Drew Kerman

The Kerbal Space Agency: Year Three Operations Off to Rocky Start

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Operations Summary – Week of 9/4/17

Progeny Mk5 Set to Begin Launch Series

Everything has been progressing well for the Mk5 leading up to the start of a series of 5 launches beginning with two next week and then three the following week. It is a very intense timeline and any minor delay will possibly push back the timings of future launches so as much is being done as possible to ensure everything goes smoothly. The VAB has been in high gear since last week getting all five rockets setup in an assembly line, pictured here. Right now every stage of construction is being worked on; with the first rocket now topped off, the second will be stacked on Monday while the third completes its boosters and the fourth has all its fins attached while the fifth undergoes initial booster prep. All five third stages are already mostly assembled as those parts arrived well before the lower boosters. Two payloads will be built at any given time as that is all we have the parts for to continue to allow KerBalloon to use trusses for their missions. Our code repository for the Automated Flight Control System has received its final update with the scripts that will be used for the first launch. Again, no automated control other than the initial launch command will be used, instead the program will monitor the rocket as it is manually staged & throttled to confirm the code is running without errors and receiving all the data it needs to control the rocket itself in later flights.

The first launch next week is scheduled for 23:23 UTC.

Genesis & KerBalloon Continue Routine Missions

Have to keep those funds rolling in, so KerBalloon and Genesis both conducted profitable missions this past week. A low-altitude balloon gathered temperature data after being launched by Specialist Bill from land and recovered by Specialist Bob at sea. The ship then sailed south and well out to sea to launch a high-altitude balloon, also for temperature data. Commander Valentina flew a Civvie science mission to take observations over two areas of interest northwest of KSC, one more than 200km distant, a nice stretch but still well-within the Civvie’s range. Upon returning to KSC Val demonstrated her continued mastery of the Civvie by flying another glide approach, which meant she reduced throttle to idle at the start of her descent (this time from 4.5km) and then did not touch it all the way down to landing. Even with a steep 5km final approach sometimes reaching pitch down of 12-13° and speeds of 65m/s, after leveling out over the runway she slowed to landing speed before traveling halfway down. Jeb is keen to try this on his next flight, already scheduled for Monday to squeeze in between the busy launch week.

KSC Opens to the Public

For the first time this past weekend we allowed members of the public to tour KSC, after spending several months trialing events with staff family and friends. The 45min tours consist of a guided bus ride that departs from the nearby Support Village and travels throughout the KSC campus. Initial interest was extremely high and the first few weeks of tours were completely sold out within days, however it has since been realized that many bought tickets just so they could visit the Monolith. Although it is not officially part of the tour, it is still easily visible from KSC and this is a draw to the various religious groups that worship it. One group tried to break away and make a run for the Monolith but were quickly apprehended and escorted off the premises thanks to our new fleet of security vehicles. Since then no further attempts have been made but also many have requested ticket refunds or simply not shown up to claim their seats on tours. It’s a bit disappointing to know that for some kerbs seeing the Monolith would be the only reason to want to visit KSC.

Monolith Dome Construction Begins

After failing to breach the surface of the Monolith last weekend using several methods from normal cutting tools to high-powered lasers to large impact objects, scientists working on the project have decided their next course of action will be to begin excavating the ground around it. The object has always appeared to be buried deep into the ground, although to what extent remains to be seen. In order to keep the excavated pit dry, a dome will be built over the Monolith – much to the outcry of those who consider the object to be a part of their religious beliefs. The Presider has remained steadfast in the wake of multiple protests in keeping the details of the Monolith research project secret, including work being done at Kravass and Umbarg regarding the strange mineral formations. Given that there’s no way to hide a huge dome, we can at least reveal what will be going on under it (of course, many conspiracy kerbs take this admission with a grain of salt).

ATN Database & KSA Finances Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 937 asteroids, 13 updates and 1 new alerts issued. The alert issued is for ZNS-924(A), which is set to encounter Kerbin over a remote location and will most likely not survive its plunge through the atmosphere.

Our monthly financial report is also now available. Thanks to the two new communications dishes we installed this past month profits are at an all-time low but overall we continue to see a favorable financial forecast.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Unlike Mun, Minmus is not tidally locked to Kerbin and presents various terrain features depending on when you look, which makes looking often worth the while! Here are several shots taken during various times of the day to add some additional hues to Minmus’ ever-changing features.


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


Written on 8/29/17

Will admit it’s taken me a while to get back up to speed since taking time off to travel to see the great eclipse, which was well-worth the effort. I spent 4 days total, driving over 2.3k miles, you can view the road trip route here,  with a link at the end of the route to the next day. The roads were amazing, I love West Virginia so much – found a couple roads with switchbacks like these. So much fun. I was pretty much directly under the moon’s shadow and near the point of greatest eclipse, weather was mostly sunny and when I got there cumulus clouds were in abundance and one was blocking the sun but by the time totality arrived it was perfectly clear and I saw everything. The one thing I don’t recall is noticing any real temperature drop. My main takeaway from the event was how impossibly terrifying this must have been for early humans. I always thought that they’d become gradually freaked out as the sun grew dimmer over time but you really can’t tell anything is happening to the sun until totality. You’ll notice the lighting is a bit  – “off” – I wouldn’t really say dimmer but just noticeably different. Shadows are a bit fuzzier, but if you were to look up at the sun it would still be a blindingly bright speck of light up in the sky and you’d be like “ok, nothing wrong there” and then BAM!! darkness descends over the course of a few seconds and you look back up and now the sun is a giant black orb with ghostly filaments surrounding it and OMG THAT IS SOME APOCALYPTIC excrements if you don’t know it’s coming or what it is. Anyways, it’s definitely an experience everyone should witness – 2024! I plan to chase it again.

Deciding wind direction

So I’ve been playing with the EVE offset property recently to change the position of the clouds and noticed that with certain values the clouds will travel in directions other than just west to east. I’ve decided then to use random numbers each time the game is started (have to do this manually for now, but whatever) for the x,y,z offset values and whichever way the clouds are moving is the direction the wind is heading. Very simplistic, in reality there are multiple wind layers with varying directions and speeds but it at least gives me a starting point that I can use for the majority of the lower atmosphere. Of course this still affects absolutely nothing in the game itself but for things like deciding which direction a balloon will end up going or which direction an aircraft should be taking off from, it means I no longer have to decide myself these things but can leave it up to chance.

ATN GeoGebra figure?

So now that I know I can dynamically add orbits to a 3D figure in the Flight Tracker the question of course arises as to whether I could load all 900+ asteroid orbits. I have no idea what the performance will be like, but you can bet at some point in the future once the refactoring is complete I am going to try!

Operations Tracker

The new tracker is coming along nicely, you can always see the latest by checking here – depending on whether I’m working on it things could be completely broken but I try to leave off in a functional state. It’s now called the Operations Tracker because everything has been consolidated into one page and the page will reload sections of itself as needed rather than the whole page.

KSP still getting better, patience will pay off

I added a new FAQ item (#14) recently as to why it’s taking so long to get things done around here. In addition to that, let’s not forget that there are still some pretty awesome mods being worked on by the likes of Nertea and Freethinker and CobaltWolf, among others. Any space station or planetary base I build today would look and function so much better if built two years from now. So yea, KSP maturity is another reason why I like the slow pace of things.


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Operations Summary – Week of 9/11/17
Images from the Week Gallery

Progenitor Successfully Completes First Week of Launches

Despite a few weather issues this week both the first and second Progeny Mk5 rockets made it off the pad and into space. We have an exhaustive review of the first launch and the second launch is still undergoing flight analysis in addition to being compared to the first one. We have found so far though that although there were minor variations, on a whole the second launch was almost identical to the first, both hitting apokee within a second of each other while also traveling the same total distance (with resolution down to a kilometer). We are pleased by the similar performance given no major ascent changes were planned for the second flight, so it should have been similar to the first. The third flight will see a larger deviation when we up the throttle to maintain a TWR of 3 during the 3rd stage engine burn. It will also be nearly fully automated – controllers will still handle the throttle manually while we test code that will take on this job for the 4th flight. The 4th launch could be our first hands-off rocket flight! You can see the telemetry data for the second flight online and more details on the second flight will be released on Sunday, as the majority of Progenitor team members will be in for a working day prior to launching on Monday. Flight Director Lanalye doesn’t like the idea of launching on the first day back from a weekend.

Happy Birthday, Kerbal Space Agency!

This past week we celebrated our first birthday as an operational agency, our founder and Operations Director Drew Kerman wrote a letter about it. Of course, we didn’t spend much time celebrating as we are in the midst of an extremely aggressive launch schedule but rest assured the after-party will be epic! Also, if everything continues to go according to plan we will be launching the final initial series of Mk5 rockets on the same day we launched our very first rocket, the Progeny Mk1-A! This is a very exciting time for us and we are glad we have so many fans to share it with. Thanks again to everyone who has interacted with us on twitter, here on the site, the forums, reddit and our other social platforms. Drew didn’t feel it was appropriate to include in his letter but we are still working on ways for our fans to help support us financially as we increase our operational capacity when moving more into regular space operations.

Genesis & KerBalloon Squeeze in Missions

Both of our atmospheric programs were able to squeeze in missions between our two rocket launches this week. Genesis ran a Civvie science mission that sent Captain Jebediah to the southern tip of our local landmass upon which rests an extinct volcano. Scientists have been noting some strange seismic activity going on there recently over the past few years, and since the Monolith incident things have become a bit more active. They are wondering if perhaps the asteroid impact that nearly wiped out kerbal civilization may have sent tremors far enough through the planet to unplug a cap over the magma chamber they know is still in the area. They plan to setup a small research station on the slopes of the volcano & will be using our aerial photographs to select the location.

KerBalloon was able to launch two balloons, both a high-altitude and low-altitude variant. The high-altitude launch was a near thing as a storm currently moving in on KSC & the surrounding area made recovery of the payload in rough seas almost beyond the capabilities of the team run by Specialist Bob. Both missions turned out to be a success and we have padded our coffers with additional funds to help stave off the inevitable losses once the Deuce returns to flight testing. Oh yes, by the way the Deuce has completed its design rebuild and will hopefully take to the skies once again next week between rocket launches.

ATN Database & New Alerts

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 952 asteroids, 8 updates and 3 alerts issued:

  • SPR-176(C) will impact Kerbin’s atmosphere on 10/12 over water in a remote location, no danger to surface operations
  • WFY-338(E) will impact Kerbin’s atmosphere on 10/6 over water in a remote location, no danger to surface operations
  • SYE-954(E) is being watched closely as its 2039 Mun pass shows a decreasing Kerbin periapsis, already at just 672km, with latest observations

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Still not a whole lot of exciting stuff happening in the sky these days, but Val did manage to catch Mun occulting Sarnus before sunrise one day cycle.


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


Written on 9/8/17

It’s technically the 9th now but I started this post before midnight sooo…

I’ve been keeping up with things awesomely, which is a good sign given that aggressive launch schedules like this will not be the norm (sorry) especially as operations grow more complex. Doing these 5 launches in two weeks is not only to pick up the pacing a little bit for those who hate all the time between launches but also as a test of whether I can handle the intense workload (33 images were posted this week, my average is 14. Images take a good deal of time for me to setup, capture & edit so are a good metric for my workload). So far so good, we’ll see how the three launches next week turn out. Given that I went into this whole thing with only 1 week of lead time it’s definitely a good thing I’ve been able to keep up…

Civvie accident

I decided beforehand Jeb was going to crash, but it turned out I also ended up flying a much poorer glide approach than I did with Val anyways. He was actually going to glide in too steeply and when pulling up before the runway not do so in time and strike his main gear, pitch forward and bury the prop. So I had to write it a bit differently with a stall instead thanks to my low glide approach, but the end result was still the same. I’ve been making Val out to be the better pilot, but I will say that Jeb fans have nothing to worry about. He’ll have his moments too. I see him as more of a clutch performer.

Mk5 launch sims

It doesn’t really make sense for me to truly try out code for the first time during an actual rocket launch, because besides the fact that kOS doesn’t have a true IDE which can tell me if I have errors when I run the code, there are things I can’t test unless the program is running in a situation where it has to handle things. Of course I do still want the actual flight to be “iffy” so I’ve built a Mk5 replica that can do all the real Mk5 can do but the fins spin it up faster, I don’t use FAR and I launch it straight up off the pad. So the entire flight is different but the various states such as boosting, coasting, re-entry, etc are all still happening. Even though they let me test the code under simple scenarios, there’s still always the possibility of problems during the actual flight that imposes different constraints and flies a different trajectory.

Mk5 flight 1

I knew I would maybe run out of disk space but I decided to let it happen if it did, however I was planning on using a bigger hard drive and my first attempt at the launch I forgot that although I edited the MM file to increase the disk space the part I had already included in the rocket still had the old values, so I ran out of space during ascent. I had to revert to VAB and replace that part so it would have the larger disk space. This was good because I also decided to hook up my X55 throttle for the second try so I could have a much smoother throttle response when pulling back on thrust to maintain 2 TWR. Which brings me to the fact that the TWR readout error (I did remove that KER readout) and pitch error were both actual mistakes I made – d’oh! But they made for some interesting flight analysis. Also, I discovered that kOS can’t read my throttle inputs at all, even when I tried both variables it has for throttle settings. However the VOID logger does read throttle input so in the logging code I just changed over to the second variable for the “fix” but am actually just copying over data from the VOID logger into the kOS log sheet.

Mk5 flight 2

Again, almost nailed it in one until I remembered after it was all said and done (just the launch in the game thankfully, not all the after-action stuff) that I had planned to write in a launch delay and had just flown the launch from the original time. RRRGGHHH!!! But also, I forgot to change the code from testing to shred the fins at 60km instead of 30km. So when I redid the launch I decided it would be a few minutes from the end of the window since that would be suspenseful, but when I actually wrote out the tweets later on I realized it made more sense to just say well ahead of time we’re shooting for the very end of the window, so I had to adjust the log times ahead two minutes. This is a similar thing to the one Civvie mission I had to re-write logs for and drives the point home that I should always write the tweets first leading up to the launch, then fly the mission.

Github update considerations

So I want to use the AFCS github repository properly to store various versions of the code but the problem is I can’t schedule updates, so I’m storing versions locally and pushing them to the repository manually at the proper times, which is why all the tweets about github updates have been ambiguous as to when the updates will happen. I also have to remember to keep the code clean of any changes that would be made after an update. For example if you look at the latest code for initialize.ks from the last launch, it still has the original launch time (tho that’d be hard for anyone to tell given its in UT seconds, but still – I would know :P)

High-Altitude balloon payout adjustments

Dammit I’ve been forgetting for the last few missions that if I write high-altitude balloons not making it to max altitude (not many do) then KSA doesn’t get the full contract payout. If you want to know, here is the formula: ((failAlt – contractMinAlt) / (maxAlt – contractMinAlt)) * payout, with the altitude in meters. So I had to go back and redo a few payments – again this is why there’s only one financial worksheet available at any time.

