2.01GB. That was for a movie 1h24m long. By comparison a regular capture 1h7m long would make a DivX file 2.12GB in size. So the end gains are minimal, but the size on disk during recording is much smaller, which is what I’m really after.

How non-rechargable batteries work

All batteries in the game are rechargeable, but I don’t have the KSA in possession of that technology yet, all our batteries are used once and then tossed. Now, for a solid fuel rocket and KerBalloon this isn’t a problem because they have no generators or alternators aboard to supply power, so they just run out of juice and stay out of juice. The Civvie however is a different issue due to its engine alternator supplying power. So to work around this I installed 20 of the 21 battery parts as normal using symmetry and then drained all their EC in the editor and shut off control to them so they wouldn’t receive any power. Then I used Module Manager to create a copy of that battery, same weight and cost, but able to contain the EC of all the batteries, then added one of those to the aircraft and disabled its electrical use. Now inflight I pin open the Part Access Window for the battery and whenever I need to send science data I begin the transmission and then enable the battery’s electric charge use, then cut it off immediately after the transmission clears, so the battery is drained but no alternator charge is applied, however it still takes advantage of the alternator while it is being drained. I know, genius.

Better terrain scatter settings

I was finally able to learn the cfg settings in Kopernicus to tweak in order to increase the distance at which terrain scatter renders. It also depends I’ve found on the terrain settings you can increase in the main KSP settings.cfg file, but the results are spectacular and are visible in this album of the Civvie flight this past week. It knocks my FPS down to 15, but never seems to go further no matter how much I increase the settings. So that’s good cause 15FPS is pretty much the low-end of tolerable for moving the aircraft around to setup for shots. The frame culling is good though and looking straight up at the sky returns me to >30 FPS because no static objects are in view.

I also improved performance a lot by going into the KSPRC config files and getting rid of all the seafloor scatter that was rendering beneath the ocean where I couldn’t see it anyways.

Genesis profit splits & crew report payout splits

I almost realized too late that anything being paid to the Genesis program should be cut 50/50 with C7 Aerospace just like expenses are. I think they would quickly become dissatisfied with our partnership if we were hogging all the income! Thankfully the first bit of Civvie income came in December so it wasn’t published before I changed it.

I’ve also nerfed by 50% the payouts for crew reports until I get a 2+ kerbed aircraft in the air, because how good of a report can you really make when you’re trying to fly the airplane?

Science intakes per mission

Now that I have my programs broken up and even have separate finance sheets for them to make it easier to update the income/expense totals on the program/vessel pages, science data intake income will now be reported on a per-mission basis instead of monthly so I can properly attach the profits to the proper program individually.

Crap you’re still here reading this? Thanks! But I don’t know why I’m still here writing this. I have a excrements ton of catching up to do…!!

 

Edited by Drew Kerman

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Operations Summary – Week of 1/16/17

KerBalloon Disaster Injures/Kills Crews

An unfortunate incident occurred during our last attempt to launch a low-altitude KerBalloon that resulted in the death of one crew member, serious injury to astronaut Bob Kerman and minor injuries to two additional crew, as well as the loss of one or two of our five UTVs. You can read the whole report of the landslide that caused the emergency here in this press release. We hope Bob will recover soon, and our condolences go out to the family of Thomeny Kerman, whose memorial service was held earlier this week. His body will be sent back to family in Sheltered Rock. Salvage operations have succeeded in returning both UTVs to KSC for us to look over and see what can be retained/rebuilt.

Civvie Science Flights Continue

The Genesis Program sees continued income roll in from its science flights, which have collected data from all 6 of the major biomes in the region around KSC (Water, Shore, Grasslands, Highlands, Deserts, Mountains). In addition several contracts have been satisfied to the delight of our clients, as both Val and Jeb record low-altitude aerial reports over areas around KSC. For more details on the various missions and contracts that were carried out check the Genesis Program page. Profit for the program is still a ways off, especially since the Production model of the Civvie is being built. Also Jeb had a pretty hard landing that almost pancaked the airplane and the gear needed to be replaced. We plan to have both Jeb and Val log much more flying time in the Production model to improve their skills.

Progeny Mk3 Booster Static Test

We had a successful ignition and firing of the new lower-stage booster for the Progeny Mk3, which was given to us for testing since Umbra Space Industries did not have the facilities to handle something that big. Our initial review of the test data shows all parameters within tolerances and we have sent the data on to USI for them to do an independent review and verify the results. Once they do, we will be receiving our full order for 3 Progeny Mk3 rockets and plan to have a similar launch campaign as the Progeny Mk2.1, with further plans beyond that for as many as 2 additional Mk3 launches. You can review the report for the static firing test via this twitter collection.

New Heights Reached with KerBalloons

Once again the KerBalloon Program beats out the Progeny Program in achieving the highest altitude record over Kerbin after the first test of the new high-altitude balloon resulted in an apokee of 24.990km. Although a great achievement, it’s important to note that this is still not even halfway to space. Still, we are happy that the balloon performed as designed and KerBalloon will be providing us with additional units once we test the remaining two to ensure there are no serious problems they need to address. The next two high-altitude launches will take place at sea next week, and the recovery of the probe out of the water will be an important final test after we lost a low-altitude balloon unit last year under unknown circumstances. You can view details on the KerBalloon Program page.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

The transit of Moho across Kerbol was an amazing event witnessed on both sides of Kerbin. We worked with astronomers to make sure the entire transit was captured and timed from start to finish. The total time was 8h27m23s. During that time Moho traveled from 0.57402°N to 0.15439°N latitude over Kerbol and was an average distance of 7,361,225km from Kerbin. There is predicted to be a second, shorter Moho transit later this year on Oct 15th but before then astronomers are even more excited for the upcoming Eve transit on Feb 22nd.

first-moho-transit-of-2017-full-composite_31778611956_o-1024x1024.png
The small speck of Moho moving across the disk of Kerbol. Images were taken
every hour after the start of the transit at 09:31:58 UTC
 

