Thursday, December 28, 2006

Red Moon #3

Well ... yeah, it was indeed bold and cocky, when exactly a year ago I started on the Orbiter's add-on making road (to perdition). A very long road, full of detours and diversions which should have brought me to Lunar Orbit but instead have me stuck on LEO for the past 12 months ... I definitely hope that one of these days, my add-on(s) will finally Fly me to the Moon ... :-\ In any case, this year have been overall fun. I have learn a lot on a wide variety of subjects ranging from spacecraft design to computer simulation (and of course the history of the Soviet Space program). I also enjoyed tremendously my on-going collaboration with Castorp, I most definitly couldn't have gone much further if it wasn't for his meshing talent and resistance to my (constant?) nitpicking. I'm still surprised I haven't worn him out yet (knocking on wood) ;-)

If you still think that I'm super geeky, wait till you see Eric Hartwell's page on The Blue Marble (that famous pictures of the Earth taken from Apollo XVII during Lunar transit)! That's some serious geeking there! 8-O

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Old school Orbitering

Back in the old days, we didn't have any fancy space simulator such as Orbiter ... All we had, us kids, to play with, were old fashion tangible toys such as LEGO (one of my favorites) and scale models. I use to love assembling 1/72th models of planes and fly them around my bedroom. Of course, as I was NOT very good at finishing them (paint and decal jobs), so they sure didn't look too good ... but boys what is fun! :-) In many way, my recent adulthood hobby (obsession if you listen to my wife) of creating an addon for Orbiter, is somewhat similar to modelism ... well, maybe more like a cross between amateur rocketry and modelism ... as there's the added realism dimension to it (simulating complex systems and real world physic). Anyhow ... I'm bringing up that subject so that I can post a couple of links to some really cool LOW-FI modeling, involving some paper, scissor and glue ... such as the Energya + Buran stack. Check out the following page for all the models that can be downloaded. I'd love to build the Soyuz 11A511 launch vehicle, if I could find it somewhere ...

Well, as this is likely my last post before Newtonmas, I'll take this opportunity to send you my Season Greetings, Cheers!


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Deja vu

Well, with the undocking of STS-116 from the ISS scheduled for today and a return on the ground planned to Thursday (or Friday) ... the fun is about to end not only for the crew, but also for us the space geeks. I'll be missing my daily fixes of live view from orbit :-( Sure, there'll still be the ISS ... but its coverage is most of the time rather boring (IMHO) :-\ Hey, didn't I said the same thing during the previous Shuttle missions? Possible ... I've got a certain feeling of deja vu while writing this.

By the time I got home yesterday night, I had decided not to follow-up on my EVA envy. Knowing myself this small diversion will have ended-up been another multi-months efforts, so it was much smarter to avoid going down that road ... for now. Instead the main focus should be finishing up what I've got on my plate currently ... so that we can finally move out of the swamp.

The image I used to illustrate this page was stitched together by Avron (one of the many space geeks lurking on forums) from NASA TV. It sure is a cool picture :-)

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Spacewalk envy

With all the EVA action on-going right now, it's no doubt that I suddenly feel the urge to do some in Orbiter. In fact that's could be a good supplement to my testing of the contact detection and handling I have been working on lately :-) Back in July of this year (following another ISS EVA) I was already mumbling some about the kind of EVA we wanted to be able to perform in our Soyuz addon. However, as we don't have yet the required meshes to simulate the Yastreb suit used for the EVA between Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5, we will have to temporary borrow an EVA mesh from another addon. Now, I'm weighting the pro and cons of doing it. It looks like my partner in crime (castorp) isn't sure that we need yet another distraction at this point. He might be right ... even if this is yet another engineering test, it still involve a fair amount of work to get going ...

STS-116 imagery gallery just got updated with 3 magnificents pictures of the Soyuz TMA and Progress spacecraft docked to the station, check them out!

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Союз sighting!

Here ya go! A Soyuz (and a Progress) finally visible on NASA TV :-) So you see, these pages haven't really turned into yet another Shuttle's lover blog ;-) Oh, speaking of TV, NASA have made available an High Definition (HD) version of the launch video. It well worth the bandwidth (222mb for the biggest one). I hope they'll offer more of these during the mission (docking in HD will be sweet!) :-)

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Labeling stuff ...

Okay ... yeah I know, yet another post dedicated (mostly) to the current STS-116 mission 9_9 ... what can I said? There's much (real world) Soyuz activity lately ... Anyway, there was some pretty darn good imagery yesterday during the rendez-vous and docking. Hmmm ... docking at dawn! Woohooo! :-).