Random fun facts

I gave up using the named waypoints that contracts generate (Pilot’s Wonder, Danzon’s Breach, Eumon’s Tears, etc) and they are all Zone, Sector, Area or Site now. I may at some point assign those terms to specific kinds of missions, but for now it’s just random. But one of the latest mission waypoints was originally Jeb’s Rift and I renamed it to Zone J-7438, with the “J” for Jeb and “7438” spells “RIFT” when you enter it into a phone keypad.

In the caption for this image I originally was going to call Jeb “brown-faced” instead of “embarrassed”. Why? Well we blush red when embarrassed and red + green = brown. Buuuut then I was like, well do kerbals have red blood? I really haven’t decided yet. Then too there’s the whole race thing, which is hilarious because how that would apply to kerbals I have no idea but I can easily imagine someone being offended somehow seeing the term “brown-face” (I’m African/European/Japanese so racial terms don’t mean much to me). Also I wonder if anyone would interpret that as him excrementsting himself all over.

Okay. *deep breath* One more week. Three launches. Let’s do this.


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Thank for the great report @Drew Kerman! The mk5 rockets look great!

I'm a total kOS newb, would the scripts you are posting work on other sounding rocket designs, or do they only work on mk5s?

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1 hour ago, Nightside said:

Thank for the great report @Drew Kerman! The mk5 rockets look great!

I'm a total kOS newb, would the scripts you are posting work on other sounding rocket designs, or do they only work on mk5s?

Anything in the Mk5 Ops folder of the AFCS github repo is meant to be craft-specific, although you can certainly pull out a lot of generic code because it's only the first rocket and the same type of rocket. General rule going forward will be code in Ops folders will be vessel-specific and over time it will become more and more vessel-specific but right now since it's just a single type of rocket I'm launching it's all mostly general stuff

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Operations Summary – Week of 9/18/17
Images from the Week Gallery

Progeny Mk5 Initial Launch Series Completes with Fully Automated Flight

Well, this week was rather insane, with three launches and an almost backed-up schedule. Everyone on the team managed to pull through like champs however and we got it all done! After a three-day weekend (just the rocketry teams) kerbs will be back to begin analyzing and comparing all the data from the Mk5 launches against each other and against the Mk4 flights. We expect to have a report from them in early October.

You can review the flight analysis for the third launch and also check out the statement we released on the actions of the KerVoyant merchant ship that caused the launch to be delayed almost an entire day.

The flight analysis for the fourth launch explains what happened to cause the rocket to break up in flight. We took measures starting on the fifth launch to begin collecting more data on wind shear via a high-altitude KerBalloon released prior to launch.

We won’t have any immediate analysis of the fifth launch from today, but there has been some initial review of telemetry data. We changed up our 3rd stage ascent profile a bit by having the rocket hold a TWR of 3 upon ignition and then go to full throttle once dynamic pressure eased off. This failed to work properly during the 4th launch but this time the code worked and the rocket did as it was supposed to. There was a small spike in dynamic pressure after throttle up as shown in the graph below, so if done again in the future we may want the rocket to wait until dynamic pressure falls about 1-2kPa before throttling up to full thrust.

Dynamic pressure in kPa over the duration of the 3rd stage boost (in seconds)

Going to full throttle rather than maintaining a set TWR throughout the burn did not seem to provide any benefit, as our apokee only ended up being 87km whereas we had hoped this ascent would allow the rocket to surpass the 135km record of the Mk4. However there are several other factors that need to be considered such as how well the rocket pitched over during ascent, precession during coasts triggering early boosts, altitude comparisons, etc. This will all be covered in the full review. Still, even if it did not set a new altitude record this fifth flight of the Mk5 has earned its place in history as being the first successful fully-automated rocket flight – to space and back no less!

The full review of the Mk5 will allow us to decide how to proceed with the program, but based on this initial launch series we feel confident in allowing agencies to begin applying for sub-orbital science flights with their choice of payload instruments for any data they wish to collect. These contracts will take 2 weeks to construct and launch from the day they are signed so the launch cadence will be much slower moving forward but fear not, we are still developing new rocket designs – engineers have not forgotten about this.

Deuce Preliminary Crash Report

After a successful ground trial the Deuce was slated to fly earlier this week but the return to flight mission was pushed back numerous times thanks to Progeny launch delays and weather. Captain Jebediah finally was able to take the aircraft up on Thursday although the initial attempt was foiled by not having enough pitch authority to bring up the nose during the takeoff run. Engineers dampened the pitch controls during the rebuild but with the changes that were also made to better balance the aircraft the lowered pitch settings were not really needed. After a quick adjustment in the Horizontal Assembly Building to return the control settings back to where they were during the earlier flight trials, the Deuce was able to lift off on its second attempt.

Unfortunately while the pitch instability seemed to be fixed, the Deuce still exhibited a strong left-roll tendency that seems a bit too much for engineers to attribute to a yaw problem. Applying opposite rudder worked but it took about 50% of travel and caused a 5° sideslip that noticeably increased the drag on the aircraft. Even more unfortunately, Jeb had trouble again on his final approach, coming in too slow and nearly stalling the aircraft in a similar manner to his last accident. He did manage to recover well, but as he was fast approaching the runway he did not give the aircraft enough time to gain some more speed before dropping the landing gear, which increased the drag and immediately threw the plane over into a leftward spiral down into the ocean.

Thankfully proper restraints and the nose cone being designed to crumple led to Jeb being knocked unconscious but only with a minor concussion. Although rescuers had to blow the emergency cockpit hatch to extricate Jeb, the Deuce did not take on enough water to sink before we could get back to it and tow it ashore. Also by design the engine pods broke off the wings on impact, and we will be calling in a salvage vessel next week to haul them up off the ocean floor. Flight recorders in the tail section survived without damage and will be studied thoroughly. We expect a full report sometime in late October or early November.

ATN Database Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 978 asteroids, 22 updates and 0 alerts issued.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

While Val captured a telescope view of Mun and Minmus hanging out together, Bob wins this week with this zoom lens shot from his camera as Mun rises


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


Written on 9/19/17

Damn this is almost like a real-time transmission to you all in the future. Yea I’m cutting things pretty tight, closing out a Friday on a Tuesday. Still, when I started this 5-launch series I only had 1 week of lead time and now I have 4 days, so that’s not too bad of a loss considering all the stuff I had to do (31 images this past week). There was a day of sickness and some IRL stress making my focus go away completely at some points and robbing me of a lot of sleep, but I still managed to hop onto GTA:O for some sessions, watch some movies and keep up with news, forums and twitter timelines. So yea, it was a bit much but it wasn’t too much. Still, as I said before this kind of thing will not be the norm so I hope you all enjoyed it. Lots to talk about from this past week so let’s get to it.

“hurricane” hits KSC

I actually wrote the storm a little after Harvey before it was clear that Irma would impact Florida, but yea the idea was to have a nasty storm sweep through the area. It’s happened before and it will happen again to varying extents, as storms off the ocean near the equator just make sense. Besides that though they do grant me a bit of free time since I have to suspend operations for them, although in this case it was over a weekend and I wanted to show what it looked like so it probably took up more time than it saved. Still, I had it setup so that I could use it to delay launches this past week if I felt I needed to in order to not run out of lead time. Thankfully I didn’t have to make it that serious of an event.

Mk5 mass incorrect somehow

I learned while working up the data for the third launch that I had somehow mis-reported the mass of the Mk5 rocket on the blueprint and for the first two launches. what. I really hate stupid mistakes like this because they take time to fix. Since the mass was off, the delta-V calculations were also off. Then I checked and found the price was off! excrements excrements excrements. How?? I have no clue. I don’t recall modifying anything between then and now that should have changed these values, so it must have just been a mistake. Unfortunately I make them.

comm signal code not really used

Although the AFCS includes code for handling comm loss, this is mainly just for roleplay purpose and the fact that the code should have a means of dealing with comm loss. In reality Kerbalism doesn’t have ground stations so as long as the probe can see Kerbin it has a connection. There’s no reason for me to actually toggle the comms on & off in the game because when comms are lost the log data is written internally, and then after recovery it would be combined with the ground-based log data before being displayed publicly so there’s no point in me doing the extra work to actually combine it. If the rocket didn’t get recovered, I could also manually just remove any data that would have only been on the rocket from the full telemetry log.

I should also comment that the code for the science instruments is pretty lame, just toggling an action ground that holds the instruments. Just a time issue, not having enough of it. Hopefully it can get more “realistically” complex moving forward.

Deuce flight was unscripted

Yeap, I was actually giving myself a pat on the back after saving the Deuce from a stall on final that got me on the first flight, then dropped the gear and went “awwww excrements”. I really did want to do some more Deuce flights but in retrospect I suppose this is for the best as I really do want a lighter workload moving forward for a bit so I can build my lead time back up, and moreso than rocket flights aircraft flights are very time consuming. I honestly have no idea why the hell the plane wants to roll to the left so much, but I’m suspecting it is some inherent build problem from how I put it all together in the editor. While the ” crash investigation” continues I’ll be busy trying to figure this all out.

Mk5 launch #3

This was fun, because it let me start to introduce some repercussions for the Monolith Incident and all the talk I’ve been dropping about protests over the government decision to block religious access to the Monolith. So it wasn’t put in there just to delay the launch and buy me time. Reactions to the event were pretty much what I expected them to be, and I am glad so many people were around to provide some interaction. I originally wanted the ship to have a huge banner with kerbs on the deck, but I realized that was rather impractical because I would spend a lot of time working up things to be able to get a screenshot of it in the game. Doing the launch itself I got stupid and tried to launch at the wrong time, which of course triggered the launch script as soon as I loaded it into the rocket’s probe core. A special consideration for this launch I almost forgot about as well was taking into account the extra drain on the batteries due to progressing through almost an entire terminal count before scrubbing the launch & resetting.

Mk5 launch #4

So, this launch was planned in advance to go kablooie, I have been wanting to introduce wind shear for a while now. Prior to this it’s good enough to say the rockets weren’t really large enough to be affected by shear, weren’t traveling fast enough or just were lucky not to have any shear when they launched. The third stage throttling up immediately was a code bug I discovered in testing but decided to leave it in as a bug to be discovered in flight for once, and also it lent itself well to the accident by increasing the rocket’s speed to make it more susceptible to breaking up when slammed with vertical shear. I was also planning on using this event as another buffer for an excuse to delay the 5th launch if I felt I was not going to be able to get things done ahead of time. Again as with the storm, thankfully I did not have to. Also, when launching manually & resetting to get around a FAR bug, the upper launch rail tends to get destroyed. I don’t know why pressing spacebar leads to a different result when calling stage from kOS code but it does. I used this as inspiration for the launch rail needing to be replaced due to wear.

Something also I realized about this launch is that this was supposed to be the first fully automated launch but I did a very poor job making this fact known as much as I did for the 5th launch. I think this is because I knew ahead of time I planned to let this launch fail. I realized this on the day of the launch as I was reviewing tweets, after I had written tweets for the 5th launch. This is why I prefer having so much lead time, as I would have likely come to this realization with much more time to make changes for the better.

Mk5 launch #5

I actually didn’t realize when I first scheduled this launch that it would be on the same day as the first time KSA launched a rocket, but hey that worked out great and is the reason I didn’t really want to delay the launch unless it was Thursday and I couldn’t get everything setup in time for Friday. If you don’t count the fact that I initially setup the game for a launch at 15:00 hours instead of 13:00 again like the 3rd launch (Darn it) and also had to debug a script error that was due to me accidentally using my mouse buttons to paste random text into the script file – when I actually launched the rocket it flew its mission and I got it all done on the first try at last! Hurray for automation! A new era!

moving on now

Alright so the craziness is behind me. Time to refocus a bit on Extremis, plotting out orbital rocketry development, working more on the Ops Tracker, figuring out what the hell is wrong with the Deuce and of course digging through all the Mk5 data & comparing it to the Mk4 and coming up with some conclusions as to how to make it even better. I really enjoyed putting together the analysis for the Mk5 flights.


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Operations Summary – Week of 9/25/17
Images from the Week Gallery

Genesis & KerBalloon Return to Full Operations

After deferring much of their missions so that Progenitor could launch these past two weeks, Genesis & KerBalloon got back into action in full force this past week with two 1hr+ Civvie flights and 4 balloon launches.

Specialists Bill & Bob worked hard to ensure that all balloon missions were a success, although Bob had most of the work considering three of the four were launched and recovered at sea. Of the four balloons released two were high-altitude and two were low-altitude variants. The high-altitude missions as usual were subject to weather conditions, and the land mission had the added constraint of having to launch at sunset, which is the main reason why it took longer to complete than the sea mission that could release at anytime the weather was good. Since Bob’s mission was done first, while Bill was still waiting for good weather Bob was able to help crews assemble the two low-altitude balloons for launch from the Kerblantic the following day. Winds were out of the west, which meant that Bill was not needed with his Utility Task Vehicle crews on land to recover the balloons, which drifted out to sea. Both the first and second launches were carried out in the same day cycle thanks to their release locations being so close together. Now that their backlog is cleared out, KerBalloon will spend the first half of next week negotiating new contracts.

Commander Valentina took on both of this week’s Civvie missions as Captain Jebediah continued to recover from his accident last week, although we are happy to report that starting on Monday he will be cleared to return to active duty. The first mission at the start of this week for the Civvie was ordered up by the field science division in order to see how the Negative Gravioli instrument would perform close to the surface of Kerbin. As expected, results showed that the instrument is not sensitive enough to changes in gravity so deep in the field of a large planet and will continue to only be deployed in space or upper-atmospheric missions. The second mission today at the end of this week was also ordered in part by the field research division given the rise in pollen to levels near that of the health incident that occurred earlier this year. Scientists wanted to see just how widespread the pollen was around the Grasslands and also how high it was being borne into the atmosphere. This was originally scheduled to take place yesterday but C7 delayed the mission to negotiate a second contract, without informing the researchers, who were understandably furious given that their mission was considered time-sensitive – who knew if pollen levels would remain high the following day? Thankfully (well, maybe not so much for everyone who had to work outdoors at KSC while wearing filtration masks) the air quality remained poor early today for the mission to be carried out with the additional contract as well.

Deuce Status Update

Investigation into the Deuce accident proceeds apace, with the engines brought up from almost a kilometer of water and the air frame continuing to be inspected to determine how much of the aircraft has to be scrapped. More telemetry analysis was completed and its safe to say the pitch problems have been solved with the latest redesign, as this image proves when comparing the choppy flight paths of the two most recent flights before & after the redesign. Despite the development troubles, C7 has confirmed it is committed to seeing the Deuce fly properly & is confident the roll issue will be the last major hurdle.

Extremis Trajectories Behind Schedule

The astrodynamics team has fallen behind schedule in computing the possible new trajectories for our Extremis probes, the first of which could be launching as early as the end of next year. Although we had missions roughly plotted as early as late 2016, several advances in our understanding of orbital mechanics have been applied to our planning software and the team decided to re-run possibilities two months ago. The major hurdle being cited since then is processing time in looking for good flyby routes being much longer than anticipated. The team is now spending this upcoming month focusing solely on our 2018-2019 launch window for the first mission, as we would like an idea of the deltaV requirements needed to get the probe on its way so our orbital program has a rocket that is powerful enough. This means that although we hoped to announce our orbital program in October, it will now have to wait until early November. We don’t currently see this delay as having a major impact on the first launch yet.

