Getting Started: Checklists, Flightplans, and more?

bcirka

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Hey all!

I'm an experienced Orbiter user, particularly with the XR2, and am just now venturing into the Apollo missions with NASSP 8. But I'm having trouble getting started.

I want to start simple, then work my way up in difficulty. I've seen the excel checklists that come with the install, I've seen tutorials, I've seen automatic checklist execution.

Few questions:

  • Do the Apollo 11 (as an example) scenarios run themselves? Launch seems to be automated. Are the TLI burn and further maneuvers automated as well? Or is it just something special about launch being automatic?

  • Are the tutorials the "must-do" actions and then the actions in the checklist perform no real function?

Might have a few more, but this should get me started. Appreciate the support and guidance to continue learning!
 

jalexb88

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Hey all!

I'm an experienced Orbiter user, particularly with the XR2, and am just now venturing into the Apollo missions with NASSP 8. But I'm having trouble getting started.

I want to start simple, then work my way up in difficulty. I've seen the excel checklists that come with the install, I've seen tutorials, I've seen automatic checklist execution.

Few questions:

  • Do the Apollo 11 (as an example) scenarios run themselves? Launch seems to be automated. Are the TLI burn and further maneuvers automated as well? Or is it just something special about launch being automatic?

  • Are the tutorials the "must-do" actions and then the actions in the checklist perform no real function?

Might have a few more, but this should get me started. Appreciate the support and guidance to continue learning!

Welcome to NASSP! I would say Apollo 7 or 8 should be the easiest to fly to start as they only focus on the CSM. The best checklists to use in my opinion is the ones that come with the checklist MFD, they are complete up to Apollo 11 and include everything you need to fly the mission, I'd recommend also referencing the real flight plans.

The tutorial you linked is one that is for a very old version of NASSP, using the simple AGC which is no longer found in NASSP code, which now uses the Virtual AGC exclusively. There is not really any other way to flying a mission then preforming every step of the checklist MFD (or real NASA checklists) because the majority of the systems & sub-systems for the CSM and LM are simulated behind the scenes, so meaning most switches do in fact have a function and are not "dummie switches"

Apollo 11 (and 7 to 10) do not run themselves but launch and TLI are automatically flown by the simulated LVDC, the same way as in reality. They also have a simulated mission control running in the background to calculate all maneuvers and provide CMC/LGC uplinks and maneuver pads. You do not need an MFD to fly the mission, so in that sense you could say they are "automated".

Enjoy!
 
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Cavalier

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I can probably add a bit for just getting started, since I didn't know this project existed before watching lunarmodule5's excellent full mission series on Apollo 11. The automation is done by checklists that run in the background. If you haven't seen them yet, you access them by opening an mfd (external mfd's are the easiest to help keep track of what you are doing while navigating the bewildering number of panels), pressing select twice, and selecting "Project Apollo Checklist." Everything in green will be automatically performed as long as auto is on, and if flash is selected, a yellow box will flash on the control being considered. Items in the checklist that are yellow require the user to do something, record a number, perform a procedure, etc. Once you are done with the yellow item, hit PRO to go on. Items in blue refer to a branch to a new checklist.

Documentation for version 8 seems to be in the works, and what there is in the download is fairly sparse, and sometimes outdated, but the fidelity of the simulation is such that the original NASA material can be used to fly each mission. The virtual AGC is a fantastic project in itself, and the documentation for that can be found by poking around here: https://www.ibiblio.org/apollo/links.html
 

bcirka

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Ah, this has been SO helpful. Thank you for your responses. I'll toss out those "easy mode" tutorials and focus on checklists.

Few more questions:

  • So then the difference between the MCC scenarios & non-MCC are that in the former, burn values are calculated for me, in the latter, MCC calculates them?

  • If I use the MCC scenario, I assume all burns & corrections are calculated for me. Do I have to do anything outside of following the checklist? Do the values calculated by MCC (assuming things like, prograde vel., plane change vel, etc.) show up in the checklist? Or do I have to retrieve those somewhere to eventually put into the DSKY?

  • If I don't use MCC, then I'm assuming I would use something like Transx to calculate the burn. And then I'm guessing the checklist would have a place for me to enter the values I've calculated?

  • What is the difference between the scenarios in the main "Project Apollo - NASSP) folder vs. the ones in the "Apollo - Mission Scenarios" folder. Perhaps they're the same thing, except the "Apollo - Mission Scenarios" folder breaks them down into key milestones?

  • Are the scenarios in the "Apollo - Mission Scenarios" folder controlled by MCC or manually calculated burns?

Ok, I think that's all for now. A continued thanks for getting me kicked off on this.
 

