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Old 04-13-2012, 10:35 AM   #1
Black Phoenix
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Project VSFL (Virtual SpaceFlight Network)

This is something I'm working on. It's not yet open to public (lots of techncial things to solve), but it should go public in summer. Sorry if wrong forum.

VSFL Network is an online flight network oriented for the aerospace engineers and generally highly detailed complicated flight. There are two servers - the realistic server (which I'm mostly talking about here), and the public sandbox server (see below).

It's easier to describe what it is by listing the features:
  • Synchronizes state between all clients (aka fly together, multiplayer).
  • Online flight tracking, which keeps statistics about vessels and their flights
  • Radio transmission simulation: spacecraft are able to communicate using radiowaves on a predefined set of channels. The basic wave propagation is simulated.
  • Persistency: the realistic server allows launching payloads into orbit permanently. They will be calculated on server, and will stay there 24/7. It is possible to have payloads with some additional logic (for example flight computers).
  • Online docking: work-in-progress. The VSFL Network will allow docking several vessels together (temporary or permanently - aka build a space station).
  • Oriented for aerospace engineering enthusiasts: any VSA/VA registered on the website can publish their materials, register their vessels (realistic server keeps strict track of allocated and used vessels ), publish mission schedules, make use of the realistic server. It's all about launching and designing spacecraft.
  • Ground tracking system simulation - my VSA XSAG provides ground tracking network with six telemetry downlink/command uplink channels. They can be used, but alternatively a "good enough" VSA can create own ground tracking network.
  • Full physics for objects in orbit - atmospheric drag, non-linear gravity, magnetic model included for navigation, perturbations from other bodies. Atmospheric drag is simulated based on satellite geometry and shape.
  • The scope of VSFL Network covers Earth & Moon at the moment, though that's going to be solved in distant future. If you want to fly beyond Earth & Moon you have to use your own simulator.

What is still not done: docking together, flying beyond Earth is glitchy, and some physics are not yet handled by the server (perturbation by gravity sources other than Earth).

This is the tracking system available so far:

Realistic server is a strict server. It is mostly for my own fun, but I would be very glad to work with Orbiter-based VSA's. Realistic server only allows custom designs (can be derived from existing designs if there are sufficient changes), there's a major requirement of your spacecraft to be able to execute the entire flight manually (or with remote control from ground - using radiotransmissions).

Realistic server provides long-term persistency. It's strict, but I'm the one who sets the rules, and they can be changed in each specific case. It's just mostly about creating stuff, not piloting it.

You're absolutely required to provide telemetry (very much preferably realtime) from the flights on realistic server, and to run all near-Earth flights in realtime.

Sandbox server is something for common pilots, it's roughly same as the realistic server, but only keeps objects persistent for a short while. It does not require any registration and does not have realism rules (feel free to just mess around).

There's also no limit on time acceleration.

I'm also running my own VSA XSAG (eXperimental Space & Aeronautics Group), which is mostly dedicated to developing new highly-detailed models of spacecraft and aircraft (guidance computers and software, internal systems etc). This is a separate topic to discuss

To give you a general idea of the aerospace focus of this network, here's a short summary of first five space missions done so far (so far they all have been done with a derivative of Ares/Orion). All the missions have been autonomous, meaning I didn't even have the simulator to look at:
  • XS1A, XS1B: qualification suborbital flights testing the rocket. About 12 flight control system issues were found and fixed during these flights
  • XS1: first orbital flight, mostly served as testing of a slightly updated guidance system and autonomous flight capability of the capsule
  • XS2: second orbital flight, testing long-term autonomous flight. This flight lasted 1 day (and 16 orbits). There has been a scanning camera on-board, and it downlinked a fairly large amount of pictures (see below). Also has tested command uplinking from ground stations.
  • XS3A: qualification flight of a modified RV-553 rocket (Ares upper stage, Zenit first stage, dummy satellite as a payload). This has launched two objects into permanent orbit (well, decaying).

All the missions were flown by the computer, I only worked with it via the radio transmissions.

