Thursday, January 26, 2006

Red Moon #2

Last night, I integrated the brand new (and good looking) first stage (Block A) of the N1 rocket done by Urwumpe (the F variant of the N1) with McDope 's older meshes for yet another engineering flight. Well, when I said flight I don't really mean flight as I still haven't put any attitude controls nor automatic guidance system in it. Anyway ... I thought I'll share a few screenies of last night successful liftoff and staging. Please keep in mind that this is very much WIP (Work In Progress):
Some of the differences between McDope and Urwumpe meshes includes the presence of the 4 stabilizers and the more correct positions of the engines' nozzles.
The launch pad used here was build by Mcdope and it's part of his Baikonur add-on. I believe Urwumpe have in mind to build a new one for the N1.
Liftoff! With all 30 NK-33 engines running at 75%, the N1 carrying the L3 complex starts to rise in a cold morning of October (simulation time).
Without any guidance and/or controls, the law of gravity steers the rocket as it climb in the high part of the atmosphere.
Upon cut off of the first stage, I manualy separate from it then ignite the second stage (Block B) which use 8 NK-43 engines.
While the rest of the N1-L3 continue climbing, the discarded stage continue on its now ill-fated trajectory ...

I put all these pictures (and a few more) in a set, where they can be seen in a more eye-friendly size :) Many thanks to Urwumpe for his contribution to this on-going project of mine. I'm really looking forward to +12 other meshes needed ;-)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Archives gones wild!

If you are a serious Apollo fan, there is no need for me to introduce you to the Project Apollo Archive. This amazing site should already be in your bookmarks and be part of your daily visits (shame on you if this isn't the case!). Now, if you have missed it, the site was updated very recently with some new (329 in total) scans of the original film rolls (done by JSC) for Apollo 15 (EVA3 - Hasselblad film ) and 16 (EVA2 - Hasselblad film) ... sweet isn't it? Anyway ... now it's the time to make good (for a change) use of all that bandwidth of yours ;-)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Daily Trans Lunar Injection

Here's a link you might want to bookmark if you are into the Moon, and that's thanks to Chuck Wood, who since the 17th of this month offers a different photo of the Moon every days of the week on his web site. The photos come from different sources, including (of course) the Apollo missions ... so this is a nice way of getting your daily fix for Space stuff :)

Speaking of the Space stuff, my Orbiter's project is coming along nicely (or so I'd like to think). I have been using the N1 meshes made by McDope without his autorization (I emailed him some weeks ago, but he still haven't replied), as engineering mockups so I definitly should post a few screenshots, altought there isn't much exciting stuff to see for now. In the meantime, You may want to know that I finaly settle for the name OKB1 for my SDK. OKB-1 been Korolev’s design bureau, quiet the appropriate name if I may said.

Few days ago I ordered from two books to complement my ever growing collection. The first one is Two Sides of the Moon, a dual autobiography of Dave Scott and Alexei Leonov, which is going to be an exciting read. The second one is the recently published First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, another 780 (or so) pages biography. I better hurry-up to finish reading (for the second time) Red Moon, an interesting novel by Michael Cassutt ... Yes, the author of more serious books such as Deke!: U.S. Manned Space : From Mercury to the Shuttle and the Who's Who in Space set.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Raiders of the Lost Shroud

Continuing on my quest for N1 data, I came to considere the mass of the shroud (protective cover for the L3 complex). Looking for the same type of info for the still in use Soyuz launcher, wasn't much of help as I couldn't even find one single source that will list these two informations... Now, that may be because I'm not as good as I like to think at using Google ... or maybe not? Anyway ... what I gathered was that modern days Soyuz shroud is about 9.12m long and weight about 3000kg. I got the mass from the Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft which design is based off the Soyuz and sports a very similar shroud. From, I was able to find the length of the shroud by using a ruler and the following schematic (hoping it is to scale!) and knowing the total length of Soyuz it-self (7.2m):

Using these two values, we can raisonably estimate the mass of the N1 shroud by using a simple proportion rule: 3000 / 9.12 * 33.2 = 10921.05kg, where 33.2 is the length of the shroud on the N1 .. well at least the length of the mesh I'm using currently (which isn't perfect but does the job right now). The N1 shroud was made to protect not only the Soyuz LOK but also the LK (lunar lander) and two propulsive stages (Block G and D):

10.92 tons is actualy a pretty sound weight. My initial estimation, that I had done by substracting the mass of each of the N1's components from its known liftoff mass (about 2825 tons), was totaly off-base with a mass at 100 tons ... and it sure sounded pretty unrealistic. Of course we may still be off, as modern day shroud are likely to be lighter than the ones used in the later 60s early 70s ... but it's a start.