Cavalier

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I can only speak a little about MCC. With those scenarios, some ground functionality is included, but not just added automatically. There is a menu that you bring up with the TAB key. MCC will generate PADs for you at specific times, which you can write into the actual mission PAD forms, just as in the real missions. MCC will tell you when you have AOS/LOS at ground stations, and it will perform data uplinks. For those, in yellow, the MCC will ask if you are ready for an uplink. You then configure the AGC to receive data, bring up the menu and select, "ready for uplink." The uplink light on the DSKY will light during the process, and when it goes out, you return to BLOCK. I haven't been through a full mission yet, as the learning curve is pretty steep, so I don't know if the MCC functions go all the way through, or which missions are fully supported; perhaps we'll get a word on that from some of the good folks who are writing this as we learn it. Hope that helps some. Cheers!

P.S. A word of warning about time compression in parking orbit: use it carefully, as the SIVB maintains a prograde attitude, but it can lose it if you go to fast, and you'll tumble right through gimble-lock.
 
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indy91

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So then the difference between the MCC scenarios & non-MCC are that in the former, burn values are calculated for me, in the latter, MCC calculates them?

The MCC is a module in NASSP that is essentially simulating mission control automatically. So these MCC scenario will do calculates, display PADs and prepare uplinks for the AGCs. The MCC allows you to play astronaut instead of also having to do many flight controller tasks. So far the MCC is implemented for Apollo 7 to 11, as these are the missions NASSP 8.0 is mainly supporting.

If I use the MCC scenario, I assume all burns & corrections are calculated for me. Do I have to do anything outside of following the checklist? Do the values calculated by MCC (assuming things like, prograde vel., plane change vel, etc.) show up in the checklist? Or do I have to retrieve those somewhere to eventually put into the DSKY?

They are calculated for you and displayed not in the Checklist MFD but separately in NASSP. They will come up automatically at the appropiate times. In the MCC scenarios press TAB to access the "CAPCOM Menu", which is the user interface for the MCC. You will not need to do many things in the menu though, mainly allowing uplinks.

If I don't use MCC, then I'm assuming I would use something like Transx to calculate the burn. And then I'm guessing the checklist would have a place for me to enter the values I've calculated?

The main tool for this is the RTCC MFD, which also comes with NASSP. It also can calculate e.g. Maneuver PADs, so it should be able to do the same calculations with it as the MCC does. The manual for the RTCC MFD is quite outdated and it's not easy to get used to it, but it can be a powerful tool.

What is the difference between the scenarios in the main "Project Apollo - NASSP) folder vs. the ones in the "Apollo - Mission Scenarios" folder. Perhaps they're the same thing, except the "Apollo - Mission Scenarios" folder breaks them down into key milestones?

The scenarios in the main folder all start at T-4 hours. These are the main scenarios that are kept updated and reflect the latest state of NASSP development. The mission scenarios are as you said, scenarios saved at various points in the mission. As NASSP scenario files have gotten quite large it is nearly impossible to manually update by hand a large number of older scenarios. So they can be outdated a bit. From time to time when someone flies a mission again they will get updated.

Are the scenarios in the "Apollo - Mission Scenarios" folder controlled by MCC or manually calculated burns?

They have the MCC activated. But you could simply deactive the MCC in the CAPCOM Menu, so you can always "downgrade" to non-MCC. It doesn't work the other way around though, you can't activate the MCC halfway during a mission flown with a non-MCC scenario.
 

MrFickles

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For a seasoned Orbinaut, a good place to start is to know how to use the AGC. That would be the most foreign thing in the spacecraft when coming from flying futuristic vehicles.

Basic stuff like how to interpret and input values into the AGC, verbs and nouns, changing and running programs. The AGC can be an extremely powerful tool for flying the Apollo spacecraft. If you've mastered the AGC, you can practically make the Apollo spacecraft do whatever you want.

For the rest of the hundreds of switches in both the CM and LM, I wouldn't worry too much about them for now, maybe half of them you won't even touch in the course of a mission. If you're using the auto-checklist, there are almost no switches that need to be manually set.

As for the first mission to get started with, I would say start with Apollo 8, then 7. The tasks on Apollo 8 are slower paced compared to Apollo 7, and mostly consist of burns, pointing the spacecraft in specific directions, aligning the IMU. The tasks you'll perform on Apollo 7 is basically everything on Apollo 8, and few dozen more.
 
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bcirka

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Awesome, thanks for the advice so far guys.

Fickles, I'll take your advice on starting with Apollo 8 first and learning to use AGC.

