Friday, July 28, 2006

More nitpicking ...

Following some tweaking of the solar panel meshes by Castorp, we finally got around of animating the unfolding of one of them last night ... with some success. I write some as there's something that still doesn't sounds quiet right when I look at the folded panels and compare it to what I was expecting them to look like, based on the few low-res pictures I have. The whole solar panel is composed of 4 segments, two of which are composed of sub-segments allowing the whole panel to bend as seen on the picture bellow:

The segments arrangement on the panel is such that the inner and outer segments have the same length, while the two middle ones having the same length but slightly longer than the two others. Note, that the panels used on the early Soyuz were different from the one still in use today. The ASTP's Soyuz was the first one to use the redesigned ones. The following pictures shows that quiet well:

Now, let see how it look in our add-on when the panel is folded:

What I was expecting was to have the the location where the segment 1&2 bend to be at the same height than for the segment 1&4 ... which obviously isn't the case ...

Also, the folding of the outer segment (the 4th one) seems to be somewhat non logical ... as there is enough room to fit in on the other side, against the radiator (that grey thing behind) ... But then it is the way it looks on all pictures I could find:

Now, I'm wondering ... maybe I got the unfolding sequence wrong? Time to study some more the animation made by the guy from ... even if it's for a Soyuz TM ... On the other hand these solar panels are much simpler than the older ones ... and there's no longer the radiator under ...

Monday, July 24, 2006

Items (still) not yet shipped ...

Over the week-end I have been working on translating (well ... I mean babelfishing, as I don't know a single word of russian) a very interesting document authored by Yurii Tiapchenko one of the designer of the Soyuz's console "Sirius". This kind of document is pretty critical for our project as this is pretty much the only source of information we have on it (and as I'm still waiting for that Soyuz book!) ... There is also an article from the same author available on the web (and in English!), but it doesn't have the same level of details and mostly deal with the more recent Soyuz variant. While I was swimming in russian, I also started looking at how we were going to display Russian within the panels (as well as how to support multi-language). This is in fact a rather simple issue thanks to Unicode. By using only Unicode string in the add-on (and of course in the SDK), we can pretty much support any language. Now, the problem is that a word or a sentence in English may take more space than in Russian, and space on a controls (or around the controls) is limited. Here's the russified version of one of our test panel (related to my previous post):

Friday night I found the meaning of the two knobs located bellow the screen (see previous post) ... Brightness and Contrast (well duh!). Now, we have to decide how we're going to deal with the language issue. For realism sake, using Russian is the way to go, but it'll make things way more complex for non Russian users ...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Friday babelfishing

I have started to study the sparse documents we have related to the Soyuz consoles over the past few days, in order to build all that we need to implement the realistic panels (for now we only have some test ones). One of the interesting instruments is the Combined Electronic Indicator, which was used for video and data (dunno yet if it could be use to display video and data at the same time ...). I found a schematics in one if the ASTP document which indicate the controls (knobs) associated with the CRT screen, but the document isn't of great quality and ... I can't read Russian!

Any tips will be very welcome ... in the meantime I'll head for Babelfish ...

Monday, July 17, 2006

Monday landing ...

I've got to said that the pilot point of view offered on Nasa TV during the last seconds of STS-121 return to KSC was pretty a pretty cool ... but what will be even cooler is to have the same viewpoint during re-entry ... That'll be wonderful! I have seen before similar video (shot from another viewpoint in the cabin) ... so I'm pretty convince that the particular camera recording this viewpoint was ON during the re-entry ... now, the question is will this be released to the public? ... A somewhat similar video (was facing the crew) for the ascent was released, so let's hope the same happen.

Anyway, now that the mission is over, this blog should resume its normal useless contents ... more rambling and mumbling about Soyuz and Orbiter ... at least until STS-115 get underway :D

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Sunday blogging ...

Well, STS-121 is coming tomorrow to an (successful) end with landing planned for the Kennedy Space Center in the early morning (6:07 PDT) ... The past 2 weeks have been pretty exciting and interesting ... I may have been a bit too obsessed (or so I have been told ...) ... but heck ... it was fun, and Shuttle flight don't happen that often anymore eh? Speaking of the Shuttle, one of the Orbiter's user have put some very nice photoshopped screenshots of STS-1 on the Orbiter's forum. Deadstick have been using David413's Shuttle Fleet and Gazza's STS Payload addon to simulate the first flight of Columbia. I took yesterday the same mission for a spin and it's really nice. The shuttle 3D model and skin (using the visual update by Preacher_mg) are amazing ... With level 10 Earth surface it is simply amazing!