Airports Announced for Sheltered Rock & Ockr

Two more of the three remaining cities will receive surface airports to accommodate fixed-wing aircraft such as the Civvie and Deuce. C7 Aerospace has been working closely with both governments to raise funds and lay out locations suitable not just for the current airport design but for expansion later on. Similar to Kravass General Airport these will be single-runway affairs to begin with. What about Umbarg? Well it’s always been a city heavily dependent on airship manufacturing and is headquarters to the largest airship companies so it is by nature not very eager to hop onto the fixed-wing bandwagon. It also doesn’t have much available land in the area. Due to its flat location compared to the mountains of the other cities, it has numerous cavern exits straight up to the surface from its multitude of airship hangars (one of which we plan to rent for our own airship). C7 has approached KSC/KSA to possibly use our facilities to handle any traffic to Umbarg but this is still under discussion. C7’s Kravass manufacturing plant has so far shipped 19 Civvies since May and plans to finally begin stepping up production, going from 4 to 6 per month starting in October and then as many as 10-12 per month in 2018. They don’t expect to meet initial demand until sometime in 2019 and by then kerbs will definitely need more than one airport to go to!

Both Sheltered Rock & Ockr airfields are set to break ground next month and open at the start of 2018.

ATN Database Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 1,004 asteroids, 14 updates and 1 alert issued for JJP-868(C), which will impact our atmosphere on 10/24 but current projections place it over water and will be updated when it enters our SOI on 10/22. Also, congratulations to the ATN for breaking 1,000 discovered asteroids in its first year of operations! What does 1,000+ asteroids look like? We’ll show you on the ATN’s anniversary this weekend.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Tekto is a highly-inclined moon of Sarnus which means it does not cast its shadow on the planet with every revolution of its 7.7 day orbit like Slate & Eeloo do. Starting this month its orbit has begun to cross between the sun and Sarnus, dropping its shadow atop the north pole of the gas giant. Over the next 10 months the shadow will slowly work its way down to the south pole and in mid-July 2018 Tekto will once again no longer cast shadows on Sarnus for a time. Commander Valentina got this photo from her scope this week, showing the second time Tekto’s shadow crossed Sarnus. She’ll take another look in a few days after we reach opposition with the ringed planet.


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


Written on 9/28/17

Uugghhhhh this is posting tomorrow. I was hoping by now I would be well into next week! However although fall temperatures are slow to arrive this year (global warming anyone?) seasonal allergies are right on schedule and while I have great over the counter meds I’m still tired more than not. Also this week was way busier than I planned for it to be, but I couldn’t really come up with any good excuse for it not to be so busy as it made sense that Genesis & KerBalloon would have a lot of things to catch up on after Progenitor stole the show most of the month. Thankfully this means things can finally start to slow up a bit next week. Good lord this is already a long ass weekly recap so let me just get the rest over with.


The fact that this was passing through Mun’s SOI wasn’t the only thing that mattered in its discovery – the area of Kerbin currently populated also had to be facing Mun at the time and Mun had to be on its night side. This was the second encounter by the asteroid meaning it was already in orbit and undiscovered for a short while. Just because an asteroid gets captured into orbit doesn’t mean I’m going to make it be discovered. Are there any more in orbit now? Have there been any more? You may never know, but you can know that maybe there are.

Broken flaps

I made a goof on the week’s first Civvie flight and forgot to fully raise my flaps only to realize it like an hour into the mission, so I wrote it as them being stuck. This actually turned a rather routine Civvie flight into something more interesting to read about IMO. Yea I’d like to say I have these great ideas before hand but in reality lots of things just come from me being stupid. Not bad eh?

Tree pollen

Okay but if you thought the broken flaps was good, the other Civvie mission this week was just pure gold. I decided to bring back the pollen health issue from earlier this year just because my own allergies were acting up. After I wrote that the game handed me a mission for air sampling right in the middle of the Grasslands so I immediately thought “hey they wanted to sample the air for pollen counts!” Then I decided to delay it for another contract the game offered me and realized the scientists would be liquided so that was some more content I could tweet. Finally flying the mission I forgot I wanted to step-climb the air samples by making a complete 7km orbit at 1km, then do two more complete circles while holding 2km and 3km ASL. So I wrote in the storm as an excuse to have Val fly in a continuous climb (after trying to hold a level 1km at the start) to save time and land before the bad weather. Then I was like “oh hey the rain will affect the pollen maybe”.

That’s just the broad strokes in a totally organic plot line made up of a past plot point, my real world situation, the game’s RNG and my own stupidity. BRILLIANT!!!

1 year tweet review

Another reason I’m not as far back to building my lead time as I wanted to be is due to taking almost two days (while still getting at least a day of ops done) to re-read through all 5.5k tweets I’ve published since last Sept. This review was so I could determine how well the overall plot and progression have held up over time. The result: really damn good. I did uncover a few very minor plots that needed a bit of resolution, most of which I addressed this past week, and I also added a section to my text document of all the tweets that could be considered ongoing plot points so I don’t lose track of them and make sure to bring them back up every now and again. Overall though reading from start to finish I did not find anything extremely contradictory or divergent and the steady pace of progress is strongly evident. I did find two minor inconsistencies – the first was the Civvie originally being able to communicate over the horizon like I do with airships and maritime vessels, whereas now I make a point of saying the Civvie will be out of touch when it drops below the horizon. Over-horizon comms can take a good deal of power though so my explanation if anyone were to notice and ask about it would be that after the Civvie got its advanced instruments it no longer had the available power output to transmit over the horizon, only line of sight. The second minor nag would be that I specified the daylight launch window for the Progeny rockets originally as 45min after sunrise 1hr before sunset and later on it was written as 30min after sunrise 45min before sunset. I could cover that by saying that experience has allowed us to lengthen our window. Anyways, it’s good to know as I work towards my grand over-arching goals for the KSA I can still keep all the minor stuff flowing rather well also.


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Operations Summary – Week of 10/2/17
Images from the Week Gallery

Progeny Mk5 Block I & New Contracts

This week the Progenitor teams finished up review of the Mk5 and released their report, which has all the technical details. It also includes an overview of the Block I variant for the Mk5, which will be a lighter and more powerful version of the Mk5 design, to be followed up next week by an even bigger Block II variant which we hope will have the capability to launch payloads beyond Low-Kerbin Orbit (LKO) to heights exceeding 250km – still on sub-orbital trajectories. The original Mk5 design will be phased out, with one more launch scheduled under contract for next week on 10/13. Because we originally ordered enough parts for 6 rockets in case we needed to replace anything that got broken, damaged or was otherwise unusable, we are able to build a new Mk5 within a week. A second contract has also been signed for the first Block I launch to occur on 10/20, with more time needed to order the new boosters to spec from Umbra Space Industries. You can find more details about the contracts and the launches from the Progenitor program page. We hear Progenitor is also in talks for another contract, which could also fire off this month if a deal is reached in time. Moving forward we don’t expect more than 2-3 launches per month for the rest of the year.

Genesis & KerBalloon Keep the Lights On

Although the Progenitor program remains in the green, the Mk5 has a large deficit to clear up before we really start seeing profit from the vessel, so the bulk of our income remains with Genesis and KerBalloon, who both had missions this past week.

Genesis put a Civvie up into the air under the command of Captain Jebediah to take some more atmospheric samples, this time northwest of KSC over the central plains region, which sports a large volume of trees that could also have affects on pollen levels around KSC if the winds are right. Previous Civvie missions have seen the aircraft orbit around the target area at a certain distance and altitude but Jeb literally took things to the next level, orbiting at a distance of 10km while holding altitude and also climbing 1km to a new flight level after completing an orbit. You can see the 3D plot of his flight path here to get an idea of what we’re talking about. Val was supposed to do this on her flight last week but was rushed due to weather. She’ll attempt it for her mission that got delayed to next week.

KerBalloon released two low-altitude balloons, with the first one being launched & recovered at sea while the second one held the possibility of making it over land, so Specialist Bill was on standby with UTVs in case he needed to travel to the western shore for recovery. Specialists Bob aboard the Maritime Service Vessel Tongjess however was able to recover both payloads at sea and return to KSC with data intact. There has been a resurgence lately in data from low-altitude balloons, which is not surprising given they are extremely reliable. KerBalloon is in negotiation for contracts next week but submissions have been in a lull recently.

Deuce & Extremis Updates

It was determined this week that everything but the tail section will need to be rebuilt for the Deuce following the recent crash. The checkup of the main cabin came back okay but given this was the second crash it has sustained C7 feels it should be replaced regardless. Being the integral section of the aircraft, this will mean re-construction will take upwards of 2 months, just as long as when it was first built. Engineers will be using this opportunity to make double & triple sure everything is put together to exacting standards, in case the roll issue was due to an off-center assembly.

The Extremis program completed its first phase of trajectory calculations for the 2018-19 launch window, which tells them which of the multi-flyby routes they came up with were viable and if so how much deltaV and time would be required to complete them. This information has been passed on to our orbital program leads so they can get the engine specs nailed down for contract bidding to begin early next month. Extremis will continue to plot first-phase trajectories for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 windows to determine what routes would work best for what years. We’ll have a full report later this month on the entire planning process once the first phase is complete.

ATN Database Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 1,037 asteroids, 20 updates and 1 alert issued for LPO-212(D), which will impact our atmosphere on 10/23 but current projections place it over land not currently occupied and will be updated when it enters our SOI on 10/22.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

This past weekend we were treated to a very rare event when Eve transited in front of Jool. It was not visible from any inhabited area and astronomers had to travel far west to the Great Desert to setup a temporary observatory to catch the event, but it was worth it. More than 50% of Eve covered up Jool as it passed over in less than 5 minutes. The images of Jool, Vall and Laythe were taken during the middle of the transit. Because Even and Jool are both on inclined orbits, the times they align like this relative to Kerbin are very few, in fact this is the first recorded event in our entire history!


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


Written on 10/5/17

Oh hey, it’s a day before Friday again. DAMMIT. On the bright side I don’t feel like I’m over-worked, but on the down side I don’t feel like I’m able to work enough, which is a bit frustrating because by now if I had been able to do 2 days of KSA ops every 1 real day I’d be up to a week lead time, but at best I’ve been able to get 1-1.5 days of KSA ops done. Then some days would be a complete washout in terms of being able to do any KSA work. But I’ve been able to at least keep a day ahead at the worst of times, although barely. In one instance this past weekend if I hadn’t happened to wake up at 6am there would have been no 7am sunrise/sunset tweet. Oy. Lack of lead time also sucks because I like to be very flexible in how I plan things out – for example there was a tweet earlier this week about the KerBalloon missions that made it seem like they would be done the same day, which I originally intended to do. But then as I was actually doing them I decided spreading them out over two days would be better, but my lead time was non-existent so when I made this decision it was already too late to go back and edit that tweet before publishing to reflect the missions occurring over two days. So yea, going to try harder to double-down this coming week. Also sucks I’ve had almost no time to work on the Ops Tracker.

Civvie Flight

The circle step-climb was a great challenge. I don’t re-fly Genesis missions unless my computer crashes, and even then I set things up to restart from where I left off, so anytime you see the results of an aircraft flight that’s the real deal. There was a lot of concentration involved to maintain my distance from the  target, maintain my altitude, and trim the aircraft level while also watching my speed, as I’ve made clear on multiple instances that going faster than 100m/s will damage the instrument, and I am held accountable by making the flight data publicly available. Looking at the flight path linked above you can see the wobble where I started to trim out level during the climbs, but I never exceeded 100m/s and never went further than 10.1km or closer than 9.6km. Definitely makes these missions more interesting!

Mk5 Block I

So as I said in a previous Desk Note some months ago, the USI Sounding Rockets pack was originally released with all three solid boosters set to the same ISP values. I pointed this out to the author and he made the change, I think it was with the KSP v1.2.2 compatible release, but somehow when I upgraded from KSP v1.1 or whatever I brought along the old configs with the ISP values all the same, and have been using them like that unknown until I realized it during the Mk3 or sometime around then. Well, I figured then fine I would just have a more powerful rocket at some point when I decided to reset the boosters to their proper values and that time is now with the Mk5 Block I. The mass savings to the fins is a result of FAR allowing you to tweak the strength of wing parts, which by default are set to a value of 1 and I reduced all the fins to 0.5.

Enough chit-chat. I have work to do.


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Operations Summary – Week of 10/9/17
Images from the Week Gallery

Progeny Mk5 Takes “Final Flight”

The Mk5 that launched today was the last one to use the original boosters built for the program, to be replaced for future launches by the Block I. The flight was a complete success – the Mk5 made it to space and was recovered, the AFCS performed without error and all the science instruments collected data. Progenitor engineers will be taking a real close look at the telemetry data early next week so we can decide how we want to program the first Block I to ascend. This launch was the first Mk5 launch to take place at 85° of pitch versus 87° and we also waited for the pitch to change 1° as opposed to 1.5° before beginning the next boost phase. New changes to the Automated Flight Control System allowed the 3rd stage to begin boosting at a TWR of 2 and when it detected dynamic pressure decreasing it auto-throttled to keep increasing thrust to full while ensuring dynamic pressure continued to fall. These ascent changes will be closely compared to previous Mk5 and Mk4 flights to see what effect they had on the rocket’s trajectory.

Kerballoon Takes a By, Genesis Pulls Off One Mission

To focus on prepping both a primary and backup weather balloon for this week’s launch, KerBalloon put aside its usual contract work. Since only one balloon was used that leaves one already prepped for next week and KerBalloon has some contracts lined up to take care of with the extra free time.

Genesis was able to squeeze in a single mission that took care of two contracts under the command of Commander Valentina, who was able this time to fly an orbital step-climb pattern around the contract area. She pulled it off just as cleanly as Captain Jebediah and then ventured north to the Mount Kermon area for some aerial observations of scientists interested in the kinds of vegetation growing on its high-altitude peaks. Although attempts were made to see if a Civvie could be integrated into Progeny launch operations to take aerial photos/video of a launch, weather did not cooperate later in the week when time was short as launch operations ramped up. Flight Director Lanalye is still open to the idea, and the start of next week will see a renewed attempt when more time is open in the schedule for flying. This concept has been around for months, but Lanalye was not willing to deal with the extra complexity until now.

Extremis Trajectory Plotting Continues

This week the team revealed a look at some of the trajectories that have been plotted so far for the 2018-2019 year-long launch window, to which one follower responded that it looked like a lot and if we knew which ones we would choose. A good question! Our response was in a different tweet and the answer is: no, that’s not a lot and we have no idea yet. There are actually 109 different flyby combinations we are looking at and they all have to be plotted for each of the three year-long launch windows and for each window we are constraining them in three different ways. So that’s nearly a thousand trajectories that need to be computed! The main reason for the delay is we initially only planned to look at 39 flyby combinations but Lead Researcher Wernher Von Kerman pushed for an increased mixture of routes through the outer system gas giants. We will have a featured post by the Extremis team in a few weeks taking a closer look at the phase one trajectory analysis once it is completed.

