Monday, January 29, 2007


You probably didn't notice, but I have been a bit (too) silent over the past +12 days ... the reason been that we recently switched into Skunk works mode. Mind you, this isn't a particularly well kept top secret project, as Castorp have left a clue on the M6's forum ... Speaking of my partner in crime, his meshing talent was recently recognized by a book writer (Philip Baker) and some images from our Salyut-1/Soyuz 11 addon for Orbiter will be included in The Story of Manned Space Stations (coming out this April) as illustrations! Woot! Way to go buddy! :-)

Now, if you are wondering what the skunk works mode is going to change here ... well it's simple, I won't be talking much about our Orbiter's addon project for the next little while (+6 months) ... which mean that this blog is going to get even more boring that it already is ;-) ... One thing I can share however, is that our team recently increased in size (first time ever!), with Kyra joining us as a technical adviser. She (yep it's a she!) have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Soviet space program and we are very excited and happy to have her on board :-)


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

С днем рождения!

Yes, I do feel somewhat ashame that with all my focus on the Soviet/Russian space program ... I still totally forgot about the 100th anniversary of Sergey Korolyov birth this past Friday (01/12) :-( Lorne Ipsum have written in The Space Review a rather nice article on The Chief Designer impact on the human space adventure, which by all accounts was definitely a talented and far seeing manager, but not the kind of person with whom it was easy to work with. In fact, he appears to have been in some occasion a very stubborn bully. Oh well ... no one is perfect, even (especially) people leaving major legacy in history. To mark the event, the next Progress spacecraft (M-59 to be launched on the 18th) to head for the ISS will have on the shroud an image of Korolyov. There's some nice pictures (links) to the assembly sequence of it in a thread of the forum.

Once again, Suzy have added a nice post to her blog. This one is on some comments made by Pavel Vinogradov (Exp 13's commander) regarding the state of the Russian space program. It's kind of sad indeed :-\


Friday, January 12, 2007

Player friendly?

One of the benefit of not working (yet) on a high-fidelity set of panels for the Soyuz is that I can try to make things (somewhat) a bit more user friendly. Take, for instance, that GPC panel (If you scroll down to my previous post you can see it in all its user unfriendliness glory) I have hacked. Its purpose is to start and stop some programs (e.g automatic orientation, re-entry sequencing ...) in a interactively fashion, and to allow the monitoring of any program running on the simulated onboard computer. As you can see from the screen-shot even though a maximum of 9 programs can be run in parallel, we only allow the user to monitor the working of a single program (bottom part of the panel) and that's the part that was most bugging me the most, as I didn't find these 2 switches practical for that particular situation. As the programs are arranged in a matrix, the program to be monitored is selected by placing the switch on the position that indicate the row and column of the program (e.g A 2). It sure does the trick, but as it didn't feel right, I coerced Castorp into making a couple of bitmaps to represent a thumb wheel switch, similar to the ones visible on the Gemini control panel (above image). And the result is, I believe, a bit better:
Now the tricky part was to decide which interaction will be suited for that kind of controls. Should the user click on the right part if it want to rotate the wheel towards the left, and click on the left part to rotate towards the right? Or should the rotation direction (inverse) be bound to which button of the mouse is used? I decided to go with the later for now. Usage will tell if that was the good choice. As we will be using thumb wheel controls in the real panels, looking now into that matter isn't as futile as it may seems ;-)


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

That forgotten space program ...

Having browsed trough many Gemini documents lately (in search of some background information on the computer used during the early days of the manned space program), I came to pick a certain interest for that not very well know program ... totally out shinned by it's offspring, the Apollo program. Anyway, that is quite an interesting space program (first US EVA, first docking in space) with a rather cutesy spacecraft (sort of look like a dog head I think, not that I'm a big fan of dog ...) ... Check out the thread I started on's forum if you are looking for High-res pictures of Gemini, there's a couple of web site that have some. BTW, if you happen to visit the Neil Armstrong Museum anytime soon, be sure to check out their Gemini Docking Simulator ... it looks rather good!

Work on our implementation of the Analog/Digital computer/logic system is progressing nicely (but slowly), the following image shows a test program running:

Now, I have to admit that I was a bit inspired by Apollo's DSKY ... but, as this is still our engineering panel(s), I hope the Soyuz lovers will forgive us this sacrilege :-)

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Back to/from the (in)sane side (maybe) ...

Thanks to a suggestion from Castorp, which have been looking after my mental health over the past little while, I'm taking a well deserved (ahem) break from the collision madness, so that we can focus for a while on the reentry sequence ... which is long overdue. To that effect I have started to work on a GPC type component so that we could run on it the reentry program (among others). Now, the trick is that as none of the early Soviet spacecraft (until 1974) was equipped with a digital computer (on the US side, Gemini was the first manned vehicle to use one), we need this component to allow the simulation of less evolved logic system. I'm not too sure what they were using to be honest. According to the ASTP document describing the Soyuz on-board systems, they had some kind of "switching logic" .. not sure what that could be exactly ... maybe some kind of Analog computer? Anyhow, whichever piece of machinery was used to perform automatic task (in the Soviet space program, the crew had very little input on the working of the spacecraft, a striking comparison to the US projects), we should be able to simulate it. To support the development and test of that component, I have been working on adding a set of controls on the engineering panels of the 7K-OK so that we could start/stop some programs interactively and somewhat monitor their working (the right/top most group):

To get a better understanding of what this component should be offering, I have been looking into various Gemini documents and Apollo ... It is no surprise to me anymore, but still quite amazing the shear amount of information related to these project available on the web!