I'm a bit mad at myself for not testing the Shuttle Fleet before ... I mean, I'm a huge fan of the Space Shuttle (Buran included) ... but I never took the time to use this wonderful add-on! Shame on me I guess.

Whiles I'm on the US space program, there have been yet another update on the Project Apollo Archive recently (Apollo 17 unabridged film magazines 133-135 and 137-147). I believe that most of these frequent updates only improve the quality of the images, but don't add never-seen before images (at least not always), nevertheless there's some amazing shots in it such as this one:

I wonders if we'll see a similar site once the Shuttle is retired : domain name is available ...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

We gonna get busy ...

Flying in space with Orbiter is pretty cool ... but once you have reached orbit and that there is no burn to be performed ... what do you do? Sure it is nice to look at the earth zooming by down bellow your spacecraft ... or to perform an EVA, but .,. after a while it get a bit boring. This is not something that is only experienced by Orbinauts, even real astronauts experience boredom in space at time. Here's what Norman Thagard said about part of his trip to the Mir station back in 1995:

"... and I wound up not having enough to do, and that's not good, because what happens if you don't have enough to do, even though it's space flight and all of that, you still get bored. I mean, there's little by way of entertainment there, and you need to really be busy."

Now, there's a couple of way that one can deal with boredom in Orbiter, you can either use the time acceleration to skip to when something related to orbital mechanics, docking or reentry need to be performed ... or you can grab a good book and/or use an alarm clock to keep track of time while performing other tasks :-) A couple of 3rd party Orbiter's addon, like NASSP, have taken the route of trying to simulate the whole spaceflight experience with its hundred of complex tasks to be performed, enough to make you feel overworked :-) This is something that we're trying to implement in our addon, with the small variation that we would like to offer various level of player involvement in what can be seen by many as tedious and boring tasks (e.g: your virtual crew mates will cycle the cryo tanks when required).

Another thing we hoping to experience with, is adding some realism to the whole EVA business. Floating in space is cool, but there also boredom will creep in. Now, this will be tricky to do in Orbiter, but the idea is to simulate hand rails, safety tethers and interactions between the vessel body and the cosmonaut. Castorp and I have started talking about it, as we'll have an EVA to support for Soyuz 4&5, even so this is, by modern standard, a rather easy EVA. In any case, the whole point is to try to make it more fun (and more realistic we hope) ... we'll see if we succeed 9_9 ... (at least we'll have fun trying to implement it!)

Monday, July 10, 2006


Oh yeah ... like all the geeks that spent their Saturday with an eye on NASA TV, my jaw dropped when I saw the 8s preview that was show during a press conference Saturday afternoon ... That screen capture here doesn't totaly do justice to the grandness of the video taken by a camera located at the bottom of the booster. Now, if they had some high-res digital camera located on the same spot, that'll be some terrific images (perfect for desktop background) :-) Speaking of imagery, be sure to check out the mission imagery pages (as well as the ISS exp. 13 collection) ... there's some good stuff on both .. however, NASA isn't particualy fast at updating them ... :-|

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Adrenaline rush

Just like last summer, for STS-114, I was glued to my screen yesterday to watch the liftoff of STS-121 ... feeling a rush of adrenaline building-up as the countdown was running to its end and as Discovery was performing (flawlessly) its ascent to orbit. What a ride that must be, eh? In 10 minutes from ground level to +27,000 km/h ... As I was watching also Saturday and Sunday, I heard the NASA's commentator talking about an attraction to open soon at the Kennedy Space Center, which will allow common folks (hey that's me!) to experience the thrill of a Shuttle ride ... I couldn't see any link to that on the Visitor Center web site ... but anyway that kind of thing isn't for me ... with my chronic motion sickness, I'll likely barf all over the seats ... :-(

One way of following what's happening in the mission (while at work), is to poll the following image, which is from the NASA TV feed:

It is refreshed about once every minute (or so). Then if something really exciting is happening, you can (re)start a feed ;-)