UNIGINE Conducted A Training For The Developers Of A Spacewalk Simulator

Mar 22, 2018

UNIGINE conducted a training for the developers of a virtual reality system for spacewalk simulation. Employees of the Laser Systems company participated in the training. They develop software to prepare astronauts to work outside the space station for Rocket and Space Corporation Energia (the leading company in the development of rocket and space technology in Russia).

Any error in space is fatal: an astronaut can damage an expensive spacesuit, resulting in depressurization and decompression sickness. The suit is inflated due to the difference in pressure inside and outside (it is 0.4 atmospheres) which makes it difficult for the astronaut to work. The suit is exposed to significant temperature changes between the sunny and shady sides of the orbit.

There are no special equipment for moving astronauts in open space, so they move around the station grasping the handrails. Any delay is dangerous, because oxygen reserve is limited to no more than 10 hours.

Astronauts are currently trained for spacewalking in a special pool simulating conditions close to zero gravity. Only a part of the space station can be reproduced in the pool, while the simulator allows you to simulate the entire ISS. In the pool, an astronaut can train physical skills of moving around the station, but he cannot learn to navigate in real time.

New software enables to simulate astronaut’s exit into space and calculate the minimum necessary time. It can be used to train astronauts both on Earth and on the ISS. So, astronaut will be able to test and hone his skills on a virtual space station.

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Part of the software that implements simulation training is developed for the HTC Vive VR-headset. Wearing a headset an astronaut can move a few meters in space inside the sensor-controlled area. Similar systems can only be used if the user remains in the same position. Software developed by the Laser Systems company uses highly-detailed CAD-models of the space station. As a platform for their simulator developers use the UNIGINE 2 Sim engine.

The platform supports very large spaces (64 bits per coordinate). This ensures 2 ^32 (about 4 billion) times higher position accuracy compared to game engines supporting only 32 bits per coordinate, UNIGINE 2 Sim allows you to create complex projects having the scale of the entire Solar System.

During the training, UNIGINE employees helped the developers of the simulator learn the new version of the engine and sort out all the difficulties they ran into while developing the software.

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«As spacewalking astronauts always work in pairs, and the whole training process is supervised by an instructor, the developers have to create a distributed simulation system. The training helped us figure out how to create and use a network to enable interaction between the astronauts and their instructor», says Andrew, senior developer at UNIGINE.

A virtual model of the space station must be as highly detailed as possible. All ISS equipment is unique, so programmers create each element separately to make it look photorealistic and ensure that they reproduce the original to the tiniest detail.

«This project has its own specifics, as artists work with a lot of content, and we had to come up with how they can generate content in a short time», says Davyd, the lead 3D artist at UNIGINE, who conducted the training.

The visual part of the virtual model of the ISS is expected by autumn this year, the end of the project is scheduled for the spring of 2019.

«We develop the software within strict time constraints, and we don’t have much time to study the engine by ourselves. This training gave us a boost to do it quickly. Moreover, we used our project’s content which is the best way of learning», says Arina, a 3D modeler.