Build a Space Flight Simulator
People showing interest
Mike interested in helping with the hardware.
The current proposed design is a 4 monitor setup with a control desk below. The monitors (preferable 42" or so) are mounted in portrait, 2 straight on, with 2 more at 45 degrees. The desk is placed within the curve of the screens. The controls will be modular. The desk will have 6 slots for controls, a front row for actively used controls and a back for monitoring and info. This will be split into 'pilot', 'co-pilot' and 'centre'. Each of the 6 positions is designed to be removable, allowing for upgrade and alternative configurations.
The whole system is designed to fold flat against a wall, minimising footprint, while still allowing the screens to be used. They will also pivot around to minimise bulk for transport and to protect the screens from damage.
Seating will hopefully be a couple of car racing 'bucket' seats, though that depends what we can lay our hands on.
Main Parts required
If anyone can provide any useful bits, please let us know.
Parts to Source
- Main Computer.
- Monitors (4x42” perfect, 8x17”, good).
- 2x Car Bucket Seats.
- Secondary monitors (7” ish? Analogs?)
- Secondary Computers (Raspberry-Pis?)
- Various Joysticks Dials, Old displays and Analog meters. (The more Old Skool the better :D )
Major parts to be made.
- Monitor Support Frame
- Welded steel frame?
- Desk Frame
- Same as Monitor Frame, possibly attached to it.
- Seat Support Frame.
- Dependent a lot on what seating we can source.
- Control Panels
- Dependent a lot on what can be provided, Arduino Brains?
The aim of this project is to build a working, semi-realistic and fun space flight simulator. It should be relatively easy to transport and store, as well as be easy to adapt to other types for simulation (Underwater ROV has been mentioned before).
The initial plan is to build it in a semi open structure, with a large 'window' display and controls for 2 person operation, Pilot and Navigator. To this end, the current plan splits into 6 main parts.
- Monitor Bank
- Control Desk
- Flight Seats
- Computers and processing
- External monitoring.
There are 3 Options for this,
- An array of 8 LCD computer monitors in a 2x8 grid.
- An array of 4 Flat screen TVs Rotated horizontally.
- 3 Projectors Projecting the windows.
With all 3 options, the end result will be driven as a single large monitor, as far as the computer is concerned. The 4 TVs would be the best option, but would also be more difficult to procure. Projecters would work, but external lighting starts becoming an issue. The 4x2 PC monitor method produces a more broken up field of view, but can be made to look realistic and is comparatively easy to source.
The monitors should be semi wrap around when in use, however adding hinges could be useful to allow it to fold flat against a wall for storage.
Artistic modelling can be used to disguise the joints in the screen to look like structural support for the 'windows'. A welded steel frame might be the best option for holding it all.
The control desk provides all the instruments, controls and feedback devices required for running the simulator. The panels in it should be fairly modular, allowing for changing and replacement when changing between different simulations.
It should also include some monitors for extra video feeds etc.
Current plan is to split it into 6 sections in a 3x2 grid. At the front is the hands on controls. Joystick and throttle for the pilot, navigation controls and display for the navigator. In the middle are communal controls, lights, landing gear, staging controls and timewarp.
The back row provides the main feedback. Altitude, G-forces, Temperature, Pressure, fuel etc. IT also provides for several mini monitors allowing for external cameras etc.
A 'Nav ball' for the pilot would also be VERY useful, though quite difficult to build.
The 6 Panels should be designed to run semi independent of each other. This makes it easy to change or upgrade panels in the future.
The control panel should be built as a thin desk. This allow for leg room for the 'crew' and allows it to either fold up towards the monitors, or down underneath them to minimise the system's footprint when not in use.
These just need to be basic seating initially. However a couple of car bucket seats would be the best option. This maintains the immersion, while being easy to source. Fitting them with some optional speakers and force feedback systems being a useful addition.
A folding system to get the seats out of the way would be quite useful, failing that, the ability to pivot them around 180 degrees would make them useful for general seating at least.
The Computer preferably needs to be a desktop type system. It also needs to have a relatively powerful graphics card to handle the main monitors, as well as some extra cards to handle the additional outputs. It should also have significant processor power for the physics engine (The current engine is unfortunately only uses a single core). A couple of less powerful computers (raspberry pis?) could be used to drive the secondary monitors and control systems.
An external monitoring/playback system would be useful for spectating and watching playback of previous flights. This can consist of a couple of extra computers slaved to the first. This will generally only be needed at larger gatherings or events and so a simple table with monitors on it would suffice when needed.
The current plan is to use 'Kerbal Space Program' as the main simulator. This is a semi realistic space flight simulator. It is currently still in development, but already provides a good mix of accurate physics and good gameplay. It is also easy to interface it with various external programs, as well as apply mods to the game to provide additional functionality.
The 4 main mods that will be needed are:
- This provides a lot of telemetry from the current flight in an HTML page output. More info here
- This is an auto pilot/control system, which also provides a lot of additional useful functions and data via Telemetry Mod).
- This allows several other copies of the game to 'piggyback' on another. This allows for external monitoring, as well as in game navigation.
- Custom Cockpit
- We would need a custom cockpit matched to our monitor array. We could also piggyback some of the instruments onto the smaller monitors via this, or just build them ourselves from the HTML data.
On top of this, we would also need various graphing and processing programs for post flight data etc, depending on what we want.