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VSA Mode of operations

Posted 02-10-2011 at 11:23 AM by garyw

As many of you know I've opened up my personal VSA to potential orbinaunts and I've been trying to work out what the best mode of operation for ISA as a VSA would be and I've come up with a few
options but I think I'm very interested in what people have to say about the best mode of operation for a VSA.

I used to help run a Virtual Airline many years ago. I was the person who handed out the assignments. Any new person joining
would get a very simple route from me. EGKK-EGJJ This is a real world route that takes 35 minutes to fly as it goes from
Gatwick Airport to Jersey Airport on the channel islands. There is no special trick to landing on Jersey island but the approach is
an intersting one. If the wind is in the right direction you descend over water then make a right turn to intercept the ILS and land
on a rather short runway.

The reason I always gave new pilots this route is because a lot happens in 35 minutes. no sooner are you in the cruise (and cruise
altitude is 16,000ft)than it's time to descend for landing. It's very easy to forget something because it's a bit of a rush, threfore
it was a good first route to see what skills new virtual pilots had, how truthful they would be when something went wrong and
how comitted they were to actually flying for the VA.

The problem with Orbiter is that there isn't the equivalent of a EGKK-EGJJ route. I've been thinking of asking all prospective
ISA ummuanaunts to jump out of a helicopter as part of survival training but is this something people WANT in a VSA or is it all about
flying in space?

Astronauts in real life have a lot of training requirements put upon them. The average time between being selected and flying a mission is a year. With ISA I've tried to plan out missions for the next THREE years and there is a lot going on but if you fly for ISA a good chunk of your time will be waiting for your mission to come up.

So, my question to everyone out there - What do you want from a VSA?
  • Are you only interested in flying in space?
  • Do you want to take part in a training regime?
  • Is it OK that you might not fly in space for many months?
I'm interested in any and all suggestions, criticism and feedback. The ISA VSA page can be found here there are some missing pages and other things. The site is slowly being updated but it'll be many months before everything has been written up.
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  1. Old Comment
    Face's Avatar
    Ok, here are my 2 cents.

    I'd expect a new orbinaut to first run through a couple of test flights. Increasing in complexity, like so:
    1. Take off with an airplane from home base, do some traffic pattern circles, land again.
    2. Fly a suborbital, non-ballistic route from home base to a nearby target. Let's say WIN->KSC. If necessary, you can already assign XR-like vessels here.
    3. Do the same suborbital, but ballistic to stick your toe into the cold space the first time.

    Then you can choose a bit of a career by means of deciding between near-future SSTO type crafts (X) or conventional staging systems (S). The first missions in this "careers" could look like this:
    X1: Mission is to simply start into orbit and land again, testing the appropriate vehicle's features and capabilities. Without crashing or dying, ofc.
    X2: Start to specific orbit, do some work there (release satellite, repair sat, take pictures, whatever), and land again.
    X3: Start to specific orbit, deploy and assemble station parts
    X4: Start to station orbit, rendevous, dock, supply...
    and so on

    S would be similar, just with different steps.
    S1: Launch unmanned first stage tests, then second, third and so on
    S2: Launch manned sub-orbital test
    S3: Launch manned orbital test
    S4: Mission with goal to achive (besides surviving )
    and so on

    Personally, I'd be perfectly fine with having to do test flights in atmo first for a couple of weeks or even months, as long as there is a reasonable justification for that (like outlined above).

    For the work mode I can imagine a scenario-based mission setup with recorder-based feedback. Give it training-time (let's say scenario is submitted, 2 weeks training), gather feedback on it (like e.g. "MJD is a bit off, let's adjust it for launch-windows) and submit the final "test"-scenario with a more restrictive time-window (e.g. 4 days to finish this mission, preferably done on weekends). Of course the deadline should be discussable...
    Then you can post results, mission reports and so on. It would be added to the orbinaut's log, and you can assign more advanced missions.

    There could be a more complex, multi-user setup, too. It would be time-scheduled like so:
    1. Mission is assigned to commander, commander launches into orbit and returns recording and resulting scenario.
    2. Pilot is using scenario and does rendevous manouvers. Returns recording, scenario.
    3. Commander docks to station. recording, scenario.
    4. Specialist does payload ops (deploying, assembling, etc.). recording, scenario.
    5. Commander undocks...

    Of course it would be non-trivial to trace such a mission, but it is perhaps more involving for orbinauts.