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 1/5/17

Back from a week in Dubai and working to catch up. I only have two weeks of lead time currently and that’s annoying. The good news is before I left I really felt like I was cruising along well in moving through the daily KSA operations. The bad news is that I was so busy over in Dubai I didn’t really get any time at all to seriously sit down and work on KSA stuff I wanted to while I was away from my PC and thus KSP – such as plot stuff, character development ideas, future Program planning, etc. I mean I knew I was going to be busy working but it was worse than I thought it would be unfortunately. But no sense boring you with the details, you can easily look up “Dubai 2017 fireworks” on YouTube if you want to check it out – note I could have gone out at the start of November to work on this so my week of work pales in comparison to what other people were doing! Anyways, lots of stuff to cover from this week…

Moho Transit

I was really excited to work on this and it came out so awesome if I do say so myself. So yes, with Distant Object Enhancement (or maybe stock I don’t know, DOE at least makes it easier to find planets in the sky) you can actually see Moho if you zoom in using Camera Tools. But that’s not enough since the sun is a glaring blob of brightness and the planet is lost in all that. So you need to have Kopernicus in order to tweak the appearance of the sun using the following MM config:


@Body[Sun]
{
  %Template
  {
    removeCoronas = True
  }    
  %ScaledVersion
  {
    %Light
    {
      %sunLensFlareColor = 0, 0, 0, 0
    }
    %Material
    {
      %rimBlend = 0
      %rimPower = 0
    }
  }
}

You also have to make sure Scatterer is removed if you have it, and having Environmental Visual Enhancements helps too on its own. In addition, Ambient Light Adjustment does change the apparent brightness of the sun’s surface, which can be useful for getting a good exposure. Now the transit started when the sun was not up over KSC but what I could do was lower the camera position with CameraTools until I was clipping into the ocean, which let me see through the planet and made the sun visible. So from just being at KSC I was able to zoom in and take a photo every hour. After taking all the images I layered them atop each other in Paint.NET to align them all and then marked Moho’s position on a separate layer that was then merged with the sun image I wanted to use for a backdrop. I used a sepia filter for the final result after reviewing several actual transit photos. So yes, this is the actual path and progress of Moho – I didn’t do any fancy math or orbital projection to determine where it would be on the sun’s disk and painted it there. Looking forward to the Eve transit next month!

Flash Photography

off-to-briefing_31724149525_o-300x188.pngTried my hand at simulating a flash used to photograph a night scene in this example with Jeb walking outside. I think it came out pretty well, with the brightness reflected off the ground to the building but not farther. It was just some layering combined with Ambient Light Adjustment to make a light exposure image and a dark natural exposure image then blending the two. I might use more than two levels of light exposure next time because I think the building wall is too evenly lit compared with the light on the ground and it should have probably been darker.

Meeny Orbits

So the fact that Meeny isn’t behaving as predicted isn’t an accident. KSP’s orbits are fixed so long as the vessel is not loaded into a flight scene – once you load a vessel and active physics takes over the precision is lessened and small teeny tiny orbital changes creep in, messing up any long-term predictions made using tools like KSP Trajectory Optimization Tool (Mission Architect). But again, I planned that by actively loading Meeny once a week and capturing new orbital data. Still not sure if I want to completely predict Meeny’s future or not.

Better Accessibility for Images

It was brought to my attention that the plots I was showing for Civvie flights were terrible for people with colorblindness. So moving forward I will be correcting this with the help of Coblis, which lets me drop an image onto its page and see how it will look for various symptoms of colorblindness.

New Mission Dispatch Format

I was posting mission dispatches by pasting the link to tweets in the page, which thanks to a WP plugin would format it into a tweet. This was a bit of a pain because I had to grab and paste each individual tweet link, which was tedious as hell (but still better than in the original KSA run where I had to take screenshots of tweets and edit them into individual images!). However I found that a full-page embed of a timeline of tweets looks really really good, and that’s just a simple single link paste, with an additional line of custom parameters to remove the header and footer. Yay time saving!

Overland Distance Determination

For the finance sheet I track how much fuel the UTVs use when traveling to a launch site to loft a KerBalloon, which means I need to know how many kilometers they travel to get there and back, and also track the flight of the balloon over ground. For the distance of balloon travel I use a fixed average, but the distance to the launch site and back changes each mission. I just figured out a stupid easy way to get this value – use HyperEdit to get a vessel in place at the location, then use VesselMover in conjunction with Persistent Trails. VesselMover lets me move the vessel around and I can track its distance with Persistent Trails, so I just move it over land along a plausible route back to KSC and note the travel distance.

Bob vs. Bill – Who to Injure?

The solution to this was pretty basic – I did a search for “Bill” and “Bob” in my text file containing all tweets and see who came up the least and thus needed some more attention. Unfortunately for Bob that attention came in the form of grievous injury but such is the life of a daring astronaut!

Idle Fuel Use

An annoying thing about operating the Civvie is that when the throttle is at 0 there is no fuel flow, yet the engine operates. I will have to see if this behavior persists once I finally upgrade to v1.2.2 (still waiting on FAR) and notify the Advanced Jet Engine folks if this is the case, as I believe they would be best suited to implementing idle fuel draw. For now though I just make sure not to fully close the throttle so there’s always fuel flow being registered to the engine the entire time its in operation.

 

Edited by Drew Kerman

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Posted (edited)

Operations Summary – Week of 1/23/17

Cosmic Shooting Gallery

This week has seen quite a lot of news about asteroids either whizzing by us or slamming into the planet – be that just the atmosphere or the ground. Scientists are still caught up with the impact of RAK-186(C) to the north along the border of the Tundra. This location is ideal for asteroid impacts or even just entries that mostly burn up in the atmosphere as the icy white surface of the ground makes the dark rocks stand out. Scientists are gathering up relatively large pieces (several centimeters in size) of RAK-186(C) but are also on the hunt for meteorites that have no association with this asteroid and have just fallen around the area from other space debris. Of course once this operation wraps up another expedition is planned to the interior of the Lower Continent to where yet another, larger asteroid was to have fallen. MHG-908(D) most likely survived more intact, and if so would have had a decent effect on the local flora and fauna in the area when it struck the ground. Scientists are expecting a crater, and hope to get out there sometime next month to investigate. Three more asteroids are currently buzzing past us at various distances, including KYM-011(C) at the closest recorded distance to date of only 103.890km!