Some data from the XS2 mission:

Elevation data:

Elevation data, polar plot:

An example of downlinked images (you can see slight noise from the errors in transmission):

Downlinked data from XS1, XS2 missions (there is a real lot of noise, XS2 mission has fixed error checking though):

Change of orbital parameters in XS3 mission (due to decay):
00012 RV-553 Upper Stage
09:49 11.04.2012 ----- x ----- km
11:20 11.04.2012 300.1 x 240.5 km
11:26 11.04.2012 ---.- x 240.6 km
12:09 12.04.2012 299.8 x 240.6 km
01:40 12.04.2012 298.8 x 241.5 km
07:19 12.04.2012 299.0 x 241.2 km
04:03 12.04.2012 298.9 x 240.9 km
11:43 12.04.2012 298.6 x 241.3 km
02:09 13.04.2012 298.4 x 241.2 km
03:07 13.04.2012 298.4 x 241.0 km
11:14 13.04.2012 298.5 x 240.8 km
11:57 13.04.2012 298.5 x 240.7 km

00013 ES-601
09:49 11.04.2012 ---.- x 274.4 km
11:20 11.04.2012 300.5 x 274.4 km
11:26 11.04.2012 ---.- x 274.9 km
12:09 12.04.2012 300.1 x 274.9 km
01:40 12.04.2012 299.2 x 275.4 km
07:20 12.04.2012 299.1 x 275.4 km
04:03 12.04.2012 298.9 x 275.1 km
11:43 12.04.2012 298.1 x 274.6 km
02:09 13.04.2012 297.9 x 274.6 km
03:07 13.04.2012 297.9 x 274.6 km
11:14 13.04.2012 297.7 x 274.5 km
11:57 13.04.2012 297.7 x 274.4 km
More information (website):
http://vsfl.wireos.com/ (the main website)
http://vsfl.wireos.com/realtime-tracking (realtime tracking)
http://vsfl.wireos.com/launch-schedule (launch schedule)
http://vsfl.wireos.com/vessels (list of all registered/launched vessels)
http://vsfl.wireos.com/archives/364 (all of the downlinked images)

http://www.orbiter-forum.com/showthread.php?t=25507 (Orbiter plugin project thread)

This network will support both X-Plane (via X-Space) simulator and Orbiter simulator. Even docking between two will be possible (the networking code is shared, and the visual models are uploaded to server in a common shared format).

I've got the orbiter plugin version, but it has no GUI and doesn't load up vessel-specific configuration (I don't know how to handle that in Orbiter).

I'm posting this in case it might spark some interest from the Orbiter community, it would be nice to have some more VSA's for the realistic server. I'm searching for people interested in creating stuff and people interested in launching stuff (for my VSA - it would be nice to have someone make suggestions for future missions). There is one thing that might be a bit unusual though (only relevant to realistic server) - the pace is a bit slow...

If you're making a VSA, you have to start with some qualification flights and test flights - it's more interesting to fly vessels which have been only partially tested, at least that's how I do it - never testing the entire mission beforehand, only certain parts of guidance system or rocket systems.

There have been flight control issues in most missions, though only one critical (XS1, erroneous computer mode change after service module separating).

If you use X-Plane, then X-Space plugin I wrote will also provide geometry-based heating model and some other aerospace things (afraid can't do much for orbiter, though I can port the heating model).

For my own VSA XSAG I could use some people who could suggest & plan new missions, people who could track my spacecraft while I'm not available (engineers).

Also can someone please test two-line element sets on the realtime tracker page? If you do, please tell me why those TLE sets are invalid (they are accepted in some tracking applications, for example here, but not in Orbitron...).

After all, if there's no interest in the network, I'm still using it for my own VSA and for testing various aerospace approaches.

Last edited by Black Phoenix; 04-13-2012 at 10:43 AM.
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Old 04-20-2012, 02:51 AM   #2
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Hey, wow another person I recognize from the WireMod forums! Small world eh?

Good luck with this. I've always wanted a good multiplayer solution for Orbiter. Especially since the the Orbiter Multiplayer Project appears to have died. I really have no idea how you're going to make this compatible with Orbiter AND X-Plane. But if you can do it, more power to you.

I've seen you make some pretty incredible stuff and I have no doubt this will be awesome.
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Old 04-20-2012, 07:33 AM   #3
Beta Tester
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Originally Posted by SystemsLock View Post
 Especially since the the Orbiter Multiplayer Project appears to have died.
It is open source and still in development. Last commit on my box: 3 weeks ago. Last commit on BB: 5 weeks ago. There is also a public server running here.

It might appear as if it has died due to the distributed development in use. I.e.: the current active branch is the ORL one.

Reports of its death are nevertheless premature.
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