Up Level > Gallery Main > Leif Gallery 11

Leif Gallery 11

I'm just fooling around, trying to reproduce the cover of the plastic model. This is just a rough draft, full of errors, so don't be too critical.

I've gotten side-tracked. There is an amazing freeware spaceflight simulator program called Orbiter. It uses scientifically accurate rocket performance and mathematically exact orbital mechanics.

But more interestingly, it has the ability to accept user-designed spacecraft. There are hundreds of so-called "mods" for Orbiter available online, ranging from real-world spacecraft like the Shuttle to science fictional craft like the Collier's lunar expedition, the ships of 2001, and Heinlein's Rolling Stone.

There was a prototype Leif Ericson Orbiter Mod, but it was made prior to the release of the blueprints.

So I am toying with shoe-horning my Leif mesh in to Orbiter. It ain't easy.

For one thing, for performance reasons you want to get the polygon count down to less than 15,000 and preferably under 10,000. My mesh was about 25,000 with the scoutship included, so some major trimming was needed.

The program that converts meshes into Orbiter's format expects 3D Max files as input, and Blender's export ability in this area needs work. I am experimenting with a prototype Python script to export Orbiter meshes from Blender directly, but it too needs some work. The main problem I am having is not with the mesh itself, but getting the textures to appear on the proper parts and in the proper orientation.

I've also got to play with the scaling. The attached images show the Leif Ericson docked to the International Space Station. In reality, the Leif is quite a bit bigger than the ISS. My exported mesh seems to have problems as well, the bottom of the port wing is apparently missing.

I've followed dozens of dead ends and pounded my head against dozens of walls, but the textures still fight me. Many of them just appear as black. At least I got the scaling fixed. Then I spent a few hours fixing things so the Leif's docking port was on the tip of its nose, instead of being near the ship's center of gravity. Placing the port was easy, the hard part was setting up the unit vectors so the approach was along the ship's axis and so that "up" was in the proper direction.

I managed to make the Leif take off from Kennedy space center and climb into orbit. It scoots down the runway like a giant Fireball XL5, then you have to pull up on the nose for all you are worth to get the behemoth to head skyward, instead of shooting out over the Atlantic ocean. It is quite pretty as the Earth shrinks into a large blue marble and the Leif enters space.