Last night, I was testing out Apollo 7 and came to this set of manual instructions:

Thrust ±X to ~-101.0 fps on EMS counter
Thrust ±X to ~-100.5 fps on EMS counter
(Pitch up 180° at 5°/sec)
(Roll left 60° at 2°/sec)
Thrust ±X to ~-101.0 fps on EMS counter

Each of these needed to be performed manually (they were yellow). Question then. Should I be using some program in the AGC to program these burns & pitch/roll changes? Or I am doing this on my own with thrusters and monitoring?
 

Cavalier

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As noted above, learning the AGC (Apollo Guidance Computer) is the real trick. It is not user friendly, displays what seems to be very cryptic information, is not consistent in it's input and output, and, almost to a man, the astronauts didn't like it. The good news is that if you ask on this forum, there are folks who know this thing pretty darn well, and will tell you what to do. It's a good thing too, because, so far, I haven't found anything like an AGC for dummies, like an astronaut probably would have wanted. What they had, it seems, is a lot of training, augmented in flight with operation checklists that had step by step instructions on what to load into the computer for each program.

To get a good head start, try: https://history.nasa.gov/afj/ where NASA maintains a lot of documentation mission by mission. When MCC produces a PAD for you, that is all info related to what you would put into the computer for a specific action, and the flight plans have forms that you would write this information on. Some of those flight plans are on that site, so you can print those forms.

In real life, he PAD would tell you what you would put into the computer for maneuvers you need to make sometimes, but also for contingencies, where something went wrong, so some of these you wouldn't use. I don't know for sure if every contingency maneuver is included, but you can tell: For instance, if you are going around the moon and you get a TEI PAD when you wouldn't actually expect to need to blast back to Earth, it is for a return if something goes wrong on that rev. Basically, a mission abort.

The format tells you what the PAD is for. For instance, the first PAD you get in orbit on Apollo 8 is a T+90 abort maneuver pad. It is SPS G&N, so the service module engine will do the burn using the guidance and navigation system. It is fallowed by what may seem to be an incomprehensible list of numbers and letters. Using a pre-printed form will help you here, because you'll generally just need to write in the numbers.

Now, to make some of this a little understandable. The AGC runs programs (PXX), and you input verbs (VXX) which usually mean do an action, nouns (NXX) the object associated with an action, and registers (R1-R3) which are the 3 lines at the bottom of the display. Registers display information, allow information to be input, and are in the format +/- XXXXX, with no shown decimal. On registers, the information often gives you a result in tenths, hundredths or even thousandths, and it's up to the user to know this, because there is no decimal on the display, so the PAD forms have a decimal written in, just to be helpful.

So, back to the PAD. This T+90 is shown as a P30 PAD. That means it's information you put in once you start a program 30 (maneuver). There is a very important verb you need to know at this point, and that is verb 37. This tells the AGC "run program NXX," so if you are in P00 (idle) or "pooh" if you hear it on the ground loop recordings from the missions, you would enter V37E (run) (the E is enter- don't hit enter unless the listing says so) 30E (program 30 maneuver, and the noun is implied i the program). Fun, yeah? Ok, then you get into the numbers. These are then entered into the program by following down the PAD form, and entering the NXX on the far right of each section. The checklist looks like this:

V37E 30E
F 06 33 GETI (this is the part of the program you are on, routine 06 N33) [this checklist assumes a P52 has given the trim values]
Load GETI (ground elapsed time of ingnition)
F 06 81 DVXYZ(LV)
Load desired DV's
... etc ...

That is generally what you get from the MCC pads, and I hope this demystifies the AGC just a little. I still only understand it so so, and I think that is about par. Reading NASA memoirs, I see the phrase, "drinking from a fire hose," over and over, so I don't feel so bad for feeling the same.
 
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meik84

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Should I be using some program in the AGC to program these burns & pitch/roll changes?
That wouldn't be practical. The idea of those mini-burns is to separate from the SIVB, turn around and "keep station with it". That was some kind of rehearsal for TD&E (transposition, docking and extraction) of the LM on a real lunar mission. The only thing one could use would be Noun 17 and Verb 63, i.e. do V25N17E, load R1 with roll attitude at sep - 60°, R2 with pitch attitude at sep +/- 180° and R3 with yaw attitude at sep. V63 would then switch the CMC to attitude error mode 3, so that it drives the error needles on the FDAI with respect to those angles you've entered. When I remember right, they started to use it from Apollo 9 on. Fortunately Houston provided those angles (the so called "extraction attitude") beforehand, so that the astronauts just had to punch them in. However, the turnaround and actual docking was still done manually. The CMC's idea of the position and attitude of the SIVB/LM stack is not fine enough to do it automatically. It hadn't to be, though: a real rendezvous was considered successfull when CSM and LM were about 100 m apart from each other. The rest could be "eyeballed" out.
It is not user friendly, displays what seems to be very cryptic information, is not consistent in it's input and output, and, almost to a man, the astronauts didn't like it.
Don't be so mean to it. For its time it was indeed user friendly and maybe the first time hardware and software designers didn't build a computer for computer experts, but for what we would call today "end users". The astronauts participated extensively in its development, especially regarding the software. Many things, like the MINKEY controller, R30 or other things were "fulfilled wishes" of the astronauts.
 

bcirka

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Crazy idea, but does this community ever do a periodic training session on Discord or a screen streaming service like Mixer/Twitch? I'd bet it would help many beginners get over that initial learning curve and help them to dive deeper once they understand the basics.
 

