Thursday, March 30, 2006


Like many space geeks I spent most of yesterday late afternoon - early evening, glued to NASA TV, watching the liftoff of the Soyuz Launch Vehicle, carrying Expedition 13 to the ISS. I like to think of myself as a veteran of many liftoffs ... thanks to Internet Live feeds that is :P, but this was my first live Soyuz launch. I did watch most of the videos available on Energia web site over the past weeks, but that doesn't top watching it live. BTW, if you happend to have missed it, some videos of the event are available on the web, courtesy of Energia (in RealPlayer format) and also on Space-Multimedia (Windows Media format).

Altought not as impressive as a Shuttle launch (IMHO), Soyuz launches are pretty nice to watch. The exhaust trail of the rocket, composed of the exhaust of the 5 engines is quiet impressive I think, and at time it is longer than the whole vehicle it-self (or so it seems)! Obviously, watching this kind of video is very helpful in getting that Orbiter's addon of mine right :-) What will be very sweet is a camera located on the rocket and looking down, like the camera on the External Tank (ET) of the Shuttle (video here). The ground views and inside the reentry module (SA) views are definitly nice but that can't top seeing the earth from the rocket's viewpoint. Seeing the strap-on booster and the shrouds falling away will be Über cool.

I do find the inside SA cameras pretty neat thought. It really help getting an idea on how it feel to ride a rocket. The 3rd stage (Block I) cutoff and entering into the weightless realm seems quiet rought (likely because of the separation of the Soyuz spacecraft from its booster). What will be interesting is to have the same view during the early moments of the liftoff (hint in case any Energia folks read this blog .. yeah right ... 9_9).

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Static Fire!

Well yeah ... a bit too busy in the real life to blog much ... but things are continuing to shape-up ... slowly that is. Lately, I have been switching back to working on the Soyuz Launch Vehicle, whiles castorp is reworking his excellent meshes.

As you can see, for now I'm just doing some static fires of the core stage of the rocket, which use a RD-108 engine (4 combustion chamber-nozzles + 4 vernier thrusters). Keep in mind that this is still WIP (work-in-progress), so yeah the exhaust is likely to look better, and so will the mesh, as Urwumpe is also re-working it :-)

If you have some experience in creating add-ons for Orbiter, you're probably wondering why it is taking me so long to get that contraption off the (damn) pad, 'cause it's really not that complicate, right? Well yeah .. what can I said? ... Evil is in the detail :P

BTW on the 29th of this month, Soyuz TMA-8 (the real thing) will be launched from Baikonur. Thanks to, there is some good photographic material available (altought in a small res.) on their web site (News section). NASA TV will covers the launch live starting at 8:45pm (eastern time, 5:45pm PST).

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Is really my friend?

I mean ... it's a pretty handy way of finding hard to come by books ... but is that web site really my friend? All it does it get me in trouble with "the-one-that-said-we-got-enough-books-around", everytime I order something... which isn't quiet that often, but yet often enough (at least that's what I'm been told). Could I have become an amazone-junkie without even knowing? To my defence, is THE place to look for books on any topcis outside of the mainstream subjects ... so when I'm in need of reference materials and that I can't find what I need on the Internet .. well I can't really help ...

I know, it may sounds a bit fishy ... how come I can't find what I need on Internet? Especially for anything geeky such as spacecrafts and rockets. Surely other geeks like myself will have published on the web their own researchs or at least some good pointers to where more infos can be found. Sadly, this is mostly true when dealing with western spacecrafts and launchers. Searching for some information on a Soviet counterpart (even if they are still in use today) can be a very frustrating experience ... some said it's a modern Quest for the Holy Grail ...

To be fair, there is some data out there. For example, searching for pictures, schematics and information of the Buran Shuttle is relatively easy. Most (if not all) of what you will find can be snatched from the company that designed (and built) it. Now, if you are looking for more serious details on Soyuz ... well it's like the Perestroika never happened. Thus you gotta head for a good bookstore and try to find any books whom authors have had access to more than what's on the web. Luckily for me, Rex Hall have authored two books on the suject that I currently fancy:
Needless to said, I ordered both on the spot ... however, I'm been told that I won't receive them before the end of April ... hmm .. oh well, better late than never eh?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

First Geek on the Moon #3

Well ... it took me almost a month to read from cover to cover First Man, Neil Armstrong official biography. It's not that I'm that much of a slow reader, but many other pesky hobbies (like Orbiter) kept me away from finishing it sooner ... Anyway. I'd like to recommend that book, there is lots of good material in it, like a listing of Mr Armstrong's Personal Preference Kit (PPK) contents. And more details on the weird relationship between the member of Apollo XI crew. Personaly, I found that the last part of the book, which deal with what happened after the mission is a bit too slim, granted this isn't the most exciting part for a space enthusiast like myself, so it's fine by me ... it probably saves a couple of hundred pages ;-)

Lurking around the forums, I came across a thread related to a recently released book on the Apollo program by Bill Watkins: Apollo Moon Missions: The Unsung Heroes. This book offers an alternative views of the program by portraying (only) a few of the people who working outside of the spotlights. Man ... if interesting books keeps been published at this pace, I'm gonna have to get some more bookcases!

On the Orbiter project front, last week have seen a flow of good stuff from meshes maker ... err correction, meshes artist castorp, whom is contributed some great looking meshes to our (yes it's not just mine now) project. Here's a Work-In-Progress (WIP) shot of the Soyuz 7K-T he sent me just last night:
Looking good isn't it? As I have bugged him (a LOT) recently regarding things I thought should be in the meshes ... I sure hope my coding will be worth all the time he put on his side of the deal ...

Monday, March 06, 2006

From The Moon with love ...

Thanks to Suzy’s Russian space site, I landed on the largest collection of images taken by Soviet probes I have ever seen (web site by Don Mitchell), where some rather nice images can be found. For example, the earthrise on the left was taken by the lunar probe Zond-6 in November 1968 while it flew around the moon. Yep, that's well over a month before the crew of Apollo VIII took its famous earthrise shot. Knowing how much trouble the Russian had with their unmanned spacecrafts (and launchers) at that time (the Zond was designed to be manned BTW), it's quiet the achievement ...