    An important point I don't know what to expect is the failure as an option. Besides honesty of participants, how should failures be handled? Simply log it, let it influence later missions, drop failure missions and start over?

    Posted 02-10-2011 at 12:14 PM by Face Face is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Carmen A's Avatar
    I'll stick to what I've (informally, secretly) implemented in OMP.

    People fly with me because they want to and they trust me to supply flight plans, roleplaying, and mission control.

    I don't need experienced skilled astronauts in the team, because I can teach anyone to do an orbital launch in 5 minutes flat.

    Because there is absolutely no organisation I am free to implement whatever scenario I desire based on persons available, craft installed on the server op/clients' machines.

    As such it is a dynamic aero/space environment where just like in the real world, you can't really dictate who comes and goes, it's all about managing assets (your regular pilots) and coordinating my/our flight ops with that of the newer OMP players. Newbies allow for the propagation and development of new ideas and talents and if I were to join a VSA I expect to train together with a bunch of redneck pilots who have no desire other than to learn at their own pace and support one another. Leave the real world command structure in the real world - I'm more than qualified to setup a better communications system myself.

    "Earth Space Traffic Control" could be a VSA in itself but the truth is... I don't need or wish to have a formal organisation. Just fly, don't expect anything, be surprised when a video or fanfiction comes out the next day.
    Posted 02-10-2011 at 12:32 PM by Carmen A Carmen A is offline
    Updated 02-10-2011 at 12:35 PM by Carmen A
  3. Old Comment
    garyw's Avatar
    Thanks Face. That's the sort of thing I was thinking of as well. I was thinking of having the first space mission that someone flies as a very simple dock-to-iss-come-home type of thing and then move up to more complex missions.

    Carmen - Fair points. I'm not interested in teaching people how to fly as I don't have the time to do that but I will supply them with all the tools they need to fly.
    Posted 02-10-2011 at 12:55 PM by garyw garyw is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Urwumpe's Avatar
    Question 1: No.

    Question 2: Of course. If the training is good organized and not leaves me hanging in the air too often. It is not like I would expect any player to be a genius as teacher, I am none, I lack the patience for it. But if the whole VSA stands behind the one who does the actual lesson, it is easier to compensate such shortcomings.

    Question 3: There is a world outside the VSA, you can't forbid me to do unlogged missions, or even do guest missions for another VSA, if they welcome me (Unless the VSA feels like exclusivity is needed)

    Also having to wait for months is not bad, if this means waiting for months for a really good mission, and the time is full of planning and supporting the other players.
    Posted 02-10-2011 at 11:02 PM by Urwumpe Urwumpe is offline
    Updated 02-10-2011 at 11:05 PM by Urwumpe (Clarification)
  5. Old Comment
    fireballs619's Avatar
    I'll take your questions in order, in case your organizing the feedback to better analyze it.

    1. Are you only interested in flying in space?
      Personally, I am for flight of all kind. In the regular flight-sim world, VAs often simulate the whole airline, as I'm sure you know. Now, I'm not sure about the VA that you helped with, but the ones I'm acquainted with don't let newcomers and rookies fly the heavies right away. They're something to work towards and build up to, if you will. I think VSAs should be the same way, with the 'heavies' being actual spacecraft. I do see your hesitation, however, since Orbiter is primarily for spaceflight, and it's regular flying can be unrealistic at time. I'd say to definitely assign regular flights (say, cargo shipping to launch sites?), but also do something related to space to keep interests up. As the training programs in real space agencies do, perhaps you could put the soon-to-be Orbinauts in a simulation for the mission. I know this sounds strange, as it is a training simulation for a simulation, but it could only cover a specific part of the mission they need extra practice, as in docking. If you ram the ISS too hard, it's no big deal, because it's not a real mission.

      TL;DR Keep the real missions for the more experienced pilots, but have some cargo runs and training simulations for the rookies.

    2. Do you want to take part in a training regime?
      Yes, yes, and another yes. If I were to join a VSA, one of the reasons to do so would be to get better and perfect (as if you can) my flying technique. If I just wanted to fly in space with an organized purpose, I'd join one of the various forum collaborations (OFSS II, REVIO, etc). One of the main things that sets VSAs apart is the fact that they have training you must go through. If people don't want to deal with that, don't let them join. Those types of people probably wouldn't be very good pilots anyway. That being said, doing simple training flights could become very monotonous for people who are truly proficient at Orbiter. If I wear you, I would try to make a workaround for those who you know to be good pilots; perhaps they wouldn't have to do the cargo flights, or they get bumped up on the flight plan. While that seems unfair, it's unfair to them (I think) to be subjected to boring flights.