Cavalier

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I'll give it "user friendly" for it's time, since it beat the old IBM machines Visualize a blizzard of punch cards floating around the CM :lol:
Don't get me wrong though. The AGP was a wonder for it's time, but explaining it to anyone used to today's technology, it really isn't user friendly tech. I suppose they could have done more to make it more verbose, but they might have had to launch an inconveniently large supplemental building with the spacecraft.

As for the astronaugts, I provide a quote from the FAQ of our friendly virtual AGC guy:

"The astronauts, of course, could understand the interface, but they did not like it. Most of them really wanted an interface much more like that they had used in aircraft: i.e., lots of dials and switches. Dave Scott is the the only astronaut I'm aware of who had kind words for it (or for the AGC in general), though we are told that Jim McDivitt wasn't necessary completely hostile to it."

I fully understand their POV.
 
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bcirka

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Actually, I'm going to post my last comment as a different topic on this thread since its not relevant to the original topic.

Thanks for all the advice so far, I'm going to have about a thousand more questions coming!
 

Cavalier

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Each of these needed to be performed manually (they were yellow). Question then. Should I be using some program in the AGC to program these burns & pitch/roll changes? Or I am doing this on my own with thrusters and monitoring?

Actually, you can do some of this automatically. The thrusting, you should do manually, and you'll have to do some translating to dock, but the automatic maneuver in the checklist will point you in the right direction, IF you're angles are correct, and that's the trick.
I've yet to see the SIVB land on the SEP angles exactly, so you need those angles to start with. What follows is actually from a checklist from 1971, so a later Apollo mission, but it will work for you.
First, before you hit the SEP button in the checklist, you want to look at the error needles on FDAI 1, and if they aren't nulled, and they probably aren't, type V63E. This manipulates the contents of 3 nouns that hold attitude information. It transfers the contents of N20 to N17. N20 has the R,P,Y angles (R1-3) that the IMU sees. N17 is a temporary set of R,P,Y used to tell the computer where you want the current error needles to display. Now, you need to know those angles. The simplest way to get this is to enter V06N20E. V06 gives you a snapshot of those angles. If you want to see them in real time, use V16 instead, but you'll probably have some drift, so they will keep changing slightly. The format is R,P,Y +###.##, and that's the format you want. Now, do a little math to determine the angles you want the coming auto maneuver to drive you to. These need to go into N22, and the formulas follow:

R22 = 300 - R20
P22 = P20 + 180
Y22 = 360 - Y20

Now, you need to plug the results into N22. There are 5 verbs for changing registers directly: V21, V22, V23 (these let you individually change R1, R2, R3) V24 (lets you change R1, then R2) and V25 (lets you change all three). So what you want is V25N22E. Enter these new values (don't forget the sign), and now you are ready. Proceed through the checklist as you would, now that you have the correct angles in the computer. You will get to the part where you pitch over 180 degrees. You can do this if you want, and the auto maneuver will clean up the slop and roll you to where you are lined up with the docking target, but the auto maneuver will do the pitch too, so you don't absolutely have to do that part. Then you will get to the V49: That is the maneuver. Once you settle out, you can finish the docking using only translation with the RCS, which makes your job much easier.

Hope this was helpful! :tiphat:
 

thammond

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A couple questions regarding checklists.


Are the checklists in the Checklist MFD 100% accurate to the actual checklist for each individual mission?


Are all of the checklists available somewhere for each individual mission?


My searches on Apollo checklists have not been to successful. As far as I can tell there was a flight data file (FDF) for each mission that was composed of the various checklists plus other info. But I have not had much success in finding any specific mission FDF's.
 

meik84

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Are the checklists in the Checklist MFD 100% accurate to the actual checklist for each individual mission?
No. The idea behind Checklist MFD is to provide the basics.
Are all of the checklists available somewhere for each individual mission?
Sure. https://www.ibiblio.org/apollo/links.html is always a good one. The various Apollo flight and surface journals also have a big collection of documents, including checklists. I for myself stick with the AOHs; the checklists for every mission are quite often just compressed versions of them, omitting remarks and other stuff the astronauts didn't need so that the 1000+ pages thick AOH shrunk to a more handy format.
 
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