Religious Pilgrims Camp Outside Monolith Site

Showing up sometime overnight this past Wednesday about 50 kerbs pitched tents just north of the Monolith, which is now covered by a dome as scientists slowly and carefully excavate around its base. KSC dispatched security to check it out and found that they had traveled overland on foot from Umbarg after gathering there from other cities via airship and were only interested in being close to the Monolith to conduct their prayer services and rituals. Given that we have no means of forcibly removing that many kerbs from the property, we simply let them be. As long as they did not seek to interfere with any KSA operations we saw no reason to restrict them. The government was notified by the Monolith project scientists and passed along a warning that the kerbs would be picked up and brought back to Umbarg if they did not leave on their own by Saturday. They’re still out there, but again no attempts have been made to interfere with operations either here at the KSC or at the Monolith site itself. They have stayed respectably removed and continued to pray. We’ll have to see if anyone shows up tomorrow to get them to leave and are at least happy to see not all Monolithic followers are actively against what we are doing here.

ATN Database Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 1,074 asteroids, 13 updates and 0 alerts issued.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Not much stargazing was done this week, but Commander Valentina was out prior to the launch of the Mk5 and caught Mun and Minmus setting side by side behind the Western Mountains, tinged red by light bending through the atmosphere as it neared dawn. Although we couldn’t see it, shortly afterwards Mun’s south pole would have briefly occulted Minmus, perhaps only partially.


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


Written on 10/11/17

Technically it’s Thursday again, because it’s currently 2:23am – but I don’t count a day as over until I go to sleep and wake up, so it’s still Wednesday dammit, and I’m a day further ahead than I was last week. Whooo!! Small victories, I know. Really it was just a lot of work this week what with the launch, the Block II design, the Deuce redesign, trajectory plotting for Extremis… a lot of work! But if I can keep this momentum going I should be to next Friday by Tuesday next week hopefully. Hopefully!!

KSP v1.3.1

Yea so the update dropped and I still don’t care. Everything is running so well in v1.2.2 I don’t want to mess with it. I don’t have the time to mess with it and don’t have a reason to mess with it. Nothing I’m doing in the game for the remainder of the year would be any better on v1.3.1 than it is now on v1.2.2. My plan right now is to look into a version upgrade over the xmas/New Year holiday. (Well ok, I do wish I could use this mod to reduce the clutter on my screen when pinning PAW).

Mk5 Block II

Not much to say here I won’t be revealing over the next month as the launch approaches but I did want to mention that I originally designed the rocket before remembering I could increase the thrust of the boosters, so that was annoying having to go back and re-balance everything to get the proper TWR values I wanted. Especially when dealing with the 5 boosters firing at once, that’s tricky to calculate even with the help of KER, even more so since I had to remove symmetry from the 4 radial boosters to get them placed properly so tweaking the thrust of one didn’t equalize the thrust among all four automatically.

Deuce crash

I liked being an aircraft accident investigator again, even if my job was stupid simple compared to the real guys (I’ve watched a ton of air disaster investigation TV series on real crashes). Watching the video of the flight and the pinned FAR readouts I could see the huge increase in drag when the gear was lowered, so I knew that was the culprit, but I didn’t immediately know why. I know from my flight sim experience that dropping gear does induce drag, but this seemed excessive. I watched previous videos to see how much drag increased on gear drop and it was nowhere near as much as in the latest crash. Then I looked again and saw the prograde marker on the navball still off-center when the gear dropped and that would put the gear bay doors a bit broadside into the airstream. So yea, the crash was a real deal and a learning experience. I also do plan to rebuild the aircraft in the editor from the ground up very carefully because I’m almost positive that roll issue is due to some way the craft is put together. But if not I’ll deal with that when the time comes in two months or so.

Gotta pee!

I did kinda have to take a crap by the end of that flight and even if I didn’t I thought it was a funny thing to put in. I get inspiration from everywhere.

Archive photos

Almost every image I take isn’t just a simple F1 keypress capture and some of the more elaborate ones can actually take an hour or two to construct, capture, and edit. I just don’t have that time right now, especially when it comes to events I’ve already captured. Why go through all that trouble again and at the same time feel like I have to do something a bit different to help justify recapturing the same scene? Not to mention filling my photo albums with similar stuff. So archive photos will be more of a thing moving forward. I will still attempt to create original content when I can, but if I can depict a similar scene with an older photo that’s a thing I’m going to do.

Mk5 launch

Some more time that held things up this week was spent refactoring some of the AFCS code and then having to come up with new ascent code to go with it. If you want the programmery details check out this reddit thread I made. It’s too bad kOS can’t open a file properly so it throws the access errors, it was legit cool to just paste or type some code in an open text file, hit Save and watch it be executed by the rocket. Now I have to go back to just copying in files and renaming them. Lame. Still, I’m really happy overall with the new boot architecture and it makes designing ascent scripts much easier now that I can just encapsulate various states in their own functions. In the future I hope to be able to code even more generic functions that can just be plugged in via separate files to create various ascent profiles and such.

I had to be careful this launch to remember to 1) reload the older booster specs and 2) re-pitch the launch base back to 85°. I got both and the first try the launch went off perfect. I still did a bunch of “sims” with my stand-up Mk5 slightly-altered version to ensure there were no syntax errors or obvious logical flaws that shouldn’t have made it through what I would consider to be normal quality control for rocket code.

I also let the RNG have full control of the weather and was going to go with whatever it spat out. I use a RNG to determine values for cloud position, height and size. The weather the day cycle prior to launch and the day cycle of launch was determined by the RNG and that’s the way it went. Even though the game doesn’t actually simulate weather I do make sure to use real weather science when I talk about it. For instance mentioning the wind being out of the NNE the previous day would be from a high pressure area off the coast circulating the air clockwise while it is drawn south to the low-pressure storm system over Umbarg. Later the next day when that low-pressure storm system moved past KSC wind was from the SW as low-pressure systems move air counter-clockwise.

Finally, yes the Civvie flight delay was due to me not feeling like I had the time to put it in. Also, I couldn’t see how it would be worth the effort given a Mk5 launch looks the same as a Mk4 launch and I have plenty of videos of those already, even if they are only from the ground. The Block I burns longer in its first stage – not much of a difference but I guess it’s enough for me to try to get some aerial footage of it.


I’ll talk more about the whole trajectories thing after I make the post about it in a few weeks. Really tho – almost 1,000 to plot!


Edited by Drew Kerman
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Operations Summary – Week of 10/16/17
Images from the Week Gallery

Progeny Mk5 Block I First Flight Fails

Original Post

A storm system off the coast has unfortunately smothered KSC in low clouds throughout the daytime launch window for the first Mk5 Block I rocket. The rocket remains healthy on the pad despite strong surface winds and the launch team will continue to monitor it overnight as we hope the following day cycle brings better weather as the storm continues to move out to sea. We'll have an update here after the launch.

In the meantime, you can check out the flight analysis for the previous Mk5 launch at the end of last week to get a better idea of what went into planning the ascent for the Block I.


The weather cleared up nicely the following day cycle and preparations for launch went off cleanly up until booster ignition at T-0, which somehow lit off the second stage booster and discarded the first stage. The rocket eventually landed 8km downrange and was destroyed on impact with the water. We will not be releasing any more information at this time while a full review is conducted over the weekend in order to determine the cause as quickly as possible so we can decide whether the next Block I launch needs to be delayed. Mission timeline.

The full analysis for the launch has been posted after we confirmed that the booster did not mis-fire and just needs a new ignitor.

Genesis & KerBalloon Missions

Since KerBalloon had a head-start this week thanks to a weather balloon surplus from the last launch that wasn't used, Specialist Bill stayed at KSC to help work on this week's Mk5 launch balloons while Specialist Bob headed out to sea to release a high-altitude balloon to gather temperature data. After a day of waiting for clearer skies and favorable winds the balloon was released and recovered successfully.

Commander Valentina took a Civvie out for a long flight down towards the southern end of the landmass where mariners reported spotting signs of aquatic creatures in a large bay. This got scientists excited as no large sea creatures had been seen near land since The Impact occurred, so Val spent well over an hour flying around the area hoping to spot something so a research airship could be tasked to move on station for long-term monitoring. Unfortunately her observations of the area did not turn up anything, although she did manage to beat both her previous records for longest continuous flight time and distance.

A second Genesis mission in support of Progenitor was carried out as well this week by Captain Jebediah in order to determine how a Civvie needed to fly past KSC in order for its wing camera to get a good shot of the launch pad for viewing rockets ascending. By eventually using a ridge line just west of KSC as a landmark Jeb was able to cruise northward while staying 2.5km west of KSC to get a good angle on the launch pad. The Civvie carries a nose camera as well but Flight Director Lanalye is not thrilled about flying an aircraft directly towards the launch zone. Heading perpendicular allows the aircraft to be as close as possible without any danger of it approaching the rocket. Still, she has allowed controllers to direct Jeb straight for the rocket if his side-long pass is looking short of the mark, as by this time there will be only seconds left until liftoff and not enough time for the aircraft to reach the pad from 2.5km away before the rocket is far and away along its flight path.

ATN Database Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 1,098 asteroids, 26 updates and 0 alerts issued.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

The record year of transits has finally come to close with Moho making a separate trip across the sun this past weekend in just over 4 hours, which was almost twice as fast as its previous transit at the start of the year. Moho has a highly elliptical orbit relative to Minmus and Eve so the first transit was further away from the sun and slower than the second. Since both transits were taken with photos every hour, you can see the speed difference in our composite image of all 5 transits. The Minmus transit at the bottom was only a little over an hour so there is a 30 minute position included for that one.


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


Written on 10/19/17

I was so ready to get this done on Tuesday just as I had predicted last week buuuut - meh. IRL work stuff. Stress. Boo hoo. Anyways now I'm back to trying to push out my lead again next week. The vicious cycle continues. Still, the week was pretty good and some reddit comments actually helped bouy the spirit so that was nice. I had a nice twitter comment last month as well. it's always nice to know people are really enjoying the content. Ok so I still haven't been able to launch off the Block I and see what it's capable of (other than a straight-upwards code check flight) so enough moping around and let's get a move on here.

Mk5 Block I scrub

I let the RNG take control of the weather again so what you saw was what I got - low clouds with lots of coverage the first day cycle attempt followed by low clouds but sparse coverage for the second. So yea things could have easily ended up clouded over again but the random numbers that rotate/pan/skew the cloud texture managed to put some mostly clear skies over KSC. Again winds were taken by cloud movement, which changes depending on the x,y,z values for the cloud texture. I have justifiable wiggle room here though - even if no one would know other than me, I could make the surface winds a different direction than the winds aloft moving the clouds.

The kOS code switch from using staging events and action groups over to part actions was done so that I could be flying the Civvie past the pad while the rocket's kOS code was running for it to launch. When it's not the active vessel the stage and action group commands do not function, which makes sense.

I was a bit on the fence about actually flying Jeb's mission - I mean it's not like I actually drive the UTVs around for KerBalloon missions. However in the end I decided they needed to be flown because, especially in this case where Jeb went into a holding pattern, the distances involved would otherwise be too arbitrary to properly calculate the way I can with UTV movements across the ground. Also I did want to challenge myself to try and hit the mark for launch. Still, it adds time and effort to the launch which is why I won't be doing it often.

The booster anomaly was not how I originally wanted things to go. I did plan for the first stage booster to fail to ignite but the whole second stage thing was actually some emergent gameplay I felt I needed to follow. I will have a full explanation of what went "wrong" in next week's Desk Notes so I don't spoil anything from over this weekend. Just remember the first stage booster not igniting was the only thing I planned ahead of time.

Weather photos

I like to take a lot of weather photos to show conditions rather than only describe them in a tweet, but I'm starting to wonder if these are photos I should be including in my flickr albums. I'm beginning to get the feeling they are cluttering up the albums. I may start just uploading them to imgur. I don't know, still haven't decided. Will take a bit more time to see.

Lunch time

I thought I was being smart scheduling the Mk5 final integration photo for lunchtime so I could do a quick setup without having to edit in workers moving around looking like they are actually doing things instead of randomly wandering. Almost worked, then I realized it was dark out and had to black out the windows :P

Purposeful missions

When the game generates a contract for me that I accept the first thing I do is look at what type it is and where it is and try to come up with a good reason for doing it - why does this agency want temperature data from here? Why does this agency want a crew report from there? If it just looks like random nonsense (which, frankly, it is) then I will change the location and try to find interesting places to go. Either way I've been putting more effort into coming up with good reasons for these missions, like the trip out to survey the extinct volcano and Val looking for "whales" and the most recent mission seeking to determine if backcountry Civvie flying is feasible.

Thumbs up

I thought my latest Jeb pose was pretty good, considering it was a composite of two poses:

Pose 1 on left, Pose 2 in middle, composite pose right

The angle of the camera was also purposely positioned so that his glove would contrast well with the wheel cover otherwise the thumbs up is hard to see.

KSP v1.3.1 revisit

So I realized recently that I actually do need to install the new KSP version sooner rather than later since in order to plan my orbital program I need to have a look at all the parts I have to choose from, and I want to make sure I'm doing it in an environment in which I'll actually be using them. This won't be so bad since part packs generally are version agnostic, at least the ones that have been updated to KSP v1.0, and those that do come with plugins generally don't affect the performance characteristics as viewed statically in the VAB. In case anyone is wondering, this is where I use the tech tree. I don't unlock nodes with science, I convert science points into funds, but I do take note of how technologies are structured in the tree and proceed progressively. So looking for orbital engines I'll be mainly comparing various offerings out of one of the earlier rocketry tech tree nodes. I'll be honest that I haven't had much time to plan out the orbital program - it doesn't even have a name yet - one of the downsides to being so short on lead time. Still planning to announce it early Nov tho.


Edited by Drew Kerman
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Operations Summary – Week of 10/23/17
Images from the Week Gallery

Progeny Mk5 Block I Preps for Second Launch Attempt

All is nearing readiness for our next launch, which will once again see a new Block I rocket take to the skies – hopefully all together this time! We’ve already updated our software to check for proper ignition on all three boosters and fail gracefully when detected, and we’ve also made sure the program execution only stops when the booster has landed after the parachute has been deployed. Speaking of the parachute, one of the other considerations the team came up with during our code review was how much faster the rocket could be re-entering when falling from a higher apokee. We’ve lowered the chute’s initial deployment altitude to 2.5km from 4km, which should be enough time for the rocket to no longer be supersonic and tear the chute to shreds as it deploys. We hope. So many unknowns! We are still not entirely sure the rocket won’t break apart on ascent either. What we are sure of however is that this launch is going to be awesome regardless.

In related news, our Operations Director Drew Kerman wrote up a post yesterday on why we can’t take any space photos yet. It’s not for lack of wanting to or trying!

Also Head of Research & Development Wernher Von Kerman revealed our new dedicated accelerometer instrument, which is now undergoing final testing to be included in a future Mk5 launch.

Genesis & KerBalloon Missions

With our monthly income dipping into the red it was important we still managed to get some well-funded missions carried out. Unfortunately although we had planned for two Genesis flights today’s got postponed to after the launch next week due to weather.

