We just had a very productive weekend! Many enhancements are being made to the simulator project as well as this web site. Please be patient as the last of the construction zones are brought to life. Most notable of our recent accomplishments have to do with the view system where we actually get to see the simulated universe from our location and orientation. Although that has always been the case, here are the improvements to that system that were recently made (and partially tested):
1) The moon map was updated with a 6 frequency class II geodesic sphere. Mr. Lambert has already begun to make new texture maps for the continents, islands, polar caps, and cloud maps that will be affected by this. Even though our current sphere construction program is obsolete, we had to make a new program to dissect the information provided by the third party geodesic generator software. You can view a picture of the newest continent at the bottom of The Universe section.
2) We have a working theory for improving the cloud cover so that we can see the weather systems from orbit as two dimensional texture maps that are represented above the ground so the proper depth perception and relative motion exists. The theory involves allowing us to then view the clouds as three dimensional structures so that we may aim and penetrate them. Currently the penetration is simulated by obscuring the view, but it is not synchronized with the actual cloud locations. The summary of the theory is to find the surface normal of a two dimensional cloud map and orient a extended three dimensional polygon map in its place keeping the base of the cloud perpendicular to the surface normal. As we start testing different calculations we will keep the public advised on our progress.
3) In addition to the dynamic lighting already existing, we are now allowed to take our simulator up to objects such as ships and docks and shed some light of our own with headlights (more formally “navigation lights”). This should add some drama to our exploration of derelict spacecraft to say the least.
4) For an additional dramatic effect, orbital debris (less formally “space dust”) can now be seen. This helps in a way so that we may judge our speed and inertial trajectory when making complicated manuevers. A side effect of this will allow us to add precipitation when on the moon, and the frequency of dust will decrease depending on the height of our orbit.
Following the previous news, we had our first passenger carrying flight that did not contain any published test items. This occured on Saturday, May 8. This was also Mr. Tom Seck’s first flight with us, and for the short time he was actually on the flight deck, rumor has it he did a good job. The simulator performed almost perfectly despite a few problems bringing it online initially due to the motion control program not getting sycronized. The few problems that were found in the programming have since been easily corrected. Now that the new navigation formulas have been tested, it was decided over this past weekend to continue work in an effort to finish a much more graphical version of the screen which is based on the new layout, color, and font standards. Many things have been updated on this site and we suggest you take a look around. If you have not heard about SETI’s “at home” program, please check out the added link for them under “Links”. Although our organization does not have a position on the existance of extraterrestrial intelligence, their program is an exciting way to utilize the hundreds of thousands of desktop computers that are idle worldwide at this very moment.
Our apologies for not keeping you more up to date. Work on the project has continued at a steady pace and we had an exciting test flight this past Sunday. Updates include changes to the following…
1) Navigational systems – Problems with the formulas have hopefully been fixed. Basically the computer would recommend a speed to a given object and suddenly change its mind when it was past the time that we could safely decellerate. It also misled us as to the estimated time enroute (ETE) to various objects. The only thing that was found to work was the time until decelleration (TUD) which is what all the new formulas are now being keyed off of. The major obstacle is to accurately estimate a maximum attainable speed before decelleration is mandatory. There are farily simple formulas out there to determine this from rest (such as in Microsoft(tm) Space Simulator) but not dynamically when you are already on the move and with varied accelleration values. Once this has been proven to work accurately, we will focus attention on allowing lower consumption routes for long-haul flights (right now the fuel burn is 100% of the time; ie. we are always either accellerating or decellerating, never coasting).
2) Motion control – This system has been the most exciting addition to date. Several things have been tweaked. One big problem is that the running lights (strobes) seem to have enough discharge to reset the Motorola chip during flight which requires a restart, so those have been placarded as inoperative until a RF or magnetic shield can be installed. One big advance we made was explaining to the computer the amount tof time it takes the piston to travel from one end of the stroke to another. Before, especially during turbulance, the computer would attempt to make changes too suddenly and much faster than the inertia of the simulator could be changed. Now that it understands the times, it delays changes (a few hundredths of a second) which maximizes the motion effects.
3) Universe realism – Ian has been working the last several weeks on texture mapping the docking facilities and a few ships. To add an atmosphere of tension he added a floating man who died of unknown causes and is tumbling out there somewhere as we speak. We are not sure how to locate him but if we stumble across him it will be quite dramatic (or should I say traumatic).
4) Aerodynamics – A recent 4 month project that was just completed is taking the Audrey design and proving through simulated wind tunnel tests that the vessel, if constructed in its entirety, would actually be safe and stable for flight into and out of the Earth’s atmosphere. Some small modifications had to be made but otherwise the overall design is sound. The complete 17 page report will be made available in the Wind Tunnel section under Active Remote Access.
We hope to do the following for this site in the near future…
1) New pictures – The cockpit has really changed so much, most of the panels are backlit now and the flight controls have been completely replaced and reinstalled in a sidestick configuration (similar to the Airbus(tm) series of commercial airliners).
2) Construction zones – The few areas that have been under construction for quite some time will be added. Primarily, we want to make our training manuals and specifications available over the Internet and possibly offer flights (as passengers and eventually train for flight crew positions) to the public.