Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vertical Motion Simulator


One great thing about video posts is that the film does the talking for you! Even for someone who loves to write on a daily basis, video footage is great fun, and is so much clearer than complex descriptions. If only Youtube wasn't so intermittently disagreeable with uploads!

Persistence counts, and I was finally able to process this awesome clip of the huge six-degrees-of-freedom VMS, or Vertical Motion Simulator, with the Space Shuttle cab in the lateral carriage:


The VMS is the world's largest motion simulator, and used to mimic many types of flight situations at lower cost and better safety than actual flight hardware. Engineers can work out design-related or procedural issues via simulation rather than in the air, with much less risk to lives and valuable flying machines. Watching it skyrocket upward and plummet down, go side-to-side and spin the cab – wow, what a ride! I wish I could have a run at the cockpit and see what it's like to land a shuttle orbiter.

For a look inside the Shuttle cab, see this clip called "Buzzing The Tower".

Vertical Motion Simulator
Astronaut training in action at Ames:
Someone was in there, "flying" the Shuttle cab

We could only see the vertical platform (marked by the NASA logo) as it passed the window at various intervals. The catenary (that's Latin for "jaw-dropplingly gigantic chain") and support columns support movement as much as 60 feet up and down, and 40 feet across!

Flight & Guidance Simulator Laboratory

For hardcore engineers who enjoy examining the nuts and bolts, the VMS Familiarization Guide (PDF document) has helpful descriptions and diagrams; I particularly enjoyed page 30, which features a list of all vehicles that can be simulated in the cabs' visual systems: tiltrotors, helicopters, carriers, refueling tankers, Destroyers, Russian aircraft, American assault aircraft, VTOL jets, and surface-to-air missile systems. Pretty versatile!

Shuttle Simulator
Shuttle Cab in the SimLab

Cabs are interchangeable, and we have pictures of both Shuttle cabs and a Lunar Lander cab in the Picasa Gallery for the NASA Ames Tweetup. Tomorrow, I'll feature the Altair Lunar Lander simulator.