We started off the week with Specialists Bob & Bill taking the longest overland trek to date, covering a total of 572km to launch and recover a low-altitude KerBalloon. Thankfully winds cooperated to allow them to launch as soon as they were onsite and not worry about the payload drifting out to sea. The trip brought the UTVs near max range of 607km each when three are deployed with one carrying the KerBalloon and the other two carrying spare fuel tanks. Although they dealt with some nasty weather on the return trip all 3 vehicles made it back safely – no landslides!.

Commander Valentina took a Civvie up north to survey a mountain that some field researchers were considering summiting. Her flight was uneventful and upon return she made her entire approach at 55% throttle, cutting back to idle as she crossed over the runway threshold at 72m/s – normally a landing would be performed at around 50m/s. It took her nearly 3/4 of the runway to coast down to a speed with which the Civvie would stay on the ground when its wheels came down, but she didn’t run off. This new, faster approach has been worked up to these past few missions and the purpose is to allow the engine alternator to generate enough current to power all the aircraft systems through descent, thus saving battery power and thus saving operating costs. Flying techniques will continue to evolve as our pilots gain more and more experience.

ATN Database Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 1,120 asteroids and 15 updated with new observation data

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Specialist Bob snagged this photo while Val was still sailing back to KSC aboard the recovery ship after last week’s failed launch attempt. We’ve been wanting to show off Minmus with a lit polar region (northern seen here) for a while and this was too perfect not to get a photo of.


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


Written on 10/26/17

Oh, hello Thursday. NICE TO loveING SEE YOU AGAIN. Oh well, the grind continues. I was doing great earlier this week and was set to close this weekend out by Wednesday and then… things. IRL stuff not worth going into. Reset. Try again. *le sigh*

Mk5 Block I launch anomaly – the true story

So the truth behind the failure of the Mk5 launch is… exactly what happened. As I explained last week I had intended for the booster to fail, but what I didn’t intend was how the kOS code would handle the “failure”. To get the log output I ran the code and I just removed all the fuel from the first stage booster, which is why it actually activated but then read as “flamed-out!” because there was no fuel. Originally I had written that the booster would fail, the count would be reset and tried again, still failed and the rocket would get rolled back to the VAB, the ignitor replaced over the weekend and the launch re-tried on Monday. However I ended up liking the idea of the software failure much better because for one thing the problem was actually evident in the actual code I had uploaded to Github, plus it allowed me to expend the rocket and not have to do another launch so soon, which was great as I’ve been so tight on time lately. Unfortunately I had already done some extra work in writing out the events that I had planned to follow the ignition failure plus I had to go back and edit down Jeb’s Civvie mission because he wouldn’t have been in the air nearly as long as if there had been a recycle of the countdown and a second try. I actually flew within sight of the pad for the first pass, but I just didn’t have time to include any extra video – I was literally making these changes early on the day of the launch!! Ugh, I miss my lead time…

Also as of this writing I have not launched the second Mk5 Block I yet. I have no idea what’s going to happen. So all the conjecture that’s been posted has been true conjecture!

Airship delay

Without time to setup KSP v1.3.1 still, which is the environment the airship will function under, I couldn’t even begin to design it. So this project has been delayed until early next year as I hope to push out my lead again over the holiday break. Hopefully the orbital program won’t be similarly affected.

Coming in hot

Just as a reminder that I don’t make things up, here is Val’s landing from this past week. I use PhysicalTimeRatioViewer to see how slow the game is running to realtime so I can speed it up to normal in my video editor so this is real-time speed (actual speed was about 85%). After cutting the throttle you see me bump it back up a bit because AJE doesn’t have an “idle” state that continues to draw fuel when the throttle is 0. Also, love those wheels man. I’ve given up with them, I just land like this all the time, spinning out to a stop. Whatever. Thug life.

Website work

So I took my twitter script injection to the next level recently. First, I noticed the program pages were not actually directing you to the proper sub-section when a tab was clicked. Now, when I first built the site I noticed the twitter widget I embedded in each tab was not being re-sized to the width of the table column it was in except for the first one that was loaded with the page. The tab plugin I was using loaded all the tabs and let you switch quickly between them, but I forced it to reload the page everytime you clicked a tab so the twitter embed would size properly. Well, I figured out how to use my injected script to size all the embeds so I was able to switch the tab plugin back to being fully responsive and now if you visit, say the Progenitor page, you can click through tabs without having to reload the page. Yay!

Another change I made was to reformat the timestamps in the smaller twitter embed widgets so they too would also show the tweet time, but because space was less than the collection embed shown on a full page I had to go with a different date format.

Finally I made it so every time the page loads each tweet has a random number of seconds assigned to it so they all don’t show as being posted at :00 or :01 seconds after the minute. Thinking ahead to times I want to use the Flight Tracker’s automated tweet ability to send out scheduled tweets to the second during launches, I made it so certain minutes are ignored when the random seconds are generated so these events will remain accurate.

Ops Tracker work

Head on over to the Ops Tracker and click through things in the menu. You can now select a vessel, crew member or body and the interface will adjust itself accordingly to display that information. You can still currently only view bodies but the groundwork is now laid for me to begin working on loading and displaying vessel and crew information as well. I think it’s pretty slick how things re-organize themselves (oops, crew view is actually a bit broke right now). Also the GeoGebra 3D model is fully functional now – I refactored how it was managing the various orbital elements on display and you can do things like click on a planet, select to show its nodes and then if you check the Show Nodes option at the bottom of the figure all the nodes will show and if you uncheck it all the nodes will hide but the ones you explicitly set to show through the planet info box. Head over to Kerbin to see a dynamic orbit display for the one currently captured asteroid. Click on the orbit itself to show its name and nodes – again doing this will keep them visible regardless of the global display options at the bottom. You can also hide the whole orbit using the filters on the bottom right. Clicking on the dot for the vessel’s position will switch you over to view its vessel page. More good stuff to come… when I have time again!!


Edited by Drew Kerman

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Operations Summary – Week of 10/30/17
Images from the Week Gallery

Progenitor Re-Focus Halts Launches

Earlier this week a successful launch of the new Progeny Mk5 Block I rocket reached a record height of 493km above the surface of Kerbin. The launch was so successful, in fact, that yesterday the Progenitor team announced future launches would be put on hold to reconsider how best to utilize the Block I and Block II rockets and also how to overcome some issues that were revealed during the launch, which will be covered in the flight analysis report expected sometime next week. The hope is that we can get in at least two more launches before the end of the operational year on Dec 15th, one being a Block I and another being a Block II. Check out some of the new records this recent launch set!

Genesis & KerBalloon Keep the Funds Rolling In

Although the Progenitor program made a noticeable contribution to our income this month, it still fell upon Genesis & KerBalloon to keep us out of the red. This past week each program carried out a contract mission.

Genesis flew a Civvie at the command of Captain Jebediah out over the Grasslands to the west of KSC to gather atmospheric samples from 1-3km ASL in order to get a new measurement of pollen counts since the recent outbreak in September. High amounts of pollen in the air led to health issues earlier this year and scientists are continuing to study the flora, many of which are new species since after the Sea Ring event. Jeb flew a very nice “flower pattern” that allowed him to sweep over a large area surrounding the target, then brought the Civvie back in for his first “high-speed” landing with throttle set to 55% during descent to remain off battery power until crossing the runway threshold.

KerBalloon dispatched Specialist Bob to let go a high-altitude balloon near a large storm system out at sea, which was so big it wasn’t even seen directly at first by mariners – everyone just noticed rougher seas and dark horizons. The storm appears to have been raging for 3 days now but thankfully only appears to be circling around well out to sea and not approaching land. Weather was so violent that it was determined ahead of time the balloon would not be recovered, so Reaction Systems Ltd covered the cost of our reusable parts that would be lost as well. Data returned from the balloon shows the storm has begun to weaken, but still recorded the lowest pressures ever seen on Kerbin.

Kerbin Gets a New Moonlet

Astronomers have been keeping a close watch on Mun for a while now in order to spot newly-captured asteroids that swing by and this week they spotted KUH-563(C) making a pass through Mun’s SOI. They then spent the next day and change studying its orbit and have realized that this moonlet has been a resident of our system for quite some time now, on the order of months! They’ve deduced this based on its orbit (red. Mun is green), which is very close to Kerbin, too close to have possibly been captured in just one or two passes so far. With a highly-inclined orbit it’s not too surprising that the asteroid has escaped detection until now but also reveals how much sky there is to cover that we can’t even see objects in our own backyard. Astronomers will continue to observe and nail down the exact orbit to attempt to determine how much longer it will be with us. We will have it added to the Flight Tracker in the next few days when better orbital data is posted. The Kerbin Astronomical Society has already assembled a group to work on a name.

Religious Pilgrims Welcomed to Monolith Site

For the first time since The Incident involving the Monolith religious kerbs have been allowed near the site. In the months since The Incident there has been a growing anger from Monolithic followers against the government for closing off access to their holy site and hopefully this move will help to ease tensions that at times appeared to be reaching levels of actual violence. Still, getting permission to spend time near the Monolith means going through a new government program of registration and background checks, which has not eased many kerbs minds over thoughts of government control and monitoring. Here at KSC, we are working to ensure that Monolith visitors are safe from any ongoing operations, and that our ongoing operations are safe from any interference.

ATN Database & KSA Financial Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 1,145 asteroids and 14 updated with new observation data.

Our monthly financial report can be viewed here, featuring our narrowest profit margin to date. We’re very thankful that launch succeeded…

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Although it was visible over KSC just on the horizon, Ockr Observatory further to the east had Jool higher in the sky for a clearer view of Pol and Tylo transiting their shadows across Jool. Pol (small dot in lower-left of image) is the smallest moon of Jool at just 88km in diameter while Tylo (just left of Jool) is the largest, matching Kerbin at 12,000km in diameter. This pairing occurs as we approach opposition with Jool, bringing the gas giant as close as possible to see the tiny shadow of Pol. Laythe and Vall are also visible.


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


Written on 11/2/17

God dammit it’s Thursday again. BUT. But, I actually finished all of Friday yesterday – writing up this report is the only thing I’ve had to do today, so that’s something. Also it’s pretty smooth sailing these next two weeks or so with no rocket launches on the horizon – that wasn’t really intentional but it does work in my favor at this point. I’ve given up hoping for returning to a 3-week lead before the end of the year and am now just hoping to setup a week.

Mk5 Block I redeux

Holy hell that sumpoodle went high. I honestly thought it would remain below 250km. Of course, this launch still didn’t go as planned with the second stage lighting off so soon – but I’ll get into that more via the official report next week. Suffice to say I did not expect it to reach anywhere close to the height it did. Stepping back to re-tool the Progenitor program is a logical step that also happens to take away time-intensive launches for the near future, which is a nice side-effect.

Overall the launch was a pretty big pain in the ass, but I got it done. Civvie fly-by was very cool, but don’t expect it every launch. I really had to throttle back & pitch up hard to kill speed to not overshoot – if I had missed I would not have tried again (this launch). Flying with the full set of visual mods needed to make it look like the photos dropped my game speed down to 50% so although the mission lasted roughly 15 minutes of in-game flying time, it took me about 30 minutes real-world time and I had to do it twice because the first time the parachute deployed at launch due to a kOS bug – here’s a video.

Also I mentioned via tweet how the “suspense” of the recovery was not me just trying to be suspenseful, it actually happened that way. Sometimes the game just makes it easy to write things out.

New old moonlet

The deduction that KUH-563(C) has been around for a while is a very logical one that really does work out based on its current orbit, but I also know for a fact that it’s been around a couple of months because I’ve been watching it and waiting for it to be officially discovered. It’s been in the ATN database of unknown asteroids ever since it was created but it was never selected during the periods of asteroid discovery. It’s actually passed through Mun’s SOI 18 times since capture but in all instances but the most recent one no observatory on Kerbin could see it happen. Well, the 4th pass maybe could have been visible but it happened the same time as Pilarani so I deemed everyone suitably distracted. Like I’ve said before, asteroids can come & go with no-one the wiser – I’m not going to force an asteroid to be discovered just because it’s been captured into orbit by Mun. Still, glad this one was finally found!

Slim profits

I don’t fiddle around with numbers in the finance sheets at the end of the month or anything when I see how it’s turned out. If the month goes into the red, it goes into the red and I deal with any consequences of that. Overall though I remain happy with how I’ve been balancing the money side of things and it feels like an integral aspect to what I’m doing rather than just a thing being done for the sake of realism.

Weather tweaks

I’ve given clouds a greater range of altitudes to be set to when generating the random numbers for weather. They can now exist from 1.5 to 8km rather than 2.5 to 6km. It just allows the RNG more room to play, I found it was spitting out medium ranges a lot around 3km. I’m liking the effects, like in this video I posted to twitter (which I couldn’t schedule, grrrrr) the offset to the clouds creates some nice movement to the particles.


Edited by Drew Kerman

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Operations Summary – Week of 11/6/17
Images from the Week Gallery

Mk5 Block I Flight Analysis Released

The recently released report with the details of our last Progeny launch is the longest report we’ve published to date, including all the details on the flight itself and how we plan to address the numerous problems that became apparent during it. The most serious issue we discovered was the potential for a harsh radiation environment just over 350km from the surface of Kerbin, which brings about concern for missions further into space – especially ones with kerbals aboard. Check out the report for all the details but what everyone is most interested in would be that we don’t plan to launch another Block I until sometime in mid-December and the Block II has been delayed further into January 2018 at the earliest.

Genesis & KerBalloon Carry On

As usual both programs ran a mission this past week to help keep us afloat financially. On the Genesis side, Commander Valentina took a Civvie flight north of KSC to satisfy two contracts, conducting a routine flight in great weather conditions. Over with KerBalloon, Specialists Bill and Bob helped prepare two low-altitude payloads and then Bob took to sea aboard MSV Lymun to help launch and recovery both balloons successfully. The first launch did see an uncharacteristic early end to the ascent – we did not find any obvious defects with what remains of the envelope we could recover and sent them off to KerBalloon the manufacturer for more analysis. Right now we are considering this to be an isolated incident.

Alaba to Slam into Mun in 2021?

The Kerbin Astronomical Society earlier this week announced the name for our newly-discovered moonlet to be Alaba, which is ancient Kerbskrit for “second child”. Technically this is the 5th captured moonlet on record so far but in relation to our current crop of moonlets it could be considered to be second to Chikelu. Astronomers spent several days locking down its orbit and then attempted to predict what would happen to it as it continued to be influence by close passes with Mun. The possibilities for an asteroid in an orbit like this are to either be ejected back into sun orbit, slam into Kerbin or slam into Mun. The current analysis points to Alaba slamming into Mun after 58 more encounters over the next 4 years. Astronomers released that plot immediately after finishing propagating out the orbits and are expected to release a more detailed look sometime next week.

Deep Space Network Update

Work continues to prepare for sending and receiving signals to future spacecraft far beyond Kerbin as well as allow us to observe more of the night sky with greater frequency. You can get the background information on our DSN plans via this initial report. Recent news on the project has announced the huge dish of the Arekibo Radio Observatory has begun to lay down its many hundreds of segments that will combine to form the reflective surface that will direct signals to the receiver floating high overhead. The next major DSN project, the Central Observatory, has also broken ground on construction for the building that will house the 10m optical telescope, which will be the largest on Kerbin when completed. 2 of its 5 mirror segments have already been completed with the 3rd already being cast. Finally, the Maritime Service is nearly done laying the first section of sea cable that will connect Arekibo to the network spanning all 4 cities and the KSC.