Astronomers are not sure what is behind the uptick in asteroid events but they suspect it to be one of two reasons. The first guess is that this is how things are pretty much all of the time but we’re just now starting to get an idea of the frequency of impacts and near-misses due to the greater diligence of the Asteroid Tracking Network in hunting down these rocks. The other possibility is that we are currently passing through a denser field of asteroids at this time. Even though Kerbin’s orbit is circular, the thousands of rocks that orbit Kerbol with us could clump up into uneven groups that travel on more elliptical paths together. With more time monitoring asteroids, we should be able to eventually figure out which theory is correct.

High-Altitude KerBalloons Mostly Successful

We ran a most ambitious launch campaign for our KerBalloon Program this week when we dispatched the MSV Tongjess to sail to three separate locations over the span of a day in the south Kerblantic to launch two high-altitude balloon payloads and one low-altitude payload. Despite some weather troubles we eventually managed to launch and recover all three balloons, however one of the high-altitude units suffered a malfunction that caused the payload to return to the surface before reaching maximum altitude. The contracted agency for that mission understandably withheld full payment as a result. Upon review of the unit in the VAB engineers have come up with a theory as to what happened and we have passed the information on to KerBalloon to see what they think. Until this issue is resolved, our next high-altitude KerBalloon order is on hold. We still have 3 low-altitude units to deploy however.

Civvie Balloon Launch Under Consideration

Both the rovers that were involved in the landslide last week have been scrapped. This leaves us with 3 rovers, which is enough to carry all the equipment needed to launch a single balloon but not enough to carry extra fuel to extend their 160km range, which severely limits their sphere of operations around KSC. Before we go and purchase new UTVs however we are exploring the possibility of launching the balloons from the Civvie. How the units will be launched is still being discussed – there are complications with both over- and under-slung configurations. This might be the first use of the new radial decouplers we approved from Modular Rocket Systems earlier this month.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Val has been busy helping Bob with his recovery so there hasn’t been much time spent at the scope but she managed to still grab a few simple photos this week with just her camera, like this one of Mun and Minmus when they are passing by each other as Minmus is 5.7° from the ecliptic, very near to its maximum 6° inclination. The photo was taken at dawn.

mun-and-minmus-extreme-separation_31767495790_o-1024x640.png

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 1/8/17

Hells yea, I just did a game week in three real days. And a busy game week at that! If I can keep up this pace of 2-3 game days per real day I’ll be back to my month lead time as early as the end of next week and I can slow down to just one game day per real day so I can actually focus more on planning future projects and working on some new Flight Tracker features and stuff like that. Also, FAR looks like it will be updated around then so I can take the time to upgrade to KSP v1.2.2 from v1.1.3. For now though it’s pure catch-up mode still. I really don’t have much more to say right now. Just cruising along nicely. Here’s a little image editing comparison for you all though:

Copy-of-KSP_x64.exe_DX9_20170108_232048-
Untouched image
KSP_x64.exe_DX9_20170108_232048-300x188.
More clouds added

Just a simple layer merge of clouds rendered by Paint.NET so I would get a more broken cloud cover to suit the weather I wanted. I do a lot of subtle image editing to almost all the images I post. Maybe one of these days I’ll have to have a contest – Edited or Non-Edited and have people try to pick which is which :P

 

Edited by Drew Kerman

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Posted (edited)

Operations Summary – Week of 1/30/17

Genesis Program Goes Belly-Up Again

While on final approach to Runway 09, Captian Jeb dipped too low on his approach and found himself flying right into the last ridge before the KSC floodplain. His attempts to pull up and over did not succeed and the Civvie struck the ground wheels-first, bounced into the air, stalled and fell nose-first into the ground, flipping onto its back. This is a general description of the crash, a more detailed report will be released once the investigation into the incident is completed later this month by C7 Aerospace Division. Captain Jeb was securely fastened and walked away with only a minor head injury. The Civvie Prototype is currently stripped down in the HAB undergoing test to see what damage was done to its airframe and whether it will need to be scrapped or can be repaired to flight-worthy status. The Production model remains under construction and ended the week with all main fuselage and control parts attached. Now will come several days of internal wiring and cabling to connect all these new parts together and make ready for the addition of the engine and lighting system prior to the landing gear. It remains on schedule for trials later this month.

Kerbin Picks Up a Second Moonlet

An accidental discovery has led the ATN to recognize a second asteroid in orbit around Kerbin. Its trajectory clearly shows it was captured by Mun in much the same way Meeny was captured late last year. The main difference is that we did not see this capture happen, and it’s still a question whether it can be determined when the capture occurred. The asteroid has been given an ATN designation of DGG-266(B) and the Kerbin Astronomical Society has put a call out to the public to send in suggestions for its official name. You can read more about the new moonlet, including how it was discovered, in this press release.

Progenitor Program Remains on Track

Work has begun in earnest in the VAB to begin readying the three Progeny Mk3 rockets that will be fired off at the end of this month, with launch dates to be announced at the end of next week when the Mk3 boosters arrive. Until then the payloads and MK1 boosters are being readied for final integration. Our Lead Engineer, Simon, has informed us that everything is proceeding on schedule. The launch base has already been completed and will be moved out to the launch pad sometime next week. There has been discussion of using clamps like the ones seen in the VAB and used for the Mk3 booster test, but for the present we still prefer a launch base that we can pick up and move around relatively easier. Flight Director Lanalye and her team of launch controllers have also been busy working out the new launch timeline for the Mk3, which needs to take into account a brand new set of range protocols now that we will be launching over the water, as well as new recovery protocols as we will be working with the Maritime Service to collect the payload as it floats down.

Links from the Week

We closed out our books for January, you can find our updated finance report here, with totals now at the top and individual sheets for programs and vessels.

Also the weekly Asteroid Tracking Network database update can be found here.

We now have surface tracks in the Flight Tracker, and you can see the path of (almost) all our Civvie flights to date using this link and selecting them in the layer control in the top-right (Give it a little while to load all that data!) Each individual mission report now has a link to the track for that mission, if available, as well as on the Civvie program page.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

In ancient times, the sight of a sun rising while blocked out by Mun no doubt terrified our ancestors – the fiery red sky and the ominous black hole could be seen as a horribly portend of things to come. Thankfully nowadays we know better, but it certainly doesn’t make the event any less spectacular, as demonstrated by this week’s top celestial snapshot.

doom-rises_32190518766_o-1024x640.png

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 1/15/17

Okay so this week was a bit rougher thanks to some IRL stuff, but so it goes. The Civvie crash was a completely unintentional outcome of the last mission – that approach was reaaally feeling good! Damn that hill! But on the flipside it gives me an excuse not to fly for a while, which is one of the most time-consuming things to do since I can’t timewarp since the plane has no autopilot or even trim tabs – and I’m not going to wave my hands for the sake of saving a few minutes. Besides, I like actually flying. I still hope by the end of next week or so to be back to a full month of lead time.