      TL;DR Definitely have a training program, but with a workaround for pilots who are known to be good.

    3. Is it OK that you might not fly in space for many months?
      Even this will sound like I am contradicting everything I have said so far, I'd have to say no, it wouldn't sit to well with me. While in real Space agencies, it can take up to a year from selection to actual participation in a flight, the consequence of failure is also much higher. Death. They must be subjected to months. In VSAs, not so much. I mean, if you fail a mission, that sucks, but you don't die from it. Multiple months of training for a VSA is a little too much, in my opinion, but it may be necessary. I mean, you can't have 20 astronauts lined up for flight, but only being able to fly 5 a month. At least with training they are occupied. While I don't like it, it's probably necessary.

      TL;DR If at all possible avoid months of training, but I can see why it would be necessary.
    Posted 02-11-2011 at 02:00 AM by fireballs619 fireballs619 is offline
  6. Old Comment
    Nazban's Avatar
    okay heres my thoughts:

    1)I do like flying in space(the reason i use orbiter), Although atmospheric flights are still amazing to me!

    2)Like everyone said earlier, yes. like fireballs 619 said, if people dont want to do the training, they cant join.
    Also it would be nice to have a ranking system, where a lower rank does the smaller, easier missions. But after a while, and after doing some training, the persons 'rank' can increase.

    3)This depends on the number of people in the VSA and how the missions are spread, i would say no to the question, but if there are many people, everyone needs a chance to fly a mission. Of course preperation is needed, we cant just assingn a mission and be prepared in a day. But months is too much time.
    Posted 02-11-2011 at 06:02 AM by Nazban Nazban is offline
  7. Old Comment
    Xyon's Avatar
    As you know, Gary, I've long shared an appreciation for the well-thought-out, heavily-planned, checklist-fuelled method of spaceflight that I've seen you take on. For me, the planning and checklist writing is half the fun, and I'm content a lot of the time to simply sit and calculate missions and make up hypothetical scenarios which eventually become missions without lifting a craft up for months at a time - but then there's the part of me which occasionally just likes to pop and shoot and do something spontaneous.

    Flying in space is the point of Orbiter to me, but there's a lot to do in atmospheric flights too. To plan out and run a non-space fight (for testing hardware or pilots) to me is just as much fun as planning and running a space mission because they're all part of the same goal.

    Training is good to me if I'm gaining skills from it. With large times between missions, skills to reenter and land etc tend to get a little rusty, so it's good to schedule flights which reinforce those pilot capacities before larger, goal-oriented missions like ISS resupply or interplanetary / lunar missions - to me there's little difference, if I'm flying, I'm flying.

    I have a heavy amount of stuff to do outside of the VSA world, with real life commitments to things like finding another job to jump to after mine ends, so I'm not overly concerned with missions being quite spread out. One of my preferred elements of flying for myself is that I work to a nice schedule which suits me, and there's very little pressure exerted on me to take time out to fly a mission. With a VSA run by and with other people, this tends to change to working to someone else's schedule, and a lot of VSAs disappear because their operators have different timeframes to other members, or forget that people have other things to do which have to take priority. I think it's a better approach to plan out the missions carefully, and when they're ready give something like a month's window in which the mission can be run, which then lands the pilot with a nice relaxed amount of time in which to decide to fly or not, as the case may be. Of course, if in the space of said month the mission can't be flown for whatever reason, the response of the others in the VSA is pivotal - it's not life-and-death, it's simulated spaceflight, and sometimes it sadly has to take a back seat - only you really know when you will be able to fly, so letting you define your own launch dates around whatever else is going on is perhaps the best approach. Large gaps between missions may not work for some, but IMO there's nothing stopping a VSA pilot from making up their own side mission and flying that personally while waiting for a new ISA assignment.
    Posted 02-14-2011 at 10:51 AM by Xyon Xyon is offline
  8. Old Comment
    Schmidtrock's Avatar
    I was hoping to see this was still an active project. I used to be an avid VA pilot/controller and have been looking for a project like this for Orbiter.
    Posted 12-30-2014 at 09:41 PM by Schmidtrock Schmidtrock is offline

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