ATN Database Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 1,169 asteroids and 23 updated with new observation data.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Bob grabbed this pretty cool shot of a mostly-full Mun rising during sunset. We can tell Mun is not totally full because if it were – we wouldn’t see it! Well, we would but it would be a lot more reddish due to passing through Kerbin’s shadow.


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


Written on 11/7/17

Had a very productive weekend, also helps that operations have calmed down a lot but there was still an hr+ Civvie flight and that monstrous analysis report, not to mention propagating out Alaba’s orbit… so still a lot of work that needed to be done but it’s done and it’s only Tuesday and this makes me happy. Ok, on to some details…

Arekibo retcon incoming

I am so stupid. I pretend to be a smart person, doing all this smart-looking stuff, but I am so loveing dumb sometimes it’s just hilarious. How in the hell I ever though the KerbinSide static for the Arekibo telescope was only 86m in diameter is just…. wat. I don’t even… *headdesk*

OK, so – the original plan was to have Arekibo be like 180m in diameter or something, I can’t really remember but what I do remember is measuring the size of the 3D static object in the game and finding it was only 86m in diameter and being like “love, I should have measured it before telling everyone how big it was going to be.” and that’s when I changed it to 86m.

Turns out I somehow completely missed the loveING ZERO after the six that came after the eight. Yea, that’s right – when I plug the coordinates of each end of the dish bowl into my distance calculator it tells me the distance between them is 860m. But beyond that mistake – just look at the size of the thing!!! I’ve measured other things in the game before but I just never thought to actually compare them in my head to realize there was no way that static was only 86m.

So yea, this retcon will be done very quietly at some point :PThe awesome news tho is that I am in touch with Omega482 on the forums for the possibility of creating a custom Aerkibo static. He’s been making some awesome statics for use around KSC.

Still can’t keep track of crew

That’s a cool photo Bob took I posted above right? Yea, well actually if you believe what @KSA_MissionCtrl is tweeting then Bob is supposed to have stayed in Umbarg after returning from his mission that day and shouldn’t have been around KSC to take the photo. Grrrrr. I have a sheet in my Excel workbook dedicated to tracking what the various KSA crew members are doing but I don’t always remember to update or check it before posting about their activities. Will need to get better at this – there are only 4 right now for cripes sake.

Alaba name origin

The name is Western African, Yoruba for “second child after twins” – obviously the “after twins” part doesn’t apply here but it was close enough. I get pretty much all my names from Behind the Name, which has a name generator.

Mk5 AFCS error

I really haven’t been able to figure out what the hell happened to the AFCS during the last Mk5 flight. This is what the console spat out and it makes no sense. However I thought the cosmic ray reason was pretty cool, as that’s really a thing that can happen to electronics while in space.

Kerbol planetarium

So I spent some time this weekend implementing some time & date controls into the Ops Tracker but I realized this wasn’t really an ideal option for the Ops Tracker because the purpose here is to show what’s currently happening with KSA spacecraft and as such it needs to keep track of what things are currently doing – it can get confusing when people start messing around with time. So, once the Ops Tracker is complete I will build a secondary tracker that only uses the GeoGebra figure to let people play around with time, date and speed. It will also be able to take URL parameters or a link to a database file that lets anyone generate orbits to display, similar to how you can place pins on the Leaflet map.


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3 hours ago, Drew Kerman said:

containing 1,169 asteroids

How do you have that many?  

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16 hours ago, DAL59 said:

How do you have that many?  

they're in their own save that only gets run after I use a batch file to strip out anything but a few necessary mods. It takes almost 30s just to load into the tracking station. I have a means of keeping tabs on them without having to actually view them all at once, which kills the game performance.

Also, 1,169 is only the number of discovered asteroids. I won't reveal how many more I'm tracking which are not discovered but it's more. A lot more. If I manage to make it to a point where the game simply can't load them all, I will probably reveal the number - then of course just make a second save for the overflow

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Operations Summary – Week of 11/13/17
Images from the Week Gallery

Progenitor and Ascension Move Forward

This week senior KSA staff finalized plans for our orbital program, dubbed Ascension. The final steps are now underway to get everything together for the public reveal sometime next week, no later than Wednesday.

Work continues on getting our next Progeny launch in before the year’s end, with the VAB starting to work on the 3rd stage from available parts and Umbra Space Industries getting close to final design of our new booster core. We hope to test the booster no later than the end of the month in order to give USI time to make another that we will use for launch ~2wks later if all goes well with the test.

KerBalloon Delivers, Genesis Stalls

Only KerBalloon was able to pull off a mission this week, launching and recovering a low-altitude balloon from the West Shore Desert. Genesis had a mission scheduled but first weather and then health issues caused multiple delays. Commander Val is off duty to attend to familial duties back home until next week and Captain Jebediah is currently recovering from gut inflammation. They hope to carry out the mission on Monday but have already lost one of the two contracts attached to the mission due to time constraints.

Alaba Observed in New Orbit

New orbital data has been posted for Alaba after its first predicted encounter with Mun earlier today, which astronomers were able to observe in full. Alaba exited Mun’s SOI just 0.342 seconds sooner than predicted and all other orbital parameters are within acceptable margins of error. Although eager to see how the tiny differences in planned versus actual observations would affect the years-long propagation detailed in a report earlier this week, unfortunately that will have to wait as a possible error in the trajectory software has been identified when progressing mission states. Until it is resolved, the best anyone can do is keep an eye out for the next predicted encounter to occur on November 25th.

Increased Asteroid Awareness Sparks Concern from Public

The Asteroid Tracking Network has been addressing increasing concern from the public about the high number of asteroids that have been discovered so far this month and the statement they released about them only seeing an estimated 40% of what is actually out there near Kerbin at any given time. They have reminded everyone that it’s still too early to tell if the current high count of asteroids is what things always look like in our neighborhood or if we just happen to be passing through a thicker portion of all the debris left over from the Kerbol system’s formation. Even though we still don’t have the coverage necessary to spot the majority of asteroids whizzing by, the chances of another kilometers-wide planet-killer are looking very small considering that we have found none so far since the one that almost wiped us out centuries ago. Of course that doesn’t mean none are out there, and the ATN will continue to look and work to increase our sky coverage.

ATN Database Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 1,198 asteroids and 22 updated with new observation data.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

The elusive shadow of Bop is revealed! With an orbital inclination of 15° around Jool, the second-smallest moon does not always pass between Jool and the sun to cast its shadow down upon the cloud tops. Ironically it’s too small to resolve at this resolution, taken by Commander Valentina with her personal telescope.


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


Written on 11/13/17

I had hoped to be on Monday today and have my 1 week lead time locked in but just a bit short, still better off than I was last week for once so that’s good. Part of the reason why I’m not leading by a week as planned is because….

Failed Wallops launch viewing attempt

So I made a second attempt to see an Antares launch from Wallops Island down in Virginia. I was planning on going to a launch earlier this year but it was scrubbed the day before and rescheduled to a day I couldn’t make. This past weekend seemed like a perfect opportunity being that it was very early and very cold (down to 25°F) so turnout would hopefully be a bit less than usual. I planned to head down Arbuckle Neck Rd but they had it closed off – it’s listed as a public viewing site on the tourism website for the area which actually directs you to turn down the road, which will take you a mile from the launch pad. They’ve probably been closing it since the huge launch failure back in 2014. Anyways I made the 4.5hr drive with no problems, get setup on the side of the road at the top of Arbuckle so still ~2mi from the launch site and the countdown proceeds with some issues but they are resolved and we get into the final count and “we have red range for aircraft” comes over the live feed on my phone piped through my car speakers and I’m like “Nooooooooooooooooo” and despite the 5-minute window I learned later that the small GA plane refused to respond to calls to get the love out. So then another 4.5hr drive back and roughly 11hrs total wasted time. Ironically that 2014 launch failure was another botched attempt at viewing a launch, this time from the Jersey Shore near where I live. I stood out on the boardwalk and saw nothing, then checked my phone and found it had exploded shortly after lift off. Well, here’s hoping I have better luck in 2018…

SRB thrust curves

Since v1.1 of KSP there has been the ability to apply thrust curves to engines in the stock game, you can read more about them here. When I was getting things tested for learning to work with the curves I nearly had a meltdown when I saw the thrust of the 0.625m USI booster was producing way more than what it had during the last MK5 launch and I was like “OMG did I use improper engine configurations during that launch?!?” but then I remembered it was just because I had thrust-limited the booster :P

Deuce sim training

There’s no link between the sim training and anything I’m actually doing, it’s just an activity to talk about and certainly makes sense for the pilots to be doing. I mean, sure if I had the time I would be flying around in the Deuce a lot because it’s a fun plane to fly (oops, spoiler alert?) but yea no I don’t have the time.

Kerbin relocated

I did this series back in the original KSA run, I thought I had an album with more images than this (oh right, I deleted in when I rebooted. Shucks, the images are still in the flickr account but buried) but no time to put one together at the moment so there you go. I didn’t show off Jool or Laythe a lot because I still want some wiggle room in case I need to make any big texture changes to them in the future when there is a probe around them or something.


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With that many asteroids, you're probably going to find a class e on a collision course and have to build up your program pretty fast to stop it...  

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5 hours ago, DAL59 said:

find a class e on a collision course and have to build up your program pretty fast to stop it...  

None of these asteroids are even close to planet-killers. It would take a direct impact of an E asteroid right atop one of the underground cities, of which there are only 4, or within 500km of the KSC for there to be any real danger. Also NKOs are 99.9% stony asteroids so most would break up anyways. So the chances are smaller than you probably thought but you are right that with enough it could happen...

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Operations Summary – Week of 11/20/17
Images from the Week Gallery

Ascension Program Announced

Head on over to the press release from earlier this week for all the details. We also have a program page setup just like all the rest. Everyone has been working hard over this past year to get the program up and running despite numerous delays due to problems with the Progeny rockets. We had hoped to announce this program as far back as September but better late than never right? We still hope to be able to launch the first 1.25m rocket by the end of Q1 2018 although we admit even to ourselves this is an ambitious schedule. All KSA staff is dedicated to achieving it though if possible!

KerBalloon and Genesis Missions

We like to get in at least one of each per week and this week was no exception. Genesis went first with a short flight over KSC to test out some new camera equipment from CactEye Optics. The larger lens allowed us to zoom in to a field of just 5° while the regular view gave us a field of 60°, which is 2x greater than our current cameras mounted to the Civvies. There were some control issues with the camera platform that we want CactEye to address before we purchase some units but we can see these being of great use on the Deuce, which won’t have any fixed landing gear to obscure the view. Unfortunately due to numerous delays over the past week Genesis lost a second contract thanks to time constraints.

KerBalloon chartered a Maritime Service Vessel to the northern sea in order to launch a high-altitude balloon, which ascended from the northern-most location we have ever conducted a mission from. We tend to not like performing missions well out of contact from KSC but in this case we were able to relay communications and data through Kravass, which was a great test as it will serve as a future ground station for spacecraft in low-Kerbin orbit. Since we were so much further north, a camera was included in the payload to gather some images, which included a glimpse of northern aurora.

Progeny Continues to Work Towards Return to Flight

This week the VAB concluded work on the third-stage of the Mk5 Block I scheduled to launch no earlier than 12/12. Unlike all previous Mk5 third stages this one no longer has fins at the bottom as analysis of the last Block I flight showed they were no longer needed by the time the third stage flew on its own. The stage also includes shielded payload bay fairings and computer control unit to help protect against the possibility of heavier radiation at higher altitudes. The nose cone antenna is also sporting an extended range out to 1Mm. The next step in construction will be the second stage as the booster arrived late this week. We plan to test the new first stage booster towards the end of next week. If that goes well, final assembly and integration will begin the following week.

ATN Database Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 1,220 asteroids and 29 updated with new observation data.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Bob only had to travel about 2km north of KSC, near the Monolith, to change his perspective enough that a planetary alignment happened to form a near-perfect triangle over top of the Skyspire peak in the Western Mountains. The three planets in the triangle are (clockwise from top) Urlum, Eve and Sarnus. Neidon is sitting up to the right


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


Written on 11/23/17

Oof, rough week. A good friend is getting evicted and I had to lend a hand helping him get all his stuff moved. The Punisher dropped on Netflix and although I binged that in a day it still took up time. Had a bit of burn out too but that’s all past me now. Best part of this week though was finally getting my Saturn V Lego set, which I will be contently assembling over the next several days. I find it’s a nice activity to help wind down before bed.

Umbarg aerial

I forgot to talk about this last week, but Omega482 from the KSP forums graciously allowed me early access to one of his many awesome statics has has under development for Kerbal Konstructs and I was able to finally show how Umbarg allows KSC to use it to relay data and communications. As you can see the base of the static isn’t there, but that was just thanks to some compositing to remove it after carefully placing it and adjusting the time of day for favorable shadows. I will admit I was a bit surprised no one commented about it really given its not something that could be obviously built with stock parts. This is the same kind of tower that sits over Kravass (and Sheltered Rock, and Ockr).

More weather meddling

Found a new EVE property to play with – cloud speed. Turns out you can set all three axis for the direction in which the clouds move. I’m doing this the same way I do cloud position by generating 3 random numbers between 0-200 where 0 to 100 = 0 to 100 and 101 to 200 = -1 to -100. Turns out that depending on the combination of values I get some pretty cool results where the cloud rotation actually changes over time. Here’s a quick video to let you see what I mean – Kerbin itself is still spinning normally it’s just the clouds that are wobbling all over the place. So over the course of a Kerbin day the clouds could be moving west to east then by next sunrise be moving more southwest to northeast, then east to west or back to west to east – in short it gives me a much more dynamic range of “wind directions” over time. Still, depending on the values I can also end up with a near-consistent pattern over the course of 24hrs.

Doing my own Scatterer effects

Turns out zooming in on KSC from far away doesn’t look good with Scatterer at all due to some obvious outlining of the buildings. Thankfully the effect is a lot less obvious when I disable the atmospheric haze depth effect (postprocessing) via the configuration window so I just needed to make my own. A few minutes of fiddling with layer blending and coloring produced a near-similar effect.


KSP_x64.exe_DX9_20171114_231140-300x188.pngOriginal Scatterer image with obvious outlining


KSP_x64.exe_DX9_20171114_231441-300x188.pngPostprocessing disabled, outlining still there but less obvious


KSP_x64.exe_DX9_20171114_23114022-2-300x188.pngCustom effect added to previous image, just a solid color layer with transparency and blend mode tweaked

Stupid mistakes

I made a couple of dumb but thankfully not horribly obvious mistakes this past week I’m not too pleased about.

  • I left the roof dish atop the Tracking Station in this photo, which is hard to see but it’s there if you look for it. The dish was taken down earlier to be moved to the ground. Thankfully I remembered to remove it from the photos of the KSC taken from the air (like the ones shown above). I at least was able to remove it from the photo on flickr. This photo also set me up for my next fail…
  • The aircraft in this photo are swapped, as the previous photo showed the atmospheric scoop being on the Civvie to the right. Sure they could have been dollied around – but why?
  • Also in that last photo Val isn’t in her usual flight suit. I knew this at the time but just then forgot to change it before taking the photo.