Flight Tracker Update Plans

A big change to the Flight Tracker recently that happened behind the scenes is the switch from using Mean Anomaly to True Anomaly for calculating orbital trajectories. I probably should have done it from the beginning but it involved slightly more math and since I hate math I shied away from it. Luckily it didn’t hurt much in the long-run as the changeover was still relatively simple, but not without issues. Everything seems to be purring along fine again tho and it will also make things easier when entering new orbital data from KSP into the database.

Speaking of the database, a recent event has caused me to reconsider taking the time to implement a web interface for modifying my database tables. I currently use Microsoft Access but for a recent update on Meeny, the craft page was failing to show recent data. I had to re-export the database through MSAccess to get the fields to show up for the SQL fetch, even though they appeared to be there just fine in the MSAccess application. I have no idea how to tell if MSAccess saves things properly or why records show up in MSAccess but not when fetched by SQL for the page. So I’m going to just dump MSAccess & do a direct edit through a web interface, once I have the time to implement it after I catch up to my month lead.

After that, the next major public-facing feature will be the ability to track aircraft flights in real-time via the surface map in the Flight Tracker and also see the paths of previous flights, for which I did indeed record lat/lng data.

VAB Drop Shadows

Came up with a new technique for shadowing objects placed on tables in the VAB. Since the game only casts shadows on other objects or the floor, not the props scattered along the VAB sides, in the past I had to fudge the shadows myself. But now I realize I can take a photo, keep the camera orientation the same while moving the camera down so I can select a flat white object like a rover body, and move that up under the photo target, snap another image and then combine the two to erase the rover body. An example of the rover body in use:

KSP_x64.exe_DX9_20170110_150254-300x265.

Alright, on to the next week!

 

Edited by Drew Kerman

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Operations Summary – Week of 2/6/17

Medical Quarantine Partially Shuts Down KSC

It started last week with a few cases of respiratory sickness being checked into the support village medical center, but a few days later kerbs were showing up every few hours and flooding the medical ward. Those not feeling sick enough to check themselves in were still complaining of being short of breath or having a bad cough. Some of the earlier patients were on respirators by the time the Disease Management Organization was called in to take control of the situation. Given the size of the apparent outbreak, their first major action was to quarantine the KSC to ensure that nobody took this infection to nearby Umbarg City (many patients were transferred to medical centers in Umbarg but under quarantine protocols). Then they had to take blood samples from all remaining employees to see if they could identify any foreign agents that could be lying dormant in someone who has been unknowingly spreading the infection. However some of the DMO agents working in their own section of R&D came down sick without any prior exposure to KSC staff, which caused them to go to full HAZMAT protocol and only interact with KSC employees behind the yellow environment suits that would protect them from exposure.

So far the DMO has not made any formal announcement while it still works through all the blood samples collected from employees, including those that are in the hospitals. The quarantine/HAZMAT protocol has prevented kerbs from walking around outside without environment suits and while everyone has been staying indoors reports of respiratory problems have markedly decreased. The filters used in the KSC building’s environmental system cannot remove viruses from the air, so something larger like moss spores or tree pollen could be a cause.

We hope to have some news from the DMO next week. In the meantime limited work is being done in the admin offices, astronaut complex and R&D labs which are all environment controlled. The HAB and VAB however both remain shut down.

Third Moonlet Discovered

In a surprise announcement this week the Asteroid Tracking Network revealed a third moonlet of Kerbin, along with their theory on how it might have been captured without the help of Mun. The diminutive ICX-922(A) will be with us for a long while it would appear, and could be the first object from outside our system that we will visit some day. This discovery comes close on the heels of the second moonlet that was found by accident at the end of last month. What else is out there we don’t know about? There has been a rush lately on amateur astronomy equipment – so it seems lots of kerbs are eager to find out.

Colored Asteroids Fly By

Astronomers have known for a while now that a small portion (<6%) of asteroids they’ve been finding out in the Main Asteroid Belt between Jool and Duna have shown weird spectral signatures denoting some unknown element(s). However recently these strange asteroids have also been showing up in the crowd of Near Kerbin Objects that swing past our planet on a regular basis. Two of these asteroids cruised by this past week and astronomers were able to train the largest telescopes on them to get optical images. The resolution of these images was only a few dozen meters per pixel but still they were able to see greenish hues in one asteroid and magenta hues in another. Astronomers hope that one of the NKOs is on a collision course with Kerbin to see if any of the mystery material(s) makes it down to the ground for further study.

Program News

The Progenitor Program passed another milestone this week with the completion of the payload bays for the Progeny Mk3. The booster cores are not far behind and the lower-stage boosters are ready for shipment once KSC re-opens. Lead Engineer Simon expects a week and a half of final integration for the first rocket once assembly is allowed to resume.

Both Civvies remain in various states of assembly and repair. The prototype’s air frame has been found to remain flight worthy so it will just be needing a new vertical stabilizer and engine along with some external lighting parts that were also damaged. To be safe, engineers have decided to replace the landing gear as well. The production model is still in need of some more interior wiring and cabling work before the engine can be installed followed by the landing gear.

Since the report of icing, we’ve placed new orders for high-altitude KerBalloon units, which will arrive next month. We still have three low-altitude units but no contracts currently with which to use them on.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Val’s been waiting a long time for this one, in which you can just barely make out that the bright light of Laythe is partially blotted out due to the shadow of Vall falling across it as the shadow of Laythe falls on Jool. A double transit!

oMsFndR-300x188.png

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 1/24/17

I’m a little over two weeks ahead and lost a lot of ground last week when I was sick enough to not even be able to sit in front of the computer and get stuff done. I literally spent whole days just lying down. It was rough, I think it’s been at least 10-12 years since I last had to do that.

The sickness inspired the current plot device that’s underway right now with KSC falling under quarantine and everything. It’s a nice way for me to back off on things and recoup my lead time. I was originally not going to do this, but as you will see when the event comes to a close, it made sense to have this happen now, early on, rather than at some random point in the future if I get horribly sick again.