While I'm at it, I'd like to point the following two sources of informations on the Soviet Space Program:
Challenge to Apollo is available from the most excellent (and most useful) site: Manned Spaceflight PDF Documents by Bob Andrepont. I have started browsing throught it (which was authored by Asif Siddiqi) as it is more closly related to my focus on the manned Moon project, but with over 1000 pages, it's not for the casual readers ...

Friday, January 13, 2006

To vent or not to vent ...

One of the exciting part of working on an Orbiter's add-on is the search for data and images about the vessel you are making. If I told you that the amount of info available on the Internet for a Soviet rocket developed in the heyday of the Cold War is pretty slim, I'm sure you won't be surpised at all ... But even so, a fair amount of info can be gathered from a few web sites, such as the excellent Mark Wade's Encyclopedia Astronautica. I'll said that it is enough to make a N1 simulation relatively close to the real thing, altought what's more of an issue is that there isn't a lof of images of the whole N1-L3 project. This make some of the little details a bit harder to figure, such as: Where the N1 stages venting before liftoff? I'm guessing that they should, as each of the stages were using a liquid propellant similar to the Saturn V, which was venting quiet a lot before and during liftoff and flight as the following images shows:

Now, if we look at some of the available images of the N1 liftoff from Baikonur it's hard to tell if the same kind of venting was happening:

The low quality of these images and the distance between the photograph and the rocket doesn't help, but even so ... I can't really see much venting happening ... In fact, if we look at a modern day launch of a Soyuz, we can't see as much venting on it as the old Saturn:

A close look to the picture shows some sort of steam flowing down the boosters. The question is can we assume that such venting was happening on the N1 ...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Oh my!

Altought I spend most of me awake spare time working away on creating an add-on for Orbiter, I still keep an eye on the NASSP gang to see what other great stuff they doing. For example, FordPerfect posted today a screenshot of his Taurus-Littrow Valley Project (to which jtiberius is contributing) ...

Amazing eh? Can you Imagine flying a Meshland-aware Lunar Module over that during the Apollo XVII scenario? Sweet .... now if the whole moon could be that detailed (and if we all have video card with 6Gb of RAM!). What's even sweeter is that there is no reason why flying the Soviet's LK (Lunniy korabl) over it won't be possible as well :-)

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Chronicles of Insomnia

If are having a transient insomnia, like I have experienced over the past 3 nights, you may have some extra time to check out Science@NASA, where they have started, a few days ago, a serie called "Apollo Chronicles". The first article (also available as a Podcast) explores the astronauts experience of shadows on the Moon. If after that you still can't sleep ... well then you may want considere checking out this 313 pages long thesis by Alfred Hogan of the University of Maryland, on the CBS News Space coverage from 1957 to 2003.

On the Orbiter's addon creation front, I have been busy working on it (up to obscessing about it, so that explain the insomnia) and things are looking good. Altought I can't said that I progressed much as all I have is still the N1F rocket sitting on the launch pad ... but now, I can start fueling its 3 stages and see its center of mass change as all 3 tanks fills ... So yeah lots of work has been going under the hood ... and more to come. As I'm also building a SDK (with which this N1 addon is built), I have been trying to come-up with an interesting name for it ... so far without much luck. If you can think of anything that'll includes (some or all) the following keywords, let me know:
  • Vessel
  • Simulation
  • Common
  • Building Blocks
  • Orbiter
  • SDK

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Destination Moon!

I was browsing trought my local Chapters store 2 days ago, when I stumbled onto Destination Moon: The Apollo Missions in the Astronauts' Own Words by Rod Pyle in a bargain bin! What a (cheap $12.49) good surprise! The concept of the book is nothing really novel nor fancy. It cover all the Apollo missions (well duh!) with a brief summary for each, a short bio of the crew members and some pictures accompagned with extract from the flight transcripts. Needless the said, the book is printed on glossy paper, so the pictures looks real good. Now, I have to admit that I haven't have time to look into this book more than just flipping quickly trought it, so I can't really said if it's a must have. One things that I'm wondering ... does the pictures match with the presented transcripts? I'll have to check.

Speaking of book, this week Space Review sports a review of Jack Schmitt's book Return to the Moon. I got to said that whiles I'm definitly a space exploration enthusiast (and love to see men walking on the Moon again!) deuterium/helium-3 fusion fail to get me excited ... a shame I guess.

Monday, January 02, 2006

New year resolutions

Aaaah ... the first days of a brand new year! The perfect time for finishing up this pesky resolutions list which years after years keep growing and growing ... :-| Well this year I'm adding some new ones to my list: The Soviet Lunar Manned Program add-on for Orbiter and also an SDK ... yep ... I know ... yet another one! ... I was thinking that having a SDK will allow me to re-use lots of the code accross add-ons (yes I may do more than one ... we'll see) and also make it easier (at least for me) to create addon. I have only be working on it for a few days so for now there isn't much to see ... aside from the N1 rocket sitting inert on its launch pad:

Happy new year to all, by the way ... :)