No one called me out on any of these but I’m still not happy with the continuity slips. Again, this is why having a large lead time is good, because it gives me more opportunity to review and catch mistakes like these with time left to also fix them.


Edited by Drew Kerman
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Operations Summary – Week of 11/27/17
Images from the Week Gallery

Progeny Mk5 Block I Booster Test Successful

This week we finally held the static fire test for the new first stage booster that is designed to push the rocket off the pad at 4Gs to keep the nose from lifting and tipping the rocket over, then gradually reducing thrust as it climbs to keep dynamic pressure from building up too much. Measurements taken during the test show that the booster performed within the required parameters and we have cleared the last hurdle for the next Block I launch, which has now been scheduled for 12/14 @ 17:30 UTC. This will still be a bit of a crunch to get assembled but the VAB crew has had a good break this past month and it itching to get their hands dirty again. It also gives us two full days in the event that weather or technical problems hold up the launch before our scheduled end of yearly operations on the 15th. However we have already gotten approval from all staff involved to continue launch attempts throughout the following weekend if necessary.

Genesis & KerBalloon Missions

Over the weekend an unusually strong storm blew off the ocean over Kravass and the Field Research Team managed to quickly throw together a mission for Commander Valentina to fly north and intercept the storm as it dissipated over land to gather pressure readings to see how strong it still was by that time. Although Val flew north as planned, the storm had either veered off the projected course or weakened much faster than predicted as weather was not as rough and stormy as expected over the target location. Due to poor weather conditions back at KSC, Val was diverted to land at Kravass, where she ended up spending the week practicing approaches to its challenging airport, working with flight instructors on multi-crew practices, and enjoying her status as a minor celebrity being that Kravass is her home cavern. She flew back to KSC at the end of the week.

KerBalloon took Specialists Bill and Bob out to the eastern- and northern-most city of Ockr to release two high-altitude balloons for studying the temperature and pressures over the ocean even further to the east. The secondary goal of the mission was to test data relay from Ockr, as it will serve as the future hub for all Deep Space Network communications coming from the various ground stations other than KSC. Although the instruments could have fit on one balloon payload, two were used to gather additional data on upper-level wind currents by seeing how the balloons separated over the course of their flight. Unfortunately they ended up being carried too far further east to be seen by the Ockr radio tower due to the fact that the mountains east of Ockr are almost as high as those above the city.

Extremis Program Trajectory Calculations in Final Stretch

This week the Extremis team finished the 250 trajectory plots found to be potentially feasible for the 2019-2020 launch window and have begun the final phase one work of looking for good routes through 2020 into 2021, which they expect to complete by the end of operations on the 15th. We’ll have a detailed report on the phase one plotting once it is complete. A new addition to the trajectory analysis is the ability to now set a constraint for how close the spacecraft is allowed to approach the central body – in this case the sun. We don’t want our probes to die of overheating during their mission! We’ve set our constraint to half the distance of Moho’s closest approach to the sun. Even though a good portion of the phase one calculations did not use this constraint, phase two will allow us to account for this.

Alaba Makes Second Planned Mun SOI Pass

New orbital data has been posted for our moonlet Alaba after it was observed passing through Mun’s sphere of influence for the second time since its was discovered. So far the current orbit compared to the propagation work done based on its original discovery orbit is showing only minor deviations and we will see how well we have predicted its next encounter in late Jan 2018. We are still looking into a problem with our trajectory analysis software which is preventing us from seeing at this time how far off these minor deviations are throwing the final prediction of a crash into Mun in 2021.

ATN Database Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 1,265 asteroids and 27 updated with new observation data.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

It was quite the gathering of planets earlier this week at dawn when we went to get the Progeny Mk5 Block I test booster mounted on the launch pad. Seen here above the dawn are Moho, Duna, Sarnus, Urlum and Neidon. A crescent Minmus is visible further towards the top of the image.


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


Written on 11/28/17

Could have had this all done yesterday but got a bit burnt out. Still, to be on a Tuesday after last Friday being only a day behind on ops is pretty damn good considering this week was no slouch in terms of operations with two long-ass Civvie flights and a relative crapload of images from one of them, with 28 images overall for the week. Hot damn. I even got in a pretty hefty Git commit for the Ops Tracker, getting everything setup to begin actually showing data on the vessel pages.

2.5hrs for 9 inflight photos

The images from the Civvie flight on Monday took 2.5hrs to capture – and that does not include the time it took to get them setup, just the time needed to load the game, load the flight, snap the photo, perform any edits necessary, and move on to the next. Not to mention I had to make some weather changes which required a restart of the game to take effect. I have a pretty beefy machine but I still jack the game graphics way up to a higher level of terrain detail and ground scatter distance rendering so that loading into the flight scene takes a good while and FPS while in the flight scene is very low. It was doubly-time-consuming for the two photos of KGA because the terrain scatter spawns in and around the airport statics, so I have to take a photo without ground scatter, restart the game and take another with ground scatter, then layer them and edit out the trees on the airport and on the approach paths. So yea, you don’t see a lot of inflight photos because they really do take up a lot of time, but in this case flying over new areas of Kerbin I really wanted to include them.

Photo edits

Speaking of editing photos, here are a few examples of what I need to do sometimes:

  • This photo has a prop spinner visible but I had to add that myself with a solid-color layer blended into the image because when EVE cloud shadowing falls over the propeller in the game the texture is likewise affected and becomes dark with the shadows passing over it.
  • This photo has the dish removed from the roof of the tracking station. Thankfully this is an easy thing to do as long as I can take the photo with Camera Tools because after I take the photo I just move the camera straight forward through to the other side of the Tracking Station and grab another photo. Because the sky is so far away this doesn’t really alter the perspective of the clouds in the background. Then I just layer the two and erase the dish
  • This photo of all the parked aircraft at KGA isn’t lit like this in the game. I took a photo with and without ground scatter first just to make sure I could remove any that showed up over the statics, then I took a third photo where I jacked up the ambient lighting using Ambient Light Adjustment. Then I gave that photo a yellowish hue with color adjustment and used a soft erasure to expose the lighted areas.

Pretty much every photo I post has some sort of light to heavy editing done on it for various reasons, which is why I use photo count per week to get an idea of what my workload was like.

Magic boulders

So there’s a magic boulder crashing into Kerbin soon. Not quite sure still how I want to handle this. I need to be very careful because I do want to have these glowing space rocks be an important resource waaay down the line for some sort of futuristic technology but I don’t know what yet exactly and I don’t want to write myself into a corner. That’s all I’m going to say about that – just want it known that yes, these will play an important role further down the line

Ok it could have been just one balloon…

I honestly did not think of the fact that I really could have launched only one balloon instead of two until I was working on the mission report – but whatever I’ve never had a photo of two balloons launching at once.


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Operations Summary – Week of 12/4/17
Images from the Week Gallery

Launch Readiness Heads Into Final Week

Things are ramping up for our Mk5 Block I launch next week after the final part of the rocket arrived earlier today – our newly-designed first stage booster which was tested last week. The third stage was completed first last month as the parts were already all on hand for assembly. A thrust-adjusted second stage booster was delivered at the end of last month and was completed earlier this week. The two stages were mated on Thursday and the first stage booster has already begun assembly. You can see in this image that the third stage no longer sports any fins, but harder to see is that the second stage fins no longer have any pitch. Only the first stage fins will be pitched to spin up the rocket during its much longer 31s boost period. Next week the whole rocket will be stacked together and final integration will see the attachment of payload fairings. Roll out is scheduled for the day prior to launch on 12/13. Everyone here is excited to finally be sending up another rocket into space!

Genesis & KerBalloon Missions

Captain Jebediah was on rotation for a Civvie flight early in the week that took him out over the West Shore Desert to collect air sample data with the Atmospheric Fluid Spectro-Variometer’s upgraded sensor suite. The data will help scientists determine how much dust is present aloft, as air particles are the genesis of snow, ice and rain. It could be that this region plays a more important role in our local weather patterns that previously thought, and through this we could get a better understanding of why the desert exists in that area. Improved weather forecasts coming? Possibly.

Specialists Bill & Bob were deployed to Ockr once again for a high-altitude balloon release, although this time it was done from an area where we were sure the balloon would be able to see the Ockr radio tower. Ockr will be the future hub for our Deep Space Network – all data from Aerkibo and ATN Central/North/South will be routed through here so it was important to test how well data from this mission was transferred to us at KSC. The mission went off without a hitch, relay through the ground fiber optic cables was 100% on point at all times.

Both programs have suspended contract operations next week. Genesis plans to test some rudimentary flight assistance software (no one is calling it an autopilot yet) while KerBalloon works to support the Progeny launch with high-altitude balloons to keep track up upper-level winds. Although these balloon releases are not official Kerballoon program missions, resources dedicated to them are mostly the same and would otherwise detract from any planned contracts.

Asteroid Makes Several Passes Through Our Atmosphere Before Breakup

The asteroid designated LPL-416(E) dove as deep as 24km ASL into our atmosphere on Wednesday, making 3 or 4 passes before observatories at Ockr and Kravass could no longer find it. Large chunks were spotted braking off the stony asteroid after only its second pass, meaning although it was large it could have been comprised of several smaller asteroids that clumped together loosely. It’s suspected that the asteroid broke apart completely on either its 3rd or 4th pass – after the 3rd pass it came around again so quickly no observatories could see it before its 4th pass. The land under its 3rd pass has been noted for a possible future survey to try to find any meteorites. Unlike the first asteroid that made such a passage, Pilirani, this asteroid was not given a name or Flight Tracker entry. It will still play an important role however in helping scientists predict aerobraking for future spacecraft through Kerbin’s atmosphere. You can see a full timeline of events here.

ATN Database Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 1,309 asteroids and 29 updated with new observation data. We have also begun to include the KSPTOT Matlab file that contains all the detailed orbital data for each asteroid, should anyone want to make some plots of their own.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

This photo of the aurora was taken from above Sheltered Rock, which is not usually privy to such displays of celestial magnificence. We have known of the existence of these sky lights over the north and south poles but rarely to they appear at latitudes this low. Only a few dozen times before the Sea Ring impact were they able to be seen in non-polar regions and once almost 1000 years ago is there a record of them being visible near the equator. We still don’t fully understand their existence although some scientists have made a case for a link with sun activity. We expect the northern and southern lights to be a topic of study for future space probes.


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


Written on 12/6/17

Technically it’s 15 minutes past midnight but I’m still calling this the 6th. I’ve managed to recover nicely after running out of lead time entirely when I had to go back to helping my friend move house. The power outage from Umbarg thankfully did not need to be extended past the weekend for me to get back to work. Unfortunately the downside of not posting updates for two days meant I ended up with quite a few new asteroid plots to publish and I knew I would end up with even more during the week. I really didn’t like the idea of clumping them all together so much so I managed to spread them out across the week thanks to waiting until some hit periapsis rather than noting them on the day of their SOI entry. One more week of intensive operations left and then I can cruise into next year and hopefully start off 2018 with a 3-week lead again.

VAB backdoor irony

As I tweeted about, I had the idea to take a look out the back door of the VAB since I had never opened it in any photos before. For the one time I used an actual in-game look out the front doors, I was able to place the camera inside the VAB at the approximate location of the camera in the VAB editor and see through the VAB model in the game because it had back-face culling enabled. Then I erased what lines were visible of the model. Turns out for some reason the rear door ignores culling and shows a texture when the camera is both inside and outside of the VAB. Drat!! However there was a workaround – I placed the in-game camera approximately where the VAB editor camera was and then I upgraded the VAB. When you upgrade the VAB from Level 0 to Level 1 it actually moves the entire building eastward a bit. This meant when I returned to the flight scene and put the camera back (using KerbCam to save its location previously) there was no longer a VAB in the way for me to take a clean photo to layer in with the VAB editor photo to “open” the doors.

The VAB is the only building on the campus besides the Admin building that does not build out from its current location but actually shifts location during a building upgrade. I’ve already thought up a way to deal with this. You’ll know it when you see it, but I’ll still come back with an explanation here when it happens.

Ops Tracker update

Just a status update, haven’t had time to do any real updates to the upcoming Ops Tracker lately. Finally heard back from the developer working on the new KerbalMaps Leaflet library that would be built upon the newer 1.0 version of Leaflet and looks like he won’t have time anytime soon to work on it. This is a bummer because I was hoping to apply it straight to the Ops Tracker but will now have to remain with the older library used in the Flight Tracker for the time being. Thankfully the upgrade to the newer library when it is finished shouldn’t be too much trouble and I at least know it’s something that will have to be done eventually so I can plan for it while coding.

Also since SketchFab continues to have no interest in updating its KSP model exporter, I’m thinking of whether I can integrate Blend4Web to load blender imported KSP craft models to display instead of the static images currently used.

Aurora a real event

The appearance of aurora at lower latitudes was not just a cool thing I decided to do to fill some space. Yes, I lowered their latitude myself through the Environmental Visual Enhancements configuration settings but an actual in game event caused me to do so. Those of you familiar with Kerbalism may know what I’m talking about, or if not you can check out the mod to try and figure it out. I just want it known that this wasn’t something I came up with myself and it will be a thing that has greater effect once some probes are up in space on a more regular and permanent basis.

The truth behind LPL-416(E) 

I made it explode because as I was plotting out how many passes it should have through the atmosphere using KSPTOT I realized I was using the exact same drag coefficient for every aerobrake pass and that made me realize there was no simulation of ablation in the game. The asteroid was going deep, there’s no way it wouldn’t have lost a good deal of surface material and possibly large chunks of itself after each pass. Despite its size, it shouldn’t be quite as large on subsequent passes. Although there has been slight mention of a mod that could reduce asteroid size, none yet exists. So I had it break apart rather than make more aerobrake passes without any change.

Photos aren’t always worth the trouble

I planned for a photo of the balloon rising with the airship floating near the ground in the background but several factors made me go “love it” and toss the idea. For one, something about the exact location I chose for that contract made HyperEdit drop the balloon there and cause it to explode. Every time. I landed elsewhere fine just to test and it was only when I went to land at the exact coordinates the balloon exploded. what. Then of course to show all the ground scatter reduced my FPS to FPM so I would have had to place things without scatter, then save the camera position with Kerbcam and reload the entire game with scatter for the photo – but oh wait if I use AirPark to setup the Airship just above the ground when I reload the game and go into the flight scene it’ll just crash. I had a workaround for that as well but it just added excrements on top of excrements that I had to do for this one photo so yea – love it. Sometimes I just have to admit I don’t have the time to deal with all this crap.


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On 12/1/2017 at 10:32 PM, Drew Kerman said:


How soon?  With a BD armory nuke, and rapid Progeny development, you could get a missile into LKO to hit it right before entry.  