I didn’t really do anything special this week other than the eclipse composite from Sheltered Rock. That took more planning than I thought to setup, mainly figuring out what the best time and intervals were to take the photos to makeup the composite. Actually compositing them wasn’t too bad – the sky light level changes slightly so I had to make sure to mask them close to the sun but it came out fine.

The third moonlet of Kerbin was a complete in-game event that happened without me even noticing. The asteroid was found the normal random way by which the ATN finds asteroids pretty much every day. It was already in orbit when it was selected to be discovered and when I went back a few weeks in my data backups I found a save with it still in orbit around the sun. I watched it enter and leave Kerbin’s SOI a few times and even saw it enter & leave, then quickly enter & leave again. I’m pretty sure the hypothesis on how it got captured is feasible, but I couldn’t get the game to do it again after a few tries. But hey, something happened and it’s now in orbit around Kerbin.

Okay, now to bang out this next week and a half over the next day or two and start getting back on track!

 

Edited by Drew Kerman

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Operations Summary – Week of 2/27/17

KSA Operations Resume

It’s great to be back, and things went well this past half-week for getting everything back on track. All three programs made significant strides in returning to full swing with KerBalloon getting set for launches next week, Genesis taking stock of the current progress on Civvie construction and Progenitor announcing launch dates for the Progeny Mk3 rockets. In case you missed it, here they are:

Launch #1: 3/15 @ 18:45 UTC
Launch #2: 3/21 @ 19:05 UTC
Launch #3: 3/24 @ 19:20 UTC

We can’t wait to send these rockets up, they should make for the most spectacular launches yet! Also, if you missed the news release on the medical situation that incapacitated us for most of February, you can read up on it here.

C7 has their initial incident report released, which we included below, but they also say they expect the Civvie Prototype to be repaired and the Civvie Production model assembled both for flights by the end of the month.

Looking forward to a full week of operations starting next Monday!

C7 Initial Incident Report on Civvie Crash

Investigators have looked over the data from the crash that flipped the Civvie over to its back while under command of Captain Jeb during his last mission. The event took place around mid-day after second sunrise on Jan 31st, during the final approach to Runway 09. The approach was too low, causing the Civvie to impact with the ground short of the runway thanks to a rise in terrain just before reaching the flat plain surrounding the KSC property. Because it was already in a landing configuration, the sudden and unexpected impact was taken up on all three wheels at a speed of around 56m/s, well within tolerances. However this speed is too fast for a landing and so the Civvie bounced back into the air. Jeb’s attempts to hold the nose up resulted in a stall, which dropped the Civvie like a rock from as high as 5m to land on just its main gear, which pitched it forward so its prop dug into the ground. The remaining momentum flipped the aircraft over onto its back, with torque from the propeller rotating it over 90 degrees to rest facing south. Investigators estimate the initial landing produced a force of 3.5Gs with the final crash producing a force upwards of 6Gs. These momentary moments of high stress had no detrimental effect on the pilot other than to whip his head forward into the dash, the second time producing a moderate wound.

C7 will continue now with the next phase of its investigation, interviewing the pilot and support staff and analyzing various alternate outcomes based on the data collected. We expect them to release a final report later this month. Until then, they have recommended that the Runway 09 approach remain closed. We will follow this recommendation.

Astronomers Amazed by Eve Transit

We had a great second transit of 2017, with Eve taking its turn to move across the face of the sun as seen from Kerbin. You can see the full transit composite here. This is the rarest of transits since Eve does not orbit around the sun as much as Moho and so we don’t get as many chances to be in the right spot at the right time to see this happen. A reason scientists love Eve transits so much is because it is a unique opportunity to study its thick atmosphere. We’re expecting to see several new papers published on the transit in the next few months. Anyone who missed the transit will now have to wait until 2024 before they can see it happen again. But before that there are several other transits scheduled to happen this year:

May 4th – Minmus
June 29th – Minmus
Oct 15th – Moho

So Long, Meeny?

After Remises made its first pass through Mun’s SOI astronomers were once again forced to admit their astrodynamics modeling was still not up to the task of simulating the interaction of small bodies within Mun’s influence. They have since revised their models and given that Remises has yet to pass again through Mun’s SOI they decided to see how Meeny’s orbit was affected with the new calculations. Surprisingly, they discovered that not only is it on a path to encounter Mun again sooner than expected, the resulting pass will eject it from the system. We’re hoping they are wrong again, but we will see what happens after March 5th.

Noteworthy Links

Mortimer has recovered fully from being one of the more seriously ill and has finished up the accounting report for February, which thankfully wasn’t all that much to deal with.

The latest ATN database update would be from this past week and can be found here, sporting a total of 339 asteroids.

Celestial Snapshots of the Week

We can’t have just one when we’re catching up on more than a week of activity. These two both share the cake this week, and with good reason!

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As Eve transits, Mun comes crashing in on the party for a partial eclipse as seen from above Umbarg
sMyBrD9.png
The shadows of (in order L to R) Vall, Laythe and Tylo
fall together on the face of Jool as triple transit
season enters full swing

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 2/4/17

I forgot to get this done yesterday, so although this is a day off from a month ahead I still had all of yesterday’s KSA ops done yesterday. I’m happy to be this caught up on things. Very nice to just bang out one day of KSA ops and spend the rest of my time contemplating future events, reviewing & editing what I’ve already written, working on complex new Flight Tracker features, etc.

Speaking of Flight Tracker features, I got the surface tracks up and running in just two days of coding. I had to copy and paste a lot of code because what I wanted to do I was doing elsewhere and forgot how I was doing it – just goes to show how messed up the Flight Tracker code base is. But I got it all sorted with no major issues – nothing happened that forced me to take a break because I couldn’t figure out the problem. The surface track system is pretty powerful beyond what is used so far. In addition to being able to load multiple tracks I have a parser that reads the description text and pulls any HTML links out to create dynamic links in the info box that can add pin markers to the map when they are clicked. And not just one pin marker, but a single link can add multiple pin markers, and there can be multiple links in the description. All this means that in order to create a database of the flight track I literally copy/paste elements from the mission post prior to the tweet stream and then import data from the CSV exported by the game and – well long story short after a flight is over I can have the surface track online in less than 5 minutes.