As you may have noticed, I very recently started using labels to tag each post. This should in the long run allow for some filtering, so that anyone will be able to improve the signal-to-noise ratio of this blog ;-) So far I have been using STS for the Space Shuttle related contents (well duh!) .. and OKB for everything related to my work on the (Orbiter) addon(s). OKB stand for Опытное конструкторское бюро, it seems appropriate ;-)

Anyhow, I'm still swamped in the contact detection and response monkey business. I have been working on that part of the SDK for a bit above two months now 9_9. As usual, I may have over-complicated things, that's kind of a usual thing for me ... Anyway I'm currently considering a slightly different approach to the problem, so that it will be easier to implements and also save a bit the frame rate. The idea been that we want some level of realism (with somewhat correct contact response), but not at any cost (performance and simplicity for the developer). Anyway, the bottom line is some more delay ahead ... but hey as Greg Anderson put it: "Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it".

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Roll program!

Oh boy! That night launch! I can still recall my heart pounding from the very last seconds of the countdown to the ET separation. That was something! :-) I have been enjoying all the high quality videos posted on the L2 forum and oh my ... ! My wife wasn't that impress by me looking at all that geek p0rn Sunday morning ... oh well :-)

I forgot to mention the other days, that there's a very handy site hosted by KSC which offers screencaps of various video cameras located on the site (including NASA TV). Good place to grab pictures from, such as:

Docking to the ISS is scheduled for 2:06pm (Pacific time).


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Launch coverage

Well, launch coverage have started on NASA TV ... Got some errances to run today so I won't be following the coverage much :-( The weather forecast at that moment doesn't looks too good (wind, clouds and possible showers) .. 70% chance of NO GO at the time of launch commit .... I, for one, would love a launch tomorrow night as I will be home .. hehehe :-)

On other news, Kodiak have released his Venera-D addon this morning. I haven't downloaded it yet, but it sure looks good :-)


Friday, December 08, 2006


I was totally bummed yesterday evening when the launch was scrubbed ... I know it's not a bit issue and that it will eventually launch when all the criteria are satisfied ... but I'm suppose to attend a Christmas party this Saturday evening! So if the launch go as it's currently planned I won't be able to see it live! Bummer! :-\ I can only hope for another scrub ... I know that's a pretty selfish statement to make, but I really like to see the event live! ... I guess I could skip the party? Hmmm ...

If you like this very blog (no?! really?), you will surely enjoy Suzy's blog. Suzy is the person behind the well known (at least among the folks that like Russian space hardware) site Kosmonavtka. She got lots of good stuff on that site and on her blog, so be sure to check it out!


Thursday, December 07, 2006

GO or NO GO?

The third Shuttle launch of the year is scheduled to be today ... that is if weather permit ... so far it looks like it may happens as the weather forecast is improving (or so I have read) ... Liftoff is currently scheduled for 6:30pm (PDT). Like for the previous launches, I'll be keeping a close watch on the mission. As I have my L2 account (didn't have it for the whole duration of the previous flight) I should be swimming in nerdy details for the whole mission :-) ... Speaking of nerds, there's a thread on where anyone can follow the progress of the launch preparation.

On the October Sky front, I'm still struggling with the contact response :-\ I got the basic impulse based response going (and it seems to be working) and now I'm trying to find some solution(s) to prevent (or at least limit) meshes penetration. My lack of math abilities have really hampered my progress :-( I wish I had been a more dedicated student when I was growing up ... If only the homework had been more exciting like applying what we learned to space flight simulation!


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Space geek haven!

During the last EVA performed by the ISS crew, Mikhail Tyurin snapped a picture of the Progress' antenna that failed to retract prior to the docking of that automatic cargo vessel. It took over two weeks before that picture was finally available for the space geeks (first on L2 and now on the Expedition 14 images gallery) ... Check this out:

Sexy isn't it? :-) On the left side (dark grey) is the Orbital module of the Progress. The gold colored part is the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module. It's clearly visible that the antenna which extend from the Progress is resting under some kind of hand rail (visible on the far right of the image), thus could cause some issues during undocking.

The same spacecraft was used yesterday to give the ISS a reboost. A video shot from inside the station during the firing of the Progress' engine is available on Space Multimedia. It's neat to see a free floating baseball ball moving along the station during the burn :-) With the launch of STS-116 coming up (about 2 days away), there's going to be even more goodies out for us, space geeks, to get our hands on :-)