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1 hour ago, DAL59 said:

How soon?  With a BD armory nuke, and rapid Progeny development, you could get a missile into LKO to hit it right before entry.  

too late, and there is no nuclear power of that type in my story. yet? We'll see


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Operations Summary – Week of 12/11/17
Images from the Week Gallery

KSC Ends 2017 Operations for Building Survey

Today was the last day we will be carrying out operations at the Kerbal Space Center. Next week all the buildings will undergo engineering inspection to determine how they are holding up after just over a year and a half of wear since their construction back in 2016. These are the first large-scale surface structures that have been constructed in over 200 years and we want to make sure they will continue to stand for many years to come! The VAB will come under the most scrutiny due to its height but even the HAB has issues that need to be further inspected.

Additionally, a site survey will be done around the Administration Building to see about expanding it so we can support more operations onsite instead of only from KSA headquarters in Umbarg, which is where all still-running operations will be based out of next week. After next week the KSA itself will cease operations for the New Year holiday and return to KSC on Jan 2nd, 2018.

Progenitor Team Closes out 2017 with Successful Launch

Yesterday saw the return to flight for the Progeny Mk5 Block I after it suffered a series of mishaps during its previous launch 1.5 months ago that required a good amount of analysis and redesign. Everyone was very happy with how this recent flight went despite introducing two new issues that affected the ascent. First we had the second stage fins explode at the same time the stage was decoupled rather than one second afterwards and then during the third stage throttle-up it refused to go past 76%.

The first issue could have numerous origins and all are currently being looked into but the second issue was fairly straightforward to figure out once we got a good look at the telemetry data from the flight. The throttle stopped increasing the moment the rocket reached the edge of the atmosphere, which led engineers to look at the code for this stage of the flight and there is where the issue was: once space was reached pressure was 0 and it could never be more or less than that so the code stopped increasing the throttle. We had not anticipated the throttle-up occurring while the rocket was outside of the atmosphere – and it wouldn’t have if the second stage decoupling issue hadn’t put enough precession into the third stage to trigger the new AoA constraint and allow the launch team to wait so long before triggering the final booster. The throttle eventually reached 100% as the rocket fell through the atmosphere during re-entry which is why the third stage boost termination message came so late in the operations log (included with telemetry data).

One problem solved, one to go – but further investigation has been hampered by an issue with our High Data-Rate Logger, which is a separate dedicated monitoring instrument that stores vessel parameters at 0.25s intervals, 4x faster than the normal logger that runs with the AFCS (so that more attention can be dedicated to operating the rocket). It seems the data storage disk was formatted improperly so reading the data has become a tedious recovery task (this is why you don’t see the high-resolution graph atop the telemetry data). We’ll have better quality control in place for this instrument for future flights and engineers are hopeful that some or all of the data can be eventually recovered.

Some additional oversights were found in the AFCS to be corrected, and full analysis on the flight is still underway and will be well into next week. Before we break for the New Year though the Progenitor team will determine what needs to be done to launch our first rocket in 2018 and when.

Genesis Program Dips Foot into Computerized Flight Assistance

Captain Jebediah gave up control in this week’s Civvie flight to a computer for the first time while flying in the region around KSC. The Civvie had been modified to allow the computer to actuate the various control surfaces, fitted with extra sensors and C7 engineers programmed a series of very basic tests to ensure the computer could make the aircraft roll, yaw and change its pitch to all extents. Jeb said it was definitely weird to be sitting in the cockpit watching the control yoke move and the aircraft bank and have to resist the urge to grab it and bring the wings back level. The tests were all successful and C7 hoped to have a simple PID controller ready to attempt to hold wings and pitch level on the next flight but difficulties with the program forced them to remain in the lab working on the code. The ultimate goal of course if a full autopilot capable of flying the aircraft on a preset course but for now both Jeb and Val agree they would love to just have a means of keeping the wings and nose level without constant minor control inputs and attentiveness from them. The testing is expected to resume at the start of next year.

Mysterious Asteroid Impact Investigated

Ever since the Asteroid Tracking Network began its survey of asteroids they have been finding more and more giving off weird spectra, as if they were glowing different colors for some reason. A few have been identified as Near Kerbin Objects (NKOs) and made passes of Kerbin during which they were photographed as best as possible. One turned out to be magenta, another green. Not much detail could be made out at the distances they passed which is why astronomers were excited to hear one would be impacting our planet. Unfortunately it came in from the sun on a highly-inclined trajectory and no photos could be taken during its approach, but fortunately it seems that it did in fact impact as predicted and now the site has finally been visited. We have no way of knowing whether the material carried on this asteroid is harmful – radiation testing was carried out with a remote-operated airship over the impact site and nothing was detected but no chances are being taken. The next step has just been completed, where volunteers entered the region around the site and setup monitoring instruments to see how the flora and fauna react to the impact over the coming months. The volunteers too will be initially quarantined and studied for any ill effects.

In related news, a new study was published this past week showing how many asteroids have hit Kerbin over the past year or so using data gathered from a network of seismic sensors. Unsurprisingly, our limited sky coverage has us finding less than 50% of the NKOs in our immediate neighborhood.

ATN Database Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 1,325 asteroids and 24 updated with new observation data.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

(L to R) Pol, Laythe, Jool, Tylo, Bop (circled) and Vall. The shadows of Bop and Tylo are currently transiting across the cloud tops of Jool. Pol is actually the smallest moon but has a much higher albedo than Bop which is why it is so visible despite the fact that it is on the other side of Jool along its orbit at this time. Photo credit: the Kerman Observatory’s 4m reflector atop Kravass.


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


Written on 12/14/17

yea that’s right, the night before. I even took it close to the wire for this week’s Progeny launch. Main reason was GTA:Online was doing some ingame stuff that was well worth my while to dedicate some serious time to it over the weekend at the exclusion of all else – although I did find that I was able to run KSPTOT trajectory calculations for Extremis routes in the background without affecting my GTA gameplay so that was one other thing I worked on at least. Now that KSC operations are closed out, which take up the bulk of my time (launches and aircraft flights mainly), I can really knuckle down and see how much lead time I can push out to before the end of the year and ops resume at the start of 2018.

Mk5 launch prep freakout

Had a bit of a freakout when I was testing the updated AFCS code for the Mk5 launch. I use the same vessel but just launch it straight up so the code can run through its routines but the actual flight is still unknown to me. The first stage booster burned for over a minute and I was horrified that I may have done something wrong in all the events leading up to the launch like the booster test fire which I couldn’t go back and undo. Thankfully it turned out that I still had the thrust in the VAB set to like 48% whereas the thrust curve was set to like 46% so the actual thrust output was like 2% – I didn’t realize the thrust curve obeyed the thrust setting in the VAB, I thought it always assumed 100% thrust. Phew.

First launch attempt failed

I always hate when I have to relaunch something, because no two launches are ever exactly the same and after the first time I have a better idea of what will happen going into it. Fortunately in this case I the problem wasn’t a game crasher and I could react to the flight issues the first time and then just do it again that way for subsequent tries. The problems that marred my first attempt was an issue where the FAR windows like to hide themselves during staging, for which I have a workaround but for some reason it didn’t work this time. Also the AFCS crashed again like in the last launch. After some debugging I finally traced it down to this kOS issue. I did all my testing with the previous Mk5 Block I rocket so this Mk5 flight officially took two attempts, the second try after fixing the kOS issue is the one that is written up for the KSA.

Graphotron issue

The deal with the High Data-Rate Logger is a cover for the Graphotron acting funky and for some reason not properly recording the start of the ascent properly. I think it may be because I’m using too many data points to give enough charting time for a mission that can last as long as 20 minutes. Next launch I’m just going to revert to the 5 minute length and only publish the ascent to space with the telemetry data.

I don’t “simulate” things

I was so very pleased to see the MaxQ stay under 80kPa as had been planned, mainly because that was something I calculated based off previous Mk5 flights. I don’t run “simulations” in the game where I throw things out to the pad and see whether they behave the way I want them to for things like this. So yea, the launch could have had a MaxQ greater than 80kPa I had no idea for sure until I actually launched the rocket. See, a lot of people may think that the things that happen to cause my rocket development to meander about is done on purpose for the sake of “story” but the reality is that I really could have better rockets by now if I actually knew better what the hell I was doing :P But that’s something I purposely want, because as time goes on my rocket programs will naturally begin to improve. Most of what has happened to stall Progenitor development wasn’t done to purposefully draw it out over months and months.

Case in point…

So to continue that thought, this recent launch had two issues, both of which were due to simple oversights on my part, not planned problems. I’ve already identified the reason behind one and will save the second for next week but the point I want to drive home is that these were real problems I had no idea about until they happened. I like that, because I’m actually doing investigations using the data I’ve collected to help me determine what went wrong and why. The code error was pretty cool, the other one was just plain stupidity on my part. One of the downsides to going this alone is I can miss a lot of things that other collaborators would probably pick up on. Still, I like doing it all myself anyways.


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Operations Summary – Week of 12/18/17
Images from the Week Gallery

2017 Year in Review

And so we come to the end of our first full calendar year of operations. It’s been a year of crazy ups and downs but overall great progress has been made for both rocket and fixed-wing flight that we hope to continue in 2018. We saw great financial success this year with positive growth as well. If you didn’t see our various infographics covering the year that was, they are available in the gallery above but here are full-res versions:

2017-year-in-review-atmospheric-flight_3 2017-year-in-review-crew-report_24256387 2017-year-in-review-rocket-flight_242563

Be sure to also check out the Best of 2017 photo album on flickr, which has our top 100 images from the last year out of 900+ that were posted. Here’s looking forwards to a great 2018!! Don’t forget you can review anything from this past year via the Program pages. Also be sure to check out our in-development Operations Tracker (actual link to the tracker is in the project description) and give us some feedback – we hope to launch it at the start of 2018 to replace and combine the Flight Tracker/Crew Roster – you can look in the ReadMe to see all the new features and changes it will bring.

If you want a preview of what’s coming in 2018, check out the flight analysis for our last launch of 2017.

Monolith Developments

Earlier this week the office in Umbarg where pilgrims register for the ability to visit the site of the Monolith was attacked by a gang of masked kerbs wielding blunt heavy weapons that were used to smash windows, furniture and other large objects. The flying glass and falling objects sent 8 kerbs to the hospital with minor injuries. All the attackers vanished into the natural caverns before authorities could arrive on the scene. Since then all known Monolithic groups have denounced the act, which means either one or more of them is lying or an as-yet-unknown group of radicals carried out the assault. Whether they are organized or not is a question authorities are still looking to answer.

In response to the attack the registration office was shut down indefinitely and the government rounded up all current worshippers around the Monolith site and had them sent back to Umbarg, where they were released. Access to the Monolith has been restricted once again to all but research personnel until the investigation into the attack is complete.

The long-awaited report on the progress of the Monolith research was also finally released this week, perhaps as a placating gesture to those who are looking for the scientists to wrap up their work and move on. Unfortunately that’s not the message the report sent, which contains way more questions and speculation than it does answers, meaning scientists will be poking and prodding for quite some time longer.

Asteroid Just Misses KSC

The same day the Monolith registration office was attacked a large explosion was heard to the northeast of KSC accompanied with a brightening of the night sky on the horizon. The space center began to evacuate immediately under the assumption that an asteroid crashed into or exploded low over the ocean, which meant large waves could soon be washing inland. Thankfully due to the operations shut down last week not many kerbs remained at KSC and the center was cleared within 15 minutes although no large waves ended up appearing. In the days since we’ve learned that a merchant vessel has been reported missing and could have been in the vicinity of the asteroid explosion, which must have happened higher up than originally feared but could have still produced a deadly shock-wave for anything in the immediate area. That was certainly a close one!

ATN Database Update

The weekly update for the Asteroid Tracking Network database is available here, containing 1,360 asteroids and 18 updated with new observation data. We won’t be posting any new SOI entries next week on our twitter account, so if you want to keep tabs on what’s flying through the system keep an eye out for updates to the Asteroid Plots album on flickr.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

A simple snapshot of Mun that doesn’t show what’s really happening at this moment, as the Class-C moonlet Alaba enters Mun’s SOI for an unscheduled pass, much to the chagrin of astronomers who attempted to predict its trajectory all the way out to an eventual Munar impact in 2021. We now know that isn’t going to be happening, but new predictions have since been made with revised data and calculations. We’ll just have to see what happens now.


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


Written on 12/19/17

Planned to be writing this yesterday but ended up with a lot more work on my plate this past week than I had anticipated, mostly with the Year in Review stuff, which wasn’t that hard to get assembled thanks to very good record keeping on my part but there were instances where things could have been easier. I’ve already made or plan to make the changes necessary so that compiling end of year data for 2018 will be even quicker. Now that this last week of operations is over I can blaze through the next week, which will manly consist of keeping tabs on asteroids and still watching for any cool celestial happenings to photograph for when ops resume in 2018. I really, really really want my 3-week lead time back so that is going to be priority over the Ops Tracker but I still also hope to have that ready to deploy with real-time telemetry streaming for the first launch of 2018. Yea, we’ll just have to see how all that goes…

Stacking aircraft plots

Visualizing all the flights from 2017 was a bit challenging because although the Flight Tracker can display numerous tracks at once it chokes after about 10-12 depending on the size of the plots involved. It didn’t help also that there was two bad plots in there I hadn’t ever realized were formatted wrong causing the entire group to not load. Regardless, I couldn’t just put them all on the map at once I had to do it in batches, so I had to be smart about it and use one of the URL parameters to center the map on a set of coordinates so that as I changed out the plots the map position would always be the same. Fortunately at the time I was doing this the map service was down, leaving me with just plots on a gray background. Perfect!! I took screenshots of 3 separate groups of plots then removed the gray to leave only the lines. About this time the map tiles began loading again so I just overlaid them all on a bare map in Paint.NET. et viola!

Seeking accurate orbital propagation

The troubles with long-term predictions of Kerbin’s moonlets isn’t some plot device I have devised, it’s a real problem I’m having when using KSPTOT. Something about the way KSPTOT handles precision or the game handles precision or the way the game loads in orbital data for vessels or the way KSPTOT loads data for vessels or the way the game integrates the orbits or the way KSPTOT integrates the orbits – something is off and I’m still not sure what it is but the experiments continue and I’m working closely with the KSPTOT author to figure it all out. This stuff is vital to long-term missions so it’s important to get right and it’s great the KSA has a chance to do this with these moonlets before starting any long probe journeys.

Would I let an asteroid impact KSC?

Honestly dunno. I think it would depend on what’s going on at the time, both in the story and in real life for me. Maybe I could use a break? Maybe the KSC could use an excuse to start over? Maybe… I don’t know, we’d have to see. Just know that there was a close one, the Class-D came down through the atmosphere only about 200km away.

Easter eggs!

The airport diagram that was published this week for KSC contains the actual comm frequencies for the Shuttle Landing Facility.

There have also been a couple more contract waypoints that have been changed from the game’s literal naming scheme:

  • Sector IBL0TR for Isana’s Bane and as it reminded me of Isildur’s Bane from LoTR
  • Area SL-777 for Scientist’s Luck and 777 for the lucky numbers
  • Zone DJSNM for Scott’s Curiosity – this one was probably the most obvious
  • Site GLE-F8 for Gleena’s Fate

Alright, that’s it

See you all in 2018!! :D


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Wow, you've got a whole world in here, literally!  This summary hints at all sorts of treasures hidden inside.  I'll have to go back and read this whole thing.  Congrats on getting through the year!

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