While the surface track feature is not real-time, the support for that feature is already baked into the existing implementation. I should only just have to look at the UT time for the events when the path is loaded and realize “hey, this thing is happening now” and then switch over to plotting the path using the 1sec update tick function that controls all the other real-time elements on the map rather than just displaying the entire plot. This isn’t a feature coming soon however since it doesn’t make sense to have a real-time tracking system when communications range is only within the area of KSC. Orbiting comm satellites will bring this feature to life in the future.

Full steam ahead to the Progeny Mk3 rocket launches! I literally haven’t launched a rocket in over two months and it’s killing me, but that’s kind of the idea of this whole thing, making me work for it.

 

Edited by Drew Kerman

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Operations Summary – Week of 3/6/17

KerBalloon Missions Set Progenitor Program for Recovery

This past week saw two sea launches and recoveries for the KerBalloon Program, both of which were carried out successfully. However in addition to carrying out contracts, the missions also simulated the recovery of rocket payloads out at sea with the help of a Maritime Service Vessel (in this case, the MSV Tongjess, with a crew that is experienced in operating with us at sea). While rocket recoveries at sea are great because it allows us to launch east away from KSC and with the spin of Kerbin, there is the issue of the rocket payload not being buoyant enough to float after splashdown. KerBalloon probes use the empty balloon casing to stay afloat, but without that the payload truss will sink straight to the bottom of the ocean after it lands in the water. Before we tried to complicate the rocket by adding some sort of floating airbag to deploy after splashdown, we instead decided to try complicating our recovery procedures first.

For the first KerBalloon mission, as the probe descended under its parachute the launch craft from the Tongjess maneuvered itself underneath it so it landed on the deck of the ship. This would be the optimal recovery method for rocket payloads. In the event that they do end up in the water however, the second KerBalloon was launched with a rocket parachute rather than the KerBalloon chute units and allowed to splashdown next to the launch craft so the crew could observe how well the parachute floated in the water. It did stay on the surface for almost a minute, however there was also no pull from a sinking payload and sea conditions were a bit choppy. Should the launch craft miss the payload, Bob reports that they will still be close enough to snag the parachute to drag the payload out of the water before the whole thing sinks.

The recovery tests going well has been a huge relief for the Progenitor Program. We look forward to doing it for real next week! Reminder that the first Progeny Mk3 launch is still on schedule for 3/15 @ 18:45 UTC.

Meeny Returns to Interplanetary Space

Yesterday Meeny departed the Kerbin system after getting kicked out by Mun on its last pass through its SOI. We’re sad to see it go as it was the largest of the three moonlets captured so far and would have made for a nice scientific target. Now that it’s back out in sun orbit with all the rest, its significance is no longer worth any consideration for a future mission. The Asteroid Tracking Network is once again in charge of keeping an eye on it, and will be doing so over the next several days to determine its new trajectory around the sun. Once they have the orbit nailed down, we’ll find out whether Meeny will ever be passing through the system again, although it’s highly unlikely it would also pass close enough to Mun for another capture.

ATN Database Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database was posted here. It contains now a total count of 364 asteroids.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Val stayed up late to catch both Mun and Kerbol setting over the western mountains as seen from the balcony of the astronaut complex, also know as a partial (or Annular here at the equator) eclipse.

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From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 2/10/17

Moving right along, sticking very well to my schedule of banging out a day of KSA ops and then filling out whatever time remains with working on related projects. Right now that would mean getting my KSP v1.2.2 installation setup. This is not a simple process. After renaming my KSP directory I redownloaded everything for the v1.2.2 patch and then saved it all into a ZIP archive so I have a clean copy whenever I need it. Then it was time to diffcheck the settings and physics config files so I could re-apply any changes I made and see what was added/changed by Squad that I would have to setup or account for. Then it was time to create a new save file and run another diffcheck against my current v1.1.3 save to see where I needed to make edits so they would match up – this was made very easy considering I have no active vessels!

All that out of the way, I’m now in the process of installing mods one at a time. This is to ensure that when a problem or incompatibility pops up, I know exactly what mod caused it. Then I look into it and determine if it’s actually a problem or a benign error/exception. Right now I’m focusing only on the DLL-heavy mods that will exist in my GameData under any play situation. Once I get all those “basics” installed I will move on to the part-heavy mods, again going one by one and then removing them from GameData once I’ve confirmed there are no major issues and storing them in a Build folder. Eventually I will throw them all in together but for now the procedure is to check them out individually. Then I’ll have two main folders, a GameData – Build and GameData. When I want all my parts available to look at constructing a new vessel, I will just rename GameData – Build to GameData and GameData to GameData – Normal. I create batch files that let me copy parts from the Build folder into the regular GameData and also to delete those parts from GameData. End result is I always have only the parts I need installed and always have all the parts available to me when I need them. This is mainly to reduce load times, as under v1.1.3 with all parts installed it can take upwards of 30 minutes to load the game, but in my slimmed-down version with just the parts I need it’s about 3 minutes.

I expect this process to take another week, hopefully by then FAR will finally be updated but if not I will grab the developer build and that will allow me to work completely on v1.2.2. Well, almost. Until Custom Asteroids is updated I will need to go back to my v1.1.3 install just to take care of ATN-related tasks. That will be slightly annoying but not a huge deal. The CA author was online recently and should have a playable dev build if he’s willing to release it.

[Update 3/9/17 – still working to get v1.2.2 fully setup after falling slightly behind in gameplay again. Still no official FAR release but the good news is that Custom Asteroids was update to v1.2.2 so now I can completely toss aside v1.1.3 when I move up, eventually. yay!]

