Wednesday, January 23, 2008

NASSP style?

While pondering on what to write in this post, I came to realize that even though I use the expression "NASSP style" quite often in this blog, I may have never really taken the time to explain in a bit more details what exactly I meant by this. I'm not to sure where that expression came from, I believe I may have coined it during a conversation I have with my old partner-in-crime Castorp, back in early 2006.

NASSP is an on-going project to bring a realistic Apollo add-on to Orbiter. By realistic, I mean an high-fidelity add-on which not only simulate the various aspect of a mission but also simulate the many systems and sub-systems which compose a launch vehicle and a spacecraft (like the NASSP folks said : "accurate simulation of the internal systems"). Procedures straight from the official Apollo documents can be used in NASSP, with gazillion of switches, knobs and buttons to switch, turn, press. Needless to said, this is a daunting (yet exciting) task, both for the add-on developers and for the users.

Been the first add-on (AFAIK) of such level of detailing, NASSP not only defines the genre but also set the bare very high for all of us (wannabe) add-on makers. Thus, when I said that our (still under wrap) add-on will be "NASSP style", I mean that we are aiming for a similar (likely higher in fact) level of details and realism (oh yeah, we know, it's a bold statement!).

Just to give you an idea, here is a list of what we will be simulating on the launch vehicle:
  • Propulsion
  • Auxiliary fluids system
  • Propellant system
  • Hydraulic system
  • Pneumatic system
  • Electrical power system
  • Environment Control system
  • Flight control system
  • Instrumentation
  • Interfaces
To be honest I should said that for a couple of the above categories, we won't go deeper than having a bunch of black boxes inter-acting between each others, since their level of complexity is above what we can (or care to) achieve. However in most case, we are hoping to simulate the functioning with a fair (and painful) amount of details (e.g Propulsion system). Since we also have to keep things frame-rate friendly, we'll likely have to cut corners in some cases.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

In the eye of the "storm" ...

Ok, storm is definitly a bit too strong of a term in the context at hand, but since we have moved on into the development phase this past week-end (at last!), it does feel a bit like it. So far things are going well, Advisers are advising, Researcher is researching, 3D artist is meshing and the coder (yours truly) is coding :-) Needless to said, we're a long looooong loooooooooooog way from the end of this journey, but these are very exciting times!

Since we are still observing a self-imposed information black-out, I can't share much yet, but I think it is safe to said that we are working on a project involving a launch vehicle and a manned spacecraft ... :-P


Friday, January 11, 2008

The calm before the "storm"

Well, actually it's not that clam really. As we are winding down (a part of) our design effort, there have been a constant feverish activity over the past week, intended on closing the remaining open issues and verifying (as much as we can) the correctness of our intended simulation. I think that I have, in many occasions, vented some (a lot?) about how difficult it is to find engineering details on the Soviet space program. This have resulted in a lot of research work on our part and on a certain amount of frustration. Was the experience worth the trouble? Yes, most definitly. Sure we still have to see if the end result (that Orbiter's addon) will be up-to our expectations, but I really believe that our (the team) understanding and knowledge on rocketry and space vehicle engineering have greatly improved. And, this is an accomplishment I must said (especially for me, a big one!).

As dictated by my obsessive mind (OCD?), I have been, as before, fully consumed by this project over the past couple of months. So much so, that in numerous occasions, rocketry had find its way in my dreams ... Last night for example, although it's kind of fuzzy now, I was inspecting a rocket engine (a Russian one I believe), moving around feverishly, following the path of some pneumatic hose or something ... Yep, I'm that crazy.

As we are gearing-up to the start of the implementation phase, my anxiety has been building-up, slowly but surely. Dozen of questions have been circulating in my mind: Have we properly understand the schematics? Did we miss anything? Can we do this? Can I deliver what I said we could do? How bad will the frame rate be? Will our design hold? I do know that this is after all a for fun venture and that if we fail to deliver, only our collective egos will be crushed, but still I can't help the apprehension taking me over ...


Monday, January 07, 2008

The more the Merrier

This past friday, our team grew to the unprecedented heads count of 5, when Nels (a.k.a DrLaufbahn) joined us in the quality of Science Adviser (our second). Since we are very close (days!) to actually starting the development of the addon, as I was mentioning in my previous post, this is pretty good timing and Nels was put to work right away ;-)


Thursday, January 03, 2008

С новым годом!

While lurking around the old topics and posts of a Russian web site, I came across a link to an interesting web site recently started (summer 2007) by Nick Stevens on the N-1 booster. Nick have obviously spent a lot of time making 3D models of the rocket, and it looks amazingly good! Since the whole N-1/L-3 concept is what got me started into creating addons for Orbiter, this is a subject that is close to my heart, so I was pretty happy to see that I'm not the only geek with a major crush on the N-1 :-)

Well, 2008 is here now and thus I wishes you all the best. This year is going to be a very challenging one for our project since we will be starting the actual implementation of the addon in a couple of weeks from now (after a year of R&D and facts finding). An exciting and scary time I must said. Hopefully, once things are rolling, I will be able to share a bit more details on what we have been working on :-)

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