I’ve also had to spend some time tweaking the Scatterer settings for Jool to bring it closer to the way it looked in v1.1.3 – unfortunately I couldn’t get a perfect match and to be honest I like the new look better so I will need to retcon images on flickr. It’s too bad I can’t re-upload new images for my past tweets. I will delete the tweets but modify the archive tweets to show the new images. I also plan to delete the instagram images and repost them over time with the new Jool look. Here’s a comparison:

C4SEvDxUoAAGfXq-300x300.jpg
KSP v1.2.2
C4SFQrSUcAA0MOw-300x300.jpg
KSP v1.1.3

Another thing I did recently was attempt to make see-through cockpit windows. It was easier than I thought it would be. The second image took me all of 8 minutes:

C4ScSwwWcAAXr0o-1024x640.jpg

C4SeWsYUoAAceo1.jpg

So there are three layers at work here – one with the opaque cockpit, another with the internal view enabled, and a third zoomed forward/back to see whats beyond the cockpit. At close range this third view is tricky to get, but for objects in the distance changing the zoom doesn’t really affect their position on the screen. Stacking these atop each other I then use the Magic Wand tool in Paint.NET to select the foreground windows, still need to do a bit of manual selection to clean things up but then extract them into their own layer. I do the same with the background windows exposed via the internal view. Then I apply a Glow blending mode for the foreground windows and adjust the layer transparency. I generally don’t have to blend the background windows, just adjust their layer transparency. I really like the results.

Unfortunately this doesn’t work well with the Civvie because the internal cockpit model doesn’t align well with the external model so that takes a great deal more effort. I might do it still tho, not sure. The initial attempt I made was not encouraging, but if I bang my head against it more I could maybe pull off something decent. We’ll see.

 

Edited by Drew Kerman

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Operations Summary – Week of 3/13/17

Progenitor Program Returns to Flight with Progeny Mk3

The big news from this past week was, of course, the launch of our first rocket in 2017 and the first launch at KSC in exactly 3 months since the last launch of the Progeny Mk2.1 in December. This was also our 10th rocket launch, bringing our launch count up into the double digits. While ultimately successful in that the rocket did not explode and the payload was recovered intact, the flight profile did not perform as expected, with the rocket failing to travel downrange over the water. Instead, a low TWR of 8 allowed lift at the nose to push the rocket from its 3° launch pitch to completely vertical before enough acceleration was achieved and the rocket spun up to allow it to continue on a straight trajectory. While previous Progeny launches had similar TWR at takeoff, the longer length of this rocket greatly increased the amount of torque the lift at the nose could apply. This lead to a potentially dangerous situation as the spent stages fell close to the KSC facilities and the crowds of onlookers. The first stage managed to land nose-first while spinning and drilled itself halfway into the ground.

Other than the failure to travel downrange, the flight went off as planned with each booster hot staging at the tail-end of the previous booster’s run. In the video of the launch (with sound!) you can see that the booster still appears to be running when the next stage is triggered. This is not the case and is just the booster expending its remaining exhaust after burning through all its solid fuel. The puff of smoke seen during each staging are the stack decouplers being obliterated by the heat of each engine’s exhaust. A quick chute deployment after apokee was to allow the boat in the water, deployed from a Maritime Service Vessel stationed offshore, time to get underneath and secure the payload before it splashed down, as it does not float and would immediately sink, shortly dragging the parachute under as well. Instead it landed just 356m north of the launch pad. The rocket’s official apokee was recorded by the Telemetry Data Unit as 7,546.63km ASL, you can see the full plot here. Altitude however was not the purpose of this flight, instead we were subjecting the rocket to the highest-possible amounts of dynamic pressure to ensure it would remain intact, which it did under a load of 190.237kPa.

In order to help ensure future Mk3 flights travel downrange, the launch base will be modified to tilt the rocket 6° at launch, slightly more than the 5° pitch of the Progeny Mk2.1 rockets. This will lower our apokee but ultimately we have to think about the safety of our facilities and staff. In addition, the fins for the next Mk3 launch will be re-aligned to a smaller degree of pitch for each stage, as Lead Engineer Simon called the rotational speed of the first launch “ludicrous”. It was spinning so fast our tracking camera couldn’t even resolve the marker pattern, and the vertical pitch gave us no roll data in the TDU, so “ludicrous” is the most accurate spin rate we have. The wider base was thought to need more fin angle to spin up, but apparently we overcompensated. A bit. The launch base will also receive some modifications to the lower rail to allow for a more secure mounting of the first stage booster, which nearly set back the schedule of this first flight.

All these changes will take time, which means we’ve pushed back the launch of the second MK3 to the original launch date of the third, which is now TBD pending the results of the second flight next week. Even though the water landing did not occur, we were pleased to work flawlessly with the MSV Lymun to monitor the eastern range and get it set up for recovery. We look forward to continued joint operations with the Maritime Service for future launches.

One more piece of Progenitor news this week comes from USI’s HQ in Sheltered Rock, where they had a first successful 5s test fire of their Liquid Fuel/Oxidizer (LF/O) engine that will power the Progeny Mk4 closer, if not all the way, to space later this year. Kerzzah!

Genesis Program is Back on its Wheels

This week saw the completion of the Civvie Production model, which was a design overhaul of the original Civvie Prototype using the lessons learned from its various flights around the region of KSC under the command of pilots Val and Jeb. Even better news for the Genesis Program, which has been without an air-worthy aircraft since the accident in January, is that the ground trials for the new Civvie were completed without serious issue earlier today, meaning the aircraft is ready for flight trials next week, maybe as soon as Monday. Commander Val put the Civvie through its paces, first helping the engineers to tune the suspension on the landing gear, then performing various engine runups and takeoff runups. The lighter weight of the new Civvie means much better performance, and it managed to achieve near-takeoff speed in only 624m at 50% thrust, whereas the older Civvie required nearly a kilometer of runway to takeoff at full thrust. Val says she can’t wait to see how it handles in the air, although Capt Jeb will be the first to try it out, as the C7 crash team completed its investigation this week and did not recommend suspension for Jebediah. They did, however, recommend that Rwy09 approaches be avoided until their full report is released, which we are expecting next week.

The plan for the older Civvie, which should be receiving its repair parts at the start of next week, is still to patch it up and fly it up to the Air History Museum in Kravass City, where it will be retired. Assuming no major flaws are found in the new Civvie design, several more will be ordered.

Asteroid Tracking Network Update

The latest release of the ATN catalog can be found here, containing 390 asteroids. They have also determined that Meeny will not be returning to the Kerbin system anytime withing the next 27 years, however like all known NKOs they will re-observe it after every orbit to see if anything changes.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Val caught a triple transit with Jool hovering overhead near zenith and was able to track it much easier for a nice close shot. Notice the path of Laythe below Tylo – it will indeed have its north pole darkened slightly when it passes behind Tylo.

A75SIXj.png

From the Desk of Drew Kerman (Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff)

Spoiler

Written on 2/16/17

Being that it’s nearly 1am technically this is being written on the 17th, but it’s really just an extension of the work I was doing most of the day today so, still the 16th. I realized earlier in the week that with my entire upcoming weekend packed with Real Work, I needed to jump ahead to at least next Monday, since I would want a day to recover afterwards, so I haven’t made any more significant progress towards my v1.2.2 upgrade as I’ve just been working to advance my lead during a very busy week, what with a new rocket launching and aircraft getting ready for flight. But it’s all going well so far – I hope to bang out the weekend and Monday tomorrow so I can relax these next three days while taking care of Real World stuff. I have a lot of notes to expand upon this week, so let’s get to it.

Progeny Mk3 Launch

This was exciting, as it really has been over three months in real time since I last got to launch a rocket in KSP. Well, okay I will admit I threw the Mk3 up into the sky just messing around when I first built it, but this was the first launch where I had to follow an actual flight profile – and I flubbed it twice :P First time I totally forgot to remember where to look for a readout of the booster fuel and my eyes darted from the staging column to the resource panel to the PAW I had pinned open for the engine. I couldn’t focus on one and missed the hot stage. Then the second time I staged once too many times because I forgot the final booster auto-decouples from the payload once it is spent. I finally got a good launch on the third try. Here’s what my screen looks like during a launch:

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Too much info? Well that’s why it’s all video recorded so I can go back later and look at each data point individually if I want to. The Hyperedit window is how I snap the EC back to full charge 2min before takeoff to simulate coming off ground power.

Wait I kind of got off track here, I was saying how exciting it was to launch the rocket for real, which is kind of one of the reasons I like playing the way that I do, it really makes each launch feel like an accomplishment. It’s like – yea I worked real hard over all this time getting everything setup and BAM! Off it goes! Whooo! It’s a bit hard to describe but I really think it’s a bit of a minuscule amount of what real rocket engineers feel when they spend months/years on a mission prior to its launch.

So another thing I sort of tried to do for this launch was to setup as many ways as possible for it to appear like it was going to fail. I had ominous weather, an unplanned recovery ship, a hacked-together mounting job, a thrown-off launch schedule… I really hope people following along were getting a bit of dread in the proceedings, given that KSA launches have failed in the past.

Photos of the event were tricky a little bit, since I had specified publicly where all the kerbs would be spectating from so I had to make sure I didn’t show any of those areas because I couldn’t really fill them with spectators. The astronaut bunker photo was also a lot trickier than I expected it would be, because the kerbals in v1.1.3 still suffer from that ground friction bug that lets them shift slightly over time along the ground, which meant that successive photos, even using a KerbCam position key to reset the camera, were not exactly aligned. So although you hopefully can’t tell, Bill on the left had his lower body replaced, as did Jeb, and Bob had his entire body replaced from another image that had to be resized to match. Bleh. Came out good in the end though.

I also discovered in my setup of v1.2.2 that I never had a RealChute patch installed for Sounding Rockets in v1.1.3. There was a patch created, but although it was sent as a pull request to RealChute it never got accepted, and Sounding Rockets never distributed it. So I tried to install the patch and got NRE spam under v1.1.3 so nevermind about that.

This launch video had sound, because it was a new rocket engine, a bigger rocket engine and I really really wanted to have sound. Still, it took me a few hours trying to source some sounds from YouTube, which I still think is the best resource although to be honest I didn’t spend time looking for a better place to get sounds. I should do that next time. YouTube videos are great, but the audio inevitably either has cheering over the launch soundtrack, no sound at all, or music instead of rocket sounds. Still, I managed to find this clip to use for the first stage booster, and then some other clips for the 2nd & 3rd stages. There was a bit of mixing involved to get the sound the way I wanted, with a gradual fade of the rumble before cheering entered the soundtrack. I think it turned out really good.

One annoying fact though is that the video doesn’t exactly match the events if you calculate the times using the telemetry data image posted. The payload chute deployment, for example, is way off. This is because despite my best efforts the rocket does not always fly the exact same way twice. I can usually get closer to the proper times, but I forgot to really try and the first capture turned out so well, zooming in just as you can see the payload fairings deploy, that I didn’t want to take the time to do it again.

Inventory Rework

I realized belatedly that I really didn’t have the spare nose cone chute to have performed that recovery test of the low-altitude KerBalloon, as all three were already integrated for use in Progeny Mk3 rockets. So, in this case I simply forgot to even look at whether I had a spare part available to use, but it still made me realize that my inventory spreadsheets were not adequate for items that can be reused across various vessels, because while it was easy to see how many I had available to use, it was difficult to check where the ones that were in use were being used. So now I have a new format:

Untitled-300x112.png

So on the left are parts that are reusable and I can see how many I have to assign and exactly what they are being used for at the moment, and how many are available (blank cells). On the right is the original check-in/check-out system that automatically calculates how many parts remain of a non-reusable part. Once these parts are taken out, I don’t really care where they went (even though I do make note of it with a comment) because once they’re gone they won’t be coming back. We’ll see how this goes.

Asteroid Tracking Rework

Another deficiency made itself known this past week, which was in how I was handling asteroids. Every single day new asteroids are generated by the game and I track them all. Each day the ATN pulls a certain number (sometimes none) from this collection of tracked asteroids and officially “discovers” them. So there are significantly more undiscovered asteroids than there are ones that have been listed in the ATN database so far. I won’t say how many but my old pre-v1.0 saves only handled about 500 at a time and I have way more than that. The game actually handles it great as long as I don’t try to show them all at once in the tracking station (I zoom in on Kerbin so only the ones in its SOI are shown before I make them visible). But switching from the tracking station to the asteroids to get their orbital data and makeup has started to take over a minute and process so much that my music even skips while the scene is loaded, which makes me want to put my fist through my monitor. So to circumvent having to load into the flight scene in a game with 500+ asteroids after I “discover” the ones for the day I copy them from the ATN save file to one of my sandbox test files with no other craft. There I can load in and out of the flight scene in a jiffy and it’s overall much faster and more efficient now.

I don’t know if any of that even made sense to someone reading this, but delving into how the ATN functions would take an entire Desk Notes entry on its own. I’ll keep that in my back pocket for when I have nothing else to write about.

 

Edited by Drew Kerman

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